This sermon, reflecting on Psalm 150, ends the first Summer Sermon Series. Psalm 150 also concludes the Book of Psalms. It calls us, and "everything that breathes" to praise the Lord in 13 different ways that all add up to a spectacle of sound, sight, and sensation that serves no earthly purpose. Laurence begins the sermon talking about the giant yellow duckie that visited Toronto over the Canada Day weekend.
Laurence begins his reflection by comparing Psalm 30, and other psalms like it, to the familiar hymn "Amazing Grace". The story behind Psalm 30 is probably quite similar to John Newton's story, and the experience that led him to write "Amazing Grace".
The Prayers of the People for July 2 are included below.
In a sermon on Psalm 23 Laurence reflects on the beautiful imagery in this much-loved poem. Israel's God is shepherd-Lord for the individual and the nation. The Lord is a constant, guiding presence and a gracious host. The psalmist discovers that God's goodness and mercy are always on his tail, even and especially when he forgets to look for them.
In a sermon for the Day of Pentecost Laurence reflects on the meaning of Pentecost for the individual believer today. Text is Galatians 5:16-26. Laurence begins by comparing the Apostle Paul's image of Flesh versus Spirit to the interest in zombies and speculation about a zombie apocalypse that has given rise to many zombie-themes movies and TV shows.
In a sermon reflecting on Galatians 3:6-9, 23-29 Laurence takes the distinctions Paul mentions in 3:28 (Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female) as examples of "assigned identities". Paul doesn't mean that the water of baptism washes away what it means to be Jewish or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. But the identities that others assign to each of those distinctions don't disqualify anyone from following Jesus and sharing life in the church. Laurence begins the sermon with the story of Trevor Noah and refers to Noah's book, Born a Crime.
In a sermon reflecting on Paul's Letter to the Galatians 1:13-17; 2:11-21 Laurence asks "What does a Christian look like?" Surrounded by people who wear outward signs of their religion and way of life, how do Christians stand out? As Paul argues so forcefully, outward observance of rule and ritual doesn't guarantee our salvation. But what we do, how we demonstrate our faith is still important. He begins by talking about the Maritime Bhangra Group, Sikh men from Halifax who perform for charity. He also mentions CBC journalist Brian Stewart.
In a sermon based on the story of the first big decision made by the First Church of Jerusalem, Laurence draws our attention to the deeply-held beliefs we all have, and how they can direct our actions in ways we may not recognize. He identifies the difference between reaction and response. The text is Acts 15:1-18. Laurence also quotes from this article by psychologist Matt James.
In a sermon on John 21:1-14, Laurence reflects on the story of the risen Jesus' appearance on a beach in Galilee. Seven of his friends are offshore, in a fishing boat. Jesus directs them toward a miraculous catch of fish. In order to catch the fist, the disciples have to change positions and move to the side of the boat they've never fished from. They have to learn a new way to be, move, and fish. Laurence quotes from two books by Brian McLaren, the church on the other side (now out of print) and The Great Spiritual Migration.
In a sermon for Good Friday Laurence invites us to reflect on the presence of the cross, an instrument of death, in our worship. He says the cross and the death of Jesus call us to healthy Death Awareness.
Laurence quotes this article and refers to the work of Dr. Robert Firestone. He also points to the Celtic cross on Glenview's Communion Table and this window, in the west transept of the church. (Photo credits: Paul McDonald)
In a sermon based on two stories of Jesus in Jericho, from Luke 18:35 - 19:10 Laurence invites us to hear the tales of the blind beggar at the city gate and the tax collector up the tree in the town square. Did the beggar already have saving faith when he met Jesus? Was Zacchaeus already a good and generous man when Jesus saw him out on a branch and went home with him?
Laurence begins the sermon telling part of the story of Fiona Stewart-Darling, a Church of England priest who is a Chaplain to the business and financial community at Canary Wharf in London. You can read an interview with Fiona here.
Laurence's sermon reflects on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. It's sometimes called "Dives and Lazarus". "Dives" means "rich man". He doesn't have a name in the story. In fact Lazarus, a poor man whose ironic name means "God helps", is the only character in any of the parables who has a name. He isn't the Lazarus we meet in John's Gospel when Jesus calls him out of his grave. This Lazarus dies and stays where he's planted, with Father Abraham in Heaven. "Dives" also dies and he's surprised to discover where he's planted for eternity. This story gives the gap between rich and poor an unexpected twist. Reading is Luke 16:19-31.
In a sermon for Transfiguration Sunday Laurence reflects on the purpose of mountaintop experiences in our lives. He begins with Lady Gaga's song, "The Edge of Glory" to describe the experience of Jesus' first disciples. Jesus took three of them up on a mountain, where they got to look beyond the edge of glory and see more of who Jesus was than they had ever seen before. Laurence quotes from Col. Chris Hadfield's book, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth to illustrate the power of a mountaintop experience to change us, and send us back down to live everyday life in a way that changes the world. Gospel for the day is Luke 9:28-45.