August 29, 2010

Jeremiah 2:4-13 Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 Luke 14:1, 7-14 Earlier this year, when the Olympic Torch Relay came through Saskatoon, I stood in the middle of the crowd gathered on the street outside the church (at Spadina & 20th) to watch the show and prepare to welcome the torch runners into our community. I enjoyed the first part of the presentation very much. There were local choirs singing, and Native groups sharing traditional drumming and singing as well. It was nice to be able to host these groups, as they were using our church basement to put on their costumes and get ready. And it was remarkably warm for a Monday in January, so being outside in the crowd of Saskatoon citizens was surprisingly comfortable. But my reaction changed as the presentation went on – as the Olympic sponsors RBC and Coca-Cola took over the show. They certainly had some spectacular things to share… There was an artist who spun his canvas round and round as he painted with his hands, and created a beautiful picture within only a few minutes. And there were some very talented dancers and acrobats, who jumped and flipped and balanced and flew across the stage in some truly amazing ways. But while the dancers dazzled the crowd, a huge bottle of coke flitted across the stage too, and the music and lyrics encouraged us all to buy the product (Coke) and “open happiness!” The bubbly, sugary drink was being touted as a source of happiness. … Read more »

September 5, 2010

Jeremiah 18:1-11 Part 1 Right from the moment that God called Jeremiah to serve as a prophet, God made it clear that Jeremiah would often be bringing bad news to the people. The reality was that God’s People in the Northern Kingdom of Israel were not living very faithfully towards God or lovingly towards one another. And Jeremiah got the unpopular job of warning them to shape up or experience God’s power against them. The wonderful metaphor of God working on us like a potter carefully and gently transforms a lump of clay into a beautiful and useful vessel can easily lose the clear, harsh judgment that Jeremiah was announcing against an unfaithful People. It’s not just that God wants to smooth out our rough edges or give us a fresh coat of paint. Jeremiah is talking about a much deeper and greater transformation… from self-centered, selfish, self-loving people… into people who love God and want to show that love by caring for others, by putting others first, by loving our neighbours and the stranger who is in need. We’re talking about big changes here… transformation… That’s what God wants to do in our lives, and God has the power to do it too… like a potter who can not only smooth out a rough edge, but who can choose to squash the pot that isn’t turning out right… to squish it and pound it work it into useable clay, and begin again… to form it into the beautiful vessel … Read more »

September 12, 2010

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 Psalm 14 1 Timothy 1:12-17 Luke 15:1-10 Where do you place yourself in the story? Which character can you relate to today? Perhaps you can relate to the lost sheep… wandering alone and scared?… hoping for some help, some hope, for a strong and faithful shepherd to find you and carry you home to safety? Do you feel like the lost coin?… obviously useful and valuable, but forgotten, hidden, over-looked, being passed by over and over? Or do you relate most easily to the tax collectors and sinners who were coming near to listen to Jesus? You know that you’ve made some mistakes in your life. You’ve been far from perfect, and those close to you know it too… but you’ve been invited to listen to Jesus, to eat with him, and to learn from him. You feel accepted in his presence, and your history disappears into the background. You have discovered that to Jesus your life is as precious as a lost sheep to a shepherd or a lost silver coin to a woman who needs it. If you can place yourself in the role of the lost sheep, or the lost coin, or the sinner at Jesus’ feet, then I trust that you will hear the good news of the Gospel today. In Jesus Christ, God has shown us that God cares for each one of us enough that he came searching for us… searching the hills, sweeping out the house, inviting us into a … Read more »

September 19, 2010

Luke 16:1-13 The parable of the dishonest manager is a tricky one. I suppose that parables aren’t supposed to be too straight-forward. After all, Jesus told parables knowing that some would understand them and that others would miss the point. Sometimes Jesus’ parables are followed by several verses of explanation or interpretation. His disciples didn’t always get the point right away either, or perhaps the Gospel writers wanted to make sure that those who read the parables years later would understand what Jesus was getting at. As you know, a parable is a story that has two levels of meaning. On one level, today’s parable is about a dishonest manager who comes up with a sneaky plan to take care of his financial needs after he loses his job for squandering his master’s money. On another level, the story is about something else. But with this particular parable, that “something else” is not immediately obvious. Let’s just review the parable briefly. Jesus tells his disciples that there is a rich man who had a manager. It seems that the manager is taking care of the rich man’s property. He rents out land to a variety of people and has them pay with a portion of what the land produces, whether grain or oil. But the rich man finds out that the manager is “squandering his property.” Maybe he’s not passing on all the payments from the tenants. Maybe he’s taking a larger commission for himself than was agreed upon. Maybe … Read more »

October 3, 2010

2 Timothy 1:1-14 Luke 17:1-10 Today’s Gospel reading begins with some sayings of Jesus. Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times a says, “I repent,” you must forgive.” When the first disciples heard these instructions from Jesus, I imagine that they were overwhelmed by the demands. They were being called to a high standard of goodness and uprightness. But even if they did well at following the commandments, they weren’t given license to look down on others, or complain, or scoff at those who might do less well. Indeed, even as they were instructed to rebuke their fellow disciples when they did wrong, Jesus made it very clear that his followers must be people who forgive. Forgiveness must be offered over and over again – even seven times a day! Pause for a moment now, and think of those people who may have done wrong to you… whether through ill-will, or neglect, or indifference… Think of those who have hurt you, or offended you, … Read more »

October 24, 2010

Joel 2:23-32 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 Luke 18:9-14 Singing: “I am amazing! I am filled with power! And God loves me like crazy! I am amazing!” Some of you may remember that as the first verse of the theme song from Camp Christopher this summer. I shared the song with you back in May when we celebrated Camp Sunday here at St. Andrew’s. And if you’re anything like me, you probably felt slightly awkward throwing your arms in the air and singing out loud about how amazing and wonderful you are. I don’t think it’s that we are particularly shy or awkward people. Some might say that it’s because we are Presbyterians… very reserved and proper individuals… But I wonder if, really, it’s awkward for us to sing “I am amazing” because we’ve been taught from a young age that we should be humble. We should not make ourselves the centre of attention. We should not be proud or brag about our accomplishments. Today’s parable seems to come down hard on people who think too highly of themselves. In particular, it’s another one of the Gospel stories that doesn’t make the Pharisees look very nice. You remember who the Pharisees were, right? They were very devout and religious Jews who took their faith seriously and lived according to the commandments. The Apostle Paul was a Pharisee, for example, before his conversion to the way of Jesus. So it seems that Jesus is telling a story to ‘stick it to the … Read more »

October 31, 2010

Luke 10:25-37 Reflection #1: “Stories of Good Neighbours: Wilson, Mr. Rogers, and Snow Angels” At least one dictionary defines a neighbour as “a person who lives near or next to another.” Literally, that’s all a neighbour is… a person who lives close by… in the apartment above or below where you live… or in the house next door. I have good memories of the neighbours who lived next door to my family when I was growing up. They were an older couple, just a little younger than my own grandparents… Mr. and Mrs. Chandler. They would wave a say “hello” whenever we walked by their house. They would ask about what we were doing in school or where we were off to on such a beautiful day. When Mr. and Mrs. Chandler went down to Florida for a month each winter, one of us would get the job of checking in on their house… bringing in the mail, watering the plants, making sure that the furnace hadn’t shut off or anything like that. I don’t remember the Chandlers doing anything really special for us, but they were friendly and helpful. And sometimes in the summer when they were sitting out on the lawn in the backyard, one or two of us kids would go over and sit on the grass beside them and just talk about whatever. They were good neighbours. Just yesterday, after the funeral of one of our members, Betty Wilson, I listened to some women reminiscing about … Read more »

November 7, 2010

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17 Luke 20:27-38 Whenever I think of the Sadducees, I think of a silly kids’ song that I learned at camp many years ago. The refrain goes, “I only want to be a sheep, ba ba ba ba… I only want to be a sheep, ba ba ba ba, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, I only want to be a sheep, ba ba ba ba.” And then each verse mentions a biblical character that I don’t so much want to be like. I don’t want to be a goat…. nope. I don’t want to be a Pharisee… ‘cause they’re not fair, you see. And… I don’t want to be a Sadducee… ‘cause they’re so sad, you see. We don’t know very much about the Sadducees. They were a group of religious leaders in the time of Jesus – a different group from the Pharisees that we hear about so often in the Gospels. What we do know is that the Sadducees were part of the priestly aristocracy. They had status and power. The historian Josephus, describes them as harsh judges who were known to be most cruel among the Jews. And several times in the Gospels and in the Book of Acts, there are indications that the Sadducees disagreed with the Pharisees on a significant theological point. The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection. I suppose, for them, when you were dead, you were dead, and that was all. Kind of sad, don’t you … Read more »

November 14, 2010

Isaiah 65:17-25 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 Luke 21:5-19 Today’s passage from Isaiah 65 is about God’s vision for a renewed world. It is a description of a new world that God is going to make in which there will be peace and justice for everyone. People will live long and happy lives, working hard, and reaping the rewards of their work, living in houses, planting crops, and enjoying the blessing of a good relationship with God. For the people of Judah and Jerusalem, sometime after 539 BCE, this vision would have filled them with hope and confidence for the future, as they made their way back to their homeland after the long exile in Babylon. In exile, they had felt alone and abandoned by God. And now, even as they returned to Judah and Jerusalem, they were coming back to a temple in ruins and a lot of work ahead of them to rebuild their homes and communities and livelihoods. Rather than let the people feel overwhelmed by the challenges they were facing, Isaiah wrote words of encouragement and hope. While the people struggled with the tasks of rebuilding, and while they worried about producing enough food and enduring the various conflicts and wars that their king had them involved in, Isaiah told them that God was starting all over again. God was beginning again at the beginning, and God was making a new heaven and a new earth for them. The words of Isaiah’s prophecy may sound familiar to many … Read more »

November 21, 2010

Jeremiah 23:1-6 Colossians 1:11-20 Luke 23:33-43 I don’t think I will forget the sound of her voice on the phone. She said, “Everyone is against me!” The words themselves, and the fear and desperation in her voice brought back memories of some of the folks I worked with years ago in a group home. When they said, “Everyone is against me” it was usually a case of paranoid symptoms coming up in what was a relatively well-managed mental illness. These were people who were well cared for, safe, and secure, but who suffered from paranoid delusions at times. But the single mother of four on the other end of the phone line was not delusional. She was simply lamenting the reality of her situation. She didn’t have a safe place to live. She didn’t have good food to feed to her children. And as often as she tried to access services to help, she came up against one road block after another. She felt alone and abandoned, and like everyone was against her. As I stumbled to speak the words of reassurance that I knew she needed to hear, I was aware that my words would not be enough. As a preacher, I could easily find words to express God’s love, and as a person of faith, I could convey my own conviction that God’s love and grace extended even to her – that she too was a beloved child of God. But unless my actions matched up with my … Read more »

“There is a dream in this community”

The following words were shared by the Rev. Amanda Currie at a public event within St. George’s Parish Hall in Saskatoon on Wednesday, November 24th, 2010. The occasion was a gathering of the Church Leaders of Saskatoon to sign a letter of support for the Good Food Junction grocery store at Station 20 West. There is a dream in this community. It’s a dream that there will one day be, in the heart of the neighbourhood, a full-service grocery store with healthy, affordable food. For those who live in other parts of Saskatoon, who hop into our cars to shop at our favourite grocery store chains, wherever they may be located, it may come as a surprise that a grocery store is what is most desperately needed in the core neighbourhoods of our city. When I first moved to Saskatoon, and my husband and I were considering where to buy a home, I remember several people recommending that we choose the East side. Avoid the problems and challenges of the innercity by staying well away. What may come as a surprise to many people across Saskatoon is that many of the families and individuals who live in the core neighbourhoods are not dreaming that they’ll get to move to the East side. Their dream is the transformation of their own neighbourhoods. And that is a dream that can become a reality. I am reminded of another dream. From the prophet Isaiah, we read about God’s dream for the people of … Read more »

November 28, 2010

Isaiah 2:1-5 Matthew 24:36-44 Today is the first Sunday in the Season of Advent. As you know, Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Whether we know it as Advent, or whether we just think of it as the lead-up to Christmas, this is one of the busiest times of the year… not just in our churches, but in almost every aspect of our lives. While most people are rushing around buying holiday presents, decorating, baking, sending cards, hosting and attending parties, watching holiday plays and presentations, and then doing some more shopping… Christians are called during Advent and Christmas do something different from the rest of the world. We are invited to stop, and to wait. We are invited to be quiet and reflective. We are invited to pause and to think about the wonder of the celebration that we are about to share at Christmas… about the amazing thing that happened so many years ago… how God came into the world to be WITH us in Jesus Christ. Well, the reality is that many Christians are running around like crazy in December too, just like everyone else. In many ways, our Christmas preparations don’t seem much different from our secular neighbours. But the beginning of Advent is a good time for us to pause and remember what this season is all about. The beginning of Advent is a good time for us to stop and to consider how we will celebrate this season, what we will … Read more »

December 5, 2010

Isaiah 11:1-10 Romans 15:4-13 Matthew 3:1-12 I didn’t want to preach about John the Baptist this morning. As you may have noticed, John the Baptist shows up every year during Advent. And he can be a little scary, as he scolds and chides and warns the people to repent and to flee from the wrath to come. Instead of preaching about repentance, I wanted to focus on the beautiful, peaceful images from the earlier prophet, Isaiah. I didn’t want to get stuck with the image of the axe lying at the root of the trees. I wanted to talk about the new shoot growing out of the tree stump instead. But as I explored the text in Isaiah, it kept leading me right back to John the Baptist and the one coming after him. And so you will have a sermon today that is inspired by two prophets… Isaiah and John. The prophet Isaiah wrote about a vision of peace. He predicted that peace would be achieved through the leadership of a righteous ruler in the line of King David. Poetically, Isaiah wrote: “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” And Isaiah described the perfect leader who would surpass even the beloved King David: “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord… [and] with righteousness … Read more »

December 12, 2010

Luke 1:46-55 “Angels Whisper. We Sing Out Loud.” Note: This short reflection followed the church school Christmas presentation “Christmas Eve in Angel School.” There sure were a lot of angels in this year’s Christmas play! Angels have always been an important part of the Christmas story. They are the ultimate messengers from God… explaining to the young Mary what’s going to happen to her, how she’s going to have a child who will be the Messiah… convincing Joseph to marry her and to be a father to the child who will be called Jesus… and appearing to the scared shepherds in the fields, telling them the good news about the baby who has been born, and directing them to go and worship him. Without the angel messengers, the story would barely hang together. Mary would be confused by the surprise pregnancy. Joseph would likely leave her. And the shepherds would miss the excitement altogether. Without the angels’ announcements, much of God’s activity would have gone unnoticed. But like one of the angels in the play pointed out, God doesn’t let the angels appear in the sky singing glorias anymore. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean that God’s messengers aren’t busy delivering messages of good news and grace and hope to the people of the world. When I think about the angel in the play leaning down to whisper in the ear of the little boy, I start to think about all the ways that God (or God’s angels) have whispered words … Read more »

December 19, 2010

Luke 1:26-38 Matthew 1:18-25 Romans 1:1-7 “We are invited to say “YES” to God” The Gospel story that is set for this Sunday in the 3-year lectionary cycle of readings comes from Matthew’s Gospel. It’s a good story for the Sunday before Christmas… a good story about how Jesus was born. Often we jump ahead in the story… as we did last Sunday with the children’s Christmas play. We remember the journey to Bethlehem, the shepherds in the fields and the angels in the sky announcing the birth of the Christ child. Those are the parts of the story that never get left out of the Christmas pageants. But Joseph can easily become a minor character without a speaking part. Today’s Gospel reminds us that Joseph was a pretty regular guy… a nice guy, a reasonable guy. When his fiancé got pregnant before the wedding, he dealt with it. He wasn’t going to turn it into a big to-do, but he was just going to dismiss her quietly. No one could have faulted him for that. But that’s when God got involved in Joseph’s life and decision-making, and nudged him into doing even more than what was reasonable. With every reason to walk away, Joseph chose to stand by Mary, to take her as his wife, and to raise her child as his own. God spoke to him in a dream, and he knew that’s what he had to do. The child was going to be Emmanuel (God-with-us) and Joseph … Read more »

December 24, 2010

John 1:1-18 “Incarnation” The first eighteen verses of John’s Gospel (or the Prologue to John’s Gospel, as it is often called) is typically read in Christian churches at Christmas each year. In the church where I grew up, this passage was read every Xmas Eve at the evening worship service, usually by the same person. George Lee was an elder at St. Giles, kind of a grandfather-figure to many of us kids, and George had just the right voice for reading the Prologue to John’s Gospel. It was a deep voice, and somewhat mysterious sounding. But it was more than just the sound of his voice, I think, that made his reading of those 18 verses so special to our community. It was also the way he read those poetic and powerful words. Somehow you knew, as he read, that he truly believed what he was saying.  He proclaimed that the Word had existed from the beginning with God. He witnessed to the Word coming into the world, to its becoming flesh in Jesus Christ. And he called those who listened to accept the Word made flesh, to believe in him, and to come into relationship with God as God’s children. All the scripture texts of Christmas are about the incarnation. They’re about God coming into the world as a human person – God becoming flesh and blood – experiencing the world from a human point of view – making connections with people on a human level. But this text … Read more »

December 26, 2010

Isaiah 63:7-9 As most of you know, the Revised Common Lectionary of scripture readings provides four readings for each Sunday of the year. Normally it’s one from the Hebrew Scriptures, a Psalm, a Gospel reading, and another passage from the New Testament. Here at St. Andrew’s, we often read all four texts, even though only one or two can be the focus for the sermon. But sometimes I decide to focus the whole worship on only two or three readings, and actually dispense with reading the others. And today is one of those days. What may be unusual about this morning though, is that I decided to skip the New Testament readings. The text from Hebrews was a highly theological piece about the suffering that Jesus endured and his ability to help people when they are experiencing suffering as well. And the Gospel text was from Matthew… the story about Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus fleeing to Egypt to escape the angry King Herod. (That one certainly makes sense for the Sunday right after Christmas.) But this week, I was drawn to the Psalm and the reading from Isaiah that seemed to pick up a similar theme. It seemed like a wonderful thing to do during this week that is so full of gathering, and celebrating, and rejoicing. It seemed like a good thing to do for us to pause and give thanks to God, to praise God for all the good things that we experience in life. I … Read more »