Stocki Sermons


Stocki Love Them Uns

Yesterday morning, something happened during the sermon. It happens a lot but not with the same power as it did yesterday morning. Something broke in. It wasn’t in the notes in front of me. It wasn’t in any of my preparation thoughts. It came out of the blue and it was as fluid in my mind and fluent in my speech as anything I have ever said. It was the word for yesterday. It even came with a little pulpit thump! It is the word that people have spoken to me about since, talked about at home and even while climbing a mountain. For those of us of faith, the Holy Spirit interrupted.

I had nothing to say on Brexit, so the Spirit interrupted and told me I had. A phrase I have been using for some years from the books of James K A Smith broke in. We are not what we believe, we are what we love. The gut has us. The kardia in the chest drives us. As a preacher I need to fill my congregations hearts with the good news of Jesus Gospel much more than their heads. Our heads can be full of grand ideas but if the chest, gut and heart are full of other things, what we believe doesn’t matter. The apostle James suggested it would end up as faith without works - dead!

So… the challenge yesterday morning was for all of us in Fitzroy. What do we love? Yet, I also sensed it was a political comment on what is driving all of our politicians… 


We are not what we believe

We are what we love.


Trump will get four more years

I am sure of it

Convinced by the ordinary man on the street

Who said

I don’t like the way he goes about it

But I know he has made America a better place 

Than it was two years ago

Let me paraphrase

I really don’t like the way he goes about it

But I am better off

Let me explain that

He acts against everything I believe in

But he is giving me what I love.


We are not what we believe

We are what we love


What we love pounds our chest

What we love grabs our gut

What we love drives all our decisions

By-passing our beliefs 

With its sheer force

It pushes and pulls us to ideologies

To red lines

To borders

To flags

To language acts

We can believe a million good thoughts

But if our love is misplaced…


It is why Jesus had a golden rule

That everything else he said was built upon

A command that ties up every other command

Love the Lord your God with all your heart

And with all your soul

And with all your mind

Love your neighbour as yourself

And in case you mis-define neighbour

Love your enemies too.


With that in our gut

With that thumping our chest

Our hearts will overflow 

With humility, peace and justice

Salvation and shalom 


Not just for what I love.


To know someone

Do not ask them what they believe

Discover what they love.


We are not what we believe

We are what we love.


Stocki Preach

Based on Psalm 146


Praise the Lord

Even in the middle of war

Praise the Lord

When you are knocked off your feet by illness or grief

Praise the Lord.


The ancient Psalmist

Teaches us to Praise The Lord

That praise should be a discipline

When happiness is not all around

Praise is believing in spite of the evidence

Praise is resistance to evil

Praise is realigning us to the bigger, wider, alternative truth.


Praise reminds us that God is




That God will bring





Praise is when we put God in God’s place as Creator

And find our place in God’s creation

Praise puts us back in sync


In sync are the poor in spirit,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In sync are those who mourn,

    for they will be comforted.

In sync are the meek,

    for they will inherit the earth.

In sync are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

    for they will be filled.

In sync are the merciful,

    for they will be shown mercy.

In sync are the pure in heart,

    for they will see God.

In sync are the peacemakers,

    for they will be called children of God. 

In sync are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


In sync with God’s place as Creator

And our place ion God’s creation.


In an episode of Tales Of The Unexpected

Someone said

“You know who you are with a gun in your hand. 

You are a somebody.”

At the Communion table

I say

“You know who you are with a piece of bread in your hand. 

You are a somebody.”


In a world of war or illness or grief

That might be a tale unexpected 

But when we praise God 

We believe

We resist

We put God in God’s place as Creator

And find our place in God’s creation

When God is Lord

Everything is different.

SENT IS OUR IDENTITY - 10:10 in Ten Sermon Series Blog #7

Stockdale Sent

Jacob Stockdale’s great aunt belongs to Fitzroy. The day after he scored two stunning tries against Argentina and in many ways arrived on the world Rugby union scene as a superstar I suggested that I saw all of Betty’s power, speed and grace in both tries!

I also contrived to then use him as an example of Isaiah. When Jonny Sexton looked up and asked, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us to that try line?” Immediately Stockdale is on his shoulder, willing and ready to catch Sexton’s pass and steam towards the Argentinian goal line… “Here am I, send me!”

The story of Isaiah 6 is of a vision of God in the midst of a time of transition. In a world where the powerful force of Assyria is threatening, the vision of God’s might is in a holiness that gifts a grace interruption, freeing Isaiah from guilt and sin. Forgiven, redeemed and renewed Isaiah is enthusiastically up for anything and when God asks who he would send, Isaiah, is as fast as Stockdale, with his “Here am I send me.” 

This is of course in a sermon series looking at what it is to live life in all its fulness and asking what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus in 2017. Our identity is as those who are sent. Sending is a recurring theme in the Gospels - “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 

Janice and I attended the recent Scottish Baptist Assembly. I was the poet! Anyway, we heard some good key note addresses and went to a couple of good seminars. The theme of the conference was Messengers Of Hope and what struck us was the places that we were being encouraged to take the message. Rich Robinson had us playing bingo on a Sheffield housing estate and Juliette Kilpin had us worshipping in a Church full of Muslims in the Calais Refugee Camp.

I left the conference thinking that without doubt we got the message of the conference. My question was, had we what was needed to able to go to the places we were being sent to. I remembered a story Gordon MacDonald used in one of his popular books of the 80s. His son bought him a ferret that started eating the furniture. When they tried to get rid of it back to nature, they realised that it was too tame to survive in the wild. Just like the Church maybe?

At one of our Presbyterian Special Assemblies, a few year ago, David Bruce spoke about the bawn. You see it in a variety of Northern Ireland place names! It was where we Ulster Scot Presbyterians retreated for safety when we arrived from Scotland to colonise the land. David suggested that even now in the twenty first century we needed to get out of the bawn. We are still in siege mentality when God wants to send us.

This is one of the things Fr Martin Magill and I were thinking about when we started the 4 Corners Festival. We felt that the Week Of Prayer For Christian Unity was all very nice. Look we can read and pray together. We don’t hate each other. We wanted Jesus to not be trapped within Church walls but to be making a contribution to the peace and well being of the city on the streets as Jeremiah spoke about.

This all takes us out of our comfort zone. I am pretty convinced that we are socially special needs. I remember at the 4 Corners Festival homeless feast being out of my depth. What do I say? How do I connect? I feel the same in certain parts of our city. I feel like a tame ferret, stuck in my bawn for too long. And I don’t think I am alone!

It is time to go. To be vulnerable and courageous. I read this poem at the Scottish Baptist Assembly. For a Christmas PW (Presbyterian Women) event in Fitzroy, where the theme was “Being sent”, I wondered if there was any sending on the nativity story...


An angel was sent

To break to Mary the shocking news

To find out if she was up for the privilege

Mary was sent into a tail spin

That would need some cool prayerful courage

So she sent herself off to Elizabeth 

A companion who understood and affirmed.

An angel was sent, again

To calm Joseph’s shock and anger

And turn his disappointment and confusion into complicity.

A choir of angels were sent

To sing the news of peace and good will

To shepherds who were sent

Scurrying with joyous abandon

Right into the holy of holies in straw and filth.

Oriental stargazers were sent in awe and wonder

On the trail of a sign of seismic shift 

So, Herod sent for his religious scholars

To make theological sense of the conjecture

The King then sent his death squads

To kill the idea and the revolution being born.

An angel was sent, yet again

To Joseph in a dream to warn of a nightmare

Which sent Joseph, Mary and the baby off to Egypt as refugees

Because God so loved the world he sent

Himself to be present with us

To light our way in darkness

To overturn the tables of our greed

To give himself for our redemption

To bring God’s will to where he was sent

As it is where he was sent from.


As the Father sent the baby

We are sent.


DO NOT BE CONFORMED... 10:10 in Ten #5

Stocki Saphara

(I have been preaching a sermon series called 10:10 in Ten... This is one of them in blog form. I hope they will all appear but perhaps not in order!!)

Brian Zahnd dangled himself over the fiery furnace of heresy in a recent blog by beginning with the words…

“I have a problem with the Bible. Here’s my problem…

Now you see “sound” Christians do not have problems with the Scriptures, so Zahnd was dangling big time. Then with a preacher’s timing that is very much like the timing of a comedian he continued…

“I’m an ancient Egyptian. I’m a comfortable Babylonian. I’m a Roman in his villa.

That’s my problem. See, I’m trying to read the Bible for all it’s worth, but I’m not a Hebrew slave suffering in Egypt. I’m not a conquered Judean deported to Babylon. I’m not a first century Jew living under Roman occupation.”

Ah, sighs the theologically correct police we can listen again as the problem is not with the Bible but with the reader.

What Zahnd raises in his red rag to a bull is indeed a huge problem. Most western Christians are of the middle class western variety and live very comfortable lives of entitlement. We even think that the Church is entitled to a voice. 

To read the Bible correctly we need to be slaves, refugees, under Empire. When I was a child I used to get Pharaoh and Herod mixed up. There was no need. They are the same and you can add Nebuchadnnezer and Caesar to the list. The children of God are under Empire, subversive agitates, even threats and always imaginative hope filled, grace drenched alternative imaginings to Empire. 


So when we read Paul’s words in Romans 12: 2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” we need to immediately confess that we are conformed. We have been part of a powerful Empire, we are invested in the powers of commerce and we enjoy the comfortable  spoils of it. For us western Christians this is a tough call. Jesus suggested it’s as tough as an camel going through the eye of a needle.

So if we are wanting to be transformed, Paul suggests that it begins with renewed minds. It is about a different seeing. It is about the alternative imagining of God’s way, dreaming heaven on earth. For the early Christians this was about looking through Caesar’s Empire to find Jesus’ Kingdom.

In their book Colossians Remixed Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmat unpack this resistance to Empire. They reveal Colossians 1 as a subversive poem reimagining Jesus as Lord rather than Caesar. Everywhere in the Roman Empire were images of Caesar, bearing down, oppressing and dumbing the thinking. Walsh and Keesmat see Paul as trying to renew the imaginations of Christians with that long description of Christ. Walsh and Keesmat go on to then ask the appropriate question - what are the dominant images that have conforming power over us in 2017? What dumbs us down?

They point out commerce. We are bombarded with advertisements to tell us what the Empire expects us to buy as we follow a reckless and unaccountable capitalism where the bottom line of the profits is almost The Emperor. Material comfort, leisure and our own right to be entitled to such a life is where that all leads. Individualism. My security. My privacy. My needs being met. And there we are… we are ancient Egyptians, comfortable Babylonians and Romans living in villas. 

The rest of Romans 12 is an antithesis of such an Empire. Paul tells us we are all connected. He goes as far as to tell us that “we belong to each other”. Our individual rights are restrained by being part of something bigger. We are called to sincere love, sharing with those in need, living in harmony, being willing to associate with those of a lower disposition and not repaying evil for evil.

As I prepared this idea as a sermon, we had a touring group of Storytellers in Belfast from Uganda. They were sharing their stories. Once they were hopeless children without a future but were sponsored by strangers from far away. Now they had graduated college and were working. What struck me was that they were giving away anything they had, sponsoring others through school. One was sharing her home with none homeless children. They were remarkable stories.

I couldn’t help but think that they did not have the same problems with The Bible as Brian Zahnd and I have. They were not living in Roman villas or under our Empire. Having less, remarkably enables them to be more open and willing to be able to share what they have. Uganda is a country who have welcomed one million over their border in the past year from South Sudan. Their generosity has been widely recognised. We with oh so much more to share voted Brexit and are attempting to close our borders! 

Do not be conformed… Oh, I have a problem with The Bible…

read Brian Zahnd's article here

STOCKMAN's 10:10 in TEN Sermon Series - the Short Video Mix - Part 1


I am in the middle of a sermon series called 10:10 in Ten. It is my attempt to encapsulate the "life in all its fulness" invitation of Jesus in John 10:10 into ten sermons. I am disturbed daily at the definitions of a follower of Jesus that I read on social media. Could I lay out in ten passages of Scripture what followers of Jesus should really be like in 2017.

I am 6 sermons in.

  1. 10:10; Invitational to Life In All It's Fulness
  2. Follow Me
  3. Love The Lord Your God...
  4. 10:10 Inside - Fruit of the Spirit
  5. 10:10 Outside - Gifts of the Spirit
  6. Do Not Conform... to Empire

I hope most of them will become short blogs soon. You can listen to them all on Fitzroy's Recent Sermons page 

But maybe better than any of that... my colleague Neville Cobbe has wondrously edited the first six sermons down to 9 minutes and added visuals. I am in awe of his ability to do it and thankful for the resource it is. 



The sign of the cross was in use before it became a symbol of redemption and the work of Good Friday. This came up in my research for this Sunday’s sermon. Before it was a sign of salvation, the cross was about finding ourselves at crossroads. It was about decision making. The commentator said that, "It marked a moment when the paths of life were not fixed, when the direction for how to be in the world was less than certain, when God seemed to be rerouting the future." 

I found this fascinating and sought out via Google evidence of such a theory. Without much luck. Then I thought about my visits to New Grange. Anytime I have been to New Grange I am always amazed that when that burial chamber lights up at sunrise on December 21st it is in the shape of a cross… 5000 years BC. When I ask the Tour Guides why it is in the shape of a cross they never have an answer.

Yet, surely death marks a crossroads,a moment when the paths of life were not fixed, when the direction for how to be in the world was less than certain, when God seemed to be rerouting the future." After the service someone told me that there are similar cross shaped sites in the islands off the north of Scotland.

I love the idea. Not to change the the cross around our neck from a symbol of the Good Friday cross to another but by adding something significant to that. I am all for a cross that symbolises belief and then adds a response to that belief.

I have often preached and written about the caress and collide of Christian belief. The caress is that we are loved, that God throws his arms around us by grace and interrupts history in Jesus birth, life, death and resurrection. The one dimensional meaning of the cross around our necks or on our walls could be static, impotent and very easy; not God’s new life at all.

I was preaching this in the context of Matthew 16 where the disciples themselves are in a moment of crossroads. Jesus is explaining what is going to happen to him. Peter confesses that he believes that Jesus is the Messiah. That belief leads to Jesus telling Peter what come after such acknowledgement. He tells him, “Don’t smoke, Don’t drink, don’t gamble unless you are middle class with stocks and shares, don’t love them until they repent…” 

That would all have been so easy. No, Jesus told Peter, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”   

James warned about faith without works. It was dead, he wrote. At the beginning of Romans 12 Paul tells us that “in view of God’s mercy” we need to act.

Today, in Fitzroy, we prayed for our students going off to University, someone going off to intern with IJM in Washington DC and our new Youth Intern, Ruth, as she starts with us. All of them at a crossroads. For them all, "It marked a moment when the paths of life were not fixed, when the direction for how to be in the world was less than certain, when God seemed to be rerouting the future." 

For all of us, most of the time we are heading towards, in the middle of or heading away from crossroads. If we, like Peter, declare that Jesus is the Christ, then the response is always a decision to follow Jesus. A cross is about belief and response. I like that symbol.


Communion bread

It is a moment that will go down as one of the most evocative moments of my entire ministry in Fitzroy. The response suggested such!

The issue of identity had been cropping up all week long. 

We got some photographs from Uganda of a new fence that two of Fitzroy’s fittest cyclists had fund raised for last year. It was a perimeter fence for the school we funded in 2015 in Onialeku on the edge of Arua in West Nile, Uganda. 

The photo of the entrance gate caught my soul. It was big bold, strong and will look majestic along the road that leads to Congo. I thought of our sponsor children walking through it on their way to school. I thought of how they might lift their heads and stick out their chest. I wondered how it would change their sense of themselves to walk through those gates. They cannot be nobodies, forgotten on the edge of the world, if they go to this school with this entrance! 

Then I was speaking to John McMullen, who we are delighted is speaking tonight in Fitzroy, about how a child psychologist deals with the post war trauma among the child soldiers of northern Uganda. John pointed out that identity plays a huge part. These children have an identity, then they are made into child soldiers and given another identity. How do you then switch your identity back if you come back home?

Finally, I happened to catch the last five minutes of a seventies television show Tales Of The Unexpected. A character in the programme was bullying everyone else and suggesting he was the serial killer on the loose in the area. He says at one stage, “You know who you are with a gun in your hand. You are a somebody.” A gun was the source of his identity. In the end he wasn’t the killer, the nerdy guy who picked him as hitch hiker was. Bang! Unexpected indeed!

As I shared this story, my mind raced. They say a footballer is as good as the speed of his brain when the ball comes to him. A preacher works on the speed of thought too… and we claim a little extra help from the Holy Spirit! I would not argue with the Holy Spirit scenario in this situation.

As I mentioned the gun in his hand, I walked across the front of the Church and picked up a piece of bread off the communion table…

“You know who you are with a piece of bread in your hand. You are a somebody.”

As I stood there holding the bread out and inviting my community to take it at Communion in a few minutes time I realised that this was quite an image. I sense the mood in the church, the tangible impact of this simple yet dramatic act. It was more powerful, I realised, than the rest of the sermon that took us through John chapters 13 to 17, as Jesus prepared his disciples for his death and everything after.

When Jesus set up the sacrament of the Lord’s Table at the Last Supper, referred to in chapter 13 of the chapters I mentioned, he was giving us a tangible identity former. As John McMullen works with the psychology of child soldiers to restore their identity so the bread and wine of Communion should rebuild, renew and refresh the identity of followers of Jesus in Fitzroy this morning. 

I hope it is an image that comes back to my congregation time and time again as they need reminded who they are. I finished with a story about Queen Elizabeth II getting lost as a child outside Balmoral Castle. Without the kind of media we have today, the lady who found her asked her who she was to help return her to her parents. “Oh I am a nobody,” said the young Elizabeth, “but my father is the King!”

With a piece of communion bread… we are not nobodies… but heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus. 



The tickets came this week for Fitzroy’s Uganda trip this summer and it immediately caught my eye. The second leg of our flight from Addis Ababa to Entebbe is at 10:10.

For those who know me, that is my number - twice! I am a 10:10 man. It is my birthday. It is John 10 verse 10 when Jesus says, “I have come that they might have life and have it to the full.” It is Fitzroy’s motto. It was this week’s Lectionary reading!

What I did with it this morning was to set it in the Biblical context. John 10 is Jesus discourse after the dialogue and sign of John 9. The fifth of Jesus eight signs of the Kingdom in John’s Gospel is Jesus giving sight to a man born blind. 

The chapter break again hinders us a little but we need to see John 10 as a continuation of that story. So… the question was was what does Jesus 10:10 life look like to the man born blind? It is a bit of a clash with the expectations of life in all its fulness in the 21st century.

You can only imagine todays advertising agencies with the 10:10 concept. Bungee jumps or motorbikes over 35 buses might express the spectacular of what we now see as life in its fulness. When Jesus interrupts the blind man’s life with grace, the shepherd gives him protection, provision and presence. It is not that spectacular. 

As I look out at my community and share these words of 10:10 I wonder if many of them are feeling that they cannot live this spectacular life. Yet, Jesus 10:10 is an ordinary fulness of who we are born and redeemed to be. One of the keys to unlock this whole two chapter filled passage is John 10:11, “The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

So, in conclusion I read a poem that I had found this past week in Anne Lamott’s new book Hallelujah Anyway. Here’s the last part: -

The boot is famous to the earth,   

more famous than the dress shoe,   

which is famous only to floors.


The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it   

and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.   


I want to be famous to shuffling men   

who smile while crossing streets,   

sticky children in grocery lines,   

famous as the one who smiled back.


I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,   

or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,   

but because it never forgot what it could do.


The poem is by Naomi Shihab Nye and those last words are my longing for myself and my community this week. The shepherd laid down his life for a 10:10 life that is not so much spectacular as ordinary yet full! Like buttonholes we must not forget what we can do. 

The fulness of what God created us and Jesus redeemed us to do. Now that is 10:10!

DRY BONES DANCE - A Sermon In 7 Quotations

Stocki Preach

(this morning I preached on Ezekiel 37. The Scripture verses in bold are from that chapter…)


“The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley…”


“This is the third of four visions Ezekiel sees. The imagery is that of a large slain army that miraculously comes to life on the battlefield; an open grave suggests an undignified ‘buriel’. The imagery refers to the death like nature of exile but promises the impossible; out of death comes life. God again commands Ezekiel to do something and interrupts the vision. The exile hopelessness and detachment from the promises of God fuels this visions purpose.” 



Everybody's living in the brave new earth 

Prisoners of the small worlds that orbit in our skulls 

Native sons of a no-man's land 

Friends and lovers in the cold, cold ground


Every now and then I seem to dream these dreams 

Where the mute ones speak and the deaf ones sing 

Touching that miraculous circumstance 

Where the blind ones see and the dry bones dance

 - Mark Heard


“Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life.


We need a breath of hope

In this dying place

In this valley of death

We need a kiss of grace


Will I be the dark

Will I be the death

Will I be the kiss

Will I be the breath?


Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.


Angels paint in ordinary colours

Angels speak in ordinary words

We are drawn to their masterpieces

Their wisdom is beauty never heard

These may seem simple conversations

These may just be simple things

Just a thought to share in passing

Or some rhyme a singer sings

But an angel beyond coincidence

Lands not even a minute late

Not even a second early

Much more precise than fate

All these things we do are skeletons

Just bone that if given a chance

Could come to life and duck and weave

Move in some crazy raving dance

Dancing in my deepest soul

Waltzing through my heart and mind

To twirl and twist my life around

Mysterious ways of a grand design

Oh the extravagant detail 

Of the everyday things we do

May you dance for me

And may I dance for you.


THE DREAM SEQUENCE SERMON - Mallie, Foster, Paisley, MLK, U2... & JESUS


Last week I started my sermon with the drama sequence in journalist Eamonn Mallie’s wonderful article Grace. It had Arlene Foster pulling an ailing Martin McGuinness to her bosom and telling him it would be alright, that they would sort it out and she would step side to give them the time and space.

This week I started with another dream sequence. I imagined, that after Martin McGuinness stepped back from politics, Ian Paisley Jr would come on The View and not only wish McGuinness well in his health and retirement but go on to thank him for his contribution to our journey towards peace before saying that relationships might help in our reconciliation! 

Of course the second one was not a dream sequence but a reality! What a moment! Before we start getting cynical and investigating Paisley’s motives, let us sit in the positive contribution it has made to our current divisive political conversation. I will bask in its grace , its humanity and its hope even if it gets snuffed out far too quickly. Grace, humanity and hope are all words that Eamonn Mallie was seeking in his aforementioned article. Thank you Ian for giving an alternative voice.

My sermon was based in Matthew 4 and Isaiah 9. Those passages were declaring that a light was shining on those in darkness. I was also recognising it had been Martin Luther King Day and added a footnote to the sermon on the dreams of MLK. The sermon closed with U2’s meditative song MLK sung by Laura Campbell, Claire Nicholl and Ali McKeown. 

Before they sang, I asked the congregation to take a moment and ask that God would show us all what dream sequence we could walk into this week. What could we do to change the conversation, to change the direction of our lives and our country’s life as Jesus asked of us in Matthew 4, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” 

As in the same passage Jesus asks us to “follow me,” what dreams could we follow him into. What imaginative, creative, Kingdom like act can God lead us into this week… 

Sleep tonight

And may your dreams be realised…

… So let it be


you can get all my sermons here Fitzroy Sermons