March 3, 2019

Luke 9:28-43a “Jesus Has Left the Building” It is good for us to be here today, gathered in the name of Jesus, to worship, and listen for God’s Word, and share fellowship with one another, and be equipped to serve God and our neighbours in the world. That’s what the Apostle Peter said too, when he was up there on the mountain with Jesus and with his friends: “It is good for us to be here.” It was such a wonderful experience for Peter and James and John that day. Although they kept it to themselves for a while, eventually they would tell the story, saying that they saw God’s glory that day as Jesus shone, and the prophets of old appeared with him too. “It is good for us to be here,” Peter said to Jesus. And then he suggested that they could construct three dwellings – one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Although God interrupted, and stopped Jesus’ first Apostle from building a shrine or a temple on the hill that day, the Church that Peter later founded went on to construct a great many places of worship and holy structures in the centuries that followed. Think of the great cathedrals of Europe. Think of the mega-church auditoriums of North America. Think of the millions of churches and chapels, worship buildings big and small, busy or abandoned, scattered across the globe wherever Christians have gathered to worship. This passage often serves as a reminder … Read more »

February 24, 2019

Genesis 45:3-11, 15 Luke 6:27-38 “Grace Running Over” Did you notice one of the most famous Scripture verses in our Gospel reading this morning? Luke 6:31 says “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” and that is possibly one of the best-known ideas from the New Testament or most-common summaries of what it is that Jesus taught. People call it the “Golden Rule” – not because it will make you rich, but because if you can’t remember all the other commandments and instructions found the in the Bible, if you at least try to live by this one, you’ll do okay. “Do to others as you would have them to do you.” The concept is certainly not unique to the New Testament or to Christianity. Perhaps you have come across “The Golden Rule” poster, published by the Scarboro Missions in Toronto, and posted in many interfaith chaplaincy offices in hospitals, and university campuses, and retreat centres. It points out that when people of all the major religions sit down to talk about what is the most important aspect of their faith, they find a great deal in common. Christians find the “Golden Rule” in Luke 6:31 and Matthew 7:12, and Jews read something very similar from the Talmud: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour.” Likewise, the Prophet Muhammad of Islam teaches: “Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.” From Jainism we learn: … Read more »

February 17, 2019

Luke 6:17-26 “Blessings in Flat Places” You’ve probably heard of the “Sermon on the Mount.” Not many of Jesus’ sermons were given titles, but one great sermon recorded in the Gospel of Matthew is given a name (at least by Christians, later). The Sermon on the Mount… It’s the sermon Jesus preached while standing up on a hill, the teachings he declared from above while the people listened from below, looking up to him for wisdom and guidance and blessing. Matthew presents Jesus as a kind of new Moses, and so sets his version of the famous sermon “up the mountain” just as Moses received the Torah with the commandments on Mount Sinai. Luke, on the other hand, from whose Gospel we read today, presents Jesus as a figure in the ancient prophetic tradition, less a new Moses and more a new Jeremiah. And while the prophets may pray on mountaintops, as Jesus frequently does in Luke, their prophetic work is done down among the people, in the nit and grit of everyday life. Today’s Gospel of Luke reading begins: “Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place.” It may not be acoustically the best choice of position for preaching, but Luke’s Jesus is down and dirty: he walks, and heals, and teaches in the valleys and on the plains, meeting us exactly where we are. Now, I do remember when I drove into the Rocky Mountains of B.C. for the first time. I was absolutely amazed … Read more »

February 10, 2019

Isaiah 6:1-8 Luke 5:1-11 “Caught in Jesus’ Net” Do you know that feeling of wanting to avoid getting caught? Most likely there aren’t any bank robbers among us, but I expect that every one of us can relate to that fear of getting found out, or caught doing something that we shouldn’t be doing. Whether it’s cheating on a test or on our taxes, sleeping on the job or cutting a few corners to get it done quicker, stretching the truth to make ourselves look better or to avoid conflict, or speeding on the highway to get home, we want to avoid getting caught. Getting caught will mean facing up to consequences – maybe punishment, fines, or losing our job… maybe the more subtle but devastating consequences of losing our reputation, losing trust, or losing a relationship because of what we have done or failed to do. Before this week, I had never thought about that sense of “being caught” when I read the story about the miraculous catch of fish. And when Jesus invited the fishermen to join in his work of “catching people” it never occurred to me that they would be finding sinners and “catching them” in their sinfulness. Although I thought of the image of “fishing for people” as an ancient concept, I only knew the reference from the Gospel story, so I was missing some of the meaning that the fishers themselves would have noticed. You see, in the writings of the prophets, in Jeremiah, … Read more »

February 3, 2019

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Luke 4:21-30 “The Demands of Love” I’m looking forward to next Sunday evening at First Church, and our “Celebration of Love” fine dining event. I think it’s going to be a lovely evening to support a good cause – our refugee sponsorship initiative – and to celebrate the gift of love. In the early stages of planning for a Valentine’s Day-themed dinner, we were talking about the program and I suggested that we include some love poetry, in addition to the music and dance that would be the highlights of the entertainment. I’m no expert on poetry, but I thought of “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. And then I thought of Robert Burns’ poem that begins “My love is like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June. My love is like the melody that’s sweetly played in tune.” But I am a Christian minister, not a poet, so the next thing that came to mind was not exactly a poem. Although it is poetic. It was our Epistle reading today from 1 Corinthians 13 – the love chapter. I’ve preached on that chapter many times, and most of them were at weddings. “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude… [Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” I usually explain that the passage wasn’t intended for a wedding or … Read more »

January 27, 2019 – Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The following sermon was preached by the Rev. Amanda Currie at an ecumenical service held at Resurrection Roman Catholic Parish in Regina. The service was organized by the Regina Council of Churches as the closing worship for the 2019 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The theme and key Scripture texts were chosen by the Churches of Indonesia who prepared the WPCU resources for 2019. Deuteronomy 16:11-20 Romans 12:1-13 The theme chosen by the Christian Churches of Indonesia for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue.” But the first thing I noticed about the theme text from Deuteronomy is that it doesn’t ONLY focus on justice, but also includes a long section about worship. The whole passage is a section of the Deuteronomic Law Code, an expansion of the ten commandments given to Moses and the Hebrew People at Sinai – a detailed plan for how the people will live as God’s People in the land that God is giving them. Summarized down to its fundamental principles, the Law Code calls them to love and worship God, and to love and seek justice for their neighbours. This is the vision of God for the people, and the hope they have for building a community of joy, and peace, and prosperity for all. The latter part of the text is the first part of a section about a system of governance and authority to be established. It will include a sharing of … Read more »

January 27, 2019

“Gathered around God’s Word” Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 Psalm 19 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a The overarching theme in most of this morning’s scripture readings is the scriptures themselves. In particular, it is the question of how we use and interpret the scriptures. The psalmist begins by making it clear that the scriptures are of utmost importance for God’s people. Of course, from the psalmist’s perspective, at least 500 to maybe 1000 years before the birth of Jesus, the scriptures consisted of the Law of Moses, perhaps as gathered together into the Torah — the rough equivalent of the first five books of our Bibles today. The psalmist declares that the Law of the Lord is perfect. God’s decrees and precepts and ordinances are sure, and right, and true altogether. He thinks very highly of these texts and speaks of them with utmost respect and admiration and praise. And it’s not only that God’s commandments are true and right from the perspective of a wise and powerful God. The psalmist is arguing that they are actually useful for those who might read and pay attention to them. God’s laws revive the soul, the psalmist claims. God’s decrees make the reader wise. Paying attention to God’s precepts and commandments brings joy to your heart and light (or understanding) to your eyes. The writer of this psalm feels so strongly about God’s Word that he hungers for it more than rich food or great wealth. It is the greatest gift of all. It was … Read more »

January 20, 2019

“Time to show God’s glory” 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 John 2:1-11 Time is a precious commodity in our lives today. I appreciate that all of you have set aside this hour or two for worship, and fellowship, and service in the Christian community. I know that there are many demands on your time day-by-day, and it means something when you choose to use your time in this way. When you are deciding how to use your precious time, I wonder how you choose your activities. I wonder how you set your priorities. Sometimes we just prioritize what seems most urgent. We work towards the deadlines that are looming largest, and leave future planning and projects until later when they too become urgent. Things get done in a hurry, but at least they get done, and we keep our heads above water as we manage our hectic lives, families, and work. When taken to the extreme, time-crunched lives like this mean that the basics get done, but there is never any time for the extras. Decorations go up for Christmas, but little time is spent enjoying them. Children’s food and clothing are provided, but squeezing in time to just hang out with and enjoy your kids happens rarely. You go to the clinic when you get sick, but time to consider and take up healthier practices in life doesn’t become urgent enough to be done. The church’s worship and programs keep running, but we may not take the time to plan for … Read more »

January 13, 2019

Isaiah 43:1-7 Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 “I will be with you” I love remembering my baptism. Next year it will be 30 years since I was baptized, and I still remember it as such an important moment in my life of faith. I remember standing up at the front of a church very much like this one. I remember reciting the words of the Apostles’ Creed that I had studied and memorized in my preparation. I remember the droplets of water on my forehead. And I remember the choir turning and singing over me: “The Lord bless you and keep you…” just like we sing to one another each Sunday here at First Church. On this Sunday, when we hear again the story of Jesus’ baptism by John, we are invited to remember our baptism and give thanks to God. Of course, you may not literally remember your baptism. You may have been an infant or a young child when you were baptized. It was your parent, or guardian, or grandparent who made a public profession of faith, and promised to teach you about Jesus and nurture you in the Christian way of life. But regardless of whether or not you literally remember that moment, you are invited today to remember your baptism… to remember its meaning and significance, and to remember how it continues to shape your life and faith today. When we got talking about the meaning of baptism in our Bible study earlier this week, I pointed out … Read more »

January 6, 2019

Matthew 2:1-12 “Longing, Wondering, Searching Together” Perhaps especially as we begin a New Year, and as we reflect on the challenges of the year past, people today are longing to make sense out of life and to find hope for the future. In the midst of the conflict, strife, and violence of our world… In the midst of personal issues and family struggles, they are looking for meaning, for hope, and for peace. But I don’t think that this is new. If you follow humanity back hundreds, even thousands of years, you find that people have always been longing for something more, and wondering what it’s all about. We have questioned our gurus and wise ones, speculated about the gods, and struggled to make sense of our little place in this vast universe. The Gospel reading today is about some men who must have had just such a longing. The scripture calls them, “wise men from the East.” They were foreigners, Gentiles. They probably came from somewhere East of the Jordan river, from Babylon or Syria maybe. The main thing that always gets pointed out about these men is that they were not Jews. They were Gentiles. They were Gentiles in the extreme. Not only did they not worship the one God of Israel, and they didn’t follow the law given to Moses and the Israelites, but one commentary describes them as, “characters who could not be more remote from the Jewish citizens of Jerusalem in heritage and worldview.” They … Read more »

December 24, 2018

Isaiah 9:2-7 Luke 2:1-20 “A Royal Birth Announcement” Tonight, I would like to focus on our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah. We hear it every Christmas when it is matched up with the Gospel stories about Jesus’ birth, and we usually read without further comment because the preaching is all about the Gospel. If you’re like me, the sound of Handel’s Messiah rings in your ears as the prophet’s words are proclaimed: “For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given. Unto us a son is given…” And as we sing or listen to those words, we are thinking of Jesus. He is the one whose birth we celebrate tonight. He is the child who has been born for us, and who has become the “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.” But these words were not written to celebrate Jesus’ birth. In the eighth century BCE, these words were uttered about the birth of another specific king in Judah, probably the good King Hezekiah who ruled Judah from 715-687 BCE. The poem gives voice to profound hope for the reign of this descendant of King David, at a time when Judah faced the harsh realities of Assyrian dominance. There is no question about the depth of the people’s despair in the time period leading up to this new kingdom. They had “walked in darkness” and “lived in a land of deep darkness.” And the change in national fortune is attributed to … Read more »

December 16, 2018

Luke 3:7-18 “What Should We Do?” I like how specific John the Baptist gets in his instructions for the crowds of people who came out to the wilderness to be baptized by him and change their lives around. He gets specific about what these people should do, about how they should live, about how their lives should bear fruit worthy of the repentance that they have just professed. I can imagine that John has been preaching for a while. “Fire and brimstone” kind of preaching in which he’s been warning the people that they better repent now or it’s going to be too late. The Messiah is coming soon. The judgement day is drawing near. He says it’s like there’s an ax lying at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. What a way to motivate your listeners to change their lives! Essentially, it’s change or die! But when he finishes his sermon – or perhaps they even interrupt him in the middle – they call out “How?” How do we change? We understand this urgent call to change our lives and get right with God. We understand that the judgement is coming soon, and we want to be found worthy. But specifically, practically speaking, “What should we do?” It’s a question that modern preachers should keep in mind as well. We can theologize all we like. And we can encourage, inspire, and even warn … Read more »

December 9, 2018

Malachi 3:1-4 Philippians 1:3-11 Luke 21:25-36 “My Prayer for the Church” Advent is not just a season of preparing for Christmas – baking, decorating, shopping, and planning. But it is a season of preparing our hearts and our lives for Christ’s coming again. On the second Sunday of Advent each year, we are introduced to John the Baptist, the prophet crying out in the wilderness, calling the people to repent and turn back to God and God’s ways of love and peace. This year, John’s call to conversion is paired with a similar text from the Old Testament prophet Malachi. He also is calling for change, renewal, and reform in the lives of God’s people, using the image of silver being refined by fire. When I read the text from Malachi, the praise & worship song “Refiner’s Fire” immediately comes to mind. We’ll sing it this morning – a reasonably contemporary song, but one that I’ve been singing since I was a teenager. The song is framed as a personal prayer to God who is addressed as the “Refiner’s Fire” who through the imposition of heat is able to purify the silver or gold (to purify our hearts and lives) so that we become the good and faithful people that God intends us to be. Certainly, there is a need in our lives for such purification. Day-by-day and week-by-week we need God’s help in making choices for good. We need God’s help in choosing to be more generous, in choosing … Read more »

December 2, 2018

Luke 21:25-36 “Sprouting Leaves” Have you noticed that during the Season of Advent each year, there’s always a lot of talk about the end of the world and the Second Coming of Christ? The word “Advent” means “coming,” and while we spend these four weeks before Christmas waiting expectantly to celebrate the birth of Jesus – the coming of Christ into our world – we also talk about the promised Second Coming. In the midst of a world that is troubled by conflict, war, pain, hunger, homelessness, and environmental degradation, we wait and hope for Christ to come again to make everything new. We sing “Soon and Very Soon,” and we are not just encouraging our young children that these four weeks will speed by and the joy and excitement of Christmas Day will arrive before they know it. But we are singing about the hope that we have that our world will not languish in its misery for much longer, but that Jesus will return and set things right. God’s Kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven, as we pray in Jesus’ words every Sunday. But in a commentary on our Gospel text today, it was noted that “Preaching on the Second Coming, the coming of the Son of Man, has fallen into disrepute in many churches. It is one of those themes that has been given over to churches that advertise their emphasis on Bible prophecy. Yet, the coming of the Son of Man is … Read more »

November 25, 2018

2 Samuel 23:1-7 Psalm 132:1-12 Revelation 1:4b-8 John 18:33-37 “Thy Kingdom Come on Earth” Today is the last day of the year – not in the Gregorian calendar that we follow along with the most of the world, running from January 1st through to December 31st. But today is the last day in the Church Year – the special calendar that many Christian Churches began to follow as part of the liturgical reform of the last 30-40 years. The Church Year begins with Advent, four Sundays leading up to our celebration of the Birth of Jesus at Christmas. Then there is a short Christmas season, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and ordinary time which comes in between. The Church Year is the reason that we mark different Sundays and seasons with symbolic colours like purple for Lent, red for Pentecost, and white for Easter and Christmas. And the Church Year provides the framework for the lectionary cycle of Scripture readings that we read and reflect on Sunday-by-Sunday. The special Sunday that we mark today is called “Reign of Christ” or “Christ the King” Sunday, and it is the culmination of the Church Year before we begin a New Year with the Season of Advent next week. It was Pope Pius XI who, in 1925, declared a special feast day for Christ the King. It was a time in history when respect for the church was waning and state control over the church was increasing in many countries. Stalin and Mussolini were … Read more »

November 18, 2018

1 Samuel 1:4-20 1 Samuel 2:1-10 Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25 “More Encouragement, Please” There are people like Hannah among us today, and in our families and communities… not just women and couples who struggle with infertility, but men and women and young people who experience the kind of anguish and despair that Hannah shows to us in her story. The particular struggles are myriad… grief, illness, loneliness, depression, problems at work, problems in family relationships, conflict between friends, or a general lack of meaning and purpose in life or in the sense of being valued and loved. What a sad way to start a sermon! But it’s true, isn’t it? Most of us can relate to Hannah’s outburst in the place of worship because we have felt like that at times too. Some of us will have kept the public weeping to a minimum, but we can understand how she got to that point. She just couldn’t take any more of the other wife’s taunts. She just couldn’t handle any more of her husband’s sympathy. She just couldn’t hold on anymore to all the anger and sadness and resentment that she had been carrying for so long. And she let go of it by talking to God about it. Now, it wasn’t a nice little prayer that she offered up to God with a measured amount of praise and thanks and a polite request for some help in the baby-making department. It wasn’t a carefully prepared request like the prayers we … Read more »

November 11, 2018

Hebrews 9:24-28 Mark 12:38-44 “The Greater Gift” This sermon was prepared by the Rev. Amanda Currie, and presented by Andrew Donovan during worship at First Presbyterian Church in Regina on Sunday, November 11, 2018. After criticizing the religious leaders of his time for both a lack of humility and taking advantage of the poor, Jesus sits down near one of the offering boxes at the temple to observe as the worshippers come to make their gifts for the temple. Having watched both the rich and the poor placing their gifts in the treasury, Jesus comments that a poor widow has contributed more than anyone else because the rich people “have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” In practical terms for the temple budget, Jesus’ statement simply isn’t true. The widow’s two coins wouldn’t have made much difference at all for the institution’s ministry. They would have represented the tiniest of drops in the biggest of buckets. The small copper coins (Greek: lepta) were the smallest coins circulated, and sixty-four “pennies” equaled one denarius, or a day’s wage. The rich people had the resources to give more without much of a thought. They might have given a whole denarius, or maybe even more than one, and those larger offerings would have sustained religious life at the temple, feeding and clothing the religious leaders and maintaining the central place of worship for the Jewish People. … Read more »

November 4, 2018

Ruth 1:1-18 Psalm 146 Hebrews 9:11-14 Mark 12:28-34 “Love Your Neighbour” Plenty good room in the kingdom of heaven. Plenty good room for you and me. Plenty good room in the kingdom of heaven, so choose your seat and sit down. The choir’s anthem for this morning has been running through my mind all week. It’s got one of those tunes that easily gets stuck in your head after a choir practice. But also, it’s been there because we’ve had more than our share of church members moving from this world into the kingdom of heaven over the last week or so. Don Frew died a week ago Friday, and then Olga Wolfe died on Tuesday morning, and finally Jack Boan died in his sleep early on Wednesday. Each one of these Christian disciples died after a good, long, and meaningful life, but each one will be dearly missed by family, friends, and this community of faith. “Plenty good room” has been a good song for this week, as we’ve been thinking about their welcome into the Kingdom of heaven. But when we selected it a couple of months ago, we had no idea that so many of our members would be making the journey to God at this time. So, as I began to prepare for this morning’s service, I looked at the Scripture readings assigned for this day and tried to remember why I thought the song would be fitting back when the Music Team did our pre-planning … Read more »

October 28, 2018

Job 42:1-6, 10-17 Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22 Mark 10:46-52 “To See or to Be Seen” Sometimes when I’m reading the Gospel of Mark I start to get discouraged. I know. Reading the Gospel should not be a let-down. But when we’re making our way through Year B of the lectionary, and we get all these stories from Mark’s account of Jesus’ ministry, I sometimes start to wonder if we Christians will ever get it together and live as Jesus intends us to live. You see, the disciples in Mark’s Gospel stories are rather slow to understand his message, and they keep making silly mistakes. They argue about which one of them is the greatest. They get scared when Jesus does miracles like walking on water. They struggle to cast out an evil spirit, and don’t even think about saying a prayer. They get upset when Jesus talks about being arrested and killed because they think he’s got to take over leadership by force. And in last week’s text, they presumptuously demand special seats next to Jesus in the Kingdom of God. We read these stories about the slow and stupid disciples in Bible study, and we talk about how so often we are just like them. We also struggle in life, but forget to pray. We also look for recognition and honour instead of just humbly serving. We also begin to doubt the wisdom of the Way of God when we see hatred and evil winning out in our world today. … Read more »

October 7, 2018

Matthew 6:25-33 “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.” “Oooooooo…Here is a little song I wrote. You might want to sing it note for note. Don’t worry. Be happy. In every life we have some trouble.When you worry you make it double.Don’t worry. Be happy.” About half way through the sermon on the mount, after more than a chapter of teaching about the challenging way of discipleship that Jesus’ followers are called to live, Jesus tells his disciples not to worry: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Can we put ourselves in the shoes of those earliest disciples? Can we imagine what they might have been thinking as Jesus told them not to worry? Some of them had dropped their nets, their jobs, their livelihoods in order to go out on the road with him. And they had left their families, their communities, and their networks of support behind as well. He had called them to a life of risk and uncertainty, and now he is telling them not to worry. Don’t worry about food. Don’t worry about clothing. Trust God to provide you with what you need. It all sounds a little irresponsible, doesn’t it? Don’t … Read more »