April 12, 2015

Acts 4:32-35 Psalm 133 1 John 1:1 – 2:2 John 20:19-31 “Unity: How Good It Is!” Oh look and wonder, how good it is! Oh look and wonder, how good it is! How good it is when kindred live in harmony together, joyous and sweet as life God gives on Zion evermore. (Sung: Book of Praise, #93) How good it is, indeed, when families get along with each other and enjoy spending time together in work, in leisure, and in rest. If you spent time with your family last weekend over Easter, you may be reflecting either on how wonderful it was to get together, or on how difficult it was because of conflicts, or tensions, or misunderstandings between family members. How good it is, indeed, when church families enjoy coming together to worship, serve, and share fellowship together! Last Sunday after our Easter service, I couldn’t help but notice and celebrate the fact that many people hung around for quite a long time over coffee and conversation in the lower hall. Children were playing, adults were talking, almost everyone was smiling and laughing, and there were even pictures being taken to remember the day. How good it would be if all Christians could come together in this way – not only in social life, but in shared faith and common worship of God in Jesus Christ. Although we are taking steps towards greater cooperation and sharing, the Body of Christ continues to be divided because of differences in doctrine, … Read more »

April 19, 2015

1 John 3:1-7 “Voices of our Sisters” What a beautiful text from the first letter of John! It is a joy to proclaim those words every time we conduct a baptism: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.” We are reminded each time that those words apply both to the child who has just been baptized and joined the family of the church, but they also apply to each and every one of us. At whatever age or stage of life or faith, we are God’s children because God loves us. We may act like the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable sometimes, going off in our own directions, doing our own things, and ignoring that most important relationship with our heavenly parent. But that doesn’t stop God from loving us, from longing for us to come home, and from welcoming us with open arms when we do. Our identity as God’s children does not depend on our being perfect, or even being good. But there is a sense that when we abide in God, when we stay close to God and engage in that relationship, that we will be transformed by it. The author of 1st John tells us that we are God’s children now. He speaks of a future time when Christ will be revealed and we will be like him and see him as he is. But in the meantime, we are slowly … Read more »

May 3, 2015

Acts 8:26-40 1 John 4:7-21 “Mission as Evangelism” Have you ever wondered what happened to the Ethiopian man after Philip baptized him beside the road and then disappeared from sight? The story in the Book of Acts doesn’t tell us, but the tradition is that he carried the gospel back home to Ethiopia and founded the church there. I’ve always liked this little story in Acts 8 because it’s very personal – it’s the story of how one person heard and began to understand the good news about Jesus Christ because a believer took the time to listen, to share, and to discuss it with him. But it’s also the story of the gospel going out into all the earth. Once the disciples had received the gift of the Holy Spirit and the power to proclaim the gospel in all the languages of the world, it began to spread… throughout countries and cultures, crossing borders, and being shared from one person to another, from one community to another – the fulfillment of the mission that Jesus gave to his disciples. Even as we gather here to worship nearly two thousand years later, we might pause and give thanks for those first evangelists like Philip, and like the Ethiopian man whose name we don’t even know. Because it was through their witness, through their courage, and through their listening to the Spirit’s guiding that the gospel spread, and eventually that each of us came to know that we are God’s children, … Read more »

May 10, 2015

Acts 10:44-48 1 John 5:1-6 John 15:9-17 “Radical New Inclusion?” When I began to plan for this morning’s worship a few weeks ago, I thought I would preach about the impact of Christian camping. My own experience at a Presbyterian camp as a teenager and young adult had a significant effect on my journey of faith and contributed to the discernment of my call to ministry. A couple of lines in the Gospel passage stood out to me in my reflection… the part where Jesus instructs his disciples to abide in his love by keeping his commandments, and then he tells them, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” I thought especially about how my experience of camping ministry had grounded me in the faith, providing me with patterns of prayer, Bible study, and worship which I have treasured ever since. And I thought about how discovering my vocation as a Christian minister has not made my life simple or easy, but it has filled me with joy and peace many times throughout my life. I thought I might encourage everyone today, not only to send your children and grandchildren to camp, and Vacation Bible School, and youth retreats, and other opportunities for them to be immersed in Christian community, but I hoped to encourage us all to do the same for ourselves. Jesus invites us to immerse ourselves in his love, and his teachings … Read more »

March 27, 2016

John 20:1-18 “My Father and Your Father” Alleluia! Alleluia! Let the Church rejoice and sing this Easter Day! Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed!] We’ve heard the Easter story many times before. It’s told in all the Gospels. It’s repeated in many of the letters of Paul and in the Acts of the Apostles. It’s the story that is the foundation of our faith. It’s the story that gives shape to our life as Christians. We believe in God. We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s Son. We believe that Jesus was killed on a cross, but that he didn’t stay dead. God raised him on the third day. His body was not stolen. It was raised. We believe that he was the first to be raised, but that all will be raised on the last day. God is more powerful than death. Death is not the end. This is the Good News of Easter, and this is what we believe. And so, as did the first disciples who witnessed the resurrection, we tell the story. We tell it over and over… Easter after Easter, Sunday after Sunday. After years of preaching, many ministers have admitted that it becomes difficult to find fresh ways of telling the story. We are fortunate, in that the story is rich. It is filled with people, and questions, and insights upon which to reflect. There’s Mary and her worrying, the disciples running, the empty tomb, the linen wrappings rolled up. There are the angels, … Read more »

April 3, 2016

John 20:19-31 “The Benefit of the Doubt” Oh, Thomas! Poor Thomas! He has been permanently labeled a “doubter” by two millennia of history books, sermons, cartoons, and theological writings in the Christian tradition. A cartoon by Joshua Harris has Thomas crying out, “All I’m saying is we don’t call Peter ‘denying Peter.’” Poor Thomas seems only to be remembered for this morning’s Gospel story in which he misses Jesus’ appearance to the other disciples in the locked room on Easter Sunday evening, declares his doubt, and then 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. He 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, … Read more »

April 10, 2016

John 21:1-19 “Do you love me?” In this Season of Easter, we read and remember the wonderful stories of Jesus’ resurrection appearances. Luke’s Gospel has him appear to Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus, and Matthew says he appeared to a bunch of disciples together on the top of a mountain. According to John, he first appeared to Mary Magdalene in the cemetery, then to the disciples in a locked room. And in his final appearance, Jesus serves breakfast to his disciples on a beach, and has a heart-rending conversation with Peter. What a strange conversation it is – with Jesus, a full-grown man, asking his full-grown fisherman friend, Peter, if he loves him. Not just asking once… but again and again. It sounds like the kind of thing that a sad or needy child asks a mum or dad: “Do you love me?” “Yes, of course I love you,” comes the response along with a smile and a hug of reassurance. You are safe. You are loved. You are mine. But I don’t think that’s what is going on here. Jesus doesn’t need reassurance from Peter. In fact, it’s probably the opposite. Jesus is reassuring Peter that Jesus still loves him. After all, Peter is the one who denied knowing Jesus three times when Jesus was arrested. Peter is the one who ran away when Jesus was crucified. Peter is the one who failed to show his love when his friend was in trouble. Did you … Read more »

May 1, 2016

Acts 16:9-15 Revelation 21:10, 22 – 22:5 “Making Plans” This is the time of year at St. Andrew’s when we are busy making plans. It may not seem that obvious just from attending worship here on Sundays, but behind the scenes, in the committees and groups, and among the staff of the church, plans are being hatched. As many of you likely know, our congregation makes plans on a yearly basis. The committees of Session (like Worship, Christian Education, and Outreach), set goals in the Spring, and bring them to Session for approval at the beginning of May. They write up reports of their activities over the past year for the Program Report, and highlight their new plans in the form of goals that are presented at the Annual Program Meeting at the end of May. Things usually get a little quieter over the summer, and then we all get to work again in September to put our plans into action throughout the year. Once in a while, we also get the congregation together to do some deeper reflection and longer-term planning for our mission and ministry. At one such gathering quite a few years ago, St. Andrew’s wrote and embraced a mission statement: “St. Andrew’s exists to proclaim the gospel and share the love of God in our church and in our community.” And at other such gatherings, new ideas for pastoral care, outreach, and stewardship of gifts have been formulated and put into practice in the years following. … 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 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 1, 2018

Mark 16:1-8 “Will you be my witnesses?” “Go!” That is what the angel at the empty tomb told the women to do. “Go, and tell the other disciples that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” And they did GO. They went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Strangely, that is exactly how the Gospel according to Mark ends. Mary doesn’t see Jesus in the garden and have a conversation with him. The women don’t run to tell the other disciples that Jesus’ body is gone. And the male disciples don’t come to look in the tomb themselves. Jesus doesn’t make any sort of appearances either, and he doesn’t give his followers a final commissioning before he rises up into heaven. Instead, the story ends with Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome receiving the instruction to GO and tell, but being overcome with terror and dread, fleeing, and saying nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. This disappointing conclusion to Mark’s Gospel has bothered Christians throughout the centuries. The other Gospels tell us more, and give us stories about Jesus’ reassuring appearances – encouraging the disciples and inspiring them to GO and get about the work of continuing Jesus’ ministry. A shorter and a longer ending have even been added to Mark, as if a few pages must have … Read more »

April 15, 2018

Luke 24:36b-48 “Witnesses of God’s Peace” I’ve been in those ICU waiting rooms in the basement at the Royal University Hospital many times over the years. They’re the places where the families gather, and wait, and pray when their loved ones are in crisis due to very serious illness or injury. There’s a lot of pacing that goes on in those rooms, as well as tears being shed, food being shared, and hands being held as loved ones hover on the brink between life and death. Usually only one or two visitors are allowed into the ICU to visit the seriously-ill patients at times when their presence won’t get in the way of the work that is being done. And the rest of the time, family members, friends, and often clergy spend time in the waiting rooms or the hallways… waiting, worrying, hoping, and praying. I can only imagine what it has been like in those waiting rooms over the last week since the Humboldt Broncos’ bus accident. But I’m praying for all the people who are spending their time there in these days. Certainly, those families have experienced an outpouring of support from the people of Saskatchewan and from others further afield – people putting their sticks out, wearing hockey jerseys to indicate that we’re all on the same team, and financially supporting the families through the Go-Fund-Me campaign. But even all of that won’t change the stress, and strain, and worry of those who still wait in those … Read more »

April 22, 2018

Psalm 23 1 John 3:16-24 John 10:11-18 “One Flock, One Shepherd” We are glad to welcome the Sons (& daughters) of Scotland to our worship today to participate in a special Kirkin’ of the Tartans, and to share food, and fellowship, and Scottish country dancing after the service. I have never led a Kirkin’ before, but I remember my home congregation in Ottawa hosting this service when I was a teenager. St. Giles Presbyterian Church (where I grew up) was a very Scottish congregation. Actually, by the time I was there, it was becoming more culturally diverse, but in the 1950’s and 1960’s, my understanding is that the church was an important place for Scottish folk to gather. Almost everyone was Scottish, and going to the Presbyterian Church was a great way to connect. In the 1980’s and 90’s there was still a remnant of the Scottish crowd, and I remember lots of Scottish accents among the older members of our church. And I was Scottish too (kinda)… a bit Scottish, a bit Irish, a bit Welsh, and a bit English. But I had a Scottish name, at least. When we did the Kirkin’ of the Tartans, I remember my parents being a bit critical of it. “We’re not a Scottish club!” they complained. “We’re a church! And many of us aren’t Scottish anymore. We have people from many different countries, cultures, and backgrounds.” But even if the Kirkin’ of the Tartans is clearly a Scottish tradition, I think it’s … Read more »

April 29, 2018

Acts 8:26-40 John 15:1-8 “The Source” Oh, my goodness! This is a difficult time in which to live. Perhaps every generation says that, as we experience the challenges of life and the troubles of the world around us. But right now, it just seems that we are faced with one tragedy after another, so much senseless violence, and no end in sight! The Rev. Matthew Sams, who serves at Willowdale Presbyterian Church, just around the corner from the van attack in Toronto that killed 10 people last week, wrote and shared this prayer last Monday: Mangled Crumpled Twisted Bloody Screeching Silent weeping Hands clasping Hearts racing… Knees bent in service to comfort the wounded Knees bent in prayer to summon peace Sitting on my couch, the news is on, a curtain torn in the temple of my heart admitting the world’s pain. Death has its own schedule A withered hand reaching in to steal away life But you, you are the giver of life Therefore, we lift up to you those who have died on this day when violence erupted. There is no making sense of their death, there is no justice available in this moment. Yet may those who love them be comforted. There will be no raising today as for the sons of the widows of Zarephath and of Nain. Yet we are a people who know about Death. All our hope rests in Christ, the first fruits of the Resurrection. We lift up to you those whose … Read more »

May 13, 2018

Acts 1:1-11 Luke 24:44-53 Ephesians 1:15-23 “Stay with me, Mummy!” In the church today, we celebrate Ascension Sunday – remembering the day that the Risen Jesus was taken up into heaven. In the world today, we celebrate Mothers’ Day – giving thanks for the women who nurtured, loved, and protected us in our growing up, and perhaps still today. The two celebrations are not related, but they happen to land on the same day this year, inviting us to make connections between our faith and our family life. We may note that God is often described as being like a heavenly Father to us – providing for our needs, loving us unconditionally, guiding and directing us to become the faithful people he hopes we will be. But the Bible does not refer to God exclusively in masculine metaphors. There are, albeit few, feminine metaphors used to describe God in the Bible too. One of the common images is God as a mother bird sheltering her children under her wings. We see this in Ruth 2:12 – “May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” The psalms also pick up this mother bird image, like in Psalm 57 where the psalmist prays, “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” And then Jesus uses the same metaphor when he laments over Jerusalem. He says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets … Read more »