Westminster-St.Paul's Presbyterian Church


You will require Acrobat Reader to view the Sermons.
Its a free plug-in from Adobe.

"Testimony" Preached on January 8, 2006

This sermon follows the story of the Gerasene who is possessed by a legion of demons.  Jesus sends the unclean spirits into a herd of pigs, who quickly rush over a cliff to their destruction at sea.  At first sight, the dramatic story may seem to have little to do with us, but we all know people, in fact we are all ourselves people, who suffer from having our essential self entangled with something corrupt.  This corruption (sin) leads to behaviour which is mad, addicted and imprisoned.  Jesus appears in the life of the man from Gerasa as one uniquely able to separate out – to redeem – the essential goodness from the corruption with which it has become entangled.  Having known such an experience of liberation, we are left to testify of it to others.  Sometimes Jesus has no other way of reaching the environments in which we find ourselves placed, except through our testimony.

For the scripture reading and full sermon text - click here  


“Put new wine into fresh wineskins.”  Preached on January 1, 2006 New Years Day

The imagery of spilt wine is violent.  When the newness of Jesus, confronts what is old, the encounter is always violent (e.g. Jesus’ confrontation with the scribes over the Sabbath).  The sermon considers the Sabbath command from its two sources, Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, and concludes that Jesus does not “break” the Sabbath; he honours its intention while challenging its outer observance.  He teaches, following Deuteronomy, that Sabbath is kept, when people receive mercy (eg. the hungry disciples being allowed to gather food, the man’s withered hand being healed).  The scribes had turned the Sabbath from a gift of God’s grace for human refreshment, into an exacting rule, whereby they censured and controlled others.  We, in our fear of newness, do the same thing.  Can we give up our love of control long enough to experience what lies ahead in 2006 as God’s gift?  

For the scripture reading and full sermon text - click here  


“Incarnation” - Preached on December 25, 2005 Christmas Day

This sermon explores the meaning of “incarnation” – the miracle whereby the holy God of the Old Testament, who is Spirit and not Body – takes on a body and all the conditions of human existence, summarized as “flesh.”  “Flesh” entails fragility, dependence and susceptibility to suffering and death.  “Flesh” and mortality in particular, became a condition of human existence through the first sin.  God takes  “flesh” into himself for two reasons: to communicate with creatures of flesh (self disclosure) and to be able to suffer and to die (atoning sacrifice), thus releasing and raising our humanity.  As the Church Fathers put it: “He became what we are in order that we might become what he is.”

For the scripture reading and full sermon text - click here


Under Wraps - Preached on December 18, 2005

This sermon is about the so-called “messianic secret” in Mark’s gospel.  Despite Jesus’ attempts to keep his messiahship “under wraps,” it is a secret which cannot be contained.  His works of deliverance and healing show him as the coming ruler, promised in the Old Testament.  Even when Jesus’ identity as the messiah is disclosed, the means by which he will deliver Israel are still obscure.  He will deliver Israel not according to popular expectation, but with a spiritual deliverance, through death and resurrection.  The reason Jesus may want to dampen acclamations of his messiahship, is that he needs a chance to re-educate people’s expectations.

For the scripture reading and full sermon text - click here


“Baptised in Fire” - Preached on December 11, 2005

This sermon is about the Christian interpretation of the prophecy of Malachi which says that Elijah will return before the fiery day of the Lord comes.  Christians believe that Elijah – the forerunner of the “day of the Lord” – indeed did come in the person of John the Baptist, and that the “day of the Lord” also did come, in the advent of Jesus Christ.  John the Baptist says of Jesus that he will baptise his followers “in the Holy Spirit and with fire.”  This is what we believe Jesus does do, as we, his church, baptise with water.  The Holy-Spirit-spark which is placed within those who are baptized purifies them and leads them to true spiritual worship of God and right Christian living, if  the spark is kept alive by the person to whom it is given, in the context of a community of faith.   

For the scripture reading and full sermon text - click here pdf file


“God’s Judging, Saving Word”* - Preached on December 4, 2005

What is the Christmas gift for which Advent prepares us?  Salvation.  But we can only appreciate Jesus as a “Saviour,” sent from God, if we appreciate the fact that God is also our Judge, and that we stand in need of a Saviour.  Advent self-examination prepares us for Christmas joy.  If Christmas emphasizes the good news that the Saviour has come, then Advent emphasizes the fact that God’s judgment is impending – hence all the admonitions to “keep alert” and “stay awake.”  God judges us not according to how we measure up against the neighbours, but according to the standard of the perfect humanity seen in Jesus Christ.  God will judge us according to how far we have progressed with the task God has left for us to do.  The good news is that God’s judgment cannot be separated from his salvation.  Jesus reveals both truth and grace. 

For the scripture reading and full sermon text - click here pdf file


“The Waiting Game” - Preached on November 27, 2005

This sermon is about the counter-cultural challenge which the season of Advent presents to the church – to wait, in a world addicted to instant gratification. The focus of Advent is on expecting Christ’s first and second coming. Between these two “advents” of Christ, our instructions are to pray, to work and to watch – activities which relate more to the absence of Christ than to his presence. The Lord’s Supper expresses the tension between the “already” and the “not yet” by giving us a Christ who is really present in and through the bread and the wine, yet who is also really absent (or not yet fully present), since the whole meal is aimed at increasing our appetite for the “marriage supper of the Lamb.”

For the scripture reading and full sermon text - click here pdf file


“God and money” - Preached on November 20, 2005

This sermon is about the rich young man who is unable to relinquish his possessions to become Jesus’ follower.  The rich young man looks like a good candidate for discipleship – earnest and upright – but he lacks one thing: an open-handedness with respect to his wealth.  What this really indicates about him is 1. a lack of faith or willingness to rely totally on God and 2. a lack of love for his neighbour beyond what is required of him by law.  Such faith and love are gifts of the Spirit.  They signal our maturity in the Christ.  God is in control of our maturation: what is impossible for mortals is possible for God.  But he does use challenges to move us from stage to stage in that process.  What is God challenging us to commit?  What do our spending habits reveal about the directions in which our hearts are already committed?

For the scripture reading and full sermon text - click here. pdf file

“Deliver us from Evil” - Preached on November 13, 2005

This sermon looks at the horrifying picture of the “end-times” violence which Jesus draws in Mark 13.  Some of what he predicts (eg. the destruction of the temple) can be seen as accomplished in the first century, but his picture is of a context that still has relevance for our world with its wars and rumours of wars.  There is no prescribed policy for Christian faithfulness in these times of testing.  Some Christians have felt faithfulness consists in non-violent resistance and others have argued that it consists in the necessary use of disciplinary force in the defense of justice.  Whatever the response: whether to fight against the foe, or to work positively for peace and justice, desperate times call for total engagement from Christians, not neutrality and not indifference.

For the scripture reading and full sermon text - click here. pdf file


“A New Family” - Preached on October 23, 2005 prior to two Baptisms and Professions of Faith at Westminster-St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church.

This sermon suggests that the Christian stance vis-à-vis the family is more complicated than mere endorsement of “family values.”  Jesus redefines the family by distancing himself from those to whom he is biologically tied and emphasizing his adopted fraternity with “whoever does the will of God.”  The sin of Jesus’ family may be that they think he is theirs.  There is only so much that our natural families can give us (though God in sending Jesus into a natural family does not allow us to despise these gifts at all).  After that, our children belong to God and to the family, which God’s Only True Son creates around himself.  It is this transition from a natural family into the supernatural family of God that baptism celebrates.

For the scripture reading and full sermon text - click here. pdf file


“God’s Fruitful Word” - Preached on October 9, 2005 - Thanksgiving Sunday

This sermon follows Jesus’ first parable, the parable of the Sower.  The seed is God’s Word.  God’s word means: the promise of God, the message of the kingdom, the good news which is Jesus himself, and the record of all these things in the Bible.  The seed: God’s word, is programmed to bear the fruit of faith, hope and loving reverent obedience – automatically.  When it doesn’t the fault is not with the seed but with the soil.  We are sometimes hard ground – hard hearted, skeptical.  We are sometimes shallow ground – individualistic, insufficiently rooted in Christian community to go the distance.  Sometimes thorns choke out the good growth – ie we are materialistic and in our distractedness, forget God.  Jesus’ diagnosis of what impedes the word’s fruitfulness is 2000 yrs old but as relevant today as ever.

For the scripture reading and full sermon text - click here. pdf file


“He ate with sinners” - Preached on October 2, 2005 - World Communion Sunday

This sermon is about the way in which Jesus, celebrity though he is, consistently chooses to place himself among the poor and the despised – even to the point of eating from their table.  The Scriptures this week are of a leper who is cleansed, of a paralyzed man, identified as a sinner, who is healed, and of Levi, a hated tax collector, who is invited to become one of Jesus’ disciples.  When questioned about keeping table-fellowship with Levi Jesus replies “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”  If we can recognize ourselves in that call issued to sinners, then we are welcome at the Lord’s Table.

For the scripture reading and full sermon text - click here. pdf file


“Son of God” - Preached on September 25, 2005

This sermon deals with the fact that although Jesus wields all the power of God – over nature, over illness, over demons, over death – he does so only as the “Son” of God.  Jesus’ son ship means that he is pursuing not his own will, but, in all his ministry, is acting obediently to the will of his heavenly Father.  It is as he arises from prayer to the Father that he shows the most certainty about the shape his ministry must take.  If even Christ is obedient to God, and uses his life to serve the will of God, what does this indicate about the Christian calling?  Simon’s mother-in-law gives us a model of Christian response: she serves.

For the scripture reading and full sermon text - click here. pdf file


“Jesus Christ” - Preached on September 18, 2005

This sermon deals with the authority of Jesus Christ.  The first chapter of Mark’s gospel presents Jesus as one authorized by the Divine Voice at his baptism, and as one whose authority both the crowds, hearing his teaching, and the demons, fleeing at his command, experience and acknowledge.  The question is do we acknowledge the authority of Jesus Christ in our lives?  If God says “I shall be known in Jesus Christ” we look vainly for other definitions of God.  We are to look to Christ, the one the Father indicates.

For the scripture reading and full sermon text - click here. pdf file