21 November 2009

Local Minister's Sermon to Parliament

Broch Minister, Rev Stephen Brown, of the town's United Reformed Church, delivered the sermon at the Scottish Parliament's weekly 'Time for Reflection' slot on Wednesday. Rev Brown's sermon is reprinted below:

Rev Stephen Brown (Fraserburgh United Reformed Church):

Presiding Officer,

"Your old folk shall dream dreams and your young shall see visions."

It was a consequence, Joel wrote, of God's spirit being poured out on people. I think that I have crossed the age threshold to be a dreamer rather than a visionary. I know that because of the "Grumpy Old Men" and "Grumpy Old Women" books. Their introductions say that the age range of the grumpies is 35 to 54. Although that seems somewhat arbitrary, I am encouraged to think that there might be something in it and that in two years my offspring might find me returning to being a benign, mild-mannered minister rather than a spleen venter. I for one am not holding my breath and in any case I am sure that there are plenty of examples in this place of post-54-year-old grumpies to underline the nonsense of the quoted age range.

However, I like to dream dreams and I like to think that even visions are not beyond me. I serve a church that came about because old and young had dreams and not a few visions of long-established denominations becoming united. In 1972, the Congregational Church in England and Wales and the Presbyterian Church of England united as a sign of reconciliation and wise insight. The harder job would have been to justify those churches staying apart. Two further unions later, the United Reformed Church now has an established presence in Scotland. Not that those unions have been without tension, but such creative tension as resulted engaged hearts and minds to find ways of being that respected the distinctiveness of the constituent denominations while celebrating the common purpose: a sign of peace to a divided world.

In the much-lambasted Monty Python film, "The Life of Brian", during the delivery of the sermon on the mount, when Jesus says, "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth", one of the crowd says, "Oh, it's blessed are the meek! Oh, I'm glad they're getting something—they have a heck of a time." Amusing though that is, it hints at a common misunderstanding of the biblical concept of meekness. It is not weakness but controlled strength—like the definition of a gentleman being a bagpipe player who chooses not to play. I am a piper, so I can say that.

Justice and peace come not through fearful inaction but through wise and compassionate response to the creative tension that wrestling with such issues inevitably brings: a meekness that strongly strives for reconciliation and renewed hope in an often-divided and wounded world.

As Lennon—John Lennon—said, "Maybe I'm a dreamer", but at least in two years I will not be grumpy.

Stewart Stevenson
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