June 30, 2019

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 Galatians 5:1, 13-25 Luke 9:51-62 “Our Inheritance” What have you inherited from your parents or grandparents? When I think about an inheritance, I first think of money – a bequest left in a will. When my grandfather died last year at the age of 102, I was pleased to see that he gave generously to the church and its mission (both before he died and in his planned giving). But he also included gifts for his children and grandchildren, and each of us will have a little more security and confidence in the future because of that inheritance that we received. But we often inherit much more than money, or other things besides money. Perhaps some of you inherited something like a house or a car or a cabin when one of your relatives died. And there may be smaller things too, sometimes with less monetary value but more sentimental value. Maybe you inherited a piece of furniture, a set of teacups, or a special piece of artwork. Maybe you inherited all your grandmother’s photo albums or your uncle’s research about your family history. Through these kinds of inheritances, our loved ones live on in a way. We think about their lives whenever we sit down to work at that beautiful old wooden desk, and we are flooded with memories each Spring when we open up the family cottage passed on to our generation. If we think about it, though, very often our inheritances include more … Read more »

June 23, 2019

1 Kings 19:1-15a Psalm 42 Luke 8:26-39 “In the Strength of that Food” This is the season in the Church Year that is called “Ordinary Time.” If I were dressed more formally in my alb and stole, I’d be wearing the dark green stole and I’d be sticking with that colour all the way through from now until Advent at the end of November. Now, it’s not called “ordinary time” because it’s nothing special or just a regular Sunday. Ordinary Time actually refers to the ordinal numbering of the Sundays after Pentecost. Today is the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, and we’ll keep counting the Sundays like that all through the summer and fall. But some commentaries suggest that paying attention to the more common meaning of the word “ordinary” may actually help us think about what comes after big events for a community. We celebrated Holy Week and Easter with great planning, and many people involved, and special music and liturgies. We marked Pentecost too – the birthday of the church – and rejoiced in the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out to give us courage, and confidence, and wisdom in sharing the good news with all people. Now that the high holy days are past, and the big events (including General Assembly for me) are over, we move into a quieter time… ordinary time. Of course, there are people who find their way back to church only for those special days of celebration. They join their grandmas for … Read more »

June 16, 2019

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 Romans 5:1-5 John 16:12-15 “Take-your-daughter-to-work Day” Every year, on the Sunday after Pentecost, the Revised Common Lectionary invites us to celebrate “Trinity Sunday.” While other designated Sundays mark events in the life of Jesus or the experience of the early church, this Sunday is focussed on a Christian doctrine – the concept that God is three persons in one God-head. Living Faith, our Presbyterian Church’s statement of Christian belief expresses the idea of Trinity this way:“… with the one church universal we believe in one God, eternal Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three in one, one in three, equal in power and glory. God is the Father to whom we come, the Son through whom we come, the Spirit by whom we come.” This week, as my pastor friends were preparing for Trinity Sunday, my Facebook feed included quite a few postings and memes about this upcoming theme. I noticed one that suggested that in order not to accidentally preach something heretical, ministers should consider not saying anything about the Trinity, but perhaps show some nice photos of kittens instead. In other words, it’s really challenging to try to explain the doctrine of the Trinity. All the typical analogies that preachers use like a three-leaf clover, or a triangle, or the three states of water – as liquid, ice, and steam – fall terribly short of describing the mystery of how we believe in one God who is simultaneously three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) … Read more »

May 26, 2019

Acts 16:9-15 “Come and Stay at My Home” This morning’s passage from the Book of Acts is a story about faith-sharing and a story about church-planting. In the early days of Christian Church, apostles like Paul were intentional about going out, sharing the good news about Jesus, and helping new worshipping communities to get started. They followed the Spirit’s leading, and paid attention to dreams and visions and ideas that came to them in the middle of the night. And the church grew, and lives were blessed, and love was shared, and hope soared. I heard a statistic the other day from our Synod’s Congregational Development Coordinator, Jo Szostak, that in the last 20 years, 53 new congregations have been formed in the Presbyterian Church in Canada. 20 of those were Korean congregations, 18 were other ethnic congregations, and only 15 were non-ethnic Presbyterian congregations. I don’t know the numbers on how many congregations have closed in that time, but I’m sure that it’s quite a bit higher. Jo attended a conference a couple of weeks ago for people in our Presbyterian Church who would like to work on starting up new worshipping communities. That would include new churches, but also other creative new ministries that don’t look quite like traditional churches. And one of the pieces of advice that she shared for the discernment process about where, and how, and when to start up a new ministry was this: The leader said it was like people deciding where to … Read more »

May 5, 2019

Acts 9:1-20 John 21:1-19 “Converted for Mission” This week I was drawn into the story from the Book of Acts about Saul’s conversion to Christianity. Saul, the Pharisee, who was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of Jesus, who was making plans to arrest any he found who belonged to the Way… Saul was going along and approaching Damascus, when suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard the voice of Jesus. And to make a long story short, he was converted from a persecutor of Christians to one of the most influential Apostles of Christ, who brought the Gospel to the Gentiles and recorded the Good News in writings and letters for generations to come. Reading the story of Saul’s conversion makes me think about other stories I’ve heard about people in our time coming to faith in Jesus Christ. Some of them even have stories as dramatic as Saul’s experience! I remember someone telling such a dramatic story many years ago when I was in university. I was at a Christian gathering on campus and there was a young man named Stephen telling his story of coming to faith, giving his testimony. Stephen told us about the challenges of his childhood and teen years. His parents split up, and he was not a very happy child. He didn’t think that either of his parents really loved him, so he got into all kinds of rebellious activities, desperately trying to … Read more »

April 28, 2019

John 20:19-31 “Standing Again”  When I sent out my Friday email to the congregational email list this week, I included a rather goofy image of a winking Jesus saying, “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down.” For a couple of days, I couldn’t get that song by the band, “Chumbawamba” to stop repeating in my head: “I get knocked down, but I get up again. Oh, you’re never gonna keep me down…” It’s both a thoroughly annoying earworm, and a song of hope, and courage, and determination. When I think about Jesus, remembering his arrest, torture, and death, it can be the song of triumph on the third day when he is raised and it becomes clear that love wins, that God wins. A little song from the Iona Community expresses the same sentiment more gently, but just as joyously: “Goodness is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death. Vict’ry is ours, vict’ry is ours through him who loved us. Vict’ry is ours, vict’ry is ours through him who loved us.” These are the kinds of songs that we need to keep running through our minds, because sometimes it feels like we are continually getting knocked down. As individuals, we may be knocked down by illness, by broken relationships, by heavy responsibilities that we feel helpless to manage. We may be knocked down by challenges and losses that seem to come … Read more »

April 19, 2019

Luke 22:14 – 23:56 “Do Not Weep for Me” Jesus proclaimed, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) On this Good Friday, our worship invites us to walk in the way of the cross with Jesus. We tell the story of his passion and reflect on his journey in order that we may know what it means to be his disciples, to take up the cross, and to follow in his faithful footsteps. Today we acknowledge that the way of the cross is very difficult for us, and we often stumble and fall. But as we heard in the Gospel reading, even from the cross, the one who was obedient even to death proclaimed a message of love and acceptance. Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) We do not always know what we are doing, but year after year we, the followers of Jesus, walk the way of the cross so that we can learn what we must do. We make the walk so that we will be able to pick up our cross and be faithful to the God who loves us into eternal life. There is much to learn from the Gospel story along the way… As his disciples, we must stop arguing about who is the greatest, and learn to serve one another instead. Yes, there will be times of trial, but … Read more »

April 18, 2019

John 13:1-17, 31b-35 “I have set you an example” This is Maundy Thursday. The name comes from the Latin word, “mandate” – as in, we are “mandated” to do these things that Jesus told us to do. He said that every time we eat bread together and share wine around a table, we should remember him. Remember his love for us. Remember his giving himself for us. Remember that he, himself, is like bread for our souls, giving us life. And he said that we should love one another. We should serve one another. Humbling ourselves, getting down on our knees, and washing each other’s stinky feet. As Jesus’ disciples, we are mandated to do these things. These are the things that Jesus commands us to do. But if there is one thing that we must learn about Christianity, one thing that we must embrace about the Way of Jesus, it is that his is not a religion of rules and regulations, of blindly obeying commandments and mandates from on high. Certainly, the commandments can help us along the way by giving us some direction and guiding us along the path of God’s love. Jesus didn’t reject the commandments, but he looked for what was most important – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul, and mind… and love your neighbour as yourself. This is the first and the greatest commandment. But he was also willing to set the commandments to the side sometimes when the … Read more »

April 14, 2019

Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11 “Mixed Feelings” Today we celebrate Palm Sunday. We began the service with the story of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, with the crowds singing “Hosanna!” and proclaiming, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.” Some Pharisees in the crowd tell Jesus to order his disciples to stop – to stop this spectacle, to stop their praises, to stop their allegiance to him as a Saviour or a King. We know that, all too soon, they will stop. They will change their minds, change their allegiances, and change their shouts to “Crucify him!” And so today is also Passion Sunday when we remember how the people turned away from him, how they betrayed and denied, and ran away from Jesus. Luke reminds us in the Gospel story that when the disciples do stop – when they stop following, when they stop praising, Jesus is still the King. They don’t stop because he is not worthy. They stop because they are scared. And Jesus says to the Pharisees: “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” All of creation knows and witnesses that Jesus is Lord and King, even when we humans fall silent in fear. When I was speaking with the children this morning, we talked about times when we change our minds or change our plans. We do it all the time. Sometimes our changes of mind are God moving us towards the good. For … Read more »

March 31, 2019

1 Corinthians 15:1-3, 11b-32 “While he was still far off” Special thanks to the SALT Lectionary Commentary (saltproject.org) for reflections on the parable that significantly inspired this sermon. Portions of the commentary are included in the sermon as longer quotes. I once played the part of the prodigal son in a musical rendition of the “Parables of Jesus” that we put together when I was a student at Knox College. I remember kneeling on the floor at the front of the chapel, miming the feeding of the pigs, and singing a mournful song about how down-and-out I had become, and my feelings of sorrow and regret at all the mistakes that I had made. In that rendition of Jesus’ parable, I was the main character, and the focus was on my poor choices, my repentance, my return, and the generous party thrown in my honour. No matter what, I was still a child of God, and God would love, forgive, and welcome me home if I turned my life around and came back. Certainly, that message is true. And on this fourth Sunday in the Season of Lent, it provides one more word of encouragement to repent – to turn our hearts and our lives back to listening to God, and following Jesus, and participating in the Spirit’s work in the world today. If we repent, God will forgive us. If we come home, God will welcome us. If we turn back to God, God will celebrate and rejoice over … Read more »

March 24, 2019

Isaiah 55:1-9 Psalm 63:1-8 “With All Our Hearts” This morning I want to invite you to think about what you love. Perhaps it is that first cup of coffee in the morning, or your favourite dessert. Maybe it’s that wonderful sports team that you root for, or the movie that you’ve watched again and again because you just can’t get enough of it. Maybe you love your music, or your hobby, or the feeling of satisfaction you get when you have done your work well. Of course, I am sure that there are some people that you love truly and deeply. Perhaps your spouse, your children, your best friend. You love them so much that your heart aches when you are apart. You love them so much that you are filled with anxiety when they are hurting or in danger. Today’s psalm gives us an idea of what that kind of love sounds like when it is directed towards God. The psalmist writes: “O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water… your steadfast love is better than life… My soul clings to you…” I wonder how many of us got up this morning thinking, “Oh, how I need God today! I can’t wait to jump out of bed and get myself to church so that I can spend time with God, and listen for God, and praise … Read more »

March 17, 2019

Psalm 27 Philippians 3:17-4:1 Luke 13:31-35 “Citizens of Heaven” When I began to read and reflect on today’s scripture texts early in the week, the theme that sprang to mind for me was “heaven”. I read the line from Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “our citizenship is in heaven” and I remembered that several times over the years, people have specifically asked me to preach about heaven. I remember thinking at the time that I don’t know anything about heaven. What could I possibly say about heaven that would not be a product of my own imagination or someone’s wishful thinking about what the afterlife will be like? As much as I believe in life after death, and that God has something special prepared for us after our lives in this world are over, I don’t feel like I know anything concrete about heaven. And when I was asked, I couldn’t really imagine what I would say in a sermon on heaven. Of course, many of you have heard me mention heaven from this pulpit before… but most often, the context for my mentioning it has been within a funeral sermon. Whenever I preach for a funeral, I check to see if the person who died had selected scripture texts for the service, and I preach on those texts. And if not, I invite the family to select their favourite passages or texts from the bible that they would like to include in the service. Many of the favourite passages … Read more »

March 10, 2019

Ruth 1-2 Deuteronomy 24:17-22 Matthew 25:31-46 “Kindness Without Borders” An Introduction by the Rev. Amanda Currie: Much of this morning’s service comes from a worship resource called “Welcoming the Stranger,” prepared by Presbyterian World Service & Development in partnership with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. As we at First Church prepare to welcome the Mathiang Family to Regina as their sponsors, we do so with the support, help, and encouragement of Presbyterian World Service and Development. PWS&D is a Sponsorship Agreement Holder with the Canadian government, and therefore is able to facilitate a certain number of refugee sponsorships each year. Staff at PWS&D have been working with us since the request for this sponsorship first came up, and have guided us and the Mathiang family through the complex process and paperwork involved in having them come to Canada. What we are doing this year with our PWS&D Sunday and appeal is a bit different from usual. The Mission & Outreach Committee normally shares about the work that PWS&D does around the world including disaster assistance and development projects, and invites your donations directly to PWS&D to support a particular project. This year, we simply want to highlight the work of PWS&D to support refugee sponsorship, and encourage you to continue to give your special offerings to First Church’s own refugee sponsorship initiative. Some of you have already given, and we are grateful. Others have completed a pledge form, making a commitment to give a specific amount this year and next year, … Read more »

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 »