June 12, 2011

Acts 2:1-21 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 The wind was blowing yesterday. It was slamming the screen door and rattling the blinds of my house. It was pushing my little red car as I drove along the freeway so that I had to hang on tight to the steering wheel. It was rustling through the branches of the trees and sending out showers of seeds through the air. And up above, it was streaking its way across the sky, playing with the clouds and creating an ever-changing display of God’s glory. It makes a lot of sense to me that the Spirit of God should be compared to a rushing wind… an invisible force that seems to come out of nowhere, but that makes its presence and power seen and heard by its effect on whatever it blows upon. I remember a friend in my church membership class years ago trying to describe what the Holy Spirit was. She said the Spirit is the “umph” I need to do and be what God is calling me to do and be. The Spirit is like the “divine shove” that disturbs us out of our resting places and moves us to start doing God’s work in the world. That definition fits pretty well when you think about the Spirit being poured out on the gathered disciples on that first Pentecost day after Jesus’ death and resurrection. They described the Spirit as a rushing wind swirling around them, as tongues of fire resting upon them. … Read more »

June 19, 2011

Genesis 1:1 – 2:4a Psalm 8 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 Matthew 28:16-20 Today is Trinity Sunday, the only Sunday in the church year that calls us to ponder a teaching of the church rather than a teaching of Jesus. The scripture readings, of course, are carefully chosen to reflect the Three-in-One doctrine: God as Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit. And the readings provide biblical backup for a non-scriptural word: Trinity. Although this mystery of God revealed in three ways is a core belief of Christianity, we struggle to explain it. Monotheistic Christians do back flips explaining why such a belief doesn’t make us polytheists. It sure sounds like we worship three Gods, while we claim that God is One. A reflection on water has often been used to provide insight into this baffling doctrine. At different temperatures, water exists as a gas, as a liquid, or as a solid. Water is one substance, but it has three very different forms. Is that helpful for wrapping our heads around our one God – Father, Son, and Spirit? Perhaps. A Lutheran pastor, Mary Anderson, in a reflection on the Trinity, describes a memorable experience of the Three-in-One. She was watching her grandmother sleep during her afternoon nap. As she contemplated the old woman’s existence, she thought wisely, “That’s Grandmamma, Mamma, and Odelle.” Mary’s grandmother smiled in her sleep as Mary called her by the names used for her by her grandchildren, her daughter, and her husband. Three names, three relationships – and yet … Read more »

June 26, 2011

Matthew 10:40-42 Last Sunday one of our scripture readings was the Great Commission from Jesus at the very end of Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 28). Jesus sent his apostles out saying: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” By this time in the Gospel story, Jesus is on his way out. He’s gone up a mountain with his closest followers, and he’s well on his way to heaven. He’ll no longer be physically present to lead them and guide them in their new mission. But the mission isn’t really all that new. Way back at chapter ten of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus had sent them out with a similar task. At Matthew 9:36-38 we read, When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” It seems that even with Jesus there in the flesh, the work of spreading the Gospel and inviting the people to return to God was not a one-person job. Jesus could see that there were more people than he alone could possibly care for. And so, as Matthew … Read more »

July 3, 2011

Romans 7:15-25a Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 John and Jesus were related. Their mothers, Elizabeth and Mary had been cousins and they were probably pretty good friends as well. Though the women were different ages, they shared an important bond of friendship and shared experience. They had been pregnant at the same time (a first child for each of them) and it was a bit of a miracle for them both as well. I wonder if John and Jesus spent much time together as they were growing up. And I wonder if they were friends. The only Gospel story we have about Jesus’ childhood is the one where the whole family goes to Jerusalem for one of the festivals. It’s the story where Jesus gets left behind while the rest of the family starts heading for home. He gets caught up in the temple talking about God with the older men. And no one even notices that Jesus is gone until they are well on their way home. I wonder if John was the second-cousin who reported him missing. Anyway, they could scarcely be more different, these two, at least by the time they had grown up: John, the bug-eating wilderness prophet, and Jesus, who was known to love a good meal with all kinds of company; John, who wore scratchy shirts on purpose, and Jesus, who could occasionally be persuaded to invoke the power of YHWH to keep the wine flowing at a wedding reception; John, who addressed the people who … Read more »

July 10, 2011

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 On the day that Jesus told the parable of the sower, the author of Matthew’s Gospel tells us that the crowd of listeners was so large that Jesus got into a boat and sat there to speak, while the crowd stood on the beach to listen. You might imagine that at this point in his ministry, Jesus would have been pleased with how things were going. What could be a greater sign of success than the crowds clamouring to get close to him, to touch him, to be healed by him, or to hear his words of wisdom, as they were doing on this particular day? But I wondered, as I reflected on the parable this week, whether Jesus might actually have been feeling a bit discouraged. After all, when Jesus told parables, most of the people didn’t really understand what he was on about. Sure, they came in droves to listen to him for a while. But as we hear in the Gospel accounts several times, even Jesus’ closest disciples were confused by the stories that he told. So Jesus probably didn’t have any illusions about the fact that the average person in the crowd that day was going to completely miss the point of his speech. If the story is an allegory, maybe Jesus himself is the sower, scattering the seeds of the Word of Life here and there and everywhere he goes… watching and waiting and hoping for those seeds to sprout and grow … Read more »

July 17, 2011

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 Psalm 139 I think I understand why Jesus’ disciples would have needed him to explain the parable of the weeds among the wheat. Like them, I don’t think I would have gotten the point just from hearing it once and thinking about it a little. In fact, I read the parable over and over this week. I reflected on it for hours. I read what others had to say about it online and in several published books. I even had a couple of conversations with other Christians about what Jesus’ parable might mean for us today. But when I stopped reading and thinking and talking… when it was time for me to start writing, to decide what I would say to you today, I felt stuck. There seemed to be so many possible interpretations of the parable that I didn’t know where to begin. So I decided to begin with the explanation of the parable that is provided in the Gospel. Maybe that was Jesus’ own explanation to his disciples on that day when they were confused: They were back in the house, and the crowds were left outside. And the disciples said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” And he answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the … Read more »

August 7, 2011

The following sermon was written and preached by Gerry Kraay, a long time member and past elder at St. Andrew’s Church in Saskatoon. Matthew 14:22-33 When Amanda asked us some time ago to take this service, she suggested we could choose a text, or use the Lectionary. I looked up what the suggested readings are for this week. When I read the passage of Matthew, I knew I would like to study that a little more. There is a little bit of an irony: here is a man who studied Science for many years in University, and who worked for almost 40 years in the sciences. Now I am going to preach on a miracle in the Bible! The story of Jesus walking on the water is well-known. Many jokes are made around it. When working in the yard, I always wear my wooden shoes. People ask me sometimes if I use them to walk on water. The story of Jesus walking on the sea is found in 3 Gospels, Mark, Matthew and John. It follows on the heels of the story of the feeding of the multitude. In the evening, when the crowd has been fed, Jesus immediately sends the disciples away to row to the other side of the lake. He also sends the crowd of 5000 home. Jesus wants to be alone to pray and to grieve over the murder of his cousin John the Baptist. He had to postpone this for a day, because he had … Read more »

August 14, 2011

The following sermon was written and preached by Marie-Louise Ternier Gommers at St. Andrew’s on Sunday, August 14, 2011. Marie-Louise is a Roman Catholic lay woman who studied at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon. She is an active leader in the ecumenical community of Saskatoon and area, including the Women in Ministry group of which Rev. Amanda is a participant. Marie-Louise serves as a Pastoral Associate at St. Augustine’s Parish in Humboldt, SK. Matthew 15:21-28 There is tension in the Gospel today. Who is Jesus’ ministry for? Do foreigners and outcasts have a right to lay claim to God’s grace and healing? Just like in our time, there were strong cultural opinions in Jesus’ time about who was acceptable and who was not: clean and unclean people, they called them back then. So it is no wonder that even Jesus hesitates to grant the Canaanite woman her request. The Canaanites were deeply despised by the Israelites, especially because fertility rites were part of their religious practices. Jesus experiences tension and the reality of human limitations. This foreign woman approaches a Jewish man, does him homage and begs a favour she has no right to. She bursts into Jesus’ space and pleads with him: “Lord, son of David, have pity on me! My daughter is terribly troubled by a demon.” Jesus refuses …he refuses to give in to the disciples’ pleading to remove this nuisance from their midst. Instead, he directs himself to the woman and leads the discussion in … Read more »

August 28, 2011

Romans 12:9-21 Matthew 16:21-28 As I told the children this morning, today’s text from the Gospel of Matthew reminded me of the difficult reality that our faith in God and in Jesus Christ our Lord calls us not only to good things, but to hard things. When Christian churches are reaching out, inviting new people into the family of God, that isn’t normally a big part of the message. We’ve all seen the messages that churches try to put out there in the community at large – on our church signs, on our websites, on the flyers that are dropped in mail boxes. They say, “Everyone is welcome!” They say, “Come and experience new life in Christ!” They say, “Come and worship with friendly Presbyterians.” I’ve absolutely never seen any church advertising that said: “You’re most welcome to come and suffer with us!” I’m sure that I would have remembered a message like that. And I might have wondered if they were talking about suffering through the Sunday sermons! No, when we tell others about our church, when we tell others about our faith, we tend to focus on the positives – on the good things that we have experienced in the community of faith and on the journey with Jesus. We talk about the encouragement and hope that we gain from the scriptures and from the spiritual songs and hymns that we sing. We talk about the support that we experience from our sisters and brothers in the church … Read more »

September 4, 2011

Romans 13:8-14 Matthew 18:15-20 When Jesus walked through the towns and villages of Galilee, he taught and healed and helped the people that he met. And he had a consistent message wherever he went: “Repent,” he said to all the people, “because the Kingdom of God has come near.” And when Paul took up Jesus’ mission, he said pretty much the same thing. In today’s passage from Romans, Paul uses the metaphor of night and day. He points out how much changed when Jesus came into the world like a light shining into the darkness. The change that has come upon the world was as swift and as unstoppable as the sun rising in the morning. And the Christians have got to realize that the night is over, and “wake up!” Paul describes this time that we live in as that wonderful time when the darkness of night has dissipated, and the day is near. It’s the in-between time… between the dark night before Christ, and the full brightness of the kingdom of God. And it’s time, Paul says, for Christians to start living like it’s day time, like the kingdom of God is here. “Let us live honourably as in the day,” Paul writes, “not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy.” This short list of sins is meant to be suggestive, not exhaustive. But notice that the sins he mentions are primarily night time behaviours in the literal sense that they … Read more »

September 11, 2011

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 Hebrews 10:19-25 This morning’s “Gems of Encouragement” theme comes from the Christian Education Committee, with special thanks to Mary Jane Hanson for the idea and for taking care of many of the details. The committee decided that a focus on the spiritual gift of “encouragement” would be a wonderful way to start another educational year, as well as a good way to build up supportive relationships between the people in our church community. But when we first talked about doing this encouragement theme in September, I didn’t realize how many things would be coming together on this day. We are beginning a new year in the Church School, and we have a number of new teachers coming on board. We are ordaining three new elders who will join our session and serve in the leadership of our church. And we are announcing that we have hired a Pastoral Care Nurse for the congregation for the very first time. And simultaneous with all of these joyful and exciting beginnings, we are aware of the fact that today is the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. In so many ways, “encouragement” seems like the right thing for us to be doing today. And so, setting aside the lectionary readings for today, I selected the passage from the book of Hebrews that Logan read for us this morning. I thought that the final verses (24-25) – originally written (or perhaps preached) to one of the … Read more »

September 18, 2011

Exodus 3:1-6 Malachi 3:1-4 Acts 2:1-6 “FIRE is the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products.” I looked that up on Wikipedia, where it also says this about FIRE: “Fire in its most common form can result in conflagration, which has the potential to cause physical damage through burning.” That is, unless we’re talking about Moses’ burning bush where the bush was miraculously burning and burning, but not being consumed. As you may have guessed by now, FIRE is the topic of my sermon this morning, just as FIRE was the theme of our Saskatchewan Presbyterian Youth event here this weekend. When we titled the weekend “Fire’s Burning, Draw Nearer,” we hoped that youth from across the province would come together this weekend – drawing near to one another (making new friends and renewing old friendships) and that they would draw near to God as well through worship, study, discussion, prayer, and music. With participants from Regina, Prince Albert, and Saskatoon, I think I can speak for the group when I say that we’ve had a wonderful time together. Now, when I say that we’ve had a wonderful time together, I don’t mean to say that everything about the weekend went smoothly or as planned. For example, I was really excited about the idea that we were going to have a campfire on Friday night to get the theme of the weekend started. I brought a portable fireplace, matches, … Read more »

October 2, 2011

Philippians 3:4b-14 Matthew 21:33-46 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. I wonder if you have ever felt like that when you heard one of Jesus’ stories of parables. I wonder if you have ever read something in the scriptures and thought, “That was written for me!” Or if you have ever listened to a sermon, and wondered if the preacher was addressing you specifically. Well, when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, and when they realized that he was speaking about them, they weren’t very pleased. Though the crowds thought that Jesus was something special, the religious leaders had concluded that Jesus was a problem – telling stories that cast them in a negative role – and they wanted to arrest them. You see, when the religious leaders of Jesus’ time heard today’s parable, they must have quickly figured out that it was an allegory. It wasn’t a story about an actual historical landowner who leased out his land to some bad tenants and had to deal with the consequences. It was an allegory – a made-up story in which the characters and plot lines represent actual people and things that are happening in the world. Listen to the parable again, and consider… where might the religious leaders of Jesus’ day have seen themselves in Jesus’ parable? There was a landowner who planted vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, … Read more »

October 9, 2011

Deuteronomy 8:7-18 Philippians 4:1-9 Luke 17: 11-19 I did something a little unusual with the scripture readings this morning. As most of you know, we often follow the Revised Common Lectionary’s 3-year cycle of readings for Sundays. But today we had a choice of readings. (Look on the back of your bulletins… at the two sets of readings…) Today I could have chosen the readings for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost, or I could have chosen the special readings for Thanksgiving Sunday. But instead of choosing one set or the other, I mixed them up a little. I chose Philippians 4 from the 17th Sunday after Pentecost, and matched it up with two of the readings for Thanksgiving – Deuteronomy 8 about being sure not to forget God when things are good, and Luke 17 about the ten lepers getting healed and the one who goes back to say thank you to Jesus. The Deuteronomy reading makes a lot of sense for Thanksgiving Sunday. The message is: “When everything is wonderful in your life, when you’ve got everything you need, when you sit down to a wonderful meal of turkey and potatoes and vegetables and pie, surrounded by good friends and dear family, don’t forget about God… “When the harvest is plentiful, when you move into a nice new home, when you get a promotion with a big raise, when your children get straight A’s, when you win an important award, when everything is going well in your life, don’t … Read more »

October 16, 2011

Isaiah 58:6-11 Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 John 12:1-8 Luke 6:17-31 Tomorrow – October 17th – has been designated as the “International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.” And here in our city, the Saskatoon Anti-Poverty Coalition is hosting its 8th Annual “Poverty Awareness Week,” with special events being planned throughout the week to raise consciousness about poverty in our community, as well as to encourage those who live in poverty as they continue their daily struggle. Last year was the first time (in my almost 8 years of living in Saskatoon) that I participated in the “Hands Across the Water” event during “Poverty Awareness Week.” “Hands Across the Water” is a kind of symbolic act. People gather at the bottom of the Broadway Bridge. Then we line up, and join hands as we walk up the bridge, with the goal of being able to reach to the other side. We come together as people of all socio-economic levels, and we join hands to combat poverty, to reach across the troubled waters that so many people experience because of poverty. We recognize that poverty is an issue that affects us all – both the West side and East side of Saskatoon – and that together we can overcome it. They told us last year that we managed to reach further than we had ever reached before, and there was lots of rejoicing and cars honking their horns as they drove by. But I was near the front of the line, and I … Read more »

October 23, 2011

Deuteronomy 34:1-12 Psalm 90 Psalm 90 is the only psalm in the bible that is attributed to Moses. Many of the psalms are attributed to King David, the harp-playing songwriter. Others have no attribution and their authors remain a mystery. But the tradition is that Psalm 90 came from Moses, and it’s not hard to imagine him composing this poem near the end of his long and eventful life – near the end of his 40-year journey leading God’s people through the wilderness towards the Promised Land that God had prepared for them. “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations,” Moses’ prayer begins. A couple of generations had already gone by while Moses and the Hebrew People were wandering in the wilderness, and God had been with them along the way – providing food when they were hungry, providing water when they were thirsty, and giving direction for their lives in relationship with each other. And even before the Exodus from Egypt, God had been their God. God had called and directed Abraham and Sarah. God had blessed and helped Isaac and Rebekah. God had raised up Jacob and guarded Joseph, and been present to hear the cries of the Hebrew People when they became enslaved by the Egyptians. Moses’ psalm celebrates the God of wisdom and compassion who had been their dwelling place in all generations, who had existed from the beginning, and would continue forever and ever. And then Moses acknowledges that we humans are … Read more »

October 30, 2011

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 Matthew 23:1-12 In many churches, including Presbyterian ones, the last Sunday in October is designated as “Reformation Sunday.” As Presbyterians, we are part of a Christian tradition or a family of churches that is called “Reformed.” And although we don’t celebrate Reformation Sunday every year, we have the opportunity on this Sunday to remember and give thanks for the Reformed tradition of which we are a part. I suppose that a good place to start on Reformation Sunday would be with a few definitions of terms. My apologies to those of you who may have grown up in a Presbyterian Church and heard this stuff about a million times already. First of all, there is the word “Presbyterian” – the Christian denomination of which we are a part. The word “Presbyterian” doesn’t describe our theology or our beliefs as a church, but it describes the way our church is structured and how we make decisions. “Presbyterian” comes from a Greek word “presbyter” which means “elder.” Presbyterian churches are ruled by elders who come together in the courts of the church. These courts are called sessions at the local, congregational level, presbyteries that oversee a number of congregations and ministers in a geographic area, synods that cover larger areas, and General Assemblies for whole countries. This Presbyterian type of church structure was a significant reformation from a structure that included rule by bishops. So significant, I suppose, that it came to be the actual name of our denomination. … Read more »

November 6, 2011

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25 Psalm 78:1-8 Matthew 25:1-13 Recently I heard a preacher suggest that Christianity is unique in that it demands that you make a choice. You consider the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus that you read about in the Gospels, and you decide what to make of it. You decide how to respond. At some point, you have to make a choice about what to believe about Jesus. Either he was somehow the God of the universe made physically present in our world – reaching out, loving, forgiving, and reconciling the world – or he was a crazy person – living an itinerant life of poverty and getting himself killed. We have to choose what to believe as well as how to live in response to those convictions. The book of Joshua tells the story of the Hebrew People entering the land promised by God and settling there. It’s the story of God’s chosen people – the ones who once lived as slaves in Egypt, who cried out to God to help them, and who followed Moses out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, and through the wilderness for forty years. These are God’s own people, who have finally been freed both from oppression and from their wandering. They finally have a home – a place where they are no longer the ones being oppressed – and they have a choice to make. It’s not that they hadn’t made this choice before. They had chosen to cry … Read more »

November 13, 2011

Colossians 1:3-14 Matthew 25:14-30 “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” It’s a hard saying from Jesus. It’s strange, and jarring, and it seems counter to everything we know about our loving God and our compassionate Christ. “As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This is the master’s response to the slave who received a gift, (just a small gift), and did nothing with it. He tried to hold on to it. He buried it in the ground. And after that, he wouldn’t be receiving any more gifts from the master. It reminds me of a story that I read recently: A man went each day to his back yard and uncovered his money, which was buried in the ground. He would then put it back in the ground and cover it up again. To his shock and disappointment, on a particular day he dug up the ground only to discover his money was gone!  He began to cry out in dismay. His neighbour heard his cry and came to his aid right away. Upon discovering his plight, the neighbour dropped his head, walked away and said, “What’s all the fuss about? You weren’t using the money for any good anyway! Maybe whoever got it will use it for some good.” The parable of … Read more »

November 20, 2011

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 Ephesians 1:15-23 Matthew 25:31-46 I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty used to all this sheep and shepherd imagery in the Bible. Granted, it’s not exactly something I have a lot of experience with – sheep, or farm animals in general. But I think I get the picture of what it’s all about. The shepherd cares for the sheep. Makes sure they’re fed. Protects them from predators. Leads them to green pastures and beside still waters. Sometimes the shepherd even goes off to look for a lost sheep, if he’s willing to risk the rest of the flock. And that’s the kind of shepherd that God’s supposed to be – one who cares about each individual sheep and rejoices over every one that’s found. The prophet Ezekiel is one of the Biblical writers who compares God to a shepherd who cares for, feeds, and guides the People of Israel. They’ve had a number of human leaders ruling over Israel at this point, but Ezekiel accuses these kings of being false shepherds – looking out for themselves instead of the people, ignoring the needs of the people, and allowing them to be scattered. Ezekiel’s talking about kings that totally messed up – failing the people and letting them be conquered by foreign powers – failing so badly that some of the people have been sent into exile in Babylon. So now God will be their shepherd, the prophet tells us – the true shepherd that these … Read more »