Sermon 2017 June 11th – St Columba’s Day



Preacher: Revd Angus MacLeod


Listen here:

“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,
and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20


Despair or hope? Celebration or post mortem?

On Thursday evening, did you greet the early Exit Poll –

With a shake of the head, turn off the TV and head for bed?

Or a frisson of excitement for the long night to come?


On Thursday, St Columba’s was a Polling Station for a conspicuous seat –

the last to make its election result known.


Two years ago, one of the speakers at the St Columba’s General Election Debate,

spoke about standing in an election,

where the candidate knows he/she has no realistic hope of being elected.

But stands anyway, because of conviction of thought

and in the knowledge that success is rarely born overnight,

often requiring the long haul.

A little wryly, he said of his own Christian faith –

“After all, we follow one who put it all to a Referendum. Then lost the public vote.”

[That is story of Holy Week.]


Today, we come to a milestone in the Christian year, and the Jesus story.

Chapter end or chapter beginning – you could say both.

On Wednesday, at a School Assembly here,

the children heard the story of Pentecost – the birthday of the Church,

which we marked last Sunday.

To illustrate how that story fits together with other parts,

the children formed a human tableau, out front.


The first child stood cradling an imaginary baby – Christmas birth:

the second mimed walking and talking – the ministry of Jesus;

the third shaped outstretched arms – crucifixion;

the fourth – closed eyes and hands crossed across the chest – death;

the fifth –  arms raised, exultant – resurrection, Easter;

the sixth, looking towards heaven – Ascension –

the next stop – the lectern where the story of Pentecost had just been read.

For us, today – one more station – Trinity Sunday – closing scene/final piece –

that now we might stand back and view the whole.


In Mathew’s Gospel, the significant stuff often happens in the high places.

the Sermon on the Mount, the withdrawal for prayer,

the Transfiguration, the Mount of Olives.

And one final, unnamed mountain,

back in backwater Galilee, where it all started.

Congregation of eleven, (down from twelve the week before);

and some of them, unconvinced.

Not exactly a stadium-sized, post-referendum party!

Yet it is the caucus of disciples we remember.


At this post-resurrection rendezvous,

the disciples that remain worship, but also (some) doubt.

Matthew twice makes room for doubt alongside worship.

Once, by the Sea of Galilee, when Peter attempts to walk on the waters towards Jesus,

initially successful, then sinking as fear takes hold.

Afterwards, the disciples worship Jesus,

Now, on the mountain of resurrection.

Like Thomas in John’s gospel,

doubting worshippers are not excluded from the resurrection story.

Recognition that genuine disciples waver

between adoration and indecision, prayer and puzzlement.

Recognition that often the disciple belongs, before he /she believes.


Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,

Nations – not so much nation states of today,

but tribes of all people who are not like you.

Mark’s parallel passage says, “all creation” (Mark 16:15).

In Luke-Acts, Jesus sends the disciples to “the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).

To those who receive the lighted torch, Jesus declares:

Be outward looking, be inclusive –

I am not the stuff of holy huddles or secret knowledge.

No place, no person, where my love cannot be shown and shared.


And baptise.

Re-enact my own baptismal story –

infant or adult – by sprinkling or river immersion.

Show forth the gift freely given,

the gateway into the community of faith;

confirming publicly, the loving esteem in which God already holds you.


Do this – In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Enfold the baptised with the presence and blessing of God.

It is worth remembering the Trinity was not dreamt up in some theological think tank –

it was forged and articulated by Christians

facing questions, challenges and persecution.

Trying to make sense of the life they had chosen (or been chosen by.)


Father, Son and Holy Spirit was the shorthand for their experience.

God the Creator, maker of heaven and earth and all that dwells therein –

Jesus – whose life, death and life again –

was so remarkable – they concluded,

God had made the wild investment of himself, in human form.

Then in time, despite Jesus’ physical absence –

his presence and strength, still available.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit – diverse but connected.

A trinity in relationship, dynamic, moving, alive.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the verdict,

once the evidence was in.


Inclusive, creative relationship – the Divine, three in one.

The God of mystery who holds difference together;

the God who is community.

Do we reflect that – the God of community?

I don’t think we could be living in a more relevant time

to be challenged by the communal nature of God.


Last week we baptised two infants – James amd Lochlan.

We met of course in the light of the Borough Market attack.

Undoubtedly, we gathered for worship that morning – unsettled.

For me the thing that will live long with me,

was the weight of a small child in my arms,

as Andrea and I introduced the newly baptised to their family of faith, and vice versa –

as we sang, The Lord bless you and keep you.

Words of ancient prayer.

That was a gift; life-affirming.

A contradiction, to what was manifested the night before.

A better way.


And there have been other lights this week.

A Roman Catholic nun in Roehampton.

Her third-floor apartment has an unimpeded view towards the City.

The Shard building, close to Borough Market, visible on the skyline.

On Saturday night, she told me how she watched the emergency service helicopters circling. All the while she said, she continued to offer them up in prayer.


Later in the week, she made supper for one of her returning neighbours –

as is her sometimes custom.

The neighbour lives alone.

She asked whether he would like to simply pick up the plate and go and eat in quiet –

or eat together.

On this occasion, he readily accepted the invite to eat together. –

hungering for companionship, as much as food.

The nun’s neighbour – a senior member of the Metropolitan Police.


In the Bulletin this morning, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland’s

words of support to Crown Court and ourselves.


One of our own members, called into work,

to be part of the emergency medical response last Saturday commented this week:

It was challenging as these things are

but as you said the environment is so supportive

that we got each other through it. 

I was a very small cog in the machine. 

As always I appreciate the support you and the church provide

and am very proud and comforted be a member of St Columba’s at times like these. 


A mountain in Galilee; a commissioning;

a fitting conclusion to the season of Easter and Pentecost.

The drama and beauty of that season may be complete for the year,

but the post resurrection life with Jesus is always, every day, beginning anew.

God in the community; God of community.

And a promise: Behold, I am with you always, even until the end of the age.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.