Praise be to God, who is in control of this mess

Preached on Sunday, 04.02.2018 By the Reverend Dr Norman Shanks Just after New Year we had a message with greetings from friends in the United States whom we’ve known for a number of years.  We met them in Atlanta, Georgia; they have visited Scotland several times and are planning to come back again this summer.  … More Praise be to God, who is in control of this mess

Remembrance Sunday

Preached on Sunday, 12.11.2017 By the Reverend Dr. Norman Shanks 30 years ago, when I was chaplain to Edinburgh University, Remembrance Sunday was marked by a special service that started in the University’s splendid historic Playfair Library – the setting at other times for prestigious social or civic rather than religious events.  There was an … More Remembrance Sunday

Thus says the Lord God,    who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.

Today we reach the end of our journey through the stories of Genesis – and here it is good to remind ourselves, that through all these stories, one story has been being told.  It is the attempt to tell the people of Israel where they come from, to tell them how they reached where they are, how it is that other peoples exist, where ancient enmities have come from, and where they as a people belong.  … More Thus says the Lord God,    who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.

Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’

Near the house where I grew up in Stirling there is a shortcut up to the Old Town, the way to the castle; it saves you walking round the long way by the street. It consists of a long staircase, which is quite steep – and it is known locally as ‘Jacob’s Ladder’. It will not be the only one in Scotland, or indeed in the world, because this story of Jacob is one that has captured the imagination – it gives our mind’s eye something to picture, and artists have tried to offer their own interpretation of the dream Jacob had of a stairway to heaven. … More Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God our strength and our redeemer. Amen

For a preacher, the use of the lectionary has many advantages. But it can also be somewhat challenging, trying to discern and understand what the central theme, which unifies a set of readings which don’t obviously at first cohere, actually is. … More May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God our strength and our redeemer. Amen

By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac.

In 1990 we as a family were on holiday in Canada and, on Sunday, we went to church.  The bible reading was the same one we heard this morning, about Abraham and Isaac, about sacrifice and the voice of God.  The minister said that there was provision in the church hall for children during the sermon – and he encouraged parents to send their children to use that provision because, he said, what he was going to say might not be for young ears.  So, of course, our 8 year-old and 6 year-old decided they were going to stay. … More By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac.

It is typical. Typical of God’s calling to us that is. That on the day of Pentecost, instead of being allowed to dwell on what it feels like and, means to have tongues of fire resting on you, the disciples have to go straight out and start preaching.   … More

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

So Matthew’s gospel begins with the promise of the Messiah, whose name will be Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us’; and it ends with the words of that Messiah: ‘and remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’  And the way the church found to talk about this creator who is with us, in the flesh and in the spirit, is the doctrine of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Spirit; creator, redeemer, sustainer. … More Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Why do you stand looking up towards heaven?

It’s not the first question asked in the story of the Ascension; in some ways it’s the answer to the first question. The first question, you will remember was this: ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ It’s the equivalent of the children in the back of the car who, after a short time on the journey, ask: ‘are we there yet?’ … More Why do you stand looking up towards heaven?