“Hospitality in the Neighbourhood”
There is a story about a pastor who felt that their church was a bit stuffy and could use a bit of friendliness. So, one Sunday he announced that the following Sunday they were going to start a custom of shaking hands and greeting each other. At the close of the service, a man turned around to the woman behind him and said, “Good morning,” and she looked at him with shock at his boldness and said, “I beg your pardon! That friendliness business doesn’t start until next Sunday!”
There was an article in a church newsletter about a man who visited 18 different churches on successive Sundays. He was trying to find out what the churches were really like. He said, “I sat near the front. After the service, I walked slowly to the rear, then returned to the front and back to the foyer using another aisle. I smiled, dressed neatly. I asked one person to direct me to a specific place: a fellowship hall, pastor’s study, etc. I remained for coffee if it was served.” He writes, “I used a scale to rate the reception I received. I awarded points on the … Read more »
Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie
“I Love You All the Same”
This morning’s reading from the Book of Acts is part of a sermon preached by the Apostle Peter almost 2000 years ago. It’s a really good summary of the Christian faith, and one of the passages that we often read on Easter Sunday. It’s also probably the first sermon preached to non-Jews, to Gentiles in the city of Caesarea.
By the time Peter finishes preaching it, it is pretty obvious that the Holy Spirit is flying around the place, just as she had on the Day of Pentecost. So Peter invites his listeners to be baptized, and a bunch of them are!
What stands in the background of this passage is a conversion. And it’s not so much Cornelius’ conversion, as it is Peter’s conversion. Perhaps you remember the story about Peter and Cornelius. Peter is a Jewish Christian and leader in the early Christian Church, at this point staying in the city of Joppa. Cornelius is a Roman centurion living in Caesarea. He is not Jewish and not a Christian, but he is a man who believes in God, spends time in prayer, and gives generously to those … Read more »
1 John 5:1-6
“Radical New Inclusion?”
When I began to plan for this morning’s worship a few weeks ago, I thought I would preach about the impact of Christian camping. My own experience at a Presbyterian camp as a teenager and young adult had a significant effect on my journey of faith and contributed to the discernment of my call to ministry.
A couple of lines in the Gospel passage stood out to me in my reflection… the part where Jesus instructs his disciples to abide in his love by keeping his commandments, and then he tells them, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”
I thought especially about how my experience of camping ministry had grounded me in the faith, providing me with patterns of prayer, Bible study, and worship which I have treasured ever since. And I thought about how discovering my vocation as a Christian minister has not made my life simple or easy, but it has filled me with joy and peace many times throughout my life.
I thought I might encourage everyone today, not only to send your children and grandchildren to … Read more »
“Baptism: The Beginning of the Journey”
As most of you know, in addition to being your minister, I am a student again. I’m back in school, still quite close to the beginning of a Doctor of Ministry degree through the Toronto School of Theology. Broadly speaking, my topic is about marriage. I’m interested in ministry with couples preparing for marriage and how we do that in the Presbyterian Church. And I’m particularly interested in how clergy and congregations can support couples from different church backgrounds to participate in a church and live out their faith together either in one church or in two churches as an interchurch family.
In the Fall, I took a course on the unity of the church, and this term I am beginning a course on theologies and spiritualities of marriage. But when I was deciding on a paper topic for the Fall course, I found myself drawn to the topic of baptism. I studied the final report of the Reformed-Roman Catholic dialogue on the topic of baptism in the U.S. – a document called, “These Living Waters: Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism.” And I found that there is a … Read more »
Do you remember the story of Peter and Cornelius? It comes just before the section from the Book of Acts that William read for us this morning.
Cornelius was a Roman Centurion. He was a devout man who feared God. He prayed diligently and gave generously to the poor, but he was a Gentile. And one day, Cornelius has a vision. An angel appears to him and tells him to send a couple of servants to a place called Joppa to find a man named Simon Peter. And so he did.
Meanwhile, the Apostle Peter goes up on his roof to pray, and he sees a vision too. He sees the sky open up, and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it are all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he hears a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.”
Peter is obviously shocked because these are animals that Jews like him don’t normally eat. He says, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” But the voice is insistent. It repeats the instruction again and … Read more »
Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie
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 … Read more »
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 »