Good morning, and Merry Christmas to all of you! I am so glad that you are here today. It is good to see you, and to shake your hands, and to be together to praise God on this Christmas morning!
I wonder… have you ever been far away from someone you loved at a special time like Christmas? Maybe you sent that person a Christmas card, which is nice. Or maybe you even got to talk on the phone, which is even better. That’s what I’ll do with my parents and sisters and brother this Christmas. I’ll talk to them on the phone. That will be good, but not quite as good as actually being there – where you can see each other, and give each other hugs, and just spend time together.
This year, Nick and I are going to fly to BC. We’re leaving this afternoon to visit Nick’s parents, and we’re looking forward to being with them. I wonder if you have anyone special visiting you this year… Does anyone have any special guests with them for Christmas? (We are so glad that you are here!)
Now, to those … Read more »
John 1:1-14 – “The Word Made Flesh”
This reflection followed a creative presentation of the Christmas story by the children of St. Andrew’s Church School. The Christmas story was told in an imaginative way – from the perspective of the inn keeper’s family and their neighbours down the street who were actively looking for God’s Messiah to come.
I went to see Handel’s Messiah on Wednesday evening last week. It was presented, as usual, by the Saskatoon Symphony Chamber Orchestra and the Saskatoon Chamber Singers – the continuation of a wonderful Christmas tradition both here and around the world.
Although I’ve listened to Handel’s Messiah many times before, and even sung in performances of the choruses in my youth, I was struck once again by the amazing musical settings of some of the most powerful and meaningful words of scripture that are so dear to us as Christians.
One of the things that stood out was how many of the texts Handel chose were from the Old Testament – from the prophets. In our children’s Christmas play this morning, these would have been the prophetic texts that the father was trying to teach to his children, and that his daughter, Esther, was exploring. These … Read more »
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, … Read more »
If your life is perfect, then you may not be able to relate to the scripture texts this morning for the first Sunday in Advent. If you are happy and healthy and well, and you live with your beautiful family in a lovely neighbourhood, enjoying your spacious home and your comfortable income… If you’re getting ready for an absolutely wonderful holiday season of socializing and gift-giving, laughter and good times, without a care in the world… then perhaps this morning’s readings will seem a little out of place or off the wall.
But, you know as well as I that the congregation here on Sunday mornings is not made up of super-duper people with perfect lives. That’s not the reason for the smiles and laughter that we share as we gather in this place. In fact, you’re not the only one here today who’s come despite the struggles, who’s come carrying heavy burdens, who’s come with pain, or disappointment, or stress, or grief beyond compare.
For one, it’s the fatigue that comes from constant caregiving and the many thankless jobs still needing to be done. For another, it’s the worry and stress caused by a difficult … Read more »
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty used to all this sheep and shepherd imagery in the Bible. Granted, it’s not exactly something I have a lot of experience with – sheep, or farm animals in general. But I think I get the picture of what it’s all about.
The shepherd cares for the sheep. Makes sure they’re fed. Protects them from predators. Leads them to green pastures and beside still waters. Sometimes the shepherd even goes off to look for a lost sheep, if he’s willing to risk the rest of the flock. And that’s the kind of shepherd that God’s supposed to be – one who cares about each individual sheep and rejoices over every one that’s found.
The prophet Ezekiel is one of the Biblical writers who compares God to a shepherd who cares for, feeds, and guides the People of Israel. They’ve had a number of human leaders ruling over Israel at this point, but Ezekiel accuses these kings of being false shepherds – looking out for themselves instead of the people, ignoring the needs of the people, and allowing them to be scattered.
Ezekiel’s talking about kings … Read more »
“For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” It’s a hard saying from Jesus. It’s strange, and jarring, and it seems counter to everything we know about our loving God and our compassionate Christ. “As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This is the master’s response to the slave who received a gift, (just a small gift), and did nothing with it. He tried to hold on to it. He buried it in the ground. And after that, he wouldn’t be receiving any more gifts from the master.
It reminds me of a story that I read recently: A man went each day to his back yard and uncovered his money, which was buried in the ground. He would then put it back in the ground and cover it up again. To his shock and disappointment, on a particular day he dug up the ground only to discover his money was gone! He began to cry out in dismay. His neighbour … Read more »
Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
Recently I heard a preacher suggest that Christianity is unique in that it demands that you make a choice. You consider the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus that you read about in the Gospels, and you decide what to make of it. You decide how to respond.
At some point, you have to make a choice about what to believe about Jesus. Either he was somehow the God of the universe made physically present in our world – reaching out, loving, forgiving, and reconciling the world – or he was a crazy person – living an itinerant life of poverty and getting himself killed. We have to choose what to believe as well as how to live in response to those convictions.
The book of Joshua tells the story of the Hebrew People entering the land promised by God and settling there. It’s the story of God’s chosen people – the ones who once lived as slaves in Egypt, who cried out to God to help them, and who followed Moses out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, and through the wilderness for forty years.
These are God’s own people, who have … Read more »
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
In many churches, including Presbyterian ones, the last Sunday in October is designated as “Reformation Sunday.” As Presbyterians, we are part of a Christian tradition or a family of churches that is called “Reformed.” And although we don’t celebrate Reformation Sunday every year, we have the opportunity on this Sunday to remember and give thanks for the Reformed tradition of which we are a part.
I suppose that a good place to start on Reformation Sunday would be with a few definitions of terms. My apologies to those of you who may have grown up in a Presbyterian Church and heard this stuff about a million times already.
First of all, there is the word “Presbyterian” – the Christian denomination of which we are a part. The word “Presbyterian” doesn’t describe our theology or our beliefs as a church, but it describes the way our church is structured and how we make decisions.
“Presbyterian” comes from a Greek word “presbyter” which means “elder.” Presbyterian churches are ruled by elders who come together in the courts of the church. These courts are called sessions at the local, congregational level, presbyteries that oversee a number of congregations and … Read more »
Psalm 90 is the only psalm in the bible that is attributed to Moses. Many of the psalms are attributed to King David, the harp-playing songwriter. Others have no attribution and their authors remain a mystery.
But the tradition is that Psalm 90 came from Moses, and it’s not hard to imagine him composing this poem near the end of his long and eventful life – near the end of his 40-year journey leading God’s people through the wilderness towards the Promised Land that God had prepared for them.
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations,” Moses’ prayer begins. A couple of generations had already gone by while Moses and the Hebrew People were wandering in the wilderness, and God had been with them along the way – providing food when they were hungry, providing water when they were thirsty, and giving direction for their lives in relationship with each other.
And even before the Exodus from Egypt, God had been their God. God had called and directed Abraham and Sarah. God had blessed and helped Isaac and Rebekah. God had raised up Jacob and guarded Joseph, and been present to hear the cries of the Hebrew People … Read more »
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Tomorrow – October 17th – has been designated as the “International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.” And here in our city, the Saskatoon Anti-Poverty Coalition is hosting its 8th Annual “Poverty Awareness Week,” with special events being planned throughout the week to raise consciousness about poverty in our community, as well as to encourage those who live in poverty as they continue their daily struggle.
Last year was the first time (in my almost 8 years of living in Saskatoon) that I participated in the “Hands Across the Water” event during “Poverty Awareness Week.” “Hands Across the Water” is a kind of symbolic act. People gather at the bottom of the Broadway Bridge. Then we line up, and join hands as we walk up the bridge, with the goal of being able to reach to the other side.
We come together as people of all socio-economic levels, and we join hands to combat poverty, to reach across the troubled waters that so many people experience because of poverty. We recognize that poverty is an issue that affects us all – both the West side and East side of Saskatoon – and that together we can overcome … Read more »
Luke 17: 11-19
I did something a little unusual with the scripture readings this morning. As most of you know, we often follow the Revised Common Lectionary’s 3-year cycle of readings for Sundays. But today we had a choice of readings. (Look on the back of your bulletins… at the two sets of readings…) Today I could have chosen the readings for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost, or I could have chosen the special readings for Thanksgiving Sunday.
But instead of choosing one set or the other, I mixed them up a little. I chose Philippians 4 from the 17th Sunday after Pentecost, and matched it up with two of the readings for Thanksgiving – Deuteronomy 8 about being sure not to forget God when things are good, and Luke 17 about the ten lepers getting healed and the one who goes back to say thank you to Jesus.
The Deuteronomy reading makes a lot of sense for Thanksgiving Sunday. The message is: “When everything is wonderful in your life, when you’ve got everything you need, when you sit down to a wonderful meal of turkey and potatoes and vegetables and pie, surrounded by good friends and dear family, don’t forget … Read more »
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. I wonder if you have ever felt like that when you heard one of Jesus’ stories of parables. I wonder if you have ever read something in the scriptures and thought, “That was written for me!” Or if you have ever listened to a sermon, and wondered if the preacher was addressing you specifically.
Well, when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, and when they realized that he was speaking about them, they weren’t very pleased. Though the crowds thought that Jesus was something special, the religious leaders had concluded that Jesus was a problem – telling stories that cast them in a negative role – and they wanted to arrest them.
You see, when the religious leaders of Jesus’ time heard today’s parable, they must have quickly figured out that it was an allegory. It wasn’t a story about an actual historical landowner who leased out his land to some bad tenants and had to deal with the consequences. It was an allegory – a made-up story in which the characters and plot lines … Read more »
“FIRE is the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products.” I looked that up on Wikipedia, where it also says this about FIRE: “Fire in its most common form can result in conflagration, which has the potential to cause physical damage through burning.” That is, unless we’re talking about Moses’ burning bush where the bush was miraculously burning and burning, but not being consumed.
As you may have guessed by now, FIRE is the topic of my sermon this morning, just as FIRE was the theme of our Saskatchewan Presbyterian Youth event here this weekend. When we titled the weekend “Fire’s Burning, Draw Nearer,” we hoped that youth from across the province would come together this weekend – drawing near to one another (making new friends and renewing old friendships) and that they would draw near to God as well through worship, study, discussion, prayer, and music. With participants from Regina, Prince Albert, and Saskatoon, I think I can speak for the group when I say that we’ve had a wonderful time together.
Now, when I say that we’ve had a wonderful time together, I don’t mean to … Read more »
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
This morning’s “Gems of Encouragement” theme comes from the Christian Education Committee, with special thanks to Mary Jane Hanson for the idea and for taking care of many of the details. The committee decided that a focus on the spiritual gift of “encouragement” would be a wonderful way to start another educational year, as well as a good way to build up supportive relationships between the people in our church community.
But when we first talked about doing this encouragement theme in September, I didn’t realize how many things would be coming together on this day. We are beginning a new year in the Church School, and we have a number of new teachers coming on board. We are ordaining three new elders who will join our session and serve in the leadership of our church. And we are announcing that we have hired a Pastoral Care Nurse for the congregation for the very first time.
And simultaneous with all of these joyful and exciting beginnings, we are aware of the fact that today is the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. In so many ways, “encouragement” seems like the … Read more »
When Jesus walked through the towns and villages of Galilee, he taught and healed and helped the people that he met. And he had a consistent message wherever he went: “Repent,” he said to all the people, “because the Kingdom of God has come near.” And when Paul took up Jesus’ mission, he said pretty much the same thing.
In today’s passage from Romans, Paul uses the metaphor of night and day. He points out how much changed when Jesus came into the world like a light shining into the darkness. The change that has come upon the world was as swift and as unstoppable as the sun rising in the morning. And the Christians have got to realize that the night is over, and “wake up!”
Paul describes this time that we live in as that wonderful time when the darkness of night has dissipated, and the day is near. It’s the in-between time… between the dark night before Christ, and the full brightness of the kingdom of God. And it’s time, Paul says, for Christians to start living like it’s day time, like the kingdom of God is here.
“Let us live honourably as … Read more »
As I told the children this morning, today’s text from the Gospel of Matthew reminded me of the difficult reality that our faith in God and in Jesus Christ our Lord calls us not only to good things, but to hard things.
When Christian churches are reaching out, inviting new people into the family of God, that isn’t normally a big part of the message. We’ve all seen the messages that churches try to put out there in the community at large – on our church signs, on our websites, on the flyers that are dropped in mail boxes. They say, “Everyone is welcome!” They say, “Come and experience new life in Christ!” They say, “Come and worship with friendly Presbyterians.”
I’ve absolutely never seen any church advertising that said: “You’re most welcome to come and suffer with us!” I’m sure that I would have remembered a message like that. And I might have wondered if they were talking about suffering through the Sunday sermons! No, when we tell others about our church, when we tell others about our faith, we tend to focus on the positives – on the good things that we have experienced … Read more »
The following sermon was written and preached by Marie-Louise Ternier Gommers at St. Andrew’s on Sunday, August 14, 2011.
Marie-Louise is a Roman Catholic lay woman who studied at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon. She is an active leader in the ecumenical community of Saskatoon and area, including the Women in Ministry group of which Rev. Amanda is a participant. Marie-Louise serves as a Pastoral Associate at St. Augustine’s Parish in Humboldt, SK.
There is tension in the Gospel today. Who is Jesus’ ministry for? Do foreigners and outcasts have a right to lay claim to God’s grace and healing? Just like in our time, there were strong cultural opinions in Jesus’ time about who was acceptable and who was not: clean and unclean people, they called them back then. So it is no wonder that even Jesus hesitates to grant the Canaanite woman her request. The Canaanites were deeply despised by the Israelites, especially because fertility rites were part of their religious practices. Jesus experiences tension and the reality of human limitations.
This foreign woman approaches a Jewish man, does him homage and begs a favour she has no right to. She bursts into Jesus’ space and pleads with him: … Read more »
The following sermon was written and preached by Gerry Kraay, a long time member and past elder at St. Andrew’s Church in Saskatoon.
When Amanda asked us some time ago to take this service, she suggested we could choose a text, or use the Lectionary. I looked up what the suggested readings are for this week. When I read the passage of Matthew, I knew I would like to study that a little more.
There is a little bit of an irony: here is a man who studied Science for many years in University, and who worked for almost 40 years in the sciences. Now I am going to preach on a miracle in the Bible!
The story of Jesus walking on the water is well-known. Many jokes are made around it. When working in the yard, I always wear my wooden shoes. People ask me sometimes if I use them to walk on water.
The story of Jesus walking on the sea is found in 3 Gospels, Mark, Matthew and John. It follows on the heels of the story of the feeding of the multitude. In the evening, when the crowd has been fed, Jesus immediately sends the disciples away to row … Read more »
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
I think I understand why Jesus’ disciples would have needed him to explain the parable of the weeds among the wheat. Like them, I don’t think I would have gotten the point just from hearing it once and thinking about it a little. In fact, I read the parable over and over this week. I reflected on it for hours. I read what others had to say about it online and in several published books. I even had a couple of conversations with other Christians about what Jesus’ parable might mean for us today.
But when I stopped reading and thinking and talking… when it was time for me to start writing, to decide what I would say to you today, I felt stuck. There seemed to be so many possible interpretations of the parable that I didn’t know where to begin. So I decided to begin with the explanation of the parable that is provided in the Gospel. Maybe that was Jesus’ own explanation to his disciples on that day when they were confused:
They were back in the house, and the crowds were left outside. And the disciples said to Jesus, “Explain to … Read more »
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
On the day that Jesus told the parable of the sower, the author of Matthew’s Gospel tells us that the crowd of listeners was so large that Jesus got into a boat and sat there to speak, while the crowd stood on the beach to listen. You might imagine that at this point in his ministry, Jesus would have been pleased with how things were going. What could be a greater sign of success than the crowds clamouring to get close to him, to touch him, to be healed by him, or to hear his words of wisdom, as they were doing on this particular day?
But I wondered, as I reflected on the parable this week, whether Jesus might actually have been feeling a bit discouraged. After all, when Jesus told parables, most of the people didn’t really understand what he was on about. Sure, they came in droves to listen to him for a while. But as we hear in the Gospel accounts several times, even Jesus’ closest disciples were confused by the stories that he told. So Jesus probably didn’t have any illusions about the fact that the average person in the crowd that day was … Read more »