Showing posts from 2019

A Christmas Carol- Christmas Eve

Luke 2:1-20
Tonight, I would like to reflect on one of my favourite Christmas stories. As you probably remember, the opening lines of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens are “Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that”. … Marley was Ebenezer Scrooge’s business partner. Marley has died, but I think there is an implication that even in life Marley was “dead”. Scrooge was Marley’s only friend, and it seems to be the case that Marley was also Scrooge’s only friend. Even so, Scrooge seems to be more concerned with getting a good deal on the funeral, than mourning for his dead friend. Dickens describes Scrooge saying,  “…he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” His sole purpose seems to be to accumulate wealth and not disperse it. Scrooge i…

Advent 4

Isaiah 7:10-16; 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. The stores ring with Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby singing Christmas songs. The magazines on the stand boast perfect holiday dishes and decorations.

While some are planning the perfect Christmas experience, others are finding it difficult to get in the mood. 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 don’t even really know why they aren’t into it, they just aren’t feeling much cheer. They feel out of step with what is going on around them. Everyone is planning a perfect holiday and their lives feel so far from perfect they don’t even want to try.

The first Christmas was more of the out of step variety…

Advent 3

Isaiah 35:1-10; Matthew 11:2-11
Our Gospel has a pretty surprising question being asked by John the Baptist. John, who baptized Jesus and seemed pretty confident that Jesus was the one they were expecting, was now sending his followers to ask if Jesus is the one they were expecting. Why is John suddenly doubting?

There might be a few reasons for John’s doubt. One is that John has been thrown into prison. It is probably normal to be full of doubt while locked away in prison.

Another reason may be that Jesus wasn’t behaving in expected ways. His disciples weren’t following a strict habit of fasting the way John’s disciples and the Pharisees did. Jesus also kept questionable company. He gained a reputation for hanging out with tax collectors and other sinners. He was called a glutton and a drunk. This was not the expected behavior of the messiah.

The other reason for his doubt might have to do with what he thought the mission of the messiah was. The Messiah was to bring judgement, the…

Advent 2

Matthew 3:1-12
“In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming,‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ … Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him”.
If we were to declare that at St. Leonard’s we are going to preach on ‘repentance’ for the next 6 months I doubt that the people of Red Deer would flock to St. Leonard’s. … But, that’s what happened with John the Baptist. John left the centers of political and religious power (he wasn’t preaching in the streets of Jerusalem or in the temple). He went into the wilderness. He dressed like a prophet and called the people to repent.

The wilderness was very symbolic. When they left Egypt they entered the wilderness. It was there that they received the Law. John was calling them to reenter the Promised Land through the Jordan River, just as their ancestors did with Joshua. He called the people to repentance and they flocked into the wilderness.

So why wo…

Advent 1

Isaiah 2:1-5; 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 and begin celebrating Christmas, but Advent wants us to wait. It can be a time of year that we can seem very out of step with the rest of our culture. The mall echoes with songs like “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas”, and we see images of cozy sleigh rides, fire places, and hot chocolate and peppermint. … But, when we get to church we hear readings that warn us to prepare for a coming judgement as we wait for Jesus to return. It can feel a bit like Lent invading our Christmas celebrations. There are a lot of people that want to “bah-humbug” Advent. They see Advent as a serous downer that gets in the way of Christmas celebrations.

Our readings are not what our culture expects at this time of year, but they are important to prepare us.

Isaiah, the old prophet, …

Christ the King

Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-43
Humanity had a very powerful experience when it came into contact with Jesus. It was such a powerful experience that it took the church generations to begin to realize the depth of that experience. And I think if we are honest, we as the church are still unpacking our experience of Jesus

As the church attempted to more fully understand their experience with Jesus they inevitably bounced from one extreme understanding to another. Those extremes began to be called heresies. We all struggle with heretical ideas as we attempt to grow in our understanding of Jesus. We have a natural desire to follow an idea to its extreme.

For example, some couldn't understand how Jesus could be a divine being and be human being. Some wanted him to be 100% human, and not God at all. They could accept him as a teacher, or a prophet. Others wanted him to be 100% God, and not human at all. To them there was something very unholy about human flesh. It's messy. Humans …

The New Creation- Is 65

Isaiah 65:17-25
We have ended our time examining the Psalms. Today we notice a shift in the readings towards the Reign of Christ, which we celebrate next Sunday. The Reign of Christ, or the Feast of Christ the King is the end of the church year in our liturgical calendar. We end the year with the end of the Christian story, which is when all things are made right- all injustice is ended- and all suffering ceases. Christ is on the throne of the universe and there is no disputing his rule, or disagreement that his rule is good. Our readings today speak about the return of Christ, the New Creation, and what we are to do in the meantime.

Today we will be looking at our passage from Isaiah 65 specifically. It is a sweeping promise about the future God will bring into reality. We see it reflected in Revelation 21 as well. Revelation says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, ne…

Remembrance Day Sunday

Eph 6:10-17; Luke 6:27-36
As you know, Remembrance Day is tomorrow. It is important to remember the suffering that is a part of the high cost of war- then and now. It is important to remember how fragile peace can be. It is important to remember that the monster of war lives just under the surface and seeks a way to be released into the world. It is important to remember the sacrifices many make to try to do something about the suffering because to sit back and do nothing is a worse evil. It is also a day to remember Jesus' words to us about violence and about how we are to treat our enemies.

Christians have always had a difficult time with violence. At the beginning Christians seemed to be pacifists. The words of Jesus telling them to love their enemies, and telling Peter to put away his sword, rang pretty loud in their ears. St. Paul taught them that they didn’t fight against flesh and blood. There are many stories about Early Christians being martyred. They were wil…

All Saints- Psalm 149

Psalm 149; Luke 6:20-31 
Today we are celebrating the feast of All Saints, which was actually on November 1st. Most people don’t realize the connection between Halloween and All Saints Day. The old word for “All Saints Day” was “All Hallows Day”. … When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name…”. If something is “hallowed” it is holy. The “hallows” are the “holy ones”. In Latin the word for ”holy” is “sanctus”, which is where we get the word “saint”. So, the saints are the holy ones, or the hallows. The night before “All Hallows Day” is “All Hallows Eve”, which gets transformed into “Halloween”.

As a culture we have pretty much lost the connection to All Saints, which is unfortunate because the saints are important for us to think about. … In one sense of the word, “saint” just means “Christian”, but saint soon came to mean more than that. The saints are those who have shown amazing holiness. They are those who we have no doubts about their…

Psalm 65

Psalm 65 

Some scholars think that our psalm might have been a psalm sung during a harvest festival. It is a prayer of thanksgiving for the things God has done, and the benefits the people enjoy as a result of God’s actions. Here we see a compassionate God who works to make life flourish. As in other psalms, there is a strong connection between joy and gratitude.

The psalm begins with a description of God’s kindness (v1-4).
Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed. 2 O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come. 3 When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions. 4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple! God is described as one who hears prayers. Thinking about God as hearing prayer might not seem that astonishing or surprising, but when was the last time you stopped to consider your …

Psalm 119- God's guidance for your life

Psalm 119:97-104
This morning we are continuing with our series looking at the Psalms. Our Psalm this morning is a portion of Psalm 119. We are only looking at a portion of it because it is 176 verses long. It is famous for being very long. 
 It is an acrostic poem, so each line begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. For example, if it was in English the first section would be made up of lines that start with A. The next section would be made up of lines that start with B and so on. Today’s section starts with the letter ‘mem’. So all the lines we will be dealing with start with the same letter. (It's a bit of a Sesame Street vibe.)

Even though Psalm 119 is very long it does have a consistent theme: God’s Torah. We usually translate the word “torah” as “law”, but the word is a bit more full than that. It doesn’t just mean ‘legal rules’. It can also refer to the first 5 books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. In its most full definition, …