December 9, 2007

Matthew 3:1-12 I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of Santa Claus. When asked at the women’s breakfast a few weeks ago to name what I like and dislike about Christmas, I quickly answered that I love Christmas carolling and Christmas worship, and I hate Santa Claus. Well, perhaps that’s putting it a little too strongly. I don’t like the white-bearded, red-suited Santa character created by Coca-Cola and promoted by malls and everyone else trying to sell us as much stuff as possible every December. I don’t like the way the Santa Claus phenomenon has taken over our celebration of Christmas to such an extent that many of our children equate Christmas with “getting presents from Santa.” Ask a child today to name a special memory of Christmas, and I’m quite sure that almost every child will name a toy or other gift that he/she received for Christmas in a previous year. The gifts named will probably include video games and gaming systems, name-brand clothes, DVD’s, TV’s, and other expensive items. They probably won’t include the gifts of hope, joy, peace, or love, the gifts of family, friends, food, or health. And they probably won’t include the greatest gift of all — the gift of Jesus’ birth into our world. At his best, Santa Claus is meant to inspire generosity and gift-giving, which seems quite reasonable. But rarely do I encounter a child who wants to tell me about a gift that he or she is giving … Read more »

January 13, 2008

Isaiah 42:1-9 Psalm 29Acts 10:34-43Matthew 3:13-17 I grew up, and went to church school, and sang in the choir, and listened to sermons, in a church whose sanctuary looks very much like this one at St. Andrew’s. Although my home church was a little wider and a little shorter, it shared the same basic architecture as this worship space. It included rows of wooden pews, facing straight towards the front, a long central aisle, and a balcony at the back. The front section, traditionally referred to as the chancel, included a pulpit on one side for preaching, a lectern on the other for readings, prayers, and announcements. The area reserved for the choir included two sets of pews facing towards each other with the Communion Table in between. And like here at St. Andrew’s, we usually only had a choir large enough to fill one side. The architecture varies a little bit these days, both in Presbyterian and other Christian churches, but one thing that is almost universally communicated by the way we set up our worship spaces is that something is going on at the front, and the people are watching it. You’re all looking this way — often you’re looking at me! — because I’m supposed to be doing something, or saying something, and you’re all here to watch it, or hear it. Now, don’t get me wrong… I’m not complaining about the responsibility that I’ve taken on in responding to the call to preach the Word and … Read more »

December 5, 2010

Isaiah 11:1-10 Romans 15:4-13 Matthew 3:1-12 I didn’t want to preach about John the Baptist this morning. As you may have noticed, John the Baptist shows up every year during Advent. And he can be a little scary, as he scolds and chides and warns the people to repent and to flee from the wrath to come. Instead of preaching about repentance, I wanted to focus on the beautiful, peaceful images from the earlier prophet, Isaiah. I didn’t want to get stuck with the image of the axe lying at the root of the trees. I wanted to talk about the new shoot growing out of the tree stump instead. But as I explored the text in Isaiah, it kept leading me right back to John the Baptist and the one coming after him. And so you will have a sermon today that is inspired by two prophets… Isaiah and John. The prophet Isaiah wrote about a vision of peace. He predicted that peace would be achieved through the leadership of a righteous ruler in the line of King David. Poetically, Isaiah wrote: “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” And Isaiah described the perfect leader who would surpass even the beloved King David: “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord… [and] with righteousness … Read more »

December 8, 2013

Isaiah 11:1-10 Matthew 3:1-12 “The Axe at the Root of the Trees” “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” This verse brings to mind memories of walking through the woods in places like BC where the forests are very mature. Big, old trees have been cut or more often have died and long since fallen to the ground. And from their stumps, often moss-covered and starting to rot, new trees are beginning to grow. Shoots are coming up from these stumps of old dead trees. Whole new trees are growing out of some of them, nourished by the remnants of the old ones, but growing new and strong, with the potential to bear fruit, provide shade, and become a home for the little animals and birds of the forest. When the prophet Isaiah wrote these words, they were words of hope, and promise, and possibility for a new ruler for Israel who would emerge from the tragedies and disappointments of the present and recent past, and who would bring peace and security to God’s people. In the context of Israel having been conquered by Assyria, the prophet’s words inspire hope that at least a remnant will survive (like a shoot growing out from a dead stump) and that one day peace and tranquility will be the reality for all of creation. Of course, when Christians read this text, we recognize Jesus the Christ as the one on whom … Read more »

January 12, 2014

Matthew 3:13-17 Acts 10:34-43 “Baptism: The Beginning of the Journey” As most of you know, in addition to being your minister, I am a student again. I’m back in school, still quite close to the beginning of a Doctor of Ministry degree through the Toronto School of Theology. Broadly speaking, my topic is about marriage. I’m interested in ministry with couples preparing for marriage and how we do that in the Presbyterian Church. And I’m particularly interested in how clergy and congregations can support couples from different church backgrounds to participate in a church and live out their faith together either in one church or in two churches as an interchurch family. In the Fall, I took a course on the unity of the church, and this term I am beginning a course on theologies and spiritualities of marriage. But when I was deciding on a paper topic for the Fall course, I found myself drawn to the topic of baptism. I studied the final report of the Reformed-Roman Catholic dialogue on the topic of baptism in the U.S. – a document called, “These Living Waters: Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism.” And I found that there is a great deal of agreement between what Presbyterian and Catholic Churches teach about baptism – what we believe it means, how we do it, when we do it, and why we do it. Baptism is a point of amazing agreement between many Christian Churches, and it is a practice that can … Read more »

December 4, 2016

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Isaiah 11:1-10 Psalm 72:1-7 18-19 Romans 15:4-13 Matthew 3:1-12 “A Peaceable Kingdom with Plenty of Good Fruit” Listen to this Sermon When the prophet Isaiah wrote the now-familiar messianic oracle about the coming of a righteous ruler, and described the peaceable kingdom that would result as a place where wild animals and little children eat and play together in safety, his world was not very peaceful at all. It was around 733 BCE, and Isaiah was in Judah where King Ahaz was the ruler. When the northern kingdom of Israel and the Arameans of Damascas tried to force Judah and their king to join their rebellion against Assyria, Isaiah advised King Ahaz to refuse, which he did. But I think Isaiah was hoping for a time of peace for Judah and Jerusalem, and the king’s next political decision didn’t make that too likely. Instead of joining the rebel alliance, Ahaz called Assyria to intervene. This they did with devastating impact, eventually leading to the destruction of Samaria and the end of the northern kingdom in 721. Isaiah objected to this dangerous move by King Ahaz, but he remained hopeful about the future. Rather than being totally discouraged by the current king, the prophet was thinking about his young son, Hezekiah, who would follow Ahaz as king. Perhaps he might be the righteous Davidic ruler that everyone was longing for. This morning’s hopeful passage may reflect that rising hope in Hezekiah as God’s righteous king, … Read more »

January 8, 2017

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Acts 10:34-43 Matthew 3:13-17 Listen to this Sermon “I Love You All the Same” This morning’s reading from the Book of Acts is part of a sermon preached by the Apostle Peter almost 2000 years ago. It’s a really good summary of the Christian faith, and one of the passages that we often read on Easter Sunday. It’s also probably the first sermon preached to non-Jews, to Gentiles in the city of Caesarea. By the time Peter finishes preaching it, it is pretty obvious that the Holy Spirit is flying around the place, just as she had on the Day of Pentecost. So Peter invites his listeners to be baptized, and a bunch of them are! What stands in the background of this passage is a conversion. And it’s not so much Cornelius’ conversion, as it is Peter’s conversion. Perhaps you remember the story about Peter and Cornelius. Peter is a Jewish Christian and leader in the early Christian Church, at this point staying in the city of Joppa. Cornelius is a Roman centurion living in Caesarea. He is not Jewish and not a Christian, but he is a man who believes in God, spends time in prayer, and gives generously to those in need. Around the same time, both Peter and Cornelius have a vision from God. God tells Cornelius to send men to Joppa to find Peter and bring him back. Meanwhile, Peter has that famous vision of the sheet coming down … Read more »