Sermons by Rev. Dr. John Burton

Sermons by Rev. Dr. John Burton

The Gospels

We come now in our helicopter view of the Bible to the gospels – the four books that lie at the centre of our faith.

God teach us how to pray

The structure of the Protestant Old Testament places five books near the middle that are called Books of Wisdom. These five books close out the historical section of the Old Testament.

What We Need is Here

What is required is not that we be rescued from above when we are in need, but that we share the strength and the resources that God has given us to care for each other.

Stranger in a Strange Land

Leviticus 19:33 When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. 34 The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. My wife Heather and I have three children, two; Julie and Chris, were products of Heather’s first marriage and the third, Aba, is a young…

Lighten our Darkness

The Season of Epiphany, which began on the 6th of January, is closely associated with the symbol of light, which is why we are using “This little light of mine” as our opening song until the beginning of Lent. Immortal, Invisible, the classic hymn we sang just a moment ago, also uses light as a central image. In doing so, Walter Smith, the lyricist, makes several references to a paradox – the fact that we need light in order to…

Song of Faith, Song of Hope

This is my final Sunday with you as your Sabbatical minister and I want to say how much the last four months have meant to me, and what an honour it has been to be with you. I have been warmly welcomed by everyone and have had engaging conversations with many of you. While I was not a stranger to this congregation before May, I have certainly gotten to know you much better over this summer, and I count that…

The Dilemma of Dishonesty

At a recent gathering of the Trinity men’s breakfast group one of the fellows asked me if he would still get to heaven if he told a lie. There was a bit of a twinkle in his eye as he put the question to me in the way that a child might ask it of their parent, but the underlying issue is a complex one that I spent much of my professional career dealing with as a professor of ethics…

Lost Sheep and a Jeremiad

The two passages we heard read this morning make about as clear a contrast as one might find between the God of the Old Testament and the Jesus of the New. Jeremiah, the prophet who is so well known for preaching fire and brimstone that his name has become a synonym for warnings of gloom and doom, is at his most fiery here. Condemning the people of Judah as stupid, he warns them that a devastating wind is coming, earthquakes…

Hate Your Parents

It startles our ears to hear Jesus saying we should hate our parents, our siblings, even spouse and children. What can this mean? Well the truth is, it’s impossible for us to be sure. It’s impossible to make even a good guess at what Jesus is saying when we read only this short passage. The gospels are collections of sayings and stories put together by the author or editor in a way that is intended to convey meaning when read…

Humility

Leonard Bernstein, the renowned conductor of the New York Philharmonic was once asked what was the most difficult position to fill in the orchestra. Without hesitation he replied, “The second fiddle! I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm—that’s a problem. And if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”  I think Bernstein captures in this little story the essence of what is important about humility. He…

Fire

In the 1950s Disney movie Pollyanna Karl Malden plays a fire and brimstone preacher. In a scene that holds a certain appeal for me at least, we see him climbing into a high pulpit, taking a deep breadth and then thundering out at the congregation, “Death comes unexpectedly.” He proceeds to deliver a fire and brimstone sermon that could have been inspired by this morning’s scripture passage. “I came to bring fire to the earth and how I wish it…

Faith

The Book of Hebrews, from which today’s text comes, is in the form of a sermon, written to encourage the early Christian community of Jerusalem, which was suffering severely under Roman persecution. The timing is very likely a scant year or two before the first Jewish/Roman war, which culminated in the year 70 with the destruction of the city and the Temple that stood at the centre of the Judean religion. This text was written to give strength and support…

Bigger Barns

The stories and parables in which Jesus criticizes the rich can be hard for us to hear, because we are, in comparison to most of the world’s population, rich people. In today’s story, Jesus suggests that prudent investment to handle a surplus by storing it for the future – saving, in other words – is somehow unwise and a sign that the well-to-do farmer in the story is not in right relationship with God. Most of us in this congregation…