Christmas Memorial Sermon – December 10, 2008

The following sermon was preached at the annual Christmas Memorial Service for St. John’s Columbarium on December 10, 2008. The service took place at St. John’s Cathedral in Saskatoon, SK. Matthew 1:18-23Psalm 91John 1:1-5, 14, 18 Many years ago, before the time of Jesus, God’s People, Israel, were struggling with their circumstances as an occupied People, and they were struggling in their relationship with God. The Roman occupiers had control of their land. And though the Jews were allowed to live there and practice their religion, they had to pay taxes to Caesar, deal with the Roman soldiers, and cope with the fact that they were not really free. Of course, this was not the first time that God’s People had experienced being conquered by a foreign power, it was not the first time that they had been controlled and oppressed by a more powerful nation, and it was not the first time that their difficulties led many among them to doubt God’s presence and love and to turn away from God. Through the Season of Advent, in particular, the bible readings that we hear each Sunday in church remind us of other times of struggle and doubt in the history of God’s People. We are reminded that the People of Israel have always experienced troubles in their attempts to maintain their culture, their religion, and the land that God promised to them. The history of God’s People includes being conquered by a series of foreign powers, being exiled from … Read more »

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 »

November 30, 2008

Isaiah 64:1-9Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 On this first Sunday of Advent, our scripture texts reflect both the struggle and longing of the people of God, and their undying hope. The prophet Isaiah observed the people around him, the marketplace, the leaders, and the culture, and he cried out in frustration, despair, and unrelenting hope for God to do something about it. His people had finally returned from exile in Babylon, but Jerusalem was no longer the place they had once known. The people had changed. Things had changed. They wondered whether God was still with them or not.“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” Isaiah lamented to God. He speaks almost as if God has abandoned him and his people. He speaks as if God is some far-off, distant being that has not been paying attention for some time. And perhaps that is exactly how he is feeling about God. In Ralph Milton’s Story Bible version of this passage from Isaiah, he imagines that the prophet has just returned from a visit to the marketplace. His young friend, Rebekah, comes for a visit, and notices that he is looking very sad. She could see tears in his eyes, so she took his hand. “What’s wrong, Old Isaiah?” she asked.“Sometimes…” Old Isaiah closed his eyes. “Sometimes I wonder how God puts up with us.”“Did something bad happen at the market this morning?” Rebekah asked.“The bad thing was that nothing important happened,” Old Isaiah said.“I don’t understand.” Rebekah sat … Read more »

November 16, 2008

Matthew 25:14-301 Thessalonians 5:1-11 I didn’t want to preach on the parable of the talents this week. I figured that I’d preached on this text before, and I wouldn’t have anything new or different to say about it. I fully intended to preach on the text from Thessalonians about being children of light. I thought that since we have a baptism today, that would be a good theme. We would celebrate the fact that we belong to the light and to the day, not to the darkness and night. We would rejoice over the fact that God has destined us, including this child baptized this morning, for salvation. Not because we have managed through our own goodness and effort to earn salvation, but because in Jesus Christ, God has reached out to us in grace and love. I think it would have been a very encouraging sermon, if I had preached it today. But I’m not going to preach that sermon, because I couldn’t get the parable of the talents out of my head this week. You’ve likely all heard the parable many times before. It’s another one of Jesus’ powerful stories. In our Sunday morning bible study, we’ve been studying the parables in Matthew’s Gospel since September, and we’ve discovered that these simple little stories (some of them only a few lines long) are packed with meaning. Parables use the ordinary things of life to teach us extraordinary things about God. At first, they seem to be about one … Read more »

November 2, 2008

Matthew 23:1-121 Thessalonians 2:9-13 Those poor old scribes and Pharisees! The Gospel writers sure give them a hard time! It’s easy to start thinking of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day as really terrible people — as hypocrites, as stuck-up, high & mighty, selfish people who enjoyed lording their knowledge and authority over everyone else. The Pharisees really do get a bad reputation in the Gospels as the people who were too concerned with the letter of the religious law, and not enough concerned with the spirit of it. Matthew’s Gospel has Jesus pointing to the scribes and Pharisees and saying, “do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.” Now, the Pharisees aren’t ALL bad. Jesus is acknowledging that most of their teachings are okay. The problem is that they’re not following their own teachings. They’re not really living by them. They’re talking the talk, but not really walking the walk. I feel for the Pharisees though, because walking the walk can be tough. Most of the time, it’s not too hard to figure out what would be the right thing to do. It’s actually following through and DOING the right thing that’s more challenging. And as soon as you’re in a position of teaching someone else how to do something, the pressure comes on for you to get it right too. Perhaps those of you who are parents can relate to this… when you find … Read more »

October 19, 2008 – Calvin-Goforth Presbyterian Church

The following sermon, based on 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, was preached by the Rev. Amanda Currie at Calvin-Goforth Presbyterian Church, Saskatoon, on Sunday, October 19th. Worship at St. Andrew’s was led by the Stewardship Committee using resources for Presbyterians Sharing Sunday. Written in about the year 50 CE, some 20 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus and 20 years before the Gospel of Mark was written, Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians is the oldest piece of Christian literature that we have. Early on during his second missionary journey, Paul, accompanied by Silas (sometimes called Silvanus) visited Thessalonica, the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia. They preached in the Jewish synagogue, with the result that some Jews and a larger number of pious Gentiles became Christians. In the book of Acts it is suggested that Paul spent only a short time in Thessalonica before difficulties occurred and he and his companions left the city. The letter shows that in the relatively short time he was with them, Paul developed a deep familial affection for the Thessalonians. He cared so much for them and he was so concerned for these newly evangelized Christians that he had an intense desire to return to Thessalonica, but was unable to do so. Instead, he sent his faithful companion Timothy to encourage and support the members of the community in their Christian life. Timothy then returned with a generally positive report of their situation, albeit with some hints at some deficiencies in the … Read more »

October 5, 2008 – Parkview Presbyterian Church

The following sermon, based on Luke 24:13-35 and Ezekiel 37:1-14, was preached by the Rev. Amanda Currie for the closing worship service of Parkview Presbyterian Church, Saskatoon. The service was conducted by the Presbytery of Northern Saskatchewan on Sunday, October 5th at 4:00 p.m. “Jesus came near and went with us” This is not the first time I have attended a final worship service for a Presbyterian church that was closing. I remember being at the closing service for a little church in Hull, Quebec — Cushman Memorial Presbyterian Church — when they decided to close and their few remaining members joined with my home congregation in Ottawa. Many of us attended that service to sing in the choir and to welcome the folk from Cushman into the fellowship, service, and mission of our church. But this is the first time that I have had the task of preaching at the dissolution of a congregation. It was up to me to choose the scripture texts for today (none being prescribed or even suggested for an occasion such as this). But surprisingly, as I reflected on this point in Parkview’s journey, the texts I would select quickly became apparent. As your interim moderator from October 2006 to June 2008, I was with you as you made the difficult decision to close your doors. When I thought about the disappointment and disillusionment that many of you experienced at that time, my mind quickly went to Cleopas and his friend on the road … Read more »

October 5, 2008

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 11-20Matthew 21:33-46 A few weeks ago, I caught an episode of The Simpsons on TV. Some of you likely watch The Simpsons (an animated program for adults), and others of you may find the show annoying or even rude. But those of you who do enjoy The Simpsons probably appreciate it as a humorous social commentary. If you want to have a good discussion about politics, education, the environment, family life, or religion, an episode of The Simpsons can often be a good discussion starter. Anyway, the episode that I watched a few weeks ago began with a scene about the Hebrews camping out in the wilderness. While Moses is up on the mountain talking to God, we meet some of the Hebrew men down below. First, there is an artist — a sculptor. He’s working on his latest creation (a beautiful golden calf) and he’s already praising it as if it were a god. Then there’s his friend who’s obviously a player. He just isn’t a “one woman man,” you might say. And then there’s the character represented by Homer Simpson. His pockets are full of other people’s stuff. He’s a pick pocket and a thief, and he’s pretty good at what he does. But all of a sudden Moses shows up. He’s just down from his latest conversation with God, and God has given him some rules for the people to follow. Moses says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol… you shall not … Read more »

September 21, 2008

Exodus 16:2-15Philippians 1:21-30 I go back and forth in my feelings about the ministry that I am called to be involved in within the church. Some days I am hopeful and excited and optimistic. Some days I am discouraged and disillusioned. Some days I have the sense that my work is making a real difference in people’s lives. And other days I feel like the world is so lost and misguided that we don’t have a chance of making any significant difference to anyone. In fact, I would say that most of my days in ministry are filled with a mixture of hopefulness because I am engaged in meaningful and important work, and discouragement because the needs I see around me are so great and I can’t imagine being able to respond to them all. Let me give you a few examples from my week. On Sunday evening, I made sandwiches with the youth group for Saskatoon Native Circle Ministry. I thought it was a worthwhile way to spend part of our evening for a couple of reasons… our young people would be learning to give their time and effort for others, and people who were hungry would get some good food to eat the next day. But I also wondered how we can possibly make it to a time when there won’t be any more hungry people. And I thought about the fact that a few sandwiches will do little to change the lives of our Aboriginal sisters and … Read more »

September 7, 2008

The following message was presented by Harold, Suzy, and Angie (the St. Andrew’s puppet characters) by Iain Ireland, Melissa Tate, and Allyssa deBruijn. Amanda and Gwen are the ministers of St. Andrew’s, and this was Gwen’s first Sunday in our congregation. I’m sorry that I can’t put the expression and ad libs of the puppeteers in print for you here. Oh well! Thanks to the puppeteers for bringing this script to life on Sunday, September 7th, 2008.Harold: Welcome back, Suzy and Angie! I haven’t seen either of you around here much this summer. Where have you been? Angie: I spent the summer at CampChristopher, Harold. I had a great time with all the kids and youth each week, worshipping together and enjoying God’s good creation. Suzy: And I’ve been busy too, Harold… working, travelling… It’s been a busy summer, but I’m sure glad to be back at St. Andrew’s. Choir practice started this week, so I’m getting my singing voice back in shape… La, la, la, la… Angie: How about you, Harold? How was your summer? Harold: I’ve had a great summer! I have tons of stories I could tell you, but maybe since we’re right in the middle of worship, I should save them for later. Angie: I think worship is a great time for telling stories! Last Sunday I was here and Amanda told a really interesting story about this guy called Moses. He saw a burning bush on a mountain, and heard God telling him to get … Read more »

August 31, 2008

Exodus 3:1-15Romans 12:9-21Matthew 16:21-28 The concept of being called by God or called by God in Jesus Christ is one that runs all the way through the Hebrew and Greek scriptures — our bible. God called Abram to leave his family and his country, and to go to a new land where God would make him and his descendants into a blessing to the world. God called the boy Samuel to be a prophet to the people. God called him to speak words of judgement against those who were not living in God’s ways so that they would turn and follow God. Another prophet, Isaiah, explained that God called him even before he was born. He believed that his whole identity and nature was to be one who gathered Israel back to their God. That was his call. Jeremiah too was a prophet appointed by God to speak God’s words. When God called him, Jeremiah said, “O God, I don’t know how to speak! I’m only a boy!” But God said, “Do not be afraid, because I am with you.” In the Greek scriptures, God’s call was heard in the voice of Jesus.Peter and Andrew heard, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” People in a crowd heard, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” And folks in the marketplace heard, “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.” Some heard the call to go on a mission. They … Read more »

July 13, 2008

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 You may have noticed, as Jim was reading today’s Gospel passage, that it came in two sections. The first part was the parable that Jesus told to the crowds about a sower who scatters seeds liberally across the ground, and the results that follow. And the second part was an explanation or interpretation of the parable. The Gospel writer frames the explanation as “Jesus explaining to his disciples what he meant by this confusing story.” But most biblical scholars agree that while the parable itself is probably one that Jesus actually told (or at least, something very much like it), the interpretation is likely the product of Matthew’s community near the end of the first century. Jesus was, indeed, a Jewish teacher — a rabbi. And he brought not only a new message to the people, but he also used a new form of communication. Jesus’ method of teaching in parables was not the typical practice of contemporary rabbis, but a new and unsettling departure in religious communication. Without the helpful little explanation that Matthew’s Gospel provides, we can imagine that both the crowds and the disciples would have been confused, or perhaps intrigued by Jesus’ little stories. The biblical scholar C.H. Dodd describes a parable in this way:“At its simplest, the parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into … Read more »

July 6, 2008

Genesis 24:34-38Song of Solomon 2:8-13Romans 7:15-25aMatthew 11:16-19, 25-30 This is the season of the church year that is often called “ordinary time.” It’s the season after Pentecost, a long period without special celebrations until we finally get to Reign of Christ Sunday at the end of November and then the season of Advent in December. During this “ordinary time,” the lectionary readings can feel rather random. On a special Sunday, like Reign of Christ, or Easter, or even the third Sunday of Lent, the readings are chosen to connect with the particular theme of the day or the season. So when you read them together, they seem to fit together. But during ordinary time, there is no particular effort made for the readings to “fit together.” For the past few Sundays, we have been reading through the book of Genesis, reading through Paul’s letter to the Romans, and reading through the Gospel according to Matthew. The psalm (or in today’s case, the passage from Song of Solomon) is chosen to connect with the Old Testament readings. So, if you noticed that the wedding song we heard today fit very nicely after reading about how Isaac found and married his wife Rebekah… well, that’s the reason why it fit so well. Those who put together the cycle of lectionary readings chose that passage from the Song of Solomon to reflect on the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. But they didn’t make any attempt to match up the readings from Romans or … Read more »

June 22, 2008

Genesis 21:8-21Psalm 86Romans 6:1-11Matthew 10:24-39 Today’s Gospel passage from Matthew consists of some sayings and words of instruction and encouragement from Jesus to his inner circle of followers. In last week’s reading (the first part of chapter 10) Jesus summoned his twelve disciples, gave them power to cast out demons and cure diseases, and sent them out to the “lost sheep of Israel” to proclaim the good news, cure the sick, raise the dead, and generally to do the kinds of things Jesus himself was doing. So, keeping in mind the mission that Jesus had just given to these leaders in his group, let us examine the further instructions that he gives to them. Our passage begins with a proverbial saying: “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master.” As students of Jesus, the disciples are being told that they will experience the same kinds of challenges and struggles that Jesus did. He was persecuted. So will they be. He was rejected by many. So will they experience rejection. Jesus points out that some people have called him “Beelzebul” (another name for the devil) and these people are not likely to treat Jesus’ followers any better. As Jesus’ disciples went out to the towns of Israel, proclaiming the good news about the coming kingdom, and healing and helping people in Jesus’ name, they probably did experience some resistance … Read more »

June 8, 2008

The following message was presented in three parts. The first two parts (God Chooses Abram & God Chooses Matthew) were presented interactively with the children of the church. The third part (God Chooses Us) was presented in traditional sermon format. God Chooses Abram The first bible story we will hear today is about a man named Abram who was chosen by God for a special purpose. You might remember the name Abraham. That was the name that God gave to him (it meant “father of many nations”, but his original name was Abram, so that’s what he’s called in our story today. As Rachel reads our story from Genesis 12, listen and see if you can hear what God is choosing Abram to do. Genesis 12:1-9 Did you notice what God was choosing Abram to do? (Go to a new land, have children and make a community of people who know God, be a blessing to others…) Any ideas as to why God chose Abram for this job? Do you think it was because Abram was really smart or strong or he liked to travel? This is why I think God chose Abram for this purpose… Because Abram believed in God. There weren’t many people around at that time who knew about God or believed in God. But when God spoke to Abram, Abram listened and did what God asked him to do. Not many people were paying attention to what God wanted them to do. But Abram knew about … Read more »

May 18, 2008

Genesis 1:1 — 2:4a As I was planning our worship for today, I was thinking that we could simply have a wonderful celebration of God’s creation. It’s not very often that we read the whole of the Genesis 1 creation story in worship, and that setting of the reading that Adam read and sang for us today lifts my spirits in joy. When we practiced today’s choir anthem (The Lord of Everything) for the first time, it made me want to jump up and run outside — not because we didn’t sound great the first time through, but because it made me want to experience the beautiful creation that we were singing about. This theme in the lectionary, it seems, has arrived just in time for spring – when Saskatonians are finally getting outdoors again where we can see and appreciate the natural world. We’re reading and singing about God’s creation just at the time when many of us are starting to think about and plan for summer holidays. Personally, I’m looking forward to a trip through the mountains to BC later this summer. I can hardly wait to experience those wonderful mountain views and to really enjoy the natural environment that God made. But as I pointed out in the children’s story, God’s creation (which we gather to celebrate today) is severely distorted, extremely endangered, and ultimately at risk of being destroyed. And there’s no getting around the fact that the cause of the problem is us — humans. … Read more »

May 4, 2008

Acts 17:16-31John 14:15-21 Until I started to explore this morning’s text from the Book of Acts, I had no idea how much wonderful stuff about God was packed into such a short little speech by Paul at the Areopagus. Your typical modern-day preacher takes at least ten minutes, if not fifteen or twenty minutes to preach the Gospel in most of our churches. And rarely do we manage to do it as eloquently as Paul’s little sermon to the philosophers in Athens. The element of Paul’s speech that really spoke to me this week was the idea that God does not need us, but that we need God. It’s humbling for us — even the brightest and most gifted and most accomplished and independent — to listen to Paul’s words: “The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.” It’s humbling to remember that everything that we have and everything that we are comes from God. It is in God and by God that we live and move and have our being. And it’s natural and to-be-expected that we would depend on God, like young children depend on their parents. “For we are God’s offspring,” as Paul said. Today’s lectionary text is one of three major missionary … Read more »

April 27, 2008

The following sermon was written by the Rev. Amanda Currie and presented by Nicole Lindgren, David Ireland, Eva Anderson, and Allyssa deBruijn. Thank you to all the youth who led worship at St. Andrew’s on Sunday April 27, 2008 and shared their experience from the most recent Synod Youth weekend in Weyburn, SK. One: Last weekend our theme for the Synod Youth Event was “Talk the Walk: Putting our Faith into Words.” Two: As people of faith of all ages, it’s important for us to work on putting our faith into words. And it’s not easy for any of us. Three: Presbyterians can often be pretty quiet and reserved about what we believe. We don’t want to offend anyone, so we stay quiet about our beliefs. Four: And the result is that no one is offended by us, but no one hears anything from us about the Good News of God in Jesus Christ. One: No one hears how much God loves us. Two: We can show people God’s love by our actions though, can’t we? We can “walk the talk.” Three: Yes. It’s really important that we show God’s love by our actions. But when people wonder why we love, or when they ask where we get the strength to love, we need to be able to tell them… Four: … “It’s because God loved me first.” One: We can’t just “walk the talk.” We also need to “talk the walk.” Three: Learning to “talk the walk” doesn’t just … Read more »

April 20, 2008 – Mission Awareness

A sermon by Dineke Kraay on Mission Awareness Acts 7:55-60 Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 1 Peter 2:2-10 John 14:1-14 Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ! On this Mission Awareness Sunday, the members of the Hildur Hermanson group intend to emphasize the mission work of our national church and the work of the Women’s Missionary Society. My first idea was to give you a lot of Mission information. It would have gone on like this: according to the latest statistics, in 2006 Canada Ministries created Fourteen New Ministries. It supported Twenty-six Specialized Ministries. In addition it gave funds to Eight Renewing and Eighteen Sustaining Ministries. These are awfully dry statistics. But they come to life when the people involved tell their stories as they do in Stories of Mission. And I could probably have provided you with similar statistics about International Ministries. But again, it is the stories that count. So, I urge you to pick up your free copy of this booklet after the service. They are on the table in the Narthex. And do read the additional mission information in the bulletin. I would like to highlight, however, the mission work in Eastern Europe. The Presbyterian Church in Canada supports: The Reformed Church in Hungary, The Hungarian Reformed Church and its Theological Seminary in Romania, and The Reformed Church of Sub-Carpathian Ukraine in Ukraine. The work here includes education, healthcare, work among the Roma people, formerly called Gypsies, and refugees. The national office of the Women’s Missionary Society is … Read more »

April 13, 2008

Acts 2:42-47 The book of the “Acts of the Apostles” is a unique book within the new Testament. There are four accounts of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection. And there are many letters written by Paul and other church leaders to fledgling Christian communities all around the known world. But the Book of Acts is different. Its topic is the early church at its beginning. Jesus ascends into heaven in the first chapter, and then we have the stories of the birth and growth of the church. Like the Gospels, its form is historical narrative, and its author is likely the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke. And though the stories in Acts are about “what happened” among the first Christians, their purpose is greater than simply to record a historical moment. In fact, like in the Gospels, historical accuracy may often be discarded in order to relate to the readers (the next generations of the church) what was the purpose and mission and character of being the church together at the beginning. Today’s few verses, from the end of the second chapter, are some of my favourite verses in Acts. They are a beautiful description of the Christian community as it is meant to be. At this point, the church has only just been formed. Chapter two begins with the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The followers of Jesus are filled with God’s powerful Spirit and equipped to share the Good News with all … Read more »