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 »

January 11, 2009

Mark 1:4-11 It is wonderful to be able to conduct a baptism on this particular Sunday in the church year. Today is the day that we celebrate the “Baptism of the Lord”. The baptism of Jesus was such an important and pivotal moment in his life and ministry, and reflecting on that moment in Jesus’ life can help us to understand and to celebrate the meaning of baptism in our lives as Jesus’ followers. In some ways, what we do when we gather to baptize an infant seems pretty far removed from what John the Baptizer was doing at the Jordan River so many years ago. The baptism this morning was marked by family, friends, and Christian community gathered in the warmth of a comfortable church, promises made, water poured, and words of blessing spoken for a child. John’s baptism took place outside, down in the muddy waters of the Jordan. And it wasn’t so much about joining a community of faith or about receiving God’s blessing. They were adults who came to get baptized, and they did so because they wanted a fresh start, to confess their sins, and turn their lives in a new direction of obedience to God. The Gospel story today refers to what John was doing out in the wilderness as “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. And it tells us that “people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized … Read more »

January 25, 2009

A sermon on the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, Year B, given on the concluding Sunday of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Jonah 3: 1-5, 10I Corinthians 7: 29-31Mark 1: 14-20 I am not a preacher! I think that I am more comfortable when Amanda stands up here. And by the time I’m finished, maybe you will be too. Preaching is not my natural gift. I teach. I lead my students through their studies, and help them with their questions. But I don’t normally stand at the front of a worshipping congregation to preach the Word of God. I’m much more comfortable with my own words. But today, I’m preaching because it is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This is a special Week in the Christian year for me and for Amanda, because we are what has come to be called an “interchurch couple.” We share together in each other’s churches. Perhaps some of you do not know this already. I am Roman Catholic. Amanda and I met when she was at seminary, and I was beginning my graduate work in ecumenical theology. We share together in an ecumenical vocation. Here, already, is a distinctive Catholic word. For Catholics, “vocation” captures part of the meaning of the word “mission” for Presbyterians and other Reformed Christians. A vocation is simply a calling, but a special one. One that comes from God. Amanda and I believe that God has called us to be a family. We share together a … Read more »

February 1, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Deuteronomy 18:15-201 Corinthians 8:1-13Mark 1:21-28 “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty… perfect in power, in love, and purity.” There is an old tradition in many Presbyterian churches to begin Sunday worship each week by singing “Holy, holy, holy”, as we did this morning. It goes along with a Reformed Christian focus on the transcendence of God. God is holy. God is over all. God is almighty and powerful and wholly other. Beginning the weekly worship service by singing “Holy, holy, holy” also keeps the focus of what we do together in this place. We don’t come here just to be together with friends. We don’t come here for a purely academic pursuit of learning about God. And we don’t come here simply to pray and ask God for what we need. No, we come to this place each week to worship God — to acknowledge God’s holiness, God’s power, and God’s love. We come to bow down before the Creator and Author of all that is, and to give glory to God. We believe that God is the Author of all that is. That’s an interesting way of thinking about God, isn’t it? Think of the author of a novel. The author creates the characters. The author chooses the setting. The author determines the plot and crafts the dialogue. The author controls everything that happens in her book. She has the power to affect the behaviour of her characters — to have them do … Read more »

February 15, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie 2 Kings 5:1-14Psalm 30Mark 1:40-54 The following sermon has also been posted online in MP3 audio format.Listen to Amanda’s sermon here The Sunday scripture readings over the last few weeks have been very focused on healing, and today is no exception. Back in the fall, when Gillian and I were working on selecting choir anthems for this season, I noticed the “healing” theme coming up again and again. We had just chosen a wonderful anthem for last Sunday (There is a balm in Gilead) and then we looked at the readings for this Sunday, and found we needed to look for another piece of music with a similar emphasis. I’m sure that you will enjoy “Your Gentle Touch” that the choir will share a little later in the worship today. Healing is a pervasive theme within Christianity and within the scriptures. I think we could spend weeks and weeks on it with all the stories of Jesus healing people of various kinds of diseases, with all the psalms where the authors are crying out to God for healing or giving thanks for healing. And yes, there are even a few Old Testament stories about healing as well — though perhaps not as many as in the Gospels. I need to admit, though, that healing is a difficult topic. It’s a subject that sometimes makes us uncomfortable in the church. Maybe it’s because of those television faith healers who give healing and the church a … Read more »

March 1, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Genesis 9:8-17Psalm 25:1-10Mark 1:9-15 Remembering is hard, isn’t it? I could give you numerous examples of things I forgot just during the last week… like when I forgot my church keys sitting on the desk in my office when I went home for the night, when I called a church member, didn’t find them home, and forgot to try again before the end of the afternoon, or when Gwen asked me the last name of another church member, and I had to scan through the directory before I could remember it. These are just little things from my week, and perhaps you could make a similar list of failed remembrances from your week too. Forgetting things can be frustrating, and it can make us feel pretty bad about ourselves. It’s not uncommon to hear people scolding themselves for forgetting things — when we forget the birthday or anniversary of a loved one, when we miss an appointment because we just didn’t remember about it, or when we can’t recall the name of a new or an old friend. I’ll never forget the story that I heard from another minister about the time she forgot a graveside funeral service. It was a terrible experience of failing to remember — and one she would never forget, and certainly never repeat! Even though I haven’t forgotten such an important commitment, just the thought that I too could make such a mistake has encouraged me to use a … 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 »

January 22, 2012

Jonah 3:1-5, 10 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 Mark 1:14-20 As we journey through the seasons of the church year and explore the texts of scripture each Sunday that are assigned by the lectionary cycle, we have the opportunity to focus on different parts of the Christian story. During Advent, we enter into the experience of waiting. Longing, hoping, waiting for a Messiah to come… waiting for his return, waiting for our world to be put right. When Christmas finally arrives, we enter into the experience of the Holy Family, of the shepherds, and of the angels. We celebrate the gift of God in sending Jesus into our world, almost as if he has just arrived. And then, at Epiphany, we walk with the wise men to greet him. We experience the “aha moment” – the knowledge that Emmanuel has come – “God with us” for the whole world. Today is the third Sunday after the Epiphany in our church year. We’re in what we call the “Season of Epiphany” and our scripture texts contain some wonderful epiphanies of their own. But I can’t help summing them up with one message from God: “It is time to live differently.” The Greek word that is translated as “time” in each of our New Testament readings today is KAIROS. You might recognize that word from the name of our Canadian ecumenical social justice organization. KAIROS doesn’t have to do with what time it is on the clock. That’s CHRONOS – chronological time. CHRONOS deals … 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 »

February 12, 2012

2 Kings 5:1-14 Mark 1:40-45 As we just heard in today’s Gospel story, Jesus became very well known for his ability to heal. Whether it was a person afflicted with a terrible skin disease like leprosy, a man who could not walk, a woman who couldn’t stop bleeding, or a child seemingly possessed by an evil spirit, Jesus spoke, he touched, or power simply came out of him bringing healing and wholeness and peace. He never used more than a bit of mud in his healing practice, and usually he just did it with a word or a touch that effected rapid healing in the person’s life. Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. This kind of story is strange and far from most of our experience. It’s the kind of story that we share carefully with our children, recognizing that it may raise questions for them, as it does for us. If Jesus could heal the leper, and the lame man, and the demoniac, and the sick child, then why couldn’t God heal my grandmother, or my best friend? Why doesn’t God heal me when I am suffering? The question about healing brings to mind a memory I have from when I was a teenager. I don’t remember the details of what I was doing in Montreal, whether I was there with my family or with a … 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 »

January 11, 2015

Mark 1:4-11 “You are the Beloved” It is wonderful to be able to conduct a baptism on this particular Sunday in the church year. Today is the day that we celebrate the “Baptism of the Lord”. The baptism of Jesus was such an important and pivotal moment in his life and ministry, and reflecting on that moment in Jesus’ life can help us to understand and to celebrate the meaning of baptism in our lives as Jesus’ followers. In some ways, what we do when we gather to baptize an infant seems pretty far removed from what John the Baptizer was doing at the Jordan River so many years ago. The baptism this morning was marked by family, friends, and Christian community gathered in the warmth of a comfortable church, promises made, water poured, and words of blessing spoken for a child. John’s baptism took place outside, down in the muddy waters of the Jordan. And it wasn’t so much about joining a community of faith or about receiving God’s blessing. They were adults who came to get baptized, and they did so because they wanted a fresh start, to confess their sins, and turn their lives in a new direction of obedience to God. The Gospel story today refers to what John was doing out in the wilderness as “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” And it tells us that “people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to … Read more »

February 1, 2015

Deuteronomy 18:15-20 Psalm 111 Mark 1:21-28 “Power to Cast Out Demons” Last week there was a gathering in Saskatoon of the National dialogue between the United and Anglican Churches of Canada. Although as a Presbyterian, I wasn’t involved in the meeting, Nick and I did know a few of the people involved and so we were invited to a social gathering on Wednesday evening. Sitting around in a living room, drinking wine and sharing food with a group of mostly clergy and theologians, somehow how the topic of conversation turned towards exorcisms. I don’t remember how it happened, but suddenly we found ourselves swapping stories about times when we have been called upon to pray away evil spirits, rid homes of resident ghosts, and other unusual requests. As a group of modern, mainline, fairly progressive Christians, there was a general discomfort with being asked to serve as exorcists. There was the worry that agreeing to such requests might legitimate the concern that evil spirits are all around us and need binding. And if there are ghosts to be busted, most of us weren’t too enthusiastic about claiming to have the power to do that sort of thing. In contrast to our modern-day reticence to pray away the power of evil, Jesus did not hesitate to send the spirits scurrying away through the power of his word. And while Matthew’s Gospel tends to emphasize what Jesus said and taught in long passages like the one known as the Sermon on the … 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 »

January 21, 2018

Jonah 3:1-5, 10 Mark 1:14-20 “A Moment and a Lifetime” I wonder if you can remember the moment when your journey with Jesus began. I know some people who can name that moment, when they first prayed and asked Christ to come into their heart, when they first decided that they wanted the focus of their lives to change, and were ready to embrace the “Jesus Way” of living in the world. It’s a moment like that in the lives of some of Jesus’ first disciples that we hear about in our Gospel reading today. Simon and Andrew were fishing that day. James and John were in their boat, mending their fishing nets. Jesus came along and issued an invitation: “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And they did. When Jesus was choosing his disciples they sure didn’t stop to tie their shoes. They left all their nets with no regrets for a calling that they could not refuse. Lord, I will follow you wherever you may go. I want to be a reaper of the seeds you sow. We hear the story about that key moment when the first disciples made the decision to drop their nets, leave their usual routines, and follow Jesus in ministry. And doesn’t it make you wonder about what came before that moment? Was Jesus really a total stranger to these fishermen, who interrupted their work and told them that their new occupation would be “fishing for people” from now … Read more »