May 19, 2024

Acts 2:1-21
John 15:26-27
Romans 8:22-27

“Speak!”

I began to write this sermon in the middle of the week when I was suffering from laryngitis. The virus that took hold of me a week before started by giving me a sore throat, and then made my voice get hoarse, and then caused it to disappear almost entirely. All the coughing I was doing just made the throat situation worse, and I agonized with every cough, knowing that it was doing even more harm to my vocal chords with each one.

I explained to my doctor how important my voice is to my life and work – as a preacher and as a singer. I wanted her to take pity on me and prescribe some anti-biotics, but it was also true. I don’t know how I could fulfill my calling without my voice. It would be a lot more difficult.

There are a number of places in Scripture where the mission of the disciples and the mission of the church that would follow are expressed. In Luke 9, when Jesus first sends out his disciples in his name, he tells them “to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, when … Read more »

April 28, 2024

John 15:1-8

“A Congregation that Abides”

You may have noticed that there’s a tree planted in the alcove between the two sections of our church building. There’s a little plaque beside it showing that it was given and planted there by a former member, Joyce Rivers, in memory of her husband after he died.

Unfortunately, we don’t make much use of that space between the buildings, even though it does have a nice tree in the middle of it, it also has an abundance of pigeons that like to hang out there, making it less pleasant for people to use it.

I recently learned that it’s a crab apple tree – a kind of tree that doesn’t grow too tall and likely could do well in a small space like that. But it’s also a kind of tree that requires some pruning once in a while. It was growing taller than was helpful and dropping leaves into the eavestroughs and causing them to get backed up. So earlier this week it was pruned.

Of course, the classic reason for pruning is not to avoid overflowing the eavestroughs, but to help a tree to produce more and better fruit. Gardening experts online say things like this … Read more »

April 14, 2024

Luke 24:36b-48

“Joyful, Disbelieving, Wondering Disciples”

During the Season of Easter, the lectionary suggests a lot of Scripture readings about the Risen Christ appearing to his disciples. It makes sense because there were two important things that shaped the Christian faith of the early church going forward. First, there was the fact that Jesus’ tomb was found to be empty, with his body gone. And second, there was the experience and witness of a number of his friends and followers who saw him raised.

If you were at worship last Sunday, but perhaps not carefully checking the Scripture reference, you might have thought that we repeated the same Gospel passage today that Taeyang preached about last week. In both cases, it was a story about Jesus appearing to a group of disciples in Jerusalem, not too long after they’d found the tomb to be empty and heard reports from the women that they’d seen Jesus alive.

Both of these stories, that are probably describing the same event in their own unique ways, have Jesus standing among the disciples with a greeting of “Peace be with you.” They also both include some doubt on the part of the disciples, with John’s account attributing the disbelief … Read more »

March 29, 2024 (Good Friday)

“A Eulogy for Jesus”

In our Lenten Devotional Study groups this week, we pondered the theme of “Grief.” We shared about some of our own experiences of grief at the death of a friend or family member, and about some of the things that were helpful for us as we worked through our mourning.

And then we talked about Jesus and his death. We thought about the people who were present when Jesus died, who were crying out in anguish at the loss of their loved one. Their grief was complicated because it wasn’t just a friend who died, but the Teacher they had come to believe would be their Messiah. It was not only loss and longing that they felt, but also confusion about what to do next. If the Messiah was dead, what now?

It’s not quite the same for us today. On Good Friday, we normally tell the story of Jesus’ passion and death, remembering the horror of his unjust arrest and execution, and sitting in the feelings that evokes for us. But we also know that it’s not the end of the story, and that he will be raised. We won’t hunker down and cry through Saturday like they … Read more »

March 24, 2024

Luke 19:29-40
Luke 22:39-46
Luke 23:44-49

“Your Will Be Done”

For those joining us in worship today from Trinity Presbyterian Church in Grenfell, and for others who may not have been with us for worship through the Season of Lent, I want to begin by mentioning that our worship themes during Lent have been guided by a devotional study written by the Rev. Konnie Vissers called “Practicing Jesus’ Seven Last Words.”

Each service has focused on one of the phrases spoken by Jesus from the cross, according to the various Gospel accounts of the passion story. Along the way, we’ve reflected on forgiveness, heaven, the bonds of family and community, suffering, need, and fulfillment. If you’re interested, you could feel free to watch any of the YouTube videos of our worship to explore those themes yourself.

But today’s theme, inspired by Jesus’ last words according to the Gospel of Luke, is “surrender.” And that’s a difficult word.

I mean, the study suggests that “surrender” is something that Jesus chose to do at the end of his life, and it invites us to consider what we may be called to “surrender” as well.

But when I think about “surrender” I think of an embattled army waving a white flag, … Read more »

March 17, 2024

Micah 4:1-4
Matthew 13:31-33
John 19:30

“What Is Finished?”

According to the Fourth Evangelist, the author of the Gospel of John, the very last thing that Jesus said before he died was a declaration: “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Most of us probably found that verse familiar, having come across it in the readings on Good Friday many times before. But I, for one, have never focused a whole Bible study or a sermon on that verse alone. But as we began to discuss it this week in our Lenten study groups, it quickly became clear that there was a lot to talk about.

After all, Jesus didn’t elaborate on that simple statement. After saying “It is finished,” he immediately dies. If his disciples were wondering what he meant, they didn’t get a chance to ask him as they had done after many other teaching moments that left them confused and wondering.

Likewise, we receive the words of Jesus in Scripture, but not a detailed explanation. But with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in the community of the Church, we are invited to hear, and question, and think, and ponder together what Jesus’ words meant for those … Read more »

March 10, 2024

John 19:28-29

“We Thirst”

I am finding it very interesting, during this Season of Lent, to delve deeply into the words Jesus spoke from the cross. Between the various accounts in the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, there are seven phrases uttered by our Lord during the final minutes, or perhaps hours, of his life.

Participants in the Lenten study groups continue to raise good questions and share helpful ideas as we ponder together the meaning and significance of each phrase for us today. And, in line with the title of the Lenten study, we have been considering how we might “practice” Jesus’ seven last words. In other words, how might Jesus’ words impact the way we think and change the way we live as his followers in the world today?

As the Fourth Evangelist tells the story, after Jesus had encouraged his beloved disciple John and his mother Mary to look after each other like family after he died, the next thing he said was “I am thirsty.” And folks nearby responded by giving him a drink.

Although that seems simple enough, I found that the biblical scholars have lots of ideas about what it might have meant. For example, you … Read more »

March 3, 2024

Psalm 22
Matthew 27:33-46

“Lament for the World”

There is a tradition in the ecumenical community in Saskatoon. Every year on the morning of Good Friday, hundreds of Christians gather to walk the Way of the Cross. They walk slowly, often singing Taizé chants as they go along like “Jesus remember me, when you come into your kingdom…”

They stop 14 times at various locations in the downtown area to read parts of the passion story. Leaders take turns carrying a huge wooden cross through the streets, enacting Jesus’ own walk of suffering and shame. They recount and remember the ways that our Lord was betrayed, denied, abandoned, arrested, tortured, mocked, and killed.

It is not a triumphant gathering that anticipates Jesus’ resurrection, but a mournful one that invites the worshippers to sit with (or walk with) the shock, horror, and grief of what human beings did to God who had come among us in Jesus the Christ.

When Matthew tells the story of Jesus’ crucifixion he also sits with the grief. Matthew’s account doesn’t include Jesus asking God to forgive those who crucified him. He doesn’t speak comforting words to the criminals dying beside him or encourage his friends and family to take care of … Read more »

February 25, 2024

John 19:25b-27
Matthew 12:46-50

“Water is Thicker than Blood”

On this Second Sunday in the Season of Lent, we are continuing to focus on the final things that Jesus said as he was dying on the cross. Although each of Jesus’ statements is quite brief, our Lenten study so far has already begun to reveal that each one is rich with meaning for our lives as disciples today.

On Ash Wednesday, we heard Jesus pray to God the Father “to forgive [those who were crucifying him] for they do not know what they are doing.” We were assured of God’s unconditional love and Jesus’ capacity to forgive us for the worst things we do. We were also encouraged to live into our identity as people made in the image of God, and to forgive one another from our hearts.

Last Sunday, we heard Jesus in conversation with a repentant thief who was dying beside him. This man also was forgiven, and given the promise of Jesus that “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” We gave thanks for that amazing grace, and the glimpses of “heaven on earth” that we experience today, even as we anticipate the final gift of everlasting life.

In this morning’s … Read more »

February 11, 2024

2 Kings 2:1-12
Mark 9:2-9

“Picking up the Mantle”

Earlier this week, when the Session of First Church had our regular monthly meeting, our agenda included a discussion of a book recommended by the Synod Mission Committee: “21 Things You May Not Have Known About the Indian Act” by Bob Joseph. As we were reflecting on the devastating impacts of colonization on Indigenous people in this country, thinking about how settlers took land, imposed culture, and banned traditional languages and spiritual practices, I thought it would be appropriate to read the Gospel text (the Transfiguration story) from the First Nations Version of the New Testament.

This Indigenous translation of the good story was published in 2021 and dedicated to the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island. The publishers pray that it “will bring healing to those who have suffered under the dominance of colonial governments who, with the help of churches and missionary organizations, often took our land, our languages, our cultures, and even our children. As our Tribal Nations work hard to reclaim what has been stolen, it is our hope that the colonial language that was forced upon us can now serve our people in a good way, by presenting Creator Sets Free … Read more »

February 4, 2024

Isaiah 40:21-31
Mark 1:29-39

“Renew Our Strength”

Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? It is God who sits above the circle of the earth… who stretches out the heavens like a curtain… who makes the rulers of the earth as nothing… Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. God does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

The prophet Isaiah addresses these questions to the People of Israel in exile in Babylon. The people are complaining, you see, that God has disregarded them, that God has forgotten them. I can understand their complaint. Really, I can.

They’re tired. They’re exhausted, actually. And after all the challenges and trials they have endured, after waiting so long for some kind of help,  who can blame them for getting a little bit frustrated with God?

Why are we still living in this God-forsaken place? Why are our enemies still triumphing over us again and again? We thought we were supposed to be your chosen people! Why is this misery just going on and on with no relief in sight?

Those are questions … Read more »

January 21, 2024

Jonah 3:1-5, 10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20

“It is Time to Live Differently”

As we journey through the seasons of the church year and explore the texts of scripture each Sunday that are assigned by the lectionary cycle, we have the opportunity to focus on different parts of the Christian story.

During Advent, we enter into the experience of waiting. Longing, hoping, waiting for a Messiah to come… waiting for his return, waiting for our world to be put right. When Christmas finally arrives, we enter into the experience of the Holy Family, of the shepherds, and of the angels. We celebrate the gift of God in sending Jesus into our world, almost as if he has just arrived.

And then, at Epiphany, we walk with the wise men to greet him. We experience the “aha moment” – the knowledge that Emmanuel has come – “God with us” for the whole world.

Today is the third Sunday after the Epiphany in our church year. We’re in what we call the “Season of Epiphany,” and our scripture texts contain some wonderful epiphanies of their own. But I can’t help summing them up with one message from God: “It is time to live differently.”

The Greek word that is … Read more »

January 7, 2024

Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Mark 1:4-11

“The Voice of God”

The Scriptures this morning proclaim quite clearly that our God is a God who speaks. God said, “Let there be light!” And there was light. God spoke the Creation into being. God’s voice was creative and effective, and God’s voice made the very good world and everything in it.

The Psalmist hears God’s voice as loud, booming, and authoritative. It is through speech that God asserts power over all the Creation and all creatures including human beings. In a world where everything seems to be spinning out of control, people of faith are reminded of God’s power over all the chaos, and God’s ability to bless the people with strength and with peace.

And the Gospel of Mark has God’s voice assuring Jesus of his identity as God’s Son, the Beloved of God. “You are mine. You are loved. I am pleased with you, dear child.”

I think it’s interesting to notice that the Scriptures don’t include a lot of “appearances” of God. It’s usually just a voice. I mean, there are some spectacular visual things that take place in Bible stories when God is there. The burning bush is a great example, but sometimes there are … Read more »