In a sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent Laurence reflects on the three sided conversation that takes place as Jesus stands before Pilate and the angry crowd of Judeans outside Pilate's court. In a moment of high drama the people shout to Pilate, "We have no king but Caesar!" Jesus hears it, too. Reading is John 19:1-16a.
In a sermon reflecting on events on the night Jesus was arrested, Laurence talks about the natural human fear that lads Peter to deny that he is a disciple of Jesus. There are times when fear takes hold of us, and we lose our hold on faith. But God doesn't let go of us. Even Peter's denials can't sever his connection to Jesus. Reading is John 18:15-27.
In a sermon based on the story of Jesus at a wedding in Cana of Galilee, Laurence reflects on Jesus' transforming presence in all of life. Jesus "hallows and beautifies" all relationships, not just marriage. Jesus shares in the joy of all celebrations, not just weddings. Laurence begins by sharing his experience of two very different marriage practices in India in 2014. Reading is John 2:1-11.
In a sermon reflecting on John 1:35-51 Laurence focuses on the story of Jesus' first followerss, as John's Gospel tells it. Jesus asks some disciples of John the Baptist, "What are you looking for?" They ask, "Where are you staying?" Jesus replies, "Come and see." As is typical of John's Gospel, every word in that exchange is significant, carrying more than one meaning. Laurence chooses "stay", which has also been translated as "abide". The first disciples are interested in where they will stay for the night if they go with Jesus. They're also asking about his whole life, and the source of his life. Can they share in that life? Jesus says, "Come and see." (Laurence's "next job" after he retires will not be "Social Media Influencer", though he will likely continue to use social media. He'll also keep on doing his best to influence people for Jesus.)
In a sermon for the Second Sunday in Advent Laurence reflects on Ezekiel 37:1-14 and Luke 1:26-38, two texts we don't often hear together. Both remind us of God's way of creating new life where all human hope is lost, where human efforts haven't succeeded, and where no human seeds have been planted.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter to people who had just been marched 1500 kilometres to a strange land. He told them to accept their fate, dig in, and prosper. They would be in exile for a generation or more. Laurence draws this message from the text: When you find yourself in a place you didn't, couldn't choose... When you look around and all you see is strangeness and strangers... The best thing you can do is be a good neighbour. Reading for the day: Jeremiah 29:1,4-14.
Laurence refers to an article in the Jerusalem Post, reporting on an archeological discovery on the life of the exiles. He tells the story of Peace by Chocolate, a business founded by Syrian refugees in Nova Scotia. He also refers to the rise of white race rage in North America and Europe and an incident on the University of Toronto campus earlier this month.
In a sermon reflecting on Isaiah 9:1-7 and John 8:12, Laurence offers a way to read from the Hebrew prophets that locates the prophets in a time and a place, but allows us to carry their words into our time and place, in continuity within the community of faith from the prophets' days to ours. Christians can see the truth of Isaiah's words as Jesus fulfills them, without having to believe Isaiah had nothing to say to his community because he was really talking about Jesus. Isaiah's declaration that light will surely dawn in darkness is echoed in Jesus' words: "I am the light of the world. Whoever believes in me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Amos was a humble shepherd and "dresser of sycamore trees" when God called him to leave the land and take up a prophetic ministry. Amos' sermons include beautiful evocative images. Like justice rolling as an ever-flowing stream through a thirsty land. Laurence connects the image of the stream to the difficult but necessary process of establishing right relationship between Canadian Churches and Indigenous Canadians. He refers to a recent lecture by the Rev. Dr. Margaret Mullin, "Reconciliation is Negotiating the Rapids Together" Reading for the day: Verses from Amos, chapters one and five.
In a sermon on the first two tales in the great story of David, from 1 Samuel 16, Laurence challenges people who don't believe there's anything about politics in the Bible, and there are no contemporary connections between our time and the time of David and all the kings of Israel and Judah.
"Nec tamen consumebatur" is not a new character on "Game of Thrones". It's Latin for the phrase "Yet it was not consumed". The phrase has special meaning for Presbyterians, though we don't think about it much these days. In a sermon on the story of God's call to Moses through a bush that was on fire but didn't burn up, Laurence reflects on the reasons many Christians in the past took the burning bust as an important symbol, and what it can mean for Christians today. The reading is Exodus 2:23 - 3:15; 4:10-17.
Abraham and Sarah's grandsons, Isaac and Rebekah's sons, Esau and Jacob are fraternal twins. Esau was born first, but not by much. Jacob tricks Esau into giving up his birthright, then tricks Isaac into giving him the blessing that really belongs to Esau. According to the Genesis storytellers God has favoured Isaac all along, and chooses him to be the father of Israel! Reading is three episodes from Jacob's story: Genesis 27:1-4, 15-23, 28:10-17.
The story of "The Binding of Isaac" (Genesis 22:1-14) is an important part of Jewish tradition and worship. Muslims tell a similar story about Abraham and Ishmael. The strange tale is in the Christian canon of scripture. What are we to make of it today? Laurence reflects on the story with the help of some Jewish commentators and one Danish philosopher. He also refers to a Presbyterian outreach mission in Toronto, ARISE Ministry
Laurence suggests a way of reading the creation stories in Genesis that looks beyond concerns about science and history that often keep us from reading them. One thing they tell us is that God has endowed us with creativity and freedom, and invites us to share in God's ongoing creativity. Text is the first creation story, Genesis 1:1 - 2:4.