Sermon for Dedication Sunday 2014

26 October 2014 – Dedication Sunday from Kelvin Holdsworth on Vimeo.

You have come to something that cannot be touched – in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

I suppose I should give the full verse of the text that I want to preach on this morning. The verse I’ve chosen comes from the letter to the Hebrews and the portion that Wolfgang read to us a few moments ago.

You have not come to something* that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them.

I suppose it takes a certain kind of preacher to dare to preach on the verse that refers to a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them.

But I guess I’m that kind of preacher anyway.

But I really want to leap off from that first phrase – You have come to something that cannot be touched.

For today we are celebrating our Dedication Sunday – a day when we step outside the usual cycle of Sunday readings and set aside some time to give thanks for what we have around us.

And I’m being deliberately ambiguous about that – for I give thanks not simply for the building around us but for the building that is the saints of God in this place who are all around us as we worship together each week.

St Mary’s the building can certainly be touched. Indeed if you touch it in some places a bit of it will flake off which you can take home for a souvenir. But today I think we are doing a bit more than giving thanks for lumps of sandstone.

For you have come to something that cannot be touched. You have come instead to Mount Zion – the city of God itself.

By the time the Epistle to the Hebrews was written people were gathering together in groups to worship Jesus Christ. The idea of the weekly gathering to worship was already established amongst the Jewish people and adopted by those who found God through their experience of Jesus. But it was important to remind them even at the beginning that they had come to something that could not be touched.

I remember asking one of you a while ago what it was that he thought bound everyone at St Mary’s together. He thought for a moment and said,

the thing that we most have in common is that none of us expected to find ourselves here.

There’s something true in that I think.

And it is perhaps worth calling to mind some of the tribes that come to this place and form that thing which cannot be touched – the saints who have found a home or a resting place here on their pilgrimage home towards God.

For to think about those who come here is a way of telling the story of this place.

Forgive me if I make some generalisations but I’ve learned the types of people who come here to this place and find nourishment.

Firstly we have the Episcopalians and Anglicans, of course – that’s a primary identity for us. But some come here primarily because of that identity. Often those who come here for that reason come here from abroad. Those who come from West Africa and North America often have a greater consciousness of being Anglican than those who were rocked in Scottish Episcopal cradles. They have much to teach the rest of us about respecting our identity and about celebrating the good gifts that God has given to those who are Anglicans.

Often the self-identifying Anglicans are surprised to find themselves here in Glasgow and surprised at the state of the church they find.

Then there are the ex-Roman Catholics who turn up at St Mary’s and find it is all the same as they are used to from other places. And that astonishes them and bewilders them. And they want to talk a bit about what’s the same – all the worship and what’s different – the way we are governed and the things we say about how to live life. That tribe of folk here remind us that we come from an undivided church anyway. Our story goes back beyond this building, beyond the years of persecution as we meandered around the centre of town to the time when people in this neck of the woods worshipped where the Medieval Cathedral is in the High Street. We were all one.

And don’t be fooled by the things that divide us. We are all still one in the things that matter most.

The ex-Roman Catholics are surprised to find that everything here is the same and that everything is different too.

Then there are those who come from an Evangelical background.

They find that things here are completely unlike any church they’ve ever been in.

And they are astonished to find that underneath all the gold and glitz, quite a few people share their experience of faith. They are surprised to find that the Provost and a number of the key staff here have been evangelicals and believe in conversion and new life and have a lot to say about the bible too.

And this place for some is a place where things that don’t matter can be set aside to concentrate on the things that really do matter.

The ex-evangelicals, and I’m a member of that tribe, are surprised, deeply surprised to find themselves here.

Then there’s those from the reformed tradition who wash up here – you know, those who have come from churches that look like the inside of a cardboard box. They can’t quite believe the richness that is here – things to please all the senses that go into overdrive when they set food in the building. I guess some people have to close their eyes at first to stop them being distracted.

They never expected to find a home in a place with all this stuff.

And then there’s the spiritual seekers – and we’ve no small number of them. People who’ve been hippies and hindus and done their yoga and rebalanced their chakras. Those who’ve gone looking for something satisfactory with gurus and even those who’ve tried their hardest to be satisfied by radical atheism for they are spiritual seekers too. (You can tell by how loudly they deny it).

We’ve plenty of seekers here – and they are some of those who say most often to me that they are surprised to be here.

For lots of people have given up on religion. Lot of people have given up on the church.

Here in this place, we’ve not given up on God. And the good news we have to share is that God never gives up on us. We find ourselves here – wonderfully diverse as a congregation, wonderfully nourished by the God who loves each of us in our difference.

And then there’s those who just visit and those who just walk in off the street or are compelled by something on the website. What makes them come?

Who knows, but my prayer week by week is that those who come through the doors of this place will find what they are looking for.

For here’s the thing – you have come not to something that can be touched. But instead you have come to something that can touch you.

You have come to a place where the love of God is talked about. You have come to a place where questions can be asked and answered and argued over. You have come to a place which honours the traditions and the story that has made us who we are but which is ever looking for new ways to celebrate and share the love-story that is God’s story in searching us out and knowing and caring for us.

You have come not to something that can be touched – but to something that can touch you and you and you.

For wherever we come from, whatever our background, and whatever our sense of surprise at finding ourselves to be here, somehow, God has called us together and given us good news to share.

I don’t know why you are here today, but I’m glad you are. And I dare say that God is glad too.

For we meet this day, in this place and in this company, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.



  1. Thanks, Kelvin once again you have moved me to tears. That’s not a problem it just made me think of how I felt when God re-entered my life. I am still very much a novice in the sense of getting to grips with, the different types of services that take place in the Church. Recently I was at a baptism, my experience was so completely different. Just myself and the Rev. Canon Arthur Sinclair, as the noro virus was in Raigmore hospital. So no others were there.
    Anyway too make a long comment longer. I was admittedly, pleasantly surprised at finding this church was so pro-gay. Societal mores are very often questioned by the Episcopalian churches clergy and congregation, which is too me, the only way forward. I thank all who have taken time to get to the end of this epistle.
    I wish God’s Blessings on all people who are suffering tonight.

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