in the wounded places

When not preaching at University Hill Congregation I take on the role of worship elder, leading congregational prayers. On Sunday the prayers of approach and confession followed the singing of "O God Beyond All Praising". Following the confession we sang "Jesu, Tawa Pano" and then responded to the declaration of grace with "Gloria". Here are those prayers ...

Prayers of Approach & Confession

Great God of heaven and earth,
Maker of the stars and the sun
You are beyond all praising,
              beyond all knowing, 
              beyond all telling.
You are beyond us.
You are holy. 

you are there

On Sunday at University Hill Congregation our guest preacher, Peter Short, entitled his sermon on the story of the Transfiguration "The Seeing Place." In it he noted that on the Mount of Transfiguration the disciples see through Jesus' ministry to the presence of God. After the sermon the congregation sang the hymn "In the Quiet Curve of Evening" with its refrain "You are there, You are there, You are there." As worship elder my task included offering the prayers of the people that followed ...

You are there. 
This is what we have heard of You. 
The ancestors have entrusted the precious message to each passing generation.
Now the sacred message is ours to live and to tell:
You are there. 
You are there in the quiet curve of evening and in the noisy din of noonday.
You are there in the melting down of endings and in the labour pains of newness.
You are there.



Notes for a sermon on Exodus 16 ...

Being in the wilderness after Exodus and before arriving at the promised land as our location ... pilgrim’s progress ... between Good Friday & Easter ... no longer in the land of status quo ... forever changed, freed yes, but also wandering, afraid, living day to day ... often longing for the old days of comfortable boredom enslaved to the routine of achieving, getting ahead, running the rat race ...certainly looks that way for many a congregation and many a minister ... easy to long for the old days when numbers were up and ministry was about managing a modestly successful operation.


pharaoh's army

Sometimes sermons do not make it to a full manuscript but are, instead, improvised from a chordal progression of notes. In this case, the sermon plot for young William Bruce's baptismal Sunday worked its way through five moves. Here are the notes I had in front of me as I preached from the font on the texts for the day: Exodus 14:19-31 & Psalm 114 ...


we do not live to ourselves

A sermon preached on Sunday, September 14, 2014 at a Memorial Service for Elizabeth Ellen Tabler Lemen (November 12, 1931 – September 5, 2014)

- Romans 14:7-12; Psalm 146; Matthew 5:1-12

Ellen was clear. We should not gather today to pay her tribute. Rather, we should mark her life and her death by paying tribute to God. For it was God who made her and God who sustained her. In God she lived and moved and had her being. How fitting that the epistle lesson read in multitudes of Christian churches all over the world today includes these words from the apostle Paul: “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living.” This is an odd way to speak in an age when individuals prize autonomy. We like to imagine that we are not beholden to anyone else, that we live to ourselves and die to ourselves. In such a world we quickly find ourselves wondering how we measure up. In such a world we pay high tribute to some and judge others are not worthy of tribute. But Paul declares that in Jesus Christ we have learned that our primary identity does not come from our own record of rights and wrongs. In Jesus Christ we discover that our primary identity lies in the knowledge that we belong to God.


continuing good news

There is continuing good news further to the good news health update from two months ago. Since then monthly blood tests have shown that the protein free light chains are remaining relatively stable. It means no need yet to begin a new set of targeted chemotherapy along with a return to the steroid dexamethasone. This summer without treatment has been a real gift. Now my final autumn before retirement is beginning chemo-free. I am aware that one day the news will not be so good. In the meantime, I am grateful.

By the way, September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month. In gratitude I am making a donation to continuing blood cancer research. You can make a donation through Myeloma Canada, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society or by specifying the blood cancer clinical trials program at Vancouver General Hospital. Since I will one day likely participate in the clinical trials at VGH I am sending my donation there.


70 x 7 = ?

Matthew 18:15-35

“If another member of the church sins against you …”. You wonder if someone might have thought before selecting this as the gospel reading for the first Sunday back after the summer. Here we are welcoming one another, looking forward to a new season together meeting new students and welcoming new neighbours. Is now really the time to be talking about sin breaking out in the church? Well, as those who have been here through the summer will know, we have been working our way through the Gospel According to Matthew. As it happens, the second half of Matthew’s gospel reads something like an instruction manual for the church. And today we find ourselves in a crucial section. Come to think of it. Perhaps it is a good thing that this particular passage was not a mid-summer reading, when many of us were out of town. Perhaps it is good that many of us are here, at the beginning of the semester, ready to receive instruction from our instructor, rabbi Jesus.