We are now in week three of our summer series on what we all grew up calling the Ten Commandments, but which we are reading as Ten Commitments by which covenant partners in relationship with God and one another agree to live. They’re parallel both to Jesus’ Beatitudes and Paul’s Fruit of the Spirit in that they describe normal life for those who are children of God in Christ. One of the things that has struck me as I have re-read these ten words slowly, closely, and carefully this summer, is that they are not ten discrete, unrelated sentences in… Continue reading
The text of what we call the Ten Commandments is found in the midst of the story of Israel’s liberation from Egypt by a mysterious God whose name sounded something like the Hebrew word “I Am,” or “I Cause to Be,” or even “I Am Present.” The story continues from Egypt, through a miraculous crossing of the Sea into the wilderness to Mount Sinai where “I Am” invited a mixed multitude of Hebrew folk to unify around a covenant. If this people chose to enter into this covenant there were ten commitments that God expected of them. These were also… Continue reading
Today we are beginning a series of sermons on what we call the Ten Commandments. In last week’s sermon, I held that it is well to begin thinking about these great words by thinking about the God who offers them up. I suggested that God is of higher and deeper mystery than any words of description we might use, even words of the Bible. Nonetheless, there is in such words, insight into the God we worship and serve.
These Ten Words (as Hebrew calls them) are first mentioned in Exodus 20. They begin: “And God spoke all these words: “I… Continue reading
Since November 30th of 2014 when we began Advent, we have been in the first part of the liturgical year, called Special Time and we have celebrated the special seasons centred in Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Passion, Easter and Pentecost. All of these are centred in Jesus’ life. Today, we step from there into what is called Ordinary Time, the Gospel readings of which do not celebrate the special times in Jesus’ life so much as the life and teachings of Jesus. The Sundays are numbered (ordered), and so ordinary. They are, like our steps through life, one by one,… Continue reading
The title of today’s sermon, “This is that…,” comes from words attributed to Peter in the Acts Lesson, verse 16. Here’s a literal translation: “This is that which has been spoken through the prophet Joel.” The verb tenses here imply that what was spoken long ago is still being spoken today, and what is happening is the unfolding and development now of what was spoken and promised then. The Spirit’s new arrival on that Day of Pentecost (which was, itself, part of an ancient Jewish festival) was just one more demonstration of what the Spirit of God had been up… Continue reading
Fifty years ago, in 1965, the year I graduated from high school, a young professor at Harvard Divinity School named Harvey Cox published a volume called The Secular City which made a great impact on the religious world, including me. One point in it that I remember all these years later was that he argued that God was active and working in the secular world at least as much as in the church, perhaps more. In fact, the church was really a group of people in the world not an institution isolated from it. Like most revolutionary statements, it was,… Continue reading
I began a preaching ministry with you twelve years ago, with the today’s lectionary readings. Because Easter is a movable feast, in 2003 it was on May 18th. So, today, we begin our fifth cycle through the Lectionary texts. And I for one, continue to find new things in them.
The Book of Isaiah is a difficult book to read and understand well. Today’s Old Testament Lesson comes from Isaiah 35. Up until this point, much of what we find in the Book of Isaiah has dealt with the man after whom the book is named, the prophet Isaiah who… Continue reading
In our Gospel Lesson Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd.” This is one of the most common images for Jesus in the world. You can see one example of a stained glass window on this theme pictured in the insert to your bulletin. There is another such window (though a different one) at First Baptist Church of Eau Claire, where I was a small boy. There’s another at the Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Baptist Church where we worshiped for many years. It struck me that I have been followed by the Good Shepherd for much of my life, but it… Continue reading
I remember a distinguished preacher and the former minister of Canada’s largest Baptist congregation who was one of my colleagues who used say to students, “Don’t make yourself the centre and constant example in sermons.” That’s undoubtedly a good idea, and I hope I haven’t done that too much. But sometimes, one’s own experience makes it inevitable. It may seem a small thing to some of you who have done it and survived, but this last week, on Monday, I filed the paperwork concerning my pension. I received an email response from the Retirement Board representative, saying, “You’re on your… Continue reading
Holidays are very important times. In the church year the Easter Season lasts for the 50 days from Easter Day until Pentecost (which derives its name from the Greek word for fifty). In this time following Easter Day, the Great Church celebrates the implications of the fact that Jesus is alive and “Going ahead of us into Galilee” (Easter words at the Empty Tomb). So, it is not surprising that the scripture lessons today talk about some of the characteristics of communities that centre in God through the risen Christ.
To start with the Old Testament, Psalm 133 is a… Continue reading