Online Sermons at RPC
All sermons by the Rev. Wes Denyer unless otherwise stated
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APRIL 24, 2016 From Contradictions to Love: Hints on Making Sense of the Bible.
By The Reverend Dr. Charles Fensham
The Reverend Dr. Charles Fensham is Professor of Systematic Theology at Knox College. Charles was born in Stellenbosch, South Africa. He was ordained in 1982 in South Africa and served as Pastor in Congregations in South Africa and also taught at the University of South Africa. During the 1980’s, Charles ministered in inter-cultural youth work in France, Switzerland and the South Pacific. After being involved in the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, Charles moved to Canada in 1988 and ministered in two congregations in Southern Ontario. In 2008 Charles published, “Emerging from the Dark Age Ahead: The Future of the North American Church.” His latest book is “To the Nations for the Earth: A Missional Spirituality.”
APRIL 17, 2016 A Transformed Heart
One of the best ways to get someone to do what you want is to manipulate them through the use of fear. The church has done this in the past by invoking the threat of “hellfire and brimstone.” The use of fear as a motivator seems to be increasingly common in the field of politics. What does our Christian faith have to say about the politics of fear? What did Jesus see as the antidote for fear, and what might that mean for us today, as we try to counteract the politics of fear with the politics of love?
APRIL 10, 2016 The Stuff of Life
The Gospel of Luke tells a story about two disciples of Jesus encountering the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus on that first Easter Sunday. These disciples do not recognize Jesus until Jesus takes bread, blesses it and breaks it. Their eyes are opened when Jesus shares bread with them. Often the Christian faith is thought to be only about spiritual things, but this story suggests that Jesus is revealed in the sharing of bread. Could it be that what we do with the stuff of life is an essential manifestation of our faith - the Christian faith as not just a spiritual idea floating above the material world, but something expressed in the stuff of life?
APRIL 3, 2016 Do Not Be Afraid
Surgeon and Harvard Professor Dr. Atul Gawande has written a book entitled Being Mortal. The book is a little disturbing, and perhaps for some, even a little frightening. The truth of human existence is right there in the title of the book … we are all mortal. How do we cope with that reality? Even as people of faith, we can have trouble managing our anxieties over death. What resources of Christian belief and trust can help us face our own mortality with courage and hope? Let’s explore those questions in this Sunday’s sermon.
MARCH 27, 2016 Being an Easter Person
The promise of the resurrection is not simply good news for the end of life, but also gives us the hope that what we do with our lives everyday has eternal significance. What does it look like when a person lives each day of their lives hoping and trusting in the promises of God? This is the story of someone who is living that kind of life today, and how you also might also live like that.
MARCH 20, 2016 Buying New Lawn Chairs
The Reverend Wes Denyer's experience with a rather pessimistic patio furniture sales rep leads us to wonder why we end up looking for the grey cloud behind every silver lining. Knowing what was in store for the week ahead, did Jesus have a pessimistic attitude on Palm Sunday? If not, what may have empowered Jesus to rise above that attitude, and what might that teach us about how to face challenging circumstances in our own lives?
MARCH 6, 2016 Mark – the first to record, in written form, the life of Jesus.
This is the fourth and last of a series of sermons by the Reverend Wes Denyer on the writers of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The sermons are preached from a first person perspective, as if the Gospel writer himself was telling his own story and how he came to be a witness of the life and ministry of Jesus and the author of a Gospel. In this sermon we meet we meet Mark – the first one to record, in written form, the life of Jesus.
FEBRUARY 21, 2016 John – a man with a dream and a vision.
This is the third of a series of sermons by the Reverend Wes Denyer on the writers of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The sermons are preached from a first person perspective, as if the Gospel writer himself was telling his own story and how he came to be a witness of the life and ministry of Jesus and the author of a Gospel. In this sermon we meet John – a man with a dream and a vision.
FEBRUARY 14, 2016 Luke, the Physician
This is the second of a series of sermons by the Reverend Wes Denyer on the writers of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The sermons are preached from a first person perspective, as if the Gospel writer himself was telling his own story and how he came to be a witness of the life and ministry of Jesus and the author of a Gospel. In this sermon we meet Luke, the physician – a man of science.
FEBRUARY 7, 2016 Matthew the Tax Collector
This is the first of a series of sermons by the Reverend Wes Denyer on the writers of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The sermons are preached from a first person perspective, as if the Gospel writer himself was telling his own story and how he came to be a witness of the life and ministry of Jesus and the author of a Gospel. The series starts with Matthew the tax collector.
JANUARY 31, 2016 Coming Down from the Mountaintop
The Reverend Wes Denyer considers the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus as the story is told in the Gospel of Luke. He raises several questions: Have we ever experienced transfiguration? What did it look like in the first century, and what might it look like today?
JANUARY 24, 2016 Throw Jesus Off a Cliff!
By the Reverend Neil Young
In discussing the story in Luke 4:28-30 of Jesus' first preaching, the Reverend Neil Young looks at the difficult subject of religious extremism. "Religion: the world desires it and hates it; is fascinated with it; is repelled by it. Religion unleashes many possible things as well as some that are impossible. But religion can also be moderate, temperate, community-based and cooperative." Reverend Neil Young is currently minister at St. Andrew’s United Church on Bloor Street and was preaching at Rosedale in a Pulpit Exchange while the Reverend Wes Denyer preached at St. Andrew’s.
JANUARY 17, 2016 Are We There Yet?
By the Reverend Stephen Kendall
With the conclusion of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee of Canada last year, many people are now asking, “ Are we done yet? Are we there yet?” Maybe not, but the journey itself is a gift and a blessing for when it comes to reconciliation, Christ is at the centre. It is in Christ that God is reconciling the world and it is through Christ that we are enabled and empowered to be ambassadors of reconciliation.
JANUARY 10, 2016 Why Was Jesus Baptized?
Just as Jesus was beginning his ministry, John the Baptist was baptizing people in the Jordan River. The people who came to him confessed their sins and were baptized. They came away from this experience with a renewed sense of God’s love and grace. The question we have to ask ourselves is, “Why did Jesus come?” We can understand everyone else who comes, but why would the Son of God, whose life is the perfect revelation of God ... why does he come to John for baptism?
In this sermon, Rev Wes Denyer explores this question and in doing so asks if we may learn something about what being a baptized Christian could mean for us.
JANUARY 3, 2016 The Troubling Star
When the Magi following the star reach Jerusalem, they meet with King Herod. The Magi look to the star with hope, but Herod sees it as a sign of trouble, and all of Jerusalem along with him. When the heavens themselves begin to defy prediction, there is no telling what will happen. The birth of Jesus is an event that reverberates through human history. Epiphany reminds us that Jesus, the light of the world, in all his life changing ways, has arrived, helping us to see all things, and even ourselves, in a new light.
DECEMBER 27, 2015 The Secret to Contentment
As we approach the end of another year, it can be a time look at our lives and take stock of where we've been and where we're going. But it's also a time to pause and attempt to understand our lives through the eyes of God and, by reflecting on the ways that He is transforming us, seek to assess what He wants us to do with the gifts and talents with which we have been blessed.
DECEMBER 24, 2015 A Christmas Story
As we try to understand how God came to live among us, Rev. Wes Denyer starts at “a time before time” and ends by reminding us that it was the birth of a babe in Bethlehem that first brought the good news of great joy to the world.
DECEMBER 20, 2015 What God Has Done for Us?
At the heart of our Reformed theology is the idea that we are chosen, loved and called by God, not on the basis of our own qualifications or merit, but by the free grace and action of God. In the context of the Christmas Story, what might that mean for us today?
DECEMBER 13, 2015 Finding Our Place in the Christmas Story
For many of us, the story of the first Christmas is so familiar, we may no longer be able to hear the words in a way that is meaningful and fresh. What if we placed ourselves in the story? What if we imagined ourselves as one of the characters experiencing the birth in Bethlehem? We might just be able to hear the story in a whole new way!
DECEMBER 6, 2015 Are We Welcome in Bethlehem?
Each of the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – begin in very different ways. The Gospel of Matthew sums up the birth of Jesus in nine words: “Mary bore a son and Joseph named him Jesus.” The Gospel of Mark just skips over this whole birth narrative. Jesus arrives on the scene full grown! The Gospel of John, begins with a scene set in the Heavenly realm. Not a word about the birth. On the other hand, the writer of Luke gives us the full story of the birth – the undiluted truth, not for one moment glossing over the cruel and harsh nature of existence in first century Palestine. Why does the Gospel of Luke go into such detail? Why do we have to hear the whole, ugly story? It could be that this birth narrative serves a purpose, telling us something important - something we need to understand about who Jesus is, and what his mission will be about. In this sermon, we explore those questions and consider what that might mean for us today.
NOVEMBER 29, 2015 Living Outside of the Box
The first Sunday in Advent is a reminder that we are waiting for a special event to occur – we are waiting for the birth of Christ, and beyond that, we are waiting for the coming of the Kingdom of God. Most of us don’t like waiting, but is it possible for us to wait actively, creatively, and in the awareness of God’s constant presence with us? Perhaps waiting like this will be less tedious, and a little more exciting. In this Sunday’s sermon, we consider what this kind of waiting might look like in our lives today.
NOVEMBER 22, 2015 A Tale of Three Kings
In this sermon we will consider the character and quality of three kings we find in scripture – King Herod, King David, and Christ the King. What do their lives and reign tell us about leadership in the 21st century?
NOVEMBER 15, 2015 You’re Invited
By the Reverend Deb Rapport
Deb is the Outreach worker for ARISE. This acronym stands for Advocacy and Reclaiming those Involved in the Sex-trade through Empowerment. ARISE seeks to provide this empowerment by offering outreach, case management and pastoral care to those involved in the sex-trade. Reclaiming means restoring value, through redeeming stories and actions, and restoring self- esteem. We help individuals reclaim their goals, their dreams and their sense of self-worth. ARISE is a mission of the Presbytery of East Toronto, and supported by the Presbyterian Church in Canada.
NOVEMBER 8, 2015 Wounded Healers
For many people, life is hard - for those who have fought in wars, for refugees, for those who experience ongoing violence or suffering in their daily lives. Does their pain have meaning, or is it just the result of a cruel and capricious universe? The Christian faith affirms that God has a plan for our universe and for our individual lives. Is it possible that God can take our pain, and through it, make our lives into a blessing to others who may also have experienced the tragedies and hardships of life?
NOVEMBER 1, 2015 Go and Do Likewise
Occasionally, we read a story in the newspaper about some person who performs an act of heroism on behalf of a complete stranger. The media often likes to refer to such individuals as “Good Samaritans” – acting selflessly to help another person. Certainly this is one aspect of the parable, but parables are rarely so simple that the fullness of their message can be captured in a few words. Are there other ways, and perhaps more profound ways, of understanding the parable of the Good Samaritan? This Sunday, let’s go a little deeper to try and find some more mysterious and hidden meanings in this familiar story.
OCTOBER 18, 2015 What I’m Looking for Tomorrow
As we draw close to our Federal Election, the lectionary reading for this Sunday is very appropriate to the occasion. The Gospel reading tells the story of the disciples James and John wanting assurances from Jesus that when he moves into a position of earthly power and authority, they will receive special privileges. Jesus reminds them that in the Kingdom of God, “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.” On the eve of the election, these are good words for us to remember, as this Sunday’s sermon focuses on leadership qualities we find in Scripture.
OCTOBER 11, 2015 Why Are We So Miserable?
In the story of “The Fall” in the third chapter of Genesis, we find Adam and Eve living in the Garden of Eden. They experience truth and joy every day as they live in the very presence of God. They have everything they could possibly want to make their lives happy and complete. However, this is not enough. They want to not only experience truth, they want to possess it. They want to be like God! They had all they wanted, but that was not enough. In 21st century North America, most of us live with wealth, abundance and security far surpassing all the generations that have gone before us, but so many of us are still unhappy, anxious and sad. We have all we want, but it’s not enough. So let’s take the time to think about what we might be missing.
OCTOBER 4, 2015 A Mystery and a Promise
One of the most ancient discussions in theology concerns the question of evil, suffering and the God of love. If God is all loving and all powerful, why isn’t the world a more pleasant place? As we look around our world, clearly there are great problems – war and violence, starvation and disease, millions of displaced refugees. Even closer to home, there are tragedies ... the children killed last weekend by the drunk driver in Vaughan, and the recent murder of two year old Hailey Dunbar-Blanchette in Alberta. If God is in control, why do these terrible things continue to happen? In this sermon, we will consider the mystery of suffering and the God of love.
SEPTEMBER 27, 2015 Let Me See!
In the Letter of James, we read his advice to the church about healing the sick. He talks about healing people with prayer and anointing them with oil. In the Gospel of Mark, we find the story of Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus. Does this advice on healing people and this story of Jesus giving sight to the blind have any relevance for us today? Could it be a part of the life of the church in 2015, or is it best left as antiquated tales of the ancient past?
SEPTEMBER 20, 2015 Who’s in Charge?
As independent and mature adults, we usually like to think of ourselves as competent and prepared to personally handle whatever life throws at us - but is that true? Can we always go it alone as we try to meet and overcome the challenges of life? Probably not. But the good news of the Christian faith is that we do not have to go it alone. As we move through the difficult times of life, we are accompanied in the shadows by the friendship of others, and the presence of a loving God who is especially with us when we feel overwhelmed by the trials and tribulations of life.
SEPTEMBER 6, 2015 Emptying Ourselves
In the Gospel of Mark, we find one of the strangest stories concerning Jesus. He is confronted by a Syrophoenician woman who demands that Jesus heal her daughter. The unexpected response of Jesus is a denial based upon her religious and racial origins. However, by the end of the story, Jesus changes his mind and grants her request. Perhaps, from this encounter, we may learn that it’s possible we can become so certain of our opinions and so rigid in our attitudes that we’re not able to respond when God tries to open us up to something new in our world or in our lives. What made it possible for Jesus to respond positively to the request of the Syrophoenician woman, and what might make it possible for us to welcome newness and change into our lives?
AUGUST 30, 2015 Keeping on Course
When a novice golfer begins to think a little too highly of himself, he learns how easy it is to get off course. The same thing can be said about life. We’re all novices at the game of life, and it’s all too easy to become scattered and distracted by small things while neglecting the things which are big and important. Perhaps the way to keep on course is to follow in the footsteps of the one whose life never went “off-track.” In doing so, we may learn what part of God’s plan is ours to accomplish.
AUGUST 23, 2015 The Child Within
When a child is born, he or she needs a remarkable level of support and encouragement in order to grow toward physical, emotional, and spiritual maturity. However, no matter how diligent and caring the parents, it is not a perfect world. Toddlers and children discover at a very early age that they are vulnerable to pain, both physical and emotional. Is it possible that the Christian faith may offer healing for our brokenness, and ways for us to live so that we may find life more fulfilling and complete?
JUNE 28, 2015 The Broken Aquarium Pump
What happens when we’ve inflated our own sense of self-importance and the busy-ness of life becomes all too much? Do we end up planning the spirit of God right out of existence ... no time and no place for surprises or the unexpected? Is it possible we need to make room in our lives for a God who may invite us to move beyond all of our neat plans and schedules in order to open us up to dreams and aspirations in life we had never imagined?
JUNE 21, 2015 Healing Old Wounds
In this sermon, the Reverend Wes Denyer traces his own evolution in understanding on the relationship between the church and Canada’s Aboriginal people, beginning in 1976 with his time as a Student Missionary at Whitefish Bay First Nation’s Band, 60 miles south of Kenora, and coming through to the present day. Is it possible that we are in the greatest danger of creating a situation exactly opposite of what God would want, when we definitely decide for other people what is right and true and Christian for them?
JUNE 7, 2015 The Broken Cookie Jar
Everybody wants to have the perfect life – the perfect family, the perfect career and the perfect home. For those of us who don’t have everything just the way we want, we’re sometimes tempted to pretend that our lives are more perfect than they really are. However, it may be in honestly admitting that our story is not one of perfection that we make space for God to work in our lives and in our relationships. In this sermon, the story of a broken cookie jar may have something to teach us about how God steps into the lives of broken people and makes them whole.
MAY 24, 2015 The Footprint of the Spirit
This Sunday is the Day of Pentecost when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples of Jesus who were gathered in the city of Jerusalem. It is a dramatic event involving a great wind and tongues of fire. The coming of the Holy Spirit has fascinated the church ever since this first Day of Pentecost...
Is the spirit with us?
What are the signs of the Spirit’s presence?
Are there things we can do that may cause the Spirit to come to us?
Do some people and churches “have it” while others do not?
This Sunday we’ll consider how and in what ways the Holy Spirit may be present with us today.
MAY 10, 2015 The Last Word on Inclusiveness
Increasingly, the world seems to be a place of division, competition and war between classes, races, religions and ideologies. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” He said, “Love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you.” Despite these clear teachings of Jesus, followers of Christ also act and participate in the world in ways which increase division and hatred. We even fight among ourselves. This Sunday, we will consider a way of thinking and living that may make it possible for us to promote a world of understanding, generosity and justice, so that all people may live in peace.
MAY 3, 2015 Kaluo
The word “kaluo” is an attempt to translate into English letters a Greek word that is found in the New Testament. Kaluo means to stop or to hinder, and it is found in both passages of Scripture we are reading this Sunday. The passage from the Book of Acts is about the disciple Philip being asked by an Ethiopian eunuch whether there is any reason to “kaluo” his being baptized into the Christian faith. In ancient Jewish tradition, eunuchs were not considered to be worthy of full inclusion. However, in this passage, the disciple Philip sets aside this ancient law and welcomes the Ethiopian eunuch into the church community. Could it be that God will not “kaluo” anyone whose desire is full membership in the church of Jesus Christ?
APRIL 26, 2015 Just Plant the Seeds
In the 13th chapter of Matthew, Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower and then interprets the story for his disciples. Some of the seeds fall on ground that can’t support their growth, but most amazingly, some seed falls on good ground and actually produces a harvest. In the real world, we never know how and to whom the possibility of growth and spiritual maturity may come.
APRIL 19, 2015 Come and See
By Rebecca Jess, Co-Director, Cairn Family of Camps
The mission of Cairn Family of Camps, operated by the Presbyterian Church in Canada, is to share God’s love through Christian camping and to ensure that its family of camps and their leaders, provide supportive ministry and transformative programming. In her sermon, Rebecca describes how camp creates incredible bonds between people and the community, allowing them to take one more step along their personal journey of faith.
APRIL 12, 2015 In the Witness Box
Over the years, there have been all kinds of theories put forward to explain away the resurrection of Jesus:
He had a twin brother
The disciples stole the body
He wasn’t really dead … just passed out and they put him in a tomb, and then he revived
There are a lot of stories like that, but the church – people of faith - have always insisted that God raised Jesus from the dead. We can’t prove this, but we are called to “witness” to this. That may mean, from time to time, we will find ourselves in the “witness box” and asked, “Now tell us the truth: Why is it that you trust in God?”
MARCH 29, 2015, PALM SUNDAY Made Perfect in Weakness
On Palm Sunday, we remember the triumphant parade of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem where crowds gathered along the route of the parade. They lay down their cloaks and palm branches and cry out, “Hosanna!” But only a few days later, the crowds have faded away and Jesus is crucified. What happens when power turns to weakness, and the humility of God meets the vanity of human pride? Is it possible that love, peace and justice are more powerful than the sword?
MARCH 22, 2015 Bearing the Image of God
Some people have taken up the habit of wearing a bracelet with the initials “WWJD” engraved upon it. The bracelets are a reminder to live and act as Jesus did – “What Would Jesus Do?” Are we supposed to be willing and able to fully trust in God, no matter what the cost, just as Jesus did? Jesus was faithful to God … even death on the cross. Is that level of commitment expected of us? What if we fail? As Scripture tells us, we are made in the image of God … but what if we fall short?
MARCH 15, 2015 This is My Story
An encounter with a roadside shrine to an accident victim causes some puzzlement. From the items on display at the makeshift shrine, it’s hard to tell the meaning and central theme of the person’s life. The Christian faith provides a central theme to life, but in 2015, it’s easy to lose track of the story. The world is such an ambivalent and confusing place that it’s hard to know the difference between the right path and the wrong path. This Sunday morning we think about the story of our life. Does our own life tell a story with a central theme and meaning? Is the story of our life one that leads to a deep and mature relationship to God?
MARCH 8, 2015 Trouble at the Temple
Some years back, the Reverend Wes Denyer was asked by a lawyer, “Why do you think Jesus was arrested and crucified?” There may be many reasons why this happened, but certainly one contributing factor was the event that we have come to call “Jesus cleansing the Temple.” Why was Jesus so upset that he began to overturn the tables of the money changers and the merchants outside the Temple? Was it for the reasons we usually think of, or was there a deeper theological significance behind this dramatic episode, which occurred so close to the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry?
MARCH 1, 2015 Can God Be Trusted?
As the earthly ministry of Jesus was coming to a close, with Jesus and the disciples moving towards Jerusalem, it became apparent to the disciples that circumstances were moving towards a climax. At least two of the followers of Jesus, James and John, became concerned over what was going to happen with them, or to them, in the coming days. Would they be okay? Did Jesus have a plan? Was God about to intervene on their behalf? This Sunday we will look at two different passages featuring these brothers – James and John – as they began to wonder, can God be trusted? - a question contemporary followers of Jesus continue to ponder.
FEBRUARY 22, 2015 The First Sunday in Lent
By Philip Yoo
Philip defended his doctoral dissertation at the University of Oxford last September. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Toronto, a Master of Divinity from Knox College, and a Master of Sacred Theology from Yale Divinity School. He has taught Classical Hebrew at Oxford, presented papers at international conferences, and published articles on the Old Testament.
FEBRUARY 8, 2015 The Comforting Prophet
By the Reverend Dr. Charles Fensham
Although fear is something that all of us experience at some point in our lives, we can find solace and inspiration in the words of Isaiah which assure us that despite evidence to the contrary, God is in control and that comfort, justice and love will be brought to this earth.
See November 16, 2014 sermon for more information about the Reverend Dr. Charles Fensham.
FEBRUARY 1, 2015 Grounded in Scripture
We live in a world of constant change, bombarded by news from the television and the Internet. Many families no longer live close enough to one another to offer companionship and support. So little in life is stable and firm. With lifestyles like this, how can we feel grounded in something that will be trustworthy in good times and in bad? Scripture and faith are designed to form and shape us – to make it possible for us to trust in God. The Bible does this as it explores the nature of God and the ways in which God has been active in the history of the world and individual human lives. As scripture explores universal themes, we may find ourselves reassured of God’s benevolent purposes towards us. (Part 4 of 4 in the 2015 Exploring Sacred Scripture series of sermons.)
JANUARY 25, 2015 Language of the Heart
The left side of the human brain is logical, factual, sequential and judicious. The right side of the brain is intuitive, artistic and emotional. As far back as the Greek and Roman Empires, these differences were apparent. They said, “When Cicero finished his speech all Rome went about saying, ‘What a fine speech Cicero gave today!’ When Demosthenes spoke, the Greeks said, “Let us march!’” Cicero spoke to the head. Demosthenes spoke to the heart. In this sermon, we will explore the different ways in which scripture speaks to us, with a particular emphasis on the way the parables of Jesus speak to the heart. (Part 3 of 4 in the 2015 Exploring Sacred Scripture series of sermons.)
JANUARY 18, 2015 Warning: God at Work
By the Rev. Stephen Kendall
For Christians, the church is usually characterized as being a place of comfort, one that provides a civilizing, taming and subduing contrast to life in the 21st century. But could it be that all of this might be disrupted by a call from God? The Rev. Stephen Kendall reminds us that although we can never predict when God will call, make no mistake, He will call and when He does, it will change us profoundly. Rev. Kendall is Principal Clerk of Assembly at the National Office of the Presbyterian Church in Canada and regularly attends Rosedale Presbyterian Church.
JANUARY 11, 2015 It’s Not that Far Away
Sometimes it may be challenging to connect with the stories of scripture thousands of years old. What could those stories have to say about life in 2015? Is it possible when we discover the heart of a scriptural story – staying with it long enough so that ‘deep speaks to deep’ – that we may find it’s not as far away as we thought? In this sermon we will explore sacred stories that may be just as relevant today as when they were first written. (Part 2 of 4 in the 2015 Exploring Sacred Scripture series of sermons.)
JANUARY 4, 2015 The Stories of our People
On a trip to Israel in 1996, the Rev. Wes Denyer listened to an Israeli tank commander tell the story of an ancient battle of the Hebrew people as though he were there. It was his story! The stories of scripture can become our stories as we read them, as we explore and argue with them, immersing ourselves in the foundational words of Christian faith. (Part 1 of 4 in the 2015 Exploring Sacred Scripture series of sermons.)
DECEMBER 28, 2014 The Good Life
Despite all the difficulties and tragedies in the world today it is still the best possible world that God has created for us to live in. So maybe the “good life” is not about being more comfortable. Perhaps it’s more about being challenged to develop those qualities and characteristics that will make us fully human and fulfill the image of God that was placed in each and every one of us at the moment of our creation. That “spark of God” is alive within us all and God’s desire is to fan that spark into a flame.
CHRISTMAS EVE, DECEMBER 24, 2014 (5pm) No Room at the Inn
The Rev. Wes Denyer tells the story of the birth of Jesus from the standpoint of a bemused innkeeper as the evening's events unfold and the significance of them slowly dawns upon him.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2014 The Face of Christ
At Christmas time, we experience the presence of God in the face of a small child in a manger, Emmanuel: God with us. “God with us” is not conditional on how good we are, or how often we go to church, or whether we believe everything we’re told. God with us is offered generously and without condition, opening the door to the possibility of mystery and miracle in the midst of ordinary human life.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2014 The Glory of the Lord
In the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke, shepherds hear angels sing surrounded by “the glory of the Lord.” What pushed back the darkness that night was nothing less than “the glory of the Lord.” What could this mean for us today? Perhaps it is the power to enter into Christmas like a child, lifting us beyond cynicism and beyond all our questions, to the place in the human soul where hope lives …where a little bit of “the glory of the Lord” can shine upon us at Christmas with peace, goodwill and a brighter vision of the future.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2014 Spirit of Life
By the Reverend Dr. Charles Fensham
In this sermon, Dr. Charles Fensham reminds us that the Gospel of which we, as Christians proclaim, is essentially the good news of full, meaningful and abundant life.
Dr. Fensham was born in Stellenbosch, South Africa. He was ordained in 1982 in South Africa and served as Pastor in Congregations in South Africa and also taught at the University of South Africa. During the 1980’s, Charles ministered in inter-cultural youth work in France, Switzerland and the South Pacific. After being involved in the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, Charles moved to Canada in 1988 and ministered in two congregations in Southern Ontario. In 2008 Charles published, “Emerging from the Dark Age Ahead: The Future of the North American Church.” His latest book is “To the Nations for the Earth: A Missional Spirituality.”
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2014 Sometimes You Can’t Pull Over
Life is very hard and challenging for those who must live through war – whether as a soldier or a civilian. There is fear and death, grieving and loss. However, it is not just during times of war that we experience this. From time to time, we are all tested by the circumstances of life. This Sunday, we will reflect upon the spiritual and emotional maturity we will need when we face times of hardship and suffering – something we all encounter on our journey through life.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2014 (Afternoon Service) Learning How to Tell Time
By Rev. Dr. Thomas Long
In exploring the story in John 11: 1-21 in which Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, Dr. Long examines the concept of time from his uniquely Christian perspective.
Dr. Long is the Bandy Professor of Preaching at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, and the author or editor of 14 books on preaching and worship. He is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and in 1996 was named one of the twelve most effective preachers in the English speaking world by Baylor University. A video recording of this sermon has been posted here.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2014 (Morning Service) Getting the Kid Done!
As we celebrate the baptisms this Sunday of Julien Thomas Guillot and Olivier Jan Guillot, infant children of Thomas Guillot and Michelle Miller Guillot, we reflect on the meaning of baptism. Why do we baptize our children? What, if anything, happens to a child when they are baptized? As a community of faith here at Rosedale, what responsibilities do we have for children who are baptized in our church?
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2014 A Deeper Truth
When we see the news, it’s easy to become despondent over the circumstances which challenge the human race – troubles in the Middle East, Ebola in West Africa, the growing divide between rich and poor, and just this week, the attack on Parliament Hill. Is philosopher Thomas Hobbes correct – “Life is poor, nasty, brutish and short?” What does scripture have to tell us about the condition of human life … is there hope?
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2014 In a Mirror Dimly
The famous passage on love in I Corinthians 13 is a very popular reading at weddings. The first verses speak of the power and nature of love, but then this piece of scripture moves on. We are invited to put away “childish things,” to “understand all mysteries and all knowledge” and to look forward to that day when we will no longer see “in a mirror dimly” … but face to face. Is it possible that even today, if we take our eyes off the reflection of ourselves, we won’t simply see God “dimly,” we will see God everywhere?
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2014 Don't Forget to Give Thanks
By Philip Yoo
In this Thanksgiving sermon, Philip Yoo uses the story of Jesus healing the 10 lepers in Luke 17 as a reminder to be be thankful to God for all the good things that He has given us. Philip recently defended his doctoral dissertation at the University of Oxford. He holds a B.Comm from Toronto, M.Div from Knox College, and an S.T.M. from Yale Divinity School. He has taught Classical Hebrew at Oxford, presented papers at international conferences, and published articles on the Old Testament in scholarly journals. He is under the care of the Presbytery of Han-Ca, East.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2014 The Second Bowl of Ice Cream
It is often assumed that the Church is in the business of making people feel guilty and miserable about themselves, and that the way to enjoy a guilt free existence is to stay away from the Church! Is it possible that the opposite is true? Perhaps the Christian faith is not the source of guilt, but the cure for guilt. The Apostle Paul puts it this way: “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.” So often the world declares, “you’re not good enough,” but God’s promise, made tangible in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, is one of acceptance, forgiveness and love.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2014 The Terror that Flies at Noon
The ancient Greek philosopher Plato observed that some talented and successful people, who were doing extremely well in life, would suddenly enter a period in which they would lose all appetite and interest in what they’re doing. This malaise may afflict not only individuals, but churches as well. Sometimes, under these circumstances, we seek new and innovative strategies to motivate ourselves, but in today’s reading from the Letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul suggests a completely different approach that defies the understanding and wisdom of the world.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2014 The Food Called Remember
Do you ever feel that God is distant from you? Sometimes we can look up at the stars or out over a mountain range, and sense a presence beyond us. At other times it may seem that God has left the universe. In those times, we may need to depend upon the fellowship of the church and our memories of when God has seemed close to us. Today’s Gospel reading suggests that God knows we will sometimes feel alone, but the words of Jesus promise us an eternity of friendship with God and the ultimate community of God’s Kingdom.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2014 Buried Crosswise
The early first century church was forced, time and again, to confront the differences between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Many felt that new Christians needed to follow the old Jewish dietary laws. The Apostle Paul worked valiantly to settle these differences by encouraging an attitude of understanding and generosity towards those with differing beliefs and practices. The message of both Jesus and Paul is that when we take the Gospel message seriously, it changes us so we can see through our differences to become a unified and forgiving community of faith. (Note: the recorded quality improves after the first 40 seconds.)
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2014 A Passion for Tomorrow
The words of Psalm 90 speak of the brevity of life ... “we are like grass, in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.” When this inevitable circumstance of life causes despair, is it possible for us to reframe this reality and look at it differently – we only have one life in which to grasp hold of the opportunities and the adventure of life … only one life in which to make a difference. Brief as life may be, the Christian faith encourages us to find meaning and purpose in life – to make the world a better place … to love and to dream.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 31, 2014 He Had to Go
It was at Caesarea Philippi, when Jesus was alone with the twelve
disciples, that he began to talk about his own death, “I must go to
Jerusalem and I will suffer a great deal at the hands of the religious
authorities, and I will be killed ... and then on the third day I will be
raised.” The disciple Peter believed this kind of talk was crazy, “God
forbid Lord ... this must never happen!” Simon Peter felt that he should
interfere. What good is a dead Messiah! However, Jesus knew this
was his path – not easy, but necessary to fulfil the mission and ministry
which God had given to him. The life of Jesus reminds us, even today,
of his words, “the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life.”
SUNDAY, AUGUST 24, 2014 Finding the Real Me
Do you ever recall a lost dream, a hidden hope, a self-image residing
only in the depths of your heart, for it never became real ... an ideal
self you desired to be? Do you see qualities in other people you wish
you had? Do you ever wonder where you went wrong on the pathway
of life? Is it possible that ideal self is within us? The qualities and
characteristics we so desperately desire may be inside of us – only
embryonic, unexpressed, undeveloped. What did Jesus see in the
wavering and uncertain disciple Peter, that made it possible for Jesus
to proclaim, “You are Simon, but you shall be Peter, the rock upon
which I will build my Church.”
SUNDAY, AUGUST 17, 2014 The First Church Fight
The ancient city of Antioch hosted a strong and flourishing Christian community just twenty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Even the traditional animosity between Jewish Christians and Gentile converts was not evident in this close knit church ... at least not until the Apostles Peter and Paul visited there at the same time and the hypocrisy of one stirred the righteous anger of the other.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 10, 2014 Out of the Pit
The story of Joseph is one of success arising in the face of hardship and challenges, but is it possible that sometimes we have to go through “the pit” to finally get where God really needs and wants us to be? Joseph couldn’t have found a way to his true vocation without losing everything. Could it be there are times when God closes a door in order for us to discover a new window of opportunity?
SUNDAY, AUGUST 3, 2014 Give Them Something to Eat
What happens when a minister tries to recreate the miracle of the “Loaves and the Fishes” in his kitchen one morning after church with all the members of his congregation present? Is it possible some people can become a little too familiar with the mysterious things of God, giving the impression that they’ve walked all the way around God with a camera and taken pictures … and now they know everything there is to know. How are we to understand miracles? What did the miracle of the “Loaves and Fishes” mean to Jesus and to those who shared in this extraordinary meal? What does it tell us about our faith today?
SUNDAY, JUNE 1, 2014 Faith and Fear
In the Gospel of Matthew, we read a story of Jesus sending the disciples away in a boat while he takes some time alone to pray. Several hours later, the disciples are caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. While they row furiously to escape the wind and waves, Jesus comes to them walking on the water. Is it possible this story of faith overcoming fear can still speak to the church today … and what might it be telling us?
SUNDAY, MAY 25, 2014 To Whom Much is Given
We are fortunate to live in Canada – a nation of freedom, abundance and peace. When Jesus talks about the ones to whom much is given … “much will be expected” … is he talking about us? What would it look like if, as citizens of this country, we took those words seriously, as well, what might it mean as we participate in the upcoming elections in the province of Ontario and the city of Toronto?
SUNDAY, MAY 18, 2014 An Eternal Weight of Glory
Some forms of Christianity promise that if you’re a Christian, everything in your life will be perfect - you will enjoy health, wealth and prosperity! However, this does not seem to have been the way life was experienced by Jesus, the Apostle Paul and countless other Christians through the centuries. Is it possible that rather than solving all our problems, our faith gives us a sense of meaning in the midst of life’s difficulties, and the courage and strength to bear our burdens?
SUNDAY, MAY 11, 2014 Beyond Male and Female
In our references to God, our language is often skewed towards masculine pronouns and qualities. However, this is not the whole picture. In scripture, feminine imagery is also used in reference to God. Is it possible that in seeing both sides of this issue we discover a more balanced image of God, and a heightened sense of the value of women in the history of the church, and also for today?
SUNDAY, MAY 4, 2014 Testifying to what we have seen and heard
By the Reverend Dr. Dorcas Gordon
In discussing the story in Luke 24 of the disciples and their chance encounter with a “stranger,” Dr. Gordon reminds us that quite often it can be ordinary events which allow us to change our perspective, even offering a glimpse into God’s activity and our participation in it.
Dr. Gordon is Principal of Knox College, located on the downtown University of Toronto campus, and is the main Seminary in Canada for the education, training and equipping of ministers for the Presbyterian Church in Canada.
SUNDAY, APRIL 27, 2014 Doubters Anonymous
One of the first stories recorded in the Gospel of John, after the resurrection, is the story of "Doubting Thomas," the disciple who will not believe that Jesus has been raised from the dead without proof. In his doubt, Thomas may be the patron saint of 21st century rational, skeptical, post-modern people. Are faith and doubt really opposites or are they more intimately intertwined than we imagine?
SUNDAY, APRIL 20, 2014
(EASTER SUNDAY) Wondering What Happened
On the first Easter morning, the Gospel record tells of various responses to the miracle of the resurrection – fear and doubt, faith and amazement. We may not find this surprising because the overwhelming reality of physical death overshadows all of life. Believers cling to the promise of eternal life. Atheists dismiss it. Many people wonder and hope. This sermon will explore the miraculous and mysterious event of the resurrection in the attempt to understand its meaning and promise for today.
SUNDAY, APRIL 13, 2014 False Easter
Palm Sunday is traditionally a day of celebration with the Gospel record of the triumphant entry of Jesus into the Holy City of Jerusalem. Is this day, leading into the tragic events of Holy Week culminating with the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday, really a day of celebration? Shouldn’t people be warned that before the victory of Easter Sunday, we will encounter some of the darkest days in human history … or perhaps not, for hope is a fragile thing, and it is only the hope for something better which has ever changed the world.
SUNDAY, APRIL 6, 2014 Finding Good in the Bad
The Reverend Wes Denyer suggests a new job that could be available to aspiring young people – “garbologist” – people who study the kind of trash we throw away in order to understand the nature of the people who create this rubbish. They find “treasure in trash.” They might say, “It’s all a matter of perspective.” Jesus might have said the same thing concerning the truckload of garbage that was dumped on him in the last days of his life. He also was able to find “treasure in the trash.” We so desperately want to avoid the difficulties and problems of life, but perhaps one of the most important of life’s secrets is being able to change the way we see our troubles?
SUNDAY, MARCH 30, 2014 Camp, Faith and the Languages We Speak
By Rebecca Jess, Co-Director of the Cairn Family of Camps
This Sunday we were joined by staff from the Cairn Family of Camps, operated by the Presbyterian Church in Canada. This sermon by Rebecca Jess centres on the story in Mark 10:17-23 of the rich man who asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life and the sermon explores how language does more than just communicate information -- it informs our culture and expresses our love for one another. However, if our goal is eternal life, we cannot rely on the language of earth, we must take up the language of heaven -- faith.
SUNDAY, MARCH 23, 2014 Talking About Important Things
In this week’s Gospel reading (John 4:5–42), Jesus has a conversation with a Samaritan woman at a well in Samaria. In doing this, Jesus is breaking two rules – he is talking to a woman, and he is talking to a Samaritan. Normally, this conversation would never have taken place, but Jesus transcends the rules, and in so doing, gave her a new understanding of God and faith. What barriers do we face in discussing matters of faith with others, and is it possible to sometimes “break the rules?”
SUNDAY, MARCH 9, 2014 The Dessert Trolley
This Sunday we remember the Temptation of Jesus. In our culture, temptation is sometimes trivialized when we talk about chocolate, wine and tempting foods, but for some people, temptation is a more serious issue. In what ways was Jesus tempted? Is temptation always about doing something we’re not supposed to be doing, or can temptation be something deeper about the way we understand the meaning and nature of our lives?
SUNDAY, MARCH 2, 2014 So What If God Exists?
On this Transfiguration Sunday we remember the story from the Gospel of Matthew telling of the appearance of Jesus with Moses and Elijah on the mountaintop. The disciples Peter, James and John were witnesses to this event. Certainly this must have convinced the disciples that Jesus really was the Son of God, but did it have a lasting impact on their lives? If God were to prove God’s existence today, how much of a difference would that really make?
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2014 Take time to be holy...really?
By the Rev. Stephen Kendall
The book of Leviticus in the Old Testament is often seen as little more than a boring religious rule book, good for finger pointing and chastising the pious. It appears but once in the three year cycle of church lectionary readings and this Sunday is when it surfaces from its long hibernation. In the sermon, Stephen takes the opportunity to look a little closer at this book. In fact, the worship and ethical life of the children of Israel was in large part based on this book and we might be surprised at how some of the colourful commentary on religious life can impact us today.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2014 Preaching...For Better, For Worse
When the Apostle Paul visits the city of Troas, he preaches long into the night. Sitting on a windowsill is a young man by the name of Eutychus who falls asleep and then plunges to the ground, three stories below. Paul miraculously revives this young man, but the story does speak to the dangers of preaching:
Does a sermon keep the attention of the listeners?
What happens when you preach too long?
What is the purpose of the sermon?
Those questions are just as relevant today as they were two thousand years ago.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2014 So That Others May See
What does it mean to live a Christian life? Is it simply attending worship on Sunday and supporting the institution of the church...or is it something far greater and more wonderful than that?
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2014 A Misplaced Blessing
At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, we find the beatitudes – a series of blessings on people. What are these blessings, and why does Jesus include them in this sermon filled with moral teachings? These blessings are addressed to specific people, but is there a message in them which may be meaningful to us all?
SUNDAY, JANUARY 26, 2014 Leaning into Faith
In the second chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, we read of the presentation of the infant Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem. On this special occasion Mary and Joseph encounter two elderly characters – Anna and Simeon. These two both make predictions concerning Jesus and the life and mission he would accomplish … then they disappear from the pages of history. They have “seen the salvation” of humanity, and entrust the future into the hands of God. Is it possible the greatest challenge we face, even today, is not so much believing in God, but in trusting God with tomorrow?
SUNDAY, JANUARY 19, 2014 Spending Time in Troas
At one point in his first century missionary journeys around the Mediterranean, the Apostle Paul became convinced he should visit the Roman province of Bythinia. However, the Book of Acts tells us that Paul couldn’t go there because “the spirit of Jesus” would not let him. Instead of going where he planned to go, Paul found himself in a place called Troas – a place he had neither wanted nor planned to visit. Is it possible we all find ourselves in “Troas” from time to time – places and situations where we don’t want to be? What do we do when we end up there? What helped Paul to find a new direction, and does that tell us anything for our lives today when we find ourselves “spending time in Troas?”
SUNDAY, JANUARY 5, 2014 A Dazzling and Beautiful Story
The traditional reading for the first Sunday in Epiphany is the story of the visit of the Magi to present gifts to the infant Jesus. In this sermon the Rev. Wes Denyer explores that passage from the perspective of the different characters highlighted in the story as they search for the Christ child. What did it mean for them in the first century, and what does it mean for us today?
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2013 A Newborn Baby's Cry
In this charming and whimsical Christmas story, the Rev. Wes Denyer starts at “a time before time” and ends by reminding us that it was the cry of a newborn babe that first brought the good news of great joy to the world.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2013 Who Needs a Lamborghini Diablo Stove?
Phyllis Web earns her living by conducting guided tours of Christmas shoppers through the hundreds of outlet stores in Pigeon Ford, Kentucky. One of the highlights of her tour is an upscale kitchen store that sells a stove called the Lamborghini Diablo of stoves. For some this may represent the pinnacle of Christmas joy, while others find themselves wondering, “How am I to live intentionally and faithfully at Christmas in a world like ours?”
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2013 At the Reedville Presbyterian Church
What happens to the parents of a little girl when she’s invited to participate in the Christmas Pageant at the local church? Her mother and father are too sophisticated to believe in the ancient myths surrounding the birth of Jesus. However, despite their skepticism, might they discover that Christmas has a magic and power that they didn’t realize was still there?
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2013 Joseph Faces a Tough Question
What’s the right thing for Joseph to do when he discovers Mary is pregnant? Should he seek out the opinions of his family and friends? Talk it over with the boys at Tim Hortons? Should he do what the Bible says and have her stoned to death? Joseph doesn’t do any of those things...and the question is why?