Rev. Davids Blog - \Dec 6, 2019 Simeon, Alive in HopeI struggled over the last few weeks with my new decade that arrived this December 4, the big 60! 2019 is a landmark year with lots of subtext, stories, moves and some anxiety that has me reflecting on what it means to age. How do I begin this new decade, to what do I aspire, what roots, holds or challenges me?I have recently been exploring the characters of the Christmas story that do not make it to the crèche, people who have very specific roles to play and who are, you guessed it, older. People like Simeon, Zachariah and Anna...Simeon is an inspiring person (Luke 2: 22-35). He is alive in hope in the everyday as he anticipates the coming of the One promised by the prophets, the One whose name would be: Ruler, Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9: 2-7). Imagine what it meant to be waiting some 400 years for the fulfilment of the promises of the prophets, to hope without knowing when it would happen. I want to live such perseverant hope that gets me up in the morning and keeps me focused on life and open to seeing God’s surprising presence in the everyday.A God-fearing and good man, Simeon is alive to the presence of Spirit, and is led by this Voice to the Temple at the very time of the visit of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. When he takes the child in his arms to bless him, he speaks these famous words: Now I have seen Your Light, You have kept the promise, I can die in peace. I want to be alive to Spirit, to see wonder at the birth of a child, to know new possibilities and such deep peace at the end of my life.In his psalm of joy (Luke 2: 29-35, Voices United 903) he is alive to generosity. This child is a promise for all peoples, Light for both Jews and Gentiles. God’s advent is a far reaching one, not contained to one child or one family but for all children and all families. Such generosity is the message of God’s incarnation, God in our midst shining in every corner or dark place, dissipating all shadows with Light! As he blesses the parents, both Mary and Joseph, Simeon speaks of Jesus as a sign from God against whom many will speak. He tells Mary that sorrow like a sword will pierce and break her heart one day (remember her weeping at the foot of the cross) and affirms that Jesus is God’s salvation.Life, in every decade, has its joys and sorrows. We have no control over how it unfolds. But like Mary, blessed by Simeon, I want to live with no regrets. To be alive in hope, to spirit, to generosity and living, always, in the light. I want to live from the examples of those who have gone before me, a faith rooted in promises that birth hope every day.May I be a promise keeper even when they take a long time to become reality.May I be an example of someone who does not waver in faith.May I recognise light in the birth of every child and be a significant presence and example for them.May this One born in human flesh give hope for the world through my words, actions into this new decade.May Advent hope led us to Bethlehem!Let there be Light!
Message - Frances Jones - Dec. 1, 2019 The Reveal
How many times do we find ourselves waiting? Line-ups at the grocery store; the Dr.'s office; for results from medical tests; on the phone after we've punched any number of digits to get to the person we want to speak to, and then finally to be put on 'hold', as we listen to an irritating music medley. Sometimes we just can't wait any longer; we lose hope of ever getting through, so we hang up, breaking the connection. Sometimes we act similarly as Christians. In this fast-paced world of instant gratification, waiting is not one of our strong points. We get impatient. We lose hope. When I think about hope, and the people from whom we can learn about waiting with hope, my thoughts turn immediately to characters like Noah; Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel; and Daniel. To mind also comes the many women in the N.T. who received hope from Jesus after years and years of injustice. What an example of hope Noah portrayed as he followed God's instructions to build a huge boat in the desert. Can't you just imagine the ridicule he must have suffered from friends and neighbours; even his own family members questioning him? Are you sure you understood what God was telling you? And Noah continued to demonstrate hope as he brought not only animals, but his own family, on board the ark. His hope continued as they floated for days and days with no land in sight; and again he was hopeful as he watched and waited for the return of the dove that he sent out to find a habitable spot of earth. Noah certainly didn't hope for a flood to wipe out lives; rather his hope was in God's promise that what he said would really happen, whether he liked it or not; whether the people he warned were ready or not. * * * Even after suffering numerous disappointments during his lifetime, Joseph too never lost hope in God. He was mistreaated by his jealous brothers, partly because of his special gift of being able to interpret dreams; sold as a slave to Egyptian merchants; then he was thrown in jail for no fault of his own. After experiencing so many injustices, we might think that Joseph would throw his hands in the air, saying, 'what's the use?'. He might even have stopped exercising the special talent God had given him – interpreting dreams. But, even though his hopes might have been dashed over and over again, he never turned away from his God; never doubted that his God was there with him – in good times and bad. Little did he know at the time, but it seemed that Joseph's imprisonment was a training period for God's future plan. His leadership skills were being strengthened as he was placed in authority over the other prisoners, preparing him for future responsibilities when he would be in charge of food distribution during a severe famine – distributing even to the brothers who had mistreated him years before. Trusting in God and remaining hopeful is not always easy, but we never know what God's plan is until he reveals it in his own time. * * * It would take way too long to mention the many characters from the stories of Jesus in the N.T. who either demonstrated hope – or received hope – because of his healing power; his message of life and light; his demonstration of unconditional love. It's uplifting to read and to share these stories, but let's ask ourselves what is being revealed to us through them. In this fast-paced world that we live in, are we affected at all by these stories of Jesus? Are we willing to make changes in the way we think; the way we treat others; in our routines, because of these examples? In Paul's letter to the church in Rome, he was informing people that it's time for believers to wake up; to change their ways from selfishness and jealousy to living as a hopeful people, believing God's promises. And we know from the examples of Noah and Joseph that we just discussed that God really does follow through with his promises, whether or not individuals are prepared. We could respond with, I attend worship services; serve on committees; cook and bake; visit shut-ins; and generally follow the rules (most of the time). But remember the rich man who approached Jesus inquiring about eternal life? He too followed the rules. He was pretty sure that he had crossed all of his “t's” and dotted all of his “i's” as far as being a good citizen was concerned, but, was that enough? According to Jesus, his self-perception didn't quite measure up. Even this man who knew all the laws and obeyed them, needed saving grace. Now let's turn to Luke's gospel and his story about Joseph and Mary taking Jesus, still a very young baby, to the temple to be presented or dedicated as the first-born. It was the time for purification, a ritual of cleanliness. So, we know that this young couple were obedient and dedicated servants of God; they followed the rules and traditions of their upbringing. But they were also aware, through God's promise to them, that they had been especially chosen to carry out this miraculous birth. But, who else was aware of Jesus' uniqueness, that he was actually the Lord's Messiah - Immanuel, God with us? Apparently, the old gentleman named Simeon, who was in the temple at the time, was well aware of God's promise of a Messiah – a Saviour who would bring glory to Israel and revelation to the Gentiles. How did he know? Why was he there at the temple at this particular time? Simeon listened, believed and lived with hope because of the promise of the Holy Spirit that had informed him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord's Messiah. We're told that he was led by the Spirit as he went into the temple. Do you suppose that Simeon felt one of those 'nudges' or listened to his 'inner voice' – things that tell us as believers that we need to be somewhere or to do something at a particular time? For some reason, whether it was a 'nudge' or a premonition, Paul Bourcier felt the need to be at a specific place of worship on that cold and stormy January day when it wasn't fit for man nor beast to be out. But he went. And while there he met Gilbert, a new-comer to Canada from Africa; a man in desperate need of assistance – the kind of help that Paul was able to offer. Simeon too had a special reason for being there at the temple that day. As he took the baby in his arms, he praised God, but then delivered a special message to both Mary and Joseph, and possibly to everyone else who was in the temple at the time. “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel”. I don't believe Mary and Joseph were expecting any such proclomation during this particular ceremony. We're told that they marveled at the words this man was speaking. Yes, they knew how special Jesus was – right from the time of conception when the Angel appeared to Mary, but how did this man, Simeon know all of this? After blessing the young couple, Simeon's message, guided by the Spirit was that, as a result of Jesus' life on earth, some would rise; some would fall and that not all would welcome him. A rather solemn prophecy. Then, looking at Mary and speaking directly to her, Simeon's words were both uplifting and encouraging; but, at the same time, serious, solemn and discouraging, as he said, “and a sword will pierce your own soul too”. Because we know the story of Jesus' birth, life and death, we can now understand what Simeon meant, but just imagine this young mother hearing these words. How that statement must have hurt Mary. How she must have pondered on those strange words from the old man. The words that Simeon spoke that almost jumped off the page at me were, “the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed”. Teachers of the law, the Scribes and Pharisees might come to mind at first, but what about you and me? Do our words and actions always express the hopefulness that we profess? During this Advent season, as we celebrate the coming once again of our Lord and Saviour, what is it that we are really hoping for? Hope isn't something that we can manufacture. It is based on God's promises. Noah followed instructions to build a huge boat in a very unlikely location because he was confident that God's promises were true. Joseph also remained hopeful even in times of mistreatment and injustice because he trusted his God to follow through on his promise to always be with him. Simeon, the old man patiently waiting in the temple, was filled with hope as he waited and waited for the reveal of the Lord's Christ, believing with confidence and trust that God would be true to his word. We have much to celebrate this Advent season – and today we celebrate our hope in the coming again of our Lord. We hope because God is not out there somewhere – God is with us – Immanuel. We hope because God is in us. John's gospel is reassuring as he records Jesus' words, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” And we have hope because God is for us. 'If God is for us, who can be against us?' (Romans 8:31). At this Advent season let us peel away the layers of doubt, anxiety and feelings of hopelessness as we allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit. Who knows where it will take us? Once the thoughts of our hearts are made known, what will they reveal? True servants of God – that trust and hope in his promises – humble servants in need of mercy, love and grace?
DAVIDS bLOG - Nov. 29, 2019 Happy New Year, Christians!
The new Christian liturgical year begins this Sunday and follows the lighting of the Advent candles over the next four weeks: Hope, peace, joy, love. Christians around the world are preparing the advent of the One we call: Messiah. Into these dark days of fall I am being pushed from inner darkness into the light by a fourteen year old who asked for the “lumières de Noël” and proceeded to empty all the decorations from under the stairs onto the basement floor. He put lights up in the front of the house and on the back porch, so much so that I ran out of supplies. (SOS Granby has blessed me with more used lights and garland). Last Saturday he pushed me out the door so he could make a “movie” of the Santa Claus parade including the Women’s Institute float and the lit up Bedford fire department fire truck. As I stood there I gave thanks to God for his exuberance and joy. Children and youth make all the difference for this season to become one of wonder and joy. The prophets speak promises hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth. They tell us to get ready for Emmanuel, God with us, even though they did not live to see the One God would send. They say: But as for me, I keep watch for the Lord; I wait in hope for God my Saviour; my God will hear me. Micah 7:7
In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isaiah 40:3 I shall stand at my post, I shall take up my position on the watchtower, keeping a look-out to learn what God says to me. Habakkuk 2:1
Rejoice, daughter of Zion! I am coming, I shall make my dwelling among you, says our God. Zechariah 2:10
Let us hear the prophets: their message and let their promises sustain us these dark winter days. Let us prepare the way for the Lord in our hearts and spirits. Let us keep the Christ in this season with less consumerism and more heart felt/homemade gifts.
Let us pray this Advent: Your promise dawns upon us, Living God-- we wait expectantly. Your hope arises among us, Living God-- we wait confidently. Your Cherished One appears for us, Living God-- we wait in joy. Thanks be to God! Amen.
Davids Blog - Nov 22, 2019 Lost in Montreal Dear Brothers and Sisters,I am grateful for this study leave week. I chose to recycle a blog from May 2017. Beryl Barraclough, who became a Designated Lay Minister, became the “pastor” of SouthWest in Verdun this fall...and I now live in the Townships!God is Good: all the time! I am not sure how it happened. Last week I took the bus heading to Berri-UQAM metro, sat and enjoyed the ride. No car. No traffic headaches. I felt quite proud of myself. When I saw the Metropolitan I realized I was traveling in the wrong direction, through unknown neighbourhoods. I was lost in Montreal.On Wednesday evening, I happened to be driving back to the city over the Champlain Bridge at precisely 9:45.I got to enjoy the light show on the Jacques-Cartier Bridge celebrating Montreal's 375th birthday, from that vantage point. Coincidental? Serendipitous? (love that word!) Direction and timing. Sometimes we go the wrong way, sometimes we are at the right place for a special moment. Sometimes the wrong direction opens up new possibilities and the timing is so dead on that you realize a few minutes either way and you would have missed it.I wrestle with what it means to believe that God is Creator of Incredible Life, a complex and awe-inspiring universe, a world intricately interconnected, and also believe that this Life flows within me. I feel so small, almost insignificant in this world and universe of wonder. At times I feel lost. Do my decisions, choices, wrong turns and timing really matter? Where do I belong?There is a helpful passage in Psalm 139 that says:'You created every part of me;you put me together in my mother's womb… when I was growing there in secret,you knew that I was there,you saw me before I was born.I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful.I know it with all my heart'.(13-15)This passage was read at the birth of my children and recently at Beryl's recognition as a Designated Lay Minister. It speaks to my need for belonging, I am interwoven into the same fabric of Life, that of Creator and Creation. It says that I am part of the whole and find my place there. It aligns my faith to see myself not in a hierarchy of specialness (one of us more important than another) but of being significant because in my body and spirit flows the same Life-force from which all creation emerges.We are all born of the Creator and are part of an incredibly complex and organic creation! I enjoy the hymn:'I have called you by your name,you are mine;I have gifted you and ask you now to shine.I will not abandon you;all my promises are true.You are gifted, called and chosen,you are mine'.(Daniel Charles Damon, 1995, More Voices 161).Belonging to God and the Christian Family give meaning to my life. To believe that God knows my name is a deeply intimate affirmation of love and connectedness.Rev. David
Message - Karen Lackey Ryan - Nov. 17, 2019 Today is designated Children’s Sunday, the Sunday closest to November 20th. Children’s Sunday reflects the United Church’s advocacy for the protection, participation, and justice for children and the earth. In considering the state and fate of too many children in the world today, I consider Stanbridge East and the Bedford pastoral charge to be a comparatively happy bubble relative to what children endure in other, more limited parts of the world. The scriptures this morning refer to a new heaven and a new earth, and also highlight differences between the child mind and that of the mature adult. How can these two topics have anything in common? Genesis Chapter 1:1 states our Christian cosmology, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Verse 27 gives us our holy and creaturely origins, 27 So God created mankind in his own image,in the image of God he created them;male and female he created them.By verse 31 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. How far are we, globally, from that idyllic beginning. According to Ian K. Smith,Ian K. Smith is the principal of Christ College, Sydney, where he also teaches Greek and New Testament. author of Not Home Yet: How the Renewal of the Earth Fits into God’s Plan for the World, “The Bible does not begin with the problem of sin; it begins with the beauty of the earth. Through all the twists and turns of the biblical story, God remains committed to his creation. In the light of this, it is surprising that so many Christians view the earth as transient at best and something to be forsaken at worst. The opening chapters of Genesis explode this misconception. God, not Satan, will have the final victory over what God has made. It will not be discarded but rescued. The scope of this rescue operation encompasses all that has fallen. It is not surprising, therefore, that Scripture talks of the fulfilment of this Pg. 2 rescue as “new heavens and a new earth” (Isa. 65:17; 66:22, Pet.3:13, Rev. 21:1) The story of the Bible begins with “God created heavens and the earth” and ends with “a new heaven and the new earth.” The reality today is that both the earth, and children, are at risk. Interesting that we now have children as the most active advocates for their own safety, (the Parkview school survivors), and for climate initiatives, (Greta Thunberg). The idea of childhood itself has been hotly debated, and has gone through a variety of definitions over time. Children have been considered mini adults, or innocent and inexperienced little imps, precious blessings, useful laborers, latchkey kids home alone, naïve and easily influenced blank slates, and now subjects of abuses by social media, and others, to give a few examples. Children today are technologically adept, no strangers to pornography and violence, menstruation arrives early, and sexual activity is premature. I never understood the child soldiers that haunt the memory of Romeo Dallaire, They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiersafter his time spent in Rwanda, until I learned that one explanation is that the child has an undeveloped moral conscience, does not process death the same way that an adult does, and so, does not necessarily receive the impact of the violence that is perpetuated. But, that may also be considered a rationalization. Children are growing up with violence, participate in violence, and require healing from the negative effects of that violence. Suffering children seem to be almost like the canaries in the coal mineshaft, warning of the explosion to come. Broken children are the result of broken societies.
Pg. 3Although many examples of child violence and child deprivation can be procured from Africa and the Middle East: for example, Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes around 700 children each year in military courts lacking fundamental fair trail rights. www.nowaytotreatachild.ca, (maybe a matter of determining who threw the first stone) we know, in our own province, and not too far from our own sweet village, the limitations of Youth Services, the tragic results of parental neglect and abuse, and the mystery of seemingly random acts of violence by children themselves. Jesus said, “Suffer little children to come unto me.” Or, we could have Jesus say, have the suffering little children come unto me. Matthew 19:13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. How easily children can be brushed aside. The phrase, “such as these” is so often a label assigned by parents and teachers, of difficult, wild, unruly, energetic, inappropriate and demanding youth who routinely challenge all of our high-minded beliefs about acceptable behavior and how to learn about life. Who can say with any certainty the best way to raise a child? Some children receive almost no adult guidance, while others are smothered by so called “helicopter parents.” We say that it is impossible to learn without exploration and mistakes, but we like predictability and order. Children simultaneously believe in the impossible, challenge the status quo, while at the same time being almost totally dependent on the adults in their lives. Pg. 4 We are all children of the living God. Just as we are, without one plea. We all need love, and a safe emotional and physical environment in which to learn and grow. We need Mom. We need Dad. We need our Father which art in heaven. Matt: 18: 1-5 tells us,At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. The disciples are asking “who is the greatest” from a competitive point of view. When Jesus says, “the lowly position of this child,” he is underscoring the powerlessness of childhood. Rather than considering the children a bother, Jesus addresses the power dynamic that is present, advising the disciples and us to be like the child, dependent on the Father. Jesus is the ultimate sinless, innocent child, the Lamb who was subject to the power dynamics of his day, and paid with his life for challenging the status quo. In his Oneness with his Father, with his last breath he“called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." (Luke 23:46) This is the new heaven and new earth, the final state of redeemed humanity, effected by Christ on our behalf. Through our acceptance of this sacrifice, through our repentance, and returning to God our Father, we gain peace, hope, and love. We can rejoice in the knowledge that we have a Father who loves us and cares for us.
Pg. 5 Romans 12:2 gives us the key: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” To further quote from scripture, 1 Cor. 13:11,11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. Through obedience to the love of Christ we transform our ownbody and mind. In our own heaven and earth, we put on the new “man in Christ.” And, lastly, 2 Cor. 5: 16-20, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. As Christ’s ambassadors, let us work on behalf of children and our suffering world, that we may do our own small part in our own small corners, to create the physical and emotional safety where love and hope and peace may grow and thrive. Thanks be to God, Amen
Rev. Davids Blog The Memory WallThere has been a lot of remembrance this week, at cenotaphs in Cowansville, Bedford, in our schools, at the Dunham Cairn and many other places. The names on our Honour Rolls were read in our Remembrance Sunday’s services in both pastoral charges as well as, on behalf of the Philipsburg Legion, some 94 names of men and women of Missisquoi ‘who perished in defence of our freedom’ were named this year for the first time at Wesley and in the Anglican churches. The naming and photos on the walls of the Heroes’ school service showed 158 deaths of Canadian military and civilians who died in Afghanistan and reminded all of us that our country continues to be involved in conflicts and peacekeeping around our world.One of the remembrance hymns had these very appropriate words: Weep for the dead. Let tears and silence tell of blood and battle, horror and renown. The years diminish, but do not dispel the pain of lives destroyed, and life laid down. Summoned by love that leaves no room for pride, we pray that every continent and isle, wounded by war, war's hate may lay aside, and find a way to heal and reconcile. (VU # 526, Brian Wren 1987)In these darker days of November I have been recently living a personal remembrance of loss and sadness. To help me express my love and grief I recently made a Memory Wall in my home library (office) where I placed photos and memorabilia of my siblings who lives were cut short by cancer. In the middle is a stained glass of Jesus holding the ‘lost sheep’. Sometimes I feel lost in my grief and want to be held in Jesus’ loving arms. I wrap myself in one of my grandmother’s or mother’s quilts, close my eyes, and feel love.I think of these words written by Edward Hopper in 1871:As a mother stills her child, thou canst hush the ocean wild, Boisterous waves obey thy will when thou baddest them “Be Still.”Wondrous sovereign of the sea, Jesus, Saviour, pilot me.God, in our sadness, loss and remembrance, hold us close and may we reach out to those around us needing our care and your love. Rev. David
Rev. Davids Blog There Is a Balm for Our Souls These words from A New Creed (UCC) resonate in my spirit: In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone.
I struggle through these darker and colder days of November. The ‘turning-fourteen year old’ in my home saw the first snowfall this week and was so excited that it “stuck” together - he wanted to make snowballs and play. A balm to my spirit. A family came by the Emmanuel office looking for coats and mittens and we had a conversation of welcome and of need. Boxes of food items at both Bedford Pastoral Charge and Emmanuel are being given to the Centre d’action bénévole de Cowansville / Bedford (CABC/B). Local initiatives that are helping all our families. A balm to my sadness. My fall struggle starts with remembrance that honours my Dad, Ernest, a five-year WWII veteran. I will stand at the Cenotaph in Cowansville and Bedford with my very own memories of when my father began to speak of his experiences of war some 50 years after it ended. Vera Lynn was singing in front of Buckingham Palace and he was singing along with this voice and songs that gave hope in the darkness of warfare. I remember seeing and touching the hidden ‘trophies’ he brought back hidden in his sock drawer that were never shown to anyone until after he died. After this remembrance are the memories of my siblings: sisters Rebecca and Ruth, brother Joe and the last weeks and months of their lives during the fall of the year. Their deaths colour these days with pain, grief, good-byes and after their deaths, the silence and absence. I remember placing three candles in the early morning of the new year when the call came that my youngest brother had died only a few minutes before. The light, a balm in my darkness. I recently created a memory wall in my home library with photos of my siblings and I used my Dad’s KJV Bible at Community School. My remembrance is deep and profound. It pulses with darkness, sadness and memories and always with love! The light seems to shine through the cracks of the myriad of my emotions as my body and spirit recall the angst of letting go. We love deeply and mourn deeply. One of the ways I felt God’s presence recently was at the gathering of worship leaders last Sunday afternoon. It was All Saints and 12, yes, 12 men and women gathered in Emmanuel’s Meeting Room talking about their roles and call as worship leaders for our pastoral charges in the Brome-Missisquoi. These, and those unable to make the meeting are 19 leaders willing to lead in prayer, worship and speak from their hearts to our congregations and the places that they serve. These leaders were a balm to my heart these dark days of November. The prophet Jeremiah (8: 22) asks the question for a people crushed and wounded: Is there no medicine/balm in Gilead? The spiritual (VU 612), born out of deep suffering says: There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul. Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work’s in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again.
A balm, O God, in these darks days of November’s remembrance, a balm, O God, to our weariness and saying goodbyes, a balm, O God, on your church and its leadership, a balm to renew and to revive we pray. Amen.
Message - Frances Jones - Nov. 3, 2019 Measuring Up
Have you ever gone to a parade where a large crowd had already gathered? Possibly the Santa Claus parade, or the St. Patrick's Day parade - where you heard that some famous person would be walking or riding along? If you are short in stature, as some of us are, it is very difficult to be able to see over crowds of people. That can be very frustrating when you have come to this event especially to see something or someone in particular.
If not at a parade, possibly you have attended a concert to see, as well as hear, a famous singer that you've heard so much about. The hearing might not have been a problem, considering the sound systems at concerts, but seeing the performer could have posed a bit of a problem for you.
Similarly, at the movie theatre, you have just seated yourself comfortably when someone whose head towers above yours, has dropped down into the chair right in front of you. Now you no longer have a clear view. Frustrating, to say the least! So, decision time! To stay where you are and fume about the fact that you can't see, or to do something about it and search out a location where you can have a better view.
Something similar happened to this little man, Zacchaeus. Because he was short in stature, he couldn't see over or around the crowd of people that had gathered beside the road in Jericho that day. Everyone was there for the same reason – because they had heard about the miraculous things this man called Jesus had done. The news had spread how he had changed people's lives; not only physically, but Spiritually as well. And this great teacher and healer was going to be passing through their town on his way to Jerusalem. Of course, they all wanted to get a good view of him, including Zacchaeus.
We can just imagine this short man standing on tip-toes, peering around the many bodies in front of him, trying to get a good look; but it was fruitless. He just didn't measure up; not only because of his stature, but also because, in the eyes of his fellow citizens, Zacchaeus was a traitor – a man who collected taxes from them on behalf of the enemy, the Roman Empire. They detested this little man because they knew what a liar, and a cheater he was.
But Zacchaeus was determined, so he had to think of a Plan B. Somehow, he would have to rise above this crowd. It was the only way he would be able to see Jesus. Looking around for an idea, he spotted it. A large sycamore tree just up ahead. 'Aha !', he probably thought, 'I'll have a better view than anyone, if I can just climb up to that branch and hang on.' And so he did!
As he hunkered down on the branch of that large tree, Zacchaeus spotted Jesus and his followers off in the distance as they approached the city. Imagine the excitement! Shouts of “Here he comes!” eminated from the crowd; hands and arms reaching out trying to touch him as he walked past. Some might even have been chanting, “Jesus, Jesus!”
But Jesus walked right on by the multitude as they tried to take hold of him or his garment. Then he stopped, looked up and made eye contact with this little man stradling a tree branch. What do you suppose was going through Zacchaeus' mind? “Oh, oh!, This man called Jesus has noticed me. I cannot avoid his eyes as they search me. What will he say; what will he think of me when he finds out who I am and what I have done?”
Before Zacchaeus could ponder on this thought any further, Jesus, with his head still raised and eyes fixed on him, called him by his name. “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today”. And so, without hesitation, the little man let go of the branch he was clinging to, climbed down and joined Jesus.
By this time the crowd was abuzz with grumblings and complaints. Probably thinking that it should have been them to whom Jesus paid attention, they muttered among themselves, 'Why would Jesus associate with this sinner, this outcast? Did you hear that? He even called him by his name? How did he know his name?'
And maybe Zacchaeus was wondering the same thing. Do you suppose he could have had any idea that he would be noticed by Jesus; that he would be singled out and called to join him?
Jesus must have made quite an impact on this tax collector. As a result of meeting him face to face, Zacchaeus experienced a complete transformation. He even promised a quadruple payback to anyone who had been cheated; and pledged half his possessions to the poor. And, we can only imagine the elation felt by this little man when Jesus said to him, “Salvation has come to this house today. The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost”.
No longer lost? Had Zacchaeus finally realized what it was like to be loved and accepted? After having made restitution and correcting his ways, was this scorned and rejected individual actually now able to measure up? Only through the saving grace of Jesus.
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I really enjoy reading the gospel of Luke because, as we have seen from stories we've heard throughout the past few Sundays, and then again today, what seems to be impossible to us can happen, and does happen.
Luke portrays Jesus as the Man from God, and emphasizes the humanity of our Lord. Throughout this gospel we meet a Saviour who is suited to everyone – the outcast, the downtrodden, the despised, the poor - and women. Luke turns the tables on individuals and on groups – he seems to enjoy turning the world upside down as he describes our Lord calling individuals who might be considered 'questionable' people – people who, according to some, just don't measure up. Do you think that means that Jesus condones whatever it is we decide to do, whatever choices we make?
I'd like to share with you a bit of a TV show I saw the other night on the program called, “Bull”. It concerned the relationship between a father and his daughter. The teenage daughter had been attending college and got into trouble. As a result, she went to her dad for support because she had made the decision to do something that her father, because of his faith and upbringing, adamantly disapproved of. What she had decided to do was against his principles, his beliefs.
So, searching for answers, the dad entered a church – a place he hadn't been to in many years because of personal reasons. While he was studying the bulletin board in the entrance of the building, an older gentleman appeared from the sidelines and asked if he could help. The father said he needed some counselling – and he just wanted some advice concerning his dilemma. He explained to the older man that he loved his daughter dearly and wanted to always be there for her, but he just couldn't agree with this decision she had made. To that, the older gentleman offered up some advice. He said, 'you know, that's a lot like God is with us. We know he loves us. He certainly doesn't approve of all the things we do, the choices we make, but we do know he's there for us, like a good father.'
These words from the older gentleman seemed to appease the dad, and as he turned to leave, his parting words were, “thank you, Pastor”. The older man opened his mouth in an attempt to explain something, but it was too late. The father had left the building. So the gentleman turned and walked back to where he came from, picked up his mop, placed it in the pail of water, and continued what he had been doing before the encounter.
You and I can think of so many things that can cloud our vision of our Saviour. In the case of Zacchaeus, it was the crowds of onlookers who lined the street that blocked his view. And, don't we hang on to ideas or traditions in a similar way that this little man clung to the limb of the sycamore tree?
If we are feeling that we have made too many bad choices in life; that we're too far gone to ever be able to measure up to our Lord's standards, let's remember Jesus' words to Zacchaeus, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost”. So, maybe we were lost, but here we have the proof that we don't have to stay lost.
As Zacchaeus let go of that branch of the tree, can't we too just let go? Let's ask ourselves if we're willing to go out on a limb to meet Jesus, and, as the janitor in our story shared a wonderful truth, we too can share the good news that we have a God who loves us in spite of ourselves.
Davids Blog - Nov. 2, 2019 Remembrance in the Dark Days of November I heard a voice saying,“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord,for they rest from their labours.” Revelation 14:13 The changing of the summer to fall challenges and assaults my physical senses. The days darken, there are more layers of clothing, no more sandals, and add to this the cold rainy days and the putting the garden to bed for the winter!! Take me back to warm summer evenings.In the month of November, we live a season of remembering, of transitions, and of letting go. This fall I have enjoyed exploring the many trails around the region, especially with the incredible, almost breathtaking, colours of the fall foliage. Spectacular vistas. Leaves are at their most vibrant just before they die and fall to the earth to compost into the soil that will nurture future growth.Our faith story remembers that on the night of October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses – a proposal to debate the doctrine and practice of indulgences – to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany, beginning what became known as the Protestant Reformation. Luther chose this night knowing that many people would be attending church the next day – All Saints Day – and would read his statements.Around the world Christians remember the saints at All Saints (November 1). In the New Testament “Saints” refer to Christians collectively. Cemeteries have memorials, as do hospitals and residences. We remember our dead.We remember the saints who have gone before us and who surround us. They are what the writer of the Hebrews (12:1) describes as a “great crowd of witnesses round us!”We remember on November 10th at worship and Armistice Day the 11th the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in far off battlefields and served their country.As Christians we know this cycle of endings and new beginnings. We celebrate a hope rooted in Christian faith that affirms that the darkness of death cannot hold back the One we call Light of the World. We affirm that there is an end from labour and a rest in the Lord, that God holds the dead close in grace and we in a holy remembrance in our hearts.The fall colours, so beautiful and so fleeting, mirror the cycle of our lives and the challenge of our grief, which is to remember, to treasure, and also to let go.When we are living, it is in Christ Jesus,and when we’re dying, it is in the Lord.Both in our living and in our dying,we belong to God, we belong to God. (Anonymous, Voices United, 581) We gather to remember the “brilliant colours” of our loved ones at our All Saints Communion service this Sunday. Be ready to name a loved one during the service and around the communion table. Speak their name in your heart or with your voice.We will pray this prayer together:O God before whom the generations rise and pass away;we praise you for all your servants who,having lived this life in faith,now live eternally with you.Especially we thank you for these your servants, now gone from among us.We name them into your love…We praise you for the gift of their lives,for all in them that was kind and good.We thank you that for them death is past and pain ended,and that they have entered the joy you have prepared, in your eternal love. Amen.We remember them.Rev. David