July 1, 2007

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20Galatians 5:1, 13-25Luke 9:51-62 Today’s Gospel passage begins with a significant moment in Luke’s story of Jesus’ ministry. It is the moment when the author of the Gospel first hints that Jesus’ ministry is going to come to an end in Jerusalem with his death on a cross. The passage begins: “When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Although Jesus’ ministry of teaching and healing does not change dramatically at this point in the story, the reader who notices this key moment in Luke’s account of Jesus’ life will read everything that happens after this in a different light. Jesus is not like any other preacher or healer or prophet that might have lived in the area at that time. Jesus was different, because even at this point in his ministry, he is recognizing that his mission is to do something more than preach sermons and offer help to the sick and suffering people that he meets on his journey. Jesus is committed to a ministry that is much broader and more far-reaching than the typical itinerant preacher. He knows that he will need to travel to the centre of things at Jerusalem, and perhaps he also knows that what he must do will lead to intense suffering and even to his death. But here, at Luke 9:51, Jesus chooses to start heading towards Jerusalem. Though to some, Jerusalem is just a large … Read more »

June 24, 2007

1 Kings 19:1-15aPsalm 42Galatians 3:23-29Luke 8:26-39 Children’s Sermon:I would like to tell you a story about a boy named Sam. One day, Sam waited too late to do his homework. He played until it got dark, and then it was time for supper. So when we finished eating, his father said, “Sam, sit right there and get started on your homework.”“I’m too tired,” said Sam.“You should have thought about that when you were playing,” said his father.“I don’t have my book,” said Sam.“You can go get what you need,” said his father, “but come back and work right here at the table.” Sam got his math book and his notebook and found the assignment and wrote down the first problem. He worked at it and erased it; worked at it and erased it. He tried over and over, but he just couldn’t get it right. Then he threw the paper on the floor and said, “I wish I were through with school, married, and dead.”“Oh, not so fast,” said his father. “Let’s just get through these math problems and see what happens.”“But I don’t know how to do it,” said Sam.“Well, I’ll help you,” said his father. Later that night, when Sam was ready for bed, his father came into his room to read a Bible story and say prayers. They sat down on the bed and talked.“I’m proud of you,” said his father.“How come?” said Sam.“Because you didn’t quit,” said his father.“Quit what?” said Sam.“The math homework,” said his … Read more »

June 10, 2007

Psalm 1461 Kings 17:8-24Luke 7:11-17 Beginning with Psalm 146, and then reflecting on the stories we have read today from 1 Kings and Luke’s Gospel, the amazing goodness of God is extremely evident. Our God is one who cares about the poor, the oppressed, and those who are vulnerable in our world. Remembering the ways that God has looked after us in our lowest moments can inspire us to respond by paying it forward — by sharing God’s goodness and love with anyone we meet who is struggling. When I first read the story from 1 Kings about Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, the theme of generosity was what struck me about the text. But it wasn’t a story about a woman who had received so much from God that she responded with grateful generosity towards the hungry travelling prophet. In fact, we have in this text, the story of a woman who has very little. She is a widow — no husband and no source of income. She has no bread — only a handful of meal and a little oil in a jug. Her problem is not that she hasn’t had time to shop or bake. No, she’s at the end of her supplies and she doesn’t anticipate getting any more. She has a son — but he’s likely too young to be of much help yet. Her situation is so dire, and she’s so resigned to it that she’s planning for a last supper. She tells … Read more »

June 3, 2007

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 Psalm 8 Romans 5:1-5 John 16:12-15 Welcome to Trinity Sunday — the first Sunday after Pentecost each year. Trinity Sunday is unusual. Most of the special Sundays in the church year are about an event in time — Jesus being born (Christmas), the arrival of the wise men from the East (Epiphany),Jesus being baptized (Baptism of Jesus Sunday), Jesus being raised from the dead (Easter), the Holy Spirit being poured out on the church (Pentecost). But this special Sunday is not about celebrating a particular event or moment in salvation history. Instead, it’s about a doctrine. It’s about one of the foundational beliefs of the Christian Church. It’s about Trinity — the teaching that God is three, traditionally expressed as Father, Son, and Spirit, but that God is still just one God. Now apart from the fact that it’s very difficult to work out the math, it’s a difficult topic to preach about because the contours of the argument are extremely subtle. The greatest intellects in the world have had trouble with this one, so there’s not much chance of me explaining it this morning. We had a lovely morning last Saturday at the Women’s Breakfast at Smitty’s. About 20 women gathered for breakfast, conversation, and a little study. The women from McKercher had planned the bible study, and chosen the topic of Trinity. We began with one of those children’s story-type metaphors for understanding the Trinity. God is like an apple. It has skin, flesh, and … Read more »

May 27, 2007

Genesis 11:1-9Psalm 104:24-35John 14:8-17, 25-27 “Wind and Fire” WIND – – Blue, grey, white, invisible power. You can’t see the wind, but you can see the effects of the wind. A colourful kite rising high in the sky. A child’s pinwheel spinning furiously. A flag waving boldly. Remember the sensation of a cool breeze on a hot day, fresh and invigorating, a welcome, cleansing presence.Recall the experience of a stiff breeze in your face as you walk along the street or across a field. You feel strong as you walk into it. You feel powerful working against it. Remember a wind that is too powerful: knocking you down, pulling down trees and overturning cars, blowing up dust and dirt that stings your eyes. WIND is a powerful image for the Holy Spirit. On the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit came upon the disciples who were gathered in Jerusalem, and the Book of Acts tells us that it came like a rush of wind. A powerful force that they could not mistake for their imaginations. It came rushing through the house where they were staying, blowing them all mightily into attention. They’d been waiting there for something to happen. Jesus had asked them to wait in Jerusalem until they were “clothed with power from on high,” and there was no mistaking that this was what they were waiting for. And then there was FIRE. FIRE – – another symbol of God’s presence. Just as a flame ignites a bright lantern, God’s … Read more »

May 20, 2007

Acts 1:1-11 Psalm 47 Ephesians 1:15-23 Luke 24:44-53 Tucked away in a corner of most “stained glass” churches is an “Ascension window,” which usually depicts Jesus floating upward in flowing robes while distraught disciples look upward or cover their eyes in fear and anguish. Although we do have the Ascension windows in our churches, most Presbyterians don’t think about or talk about the Ascension very much. It’s an option in the lectionary to read the Ascension texts on the Sunday before Pentecost, and so quite often we miss it altogether, having no special service on Ascension Day, and choosing the 7th Sunday of Easter readings on the Sunday before Pentecost. References to the Ascension are found in many places throughout the New Testament, but the primary texts that describe the Ascension are the two stories that we read today from Luke and Acts. In the first chapter of the Book of Acts, Jesus appears to the disciples and speaks to them about the Kingdom of God. He instructs them to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit who will make them into witnesses “to the end of the earth.” After this “Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” But as much as the Ascension may seem like a strange, magical — even bizarre story, it’s interesting to note that our forebears in the faith deemed it to be extremely important. In Scripture itself, the story appears in Luke and Acts, and in the … Read more »

May 13, 2007

Acts 16:9-15 Psalm 67 Revelation 21:10, 22 — 22:5 John 5:1-9 As we move through the season of Easter and towards Pentecost, the readings continue to prepare us to function as community without the physical leadership of Jesus. We are invited to participate in our own salvation and to continue to struggle towards a more just and faithful expression of community in Christ. In the Book of Acts, Luke writes about the progress of the early Christian church, and in today’s story he describes the conversion of Lydia, a “faithful woman.” It is the second reading in Acts that features and names a woman. Two weeks ago, we heard about Dorcas, a beloved follower of Jesus who provided clothing for the widows in her community. Luke is noted for his inclusion of women in his writings, and here he portrays Lydia with remarkable agency as she chooses to convert and then actively supports the fledgling Christian community. Agency is a lesson that John reaffirms in his portrayal of a man who is cured on the Sabbath. Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be well?” The man accepts Jesus’ invitation and immediately is freed from physical and spiritual paralysis. Finally, John’s vision in Revelation of a new heaven is one that is without a temple — without any religious structure or institution, for “its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.” His vision cautions us that our churches never become ends in themselves — that we never get … Read more »

April 29, 2007

Acts 9:36-43Psalm 23Revelation 7:9-17John 10:22-30 “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” I’ve already encouraged you this morning to actively engage in doing the works of God — to get around to doing the good works that God has called you to do in Jesus’ name in and for the world. I hope that I don’t need to remind you that your good works are not, however, what saves you. You do not earn God’s love or favour or salvation by giving to the poor or engaging in mission, by caring for the environment or loving your neighbour. God loves you simply because you are God’s creation — God’s own children. You are saved by God’s grace through faith. It is a gift from God — not an honour that you have earned or that you deserve. That is a really good thing to remember, especially on days when you “haven’t gotten around to it” — on days when other stuff has gotten in the way, and when doing God’s work has taken second place, or third place, or perhaps has been left off the schedule completely. Doing the good works of God, seeking justice, caring for the poor, and loving our neighbours are not the things that win us God’s love or favour. But they are, as the song reminds us, the ways that we are known and seen to be Christians. “They’ll know we are … Read more »

April 15, 2007

Acts 5:17-32Revelation 1:4-8John 20:19-31 Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come. One of the amazing and inspirational things about the gospel stories and the stories of scripture in general, is that we can read them over and over, and each time, discover new messages and insights from God. Some of you may have noticed this morning that today’s Gospel reading from John somewhat overlapped with the reading we explored last Sunday with the puppets. But, as anyone who has attempted the act of preaching knows, there are many many possible sermons that could arise from the same text of scripture. The challenge is often to choose just one, and let the others go for this time around. Last week, we thought about the strange experience that the first disciples had when the risen Jesus appeared to them beside the tomb, inside a locked room, and later in other ways. We remembered Thomas and his doubts about whether it could really be Jesus appearing before them, and we considered the many ways in which we have met and experienced the risen Christ in our own lives — in scripture, in service, and in sacrament. And although grappling with what we believe about Jesus is certainly a part of our Christian journey (as it was for Jesus’ first followers) — the next step that rightly follows must be to consider what the risen Jesus is inviting us to do with our lives … Read more »

April 8, 2007

The following presentation of the Easter story was used in an intergenerational worship service at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Saskatoon for Easter Sunday, 2007. Suzy and Harold are puppet characters played by two young adults in our congregation. Amanda is the minister. Suzy and Harold are meant to be young members of the congregation. Suzy is a somewhat “goodie two-shoes” character who has grown up going to church and church school. Harold is a new church-goer and has lots of questions. The scripture readings from John 20 are interspersed throughout the dialogue. At St. Andrew’s, they were read by children from the Contemporary English Version. The song used throughout the dialogue was sung by the choir and congregation (#254 in the Presbyterian Book of Praise). The EASTER STORY in Scripture and Song Amanda: Good morning, and Happy Easter to you all! Harold: Happy Easter Amanda! Suzy: Happy Easter everyone! Amanda: Easter Sunday is a very special day in the church year, because it’s the day that we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Harold: “Resurrection” from the dead? Suzy: Resurrection means new life, Harold. Jesus died on a cross. He was dead, but on the third day he rose again. He came back to life! Amanda: Yes, that’s resurrection, Suzy. New life for Jesus, and good news for all of us because we learn that God is more powerful than death and evil and all the bad stuff in the world. God wins over death. God wins over hatred. … Read more »

April 1, 2007

Psalm 118:1-4, 19-29Luke 19:28-40 When Palm Sunday comes around each year, we buy some palm branches and we re-enact Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The crowds sang, “Hosanna” and hailed him as the king. They shouted out their praise, laid their cloaks along his path, and waved palm branches in the air. Some congregations gather outside their church buildings on Palm Sunday. They pass out the palms, and everyone parades down the street and up into the church. In other churches, I have heard, they have someone dressed as Jesus, and someone with some farm animals offers a donkey for Jesus to ride on. In one congregation that I used to attend, we got up part way through the worship service, and had a parade around the neighbourhood. Some people played their instruments, we all sang lots of “Hosannas”, and we witnessed our faith in Christ to the people who heard and saw us pass by. But no matter how elaborate our rituals become around Palm Sunday, I always have the feeling that we’re not as enthusiastic or as excited as the crowd would have been on that day when Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Some might say that it’s because we’re Presbyterians. Even on Palm Sunday, we tend to relate to Jesus more intellectually than emotionally. We’re not used to waving our hands around as we worship — let alone waving palm branches and marching along. Sometimes I envy the youngest children among us — or perhaps the newcomers — … Read more »

March 18, 2007

Joshua 5:9-12Psalm 322 Corinthians 5:16-21Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. The old life has gone; A new life has begun. These words, written by the apostle Paul to the Christians in Corinth, were first read by people who were only too aware of their sins. They were divided among themselves, and they argued about which of their leaders to follow. They were steeped in the polytheistic religions of their culture and they were still struggling to live as Christians and to sort out what that would look like in their context, with all their varied backgrounds and experiences. If the Corinthians had been paying any attention to Paul’s letters to them, then they must have been fully aware of their sins. Imagine having a great religious leader writing letters to your church, pointing out all the things you’re doing wrong – being specific about the cliques among you, about the silly arguments, and exhorting you as to how to do better. The Corinthians couldn’t help but be aware of their sin when they are reminded by Paul that, as Christians, that is all behind them. When they trust in Christ and begin to live in Christ’s ways, their old lives are wiped away, and their new lives begin. They’re born again… born from above… they’re re-created for something new. Imagine if you could really start over again. Imagine if you could put your old life behind you, and start a completely new one. Like … Read more »

March 11, 2007

Isaiah 55:1-9Psalm 63:1-81 Corinthians 10:1-13Luke 13:1-9 Today’s text from the Gospel of Luke begins with some comments by Jesus regarding some recent tragic events in Jerusalem. First, Jesus is told about a recent violent event involving the deaths of some Galileans who were slaughtered by Roman troops under Pilate’s command. What’s more, it appears that the slaughter took place while those Galilean Jews were offering sacrifices (almost certainly at the Temple in Jerusalem). It’s not clear in Luke 13 whether this was a very recent event – “Breaking News” – or if it had happened some time earlier but was still a hot topic of conversation among Jews in the greater Jerusalem area. Either way, it was a tragic event. We might liken this conversational topic to people today discussing 911. A tragedy occurs, and for days, months, and years afterwards, we talk about it. We try to make sense of it. We wonder about how it might have been avoided. We argue about what and who caused it. We worry about when, where and how it might be repeated. Or perhaps it’s more like the tragedy last year when a man broke into a one room school house, killing some students and taking others hostage. We talked about that one for a while too, but now I can’t even remember the details. In today’s society, responses to tragedies like these usually include outrage and anger. Over and over, we are shocked and horrified that there are people capable of … Read more »

February 25, 2007

Deuteronomy 26:1-11Psalm 91 (Refrain #1)Romans 10:8b-13Luke 4:1-13 It kind of goes without saying that there are temptations in the world that we face every day. As religious people, we have generally accepted the idea that there are ways of behaving, acting, and living that are contrary to God’s will for us and that we ought to avoid these things. However, sometimes these things that we know we should avoid can be very enticing. We are tempted to do them, even though we know that we shouldn’t. The first temptation that comes to my mind is the temptation to eat something unhealthy when you’ve decided that you’re going to eat well. It’s a temptation that many people face on a regular basis, and often fail to resist. Just last night, in the Veggie Tales movie that our youth were watching, the Veggie Tales superhero, Larry Boy, demonstrates a weakness for chocolate that many of us can probably relate to. He wants desperately to avoid chocolate so he can get in shape, but when the “bad apple” tempts him, he eventually gives in and goes on a major chocolate binge. He gets in so deep that he needs God’s help and the help of his friends to help him get free of his chocolate addiction. No matter how much you value your goal of losing the extra weight, or keeping your heart healthy, or your sugar-level low, sometimes we all give in to the temptation and we eat the hamburger or the … Read more »

February 11, 2007

Jeremiah 17:5-10Psalm 1Luke 6:17-26 Children’s Sermon:The prophet Jeremiah is describing two types of people… He says there are some people who turn their hearts away from God. They ignore God. They act like God doesn’t exist. They don’t go to church to worship God. They don’t pray or talk to God. They don’t read the bible or pay attention to how God is telling them to live. Jeremiah says that these people are like shrubs in the desert, while God is like water. Since they have turned away from God, it’s like they are shrubs in the desert. They live in a place where there is no water — no rain, no rivers — and they are slowly drying up. Jeremiah says that there are other people who don’t turn their hearts away from God. These people trust in God. They pay attention to God, because they believe in God and love God. They come to church and worship God. They pray and talk to God. They read the bible and pay attention to how God is telling them to live. Jeremiah says that these people are like trees planted beside the water. (Remember, God is the water.) They send out their roots, and the water helps them to grow and get stronger. They don’t worry about the hot sun, cause they’ve got lots of water. They don’t worry about drought, because the river never dries up. And they produce fruit. Jeremiah’s message is that we should not turn away … Read more »

February 4, 2007

Isaiah 6:1-8Psalm 1381 Corinthians 15:1-11Luke 5:1-11 “They left everything and followed him.” Today’s story from the Gospel of Luke is one that invites us to consider what it means to be followers of Jesus. It is the story of Jesus calling the first disciples, a group of fishermen working beside the Lake of Genesserat. Though we live in a very different time and place, and though the only fishing we’re involved in is just for fun or maybe for sport… still, within this story, there are messages for us — 21st century followers of Jesus — 21st century people who think we might want to follow Jesus — 21st century people, who though we might be scared and unsure, are nonetheless being called to follow Jesus. As the story begins, Jesus is fulfilling part of the mission that he took on a chapter ago.He is out among the common people, proclaiming the coming of God’s kingdom. We don’t get to hear the particular words that he spoke that day, but we can imagine that he was talking about God’s love and God’s grace — God’s special care for the least and the lost. We can imagine that he was teaching the people to love and forgive one another as God has forgiven them. We can imagine that he was inviting and encouraging the people to repent — to turn away from sin, and turn their lives towards God and God’s ways. These are the kinds of things that Jesus taught … Read more »

January 28, 2007

Jeremiah 1:4-10Psalm 71:1-61 Corinthians 13:1-13Luke 4:14-21 Jesus, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. Our Gospel story for today, in which Jesus reads scripture and teaches in the synagogue of his hometown, comes at the beginning of his ministry. Two things have happened so far: First, Jesus has been baptized by John with the Holy Spirit coming down onto him and the voice from heaven announcing his identity as God’s beloved son. Second, Jesus has been led by the Spirit out into the wilderness where he fasted, prayed, and grappled with his identity and purpose. While he was out there in the wilderness, he resisted the temptation to exploit his power and authority for his own personal gain. He resisted the “Bruce Almighty” kind of response to God’s blessing, and he returned to Galilee to begin the ministry to which he had been called. In the next story, which we heard read today, Jesus stands up in the synagogue to read from the prophet Isaiah and to interpret the reading. I imagine that Jesus probably did a lot of reading in synagogue worship and that he probably shared his interpretation of the scriptures regularly as well. We heard that even as a 12 year old boy, Jesus was interested in religious questions. He was talking and discussing and questioning with the religious leaders in … Read more »

January 14, 2007

Colossians 3:12-17John 13:12-172 Corinthians 9:6-15Matthew 28:16-20 Children’s Sermon:Start music (Mission Impossible Theme Song) (from pulpit) Children of the church school, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to meet me at the front row of the church. (Move to front where children are gathered) Did you recognize that music? It’s from the “Mission Impossible” movies. Do you know what a mission is? A mission is a purpose or goal. It’s something that you’re trying to do. It’s your reason for doing the things you do — because you’re trying to accomplish something. Now, not many people’s lives are like the “Mission Impossible” movies, but most people do have a mission in life. Their mission might be to become rich and famous, or maybe to become the best in their field of work — whether they’re a doctor or a lawyer, or an artist, or an athlete. For some people, their mission is to raise a family, to teach their kids to be good or successful people. For some people their mission in life is to make a difference in the world — maybe through politics, or by teaching school, or by helping the poor. There are lots of different missions that people have in life. Well, as Christians, we have a mission too. Do you know what that mission is? – to follow Jesus – to love God and neighbours – to share the good newsIt’s not like “Mission Impossible” for us Christians. We will definitely make some … Read more »

January 7, 2007

Isaiah 43:1-7Psalm 29, Refrain #1Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 Reflection on the scripture texts of today’s lectionary readings, the immediate message that came to my mind was of God’s promise to be with us through all the challenges that lie ahead of us in our life and ministry. Just as God promised care and provision for the People of Israel, just as God declared love for Jesus, his son, so God loves and cares for us, the Church, as we seek to follow Jesus and continue his ministry in the world. Since I am a musician, and a long-time church choir member, when I hear a scripture text, it is often a scripture song or hymn or anthem that comes to mind. When I read Isaiah 43 earlier this week, the song that came to mind was the one our choir sang today… sing: You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst.You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.You shall see the face of God and live. The first time I heard that song, it was at the ordination of a friend to the Roman Catholic priesthood. I remember thinking about all the challenges that would be ahead of him as he worked to fulfil his calling, and as we sang “Be not afraid” there was an assurance from God to be with him and help him through his years of … Read more »

November 5, 2006

Isaiah 25:6-9Psalm 24Revelation 21:1-6aJohn 11:32-44 I remember hearing once that the two things that Canadians fear the most are death and public speaking. So I suppose that not too many people would like to be in my position this morning, of speaking (publicly) about death. Yes, that’s what I said. I’m going to preach about death this morning. And it’s not because we’ve just had Hallowe’en, and I’ve got ghosts and ghouls on the brain. And it’s not because I’ve been watching too much CSI lately. In fact, it is because death seems to be the major theme in our scripture texts today. More specifically, these texts, and the context of a Remembrance Day service, and several experiences that I’ve had over the last month, have got me thinking about the power of death. The fact that our greatest fears in life are death and public speaking can be somewhat amusing. But for those who don’t like to get up and preach or lecture or give a speech, they can usually find ways to avoid it. Death, on the other hand, is inevitable. It’s as inevitable as “death and taxes,” as they say. Death happens to us all eventually, but it is so often associated with anxiety, pain, despair, and trauma. Death can be so disturbing that we don’t like to talk about it. We use phrases like “he passed away” or “she moved on” or “he went to a better place”, when what we really mean is that “she … Read more »