Tucked away in a corner of most “stained glass” churches is an “Ascension window,” which usually depicts Jesus floating upward in flowing robes while distraught disciples look upward or cover their eyes in fear and anguish. Although we do have the Ascension windows in our churches, most Presbyterians don’t think about or talk about the Ascension very much. It’s an option in the lectionary to read the Ascension texts on the Sunday before Pentecost, and so quite often we miss it altogether, having no special service on Ascension Day, and choosing the 7th Sunday of Easter readings on the Sunday before Pentecost.
References to the Ascension are found in many places throughout the New Testament, but the primary texts that describe the Ascension are the two stories that we read today from Luke and Acts. In the first chapter of the Book of Acts, Jesus appears to the disciples and speaks to them about the Kingdom of God. He instructs them to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit who will make them into witnesses “to the end of the earth.” After this “Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.”
But … Read more »
Revelation 21:10, 22 — 22:5
As we move through the season of Easter and towards Pentecost, the readings continue to prepare us to function as community without the physical leadership of Jesus. We are invited to participate in our own salvation and to continue to struggle towards a more just and faithful expression of community in Christ.
In the Book of Acts, Luke writes about the progress of the early Christian church, and in today’s story he describes the conversion of Lydia, a “faithful woman.” It is the second reading in Acts that features and names a woman. Two weeks ago, we heard about Dorcas, a beloved follower of Jesus who provided clothing for the widows in her community.
Luke is noted for his inclusion of women in his writings, and here he portrays Lydia with remarkable agency as she chooses to convert and then actively supports the fledgling Christian community.
Agency is a lesson that John reaffirms in his portrayal of a man who is cured on the Sabbath. Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be well?” The man accepts Jesus’ invitation and immediately is freed from physical and spiritual paralysis.
Finally, John’s vision in Revelation of a new heaven … Read more »
“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
I’ve already encouraged you this morning to actively engage in doing the works of God — to get around to doing the good works that God has called you to do in Jesus’ name in and for the world. I hope that I don’t need to remind you that your good works are not, however, what saves you. You do not earn God’s love or favour or salvation by giving to the poor or engaging in mission, by caring for the environment or loving your neighbour. God loves you simply because you are God’s creation — God’s own children. You are saved by God’s grace through faith. It is a gift from God — not an honour that you have earned or that you deserve.
That is a really good thing to remember, especially on days when you “haven’t gotten around to it” — on days when other stuff has gotten in the way, and when doing God’s work has taken second place, or third place, … Read more »
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come.
One of the amazing and inspirational things about the gospel stories and the stories of scripture in general, is that we can read them over and over, and each time, discover new messages and insights from God. Some of you may have noticed this morning that today’s Gospel reading from John somewhat overlapped with the reading we explored last Sunday with the puppets. But, as anyone who has attempted the act of preaching knows, there are many many possible sermons that could arise from the same text of scripture. The challenge is often to choose just one, and let the others go for this time around.
Last week, we thought about the strange experience that the first disciples had when the risen Jesus appeared to them beside the tomb, inside a locked room, and later in other ways. We remembered Thomas and his doubts about whether it could really be Jesus appearing before them, and we considered the many ways in which we have met and experienced the risen Christ in our own lives … Read more »
The following presentation of the Easter story was used in an intergenerational worship service at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Saskatoon for Easter Sunday, 2007.
Suzy and Harold are puppet characters played by two young adults in our congregation. Amanda is the minister. Suzy and Harold are meant to be young members of the congregation. Suzy is a somewhat “goodie two-shoes” character who has grown up going to church and church school. Harold is a new church-goer and has lots of questions.
The scripture readings from John 20 are interspersed throughout the dialogue. At St. Andrew’s, they were read by children from the Contemporary English Version. The song used throughout the dialogue was sung by the choir and congregation (#254 in the Presbyterian Book of Praise).
The EASTER STORY in Scripture and Song
Amanda: Good morning, and Happy Easter to you all!
Harold: Happy Easter Amanda!
Suzy: Happy Easter everyone!
Amanda: Easter Sunday is a very special day in the church year, because it’s the day that we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Harold: “Resurrection” from the dead?
Suzy: Resurrection means new life, Harold. Jesus died on a cross. He was … Read more »
Psalm 118:1-4, 19-29
When Palm Sunday comes around each year, we buy some palm branches and we re-enact Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The crowds sang, “Hosanna” and hailed him as the king. They shouted out their praise, laid their cloaks along his path, and waved palm branches in the air.
Some congregations gather outside their church buildings on Palm Sunday. They pass out the palms, and everyone parades down the street and up into the church. In other churches, I have heard, they have someone dressed as Jesus, and someone with some farm animals offers a donkey for Jesus to ride on. In one congregation that I used to attend, we got up part way through the worship service, and had a parade around the neighbourhood. Some people played their instruments, we all sang lots of “Hosannas”, and we witnessed our faith in Christ to the people who heard and saw us pass by.
But no matter how elaborate our rituals become around Palm Sunday, I always have the feeling that we’re not as enthusiastic or as excited as the crowd would have been on that day when Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Some might … Read more »
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. The old life has gone; A new life has begun.
These words, written by the apostle Paul to the Christians in Corinth, were first read by people who were only too aware of their sins. They were divided among themselves, and they argued about which of their leaders to follow. They were steeped in the polytheistic religions of their culture and they were still struggling to live as Christians and to sort out what that would look like in their context, with all their varied backgrounds and experiences.
If the Corinthians had been paying any attention to Paul’s letters to them, then they must have been fully aware of their sins. Imagine having a great religious leader writing letters to your church, pointing out all the things you’re doing wrong – being specific about the cliques among you, about the silly arguments, and exhorting you as to how to do better.
The Corinthians couldn’t help but be aware of their sin when they are reminded by Paul that, as Christians, that is all behind them. When they … Read more »
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Today’s text from the Gospel of Luke begins with some comments by Jesus regarding some recent tragic events in Jerusalem. First, Jesus is told about a recent violent event involving the deaths of some Galileans who were slaughtered by Roman troops under Pilate’s command. What’s more, it appears that the slaughter took place while those Galilean Jews were offering sacrifices (almost certainly at the Temple in Jerusalem). It’s not clear in Luke 13 whether this was a very recent event – “Breaking News” – or if it had happened some time earlier but was still a hot topic of conversation among Jews in the greater Jerusalem area. Either way, it was a tragic event.
We might liken this conversational topic to people today discussing 911. A tragedy occurs, and for days, months, and years afterwards, we talk about it. We try to make sense of it. We wonder about how it might have been avoided. We argue about what and who caused it. We worry about when, where and how it might be repeated.
Or perhaps it’s more like the tragedy last year when a man broke into … Read more »
Psalm 91 (Refrain #1)
It kind of goes without saying that there are temptations in the world that we face every day. As religious people, we have generally accepted the idea that there are ways of behaving, acting, and living that are contrary to God’s will for us and that we ought to avoid these things. However, sometimes these things that we know we should avoid can be very enticing. We are tempted to do them, even though we know that we shouldn’t.
The first temptation that comes to my mind is the temptation to eat something unhealthy when you’ve decided that you’re going to eat well. It’s a temptation that many people face on a regular basis, and often fail to resist.
Just last night, in the Veggie Tales movie that our youth were watching, the Veggie Tales superhero, Larry Boy, demonstrates a weakness for chocolate that many of us can probably relate to. He wants desperately to avoid chocolate so he can get in shape, but when the “bad apple” tempts him, he eventually gives in and goes on a major chocolate binge. He gets in so deep that … Read more »
The prophet Jeremiah is describing two types of people… He says there are some people who turn their hearts away from God. They ignore God. They act like God doesn’t exist. They don’t go to church to worship God. They don’t pray or talk to God. They don’t read the bible or pay attention to how God is telling them to live.
Jeremiah says that these people are like shrubs in the desert, while God is like water. Since they have turned away from God, it’s like they are shrubs in the desert. They live in a place where there is no water — no rain, no rivers — and they are slowly drying up.
Jeremiah says that there are other people who don’t turn their hearts away from God. These people trust in God. They pay attention to God, because they believe in God and love God. They come to church and worship God. They pray and talk to God. They read the bible and pay attention to how God is telling them to live.
Jeremiah says that these people are like trees planted beside the water. … Read more »
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
“They left everything and followed him.”
Today’s story from the Gospel of Luke is one that invites us to consider what it means to be followers of Jesus. It is the story of Jesus calling the first disciples, a group of fishermen working beside the Lake of Genesserat.
Though we live in a very different time and place, and though the only fishing we’re involved in is just for fun or maybe for sport… still, within this story, there are messages for us — 21st century followers of Jesus — 21st century people who think we might want to follow Jesus — 21st century people, who though we might be scared and unsure, are nonetheless being called to follow Jesus.
As the story begins, Jesus is fulfilling part of the mission that he took on a chapter ago.
He is out among the common people, proclaiming the coming of God’s kingdom. We don’t get to hear the particular words that he spoke that day, but we can imagine that he was talking about God’s love and God’s grace — God’s special care for the least and the … Read more »
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Jesus, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
Our Gospel story for today, in which Jesus reads scripture and teaches in the synagogue of his hometown, comes at the beginning of his ministry. Two things have happened so far: First, Jesus has been baptized by John with the Holy Spirit coming down onto him and the voice from heaven announcing his identity as God’s beloved son. Second, Jesus has been led by the Spirit out into the wilderness where he fasted, prayed, and grappled with his identity and purpose. While he was out there in the wilderness, he resisted the temptation to exploit his power and authority for his own personal gain. He resisted the “Bruce Almighty” kind of response to God’s blessing, and he returned to Galilee to begin the ministry to which he had been called.
In the next story, which we heard read today, Jesus stands up in the synagogue to read from the prophet Isaiah and to interpret … Read more »
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Start music (Mission Impossible Theme Song)
(from pulpit) Children of the church school, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to meet me at the front row of the church.
(Move to front where children are gathered) Did you recognize that music? It’s from the “Mission Impossible” movies. Do you know what a mission is? A mission is a purpose or goal. It’s something that you’re trying to do. It’s your reason for doing the things you do — because you’re trying to accomplish something.
Now, not many people’s lives are like the “Mission Impossible” movies, but most people do have a mission in life. Their mission might be to become rich and famous, or maybe to become the best in their field of work — whether they’re a doctor or a lawyer, or an artist, or an athlete. For some people, their mission is to raise a family, to teach their kids to be good or successful people. For some people their mission in life is to make a difference in the world — maybe through politics, or by teaching school, or … Read more »
Psalm 29, Refrain #1
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Reflection on the scripture texts of today’s lectionary readings, the immediate message that came to my mind was of God’s promise to be with us through all the challenges that lie ahead of us in our life and ministry. Just as God promised care and provision for the People of Israel, just as God declared love for Jesus, his son, so God loves and cares for us, the Church, as we seek to follow Jesus and continue his ministry in the world.
Since I am a musician, and a long-time church choir member, when I hear a scripture text, it is often a scripture song or hymn or anthem that comes to mind. When I read Isaiah 43 earlier this week, the song that came to mind was the one our choir sang today…
sing: You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.
You shall see the face of God and live.
The first time I heard … Read more »
I remember hearing once that the two things that Canadians fear the most are death and public speaking. So I suppose that not too many people would like to be in my position this morning, of speaking (publicly) about death. Yes, that’s what I said. I’m going to preach about death this morning.
And it’s not because we’ve just had Hallowe’en, and I’ve got ghosts and ghouls on the brain. And it’s not because I’ve been watching too much CSI lately. In fact, it is because death seems to be the major theme in our scripture texts today. More specifically, these texts, and the context of a Remembrance Day service, and several experiences that I’ve had over the last month, have got me thinking about the power of death.
The fact that our greatest fears in life are death and public speaking can be somewhat amusing. But for those who don’t like to get up and preach or lecture or give a speech, they can usually find ways to avoid it. Death, on the other hand, is inevitable. It’s as inevitable as “death and taxes,” as they say.
… Read more »
A sermon preached by the Rev. Amanda Currie at the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity service hosted by St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Tuesday morning, January 27, 2005 at 7 a.m.
One of the things that happens during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and other times when we gather together as Christian churches to pray and worship God together, is that we learn about one another. And it very often means that we’re learning what is different about other churches than our own. The different hymns we sing, or the praise choruses. The kind of prayers we say. What our worship spaces look like, crosses displayed, pews or chairs, straight rows or circles, stained glass, high pulpits, liturgical colours, powerpoint projectors, prominent altars or communion tables. Do we stand to pray, sit to sing, kneel or raise our hands? Add to all of these differences and more, the theological distinctions that you may notice as you visit churches from traditions different from your own.
Those of you who have been attending these services for many years in Saskatoon have probably already encountered the range of differences that once surprised, shocked, or confused you. You may not be completely comfortable in … Read more »
Alleluia! Alleluia! Let the Church rejoice and sing this Easter Day! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
We’ve heard the Easter story many times before. It’s told in all the Gospels. It’s repeated in many of the letters of Paul and in the Acts of the Apostles. It’s the story that is the foundation of our faith. It’s the story that gives shape to our life as Christians.
We believe in God. We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s Son. We believe that Jesus was killed on a cross, but that he didn’t stay dead. God raised him on the third day. His body was not stolen. It was raised. We believe that he was the first to be raised, but that all will be raised on the last day. God is more powerful than death. Death is not the end. This is the Good News of Easter, and this is what we believe.
And so, as did the first disciples who witnessed the resurrection, we tell the story. We tell it over and over… Easter after Easter, Sunday after Sunday. After years of preaching, ministers have told me that it becomes difficult to find fresh ways of telling the story. … Read more »
The following reflection was shared by the Rev. Amanda Currie at an ecumenical noon hour service hosted by St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Saskatoon during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2004.
Hospitality is one of the things that many Christian churches pride themselves on. Presbyterians, at least, joke all the time that we can’t get together without having something to eat. Here at St. Andrew’s, the kitchen is one of the busiest places because whenever we get together we share food…. Tea, coffee, cookies or squares, little sandwiches, pots of soup, or pizza. Whatever the occasion, there’s some appropriate food or drink to go along with it.
And there are some among us in our congregation, (and in yours, I’m sure) for whom the ministry of hospitality is their greatest gift to the community. They welcome the visitors and the newcomers. They pour the tea, and make sure there are enough cookies. And they take care of the endless, behind the scenes, tasks that keep the church kitchen clean, stocked, and ready for company.
Today’s reading from Luke is sometimes difficult for those of us whose gift is hospitality… Those of us who slide out … 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 »