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 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 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 »

December 24, 2018

Isaiah 9:2-7 Luke 2:1-20 “A Royal Birth Announcement” Tonight, I would like to focus on our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah. We hear it every Christmas when it is matched up with the Gospel stories about Jesus’ birth, and we usually read without further comment because the preaching is all about the Gospel. If you’re like me, the sound of Handel’s Messiah rings in your ears as the prophet’s words are proclaimed: “For unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given. Unto us a son is given…” And as we sing or listen to those words, we are thinking of Jesus. He is the one whose birth we celebrate tonight. He is the child who has been born for us, and who has become the “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.” But these words were not written to celebrate Jesus’ birth. In the eighth century BCE, these words were uttered about the birth of another specific king in Judah, probably the good King Hezekiah who ruled Judah from 715-687 BCE. The poem gives voice to profound hope for the reign of this descendant of King David, at a time when Judah faced the harsh realities of Assyrian dominance. There is no question about the depth of the people’s despair in the time period leading up to this new kingdom. They had “walked in darkness” and “lived in a land of deep darkness.” And the change in national fortune is attributed to … Read more »

December 16, 2018

Luke 3:7-18 “What Should We Do?” I like how specific John the Baptist gets in his instructions for the crowds of people who came out to the wilderness to be baptized by him and change their lives around. He gets specific about what these people should do, about how they should live, about how their lives should bear fruit worthy of the repentance that they have just professed. I can imagine that John has been preaching for a while. “Fire and brimstone” kind of preaching in which he’s been warning the people that they better repent now or it’s going to be too late. The Messiah is coming soon. The judgement day is drawing near. He says it’s like there’s an ax lying at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. What a way to motivate your listeners to change their lives! Essentially, it’s change or die! But when he finishes his sermon – or perhaps they even interrupt him in the middle – they call out “How?” How do we change? We understand this urgent call to change our lives and get right with God. We understand that the judgement is coming soon, and we want to be found worthy. But specifically, practically speaking, “What should we do?” It’s a question that modern preachers should keep in mind as well. We can theologize all we like. And we can encourage, inspire, and even warn … Read more »

December 9, 2018

Malachi 3:1-4 Philippians 1:3-11 Luke 21:25-36 “My Prayer for the Church” Advent is not just a season of preparing for Christmas – baking, decorating, shopping, and planning. But it is a season of preparing our hearts and our lives for Christ’s coming again. On the second Sunday of Advent each year, we are introduced to John the Baptist, the prophet crying out in the wilderness, calling the people to repent and turn back to God and God’s ways of love and peace. This year, John’s call to conversion is paired with a similar text from the Old Testament prophet Malachi. He also is calling for change, renewal, and reform in the lives of God’s people, using the image of silver being refined by fire. When I read the text from Malachi, the praise & worship song “Refiner’s Fire” immediately comes to mind. We’ll sing it this morning – a reasonably contemporary song, but one that I’ve been singing since I was a teenager. The song is framed as a personal prayer to God who is addressed as the “Refiner’s Fire” who through the imposition of heat is able to purify the silver or gold (to purify our hearts and lives) so that we become the good and faithful people that God intends us to be. Certainly, there is a need in our lives for such purification. Day-by-day and week-by-week we need God’s help in making choices for good. We need God’s help in choosing to be more generous, in choosing … Read more »

December 2, 2018

Luke 21:25-36 “Sprouting Leaves” Have you noticed that during the Season of Advent each year, there’s always a lot of talk about the end of the world and the Second Coming of Christ? The word “Advent” means “coming,” and while we spend these four weeks before Christmas waiting expectantly to celebrate the birth of Jesus – the coming of Christ into our world – we also talk about the promised Second Coming. In the midst of a world that is troubled by conflict, war, pain, hunger, homelessness, and environmental degradation, we wait and hope for Christ to come again to make everything new. We sing “Soon and Very Soon,” and we are not just encouraging our young children that these four weeks will speed by and the joy and excitement of Christmas Day will arrive before they know it. But we are singing about the hope that we have that our world will not languish in its misery for much longer, but that Jesus will return and set things right. God’s Kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven, as we pray in Jesus’ words every Sunday. But in a commentary on our Gospel text today, it was noted that “Preaching on the Second Coming, the coming of the Son of Man, has fallen into disrepute in many churches. It is one of those themes that has been given over to churches that advertise their emphasis on Bible prophecy. Yet, the coming of the Son of Man is … Read more »

November 25, 2018

2 Samuel 23:1-7 Psalm 132:1-12 Revelation 1:4b-8 John 18:33-37 “Thy Kingdom Come on Earth” Today is the last day of the year – not in the Gregorian calendar that we follow along with the most of the world, running from January 1st through to December 31st. But today is the last day in the Church Year – the special calendar that many Christian Churches began to follow as part of the liturgical reform of the last 30-40 years. The Church Year begins with Advent, four Sundays leading up to our celebration of the Birth of Jesus at Christmas. Then there is a short Christmas season, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and ordinary time which comes in between. The Church Year is the reason that we mark different Sundays and seasons with symbolic colours like purple for Lent, red for Pentecost, and white for Easter and Christmas. And the Church Year provides the framework for the lectionary cycle of Scripture readings that we read and reflect on Sunday-by-Sunday. The special Sunday that we mark today is called “Reign of Christ” or “Christ the King” Sunday, and it is the culmination of the Church Year before we begin a New Year with the Season of Advent next week. It was Pope Pius XI who, in 1925, declared a special feast day for Christ the King. It was a time in history when respect for the church was waning and state control over the church was increasing in many countries. Stalin and Mussolini were … Read more »

November 18, 2018

1 Samuel 1:4-20 1 Samuel 2:1-10 Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25 “More Encouragement, Please” There are people like Hannah among us today, and in our families and communities… not just women and couples who struggle with infertility, but men and women and young people who experience the kind of anguish and despair that Hannah shows to us in her story. The particular struggles are myriad… grief, illness, loneliness, depression, problems at work, problems in family relationships, conflict between friends, or a general lack of meaning and purpose in life or in the sense of being valued and loved. What a sad way to start a sermon! But it’s true, isn’t it? Most of us can relate to Hannah’s outburst in the place of worship because we have felt like that at times too. Some of us will have kept the public weeping to a minimum, but we can understand how she got to that point. She just couldn’t take any more of the other wife’s taunts. She just couldn’t handle any more of her husband’s sympathy. She just couldn’t hold on anymore to all the anger and sadness and resentment that she had been carrying for so long. And she let go of it by talking to God about it. Now, it wasn’t a nice little prayer that she offered up to God with a measured amount of praise and thanks and a polite request for some help in the baby-making department. It wasn’t a carefully prepared request like the prayers we … Read more »

November 11, 2018

Hebrews 9:24-28 Mark 12:38-44 “The Greater Gift” This sermon was prepared by the Rev. Amanda Currie, and presented by Andrew Donovan during worship at First Presbyterian Church in Regina on Sunday, November 11, 2018. After criticizing the religious leaders of his time for both a lack of humility and taking advantage of the poor, Jesus sits down near one of the offering boxes at the temple to observe as the worshippers come to make their gifts for the temple. Having watched both the rich and the poor placing their gifts in the treasury, Jesus comments that a poor widow has contributed more than anyone else because the rich people “have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” In practical terms for the temple budget, Jesus’ statement simply isn’t true. The widow’s two coins wouldn’t have made much difference at all for the institution’s ministry. They would have represented the tiniest of drops in the biggest of buckets. The small copper coins (Greek: lepta) were the smallest coins circulated, and sixty-four “pennies” equaled one denarius, or a day’s wage. The rich people had the resources to give more without much of a thought. They might have given a whole denarius, or maybe even more than one, and those larger offerings would have sustained religious life at the temple, feeding and clothing the religious leaders and maintaining the central place of worship for the Jewish People. … Read more »

November 4, 2018

Ruth 1:1-18 Psalm 146 Hebrews 9:11-14 Mark 12:28-34 “Love Your Neighbour” Plenty good room in the kingdom of heaven. Plenty good room for you and me. Plenty good room in the kingdom of heaven, so choose your seat and sit down. The choir’s anthem for this morning has been running through my mind all week. It’s got one of those tunes that easily gets stuck in your head after a choir practice. But also, it’s been there because we’ve had more than our share of church members moving from this world into the kingdom of heaven over the last week or so. Don Frew died a week ago Friday, and then Olga Wolfe died on Tuesday morning, and finally Jack Boan died in his sleep early on Wednesday. Each one of these Christian disciples died after a good, long, and meaningful life, but each one will be dearly missed by family, friends, and this community of faith. “Plenty good room” has been a good song for this week, as we’ve been thinking about their welcome into the Kingdom of heaven. But when we selected it a couple of months ago, we had no idea that so many of our members would be making the journey to God at this time. So, as I began to prepare for this morning’s service, I looked at the Scripture readings assigned for this day and tried to remember why I thought the song would be fitting back when the Music Team did our pre-planning … Read more »

October 28, 2018

Job 42:1-6, 10-17 Psalm 34:1-8, 19-22 Mark 10:46-52 “To See or to Be Seen” Sometimes when I’m reading the Gospel of Mark I start to get discouraged. I know. Reading the Gospel should not be a let-down. But when we’re making our way through Year B of the lectionary, and we get all these stories from Mark’s account of Jesus’ ministry, I sometimes start to wonder if we Christians will ever get it together and live as Jesus intends us to live. You see, the disciples in Mark’s Gospel stories are rather slow to understand his message, and they keep making silly mistakes. They argue about which one of them is the greatest. They get scared when Jesus does miracles like walking on water. They struggle to cast out an evil spirit, and don’t even think about saying a prayer. They get upset when Jesus talks about being arrested and killed because they think he’s got to take over leadership by force. And in last week’s text, they presumptuously demand special seats next to Jesus in the Kingdom of God. We read these stories about the slow and stupid disciples in Bible study, and we talk about how so often we are just like them. We also struggle in life, but forget to pray. We also look for recognition and honour instead of just humbly serving. We also begin to doubt the wisdom of the Way of God when we see hatred and evil winning out in our world today. … Read more »

October 7, 2018

Matthew 6:25-33 “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.” “Oooooooo…Here is a little song I wrote. You might want to sing it note for note. Don’t worry. Be happy. In every life we have some trouble.When you worry you make it double.Don’t worry. Be happy.” About half way through the sermon on the mount, after more than a chapter of teaching about the challenging way of discipleship that Jesus’ followers are called to live, Jesus tells his disciples not to worry: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Can we put ourselves in the shoes of those earliest disciples? Can we imagine what they might have been thinking as Jesus told them not to worry? Some of them had dropped their nets, their jobs, their livelihoods in order to go out on the road with him. And they had left their families, their communities, and their networks of support behind as well. He had called them to a life of risk and uncertainty, and now he is telling them not to worry. Don’t worry about food. Don’t worry about clothing. Trust God to provide you with what you need. It all sounds a little irresponsible, doesn’t it? Don’t … Read more »

September 23, 2018

Proverbs 31:10-31 Mark 9:30-37 “The Song of Superwoman” The first time I preached on today’s Scripture texts was 15 years ago when I was preaching for a call to St. Andrew’s Church in Saskatoon. I remember thinking at the time how funny it was that on the day I was being considered for a call to my first congregation that the scriptures included an argument between the disciples about who was the greatest and a section from the proverbs beginning “a capable woman, who can find?” I was grateful that it wasn’t actually a competition that day – that they weren’t deciding whether or not I was the greatest – but just discerning whether I was the one being called by God to minister with them at that time. The fact is that competition is all around us. Despite the fact that I grew up in the era when we were exploring “co-operative games,” when children were encouraged to work together, and winning and losing were de-emphasised, I, (like most people) can easily become caught up in competition. Even ministers can find themselves competitively comparing our congregations or feeling proud when our sermons seem to inspire and encourage those who listen. So I think that perhaps all of us can become enthralled with the question of “Who is the greatest?” Who won the Gold Medal? – at the Olympics, or at the church picnic relay race… Who is the smartest?- who got the best grades, or knows the most trivia… … Read more »

September 16, 2018

Proverbs 1:20-33 Psalm 19 James 3:1-12 Mark 8:27-38 “Teaching: A Cross and a Gift” When I am teaching about the Bible, I often point out that the Bible is not just one book, but it is a collection of books. Remember your French, I tell the children. What is the French word for library? (Bibliotheque) Right, the Bible is a “bibliotheque” a whole library of different types of books. There are history books, and poetry, and collections of letters, and genealogical record books. There are mythic stories, and hymn books, and rule books. Just like a library, the Bible is a collection of books by different authors who lived and wrote in different times and places, but all inspired in a spectacular way by the One God in whom they believed and whom they followed. This morning’s Scripture passages are the ones assigned in the Revised Common Lectionary of readings for this Sunday, and the Old Testament readings in particular are a celebration of the Bible – of the Word of God that guides, encourages, and corrects us in our living day-by-day. The first reading comes from the Book of Proverbs, one of the Wisdom Books of the Bible, and a collection of short, pithy sayings and advice that we would do well to consider. But I love the way this first chapter of Proverbs invites us to open our minds to God’s Wisdom in the first place. We encounter Wisdom personified as a woman calling out in the streets … Read more »

September 9, 2018

Mark 7:24-37 “Still Learning” A friend of mine is working as a teaching assistant in a Montessori school in Ontario this year. When she shared some pictures of her classroom last week, it brought back good memories of my own experience attending a Montessori school forty years ago. It was a lovely big room with an open concept and all the different learning centres for the children to work and explore various subjects and gain skills. And she included a close-up of the mathematics area, with beautiful strings of beads for learning to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. I felt thankful for the opportunity I had to attend a wonderful school as a young child, to continue through the Public School System, and go on to higher education as well. What a privilege it was to live in this country, to have education freely available to both boys and girls. And I know that I was doubly blessed because my parents could afford and chose to send us to a Montessori school when we were young. I believe that the teaching methods in that school equipped me well for continuing education, and work, and ministry. We are blessed in our society to have access to basic education for all people and post-secondary programs as well. Not that our education systems are without their challenges… There are still deficiencies in funding for schools on reserves, and the programs in rural areas may pale in comparison to what is available in larger … Read more »

September 2, 2018

Song of Solomon 2:8-13 James 1:17-27 Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 “What is our religion really about?   What does it mean to be a person of faith, a religious person, a spiritual person, or a member of the church? These are questions that I encounter and find myself discussing on a regular basis. From people outside the church, I’m often asked, “Why do people still go to church? What do they get out of it?” And with those inside the church – especially those who are actively engaged in leadership and decision-making – the discussion is usually around the question of what is most important in our faith. What is the foundation of our faith? What are the essential practices? What must we continue and emphasize, and what are the small “t” traditions that we can let go of at times as we move along with a rapidly-changing world. As I read and reflected on the scripture readings assigned for today in our lectionary, it was these questions about the meaning and significance of our faith and religious practice that were swirling through my head. Because each of today’s texts contributes some significant ideas to such a discussion, helping us to answer for ourselves and for our neighbours when they ask: “What is our religion really about?” Let’s begin with the Gospel. What better place to begin than with what Jesus said about it? It’s important to remember that Jesus was a religious man. He was a faithful Jewish person … Read more »

August 26, 2018

1 Kings 8: 1,6,10-11,22-30,41-43 Psalm 84 Ephesians 6:10-20 John 6:56-69 “A Difficult Teaching” In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue (the community gathering place) in Capernaum. And he teaches this: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” And when his disciples heard what he was teaching, they said: “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” Like so many of us today, they wanted an easy answer and a simple way of living. They wanted the great results without the hard work. They wanted a quick fix, but Jesus was asking for more from them. If you remember from the last several Sundays… Jesus has just finished his miraculous feeding of the crowd of 5000 or more on the hillside. Most of them appreciated Jesus’ ability to produce food for them, but now he is inviting them to go deeper, to respond to God’s goodness, and to follow him in the challenging way of discipleship. Jesus tells them that they are now invited to eat more than just bread and fish like they just enjoyed. He explains that he has more to give to … Read more »

August 19, 2018

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 Ephesians 5:15-20 John 6:51-58 “Blessed by Wisdom, Saved by Grace” When you think about WISDOM, I wonder if there are particular people that come to mind. Wise people that you have known, who have taught you and guided you in your life. Or perhaps there are some words of wisdom that you always remember, that you go back to, that you reflect on regularly and try to take to heart. When I think of wise people in my life, I always go back to an elder from my home congregation when I was a child, George Lee. George was like a grandfather to me and many others. I don’t remember what he taught us, but I remember what it felt like to be near him. It felt like we were safe, and loved, and precious. He was in his early 80’s, and I remember him sitting on the floor with us children at Vacation Bible School and telling us stories. And it felt SO important to be still and listen to what he would say. Back then I had no idea that I would one day become a minister. I never imagined that I would have so many opportunities to sit on the floor (or the steps of the sanctuary) with children, or stand in a pulpit, or teach in a Bible study, or journey with people through the ups and downs of their lives. I couldn’t have guessed that I would be the one sharing … Read more »

July 8, 2018

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 Mark 6:6b-13 “Casting Out Demons?” In an earlier draft of this morning’s sermon, I started off with an exploration of the major characters in this morning’s biblical texts. I wrote about David, who started out small and became a great king. I wrote about Paul, who was an amazing apostle, but had his own embarrassing past of persecuting Christians. And even once those two became the wonderful leaders that they were, they still had weaknesses. David let his passion get the better of him, took advantage of his royal position and power, and needed to be corrected by the prophet Samuel. And although we don’t know much about Paul’s difficulties, we know that he had some. He tells us that he struggled with a kind of “thorn in his flesh” that kept him from perfection so that he had to rely on God’s grace instead of just his own natural ability to be a successful minister of the gospel. These guys are great examples for us, especially when our struggles are with perfectionism or our ego needs. When we get anxious about doing everything right, doing everything ourselves, and get worked up over the possibility of making a mistake or forgetting something important. And I admit that those are the kinds of things that I struggle with. I like to be prepared. I like to do well at my ministry, and be well-regarded by others. Of course, I know that perfection is not … Read more »