Right from the moment that God called Jeremiah to serve as a prophet, God made it clear that Jeremiah would often be bringing bad news to the people. The reality was that God’s People in the Northern Kingdom of Israel were not living very faithfully towards God or lovingly towards one another. And Jeremiah got the unpopular job of warning them to shape up or experience God’s power against them.
The wonderful metaphor of God working on us like a potter carefully and gently transforms a lump of clay into a beautiful and useful vessel can easily lose the clear, harsh judgment that Jeremiah was announcing against an unfaithful People.
It’s not just that God wants to smooth out our rough edges or give us a fresh coat of paint. Jeremiah is talking about a much deeper and greater transformation… from self-centered, selfish, self-loving people… into people who love God and want to show that love by caring for others, by putting others first, by loving our neighbours and the stranger who is in need.
We’re talking about big changes here… transformation… That’s what God wants to do in our lives, and God has the power to do it … Read more »
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14
Earlier this year, when the Olympic Torch Relay came through Saskatoon, I stood in the middle of the crowd gathered on the street outside the church (at Spadina & 20th) to watch the show and prepare to welcome the torch runners into our community.
I enjoyed the first part of the presentation very much. There were local choirs singing, and Native groups sharing traditional drumming and singing as well. It was nice to be able to host these groups, as they were using our church basement to put on their costumes and get ready. And it was remarkably warm for a Monday in January, so being outside in the crowd of Saskatoon citizens was surprisingly comfortable.
But my reaction changed as the presentation went on – as the Olympic sponsors RBC and Coca-Cola took over the show. They certainly had some spectacular things to share… There was an artist who spun his canvas round and round as he painted with his hands, and created a beautiful picture within only a few minutes. And there were some very talented dancers and acrobats, who jumped and flipped and balanced and flew across the stage in some truly amazing ways.
But … Read more »
I have an image in my mind of a teenage boy. He’s wearing a black vest over a clean white shirt with a bow tie. But instead of the slacks that you might expect, he’s donning a red and white kilt with knee socks to match. Surrounded by girls his own age and younger, he’s dancing with all his might… head held high, arms in the proper position, eyes focussed as he concentrates on the steps of the dance.
Though there were lots of interesting dances and presentations at Folkfest over the last few days, one of the people I will remember is boy in the middle of the Highland Dance group at the Scottish pavilion. To me, he just seemed to represent what Folkfest is all about… an unself-conscious celebration of cultural heritage, a determination to carry on the traditions of our cultures, and an opportunity to discover our identity by learning who we are and where we came from.
If you spent any time of Folkfest this year, you can’t have missed what I saw everywhere… people of all ages dressed in their native costumes… beautiful fabrics, funny wigs, scarves and sashes everywhere! The official ambassadors were walking … Read more »
When I was 15 years old, I stood up at the front of the Presbyterian church that I had attended with my family for nearly ten years. I stood up with a couple of other young people to publicly profess my faith in God for the first time, and to declare my intention to live my life as a follower of Jesus.
It was an especially memorable moment for me because I was also baptized on that day. As the water was poured, the baptismal words were spoken, and the choir sang the Aaronic blessing over me, I experienced an overwhelming sense of belonging. I belonged to a community. I belonged to a church family. I belonged to the God who had made me and loved me.
I don’t really remember what we talked about in the membership class at the church as we prepared to make our professions of faith. Probably it was much of the same material that we cover today in our classes… God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Church, the Bible, discipleship, worship, prayer, service, mission, stewardship, and all of that. We likely discussed many or most of those things, but one thing that I’m … Read more »
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-12
The eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews begins with a definition of faith: The King James Bible translates it this way: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The New International Version says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase “The Message” puts it like this: “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.”
At our church membership class two weeks ago, I asked those present to think about what it might mean to be a person of faith. I asked them to think about what the characteristics of a person of faith might be… and these were some of the answers: hope, trust, generosity, kindness, commitment, steadfastness, humility, patience, joy.
But before I asked them to define faith, I invited them to think of a person they know whom they think of as a person of faith. Maybe someone in their life today, maybe someone they once knew, maybe someone … Read more »
Yesterday I was conducting a funeral for the mother of one of our church members. I didn’t know Eileen personally, but after listening to her family’s stories and recollections, this is one of the things that I said in my sermon: “I am told that Eileen never had a lot of money in her life, but I get the impression that her life was very, very rich.” You see, she was the kind of person who, when she had some money, spread it around. And when she needed money, she didn’t hesitate to ask her family for help.
As I reflected on Eileen’s life, the rich man from Jesus’ story came to mind. Not that the two were alike. They were nearly opposites! But I thought about the richness of Eileen’s life (a richness that had nothing to do with possessions or wealth) and I wondered about how much the rich man must have missed out on in life.
Yes, he seems to have acquired a lot of stuff and he’s stored it up in big barns, but there’s no mention of him having a family, or any friends, or belonging to a community. I kind of wonder who he … Read more »
As we move through these summer Sundays, each week we encounter a Hebrew prophet. What the prophets usually do is they act as spokespersons, filled with the Spirit to proclaim God’s word to the people. Operating out of an urgent sense of compulsion, they announce the Lord’s will upon the nation and exhort the people to repent of their sinful ways. They broadcast this message in the Temple, in the marketplaces, in the streets and squares – wherever they can get a hearing. The Hebrew Bible is filled with their eloquent words, denouncing a people, predicting that foreign nations will vanquish them, calling the people to repentance, and describing in vivid detail the Lord’s restoration.
The first chapter of Hosea, which we heard this morning, puts forward another image of a prophet. Hosea is not a spokesperson here. He doesn’t say a word. Instead of proclaiming a message from God through speech, Hosea performs a significant action. God instructs him, and Hosea obeys the instruction, to get married to a prostitute. It’s a crazy and shocking thing to do, just to make a point, but Hosea does it.
The idea is that Hosea’s marriage to a whore is a symbolic representation … Read more »
This morning the prophet Amos, whom we heard from last Sunday as well, continues his rant against the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the 8th century BCE.
Amos puts God’s judgment and anger into words for the people so that there can be no doubt about what they have done wrong and why God is getting fed up with them.
Amos is addressing the people who trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land. He talks about how they sell grain to the poor, but they cheat them by using false scales. They are liars and cheats – trying to get rich at someone else’s expense.
Be assured, Amos warns them, God is paying attention and God has a good memory. God is going to turn things upside down. Their feasts will be over, and they will be mourning instead.
One of the things that I find most interesting about reading the prophets is the visions that they talk about. They get these strange images in their minds, and each one represents some kind of message from God.
You probably remember the popular one from the prophet Ezekiel, when he saw a valley full … Read more »
When I first looked at this morning’s scripture texts earlier this week, I was fairly sure that I would preach on the Gospel story about the Good Samaritan. It’s such a classic story of our faith, and it offers us a lot to reflect on. And so, as I went through the week, my thoughts were centered on the question of what it means to be a good neighbour.
That theme was in my mind every day this week… every time the door bell rang here at the church, and there was someone in crisis standing in front of me and asking for help. I did my best to offer what I could. I listened, I prayed, I comforted and encouraged. I shared a few cups of coffee. I directed towards services in the community. And I handed out a fair amount of financial assistance from our Session Benevolence Fund.
I felt, as I often do, a mixture of frustration and guilt that I could not do more, as well as a good feeling too, because I often felt that what I was able to offer (on behalf of the church) did seem to help, to support, and … Read more »
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Welcome to Trinity Sunday. Every year, the first Sunday after Pentecost is marked as Trinity Sunday. I suppose it makes sense that after celebrating the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit onto the disciples of Jesus, it becomes necessary to start thinking about the nature of God.
The God who was once experienced and known primarily as the holy and powerful lawgiver and judge, has been revealed to a group of Galilean Jews as a simple man from the town of Nazareth. That was shocking enough in itself – that many of the people who followed Jesus were saying that he was divine. It was the kind of faith statement that got people shouting “blasphemy!” at you, and it could get you in real trouble with the religious authorities.
But now, since the day of Pentecost, God seemed to be present and active in a totally new way. God was somehow working through the disciples themselves… it was like God’s Spirit was within them… giving them wisdom and power and confidence to continue Jesus’ work. They were communicating with foreigners. They were preaching about Jesus. They were full of confidence and hope and love for everyone … Read more »
Behold! Behold! I make all things new
beginning with you, and starting from today.
Behold! Behold! I make all things new
My promise is true, for I am Christ the way.
I am proud of our choir today for being willing to try something new by singing “Cantate Brasilia” this morning. The Latin words, though ancient, were new and challenging for us. And the complicated rhythms of the piece meant that we had to work hard to get them right and up to speed. But it was worth it, I think, to sing a new song to the Lord, and to share the enthusiasm and spirit of another culture in making music to glorify God.
Behold! Behold! I make all things new
beginning with you, and starting from today.
Behold! Behold! I make all things newMy promise is true,
for I am Christ the way.
It’s strange and new for the minister to be delivering the sermon while sitting in a chair, singing and playing an African djembe drum. I’m not even dressed as usual in an alb and stole, but I’m dressed for worship at camp – in jeans and a bunny hug.
I know that new things can be off-putting. We may not be … Read more »
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!
A friend of mine told me the other day that she missed Easter this year. I said, “What? You missed Easter?” She said, “Ya, I missed Easter Sunday. I had a terrible lung infection. I wanted to get up and go to church because it was Easter… How could I miss Easter? But I was just too sick, and my family made me stay in bed.”
“Well,” I said to my friend, “It’s a good thing that Easter lasts for seven whole weeks! You just missed the big celebration on the first Sunday of Easter, but you can keep on celebrating that Christ is risen… all the way up to Pentecost, which is near the end of May this year.”
In fact, we can keep on celebrating Easter even after the Season of Easter is over. Sometimes I think we forget that, for Christians, every Sunday is a “little Easter” celebration. Our tradition is to gather for worship every week on Sunday morning. And that’s not just a random time and day.
The earliest followers of the Way began the practice as a way of celebrating that Jesus rose from the dead early on a Sunday … Read more »
The following sermon is framed by the hymn “A stable lamp is lighted” with words by Richard Wilbur and music Paulette Tollefson.
A stable lamp is lighted
whose glow shall wake the sky;
the stars shall bend their voices,
and every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
and straw like gold shall shine;
a barn shall harbour heaven,
a stall become a shrine.
A long time ago, in an unimportant town, a young woman gave birth to her first child. In many ways, his birth was like many others. Mary wasn’t the first or the last girl to be found pregnant before her wedding day, and Joseph was good enough to marry her anyway and be a father to the little boy.
What is unusual about this child is the fact that we have heard his story – not only the stories of his adult accomplishments when he became well-known for his teaching and healing and political activity. But we have heard the stories of his birth. This person impacted the world so much that we celebrate his birth, and legends are told about how he arrived and how he survived into adulthood to do all the great and good things that he would … Read more »
The St. Andrew’s choir, under Gill’s direction, is practicing one of my favourite anthems to share during the Good Friday service in a couple of weeks. I’ve been carrying both the melody and the words of the song around in my head recently. It goes like this:
Here I am to worship.
Here I am to bow down.
Here I am to say that you’re my God.
You’re altogether lovely,altogether worthy,
altogether wonderful to me.
Although Mary of Bethany didn’t sing a song to Jesus, and she didn’t express her feelings in words, I imagine that she would have been able to relate to that expression of praise. While Martha showed her devotion to Jesus by serving him a beautiful meal, and Lazarus expressed his commitment by sitting at the table and listening to Jesus, Mary decided to demonstrate her love with an extravagant act of giving, with the intimate act of anointing.
“She took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”
I guess I can understand Judas’ objection to what Mary did. Whether or not he had ulterior motives, … Read more »
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
The big churchy word that I didn’t use with the children this morning is RECONCILIATION – but that is the over-arching theme in the scripture readings today. Reconciliation with God is longed for by the psalmist. It is celebrated in Luke’s parable. And in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, reconciliation is the word of the day!
Paul writes to the Church at Corinth, proclaiming the good news that God has reconciled us to himself through Christ. And he goes on to tell them that God has given us the ministry of reconciliation. And so, this sermon will be something of an exploration of the word “reconciliation” and what it might mean for us, both as something that God has done for us, and something that God is inviting us to do for others.
Within the practices of the Roman Catholic Church, reconciliation is the official name of one of the seven sacraments. It is seen as something that Jesus did, and something that he instructed his followers to keep on doing in the same way. You may know about this sacrament simply … Read more »
Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
When I began to read and reflect on today’s scripture texts early in the week, the theme that sprang to mind for me was “heaven”. I read the line from Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “our citizenship is in heaven” and I remembered that twice in the last year, members of the congregation have specifically asked me to preach about heaven.
I remember thinking at the time that I don’t know anything about heaven. What could I possibly say about heaven that would not be a product of my own imagination or someone’s wishful thinking about what the afterlife will be like? As much as I believe in life after death, and that God has something special prepared for us after our lives in this world are over, I don’t feel like I know anything concrete about heaven. And when I was asked, I couldn’t really imagine what I would say in a sermon on heaven.
Of course, many of you have heard me mention heaven from this pulpit before… but most often, the context for my mentioning it has been within … Read more »
Today’s Gospel reading is the classic one for the first Sunday in the season of Lent. As we begin 40 days of Lenten prayer and preparation before the celebration of Easter, we hear about the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting and praying in the wilderness before he began his ministry. Luke’s version of the story is by far the most interesting, as he gives details of the temptations that Jesus might have experienced, and how he managed to overcome those temptations by focussing on God’s Word.
Three times, the devil appears, leading Jesus into temptation. And three times, Jesus avoids being led astray. Since Jesus is so hungry, he is first tempted to turn the stones into bread. But he reminds himself of God’s word: “One does not live by bread alone,” and the temptation passes.
Next, he is tempted to use his power to become the ruler of the whole world. If he bows down to worship the devil, the evil one claims that Jesus can have it all. But Jesus knows another relevant verse: “Worship the Lord your God, and … Read more »
The following sermon was preached by the Rev. Amanda Currie at a chapel service at St. Andrew’s College in Saskatoon on Tuesday, February 9, 2010. Amanda had been invited to share a sermon on “a difficult text” during the annual “Winter Refresher” at the college.
1 Corinthians 14:26-40
Hi! I’m a Presbyterian. Some of you United Church folk may be slightly familiar with Presbyterians. After all, you still have a little Presbyterian-ness within your own church structure and polity. The Presbyterian system of church government is one of the things that makes Presbyterians Presbyterian, but we’re also known for our emphasis on scripture study and preaching. Some of you may be wondering if a Presbyterian preacher will be capable of staying within the short time frame given for this chapel service… We’ll see.
Anyway, Presbyterians generally take scripture pretty seriously. We read and preach on both the New Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures, and we are hesitant to dismiss a passage or a book just because its content makes us uncomfortable.
If you’ve hung around with any Presbyterians, you may know that there is a long-standing … Read more »
Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
I said in my sermon last Sunday that when we come face to face with God in Jesus Christ, the amazing nature of God’s goodness can make us suddenly aware of our own imperfection. We believe in a God who loves us with an unending love, but who also calls us to let the Spirit transform us more and more into the image and likeness of God. And so, the message of the prophets is never just that God exists, or that God simply loves us, but it is that God both loves us and requires us to live in certain ways – ways of love and justice – within our families, our communities, and in relation to our neighbours.
But sometimes, the fact of our human sinfulness becomes the main message that we get in church. In prayers of confession each week, we are reminded of our failures – the things we have done wrong, and the good and loving things that we have failed to do. As much as I would like to ignore sin … Read more »
Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie
1 Corinthians 13
I’ve been pondering these scripture texts all week and thinking about what to say to you this morning. And most of my attention has been focused on the prophets. I spent some time on Friday reading about Jeremiah and his call as a prophet to the people of Judah in the period just before the exile. Jeremiah, whose call we heard today, had the really tough job of preaching God’s words of judgment to the people. He was the one who had to tell them to shape up, to stop worshipping so many false gods, and to turn back to the One God of Israel.
From the very beginning of Jeremiah’s life, he was chosen by God for this difficult task. And though Jeremiah objected, saying that he was only a boy, God said “You will go to all to whom I send you, and you will speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” But figuring out what words to say was probably the least of Jeremiah’s worries. God would give him the message to proclaim, but the hard part was going … Read more »