“Prepare the Way”
That’s such a great Gospel reading for Saskatchewan, don’t you think? “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low…” God is making a beautiful, wide-open prairie! That’s the vision of the Kingdom of God when Jesus is coming into the world!
These are the words of John the Baptist when he begins preaching out in the wilderness, calling the people to repent and to “prepare the way of the Lord” who is coming (in Jesus, as we will soon see) to save all people from our sin and sadness.
John is quoting from another prophet centuries before him, Isaiah, who proclaimed similar words to the people of Israel who were in exile in Babylon. It seemed to them like God had abandoned them there, but God was coming, he assured them. They should be ready to welcome God, who was going to come and bring them home.
The image of the people “preparing the way” probably came from practices associated with welcoming royalty. It was like rolling out the red carpet, making sure that the monarch would have a smooth ride in coming to visit the community.
When we talked about this in … Read more »
“My Prayer for the Church”
Advent is not just a season of preparing for Christmas – baking, decorating, shopping, and planning. But it is a season of preparing our hearts and our lives for Christ’s coming again. On the second Sunday of Advent each year, we are introduced to John the Baptist, the prophet crying out in the wilderness, calling the people to repent and turn back to God and God’s ways of love and peace.
This year, John’s call to conversion is paired with a similar text from the Old Testament prophet Malachi. He also is calling for change, renewal, and reform in the lives of God’s people, using the image of silver being refined by fire.
When I read the text from Malachi, the praise & worship song “Refiner’s Fire” immediately comes to mind. We’ll sing it this morning – a reasonably contemporary song, but one that I’ve been singing since I was a teenager.
The song is framed as a personal prayer to God who is addressed as the “Refiner’s Fire” who through the imposition of heat is able to purify the silver or gold (to purify our hearts and lives) so that we become the good and … Read more »
Last Sunday, following worship and fellowship here at St. Andrew’s, I went over to the park across the street and joined a crowd of maybe 300 residents of Saskatoon for a march to raise awareness about climate change. Besides the usual signs and placards of a protest or demonstration, the organizers had constructed a huge model of the planet Earth, which was held high as we marched up the Broadway Bridge to Oskayak High School where the speeches took place.
I enjoyed the walk on a sunny, Sunday afternoon, and connected with a number of friends and colleagues along the way. But it was the moving and insightful speakers that made it especially worth attending. They all came from different perspectives, and framed their messages in different language, but the main point was the same. It was a dire warning – that we and the world need to change our practices before we ruin the good Earth that God gave us.
“If we don’t change direction, we’re likely to end up where we’re heading,” is one line I’ll remember. Another striking comment came from a young woman who spoke passionately about the need for us to protect the environment … Read more »
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 … Read more »
Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie
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 … Read more »
I go back and forth in my feelings about the ministry that I am called to be involved in within the church. Some days I am hopeful and excited and optimistic. Some days I am discouraged and disillusioned. Some days I have the sense that my work is making a real difference in people’s lives. And other days I feel like the world is so lost and misguided that we don’t have a chance of making any significant difference to anyone. In fact, I would say that most of my days in ministry are filled with a mixture of hopefulness because I am engaged in meaningful and important work, and discouragement because the needs I see around me are so great and I can’t imagine being able to respond to them all.
Let me give you a few examples from my week.
On Sunday evening, I made sandwiches with the youth group for Saskatoon Native Circle Ministry. I thought it was a worthwhile way to spend part of our evening for a couple of reasons… our young people would be learning to give their time and effort for others, and people who were … Read more »
Annabelle phoned me on Saturday morning this week to let me know that she was well enough that she was planning to be here for worship this morning. In the course of our conversation about the service, she asked me, “How’s the sermon going?” And I responded with something like, “It’s a work in progress.” It had begun more than a week before when I’d sat down in my new study here at the church, and opened up my bible to the lectionary readings for Advent II, Year C, and read the scripture texts for my first Sunday here at St. Andrew’s.
That day I had jotted down some notes about the readings – things that struck me right off… the music of Handel’s Messiah that came to mind as I heard the words from the prophet Malachi … the hopeful sound of Zechariah’s song for the life of his son John, and for the Saviour whose way his son would prepare. And then there was the image of the apostle Paul, sitting in a dark jail cell, tired and lonely, and almost losing hope for his own future… but praying fervently for the churches that he had started, remembering the … Read more »