Sermon 2017 September 10th

ST COLUMBA’S, PONT STREET

Sun 10th September 2017, Rededication Sunday, Stewardship Month.

Preacher: Revd Angus MacLeod MA BD

(Matthew 18:15-20)

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”  Matthew 18:20

Where there were two, now there are three:

A new Scottish landmark was officially opened this week, by Her Majesty the Queen.

That famous pair, the Forth Railway Bridge and the Forth Road Bridge

are now joined by the breathtaking sweep of the Queensferry Crossing.

 

At the opening ceremony Jackie Kay, the Makar (Scotland’s Poet Laureate)

delivered a poem, composed for the day.

Firstly it celebrated the extraordinary variety of skills and labour

that had contributed to the enterprise.

 

If your fitters and your welders,

your joiners and engineers

surveyors, scaffolders,

concrete finishers and crane operators

across Scotland had a dream o’ye –

it would be to see you on this opening day

Queensferry Crossing

 

Then praises the fan-cabled grace:

Raising your harp and playing your strings

at every return at every going away.

Back and Forth, Firth of Forth,

North to South, South to North.

Queensferry Crossing.

 

Like a great cormorant perfectly still

and lifting your wings out to dry

in snell winds or high,

come driving rain, come shine.

Queensferry Crossing

 

The Moderator, Derek Browning paralleled the work of a bridge

with the call to discipleship.

“Bridges remind us that faith is also called to connect people,

overcome barriers and span divides.

reaching out in faith across chasms of fear, loneliness, intolerance and prejudice,

and to do this in the name of Jesus who did the same things.

Bridges help us to be people of possibility.”

 

Scaffolders and surveyors, the many parts and players, that make a bridge,

seem appropriate food for thought on Rededication Sunday and Stewardship Month.

Night shelter volunteers and creche helpers;

communion linen sorters and choral singers;

scripture studiers and Scottish dancers;

flower arrangers, elders and youngers –

if you had a dream for today – Sunday of Rededication – what would it be?

 

St Columba’s as a bridge, or a lighthouse,

a sanctuary, or a temple, a crossroads;

an open door or an upper room?

All images that might help us,

as we consider what type of Christian community we seek to be,

in our particular time and place

and with the resources of time, talent and money,

which God has bestowed upon us.

 

A season of stewardship reminds us of two core principles.

Firstly, that we give, because as Christians, we are thankful.

Be it time, talents or treasure – we give, because we believe we have first received.

We give, as a recognition of our identity –

children of God, precious and loved.

In response, grateful giving and sacrificial sharing of our resources

are marks of our discipleship, marks of our following.

 

Secondly, we give, because when we give, we participate in the work of God.

In Stewardship Month, we consider the breadth and diversity of that work.

Today we celebrate and ask blessing upon the work and life

of our numerous St Columba’s groups – the local church –

along with our linked charge of St Andrew’s, Newcastle.

The bit we see and touch, the neighbour we can name.

 

Next Sunday, we will think about the Church of Scotland’s partnerships

with the international /overseas church –

a broadening of our concerns and vision.

 

On Communion Sunday, it will be the stories and perspective

of an Urban Priority Area church, Colston Milton –

the church in Scotland our denomination, Church of Scotland.

That parish is an example of how funding by more fortunate congregations

such as St Columba’s, enables ministry to continue in places of great need,

that could not otherwise survive.

 

Time, Talents & Money. There are many ways to contribute to St Columba’s –

prayer, friendship, volunteering, using your gifts, offering your time.

Many people at St Columba’s give wonderfully generously in all those ways –

we have so much to be thankful for.

 

Money, something that Jesus handled and understood, is part of that,

and we should not be embarrassed to be open about it.

It is never a collection, always an offering.

A beautiful building, a practical building, a safe building, a warm building,

all require upkeep and resource –

be it bricks and mortar or caretakers and plumbers.

 

Precious things happen here – often discretely, not appearing on official balance sheets.

Last month a photo taken of a wedding couple:

the bride and groom flanked by the bride’s Mum and Dad,

the Mum and Dad, themselves married at St Columba’s in 1980 and now returning –

a bridge across the decades.

 

An Australian family, with Presbyterian roots, requesting that their mother’s memorial service be held here, because of her Scottish forbears – a bridge across the nations.

 

An AA attender says – “I have been coming here for thirty years – this place has saved my life.”Or guests at the Night Shelter say at season end –

“the Shelters have made me able to start thinking about the future again.”

Bridges back to humanity.

Baptisms, to hospice communions – bridges to eternity.

 

Our own fledgling connection to Colston Milton Parish in Glasgow –

where our ability to give, can serve others.

We can rejoice in the knowledge/ be encouraged

that from the first invitation to Reverend Christopher Rowe, three years ago,

came the choice of supporting Just Like Us, the Lent Appeal –

the mental health charity that uses Colston Milton’s parish building.

And later this autumn we will host a group of Glasgow teenagers from the GKexperience

(this year’s another Lent Appeal choice) who have also worked in Colston Milton.

Unanticipated extensions of connection and partnership; small, but precious.

 

These things happen, these bridges are made,

because of the prayer, commitment, compassion and generosity of so many people –

on Rededication Sunday and Stewardship month,

this is what we give thanks for and this is what we are invited to be a part of.

 

At the Queensferry Crossing, Jackie Kay’s poem concluded:

Across time’s estuaries, life’s vagaries

Its ups and down – here you are, arms outstretched

The urge to build bridges runs deeper than the great rivers they ford

You are the bridge in the sky, the high hope

You are the wingspan of centuries, the future’s story.

 

Might St Columba’s rededicate  itself to continue as a bridge in the year ahead?

Two or three are gathered together, under the shadow of Christ’s outstretched arms,

Come driving rain, come shine,

people of possibility, God among us.

As the Moderator prayed at Queensferry:

“God bless this bridge and all who travel on it.”