January 14, 2018

1 Samuel 3:1-20 Psalm 139 John 1:43-51 “Rare Words from God” “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” That was part of the introduction to the story about the prophet Samuel… Samuel as a young boy, when he first began to listen for God’s voice and share God’s words with the people and their leaders. I wonder if people might say something similar about the days in which we live now. I wonder if you would say that it is rare to hear God’s word today, that there are many, many words and messages being proclaimed in print, on TV, through the internet and social media, but that hearing God’s word in the midst of all of those other words is rare, indeed. The story of Samuel’s calling serves as a reminder for us that God does indeed speak. Even when we have begun to think that messages from God are rare or even impossible, God continues to call. The question is whether we are listening and able to recognize God’s voice. When Samuel figures out (with Eli’s help) that it may be God who is speaking to him in the quiet of the night, and he says, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” I love how God begins the message he has for Samuel. God says, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears it tingle.” Interesting, huh? What God is … Read more »

January 21, 2018

Jonah 3:1-5, 10 Mark 1:14-20 “A Moment and a Lifetime” I wonder if you can remember the moment when your journey with Jesus began. I know some people who can name that moment, when they first prayed and asked Christ to come into their heart, when they first decided that they wanted the focus of their lives to change, and were ready to embrace the “Jesus Way” of living in the world. It’s a moment like that in the lives of some of Jesus’ first disciples that we hear about in our Gospel reading today. Simon and Andrew were fishing that day. James and John were in their boat, mending their fishing nets. Jesus came along and issued an invitation: “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And they did. When Jesus was choosing his disciples they sure didn’t stop to tie their shoes. They left all their nets with no regrets for a calling that they could not refuse. Lord, I will follow you wherever you may go. I want to be a reaper of the seeds you sow. We hear the story about that key moment when the first disciples made the decision to drop their nets, leave their usual routines, and follow Jesus in ministry. And doesn’t it make you wonder about what came before that moment? Was Jesus really a total stranger to these fishermen, who interrupted their work and told them that their new occupation would be “fishing for people” from now … Read more »

January 28, 2018

Acts 26:9-23 “Converted to Ecumenism” This sermon was preached at St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Regina on the occasion of the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Audio recording available here. Thank you for the invitation to worship with you here at St. Paul’s, and to reflect on God’s word to us today. I have been the minister at First Presbyterian Church for the last 6 months, and I have appreciated the welcome and connection with other downtown clergy, including Mike, since arriving in Regina. I am honoured to be with your community as you celebrate the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. As an ecumenist, I love the fact that this is also the day when you welcome the delegation from Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Cathedral for your Week of Prayer for Christian Unity exchange. And I hope that they won’t be disappointed to be hearing from a Presbyterian rather than an Anglican. Given the special theme of this day, and the first reading from the Book of Acts, I would like to reflect on “conversion” today. Perhaps only a small number of us have a dramatic story of conversion like the Apostle Paul. He started off persecuting Christians (back when his name was Saul) – locking them up, condemning them to death, pursuing them to foreign cities. But then Saul had an encounter with Christ. He saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around him and his companions, and then he heard the … Read more »

February 4, 2018

Isaiah 40:21-31 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 Mark 1:29-39 “Immediately Rest! Immediately Serve!” The Revised Common Lectionary is a 3-year cycle of readings for Sunday worship, and this is Year B – the year that focusses on Mark’s Gospel. That means that we’ll be reading lots of short passages from Mark this year, like the one I just read. And I do mean SHORT! Compared to the other Gospels, the stories in Mark are very brief. They tell us about what happened, but leave out any superfluous details or interpretation. I suggested a couple of weeks ago that the Gospel of Mark would be a good choice of a Gospel to read straight through to get a sense of Jesus’ whole life and ministry. After all, Mark’s version is the shortest, and yet it does tell the whole story. I think Mark’s Gospel is a good fit for the pace of our contemporary society. More than any generation before us, we are used to moving through life at a fast pace. We go from one communication to the next, from one activity to the next, from one meeting to the next with amazing speed. And many of us are getting better and better at doing more than one thing at a time even – multi-tasking is a most valuable skill! Sure, we complain that our attention spans are getting shorter because of our new culture of quickly-changing images and brief sound bites, but Mark’s Gospel seems particularly well-suited to the pace of … Read more »

February 11, 2018

Mark 9:2-9 “Spitting Image” Earlier this week, as I was reading about and reflecting on the Gospel story about Jesus’ transfiguration, I titled my sermon for today, “Spitting Image.” I hadn’t written the sermon yet, but I was thinking about how the transfiguration on the mountaintop served as a revelation for the disciples. It was an apocalyptic event – an experience in which something that was previously hidden was gloriously revealed to them for the first time. And that new understanding was the reality that Jesus was God’s very own son. Not only did his clothes shine with a heavenly light, and the great prophets Moses and Elijah appeared with him in splendour, but God’s voice clearly declared to the disciples, “This is my Beloved Son. Listen to him!” They had already witnessed some pretty amazing stuff from Jesus with miracles, and healings, and wise teachings that baffled them. But now, his true identity was being revealed in a way that they could not ignore. Jesus is God’s own Beloved Son. He is the “spitting image” of the Creator, standing right in front of them on the mountain, and walking beside them day by day. This morning the choir sang, “Soon and very soon, we are going to see the King,” and I thought I would preach about the gift of God’s revealing God-self to us in the human person of Jesus Christ. And I thought I would preach about how each of us also – as God’s beloved children, … Read more »

February 25, 2018

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 “Covenant Love” This morning I want to talk about “Covenant Love.” It’s a pervasive theme throughout the Bible, and it shows up in our reading today from the Book of Genesis about God’s covenant with Abraham, Sarah, and their descendants. We should remind ourselves that a covenant is a promise or a vow made between people. It’s not quite the same as a contract that is signed as an agreement for services rendered and payment required, with legal consequences when it is broken. But a covenant is a serious vow or promise made between people to live together in committed relationship with faithfulness and love. And “covenant” is the primary way that God establishes relationships with human beings. During the Season of Lent in Year B, the Revised Common Lectionary provides us with texts from the Hebrew Scriptures each Sunday that highlight God’s covenant relationship with us as God’s people. Last Sunday’s text (which we skipped in order to highlight PWS&D Sunday instead) was about God’s covenant with Noah. Although human beings had become so terrible and evil that God flooded the earth to wipe them out and start again, God promised that he wouldn’t do that again. Recognizing that humans would undoubtedly make more mistakes and do wrong things, God nonetheless determined to stick by us in faithfulness and mercy, covenanting with us, making the promise not to destroy the earth. Today we heard about God’s covenant with Sarah and Abraham, inviting them to walk before … Read more »

March 4, 2018

Exodus 20:1-17 John 2:13-22 “The Gift of the Commandments” Cast your mind back, if you will, to your school days. And see if you can remember the strictest teacher you had. Remember a teacher who ruled his/her classroom with an iron fist, where the students behaved and got their work done because they knew that if they didn’t, there would be consequences. I can’t help but think of Madame Méchin, my grade eight French teacher. We called her Madame Méchant when she wasn’t around – the French word for “mean, nasty, or miserable.” I remember her with her hair pulled very tightly back in a bun, and I don’t remember her smiling. Like the other students, I was pretty scared of Madame Méchin, though I’m not sure what I thought she would to us. But I worked really hard to make sure that my homework was done, and that I was ready to answer her questions (though I hoped she wouldn’t call on me). And I definitely wasn’t going to get caught speaking English in her class. I certainly had other teachers over the years who chose different methods and styles of teaching (some of whom I liked very much), but Madame Méchin’s strict method definitely worked. And even though we thought she was “mean” and “nasty” she taught us well so that even those of us who didn’t keep at it and become bilingual can still “comprendre quel qu’un qui parle en francais, et souvenir assez de mots pour … Read more »