May 3, 2020

 

Psalm 23
John 10:1-10

“Abundant Life”

I’m sure you’ve already noticed that this morning’s worship is all about sheep and shepherds. When we were planning ahead for the music for this service several weeks ago, I pointed out that the lectionary was giving us Psalm 23 again. It came up just about a month ago during the Season of Lent, and we’re getting it again on this Fourth Sunday in the Season of Easter. As I noted the sheep theme, someone started to sing that wonderful chorus from Handel’s Messiah about the sheep: All we like sheep… have gone astray, have gone astray, have gone astray….

I said, “Yes, that’s an excellent song about sheep. But not for this week.” You see, the readings on this Easter Season Sunday are less about the sheep going astray, getting lost, or messing up. And they’re more about what the shepherds are up to. Today is all about the shepherds, actually. And in particular, the idea that Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” who cares for us (the sheep) and leads us to abundant life.

Many early followers of Jesus would have been familiar with describing the promised Messiah as a caring a skillful “shepherd”: The prophets Isaiah, … Read more »

March 22, 2020

 

1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
John 9:1-41

“Blind, Lost, Uncertain, and Needing God’s Help”

You’ve been driving around the neighbourhood for half an hour already, and you still haven’t found the street you’re looking for. The houses and stores are starting to look familiar now, but you’re no closer to your destination than you were twenty minutes ago. The problem is that your spouse knows where he’s going… at least, he thinks he does. How long will it be, you wonder, before he gives in and asks for directions?

“What was that?” your grandmother shouts at you. “Where is your hearing aid?” you ask for the third time, and she finally understands the question – probably because you’re pointing madly at her ear. “Oh, I don’t need that thing,” she says, “I can hear you just fine.”

Your daughter just got her first pair of glasses. They were long overdue after almost failing grade nine because she couldn’t follow what was going on in class. She couldn’t see the board, missed most of the notes, and couldn’t concentrate because of the headaches she got from squinting so much. But she won’t wear them – the new glasses. She doesn’t like the way they look, you … Read more »

April 22, 2018

Psalm 23
1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18

“One Flock, One Shepherd”

We are glad to welcome the Sons (& daughters) of Scotland to our worship today to participate in a special Kirkin’ of the Tartans, and to share food, and fellowship, and Scottish country dancing after the service. I have never led a Kirkin’ before, but I remember my home congregation in Ottawa hosting this service when I was a teenager.

St. Giles Presbyterian Church (where I grew up) was a very Scottish congregation. Actually, by the time I was there, it was becoming more culturally diverse, but in the 1950’s and 1960’s, my understanding is that the church was an important place for Scottish folk to gather. Almost everyone was Scottish, and going to the Presbyterian Church was a great way to connect.

In the 1980’s and 90’s there was still a remnant of the Scottish crowd, and I remember lots of Scottish accents among the older members of our church. And I was Scottish too (kinda)… a bit Scottish, a bit Irish, a bit Welsh, and a bit English. But I had a Scottish name, at least.

When we did the Kirkin’ of the Tartans, I remember my parents being a bit critical of it. … Read more »

July 19, 2015

Psalm 23
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

“Rest Awhile”

Jesus said to his apostles: “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.” This has been an interesting text to reflect on during the final week of work before my holidays.

The context for the apostles is that they have been out on the road for some time… preaching, teaching, and healing in Jesus’ name. Remember how Jesus sent them out two by two? He gave them power to do amazing things, and off they went without the security of bringing food, or money, or extra supplies.

In some places they were likely welcomed, and in others the people had no interest in their message. When that happened, they dusted off their feet, and kept going on the mission. Now they are back with Jesus, telling about their adventures… excitedly sharing the moments of wonder and grace when people were healed and lives were transformed… wearily recounting the challenges and disappointments, and how those defeats made them feel as they continued on their way.

Jesus wisely invites his workers to take a break. Perhaps the plan is to spend more time reflecting on the mission so far, and to make plans for the next steps, … Read more »

March 30, 2014

I Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
John 9:1-41

“God Sees Differently”

The story of the day that God asked Samuel to choose a new king for the People of Israel is a good illustration of the way that God sees differently from the rest of us.

The first king of Israel, King Saul, was not doing a very good job, as far as God was concerned. He wasn’t honouring God or following God’s ways, and God wanted him replaced as quickly as possible. The prophet Samuel, who had once anointed Saul to be king, now had been instructed by God to anoint a new king from among Jesse’s sons. Samuel had to go to Bethlehem, meet up with Jesse’s family, and God would show him which one of the sons was God’s chosen one to be the king.

I’m not really sure why God didn’t just tell Samuel right away that David was the chosen one. While God was giving all those instructions anyway, God could easily have added, “Oh, and by the way, the kid’s name is David.”

But the story is not just about the practical process of finding and anointing a new king for Israel. It also tells us something about that new king. It … Read more »

April 21, 2013

Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17

“Shepherded Through the Ordeals”

John of Patmos, writing in the midst of exile and persecution because of his faith and his leadership in the early Christian Church, shares a vision he has of heaven – a vision of the kingdom of God when it comes. He sees a great multitude of people, more than he could count – people from every nation, tribe, and language standing together before the throne of God. And they are singing: “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Then a question is raised, “Who are all those people? Where have they come from?” And the answer is given: “These are the ones who have come out of the great ordeal… For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship [God] day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat, for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water … Read more »

January 9, 2011

Psalm 23

“Psalms of Trust: Learning to Live Without Fear”

I watched a transformation taking place on Thursday evening. If anyone else watched the medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy” this week, then you also got to witness the transformation from fear to trust, from despair to hope, and from giving up to determination to work for the good of those who are suffering. Of course, the show is only fiction. But it’s fiction that in many ways mirrors reality, and that reflects on the struggles of real people in the world today.

First of all, you need to know the background. Last season, the Seattle hospital and its employees experienced a traumatic event. A grief-stricken man entered the hospital with a gun and terrorized the staff and patients, injuring many people and killing several as well. And many of the characters of the show have not been the same since. One surgeon has been too scared to operate. Another continues to struggle with feelings of powerlessness when she is unable to save a patient. Still others are crippled by fear and the memories of that awful day.

Not everyone has experienced that kind of trauma in life, but most of us have seen it on … Read more »

March 2, 2008

1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
John 9:1-41

The story of the day that God asked Samuel to choose a new king for the People of Israel is a good illustration of the way that God sees differently from the rest of us.

The first king of Israel, King Saul, was not doing a very good job, as far as God was concerned. He wasn’t honouring God or following God’s ways, and God wanted him replaced as quickly as possible. The prophet Samuel, who had once anointed Saul to be king, now had been instructed by God to anoint a new king from among Jesse’s sons. Samuel had to go to Bethlehem, meet up with Jesse’s family, and God would show him which one of the sons was God’s chosen one to be the king.

I’m not really sure why God didn’t just tell Samuel right away that David was the chosen one. While God was giving all those instructions anyway, God could easily have added, “Oh, and by the way, the kid’s name is David.”

… Read more »