Sermon preached on 28 September – Who do you think you are?

Who do you think you are?

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

“Hello, can you help me, this is ICM and we are conducting a telephone poll in connection with the recent referendum would you be willing to answer some questions.”

And I said yes – and the questions were mostly about whether or not I’d found it easy to vote in the referendum (I had) and about whether or not I had any concerns about widespread fraud having taken place (I had no concerns at all).

When I said I had no concerns, she asked me why? Why did I have no concerns?

Well, I know people who were there, I said – people from both sides who were at the counts and who saw what took place. And I was involved myself.

It took quite a long time to answer all the questions but it went fairly smoothly until the end when she said, “Can I ask you some questions about who you are?” I agreed to this and readily gave away my age and all kinds of other information that one doesn’t normally dare ask someone in polite conversation.

“And can I ask you what job you do?”

“Yes, no problem, I’m a priest.”

“Thank you sir – oh, I need to ask you what kind of priest.

Are you a senior priest.”

“I suppose I am”.

“Ah, are you a dignitary?”

I wasn’t sure how to answer this question – I couldn’t quite work out whether or not I was and was beginning to wonder whether it was arrogance not to know.

I said, “Well maybe I am”.

“Ah”, she said, “then I need to ask you what kind of dignitary.”

Now, bear in mind that we had already established that I live in a 2 bedroom flat on Great Western Road in Glasgow.

“Are you,” she asked, “are you the Archbishop of Canterbury?”

I thought about it for a moment and said, “Well, only in my wildest and most frightening fantasies”.

“Ah”, she said, “Then are you the …er… are you the Modurator of the Church of Scotland”.

“The Modurator?” I asked. “Yes” she said and I had to confess that I was not that either.

“Oh, then are you the Chief Rabby”.

Again, I thought for a bit and it occurred to me that it would be quite a good thing to be the Chief Rabby in Scotland – I was starting to imagine what kind of hat one would get for being the Chief Rabbi – a large tweed Tam O’Shanter perhaps with an ostentatious feather.
One could imagine being piped in to a lot of very posh Burns Suppers if one was in fact the Chief Rabby.

I started to think I’d quite like to be the Chief Rabby but I came down to earth and had to admit that I was not in fact the Chief Rabby at all and I suggested that if the next random number she called did get him on the line, he might prefer to be called the Chief Rabbi.

In the end, after quite a lot of attempts, we established that the nearest thing to me was an archdeacon and, God forgive me, that’s what I claimed to be.

“And just one final question – can you tell me what religion you are.”

I was about to observe that there was really only one religion that had archdeacons when she said, “What religion are you, Protestant, Catholic or Other.” I was going to suggest that I was in fact Other but she went on – “Protestant, Catholic or Other, like Buddhist”. I had to It was with some regret that I had to admit that I was none of the above and realised this was turning into rather a long call.

Are you a dignitary? What kind of person are you? Are you Protestant, Catholic or Other – like Buddhist? Who do you think you are?

The reading we have this morning from Philippians is a set of answers to the question “who do you think you are?” that were surely being asked of the early church, the very first Christians.

Who are you? Who do you think you are? Were questions that anyone would ask of a new religion. Who are you and who do you follow? What kind of God do you believe in.

And the bit of Philippians that we get this morning is one of the best known bits of St Paul.

We don’t know whether he wrote it or whether he included it as a bit of poetry that people already knew.

It is often called the hymn to Christ – maybe it was sung by the Philippians and Paul was quoting back to them something they already knew.

However, whether he wrote it himself or was quoting it to them, it is one of the earliest attempts to say something about who Jesus was.

And you see, who Jesus is and who the church is, are two issues completely intertwined.

Who was this Christ?

We are the body of Christ.

If we don’t somehow find our lives interwoven with the life of Christ then we don’t belong to him. We find we are not Christians after all.

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. I’ve said before, and no doubt I’ll say it again, when Christians find themselves divided, as Anglicans so often are, we must find our unity in Christ. We never find our unity in mission development plans nor in attempts to make us engage in the cheap grace of fake reconciliation. It is Christ and Christ alone who brings us together.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.

Are you a dignitary? Sisters and brothers, the answer is no – even if you are The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Modurator or the Chief Rabby – the answer is still no.

Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

And in those words about Christ we find basic Christian answers to many political problems not merely the ones which face our nation today.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.

Christ promises to share everything with you, absolutely everything, even the chance to be humiliated for the sake of righteousness.

For God came to us not in grandeur. Not raised as a dignitary.

Christ came in ordinary form, living as a vulnerable child that lived and grew and preached and died to tell you the simple truth that you are loved, completely loved by God.

The Christian faith offers truth, purpose and a way of living that is entirely based on love.

How do I know? Well, I know people who were there and I’ve been involved myself.

I’ve got to know the saints and their stories, I’ve got to know the gospel writers and the teaching of the apostles. I know because they were there and they’ve told me all about it. They have told me about that love and I’ve found it to be true.

I know because of those who have told me about that love and I know because of my own direct involvement.

God is love and God loves me and God loves you.

God loves you whoever you are. Whether you are the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Modulator or the Chief Rabby – or even if you are not. In fact, especially if you are not.

And the phone call came to an end. She thanked me for taking part and I put down the telephone receiver. And I turned on the computer and began to write a sermon that began – In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.



  1. Helen Burnett says

    Dear Kelvin,
    Just to let you know that on listening to your sermon you had my 14 yr old son and myself laughing out loud such that my 21 year old wanted to know what qwas so funny – not bad for a non dignitary.I find your tweets and blogs resonate so strongly with my own feelings and so often you articulate so clearly stuff I want to say or possibly even shout from the rooftops. Thank you for using social media so effectivly it brings soemreal hope into my life when there is so much dross in the world particularl;y when it comes to the churxch and politics.My 3rd son has just started out at Glasgow University and his challenge is to get to meet you within his first term but I fear that the rugby club might get between him and this particular goal – however you have been warned!

  2. So, not the high archbishop of Buddhism, then?

    Seriously, nice one, Kelvin.

  3. Dharma Nicodemus Cuthbert says

    Once again thanks for mixing the daft with the more serious. I have been thinking of the idea of a Chief Rabby, but it would be a nightmare can you imagine the replies to a haggis group being told that the Chief Rabby wouldn’t be able to make it.
    God bless you, I pray that you have a peaceful night.

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