December 6, 2015

Malachi 3:1-4 Philippians 1:3-11 “Changing Direction” Last Sunday, following worship and fellowship here at St. Andrew’s, I went over to the park across the street and joined a crowd of maybe 300 residents of Saskatoon for a march to raise awareness about climate change. Besides the usual signs and placards of a protest or demonstration, the organizers had constructed a huge model of the planet Earth, which was held high as we marched up the Broadway Bridge to Oskayak High School where the speeches took place. I enjoyed the walk on a sunny, Sunday afternoon, and connected with a number of friends and colleagues along the way. But it was the moving and insightful speakers that made it especially worth attending. They all came from different perspectives, and framed their messages in different language, but the main point was the same. It was a dire warning – that we and the world need to change our practices before we ruin the good Earth that God gave us. “If we don’t change direction, we’re likely to end up where we’re heading,” is one line I’ll remember. Another striking comment came from a young woman who spoke passionately about the need for us to protect the environment for the sake of our children and grandchildren. She pointed out, “We are living like we are the very last ones who will enjoy the planet,” and she called us to become instead a “transition generation” who will begin to live in a new and … Read more »

December 20, 2015

Luke 1:26 – 2:7 “Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things” This morning all our scripture readings are from the Gospel of Luke… large sections of the first chapter, and a little of the second as well, where we will begin again on Christmas Eve. And today we are focussed on Mary’s story. An angel shows up in Mary’s life and tells her that she’s going to have a child. It will be a special child from God, and God will make him a great king. Mary, amazingly, just asks a couple of clarifying questions, and then agrees to the plan. “I am your servant,” she says to God, “Let it be with me according to your word.” When that angel messenger suddenly appears with his very strange news, I can only imagine that Mary must have been in shock. It’s not the kind of thing that happens to a young woman every day, and it was certainly the kind of news that would take some time to sink in, to consider what it meant, and to figure out how to deal with it. And though the Gospel has Mary quickly agreeing to cooperate with what God is going to do in her life, the very next thing she does is to go and visit an older female relative. And the conversation that she has with Elizabeth seems to help her to make sense of what is happening to her. First, there is the baby’s reaction to the sound of Mary’s voice. … Read more »

November 27, 2016

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Isaiah 2:1-5 Matthew 24:36-44 Listen to this Sermon “A Foreview of the Kingdom of God” This is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent means “coming,” and it is a season of the church year that is focused on waiting and preparing for the coming of Christ. In one sense, we are waiting and preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas. But the Sunday scripture readings also emphasise the fact that we are waiting and preparing for the Kingdom of God. We are waiting for the Kingdom to arrive and to transform our world into a place where God rules, where peace and justice flourish, where there is no more poverty, war, or despair. A week ago we celebrated “Reign of Christ” Sunday. We remembered the good news that Christ is truly the ruler of the world, and that whenever we live according to God’s laws, and whenever we seek to follow the way and will of Christ, Christ’s kingdom is present and active in our world through us. Today, the theme of God’s kingdom continues with our reading from the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah had a vision of what the NRSV translation calls “the future house of God.” It is a vision of the future that we might also call “the kingdom of God.” In the days to come, writes Isaiah,the mountain of the Lord’s house will be establishedas the highest of the mountains…[and] all the nations will stream to it. Many peoples … Read more »

December 4, 2016

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Isaiah 11:1-10 Psalm 72:1-7 18-19 Romans 15:4-13 Matthew 3:1-12 “A Peaceable Kingdom with Plenty of Good Fruit” Listen to this Sermon When the prophet Isaiah wrote the now-familiar messianic oracle about the coming of a righteous ruler, and described the peaceable kingdom that would result as a place where wild animals and little children eat and play together in safety, his world was not very peaceful at all. It was around 733 BCE, and Isaiah was in Judah where King Ahaz was the ruler. When the northern kingdom of Israel and the Arameans of Damascas tried to force Judah and their king to join their rebellion against Assyria, Isaiah advised King Ahaz to refuse, which he did. But I think Isaiah was hoping for a time of peace for Judah and Jerusalem, and the king’s next political decision didn’t make that too likely. Instead of joining the rebel alliance, Ahaz called Assyria to intervene. This they did with devastating impact, eventually leading to the destruction of Samaria and the end of the northern kingdom in 721. Isaiah objected to this dangerous move by King Ahaz, but he remained hopeful about the future. Rather than being totally discouraged by the current king, the prophet was thinking about his young son, Hezekiah, who would follow Ahaz as king. Perhaps he might be the righteous Davidic ruler that everyone was longing for. This morning’s hopeful passage may reflect that rising hope in Hezekiah as God’s righteous king, … Read more »

December 18, 2016

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Isaiah 7:10-16 Matthew 1:18-25 Listen to this Sermon “God is with us” In this Season of Advent, our Sunday morning scripture texts have been a series of readings from the prophet Isaiah and corresponding texts from the Gospels in which the early Christian evangelists quote from the prophet. And this morning was no exception. Of course, the writers of the Gospels were making a strong effort to explain to their readers the meaning and significance of Jesus of Nazareth. Not only did they want to describe the wonders that he performed, and to recount his wise and life-transforming teaching, but they wanted to make it clear that this Jesus was the one sent from God. They wanted to show that he was the one that their people had been waiting, and hoping, and longing for, the one who would come with the power of God to save them. And so, in our passage today, Matthew quotes Isaiah directly. It’s the passage that I always feel like singing when I hear it: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name, Emmanuel. God-with-us.” The tendency with Christian interpretations of the prophets is to assume that when Isaiah wrote that prophecy, that he was predicting the birth of Jesus. We want to ignore the fact that he wrote it more than 700 years before the time of Jesus, and that Jesus’ birth centuries later would be much too late to respond … Read more »

December 3, 2017

Isaiah 64:1-9 Psalm 80 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 Mark 13:24-37 “While We Wait” December can be such a busy month, can’t it? Between concerts and Christmas parties, shopping and preparing for family gatherings, many of us are run off our feet during this season. I appreciate the fact that church meetings tend to slow down in December, but with planning for special services and high expectations at this time of year, pastors too can miss the call to slow down, wait, and reflect on the birth of Christ into our world. This morning’s Scripture readings, however, call all of us to a time of waiting and watching. For what must we wait and watch? Well, the texts remind us of the time when God’s people were waiting for a Messiah – for a Saviour to come and bring them freedom and peace. The prophet Isaiah expressed the deep longing – almost desperation – of his people when he cried out to God: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” And the psalmist likewise prayed for God’s salvation, asking God to hear the people’s prayers, and let his face shine on them, and restore them to fullness of life and safety. Of course, when we move into the New Testament, we know that those hopes and prayers have been fulfilled in the coming of Christ, in the birth of Jesus our Lord and Saviour. And yet, our readings today from the Gospel of Mark and Paul’s letter to … Read more »

December 10, 2017

Isaiah 40:1-11 Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13 Mark 1:1-8 “Let all around us be peace” Peace before us, peace behind us, peace under our feet,Peace within us, peace over us, let us around us be peace. Advent is an appropriate season to spend time in prayer for peace. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of this busy month, we might pray for moments of peace, quiet, and calm in which to experience the presence of God in our lives. And we could pray for the gift of peace for those whose schedules keep them running, or whose “to do” lists are too long to complete in these few weeks. Remembering those who are weighed down by heavy responsibilities and stressful situations, we might pray for the gift of peace that relieves stress and reduces anxiety. We could pray for those who suffer from anxiety disorders, as well as for those who are experiencing stress-inducing circumstances. It would be appropriate also, for us to pray for peace in the lives of those who are struggling with brokenness in their relationships – for couples who feel stuck in cycles of conflict, for parents and children who cannot see eye to eye, for siblings, cousins, friends, and colleagues who are mis-communicating, mis-understanding, and so desperately need God’s help for reconciliation and peace. We might also think of so many people who are longing for peace in their own minds and hearts. For those wracked with guilt, we could pray for God’s forgiveness to … Read more »

December 17, 2017

John 1:6-8, 19-28 “Testify to the Light” Have you heard about the war on Christmas? It’s the idea that Western secular society is out to stop any religious celebration of Christmas by banning the use of the word itself in the public sphere, by calling “Christmas trees” “Holiday trees,” and making sure that the carols sung in public places are appropriately secular. Some particularly right-wing Christians are calling it a “war” on Christmas, and they’re actively engaged in the fight to keep Christ in Christmas. All this controversy about Christmas is an interesting development in the last few years because religious celebrations of Christ’s birth have always been held side-by-side with secular or pagan customs. Even the choice of December 25th for Christmas was not because Christians knew the exact date of Jesus’ birth, but because it seemed appropriate to hold a Christian celebration while others were marking the Winter Solstice. Things like Christmas trees, Christmas wreaths, and Yule logs were incorporated into Christian celebrations from the Winter Solstice holiday called, “Yule.” Back in the 17th century, there was another controversy about Christmas. Puritan Christians in England wanted to purify Christianity by removing elements that they viewed as pagan because they were not biblical in origin. In 1647, the Puritan-led English Parliament banned the celebration of Christmas, replacing it with a day of fasting. They considered Christmas, “a popish festival with no biblical justification,” and a time of wasteful and immoral behaviour. Protests followed as pro-Christmas rioting broke out in … Read more »

December 24, 2017 (morning)

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 Luke 1:26-38 “At Home in a Tent” As we lit the Candle of Love this morning, we read: “For God so loved the world… that the Son of God took flesh and dwelt among us.” Literally, that phrase from John’s Gospel, chapter 1, could be translated as “God tented among us.” The implications of that decision on God’s part, to come and be with us in the world are absolutely astounding! And it is because of that decision – because of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ – that we worship and celebrate at Christmas each year. Our reading this morning from the Hebrew Scriptures may seem unusual for a Christmas service. Indeed, we are much more used to hearing readings from the prophets about a child who is expected to be born, about a king or messiah who will come and bring hope, freedom, and joy to God’s People Israel. But today’s reading is not from one of the prophets, but it’s back in the historical books, in 2nd Samuel – a reading about King David. Yes, there is a prophet involved in the story. The prophet Nathan, who advised and guided King David, teaching him and correcting him when he began to stray from God’s will. At this point in the story, David has fairly recently been anointed as King of the United Kingdom of Israel, and Jerusalem has been made the capital city of the Kingdom. David has brought the Ark … 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 »

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 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 »