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Once again next year I would like to preach a series of sermons in response to the question, themes and ideas put forward by the people in the congregation. During the month of December I am collecting your suggestions for what I should preach on. Once these suggestions have been collected, I will put them to a vote by the congregation during the month of January. The sermons will be preached during the four weeks before the beginning of Lent in 2014. Please give me your ideas for a sermon by responding to this post, by putting it in a box at the church or by email. (Please only one suggestion per person.)

Okay, this is pretty freaky.

Last Sunday I preached on Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus tells his followers that if they feed the hungry, clothe the naked and offer hospitality to the homeless, they actually have served him by doing such things.

I related that to some of the things that we do at St. Andrew's particularly to the things that happen on a typical Thursday when we welcome people to a free clothing centre, when we host the Cambridge Self-Help food bank and host the community for a Supper and Social.

This was the exact wording of the second last paragraph of my sermon:

"So, yes, I do declare it without reservation and without doubt. Jesus has been here this week. He may have stopped by at other times. In fact, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to encounter him before I leave today – maybe in one of you. But I know for sure that he was here on Thursday. I’m pretty sure that he will stop by next Thursday too."

So guess what happens tonight at the supper. One of the women who helps with the clothi…
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Okay, folks, I have some big news on the "Caesar's Census, God's Jubilee" front. My book continues to sell as an ebook on many retail sites but I have had far too many people asking how they can possibly obtain a printed copy that I have been persuaded to enter into an agreement to get the book printed through a print-on-demand publisher. The printed book will be available, within a day or two, athttps://tsw.createspace.com/title/4503502. It will also be sold at Amazon.com though that might take a day or two more. The list price is $9.99 US.

There is one big drawback to all this: the printed book will not be available on Amazon.ca or through any retailer in Canada which means that, if purchased, it must be shipped across the border which can be complex and expensive.

I will be ordering a box of books and paying the shipping for them. I will then distribute them at St. Andrew's Hespeler Presbyterian Church to anyone who orders one from me for $10 Canadian. Please le…
I am very pleased to announce that my book, is now available.

For the past decade or so, I have been working on a book in my scant spare time. It was a book that examined the story of the birth of Jesus as told in the Gospel of Luke and struggled with a number of historical puzzles that arise from it.
I have now finished this book and published it under the title, "Caesar’s Census, God’s Jubilee" and I want to take this opportunity to recommend it to you. It may give you some wonderful new perspectives on the Christmas story as you look forward to preaching on it and reflecting on it this year.
This is not a conservative book - not in its theology nor in its approach to the Bible - and I realize that some may not agree with some of what I say because of that, but it is a book that goes out of its way to try and respect the original message of the author of the Gospel of Luke and to take seriously the historical situation that Luke describes at the time of the birth of Christ…

Coming soon to an eBook vendor near you.

For the past decade or so, I have been writing a book in my spare time. The book sprang out of my general dissatisfaction with the traditional ways of telling and dramatizing the story of the birth of Jesus. In many ways, I find that the ways that we think of the story really do not honour the intentions of the original gospel writers - especially the writer of the Gospel of Luke.

I feel that we miss so much of what Luke was trying to communicate about Jesus because:

We have insisted on harmonizing the two accounts of the birth that we have (Matthew 1 and Luke 2) in a way that strips both of them of their unique perspectives on the meaning of the birth of Christ.We have not struggled in constructive ways with some of the problematic elements in Luke's story likeThe description of the census (which does not fit with what we know about Roman policy and practice).The reasons for the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem which are not sufficiently explained.The historical and political si…

I will bless her...

Genesis 17:15 - 16 (NRSV) 15God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” 

This morning I did a Lectio Divina (a meditative reading) on the above passage. When you read in a meditative fashion, God will often make certain words or phrases jump out at you because there is a personal message that you need to hear.

Today the word that jumped out at me was bless. I wondered if God might be seeking to bless me in some particular way -- if God knows that i need a blessing.

Of course, the particular blessing that God wanted to give to Sarah was a son -- and with the son a new identity as signified by the name change. I don't think God wants to give me that particular blessing (though the invitation to embrace a new identity in Christ is always something that God is working…

Which of the two did the will of his Father?

.... based on a recent email discussion with some colleagues.

An interpretation of Matthew 21:28 - 32
Two sons went to a Sunday worship service where their father, a minister, was preaching. The sermon that day was on the topic of the good news about Jesus Christ and how we ought to be willing to share that good news whenever an appropriate opportunity arises.
The first son came into the service and sat quietly and respectfully while he listened to every word. Afterwards he never mentioned where he had been that morning or what had been said.
The second son arrived at the service just after it began. As soon as he arrived, he took out his phone and checked in on foursquare (earning a few dirty looks from the people around him). A little bit later in the service, he took a picture of the worship band and tweeted it to his followers. During the sermon, he posted something his father said as his status on Facebook.
Which of the two do you suppose respected the words of his Father?

An Escapegoat Ritual

Recently I had a very interesting experience - something that had never happened before in my ministry. I had preached a sermon on the topic of the Day of Atonement in Ancient Israel which is described in Leviticus 16. If you want a reminder of the basic outline of the day, you can watch this St. Andrew's Stars version of the story:

The Day of Atonement

In my sermon I put particular emphasis on the Escapegoat portion of the ritual.

(I chose to use the word "Escapegoat" because the word "scapegoat" has taken on a very particular meaning in English. The word was invented by William Tyndale when he made the first translation of the Old Testament into English from the original Hebrew. He meant it to mean "the goat that escaped" but he simply dropped the initial "e" due to the very fluid spelling of the time.)

My suggestion was that the escapegoat ritual provided a means for the people to release some of the negative energy that builds up when peo…

Extended article for the Newsletter

I wrote an extra article for "Andrew's Voice," the newsletter of St. Andrew's Hespeler Presbyterian last week. But when the time came to put the newsletter together we ran out of space and I had to cut the article in half. I present the whole article here for those who are interested. The newsletter will soon be available at www.standrewshespeler.ca.
Now that’s a Good Question
This week, I had an old friend (not someone from St. Andrew's) contact me with some questions that had baffled her. Here is part of what she wrote:
"I was wondering if I could kind of ask for some advice or information from you? A friend of mine has been asking me about my beliefs and I don't know how to answer some of his questions. He brought up sin as a topic and asked how many times does God have to forgive you if you sin? How do you know you're forgiven? Does He already know your sin before you do it? If so, then why ask for forgiveness? “He also asked, if Jesus appeared to lo…

Scratch That.

Last week I shared some rambling thoughts about what I might preach about during Lent this year. After giving it a bit of thought I have pretty much abandoned those ideas.

This is mostly because of the great reactions that I got to my sermon last week. I preached about forgiveness and, as I explored the theme, I found myself digging deep into the Old Testament notions and practice of sacrifice. I realize how essential it is to understand where these kinds of concepts, like forgiveness, came from in the first place.

The fact of the matter is that when the early church tried to understand what the life and, especially, what the death of Jesus really meant, the first place they looked was to Old Testament practices and concepts. Jesus, in their reflections, became the sacrificial lamb, the scapegoat, the passover lamb and much more. How can we possibly think that we will be able to realize the true significance of what Jesus accomplished on the cross if we have misconceptions about the c…

Is it time to think about Lent?

I know exactly what you are going to say to me. Didn't we just make it through the Christmas season? Isn't Christmas actually not even over yet until the season officially ends on the sixth of January with the start of Epiphany?

That is all very true. But it doesn't change the fact that the season of Lent will begin just a little bit more than a month from now. I have considered mounting an appeal on the grounds that Easter is clearly coming far too early this year, but I understand that the scheduling is all tied up with other matters (something to do with full moons and solstices) and so I expect it will be denied.
So really, Lent will be upon us before we know it and so I am turning my thoughts to my preaching during that very important season. Today I had a bit of inspiration. I was thinking of the traditional practice associated with the season of Lent (mostly practiced by Roman Catholics) of "giving up" something for Lent. The idea is that you are supposed …