December 31, 2016

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie

The following are reflections from our “Watch Night Service” held on New Year’s Eve, and finishing up in the early morning of New Year’s Day 2017.

Reflection #1 –

I want to begin with a reading from the Book of Lamentations. Yes, it is part of a book of laments – people crying out to God with their complaints and struggles. I think it makes sense because I’ve heard a lot of people lamenting about 2016: “It was such a terrible year! So many bad things happened! I just wish it could be over! Good riddance to 2016!”

And I guess quite a few hard things happened in the world this year. People noticed that lots of celebrities died. But, of course, there were very serious things happening in Syria and other places too, and there was the terrible result in the American election too.

And maybe some of us had some hard things happen in our personal lives too… deaths of loved ones, illness, injury, plans that didn’t work out, difficulties in our relationships, mistakes that we made and couldn’t correct…

Well, the author of Lamentations can relate. In the section before our reading, he is lamenting … Read more »

December 25, 2016

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie

Psalm 98
Luke 2:1-7

“Christmas Carols and Their Stories”

Introduction to the Service

This morning I thought it would be fun and different to sing some different Christmas Carols and hear their stories. Throughout the history of the church, worship has included singing… from the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs mentioned in the New Testament, and through every generation, Christians have composed Psalm settings, sung our prayers as chants, written hymns, carols, and contemporary praise songs. Sometimes we have used instruments, and sometimes not. Sometimes the words have come straight from Scripture, and sometimes it has been poetry inspired by the Bible and a reflection on our faith.

The songs known as Christmas Carols are diverse too… some written specifically for corporate worship, and others sung primarily out in the community or in family homes, but carrying the Christian faith into the public realm of culture and daily life.

“I Saw Three Ships”

The first carol for today is “I Saw Three Ships.” Probably most of us have heard or sung it, but I don’t think I’ve ever sung it in church.

The tune of this carol is a traditional English folk song and the words (of which there … Read more »

December 24, 2016

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie

Isaiah 9:2-7
Titus 2:11-14
John 1:1-14

“Being Lights”

The other day I was reading an attempt at a historical account of Jesus’ birth. It was the kind of piece in which the researcher tries to match up the events described in the Gospels with the history of the nations and kings of the era in order to “place” the birth narratives in their historical context. And similar to other scholars, this one estimated that Jesus was likely born in September of the year 5 BCE. So, for centuries, we’ve been celebrating Christmas at the wrong time of year! Oops!

Well, it’s not exactly an “oops.” It’s not that anyone actually sat down and figured that Jesus was born in late December before setting our celebrations at this time of year. When the date was decided, I don’t imagine that anyone was particularly worried about determining an accurate birthday for Jesus. The point was to mark his coming into our world and its life-changing, world-transforming significance.

You’ve probably heard that the earliest Christmas celebrations were held in conjunction with pagan festivals marking the Winter Solstice. The idea was to provide Christians with a festive celebration rooted in the faith so that … Read more »

December 18, 2016

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie

Isaiah 7:10-16
Matthew 1:18-25

“God is with us”

In this Season of Advent, our Sunday morning scripture texts have been a series of readings from the prophet Isaiah and corresponding texts from the Gospels in which the early Christian evangelists quote from the prophet. And this morning was no exception.

Of course, the writers of the Gospels were making a strong effort to explain to their readers the meaning and significance of Jesus of Nazareth. Not only did they want to describe the wonders that he performed, and to recount his wise and life-transforming teaching, but they wanted to make it clear that this Jesus was the one sent from God. They wanted to show that he was the one that their people had been waiting, and hoping, and longing for, the one who would come with the power of God to save them.

And so, in our passage today, Matthew quotes Isaiah directly. It’s the passage that I always feel like singing when I hear it: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name, Emmanuel. God-with-us.”

The tendency with Christian interpretations of the prophets is to assume that when Isaiah wrote that prophecy, … Read more »

December 4, 2016

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie

Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72:1-7 18-19
Romans 15:4-13
Matthew 3:1-12

“A Peaceable Kingdom with Plenty of Good Fruit”

When the prophet Isaiah wrote the now-familiar messianic oracle about the coming of a righteous ruler, and described the peaceable kingdom that would result as a place where wild animals and little children eat and play together in safety, his world was not very peaceful at all.

It was around 733 BCE, and Isaiah was in Judah where King Ahaz was the ruler. When the northern kingdom of Israel and the Arameans of Damascas tried to force Judah and their king to join their rebellion against Assyria, Isaiah advised King Ahaz to refuse, which he did.

But I think Isaiah was hoping for a time of peace for Judah and Jerusalem, and the king’s next political decision didn’t make that too likely. Instead of joining the rebel alliance, Ahaz called Assyria to intervene. This they did with devastating impact, eventually leading to the destruction of Samaria and the end of the northern kingdom in 721.

Isaiah objected to this dangerous move by King Ahaz, but he remained hopeful about the future. Rather than being totally discouraged by the current king, the prophet was thinking about … Read more »

November 27, 2016

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie

Isaiah 2:1-5
Matthew 24:36-44

“A Foreview of the Kingdom of God”

This is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent means “coming,” and it is a season of the church year that is focused on waiting and preparing for the coming of Christ.

In one sense, we are waiting and preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas. But the Sunday scripture readings also emphasise the fact that we are waiting and preparing for the Kingdom of God. We are waiting for the Kingdom to arrive and to transform our world into a place where God rules, where peace and justice flourish, where there is no more poverty, war, or despair.

A week ago we celebrated “Reign of Christ” Sunday. We remembered the good news that Christ is truly the ruler of the world, and that whenever we live according to God’s laws, and whenever we seek to follow the way and will of Christ, Christ’s kingdom is present and active in our world through us.

Today, the theme of God’s kingdom continues with our reading from the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah had a vision of what the NRSV translation calls “the future house of God.” It is a vision of … Read more »

November 20, 2016

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 46
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

“When you come into your kingdom…”

In the midst of a world in which the refugee crisis is staggering, with millions of people on the move and looking for a place to call home…

In the midst of a world in which human rights abuses are committed every day in Iraq, Burma, Gambia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and so many other regions…

In the midst of a world in which there is talk in the U.S. of building walls to keep people out, deporting millions, and registering and monitoring people of a certain religion…

In the midst of a world in which, even in Canada, there are attacks on houses of worship, based on religion, culture, and race…

We need the words of the psalmist more than ever: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult… the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

The morning after the U.S. election a couple of … Read more »

November 13, 2016 – “Being the Church: Believing in Life after Death”

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie

1 Corinthians 15:1-7, 17-26, 35-42, 49-58

“Being the Church: Believing in Life after Death”

Today’s sermon is the final one in a series on “Being the Church.” Over the last several weeks, we have been thinking and praying about the precious gifts that we as church possess… aspects of our “being” that we are called to nurture, and steward, and share with the world around us. The list of five characteristics of the church was suggested by the Rev. Emily Bisset, who developed a study and worship series on the topic, but it is not an exhaustive or exclusive list, as if we could not identify and cherish some additional aspects of what it means to be church.

But Emily’s list included “Singing Together,” “Creating Safe Space,” “Welcoming All Ages,” “Loving with Empathy and Compassion,” and finally today’s theme: “Believing in Life after Death.”

You may have noticed, as I did, with the list, that most of the aspects of “Being the Church” were not doctrinal affirmations. It was not a list of things that Christians are supposed to believe in order to be in the group. Instead, it was mostly a list of things that we DO … Read more »

November 6, 2016- “Being the Church: Loving with Empathy and Compassion”

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie

John 11:17-36

“Being the Church: Loving with Empathy and Compassion”

The sermon I am going to share with you today was written by the Rev. Emily Bisset. It is part of a series on “Being the Church,” which we have been reflecting on in worship over the last several weeks. Today’s theme is “Loving with Empathy and Compassion” – something that we are both called and equipped to do in our church communities.

In 1964, Shel Silverstein published the book, “The Giving Tree.” While it is a classic now, it caused almost immediate controversy. Just exactly what was this story about: the tree, depicted as a female, gives everything she has to the boy, who takes it all seemingly without much gratitude. The boy keeps coming back again and again, needing something different. Each time, the tree offers what she has, until there is nothing left of her but a stump.

Some rejected the book immediately, saying it represented an unhealthy, lopsided relationship. Some loved the book, saying that it beautifully depicted selfless, self-giving love. People saw in its pages the relationship of a parent and child, and others saw the relationship between God and God’s people. In … Read more »

October 30, 2016 – “Being the Church: Creating Safe Space”

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie

Matthew 5:13-14, 21-22, 43-47; 7:1-5
John 14:25-27

“Being the Church: Creating Safe Space”

On Friday evening, I attended one of the Interchurch Health Ministries education sessions. That’s the program that provides training and support for parish nurses, as well as for congregation members and clergy who are working with parish nurses, like ours, Laura Van Loon.

The particular session was on the topic of family violence – helping us to identify its various forms, realize its prevalence, and become aware of how we can assist those who are victims of physical, emotional, psychological, or economic abuse perpetrated by their own family members.

As the session neared its conclusion, we were invited to consider a question: “What is the faith community’s responsibility with regard to family violence?” What is our responsibility as parish nurses, clergy, and congregations when women, children, or men are suffering violence at the hands of their own loved ones?

I immediately thought of the responsibility to report suspected abuse. There is both a moral and a legal imperative to speak up when we think that a vulnerable person like a child, youth, or elder is being abused. But then others in the class pointed out that our … Read more »

October 23, 2016 – “Being the Church: Welcoming All Ages”

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie

Deuteronomy 6:1-9
1 Corinthians 12:12-21

This morning we continue to reflect on some of the wonderful qualities that are present in many congregations, including ours… acknowledging the gifts of “being the church” that we need to preserve so that we can continue to serve in the communities where we live. Today’s quality is “Welcoming All Ages” – a very appropriate one for this special day on which we have baptized baby Fraser, welcoming one of our youngest members to the church family, both of this congregation and of the whole church of which we are a part.

I want to acknowledge the Rev. Emily Bisset, who wrote the study guide on the theme of “Being the Church” and whose sermon on “Welcoming All Ages” I adapted for today.

Deuteronomy is a sort of guide for the Israelites as they finish their forty-year journey in the wilderness and get ready to inhabit the Promised Land. While they journeyed from slavery in Egypt to freedom, God was with them in visible and tangible ways. God provided manna to eat every morning and quails for their supper every evening. God went before the people as a pillar of cloud by day … Read more »

October 16, 2016 – “Being the Church: Singing Together”

Introduction to the Series:

In her introduction to her study resource on “Being the Church,” the Rev. Emily Bisset begins with this reflection:

“Sometimes we, as the church, wonder what we can offer to our wider community – a community that is increasingly functioning without the church as a significant influence. As a denomination, The Presbyterian Church in Canada has been reformulating a common mission and vision statement with a strategic plan to move our congregations and ministries into the future. We have been asking questions: What is the church called to do? What is the church called to be? What will this look like in the communities where we live?”

But reflection led Emily to a different line of questioning: “What does the church offer – what can it offer – that is not available in our communities? What essential teachings of the gospel are at work in congregational life that are not present in our communities because the teachings have been lost or contradicted?

“Questions such as [these] place the emphasis on a ‘present tense’ exploration that highlights components or qualities already existing in many congregations. As a result, good news stories emerge. The church already values and tries to offer particular … Read more »

September 11, 2016

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
Psalm 14:1-7
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

“Where do you place yourself in the story”

Where do you place yourself in the story? Which character can you relate to today?

Perhaps you can relate to the lost sheep… wandering alone and scared?… hoping for some help, some hope, for a strong and faithful shepherd to find you and carry you home to safety?

Do you feel like the lost coin?… obviously useful and valuable, but forgotten, hidden, over-looked, being passed by over and over?

Or do you relate most easily to the tax collectors and sinners who were coming near to listen to Jesus? You know that you’ve made some mistakes in your life. You’ve been far from perfect, and those close to you know it too… but you’ve been invited to listen to Jesus, to eat with him, and to learn from him.

You feel accepted in his presence, and your history disappears into the background. You have discovered that to Jesus your life is as precious as a lost sheep to a shepherd or a lost silver coin to a woman who needs it.

If you can place yourself in the role of the lost sheep, or the lost … Read more »

September 4, 2016

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie

The worship service on Sunday, September 4, 2016 was a family service. Rather than the usual short children’s message followed by a longer sermon, we had a three-part message with the first two sections aimed primarily at the children, and the third one aimed at the adults. The audio file of these three messages has been edited so that they flow from one to the next. During the actual service, there were hymns, reflection times, and prayers between the sections you will hear on the recording.

Part 1: “Created by God: We are God’s special children” (Psalm 139)

Part 2: “Shaped by God: We grow into the people God wants us to be” (Jeremiah 18:1-6)

Part 3: “Warned by God: We must change our ways to God’s ways” (Jeremiah 18:1-11)

… Read more »

August 28, 2016

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie

1 Corinthians 9:24-27
2 Peter 1:1-15
Luke 4:1-13

“The Fruit of the Spirit is Self-Control”

If there is one model of self-control for us to look to for inspiration, it has to be Jesus. After all, he is the one that the Apostle Paul described as being “tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Right from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Luke’s Gospel tells us that he experienced temptation. He had just finished being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit when the Spirit led him in the wilderness where he was tempted by the devil.

Now, another version of the story, in the Gospel according to Mark, says that the Spirit DROVE Jesus out into the wilderness, but in Luke’s Gospel the Spirit seems to play more of a supporting role, rather than being the force responsible for him being out there. Luke writes that the Spirit “led [Jesus] in the wilderness,” seemingly guiding him through the challenges and temptations that would come his way, and helping him to get through them.

Indeed, when Jesus returns from the Jordan after his baptism, Luke tells us that he was “FULL of the Holy Spirit,” and I cannot help … Read more »

August 21, 2016

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie

Luke 9:46-56
Acts 17:16-34
John 8:2-11

“The Fruit of the Spirit is GENTLENESS”

Parents and teachers well know the challenge of trying to guide children towards right behaviour, discipline, respect, and good relations with their neighbours. It has been a challenge in every generation to teach our children how to live well, instilling in them good values and self-discipline to help them through life.

As I talked about with the children this morning, our methods of discipline in school have changed over time, probably for the better, as we’ve moved away from corporal punishment towards more gentle methods. But as many of us have experienced, if we don’t use any form of discipline consistently, it usually leads to chaotic classrooms and children with very short attention spans and even less regard for others.

I’m no expert on discipline, and I would defer to some of the teachers in our congregation as to what works best today for children of various ages. But as a minister, I would like to suggest this morning that God – as our loving Parent, our heavenly Father, our nurturing Mother, our divine Teacher – God wants to teach us God’s own loving ways, and perhaps … Read more »

July 24, 2016

Ephesians 4:26-32
Luke 6:27-38
Philippians 2:1-11

“The Fruit of the Spirit is KINDNESS”

When you think of kindness, what comes to mind? An encouraging note sent by a friend? A caring shoulder to cry on? Someone assisting you with a difficult task, or allowing you to have a break from your work when you are tired? Whatever you think about, it most likely includes a warm fuzzy feeling. Kindness just does that. No wonder it’s a fruit of the Spirit. When we’re kind, others get to experience that warmth, and whether they realize it or not they’re experiencing some of God’s character.

Over the years here at St. Andrew’s, I have come to know many of you as people who demonstrate kindness on a regular basis. Of course, there are ways in which the church programs encourage us all to grow in kindness. During one of the arts and crafts sessions at Vacation Bible School last week, our children made cards to distribute to elderly homebound people in the congregation.

Our refugee sponsorship program has encouraged many of us to give extra offerings and household items to make one family’s settlement in Canada possible. And all summer you’ve been bringing in fruit offerings every Sunday … Read more »

July 17, 2016

Colossians 3:12-17
Psalm 103:1-14
Matthew 18:21-35

“The Fruit of the Spirit is PATIENCE”

Preaching on the Fruit of the Spirit this summer is turning out to be an interesting adventure. Instead of being tied to the lectionary readings, I have been set free to explore a different theme each Sunday… always beginning with some pondering about which Scripture passages to select that will speak to that theme most appropriately.

On the subject of PATIENCE, the fourth fruit of the Spirit, I began by just exploring the definitions. I found that phrase that I shared with the children this morning – “waiting without complaining,” and I found much more.

The Greek word used in Galatians 5:22 about the Fruit of the Spirit is μακροθυμία (macrothumia) which can be translated either as “patience” or “long-suffering.” Just that alternate translation highlights something about what patience is all about, doesn’t it? Long-suffering.

How about this definition? “The quality of being willing to bear adversities, calm endurance of misfortune.”

Or how about this one? “Patience requires endurance, constancy, steadfastness, and perseverance; especially as shown in bearing troubles.”

As I read more, I found that many commentators wanted to separate out different kinds of patience – patience with the circumstances of life (like the … Read more »

July 10, 2016

Genesis 13:1-12
Romans 12:9-21
Philippians 4:4-9

“The Fruit of the Spirit is PEACE”

This week in St. Catharines Ontario, over 400 young Presbyterians gathered to learn, play, and worship together at the Canada Youth 2016 conference.

Meanwhile in Baghdad, about 300 people were killed when a large car bomb exploded in a busy market. In the U.S., two black men were shot and killed by police for no good reason, and five police officers were killed and others injured by snipers in retaliation. In Bangladesh there was yet another terrorist attack, with people throwing homemade bombs at police who were standing guard outside a prayer service marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. And when I looked online at a listing of violent incidents and attacks this month alone, it went on and on and on.

You might assume that the Presbyterian youth would go on with their program, likely unaware or at least unaffected by such terrible incidents so far away. But in fact, part of the CY program included learning about and responding to the world refugee crisis – the crisis caused by unrelenting violence against civilian communities and families.

And when they gathered for worship, they prayed sincerely and intensely … Read more »

July 3, 2016

Luke 10:1-6, 16-20
Psalm 78:1-8
Ephesians 3:8-10, 16-21

“The Next Generations”

This week it really started to feel like summer had arrived. The number of meetings in my schedule dropped drastically, and I easily found time to do a little more visiting during the week. I enjoyed several free evenings, fewer emails, and things were pretty quiet in the church office.

But despite the seeming slow-down for summer, ministry and mission actually continued at an alarming pace. St. Andrew’s visitors were out in full force this week – visiting in all three hospitals and in homes and care homes too. Three prayer shawls will be gifted this week, along with prayers for healing and wholeness to people within and beyond our congregation.

On Friday, a bunch of us went up to Camp Christopher. It was mostly Camp Committee members who joined the staff team up at camp for a BBQ lunch and a beautiful afternoon, culminating in the commissioning service. The new mattresses, for which our church raised the money, will arrive soon, and over the course of the summer the staff will welcome around 250 children and youth to participate in the Christian Camping program.

My Facebook news feed was overflowing the last few days … Read more »