January 11, 2009

Mark 1:4-11 It is wonderful to be able to conduct a baptism on this particular Sunday in the church year. Today is the day that we celebrate the “Baptism of the Lord”. The baptism of Jesus was such an important and pivotal moment in his life and ministry, and reflecting on that moment in Jesus’ life can help us to understand and to celebrate the meaning of baptism in our lives as Jesus’ followers. In some ways, what we do when we gather to baptize an infant seems pretty far removed from what John the Baptizer was doing at the Jordan River so many years ago. The baptism this morning was marked by family, friends, and Christian community gathered in the warmth of a comfortable church, promises made, water poured, and words of blessing spoken for a child. John’s baptism took place outside, down in the muddy waters of the Jordan. And it wasn’t so much about joining a community of faith or about receiving God’s blessing. They were adults who came to get baptized, and they did so because they wanted a fresh start, to confess their sins, and turn their lives in a new direction of obedience to God. The Gospel story today refers to what John was doing out in the wilderness as “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. And it tells us that “people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized … Read more »

January 25, 2009

A sermon on the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, Year B, given on the concluding Sunday of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Jonah 3: 1-5, 10I Corinthians 7: 29-31Mark 1: 14-20 I am not a preacher! I think that I am more comfortable when Amanda stands up here. And by the time I’m finished, maybe you will be too. Preaching is not my natural gift. I teach. I lead my students through their studies, and help them with their questions. But I don’t normally stand at the front of a worshipping congregation to preach the Word of God. I’m much more comfortable with my own words. But today, I’m preaching because it is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This is a special Week in the Christian year for me and for Amanda, because we are what has come to be called an “interchurch couple.” We share together in each other’s churches. Perhaps some of you do not know this already. I am Roman Catholic. Amanda and I met when she was at seminary, and I was beginning my graduate work in ecumenical theology. We share together in an ecumenical vocation. Here, already, is a distinctive Catholic word. For Catholics, “vocation” captures part of the meaning of the word “mission” for Presbyterians and other Reformed Christians. A vocation is simply a calling, but a special one. One that comes from God. Amanda and I believe that God has called us to be a family. We share together a … Read more »

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie The following sermon was preached on Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 3:00 p.m. at McClure United Church in Saskatoon. The occasion was the concluding service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Organized by the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, Christians from many churches throughout the city of Saskatoon gathered to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the calling of the Second Vatican Council and 50 years of ecumenical ministry by Father Bernard de Margerie. The service also included a covenant signing by the sponsoring churches of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism. Audio recordings of the sermon and other parts of the service are available. Ezekiel 37:15-28 The theme and scriptures and reflections for this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared for Christians throughout the world by the churches of Korea. And it’s interesting that Saskatoon has ended up with a Presbyterian minister preaching at the concluding worship because Korea has lots and lots of Presbyterians. Christianity is strong and growing in South Korea, and there are more Protestants than Catholics there, and more Presbyterians than any other Protestant denomination. That’s a strange thing for Presbyterians here in Saskatoon to imagine, because in Canada and particularly in Western Canada we are a very small denomination. Here in Northern Saskatchewan, we have five clergy, ten congregations and a Native Ministry, and many of those churches are small and struggling. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Christian missionaries from many parts of the … Read more »

February 1, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Deuteronomy 18:15-201 Corinthians 8:1-13Mark 1:21-28 “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty… perfect in power, in love, and purity.” There is an old tradition in many Presbyterian churches to begin Sunday worship each week by singing “Holy, holy, holy”, as we did this morning. It goes along with a Reformed Christian focus on the transcendence of God. God is holy. God is over all. God is almighty and powerful and wholly other. Beginning the weekly worship service by singing “Holy, holy, holy” also keeps the focus of what we do together in this place. We don’t come here just to be together with friends. We don’t come here for a purely academic pursuit of learning about God. And we don’t come here simply to pray and ask God for what we need. No, we come to this place each week to worship God — to acknowledge God’s holiness, God’s power, and God’s love. We come to bow down before the Creator and Author of all that is, and to give glory to God. We believe that God is the Author of all that is. That’s an interesting way of thinking about God, isn’t it? Think of the author of a novel. The author creates the characters. The author chooses the setting. The author determines the plot and crafts the dialogue. The author controls everything that happens in her book. She has the power to affect the behaviour of her characters — to have them do … Read more »

February 15, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie 2 Kings 5:1-14 Psalm 30 Mark 1:40-54 The following sermon has also been posted online in MP3 audio format. The Sunday scripture readings over the last few weeks have been very focused on healing, and today is no exception. Back in the fall, when Gillian and I were working on selecting choir anthems for this season, I noticed the “healing” theme coming up again and again. We had just chosen a wonderful anthem for last Sunday (There is a balm in Gilead) and then we looked at the readings for this Sunday, and found we needed to look for another piece of music with a similar emphasis. I’m sure that you will enjoy “Your Gentle Touch” that the choir will share a little later in the worship today. Healing is a pervasive theme within Christianity and within the scriptures. I think we could spend weeks and weeks on it with all the stories of Jesus healing people of various kinds of diseases, with all the psalms where the authors are crying out to God for healing or giving thanks for healing. And yes, there are even a few Old Testament stories about healing as well — though perhaps not as many as in the Gospels. I need to admit, though, that healing is a difficult topic. It’s a subject that sometimes makes us uncomfortable in the church. Maybe it’s because of those television faith healers who give healing and the church a bad name… … Read more »

March 1, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Genesis 9:8-17Psalm 25:1-10Mark 1:9-15 Remembering is hard, isn’t it? I could give you numerous examples of things I forgot just during the last week… like when I forgot my church keys sitting on the desk in my office when I went home for the night, when I called a church member, didn’t find them home, and forgot to try again before the end of the afternoon, or when Gwen asked me the last name of another church member, and I had to scan through the directory before I could remember it. These are just little things from my week, and perhaps you could make a similar list of failed remembrances from your week too. Forgetting things can be frustrating, and it can make us feel pretty bad about ourselves. It’s not uncommon to hear people scolding themselves for forgetting things — when we forget the birthday or anniversary of a loved one, when we miss an appointment because we just didn’t remember about it, or when we can’t recall the name of a new or an old friend. I’ll never forget the story that I heard from another minister about the time she forgot a graveside funeral service. It was a terrible experience of failing to remember — and one she would never forget, and certainly never repeat! Even though I haven’t forgotten such an important commitment, just the thought that I too could make such a mistake has encouraged me to use a … Read more »

March 6, 2009 – World Day of Prayer

The following sermon was preached by the Rev. Amanda Currie at St. Andrew’s for the World Day of Prayer worship service on Friday, March 6th, 2009. The service for the downtown churches of Saskatoon was hosted by St. Andrew’s and organized by Adela MacDonald and Helen Foss, in cooperation with women from seven neighbourhood churches. The liturgy was prepared and adapted by the Women’s Inter-Church Council of Canada. Scripture: Romans 12:4-21; Exodus 2:1-10; Acts 4:32-35 The earliest Christian church, described in the book of Acts, sounds so wonderful, doesn’t it? “Those who believed were of one heart and soul…” Doesn’t that sound lovely when you think about the disagreements and conflicts in our churches today? “With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…” Doesn’t that kind of preaching sound inspiring? “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned land or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.” Wow! Not a needy person among them — no one left out — because they all committed to share what they had, and it was enough for all. I think that most often, when we read this text about the early Christian church, we start comparing it to our own congregations and parishes. We notice that our Christian communities are not nearly so unified. We complain that our leaders are not nearly so inspiring. And we are challenged by the example of the first Christian church to … Read more »

March 15, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Exodus 20:1-17 Psalm 19 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 John 2:13-22 Has anyone ever scoffed at your faith or laughed at your religion? Have you ever gotten into a debate over the existence of God or the usefulness of practicing your faith? Many of us Christians have engaged in those kinds of conversations or debates many times over the years. And sometimes we’ve left them feeling frustrated because we couldn’t think of many great arguments in favour of Christianity. Or we’ve left them feeling guilty because we got angry with a person who couldn’t seem to accept our perspective. Or perhaps, once in a while, we’ve finished those conversations feeling good about the experience because we got a chance to share our faith – not to defend it or to justify it, but simply to tell our neighbour what we believe about God and how our beliefs affect our lives. I don’t know very many Presbyterians who aren’t scared to death of sharing their faith with their neighbours, co-workers, and friends. And one reason for that may be because of past negative experiences — when they seemed to lose the debate, when they left the conversation feeling angry, hurt, guilty, or like a failure. It’s like how I tend to avoid getting into debates about controversial topics like religion with my brothers-in-law. I know those conversations never end well, so I figure it’s better to avoid them altogether and to stay on good terms. I think … Read more »

March 18, 2009 – Nutana Ecumenical Worship

The following sermon was preached by the Rev. Amanda Currie at Nutana Park Mennonite Church on the fourth Wednesday in Lent, 2009. It was part of a series of ecumenical worship services in the Nutana neighbourhood. Each service focused on a daily theme from the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2009. This day’s theme was from Day 4: “Christians face to face with ecological crisis”. Genesis 1:31 – 2:3 Matthew 13:31-32 I was at an ecumenical gathering on Monday evening, and we were talking about the renewal of the churches’ liturgy over the last 50 years or so. The question was asked, “What has changed in your church’s worship over the last 50 years?” Of course, there were lots of things that had changed. For some it was Latin to English. For others it was more frequent communion. For many it was the regular use of a common lectionary. But one person answered by saying that we don’t hear so much preaching about SIN anymore. You know, the kind of “Watch out! You’re going to hell if you don’t change your ways” kind of preaching that was heard from many Presbyterian and other pulpits not so many years ago. More recent students of preaching have been taught to emphasize God’s grace and love for us. Even in the midst of a sermon that challenges us to repent, to turn around our hearts and our lives to God’s ways, still we musn’t forget to proclaim the Good News of Jesus … Read more »

March 29, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Jeremiah 31:31-34 John 12:20-33 The prophetic text from Jeremiah 31 that we heard this morning tells us about a “new covenant” – a new relationship that God makes with God’s people. This promise came at a time when Israel was in exile in Babylon, having lost all the things that made Israel God’s people and a nation. Gone was their land, their temple, and their king… all the things that had come to them on the promises of God. And Jeremiah was telling them that they had lost all these things because of their unfaithfulness to God… because they had turned away to other gods and idols. But even in this time of despair, when they came face-to-face with the fact that they had failed in their relationship with God and the result was exile… God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah to the exiles, and God announced that there would be a new covenant. God was going to establish a new relationship with God’s people. The new covenant was going to be different from the one God made with Israel at Sinai after bringing the people out of slavery in Egypt. Remember that covenant? — the one that we associate with the ten commandments? There were two essential elements in that earlier covenant: First, God chose the Hebrew People (former slaves) to be in a special relationship with God. It was on God’s initiative that the people were given this opportunity to be the … Read more »

April 10, 2009 – Good Friday

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Mark 15:33-39 I have been thinking for several weeks about what I might be called to say to you on this Good Friday morning. Often we don’t have a sermon on this day. We let the scriptures speak for themselves. We tell the story of Jesus’ last day. We journey with him through the agony of his passion. And we pause at the foot of the cross to mourn for a while, because Jesus our Lord is crucified. But this year, I wanted to preach. I wanted to spend some time with the event that we are remembering today, and to consider why it is such an important part of our Christian faith — why Good Friday, in many churches, is the most highly attended service of the year. Last Friday evening, at our Kids’ Club program, we spent some time with the Easter story as a whole. The kids got lots of practice looking up bible verses as they had to look up 14 different verses that traced out of events of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection. And then they had to put the events in the correct order. Once they had completed the activity, we reviewed the story, and invited them to share how they would explain the story of Jesus to someone who had never heard about him before. As one of our St. Andrew’s kids was sharing, she used the phrase “Good Friday” to describe the day that Jesus … Read more »

April 12, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Mark 16:1-8 Acts 10:34-43 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 If you open up a bible to the end of the Gospel of Mark, you will find that its ending is unclear. The earliest manuscripts finish with chapter 16, verse 8: “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” But our Gospel translations have two added endings. The shorter one simply adds these words: “And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.” The longer ending goes on for eleven more verses in which Jesus appears to Mary, then to two disciples, and then he appears to the eleven disciples and commissions them to proclaim the good news to the whole creation. Finally, he ascends into heaven, and the narrator assures the readers that the disciples did indeed go out to proclaim the good news everywhere. These extra endings are not believed to be from the original manuscripts of the Gospel, but they were added by editors in the late 2nd or early 3rd centuries. They incorporate incidents and ideas from the other Gospels and from the book of Acts. And more importantly, they change failure into success to end the Gospel on a positive note. There’s no question of what happened, they assure … Read more »

April 26, 2009

Genesis 1:26-31a Psalm 8 1 John 4:7-21 John 13:12-15, 34-35 I’ve never had a guitar lesson, per se. I learned to play a few basic chords on the guitar and to strum along to the beat of the music when I was 17 and I was working in the kitchen at the Presbyterian camp. The first song that I learned to play on the guitar was this one… sing along if you know it… Lead me, Jesus; I will follow,down the dusty pathways, all along the sea. Teach me, Jesus, to be loving: your disciple I will be. I’ve sung that song so many times over the years since then. And whenever I sing it, I wonder about what it might have been like to be one of Jesus’ disciples… one of his first disciples who travelled with him along the dusty roads, beside seashores and through little villages… shuffling through the crowds, and stopping to touch and to pray for the sick, listening and questioning, wondering about home and family, anticipating the next day’s adventure, sharing food & wine among friends and strangers, and meeting all kinds of unusual people. I imagine what it must have been like for his disciples not to know what would happen the next day, where they would end up, who they would meet along the way, what Jesus would ask them to do, or what surprising things he might teach them. In this season of Easter, I think about the unbelievable choices and … Read more »

May 17, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie John 15:9-17 I’ve been thinking about LOVE all weekend. A young couple in our congregation, Greg Mergen and Kim Lund, got married yesterday so I got to preach on the classic wedding text of 1 Corinthians 13 — the “love chapter”. You know the one. In the middle of it, the apostle Paul describes what love is: Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. And whether it’s the Corinthian Christians trying to love each other despite their differences and conflicts, whether it’s married couples trying to love each other through all the ups and downs of life together, or whether it’s any of us Christians trying to put love into practice in our lives, it seems like an impossibly high standard to live up to. We do try though, don’t we? We try to get along with our co-workers. We try not to snap at our kids. We try to be friendly to the neighbours next door. And we smile at the bus driver or the store clerk or the person passing by on the street. Sometimes we try, at least, when we remember… But often when we get to church on Sunday… that’s … Read more »

May 24, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Acts 1:1-11 Ephesians 1:15-23 Today is Ascension Sunday, the day that the church celebrates Jesus’ ascension into heaven. After Jesus had died on a cross and been buried in a tomb, we believe that God raised him from death, and he appeared to many of his friends and followers. But the risen Jesus did not just keep hanging around with the followers of his way. The last chapter of Luke’s Gospel and the first chapter of the book of Acts tell the story of his ascension into heaven. He spoke a few final words to his friends, and then he was gone… up into the sky, into heaven, carried away by a cloud. That’s the way the story’s author describes Jesus’ departure. We may not want to take the description literally today, but we get the point that the early Christian community wanted to convey: Jesus was no longer physically present among them, but they did not believe that he was dead and gone, rotting in his grave. They believed that he was gone to be with God, seated at God’s right hand (like a prince beside a king) and that he would rule the world with all power and authority forever and ever. We hear the passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians on Ascension Sunday too, because in it Paul emphasizes very strongly that Christ lives in heaven with God, where he rules over all of creation with great power and might, … Read more »

June 7, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Isaiah 6:1-8 Psalm 29 Mark 3:13-19 There are many stories in the scriptures about Jesus sending out his followers to do ministry in his name. Our Gospel text today is one of these stories that give us insight into our mission as Jesus’ followers today. One of the interesting things about this text is that it lists the names of the people who were sent, and it gives them a new title. Most of the time, Jesus’ friends were called “disciples”. You probably remember that “disciple” comes from a Greek word meaning “one who follows and learns”. In fact, today’s passage begins with Jesus inviting some of his “disciples” to go up on a mountain with him. And then he chooses twelve of them to receive a new title and a new task. The new title he gives these twelve is “apostle” — from another Greek word meaning “one who is sent”. And the only other thing in the passage, besides the listing of the apostles’ names, is a sentence about the work Jesus was sending them out to do. He sent them out “to preach and to force out demons”. When I study a passage like this one, I usually start wondering about what those apostles were feeling as Jesus’ sent them out to preach and to force out demons. Did they feel like they were ready to do it? Had they figured out what they would say to the people when they … Read more »

June 21, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie 1 Samuel 17:32-49 Psalm 9:9-20 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 Mark 4:35-41 When we read the stories of the bible, one of the first questions we often ask is “What kind of story is this?” Is it something that really happened historically? Or is it a mythic or symbolic story shared to teach us a deeper truth? A good example would be the parables that Jesus told. He told a story about a prodigal son — how he took his inheritance and spent it in wild living — and how he later came to his senses, realized the mistakes he had made, and returned home to find himself welcomed and embraced by his forgiving father. Of course, we know that the story is not historical. It is told not to teach us “what happened” but to show us “what God is like” — loving, forgiving, and ready to celebrate over each of his children who return to relationship with him. Today’s Gospel story is one that most Christian bible readers would put in the category of history. It’s a story about something that happened to Jesus and his disciples when Jesus decided it was time to cross over to the other side of the lake to continue his ministry in another area. Many modern interpreters get stuck with these stories about Jesus’ miracles and his divine power over nature. They can’t imagine these dramatic events taking place, and they argue that even if Jesus did have … Read more »

June 28, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Psalm 130 Mark 5:21-43 At least once, almost every day, I meet someone who greets me by saying: “Hello Amanda. How are you?” And without a pause, I naturally respond, “Fine thanks. And you?” A few months ago, I caught a horrible cold that kept me off work for a couple of days and feeling terrible for several weeks. And I noticed several times during that illness, when someone would say, “Hello Amanda. How are you?” I automatically answered, “Fine thanks. And you?” If I had thought about the question even for a moment, I would have had to admit that I was no where near “fine”. My head hurt, and my throat ached, and I was so exhausted that I was ready to drop. But “Fine thanks. And you?” was what came out of my mouth. And I don’t think I paid much attention when my conversation partner chimed in with their own “I’m fine also.” It’s amazing how much time we can spend together with friends, neighbours, and fellow church members without having a lot of meaningful conversation. We can exchange a lot of pleasantries and waste a lot of time talking about the weather, and when we part ways, we don’t know much about the people we’ve been talking with, and none of us have been particularly impacted by the fact that we had a conversation. The scripture texts this week got me thinking about the risks that we take in … Read more »

July 5, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Psalm 48 The time for the festival was approaching, and God’s people were on the move again. For centuries, since the time that God had led the Hebrews out of Egypt and into this new land, Jerusalem had been thought of as a very special place. Though the tablets with the ten commandments were once carried in a special box as God’s people travelled through the wilderness, it had now been a long time since Solomon had built the great temple in Jerusalem. There was a home for God, a place for the people to worship, a place where they could meet with God and know with certainty that God was there. And so the people came. God’s people lived all over by now — in Jerusalem, in the nearby towns and villages, and even further afield. Most Jews wouldn’t go up to worship in the temple every day or even every week. Instead, they would gather in local synagogues to read from the Law and the Prophets, to interpret the scriptures, to worship God, and to encourage one another. But Jerusalem was still a very special place — a holy place where God’s presence was sure. Jerusalem was a place where heaven and earth seemed to meet — like on the mountain where God had first spoken to Moses and called him to lead God’s people out of Egypt. And so, wherever God’s people lived, they would go up to Jerusalem. They would … Read more »

August 2, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie 2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a Psalm 51:1-12 Ephesians 4:1-16 John 6:24-35 Back in February, I helped to lead an ecumenical retreat for women in ministry here in Saskatoon. The Eucharistic theme of our time together was taken from Henri Nouwen’s book, “Life of the Beloved”. We explored how our lives (as women in ministry) are taken, blessed, broken, and shared for the life of the world, as we participate in Christ’s own ministry today. As part of our time together, we decided that it would be both fun and meaningful to make bread. I had never made bread except using a bread machine, but some of the other women were at least occasional bread bakers, so we gave it a try. We gathered in groups of 6 or 7 around tables in the dining room at Queen’s House, and took turns adding ingredients, mixing, kneading, sharing stories, and laughing a lot. And much to my surprise, our bread turned out both beautiful and delicious. We ate it together the next morning during our closing worship. It was an ecumenical “holy meal” with plenty of bread and wine to share as we celebrated our brief time together and began to think about returning to our particular ministries. And I have not stopped making bread since. The grocery store still has my business, but I’m usually buying flour, yeast, and milk, and rarely any pre-made bread. There’s something about the smell of the yeast, the feel … Read more »