January 6, 2019

Matthew 2:1-12 “Longing, Wondering, Searching Together” Perhaps especially as we begin a New Year, and as we reflect on the challenges of the year past, people today are longing to make sense out of life and to find hope for the future. In the midst of the conflict, strife, and violence of our world… In the midst of personal issues and family struggles, they are looking for meaning, for hope, and for peace. But I don’t think that this is new. If you follow humanity back hundreds, even thousands of years, you find that people have always been longing for something more, and wondering what it’s all about. We have questioned our gurus and wise ones, speculated about the gods, and struggled to make sense of our little place in this vast universe. The Gospel reading today is about some men who must have had just such a longing. The scripture calls them, “wise men from the East.” They were foreigners, Gentiles. They probably came from somewhere East of the Jordan river, from Babylon or Syria maybe. The main thing that always gets pointed out about these men is that they were not Jews. They were Gentiles. They were Gentiles in the extreme. Not only did they not worship the one God of Israel, and they didn’t follow the law given to Moses and the Israelites, but one commentary describes them as, “characters who could not be more remote from the Jewish citizens of Jerusalem in heritage and worldview.” They … Read more »

January 13, 2019

Isaiah 43:1-7 Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 “I will be with you” I love remembering my baptism. Next year it will be 30 years since I was baptized, and I still remember it as such an important moment in my life of faith. I remember standing up at the front of a church very much like this one. I remember reciting the words of the Apostles’ Creed that I had studied and memorized in my preparation. I remember the droplets of water on my forehead. And I remember the choir turning and singing over me: “The Lord bless you and keep you…” just like we sing to one another each Sunday here at First Church. On this Sunday, when we hear again the story of Jesus’ baptism by John, we are invited to remember our baptism and give thanks to God. Of course, you may not literally remember your baptism. You may have been an infant or a young child when you were baptized. It was your parent, or guardian, or grandparent who made a public profession of faith, and promised to teach you about Jesus and nurture you in the Christian way of life. But regardless of whether or not you literally remember that moment, you are invited today to remember your baptism… to remember its meaning and significance, and to remember how it continues to shape your life and faith today. When we got talking about the meaning of baptism in our Bible study earlier this week, I pointed out … Read more »

January 20, 2019

“Time to show God’s glory” 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 John 2:1-11 Time is a precious commodity in our lives today. I appreciate that all of you have set aside this hour or two for worship, and fellowship, and service in the Christian community. I know that there are many demands on your time day-by-day, and it means something when you choose to use your time in this way. When you are deciding how to use your precious time, I wonder how you choose your activities. I wonder how you set your priorities. Sometimes we just prioritize what seems most urgent. We work towards the deadlines that are looming largest, and leave future planning and projects until later when they too become urgent. Things get done in a hurry, but at least they get done, and we keep our heads above water as we manage our hectic lives, families, and work. When taken to the extreme, time-crunched lives like this mean that the basics get done, but there is never any time for the extras. Decorations go up for Christmas, but little time is spent enjoying them. Children’s food and clothing are provided, but squeezing in time to just hang out with and enjoy your kids happens rarely. You go to the clinic when you get sick, but time to consider and take up healthier practices in life doesn’t become urgent enough to be done. The church’s worship and programs keep running, but we may not take the time to plan for … Read more »

January 27, 2019

“Gathered around God’s Word” Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10 Psalm 19 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a The overarching theme in most of this morning’s scripture readings is the scriptures themselves. In particular, it is the question of how we use and interpret the scriptures. The psalmist begins by making it clear that the scriptures are of utmost importance for God’s people. Of course, from the psalmist’s perspective, at least 500 to maybe 1000 years before the birth of Jesus, the scriptures consisted of the Law of Moses, perhaps as gathered together into the Torah — the rough equivalent of the first five books of our Bibles today. The psalmist declares that the Law of the Lord is perfect. God’s decrees and precepts and ordinances are sure, and right, and true altogether. He thinks very highly of these texts and speaks of them with utmost respect and admiration and praise. And it’s not only that God’s commandments are true and right from the perspective of a wise and powerful God. The psalmist is arguing that they are actually useful for those who might read and pay attention to them. God’s laws revive the soul, the psalmist claims. God’s decrees make the reader wise. Paying attention to God’s precepts and commandments brings joy to your heart and light (or understanding) to your eyes. The writer of this psalm feels so strongly about God’s Word that he hungers for it more than rich food or great wealth. It is the greatest gift of all. It was … Read more »

January 27, 2019 – Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The following sermon was preached by the Rev. Amanda Currie at an ecumenical service held at Resurrection Roman Catholic Parish in Regina. The service was organized by the Regina Council of Churches as the closing worship for the 2019 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The theme and key Scripture texts were chosen by the Churches of Indonesia who prepared the WPCU resources for 2019. Deuteronomy 16:11-20 Romans 12:1-13 The theme chosen by the Christian Churches of Indonesia for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue.” But the first thing I noticed about the theme text from Deuteronomy is that it doesn’t ONLY focus on justice, but also includes a long section about worship. The whole passage is a section of the Deuteronomic Law Code, an expansion of the ten commandments given to Moses and the Hebrew People at Sinai – a detailed plan for how the people will live as God’s People in the land that God is giving them. Summarized down to its fundamental principles, the Law Code calls them to love and worship God, and to love and seek justice for their neighbours. This is the vision of God for the people, and the hope they have for building a community of joy, and peace, and prosperity for all. The latter part of the text is the first part of a section about a system of governance and authority to be established. It will include a sharing of … Read more »

February 3, 2019

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Luke 4:21-30 “The Demands of Love” I’m looking forward to next Sunday evening at First Church, and our “Celebration of Love” fine dining event. I think it’s going to be a lovely evening to support a good cause – our refugee sponsorship initiative – and to celebrate the gift of love. In the early stages of planning for a Valentine’s Day-themed dinner, we were talking about the program and I suggested that we include some love poetry, in addition to the music and dance that would be the highlights of the entertainment. I’m no expert on poetry, but I thought of “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. And then I thought of Robert Burns’ poem that begins “My love is like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June. My love is like the melody that’s sweetly played in tune.” But I am a Christian minister, not a poet, so the next thing that came to mind was not exactly a poem. Although it is poetic. It was our Epistle reading today from 1 Corinthians 13 – the love chapter. I’ve preached on that chapter many times, and most of them were at weddings. “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude… [Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” I usually explain that the passage wasn’t intended for a wedding or … Read more »

February 10, 2019

Isaiah 6:1-8 Luke 5:1-11 “Caught in Jesus’ Net” Do you know that feeling of wanting to avoid getting caught? Most likely there aren’t any bank robbers among us, but I expect that every one of us can relate to that fear of getting found out, or caught doing something that we shouldn’t be doing. Whether it’s cheating on a test or on our taxes, sleeping on the job or cutting a few corners to get it done quicker, stretching the truth to make ourselves look better or to avoid conflict, or speeding on the highway to get home, we want to avoid getting caught. Getting caught will mean facing up to consequences – maybe punishment, fines, or losing our job… maybe the more subtle but devastating consequences of losing our reputation, losing trust, or losing a relationship because of what we have done or failed to do. Before this week, I had never thought about that sense of “being caught” when I read the story about the miraculous catch of fish. And when Jesus invited the fishermen to join in his work of “catching people” it never occurred to me that they would be finding sinners and “catching them” in their sinfulness. Although I thought of the image of “fishing for people” as an ancient concept, I only knew the reference from the Gospel story, so I was missing some of the meaning that the fishers themselves would have noticed. You see, in the writings of the prophets, in Jeremiah, … Read more »

February 17, 2019

Luke 6:17-26 “Blessings in Flat Places” You’ve probably heard of the “Sermon on the Mount.” Not many of Jesus’ sermons were given titles, but one great sermon recorded in the Gospel of Matthew is given a name (at least by Christians, later). The Sermon on the Mount… It’s the sermon Jesus preached while standing up on a hill, the teachings he declared from above while the people listened from below, looking up to him for wisdom and guidance and blessing. Matthew presents Jesus as a kind of new Moses, and so sets his version of the famous sermon “up the mountain” just as Moses received the Torah with the commandments on Mount Sinai. Luke, on the other hand, from whose Gospel we read today, presents Jesus as a figure in the ancient prophetic tradition, less a new Moses and more a new Jeremiah. And while the prophets may pray on mountaintops, as Jesus frequently does in Luke, their prophetic work is done down among the people, in the nit and grit of everyday life. Today’s Gospel of Luke reading begins: “Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place.” It may not be acoustically the best choice of position for preaching, but Luke’s Jesus is down and dirty: he walks, and heals, and teaches in the valleys and on the plains, meeting us exactly where we are. Now, I do remember when I drove into the Rocky Mountains of B.C. for the first time. I was absolutely amazed … Read more »

February 24, 2019

Genesis 45:3-11, 15 Luke 6:27-38 “Grace Running Over” Did you notice one of the most famous Scripture verses in our Gospel reading this morning? Luke 6:31 says “Do to others as you would have them do to you,” and that is possibly one of the best-known ideas from the New Testament or most-common summaries of what it is that Jesus taught. People call it the “Golden Rule” – not because it will make you rich, but because if you can’t remember all the other commandments and instructions found the in the Bible, if you at least try to live by this one, you’ll do okay. “Do to others as you would have them to do you.” The concept is certainly not unique to the New Testament or to Christianity. Perhaps you have come across “The Golden Rule” poster, published by the Scarboro Missions in Toronto, and posted in many interfaith chaplaincy offices in hospitals, and university campuses, and retreat centres. It points out that when people of all the major religions sit down to talk about what is the most important aspect of their faith, they find a great deal in common. Christians find the “Golden Rule” in Luke 6:31 and Matthew 7:12, and Jews read something very similar from the Talmud: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour.” Likewise, the Prophet Muhammad of Islam teaches: “Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.” From Jainism we learn: … Read more »

March 3, 2019

Luke 9:28-43a “Jesus Has Left the Building” It is good for us to be here today, gathered in the name of Jesus, to worship, and listen for God’s Word, and share fellowship with one another, and be equipped to serve God and our neighbours in the world. That’s what the Apostle Peter said too, when he was up there on the mountain with Jesus and with his friends: “It is good for us to be here.” It was such a wonderful experience for Peter and James and John that day. Although they kept it to themselves for a while, eventually they would tell the story, saying that they saw God’s glory that day as Jesus shone, and the prophets of old appeared with him too. “It is good for us to be here,” Peter said to Jesus. And then he suggested that they could construct three dwellings – one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Although God interrupted, and stopped Jesus’ first Apostle from building a shrine or a temple on the hill that day, the Church that Peter later founded went on to construct a great many places of worship and holy structures in the centuries that followed. Think of the great cathedrals of Europe. Think of the mega-church auditoriums of North America. Think of the millions of churches and chapels, worship buildings big and small, busy or abandoned, scattered across the globe wherever Christians have gathered to worship. This passage often serves as a reminder … Read more »