A sermon for Y’All

Here is a sermon that I preached on Sunday. You can find the audio here. (This one is more fun to listen to than to read, I think).

I have learned in the course of my travels that it sometimes takes people a few minutes to atune to the way I speak. I’ve learned that people sometimes need a few sentences before they get used to my accent – the way that I speak.

And of course, it works the other way around too.

I am getting used to listening to the sounds of voices that I am not used to hearing. And of course, coming to here, the first time I’ve been in the South has meant me having to listen extra carefully.

Before I came on this here I decided to lose weight and get fit. Over the course of a year I managed to lose 30 pounds. What I hadn’t realised was that when I came to the South, the hospitality would be such that I would put those 30 pounds back on. During breakfast.

Whilst I was eating that first breakfast, I had something to ponder. For the very first night that I was here I had the strangest of dreams. I’ve been up at Sewanee, the University of the South. It is a beautiful university and an excellent seminary and I was their guest. That first night, I dreamed that I had encountered angels. It is a strange dream to have these days though it would not have been particularly unusual in Biblical times. [Indeed, one might think that a very great deal of John’s Revelation, part of which we heard this morning, was just such a dream].

Anyway, I woke up on my first full day in the South absolutely sure that I’d encountered angels in my dreams. And as I came to, I desperately tried to remember what they had been saying. I knew that something was important. I tried and tried.
However, to this day, I can’t remember anything of the conversation.

I do remember one thing though. [Read more…]

Keeping the Feasts

I’ve always had something of a penchant for keeping the festivals of the Christian year with a certain amount of panache.

This weekend, at which we have celebrated All Saints and All Souls has been my kind of weekend. By gently nudging a number of events together on one weekend, we had the most extraordinary couple of days of heaven in ordinary time.

The Rev Richard Coles joined us to lead a workshop and to preach. One of the things he did on Saturday was to produce a beautiful old icon of the madonna and child and ask us to think about all the things that she had seen as the icon had been passed from hand to hand around Europe. I found myself on Sunday realising that it was only the figures on the murals in St Mary’s who have seen all that has been done over this weekend. No one pair of human eyes has seen everything.

John Bell and James MacMillan were with us on Saturday evening to animate an evening of prayer, singing and music that mattered. They are both extraordinary people and to have them working together with an eclectic congregation from here, there and everywhere was holy and humbling.

All of that took place amongst the Stations of Grace exhibition. A local member of the West End ACTS (ie Action for Churches Together in Scotland) had persuaded and cajoled local congregations to commission or borrow artworks on the theme of grace. The building was open. And eyes and hearts were open too. Particular memories were of Gerard Burns’s picture of members of his family walking with the cross and the video installation from Graham Lynch which people had to walk through.

Back to church with the crowds on Sunday morning for the All Saints Eucharist – the exhibition having been struck and removed overnight. The feast was kept with pomp, tassles and good humour. And then back in the evening for a new liturgical day as we kept All Souls, remembering those who have died. The music was Rutter’s Requiem sung by a choir which has given its all right through the weekend.

All Souls is primarily a liturgical act of kindness. We remembered with as much affection as we could. We worshipped in the presence of the saints, praying for all souls, surrounded by the love of God and reminded of the grace of God which drenches us. A single work of art from the exhibition on grace hung over our worship, one layer of what we have done this weekend punctuating another.

Layer upon layer. Feast upon feast. Blessing upon blessing. Alleluia upon alleluia.

My thanks to all.