December 7, 2008

Isaiah 40:1-11 Mark 1:1-8 A voice cries out: “In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.” When we hear those familiar words from the prophet Isaiah, or when we hear them repeated in the story of John the Baptist’s work, we automatically think about Jesus and his coming. The Lord we are waiting for is Jesus the Christ, his coming is into our world as an infant born to a young woman in small-town Israel many years ago. And the preparation that we are all called to do is something to do with confession and repentance. But, just for now, let’s remember the things that were happening back when the prophet Isaiah spoke these words the people of his own time. A long time ago, more than five hundred years before the birth of Jesus, God’s people, the people of Israel were in exile in a place called Babylon. You see, the powerful kingdom of the Babylonians had taken over their land and made some of them move away to the land called Babylon. It began with the upper classes, with those who had any sort of political power, and over time, three groups of exiles were sent away from Jerusalem and Judah to make their lives in a foreign country and among … Read more »

December 4, 2011

Isaiah 40:1-11 Psalm 85 Mark 1:1-8 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 lead them to healing and peace. … Read more »

February 5, 2012

Isaiah 40:21-31 Psalm 147:1-11, 20c 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 Mark 1:29-39 Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? It is God who sits above the circle of the earth… who stretches out the heavens like a curtain… who makes the rulers of the earth as nothing… Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. God does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. The prophet Isaiah addresses these questions to the People of Israel in exile in Babylon. The people are complaining, you see, that God has disregarded them, that God has forgotten them. I can understand their complaint. Really, I can. They’re tired. They’re exhausted, actually. And after all the challenges and trials they have endured, after waiting so long for some kind of help,  who can blame them for getting a little bit frustrated with God? Why are we still living in this God-forsaken place? Why are our enemies still triumphing over us again and again? We thought we were supposed to be your chosen people! Why is this misery just going on and on with no relief in sight? Those are questions that many of us have asked ourselves, or asked of God over the years. In the midst of unrelenting physical pain, from the depths of a deep depression, or out of the exhaustion of constant care-giving, we’ve wondered where God … Read more »

December 7, 2014

Isaiah 40:1-11 2 Peter 3:8-15a Mark 1:1-8 “Unprepared” Someone suggested recently that if I could come up with titles for my Sunday sermons, she would appreciate that. And so, on Friday morning, just before leaving for North Battleford for our Presbytery meeting, I added one more word to the bulletin which Karen would print later that morning. I titled the sermon for today, “Unprepared,” and I chuckled to myself because as I wrote “Unprepared” in the bulletin I was very aware of the fact that my sermon was completely unprepared as yet. I had reflected on the scriptures, made some notes, and the idea of the sermon was beginning to form in my mind, but I was still woefully unprepared. Although ministers get used to speaking in public, I imagine that if we share a common nightmare it’s the thought of getting a total writer’s block, or of being so overwhelmed with other aspects of ministry all week, that Sunday arrives and we have nothing to say. If we take our ministry seriously, we want to do the best we can with whatever gifts we have received, and being unprepared is a terrible possibility. I know that many of you have experienced something similar in your work or in your family life. Teachers have to get ready for presentations each and every day – whether they are teaching little children, teens, or adults. Others have to prepare reports, give speeches, chair meetings, train employees, or simply be ready to perform … Read more »

February 8, 2015

Isaiah 40:21-31 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 Mark 1:29-39 “Balancing our Discipleship” I spent most of the last week in Baltimore, Maryland, at the annual conference of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (also known as APCE). The Presbytery of Northern Saskatchewan was able to fund the trip so that a team from Saskatoon and Prince Albert was able to attend the conference – learning and gathering resources and ideas for ministry with children and youth for our congregations. Martha Fergusson, Logan de Bruijn, Ted Hicks, and I came home last night with pretty tired bodies from a busy week, but with our minds rushing with ideas and our hearts full of hopeful possibilities for the future of our ministries and congregations. The conference wasn’t a holiday, and it wasn’t even a retreat (an event designed specifically for rest, renewal, and prayer). It was a busy conference packed full of key note speakers, workshops, discussion forums, and networking opportunities. There were books to consider buying, and resources to gather for current or future possibilities for our ministries. But there was also lots of worship at APCE… gathering songs, early morning communion services, and several wonderful worships with inspiring preachers, creative liturgy, and opportunities for prayer and reflection. The hotel ballroom was filled with nearly 800 Presbyterians from all over the US and Canada, gathered to worship, and pray, and draw close to God. Many of the people at APCE were ministers like me, and a larger group were Christian educators. Others were … 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 … Read more »