December 24, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Isaiah 9:2-7 Titus 2:11-14 Gwen: Well, it’s Christmas Eve tonight, and just like every year, we’re celebrating… blah, blah, blah… Jesus was born… blah, blah, blah… I’m sure you’ve all heard the story a million times before. Maybe we should just skip to the Christmas prayers so we can get out of here. Amanda: Um, Gwen, is something wrong? Don’t you want to preach about the wonder of Jesus’ birth into our world? Gwen: I don’t know, Amanda… what would I say? We’ve all heard the story before about how Jesus was born, and the angels sang, and the shepherds came all excited to visit the baby. Babies are nice and all… but how can we keep getting excited about a baby that was born more than 2000 years ago? Amanda: Don’t you think Jesus’ birth has relevance for us today? Gwen: I can see how Jesus’ birth would have been exciting back then. I mean, Jesus came into a time and place when people really needed his help. His own people, the Jews, were living under Roman rule and things were really tough for them. The pax Romana was supposed to be good for everyone in the Empire, but the reality was that it was only good for the rich and the elite, and it required everyone to give allegiance to and even to worship the Emperor. The Jews, who believed in one God only had a lot of trouble with this kind … Read more »

December 20, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Luke 1:39-45 There are two important stories in the first chapter of Luke about Mary before the birth of her son, Jesus. The first story is the one depicted briefly in the presentation this morning. An angel shows up in Mary’s life and tells her that she’s going to have a child. It will be a special child from God, and God will make him a great king. Mary, amazingly, just asks a couple of clarifying questions, and then agrees to the plan. “I am your servant,” she says to God, “Let it be with me according to your word.” And the second story about Mary is the one that I just read — the one where she goes to visit her relative Elizabeth, who also happens to be miraculously pregnant. When that angel messenger suddenly appeared with his very strange news, I can only imagine that Mary must have been in shock. It’s not the kind of thing that happens to a young woman every day, and it was certainly the kind of news that would take some time to sink in, to consider what it meant, and to figure out how to deal with it. And though the Gospel has Mary quickly agreeing to cooperate with what God is going to do in her life, the very next thing she does is to go and visit an older female relative. We don’t know why she went to visit Elizabeth — whether Mary … Read more »

December 13, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Zephaniah 3:14-20 Isaiah 12:2-6 Philippians 4:4-7 Luke 3:7-18 The message of the prophets on this third Sunday in Advent is about the joy of salvation. Like Israel before us, we have a reason to rejoice, because God has decided not to hold us accountable for our sins and failings, but to demonstrate grace and offer us forgiveness. As the prophet Zephaniah wrote to the people of Israel, “The LORD has taken away the judgments against you.” We are called to rejoice and exult with all our hearts. We are invited to draw spiritual water from the wells of salvation, and to do so with joy and thanksgiving. This is, of course, a message that is not reserved for Advent or Christmas. We are reminded of God’s grace and forgiveness over and over in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and Sunday after Sunday, we hear the assurance of God’s abiding love and grace for us, God’s own wandering children. But the message of grace in today’s scriptures comes hand in hand with a challenge. The prophet John is preaching about the One coming into the world from God. He is calling the people to prepare the way of the Lord, to get ready for a Messiah who will baptize them with the Holy Spirit and fire. But John’s message is not, “Relax and don’t worry. You folks are fairly good people, and God is forgiving you anyway, so you really don’t need … Read more »

December 6, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Malachi 3:1-4 Luke 1:68-79 Philippians 1:3-11 Luke 3:1-6 I haven’t been experiencing a great deal of peace lately. I don’t mean that I’ve been literally participating in conflict, and I don’t mean that I’ve been troubled about my own relationship with God. But I haven’t been experiencing much peace because there has been some stress and anxiety in my work as a minister among you and within this presbytery. I’ve been a minister for six years now, and before I became one, I never imagined that part of my work would include the job of closing churches. I thought of ministry as preaching and leading worship, as teaching and praying and providing pastoral care. I thought of ministry as reaching out and trying new things, imagining new ways of sharing the gospel in word and action with a world that is lost and confused and in need of God’s help. The image of John the Baptist is very appealing. I can imagine myself (or the church as a whole) as the one crying out in the wilderness of our world. We cry out both warning and welcome. We warn that things must change — people must turn their hearts and their lives to God and God’s loving ways. And we welcome all people to come and be forgiven by God — to be baptized, to be cleansed, to begin again in relationship with the God who loves them. But while the people of John’s … Read more »

November 29, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Jeremiah 33:14-16 Psalm 25:1-10 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 Luke 21:25-36 Today we begin a new year in the calendar of the church. And as we mark the first Sunday in the season of Advent, we jump from last week’s celebration of Christ as our King and Sovereign, back into the experience of waiting for Christ to come into our world. A week ago, we declared Christ as our Lord, and acknowledged his presence, power, and authority over all things. Our Christ candle shone brightly in our worship, and we were challenged to go out and shine that light into the world. But today, we lit only the Candle of Hope. The Christ Candle is not shining today. And not because Christ is not present with us… I certainly believe that he is. As much as Christ was King last Sunday, Jesus is our Lord today. But in Advent we take time to acknowledge the fact that although Christ has come, Christ’s presence and power is not yet felt throughout the whole earth. Although the light of Christ shines, there are still many dark places in our world and within our lives. As you may remember, Advent means “coming”. Christ came among us 2000 years ago in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. And in Advent we both wait to celebrate that coming, and we anticipate Christ’s coming again — the future time when Christ’s presence will pervade all things, when everyone will live in peace … Read more »

October 11, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Mark 10:17-31 I have an image in my mind of an elderly man standing beside the grave of his 90 year old sister. Most of the other mourners have started to make their way back to their cars, perhaps to find shelter from the cold, Saskatchewan, winter wind. But this man seems stuck in his position beside his older sister. He is bent low, with his hand on the casket, and he’s praying and crying quietly. I can see that he is a man of faith. His lips are moving with the words of a prayer he has repeated many times, and every once in a while he makes the sign of the cross and straightens up, as if he is ready to leave. But then he bends again, as if he can’t bear to leave her there. Some younger family members come over to comfort him, and he quietly cries “why? why?” as the tears begin to stream down. He’s the last of his generation still living, and this loss seems too much for him. “It was her time,” “She’s at peace now,” he hears from those around him. But their words are too easy. Perhaps letting go of her means letting go of his childhood, of his history, of his memories of what once was good. Whatever this letting go means for this man, what is obvious to me, as I observe the scene at the graveside, is that letting go is … Read more »

October 4, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Job 1:1; 2:1-10 Psalm 26 Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12 Today’s readings are not easy ones. We hear the psalmist, begging for God’s help, claiming innocence, and hoping that God will be on his side and help him. And we have Job — a man who is described as “blameless and upright, one who feared God, and turned away from evil”. But though Job was a good man, his story indicates that his righteousness did not protect him from harm. Despite his faithfulness, he was struck with many troubles — losing his possessions and his family, suffering physical pain and illness and isolation. It seems to me that the words of the psalmist match up with our human perception of what is right and fair. If God exists, and if God is both powerful and loving, then we should expect to be able to ask for blessings and receive them. If we work hard to be good and faithful to God, then God should reward us. The psalmist expects this kind of justice from God. He writes: “Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering… I wash my hands in innocence, and go around your altar, O Lord, singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and telling all your wondrous deeds… Do not sweep me away with sinners, nor my life with the blood-thirsty…” It seems only right that God should reward those who are … Read more »

September 13, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Proverbs 1:20-33 Psalm 19 James 3:1-12 Mark 8:27-38 As you know, the bible contains many different types of literature within its many books. And the book of Proverbs is part of the type of biblical material called “wisdom literature”. It is an amazing book full of wise sayings and advice for many people in many situations. And it begins with an image of wisdom personified. Wisdom is out in the street, in the squares where all the people are passing by, and she’s shouting. Woman Wisdom has chosen the busiest corner at the entrance of the city gates, and she is calling “How long, O simple ones? How long will you love being simple? How long will you hate knowledge? I have called to you, and made my words known to you. I have offered to share my wisdom with you, and you have ignored me.” Wisdom is sick and tired of being ignored, and she seems to be giving up on the people who don’t have any use for her. “It’ll serve you right!” becomes her message. If you ignore wisdom, things won’t go well for you, and you’ll have to deal with it all on your own, without any knowledge or wisdom to help you. Now it could be that the wisdom that is calling out to us today is simply the many proverbs that we find in the bible. The image of Woman Wisdom calling out is a great way to … Read more »

August 9, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Ephesians 4:25 — 5:2 John 6:35, 41-51 The day of a baptism is a wonderful day to reflect on and to celebrate the church — the family of God — the Body of Christ that we all belong to together. Today we are welcoming a new member of our big family. Grace Anne is joined to Christ and to all of us (to our congregation here at St. Andrew’s, and to the whole Christian church throughout the world). I would love to be able to simply celebrate that… to say “Welcome Grace Anne, to this big, happy, healthy, wholesome family of God!” and let that be all that I say. But like most families, our Christian family is not always a happy place. Our family is prone to dysfunction. We often do recognize that we all belong to the same family, but we don’t always get along, or talk to each other, or act like we belong together. We’ve had lots of disagreements in our Christian family over the years, and lots of our members are still feeling angry or hurt or disappointed. Some have moved out. Others have given up on trying to get along, and mostly stay in their own little corners of the family home. When Doug and Vickie brought Grace Anne home from the hospital a few months ago, their new house in Biggar wasn’t quite ready to move into yet. And the Christian family home that she officially joins … Read more »

August 2, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie 2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a Psalm 51:1-12 Ephesians 4:1-16 John 6:24-35 Back in February, I helped to lead an ecumenical retreat for women in ministry here in Saskatoon. The Eucharistic theme of our time together was taken from Henri Nouwen’s book, “Life of the Beloved”. We explored how our lives (as women in ministry) are taken, blessed, broken, and shared for the life of the world, as we participate in Christ’s own ministry today. As part of our time together, we decided that it would be both fun and meaningful to make bread. I had never made bread except using a bread machine, but some of the other women were at least occasional bread bakers, so we gave it a try. We gathered in groups of 6 or 7 around tables in the dining room at Queen’s House, and took turns adding ingredients, mixing, kneading, sharing stories, and laughing a lot. And much to my surprise, our bread turned out both beautiful and delicious. We ate it together the next morning during our closing worship. It was an ecumenical “holy meal” with plenty of bread and wine to share as we celebrated our brief time together and began to think about returning to our particular ministries. And I have not stopped making bread since. The grocery store still has my business, but I’m usually buying flour, yeast, and milk, and rarely any pre-made bread. There’s something about the smell of the yeast, the feel … Read more »

July 5, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Psalm 48 The time for the festival was approaching, and God’s people were on the move again. For centuries, since the time that God had led the Hebrews out of Egypt and into this new land, Jerusalem had been thought of as a very special place. Though the tablets with the ten commandments were once carried in a special box as God’s people travelled through the wilderness, it had now been a long time since Solomon had built the great temple in Jerusalem. There was a home for God, a place for the people to worship, a place where they could meet with God and know with certainty that God was there. And so the people came. God’s people lived all over by now — in Jerusalem, in the nearby towns and villages, and even further afield. Most Jews wouldn’t go up to worship in the temple every day or even every week. Instead, they would gather in local synagogues to read from the Law and the Prophets, to interpret the scriptures, to worship God, and to encourage one another. But Jerusalem was still a very special place — a holy place where God’s presence was sure. Jerusalem was a place where heaven and earth seemed to meet — like on the mountain where God had first spoken to Moses and called him to lead God’s people out of Egypt. And so, wherever God’s people lived, they would go up to Jerusalem. They would … Read more »

June 28, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Psalm 130 Mark 5:21-43 At least once, almost every day, I meet someone who greets me by saying: “Hello Amanda. How are you?” And without a pause, I naturally respond, “Fine thanks. And you?” A few months ago, I caught a horrible cold that kept me off work for a couple of days and feeling terrible for several weeks. And I noticed several times during that illness, when someone would say, “Hello Amanda. How are you?” I automatically answered, “Fine thanks. And you?” If I had thought about the question even for a moment, I would have had to admit that I was no where near “fine”. My head hurt, and my throat ached, and I was so exhausted that I was ready to drop. But “Fine thanks. And you?” was what came out of my mouth. And I don’t think I paid much attention when my conversation partner chimed in with their own “I’m fine also.” It’s amazing how much time we can spend together with friends, neighbours, and fellow church members without having a lot of meaningful conversation. We can exchange a lot of pleasantries and waste a lot of time talking about the weather, and when we part ways, we don’t know much about the people we’ve been talking with, and none of us have been particularly impacted by the fact that we had a conversation. The scripture texts this week got me thinking about the risks that we take in … Read more »

June 21, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie 1 Samuel 17:32-49 Psalm 9:9-20 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 Mark 4:35-41 When we read the stories of the bible, one of the first questions we often ask is “What kind of story is this?” Is it something that really happened historically? Or is it a mythic or symbolic story shared to teach us a deeper truth? A good example would be the parables that Jesus told. He told a story about a prodigal son — how he took his inheritance and spent it in wild living — and how he later came to his senses, realized the mistakes he had made, and returned home to find himself welcomed and embraced by his forgiving father. Of course, we know that the story is not historical. It is told not to teach us “what happened” but to show us “what God is like” — loving, forgiving, and ready to celebrate over each of his children who return to relationship with him. Today’s Gospel story is one that most Christian bible readers would put in the category of history. It’s a story about something that happened to Jesus and his disciples when Jesus decided it was time to cross over to the other side of the lake to continue his ministry in another area. Many modern interpreters get stuck with these stories about Jesus’ miracles and his divine power over nature. They can’t imagine these dramatic events taking place, and they argue that even if Jesus did have … Read more »

June 7, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Isaiah 6:1-8 Psalm 29 Mark 3:13-19 There are many stories in the scriptures about Jesus sending out his followers to do ministry in his name. Our Gospel text today is one of these stories that give us insight into our mission as Jesus’ followers today. One of the interesting things about this text is that it lists the names of the people who were sent, and it gives them a new title. Most of the time, Jesus’ friends were called “disciples”. You probably remember that “disciple” comes from a Greek word meaning “one who follows and learns”. In fact, today’s passage begins with Jesus inviting some of his “disciples” to go up on a mountain with him. And then he chooses twelve of them to receive a new title and a new task. The new title he gives these twelve is “apostle” — from another Greek word meaning “one who is sent”. And the only other thing in the passage, besides the listing of the apostles’ names, is a sentence about the work Jesus was sending them out to do. He sent them out “to preach and to force out demons”. When I study a passage like this one, I usually start wondering about what those apostles were feeling as Jesus’ sent them out to preach and to force out demons. Did they feel like they were ready to do it? Had they figured out what they would say to the people when they … Read more »

May 24, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Acts 1:1-11 Ephesians 1:15-23 Today is Ascension Sunday, the day that the church celebrates Jesus’ ascension into heaven. After Jesus had died on a cross and been buried in a tomb, we believe that God raised him from death, and he appeared to many of his friends and followers. But the risen Jesus did not just keep hanging around with the followers of his way. The last chapter of Luke’s Gospel and the first chapter of the book of Acts tell the story of his ascension into heaven. He spoke a few final words to his friends, and then he was gone… up into the sky, into heaven, carried away by a cloud. That’s the way the story’s author describes Jesus’ departure. We may not want to take the description literally today, but we get the point that the early Christian community wanted to convey: Jesus was no longer physically present among them, but they did not believe that he was dead and gone, rotting in his grave. They believed that he was gone to be with God, seated at God’s right hand (like a prince beside a king) and that he would rule the world with all power and authority forever and ever. We hear the passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians on Ascension Sunday too, because in it Paul emphasizes very strongly that Christ lives in heaven with God, where he rules over all of creation with great power and might, … Read more »

May 17, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie John 15:9-17 I’ve been thinking about LOVE all weekend. A young couple in our congregation, Greg Mergen and Kim Lund, got married yesterday so I got to preach on the classic wedding text of 1 Corinthians 13 — the “love chapter”. You know the one. In the middle of it, the apostle Paul describes what love is: Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. And whether it’s the Corinthian Christians trying to love each other despite their differences and conflicts, whether it’s married couples trying to love each other through all the ups and downs of life together, or whether it’s any of us Christians trying to put love into practice in our lives, it seems like an impossibly high standard to live up to. We do try though, don’t we? We try to get along with our co-workers. We try not to snap at our kids. We try to be friendly to the neighbours next door. And we smile at the bus driver or the store clerk or the person passing by on the street. Sometimes we try, at least, when we remember… But often when we get to church on Sunday… that’s … Read more »

April 26, 2009

Genesis 1:26-31a Psalm 8 1 John 4:7-21 John 13:12-15, 34-35 I’ve never had a guitar lesson, per se. I learned to play a few basic chords on the guitar and to strum along to the beat of the music when I was 17 and I was working in the kitchen at the Presbyterian camp. The first song that I learned to play on the guitar was this one… sing along if you know it… Lead me, Jesus; I will follow,down the dusty pathways, all along the sea. Teach me, Jesus, to be loving: your disciple I will be. I’ve sung that song so many times over the years since then. And whenever I sing it, I wonder about what it might have been like to be one of Jesus’ disciples… one of his first disciples who travelled with him along the dusty roads, beside seashores and through little villages… shuffling through the crowds, and stopping to touch and to pray for the sick, listening and questioning, wondering about home and family, anticipating the next day’s adventure, sharing food & wine among friends and strangers, and meeting all kinds of unusual people. I imagine what it must have been like for his disciples not to know what would happen the next day, where they would end up, who they would meet along the way, what Jesus would ask them to do, or what surprising things he might teach them. In this season of Easter, I think about the unbelievable choices and … Read more »

April 12, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Mark 16:1-8 Acts 10:34-43 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 If you open up a bible to the end of the Gospel of Mark, you will find that its ending is unclear. The earliest manuscripts finish with chapter 16, verse 8: “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” But our Gospel translations have two added endings. The shorter one simply adds these words: “And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.” The longer ending goes on for eleven more verses in which Jesus appears to Mary, then to two disciples, and then he appears to the eleven disciples and commissions them to proclaim the good news to the whole creation. Finally, he ascends into heaven, and the narrator assures the readers that the disciples did indeed go out to proclaim the good news everywhere. These extra endings are not believed to be from the original manuscripts of the Gospel, but they were added by editors in the late 2nd or early 3rd centuries. They incorporate incidents and ideas from the other Gospels and from the book of Acts. And more importantly, they change failure into success to end the Gospel on a positive note. There’s no question of what happened, they assure … Read more »

April 10, 2009 – Good Friday

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Mark 15:33-39 I have been thinking for several weeks about what I might be called to say to you on this Good Friday morning. Often we don’t have a sermon on this day. We let the scriptures speak for themselves. We tell the story of Jesus’ last day. We journey with him through the agony of his passion. And we pause at the foot of the cross to mourn for a while, because Jesus our Lord is crucified. But this year, I wanted to preach. I wanted to spend some time with the event that we are remembering today, and to consider why it is such an important part of our Christian faith — why Good Friday, in many churches, is the most highly attended service of the year. Last Friday evening, at our Kids’ Club program, we spent some time with the Easter story as a whole. The kids got lots of practice looking up bible verses as they had to look up 14 different verses that traced out of events of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection. And then they had to put the events in the correct order. Once they had completed the activity, we reviewed the story, and invited them to share how they would explain the story of Jesus to someone who had never heard about him before. As one of our St. Andrew’s kids was sharing, she used the phrase “Good Friday” to describe the day that Jesus … Read more »

March 29, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Jeremiah 31:31-34 John 12:20-33 The prophetic text from Jeremiah 31 that we heard this morning tells us about a “new covenant” – a new relationship that God makes with God’s people. This promise came at a time when Israel was in exile in Babylon, having lost all the things that made Israel God’s people and a nation. Gone was their land, their temple, and their king… all the things that had come to them on the promises of God. And Jeremiah was telling them that they had lost all these things because of their unfaithfulness to God… because they had turned away to other gods and idols. But even in this time of despair, when they came face-to-face with the fact that they had failed in their relationship with God and the result was exile… God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah to the exiles, and God announced that there would be a new covenant. God was going to establish a new relationship with God’s people. The new covenant was going to be different from the one God made with Israel at Sinai after bringing the people out of slavery in Egypt. Remember that covenant? — the one that we associate with the ten commandments? There were two essential elements in that earlier covenant: First, God chose the Hebrew People (former slaves) to be in a special relationship with God. It was on God’s initiative that the people were given this opportunity to be the … Read more »