February 23, 2020

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 2 Corinthians 5:20b- – 6:10 Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 “Ash Sunday” In the first reading for Ash Wednesday, the prophet Joel calls for a trumpet blast to go out and warn the people that they must change their lives and return to God with all their hearts. It makes me think of the warning cries that we are hearing lately from the young prophets of our time. They also are sounding trumpets and blowing whistles, striking from school, making speeches, addressing the world through social media, and calling us to make radical changes for the future of the planet. The call of the prophets then and now challenges God’s people to cease their parties and celebrations, and to come together instead in a solemn assembly of weeping and mourning. Joel says that even the bridegroom must leave his room, and the bride her canopy, and join the community in repentance and fasting. The message is hopeful because the people are assured of God’s grace and mercy. The prophet says that the Lord is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. God relents from punishing. And yet, there is urgency to the call. They must return to God with all their hearts and change their lives today. Likewise, we are warned in our time that the environmental crisis is indeed a crisis. We’ve been aware of it my whole life, and responding in bits and pieces by avoiding littering, recycling a little more, and slowly developing new energy … Read more »

October 7, 2018

Matthew 6:25-33 “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.” “Oooooooo…Here is a little song I wrote. You might want to sing it note for note. Don’t worry. Be happy. In every life we have some trouble.When you worry you make it double.Don’t worry. Be happy.” About half way through the sermon on the mount, after more than a chapter of teaching about the challenging way of discipleship that Jesus’ followers are called to live, Jesus tells his disciples not to worry: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Can we put ourselves in the shoes of those earliest disciples? Can we imagine what they might have been thinking as Jesus told them not to worry? Some of them had dropped their nets, their jobs, their livelihoods in order to go out on the road with him. And they had left their families, their communities, and their networks of support behind as well. He had called them to a life of risk and uncertainty, and now he is telling them not to worry. Don’t worry about food. Don’t worry about clothing. Trust God to provide you with what you need. It all sounds a little irresponsible, doesn’t it? Don’t … Read more »

November 22, 2015

Romans 6:1-14 Philippians 4:4-9 Matthew 6:25-34 “Free to Take Hold of Life” Thanksgiving weekend was more than a month ago, and we are beginning to think about and anticipate Advent and Christmas. But our American friends are just getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving this week. It is an interesting recapitulation that today’s Gospel passage is the same one that we read and studied on our Thanksgiving Sunday, just as our neighbours are coming to their Thanksgiving. Jesus invites us to set our worries aside, and to think about today instead of fretting about tomorrow. On Thanksgiving Sunday, I suggested that thankfulness might be the opposite of worry, and I encouraged us to let our hearts be filled to overflowing with gratitude so there could be no room for anxious worrying. But just a couple of weeks after I preached that sermon, I found that some of our Board and Session members were indeed worrying. They were worrying about our church finances, and worrying that if we didn’t do something to change our course, we might end the year with another deficit that could cause us some significant problems for the future. Now, you might assume that the reason for this month’s Stewardship-themed services is a desperate attempt on our part to boost offerings and avoid a deficit. But, in fact, the Stewardship Committee reviewed the Stewardship materials and decided to use them way back in the Spring before we knew where things would be at in November. Of course we … Read more »

November 8, 2015

Jeremiah 29:4-14 Matthew 6:19-21 Luke 19:1-10 “Free to Be Rich” This month we are talking about stewardship and reflecting on what we do with the money and other gifts that we have received. The weekly themes come from a resource prepared by the Ecumenical Stewardship Centre, with today’s theme focus titled, “Free to be Rich.” I must say that I was a bit surprised by that title at first. It seemed almost in contrast to the Gospel story that Patti shared this morning with the children. Zacchaeus wasn’t so much “Free to be Rich” as he was becoming “Free to be Poor” when he met Jesus and got inspired to give his money away. When I read the title, “Free to be Rich,” I immediately began to worry that this resource might be promoting what is often called the “prosperity gospel.” I remembered being down in the United States a few years ago, turning on the TV, and finding that about half the channels were showing TV evangelists. After searching for something I was more interested in watching without success, I turned back to one of the evangelists to see what she was teaching. I remember the Scripture verse she focussed on very well, because she repeated it over and over – Luke 6:38 – “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” … Read more »

October 11, 2015

Matthew 6:25-33 “Setting Aside Worry” On this Thanksgiving Weekend, we should take time to reflect on what it means to be thankful people – thankful for food, for the harvest, for the people who work the land, and for all the other good things in our lives. We join with others in our community and country this weekend to celebrate the abundance in our lives, and as people of faith we give the glory to God – thanking God for the blessing of every good gift. Consider for a moment… What is the opposite of gratitude or thankfulness? Some might say that gratitude’s opposite is a sense of entitlement, or perhaps jealousy, covetousness, or greed. Although there are many negative attitudes that we might think of as opposite to the thankfulness that we are called to embrace this weekend, the lectionary has set a Gospel text that suggests an alternative. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he encourages his followers not to worry. Could that be the opposite of giving thanks? Jesus says: “Don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear.” And later he says, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need [these things]… [but] desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” It’s interesting to pause and consider who Jesus was speaking to when he said these words. As part of the collection of wisdom sayings … Read more »

October 7, 2012

Matthew 6:25-33 “Oooooooo… Here is a little song I wrote. You might want to sing it note for note. Don’t worry. Be happy. In every life we have some trouble. When you worry you make it double. Don’t worry. Be happy. The land lord say your rent is late. He may have to litigate. Don’t worry. Be happy. Ain’t got no place to lay your head. Somebody came and took your bed. Don’t worry. Be happy.” About half way through the sermon on the mount, after more than a chapter of teaching about the challenging way of discipleship that Jesus’ followers are called to live, Jesus tells his disciples not to worry: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Can we put ourselves in the shoes of those earliest disciples? Can we imagine what they might have been thinking as Jesus told them not to worry? Some of them had dropped their nets, their jobs, their livelihoods in order to go out on the road with him. And they had left their families, their communities, and their networks of support behind as well. He had called them to a life of risk and uncertainty, and … Read more »

February 27, 2011

Isaiah 49:8-16a Psalm 131 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 Matthew 6:24-34 This morning’s Gospel text came from a portion of what is known as Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.” We might imagine Jesus… sitting on the top of a hill with a crowd of listeners gathered around as he delivered the greatest sermon of all time. That’s what it looks like in the movies of Jesus’ life and ministry. But what we actually have in Matthew’s Gospel is a beautiful compilation of sayings and teachings from Jesus. Chances are that he didn’t put them all together into one sermon, but the editor of the Gospel did that in order to tell the story. But I imagine that Jesus’ words in the “Sermon on the Mount” are probably the things that Jesus said over and over throughout his ministry. They’re the words of wisdom that he shared with his disciples along the road. They’re the teachings that he focussed on whenever a crowd was gathered to listen to him. They’re Jesus’ “twelve keys” to being a faithful follower of God. That’s why these sayings got remembered, and passed on, and written down, and compiled into one beautiful, wonderful sermon from Jesus. And while much of the “Sermon on the Mount” was probably preached and taught in public – to the crowds of people that gathered so often to learn from the great Teacher, I imagine that today’s sayings were especially for Jesus’ inner circle of followers. It’s not that “don’t worry” and “strive … Read more »