Today we joined with our linked parish of Glassary, Kilmartin and Ford as they dedicated their new premises to the glory of God.
Rev. Roderick Campbell, moderator of Argyll Presbytery led the worship.
1st Corinthians 2 : 9, 10
However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
Scripture speaks of ‘things beyond our seeing, things beyond our hearing, things beyond our imagining, all prepared by God for those who love him. And these are what God reveals to us through the Spirit, for the Spirit explores everything, even the depths of God’s own nature.’
This morning is one of wonder and excitement. Away from the sadness of falling numbers and decaying buildings we are privileged to be gathered as one community, in this new building, with a bright and positive future beckoning us, inviting us to walk with faith and hope into it.
In years gone by, I was the last convenor of the Church’s National Church Extension Committee. We had the responsibility of providing new places of worship for the communities of Christ in different parishes around Scotland. That was exciting, however the narrative has changed and today we are busy closing churches. No need to go into the demographics, or the changing social patterns, no need to dwell on forces which would counter our faith, rather to embrace what we have, and with the Spirit of Christ leading us forward to embrace the challenges facing us.
The challenges are of change. Like it or not, the immediate future will not be as the past. The future has to be created, new ways of understanding, of expressing; new patterns of worship, new ways of service, all perhaps hidden from us presently, but to be discovered. That is your privilege and responsibility. You as the congregation here have to explore, discover, embrace the change the future demands, and as you do your faith and hope will be richly rewarded.
Let me use Paul’s words to give you a lamp unto your feet, a light in the darkness of the unknown. First of all the confidence in our calling,’the Spirit explores everything, even the depths of God’s own nature.’ There are many who feel secure in the faith of the past, suggesting that what was good enough for our forefathers will be good enough for us. Not so says Paul, this Creator is continually at work, changing, evolving, giving new life. We are given the responsibility of exploring, debating, challenging, discovering the pathway along which the Spirit wishes to lead God’s people. The leading of the Spirit will be as faithful as in the past but the journey will be very different.
If the Spirit is to be effective in our lives and in the life of our congregation, what does it expect from us. It expects us to use our God given gifts. Scripture speaks of ‘things beyond our seeing, things beyond our hearing, things beyond our imagining, all prepared by God for those who love him. You know you are loved by that which is greater than yourself, you are loved with a love which cannot be broken and from which you cannot be separated. That is the glory of God given to us in Jesus Christ.
With that embracing of eternal love we are invited to use our senses. Our seeing, our hearing and our imagination; for the Spirit which loves us has given these gifts, that used sensitively will lead us to pastures new, and in which we will find the fullness of the Creator.
We have first of all to see the love of God in each other. Turn and look at each other with reverence and in silence, remembering that as God was in Jesus, so that same Spirit is in each of us. More than this, that same Spirit is in everyone and everything to which the gift of life has been given. So respect for those outwith the community of Christ, respect for the whole created order coupled with wonder and amazement as the scientist teaches us of the wonders and mysteries of space and time, all these reveal something of the nature of God.
Sight is but one sense, hearing is another and to that we now turn. It was hearing that introduced the Creativity of God in the book of Genesis. The Creator called the creatures into being. Across the centuries that same Creator has called men and women, young and old to explore the mysteries of life. In Jesus Christ we have been called to celebrate and explore the gift of love. For it is by love alone we as individuals and we as Christ’s community can realise our potential and be the gift of love to the world, envisaged on the cross. We learn to listen and in so doing we learn to hear the sound, the sense the rhythm of the many voices of the Creator.
Professor John MacIntyre in his book, ‘On the Love of God’ has a very powerful chapter on the imagination. The ability to think outside the box, the facility to envision how things might be, to see possibilities where others see problems, to grasp opportunities while others remain afraid, to reach out in the faith of Christ, while others remain rooted within the limits of humanism. I cannot tell you what to imagine or how to imagine it, but I can suggest that together you use your considerable talents and let the Spirit lead you.
Today we dedicate this Holy Place, place of worship and of service, a place where all should be welcome, a place from which we venture forth into the complexity of today’s world and there together find the God who calls us. But do not be surprised when you find that Spirit in the most unspiritual places, for that is where Jesus was found and where his church needs to be. This is for you and for the Presbytery of Argyll, the beginning of a journey of faith. Not for the first time does the spirituality of the Creator and the Son begin a journey in Argyll.