As Usual

I did pretty well at blogging through January, but February rolled through with an avalanche of lectures for which I didn’t have presentations prepared, along with two book manuscripts, a couple of lectures, and so on and so forth. February was a blogging washout.
But March is still young, and I preached this morning at St Mary’s, and I’ll be preaching next week at St Aidan’s, so maybe I can jump start this blog. We’ll see — but for now, here’s this morning’s sermon. (Video below, text in the ‘continue’ link.)


Continue reading “As Usual”

Missing Michael

We stayed up late last night checking, and we woke early this morning to see; and this afternoon, on our way home from church, we caught Eamonn Clarke’s message on Twitter, saying that Michael O’Connor Clarke had died.
For the last couple of days, Margaret and I had strayed from internet connections only most reluctantly; we’ve been worried, and yesterday while I was writing this morning’s sermon, Michael was all I could think about. It’s a tricky business, writing a sermon when you’re thinking about someone in particular, but the readings were about judgement and kindness and justice, and with Michael standing at the threshold they all ran together. He’s in the sermon several times, though in my final draft I took his name out; you’ll recognise him. He’s a hard man to miss.
So we’re sitting at home crying, thinking back, hoping and praying. If you are too, imagine us there beside you. Every now and then someone will give your arm a squeeze, pass you a tissue, tell a story. Together, we’ll all miss him a lot. Keep him in your heart, remember Leona and Charlie, Lily, and Ruairi, and see if you can keep some of Michael’s wit and kindness glowing in your neighbourhood.
Continue reading “Missing Michael”

As Usual

As usual, when I’ve fallen off the tracks of blogging, I can be relied upon to clamber back on the rails by posting a sermon. I was up today at the cathedral, at the end of a positively mad week of work (meetings, appointments, changes in plan, changes in room expectation, form-filling-out, et cetera). This week will be mad, too, in different ways: Teaching begins, Margaret and I will go offer our biometric features to the Home Office, more meetings, midweek worship for both the Kirk and the Episcopal congregation at the Uni, and so on — but I’m not preaching next week, so that’s a relief.
Today’s sermon came out in a rush in the preparation stage, but when I preached it I wasn’t sure how it went. A number of people offered favourable assessments, though, so it probably didn’t harm anyone. It proved difficult, wen I thought about James, to avoid giving a fascinating lecture on the intricacies of these verses — the curse of the commentary hanging over me. That, and the oddity of me preaching on a text warning against becoming a teacher (or preacher), combined to balk some of my compositional impulses.
Anyway, the sermon is below, in the ‘More reading’ section. Margaret and I are writing overdue notes to family and friends, and preparing our lectures for next week. The weather in Glasgow has turned markedly autumnal — not inappropriate for the season, but a decisive end to a never-fully-convincing summer. Three months till the days start heading back in the correct direction.
Continue reading “As Usual”

For Friends

My turn to preach came up this week, so I buckled in yesterday and — despite interruptions from Olympic bicycling, swimming, and gymnastics — hammered out a sermon. There were several biblical-theological themes on my mind, and also the situations of a parishioner who recently died, and several of my long-time friends who are caught up in the toils of very serious medical situations, plus the stunning performance of ‘Abide With Me’ by recent University of Glasgow alumna Emeli Sandé and the Style Council’s five-star recording ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’. That’s a lot.
It all worked out, and the sermon was warmly received. (It’s below in the ‘Continue Reading’ portion, if you’re looking at my home page right now; if you came to the page for this sermon, you won’t see the ‘Continue Reading’ link, so you can just go ahead. Maybe make some toast.) There’s a paragraph I’d really wish were more craftsmanlike, but the rest turned out better than I hoped. It’s for you — four or five of you in particular, but if you think it maybe’s for you, then assuredly you’re one of the half dozen people who’s been on my mind.
In a few hours, Doug will swing past and carry us off to Knockbrex, where we will spend a few days away from the bustle of city life, (ideally) writing and resting and breathing in (Irish) sea air and sunning ourselves on the beach. I’m not sure if we’ll have reliable connectivity, so if you don’t see me for a few days, don’t worry.

Low Tide

Continue reading “For Friends”

*Puff, Puff* (Dust Cloud)

Is it more to the point to say ‘It’s a good thing that I preach from time to time, since that gives me an occasion to update the blog’ or ‘Guess it really shows how lazy you’ve gotten about updating when only a sermon bestirs you to post something’? Either way, I preached this morning and will duly post the sermon text below in the ‘Continue Reading’ link. If you’re on the West Coast of the USA, you may have time to print it out if you’re desperate before a late service.
As our road trip in the USA turned into a succession of hit-and-run visits to dear ones along the Atlantic Coast, blogging just didn’t seem to fit into the atmosphere of reconnecting with family, and most of what was on my mind was how proud I was of X or how wonderful Y looked, and that doesn’t really edify the world. Important things happened in the world, no doubt about it, but my concentration was fixed elsewhere.
So when we got back to home, the Vice-Provost emailed to say Wouldn’t you like to preach this Sunday instead of 1 July?, and I reckoned that it would be helpful and might get me back on my metabolico-intellectual rails after the combination of jet lag and road-weariness. The decision itself might have been a symptom of my boggled mind, but everything turned out all right, and now I have one fewer thing to take care of in the days ahead.
Margaret and I celebrated our 30th anniversary on Tuesday, and decided that as long as one of us wished the other ‘Happy Anniversary’ day-on-day, we would continue celebrating indefinitely. So it’s still our anniversary, and I still love her more all the time, and we’re partying continually over here at the brow of Partick Hill (so long as your definition of ‘partying’ includes ‘staring off into space’, ‘watching back episodes of Taggart’, ‘cleaning house’, ‘sleeping’, ‘working on academic essays’ (which is complicated, when you’re feeling as spaced-out as we have felt), and other such decadent pursuits).
Still some notes to write to the US, lots of admin work to do for the Uni, two or three essays, one book review, course prep, and a grant proposal to write before classes start (heaven permitting); I read Alison Bechdel’s newly-released Are You My Mother? and should blog about that; I’m working on Errol Morris’s Believing Is Seeing; I want to take some fountain pen photos and write about the pens; and I’ll have to index the James commentary. Among other things.
But for now, I think this thing is working again, and this morning’s sermon is below:
Continue reading “*Puff, Puff* (Dust Cloud)”

Eunuch and Catholicity

I had forgotten that I was up for sermons two Sundays in a row (I know, I know, ‘big whoop’ say my unimpressed weekly-preacher clergy colleagues, but I’m supposed to be doing other writing-type things at the same time). The week passed by, and I worked on a thesis, and a book review, and a short essay, and Sunday lay in wait without revealing itself to me till about Saturday morning — at which point, it leaped out of hiding, with teeth bared, and a ferocious roar. I was not even armed with a sermon from years past (how can that be, after all these lectionary cycles? because they surreptitiously changed the lectionary, to thwart the energy-saving impulse to recycle sermons). Yet with the partial, somewhat dented armour of kind-of-righteousness, I managed to subdue the prowling lion and assemble a sermon that didn’t fall to bits in the pulpit.
The morning was exquisitely sunny, almost warm, a refreshing walk from home, and the service went well, and now I’m securely ensconced at the Palais Partickhill. I’ll return to the thesis this afternoon, and tomorrow I’ll take up the editor’s version of my James commentary, which he’d like back before we visit the States for Pippa’s graduation. It all feels good, though — lots to do, without too much intervening between me and my obligations (productivity!). Maybe I’ll write some more about exegesis this week, if I wrap up the thesis. Oh, and the sermon is in the ‘read more’ section below.
Continue reading “Eunuch and Catholicity”

Good Shepherd Sunday

A wonderful, very full day! I started early, catching the first train to Clarkston, where I dropped in as substitute celebrant for a clergy colleague. The congregation and I know one another well by now, so we greeted one another warmly. The sermon went well — I brought one out from files, dusted it off and spruced it up, and rewrote it. I’ve put it in the ‘extended’ section below, so that people who only just visit my home page and who want to avoid reading anything homiletical can easily dodge the sermon text.
After that, I caught up with Nick, whom we have not sufficiently run ragged, and brought her to the magnificent Burrell Collection in Pollok Park. We visited the museum, then meandered down to the cattle pens so that Nick could admire Highland Cattle face to muzzle; we saw a few, including what must have been a very new Cattle-onian. Long walk back to the station, train to Central and to Partick, and back up the Lane of Doom to our flat. After a break to replenish our energy levels, Margaret and Nick traipsed to the city centre to see the full hour show at Sharmanka.
Everyone’s back in one of the two rooms of Château Partickhill. It’s getting late. Time to wind down.
Continue reading “Good Shepherd Sunday”

Four Lent

I did eventually overcome my indolence yesterday — indolence, I should say, and coughing fits — to write a sermon, and it turned out better than I expected. I re-used the story about my elementary-school charge and the story of the Garden of Eden; I have to stop doing that, now, it’s threadbare and I have to come up with something different to say. Plus, it doesn’t really fit into the flow of the sermon. But the people who greeted me at the door were positive about it, and it was given for them.
Since I use Mike Daisey’s saga as a jumping off point, I realised that I ought to say something specific about the ground rules for my putting sermon texts online. Every time I do anything with a sermon, anything at all, I’m liable to change it. The text I have at the beginning of a homiletical interaction (whether preaching, or sitting with a manuscript between preaching two services, or just opening a file to have a look) I see little infelicities that I have to change, sometimes whopping infelicities. The sermon I write on Saturday is not the same as the sermon I preach Sunday morning, and that in turn differs from the sermon I paste into the blog interface Sunday afternoon. Different, different, different — and I do not represent any of these as a veridical transcription of the sermon text at any point other than the one I have in mind while typing up a blog.
Anyway, the sermon’s below the fold.
Since today is Mothering Sunday, I had bought Margaret a couple of wee presents, a book about the bird life of Britain (we may take up low-level birding once the weather favours us) and some dark-chocolate and caramel bars. After breakfast, we went to our respective churches, I preached and Margaret read the Old Testament lesson, and we met up after church to go the Antiques Fair. I entrusted a couple of pens for treatment to Peter Crook, and we browsed and came home for a TV marathon and cosy restfulness. A good, sunny, agreeable Sunday, spent in beloved company.
Continue reading “Four Lent”

Somewhat New Edition

Back when Wipf & Stock very kindly supported our beloved St Luke’s in Evanston by printing a small book of my sermons as a benefit for the parish, we prepared the manuscript in AppleWorks(!). I sent W&S a PDF of the manuscript with funky margins that they had specified, which they somehow wrought into the handsome published paperback.
In the spirit of the e-book era, I thought I’d re-upload the book in a more manageable PDF format. First, I tried manipulating the PDF output with Cheap Impostor, the invaluable booklet-layout software, but the margins were too extreme to wrangle into the space of a sensible layout. Then I opened the AppleWorks file, where I saw a headache-inducing array of mark-up. It’s been years and years since I worked primarily in AppleWorks, so I quickly decided that I would copy-and-paste the innards of the file into a more congenial processor (I used Pages, though I also work happily with Mellel). The last trick involved manipulating margins so as to fit an A5 layout with page content matching, to the extent possible, the pagination of the original edition. This is exactly the kind of project that appeals to someone who’s writing a book that must be done as soon as humanly possible.
One final step: I don’t have access to a good original of the cover Wipf & Stock gave the book, so I whipped up a new version based on the colours of Trinity College, Glasgow. Done, and done! So this morning I am uploading the more tablet-friendly PDF version of the ebook; some other procrastination day, I’ll see if I can transmute the copy to a Kindle version, and if I ever upgrade to OS X Lion and download iBooks Author, I’ll see about running the manuscript through that (and I think I remember that there are a couple of lingering typos that I wanted to fix). But for now, here’s what I’ve got.

Please remember that the whole project was organised as a benefit for St Luke’s, so if you download a copy (of your kindness) please think about sending a donation to them (this isn’t necessarily an on-going commitment; or you can send an old-fashioned ‘check’). The congregation has sailed through some rough waters, and they have very significant repairs to complete on the exquisitely beautiful building (repairs that they are addressing, commendably, only in tandem with outreach to international and neighbourhood missions).
[Update: there are other, newer sermons at various points in these pages. If you search for “sermon” or some keyword from the text from which you’re working, perhaps in combination with “in the name of the”, you may turn them up. Plus, there’s the ‘Sermons’ category, which does not actually include all the sermons in my blog, but does pick up a few. When I have time (/hollow chuckle) I’ll try to ensure that all sermons are tagged for that category.] [Now done.]

October Preaching

If nothing else will elicit a blog post from me, you can count on my blogging when I have a sermon to post. So in case you were worried that I had run off to the Canary Islands, or disappeared with a fortune in jewelry, or dropped off one of the bits of the map where you can see dragons and sirens and tritons, none of those exotic things have happened. I’ve just lost the habit of blogging.
But I did draw the preaching assignment for today, and it included one of my favourite difficult verses — ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other. / I form light and create darkness, / I make weal and create woe; / I the Lord do all these things’ — on which I immediately was determined to preach. If I had more time, I would have brought in the incarnational aspect of the problem of God’s role in woe.
Not everyone was pleased with the resulting sermon, though those dissatisfied kindly used words such as ‘thought-provoking’ and ‘interesting’. A number in the congregation did specify vigorous approval, though, which is about what I aspire to. It’s set out in full in the ‘continue Reading’ section below.
Now, though, I have to hammer out a fifty-minute lecture on Solomon, his wisdom, his love life, and his successors, then dash back to church for Evensong, then stumble home to collapse in a heap before waking up early to give the Solomon lecture.
And Nate’s wedding is coming close!
Continue reading “October Preaching”

Before I Fall Asleep

I’m a little embarrassed to be using the blog only for posting sermons, but I suppose that it’s good for me to keep this functioning for some purpose, until the day I get exasperated with writing on corporate platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and return to my own blog. Anyway, I did preach this morning, and although I’d really have liked to give the manuscript a once-over, I didn’t have the energy to smooth out the wrinkles.

I’ll add the text of the sermon below the fold, as they say, but here’s the video recording from St Mary’s website:

(I’m not looking at it, so if Kelvin edited in subliminal messages, or made me sound even more incoherent than I usually do, you can go ahead and laugh, and it won”’t hurt my feelings ’cos I won’t know.)

There were three or four sermons jostling to get onto the manuscript this week, and I suspect that there are places where one would-be sermon manages to elbow into the flow of the actual sermon, and I know there are places I saw a problem in the typed version that I tried to correct, or clarify, spontaneously. On the whole, though,it went very well, and I should sleep pretty intensely tonight.

Continue reading “Before I Fall Asleep”

Sunday After Ascension

While Madhavi watches Rafael Nadal systematically crush the life out of Roger Federer (whoops! Federer’s coming back!), impeded only intermittently by the BBC’s execrably artsy camera direction (that phrase modifies “watches”, not “crush”), I’m entering this morning’s sermon. The sermon fought hard against my writing it down; I knew the rough direction I wanted to go, but I was falling into bad compositional habits and couldn’t turn the prose the way I wanted it. Eventually I got something close to what I wanted, though I think the beginning ought to work better. It’s posted after the “Continue Reading” link.
Church was lovely this morning, though the weather has turned outright chilly after Friday’s taste of exquisite summer sunshine. Most important, though, my beloved wife and daughter arrive in Glasgow on Thursday morning!
Continue reading “Sunday After Ascension”