Sermon For Pentecost  2019


The Day of Pentecost and they were all together in one place… then suddenly!

It all seems so straightforward and so amazingly sudden.

There seems to be none of the doubting and questioning as we had at the resurrection.. they all seemed  to be in on it, as they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in ways which they could all understand.

The remainder of the early chapter of Acts if we were to read a bit further, speaks of a wonderful united and caring group of early believers who shared everything in common and even set up systems to ensure the needy amongst them were without need.

In the space of a very short time a lot seems to have been established for the infant church.

In two months we are led to feel those who doubted and questioned, those who denied and ran away, those who were filled with fear for their lives, were new people and all the old ways had vanished.

It is not at all unusual when looking back over the past to paint a different picture then the whole reality.

Last week saw the 75th anniversary of D Day and yet even today some of the less fortunate stories of that amazing military campaign are being told. The picture I certainly grew up with is getting filled in with far more (interesting) detail.

We do know that the church faced some big challenges later in Acts. Paul and Peter had a tough relationship often disagreeing with each other.

It was all very well Jews from around the world gathering in Jerusalem to hear the apostles first proclamations, but when the gentiles came in on the act that was another problem altogether. Was it ever going to be safe to let unclean and unwanted gentiles in on the Act of God at work?

I read this week an opening remark in a book…. Community takes Commitment… the chapter then proceeded to speak about being committed to the Christian fellowship/community means a challenging journey. Don’t expect it to be easy, either personally or corporately.

Richard Rohr also pointed out recently that when the church had grown more weary of being anti Jewish and then Anti Muslim, it became intent on fighting amongst themselves in a denominational warfare.

A phrase in the gospel reading also stood out for me today when Phillip said “show us the father and we shall be satisfied”

I am not at all sure what would have really satisfied those early disciples. They probably were not all that different from us today who who always be able to come back and say “ah but…” and hanker after more satisfaction.

Jesus seems to have been a bit disappointed with Philips comment. Almost suggesting that had he not done enough to show them the way…. surely you must have seen something in what I had done and said?

Of course for John’s readers they were still to encounter the final sign… the crucifixion. That final moment of revelation when Jesus becomes the servant of all and does not claim equality with God in some cosmic way. He was seen in the emptying of himself and becoming almost the lowest of the low.

Surely on this feast of Pentecost we must not fall into the trap of thinking everything is going to be power filled and wonderful without challenges in the Christian way or even in the Christian community.

Community still does take commitment and commitment  is not often easy.

We cannot move on in our Christian lives without the sign of the cross before us with all that must teach us about being servants and about bearing scars. Jesus clearly carried those scars with him, the new life of Easter  as well as the promise of the Holy Spirit to empower us in living the kingdom, as seen on the day of Pentecost, holds all that we are scars and all.

Jesus does say that the Holy Spirit will remind us, we must not forget.

Pewsheet for Trinity2019

Pewsheet for pentecost2019

Sermon For Easter 5 Lerwick and yell 2019

I have just got back from my parents home (as many of you will know) It is the place where I grew up, and I guess really … yes it is still home.

They live in the same house, their only home together, many of the things are just the same, and mum even commented this week that the plates we were eating off were a present to her on her 21st birthday.

It was lovely to be there to celebrate my Dad’s 90th birthday.

But do I realise something for myself in this trip into memory lane?

Is there a challenge I am forced to face more and more as I grow up? …….that is how to see things differently! How can I see things differently?

Am I getting set in  my ways? (careful!)

Am I growing stubborn? (even more careful!)

Ok ….well lets just keep my more personal way and wherefores and get back to more churchy things?

We have probably all grown up with habits of interpretation both of church practice and biblical image…. how many of us took some trips down memory lane last week when the Good Shepherd kept appearing?

Today we are reminded that we need to be able to see things in a new and challenging way when it comes to the way God works. And ways we may have interpreted the bible in the past may need revising.

Peter stepped up a big step in the epistle today when he realized (not without difficulty either) that God included Gentiles. God’s love and all affirming grace reached to the folk he had grown up so clearly knowing were not included.

It is so easy to feel comfortable in our faith if we think we are accepted and included and if we think we are doing the right thing. But what if we lived somewhere where who we were was persecuted and unwelcome? What would we do?

The reading from the book of Revelation today is also comfortable and familiar to us…. I have used it many a time in services…. we know the words very well…. we have seen in it art and in words often explored.

But what a revolution to see a new heaven and new earth when the first heaven and earth had passed away….. We have only just got used to the way this earth seems to work (or not) never mind what we think of heaven (maybe touching on last week here too) to suddenly be confronted with something new and challenging.

But what do we make of the home of God being among mortals? What do we make of God being with us and alongside us? (surely God is sometimes better kept out?)

I am making all things new… we hear…..

People like me who are set in their ways will be filled with fear at what God is trying to do!

So we find ourselves with Jesus and sitting comfortably at his feet. We are like little children in the company of a loving parent and teacher.

But what is it we hear…. “A new commandment!” How are we supposed to take this one in….

how are we to love as he loved… how are we to love one another in such a way that everyone around us will recognise us as disciples.

Yet another challenge to those of us who feel sure we are right… well at least set in our ways anyway!






So some challenges along the way

Be willing and able to see things differently.

Be willing and able to accept the new

Be willing and able to move forward not knowing where it will end.

Be willing and able to love… completely and recklessly.

12th May at St Magnus’ Lerwick

I might say that over the past weeks my life has been dominated by death.

There have been the usual funerals where sometimes the topic is raised, though strangely when I think on it, sometimes not. I wonder why this might be the case?

Much more significantly are the conversations with people, and there have been many recently, who are facing death either for themselves or their loved ones.

There are also the conversations about whether or not to attempt CPR should the need arise.

This week there was also a man who was living in extreme pain who wanted to go back to the lawyers and ask again about when the time comes could someone assist his death be freed from prosecution.

These are all huge questions affecting each of us and each of our loved ones.

Possibly on a lighter note someone even asked me this week the question if we are in heaven forever after we die, how is it possible to be large enough to accommodate all the need? Does heaven keep getting extended?

A few weeks ago I was wondering what Lazarus might have said when he was brought back from death, and today we hear about Tabitha who was ill and died. She was a good lady by all accounts and obviously loved and admired. Peter prays and then says “Tabitha get up” and she does and begins to serve them again.

She had been ill and then died…. Quite a natural progression, she was loved and people would have grieved. So what do you think may have been the effects on her and her loved ones by being brought back to life?

As I sometimes say at funerals some of the oldest words recorded from the Christian pen are words to the Thessalonian church “we do not want you to be uninformed about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so through Jesus God will bring with him those who have died… we will be with the Lord forever… therefore encourage one another”

It would appear the question of death has travelled with us perhaps not surprising, but equally important is to realise that ideas of heaven (and indeed hell) have not been constant, and have it would appear changed down the years.

You certainly don’t have to be religious to use the language of heaven, Heaven is variously depicted in art of all forms down the years.

It is such a familiar term yet it is worth realising it may mean different things to different people.

Paula Gooder has written an excellent book on this topic, it is readily and easily readable.

For many of us today, Death , dying and heaven are part of the same conversation yet it may not always have been so even within the life of the Christian Church. Thoughts and feelings have evolved and probably continue to do so.

It is probably important to realise that as the collect for today speaks, the resurrection and the life is more often speaking about this world and are life today than it is about some other world.

The resurrection life of Jesus was that which literally fed the early believers. It was his continued presence that made them who they were then.

This week Jean Vanier died. He was the founder of the L’Arche communities. His death has touched many people, it is of course sad.

I had the huge pleasure of meeting him a number of years ago. He was a speaker at a conference I was attending. I have since that conference said that that was like being alongside a living saint… a truly remarkable Christian.

I want to encourage us to talk about our death, and to speak about our dying. Let’s accept differences here too.

On a perhaps practical and personal point do make sure loved ones know what you feel about CPR too.

There is no age limit about such discussions, children and old people alike can grow by sharing the discussion.

Jean Vaniers final words to those at his bedside were inspiring and I want to end with them now, giving thanks for his remarkable life and witness.

“I am deeply peaceful and trustful. I’m not sure what the future will be but God is good and whatever happens it will be the best. I am happy and give thanks for everything. My deepest love to each one of you” (Jean Vaniers final word)




Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:
raise us, who trust in him,
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that we may seek those things which are above,
where he reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever

Awakening; a new way of seeing by Helen Randall

Learning the names of the children in my class, when I was a primary school teacher, was an important way of helping the children settle in at the start of the year.  I had a plan of where they were sitting on my desk and I very quickly knew their names, and personalities.

Since moving here last August, I have met so many new people and gradually learnt their names, although I find faces are easier to remember than names!

It’s always harder when we meet people out of context, or in unexpected places. Some we know instantly and others we only recall when something reminds us and we make a connection; then we recognise them and recall their names, hopefully!


The disciples, in the story from John’s Gospel, were initially unable to recognise Jesus on the shore. Was it an unexpected place?  Had they given up expecting to see him?

Imagine the early morning scene by the lakeside: the disciples, desolate and bewildered, back at work, fishing in Simon Peter’s boat. Maybe John gave him his full name to show that Peter had returned to his job as a fisherman.

Someone was standing on the distant shore and there was the smell of fish cooking on a charcoal fire by the lake.  They’d had an unsuccessful night of fishing, caught nothing, and were afraid that their families would go hungry.

The person on the shore called out to them in a gentle way, called them ‘children’, and told the disciples to cast their nets to the right side of the boat and then they had a huge catch of large fish!

It was only then ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ realised it was Jesus on the shore. He could feel the weight of the catch of fish in the nets, recalled similar events of abundance and recognised the person on the shore as Jesus! “It is the Lord!”, he said to Peter.



The story also appears early in Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 5, where we read of Jesus’ initial call to Simon Peter to go and ‘catch people’. John’s story, however, speaks of a reminder to Peter of his initial call and then to go and ‘feed my lambs’. But that’s for another sermon!


I think we are being invited to see the miraculous catch of fish, and breakfast on the shore, with bread, as signs of plenty, of resurrection plenty. There was more than enough. There is more than enough. It reminds us of earlier stories of abundance, typical of Jesus’ gifts: wine, bread, life. Here we have fire, fish and bread provided by Jesus the host – an early morning eucharistic meal.

The smell of the charcoal fire would have brought back painful memories for Peter of betraying Jesus the last time he was by a charcoal fire. The scene comes with a loving invitation to new beginnings, and the healing of painful memories.


I have been re-reading Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan’s ‘The Last Week.’  The book challenges readers to think: are the Easter stories intended as historical reports or do they use the language of parable and metaphor to express truths that are much more than factual, or some combination of the two?

The   authors remind us that there is agreement amongst Christians that the meaning of Jesus’ parables are not dependent upon whether they are historically accurate. They go on to say that:

“Seeing the Easter stories as parable does not involve a denial of their factuality …..but the importance of the Easter stories lies in their meanings.”

The importance of the Easter stories lies in their meanings.

The what, not the why and how?


My new way of seeing has become clearer as I continue on my spiritual journey, with some moments of intense clarity. One of these was being introduced to a song in the early days of our last church community, called ‘I am beautiful’.  I had an overwhelming sense of God’s love and acceptance.

Another was hearing a phrase, which has stayed with me, in an Easter sermon:

“Whatever we think of the rising, Jesus continues to be.”

And, more recently, was reading words by Cynthia Bourgeaut on Richard Rohr’s daily reflection:

“Yes, Jesus’ physical form no longer walks the planet. But if we take him at his word, that poses no disruption to intimacy if we merely learn to recognise him at that other level, just as he has modelled for his disciples during those first forty days of Eastertide.”

Our recent Parish Day helped us see that the Divine image is in each one of us and we were encouraged to recognise the different ways the Spirit speaks to us; on our own, with others, through Creation, through Scripture and in Community.

A new way of seeing?


May we, as a church community, be open to new ways of seeing and encourage each other along the way.


I had thought last week that I was drawing a line under the Epiphany as we gathered for the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.

The thought that we had seen the manifestation of God (Epiphany) and then witnessed the fulfilment of God’s presence in the world along with Simeon and Anna seemed a sensible place to draw a line.

But I am now left realising that this cannot be the case. Maybe there is no line to be drawn at all?

All our readings for today speak clearly about “response”.

In the calling, or is it the responding of Isaiah? We read those well-known words

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’ 9And he said, ‘Go ….and say to this people: ..

Isaiah had felt the presence of God, responded to it by offering himself and then was told “go”


In the epistle we hear Paul talking about his own response to God…. A bit mixed up at first maybe…. after all he admits his first response was to persecute the church rather than be its apostle!

But then he received things “from God”, and probably from other teachers too which convinced him that a different response was called for and he describes it as being “untimely born” and so his new role as apostle to the Gentiles began, and some would argue the founding of what we today describe as the church. (somewhat different!)



And then the Gospel reading…. Equally well known the calling of early disciples and being told they were going to catch people from then on!

If we were to apply those three what questions to this passage as we think on it I wonder what answers we may give?

What do we see happening here?

So what does it mean?

What next for us? Where does it lead us?

We read as the conclusion…

When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed Jesus”

I am challenged with each of these readings to find my own response, rather than sit and watch.

If I were to say Here am I send me? What would happen next?

If I, as I know I have, received traditions and teaching from the church down the years… what am I going to do as a response to this?

And if I describe myself as a follower of Jesus what will this actually lead me to do or to be?

All this week Richard Rohr has been thinking about Jesus, in his daily meditations on line.

He raised a really interesting point at the beginning of the week when he wondered if we have been too busy thanking Jesus rather than following him.

He certainly has a point when you look back at the years of Christian theology since the 5th century when we began to focus almost to the loss of everything else on “what Jesus did for us” (metaphysically speaking )rather than on what Jesus means for us or what Jesus taught us.




Those people who encountered Jesus on the shore of Galilee, and in the villages around there were not swayed by what Jesus did for them (as in gaining atonement) but they did respond to what he taught and what he did… as in what he showed them.

They were affected by his love and his closeness to God, and they did feel called to follow him … and many did.

So if we can describe ourselves as fellow followers of Jesus, then our response to Jesus become quite a crucial thing. Certainly a life changing thing, and quite possibly a challenge.

The gospel writer puts it quite succinctly and this could be where our “what next” question will lead us. The writer even reminds us that in encountering God we need not be afraid.. he says…

“Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed Jesus”


What are our boats do you think?

What does following Jesus mean for us and how does it shape us?


So I will take away the line I thought I had drawn last week and simple leave us with a question instead….


How are we going to respond ?

Pewsheet for 3rd Feb

Well we have seen this coming… here we are in the Temple presenting Jesus again. Simeon and Anna who have been waiting for the fulfilment of God all their lives are here too and they recognise this fulfilment in Jesus.

The Epiphany of God, which we have seen in so many ways now. Draws to a conclusion.

Christmas officially ends today and the crib figures, those who have led us in Epiphany can be put away.

Yet in this ending we also really do see a beginning.

I am reminded of those famous lines in TS Eliot’s Four Quartets “Little Gidding”

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;”

The beginning we see is the journey back to Jerusalem. This time the Donkey really does appear! Yet this time the cross is also on the horizon. Yet another time for ending and yet another time for beginning again.

I have become convinced over recent weeks especially,  that to look at the life of Jesus in any sense as a linear movement, or as a simple day one through to day end is never going to reveal what he clearly was to the people who followed him and became his disciples.

At each turn of the way the whole epiphany of God to us is revealed, the new wine, the crucified King, the glory of God seen in a humble stable, and today even even in Simeon’s words to Mary today,

“a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Last week was Holocaust Memorial Day, Auschwitz was liberated. For many this place showed the lowest that man could become, and yet even last week we were reminded of stories of redemption and love and forgiveness shining through the darkness. Here again we see that there is no darkness that light cannot penetrate.

Whether it be a dirty stable, a cross of execution, the darkness of the grave. God can reach in and out of all these places.

An end? or a beginning?  Which way are we facing? And for what reason?

I am reading Richard Holloways book “Waiting for the last bus” at the moment. Its subtitle is ‘reflections on life and death’. This is a moving and challenging book in many ways as it encourages us to think both about our own life and our own death.

Holloways remarks that humans are reflective creatures and because of this they find it hard to live with the muddle and confusion of their nature. Perhaps something some of us at least can recognise!

Because of this he suggests we look for the rescue.. the explanation…. The rescuer…. That thing which will not only make sense of it all but redeem it all too. For Christians this is often naturally seen in Christ, but only in a Christ that stands at both ends of time at the same time and whose beginning is an ending and whose ending is seen as a beginning.

The Feast of the presentation reminds us of this circularity of Christ.

As you and I travel the journey of faith we know so often that sense of moving on yet also arriving and the times of saying farewell and hello.

Our life of faith is that exploration we enjoy with God at our side, or even with God holding us in his arms and that realisation that,

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;”

And as God holds us in his arms as Simeon did for Jesus on this feast day, we can glimpse the fulfilment of the Kingdom and the revelation of that light… a light that seeks to be revealed now…. Through us.


A reading from Oscar Romero.

God comes, and his ways are near to us.

God saves in history.

Each person’s life, each one’s history,

is the meeting place to which God comes.

How satisfying to know one need not go to the desert to meet him,

need not go to some particular spot in the world.

God is in your own heart.


Sermon For Fourth Sunday of Epiphany 2019


I must say that I have been both fascinated and challenged by the exploration of Epiphany this year.

Today this time is drawing to a conclusion, with the finale next week at the Feast of the presentation.

We have seen how for Luke it was the Shepherds who lead us into the Epiphany… the manifestation of God in Christ

For Matthew (which perhaps is more natural for us to say) the Wise men show us the Epiphany of God in Christ open for all the world to see and to recognise as we are invited to come and worship with them and bring our own gifts… what can I give him poor as I am etc?

In Mark it is the Baptism of Christ and the words of heaven “this is my Son… listen to him” that opens up the Epiphany moment when our eyes are encouraged to look and see God in Christ ready to embark on proclaiming the good news of Gods Kingdom on earth.

Last week we found ourselves at a wedding feast… perhaps it was our own wedding banquet and our wine had run dry and Jesus uses water in vast quantities to offer us the best new wine of the Kingdom which we are invited to drink.

Today we find Jesus in the Synagogue reading the Prophet Isaiah and we here that when the Kingdom of God is witnessed the poor hear the good news, the blind recover their sight, those who feel trapped discover freedom, the oppressed find freedom, and those who are in any kind of debt are released from it. The Kingdom of God brings in ever new and liberating possibilities.

Over the last weeks we have also been invited to realise that we have the mind of Christ, and that One Spirit is moving within us.

I have also put before us the three questions which we can always use when invited into Scripture readings and into the stories of the Gospels in particular.

The, What?

The, So What?

And the ,What next?.

(Perhaps we realise that rarely do we allow ourselves the discovery of the answer to even the last two what questions)

So to bring these questions to the Synagogue today… If the Kingdom of God means these things…. So what?

Are we going to gaze on the reader (Jesus) and when he rolls the scroll up just move on to thinking about something else….. or are we like the disciples going to keep on following Jesus and work out ways of making this Kingdom he spoke about a reality?

Well I would like to think we choose the latter and follow Jesus along the way and learn from him.

Paul today helps us a little in this ..

He tells us we are the Body of Christ.

This is a big ask… a huge point. We are the Body of Christ.

If the Shepherds, wise men, and the folk at the wedding realised in Christ that the Kingdom of God was living and present…

How much more should they realise that the Kingdom of God was living and present when they look at the Body of Christ today…. You and me?

Next week we find ourselves at the Temple Simeon and Anna are there and Mary and Joseph bring in their first born son, to do for him what is prescribed in the law.

Simeon and Anna have been waiting nearly all their lives to see God’s Kingdom fulfilled and when Jesus is there they recognise this is the very moment. Simeon even takes him in his arms and declares that he can now die in peace knowing that it has happened.

When we come to celebrate the Feast of the presentation next week, are we going to come with the same mind as Simeon and Anna? How much have we been waiting for the Kingdom of God to be realised?

Will we be able next week to declare “Now I have seen it” Now I know the Kingdom of God is present… now I am part of it as a member of the Body of Christ?

Will we be able to witness to the Epiphany too? Can we recognise God in Christ reconciling the world… can we see ourselves as part of this amazing thing?

God knows the world needs it, God knows the worlds needs us!