Isaiah 60:1-6 Matthew 2:1-12 “Shiny Happy People!” As I was reading commentaries on the passage from Isaiah 60 in preparation for this service, a pop song from the 90’s started running through my head: “Shiny happy people.” Do you remember that lively song by the band REM? As I read and reflected on the prophet’s command to the people of Judah to “Arise, shine, for your light has come,” I couldn’t get the “Shiny happy people” song out of my head, so I gave in to it and looked up the video on YouTube. It began with an old man riding a stationary bicycle in a dreary-looking room, and then on the other side of the wall the band – dressed in bright happy colours in front of a colourful mural of similarly happy-looking people – began to play, and sing, and dance. It was carefree, full of smiles, and by the end of the song the band was surrounded by people dancing, and laughing, and having a great time. Meanwhile, the old man has gotten off his bicycle, and he stands watching the shiny happy people as they dance and sing. He doesn’t exactly look happy, but somewhat curious about what is happening before his eyes. I don’t know what the band intended to say with their video. Perhaps it was a hope that the grumpy old men of the world would lighten up and join in the party. Perhaps it was a subtle commentary on those who laugh, … Read more »
Acts 27:18 – 28:10 “Unusual Kindness” Many of you know that I spent much of this week in Ontario. In my role as Moderator of the last General Assembly of our church, I get to travel quite a bit – often preaching in different churches or speaking about ecumenism and interchurch families, since I chose that as my focus for the year. But this week was a bit different. I attended two retreats. First, a gathering of Presbyterian women clergy at Crieff Hills Community, our church’s retreat centre near Guelph Ontario. And then, a gathering of national level church leaders from various churches, organized by the Canadian Council of Churches at the Guest House of the Sisters of St. John the Divine, an Anglican convent in Toronto. Although the two retreats were designed to meet the needs of a different group of people, they had in common the fact that their purposes were to give ministry leaders time away to connect, to share, to pray, to rest, and to support one another as colleagues in ministry. If it wasn’t for the late nights and the travel, I might well have returned home well-rested and renewed for the busy weeks ahead! One thing that was reinforced for me during both gatherings was the realization that people in ministry today (and perhaps people in general today) live extremely busy, stressful, and challenging lives day-to-day. My female minister colleagues are very faithful and competent clergy, but even in this day and age many … Read more »
Isaiah 58:1-12 Matthew 5:13-20 “Be Who You Are” There was a discussion on Facebook earlier this week among some Presbyterian clergy and other church folk about what people wear to church. Most of them reported that people in their congregations regularly came to worship in a whole variety of dress, from very formal to very casual, depending on their age, culture, experience, and ability. And everyone is welcome, no matter what they are wearing. This was experienced as a positive change from a few decades ago when putting on your “Sunday best” for church was absolutely expected, and it wasn’t unusual for some folks to frown on others who didn’t manage to dress appropriately. Interestingly, the conversation actually started with someone relating a story about a friend who visited a church where he received negative comments on his attire – not because he was too casual, but because he was too well-dressed. And then the ministers lamented the fact that sometimes, in our churches, we still pay too much attention to what people are wearing. We develop cultural traditions and expect everyone to dress and look pretty much the same, and fail to make space for the differences and diversities that could enrich our communities. Soon, the conversation turned towards what the clergy wear for worship too. Travelling around in my role as Moderator this year, I have noticed that there’s a lot of variety there too. Some Presbyterian ministers wear dark-coloured academic gowns, sometimes with a colourful stole added … Read more »
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 2 Corinthians 5:20b- – 6:10 Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 “Ash Sunday” In the first reading for Ash Wednesday, the prophet Joel calls for a trumpet blast to go out and warn the people that they must change their lives and return to God with all their hearts. It makes me think of the warning cries that we are hearing lately from the young prophets of our time. They also are sounding trumpets and blowing whistles, striking from school, making speeches, addressing the world through social media, and calling us to make radical changes for the future of the planet. The call of the prophets then and now challenges God’s people to cease their parties and celebrations, and to come together instead in a solemn assembly of weeping and mourning. Joel says that even the bridegroom must leave his room, and the bride her canopy, and join the community in repentance and fasting. The message is hopeful because the people are assured of God’s grace and mercy. The prophet says that the Lord is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. God relents from punishing. And yet, there is urgency to the call. They must return to God with all their hearts and change their lives today. Likewise, we are warned in our time that the environmental crisis is indeed a crisis. We’ve been aware of it my whole life, and responding in bits and pieces by avoiding littering, recycling a little more, and slowly developing new energy … Read more »
Exodus 17:1-7 Psalm 95 Romans 5:1-11 John 4:5-42 “More to Life” In the Revised Common Lectionary of Sunday Scripture readings, we’re in Year A of the three-year cycle right now. And during the Season of Lent in Year A, we get a series of wonderful, long, elaborate stories from the Gospel of John. Last week it was the story of the Jewish leader, Nicodemus from John 3. Today, we read John 4 in which Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman beside a well. Next week, he’ll be healing a blind man in chapter 9, and then we’ll go on to chapter 11 where Jesus will actually raise Lazarus from the dead. Last week, the Rev. Bob Wilson talked about how Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again. He must open his life to be led by God’s Spirit. He likened it to trusting God and “letting go of the rope” that we are clinging to for security, and to let God take us where we need to go and do what we need to do to build God’s kingdom on earth. And that kind of faith and trust begins with choosing to believe God – to believe that God loves us, that God has plans for us, that our future is in God’s hands. The major theme of John’s Gospel that is explored in all these wonderful stories is about how people come to believe in Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour of the world. At … Read more »
The following message to First Presbyterian Church was posted on March 19, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to suspend gathering together in-person for worship and other church activities.
1 Samuel 16:1-13 Psalm 23 John 9:1-41 “Blind, Lost, Uncertain, and Needing God’s Help” You’ve been driving around the neighbourhood for half an hour already, and you still haven’t found the street you’re looking for. The houses and stores are starting to look familiar now, but you’re no closer to your destination than you were twenty minutes ago. The problem is that your spouse knows where he’s going… at least, he thinks he does. How long will it be, you wonder, before he gives in and asks for directions? “What was that?” your grandmother shouts at you. “Where is your hearing aid?” you ask for the third time, and she finally understands the question – probably because you’re pointing madly at her ear. “Oh, I don’t need that thing,” she says, “I can hear you just fine.” Your daughter just got her first pair of glasses. They were long overdue after almost failing grade nine because she couldn’t follow what was going on in class. She couldn’t see the board, missed most of the notes, and couldn’t concentrate because of the headaches she got from squinting so much. But she won’t wear them – the new glasses. She doesn’t like the way they look, you assume. But all she can say is, “I don’t need them. I can see without them.” What can you do to convince her? Somehow, the fact that mom needs glasses too doesn’t seem to help. Sometimes it can be very difficult for us to … Read more »
On Sunday, March 22nd, Pope Francis invited Christians around the world to pray the Lord’s Prayer together for the sake of the world struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic. Christian communities were invited to pray at Noon on Wednedsay, March 25th, and to choose either Noon in Rome or Noon in their local time zone. A small group of Christian leaders in Regina gathered together by Zoom video conference on March 25th at Noon in Saskatchewan, and our ecumenical prayer was live streamed onto Facebook so that many Christians across Saskatchewan and further away were able to join in prayer together with us.
Ezekiel 37:1-14 Psalm 130 John 11:1-45 “The End of the Story” I don’t know about you, but I already feel like I’ve been hanging out in my house for a really long time now! I’ve been working from home. And although I have plenty to keep me occupied, time passes differently when we’re not following the usual patterns of our work, and family, and social lives. Until a couple of days ago, the COVID-19 pandemic still felt a little bit virtual to me. We watched the constant news reports, and adjusted our lives to the latest recommendations for hygiene and physical distancing, but it still seemed like a far-away problem. That was until I heard about friends who had contracted the virus. Two friends, both living in the UK. Neither one was serious enough to be hospitalized, but the symptoms one was experiencing sounded quite awful, while the other just lost her sense of smell. And while I’m at home, not allowed to visit people in our local hospitals for good reason, my sister is working as a nurse in a Toronto hospital where they are already running short on supplies. Nurses on her ward are being rationed only two surgical masks per shift – an obvious risk both to their patients and to the nurses themselves. We see scenes of devastation in other parts of the world on the news every night. Italian hospitals have been in dire straits for weeks now. Spain’s health care system is struggling, and … Read more »
During the COVID-19 pandemic, worship at First Presbyterian Church is being live streamed on Facebook. You can join us for worship live on Sunday, April 5th at 10:30 am (SK time) on the FirstPresbyterian Regina page. Following the live service, the video will also be posted here (around 11:30 am). Isaiah 50:4-9a Philippians 2:5-11 “Choosing Servanthood” Today is the Sunday with two names. It is Palm Sunday, as we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey. And it is Passion Sunday, as we anticipate what will happen to Jesus when he arrives in Jerusalem – his final meal with his disciples, his agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, his betrayal and arrest, his trial and torture, and his terrible execution on a Roman cross. The lectionary provides us with two sets of scripture readings for today, inviting the preacher to choose how to focus the service, and I have chosen the Gospel reading from the liturgy of the Palms, and the other readings from the liturgy of the Passion. The Gospel reading that I’m skipping today is the long account of what happens to Jesus in Jerusalem. We’ll come back to that part of Jesus’ story, of course, as we continue our Holy Week worship on Maundy Thursday evening and Good Friday morning. But today, instead of simply recounting the story of Jesus’ passion, a story that most of us know quite well, I’d like to focus on the other readings that are set for Passion … Read more »