“Temptations and Territories”
Welcome to another Season of Lent. As the days lengthen and Easter comes nearer, the church marks a season of 6 ½ weeks, 40 days, not counting Sundays, in which we traditionally pray, fast, and give alms. We may take on spiritual disciplines, re-commit ourselves to practices of faith, and turn and return our hearts and lives to God as we prepare for the Great festival of Easter.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t give anything up for Lent this year. I kind of feel like we’ve had to give up so much over the last couple of years that I just don’t have the energy for it. And although I have lots of devotional books and Lenten resources at my disposal, I haven’t added any new prayer practices for this season either. The one thing I am hoping to add is worshipping together LIVE, in-person, with a congregation once again. That will be enough to make this season special for me, after a season of online only and an empty sanctuary.
If you who are listening this morning, whether you’re here in the church building or watching online, want to take up a spiritual discipline for … Read more »
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
“Bringing Scripture to Life”
This morning I want to talk about the Bible – about the Scriptures that we love so dearly in our church. We begin our service each Sunday with a procession of the Scriptures, placing the Bible at the centre of our worship space for all to see. We read significant portions of the text each week, following a lectionary cycle of readings so that the minister doesn’t just pick her favourites. And then everything that we say, and sing, and pray, and proclaim to one another in our community of faith is rooted in the themes and truths of Scripture that we intend to let guide our daily lives and decision-making.
Presbyterians love the Bible, and one of the highlights of my week is when a group of us gather on Zoom to discuss one of the upcoming readings for Sunday. It gives me a chance to share some of the things I’ve been learning or thinking about as I prepare to preach, and an opportunity to hear other perspectives, questions, and insights from some of you.
I cancelled our mid-week Bible study this week though, in favour of joining in an ecumenical Bible study that … Read more »
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
“The Demands of Love”
I’m looking forward to next Sunday evening at First Church, and our “Celebration of Love” fine dining event. I think it’s going to be a lovely evening to support a good cause – our refugee sponsorship initiative – and to celebrate the gift of love. In the early stages of planning for a Valentine’s Day-themed dinner, we were talking about the program and I suggested that we include some love poetry, in addition to the music and dance that would be the highlights of the entertainment.
I’m no expert on poetry, but I thought of “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. And then I thought of Robert Burns’ poem that begins “My love is like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June. My love is like the melody that’s sweetly played in tune.”
But I am a Christian minister, not a poet, so the next thing that came to mind was not exactly a poem. Although it is poetic. It was our Epistle reading today from 1 Corinthians 13 – the love chapter. I’ve preached on that chapter many times, and most of them were at … Read more »
Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
2 Peter 1:1-15
“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 »
Today we jump back to almost the beginning of the stories of Jesus, to the time just after Jesus was baptized by John in the river Jordan. His ministry in Galilee had not even begun yet. Just days ago, he had received the Holy Spirit and heard the voice of God from heaven saying to him, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
But before his ministry as the beloved son of God begins, there is a time of trials and temptations. The Spirit, that Jesus had only just received, leads him out into the wilderness, where for forty days he is tempted by the devil.
The trials he endured there out in the desert, must have included the heat of the burning sun, the loneliness of his isolation, and the pain of an empty stomach. Just the kind of experience that would get most people to a state of overwhelming self-pity. Just the kind of thing that would prompt most of us to do anything, to sacrifice anything to get back to the relative comforts of home, or at least to get a good meal and a cool glass of water.
And while Jesus … Read more »
Today’s Gospel reading is the classic one for the first Sunday in the season of Lent. As we begin 40 days of Lenten prayer and preparation before the celebration of Easter, we hear about the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting and praying in the wilderness before he began his ministry. Luke’s version of the story is by far the most interesting, as he gives details of the temptations that Jesus might have experienced, and how he managed to overcome those temptations by focussing on God’s Word.
Three times, the devil appears, leading Jesus into temptation. And three times, Jesus avoids being led astray. Since Jesus is so hungry, he is first tempted to turn the stones into bread. But he reminds himself of God’s word: “One does not live by bread alone,” and the temptation passes.
Next, he is tempted to use his power to become the ruler of the whole world. If he bows down to worship the devil, the evil one claims that Jesus can have it all. But Jesus knows another relevant verse: “Worship the Lord your God, and … Read more »
Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie
1 Corinthians 13
I’ve been pondering these scripture texts all week and thinking about what to say to you this morning. And most of my attention has been focused on the prophets. I spent some time on Friday reading about Jeremiah and his call as a prophet to the people of Judah in the period just before the exile. Jeremiah, whose call we heard today, had the really tough job of preaching God’s words of judgment to the people. He was the one who had to tell them to shape up, to stop worshipping so many false gods, and to turn back to the One God of Israel.
From the very beginning of Jeremiah’s life, he was chosen by God for this difficult task. And though Jeremiah objected, saying that he was only a boy, God said “You will go to all to whom I send you, and you will speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” But figuring out what words to say was probably the least of Jeremiah’s worries. God would give him the message to proclaim, but the hard part was going … Read more »
Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
In the middle of our bible reading challenge here at St. Andrew’s, the lectionary has provided us with a wonderful set of readings on which to reflect and pray. The overarching theme in Nehemiah 8, in Psalm 19, and in our reading from Luke’s Gospel is the scriptures themselves — and in particular, the question of how we use and interpret the scriptures.
The psalmist begins by making it clear that the scriptures are of utmost importance for God’s people. Of course, from the psalmist’s perspective, at least 500 to maybe 1000 years before the birth of Jesus, the scriptures consisted of the Law of Moses, perhaps as gathered together into the Torah — the rough equivalent of the first five books of our bibles today.
The psalmist declares that the Law of the Lord is perfect. God’s decrees and precepts and ordinances are sure, and right, and true altogether. He thinks very highly of these texts and speaks of them with utmost respect and admiration and praise. And it’s not only that God’s commandments are true and right from the perspective of a wise and powerful God. The psalmist … Read more »