Sermons

Reflections given as sermons or homilies at a public service. Members of our community take it in turns to preach to the whole community.

finding a new route home

Homily on the Feast of the Epiphany 2020

Joanna Manning

I know a lot of people in this congregation will be familiar with that popular feminist ballad: ‘Sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened.” We’ve even sung it here on a number of occasions.

The chorus goes like this:

Sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened
Sometimes I wish I could no longer see
All of the pain and the hurt and the longing
of my sisters and me as we long to be free.”

Please excuse me if I take liberties with the lyrics this morning and change the last two lines :

Sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened
Sometimes I wish that I just couldn’t see
All of the pain and the hurt and the longing
of the earth and her creatures as we long to be free.”

Here we are the beginning of not only a new year, but a new decade for earth and all her creatures. As we take a look around, tyrants abound; innocent infants and children are being killed, jailed or dying of hunger and thirst. Assassinations are carried out on the whim of the new tetrarch south of the border. Innocent animals in their millions are dying from the effects of fires, drought, and floods. Definitely not a pretty picture.

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a hole in the wall

Homily for Christmas Eve 2019

Sherman Hesselgrave

“Mercy is the dynamite that brings down walls.” “La misericordia es la dinamita que derriba muros.” That is a line from the new movie, The Two Popes, spoken by the man who would become Pope Francis. That line resonated deeply, and I knew it would work its way into this Christmas homily. That is because the Incarnation—God’s coming among us as one of us—is God’s greatest mercy in bringing down the walls that divide humanity from God and from one another. Someone has defined ‘mercy’ as a “love that responds to human need in an unexpected or unmerited way.” At its core, mercy is forgiveness. Mercy is grace.

Jesus was born into a world all too familiar with systems of domination, systems of empire and oppression that had existed from before the time the prophet Isaiah wrote of the “people who walked in darkness” who would see a great light of a new day of hope and promise, where the yoke of their burdens would be broken; the bar weighing down their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, snapped. A child would be born who would become the Prince of Peace, and would reign with justice and equity.

I decided to include Garrison Keilllor’s retelling of the famous story of the 1914 Christmas Peace, because, in a World War that would result in about 40 million military and civilian casualties, we know that the people on the front lines were not only capable of demonstrating their humanity with a spirit of generosity, they certainly would have welcomed an end to all hostilities, were it not for their imperial masters. Peace was, at once, both so near and yet, so far away.

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Bear Fruit that Befits Repentance

Sherman Hesselgrave’s homily for Advent 2, December 8, 2019

Readings: Isaiah 11:1-10 Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 Matthew 3:1-12

Nothing will spike blood pressure quite like hypocrisy. “You brood of vipers!,” John the Baptist says to the Pharisees and Sadducees who have come to the Jordan River for baptism. Later in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus will liken Pharisees and teachers of the law to “whitewashed tombs.” The veneer and the interior life lack integrity. My liturgics professor in seminary was a Jesuit who described a well-integrated person as someone, who no matter how or where you engage with them, you have a sense of the whole person. There is a consistency, an integrity, no matter where your lives touch.

This is a theme that flows through Jesus’ public life and teaching, and he uses the metaphor of bearing fruit regularly. Trees are known by the fruit they produce, and whether that fruit is any good. We have all had the experience of sinking our teeth into a gorgeous-looking peach, apple, or plum, only to be disappointed by its mealy texture or bland flavour. On this Second Sunday of Advent, when John the Baptist is always the focus, we are confronted today by his imperative to “bear fruit that befits repentance.” I would like us to take a moment to unpack John’s statement, by taking a closer look at repentance and bearing fruit.

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photo of a coffee mug that says "wake up!"

Are You Woke?

It is now the hour to wake from your sleep!

That’s the summons from the readings at the beginning of this Advent, as we embark once again on a new cycle of the church’s year.

But this year I’d like to pose that question in a slightly different way. Are you “woke?” Being ‘Woke’  is connected with the word ‘awake’ but it means more than just being awake…

To “stay woke” is a phrase borrowed from African American Vernacular English. To be ‘woke’ means to be ever vigilant: and to live in a way that is not anaesthetized by, or subservient to the culture we live in, which for people of colour, means being particularly alert to its systemic racism. The first use of the woke appears in the song a 2008 album New Amerykah by soul singer Erykah Badu where she repeats the phrase: “I stay woke.” 

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Abba, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

Homily given by Sonya Dykstra on November 24, 2019

After my second homily this summer, I felt I was done giving them. In fact, when I agreed to coordinate this service, I did so under the assumption that I’d find an individual willing to give a reflection instead of standing here myself. So why is it that I’m attempting another homily? I’d like to share three beliefs I hold that work together and contributed to this homily.

One, I believe in God the creator. I’m sure it’s a belief many of you share, so much so, we say it together in the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed: I believe in God, the creator of heaven and earth.

Two, I believe God continues to create, the easiest example to cite are the newborns who enter the world each day: tiny creatures that I believe God had a hand in.

Third, I believe God invites us to be co-creators. I love this idea – that you and I can accept God’s invitation to participate intentionally in what God is doing in the here and now. God’s story in humanity isn’t finished. The bible ended in Revelation, but God’s story is still unfolding. When we align ourselves with being attentive to God’s will rather than our own often uncertain, often selfish wills, there is joy, there is purpose, there is life-giving energy. How to be attentive to God’s will is a harder question to answer and I want to use my standing here to serve as a small example.

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cracked mirror image

“how the light gets in”

A homily preached November 17, 2019 by Zach Grant


Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in


My grandfather grew up in New Hamburg, the land of the Wendat Nation
He was a settler there, born into a Mennonite family.
His father, my great grandfather, drove the buggy, down the dirt roads
wrapping the cleared land, and past the gnarled fruit trees
marking lanes to green roofed houses.

He met a woman there who was a braucher-
this is the Mennonite healer,
the midwife and the undertaker,
the charmer of sickness and sorrow,
the keeper of the way.Read More »“how the light gets in”

Resisting Apocalypse

As I approached this service and read the appointed readings I was struck by the sense of end times captured there. In our present era it feels as if we are in the end times. It gives me more sympathy for the writers of these apocalyptic pieces and helped me decide not to jettison them in favour of Maya Anjelou or Richard Wagamese as I might otherwise be tempted to do.

Of apocalytic texts in general, the theologian Ched Myers, who has preached here on a few occasions has this to say:

“Apocalyptic discourse in the Bible is not about predicting God’s cataclysmic destruction of the world, as so often assumed in popular culture.  Rather it expresses the fierce imagination of those who long for the end of destructive oppression by the imperial state.  After all, for the poor, the “end of the world” is already and forever being visited upon their communities by soldiers and fortune hunters and police.

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“When the veil is the thinnest…”

Cathy Crowe,
Street Nurse, Author

Thank you for inviting me to this place I have spent a lot of time in.

I’d like to read something by someone you all may know – Brian Burch:

We know what heaven is like: “In my father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  (John 14:2). And we know what Toronto is like. In our city are many heating grates; in our city are many file folders full of names of our sisters and brothers seeking a home. In the midst of our city are many trying to bring to life in the present heaven’s promise. This is done through protests and petitions. It is done through opening up sanctuary spaces for temporary resting places. It is done by squatting empty buildings. And it is done by those that weave together funds from various sources to develop new housing.”

This was by then Rev. Brian Burch in a homily given in 2005. Brian tells me he is now a grassroots co-op activist – which I think is a fantastic title.

Church of the Holy Trinity is woven through my memoirs, A Knapsack Full of Dreams.

That likely won’t surprise many of you. I’ve spent a lot of time here.

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