November 1, 2015

1 Timothy 6:17-19 Psalm 24 Luke 12:16-21 “Free From the Money Trap” We are going off the lectionary this month – setting aside the Scripture readings assigned for these last few weeks of the liturgical year so that we can talk about money. I’ve occasionally heard people say that they don’t go to church very often, but every time they do go the preacher seems to be talking about money, asking for money, appealing for support for one thing or another. Although it’s unfortunate that some people have been turned off of church because of a sense that the church is always asking them to give more money, I would also suggest that they may have missed the even bigger “ask” on those Sundays. The church (well, Jesus, actually) is asking us to give our whole selves, our whole lives, including every choice and decision about money, for God’s purposes. We do have an offering every Sunday, and add to that at times an appeal for a particular mission or ministry or extra thing. And we are invited on a regular basis to serve God through our monetary giving as well as our time and talent. But our offerings are just the beginning – a sign of our commitment and our willingness to give our lives for the love of God and our neighbours. I heard recently about state churches in some European countries and a system in which church members are automatically signed up, when they join a church, … Read more »

November 8, 2015

Jeremiah 29:4-14 Matthew 6:19-21 Luke 19:1-10 “Free to Be Rich” This month we are talking about stewardship and reflecting on what we do with the money and other gifts that we have received. The weekly themes come from a resource prepared by the Ecumenical Stewardship Centre, with today’s theme focus titled, “Free to be Rich.” I must say that I was a bit surprised by that title at first. It seemed almost in contrast to the Gospel story that Patti shared this morning with the children. Zacchaeus wasn’t so much “Free to be Rich” as he was becoming “Free to be Poor” when he met Jesus and got inspired to give his money away. When I read the title, “Free to be Rich,” I immediately began to worry that this resource might be promoting what is often called the “prosperity gospel.” I remembered being down in the United States a few years ago, turning on the TV, and finding that about half the channels were showing TV evangelists. After searching for something I was more interested in watching without success, I turned back to one of the evangelists to see what she was teaching. I remember the Scripture verse she focussed on very well, because she repeated it over and over – Luke 6:38 – “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” … Read more »

November 15, 2015

2 Corinthians 9:6-15 Psalm 91 Mark 12:41-44 “Free From the Uncertainty of Riches” I bought a new car this week. Actually, Nick and I signed the paper work a couple of weeks ago before he went out of town for work, but it arrived on Thursday and I handed over our old car and picked up the new one on my own. It felt like a strange thing to be doing in the middle of this Stewardship series. You see, there was all this fuss about a new car. The sales people, in particular, seemed to want me to be SO EXCITED! It made me think of old game shows like “The Price is Right” where a curtain opens to reveal a shiny new vehicle, the announcer proclaims, “A New Car!” and the studio audience erupts in cheers of joy. Nick and I thought carefully about this large purchase, decided it was time to get ourselves a more reliable and larger car, and agreed that we would trade in the old one and remain a one-vehicle family to keep our expenses down and make sure that we didn’t lose precious time spent together. I love driving, and it is kind of fun to be driving a new car, but the scriptures and the theme of today’s service remind me that our material possessions (our riches) provide us neither security, nor true joy and peace. These things are uncertain. These circumstances of our lives are precarious. Imagine if you were to … Read more »

November 22, 2015

Romans 6:1-14 Philippians 4:4-9 Matthew 6:25-34 “Free to Take Hold of Life” Thanksgiving weekend was more than a month ago, and we are beginning to think about and anticipate Advent and Christmas. But our American friends are just getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving this week. It is an interesting recapitulation that today’s Gospel passage is the same one that we read and studied on our Thanksgiving Sunday, just as our neighbours are coming to their Thanksgiving. Jesus invites us to set our worries aside, and to think about today instead of fretting about tomorrow. On Thanksgiving Sunday, I suggested that thankfulness might be the opposite of worry, and I encouraged us to let our hearts be filled to overflowing with gratitude so there could be no room for anxious worrying. But just a couple of weeks after I preached that sermon, I found that some of our Board and Session members were indeed worrying. They were worrying about our church finances, and worrying that if we didn’t do something to change our course, we might end the year with another deficit that could cause us some significant problems for the future. Now, you might assume that the reason for this month’s Stewardship-themed services is a desperate attempt on our part to boost offerings and avoid a deficit. But, in fact, the Stewardship Committee reviewed the Stewardship materials and decided to use them way back in the Spring before we knew where things would be at in November. Of course we … Read more »