June 17, 2018

1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:14 Mark 4:26-34 “Sleeping While the Kingdom Comes” Last Sunday afternoon I had a three-hour nap. I haven’t done anything like that in a long time, but I guess I needed it. A few hours later, I went back to bed and slept right through the night, so I guess there was no harm done in sleeping away the afternoon. Perhaps it was my need for catching up on sleep, or my mood of slowing down for the summer, but when I started to study the familiar gospel text for today, I noticed something that I had always missed in the past: The gardener goes to sleep. Okay. Let me step back a bit. Jesus is describing what the Kingdom of God is like. He does this quite a bit in his teaching… trying to explain to his friends and followers what it will be like when God’s Reign has taken hold of all people and the whole of creation. And he doesn’t just describe what the Kingdom of God will be like, but how it will come to be. You see, like us, Jesus’ earliest disciples were probably pretty worried about the state of the world – about the violence, oppression, corruption, and poverty they saw all around them. They were pretty sure that Jesus was going to be a part of setting things right, but when everything didn’t turn around quickly, they had their doubts about whether he would be successful. So Jesus told … Read more »

June 24, 2018

Psalm 133 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 Mark 4:35-41 “O Look and Wonder!” (With Psalm 133 sung refrain #2 from the PCC Book of Psalms, melody by Pablo Sosa.) O look and wonder how good it is! O look and wonder how good it is! How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like water poured out over the head of an infant, cleansing her from sin, welcoming her into the family of God, gifting her with the Holy Spirit. O look and wonder how good it is! O look and wonder how good it is! How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like a couple preparing for marriage, gathering their friends, making their vows of faithfulness and love, receiving God’s blessing on their life together. O look and wonder how good it is! O look and wonder how good it is! How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like our church family coming together Sunday by Sunday, learning to walk in the way of God, caring for each other in Christian community, reaching out in mission and service, knowing that we are “in the boat” together with Jesus. O look and wonder how good it is! O look and wonder how good it is! How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! It is like people in communities across the country celebrating Indigenous … Read more »

July 1, 2018

2 Corinthians 8:7-15 Mark 5:21-43 “Canada: Blessed to Bless” When I began to reflect on the Scripture readings for today, the first thing that caught my attention was in the passage from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. It was the part about finishing up what we start, completing our work. I immediately thought about my unfinished doctoral degree. As you may know, I started working on a Doctor of Ministry degree several years ago. It’s one of those degrees designed for people in full-time ministry, so you take courses and do the work while continuing in your congregational role, and reflecting on your ministry as you do your research and writing. And it’s a fair amount of work. I finished the coursework and the comprehensive paper, and started working on my thesis proposal while I was still in Saskatoon. Then, last September I decided to take a 1 year leave from the program. I wanted to concentrate on getting settled into this new ministry in Regina, and I was allowed to pause for a year without penalty. But the year has sped by, and soon it will be time to pick up that work again, and try to get it completed. Here’s what Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began… not only to do something but even to desire to do something – now finish it according to your means.” Of course, I have a certain … Read more »

July 8, 2018

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 Mark 6:6b-13 “Casting Out Demons?” In an earlier draft of this morning’s sermon, I started off with an exploration of the major characters in this morning’s biblical texts. I wrote about David, who started out small and became a great king. I wrote about Paul, who was an amazing apostle, but had his own embarrassing past of persecuting Christians. And even once those two became the wonderful leaders that they were, they still had weaknesses. David let his passion get the better of him, took advantage of his royal position and power, and needed to be corrected by the prophet Samuel. And although we don’t know much about Paul’s difficulties, we know that he had some. He tells us that he struggled with a kind of “thorn in his flesh” that kept him from perfection so that he had to rely on God’s grace instead of just his own natural ability to be a successful minister of the gospel. These guys are great examples for us, especially when our struggles are with perfectionism or our ego needs. When we get anxious about doing everything right, doing everything ourselves, and get worked up over the possibility of making a mistake or forgetting something important. And I admit that those are the kinds of things that I struggle with. I like to be prepared. I like to do well at my ministry, and be well-regarded by others. Of course, I know that perfection is not … Read more »

August 19, 2018

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 Ephesians 5:15-20 John 6:51-58 “Blessed by Wisdom, Saved by Grace” When you think about WISDOM, I wonder if there are particular people that come to mind. Wise people that you have known, who have taught you and guided you in your life. Or perhaps there are some words of wisdom that you always remember, that you go back to, that you reflect on regularly and try to take to heart. When I think of wise people in my life, I always go back to an elder from my home congregation when I was a child, George Lee. George was like a grandfather to me and many others. I don’t remember what he taught us, but I remember what it felt like to be near him. It felt like we were safe, and loved, and precious. He was in his early 80’s, and I remember him sitting on the floor with us children at Vacation Bible School and telling us stories. And it felt SO important to be still and listen to what he would say. Back then I had no idea that I would one day become a minister. I never imagined that I would have so many opportunities to sit on the floor (or the steps of the sanctuary) with children, or stand in a pulpit, or teach in a Bible study, or journey with people through the ups and downs of their lives. I couldn’t have guessed that I would be the one sharing … Read more »

August 26, 2018

1 Kings 8: 1,6,10-11,22-30,41-43 Psalm 84 Ephesians 6:10-20 John 6:56-69 “A Difficult Teaching” In our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue (the community gathering place) in Capernaum. And he teaches this: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” And when his disciples heard what he was teaching, they said: “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” Like so many of us today, they wanted an easy answer and a simple way of living. They wanted the great results without the hard work. They wanted a quick fix, but Jesus was asking for more from them. If you remember from the last several Sundays… Jesus has just finished his miraculous feeding of the crowd of 5000 or more on the hillside. Most of them appreciated Jesus’ ability to produce food for them, but now he is inviting them to go deeper, to respond to God’s goodness, and to follow him in the challenging way of discipleship. Jesus tells them that they are now invited to eat more than just bread and fish like they just enjoyed. He explains that he has more to give to … Read more »

September 2, 2018

Song of Solomon 2:8-13 James 1:17-27 Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 “What is our religion really about?   What does it mean to be a person of faith, a religious person, a spiritual person, or a member of the church? These are questions that I encounter and find myself discussing on a regular basis. From people outside the church, I’m often asked, “Why do people still go to church? What do they get out of it?” And with those inside the church – especially those who are actively engaged in leadership and decision-making – the discussion is usually around the question of what is most important in our faith. What is the foundation of our faith? What are the essential practices? What must we continue and emphasize, and what are the small “t” traditions that we can let go of at times as we move along with a rapidly-changing world. As I read and reflected on the scripture readings assigned for today in our lectionary, it was these questions about the meaning and significance of our faith and religious practice that were swirling through my head. Because each of today’s texts contributes some significant ideas to such a discussion, helping us to answer for ourselves and for our neighbours when they ask: “What is our religion really about?” Let’s begin with the Gospel. What better place to begin than with what Jesus said about it? It’s important to remember that Jesus was a religious man. He was a faithful Jewish person … Read more »

September 9, 2018

Mark 7:24-37 “Still Learning” A friend of mine is working as a teaching assistant in a Montessori school in Ontario this year. When she shared some pictures of her classroom last week, it brought back good memories of my own experience attending a Montessori school forty years ago. It was a lovely big room with an open concept and all the different learning centres for the children to work and explore various subjects and gain skills. And she included a close-up of the mathematics area, with beautiful strings of beads for learning to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. I felt thankful for the opportunity I had to attend a wonderful school as a young child, to continue through the Public School System, and go on to higher education as well. What a privilege it was to live in this country, to have education freely available to both boys and girls. And I know that I was doubly blessed because my parents could afford and chose to send us to a Montessori school when we were young. I believe that the teaching methods in that school equipped me well for continuing education, and work, and ministry. We are blessed in our society to have access to basic education for all people and post-secondary programs as well. Not that our education systems are without their challenges… There are still deficiencies in funding for schools on reserves, and the programs in rural areas may pale in comparison to what is available in larger … Read more »

September 16, 2018

Proverbs 1:20-33 Psalm 19 James 3:1-12 Mark 8:27-38 “Teaching: A Cross and a Gift” When I am teaching about the Bible, I often point out that the Bible is not just one book, but it is a collection of books. Remember your French, I tell the children. What is the French word for library? (Bibliotheque) Right, the Bible is a “bibliotheque” a whole library of different types of books. There are history books, and poetry, and collections of letters, and genealogical record books. There are mythic stories, and hymn books, and rule books. Just like a library, the Bible is a collection of books by different authors who lived and wrote in different times and places, but all inspired in a spectacular way by the One God in whom they believed and whom they followed. This morning’s Scripture passages are the ones assigned in the Revised Common Lectionary of readings for this Sunday, and the Old Testament readings in particular are a celebration of the Bible – of the Word of God that guides, encourages, and corrects us in our living day-by-day. The first reading comes from the Book of Proverbs, one of the Wisdom Books of the Bible, and a collection of short, pithy sayings and advice that we would do well to consider. But I love the way this first chapter of Proverbs invites us to open our minds to God’s Wisdom in the first place. We encounter Wisdom personified as a woman calling out in the streets … Read more »