The Word at Westminster

40 Episodes

By: Westminster

Learning and living God's Word. Talks, studies, interviews, sermons and more from Westminster Church in Barrie, Canada

Always Winter, never Christmas
Last Sunday at 4:36 PM

Today’s sermon was given by special guest, Jeff Walther. He has spent many years in radio and teaching at Georgian College, until recently retiring. He is a long time member of our church and spends some Sundays giving Sermons at churches in our area as well as at our very own when Pastor Ruttan is away (like today). His Sermon is titled ‘Always winter, never Christmas’, a take on C.S. Lewis quote from The lion, the witch and the wardrobe. The essence of the piece is imagining the world as if Jesus had never been born and highlighting the po...

How to get the most out of a Sermon (Sermon)

It’s a strange topic for a sermon. In fact, this isn’t really a sermon. It’s a talk about sermons. If you’ve ever wondered what sermons are, why we listen to them, or if you struggle to connect or engage, then this is for you. Let’s say you attend worship services for 20 years. Even if you only attend half the time, that’s 520 sermons and about 13,000 minutes of preaching! Don’t you want to make the most of it? Along with things like Bible-reading and prayer, preaching is a “means of grace.” It can be, with the Spirit’s help, a...

8 book recommendations to grow your faith

I was recently asked for some book recommendations that would grow someone’s faith and discipleship. It was asked in the context of Lent by someone who is trying to be proactive in learning about God. But the suggestions are good for any time of the year. In this informal audio clip, I simply introduce these eight books. They are: Enjoy!

Live like royalty (Sermon)

Jesus says his kingdom is not of this world.  First, we should note that he is the king. Second, that we are his royal subjects. Third, that this kingdom is other-worldly. This sermon on John 18:19-40 explores the nature of this kingdom and how to live like royalty in a land which seems, in many ways, foreign. It also provides three practical suggestions for ambassadors of the King of Kings.

Prayers of the People (from Feb.5 service)

A beautiful and timeless prayer by Pastor Ruttan, spoken during service on February 5, 2023.

Fun Lent Trivia

What’s the deal with Lent? We know that some people give up stuff (fasting), and it leads up to Easter. But what does the name mean? Why do people say it’s 40 days when it’s actually 47, and what do Ashes on foreheads have to do with anything? This short podcast is a bit of a fun Lent Trivia I shared with the congregation at Westminster on Sunday, February 26, 2023 during our kids’ time segment.

Integrity Under Pressure (Sermon)

A well-known definition of integrity is “doing the right thing when no one is looking.” When decisions are easy and when there is no pressure, it’s easy to have integrity. It’s harder when you are under stress. This sermon explores John 18:1-18, Jesus’ betrayal in the garden of Gethsemane, and two examples of having (and not having) integrity under pressure. It also provides a one-sentence filter to help us keep our eyes on God when we’re not sure what to do.

Praying for what Jesus Prays for (Sermon)

Did you realize that right before his betrayal and torture Jesus prayed for you? He did. He prayed for his disciples, and also “for those who will believe in me through their word…” That’s us! Not only does he pray for us, but that prayer teaches us what God wants for our lives. This sermon explores John 17, identifies 8 specific things Jesus prays for us, and encourages us to pray the same. What Jesus prays for you is God’s will for you.

Is it all chance or providence? (Sermon)

Is your life unfolding according to chance? Or is it a part of a bigger plan? You’re right; it’s a leading question. Jesus teaches us about providence: The invisible hand of God upholding and guiding your specific life. We see the brushstrokes, but God sees the big picture. It’s easy to believe in providence when you have sunny skies. But is God still upholding and guiding when the skies are grey or dark? The answer is a helpful and victorious one. This sermon explores John 16:25-33 (and some of Psalm 22) and ponders chance vs. providence.

Making margin in your life for discipleship

You want to follow Jesus and even share him with others. But you’re so busy. Your “margin” is nil. This podcast is a talk between Pastor Ruttan and the Rev. Dr. Sarah Han, a professor at Tyndale who is writing a book on the importance of creating margin in our lives to be faithful disciples of Jesus.

Looking within and spiritual disciplines as we seek to love God – an interview by Chris Pullenayegem

I was recently interviewed by Chris Pullenayegem from the Vancouver School of Theology as a part of their Congregational Vitality Initiative. This podcast is a recording of that conversation. There’s also a YouTube version of our talk (link below). It’s aimed at people training for ministry, but I think our discussion is of interest to a wider audience as well. He asked me about:-spiritual disciplines as a part of our love for God-how to encourage a congregation to engage in spiritual disciplines-using the Bible in a transformative way-living in a context of spiritual warfare-having a biblical worldview-being clea...

When the world hates you because of your faith (Sermon)

Jesus said that the world would hate them. It would also persecute them. That’s serious stuff. But who is “the world”? What is the difference between hatred and persecution? When it comes to this topic, we need to caution against over-simplification and a sky-is-falling mentality. But we also need to take our changing situation seriously as Jesus’ people move back into the margins and become (once again) subject to the world’s scorn. This sermon explores John 15:18 – 16:4 and provides five ways to respond to this evolving reality. One thing is for sure: We need to fall out of love with fitting

Tarrying with a Lord you cannot see

Some topics get all the attention — like the apocalypse, loving our enemies, current social justice issues, or heaven and hell. “Abiding in Christ” isn’t usually on that list. And yet it is something Jesus tells us to do and which profoundly changes our lives for the better. When thinking about experiences from your childhood which had a profound and positive impact on your development, you might not think to mention family dinners or those honest talks with a parent while going for a weekly walk. But those sorts of experiences (or others you may have had) were huge. In a simila...

The Holy Spirit within you is helping you

The Holy Spirit is God. And if you are a genuine disciple of Jesus, he actually lives inside of you. And not just only you. Since God is omnipresent, he lives within other disciples as well. You’re right. It’s mind-blowing. It’s also one of the most misunderstood or neglected aspects of our discipleship. A better understanding provides great help and hope for our lives! This sermon explores Jesus’ teaching in John 14:15-31. The Holy Spirit is within you, helping you for your good and God’s glory.

What do we really know about the historical Jesus, and how does that impact our faith?

Jesus is the centre of our faith. He came to give us life; but what was his like? What did he look like? What was it like growing up Nazareth? What was it like living under the oppressive rule of the Romans and even King Herod? Did he have a job before starting his ministry? Did he go to synagogue? The more we know about his life then, the more we appreciate the impact of his life on us now. This sermon explores historical, cultural and archaeological research to give us a behind-the-scenes look at Jesus of Nazareth. It also...

Beginnings, beginnings and yes, beginnings

Happy New Year! The Reverend Dr. Claude Cox led our service with a sermon titled ‘Beginnings, beginnings and yes, beginnings’. How appropriate! He has been the chaplain for many years at Grove Park Home for Senior Citizens and adjunct faculty at McMaster Divinity College—Old Testament and Hebrew, for almost as long. His wife Elaine, has been a nurse in the ICU for a bit longer. They have 3 grown children, Michael, Jason and Laura. The text is Mark 1:1–13. Being New Year’s day it seems like an appropriate moment to talk about the place of beginnings in Scripture, beginning at the beginn...


Professor Michael Mangis writes: “The human heart is constantly tempted to live under the illusion that things are fine just the way they are.” But, of course, things are not fine just the way they are. Over the past few years, we’ve experienced a certain kind of trauma. It’s time for healing, and a key component of that healing is realignment with God. There’s no better time to do that than on Christmas Eve. At the candlelit service Pastor Ruttan reflected on Luke 2:1-20 and four correctives it provides to our thinking. These correctives challenge unhelpful or faulty way...

A closer look at the nativity in Luke 2:1-20: politics, fear, subversion, war and hope

It’s one of the most famous stories ever told: The birth of Jesus. Shepherds, angels, and hostile Inn-keepers have appeared in thousands of Christmas pageants for hundreds of years. But when we hear something so much, we stop hearing it. Instead of paying more attention, we pay less. There was a man who lived right beside an airport. Over time, he stopped hearing the planes take off. They were still zooming around and making tonnes of noise, but his brain had learned to tune them out. In the same way, we too can tune out the familiar, even when it co...

“If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Does Jesus give us a blank cheque in prayer?

In this brief look at John 14:13-14, Pastor Ruttan explains Jesus’s words and encourages us in faithful prayer.

Jenn Harris shares words of wisdom about faith in the midst of change

Audio excerpt from Jenn during service on Sunday, Dec. 11th, where Pastor Ruttan and congregation thanked Jenn for 12+ years of service as our Music Director.

Exclusive Inclusion – Is Jesus the only way?

For centuries, these words of Jesus have given comfort and clarity. They have also been the source of controversy: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Today, if someone thinks you’re being “exclusive” or “judgmental” you are automatically the bad guy. Don’t these words from Jesus sound like both? This sermon on John 14:1-11 explains his meaning and why these are words of both clarity and compassion in confusing times. Truth without love isn’t really truth; and love without truth isn’t really love.

Jesus said He came to give us ‘Abundant Life’. What did he mean?

Is this Jesus’ version of “live your best life now”? Think bigger. Think life that is “abundant.” This podcast and blog distill Jesus’ use of the word “life” in John’s Gospel to two main ideas.

Desperate Times call for Loving Measures

They say that desperate times call for desperate measures. Think of the hail Mary pass toward the end of the football game, or the man in such poor financial shape that he thinks his only options is to rob a bank. Jesus lived in desperate times. It was a brutal world, and he was about to be tortured and crucified (and he knew it). With that in mind he gave his disciples a new commandment. What was it? To run for the hills? To get out their swords? No. It was to love one another as he had loved them.  I...

Downward Mobility

How would you define success? Is it accumulating money, influence, beauty or power? Well, of course not. We wouldn’t admit that — at least not out loud. There’s a phrase that people use: “the ladder of success.” Imaging climbing up that ladder, and then imagine climbing through a window at the top of that ladder. After all, a ladder leans on something, doesn’t it? What if that ladder led you into the wrong window of the wrong house? I wonder how Jesus defines success. Turns out, he never uses the word. So what DOES he say about the things we sh...

Random Acts of Kindness

People and families in our church, our community and across the country are about to experience one of the most difficult financial climates in many years. Local organizations such as the Food Bank and Christmas Cheer as well as international charities such as World Vision and The Red Cross are already warning of empty shelves and hungry children.As Christians, what should our response to this situation be? Knowing that “God loves a cheerful giver” but realizing that we are all limited to how much we can do to help the situation, what can we do to help?This Sunday we w...

Light Locations

The idea of “light” comes up a lot in the Bible, but not in a flick-the-switch kind of way. “Light” is a metaphor for the wisdom, guidance, goodness and blessing of God. Sounds nice. And it is. But Jesus also gives us a warning: “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you.” That’s right. Darkness can overtake you. With that in mind, walking in the light sounds much more urgent. Frederick Buechner writes: “Jesus shares with us the darkness of what it is to be without God as well as showing forth the glory of what it is to be with Go...

Seeking serious answers to serious questions – Sermon

People are seeking. They’re seeking serious answers to serious questions. A child wonders if God sees the pain of other children in faraway countries. A wife lays beside her husband as he dies and wonders why love hurts so much. People all over the world wonder if God has a plan for their lives or how they know if they’re on the right track. There is a temptation to shrug and to downplay or trivialize these questions. But Jesus doesn’t. This sermon on John 12:20-26 explores what happens when Greeks approach Philip and say, “Sir, we wish to see J...

Costly, Whole-Hearted Devotion – Sermon

If you follow Jesus you are different. In 1961, 96% of people in our country identified as Christian. No longer. “No Religion” is now the second largest ‘religious’ category. And while you can’t read too much into what people tick on a census form, the fact remains that if you follow Jesus today, people will think you’re different. Some respond with a me-against-the-world mentality. Others try to water-down the faith to make it sound more “normal” so they can fit in. In this sermon on John 12:1-11, Mary (the sister of Lazarus) shows us another way: She provides a sincere example of what...

Can we earn heaven?

This was one of the questions in a recent Q & A Forum at Westminster after worship. You can now listen to the answer in the latest episode of our podcast, The Word at Westminster. The full question was: Can we earn heaven? Matthew 7:21 unsettles me, can you explain?

Thom Rainer on the difference between church consumers and church members

It’s a new time – with challenges and opportunities. So we need to be honest about who we are in the body of Christ: consumers or members? This podcast is a talk with Thom Rainer, president of Church Answers and former CEO of LifeWay, and author of “11 signs you are becoming a church consumer instead of a committed church member.” [Cross posted from The Pulse Podcast with Matthew Ruttan]

Crying Like Jesus

W.W.J.D. is a popular acronym that originated in the 1990’s. The “what would Jesus do” movement encouraged people to be “like Jesus.” When we think about being “like Jesus” what usually comes to mind? Love, humility, sacrifice? All good things. What about crying? The shortest version the Bible is John 11:35: “Jesus wept.” Before he raised his beloved friend from the dead, he cried. Why did he do that? And what does it teach us about being like him? That’s what this sermon on John 11:28-57 explores. We can’t be like Jesus if we don’t know what he was like. W...

Understanding Baptism

This podcast explains the meaning of baptism, and also who we baptize at Westminster Church. It also provides the rationale. If you’d like to read the text version (and have access to the full footnotes), click here. Enjoy!

Afraid no more

Fear is everywhere. We can be afraid of death, afraid of being alone, afraid of criticism, afraid of suffering, afraid of evil, afraid for our families, afraid of the future, afraid for our future, afraid of hell, and even afraid of despair. A woman was mourning for Lazarus, her newly-deceased brother. She confronts Jesus. If only he was here he could have helped, she says. “I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus responds. “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” Fear may...

How to hear Jesus’ voice when you can’t actually hear his voice (Sermon)

Throughout history, many people have claimed to hear God’s voice. Prophets certainly did. Madmen with Messiah complexes leading people into the desert to die did not. Having just told us that he is the Good Shepherd, Jesus says: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” To those original followers, that made a lot of sense. Their ears could literally receive the sound waves coming out of his mouth. But what about today? How do we hear Jesus’ voice when he’s not physically here? This sermon explores John 10:22-42 and proposes five biblical ways to he...

The Shepherd’s Voice – a Bible reading & prayer

Start your day right. Here is Ben Ruttan reading the Bible reading from the service on September 25, 2022, and Pastor Ruttan leading us in our opening prayer based on that same Bible passage.

Living an abundant life (Sermon)

“Live your best life now!” That’s a fairly popular modern slogan. In fact, Jesus said something that (some people think) sounds kind of similar: “I came that they have may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). His words suggest that life itself isn’t necessarily abundant. Something else needs to be present for it to take on an abundant character–and THAT is living your best life now. This sermon on John 10:1-21 explores Jesus’ words, what it means that he is our Good Shepherd, and some practical steps to embrace abundant life.

Getting to know Kristin Stouffer

In this episode Pastor Ruttan interviews our new Communications Coordinator Kristin Stouffer. This will help you get to know her a bit better, and also learn more about her role. We are so excited to have her on board! The books Kristin referenced are: “If You Will Ask” by Oswald Chambers, and “Christian heroes: Then and Now” (series)

What God can do through you is greater [Sermon]

A national poll asked: “If you could ask God only one question and you knew he would give you an answer, what would you ask?” The most popular response was this: “Why is there pain and suffering in the world?” Some people think it’s punishment for sin. They wonder if they’ve done something to deserve their hardship. It’s a big topic. Even the disciples wondered about it. This sermon works through a few aspects of this topic with the lens of John 9 and the healing of the man born blind. No matter what you’re dealing with, what God can do...

“Lead us not into temptation.” Would God lead us into temptation, so that we need to ask him not to?

Every four months we hold sometimes have something called the Q and A Forum. People submit questions ahead of time, and after a worship service Pastor Ruttan provides an answer. This was originally recorded live on June 12, 2022. The question is: “In the Lord’s Prayer, it says: ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ Would God lead us into temptation, so that we need to ask him not to?” Enjoy.

My Captain, My Ship (Sermon)

You’re about to go through a storm. But you can choose which ship to sail in. The captain in boat number one isn’t very experienced. But the captain in boat number two has an incredible track record. In fact, he’s successfully navigated every single storm, ever. Which captain are you going to choose? In John 8 Jesus uses clear and powerful language to tell us that he is divine. That’s why he lived before Abraham who lived 2000 years before him! Jesus is God come to us in human form. Therefore, he is the only captain who can claim ou...