January 6, 2008

Isaiah 60:1-6 Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14Ephesians 3:1-12Matthew 2:1-12 The story of the magi’s visit to the young boy Jesus in Bethlehem is the classic Epiphany story. We often sneak the wise men into the Christmas story in December, but its proper place is here: after the birth of the child, after the shepherds have returned home, after the angels have receded into the sky. Once again, of course, I should remind you that the shepherds and the angels belong to Luke’s story, and the magi are Matthew’s. The birth narratives should not be read as historical accounts of factual events. So we don’t have to worry about why the Holy Family who had travelled to Bethlehem for a census (in Luke’s account) are still there a few years later (in Matthew’s account) and living in a house. Chances are that Jesus was really born in Nazareth, the Galilean town where he grew up and began his ministry. But both Matthew and Luke come up with reasons for his birth to take place in Bethlehem, the city of David. It’s a great way to show that Jesus is the predicted Messiah, in the family line of David, born in David’s town. Likewise, there is no historical reason to believe that Gentile astrologers came looking for Jesus to worship him as a little child in Bethlehem. My guess is that no one knew that there was anything particularly special about Jesus until he began his ministry as a young man. But the story … Read more »

January 13, 2008

Isaiah 42:1-9 Psalm 29Acts 10:34-43Matthew 3:13-17 I grew up, and went to church school, and sang in the choir, and listened to sermons, in a church whose sanctuary looks very much like this one at St. Andrew’s. Although my home church was a little wider and a little shorter, it shared the same basic architecture as this worship space. It included rows of wooden pews, facing straight towards the front, a long central aisle, and a balcony at the back. The front section, traditionally referred to as the chancel, included a pulpit on one side for preaching, a lectern on the other for readings, prayers, and announcements. The area reserved for the choir included two sets of pews facing towards each other with the Communion Table in between. And like here at St. Andrew’s, we usually only had a choir large enough to fill one side. The architecture varies a little bit these days, both in Presbyterian and other Christian churches, but one thing that is almost universally communicated by the way we set up our worship spaces is that something is going on at the front, and the people are watching it. You’re all looking this way — often you’re looking at me! — because I’m supposed to be doing something, or saying something, and you’re all here to watch it, or hear it. Now, don’t get me wrong… I’m not complaining about the responsibility that I’ve taken on in responding to the call to preach the Word and … Read more »

January 20, 2008

Isaiah 49:1-7 Psalm 40:1-11 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 John 1:29-42 I’ve always tended to think of myself as a “middle of the road” Canadian Presbyterian. I’m pretty comfortable in a church that includes a variety of perspectives on social issues, biblical interpretation, and theology. We don’t need to agree on absolutely everything, but we can find unity in some core convictions and work together towards some common goals. And I’m pretty comfortable as a Presbyterian within the larger church community. I value our Reformed tradition with its distinctives and strengths, but I don’t need to convince Anglicans or Roman Catholics to become Presbyterians. I don’t think the Pentecostals would be better off if they joined our church, and I don’t go around saying the Presbyterians who went into Church Union 83 years ago would be much better off if they had stuck with us. In fact, when I’ve taken part in interfaith events, (like the prayers for peace that we shared a few weeks ago on New Year’s Eve down at St. Paul’s Cathedral), I’ve been aware of the fact that we have a great deal in common with other people of faith… whether they are Jewish, or Muslim, or Sikh, or Buddhist, or something else. But as I was working through some ideas for this morning’s sermon, I shared a few of them with my husband, and he said, “You really are an evangelical, aren’t you?” In mainline Christian churches, “evangelical” has sometimes been used almost as a bad word. … Read more »

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2008

The following sermon was preached by the Rev. Amanda Currie at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Saskatoon, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in January 2008. St. Andrew’s hosted an ecumenical worship service on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008 at 7 a.m. The Prairie Centre for Ecumenism coordinates a wonderful schedule of ecumenical prayer and worship in Saskatoon each year, and we were pleased to take part by hosting one of the services. Our worship reflected on the readings for Day 4 of the Week of Prayer, and on the theme “Pray always for justice.” Psalm 146 Exodus 3:1-12 This morning’s reading from Exodus is one of the scripture texts assigned for day four of the Week of Prayer. It is the familiar story of Moses speaking with God at the burning bush. When I’ve preached on this text in the past, my focus has been on the experience of God’s call. God speaks to us in a variety of ways — not usually as dramatically as through a burning bush that’s not being burned up! — but God does speak to us in scripture, through people in our lives, by the Holy Spirit, and as we carefully listen to God in prayer. And God does call us to tasks that seem, at first, to be outrageous and beyond our capabilities. Like Moses, we are often surprised by the enormity of the things God calls us to do, and we often doubt that we will be able to get them … Read more »

January 27, 2008

Isaiah 9:1-4Psalm 27:1-61 Corinthians 1:10-18Matthew 4:12-23 Today’s Gospel reading is about the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. The author of Matthew’s Gospel tells us that Jesus left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum in order to fulfil the words of the prophet Isaiah:“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,on the road by the sea, across the Jordan,Galilee of the Gentiles —the people who sat in darknesshave seen a great light,and for those who sat in the region and shadow of deathlight has dawned.” Later, John’s Gospel will have Jesus identify himself as “the light of the world.” And here, Matthew describes the work that Jesus is about to begin in Galilee as like a light shining into darkness, as like the sun rising for those who are in danger of death. Jesus begins his proclamation of the reign of God, and it’s like a light has been switched on. The things Jesus says, and the way Jesus acts, and the person Jesus is in the world, help the people he encounters to start seeing things differently. He both pronounces God’s high expectations of each of us, and embodies God’s amazing love and forgiveness for even the least among us. Jesus is the light that reveals who God is, how God loves us, and how God calls us to live in loving relationship with God and with one another. The Gospel tells us that from that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come … Read more »

February 10, 2008

Matthew 4:1-11 Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7 Psalm 32 Romans 5:12-19 Did anyone watch the show “Little Mosque on the Prairie” this week? It’s the CBC comedy about a little Mosque in a community somewhere on the Canadian Prairies. There aren’t a huge number of Muslims in the fictional town of “Mercy” but there are enough to gather together in a rented space in an Anglican Church. And there are enough to hire a young Imam from Toronto (the clergy person in an Islamic community). This week’s episode of “Little Mosque on the Prairie” began with Friday prayers and the Imam’s sermon. It’s the beginning of the festival of Ramadan in which Muslims fast and pray, read the Qu’ran and re-focus their lives on following the ways of God, including good deeds, kindness, and helping others. Though the TV show wasn’t concerned with giving many details about the meaning and significance of Ramadan, what was clear was the call to individuals to rid themselves of bad habits, negative practices, or what in a religious context, we would call sin. Are you reminded of the Christian season of Lent that we began a few days ago on Ash Wednesday? That’s what came to my mind as I listened to an excerpt from Amar’s Ramadan sermon. Amar was really straight-forward in his sermon. He said, “You’ve got to stop lying. You’ve got to stop gossiping. You need to work on being patient, and not getting angry, because that’s what God requires of us. The … Read more »

February 17, 2008

John 3:1-17 Nicodemus is an example of an educated and religious person who doesn’t quite GET what Jesus is about. The exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus is a typical passage from John’s Gospel, full of metaphors and symbolic language. Jesus is speaking in riddles, it seems, and Nicodemus is thoroughly confused. Understandably confused, I think. First, of course, there is the mix-up over what Jesus is saying about being born. The Greek word used is “anothen,” and Nicodemus interprets it to mean “again.” He thinks that Jesus is requiring him to be born AGAIN in order to see the Kingdom of God. “How can a grown man ever be born a second time?” he asks. And Jesus tells him that he doesn’t need another physical, human birth. He needs to be born of the Spirit. You see, the other meaning of the word “anothen” is “from above.” Nicodemus, and all of us, need to be born “from above” by the Spirit in order to experience the Kingdom of God. As Jesus goes on talking about this spiritual birth, there’s a line about the wind. “God’s Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants to. You can hear the wind, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it’s going.” Again, the Greek word is confusing. “Pneuma” means both Spirit and wind and breath. No wonder Nicodemus is confused by Jesus’ words! What is this spiritual birth that he needs to experience? Jesus says that if he … Read more »

February 24, 2008

Exodus 17:1-7Psalm 95Romans 5:1-11John 4:5-42 As we continue our journey through the season of Lent, Year A (the first year of the 3-year lectionary cycle) gives us a long, elaborate story from John’s Gospel each Sunday. Last week it was the story of the Jewish leader, Nicodemus, being told by Jesus that he needed to be born from above. And today, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman beside a well, as he is travelling by the city of Sychar. Last week we paid attention to the way that John’s Jesus used confusing language. When he told Nicodemus that he had to be born “anothen” in order to see the Kingdom of God, the Greek word “anothen” could have meant “again” (as Nicodemus assumed) or “from above” (the more spiritual meaning that Jesus actually intended.) The major theme of John’s Gospel is about how people come to believe in Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour of the world. At the end of chapter 20, the purpose of the Gospel is made plain: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” And the detailed stories of Jesus’ various encounters each give insight into both the identity of Jesus and the process of coming to believe in and have faith … Read more »

March 2, 2008

1 Samuel 16:1-13Psalm 23John 9:1-41 The story of the day that God asked Samuel to choose a new king for the People of Israel is a good illustration of the way that God sees differently from the rest of us. The first king of Israel, King Saul, was not doing a very good job, as far as God was concerned. He wasn’t honouring God or following God’s ways, and God wanted him replaced as quickly as possible. The prophet Samuel, who had once anointed Saul to be king, now had been instructed by God to anoint a new king from among Jesse’s sons. Samuel had to go to Bethlehem, meet up with Jesse’s family, and God would show him which one of the sons was God’s chosen one to be the king. I’m not really sure why God didn’t just tell Samuel right away that David was the chosen one. While God was giving all those instructions anyway, God could easily have added, “Oh, and by the way, the kid’s name is David.” But the story is not just about the practical process of finding and anointing a new king for Israel. It also tells us something about that new king. It tells us that he wasn’t the biggest, strongest, most obvious choice for a king. His father didn’t even bother having him come in from the fields on the off chance that he might be the one. But David had the right attitude, the right sparkle in his eyes. … Read more »

March 16, 2008

Matthew 21:1-11 Jesus said: “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second son and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? What do you think?” Jesus asked the chief priests and the elders. And they, of course, picked the first son — the one who had said the wrong thing, but done the right thing. And they were right. Obedience to God is about more than just words, it’s about action, it’s about doing the right thing, not just knowing or saying the right thing. Not long before this conversation with the religious authorities at the temple, Jesus had arrived in the city of Jerusalem and caused quite a stir. A crowd had gathered, as it often did whenever Jesus was out preaching and healing and doing the kinds of things that Jesus did. And the crowd was just about as excited and lively as it ever was before in the stories of Jesus. We don’t know who the people were who made up the crowd that day, but we can imagine that they were people who knew at least a little about Jesus. Many of them had probably been travelling with him along the way. They’d … Read more »

March 23, 2008

The following dialogue sermon was presented for the Easter Sunday message. Thank you to David Ireland for playing the role of Apollos, while I (Amanda) was Priscilla. The italicized sections were sung by the choir and congregation to the tune of “Give me oil in my lamp.” Priscilla and Apollos: Preaching the GOOD NEWS in Ephesus Apollos: Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” Jesus, the great rabbi, also said: “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Do not think that Jesus came to abolish the law or the prophets. No, he came to fulfill them. You have heard that it was said to those in ancient times, “You shall not murder.” But Jesus said, “Do not even be angry with a brother or sister.” You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But Jesus said, “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” Priscilla: Excuse … Read more »

March 30, 2008

John 20:19-31 Early on the first day of the week, a friend of Jesus named Mary Magdalene went to the tomb where he had been buried, and discovered that his body was gone. Peter and another disciple went and saw it too. Jesus’ grave clothes were there, but he was gone. Only Mary saw the angels that morning and spoke with Jesus in the garden, but she told the others that she had seen the Lord, that he was raised, and that he was going up to be with God. The author of John’s Gospel doesn’t tell us what the other disciples thought of her report that morning, but when evening came they were huddled together, scared as could be, all of them in a house with the doors locked. But Jesus will not allow them to hide for long. Neither the locked doors, nor their recent failure to stick by Jesus when he most needed them, will stop Jesus from returning to them, and blessing them, and commissioning them to carry on his work. Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” It was a conventional greeting to follow a not-so-conventional entrance. But it was more than that too. It was Jesus bringing a gift of peace to a group of frightened and overwhelmed followers, for whom peace would not have seemed possible. Then Jesus showed them his hands and his side, and they were overjoyed. I guess it was seeing those distinctive wounds that … Read more »

April 6, 2008

Luke 24:13-35 It’s probably not too difficult for most of us to relate to Cleopas and his friend, trudging along the road to Emmaus after what was probably the greatest disappointment of their lives. Like them, many of us have experienced the loss of dear loved ones — sometimes suddenly, and other times at the end of long and painful illness. Some of us have survived losing jobs or relationships that have come to an end. Others live through each day with the extra challenges of physical or mental illness. Some suffer from discrimination, abuse, or debilitating poverty. And all of us, no matter how care-free our lives may seem, are daily confronted by the realities of violence, and war, and hatred in our world that we feel powerless to overcome. Over the past two weeks, many people in the core neighbourhoods of Saskatoon, in some of our community agencies, and in the supporting churches, have felt a deep sense of disappointment at the provincial government’s withdrawal of funding for the “Station 20 West” project. As you likely already know, “Station 20 West,” at the corner of 20th Street and Avenue “L,” was to include affordable housing, a co-op grocery store, a public library, a medical and dental clinic, and space for a variety of other community agencies. And “Station 20 West” was a beacon of light — a sign of hope — in innercity neighbourhoods that are marked by poverty, ill-health, and hopelessness. We have a real reason to … Read more »

April 13, 2008

Acts 2:42-47 The book of the “Acts of the Apostles” is a unique book within the new Testament. There are four accounts of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection. And there are many letters written by Paul and other church leaders to fledgling Christian communities all around the known world. But the Book of Acts is different. Its topic is the early church at its beginning. Jesus ascends into heaven in the first chapter, and then we have the stories of the birth and growth of the church. Like the Gospels, its form is historical narrative, and its author is likely the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke. And though the stories in Acts are about “what happened” among the first Christians, their purpose is greater than simply to record a historical moment. In fact, like in the Gospels, historical accuracy may often be discarded in order to relate to the readers (the next generations of the church) what was the purpose and mission and character of being the church together at the beginning. Today’s few verses, from the end of the second chapter, are some of my favourite verses in Acts. They are a beautiful description of the Christian community as it is meant to be. At this point, the church has only just been formed. Chapter two begins with the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The followers of Jesus are filled with God’s powerful Spirit and equipped to share the Good News with all … Read more »

April 20, 2008 – Mission Awareness

A sermon by Dineke Kraay on Mission Awareness Acts 7:55-60 Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 1 Peter 2:2-10 John 14:1-14 Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ! On this Mission Awareness Sunday, the members of the Hildur Hermanson group intend to emphasize the mission work of our national church and the work of the Women’s Missionary Society. My first idea was to give you a lot of Mission information. It would have gone on like this: according to the latest statistics, in 2006 Canada Ministries created Fourteen New Ministries. It supported Twenty-six Specialized Ministries. In addition it gave funds to Eight Renewing and Eighteen Sustaining Ministries. These are awfully dry statistics. But they come to life when the people involved tell their stories as they do in Stories of Mission. And I could probably have provided you with similar statistics about International Ministries. But again, it is the stories that count. So, I urge you to pick up your free copy of this booklet after the service. They are on the table in the Narthex. And do read the additional mission information in the bulletin. I would like to highlight, however, the mission work in Eastern Europe. The Presbyterian Church in Canada supports: The Reformed Church in Hungary, The Hungarian Reformed Church and its Theological Seminary in Romania, and The Reformed Church of Sub-Carpathian Ukraine in Ukraine. The work here includes education, healthcare, work among the Roma people, formerly called Gypsies, and refugees. The national office of the Women’s Missionary Society is … Read more »

April 27, 2008

The following sermon was written by the Rev. Amanda Currie and presented by Nicole Lindgren, David Ireland, Eva Anderson, and Allyssa deBruijn. Thank you to all the youth who led worship at St. Andrew’s on Sunday April 27, 2008 and shared their experience from the most recent Synod Youth weekend in Weyburn, SK. One: Last weekend our theme for the Synod Youth Event was “Talk the Walk: Putting our Faith into Words.” Two: As people of faith of all ages, it’s important for us to work on putting our faith into words. And it’s not easy for any of us. Three: Presbyterians can often be pretty quiet and reserved about what we believe. We don’t want to offend anyone, so we stay quiet about our beliefs. Four: And the result is that no one is offended by us, but no one hears anything from us about the Good News of God in Jesus Christ. One: No one hears how much God loves us. Two: We can show people God’s love by our actions though, can’t we? We can “walk the talk.” Three: Yes. It’s really important that we show God’s love by our actions. But when people wonder why we love, or when they ask where we get the strength to love, we need to be able to tell them… Four: … “It’s because God loved me first.” One: We can’t just “walk the talk.” We also need to “talk the walk.” Three: Learning to “talk the walk” doesn’t just … Read more »

May 4, 2008

Acts 17:16-31John 14:15-21 Until I started to explore this morning’s text from the Book of Acts, I had no idea how much wonderful stuff about God was packed into such a short little speech by Paul at the Areopagus. Your typical modern-day preacher takes at least ten minutes, if not fifteen or twenty minutes to preach the Gospel in most of our churches. And rarely do we manage to do it as eloquently as Paul’s little sermon to the philosophers in Athens. The element of Paul’s speech that really spoke to me this week was the idea that God does not need us, but that we need God. It’s humbling for us — even the brightest and most gifted and most accomplished and independent — to listen to Paul’s words: “The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.” It’s humbling to remember that everything that we have and everything that we are comes from God. It is in God and by God that we live and move and have our being. And it’s natural and to-be-expected that we would depend on God, like young children depend on their parents. “For we are God’s offspring,” as Paul said. Today’s lectionary text is one of three major missionary … Read more »

May 18, 2008

Genesis 1:1 — 2:4a As I was planning our worship for today, I was thinking that we could simply have a wonderful celebration of God’s creation. It’s not very often that we read the whole of the Genesis 1 creation story in worship, and that setting of the reading that Adam read and sang for us today lifts my spirits in joy. When we practiced today’s choir anthem (The Lord of Everything) for the first time, it made me want to jump up and run outside — not because we didn’t sound great the first time through, but because it made me want to experience the beautiful creation that we were singing about. This theme in the lectionary, it seems, has arrived just in time for spring – when Saskatonians are finally getting outdoors again where we can see and appreciate the natural world. We’re reading and singing about God’s creation just at the time when many of us are starting to think about and plan for summer holidays. Personally, I’m looking forward to a trip through the mountains to BC later this summer. I can hardly wait to experience those wonderful mountain views and to really enjoy the natural environment that God made. But as I pointed out in the children’s story, God’s creation (which we gather to celebrate today) is severely distorted, extremely endangered, and ultimately at risk of being destroyed. And there’s no getting around the fact that the cause of the problem is us — humans. … Read more »

June 8, 2008

The following message was presented in three parts. The first two parts (God Chooses Abram & God Chooses Matthew) were presented interactively with the children of the church. The third part (God Chooses Us) was presented in traditional sermon format. God Chooses Abram The first bible story we will hear today is about a man named Abram who was chosen by God for a special purpose. You might remember the name Abraham. That was the name that God gave to him (it meant “father of many nations”, but his original name was Abram, so that’s what he’s called in our story today. As Rachel reads our story from Genesis 12, listen and see if you can hear what God is choosing Abram to do. Genesis 12:1-9 Did you notice what God was choosing Abram to do? (Go to a new land, have children and make a community of people who know God, be a blessing to others…) Any ideas as to why God chose Abram for this job? Do you think it was because Abram was really smart or strong or he liked to travel? This is why I think God chose Abram for this purpose… Because Abram believed in God. There weren’t many people around at that time who knew about God or believed in God. But when God spoke to Abram, Abram listened and did what God asked him to do. Not many people were paying attention to what God wanted them to do. But Abram knew about … Read more »

June 22, 2008

Genesis 21:8-21Psalm 86Romans 6:1-11Matthew 10:24-39 Today’s Gospel passage from Matthew consists of some sayings and words of instruction and encouragement from Jesus to his inner circle of followers. In last week’s reading (the first part of chapter 10) Jesus summoned his twelve disciples, gave them power to cast out demons and cure diseases, and sent them out to the “lost sheep of Israel” to proclaim the good news, cure the sick, raise the dead, and generally to do the kinds of things Jesus himself was doing. So, keeping in mind the mission that Jesus had just given to these leaders in his group, let us examine the further instructions that he gives to them. Our passage begins with a proverbial saying: “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master.” As students of Jesus, the disciples are being told that they will experience the same kinds of challenges and struggles that Jesus did. He was persecuted. So will they be. He was rejected by many. So will they experience rejection. Jesus points out that some people have called him “Beelzebul” (another name for the devil) and these people are not likely to treat Jesus’ followers any better. As Jesus’ disciples went out to the towns of Israel, proclaiming the good news about the coming kingdom, and healing and helping people in Jesus’ name, they probably did experience some resistance … Read more »