March 30, 2014

I Samuel 16:1-13 Psalm 23 John 9:1-41 “God Sees Differently” The story of the day that God asked Samuel to choose a new king for the People of Israel is a good illustration of the way that God sees differently from the rest of us. The first king of Israel, King Saul, was not doing a very good job, as far as God was concerned. He wasn’t honouring God or following God’s ways, and God wanted him replaced as quickly as possible. The prophet Samuel, who had once anointed Saul to be king, now had been instructed by God to anoint a new king from among Jesse’s sons. Samuel had to go to Bethlehem, meet up with Jesse’s family, and God would show him which one of the sons was God’s chosen one to be the king. I’m not really sure why God didn’t just tell Samuel right away that David was the chosen one. While God was giving all those instructions anyway, God could easily have added, “Oh, and by the way, the kid’s name is David.” But the story is not just about the practical process of finding and anointing a new king for Israel. It also tells us something about that new king. It tells us that he wasn’t the biggest, strongest, most obvious choice for a king. His father didn’t even bother having him come in from the fields on the off chance that he might be the one. But David had the right attitude, the … Read more »

April 6, 2014

Ezekiel 37:1-14 Romans 8:6-11 John 11:1-45 “Prophesy to These Bones!” It is the fifth Sunday in Lent. We are still two weeks away from Easter Sunday and the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. But today we have heard several wonderful scripture texts that point towards the joy of the resurrection. They proclaim the power and love of God to bring hope where there is despair, to bring joy where there is sadness and grief, to bring life where there is death. The prophet Ezekiel uses the striking image of a valley full of dry bones. And he tells about how God will raise them up, and put them back together, cover them with flesh and skin, and fill them with breath so that God’s people will live again. The author of John’s Gospel tells the amazing story of the raising of Lazarus. This friend of Jesus had been dead for four days. He was already in the tomb. His family were grieving. But Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out. He was still wrapped in his grave clothes, but he was alive again! And the Apostle Paul reminds the Roman Christians, and he reminds us also, that as God’s people we have the gift of the Spirit within us. The Spirit of God that lives within us is the same Spirit of God that raised Jesus from the dead. And so we can trust and believe that God’s Spirit will … Read more »

April 13, 2014

Matthew 21:1-11 Matthew 26:30-35 “Palm Branch Flash Mob” I wonder how many of you have participated in a demonstration or a political protest. How many of you have showed up at a rally to speak out against a funding cut, or to encourage a government to take action, or to show solidarity with an oppressed group? Have you ever stood in a crowd and chanted a slogan? Have you ever walked in step with a group, wondering if your presence will make a difference, or send a message, or wield some power when joined with others who care about the issue enough to show up and participate? Some of you grew up in the hey-day of protests, demonstrations, and marches in the 1960’s when young people banded together to make their voices heard in the political world. Even those who were not particularly “into” politics got involved at least occasionally, swept up by the excitement and enthusiasm of being part of a movement. In recent years, such gatherings are becoming more and more frequent again. Around the world, young people are coming together in parks, and squares, and shopping malls to proclaim – not only with their votes, but with their voices and their very presence – that regimes, and dictatorships, and unjust systems and cultures and practices are not going to be accepted anymore. The people are going to demand change, and sometimes they are actually going to get it. The “Idle no more” movement that started right here … Read more »

February 22, 2015

Mark 1:9-15 “Alone” I really don’t like being alone. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family of six – There were always other people around! When I was little, I shared a room with my older sister, and then I shared a room with my little brother, and then I shared a room with my little sister. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t love having to share a room. At one point, I remember that my little sister and I rearranged the furniture in our shared bedroom so that there was a barrier of dressers and desks down the middle to separate my space from hers. And it was probably my complaining about having to share that led my parents to eventually convert the den downstairs that we used to use as a family TV room into a bedroom for me when I started high school. But I never did get used to being alone. When I went away to school and lived in a residence, I was quite happy to have a room mate again. And when I did have a room to myself, I tended to leave the door wide open when I was studying. Then I could be aware of friends talking down the hall, and I could welcome anyone who might want to pop in for a visit. I know that not everyone is like me on that personality trait. Some of us love being around other people, and others get exhausted by the … Read more »

March 1, 2015

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 Mark 8:31-38 “Covenant” Every morning during this season of Lent, I am receiving an email from the United Methodist Church in the U.S. The email reminds me of the word of the day, inviting me to reflect on a word and take a photograph some time before day’s end. The email also includes a short reflection on the word, usually some scripture, and sometimes a picture as well. It’s not a very onerous Lenten discipline, but it is reminding me every day that this is not ordinary time. On Monday the word of the day was “covenant” – perfect timing for preachers like me who were beginning to reflect on the readings for today’s worship in which “covenant” is the major theme. I spent part of Monday in the library, studying journal articles from the 1970s and 1980s on interchurch marriage – what happens when Protestants and Catholics who are both actively engaged in their faith and their churches marry one another and have to work out what that will look like. Although there are some differences in Catholic and Protestant emphases in the theology of marriage, one of the understandings that is definitely shared is the idea of marriage as a covenant. Two people make sacred promises, before God and in the presence of the community, of love and faithfulness to each other for the rest of their lives. On Monday afternoon, I had a meeting with a couple about their wedding this summer. We talked … Read more »

March 8, 2015

Exodus 20:1-17 “Commandments” Cast your mind back, if you will, to your school days. And see if you can remember the strictest teacher you had. Remember a teacher who ruled his/her classroom with an iron fist, where the students behaved and got their work done because they knew that if they didn’t, there would be consequences. I can’t help but think of Madame Méchin, my grade eight French teacher. We called her Madame Méchant when she wasn’t around – the French word for “mean, nasty, or miserable.” I remember her with her hair pulled very tightly back in a bun, and I don’t remember her smiling. Like the other students, I was pretty scared of Madame Méchin, though I’m not sure what I thought she would to us. But I worked really hard to make sure that my homework was done, and that I was ready to answer her questions (though I hoped she wouldn’t call on me). And I definitely wasn’t going to get caught speaking English in her class. I certainly had other teachers over the years who chose different methods and styles of teaching (some of whom I liked very much), but Madame Méchin’s strict method definitely worked. And even though we thought she was “mean” and “nasty” she taught us well so that even those of us who didn’t keep at it and become bilingual can still “comprendre quel qu’un qui parle en francais, et souvenir assez de mots pour communiqué avec un francophone.” At times … Read more »

March 15, 2015

Ephesians 2:1-10 John 3:14-21 “Grace to Practice” As the weeks of Lent fly by, I am continuing the Lenten discipline that I began on Ash Wednesday. The United Methodist Church in the U.S. has provided a list of words – one for each day in Lent. So each day I reflect on the word, consider its meaning and significance, look around for inspiration, and then take a photograph that somehow connects with the word of the day. Friday’s word was “practice,” which made me think about learning to drive a car, learning to make my own bread, and learning to write and preach a sermon – all skills that can’t just be learned from a book, but they take giving it a try, and trying again, and practicing over and over. As I was working in my office that morning, I heard Gillian giving a piano lesson in here, and remembered how I hated to practice when I was trying to learn to play the piano as a young person. But as I turned my attention to this morning’s reading from Ephesians 2, I noticed another kind of practice that didn’t immediately come to mind. I’m not talking about an activity or skill that you need to repeat over and over in order to perfect it. And I’m not talking about something that you do for an intense but short period of time… until the performance or until the exam. Instead, I’m talking about a practice as in a thing … Read more »

March 22, 2015

Jeremiah 31:31-34 John 12:20-33 “Written on our Hearts” The prophetic text from Jeremiah 31 that we heard this morning tells us about a “new covenant” – a new relationship that God makes with God’s people. This promise came at a time when Israel was in exile in Babylon, having lost all the things that made Israel God’s people and a nation. Gone was their land, their temple, and their king… all the things that had come to them on the promises of God. And Jeremiah was telling them that they had lost all these things because of their unfaithfulness to God… because they had turned away to other gods and idols. But even in this time of despair, when the people came face-to-face with the fact that they had failed in their relationship with God and the result was exile… God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah to the exiles, and God announced that there would be a new covenant. God was going to establish a new relationship with God’s people. The new covenant was going to be different from the one God made with Israel at Sinai after bringing the people out of slavery in Egypt. Remember that covenant? — the one that we associate with the ten commandments? There were two essential elements in that earlier covenant: First, God chose the Hebrew People (former slaves) to be in a special relationship with God. It was on God’s initiative that the people were given this opportunity to be the people … Read more »

March 29, 2015

Mark 15:1-39 “Mocking and Murdering” We don’t do it every year, but it is traditional to read a good portion of the story of Jesus’ passion on this Sunday before Easter, known both as Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday. The Revised Common Lectionary suggests that we might read all the way through Mark 14 and Mark 15. I chose a slightly shorter section for our reflection today, but if you want some scripture to study in your personal devotions during this Holy Week, Mark 14 and 15 would be a good choice. There are a lot of things that a preacher could say about a section of the Gospel 39 verses long, but the thing that stood out to me as a reflected on this passage was the way that Jesus was mocked. After falsely accusing him of blasphemy, the religious leaders determined that he deserved to die. They bound him, led him away, and turned him over to the Roman governor. In jest, the governor called him the “King of the Jews,” and the leaders stirred up the crowds to call for his execution. Then the soldiers took Jesus away – not straight to a cross, but they had some fun with him first. They dressed him up in a purple robe and twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on him. They saluted him, “Hail! King of the Jews!” Again and again, they struck his head with a stick. They spit on him and knelt before … Read more »

February 14, 2016

Luke 4:1-13 Psalm 91 “Choosing Better” Today we jump back to almost the beginning of the stories of Jesus, to the time just after Jesus was baptized by John in the river Jordan. His ministry in Galilee had not even begun yet. Just days ago, he had received the Holy Spirit and heard the voice of God from heaven saying to him, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” But before his ministry as the beloved son of God begins, there is a time of trials and temptations. The Spirit, that Jesus had only just received, leads him out into the wilderness, where for forty days he is tempted by the devil. The trials he endured there out in the desert, must have included the heat of the burning sun, the loneliness of his isolation, and the pain of an empty stomach. Just the kind of experience that would get most people to a state of overwhelming self-pity. Just the kind of thing that would prompt most of us to do anything, to sacrifice anything to get back to the relative comforts of home, or at least to get a good meal and a cool glass of water. And while Jesus is in this weakened state, Luke tells us that the devil spoke to him and tempted him three times. “If you are the Son of God,” the evil one taunted him, “Command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” And Jesus answers with … Read more »

February 28, 2016

Isaiah 55:1-9 Psalm 63:1-8 “With All Our Hearts” This morning I want to invite you to think about what you love. Perhaps it is that first cup of coffee in the morning, or your favourite dessert. Maybe it’s that wonderful sports team that you root for, or the movie that you’ve watched again and again because you just can’t get enough of it. Maybe you love your music, or your hobby, or the feeling of satisfaction you get when you have done your work well. Of course, I am sure that there are some people that you love truly and deeply. Perhaps your spouse, your children, your best friend. You love them so much that your heart aches when you are apart. You love them so much that you are filled with anxiety when they are hurting or in danger. Today’s psalm gives us an idea of what that kind of love sounds like when it is directed towards God. The psalmist writes: “O God, you are my God, 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… your steadfast love is better than life… My soul clings to you…” I wonder how many of us got up this morning thinking, “Oh, how I need God today! I can’t wait to jump out of bed and get myself to church so that I can spend time with God, and listen for God, and praise … Read more »

March 6, 2016

Joshua 5:9-12 Psalm 32 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 “Everything Has Become New!” We have some great scripture readings today, for this fourth Sunday in Lent, on the theme of reconciliation. As a season in which we are invited to prayer, confession, and returning to God, these are wonderful readings. In Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son, we are reminded that no matter what our history, no matter how many poor decisions we have made, no matter how irresponsible we have been, no matter how far we have run from God, God welcomes us home. God runs to us, embraces us, and treats us like precious children once again. Psalm 32 also encourages us to come back to God when we have strayed. It points out the peace and joy that we can experience when we are forgiven, noting the gnawing guilt and shame we often feel before we admit our mistakes, and the relief that comes from being honest and getting things off our chest. In his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul explains that God does not count our sins against us, but freely invites us to be reconciled through Christ. Paul himself has experienced the joy of being forgiven, turning his life away from persecuting Christians towards a new mission of bringing the good news of Jesus to Jews and Gentiles alike. And now God has given him a ministry of reconciliation – encouraging others to turn to God as well, and to experience … Read more »

March 13, 2016

Philippians 3:4b-14 “Striving for Christ” How are you doing with your life? Would you say that you have achieved your goals? Would you say that you have been successful? Do you have the life you hoped for? The career you strived for? The status you reached for? The family you worked for? Have you made the contributions that you wanted to make to the church, the community, and the world? However you may answer those questions… whether you are feeling good about your accomplishments, or whether you are discouraged by challenges and setbacks, I want to invite you today to consider what is truly valuable in your life. What are you striving for? What are your goals? And do they match up with what God wants for your life? A little over a year ago, we had a visit from the Moderator of the 140th General Assembly of our Presbyterian Church in Canada, and at the evening service here at St. Andrew’s, Stephen Farris preached on today’s text from Philippians. Whenever I read this text again, I’ll likely remember Stephen dramatically walking back and forth at the front of the church, just a few steps in each direction, demonstrating the small space Paul would have been living in when he wrote his letter to the Church at Philippi. Paul was in prison. He’d lost everything, and his life was in danger. Just think, Paul used to be free. He used to be an important person – a person with status … Read more »

March 20, 2016

Luke 19:28-40 Psalm 118:1-4, 19-29 “Thy Kingdom Come” 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 … 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 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 »

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 »

February 25, 2018

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 “Covenant Love” This morning I want to talk about “Covenant Love.” It’s a pervasive theme throughout the Bible, and it shows up in our reading today from the Book of Genesis about God’s covenant with Abraham, Sarah, and their descendants. We should remind ourselves that a covenant is a promise or a vow made between people. It’s not quite the same as a contract that is signed as an agreement for services rendered and payment required, with legal consequences when it is broken. But a covenant is a serious vow or promise made between people to live together in committed relationship with faithfulness and love. And “covenant” is the primary way that God establishes relationships with human beings. During the Season of Lent in Year B, the Revised Common Lectionary provides us with texts from the Hebrew Scriptures each Sunday that highlight God’s covenant relationship with us as God’s people. Last Sunday’s text (which we skipped in order to highlight PWS&D Sunday instead) was about God’s covenant with Noah. Although human beings had become so terrible and evil that God flooded the earth to wipe them out and start again, God promised that he wouldn’t do that again. Recognizing that humans would undoubtedly make more mistakes and do wrong things, God nonetheless determined to stick by us in faithfulness and mercy, covenanting with us, making the promise not to destroy the earth. Today we heard about God’s covenant with Sarah and Abraham, inviting them to walk before … Read more »

March 4, 2018

Exodus 20:1-17 John 2:13-22 “The Gift of the Commandments” Cast your mind back, if you will, to your school days. And see if you can remember the strictest teacher you had. Remember a teacher who ruled his/her classroom with an iron fist, where the students behaved and got their work done because they knew that if they didn’t, there would be consequences. I can’t help but think of Madame Méchin, my grade eight French teacher. We called her Madame Méchant when she wasn’t around – the French word for “mean, nasty, or miserable.” I remember her with her hair pulled very tightly back in a bun, and I don’t remember her smiling. Like the other students, I was pretty scared of Madame Méchin, though I’m not sure what I thought she would to us. But I worked really hard to make sure that my homework was done, and that I was ready to answer her questions (though I hoped she wouldn’t call on me). And I definitely wasn’t going to get caught speaking English in her class. I certainly had other teachers over the years who chose different methods and styles of teaching (some of whom I liked very much), but Madame Méchin’s strict method definitely worked. And even though we thought she was “mean” and “nasty” she taught us well so that even those of us who didn’t keep at it and become bilingual can still “comprendre quel qu’un qui parle en francais, et souvenir assez de mots pour … Read more »

March 11, 2018

Ephesians 2:1-10 John 3:14-21 “Grace to Practice” This year, I decided to begin a new activity. During my holidays after Christmas, I tried out a bunch of different yoga classes to see if yoga would be a good exercise program to add to my routine. I have to admit that I didn’t embark on doing yoga for spiritual reasons. I really just wanted a way to strengthen my core muscles and avoid some lower back pain issues that I was having some time ago. But after trying out a few different classes, I settled on a Holy Yoga class that is offered at one of the churches here in Regina, and I began to think about what I was doing as more than just an exercise program. Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. There is a broad variety of yoga schools, practices, and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Yoga gurus from India introduced yoga to the West in the late 19th and early 20th century. In the 1980s, yoga became popular as a system of physical exercise across the Western world. Yoga in Indian traditions, however, is more than physical exercise; it has a meditative and spiritual core. The class that I am attending is described as “Holy Yoga” or we might say, “Christian Yoga.” On the Holy Yoga website, it explains that, “We know that yoga is a spiritual discipline much like fasting, meditation, and prayer that … Read more »