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Sermons

Click on the following sections to find out more information.

Quarterly Message
The quarterly message is found at the beginning of the newsletter.

Sermon
December 9, 2018
December 2, 2018
November 25, 2018


December 9, 2018
Rev. Vicki McPhee
via Together We Worship

The themes for Advent are hope, peace, joy and love. Joy and love are easily associated with the celebrations of Christmas season. But those of us that understand that we are not yet in the time of Christmas but rather in the waiting of advent, I always find it moving at this time to consider first what hope and peace we want and need for our world.

Last Sunday, hope Sunday, was the first Sunday of the new church year. We began the journey of happily anticipating the birth of Jesus. The one who would become our Christ. The season of advent is meant to be a time of expectation of longing, of yearning for the deliverance from the sadness and despair of the world. This is a time of knowing that God so loved the world, so loved humanity that God became flesh so that the joy and the pain of living, the aches and contentment of being in relationship with others would be known and understood by the One who created us all and the world.

So in this time of preparation for the coming of the baby, we invite God into our hearts and into our lives asking to be led from the twilight of fear and uncertainty into the light of truth and love so that the peace of God can be known by all.

The people of Israel so desperately needed hope and true peace. Their world in ancient Galilee and Judea was a time known as Pax Romana, Roman peace, bestowed upon them and their fellow citizens by Caesar Augustus. With his dictatorial rule, Augustus put a stop to the civil war that was brewing in the Roman Empire. He subjugated the lower classes by installing fear in the conquered territories and imposing heavy taxes on all aspects of people’s lives: their crops, their grain, produce, their access to the temple and on their occupations. You name it – he taxed it. And Herod, Augustus’ king over the Judean and Galilean people taxed the people further in his quest to honour Caesar with a massive construction campaign throughout the region. The buildings and cities he erected in the name of Caesar reinforced his authority as ruler over all the people, and he became himself an object of worship. In fact, he was surrounded with such an abundance of religious honour that it was thought that there was nothing left to worship of the heavenly gods. Which did not endear him or his followers to the Jewish people who understood that there was only one God, their God. So in the time leading to the birth of Jesus, and leading up to and through John`s ministry, the people of Galilee and Judea were oppressed and despairing of living lives of impoverishment, hunger and with burdensome debt. The need for hope was urgent and John’s exhortations to prepare the way would have offered hope to his fellow Jews. A hope that a true and loving peace could be created through the coming of a prophet greater than he. `

That need for peace would not be an unfamiliar scenario for us, would it? A society in need of saving, in need of a saviour who can bring an end to all that is not good and pure in the world.

In the Star Wars movie, A New Hope, the evil empire was dominating the galaxy. The one who was to be the saviour, Anakin Skywalker, became instead a cruel and relentless oppressor of the people. And in the popular teen book, The Hunger Games, fear and scarcity were used as weapons by the leaders of the capital so that those living in the districts would be submissive and meek.

Today in the news, we hear of school shooters, drug overdoses, refuges running for their lives, civilians needlessly being killed, people desperately attempting to escape war zones, the name of God being invoked to justify killing, the name of God being ignored when victims in was and in violence seek help. Since 911 there has been a campaign underway that harkens back to the 50’s and the cold war, propaganda of such fear, that it’s hard to understand where the facts end and the lies begin.

We the people are told that evil lurks at our very doorstep and that we should be afraid in fact to even leave the house. The news tells us that we are to be deathly afraid of our Muslim neighbours the Muslim refuge, the unknown, the stranger. That our enemy is someone that looks different from us and acts different from us. When in fact, the most dangerous type of individual in North America right now, the most lethal and dangerous type of person right now are men, mostly white, Caucasian males between the ages of 18 and 30 who have access to guns particularly automatic guns. Now I totally made that statistic up so don`t quote me. But you have to know from all the mass shootings that have taken place in recent years and months, it is our young male neighbor, white male neighbour that we need to be wary of not the group of Muslims that come to pray every Friday in the building of the church that I serve right now. And in the wake of the news of the shootings in Toronto, never mind the personal trials and tribulations of cancer, mental illness, chronic pain and in the knowledge of all this we cannot think it is only the ancient Israelites crying out for peace. It is not only them that cry out for peace the second Sunday of advent. We too cry out for a hope and a peace and the words of assurance from our scriptures that are from John the Baptist who was preaching of repentance. He tells us to prepare the way of the Lord, the one who will be above all other earthly kings and leaders. We are to make straight paths, to make the rough way smooth so that the Messiah may arrive and offer healing and deliverance from the despair humankind has brought upon the world.

I think that this is a crucial detail that is easily overlooked. This quick reminder from Isaiah that John preaches before Jesus arrives before his baptism that we are to lay some of the groundwork in order for the Messiah to arrive. That the Saviour of the world, the Healer of all that ails us, our great light, can make his way to us only if we have first prepared the way. We are to be actively engaged in the coming of the Messiah. We are not to be passive bystanders waiting and hoping for peace to descend upon us. For we have heard that to hope without helping is a sin in God`s eyes. To wish for a different outcome but to do nothing to make it happen keeps the mountains tall and the valleys low making any sort of passage difficult and dangerous.

The theology of scarcity, believing that there is not enough that there will never be enough and the campaign of fear that keeps the roads crooked and the pathways rough. Fear is such an effective tool to keep people from asking questions, seeking answers, from taking risks because fear keeps you on high alert of what you might lose. You will lose power, authority, control, you will lose your place in the world, you will lose your options, your choices, your wants. But it is in that very fear we forget – don`t we? – that so much of this is an illusion. When we live in fear, we give up the very freedoms and rights that we have been promised. We give them up ourselves. We give over our control, we give over our authority, we give over our power. When we live in fear, we give up, we lose the ability to be empathetic, to be understanding, to be compassionate. When we are scared, we cannot imagine what it might be like for the other. What the other might be experiencing. What the other might be feeling. It is hard to ask questions and to wait for answers when we are afraid that we will lose power if we wait for an answer we might not like. It is difficult to be kind when you are worried about losing control, or losing your authority. And in today’s world, it is a risky business to be kind, to be loving, to be Christian, to be open. To be loving, caring and welcoming.

I read recently in the Olympian, Clara Hughes memoire that the strength to be kind is not often asked from us but perhaps it’s the most important strength to have. I think that this is how we can work towards peace this advent. How we can continue the task of preparing the way for the one who will become our Messiah, our Christ. We can risk being kind. The problem is that in the risking of being kind, we also take the risk that things might not go the way we intended or the way we wanted. That something unexpected might happen. In the risking to be kind and compassionate we open the possibility for a mistake to happen, and where mistakes take place, blame often follows. The change cannot occur without the risk of error. Trust, peace, love cannot happen without a change between two people, two communities, or two nations. And sometimes we make mistakes in our decision making, in our discerning, in our planning. Sometimes that happens. But in our adulthood, in our careers and in parenthood we understand that risk is a necessary part of living. Our role is to examine the possibilities before us and mitigate what risks we might perceive.

But we can never know or imagine all the risks that might lie ahead. An example I have for you is the impossibility of knowing all the possibilities. I have a story for you from when I led a group of 16 youth and seven other adults to Zambia a number of years ago.

We tried our best to know all the possibilities of the risk. In the preparation of taking so many minors and other people across the world, we adult leaders met on a Saturday afternoon and we went through a risk mitigation exercise. We tried to imagine all the things that could go wrong and we workshopped what we would do if any of those situations arose. We thought of bee stings and peanut allergies. We thought of people going missing, people becoming ill. We thought of homesickness and we even considered political insurrection. We thought we had covered the whole gamut of potential issues that could arise.

But then, at the very end of our trip, there was the flight home. Due to some complications with the tickets being issued, I had a seat at the front of the plane and the other 23 people sat at the back of the plane. My role was to get off the plane as fast as I could when we landed so I could rush to the next ticketing booth and sort out our tickets.

Everything was fine. We were flying from Zambia into Nairobi. As we were descending there was, without any warning, we went from descending to suddenly having a very sharp incline. In the blink of the eye we went from almost landing to shooting straight up in the air again. We all became weightless for a moment when the pilot leveled out. The shift was that dramatic. I was trying to decide if the plane broke in half… was it possible for me at the crash site to get to the back of the plane to find all the people that I was responsible for. This is what was running through my mind.

Then suddenly, the person who was sitting next to me who had slept for the entire flight had not uttered a word to me before, she woke up, startled. She looked at me and in English she said “Have we been hijacked?” and I thought – hijacked! In that moment I thought, oh shoot! we didn’t cover that in risk mitigation. We made it, we were fine, we landed safely.

But here were are, now a week into advent and we are being told to make paths straight to lower the mountains and to raise up the valleys to make way for the Messiah who will bring an end to the despair of the world and the evil empire.

How are we to do this in our complex, global, complicated world with 24/7 fear mongering news. Well we know, and if you don’t already, this is a spoiler alert, we know that Luke Skywalker becomes the saviour of the galaxy when he takes a risk and he finds the Achilles heel of the Death Star and he blows it all to pieces. Thereby opening the door for “the force” to regain its strength and to take leadership of the people again. We know that Katniss in the Hunger Games becomes the saviour of the district only when she’s willing to take a life-threatening risk which then allowed the leaders of the revolution to get the districts to wake up and to begin taking their own risks for their own liberation.

And so, here we are in advent, we implore God, we beseech God to help us find and create peace. To assure us that all is not lost in this world that seems to only know fear, terror, hunger, war and loneliness. God says to us through John, get ready, prepare for the one who will lead the way. Make straight paths. Take risks, raise up the valleys, let go of perfection, of being able to know all the possible outcomes of your kind actions. Lower the mountains by being willing to make mistakes.

Last year when I was asked for help by a family that lives near our church, a family that was in desperate need, the church received way more money than I had anticipated. I struggled with what to do with all that money, how to distribute it in a just and responsible manner. In my worry, someone wise asked me “What’s the worst that can happen? That you helped someone? Will it be a mistake to have helped them? And if they take advantage of you, then you will have learned a lesson that you won’t soon forget. Either way, it’ll be a mistake that you can surely live with.”

We prepare the way by making the crooked straight, by being compassionate. We make the rough way smooth by being kind. By making kindness our default setting, we can prepare the way for our Messiah by risking kindness. For God tells us just as Gabriel told Mary and told Joseph – Be not afraid.

Amen


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December 2, 2018
By Ken Wilson
Why do you believe in the Lord?

Why do you believe in the Lord?

Did your mom or dad make you go to Sunday school and somehow at a young age, you sort of morphed into this believing person? But why do you believe?

This may be a question many of you have not asked yourself for some time. Why am I here in this church today?

All of you have different reasons why you are here today. Is it because you believe God is of United Church persuasion? I’m sure God is a member of the United Church, the Catholic Church, and of the Christian community, along with all communities around the world. Maybe you came to church because you like the minister’s sermons, or you like the people who attend. Or maybe you came, because your wife or husband suggested you should.

But why do you believe in God? That’s a different question, and one that we don’t often ask ourselves. Perhaps we should. I asked a minister friend that very question one day. Here is her answer.

“Why do I believe? That is simply the best question anyone has ever asked me! I guess I can give all kinds of theological reasons for why I believe – but truly my “believing” started will before I was able to study theology. My family were nominal attenders at the United Church, and at my grandparents’ insistence, my parents had us three kids “done” – that is baptized at the little United Church in Vanderhoof. My parents always had a belief in God, and while church was not always a big thing with them, they decided to take us kids to church and Sunday School. So I guess one could say I grew up in a house where God was simply a part of the day to day discourse. So certainly I soaked some of that up – it gave me a language and a comfortable place in which to nurture my relationship with God.

“For me, God was an ever present presence in my life. I remember being not quite three and having daily chats with God. I was God in the sunbeams and felt God in the wind. To this day I can’t look at sun breaking through clouds and not see God coming to say ‘hi’ to me.

“Becoming a believer was a bit different. I remember the little church Sunday School – and being too young to attend – but wanting to desperately. I remember my mom talking to the Sunday School teacher and asking if I might ‘sit in, if I promised to be good’. God bless that woman – she let me in and I loved it, and I felt like I had come home. So my journey into believing started with my little church family ‘making space for me’ even though I didn’t quite ‘fit’ the norm of what Sunday School kids were supposed to look like. My believing has always been mediated through the faith communities of which I am a part – in their faces and loving presence, I learned the faith, developed my own, and came to a place of deep faith and believing.

“Why I am a believer today is that the power of Christ is so evident – the promises of God so often fulfilled – that I cannot help but believe because my faith is affirmed daily. Jesus taught us a more excellent way, and through Christ, the power of redemptive love is so strong I can see it at work changing the world, and the combination of teaching and living and loving – as demonstrated by Jesus the Christ – is why I believe.”

What an answer! That is pretty powerful stuff!

So I began thinking, why do I believe? When I was born, I weighed in at two pounds six ounces. An incubator baby – with no incubators in that hospital. My very inventive grandfather, sort of made one out of a wooden grape basket and a light bulb.

My mother, with strong influence from my United Church grandmother, had me baptized because the doctor said I would not make it. So shortly after I was born and lying in my fancy home-made incubator (sort of) a minister from St. Andrew’s United Church in Indian Head, Saskatchewan came in to the hospital to baptize me. To bring me into the arms of the Lord so that when I died – which was expected almost any time – I would be in heaven with my maker. Anyone else ever been baptized after only hours of being on this earth?

Little babies that are under three pounds are ugly. Little pieces of skin stuck together with some glue, and some eyes, a mouth and nose. Pretty bad to look at. My other grandfather, on my dad’s side, looked at me – he was an English farmer who had just come out of the dirty thirties and did not have a lot of money –and said “Son, I don’t think you got all your seed back”.

Well, it’s something I will never remember, but I did live – because of God – I am with God, he saved me.

He also saved me when I was in a car accident in 1962. Four people in the car, I was in the back seat behind the driver. Going over the Granville Street Bridge we turned onto Fir and Fourth, going fast, hit a metal lamp standard so hard, the headlights met each other. The engine was forced into the front seat. I was in the back. The driver was dead, three very seriously injured folk. My doctor at VGH phoned my parents in Saskatchewan, told my dad to get out quickly to Vancouver, as it was possible I may not live, I had broken my back, my leg, my shoulder and collar bone along with some gastrointestinal problems.

After being in the hospital for a short period of time, I had an, out of body experience. Critics tell me it was only because of the amount of drugs I was taking to control pain – that’s a crock – I was there. I talked to the gate keeper to heaven who said he didn’t want me now. I went back into my own body. The same thing happened the next day only it lasted just moments as I went out of my body up to the top of my hospital room, looked down on the other me lying really hurt in the hospital bed and I came back down into my body. Thank you Lord.

Two years ago, I had some medical problems and was on morphine for almost six months. No out of body experience from the drugs or any other experience. So I know it wasn’t a drug induced experience, it was a Lord induced experience.

Two times, the physical part of my being was rescued by the Lord. I suspect that may be reason enough for me “To Believe”!

About three months after the Vancouver accident while I was still in the hospital, my doctor said I was having a setback in my healing alignment of the femur break. This was going to keep me in the hospital for another two months longer than originally anticipated. An Anglican Minister who visited people at the hospital befriended me. He took my concern to his prayer group that evening and prayed for me.

The doctor came in the next morning, wanted to do more x-rays, the result of which was very good news. No realignment necessary. I spent almost six months in Vancouver General Hospital.

The Lord has been very evident in my life. That is why I believe.

It is perhaps much easier for one to be a believer when your physical being has been extended a life-ring on more than one occasion. But how about you… why do you believe?

"Barry Sale, did your dad send you to Sunday School and church?" I asked Barry why he believes. He says, “You can doubt everything or you can believe, if you don’t believe what kind of life do you have, not having faith or any kind of moral principles. If you doubt, then you go through life never having the ability to make good decisions. If you believe, then you have a moral compass which guides all of your actions and allows you to live to your full potential.”

By the way, ask Barry for a quote, and you get a whole sermon… thanks Barry.

In order to be the best you can be, you have to have a set of beliefs upon which you can base your life. I believe, and I know I am not any better than a devout Muslim, who believes in a higher faith. Believing in a higher power does not necessarily mean you have to be a Christian. Barry Sale and I agree that ‘it is an accident of faith that we are believers’ in Christian religion.

I told you why I believe. I gave you two direct reasons, but wait – there’s a third.

Third time, in 1974, I was driving my truck along Lac la Hache Road when a gasoline tanker truck passed me and a three pound cast iron gas cap came off the truck, through my truck windshield and smacked me right in the forehead. I lost some blood over that one. It wasn`t life threatening, like the other two events, but was close enough to cracking my head right open, that I had to stay in the hospital for a week. Again, God was with me.

On three different occasions, I came very close to death. God was the reason I did not die.

I attended St. Andrew’s United Church in Indian Head before I could walk and as I grew up, I went to Sunday School, and after my car accident in Vancouver, I went to St. Giles United Church and became a member of CAIROS (sp) a young people’s group who learned about God, did plays in the church and went down to the east end of Vancouver to help homeless people. So I was imbued with a sense of religion at a young age, and a realization that the Lord had saved my life on at least three occasions.

That is why I believe.

Earlier in our readings from John, in the Bible, we heard about believing. Here’s another quote from John. “Jesus cried and said, ‘he who believes in Me, believes not in Me, but in Him that sent Me. And he that sees Me sees Him that sent Me. I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hears My words, and believes not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” John 12:44-47

The problem of evil – why bad things happen to good people if an all-powerful and all-good God is in control of things – has haunted the faithful since it was first articulated millenniums ago. I believe we must be strong in our belief in the Lord, because there are suggestions almost daily that will shake our foundations.

It is said that belief is a religious doctrine that is proclaimed without proof. Well, I have proof, of the Lord’s love for me because he brought his light into my life, and let me live on two or more occasions.

That’s why I believe…

why do you?

Amen.


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November 25, 2018
By John Cristoffersen
Based on Revelations 1:4-8 and John 18: 33-37 -- Hope, Truth, And Possibilities. and Who Is Truly Powerful?

Revelations 1:4-8
Before Reading: In this reading you will hear that there is one who is at both the beginning and end of time. God is the promise of hope, truth, and possibilities.
Response: “Hope, Truth, And Possibilities.”

There are Biblical books of history, Biblical books of poetry, and Biblical books of prophecy. This book adds another genre to that list.

This book, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, was originally known as ‘The Apocalypse’, which is defined as the unveiling of things known only to God.

This book makes a distinction between the present age of crisis, sin, and evil, and the emergence of a new world, where the judgment of God will vindicate and reward the righteous. The book of Revelation foresees the destruction of Rome as the beginning of a new age.

Verse 4 of Chapter 1 begins with, “GRACE TO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD, WHO IS AND WHO WAS AND WHO IS TO COME, AND FROM THE SEVEN SPIRITS WHO ARE BEFORE HIS THRONE…”

The word GRACE is of significance in the New Testament, but its roots are in the Old Testament, where GRACE speaks of God’s loving kindness, God’s mercy, and God’s faithfulness.

To the Greeks, GRACE spoke of patronage connected to generosity- a generous giving that required loyalty from the recipient. Christian grace is the gift of salvation from God to all those who accept Jesus Christ. God is the patron- the benefactor. We are the beneficiaries- we depend on God’s grace, and express our thanks by living gratefully.

PEACE is also a significant word in this verse. It is more than an absence of violence: it includes a personal well-being and wholesomeness that comes with our relationship with God.

The verse continues by naming the three sources of grace and peace.

  1. God the Father. John uses three measures of time (“WHO IS AND WHO WAS AND WHO IS TO COME”) to define the eternal- God is not limited by time.
  2. The Seven Spirits. The scriptures regard the number seven as a symbol of completeness and fulfillment. Verse 8’s “I AM THE ALPHA (the first letter of the Greek alphabet) AND THE OMEGA” (the last letter of the Greek alphabet) also reinforces that God’s completeness is with us at the beginning and at the end.
  3. Jesus Christ- the faithful witness… the one who knows God.
Jesus Christ- the first born of the dead.

You may rightfully say, “But Jesus was not the first person in the Bible to be resurrected from the dead.”

But Jesus’ resurrection was different because it ushered in a new era with the promise of resurrection for all believers. Jesus is the firstborn of this new era.

Verse 5 continues… “TO HIM WHO LOVES US AND WASHED US FROM OUR SINS BY HIS BLOOD.”

Notice the two tenses here. “WASHED US FROM OUR SINS” (past tense) because Jesus has already carried out that task… once… completely… for all time. “HIM WHO LOVES US” (present tense) because the love of Jesus is ongoing… never ceasing.

“WASHED US FROM OUR SINS… AND MADE US TO BE A KINGDOM…”

The kingdom to which we belong is the Kingdom of God. Living in God’s kingdom begins for us now, when we acknowledge Christ, and continues after our death. As believers we have present and priestly responsibilities to be the living stones from which we build our spiritual house.
Amen

John 18: 33-37 - Who Is Truly Powerful?

These verses illuminate the reality of Jesus’ kingship… a kingship that reveals itself in his crucifixion.

Although Pilate, with the power to set Jesus free or condemn him to death, appears to be in charge, it is Jesus, in handcuffs, appearing small and poor, who John presents as having authority. There is dissonance between what is seen and what is fact.

Pilate needs to know if Jesus is king, for if Jesus is King of the Jews he is guilty of treason, punishable by death. For Pilate, the Emperor in Rome is the king of everyone…. everywhere.

The irony is that Jesus is indeed a king, not in a political sense, but instead of a desire that people will enthrone him in their hearts… just as his Father will soon enthrone him in Heaven.

Jesus answers indirectly by stating that his kingdom is “…NOT OF THIS WORLD.” Instead, Jesus offers the idea that he is a witness to the truth.

Pilate interprets that as Jesus being a king, and the question of truth is left hanging in the air.

In reality, Truth was the person standing in silence before Pilate. John’s Gospel begins with, “IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE WORD, AND THE WORD WAS WITH GOD, AND THE WORD WAS GOD. THE WORD BECAME FLESH AND LIVED AMONG US… FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH.”

More dissonance. Eternal Word and earthly flesh. Eternal truth in a person, the Word made flesh… the Word came to live with us.

In this way, John crafts his narrative so that Jesus’ kingship becomes most visible in his crucifixion… his crucifixion is his public declaration as king.

Jesus does not crow about being a king. Instead, he speaks not of himself but of his community. Again we have a contrast.

Pilate uses his power and authority with no concern for building community. To maintain his position he uses violence, divisiveness, and the cross. Pilate brings fear into the midst, for his authority originates from the will of Caesar and is therefore tenuous.

Jesus empowers others and uses his authority to wash the feet of those he leads. Jesus’ rule invites peace in order to unify people. He gives his life to bring life. Jesus’ authority originates from the will of God and is eternal.

This is Jesus the King… the true authority and power in these scenes that lead to his crucifixion. We recognize the cast of characters that lead to the cross: Judas’ betrayal, Pilate telling Jesus that the Jews “…

HANDED YOU OVER TO ME”, and Pilate again who hands Jesus over to be crucified.

However, in the end it is Jesus who has authority over life and death when he hands over… gives up… his spirit.

Just as Jesus’ power showed itself to all from the cross, we acknowledge God when we serve others in his name.

We think of Jesus conversing with a Samaritan woman who had had five husbands and was living with a man who was not her husband.

We think of Jesus bending down and leaning in to listen to a woman accused of adultery.

We think of Jesus kneeling to wash the dirty feet of his disciples.

Jesus is a king who never rose so high that he couldn’t see those who were down low. If we desire to see the Word made flesh in action, we need to visit places most kings would go and places most kings seldom go.

Amen


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