Sermons are now being posted here. To access the sermons from August 2009 to May 2011, please go to the St. James the Assiniboine website. The link is in the column to the right.

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

May 29, 2011 Sermon

Once again, we joined our friends at St. Chad's Anglican as they celebrated spring with a service and family picnic at the Unique Corral. Meantime, it was Doors Open Winnipeg at our Heritage Church on Tylehurst Street.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 22, 2011 Sermon: Easter 5: Knowing the Way

"Alleluia! The Lord is risen! Good morning and welcome. We are living in significant times. Anyone know why??? No, it’s not because today is the first day of spring, though that is significant for many and many are enjoying the warmer weather. And, it’s not significant because an NHL team may be coming back to Winnipeg, important as that is.

It’s significant because none of us are supposed to be here….that is, if you believe the predictions of radio evangelist Harold Camping. This news was all over the media yesterday. Though everywhere I went nobody appeared to be too worried.

Using a mathematical system of his own creation to interpret obscure prophecies in the Bible, Camping originally predicted that Sept. 6, 1994 would be Judgment Day, or the day of the "Rapture" when Christian believers will ascend to heaven, leaving the rest of humanity to its deservedly dreary fate.

But 1994 came and went relatively uneventfully, and Camping has since reworked his equations in such a way that they pointed to a May 21, 2011 Rapture. Once the 200 million true Christians (in Camping's estimation) had been whisked away Saturday, he said hell on Earth would ensue and last for 5 months, until Oct. 21, at which time the world will end.

If Camping’s predictions had come true, there would have been a massive earthquake greater than any we have ever experienced up until now. The rapture would have occurred at exactly 6 p.m. in that time slot around the world. At that time, the believers would be taken up into heaven, leaving many on earth to suffer judgment. Well, I guess he will have to recalculate, though at his age, he may meet his maker sooner than his next prediction.

People like Camping and their predictions have come and gone for years. In the Bible, we are told that no one, not even the angels will know when that occurs. I find it interesting that the latest prediction came about because Camping had come up with new calculations based on his current research.

This is not to say that the rapture will not happen. It will, and we, as Christians, believe Jesus will return a second time, as we say in our Creed. In fact, we are reminded of this at certain times of the year like Advent and Lent. The point is that we need to be prepared for the rapture to occur at any moment, living a life of faith in relationship with a living Lord Jesus Christ.

Why do you suppose so many listen to messages from doomsday prophets like Camping? Could it be they are searching for someone who is credible, who gives them hope and direction and can lead them out of darkness? Could it be some just feel lost and don’t know where to turn? Consider those who face losses or are on the outs in their relationships, or caught up in drugs, alcohol or wrong living. They need direction and the fundamentalist prophets are willing to give it to them and to take their money in the process.

Consider today’s Gospel. The disciples ask the question, “We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way? This is an eternal question. Almost all of us can relate to getting lost. I have been lost many times in my travels, often needing assistance or a GPS to find my way. It often takes an intervention, like seeking out someone, to get us back on track. We can relate to that. How many of us, if we are in difficulty and don’t know the way, stop and ask someone, “Do you know the way to ….?” I have done that many, many times, both in the physical and spiritual way.

When it comes to the spiritual journey, however, this question seems only to be asked when there is crisis or difficulty. A relationship breaks down. A job is lost. A death occurs. There is no food in the refrigerator and no job to buy any food. Alcohol or drug abuse puts you in the criminal justice system, where the secular answer only leads to more crime and more derailment from the right path. How can we know the way? There are many people like Camping out there willing to tell you where to go and how to get there. Some will take a chance and follow. Others will ignore it, but the reality is that moments of crisis are also moments of opportunity, moments of clarity. I have been going down the wrong road. I am lost. I am confused. I don’t know what to do or to think.

Jesus says I am the way, the truth and life.” This, my brothers and sisters, is Good News, and it comes to those who believe. If you are lost or on the wrong track or cannot find your way, all it takes is what James calls the “prayer of faith.” That prayer goes something like this…. “Thank you Lord for forgiving me my sins….come into my life through your Holy Spirit and guide and direct me.” It is a simple but powerful prayer, especially for those who do not know the way. Many other faiths follow a good road and bring many of the positive teachings of the Gospel, but none of them have the definitive Word…. I am the way, the truth and the life…No one comes to the Father except through me.

When we come to Jesus in faith, our whole life takes on new meaning and we are transformed. Just ask those recently confirmed or baptized. The old life and its failings are gone. What is left is joy, hope, excitement and abundant life. Just before He died, Jesus said He would not leave us alone on this earth to struggle. Instead, He would send to us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. This is the very life of Jesus who lives in us. It is He who reminds us of our story of faith. It is He who helps us to confess our sin. It is He who repents. It is He who brings us healing and hope and joy. It is He who directs us through His Word.

After Phillip asked his question, Jesus says, “Don’t you know me, Phillip even after I have been with you a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Then, He says this… “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or, at least, believe in the evidence of the works themselves.”

The followers of Jesus were human and had their doubts, yet they had witnessed with their own eyes the miracles, the healings, the moments of clarity, like the time Jesus was confronted by religious leaders and the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. What did Jesus do? He bent down in the sand and wrote something. He knew the penalty for adultery was to be stoned to death. Yet, He looked up and said “Those of you who are without sin, cast the first stone.” One by one, we are told, they left, beginning with the elders, the ones who knew in their hearts they were sinners. Then Jesus said to the woman, “Who here has condemned you?” No one, she said. “Neither do I…Go” and then He said “Sin no more.” Jesus did not condone the sin, but forgave and gave the woman a chance at new life.

This s the Gospel we believe in. This is the Good News, that Jesus died for your sins and mine and that He loves us unconditionally. He wants all to come to Him on their own terms and in their own time. That is why the Second Coming has not happened. It is up to you and to me to share the Good News, that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, to the end that all who believe will not perish but have eternal life.

Our Lord has promised a place for you and for me and He does not break His promise. We must listen to the authentic voice of Jesus, the prophetic voice that calls us to act, to make sure this earth hears of Good News, that this earth, this neighbourhood, knows God loves them. While we still have breath, it is our privilege and our mission.

Very truly,” says Jesus, “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And, I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You will ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.

Brothers and sister in Christ, we must take ownership of the life and faith that is in us. We, too, when we come near someone, can say “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Through the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us, we can make a difference in this world. Go out and make disciples of all nations, says the Lord in Matthew’s Gospel, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

It is an awesome privilege to serve on behalf of the Lord, but remember we do not do this on our own. “Remember, says Jesus, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.

May God bless each and every one of you in your journey through life and may we all turn to the Lord, giving thanks always for His blessings upon us. In Jesus’ name I pray.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

May 15, 2011 Sermon

Nope, none today either: we're joining St. Chad's Anglican Church in worship, with the other Congregations in Conversation: St. Mary's, and St. Stephen's St. Bede's.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

May 8, 2011 Sermon: Easter 3

Father Murray has no sermon for us today: he's in BC receiving his Doctorate degree ! Rev. Mary Lysecki was our guest today.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May 1, 2011 Sermon: Easter 2

Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia! My that sounds good to my ears! Get used to it, since that is the shout of the Easter season!

I often get the feeling that for some, Easter is a major celebration and that demands our attention and presence. Yet, the Sundays afterward seem to trail off for some reason. The Easter season, my brothers and sisters, is 50 days long and in that time we will hear many stories of the significance of the resurrection.

Like today’s story about one of the disciples of Jesus. You remember Thomas? He is perhaps one of the more well known disciples since we have a phrase that we used that is tied directly to this story…. “Doubting Thomas.” Do we have any doubting Thomases in this community?

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that doubting comes with human nature and it can get us into a whack of trouble. I’m away next week and I am still pinching myself to see if I am dreaming. I have been awarded a Doctor of Ministry degree after some six years of effort. Yet, there were many many times along that journey that I doubted. I doubted I had the confidence, the knowledge, the ability, the skill to get the job done. Many times I would stare at a blank computer screen and ask “What am I doing?” and “Why am I doing this?” or “How am I going to get this done?” It was debilitating at times.

Thankfully, I worked through my doubting and listened to the more sober voices of friends and family, the very voices of God nudging me onward despite my doubts. Had I simply given in to this process, I would have quit and the thesis would not have been written. My thesis deals with the national Sacred Circle in 2009 in Port Elgin, Ontario. I argued that the national sacred event led to substantial governance change in the Church.

Anyway, this story is a good one because it reflects our time. It is hard in this day and age some 2000 years past the original event to believe in a God we cannot see or touch or hear in the presence of an earthly Jesus. It is hard to believe in a world with so much hatred and violence and greed, where money and the love of it seem to top the agendas many times and where we continue to see poverty and illness and natural disasters and crises visit us. It is the hardest to believe when these things strike home and land on our doorstep.

And so, we revisit the Gospel passage. It is after the resurrection event. Jesus has made His first post-resurrection visit to the disciples in the Upper Room. These are the same disciples who were nowhere to be found when Jesus was being crucified. We are not told why, but one speculation is they were afraid. They were afraid they might be accused of having stolen the body of Jesus. They were afraid that perhaps they, too, would be crucified next. They were afraid that perhaps along with Jesus went all of their hopes and dreams. Scripture tell us it was not until after the resurrection event that the disciples fully understood what Jesus meant when He said He must die and rise again.

Fear is a crippler and it can lead to doubt. The disciples may have asked themselves, “Where are we now? Jesus said He would not leave us alone. Jesus said there were better days ahead. Jesus was the Messiah, wasn’t He? What if all of that was untrue? What if this were some elaborate hoax? What if we were duped?”

If we are afraid, we tend to retreat from life, to blindly follow where we might not otherwise go, in order to seek security. Fear can lead us to do things we might not otherwise do. There’s even such a thing as a ‘politics of fear’. Have you heard that expression? I’ve heard it said several times during our current election campaign. Some are kept in power by controlling others through fear. This can be said of dictators who we have heard of in our news lately.

Perfect love casts out fear and that is where Jesus comes in. In the midst of a climate of fear and uncertainty, Jesus appears to His disciples in the Upper Room. “Peace be with you,” Jesus then shows them His hands and side. Again, He says. “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me I am sending you.” And with that statement Jesus commissions the disciples to become Apostles, which means ‘Ones who are sent’.

The Apostles are given their marching orders but not before Jesus breathes on them and says “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone His sins they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them they are not forgiven.” The Apostles are now equipped with the mandate to carry on Jesus’ mission to the world.

Except there is one who is not present. Thomas. Why is that? Well, I am sure all of you, or most anyway, have experienced grief as a result of loss. Thomas was deeply committed to the Lord’s mission. Remember, he was the one who, when Jesus was ready to go to Bethany, courageously said he would go even if it meant he would die with Jesus. Thomas said to them, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him" (John 11:16). Thomas also asked Him one of the most famous questions. In John 14:5-6 Thomas says, “‘Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’"

He recalled that not long before, the authorities had tried to stone Jesus. And so, this courageous man would not have done that if he did not believe in the cause.

Thomas was likely in heavy grief, so much so that when the disciples caught up to him and told him they had seen the Lord, what was his reaction? He doubted, perhaps because of the many reasons stated earlier. So, he says, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

'I will not believe it’. Famous words of the doubter. Unless I have the proof in front of me I will not believe. Look around, I’m tempted to say. Feel the wind. You could say there is no such thing, but you can feel it when it blows and see the effects it has on the landscape. It is this evidence that leads us to believe there is wind even though we cannot see.

Like many who doubt, Thomas needed the proof and so a week later they were in the Upper Room again and Jesus again appears and says “Peace be with you!” This is the very heart of this passage as we note that the doubter may have wanted concrete proof. In the end, he didn’t need it. He saw and immediately cried out “My Lord and my God.” The scripture doesn’t actually say Thomas thrust his hand into Jesus side. He simply made an act of faith and believed.

Jesus then says. “Because you have seen me you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

We, today, are ones who have not seen Jesus in the flesh. Yet, we, too, believe. This is faith, to believe in the fact the Lord kept His promise. He sent the Holy Spirit and we now have the power and ability and authority to continue God’s work in the world, to bring about healing, hope, reconciliation, to a world that so desperately needs it.

And so, when I was at my worst in doubting, I, like Thomas, had to work through that doubt and to listen to the voice of God. Where was His voice? It was found in you, in my family and friends and those who were confident I could get the job done. Brothers and sisters in Christ, there will be many moments of despair and uncertainty that will visit us. In these moments, let us not give in to fear and uncertainty. Instead, let us embrace the risen Lord in our lives and trust in His love and may that same love guide and direct us into deeper faith and deeper mission in His name! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!