Sermon preached for the Epiphany 2013

Here’s the sermon I preached for the Epiphany. My day was made when a member of the congregation came up to me at the end beaming. He introduced himself to me as a member of the Iranian Community of Glasgow and said: “We, we Iranians were the first to worship the Baby Jesus!”

And they brought unto Bethlehem gold, frankincense and myrrh.

I must say how pleased I am to be preaching this morning – the Epiphany is one of my favourite feast days. I suspect that you would find that many priests said the same. I find it oddly moving to preach on the Epiphany gospel. It is immediately apparent to me that we are in the realm of myth and magic. The Magi shimmer into view from the East and bring their curious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and there is no getting away from it. This is a strange story.

And the thing that moves me about Epiphany is that here in our worship today we use the gifts the Magi brought. Gold – both our symbolic colour of joy and celebration that befits the feast and also in wedding rings that we shall bless today in thanksgiving for one couple’s marriage. And frankincense and myrrh – both burning today in the thurible. The sweet smell of the incense conquering the tartness of burning myrrh and rising heavenward. Together they are a symbol not only of our collective prayer rising to heaven but also that the sweetness of God’s love always triumphs over bitterness in the end.

The use of incense in churches has long been rising though not nearly as fast as the use of incense in people’s homes.

This kind of thing has led to controversy in Scotland. Some people don’t like the smell of incense and there have been countless disputes between priest and people about its use. [Read more…]

Easter Sermon

Here's the preaching of the resurrection from this morning's Great High Mass.

If Christ were not risen, we would not be gathered here. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A number of years ago, before I came to St Mary’s, I was engaged in the business of celebrating Easter. There I was trying to get people excited about the Easter Vigil – that’s the service that we celebrated early this morning here at St Mary’s. Its full of drama – of that there is no doubt. You get a fire lit in the middle of it, from which we light the Pascal Candle which burns so bright and clearly amongst us now. The other thing you do is take some coal from the fire, slip it into the thurible, the brass thing on chains that Beth came in with at the front of the procession this morning. You put on a teaspoon or two of incense, waft it about and the whole church smells of heaven.

Anyway there was I trying to enthuse some young people about coming to this exotic service. One particular teenager I remember. He had an interest in serving at the altar in church and I did the obvious thing and did a deal. [Read more…]