The Beginning of the Birth Pangs

Sermon for Sunday November 18, 2012

St. Stephen's Hornby

Baptism of Dawson William Michael Taylor

Readings: 1 Samuel 1:4-20, Mark 13:1-8

beginningOfBirthPangAs Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, 'Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!' Then Jesus asked him, 'Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.'

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 'Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?' Then Jesus began to say to them, 'Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, "I am he!" and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs. Mark 13:1-8

This is quite a gospel reading, especially for a baptism! It's the one set for today and will be read and preached upon in churches around the world. In studying this reading (in desperation, wondering how I could make it OK!) I found that it does have something important to say to us this morning, as we prepare to baptize Dawson William Michael Taylor, and welcome him into the family of God.

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Images of God

Sermon for Sunday October 21, 2012 St. John's Rockwood
21st Sunday after Pentecost
Readings: Job 38:1-7,34-41; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45

imagesofGodWhen I studied the readings for today I felt that they were asking us to consider how we understand God, who God is for us. How do we picture God? What is God's nature?

Many of us, at least of those my generation, were brought up with a picture of God. I mean a picture that could be outlined and coloured with crayons. God was a man. His age, his white skin and full beard gave an impression of power and authority. He was usually pictured sitting on a throne, or resting on a bank of clouds in the sky.

Yesterday I googled "images of God," just to see what I would find. What came up were many, many pictures of white men with beards, some surrounded by clouds. The most prominent image was from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo in the 16th Century—the one where God is reaching out his hand to touch the hand of Adam. Since this is (according to Wikipedia) "one of the most widely recognized images in the history of painting" I guess it's no wonder that our Sunday School teachers adopted it as the correct image of God to present to us.

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Wedding Reflection

For Becky Parker and Hunter Kangas, August 21, 2011

Amy with Hunter & Becky

It’s very unusual for me to offer a reflection when I officiate at a wedding.  But today my husband Fred and I are celebrating our 

40th wedding anniversary.  When I mentioned that to Becky and Hunter, they asked me to share whatever wisdom about marriage I might have gained in those 40 years.

Much of what I’ve learned has been summed up in the beautiful blessings just read for you by your mothers. I would express my advice to you like this:

Give one another space.  Our marriage is strong because we are both strong in ourselves. As the years went by we each needed room to grow and change as individuals, within the safety of our love for each other.

Support one another as you pursue your heart’s desires. Depending on how you count, I’ve had at least three careers in our 40 years together.  Fred, on the other hand, worked for the same employer his whole working life. Early on we travelled a lot, and then we had children.  Through it all we listened to each other’s dreams and tried our best to make them happen.

Live within your means.  Not taking on debt, except for houses and cars, gave us the freedom to do the things we wanted to do.  Because we had no debt, I was able to quit my great job working for Becky’s Uncle Jim and go back to school to study theology when I was 49!

Share laughter.  A good laugh, usually initiated by Fred, has been the light for us in many tough situations.

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YOU Feed Them

A sermon on Matthew 14:13-21 for the people of St. James Anglican Church, Fergus ON.  July 31, 2011

Even in the lazy, hazy days of summer, God gives me challenges.

One challenge this week was how to deal with this story of the feeding of the 5000.  The question of the factuality of this story.  Is this something that actually occurred?  Did Jesus somehow feed  20,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish (presumably already cooked)?  I don’t know whether this is a factual story, whether this miracle actually occurred in the way it’s presented in the gospels.  I know it was a story of great importance to the people of the early church.  It’s the only miracle story that is told in all four gospels.  And Matthew tells it twice, in two different versions.  In the one we heard this morning 5000 men are fed, as well as women and children.  In the other version, 4000 men are fed.  No matter what happened, it was an important story.  A story illustrating a truth about God.  It teaches us about Jesus’ compassion and God’s abundant caring for God’s people.  And it teaches us about our role in that compassion and caring.

Rosemary Radford Reuther is a highly regarded bible scholar.  Her interpretation of this story suggests that not everything that happened was actually written down.  She asks us to think about the women, who are not even counted in the story.  Would mothers and wives have gone to a wilderness place without bringing food for their families?  Highly unlikely.  When Jesus told the people to sit down on the grass and then blessed his food, the women also brought out their food.  Everyone shared and there was more than enough for all.  So it wasn’t the production of food that was the miracle, it was the sharing and the community that formed during the sharing.  Reuther says that the women probably took away those 12 baskets of leftovers and used them to feed those who were too ill or too old to follow Jesus into the wilderness.  And so it was that those who were held to be of no account, who weren’t even counted, worked with Jesus to feed the multitude.

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The Ego and the Law of Love

A sermon for St. John's Anglican Church, Rockwood, ON

July 3, 2011

Scripture:  Romans 7:15-25; Matthew 11:16-19,25-28

Our epistle this morning is the famous reading from Paul where he ruminates on the foibles of human nature.  "I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  ...  I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do."

On a beautiful long weekend like this, on Canada Day weekend, I had in mind to preach something light and airy.  A sort of "summer sermon."  Why someone thought this reading was a good choice for the first Sunday of July is beyond me.  But having said that, I think this reading is important and I am intrigued by it.  So I’m going to preach about it and leave the Canada Day celebration for the kids talk.

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  Amy Cousineau, M. Div, M.Sc, B.A.Sc

  Anglican Priest, Diocese of Niagara
  Graduate of the Haden Institute/
  Mount Carmel Training Program for
  Spiritual Directors