October 15, 2017

Exodus 32:1-14 Matthew 22:1-14 “Dressed and Ready for the Feast” Join with me if you remember this song based on Luke’s version of the Parable of the Great Banquet: I cannot come. I cannot come to the banquet, don’t trouble me now. I have married a wife, I have bought me a cow. I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum. Pray, hold me excused, I cannot come. It’s a catchy little Sunday School song that captures the joyful spirit of Jesus’ parable as it is recounted by the author of Luke’s Gospel. Sure, some of the people who are invited to the Great Banquet send excuses and they miss out on the party. But when some of the expected guests send their regrets, the host sends out invitations far and wide. He sends his servants out into the streets – to the highways and the byways and compel them to come in. My table must be filled before the banquet can begin. When we read the parable or sing the song we are reminded of God’s wide and gracious welcome to all people. There are no pre-requisites for getting an invitation, and the meal is free. And as we celebrate the good news of God’s gracious welcome to us, we are challenged to consider the times and ways in which we let other things distract us from spending time with God. But Luke’s version of the Parable of the Great Banquet is not the one we heard … Read more »

October 8, 2017

Deuteronomy 8:7-18 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 Luke 17:11-19 “Overflowing Thanks” This morning’s scripture readings invite us to reflect and to respond. As we celebrate Thanksgiving weekend together with our Canadian neighbours, friends, and families, we are invited to remember that this holiday is about more than a big meal and pumpkin-themed decorations. We don’t call it “Turkey Day” because it’s not just about the menu, but it can be for us, as Christians, a special time of reflecting on the goodness of God and responding to that goodness with our lives of service and generosity. The passage from Deuteronomy that we just heard is Moses addressing the Hebrew People. They are at the point where they have just finished their long 40-year journey through the wilderness, and they are about to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land. You will remember that they have been through a terrible time. After escaping slavery and a harsh existence in Egypt, they have wandered through the wilderness for years – living in tents, coping with scarcity and danger, complaining and arguing with each other at times, and sometimes nearly giving up hope. But soon all that will be over. Moses tells them that God is bringing them into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and honey, a land where they may eat bread without scarcity, where they will … Read more »

October 1, 2017

Matthew 21:23-32 Philippians 2:1-13 “Changing our Minds” Jesus told another parable in order to get his point across to the religious leaders of his day. They were acting like hypocrites – very good and holy in their teachings and ideals, but not living according to those same high standards. And as we hear the parable again today, we are invited to ask ourselves… “Which son do I most resemble?” When God asks me to go to work in some sort of service or mission in the church or in the world, am I the one who hesitates at first? Am I the one who is unsure that I really want to get involved or put in the effort required? Am I the one who initially says “no,” but eventually decides to do what I am being asked to do? Or am I the one who says, “Yes, Lord, of course I will help!” But then I get distracted. I get busy… terribly busy. I just don’t manage to make the time in my life for that service, and so I don’t go. I intended to go, but I didn’t go. Of course, it is obvious to everyone that, although both sons in the parable say one thing and do another, the repentance of the first is preferable to the hypocrisy of the second. True righteousness is in the doing, rather than in the confessing. We’ve got to walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. If you’re like me, … Read more »

September 17, 2017

Exodus 14:19-31 Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 Matthew 18:21-35 “Beyond Perfect Forgiveness” It was lovely to begin our Tuesday morning Bible Study this week. I appreciated the opportunity, early in the week, to get together with a group of faithful and thoughtful Christians to explore and discuss the Gospel text assigned for this morning’s service. Biblical interpretation and application to our lives is often better when we do it in dialogue both with the wider Christian community through commentaries and reflections of other pastors and theologians, as well as with real live people who are a part of our own community of faith. (If any of you would like to join us, know that you are always welcome on Tuesday mornings at 10:30 am.) Anyway, in our study on Tuesday we talked about Peter’s question to Jesus about how often we should forgive another member of the Christian community who sins against us. Of course, this text comes just after the one we talked about last Sunday about how to work out conflict that arises in the church from time to time. That text encouraged us to do everything that we can to work things out with someone who has hurt us – first, going to speak to them about it alone, then with a couple of witnesses if needed, and finally asking the church to intercede for us. And if even that doesn’t work, we should never ever give up on that person, but keep on reaching out in love with … Read more »

September 10, 2017

Matthew 18:15-20 Romans 13:8-14 “Where two or three are gathered” Where two or three are gathered together, there is the likelihood of at least two or three different perspectives, opinions, or preferences. And where two or three are gathered together, there is the potential for conflict. Although it would be nice to say that whenever we gather in the name of Christ, we discover unity, and make peace, and live and serve harmoniously together, the reality is that even in the church, we don’t always get along that well. Yes, I’ve heard about some of the conflicts that have flared up in this Christian community over the years. Some of them have been resolved or let go of, and some forgiving and even some forgetting has long ago taken place. And there are others that still plague us in our relationships, stirring up feelings of frustration, hurt, or anger, and continue to hamper our relationships as co-workers in the gospel and brothers and sisters in Christ. I’ve also heard about some of the conflicts that plagued other Christian congregations to which some of you used to belong. You came to this church seeking peace and rest from the struggle, and a caring community where you could share happily in service and fellowship. And I have my own experiences of conflict in the church as well. Sometimes I’ve witnessed it, and worked as a pastor to help bring resolution. Sometimes I’ve been right in the middle of it – as the … Read more »

September 3, 2017

Exodus 3:1-15 Romans 12:9-21 Matthew 16:21-28 “Holy Ground” It is September – a wonderful time for new beginnings! I wonder if it is a good time for you, right now, as September begins, to make a new start in your life of faith. And I wonder what that would look like for you. Today’s story from the Book of Exodus is all about a new beginning for Moses that leads to a new beginning for God’s People, Israel, in a new land and with a new freedom. And it starts with God speaking. Moses was going about his work, looking after his father-in-law’s sheep, not looking for a change, not searching for adventure, not trying to figure out what his next big mission should be. But God speaks to him, and everything changes. God gets his attention with a burning bush, calls him by name, and then explains that God has a task for him to do… to go to the Pharaoh, and bring God’s People out of slavery in Egypt. God speaks to others too. The Apostle Paul comes to mind, back before his name was changed, and he was Saul. He was travelling along the road to Damascus when it happened. God got Saul’s attention by blinding him with a bright light. And then he heard Jesus’ voice asking him, “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Or how about those fishermen that Jesus met by the Sea of Galilee? Simon & Andrew, James & John. In some tellings … Read more »

August 27, 2017

Romans 12:1-8 “Transformed by the Renewing of our Minds” Very often I find myself drawn to the Gospel text for the focus of my preaching. After all, it’s in the Gospels that we find the stories of Jesus’ life and ministry, and where we hear Jesus’ own teaching and preaching. As people who have been called to his “way of life” and committed ourselves to being his disciples, the Gospel texts may seem like they are the most important part of the Bible. But if, with Peter, we have already grappled with Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” And if, in faith, we have answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Then the next question for us concerns how we will live as followers of that Christ, how we will live as people of faith in the church which he established. So, this week I found myself turning again and again to the text from Paul’s letter to the Romans. The first part of Romans 12 is not so much about Jesus himself, as it is about us. It is advice and instruction from an early leader in the Christian Church about how to live as the People of God and members of the Body of Christ. Paul begins, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” And I am … Read more »

August 20, 2017

Matthew 15:10-28 “Lifelong Learners” Do you remember learning how to drive a car? For many Canadian teenagers today, learning to drive is an important part of growing up, and a sign of status when they get their license and the right to drive on their own, without a parent sitting in the passenger seat. For a variety of reasons, I didn’t get my license as a teenager. Mostly because I just didn’t have time to take the course, and I didn’t really need a vehicle where I lived because there was a very good transit system. But when I finally did take the time to get it in my early 20s, I took the learning process very seriously. I read, and re-read, and studied the little booklet with the rules of the road and the traffic signs before attempting the test to get my learner’s permit. And then I paid for the comprehensive driving course from “Young Drivers of Canada.” I went to every classroom session well prepared, having gone over the topics to be covered that day, and I did spectacularly well when it came time for the quizzes. But I wasn’t like a Prairie farm kid, who had driven a tractor before driving a car. And I wasn’t like many friends I knew who had done a little driving at the lake with their family, or under some such circumstances gotten some driving experience. That’s why I was so grateful for the in-car sessions with the instructor. It … Read more »

August 13, 2017

1 Kings 19:9-18 Matthew 14:22-33 “Meeting Jesus in the Storm” The Revised Common Lectionary provides us with a set of readings for each Sunday, and the first thing that ministers tend to do in studying them is to look for some kind of connection between them. Why do we have Elijah’s panic attack paired with Jesus’ walking on the water today? Two interesting stories… but what do they have to do with each other? Well, the first connection I noticed was that both stories have storms. The disciples encounter a windstorm out on the lake, causing their boat to be battered by the waves and likely making the rowing very difficult. And Elijah, after running away to hide in a cave, experiences a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire… followed by the voice of God asking him, “What are you doing here?” And it’s not just the strong winds that connect today’s stories, but also the good news that in the midst of those storms, God speaks to us, and God comes to us. Can you remember some storms that you’ve been through in your life? Perhaps some actual storms with thunder and lightning striking, with mighty winds causing destruction, or with blowing and drifting snow that obscures vision and causes accidents. I am remembering the panic I felt many years ago, when I experienced a white-out as I was driving on the highway between Saskatoon and Regina. I was relieved not to be alone in the car when … Read more »

August 6, 2017

Isaiah 55:1-5 Matthew 14:13-21 “You Give them Something to Eat” How many times have you heard someone comment that the potluck suppers are the best thing about coming to church? At least one person made that comment to me after the lovely potluck we shared before my induction last week. And I get it. Those meals are pretty great! Home-cooked food… wonderful variety… so many different flavours and textures, and surprises in every mouthful… followed by an amazing array of delightful desserts! And all for the low price of showing up, and maybe bringing along your favourite dish to add to the selection. As a minister, of course I’d rather hear that the best thing about coming to church is the brilliant sermons or the thoughtful prayers, but I can’t deny that food-sharing in Christian community is actually a really important part of what we do together, and perfectly in line with our faith. The Gospels are full of stories about Jesus sharing meals with his friends and disciples. And the “feeding of the 5000” is one of the most famous of his miracles. It is a wonderful miracle! All they have is five loaves and two fish, but somehow they manage to feed the crowd of thousands! And when the people are finished eating, they pick up twelve baskets full of leftovers. Traditionally, we would imagine bread and fish magically appearing to fill the baskets up as they are passed through the crowds – an absolutely miraculous multiplication taking … Read more »

July 30, 2017

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 “Searching for Treasure” Five and a half parables – that’s what we find in the Gospel passage assigned for this day in the Revised Common Lectionary. Five and a half very short stories that Jesus told to his disciples to help them understand something about the kingdom of heaven. Now, don’t be confused by the phrase “kingdom of heaven.” In one of the other Gospels, it would have been called the “kingdom of God.” And in modern non-gendered language we might call it the “reign of God.” When Jesus says “kingdom of heaven” he is not talking about what things will be like for us after we die. He’s talking about the here and now, the new world that began in his life and ministry, and that is growing wherever people follow him with their lives and begin to live according to his love and mercy. He’s not saying that this is what things will be like for you later. He’s saying that this is possible now… if you look for it, and search it out, and work with him in making it happen. The parables indicate that the kingdom of heaven can sometimes seem somewhat hidden, and that may certainly resonate with our own experience. Often when we think about the world in which we live today, we can become overwhelmed by the hatred and evil that constantly seem to prevail. I am thinking about a situation happening in Istanbul right now, in which a large … Read more »

April 30, 2017

Luke 24:13-35 Listen to this Sermon “Jesus Walked With Us” Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend the Saskatoon Prayer Breakfast. It included some fun music by Brad Johner and his sons, some really meaningful prayers for government leaders, teachers, emergency personnel, those who are poor and struggling, and for the community as a whole. I had some theological issues with the key note speaker, but I will remember the prayer breakfast because of a conversation I had at my table before we ate. I was sitting with a group of young Christian women in their mid to late twenties. One was studying to be a nurse, another was a new teacher, the third worked in a church doing Christian education, and the last worked a couple of jobs, including one at the Saskatoon Food Bank. As I asked them about their work, they started talking about the difference each of their vocations might make in the world. They all agreed that the nurse’s competent care or a possible mistake made could radically alter a patient’s life. What a responsibility to carry, knowing that in a single moment, you could drastically affect the course of someone’s life. But, of course, each one of them recognized that their impact on another person could make a huge difference for the good, or for the bad… and they were rather in awe of the power and responsibility in that realization. One of them reflected that looking back at her own life and decisions so … Read more »

April 23, 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie John 20:19-31 Listen to this Sermon “The Benefit of the Doubt” Poor “Doubting Thomas” seems only to be remembered for this morning’s Gospel story, where he doesn’t come off too well. You see, on Easter Sunday evening, Thomas misses Jesus’ appearance to the other disciples in the locked room, he declares his doubt, and then he receives the benefit of a repeat performance by Jesus eight days later so that Thomas can see for himself and believe. But this isn’t the first time that Thomas shows up in the Gospel of John. Thomas speaks way back in the eleventh chapter just after Jesus and the disciples get the news that Lazarus has died. Most of the disciples don’t want to go back to Judea where some people had attempted to stone Jesus, but Thomas is willing to go no matter what challenges they may encounter there. Thomas says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” A few chapters later, Thomas speaks up again. This time Jesus is explaining that he is going to be killed, but then he will be raised, and he will go ahead of the disciples to the heavenly home that God is preparing for them all. When Jesus assures them that they all know the way to the place he is going, Thomas is willing to voice the confusion that the others are likely feeling as well: “Jesus, we don’t know where you are going. How can … Read more »

April 9, 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Matthew 21:1-11 Psalm 118:1-4, 19-29 Isaiah 50:4-9a Listen to this Sermon “The Whole Story” Over the last 40 years or so, Presbyterians, together with many of the other mainline Christian denominations, have begun to follow the “Church Year” in our worship and devotional life. Downstairs in our church library, there is a wonderful felt wall hanging that can be rolled down for a lesson on the “Church Year.” It’s got a big circle like a pie chart, and the pieces of the pie are different colours for the different seasons… blue for Advent, white for Christmas, green for ordinary time, purple for Lent, white for Easter, and a little sliver of red for Pentecost Sunday. As we make our way through the church year, we remember the story of our faith, the events in the life of Jesus, and the experiences of the early Christian Churches. The readings from the Revised Common Lectionary guide us to follow Jesus from his birth, through his childhood, his baptism by John, and time in ministry as he travelled throughout Galilee. But this week, Holy Week, is perhaps the most dramatic time of the year as we are invited to journey with Jesus through the final week of his life. Today, we remember his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. And if we follow the daily lectionary readings through the week… On Monday we hear about Mary of Bethany, anointing Jesus for his burial. On Tuesday Jesus teaches his disciples … Read more »

April 2, 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Proverbs 11:24-25 1 Timothy 6:17-19 Luke 19:1-10 Listen to this Sermon “Extravagant Generosity” This week we are finishing up our series on “Five practices of fruitful congregations,” and “Extravagant Generosity” is the final practice. If I could have avoided preaching another sermon about stewardship, I probably would have. But it’s one of the themes I committed to preaching through this series. And also, I think that Robert Schnase is right – that fruitful congregations do practice extravagant generosity. Now, when I think of extravagant generosity, I think of more than just money offerings. Gifts of money are needed to maintain a building, pay staff, purchase resources, support missions, and contribute to the wider ministry of the denomination. But generosity of time, skill, and spirit are also needed to work in the ministries of the church, to spend time in praying for the church and the world, and to engage with our children, youth, and adults (both inside and outside the congregation) to share our faith and spread the good news about God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. Just think of the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus. There were two generous men in that story… Certainly Zacchaeus was generous as he committed to giving away his money and possessions, but Jesus was generous first, as he offered to spend time with this outcast, possibly corrupt man, coming over to the house of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, for dinner. So, when I think about the … Read more »

March 19, 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Philippians 3:10-17 Psalm 1 Luke 2:42-52 Listen to this Sermon “Intentional Faith Development” I had the privilege this weekend, of being able to sit in on a number of Camp Christopher interviews for counsellors for this summer. We interviewed quite a few young people from Saskatoon, a couple by Skype from Prince Albert, and there are still a few more interviews to do in Regina. And I found it most interesting to listen to them answer questions like, “Why do you want to work at a Christian camp like Camp Christopher?” and “What is the most important message about God that every camper should leave with?” and “What do you hope to accomplish by the end of the summer?” It was wonderful to hear about their love for children, their enthusiasm about spending the summer outdoors, and their excitement about the friendships they will develop at camp. But what struck me most was when they talked about “wanting to grow in faith” at camp. There was one young man who particularly impressed me in his interview. He talked about going to church was he was a kid. His grandparents used to take him every Sunday, and he loved it. But when he was eleven, his parents decided that they didn’t believe in God, and they put a stop to his church attendance. So, after that, attending Christian camps in the summer became his only opportunity to hear Bible stories, and experience worship, and learn to … Read more »

March 12, 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie 1 Chronicles 16:23-31 Psalm 63:1-8 Acts 2:42-47 Listen to this Sermon “Passionate Worship” Why do we worship? Hopefully when I asked that question of the children this morning, you began to reflect on it as well. Because we can’t even begin to consider whether our worship is what bishop and author, Robert Schnase, would call “Passionate Worship” without first thinking about the nature and purpose of the worship that we offer to God Sunday-by-Sunday. Psalm 63 is not an argument for why we should worship God, and the author is not trying to convince us that regular attendance at worship is important. Instead, the psalmist is simply sharing his own experience. In fact, his words aren’t even addressed to us. They are actually a prayer directed to God – a prayer that beautifully expresses how critically important it is for this man to spend time in worship: “O God, you are my God,” he addresses the Holy One, “I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” He describes what it is like for him to spend time in the sanctuary praising God and meditating on God’s glory. He says, “My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast.” Over the years, I’ve heard a few people describe worship like that. They have commented that coming to worship on Sunday morning “fills them up” and prepares them for … Read more »

March 5, 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Listen to this Children’s Message Good News for our Children: Have you ever had someone come to visit you at your house? Have you ever had someone come over for dinner? If so, that means that you and your family have been the hosts… and I’m wondering what kinds of things you do to welcome people who come over to your house for a visit. Take their coats, invite them to sit down, offer them something to drink, invite them to the table, serve them first before serving yourself, ask them if they would like some more, tell them how nice it was to have them come and visit… You know, Jesus often went to visit people in their homes. People like Mary and Martha and Lazarus welcomed Jesus and his disciples, served them dinner, and listened to Jesus’ teaching. Jesus was on the road a lot, so usually he was the guest at people’s homes. But there’s one important story about Jesus being the host at a dinner. Do you remember that one? It’s meal that we sometimes call the Last Supper. When Jesus’ friends arrived, he welcomed them by washing off their dirty and dusty feet. And then when they sat down at the table, he gave them a simple meal of bread and wine. It wasn’t a fancy meal. But as Jesus broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, he told them, “This bread is my body, given for … Read more »

February 19, 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 Matthew 5:38-48 Listne to this Sermon “We will be holy” God says “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” And as I read, and re-read, and reflected on these words this week, I became very aware of how unholy and imperfect I am. I was having one of those days… the kind of day when nothing seems to be going well, when work is a struggle, and everyone is getting on my nerves. My biggest problem, I was sure, was not my problem. It was everyone else around me who was at fault… from the bad drivers on the road in the morning, to the news reporters with their poor grammar in the evening. And during the daytime, none of the people with whom I had to meet and interact were living up to my expectations at all, and I was frustrated beyond belief. Some of the worst religious people, I think, are the ones who live a certain way because of their faith… maybe they don’t drink, or they don’t swear, or they don’t live together before they’re married, or maybe they don’t drive a gas-guzzling truck that harms the environment, or they don’t buy anything except fair trade and organic products, or whatever… But rather than simply living according to their understanding of God’s laws, and leaving it at that, they spend a … Read more »

February 5, 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Isaiah 58:1-9a Matthew 5:13-20 Listen to this Sermon “I’m not THAT kind of Christian!” “I’m not THAT kind of Christian.” Have you found yourself saying that lately, in this climate of extremism, suspicion, and hatred? You know what I mean, right? When people assume that Christians are judgmental, bigoted, and exclusionary… When people presume that being a Christian means sharing the perspectives of the Religious Right, being sexist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, and a whole host of other negative views. I’ve heard people say, “I’m not THAT kind of Christian” a lot lately, and when I looked up the phrase online, I found that there was a Facebook group called “I’m Not That Kind of Christian” and that one person had even written a book with the same name. The author, Christian Piatt, points out that “there are lots of perceptions about who Christians are, and most of them aren’t good.” In a survey he conducted some years ago for a book, the words most often associated with Christians were “narrow-minded,” “judgmental,” and “hypocritical.” Of course, we’ve earned a lot of those labels, Christian admits, but some of it has come from the tendency of media to jump on stories of scandal and corruption that are hardly the status quo. And so, we find ourselves trying to explain that we’re not “that kind of Christian” – the one you heard preaching on TV about women being subservient to their husbands as the heads of the household; … Read more »