Pentecost Sermon

In the name of the Father and of the Son and the liberating, loving, life-enhancing Holy Spirit. Amen.

Many of you will be aware that I’ve recently been on holiday and that this is my first Sunday back following several away relaxing by the Mediterranean. I enjoyed reading and chilling-out by the pool. In all my prayers and devotions each evening, I prayed that the Good Lord would transpose the sublime sunshine from the Med up here to Glasgow.

And lo! See the power of prayer.

I promise you, it is going to be like this until the Lord returns. Or until Tuesday, depending on which comes sooner.

Anyway, last Sunday I was making my way home. My travel arrangements meant that last Sunday morning I was travelling through one of the great European capitals and of course, I went to church.

Now, I’d done my homework. I knew where to go. Somewhere that was a bit of a treat. Swanky. Musical. Stylish.

And I went to the service and quite enjoyed it.

As I was sitting listening to the music, my eye was caught by an invitation on the service sheet. If you are new or visiting, it said, please come to the welcome desk for a badge. Then, when you go into coffee after the service, people will know to speak to you.

Well, it isn’t what I’m used to but I decided to give it a try.

I went up to the desk expecting to be given a discreet little gold star or round blue dot. But no. The sticky label was huge and blank and I was encouraged to write my name on it.

With my breast suitably covered in the largest sticky label north of the Alps, I went in to coffee.

It was clearly an articulate congregation. You can always tell. They had decaff. And lemon tea. They even had Darjeeling.

And I stood and waited.

Do you know how long it takes to start to feel awkward wearing the biggest sticky label west of the Great Wall of China?

I’ll tell you – about 6 seconds.

I stood and I waited.

I waited and I stood.

And you know, not a single person spoke to the stranger who now believed himself to be wearing the biggest sticky label in the whole wide world.

Once we raise expectations by our planning and schemes for growth and welcome – we had better deliver.

Now, what does all that have to do with tonight?

Well, giving badges to people is actually a part of our worship tonight. At the start, we recognised the achievement of a choir member and presented Jessica with a medal.

And in front of me are our two new chapter members, each bravely sporting the diocesan crest – a badge which they are entitled to wear on their black scarf. And inside them they are trying to get used to a new title – the addition of the word Canon to their honorific title. A badge of honour that they will bear in correspondence that indicates a set of expectations of them as senior clergy who each bear their share of leadership and whose achievements and potential have been recognised by their peers.

From the Church of St Margaret of Scotland, here sits their Rector – St Scott of Newlands a new member of the Cathedral Chapter.

And from the Church of St James the Less, here sits St Shelley the Great, our new Synod Clerk.

Scott and Shelley – the two of you bear badges of honour. The two of you share raised expectations. Tonight, Bishop Gregor will pray that you will seek diligently the spirit of wisdom and knowledge. Scott – that rings true for you in your discernment work with candidates for ordination and in the diligence with which you have followed your own academic path.

Bishop Gregor will pray too that you will be faithful in your ministry, loving all people. Shelley – that’s a real prayer to share with you today as you take on new roles of leadership sharing with your bishop in loving and leading all the people of this diocese. Sometimes, that will mean the best of times, and sometimes the worst of times, sharing in the joy loving those (of us) who are tricky to love.

And together we will pray that the spirit of the living God, whose coming we celebrate on this feast will fill you both with strength and joy and peace in loving service. Never forget that the first of the Spirit’s gifts is Holy Common Sense.

Scott and Shelley – lest you be in any doubt about what it means to be regarded as a senior member of the clergy, let me tell you what it is.

The reign of God is something in which the hierarchies of power and privilege are not merely lacking but, in God’s name to be positively undermined. Our blessed Lady, Mary sang the song that we repeat here at every choral evensong poking fun at the pompous and pricking the pride of the powerful.

She taught Jesus well. He, in his turn put quite some effort into telling us that God was on the side of the underdog not the fat cat.

Use your new roles and titles and positions always to make sure his message goes unforgotten.

“Senior” positions in the church are no more and also no less than the gift of a soapbox to draw attention to all your efforts to encourage the people of God to vie with one another in loving the people of the world and putting that world to rights in God’s name.

The special badges of honour and office which you wear from now on – are badges that remind you that you have a special, particular and determined role to play changing the world and caring for the God’s people.

Tonight, Scott and Shelley, you take on new roles within the church of God. You do so, delighting in the joy of sharing the good news, the news of justice for the poor, dignity for the marginalised, the news that in God, all wrongs will be righted. And you share that news not only with the bishop, not only in the Chapter, not only in the Cathedral, not only in the diocese, not only with ecumenical partners such as friends from the West End ACTS group, but with all people. In Jerusalem, Judea and the uttermost parts of the earth. All people. Everywhere.

For as Scott and Shelley take on new roles, it is our joy, our vocation and our delight as the whole people of God to accept the commission of the Holy Spirit to love more people more, until the kingdom is brought in and in the light of the Spirit’s blaze, all the world is set free and the tears wiped from every eye.

In the name of God, creator, redeemer and liberator.



  1. John MacBrayne says

    Kelvin, I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve shared the above on facebook, I’m staggered by your words, and as one just beginning the discernment process, your words cut through a haze of world ‘noise’. Thank you.

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