Kirking of the Tartans

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had the honor of leading the Kirking of the Tartans service yesterday. Below is the sermon I gave for the event. It is recreated from notes so I might have left some of the things out but the main points are there.
Why are we here? We are here to celebrate our heritage. We do this because the more we know about our roots the better equipped we are for the future. A cherished history inspires us to greatness while illuminating certain sinkholes of though and behavior.
How do we do this? I am by training what’s known as a historical theologian. I look at theology not just from the scriptural or dogmatic sense but in the context of history and what was going on at the time. Most of our theology was adopted because of some historical event or schism. So with this in mind let us look at the kirking of the tartans and why we do this. The main reason is faithfulness.

In 1745 our ancestors fought what would latter be called the battle of Culloden. The battle was fought after several unsuccessful Jacobite rebellions and culminated with the brutal repression of the Scottish people. Part of this repression was the prohibition against the wearing of the traditional highland dress, the pipes, and other related legislation from 1746 leading to the destruction of the clan system. This was not the first time our ancestors were treated this way. All we have to do is think of the movie Braveheart for a trip down memory lane of another severe brutal repression.

So with this repression came the Highland Clearance. 1792 became known as the year of the sheep and people were forced off of their land to make room for the much more profitable sheep. Many of these people left Scotland as my ancestors did and began a new life in Nova Scotia leaving behind everything that they knew and loved. There were also religious considerations. Many if not all of the Highlanders were Roman Catholic and also Presbyterians and were forced out on religious grounds.

So as time went on and as the repression grew a service would be held on certain Sundays of the year. On these days people would bring small pieces of their tartan, at great risk to their own lives, to the Kirk, or Church, to be blessed by the clergy. Was this an act of rebellion? Some would answer yes. I believe I would be one of the ones who would answer yes, but I also believe that this was done out of faithfulness. This simple act was an act of great faith. Faith brought them where they were and faith would see them through. Faith is a big word. Faith can move mountains and faith will see US through. We sang the great hymn Faith of our Fathers at the beginning of this service. Although a song about Christian faith I believe that it is applicable to our topic today.

That is the faith we celebrate. That is the faith of our ancestors. The faith that has brought us here and the faith that will lead us home. In a moment we will bless the simple pieces of cloth that are token of our heritage. We honor our ancestors when we wear them with honest pride and genuine humility.

God bless us all.
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