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Showing posts from 2016

the ordinary Christmas

I'm actually someone who really loves everything about this time of year. I love the decorations, even the cheesy ones. I love the lights and the music. I love the snow on the ground and just that general Christmassy feeling. However, in the midst of all the lights and decorations we can miss how ordinary that first Christmas actually was.

There was nothing special about when Jesus was born. Luke's biography of Jesus tells us that Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem because of a census that was being done by the Roman government. Nothing special was happening. It was just a bit of politics that I’m sure everyone was grumbling about. Imagine the Canadian government told everyone to return to the place of their birth for a particular day so they could count the citizens and figure out a calculation for taxes. That doesn’t sound like particularly holy timing for the birth of the Messiah.

Now if I was in charge, Jesus would have been born on Yom Kippur, which was th…

Advent 4- get uncomfortable if you want to join God

Isaiah 7:10-16 Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 Romans 1:1-7 Matthew 1:18-25
The stores are packed with everything you need to have the perfect Christmas. The variety is staggering- shelves and shelves of evergreen branches, Santa statues, and lights for your house. For those of us with fake Christmas trees they even sell a real Christmas tree smell, so you can feel like you have a real tree. The stores ring with Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby singing Christmas songs. The magazines on the stand boast perfect holiday dishes and decorations. Then there are the toys! Nearly life-size Darth Vader action figures, and dolls of every imaginable variety. Even the pet aisle is celebrating the holidays.

While some are planning the perfect Christmas experience, others are finding it difficult to get in the spirit. Some have experienced a death that the holidays seem to highlight with an empty chair at the table. Some are dealing with family problems that just never seem to get better. Some do…

Advent 3- Patience

James 5:7-10
Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
James advises us to wait patiently as we wait for the coming of Christ. He mentions patience four times in these three verses we just read.

It has been said that patience is something we admire in the driver behind us, but not in the driver in front of us.

Patience is self-restraint in the face of aggravation. It is the opposite of anger when faced with difficulty. It is not losing your temper.

Patience is an essential part of mature Christian character. Patience is mentioned as one of the F…

John the Baptist- repent

Isaiah 11:1-10 Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Romans 15:4-13 Matthew3:1-12
John the Baptist is someone who would probably make most of us uncomfortable. He comes calling people to repent. To repent is to change- to change your mind- to change your purpose- to reorient yourself towards God. Change is often uncomfortable. If we want to lose weight we need to change how we eat and our exercise habits. If we want to learn to play guitar it means changing our schedule to make time to practice, which can be hard on the fingers until we build up callouses. If we want to stop a habit like smoking or drinking we will have to change how we react to stress, and change our patterns. … Change is often uncomfortable.

Of course staying the same can be uncomfortable too. Usually we will only change if the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing (I think Tony Robbins said something like that). Sometimes we won’t change our diet until we start having health problems. John made the pain of stayi…

The Three Spirits of Advent- 1

Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

Today is the church’s New Year. The Church year always begins with Advent. Advent is a season that brings a certain level of tension. Our culture wants to sing Christmas Carols, but the spirits of Advent says “wait”. Our culture wants to celebrate by eating cookies and decorating Christmas trees, but the spirits of Advent say “wait”. On the way to church we hear Frank Sentara’s voice on the radio singing “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas”, and our heads are filled with cozy images of sleigh rides and fire places and hot chocolate. When we get to church we hear readings that prepare us for God’s coming to us as the Christ-child (which we expect and hope for), but unexpectedly our readings also call us to repentance, and warn us to prepare for a coming judgement as we wait for Jesus to come again. It can feel a bit like Lent invading our Christmas celebrations.

Advent is a season that many of us want to “bah-humbug”. “Give…

Christian Caregiving 7- helping someone forgive

Gen 44:18-45:9; Psalm 32; 1 John 1:5-2:6; Luke 15:11-32
We are continuing with our sermon series today, which we have called Christian Caregiving. This is actually the last in the series because next week is the beginning of Advent. This week we are dealing with caring for someone who wants to forgive someone. We have dealt with caring for someone who sins and we spoke about how to help them confess and then to speak God’s forgiveness as a representative of Christ. This is a bit different. This week we are speaking about you, as a Christian caregiver, helping someone who has been hurt by someone else.

Forgiveness is a persistent theme throughout Scripture. Within the pages of the Bible we meet a God who takes sin incredibly seriously, but who is also very willing to forgive his people when they honestly repent and humbly seek forgiveness. When we get to the New Testament there is an emphasis, not only on God’s forgiveness of us, but our need to forgive one another. Jesus says that if so…

Christian Caregiveing 6- Boundaries

Judges 2:6-23;  Ps 16; Gal 6:1-10;  Matt 18:15-20  

Today we are continuing our sermon series on Christian caregiving. We are going to be dealing with boundaries today.

If we have compassion for others and we want to do the right thing and believe God is calling us to help make the world a better place, eventually we will deal with issues having to do with boundaries. 

There will be situations where you are asked to do something by someone and you feel uncomfortable about it and you might not know why. Many people are afraid to get involved with hurting people because they are worried about getting stuck in uncomfortable situations. This gets somewhat easier when we have a good sense of boundaries. 
What are boundaries? Basically boundaries are knowing where you end and another person begins. It is knowing where your responsibility is and where your responsibility isn’t.

God allows people to make choices. He will give them information and allow them to feel the consequences of their choi…

Remembrance Sunday

Issues of war have often been difficult for Christians and we have often not been of one mind. Jesus’ words to us about enemies were quite plain: Jesus says in Matthew ch 5:38-44, "You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. … “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven."
These teachings led the early church father Tertullian to say in 204,  "I think we must first inquire whether warfare is proper at all for Christians... Should it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? And shall the son of peace take part in battle when it does not even become him to sue at the law courts? And shall he a…

Christian Caregiving 5- healing prayer

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Sirach 38:1-4; Psalm 147:1–7; James 5:7-20; Luke 10:1-12
Today we continue our sermon series on Christian caregiving. Last time we spoke about caring for people who sin. Today we are going to talk about praying for people who desire healing.    Some find this topic intimidating because it brings to mind televangelists. Others dislike the topic because it is not predictable enough- we don’t know when a person will be healed and when they won’t be- there are no guarantees. There are no techniques or words that always bring a predictable result. It is a controversial topic for many people. And yet… it is a part of what we are called to do as disciples of our Lord.  St. James writes, “Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one an…