Sermon preached by the Vice-Provost on Advent 2 (10 December 2017)

Prophets, it seems, have a liking for the desert. This seems bizarre when we suppose that the prophet’s task is to speak effectively into a situation with words that cut though the nonsense and get to the truth. Surely, if you want to do that, you need to be in the thick of it, close to the sources of power, well-tuned to the mood music of the elites. Prophets, we might imagine, are forward-thinking, progressive types who come up with new solutions, see well into the future and add a little creative energy into the mix. How can you do that in a desert? How can you speak effectively in a complex world when you have nothing but the rocks, the sand and the harsh, unrelenting sun for company? How can you see clearly when you don’t even have access to a constantly updating twitter feed, for goodness’ sake? So … Continue reading

Sermon preached by the Provost on Advent Sunday (December 3rd 2017)

The gradual hymn we have just sung was composed by the Korean composer Geon-yong Lee, in 1988 when he was attending a workshop of the World Council of Churches. It expresses the longing that lies at the heart of Advent – Come now, O Prince of Peace, reconcile your people, set us free, reconcile all nations. Such sentiments to Geon-yong Lee are not just pious clichés, they are the heartfelt cry of a man born in what is now North Korea, just before the war that tore his country apart in the early 1950s and has enshrined that division ever since. A war that forced his family to flee, so that he now lives in South Korea, exiled from his family home. And that tragic division increasingly imperils us all: Come now, O Prince of Peace. The longing to reconcile all nations feels ever more urgent.   And that same … Continue reading

Sermon preached by Marion Chatterley on Pentecost 24, 19 November 2017

This morning’s parable features four characters – three slaves and a master.  The master was going overseas and the story begins by telling us that he chose to hand over his possessions to the slaves.  He entrusted them, he didn’t gift them or even loan them to be used in his absence, he handed them over conditionally.  And by the end of the story it’s absolutely clear that he most certainly wasn’t giving them away – he came and reclaimed what was still his.  So the talents were handed over for a time; they were left in the care of the slaves, who, we are told, had been chosen according to their abilities. Let’s begin by thinking about those slaves and the message that they were receiving when the talents were distributed.  Slave number one receives five talents.  He’s being entrusted with something substantial.  That’s quite a responsibility.  I imagine … Continue reading

Sermon preached by the Chaplain on Remembrance Sunday, 12 November 2017

War Why must I live in this grim age, When, to a far horizon, God Has ebbed away, and man, with rage, Now wields the sceptre and the rod?   Man raised his sword, once God had gone, To slay his brother, and the roar Of battlefields now casts upon Our homes the shadow of the war.   The harps to which we sang are hung, On willow boughs, and their refrain Drowned by the anguish of the young Whose blood is mingled with the rain. Words of the welsh poet Hed Wyn, a farmer, also known as the shepherd poet. In 1917, he won the highest award for Welsh poetry at the Eisteddfod with a poem he sent from the trenches of the Western Front. Like many, he did not want to go to that war, but he did not want his brother to be sent in his stead. … Continue reading

Sermon preached by the Provost on Pentecost 22, 5 November 2017

The Power of Humility – Proper 31 (1Thessalonians 2.9-13; Matthew 23.1-12)  Just 7 short weeks ago I was installed as Provost with all the ceremony this Cathedral could muster. Both before and since that wonderful occasion, I have received many warm messages of congratulation on my promotion. My family and I have moved into the wonderful Provost’s house provided, just a short walk from the West Door, giving me a magnificent view as I walk to work. We have been enjoying our spacious living quarters. And in those 7 weeks I’ve enjoyed the thrill of a packed cathedral as Mothers Union members gathered from across the UK for their annual convention, this year in Edinburgh; I’ve been stirred by the magnificence of our choir; I’ve enjoyed beginning to get to know talented and dedicated colleagues. At St Martin’s, my previous charge, someone came in to offer a bit of admin … Continue reading

Sermon preached on Pentecost 2 by Revd Canon Brian Hardy

  Sermon for Pentecost 2    Rev Canon Brian Hardy       St Mary`s Cathedral        29 May 2016 Readings (Proper 9C):        Galatians 1.1-12;  Luke 7.1-10 Some years ago, when I was still distance cycling, I visited friends whose six-year-old son went enthusiastically to the local infant school, and had been carefully taught by his father how to get there safely on his little two wheeler bike.  On my first morning there, after breakfast, the little boy said: “I’m going to school on my bike. You come with me. I’ll show you the way.”  We duly set off, and, just to make sure that I made no stupid mistakes, I was given a non-stop running commentary on the route, being shown exactly where and how we had to cross each road.  At every traffic light we had to wait until we could see the little green man, even though sometimes it took a … Continue reading

Kenneth Fleming - compressed

Sermon by the Chaplain on All Saints, 1 November 2015

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone, Silence the pianos and with muffled drum Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.   Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead. Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves, Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves. In this poem by WH Auden we can feel the grief of loss. A loved one has died and with it love itself. And the world must know, He is Dead. Auden goes on: He was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest, My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong. It is such a scene of grief that confronts Jesus in our gospel reading. The … Continue reading


Sermon preached by the Revd Prof Paul Foster on 18th October

Mark 10.35-45; Hebrews 5.1-10 If you stroll into nearly any bookshop you will find a section entitled something like self-help, or personal success. A recent scan of such a section in an Edinburgh bookshop presented me with titles such as ‘Find Your Strongest Life’, ‘How to Get Everything You Want Out of Life’, or ‘8 Steps to Create the Life You Want’. It pains me to tell you that that last title is a so-called Christian self-fulfilment book, written by a person with the wonderful name of Dr Dollar. Flicking through various of these books, I have to admit that much of the advice is sensible, many have a realization that treating others well will yield positive benefits, and most encourage reflective thinking. My problem is not so much with the individual pieces of advice, rather my issue is the entire underlying philosophy. Books such as ‘The Slight Edge: The … Continue reading


Sermon preached by the Vice-Provost on 16th July 2017

If you’ve ever had the experience of having your exact spoken words written down by someone else, you will know that we rarely speak in perfectly honed sentences and you will see, in black and white, the redundant little words and verbal tics that pepper our everyday speech. All those ‘ kind ofs’ and ‘you knows’ and ‘ums’ that give us a little time to find the right word look strange when we see them reflected back to us on a page, though if we get too  self-conscious about them, our speech will turn into something unnatural. Indeed, all sorts of things get problematic when we are too self-conscious, but I’m jumping the gun – more of that later. There’s one little word that appears to be redundant and, therefore, often gets left out of modern biblical translations but which appears many hundreds of times throughout the pages of scripture. … Continue reading

Sermon preached by Bishop Richard Holloway on 8th February 2015

Good morning! In recent years most of my incursions into this pulpit have been at funerals to speak about the dead; so it’s  a relief to be able to talk about the living this morning; and specifically about children, poor children, in our increasingly unequal society. I want to begin with an excerpt from the diaries of Chris Mullin, the former Labour MP for Sunderland in England, not that far from Durham.  I read his three volumes with pleasure as they came out; but one entry stabbed me with sadness and recognition.  The film Billy Elliott is showing in one of the schools in his constituency, and as he waits to go in he muses on the plight of the hundreds of children standing beside him in the queue.  He concludes the entry with these words: “I look at all the shiny, optimistic little faces waiting with their parents in … Continue reading