Welcome to Springburn Parish Church

The Opening Sermon.

by Rt. Rev. William Johnston
My first word is to bring to you the greeting and congratulations of the General Assembly of the Kirk. Greetings to all of you who form this united congregation, in the form of thanks for the witness that you have maintained in your several parts and now as one congregation over all the years of your history. In good days and bad days, in days of permanence and days of change, your forefathers and you yourselves have witnessed here to the life of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and you who now form this congregation have entered into the heritage of those who laboured before you, and therefore, as their representatives and their successors, I bring to you the thanks of the whole Kirk as I am instructed to do by the Assembly.
I have the privilege and pleasure also of offering greetings to those branches of the Christian Church who have come to join the congregation on this significant occasion, and to ask those of you who come from these and other parts of the Church, will take to your own congregations and people, greeting of the love and fellowship of the Kirk in this parish. And no less greeting and thanks to the representatives, Lord Provost, and others of this great city of Glasgow, thus establishing once again this cooperation between secular and spiritual authorities which is part of our Scottish tradition in which we rejoice, as together those in their different ways are responsible for the well-being of this community come together in cooperation in the service of the people. To all such, I offer the greetings of the Kirk in the name of the Assembly.
And I also bring you congratulations on your achievement; on the achievement of a new Kirk and new halls. In days when so many people are pronouncing the immanent doom of the Kirk, it's always a pleasure to be opening a new Kirk and seeing a new beginning of an enterprise, and I rejoice to share with you in this occasion in your outreach to your community and to share for the third time in six weeks the opening of a new Kirk in Scotland.
I rejoice because the opening of a new Kirk in any community is a most notable sign of hope for our future in this land. Because if there is any word more needed than any other in this land of Scotland, is it not of hope for the future. We have plenty of signs of 'no hope'. We live in a recession with escalating unemployment. We live in a time of mounting arms escalation, and Scotland in the forefront of NATO bases. We live in days of economic chaos of urban decay; of unmitigated violence and one only needs to mention Sullam Voe on Saturday and Rome yesterday. There are plenty of signs of 'no hopes
I think my favourite story for this age is that of the Irish Actuary whose business failed, and when his friends asked why people were no longer coming to him for advice about their investments and insurances and their provisions for the future, he said in his Irish way simply; "0, the explanation is quite simple. It's just that the future is not what it used to be", and of course, it isn't. The future of Springburn is not what it used to be, because you live with change going on all around you. But this Church here, by its very charter proclaims that there is a future, and certainly that future is not what is used to be. The Christian church by its very charter exists to say that there is a future, that the future is good, that it will be better than the past, and that as this Kirk stands here, in this community, it will point successive generations to the future that God offers us in Jesus Christ, and on this significant occasion, let us think for a moment - how?
What does this chapter say in the midst of this community - on this it's new beginning? First of all, that this new beginning of the church will declare to this community in successive generations, the relevance of Jesus Christ for living in this world.... (part of this missed in the recording) My house shall be called a house of prayer. My house will be the place that matters for people, and that was the paint of this story of the Cleansing of the Temple, because that is what the Temple in Jerusalem at that point in time had ceased to be. It was quite clear what Jesus was saying and doing when He threw the moneychangers out of the Temple. Let me remind you that the Temple at Jerusalem was a series of concentric courts through which people were gradually filtered. The outermost court was the Court of' the Gentiles where anybody and everybody could go and where Jew and Gentile met together daily, but then the Gentiles were filtered out and the next court was only for the Jews, and the next one was only for men, and the next one was only for priests and so on. It was a religion of progressive exclusivism. And what had happened was that the place of inclusiveness, the Court of the Gentiles where everybody could go and where everybody mattered had been usurped. It had been possessed by the traders who had taken possession of it. It was no longer the market place where everybody met, but the trading place which specialised in the Jews. So that this story so familiar to us is not in fact an indictment of commercialism - there are plenty of New Testament texts about the misuse of money and illegal and immoral financial transactions.
This is not a story about men making money. It is a story about people becoming exclusive. It is a story about the evil of rejecting the living community. It is the condemnation of every kind of exclusiveness. It is a reminder that the church is only the church when it is a house where everybody can meet. When in the words of the writer to the Ephesians, there are no barriers and no partitions. When the church meets with the society in which it is set. When it grapples with its evils and when it seeks and promotes its best good in the neighbourhood in the name of God. And that is what any church in any community is for. The only church known in the New Testament is the church, which is concerned with the people, with the crowds, and the pressures and the violence and the needs and the problems and the possibilities of the men and women in whose midst it is set, and that is your beginning.
The reason for the existence of this church is that it should speak for Jesus Christ in this community. The reason for this and every subsequent service that will take place in this building is to encourage us to be Christians in this community. The life of the Church of any part of the world and not least in Springburn is measured by its mission and its service to the community, because for Jesus, the ultimate negation of His Fathers house is that it should fail to be the Court of the Gentiles - the place where everyone however much an outsider, is made welcome.
Suppose we really were...Suppose we really were the place where the whole community met Jesus Christ. Suppose for example, we could grapple with our industrial life and change it from being simply a way of making money, and as much of it as possible, to a way of sharing with God the creation and use of the earth's resources; that would give us a new community. Suppose we could grapple with our economic problems and change them from being grabbing as much as we can, to be the area where we share as much as we can. That would give us a new community. Suppose we could really work at our family life, so that instead of being the place where we eat and sleep it really became the place where we live together and learnt all the primary virtues. Would that not be the beginning of a new community, and it is to say these things to this community that you have built and opened your new church. That is the relevance of Jesus Christ for living in this world. The future of this community is with Christ and this church is the sign of it.
And also this; that if this church is a sign of the relevance of Jesus Christ for the life of this community, it is also a sign of the reality of Jesus Christ for our own personal identity; a reality of Jesus Christ for ourselves. The house says Jesus, is to be House of Prayer to our Father. Here's the scenario. I have a friend who is a distinguished Edinburgh lawyer, and he behaves in the way that distinguished Edinburgh lawyers do. That is to say, that he never does anything out of place. He never says anything that is indiscreet. You can see him on any day walking up the Mound in Edinburgh towards the Law Court very carefully dressed with his bowler hat and his pin striped trousers, and every hair of his head in place. He is the epitome of the best in the Edinburgh law tradition. Imagine my astonishment at seeing him one day in Princes Street casually clad in slacks and tweed jacket skipping along Princes Street, and as he went along, singing. The explanation is not that he had gone suddenly mad, still less that he had taken to drink. The explanation was that he held by the hand his little two year old grand-daughter who was the apple of his eye, and as he took her along Princes Street, and as they looked in the shops, the two of them were singing together and skipping along as grandparents and grandchildren will do, as all of you who are grandparents have done who have grandchildren. In other words, when we meet with another person who matters to us, we ourselves become real. When we meet with a significant other, we become what we really are ourselves, and therefore when we meet and recognise Jesus Christ, then we find our true selves, and our true lives. We lose our facades and all the stereotypes and all the inhibitions that are barriers between us, and we become just men and women who are accepted by God and who therefore accept one another.
That is why the reality of Jesus Christ is the key to our future because if we are going to have a better world, we have got to have better people. If we are going to have freedom from violence and Oppression and misery, then we have to be people of understanding and love and commitment, and that is the reality of following Jesus Christ. That is what meeting Jesus Christ does for us. He gives us a new identity. He makes us sons and daughters of God. This place of prayer and worship is the place where we meet Him, and the sign of the new beings that He makes us.
So my brothers and sisters, I greet you at this moment of new beginnings in Church and Community, of the dedication of this building and the rededication of your lives to the glory of God and the service of His world. I bid you go out into this community and grapple with it for Jesus Christ. I bid you come and live within the shadow of this Church and find the new life of Christ in your hearts and souls, and in that future, and in that expectation. I pray for you a bright and a glorious future here in Springburn. I seek for you a vision of the Kingdom coming, as it assuredly will. I wish you a pilgrimage of joy to go in and out of this House of Prayer, and I leave with you the promise that it is against this Church that the gates of Hell will not prevail.
May God Bless you as you go on together and separately of the pilgrimage of this Kirk and Parish.

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