Sermon for the first Sunday after Trinity – 19.06.22

Isaiah 65:1-9Psalm 22:19-28; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39

Miss MacLeod was the boss of a big company and she needed to call one of her employees about an urgent problem with one of the main computers. She dialled the employee’s home phone number and was greeted with a child’s whispered, “Hello?”

Rather put out at the inconvenience of having to talk to a youngster, Miss MacLeod asked, “Is your Daddy home?” “Yes”, whispered the small voice. “Can I talk to him?” she asked.

To Miss MacLeod’s surprise, the small voice whispered, “No.”

Wanting to talk with an adult, the boss asked, “Is your Mummy there?” “Yes”, came the answer. “Can I talk with her?” Again the small voice whispered, “No.”

Knowing that it was not likely that a young child would be left at home all alone, Miss MacLeod decided she would just leave a message with the person who should be there watching over the child. “Is there any one there besides you?” she asked the child.

“Yes” whispered the child, “a policeman.” Wondering what on earth the police were doing there, Miss MacLeod asked, “Can I talk to the policeman?” “No, he’s busy,” whispered the child. “Busy doing what?” “Talking to Daddy and Mummy and the Fireman”, came the whispered answer.

Growing concerned and even worried as she heard what sounded like a helicopter through the ear piece on the phone, Miss MacLeod asked, “What is that noise?” “A hello-copper” answered the whispering voice. “What on earth is going on there?” asked the now rather worried employer.

In a voice full of awe the child whispered, “The search team just landed the hello-copper.” Alarmed, concerned, and more than just a little frustrated the boss asked, “What are they searching for?” Still whispering, the young voice replied along with a muffled giggle: “hee hee, they’re all looking for Me!”

Hide and seek is one of those games that will never be superseded by an electronic games console. It’s impossible because it’s a game that needs both people and a good sized house or other location.

Do you remember playing Hide and Seek as a child? Were you one of those who preferred to be a hider or a seeker? Did you find a place to hide which meant you were really difficult to find, or did you always choose a pretty obvious hiding place so that you would be one of the first to be discovered?

When I was at school I once tried to organise a professional Hide and Seek tournament – but it didn’t work – good players are just too hard to find!

Though hide and seek is just a game, how we feel about it, says a lot about the kind of person we are. Do we need to be found or are we content to be lost?

These questions are brought to mind by the Gospel for today.

In it, a man who wears no clothes, lives out in the tombs and describes himself as ‘Legion’ because of the ‘many demons’ that had ‘entered him’ is saved by Jesus.

The reading is a mysterious passage and some of the words can seem strange to our modern minds. Yet central to it is the sense that Jesus seeks to bring wholeness and healing to those who call upon him. Even those who hide amongst the dead.

The man tormented by the demons possessing his life, asks Jesus, who had already commanded the ‘unclean spirit’ to leave him, ‘What have you to do with me Jesus, son of the Most High God?’ He was lost and though some might have given up on him Jesus seeks, finds and restores him to life.

What about us, though we’re here at church this morning, do we too sometimes feel a bit lost and need to be found again by Christ?

If so, then we need to ask, what would he find hiding in our lives? What demons have possessed and frustrated God’s loving purpose in us?

Most of us struggle with the word ‘demons’ yet few of us would doubt that there are things that can undermine the fullness of life to which we’re all called. They cannot be ignored if we’re to be constantly transformed by our faith.

This morning’s Gospel describes a life changing transformation for that man, from being a lost outcast, he is restored ‘clothed and in his right mind’.

Yet, like him, if we’re to be, in St. Paul’s words, ‘clothed with Christ’ we need to always be open enough to let Christ find us, let him touch the depth of our souls and transform us.

But we do have to want to be found, we have to want his love to come and continually transform us. It’s so easy to stand still, to reach a certain point in our journey of faith and then not to move, to decide that the change around us in society and the church is all too much and not seek to engage with it.

It’s a bit like what was happening in Galatia, described in our Epistle. They had found Christ, yet it was too much, they wanted to hide and Paul speaks to those who found certainty in the easy security of the law.

Paul knew that any law which divides, separates and frustrates doesn’t speak of the God of transformation and he reminds them that in Christ there is ‘no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, make or female; for all are one in Christ Jesus’.

The radical freedom Jesus brought changed their world. Likewise the living Christ in us, can be frightening, for he challenges everything in which we find security. For some, then as now, it can be too much.

In our Gospel those who witnessed the man’s transformation were ‘seized with great fear’ and they asked Jesus to leave. It was easier to send him away, to hide, than to live in his life changing love.

We might draw a parallel with life for so many today; they don’t wish to be found and they probably don’t even think they’re lost. Yet Jesus seeks them too.

When a child first plays hide and seek they need to be encouraged to overcome their caution and fear and to hide. Sometimes an adult will need to go with them, to reassure them that they won’t be lost forever.

What we do in our church buildings every Sunday morning may not be Hide and Seek but we do need each other’s encouragement and help to find Jesus in our midst. Whilst society has changed and the church has struggled to keep up, that doesn’t mean people no longer need the redeeming love of Christ.

Having been found, we’re called to go and be his people amongst our neighbours. So a challenge for each one of us this week is to not be afraid, to leave this service, like the demon possessed man his life now transformed, ‘proclaiming the good news’ of just how much ‘Jesus has done for’ you. Go from here and in the strength of the Holy Spirit seek those who are hiding and waiting to be found.

May God Bless you and those you hold dear during this coming week.

Fr Simon

CONFIRMATION at PENTECOST!

On Sunday 5th June (the day of Pentecost) we will be delighted to welcome our beloved Bishop Mark to St Finnbarr’s, Dornoch. We have a number of candidates who will be confirmed and first communions will also take place at this service.

If you are interested in confirmation, first communion or re-affirmation of faith, you are most welcome to join one of our preparation courses taking place in the month of May. Please let Fr Simon know if you would like to take part by emailing ihssimonscott@gmail.com or call 01408 633614 and leave a message!

What is Confirmation?

Your baptism marked the start of your relationship with Jesus Christ. Your soul was changed permanently and you were filled with grace from God. Through Confirmation, the Holy Spirit strengthens these graces, gives you more of them and seals them all inside you – like a carefully wrapped present! This brings you closer to Christ and better prepares you to face the daily challenges of Christian life.

You might want to consider Confirmation if you have ‘moved’ to the Episcopal Church from another denomination – have a chat with one of our clergy team!

What is First Communion?

First Communion is one of the holiest and most important occasions in a person’s life. It is the first time that a person receives the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, which is the eating of consecrated bread and drinking of consecrated wine. Many children receive their First Communion when they’re 8 or 9 years old, because this is considered the age of reason. Older people can receive communion for the first time too!

What is ‘Re-affirmation of Faith’?

Re-affirmation of Faith can be really helpful to those who feel a bit like they have lost their way. Do you feel like you have fallen out of touch with your faith? Re-affirming your faith in Jesus Christ publicly can help re-balance your life. Speak to one of our clergy team if this sounds like something you’d be interested in!

CLERGY TEAM CONTACTS:

Rev Lizzie Campbell – through one of the other clergy below

Rev Canon James Currall – 01862 881737

Fr Simon Scott – 01408 633614

Feast of the Holy Innocents – Tuesday 28th December, 11am at St Columba’s Brora!

Holy Innocents

The Holy Innocents are the children mentioned in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 2:16-18.

Herod, perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceedingly angry, and sent his soldiers to kill all male children ages two and under that were in Bethlehem and on the boarders, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah: A voice in Rama was heard, of lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailed her children, and would not be comforted, because they were no more.

We keep this feast in order to honour these children as martyrs – they are the first buds of the Church killed by the frost of persecution; they died not only for Christ, but in his stead” (St. Augustine).

A Thought for Advent

This coming Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent. There is little doubt what most of us will be doing in the next four weeks – the Christmas rush to get everything organised – cards written, gifts bought and sent, the preparation of food, plans about whose turn it is to go visiting and anxieties about who’ll be offended if we don’t pay them enough attention etc etc…. The rush is on and it’s not surprising that there’s often a hint of panic in people’s conversations – “I’ll never be ready!”

In four weeks, it will all be over, in five a new year will have brought us another set of resolutions, in six the decorations will have come down, the furniture of life will be back in place and we’ll be back to – well, back to what?

Will life be just the same, or will we be changed?

If we take Advent seriously, there is a chance we will be changed because we will have had an opportunity to reflect again on what it means to say that God came into the world in the humility of the birth at Bethlehem and that he still comes into the world in all its mess and pain and joy, longing for us to recognise Him.

Advent is a godsend, a gift which stops us in our tracks and makes us realise that we hold dual citizenship (of this world and His kingdom) in awkward tension. We are all part of the scene – Christians sometimes appear to be rather superior about what we call ‘commercialisation’ and say that the real Christmas isn’t about that. But actually, if you think about it, the real Christmas is about precisely that: it’s about God coming into the real world. Not to a sanitised stable as we portray it in carols and on Christmas cards, but to a world that needed, and still needs, mucking out! Advent reminds us that the kingdom has other themes to add to the celebration, themes that are there in our scripture readings for the season: Repent, be ready, keep awake, He comes!

Advent reminds us that not only do we live in two worlds – the one that appears to be going mad all around us and the one that lives by the kingdom of God’s values, but that we operate in two different timescales, in chronological time and beyond it. And the point of intersection – where these two worlds meet is now. Scripture readings and prayers which are often used during Advent, remind us that now is the time when we have to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. Now is when we meet God, because we have no other time.

At whatever level we operate, it’s a time for preparation – a time to put things right – to repair broken relationships or reach out to those with whom you have grown distant – and that might include working on your relationship with God.

Whatever else we have to do, there are only so many praying days to Christmas. It is prayer that gives us the opportunity to focus our recognition of God in every part of our lives. Prayer is not just what we do in what we call our prayer time. Prayer is how we give our relationship with God a chance to grow and develop and, just like any other relationship, it needs time. We don’t stop being related when we are not with the person concerned. We don’t stop being a partner, a wife, husband, child, parent or friend when that person is out of sight or when we are concentrating on something else. But we do become less of a related person if we never give them time.

So, Advent says, make time, create space so that our understanding of God’s love for us (and our love for God in response) can grow. The world is saying “Get on with it – don’t wait for Christmas to hold the celebrations”. Advent says, “Wait, be still, alert and expectant.”

The shopping days will come to an end – there will come a moment when we really can’t do any more. The point of praying or making a space is that we get into the habit of remembering God who comes to us every day and longs for us to respond with our love and service. Why not re-start your relationship with God by joining us at Dornoch Cathedral on Advent Sunday (28th November) at 6pm for a special Advent Carol Service? – Repent, be ready, keep awake, He comes!

Fr Simon

Advent in Sutherland and Tain

Advent Candles

Advent

Next Sunday (28th November) is the first Sunday in Advent, marking the beginning of the Advent Season.

An Advent Theme

We are all aware of the many difficult issues that the Covid pandemic has thrown into sharp relief and the heightened concern over our environment and the future that we will leave for our children and grandchildren and the tensions that all of this can create in relationships and for mental health. Against this background, we are planning to focus on a different aspect of Social Justice in each week of Advent.

Advent Candles

Traditionally the Advent Wreath has three purple candles, reflecting the liturgical colour for Advent, with a pink candle for the Third Sunday. These four candles are arranged in a ring with a white candle in the centre. There are several traditions about the meaning or theme of each candle. The scheme that accords best with the readings in our Lectionary is:

  • Advent 1 – The Patriarchs (and Matriarchs)
  • Advent 2 – The Prophets
  • Advent 3 – John the Baptist 
  • Advent 4 – The Virgin Mary 
  • Christmas Day – Jesus the Christ

The weekly themes of Social Justice will be reflected in our preaching as follows:

  • Advent 1 – The Legacy that we leave to future generations (mirroring what was left to us by earlier generations – including most of our Church Buildings)
  • Advent 2 – Freedom of Speech (the Prophets were often persecuted for what they said)
  • Advent 3 – Consumption (John was very frugal)
  • Advent 4 – Exploitation and Violence against Women and Girls (Mary was a vulnerable refugee)

Advent Study Groups

Our Advent Study Groups will also take up each of these themes week by week.

The groups will be held as follows:

Wednesday Mornings at 11am in St Finnbarr’s Church after the Midweek Service

Wednesday Evenings at 7pm on Zoom

Each of the Sessions will stand alone and so it is perfectly OK to attend in person some weeks and online for others, they are on Wednesdays 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd December.

If you wish to take part in the Advent Study, please let James know, so that he can prepare sufficient copies of materials/arrange refreshments. etc.

Blessings
Simon and James

Remembrance Sunday St Finnbarr’s Dornoch – 14th November 2021

The community in Dornoch are not able to mark Remembrance Sunday in the usual way this year. The service at St Finnbarr’s will begin with an Act of Remembrance at 10.45am in church. Please let others know about this earlier start time – thank you!

Advent Carol Service on the First Sunday in Advent

Advent Carol Service at Dornoch Cathedral

Sunday 28th November – 6pm

(Please enter via the west door and bring a facemask)

Collection in aid of ImpACT

(Raising funds to provide Clean Birth Kits)

Fancy being in the Choir?

If you are a singer and are interested in being in the choir for this event, please come along to our open rehearsals at St Finnbarr’s Episcopal Church (School Hill, Dornoch) on Thursday 18th November  and Thursday 25th November – 7.30pm until 9pm.

O come, O come Emmanuel!

Service for All Souls (2nd November)

As part of our Season of Remembrance, members from across our churches will be joining together at St Finnbarr’s in Dornoch on Tuesday 2nd November at 6.30pm for a special service at which we remember those we have loved and lost.

At this special service the names of the departed will be read aloud. We have lists of names from previous years, so if you have provided names already they will be read, we will also add the names of all those whose funerals we have conducted in the last year, but if there are additional loved ones that you wish us to add please let us know.

If you can’t make the service but would like someone’s name added to our lists, please email either ihssimonscott@gmail.com or revjcurrall@mail.scot or telephone Fr Simon on 01408 633614 or Canon James on 01862 881737 (please feel free to leave a message if there is no answer)!