January 8, 2012

Genesis 1:1-5 Psalm 29 Acts 19:1-7 Mark 1:4-11 “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” Well into the Book of Acts and the story of the early Christian Church, the Apostle Paul passed through a particular region and came to the city of Ephesus, where he found some disciples. Paul asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” And they replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” It’s probably a reasonable assumption to expect that there is no one here today who has not heard that there is a Holy Spirit. Some of you may be intimately acquainted with the Spirit, having experienced its working in your lives. Perhaps it was a nudge you felt pushing you to do something for God’s mission. Maybe it was a peace that you experienced despite the fear and stress associated with a crisis in your life. Or perhaps you knew that the Holy Spirit was surrounding you when you simply had the sense that God was near and that you were not alone. We have an advantage, compared to the first small group of Christians in Ephesus, and that advantage is that someone has already come to tell us about the Spirit. We have the witness of our parents and grandparents in the faith. We have the testimony of the apostles and the church throughout the centuries. We have the Scriptures, including the New Testament writings, that pass along the … Read more »

January 15, 2012

1 Samuel 3:1-10 Psalm 139:1-18 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 John 1:43-51 The following sermon is posted with thanks to Kathryn Matthews Huey, whose reflections on Psalm 139 (from the website of the United Church of Christ) provided significant inspiration, and from whom I borrowed several paragraphs. There is an obvious connection between the Old Testament and Gospel readings this morning. They are “call narratives” – stories about people who received a call from God. In First Samuel 3, a little boy is called to become “a trustworthy prophet of the Lord,” and John’s Gospel tells the story of Philip and Nathanael leaving everything behind to follow Jesus when they realize that he is the one “about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote.” Many of us here today (perhaps all of us) have also been called by God. We probably weren’t wakened by God’s voice calling out our name in the middle of the night, and we didn’t have Jesus literally walk up to us and say, “Come and follow me.” But we have heard God’s call in the words of the Bible, through the voices of preachers and teachers, or as an urgent sense of needing to get out of our own concerns and do something for God. Some have heard calls to particular ministries in the church. Others have sensed a call to speak up for someone who was in trouble, or to speak out for what was right and just at work or in the … Read more »

January 22, 2012

Jonah 3:1-5, 10 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 Mark 1:14-20 As we journey through the seasons of the church year and explore the texts of scripture each Sunday that are assigned by the lectionary cycle, we have the opportunity to focus on different parts of the Christian story. During Advent, we enter into the experience of waiting. Longing, hoping, waiting for a Messiah to come… waiting for his return, waiting for our world to be put right. When Christmas finally arrives, we enter into the experience of the Holy Family, of the shepherds, and of the angels. We celebrate the gift of God in sending Jesus into our world, almost as if he has just arrived. And then, at Epiphany, we walk with the wise men to greet him. We experience the “aha moment” – the knowledge that Emmanuel has come – “God with us” for the whole world. Today is the third Sunday after the Epiphany in our church year. We’re in what we call the “Season of Epiphany” and our scripture texts contain some wonderful epiphanies of their own. But I can’t help summing them up with one message from God: “It is time to live differently.” The Greek word that is translated as “time” in each of our New Testament readings today is KAIROS. You might recognize that word from the name of our Canadian ecumenical social justice organization. KAIROS doesn’t have to do with what time it is on the clock. That’s CHRONOS – chronological time. CHRONOS deals … Read more »

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2012

Habakkuk 3:17-19 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 John 12:23-26 A sermon preached by the Rev. Amanda Currie and Nicholas Jesson at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Saskatoon and St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, Humboldt on January 29, 2012. In the introduction to the ecumenical service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this year, the Polish authors of the material emphasize the theme of transformation. Using the main biblical text from 1 Corinthians 15, they speak boldly and hopefully about the transformation that awaits us when our lives in this world come to an end. With the foundational conviction that Christ was raised from death to life forevermore with God, the Apostle Paul proclaims the good news that precisely because Christ is raised, those who love him and follow him will also be raised. We too will be transformed from death to life, not because of our own goodness or power, but because of the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Listen, I will tell you a mystery!” Paul explains it, “We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: ‘Death has … Read more »

February 5, 2012

Isaiah 40:21-31 Psalm 147:1-11, 20c 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 Mark 1:29-39 Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? It is God who sits above the circle of the earth… who stretches out the heavens like a curtain… who makes the rulers of the earth as nothing… Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. God does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. The prophet Isaiah addresses these questions to the People of Israel in exile in Babylon. The people are complaining, you see, that God has disregarded them, that God has forgotten them. I can understand their complaint. Really, I can. They’re tired. They’re exhausted, actually. And after all the challenges and trials they have endured, after waiting so long for some kind of help,  who can blame them for getting a little bit frustrated with God? Why are we still living in this God-forsaken place? Why are our enemies still triumphing over us again and again? We thought we were supposed to be your chosen people! Why is this misery just going on and on with no relief in sight? Those are questions that many of us have asked ourselves, or asked of God over the years. In the midst of unrelenting physical pain, from the depths of a deep depression, or out of the exhaustion of constant care-giving, we’ve wondered where God … Read more »

February 12, 2012

2 Kings 5:1-14 Mark 1:40-45 As we just heard in today’s Gospel story, Jesus became very well known for his ability to heal. Whether it was a person afflicted with a terrible skin disease like leprosy, a man who could not walk, a woman who couldn’t stop bleeding, or a child seemingly possessed by an evil spirit, Jesus spoke, he touched, or power simply came out of him bringing healing and wholeness and peace. He never used more than a bit of mud in his healing practice, and usually he just did it with a word or a touch that effected rapid healing in the person’s life. Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. This kind of story is strange and far from most of our experience. It’s the kind of story that we share carefully with our children, recognizing that it may raise questions for them, as it does for us. If Jesus could heal the leper, and the lame man, and the demoniac, and the sick child, then why couldn’t God heal my grandmother, or my best friend? Why doesn’t God heal me when I am suffering? The question about healing brings to mind a memory I have from when I was a teenager. I don’t remember the details of what I was doing in Montreal, whether I was there with my family or with a … Read more »

February 26, 2012

Genesis 9:8-17 The ancient story of the great flood that we find in the Book of Genesis is not unique to the Judeo-Christian Tradition. Many cultures and religious traditions have similar stories about a time long, long ago, when God decided to flood the earth and begin again. We tell the same story (with some variation in the details) because, as humans, we share the same experience. We witness great floods and terrible disasters, and we want to make sense of them. We witness human sin, and failure, and disobedience to God, and we want to make sense of these things too. These stories make sense to us when we think about the world that we live in today. We have no trouble imagining a world that has spun so far out of control that God might want to wipe it out and begin again. We read about that world in the newspaper each day, and we see it before our eyes on the nightly news. At least, it can seem that way some days, because the Noahs of this world rarely make the headlines. But the story of Noah and the Ark and the Great Flood does not serve only as a warning. On this first Sunday in the Season of Lent, we might be tempted to read it that way. We might be inclined to warn each other back into obedience to God: Turn back before it’s too late! Pay attention to God before God decides to write … Read more »

March 4, 2012

Romans 12:1-8 Matthew 25:14-30 This sermon was preached by the Rev. Amanda Currie as part of the St. Andrew’s Stewardship Committee’s program “Growing God’s Gifts.” It is based on a sermon by the Rev. Kenn Stright. Jesus once told a story of a wealthy landowner who was preparing for a long journey. He called his three servants and divided his money between them, each according to his ability. To one servant he gave five talents, meaning a sum of money – almost unimaginable riches. To a second he gave two talents, and to a third he gave one talent. And even the third received an amount that we would find staggering. But there was a definite dividing according to ability… maybe a better manager, a shrewder investor, who knows what the ability was. Why is life like that? I don’t know. We are all equal in the eyes of God. We are all guaranteed equal rights under the Constitution. In an election our votes are all equal, at least if we take the time to vote. But when it comes to our abilities, we are as different as different can be. God simply did not make us all the same. There are some people here who can handle five talents; there are some who can handle only one. But we need the five talented and the one talented alike! There are some people who have great intellectual capabilities, and some who do not. There are some who have the ability … Read more »

March 11, 2012

John 2:13-22 Today’s Gospel story is usually referred to as “the cleansing of the temple.” It’s the dramatic story, repeated in all four of the Gospels, in which Jesus enters the great temple in Jerusalem and makes a scene. He finds people in the temple selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. He makes a whip of cords and drives all of them out. He pours out the coins and topples the tables. He yells, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” You’ve probably heard the story before once or twice. Maybe you’ve thought about how strange it is to imagine Jesus getting angry, and been reminded perhaps that even God gets angry when bad things are happening. Perhaps you’ve read a bit about what these practices were all about. You’ve noticed that the story takes place at Passover, one of the great pilgrimage festivals. Jewish people would have travelled from all over Judah and Israel and sometimes even further to worship at the temple and celebrate God’s great love and protection of God’s people at the Passover. When the pilgrims arrived at the temple they would want to make sacrifices of thanksgiving to God. Since they were travelling from afar, they wouldn’t be able to bring animals along with them. They needed cattle, sheep, and doves for these offerings, so they would purchase them on their way in to the temple. And since they needed to make … Read more »

March 18, 2012

Numbers 21:4-9 John 3:14-21 It’s always interesting to hear your responses to my sermons. Whether you were inspired, confused, challenged, or blessed… whether you agreed wholeheartedly with what I said, or you want to tell me about an alternate perspective. It was a couple of months ago, I think, and I had preached a sermon that proclaimed the inherent goodness that God has planted within each human being. I don’t think I was denying the reality that human beings are sinful creatures. It is true: Every single one of us falls short of the glory of God and needs the mercy and grace of the God who loves us despite our failings. But I also believe that we are made to be good. We are gifted with the ability to love and forgive, to be faithful and kind to one another. God made us in God’s very own image, and that image is good, and that’s what I was talking about in that particular sermon. One of the things that I heard after church that Sunday was the gentlest of criticisms, or perhaps just a reminder about the other side of the coin. The comment was something like this: “Sometimes I think we need to preach about sin also.” Yes, I agreed. Sometimes we do need to preach about sin.  “Don’t you worry” I could have responded, “Lent is coming, and I’ll be sure to preach plenty about sin during Lent!” And Lent has indeed arrived – we’re more than … Read more »

March 25, 2012

John 12:20-33 In the Lectionary Story Bible that I read from with the children this morning, there’s a note to parents and leaders just after today’s readings. “Each of the Gospels,” it explains, “tells the key story of Jesus’ crucifixion… The sixth Sunday in Lent was traditionally observed as ‘Palm Sunday” focusing on the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In order that people may also hear the story of Jesus’ crucifixion, many churches focus this Sunday on the story of Jesus’ death as well.” And here’s the warning to parents and leaders: “Please read this story carefully before you share it with children. Some of them may find it upsetting.” Some of them may find it upsetting. Imagine that! It’s the story of Jesus – and they’ve heard about him often enough. He’s the one who loves children and welcomes them. He’s the one who heals people and multiplies a feast so that everyone is well fed. He’s the one that they are told loves them, and they are encouraged to love him also. And now, in this rather upsetting story, Jesus is being unjustly accused, unfairly arrested, shockingly tortured, and ultimately killed on a cross. It’s not surprising that some children might be upset. Some adults might get riled up by it too, if we’re paying attention. I think the problem is that we’ve gotten so used to the death of Jesus. We’ve come to expect it, and even to accept it. It doesn’t shock or horrify … Read more »

April 1, 2012

Mark 11:1-11 I guess it wouldn’t have been unusual for the crowds to gather near Bethany, just outside Jerusalem. Especially in the days leading up to one of the great festivals, people would come out of their homes to welcome the pilgrims. There would have been lots of pilgrims on the road, making their way from the little towns and villages, going up to Jerusalem to worship at the temple. For many it would have been a long journey, something for which they had planned and anticipated, perhaps for years. They walked with their families and friends, camping beside the road, and sharing provisions with others that they met along the way. When the pilgrims got to Bethany they knew that they were almost there, and the excitement was palpable. Those who lived nearby came out to greet them, almost as if they were in a parade. And I imagine the people singing as they walked, singing the joyful pilgrimage psalms written especially for occasions such as these: “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!” And so Jesus came into Jerusalem. He and his friends joined in the procession and were greeted by the singing and cheering crowds as they went up to Jerusalem to celebrate God’s mercy and love at the Passover. But as the Gospel writers tell the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, they tell us in various ways that this was no ordinary procession. This was … Read more »

April 15, 2012

Acts 4:32-35 Psalm 133 1 John 1:1-2:2 The fourth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles provides us with an idyllic picture of the church at the beginning: “The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul.” Now that’s unity! They were “of one heart and soul.” Of course, maybe that’s because there weren’t very many of them yet. They were just a small group of disciples who had a lot in common with each other and managed to keep the same perspective on most things. Well, no. They weren’t that small a group. Even before the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out on the gathered disciples, there were about a hundred of them waiting together in Jerusalem. And after that, the church grew in leaps and bounds! And no, they weren’t all fishermen from Galilee. Remember the Jews from all the nations of the world who were in Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Pentecost? And remember how they heard the disciples speaking in their own various languages? After Peter’s first sermon to the crowd, apparently 3000 believers were added to their number, and more and more every day after that! By the fourth chapter of Acts, the church must have numbered around 5000 people, and it would have included people from various countries, cultures, languages, and backgrounds. They were probably mostly Jewish Christians – but still, it’s pretty amazing that they were getting along well and unified in heart and soul. … Read more »

April 22, 2012

The following sermon, titled “A New Opportunity,” was written and presented by Dr. Matthew Neufeld, Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Saskatchewan, and member of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Saskatoon. When I finished secondary school the world was a different place from what it is today. The globe was divided into three “worlds”: the first or “free” world, the second or communist world, and the third world. The first and second worlds had been in a so-called Cold War for over forty years, and competed with each other for the loyalty of the third world. By the time I started my first year of university relations between the main antagonists of the Cold War—the USA and the USSR—had improved a bit. Mostly this was because the Soviet Premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, had made efforts to reform his country’s economy and allow more openness in society. Still, when I turned 18 in late October of 1989 there was no reason to think that the Cold War would end anytime soon. But then one day, the world changed. I will never forget walking into the TV room of my university residence on 9th November 1989—what I saw on the screen was a picture I’d never have imagined. People were standing on top of the Berlin Wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate. People were standing and cheering and laughing and hugging each other on a place where only the previous day they would have been shot outright. It was … Read more »

May 13, 2012

Acts 10:44-48 John 15:9-17 Do you remember the story of Peter and Cornelius? It comes just before the section from the Book of Acts that William read for us this morning. Cornelius was a Roman Centurion. He was a devout man who feared God. He prayed diligently and gave generously to the poor, but he was a Gentile. And one day, Cornelius has a vision. An angel appears to him and tells him to send a couple of servants to a place called Joppa to find a man named Simon Peter. And so he did. Meanwhile, the Apostle Peter goes up on his roof to pray, and he sees a vision too. He sees the sky open up, and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it are all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he hears a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” Peter is obviously shocked because these are animals that Jews like him don’t normally eat. He says, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” But the voice is insistent. It repeats the instruction again and again and says, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” But before Peter has had a chance to think about what the vision might mean, there is a knock at the door. Cornelius’ servants have arrived and they are asking for Peter. … Read more »

May 27, 2012

Acts 2:1-21 Romans 8:22-27 On Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the wonderful event that took place on the first Pentecost following Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. The disciples were all together in one place, and the Spirit of God was poured out on them in power. It filled the room where they were meeting, and sent them rushing out into the streets to tell the good news about Jesus to visiting pilgrims from all over the world. Though the listeners came from many places and spoke many different languages, they heard the disciples proclaiming the mighty acts of God in their own native tongues. Often Pentecost is referred to as the birthday of the church. Although the followers of Jesus always had a mission, and John’s Gospel tells about Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit onto his disciples even before he died, for the author of Luke and Acts, this is the moment when the Christians first received the gift of the Holy Spirit empowering them to go out and tell the good news to all the world. As we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, many of us may wonder what the Spirit is doing today. It’s one thing to read about what the Spirit of God did in the first century. But is that Spirit alive today? And in what ways is the Spirit manifest among us? We may talk about the Holy Spirit quite a lot in church, but do we see or feel the Spirit at work in our lives or … Read more »

June 10, 2012

2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1 Mark 3:31-35 Summarizing today’s Gospel reading, one commentator writes that Mark 3:20-35 tells of Jesus’ homecoming after he called his first disciples, and the reception he received. People had begun to talk about Jesus and were spreading some rumors and tales, including that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebul. Jesus’ own family wants to bring him home and stop this “madness,” this “nonsense,” of Jesus’ ministry and healing and preaching, but Jesus declares that Satan cannot cast out Satan; therefore Jesus, who is doing good works, cannot be possessed by a demon, for what he is doing is the complete opposite of what demonic forces would do. Demonic forces would destroy, bring pain and anguish and despair; Jesus brings restoration, healing, joy and hope. When Jesus’ family calls out to him and the crowd informs Jesus of this, Jesus reminds them that whoever does the will of God is Jesus’ family– for we are all children of God, we are all Christ’s brothers and sisters, when we do the work of God, bringing healing, hope and restoration to the world by sharing God’s love. Whoever does the will of God is Jesus’ family. His family is not determined by blood lines or marriage certificates. All those who do the will of God are Jesus’ sisters and brothers. Most of us know that family is not always defined by who is technically related to us. I remember learning years ago from one of our Cameroonian church members … Read more »

June 17, 2012

1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13 2 Corinthians 5:6-17 Mark 4:26-34 GOOD NEWS for our Children: Jesus liked to tell stories to help people to understand his teachings. One very important topic that Jesus wanted to teach everyone about was the “kingdom of God.”Do you know about the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God is the time and place where everyone knows God, and everyone loves God, and everyone is kind and loving towards each other. One day, when Jesus was teaching a bunch of people he told a little story to help them to understand what the kingdom of God is like. He said, “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. You know how small a mustard seed is? It’s really tiny! The kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed. When you plant it in the ground, it grows up and becomes much, much bigger. It becomes a big shrub. It grows branches and leaves, and birds come and make nests in its shade. Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like a seed… It starts small. Maybe it starts with one person doing a good deed. And then someone else joins in. And then some others come along, and they all get going together doing one small good thing after another until they have done something really wonderful! What kinds of wonderful things do you think we could do if we all helped a little bit and we worked together? Could we build … Read more »

June 24, 2012

1 Samuel 17:32-49 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 Mark 4:35-41 Each of the National Events of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have had a theme based on one of the First Nations “Seven Sacred Teachings”. And the theme for the Saskatchewan National Event has been “TRUTH”. And it has been a very appropriately theme, as thousands of former students of the Indian Residential Schools have come forward to tell their stories to Canadians – to speak the truth about what happened to them, to speak the truth to each other, to their families, to the government, and to the churches. A lot of truth has been told over the last few days. A lot of truth has been heard. Through the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that truth has become a part of the public record so that it will not be forgotten, and so that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated. But truth-telling is not easy. When the truth that must be told brings up terrible traumatic memories of physical, emotional, spiritual, cultural, or sexual abuse, telling the truth becomes ever so difficult. And we have heard stories over the last few days of former students who held on to their pain and their memories for years and years before they were able to tell the truth to their families and communities. Because of the fear that no one would believe them, because of the feelings of shame caused by what happened to them, because it … Read more »

July 1, 2012

2 Corinthians 8:7-15 Mark 5:21-43 In today’s portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Christians, the apostle is making an appeal for financial support. It’s not an appeal for the Corinthians to support Paul personally, but to send money to the Church in Jerusalem where the Christians are in need. The equivalent in our context would be when our Stewardship Committee gets up before the congregation and asks that we consider our gifts to Presbyterians Sharing or to Presbyterian World Service and Development. They’re not asking for donations for the general fund of our church, but they’re asking that we be intentional about the gifts that we make to the church’s mission and ministry beyond our congregation. Since today is the first Sunday of the month, Karen has included in the bulletin a little report on the offerings made during the month of June, as well as our giving goals for the month of July. And as you can see, we did very well last month. In some of the previous months, we weren’t quite as successful in meeting our giving goals, but in June we did quite well. In fact, I want to be clear today that the purpose of my sermon is not going to be to appeal to you in the way that Paul was appealing to the Corinthian Christians to increase their generosity and to follow through on their commitments to give. Because this congregation already does very well at giving. Last month when I was … Read more »