April 6, 2008

Luke 24:13-35

It’s probably not too difficult for most of us to relate to Cleopas and his friend, trudging along the road to Emmaus after what was probably the greatest disappointment of their lives. Like them, many of us have experienced the loss of dear loved ones — sometimes suddenly, and other times at the end of long and painful illness. Some of us have survived losing jobs or relationships that have come to an end. Others live through each day with the extra challenges of physical or mental illness. Some suffer from discrimination, abuse, or debilitating poverty. And all of us, no matter how care-free our lives may seem, are daily confronted by the realities of violence, and war, and hatred in our world that we feel powerless to overcome.

Over the past two weeks, many people in the core neighbourhoods of Saskatoon, in some of our community agencies, and in the supporting churches, have felt a deep sense of disappointment at the provincial government’s withdrawal of funding for the “Station 20 West” project. As you likely already know, “Station 20 West,” at the corner of 20th Street and Avenue “L,” was to include affordable housing, a … Read more »

March 30, 2008

John 20:19-31

Early on the first day of the week, a friend of Jesus named Mary Magdalene went to the tomb where he had been buried, and discovered that his body was gone. Peter and another disciple went and saw it too. Jesus’ grave clothes were there, but he was gone. Only Mary saw the angels that morning and spoke with Jesus in the garden, but she told the others that she had seen the Lord, that he was raised, and that he was going up to be with God.

The author of John’s Gospel doesn’t tell us what the other disciples thought of her report that morning, but when evening came they were huddled together, scared as could be, all of them in a house with the doors locked. But Jesus will not allow them to hide for long. Neither the locked doors, nor their recent failure to stick by Jesus when he most needed them, will stop Jesus from returning to them, and blessing them, and commissioning them to carry on his work.

Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” It was a conventional greeting to follow a not-so-conventional entrance. … Read more »

March 23, 2008

The following dialogue sermon was presented for the Easter Sunday message. Thank you to David Ireland for playing the role of Apollos, while I (Amanda) was Priscilla. The italicized sections were sung by the choir and congregation to the tune of “Give me oil in my lamp.”

Priscilla and Apollos: Preaching the GOOD NEWS in Ephesus

Apollos: Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.”

Jesus, the great rabbi, also said: “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

Do not think that Jesus came to abolish the law or the prophets. No, he came to fulfill them.

You have heard that it was said to those in ancient times, “You shall not murder.” But … Read more »

March 16, 2008

Matthew 21:1-11

Jesus said: “What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second son and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? What do you think?” Jesus asked the chief priests and the elders.

And they, of course, picked the first son — the one who had said the wrong thing, but done the right thing. And they were right. Obedience to God is about more than just words, it’s about action, it’s about doing the right thing, not just knowing or saying the right thing.

Not long before this conversation with the religious authorities at the temple, Jesus had arrived in the city of Jerusalem and caused quite a stir. A crowd had gathered, as it often did whenever Jesus was out preaching and healing and doing the kinds of things that Jesus did. And the crowd was just about as excited and lively … Read more »

March 2, 2008

1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
John 9:1-41

The story of the day that God asked Samuel to choose a new king for the People of Israel is a good illustration of the way that God sees differently from the rest of us.

The first king of Israel, King Saul, was not doing a very good job, as far as God was concerned. He wasn’t honouring God or following God’s ways, and God wanted him replaced as quickly as possible. The prophet Samuel, who had once anointed Saul to be king, now had been instructed by God to anoint a new king from among Jesse’s sons. Samuel had to go to Bethlehem, meet up with Jesse’s family, and God would show him which one of the sons was God’s chosen one to be the king.

I’m not really sure why God didn’t just tell Samuel right away that David was the chosen one. While God was giving all those instructions anyway, God could easily have added, “Oh, and by the way, the kid’s name is David.”

… Read more »

February 24, 2008

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 95
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42

As we continue our journey through the season of Lent, Year A (the first year of the 3-year lectionary cycle) gives us a long, elaborate story from John’s Gospel each Sunday. Last week it was the story of the Jewish leader, Nicodemus, being told by Jesus that he needed to be born from above. And today, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman beside a well, as he is travelling by the city of Sychar.

Last week we paid attention to the way that John’s Jesus used confusing language. When he told Nicodemus that he had to be born “anothen” in order to see the Kingdom of God, the Greek word “anothen” could have meant “again” (as Nicodemus assumed) or “from above” (the more spiritual meaning that Jesus actually intended.)

The major theme of John’s Gospel is about how people come to believe in Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour of the world. At the end of chapter 20, the purpose of the Gospel is made plain: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But … Read more »

February 17, 2008

John 3:1-17

Nicodemus is an example of an educated and religious person who doesn’t quite GET what Jesus is about. The exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus is a typical passage from John’s Gospel, full of metaphors and symbolic language. Jesus is speaking in riddles, it seems, and Nicodemus is thoroughly confused. Understandably confused, I think.

First, of course, there is the mix-up over what Jesus is saying about being born. The Greek word used is “anothen,” and Nicodemus interprets it to mean “again.” He thinks that Jesus is requiring him to be born AGAIN in order to see the Kingdom of God. “How can a grown man ever be born a second time?” he asks. And Jesus tells him that he doesn’t need another physical, human birth. He needs to be born of the Spirit. You see, the other meaning of the word “anothen” is “from above.” Nicodemus, and all of us, need to be born “from above” by the Spirit in order to experience the Kingdom of God.

As Jesus goes on talking about this spiritual birth, there’s a line about the wind. “God’s Spirit is like the wind that blows wherever it wants to. You … Read more »

February 10, 2008

Matthew 4:1-11
Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-7
Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-19

Did anyone watch the show “Little Mosque on the Prairie” this week? It’s the CBC comedy about a little Mosque in a community somewhere on the Canadian Prairies. There aren’t a huge number of Muslims in the fictional town of “Mercy” but there are enough to gather together in a rented space in an Anglican Church. And there are enough to hire a young Imam from Toronto (the clergy person in an Islamic community).

This week’s episode of “Little Mosque on the Prairie” began with Friday prayers and the Imam’s sermon. It’s the beginning of the festival of Ramadan in which Muslims fast and pray, read the Qu’ran and re-focus their lives on following the ways of God, including good deeds, kindness, and helping others. Though the TV show wasn’t concerned with giving many details about the meaning and significance of Ramadan, what was clear was the call to individuals to rid themselves of bad habits, negative practices, or what in a religious context, we would call sin.

Are you reminded of the Christian season of Lent that we began a few days ago on Ash Wednesday? That’s what came to my mind as I listened to … Read more »

January 27, 2008

Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1-6
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23

Today’s Gospel reading is about the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. The author of Matthew’s Gospel tells us that Jesus left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum in order to fulfil the words of the prophet Isaiah:
“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles —
the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.”

Later, John’s Gospel will have Jesus identify himself as “the light of the world.” And here, Matthew describes the work that Jesus is about to begin in Galilee as like a light shining into darkness, as like the sun rising for those who are in danger of death.

Jesus begins his proclamation of the reign of God, and it’s like a light has been switched on. The things Jesus says, and the way Jesus acts, and the person Jesus is in the world, help the people he encounters to start seeing things differently. He both pronounces God’s high expectations of each of … Read more »

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2008

The following sermon was preached by the Rev. Amanda Currie at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Saskatoon, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in January 2008. St. Andrew’s hosted an ecumenical worship service on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008 at 7 a.m. The Prairie Centre for Ecumenism coordinates a wonderful schedule of ecumenical prayer and worship in Saskatoon each year, and we were pleased to take part by hosting one of the services. Our worship reflected on the readings for Day 4 of the Week of Prayer, and on the theme “Pray always for justice.”

Psalm 146
Exodus 3:1-12

This morning’s reading from Exodus is one of the scripture texts assigned for day four of the Week of Prayer. It is the familiar story of Moses speaking with God at the burning bush. When I’ve preached on this text in the past, my focus has been on the experience of God’s call. God speaks to us in a variety of ways — not usually as dramatically as through a burning bush that’s not being burned up! — but God does speak to us in scripture, through people in our lives, by the Holy Spirit, and as we carefully listen to God in prayer.

And … Read more »

January 20, 2008

Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 40:1-11
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

I’ve always tended to think of myself as a “middle of the road” Canadian Presbyterian. I’m pretty comfortable in a church that includes a variety of perspectives on social issues, biblical interpretation, and theology. We don’t need to agree on absolutely everything, but we can find unity in some core convictions and work together towards some common goals. And I’m pretty comfortable as a Presbyterian within the larger church community. I value our Reformed tradition with its distinctives and strengths, but I don’t need to convince Anglicans or Roman Catholics to become Presbyterians. I don’t think the Pentecostals would be better off if they joined our church, and I don’t go around saying the Presbyterians who went into Church Union 83 years ago would be much better off if they had stuck with us. In fact, when I’ve taken part in interfaith events, (like the prayers for peace that we shared a few weeks ago on New Year’s Eve down at St. Paul’s Cathedral), I’ve been aware of the fact that we have a great deal in common with other people of faith… whether they are Jewish, or Muslim, or Sikh, or Buddhist, or something … Read more »

January 13, 2008

Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 29
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 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 … Read more »

January 6, 2008

Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

The story of the magi’s visit to the young boy Jesus in Bethlehem is the classic Epiphany story. We often sneak the wise men into the Christmas story in December, but its proper place is here: after the birth of the child, after the shepherds have returned home, after the angels have receded into the sky. Once again, of course, I should remind you that the shepherds and the angels belong to Luke’s story, and the magi are Matthew’s. The birth narratives should not be read as historical accounts of factual events. So we don’t have to worry about why the Holy Family who had travelled to Bethlehem for a census (in Luke’s account) are still there a few years later (in Matthew’s account) and living in a house.

Chances are that Jesus was really born in Nazareth, the Galilean town where he grew up and began his ministry. But both Matthew and Luke come up with reasons for his birth to take place in Bethlehem, the city of David. It’s a great way to show that Jesus is the predicted Messiah, in the family line … Read more »