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
This morning we used an age old greeting and response for Easter Day: “Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen, Indeed!” Each year, on this Sunday, and on many others, we proclaim this good news directly. But, indirectly, the very fact that the overwhelming majority of Christians (including us) changed the day on which they worshiped from Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath) to Sunday (the day of Christ’s resurrection) proclaims the resurrection of Jesus week by week, silently, by their very meeting together.
Now, although, today and often, we proclaim the resurrection of Jesus, it is not his own act, as if… Continue reading
Presented -November 2, 2014
(Gen. 12:1-3; Rev. 79-17; Mt. 5:1-12)
Yesterday was All Saints Day and today is All Saints Sunday. In the Bible (either Testament) being a saint is being “holy.” To be holy means “set apart to God’s values and service in the real world.” The last four words are crucial. God’s “saints” are never out of touch with the realities of life in the real world. God made the world. According to John 3:16, God loves the world. God puts saints in the world as a blessing to the world. The word “saint” as a noun is… Continue reading
Presented -October 26, 2014
(Dt. 6:5-9; Lev. 19:1-2, 15-18; 1 Thess. 2:1-8; Mt. 22:34-46)
As I look back over these past years, I am proud of the fact that First Baptist has been guided by a sense of mission “out there” in our community that is determined only partially by our numbers (either in terms of people or dollars), and much more by a sense of the kind of community we believe God is calling us to be, and going in the way we believe God is calling us to go. It is important that this continue into 2015 and… Continue reading
Presented -October 19, 2014
(Isa. 45:1-7; Mt. 22:15-22)
Very soon we will go to the polls and vote, which means we have endured endless rhetoric of late (as we seem to do more continuously than we used to). One of the perennial subjects of the rhetoric, political spin, and all the rest of it is taxes, who raised them (or lowered them) last time, and who will this time. A long time ago Jesus had his own debate about taxes with an unlikely coalition of religious/political leaders within his culture called the Herodians and the Pharisees. We don’t know a… Continue reading