"All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability." (Acts 2:4) On the Day of Pentecost we heard the Scriptures read in six languages-- Arabic, French, Gaelic, German, and English. You can hear the reading of Acts 2:1-21 and Philippians 4:4-7 below. There's a sermon there, too.
In a sermon on Philippians 2:1-13 Laurence reflects on the Apostle Paul’s call to Christians to be like-minded and “have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.” Does this mean our minds must be set like concrete? Paul says the mind of Christ is also the nature of God, revealed to us in humility. In fact, we worship, serve, and depend on a God who refuses to act like a god!
The Apostle Paul is in prison in Rome. He believes he's there for the "defense and confirmation" of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He hopes that means he will be able to preach to Nero and then be free to complete his mission by going as far west as the Empire goes (Spain). He also knows it's likely he will remain in jail until Nero decides he should be executed. So it could be that his suffering, endurance, and death will be his witness of faith. He uses his time well, composing letters to congregations he has visited. Through these letters he shares, with great passion what he believes is essential for the present and future of Christ's disciples. We read the first words of his letter to the Philippians, Philippians 1:1-18.
In a sermon on Paul's encounter with the lovers of words in Athens (Acts 17:16-31) Laurence reflects on the horrific events of Monday, April 23 when a man driving a van killed ten people and injured 16 others in Willowdale, a peaceful, multicultural neighbourhood in the north of Toronto. Laurence focuses on a definition of terrorism that includes the terrorism of words and images, and the power of words and images to influence vulnerable people to do terrible things. What does this have to do with Paul in Athens? Listen and find out.
Paul and Silas are imprisoned in Philippi. During the night an earthquake shakes all the cell doors off their hinges. All the shackles and stocks are open. But no one runs away. Certainly not Paul and Silas. In a sermon on Acts 16:16-34 Laurence reflects on the many ways the Gospel leads to liberation.
Sermon on Saul's encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. Reading is Acts 9:1-19. Laurence refers to a series of pictures on the screens, including the images below from the Italian master Parmigianonini and Paul McDonald's collection of photographs of Glenview's stained glass windows.
In a sermon for the Second Sunday of the Easter season Laurence reflects on the story of "Doubting" Thomas. Does Thomas deserve the name we've given him through every Christian generation? Thomas professes faith in the risen Jesus, calling him "My Lord and my God". He can only do that because he has seen and touched the wounds in Jesus' body. Does that mean our Lord and God is wounded, too? Text is John 20:19-31.
Laurence refers to the April 6 bus crash, in which 14 team members, coaches, and associates of the Humboldt, SK Broncos hockey team were killed, along with their bus driver. Another 14 young men were injured. He also shares a prayer the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada wrote and posted on social media in response to the tragedy. (Quoted below)
In John's story of the day of resurrection, Mary Magdalene goes to where Jesus was buried and meets someone she first thinks is the cemetery gardener. She realizes the man is Jesus, risen and alive, when he calls her by name. First, though, he asks her two questions: Why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?. Laurence asks those questions in his sermon reflecting on John 20:1-18.
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.