All sermons by the Rev. Wes Denyer
April 1, 2018 (Easter Sunday)
What must it have been like for those first disciples of Jesus after he was crucified? In the Gospel of Luke, we’re told the story of two of those despondent disciples leaving Jerusalem to walk to Emmaus in the afternoon of the first Easter Sunday Where was Emmaus and why were they going there? What happened to them along the road when the resurrected Christ joined them in their journey? Is there anything we can learn from their experience that helps us understand what it’s like to be a Christian in 2018.
March 25, 2018 (Palm Sunday)
Most of us traditionally know this first day of Holy Week as Palm Sunday, however in the church calendar it is called “Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday.” We are invited to remember not only the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, but also his arrest and crucifixion. This Sunday we will explore how these two dissonant narratives came to be combined in one day, and how it may be possible that the parade, without the passion, leaves us with an incomplete understanding of the day.
March 18, 2018
For those of us who have practiced our Christian faith over the course of many years, we know that there are highs and lows in terms of our experience of the presence of God. We do not always live on the mountain top of spiritual experiences. Over 2,500 years ago, the Prophet Jeremiah spoke to the disheartened people of Israel when they found themselves to be a conquered and captive people. How did he speak to them of the presence of God, and what might that teach us about experiencing God in our own lives today?
March 11, 2018
At the heart of the Christian faith is the promise of eternal life. Many Christians find great hope in this assertion, but for many others, feelings of apprehension, fear and uncertainty over the prospect of their own inevitable demise still linger. Realistically, what should be our attitude towards death? How much do we fight death? How much should we fear death? Do we hang onto life no matter what, heeding the words of Dylan, “Do not go gentle into that good night?” Or is it possible to find a place of trust and hope, as we relax into God’s everlasting arms? This Sunday we will consider what it might mean to live faithfully and die well.”
March 4, 2018
Long ago in the land of Egypt, the enslaved Hebrew people toiled under the iron fist of the Egyptian Pharaoh. Despite their toil, the Hebrew people grew in numbers and in strength, and this made the Pharaoh anxious. He ordered that all Hebrew babies should be killed. At this time, a young woman bore a son by the name of Moses. In order to save him, she set him afloat in a basket in the Nile River, where he was discovered by the daughter of Pharaoh. She rescued him. This Sunday morning, we ask ourselves this question, “Why did she do that?”
February 25, 2018
Good Friday is coming up in just about a month’s time. In the minds of some, it seems strange to call the day when Jesus is crucified “Good” Friday. In this Sunday’s sermon, we’ll explore some alternative names for this day.
February 4, 2018
For this sermon, we will use as the central text the famous story from the 8th chapter of the Gospel of John – “The Woman Caught in Adultery.” Although, whenever I read this, I can’t help thinking, “If there was a woman caught in adultery, shouldn’t there also be a man caught in adultery?” However, we know from the #metoo movement that, throughout history, it has been predominantly women who have suffered and been punished for the indiscretions of men!
January 28, 2018
During the first century, the Apostle Paul established new churches in cities surrounding the Mediterranean Sea – Philippi, Ephesus, Colossae, Thessalonica and in the region of Galatia. However, the most difficult of these churches was established in the city of Corinth. The church. in this multi-cultural and multi-religious city, had trouble understanding the new ethos of the Christian lifestyle. Whenever they encountered a problem, which was quite often, they would appeal to the Apostle Paul to “referee” their fight! In this sermon, we consider the question of Christian lifestyle and those factors which may help us to discern what style of living is most consonant with the teachings of Christ.
January 14, 2018
This Sunday’s Old Testament reading talks about God’s call to the prophet Samuel when he is a young boy. Samuel doesn’t know that it’s God who’s calling him. He thinks it may simply be a human voice. How does any one of us know when God is calling us? How, given all the noise and competing voices in our world, do we recognize the voice of God? Is it God? Is it an idea in my own head? Or is that just the noisy twitter account on my smartphone? As Christians, how do we recognize and respond to the “still, small voice of God” speaking at the centre of our soul?
January 7, 2018
The journey of the Magi to find the newborn infant King, is only one of many heroic quests upon which people have embarked over the course of human history. One recent daring endeavour was that of reaching the moon in the 1960s. This desire to reach for that which is just beyond our grasp, seems built into the human soul. Our Christian faith affirms this quality and invites us into new adventures of the spirit. This Sunday, we’ll consider this aspect of human nature and how we may be able to continue to express it in the course of living out our Christian faith in our own particular circumstances.
December 31, 2017
The Gospel of John has a very different way of telling the Christmas Story. It does not speak of Mary and Joseph, or the infant Jesus lying in a manger. The writer of this book pushes our back up against the wall of eternity. The author speaks of the pre-existent Christ who has been with God since the very beginning, but comes to dwell with humanity in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. In doing so, God shows us something of the divine nature, and creates within the human soul an insatiable hunger to know and understand God.
December 24, 2017
It’s fun at Christmas to remember Jesus as a baby, but eventually Jesus grows up. Following in the footsteps of Christ is not simply about the cute, loveable baby in the manger, but about living up to the life and mission of a mature Christian faith.
December 17, 2017
As Presbyterians we are not great believers in “the saints.” However, through his association with his Anglican wife Judy, the Rev. Wes Denyer has come to embrace one “saintly” tradition – the observance of St. Nicholas Day on December 6th. This Sunday, we’ll learn more about the life of St. Nicholas and why his passion for generosity and children has made him one of the best known Christmas characters of all time.
December 10, 2017
In the Gospel of Matthew, we’re told that Joseph had to make a decision about what to do when he discovered that Mary was pregnant. Would he still marry her? Would he make plans to set her aside quietly? Would he denounce her to the religious authorities? In his culture, the most common thing would be to publicly proclaim her guilt. What does Joseph do? What is the right thing to do? Is it possible that question still confronts us in morally ambiguous situations today? How do we “do the right thing” when God, self and culture are at odds about what that right thing might be?
December 3, 2017
In this sermon given on the first Sunday in Advent, the Reverend Wes Denyer asks, "Is it possible that the innkeeper in the story of the birth of Jesus has ended up with a bad reputation that he doesn’t deserve? Was it his fault that there was no room at the Inn? Did God forget to make a reservation for Mary and Joseph at the local Holiday Inn ... or is there a deeper and more profound reason why Jesus was born, not in the comfort of a hotel room, but out back in the stable instead?"
November 26, 2017
All of us struggle from time to time with the meaning of the terrible things that happen to us in life – the hurts, the accidents, the injuries, the losses, the pain inflicted upon us by others, and simple bad luck. How do these events impact our perspective on life? What effect do they have on how we judge our fellow human beings? Do we come at the world from a position of trust ... or suspicion? Do we see God’s hand at work in the circumstances of our life ... or not? In this sermon, these are the questions we will consider.
November 19, 2017
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages us to store up for ourselves treasures in Heaven. In fact, Jesus talked a great deal about how people of faith should relate to their material wealth. This Sunday we’ll consider how to understand a Christian’s relationship to his or her material possessions. How do we find the balance?
November 12, 2017
In the life of Jesus, and in our experience of God, we most often experience compassion, understanding and forgiveness, not the imposition of God’s authoritarian power harshly inflicted upon humanity. Maybe we have something to learn from that example.
October 29, 2017
Back in 1978 and 1979, Wes was a police officer with the Peel Regional Police force. When he left that position someone commented to him, “Well, I guess you're just shifting from enforcing one set of laws to a different set of laws." Is that what the Christian faith is all about? Is that the function of the church in our society? Did God send Jesus to live among us in order to establish the church as the interpreter and enforcer of divine law, threatening the violators of God’s law with hellfire and damnation for their transgressions? On the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation and in the light of Martin Luther’s life and theology, we’ll be considering these questions.
October 15, 2017
This sermon was given by Lt. Seaton Brachmayer who was "preaching for the Call" at Rosedale Presbyterian Church for the position of Assistant Minister. Seaton is a recent graduate of the Master of Divinity program at Knox College. His ministry focus is on pastoral care, preaching and discipleship. Born in South Africa, he lived in Malawi until he was nine years old, when his family moved to Canada, settling in Oshawa. He is fiercely proud to be a Canadian. Seaton grew up worshiping in different denominations including Baptist, Pentecostal and missionary housechurches. Seaton is a registered social worker and a lieutenant in the Canadian Army, where he serves as a chaplain candidate.
October 8, 2017
In a story we find in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus heals ten lepers while travelling in the “no man’s” land between Samaria and Galilee. That’s where the lepers are – excluded and ostracized. Jesus walks right into that “no man’s” land and heals the lepers. To Jesus, we are all beloved children of God. This story invites us to consider some questions:
October 1, 2017
In 2008, then President Barack Obama, introduced many of us to a painting by G. F. Watts entitled “Hope.” It’s the image of a woman sitting upon a globe, blindfolded, with an instrument in her arms that appears to have lost all of its strings ... but one. In this sermon, we consider how that picture, along with our faith, may be able to give us hope in 2017.
September 17, 2017
The Gospel of Luke tells a story about Jesus visiting the home of Mary and Martha in the village of Bethany. Even before Jesus arrives, the level of tension in the household may have been on the rise, but when he gets there, the tensions erupt into a full blown fight. Why did that happen, and is it possible we experience some of those same tensions today?
September 10, 2017
The church and the world seems more than ever to be a place of division, polarization and angry rhetoric. Instead of coming together to face the challenges encountered by our faith communities and our planet, people have separated themselves out into warring factions that often sabotage good will and frustrate effective action. In this Sunday’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus has some suggestions about how we might come together to realize God’s vision for us all.
September 3, 2017
Writer and theologian Tom Long says, "A life that is spent soothing the pain of the sick, caring for children in need, hammering nails in houses for those without shelter, sharing bread with the hungry, visiting those in prison, and denying oneself, may seem like a squandered life in the economy of a self-centered age, but in the storehouse of heaven, it is a lavish treasure." In this sermon we'll consider that comment in the light of the disciple Peter receiving the authority from Jesus to hold "the keys to the Kingdom," and how all of this intersects with "the good life" in 2017.
August 27, 2017
In this sermon, we consider the well known story of Moses being set afloat in the Nile River by his mother to save him from Pharaoh's decree that all Hebrew boy babies were to be killed. The story tells us of two girls, Moses' older sister and Pharaoh's daughter, who do not do what their parents tell them to do. Instead of doing what they're told to do, they do what is right! Their example might have something to teach us in our 21st century world about doing the "right thing" as opposed to continuing along with the way things have always been.
August 13, 2017
Sometimes as we move along through the journey of life, we find ourselves at moments which feel like a dead end – we’re not sure how we arrived there … and we’re not sure where to go from there. This can be our experience, and it was certainly the way Joseph (of the “coat of many colours”) must have felt when his brothers abducted him and threw him into a pit. But is it possible, that sometimes, the only way to arrive at the place God intends for us to be is by going through the pit?
June 4, 2017
The day of Pentecost is considered by many to be the birthday of the church. On this day, in the life of the early church, the Holy Spirit descends upon the disciples of Jesus. The Apostle Peter preaches a deep and profound sermon about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and thousands of people come to believe that the risen Christ is the Son of God. What was that early church like? What activities and beliefs did they hold to be of central importance? In this sermon, we consider how churches of today may be similar to that first century church.
May 28, 2017
More than 60 years ago, Theodore Seuss Geisel wrote a children’s book called “On Beyond Zebra.” In this book, one of the characters proclaims, “It’s high time you were shown, that you really don’t know all there is to be known!” In this week’s Old Testament reading, Abraham and Sarah discover God is calling them on beyond, to learn and explore new places and new ways of living. Perhaps for those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ, we will discover that God is forever and always calling us on beyond!
May 21, 2017
Throughout its history, there have been church leaders who have tried to use coercive tactics in order to manipulate people into compliance with their views. Sane and reasonable discussion of diversity within the Christian faith has sometimes been hijacked by those who completely and exclusively identify their own cause with the mind and will of God. Instead, let’s think about how we can maintain the unity of the church, while still respecting the different opinions and points of view which exist within our faith communities.
May 14, 2017
As we welcome eight of our young people as they join the church by Profession of Faith, we are all reminded that God invites us to know life in the spirit and wants us to experience a newness of life that challenges the way of the world. In this sermon, we remember how God desires that we live in freedom, letting our definition of success be born out of the imagination of God..
APRIL 30, 2017
This Sunday marks the beginning of our Legacy Giving Programme at Rosedale Presbyterian Church. Four thousand years ago, Abraham trusted in the promise of God for the future. As we stand at the beginning of this new millennium, the question to us is this: “Do we trust in the promise of God for the future of our church?” Our congregation has been in existence for over one hundred years as a beacon of faith, hope and love in the community of Rosedale. What can we do to ensure that it will continue to be here for future generations? That’s what we consider in this sermon, and that’s what we plan for as we introduce our new Legacy Giving Programme.
APRIL 16, 2017
The classical definition of comedy refers to a drama, whose central motif is the triumph over adversity, leading to a successful conclusion. So given that literary sense of the word … Easter is a comedy! However, since the earliest days of the Church, Easter has been understood as more than a comedy ... Easter has also been regarded as a joke … a supreme joke. The best joke in all the universe. For us, two thousand years later, it's not as easy to get the joke because we know the ending. There's no surprise. So this Sunday, in an effort to recover the surprise of Easter, we will travel two thousand years back in time to try and understand its impact for today.
APRIL 9, 2017
APRIL 2, 2017
In the 11th chapter of the Gospel of John, we read the story of Jesus resurrecting Lazarus, his good friend, from the dead. It’s a powerful story, reassuring us that God has power over both life and death. But could this story have a meaning that is more than literal? In our world today, many people seem to have lost their way in life. They’ve been hurt or disappointed. They’re tired, lonely or afraid. The courage and optimism of youth, and promise of life in the spirit, have been abandoned. Perhaps they have crawled broken and beaten into the grave of their hopes and dreams, the stone rolled over top of them – cut off from the land of the living. Maybe this Sunday’s Gospel story of resurrection has a message for them too.
MARCH 26, 2017
This sermon which looks at the long continuous story about a man born blind that we find in the 9th chapter of the Gospel of John. On a superficial level, the story is about a blind man to whom Jesus gives back his sight. On a deeper theological level, it’s about people who can see what’s really going on in our world, as opposed to those who are blind to injustice, oppression and a moral order that makes victims out of those who are already suffering and on the bottom rungs of society. The question at the heart of this Sunday’s Gospel reading is this, “What happens to us when God opens our eyes and we begin to really see?”
MARCH 19, 2017
As we proceed on our journey through Lent, we begin to glimpse, at the end of the road, the crucifixion of Christ. As we draw closer to Good Friday, we are forced to come face to face with the suffering of Jesus. How do we come into the presence of suffering? How do we react? What may give us strength in the face of our own suffering and the suffering of others? How do we make sense of it? These are the questions we explore and consider in this sermon.
MARCH 12, 2017
Is there something in your past you’d like to change – a better decision you could have made? And if you had, in what way would things be different now? This week’s Scripture reading is the story of Nicodemus who asks Jesus, “How can a person be born anew?” Is it possible to rise above our past circumstances into the light of new possibilities where the fullness of our human and spiritual potential may be reached? This is the question we consider in this sermon.
MARCH 5, 2017
Fresh from the waters of baptism, Jesus moves out into the wilderness where he is tempted by Satan. Although there were three separate temptations, they all represent an opportunity for Jesus to obtain worldly power over humanity – by bribery, by force and by magic. Jesus turns down all three of these ways in which he might control people, leaving us with a choice – to freely worship God or to turn our backs on the spiritual dimension of life. Is this freedom to choose a welcome opportunity or is it the gift nobody wants?
FEBRUARY 12, 2017
In this sermon, we consider how we are valued as human beings by God and how we may honour and recognize the unique humanity in each other. How do we decide what value to place on the life of another person? The teachings of Christ remind us that the value of a person’s life is rarely based on the qualifications or characteristics so often prized in our culture. God has created each one of us in the image of God’s divine likeness … we are God’s masterpiece!
FEBRUARY 5, 2017
JANUARY 29, 2017
The world and the church have become extremely polarized, with the two ends of the spectrum utterly opposed to the understanding and agenda of the other side. The church is often represented on television and radio as fundamentalist, judgemental and opposed to reason and science. Because of this, many people see the church as irrelevant, or worse yet, they see religion as the problem. Is there a middle ground for us to take, and what does that middle ground look like? This Sunday, and continuing on Sunday, February 5th, we will begin exploring some of these issues.
JANUARY 22, 2017
In a Pulpit Exchange with St. Andrew’s United Church on Bloor Street celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we welcomed the Reverend Neil Young to lead in worship here at Rosedale. His sermon explores what it means to be a disciple.
JANUARY 15, 2017
This is the first of a mini-series in which the Reverend Wes Denyer explores our relationship to scripture. The Bible is not a book written by a single author, but a collection of narratives, hymn lyrics, poetry, prophecies and letters written down over a period of several hundred years. People often find the Bible challenging and confusing to read, sometimes with different passages seemingly contradicting one another. In this series we will consider some of the ways in which the Bible comes to us in its present form, how we understand it, and, perhaps most significantly, how we might make it a living part of our faith today.
JANUARY 8, 2017
When the Magi went in search of the baby Jesus, they discovered that they needed help along the way. They sought that help through an audience with King Herod the Great – what might he be able to tell them about the birth of a newborn king? Although Herod pretended a sincere interest, he harboured a murderous intent. This left the Magi caught between the fear of Herod and the joy of the birth of the Christ child. However, being caught between fear and joy is not just a 2000 year old experience, but one which many of us have encountered in modern life as well.
DECEMBER 18, 2016
How do we capture the feelings of Christmas in a Worship Service on the Sunday before Christmas? What kind of feelings should we be experiencing? Is feeling "warm and sentimental" good enough, or do we let in other feelings - the kind that are tainted with the world's difficulties and tragedies? Do we come into the sanctuary hoping Christmas will allow us to escape the trouble in the world ... or do we come into the sanctuary hoping the message of Christmas is the key to resolving the troubles in the world? We'll consider some of those big questions in this sermon.
DECEMBER 4, 2016
In the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph is surprised to discover that Mary is expecting a child ... and he's not the father! However, in a dream, Joseph is reassured by God and told that Mary will give birth to a boy and that he should name the child Jesus. And so, Jesus grew up as the son of Joseph, a carpenter in Nazareth, but also in the lineage of King David - an important detail describing the Messiah in Old Testament prophecy. Jesus grew up as part of a family, with a loving father and mother, and with brothers and sisters. And it is from those rather ordinary roots that Jesus grew up to be "the light of the world."
NOVEMBER 27, 2016
The traditional topic of conversation for the first Sunday in Advent is not shepherds, wise men and the baby Jesus, but a focus on the future, and the hope for the return of Christ. Sometimes this topic is used to scare and threaten people - stories of earthquakes, violence and war dominate the discussion, complete with speculation about the soon to arrive "end times." A better way to approach this discussion may be to consider how we prepare ourselves for the return of Christ, whenever that day may come. In other words, how do we live today, in ways that will prepare us for God's coming Kingdom of joy, love and peace?
NOVEMBER 20, 2016
Does the universe make any sense? Does it have any purpose? Do we matter? Is there any way to know who we are and why we're here? These are questions we ask ourselves in the 21st century, but they are also questions that were asked by Christians in the first century city of Colossae in Asia Minor ... and the Apostle Paul gives them an answer.
NOVEMBER 13, 2016
When the angel Gabriel visited Mary to announce that she was to bear the Son of God, the angel called her "the favoured one." The favour of God does not mean you are God's favourite, it means God is doing you a favour in ways that change human life in unexpected and mysterious ways. Although we may prefer to live in the world of the "ordinary," God is still breaking through that thin veneer to intervene in our lives today.
NOVEMBER 6, 2016
The prophet Isaiah looks forward to a day when "we shall beat our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into pruning-hooks." This Sunday, we consider a story from the biography of Field Marshall Montgomery, and a story from the life of the Reverend Major David Rowlands, formerly minister of York Memorial Presbyterian Church in the west end of Toronto, and how these two stories shed some light on the hope spoken of in scripture - a day when "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore."
OCTOBER 30, 2016
In this sermon, the Rev. Wes Denyer ties together two stories in the Gospel of Luke and contrasts the different responses of two men who encounter Jesus: The Rich Ruler (18:18-30) and Zacchaeus the Tax Collector (19:1-10.) The stories serve as a reminder that ... what is impossible for people, is possible with God. Moreover, they might very well prompt us to ask, "Have we have allowed something in our life to stand between us and God?"
OCTOBER 23, 2016
In the Gospel of Luke 18:9-14, we find the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector praying in the Temple. This parable introduces us to the problem of righteousness, and then gives us two people, each of which presents a solution to the problem. One of those solutions works ... and the other one doesn't. In this sermon, we find out why.
OCTOBER 9, 2016
All too often the practice of prayer is seen as an opportunity to bring to God's attention our personal shopping list of requests, wishes and needs. What if we were able to see prayer in a new light - not as a way to manipulate the divine will or to make God do something for us, but simply as the opportunity to say thank you for the divine abundance we already enjoy? Is it possible that our society is so fixated on "having more," that we have lost the ability to live joyfully in the present moment? Are we all too often imagining some future time and place when life will be better, and missing out on the simple abundance of God provided for us each day? This Thanksgiving Sunday, let's consider how we may experience every moment of our lives as meaningful, simply because God is in it!
SEPTEMBER 25, 2016
This Sunday's Gospel reading tells us that when some infants and children wanted to come close to Jesus, the disciples tried to make them go away. Their idea of the Kingdom of God involved serious work and planning, and these children were simply in the way. However, Jesus saw these children as valuable and treasured members of God's Kingdom. This is more of Jesus' "topsy-turvy" version of the Kingdom - where the first shall be last and the last shall be first, and anyone who thinks they're on the top of the heap is in for a big surprise! As Wes shares the story of an early morning encounter with a one year old baby and his mother, we may learn something more about what makes us valuable in the eyes of God.
SEPTEMBER 11, 2016
This Sunday is the 15th anniversary of 9/11, and we remember the shock and grief experienced by so many people that day. However, the experience of grief is not confined to horrific terrorist attacks. We have all experienced grief in the loss of a loved one, and we may even find ourselves wondering,"Where is God?" in the midst of our sadness and loss. The writer of the 77th Psalm, in the midst of sorrow, wrote poetry expressing pain and anger, despair and hope. He wrote of the need for the presence of God in the midst of grief. This sermon explores how the words of Psalm 77 may still have much to teach us today.
AUGUST 31, 2016
A night out for dinner in Lyon, France, a delayed airline flight, the story of an Old Testament prophet protected by an army of angels, and Jesus healing two blind men in the city of Jericho - what does all that have to do with living the Christian life in 2016? Actually, quite a lot!
AUGUST 14, 2016
The Old Testament story of David going up against the Philistine giant Goliath seems like the story of a contest which is surely moving towards an unhappy ending...yet David is the one who wins the conflict! He wins by thinking creatively "outside the box." In doing so, he accomplishes that which seems impossible. Let's think about what can we learn from this story which will help us realize, in our own lives, the promise of the words of Jesus: "With God, all things are possible."
AUGUST 7, 2016
In discussing John 11: 1-44 in which Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, Rev. Wes Denyer discusses the difference between belief and trust and how, when it comes to the matter of commitment to Christianity, many of us are inclined to have more faith in one than the other.
Click here to listen to our archive of previous sermons.