February 11, 2024

2 Kings 2:1-12
Mark 9:2-9

“Picking up the Mantle”

Earlier this week, when the Session of First Church had our regular monthly meeting, our agenda included a discussion of a book recommended by the Synod Mission Committee: “21 Things You May Not Have Known About the Indian Act” by Bob Joseph. As we were reflecting on the devastating impacts of colonization on Indigenous people in this country, thinking about how settlers took land, imposed culture, and banned traditional languages and spiritual practices, I thought it would be appropriate to read the Gospel text (the Transfiguration story) from the First Nations Version of the New Testament.

This Indigenous translation of the good story was published in 2021 and dedicated to the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island. The publishers pray that it “will bring healing to those who have suffered under the dominance of colonial governments who, with the help of churches and missionary organizations, often took our land, our languages, our cultures, and even our children. As our Tribal Nations work hard to reclaim what has been stolen, it is our hope that the colonial language that was forced upon us can now serve our people in a good way, by presenting Creator Sets Free … Read more »

January 21, 2024

Jonah 3:1-5, 10
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20

“It is Time to Live Differently”

As we journey through the seasons of the church year and explore the texts of scripture each Sunday that are assigned by the lectionary cycle, we have the opportunity to focus on different parts of the Christian story.

During Advent, we enter into the experience of waiting. Longing, hoping, waiting for a Messiah to come… waiting for his return, waiting for our world to be put right. When Christmas finally arrives, we enter into the experience of the Holy Family, of the shepherds, and of the angels. We celebrate the gift of God in sending Jesus into our world, almost as if he has just arrived.

And then, at Epiphany, we walk with the wise men to greet him. We experience the “aha moment” – the knowledge that Emmanuel has come – “God with us” for the whole world.

Today is the third Sunday after the Epiphany in our church year. We’re in what we call the “Season of Epiphany,” and our scripture texts contain some wonderful epiphanies of their own. But I can’t help summing them up with one message from God: “It is time to live differently.”

The Greek word that is … Read more »

January 7, 2024

Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Mark 1:4-11

“The Voice of God”

The Scriptures this morning proclaim quite clearly that our God is a God who speaks. God said, “Let there be light!” And there was light. God spoke the Creation into being. God’s voice was creative and effective, and God’s voice made the very good world and everything in it.

The Psalmist hears God’s voice as loud, booming, and authoritative. It is through speech that God asserts power over all the Creation and all creatures including human beings. In a world where everything seems to be spinning out of control, people of faith are reminded of God’s power over all the chaos, and God’s ability to bless the people with strength and with peace.

And the Gospel of Mark has God’s voice assuring Jesus of his identity as God’s Son, the Beloved of God. “You are mine. You are loved. I am pleased with you, dear child.”

I think it’s interesting to notice that the Scriptures don’t include a lot of “appearances” of God. It’s usually just a voice. I mean, there are some spectacular visual things that take place in Bible stories when God is there. The burning bush is a great example, but sometimes there are … Read more »

December 31, 2023

Matthew 2:1-12


I wasn’t an English major in university, but I can still remember some of what I learned in my English classes in high school. Perhaps you also remember analyzing the plot of a narrative, and learning terms like setting, character, theme, crisis, climax, and dénouement.

I started thinking about high school English classes when I began to prepare for the service today. I Googled the term “Epiphany” to see what definitions would come up, and before the one that said “A Christian feast day commemorating the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child,” there was “epiphany” as a literary device: “An epiphany is an ‘Aha!’ moment. As a literary device, an epiphany is the moment when a character is suddenly struck with a life-changing realization which changes the rest of the story.”

Within the narrative of Matthew’s Gospel, the Christian Church has highlighted the first part of chapter two that we read today as an epiphany. And it seems to me that there are a number of people who could be experiencing epiphanies in and around this part of the story. There are the wise men themselves, who notice a new star in the sky. They search out its meaning, … Read more »

June 20, 2021

Mark 4:35-41

“Let Us Go Across”

Mark chapter four begins with Jesus teaching a very large crowd of people beside the sea. In fact, the crowd got so big that Jesus got into a boat on the sea and taught them from there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land.

And Jesus taught them in parables. Wonderful little stories about lamps that shouldn’t be covered up, and seeds that grow in surprising and wonderful ways. Stories that have one meaning on the surface, with a deeper layer of meaning underneath about God’s Word, and love and justice coming into the world in Jesus and growing among those who follow him.

So, last Sunday I preached about the Parable of the Mustard seed, and then I pointed out some metaphorical “seeds” being planted through the church’s ministry and mission, as well as some signs of “growth” as love and justice and inclusion bring us closer to the Kingdom of God reality that is coming in the world.

But after teaching the crowd with parables, on that same day when evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.” He meant that they should row to … Read more »

June 13, 2021

Mark 4:26-34

“A Resting Place for All”

You may have noticed that I only included one Scripture reading this morning. The lectionary each week provides four – one from the Hebrew Scriptures, one Psalm, one from the Epistles of the New Testament, and one Gospel passage. That’s a lot to hear, to consider, and to digest. Often, I drop one reading just to make it a bit more manageable. Sometimes I drop two of them so that we can have a little more focus to the service. Today I dropped everything except the Gospel text.

It seemed in keeping with the Gospel reading itself – two little parables about tiny seeds that grow to produce abundant harvests and wonderful big plants that provide a home for all the birds of the air. It’s just one short passage from Mark’s Gospel, but it is full of wonder, and inspiration, and hope for the Kingdom of God that is planted, and growing, and coming up in our world. One little passage today should be more than enough to satisfy our spiritual hunger.

In the parables today, Jesus is teaching about the Kingdom of God. It was his absolute favourite topic of conversation! He didn’t talk much … Read more »

May 30, 2021

John 3:1-17

“Born of the Spirit”

For a number of years, I used to volunteer to serve as the Chaplain at Camp Christopher during the Senior Teen Camp – the week at camp for high school students. I enjoyed the engagement with the teen campers, counsellors, and staff in worship, Bible study, and lots of good conversations about life, the universe, and everything.

One of the activities we used to do towards the end of the week was called the Fish Bowl Activity. Over a couple of days, campers were invited to think of questions, write them on a slip of paper, and place them in the fish bowl we had for that purpose. They could be questions about God, the Bible, the church, or anything else at all that they wanted to talk about.

The fish bowl allowed them to raise their questions anonymously (no names attached) but we discussed them together as a group. I would pull out a question and read it aloud. The teens would share their thoughts on each other’s questions, and I would weigh in occasionally when it seemed helpful.

I often think about that fish bowl activity when we read the story about Nicodemus. Nic wasn’t a teenager, … Read more »

May 23, 2021

Romans 8:22-27

“The Spirit Groans”

A couple of weeks ago in our online Sunday School, the children were invited to write a poem about the Holy Spirit. The lesson gave us a simple format for doing that. The first line would be the title: “Spirit.” The second line would be two words that describe the Spirit like “invisible” and “powerful.”

For the third line, we had to think of three action words (verbs) that tell what the Spirit does. I would choose “blessing,” “teaching,” and “sending.”

The instruction for the fourth line was “four words that describe your feelings about the Spirit.” That was a tough one. For me, they’d be “nervous,” “encouraged,” “thankful,” and “hopeful.”

And finally, one word that is another name or word for the Spirit. There are several other names offered in the Bible. And as I think about it today, in the context of my reflection on today’s readings, I choose “Intercessor,” which means someone who prays for us.

You might want to write your own poem about the Holy Spirit today, either following the same template or making up your own. On this Pentecost Sunday, when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit being poured out on the gathered … Read more »