Sermon for Oliver Brewer-Lennon – 27 October 2019

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

Oliver! The time has come!

The removal van has departed. You told me this week that you can see the floor in every room in the flat. And you spoke as though that was your greatest ever achievement.

After what seemed to take forever: advertising and interviewing and appointing, you’re here. After what seemed like an age finding you somewhere to live. You’re here. After all that has made you and shaped you and prepared you and formed you. You are here.

Right here and right now you are going to be installed as the new Vice Provost for this place. A new beginning for us and a new beginning for you.

Let us just pause for a moment though and let the words of the scriptures that we have heard sink in as we think about what is happening to you today.

Let us just think about those words from Ezra which we heard read and which we heard the choir sing just now.

When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments were stationed to praise the Lord with trumpets and they all sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,

“For God is good, for God’s steadfast love endures forever”

But what’s going on and how does it relate to you as you take up this new ministry?

Those who built that temple came from some distance. They had arrived some little time before having been living in exile from the promised land, their people having been forced to live in Persia, in the East, rather than at home in and around Jerusalem.

I hope that it is not too difficult for you to see yourself as one of them, invited to fulfil a Godly task – to build and ever rebuild the temple.

And if by saying that, we are identifying Glasgow with Jerusalem, there will be many Glaswegians who will agree for we know that this is a holy city.

(And if by saying that we identify the city in the East from whence you come, as Babylon, they will perhaps agree even more vigorously).

We know from the first records we have, that it is intrinsic to very nature of human beings to recognise particular places as special and to keep particular feasts and commemorations that matter to us as holy. People on great journeys has stopped at important places, and at decisive moments, to build cairns at the roadside to which they and others can always return.

Some of those cairns by the roadside are simple piles of stones. Others are positively gothic. And it is to a decidedly gothic cairn of stones that we call you Oliver Brewer-Lennon this very night as we celebrate our own dedication festival, giving thanks for those who have built and tended and built again, the church in this particular place.

We bring with us a particular history stretching back to those Episcopalians who experienced their own exile by being cast out of St Mungo’s in the High Street in 1689. We remember at this time those who gathered the congregation through lean and difficult years facing real persecution and violence and who built and rebuilt the church again and again before ending up here. And we remember those who have built the building and those who built up the people into this congregation that meets here proclaiming the open, inclusive and welcoming love of God that we ourselves have experienced.

We bring with us the tenacity of people who have lived through hard times, the determination of those who were making a pretty big statement when they built this place and we carry the infectious joy of those who know how to celebrate in a city that knows how to laugh.

And you Oliver. You bring stuff too: your own stones to add to the cairn…your own gifts to help us to build God’s church.

You bring with you all the charm of Kentucky, all the professionalism and creativity of the Eastman School of Music and the considerable and expansive friendship and love of so many people who have shared your journey up until now.

For you have found many friends, in… Babylon,  and elsewhere. And lots of them are here tonight. And lots more will be thinking of you and praying for you from afar.

The truth is, the children of Israel learned an enormous amount in exile. They learned things that they could never have learned if they had never gone to Persia – things which shaped them and formed them and made them.

Oliver, you have gained a lot on your travels – you’ve been formed as a priest by the church, and yes, by the world around you. And you are being formed as a human being by your beloved husband Joe.

You’ve had good times and bad times on your journey. And so does everyone.

But all that has happened to you has made you the person that we are calling tonight to this new role.

A new role for you. But an ancient role all the same.

The role of Builder.

Come and join a great work – the work of building up this place and this people.

“For God is good, and God’s steadfast love endures forever”

Oliver – stand up!

Oliver Brewer-Lennon, this is the work to which we call you tonight – to be the Vice Provost in this place and amongst these people. And to help build this temple of God and share that steadfast love of God using your own particular gifts and skills.

Do you accept this call?

By the help of God, I do.

Then may the Lord preserve your going out and your coming in. From this time forth forever more.

Amen!

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