September 27, 2020

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
Philippians 2:1-13
Matthew 21:23-32

“Together on the Journey”

The parable of the vineyard is about two sons. Both were called to work in the vineyard.  The first son says he won’t go, but then he shows up. The second son says he’ll go, but he never arrives to work. After telling this story, Jesus asked those who were listening, “Which of the two sons did what the father wanted?”

I am sure that everyone would reply the son who showed up. The parable reminds us that faith must be more than just words. The son who promises to work in the vineyard and then fails to do so is no help to his father. In contrast, the one who hesitates to work, but then decides to take up the task, likely pleases his father with his unexpected generosity.

I think about this scripture today, as we reflect on the call to participate in our denomination’s shared ministry and mission.  We are connected through faith, governance, and sharing in ministry and mission. Through our gifts to Presbyterians Sharing, we participate in God’s mission.

Together, we equip congregations, ministries and presbyteries with skills and tools for evangelism and discipleship, stewardship and Christian education. Together we … Read more »

April 5, 2020

 

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Philippians 2:5-11

“Choosing Servanthood”

Today is the Sunday with two names. It is Palm Sunday, as we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey. And it is Passion Sunday, as we anticipate what will happen to Jesus when he arrives in Jerusalem – his final meal with his disciples, his agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, his betrayal and arrest, his trial and torture, and his terrible execution on a Roman cross.

The lectionary provides us with two sets of scripture readings for today, inviting the preacher to choose how to focus the service, and I have chosen the Gospel reading from the liturgy of the Palms, and the other readings from the liturgy of the Passion. The Gospel reading that I’m skipping today is the long account of what happens to Jesus in Jerusalem. We’ll come back to that part of Jesus’ story, of course, as we continue our Holy Week worship on Maundy Thursday evening and Good Friday morning.

But today, instead of simply recounting the story of Jesus’ passion, a story that most of us know quite well, I’d like to focus on the other readings that are set for Passion Sunday, and spend some … Read more »

April 14, 2019

Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11

“Mixed Feelings”

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday. We began the service with the story of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, with the crowds singing “Hosanna!” and proclaiming, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Some Pharisees in the crowd tell Jesus to order his disciples to stop – to stop this spectacle, to stop their praises, to stop their allegiance to him as a Saviour or a King.

We know that, all too soon, they will stop. They will change their minds, change their allegiances, and change their shouts to “Crucify him!” And so today is also Passion Sunday when we remember how the people turned away from him, how they betrayed and denied, and ran away from Jesus.

Luke reminds us in the Gospel story that when the disciples do stop – when they stop following, when they stop praising, Jesus is still the King. They don’t stop because he is not worthy. They stop because they are scared. And Jesus says to the Pharisees: “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.” All of creation knows and witnesses that Jesus is Lord and King, even when we humans … Read more »

March 25, 2018

Mark 11:1-11
Mark 15
Philippians 2:5-11

“The Reason You Walk”

It was the choir’s anthem for today, the American Spiritual “Ride On, King Jesus,” that got me thinking about Jesus’ journey through Holy Week. It was chosen innocently enough, as an anthem about the Triumphal Entry. But when Bill invited me to share with the choir about how the anthem would fit into the service on Palm Sunday, I started to realize that it was about more than just the Palm Parade.

“Ride on, King Jesus,” we sang, “No one can hinder him.” And we pictured Jesus on the donkey and the crowds laying down their cloaks and branches like a red carpet for the King.

But the repeated words, “No one can hinder him” seemed odd, because no one was trying to get in his way or stop him from entering Jerusalem that day. The crowds cheered for him and hailed him as their King! They cried out “Hosanna!” – “Lord, save us!” because they believed (at least for a moment) that he was the ruler who had come to save them from their oppressors.

What I suggested to the choir was that the journey of Jesus in the song is not just the entry into … Read more »

October 1, 2017

Matthew 21:23-32
Philippians 2:1-13

“Changing our Minds”

Jesus told another parable in order to get his point across to the religious leaders of his day. They were acting like hypocrites – very good and holy in their teachings and ideals, but not living according to those same high standards. And as we hear the parable again today, we are invited to ask ourselves… “Which son do I most resemble?”

When God asks me to go to work in some sort of service or mission in the church or in the world, am I the one who hesitates at first? Am I the one who is unsure that I really want to get involved or put in the effort required? Am I the one who initially says “no,” but eventually decides to do what I am being asked to do?

Or am I the one who says, “Yes, Lord, of course I will help!” But then I get distracted. I get busy… terribly busy. I just don’t manage to make the time in my life for that service, and so I don’t go. I intended to go, but I didn’t go.

Of course, it is obvious to everyone that, although both sons in the parable say one … Read more »

July 24, 2016

Ephesians 4:26-32
Luke 6:27-38
Philippians 2:1-11

“The Fruit of the Spirit is KINDNESS”

When you think of kindness, what comes to mind? An encouraging note sent by a friend? A caring shoulder to cry on? Someone assisting you with a difficult task, or allowing you to have a break from your work when you are tired? Whatever you think about, it most likely includes a warm fuzzy feeling. Kindness just does that. No wonder it’s a fruit of the Spirit. When we’re kind, others get to experience that warmth, and whether they realize it or not they’re experiencing some of God’s character.

Over the years here at St. Andrew’s, I have come to know many of you as people who demonstrate kindness on a regular basis. Of course, there are ways in which the church programs encourage us all to grow in kindness. During one of the arts and crafts sessions at Vacation Bible School last week, our children made cards to distribute to elderly homebound people in the congregation.

Our refugee sponsorship program has encouraged many of us to give extra offerings and household items to make one family’s settlement in Canada possible. And all summer you’ve been bringing in fruit offerings every Sunday … Read more »

March 24, 2013

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Philippians 2:5-11

“Choosing Servanthood”

Today is the Sunday with two names. It is Palm Sunday, as we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey. And it is Passion Sunday, as we anticipate what will happen to Jesus when he arrives in Jerusalem – his final meal with his disciples, his agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, his betrayal and arrest, his trial and torture, and his terrible execution on a Roman cross.

The lectionary provides us with two sets of scripture readings for today, inviting the preacher to choose how to focus the service, and I have chosen the Gospel reading from the liturgy of the Palms, and the other readings from the liturgy of the Passion. The Gospel reading that I’m skipping today is the long account of what happens to Jesus in Jerusalem. We’ll come back to it, of course, on Thursday evening when we gather at Calvin-Goforth for the Maundy Thursday service, and on Friday morning when we gather here to mark Good Friday.

But this morning, instead of simply recounting the story of Jesus’ passion, a story that most of us know quite well, I’d like to focus on the other readings that are set … Read more »

April 17, 2011

Canadians are preparing for a federal election on Monday, May 2, 2011. This morning’s sermon suggests that our faith should be the basis for all our decisions, including how we respond to complex ethical dilemmas, and how we choose to vote. The Presbyterian Church in Canada does not support a particular party or political agenda, but it does encourage Presbyterians to engage with the issues and be a part of the process.

On the website of the Presbyterian Church in Canada you will find several election guides that may assist you as you study the issues and consider the options. They also provide some helpful questions that you may want to put to your candidates, particularly related to the issues of poverty and justice.

Matthew 21:1-11
Philippians 2:5-11

I was thinking a lot about the federal election as I was preparing my sermon for this morning. I was thinking about the political rallies and the crowds of people waving signs and hoping to catch a glimpse of, or shake hands with their favourite leader. Not that Canadian politics has any really charismatic leaders like Obama once was in the United States. I’m not sure what’s worse… to get really excited about a leader and … Read more »

March 28, 2010

The following sermon is framed by the hymn “A stable lamp is lighted” with words by Richard Wilbur and music Paulette Tollefson.

Philippians 2:5-11
Psalm 31:9-16
Luke 23:1-49

A stable lamp is lighted
whose glow shall wake the sky;
the stars shall bend their voices,
and every stone shall cry.

And every stone shall cry,
and straw like gold shall shine;
a barn shall harbour heaven,
a stall become a shrine.

A long time ago, in an unimportant town, a young woman gave birth to her first child. In many ways, his birth was like many others. Mary wasn’t the first or the last girl to be found pregnant before her wedding day, and Joseph was good enough to marry her anyway and be a father to the little boy.

What is unusual about this child is the fact that we have heard his story – not only the stories of his adult accomplishments when he became well-known for his teaching and healing and political activity. But we have heard the stories of his birth. This person impacted the world so much that we celebrate his birth, and legends are told about how he arrived and how he survived into adulthood to do all the great and good things that he would … Read more »