January 13, 2019

Isaiah 43:1-7 Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 “I will be with you” I love remembering my baptism. Next year it will be 30 years since I was baptized, and I still remember it as such an important moment in my life of faith. I remember standing up at the front of a church very much like this one. I remember reciting the words of the Apostles’ Creed that I had studied and memorized in my preparation. I remember the droplets of water on my forehead. And I remember the choir turning and singing over me: “The Lord bless you and keep you…” just like we sing to one another each Sunday here at First Church. On this Sunday, when we hear again the story of Jesus’ baptism by John, we are invited to remember our baptism and give thanks to God. Of course, you may not literally remember your baptism. You may have been an infant or a young child when you were baptized. It was your parent, or guardian, or grandparent who made a public profession of faith, and promised to teach you about Jesus and nurture you in the Christian way of life. But regardless of whether or not you literally remember that moment, you are invited today to remember your baptism… to remember its meaning and significance, and to remember how it continues to shape your life and faith today. When we got talking about the meaning of baptism in our Bible study earlier this week, I pointed out … Read more »

December 16, 2018

Luke 3:7-18 “What Should We Do?” I like how specific John the Baptist gets in his instructions for the crowds of people who came out to the wilderness to be baptized by him and change their lives around. He gets specific about what these people should do, about how they should live, about how their lives should bear fruit worthy of the repentance that they have just professed. I can imagine that John has been preaching for a while. “Fire and brimstone” kind of preaching in which he’s been warning the people that they better repent now or it’s going to be too late. The Messiah is coming soon. The judgement day is drawing near. He says it’s like there’s an ax lying at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. What a way to motivate your listeners to change their lives! Essentially, it’s change or die! But when he finishes his sermon – or perhaps they even interrupt him in the middle – they call out “How?” How do we change? We understand this urgent call to change our lives and get right with God. We understand that the judgement is coming soon, and we want to be found worthy. But specifically, practically speaking, “What should we do?” It’s a question that modern preachers should keep in mind as well. We can theologize all we like. And we can encourage, inspire, and even warn … Read more »

January 10, 2016

Isaiah 43:1-7 Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 “Be Not Afraid” Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come, follow me, and I will give you rest. I can’t remember when I first heard that song based on this morning’s passage from the prophet Isaiah, but I remember that I was moved and encouraged both by the words and the melody. In the midst of the challenges of life, whatever has the power to make us afraid, the prophet assures us that God goes before us. Through the words of the prophet Isaiah, God says to us, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Perhaps you can remember a time when you were afraid. I am thinking of the day many years ago that I discovered a small lump in my breast. I am remembering the time of waiting and worrying before I got the results of the ultrasound. Maybe you are thinking of a similar experience, when your life was in danger or you thought it might be. Maybe you are remembering a time when someone you loved was in trouble, when you feared for their safety, when you were afraid of losing them. Sometimes I think that the scariest thing about these experiences … Read more »

January 13, 2013

Isaiah 43:1-7 Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 “The Meaning of Baptism” Have any of you been baptized? How many of you were baptized when you were infants or young children? How many of you were baptized as teenagers or adults? How many of you were baptized with water being sprinkled or poured on your head? How many of you were baptized by immersion in a pool or lake or river? How many of you have brought your own children for baptism? How many of you can remember witnessing a baptism and welcoming a child, or young person, or adult into the church community? Well, there is certainly a lot of experience of baptism here in our church today! Although we don’t have a baptism to administer today, we are celebrating the Sunday called, “Baptism of the Lord,” remembering Jesus’ own baptism by John in the Jordan River, and thinking about the meaning and significance of our own baptism. Baptism is a very important practice in our Christian Faith, one of two sacraments that we celebrate – Baptism and Holy Communion. In the order of sacraments, baptism is first. It is the sacrament of initiation – a rite that marks our entrance into the Christian community. If you go to Europe and take note of many of the historic churches, they often have baptisteries – smaller buildings just outside the churches – where new Christians would have been baptized. Baptisms took place outside the churches, and then the newly initiated were welcomed into … Read more »

December 9, 2012

Philippians 1:3-11 Luke 3:1-6 Today is December 9th, just sixteen days until Christmas. How are your preparations going? Do you have a “to do” list, and if so, are you getting things checked off on your “to do” list? I am the kind of person that likes to make “to do” lists. I make one almost every week for work, noting the various tasks and projects, calls and visits that I hope to do that week. It’s a good way to get a handle on things, to set priorities, and to lessen the likelihood of forgetting something important. If you were to make a “to do” list for yourself between today and Christmas, how many sheets of paper would you need? Maybe you have gifts to buy or make – you might need a whole list just for gifts! Maybe you have cards to send, or far-away friends or family members that you want to call. Maybe you have baking to do, special meals to plan, decorations to put up, a house to clean, get-togethers to attend, Christmas plays or concerts to watch. Oh, and some of you might have to go to work too, or have some exams to write for school in the meantime. I still have quite a few things on my list, and I’m not even planning for a big family Christmas gathering, nor do I have any kids to buy gifts for as many of you do. On this second Sunday in Advent, I want … Read more »

January 10, 2010

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Isaiah 43:1-7 Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come, follow me, and I will give you rest. Through the words of the prophet Isaiah, God says to us, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” These words from the prophet were familiar to me when I read them on Monday and began to think about what I might preach today. This text comes up in the lectionary every three years, and a few years ago, when I learned the song that the choir sang this morning, “Be not afraid”, the words of the prophet became especially meaningful for me. Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come, follow me, and I will give you rest. Perhaps you can think of a time when you were afraid. I am thinking of the day that I discovered a small lump in my breast. I am remembering the time of waiting and worrying before I got the results of the ultrasound. Maybe you are thinking of a similar experience, when your life was in danger or you thought it might be. Maybe you are remembering a time when someone you loved was in trouble, … 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 »