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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Roll away your stone

There is no way one could simply look at the empty tomb of Christ passively and be unchanged by it.  Thus ultimate expression of the love and goodness of God in the world does not allow us to look on the world as we once did.

This greatest of God's acts calls us to new life as spring calls the landscape to new life.

Our Lenten journey is done, we are invited out of the desert, out of the tomb, to a new and abundant life.

Happy Easter!

To download the podcast of my Easter sermon, click here.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Do not be afraid

It would be nearly impossible to say what Jesus' most important message was.  It would certainly be a matter of personal opinion and/or a factor of what was happening in any one individual life at the moment.

But certainly one of the messages he repeated the greatest number of times was "Do not be afraid".

At some point between sunset and sunrise on this night 2000-odd years ago, something miraculous happened: the Resurrection.

What the Resurrection means to any one person is also highly variable.  If we take the miracle of the Resurrection at "face value", it would certainly be a cause for wonder and joy at God's power.

But perhaps the best way to approach the Resurrection is to remember that this was God's ultimate reminder to NOT be afraid.  It was proof positive that God can reach into the greatest depths of our own personal darkness and despair.

My sermon this evening was based on Matthew 28: 1-10.

To download the podcast, click here.

Friday, March 29, 2013


What could possibly be good about Good Friday?

It is a day on which we remember a man who was betrayed, deserted by his closest friends, given over to a travesty of justice, beaten, mocked, scorned, flogged and submitted to one of the most brutal forms of execution ever devised by humanity.

The disciples had to deal with the fact that they had betrayed and deserted their friend, teacher and master.  They also had to contend with the dashing of all their messianic hopes.

This day was anything but good for them.

But we call it good because we know the end of the story.

Jesus' message was not morally objectionable.  Who could deny the morality of loving your enemies, loving your neighbour, loving God?

Then why was Jesus killed?

Because the kingdom he preached was built on peace, love justice and equality.  Imagine how that message would have challenged the power structures at the time.  Structures based on power, privilege, wealth, pedigree or conquest would all come crashing down if people bought into Jesus' message wholesale.  If he leveled the field, those on the mountain would have to come down.  They could not let that happen.

And have things substantially changed in the last 2000 years?

My sermon for this Good Friday was based on the Passion Narrative according to John.

To download the podcast, click here.

The only commandment

Today we celebrated Maundy Thursday.  The word maundy comes from the Latin mandatum, which is the root of the English words mandate and commandment.

On this day, some two millenia ago, Jesus did a number of things.  We are told he gathered with his closest friends to celebrate the Passover.  At this Passover celebration, which is more often called The Last Supper, he instituted what was to become the central act of worship in the Christian church: Communion.

He also did something which likely struck his friends as odd as it strikes us: he washed their feet.

Foot-washing was an act that was only performed by slaves; it was something that a subordinate would do for their master.  As Jesus was regarded by his friends as their teacher, it would have been culturally inappropriate for him to have debased himself to them in this manner.

And yet this is what Jesus did, because on this night, he also said something monumental: "I give you a new commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you".

The Bible is certainly full of laws, rules and lessons, but there are only ten instructions that are worthy of being called Commandments, so this statement that Jesus makes is ground-breaking, revolutionary, and it would have been seen by many as flat-out heretical.

And yet this was Jesus' principle message: love God and love your neighbour.  Love lies at the heart of every law, every rule, every commandment.  If we could only love one another perfectly, no other laws or commandments would be necessary.

My sermon this evening was based on John 13: 1-35.

To download the podcast, please click here.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fairweather friends

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday, the day when Jesus' Apostles, supporters and followers welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with palm fronds in the same way one would have welcomed a conquering king at the time.

The irony is that despite the fanfare, despite the dedication, despite perhaps the vows of friendship and support, five days later, Jesus would die alone on the cross.  Everyone bailed on Him.  Apostles, disciples, followers, supporters, friends, family.  They all abandoned Him.  To a man.

What this represents at heart is a failure of morals and values on the part of Jesus' friends, something that many of us can probably relate to.  Most of us have probably forsaken our values and morals at least at once in our lives.

On the one had, a certain flexibility of ideas is required because a completely inflexible value set can lead to rigid fundamentalist thought.  But we also need to have to have the courage to stand up for what we think is right.

As we come to the end of our Lenten journey, hopefully we have been able to reflect on our own morals and value systems, and hopefully we will not fail to do what is right in the year to come.

My sermon this week was based on Luke 19:28-40.

Click here to download the podcast.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The selfish God

Today's Gospel passage (John 12:1-8) should challenge our perceptions of Jesus.  Typically, He is described as selfless and forever concerned with the needs of others.

Today, His statement that "You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me" sounds like He is doing an abrupt about-face.  It makes Him sound decidedly selfish, basking in the adulation and luxuriousness of Mary's tender gesture of anointing Him with expensive ointment.

We must remember that the New Testament, particularly the words of Jesus, borrow heavily from the Old Testament in which Jesus and His disciples were well-steeped.  Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 15:11 which says "You always have the poor with you.  Open your hand to the poor and needy in your land".

What are we to make of this passage?

I discuss some of the possible implications of this story in my sermon for today.  Click here to download the podcast.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The greatest short story of all time

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is bar none my favourite parable.  It is perhaps the passage to which it has been the most productive to apply the best advice I have ever received about the Bible: read it as though it is a story about you.

It has been noted that the parable should perhaps be renamed the Parable of the Father's Love, because the prodigal son himself is decidedly NOT the hero of the story.  The father, with his mercy and forgiveness, is the one who saves the day.

That being said, it could just as easily be called the Parable of the Obstinate Brother, because the reaction of the older brother is also showcased in the passage.

In reality, the story is extremely versatile in that we can ask ourselves in just about any situation, "Who am I in that story?"  Subject just about any personal relationship and situation going on in our lives, and we can ask, "Am I the prodigal son?  Am I the father?  Am I the jerky older brother?"  In identifying who we are in the story, we can then ascertain the more important question: who do I need to be?

Click here to download the podcast.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Whose side is God on, anyway?

Over the millenia, many people have claimed God's favour.  Armies, kings, conquerors, political movements, religious movements, individuals have tried to claim that God favours their cause and that therefore their opinions and ideas are indeed righteous.

Many people have also tried to claim that Jesus was political.  I have heard that claim from democracy, communism, socialism, anarchy.  They all try to paint Jesus with the brush of their own particular political disposition.

However, nothing could be further from the truth.  The parables, the Gospels, Jesus' words and deeds were all meant as tools for us to reflect on ourselves as individuals.  The Gospel passage for today (Luke 13:1-9) makes this clear.

Jesus does not invite us to reflect on the bad deeds of others, but on our own, reminding us in the process through the Parable of the Fig Tree that God forgives and always invites us back into communion with Him and with our fellow human beings.

To hear the podcast, click here.