Later in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is reported to have said: “Woe to you…you strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” This passage is not picked up in the Revised Common Lectionary readings, but it was intended to speak to the kind of community Jesus was seeking to form and Matthew was seeking to build. I say this latter because, as I remind us almost every week, Matthew was remembering Jesus’ words, not just to reproduce them as they were 60 years before he wrote, and just “get them right,” but as a relevant word to his own… Continue reading
In a few minutes we will sing a hymn called “O God, Unseen, Yet Ever Near,” written many years ago by the English hymn writer Edward Osler. The title speaks of a way in which I, at least, experience God in the world – unseen, unobtrusive, under the surface, and even, sometimes, unrecognized by me; yet, whom I sense as ever near, and so, vitally real!
The Bible has a reputation for always speaking of God as acting openly in the world, but, if we actually take time for a long read of the Bible and the world, we will… Continue reading
Anyone that has spent any time around First Baptist knows that we are a small congregation. That concerns some of us, since we worry about long-term viability. And we’re not wrong to be concerned. At the same time, it’s true that over 85% of American Baptist Churches have an attendance of less than 50, so we’re a denomination of small congregations. It’s been that way for a long time. You have to go back decades and decades since the Sunday worship attendance was 100 here. Nonetheless, many of us wish there were at least some more.
It’s easy to fall… Continue reading
I want to begin this morning with a little announcement. This will be the 650th sermon I have preached from this pulpit. I keep track of these things, and tell you of them from time to time, mostly because I cannot believe it. That’s more sermons than I have preached in both my other congregations combined, and all the guest preaching slots I preached when I taught in seminary. About 45 years ago, when I started my ministry, if someone had told me that I would preach 650 sermons (and counting, mind you) in one spot, I would have laughed… Continue reading
Let me remind you that our journey through Ordinary Time is intended to emphasize the teaching of Jesus. This year the Revised Common Lectionary takes the Gospel of Matthew as its primary source for that teaching in dialogue with the other lessons. As we began Ordinary Time, we started by putting God at the centre and emphasizing how Jesus is the lens through which we see God. We followed that up by emphasizing that Christian life is a journey that begins and ends with God in Christ. We illustrated the beginning of the journey with baptism. Last week, we saw… Continue reading
In your bulletin today you have two pictures that are sometimes called “optical illusions.” When you look at the bigger picture on the back of the insert, do you see a face or do you see a landscape? Most people, it seems, see a face.
In the smaller one that is beneath the order of worship, do you see a goblet or vase, or do you see two profiles? There is a little sign on the communion table that sat for a long time on my father’s desk and for thirty has sat in my own study. Do you see… Continue reading
Last week we began Ordinary Time by thinking about God and about how Jesus fits into the Christian idea of God. We need to keep all those thoughts at the centre of what we do as a congregation. We have set our own agenda on this second Sunday after Pentecost by participating together in what my father would have called the beautiful ordinance of believer’s baptism. We have been witnesses to, and really participants in Sawyer’s baptism. As I said, baptism is the act of God who calls, the act of the person (in this case Sawyer) who responds, and… Continue reading
Today the Lectionary is not subtle. It’s Trinity Sunday, and we are assigned two of the most obvious statements of God as triune in all of scripture: the Great Commission and Paul’s benediction from 2 Corinthians 13. Anyone who thinks that the New Testament knows nothing of the Trinity has to climb over these texts.
I remember once being invited to speak to a group of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim university students, along with a rabbi and an imam, to explain the view of God in our respective traditions. It quickly became clear that Christianity was different in that it… Continue reading
I was taken by Isaiah chapter 40 long ago when I was just learning Hebrew. Through the years it has become my favourite passage in the Bible and has fed my soul over many decades now, as I come back to it again and again. This time I have come to it, asking to be fed yet again, by trying to think through what its words might say interpreted in the light of the feast of Pentecost which we celebrate today.
At Pentecost, the Church celebrates its divine empowerment for the mission of going out into the world in God’s… Continue reading