Sermon by Rev. Mary Fletcher for Parkview United Church, Jan. 29, 2017. Sermon Topic: Wisdom Speaks!


Sermon: Wisdom Speaks! January 29, 2017

What is wisdom?

“My boy,” said the store owner to his new employee, “wisdom and integrity are essential to the retail business. By ‘integrity’ I mean if you promise a customer something, you have got to keep that promise – even if it means we lose money.”

“And what,” asked the teenager, “is wisdom?”

“That,” answered the boss, “is not making any stupid promises.”

Wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, good judgment, common sense – making use of our knowledge to make decisions that enhance our lives in a positive way.

This word “wisdom” comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “to see.” Which is why we often say “I see” when we understand something.

The author Mark Twain, who wrote Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, once told the tale of a cat that sat on a hot stove lid. That experience taught the cat never to sit on a hot stove lid again. But further, that cat never sat on a cold stove lid either. Experience told the cat that that particular stove lid was hot, but it then assumes that all stove lids are hot. Wisdom would tell the cat to ask other cats if this were true. The moral of this tale, what Mark Twain wants us to grasp, is that by sharing our tales of experience, we develop wisdom. We may assume that something is right, but in sharing our experiences, we gain another perspective, expanded knowledge – we become wiser.

For Christians, our wisdom is expanded in the sense that we recognize both worldly wisdom and Godly wisdom. What does the world say? What does God say? They often don’t lead us to the same conclusion. Our perspective may change. The world may tell us to hoard all our possessions in case anyone tries to take them from us. God tells us to give things away to help other people.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1: “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? And in 1 Cor. 3, further verses on wisdom tell us: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’ and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’”

As followers of Jesus, we know that many of his actions were not wise as the world judges. He could have easily avoided his time of terrible torture and death by hiding away or leaving the area. Or, by performing a miracle, he could have overcome the Romans and Jewish authorities. But he did none of these things. In his wisdom, Jesus realized that what was needed was obedience to the will of God, his heavenly Father. We have read this morning in 1 Cor. 1:

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – to nullify the things that are… It is because of him [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”

People in Jesus’ day didn’t recognize him for who he was. God’s salvation come to earth. Even after Jesus was crucified, dead and buried, and after he rose from the dead, many still didn’t recognize who he was or what his ministry was about. Who was Jesus? “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” was the thinking expressed of that area in Galilee (John 1: 46). Wasn’t Jesus just an ordinary man of lowly birth, with no riches, no noble family, no political influence, no high status, an itinerant preacher wandering the countryside despised by the Jewish religious leaders…? Jesus, “our righteousness, holiness and redemption” as our scriptures say? The wisdom of God in Jesus Christ turned earthly wisdom upside-down.

Now, on many levels it can be detrimental for us to abandon earthly wisdom – it works very well in many situations – but there are times when we know deep in our hearts that a different response is called for. That’s when we need to seek some help from God in how to approach things. Fortunately, all we have to do is ask, as the apostle James reminds us in his book:

James 1: 5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

When we genuinely and sincerely ask for this help, we can be sure that in some way we will receive it. Maybe we will have an insight into a different way of handling things.

Two children were afraid they would be late for school. One said, “Let’s kneel down and pray to God that He may help us not to be late.” The other child offered a different solution: “No, let’s run and pray at the same time.”

If we are struggling with things in our lives, uncertain how to view situations or people, looking for some clarity and direction, it is definitely a good idea to ask God to share some Godly wisdom with us. Let’s start there. The Spirit of Christ is alive and well and with us – that is why he rose from the dead – even death couldn’t restrain him. Jesus lives with us forever. So, in our search for wisdom, let’s ask God our Father/Mother, Jesus God’s Son, and the Holy Spirit who intercedes for us, to guide us, direct our thoughts and actions, and help us be wise. Godly wise. For God knows in God’s wisdom what is good for us, and God wants the best for us.


Quiet Meditation Time: is there some wisdom you would like to ask from God?

Sermon by Rev. Mary Fletcher for Parkview United Church, Jan. 22, 2017. Sermon Topic: Come and See

john baptst and jesus

SERMON: Come and See John 1: 29 – 42 January 22, 2017

PRAYER: O Lord, speak in this place we pray, in the calming of our minds

and in the longing of our hearts, by the words spoken and in

the thoughts that we form. Speak, O Lord, for your servants listen.


We often describe ourselves as “followers of Jesus.” That’s an interesting choice of words. We could simply be “admirers of Jesus,” or “listeners of Jesus,” but instead we are often characterized as “followers.” It is a simple word – “follow” – we all know it so well, and it seems almost foolish to look it up in the dictionary. But I did. One source actually offered 13 different variations of the meaning of “follow.” It’s not so simple a word as we may think! One definition describes “follow” as accepting “guidance, command, or leadership.” But its basic, simple meaning is “to go after” someone or something.

John the Baptist had his own followers, his own disciples. A disciple is someone who accepts and follows a teacher or a doctrine. John was baptizing people at the Jordan River with a group of his believers gathered there. John suddenly makes some remarkable statements about a strange man walking towards them. “Look,” says John, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” What does John mean by this expression, they wonder? In Jewish tradition, animals were sacrificed in the temple as substitution for people’s sins. These animals were unblemished ewes or lambs. For John to call this stranger the “Lamb of God” could imply several meanings, but the image of sacrifice must have come to the disciples’ minds. And John the Baptist continues to say: “This is the One I meant when I said: ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” What a puzzling statement! What on earth did that mean? John testifies: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him…I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God!” All of these statements are amazing declarations. What did John the Baptist mean? Two disciples with John are intrigued – their interest is caught – and they want to learn more about the stranger.

So, they follow Jesus. He sees them. “What do you want?” he asks. Have you noticed that often when Jesus meets and interacts with people, he asks that very question? He doesn’t immediately give answers or responses that people are after. Jesus most often asks the question: “What do you want?” “Rabbi, where are you staying?” ask the disciples Andrew and we think John, the author of this gospel. They seek the company of this stranger. They want to learn more about Jesus, this Rabbi teacher, this “Lamb of God” as John the Baptist called him. Jesus offers the two disciples direction: “Come, and you will see.”

We’ve all had that feeling in our lives when we think: “Oh, that looks interesting. It might be just the thing for me. I’ll check it out.” But sadly, the time to examine this new thing is quite often swallowed up in the daily chores and daily grind of our every-day living. We get distracted – we need to accomplish so much! The good idea which caught our attention is put on the back burner, where it sits getting hard and brittle as time goes on, until one day it’s so dry, it just blows away.

“He who hesitates, is lost,” goes the famous quotation.

There is a true story about an evangelist named Solomon Ginsburg who, in the early 1900’s, was on mission work in South America. After a long and tiring time there, he needed a rest. He decided to travel to North America for a vacation. In those days, it wasn’t that easy to get from South America to North America. You had to catch a steamer across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe, and then catch another ship to re-cross the Atlantic Ocean again to get to North America! This is what Mr. Ginsburg had to do. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean arriving in Lisbon, Portugal, where he then planned to cross the Bay of Biscay to get to London, England, where he would then catch a ship to travel to the United States.

When Ginsburg arrived in Portugal, the weather forecasts were warning of terrific storms on the Bay of Biscay. It was dangerous sailing, and he was advised to delay his trip by a week. But Ginsburg was eager to keep going and he decided to pray about it. He turned to his prayer calendar for that day and he found the text Deuteronomy 2:7 – “For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your trudging through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.” The Lord seemed to assure Ginsburg’s heart and mind that his wilderness travels were under divine protection. “The Lord God knows your trudging through this great wilderness – your God has been with you,” said the scriptures. Ginsburg saw this text as a divine promise that he would be taken care of. He boarded a ship and crossed the Bay of Biscay safely. Without delay, he caught an ocean liner in London, England, and his transatlantic voyage was smooth and peaceful. Only after arriving in the United States did Solomon Ginsburg learn that had he delayed his trip in Lisbon, had he hesitated and postponed his journey, yes, he would have eventually arrived in England just in time to catch the next transatlantic ship… the Titanic.

Recognizing opportunity is important. It can mean the difference between success and failure. If the disciples had merely noted John the Baptist’s claims about Jesus, filing them away for future use, if they hadn’t followed Jesus, what might have happened or not happened?

Every day, opportunities to respond to God’s messages appear in our path. They keep coming, especially if God wants us to respond. We have the option to follow these opportunities and grow closer in our understanding and relationship with God, or, we can ignore these messages, these opportunities, and just go about our everyday lives. Which option we choose depends on us. The opportunities may not be easy or comfortable. That may be one reason why we ignore them. But whichever choice we make, whatever path we take, we use our free will. And we make choices every day.

Jesus speaks about the narrow way. He says in Matthew 7: 13, 14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” The narrow gate is harder to find. Harder to discern. Is Jesus the Gatekeeper, calling us from this gate? Does it imply risk? Did Ginsburg take the narrow gate in crossing the Bay of Biscay? It seemed dangerous, but he trusted that God was taking care of him.

The two disciples Andrew and John stayed with Jesus all that day, listening and learning. This was new teaching. Some things they had never heard before. Andrew rushes to tell his brother Simon: “We have found the Messiah.” Andrew recognizes right from the start, that Jesus was the One they had been waiting for. Jesus is the gate, the path which leads to life, and his teachings would revolutionize the world. The famous meeting between Jesus and Simon is recorded for us in Matthew, and at this meeting, Jesus renames Simon saying: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

It can be hard work to follow Jesus. It can be disturbing. We may be shaken up a bit and tested. We may have to deal with things that are unpleasant and uncomfortable. But in time, if we learn to follow and discern Christ’s voice, we will grow closer. Jesus promises to be with us always. And as we grow closer to Him, we will begin to understand why we are here, and where Christ wants us to go. “Come, and you will see,” says Jesus. What could be more important? Pray earnestly, just like Solomon Ginsburg, and listen. In clear sailing or stormy weather, we will be led safely to where God wants us to go.


Sermon by Rev. Mary Fletcher for Parkview United Church, Jan. 15, 2017. Sermon Topic: A Call To Prayer


Sermon: A Call To Prayer

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

January 18 – 25, 2017

This week in our United Church we celebrate a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Every year, between January 18 – 25, Christians around the world share in our faith and fellowship, regardless of denomination or religious organization, as we reflect on scripture and pray together.

Our Canadian Council of Churches represents 25 Christian denominations, which embodies more than 85% of Christians across Canada. We are also the broadest and most inclusive ecumenical Christian body in the world. Of this we can be proud!

This Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was first proposed in 1908 as an observance in the Roman Catholic Church. When the World Council of Churches was founded in 1948, many Christian denominations began to celebrate this special week of prayer, and since 1968, the WCC and the Pontifical Roman Catholic Council collaborate together to promote a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity around the world. Why the dates of January 18 – 25? In the Roman Catholic Church, Jan. 18 celebrates the Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter, and January 25 celebrates the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. We Protestants generally don’t recognize these feast days, but we certainly recognize and take part in this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity within Canada and around our globe.

Prayer resources for this week are prepared each year by ecumenical teams representing their various churches and religious organizations, and this year 2017, Germany’s Christians have prepared its theme: “Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us,” (2 Corinthians 5:14-20). We are invited as Christians around the world to reflect on what it means to be the people of God, and how we are called both to proclaim and to respond to the acts of God and the gospel of Christ in the world.

So, in preparation for this week ahead of us, first and foremost, what is prayer? Is it meditation? Quiet reflection? Expressions of thanks? Requests? Is it wailing cries of frustration or complaints to God? It is all of these things, and God wants to hear it – all of it! The most important thing you can say about prayer is that it is an active form of communication between yourself and God. Prayer is the means of talking to God and expressing our hearts to God. And this personal linking of souls and spirits between us and our Creator is vital. It is of the utmost importance, as God wants to communicate with each one of us. God is our Creator, and we are God’s children. Just like earthly parents, God wants to be involved in our lives. And we’re not meant to be afraid! Speaking in terms of God as our Father, He wants us to believe in His existence, His power and love for us. Speaking in terms of God as Sophia, the feminine Greek for the Spirit of God, the Ruah, the Breath of God, she wants a regular call, a daily email, a cyberspace message, a linking of our spirit with Hers. God wants us to get to know God’s Self. We can’t explain prayer, or understand fully in scientific or even spiritual terms how it works, but we know that prayer works!

Essentially, prayer fulfils a three-way mission:

1. It brings healing and guidance to each one of us individually, for our personal benefit

2. It brings healing and guidance to those for whom we pray

3. It brings healing and guidance for our earth’s sake, for all its inhabitants and creation

This world is God’s kingdom, and we are all part of it. God’s kingdom is here, as well as heaven as we understand it, the great beyond. The connection with ourselves and our earth and the heavenly realms comes through the spiritual “umbilical cord,” if you think of it as such, between ourselves and the Great Divine. Prayer helps us to connect with God, which sustains us and our world.

Our Bible gives much direction and guidance regarding prayer. In Philippians chapter 4, we’re told: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” In the book of Romans, chapter 8, there’s a wonderful verse telling us that when we pray, we receive help from the Holy Spirit: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He (God) who searches our hearts, knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints.” We are the living saints, we Christians who pray and seek communion with God, the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Ephesians chapter 6 tells us: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” In Revelation 5: 8, the prayers of the saints are referred to as “golden bowls full of incense.” Beautiful! We are meant to, and encouraged, to pray.

Several years ago, The Globe and Mail ran an article about the brain activity of Nuns deep in devotional prayer. Neuroscientists at the University of Montreal were conducting these tests. Areas of the brain registered intense energy as the degree of prayer intensified. Scientific studies have shown that prayer does work to heal people. In one study, seriously ill patients in hospitals were divided into groups, one group being prayed for while the other was not. It became evident that the prayed-for group recovered better. Researchers found that patients’ recovery could be from 50 to 100% better if someone prayed for them.

Let’s look to the example of Jesus. How did he pray? He regularly went away to a quiet place, by himself, to communicate with God. Jesus needed to escape the crowds, in the same way that we need to escape the busy hustle-bustle of our daily lives. In Matthew 6: 6-8, Jesus tells us: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” All that is required when you pray is simplicity – in your words, in your humbleness, and in your honesty. Again, don’t be afraid that you don’t have the right words or expressions. Remember that the Holy Spirit helps to intercede for you, and God knows your heart and what your concerns are, and what you need. You are seeking Divine wisdom and intervention in your prayers, and God will provide. And Jesus’ prayer for us, his Lord’s Prayer, captures our human needs and frailties, and our reliance on God to be kept in God’s care.

In Hebrews chapter 7, we are reminded of Jesus our new High Priest who intercedes for us in heaven. Vs. 24, 25 “…but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” When we come to God for whatever reason, Jesus is there. When we come with our myriad concerns, and when we ask in the name of Jesus our High Priest, we are saved. Completely, we are told. We are especially assured that we are forgiven. When we confess our failings and ask for forgiveness, through Jesus our High Priest, the new covenant established by God, we are told in Hebrews 8: 12 that God says: “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Jesus and God give us this promise. It is a promise for me, and it is a promise for you.

In closing, remember the benefits of prayer: it gives you power and strength, refreshes your spirit, lifts you up in times of distress and trouble, gives you renewed hope, comforts the heart, cleanses you, it offers forgiveness, and enables you to praise and worship God with thanksgiving!

Have the confidence that God will hear your prayer, have the knowledge that the answers won’t always come the way you predict, and have the assurance that your spiritual journey will flourish and grow, through prayer.


Epiphany 2 Sermon by Rev. Mary Fletcher for Parkview United Church, Jan 8, 2017. Sermon Topic: Dreams & Epiphanies


Epiphany 2 Sermon by Rev. Mary Fletcher, Jan. 8, 2017.  Sermon Topic: Dreams & Epiphanies

Do you dream? We all do, around 4 to 6 times a night, apparently, in what’s known as REM sleep which stands for Rapid Eye Movement. We are in a very deep sleep. We don’t remember everything we dream – we may have a vague, hazy idea when we wake up, and then we totally forget! “I had such an interesting dream last night,” we might say, “but I can’t remember any of it!” But sometimes we do remember – we have profound dreams with powerful images. They impact us greatly. Have you ever received a message in your dreams? Some person or event or image or circumstance happens in your dream and you know, when waking up, that some lesson or insight has been revealed to you. These weeks following the birth of Jesus are referred to as Epiphany weeks in our Christian church calendar, and if you remember from last week when we studied the Magi, the word “epiphany” simply means a revelation, a discovery, an illumination – some new knowledge or insight is revealed. We may be offered or given an epiphany in our dreams.

Just a year ago exactly, my husband Terry and I enrolled in a course called “The Spirituality of Dreams,” a course which particularly studied dream spirituality from a Christian perspective. Rev. Dr. Anne Beattie-Stokes, a retired United Church minister, directed the course and it was held at Siloam United Church in London. What a fascinating topic! We recorded our dreams and studied what we thought they meant. Was God speaking to us? We opened our spirit with the Great Divine and we invited its presence and power to commune with us. In our small group of about eleven people, two ladies shared that they dream about people and events before they happen. They dream about the future. I commented that they are modern-day prophets. If happy, good things are coming, then perhaps it isn’t necessary to disclose their dreams, but if they know of a disaster or tragedy coming, then it is their responsibility to give warning if they can prevent it from happening.

In our scripture reading this morning, Joseph receives several messages of warning in his dreams. “Quick, get up, get on your way,” speaks the angel, “Herod is coming to seek the child Jesus to kill him.” And Joseph moves quickly to prevent disaster from happening to the holy family. Leaving in the middle of the night, perhaps with only a few hastily-packed provisions, Mary, Jesus and Joseph flee Bethlehem. Were they just hours ahead of Herod’s soldiers arriving in Bethlehem? Coming to kill the young boys two years and under? And later, we see Joseph receiving a message to leave Egypt and return to Israel, but Herod’s ruthless son is now on the throne, so again, Joseph is warned in a dream to go to Galilee, to a town called Nazareth.

Do you think that such a thing is possible? To receive messages in dreams? Wherever we stand on the subject, it is important for us as Christians to see how dreams are dealt with in our scriptures. It is surprising when you read through the Bible to see how often people are spoken to in dreams, or directed by dreams, or interpret dreams. In our scriptures, we know of two very famous characters who divine or interpret the meaning of dreams or visions. Joseph of the “amazing, technicolor dreamcoat” interprets the dreams of Pharaoh in Egypt, dreams of fat and thin cows, and fat and thin ears of grain, which foretell times of plenty and famine. Joseph gives God the credit, saying: “Do not interpretations belong to God?..It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favourable answer,” (Genesis 40: 8, 41: 16). Joseph’s true interpretations enable him to become the second most powerful leader in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself. Daniel successfully interprets King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great statue representing the kingdoms of the world, and Daniel says before the King: “…there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has disclosed to King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen at the end of days…this mystery has not been revealed to me because of any wisdom that I have more than any other living being, but in order that the interpretation may be known to the king.” Daniel blesses the God of heaven for giving him the vision, (Daniel 2: 28-30).

If these interpreters of dreams or visions are found in our holy scriptures, why would we doubt that we don’t receive them today? The God of yesterday is the same God today. If God wanted to reveal God’s Self in dreams or visions to ancient peoples, why wouldn’t God who is timeless continue to do so today? God in heaven reveals mysteries, says Daniel, and I believe that God continues to give us revelations often in dreams. Like the word “epiphany,” dreams can offer discoveries and new insights which are often beneficial not only to us but to all humanity. There are many stories about scientific advances that were made because the scientist dreamed the answer.

Albert Einstein dreamed he was sledding down a steep mountainside, going so fast that eventually he approached the speed of light. At this moment, the stars in his dream changed their appearance in relation to him. He awoke and meditated on this idea, soon formulating what would become one of the most famous scientific theories in human history: the principle of relativity.

Scientist August Kekulé was worrying about the arrangement of atoms in benzene, and on a cold night in 1865, he turned his chair to the fire and dozed. He began dreaming of atoms dancing. Gradually the atoms arranged themselves into the shape of a snake. Then the snake turned around and bit its own tail. The image of the snake, tail in its mouth, continued to dance before his eyes. When Kekulé awoke, he realized what the dream had been telling him: benzene molecules were made up of rings of carbon atoms. Understanding this arrangement opened up a completely new field of chemistry and a new understanding of chemical bonding.

Frederick Banting had a dream telling him to surgically tie up the pancreas of a diabetic dog. He did – and discovered a disproportionate balance between sugar and insulin. This breakthrough lead to another dream that revealed how to develop insulin as a drug to treat diabetes. Millions of diabetics now benfit from Banting’s dreams.

Within the flight into Egypt and returning to Galilee scripture story, there is an important lesson. Not only can dreams and visions come from God, but in what setting or circumstance do the dreams come, and where do they lead? These dream settings and directives may seem dangerous. Look carefully at our scripture story. Can you sense the emotional upheavals, the extreme fears, and the terrifying traumatic experiences of the main characters at play here – Mary, Joseph and the young child Jesus? Their very lives are at stake. Their very existence is threatened. They have to escape and flee. This is God’s Son we’re talking about here – heavenly revelations made known at his birth through the angels, the shepherds, the adoration of the Magi – this is God’s Son fleeing for his life? How can this be? Isn’t God taking care of God’s own Son? How can these terrible ordeals and dangers be thrown at Jesus and the earthly parents Mary and Joseph in whose care he has been placed?

How does Joseph respond? He doesn’t question his circumstances or the dreams he receives with their messages – he acts on them. Despite the perils, he acts on God’s directives. He moves forward in faith.

There is a verse in the bible: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8: 28).

Is God good in all situations, despite the fact that not all things are good? Is God good in all situations, despite treachery, danger, fearful situations or people or circumstances, even to the point of fleeing for one’s life? Is God “good” in the middle of turmoil and chaos? Do we confuse the word “good” for ease? Comfort? A life without stress or anxiety? Are God’s fulfillments accomplished always with ease or comfort? No! We know they are not. If Jesus was not exempt from the world’s evils from the time he was born, just a little babe, a little child, can we expect to be spared from the world’s dangers and chaos and evils? Are we exempt when we are about God’s purposes and fulfillments?

We have this hope. If we are about God’s purposes, God will provide. If God has a message for us, whether it comes to us in dreams or visions, it is important for us to act. God will take care of us. We may have to cope with chaos, stress, anxiety, perhaps harmful situations, but if we love God and are about God’s business, God will get us through. Dreams and visions may deliver a message which we don’t want to receive, we don’t like their message, we don’t like the prodding of the Spirit to move us in a certain direction, but if we truly know that we have received a message from God, we must act on God’s directives. God is counting on us. God has some purpose in mind and we are to play our part. And God will provide. That is why God came to us in Jesus – Immanuel – God with us. We are not alone.

What dreams do we have? Do we pay attention to them? May we dream of God’s plans for our own lives as we serve God and Jesus our Lord and Saviour, the babe born to us in Bethlehem.


Epiphany Sermon by Rev. Mary Fletcher for Parkview United Church, Jan. 1, 2017. Sermon Topic: I Wonder as I Wander


Epiphany Sermon by Rev. Mary Fletcher, Jan. 1, 2017. Sermon Topic: I Wonder as I Wander

The wise men’s journey is one of wonder. And pondering. They had an epiphany as they studied the night sky. The stars gave them a message. The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek which means a revelation, a manifestation, a discovery or illumination ~ some knowledge or insight is revealed. It can be of divine origin or not. The Magi were learned men, astrologers and astronomers who studied the stars and charted the movements of heavenly bodies across our universe. They looked for signs in reading the cosmos. Over 2,000 years ago, the Magi saw something quite wonderful in the sky.

It is believed that these wise men or Magi came from a sacred priestly caste or tribe found within the Parthian Empire. The Magi were powerful religious figures forming one of two Councils within this empire. Did they come from ancient Persia, Babylon or Ethiopia? We don’t know. But we do know that they came. Because they saw something which drew them. Their attention was riveted on a very bright star in the sky and it was out of the ordinary. Scholars have speculated – was it the conjunction of planets lining up in their orbits? In 7 B.C., the planets Jupiter and Saturn lined up in a seemingly straight line as perceived from earth, and their combined light was very bright and unusual in the sky. In the ancient world, Jupiter represented royalty, the King’s planet, and the ringed planet of Saturn represented the shield or defender of Palestine – so – did the Magi interpret this conjunction as a King born to the Jews? We know that our birth year for Jesus is out by about five or six years – King Herod died in 4 B.C., and he had the little boys in Bethlehem slain who were two years and under after the wise men left, so Jesus may have been born around 5 or 6 B.C. It is estimated that the wise men’s journey would have taken them nine months to a year or longer to travel the arduous 1,200 mile trek westward with their camels, servants, food supplies and provisions. Organizing such a long journey would take weeks of preparation.

But come they did. The caravan was ready. They prepared their gifts for the newborn King and they followed this strange light, the strange star leading them westward. They wondered as they travelled. Were their indications right? Had the skies spoken so clearly? Were they being led to the promised one, to a great leader as prophesied in ancient scriptures? They had consulted the prophecies:

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times,” (Micah 5: 2).

I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel,” (Balaam’s prophecy, Numbers 24: 17).

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever,” (Isaiah 9: 6 , 7).

Yes, the Magi decided, it was true. They were being led to a newborn King of the Jews.

But nothing prepared them for what happened when they arrived in Judah. Looking for the promised one, a King, they went – understandably – to the home of a King, the palace in Jerusalem. The reception there was strange – disquieting and disturbing. “Where is the child who has been born King of the Jews?” they asked. The servants, unable to cover their surprise and fear, ran to deliver the message. They came back quickly with lowered and frightened eyes, inviting them in. There was something not right. The wise men wondered – was this a mistake? They were offered elaborate hospitality as was the custom given to rich, foreign visitors: servants aplenty to feed and water their animals, oiled and scented water to wash their feet, exotic food and drink for refreshment. They met King Herod, the King of the palace, but in the midst of their reception, did the wise men sense an unease? A suspicion hanging in the air? No-one knew about a newborn King of the Jews. Herod fixed a hard and focused gaze upon the wise men. When exactly had they seen the star? What was the prophecy which had brought them? At what time, did they think, the birth of this newborn king had taken place? The wise men told all they knew. “Go,” said King Herod in a feigned, friendly way, “search for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word that I may go and worship him also.”

The wise men leave and wonder – was Herod sincere? Did his words ring true? Following the star which leads them to Bethlehem, the Magi find the child Jesus. One thing which the wise men never doubted was the reality of what they found and felt when, knocking at the door of a simple home, they were welcomed in by a man and a woman with a child in her arms. Sharing a simple meal, talking and conversing, their eyes and hearts were drawn to the child. The entire atmosphere centred on him. They sensed a greatness, a holy radiance emanating and filling the room. The Magi were filled with wonder and reverence. Within the deep recesses of their souls where truth lies and is awakened with revelation and illumination, the wise men knew. It was an epiphany. They knew this was the child King for whom they had searched. They knew they had followed the star correctly. They bowed and worshiped the child Jesus and presented their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

And on their way home, returning to their own countries by a different route, the Magi again wondered and pondered. What would the little family do with the gifts they had received, gifts fit for a King? What would become of the child Jesus of whom the prophecies foretold? What would his life bring? How would he become the king he was born to be? They had been warned in a dream not to return to Herod – was the child in danger?

The wise men wondered about their journey, and how their lives were changed. For you see, more importantly than all the many questions and wonderings and ponderings which the wise men had, their lives had been changed. They weren’t the same Magi returning home. They had encountered Jesus.

It is 2,000 years later – but the Magi’s story is the same for us – how are we changed? More than any other time in the year, the Christmas story impacts our lives. We enter into the little house with the wise men and behold the Christ Child. In humbleness and reverence, we bow down before him. We are caught in wonder. We are in the presence of a divine deity, a very small human child shining with the radiance of heaven. We know it. We recognize it. We are engulfed in this epiphany. We bow before Jesus our King. We give him our hearts and allegiance. We are never the same again.

How has our encounter with Jesus changed us? We wonder.