Habits

Today, I was particularly struck by the reference in the children's story to the thematic notion of "habits", as analogized to things we wear.  This is a really interesting analogy for me, thinking about Foucault, and even Judith Butler, and post-structuralist understandings of the social self as "imprinted", as a set of performances or habits we wear that eventually become deeply enmeshed with our inner lives too.  It is useful to think about habits in the context of fall, and back to school, and the not insignificant struggle that is involved in getting a squad of teens and tweens up and out to church on a Sunday morning. It is difficult sometimes to mindfully and intentionally model good habits, but also worthwhile, as our habits accrete together to shape not just us but also the lives we lead.  It reminds me of a quote I like, which has been attributed to both Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher, but probably comes from an ancient Buddhist text:

The thought manifests as the word,
The word manifests as the deed,
The deed develops into habit,
And the habit hardens into character.
So watch the thought and its way with care,
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all beings.

Rally Sunday

Today was Rally Sunday a day of recommitment and renewal.

It is a joy to watch as the children take their place and make a vow to their journey through a new church year.

Today we blessed the church teachers and their remarkable commitment to the education of the children of all ages, this is dedication worthy of our support.

As part of the service today we also recognized the commitment of the choir and our music program a very nice tie in. It is good that we each year voice our vows to these works in the church and as a congregation vow our support for the efforts of these good people.

When I repaired downstairs I saw the volunteers making the soup, and corn, those working to ensure the setup of the tables and chairs outside and the puppet show downstairs.

It then struck me. No one had blessed them, no special service offered, no vows were taken, no pledges given. Yet here they were working as they always do, fall, winter, spring, summer. No church year, no special timetable no calendar year to follow just quiet unmistakable service, in the back room with little fanfare and somewhat underappreciated thanks.

It is very good that we take special time to honour the good people that provide special work in our church, it raises us up alongside them. We need more often to show our support.

Take a moment with me on this Rally Sunday to also show our support for the countless other volunteers that keep the congregation running every Sunday and every other day of the week all year long, Those who usher, those who greet, those who ring the church bell, those who count the collection, those who stuff envelopes, those who make the corn and soup, those help with the mailout, those who tend the garden, those who set up chairs, those who handle doors open, those who help at coffee hour, those who serve at the annual meeting those who……………………the list is far too long the recognition oft far too sparse.

So let us take a vow together to pray for these people with thanks and recognition, to keep the Christian education, teachers and students , the Music program and the Choir in our prayers and hopes as we recognize and bless ALL who make our Church the special thing it is.

Noral R.

Ambassadors of God's justice

This week, like many other weeks, we've been confronted with natural disasters in Texas, British Columbia and Bangladesh, and the continuing drought in South Sudan.  As believers in a personal God, concerned for and involved with us as individuals, we wonder about the random indifference of the fires and floods that sweep away the ordered lives of believers and non-believers alike.

In Rev. Bill MacLellan's call to worship, he spoke of the Church as a "unique community."  People of all faiths, or no faith, do respond with generous support to victims of natural disasters.  But for me, there is a unique responsibility that the Church carries to place generosity at the heart of our mission and work.  We don't know why disasters occur, but we know what our response to them must be.  And it must be done with enthusiasm, a word that derives from the Greek "comes from God." He is the source of our urgent motivation to help others.  For our denomination, that is often through Presbyterian World Service and Development, reaching out to the desperate and despairing, needing Christian charity and hungering for justice.

One of this morning's hymns summarized this responsibility to be what Bill called "ambassadors of God's justice."

"Help us to help each other, Lord,

Each other's cross to share,

Let each our friendly aid afford,

And feel each other's care."

Rob R.

Psalm 23

A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
   He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
   he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
   for his name’s sake.


Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
   I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff—
   they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
   my whole life long.

Staying True To One’s Convictions

Today Karen brought to life the story of Elijah. One who stayed true to his convictions in the face of his own misery and potential death.

Psalm 40 was our responsive Psalm another lesson about the truth of conviction in the Lord and the strength that conviction provides in all we do.

In this time of false ideologies, hate and bigotry we must remember that our convictions as Christians are to follow the teachings of Jesus and the will of the Lord.

Jesus did not teach hate nor bigotry nor racism. Jesus taught us love and inclusiveness.

The Bible teaches that God loves all, not just a few.

Revelations 7:9
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.

Frequently we find the differences and what divided us but our belief in the Lord is about the all inclusive. As we struggle with the resurgence of those who see a superior and inferior we remember the words given to us.

Galatians 3:28
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The story of Elijah reminds us that the Lord and our Teacher Jesus will put us to the test and hope to find our fidelity to our beliefs not when things our easy but when they are hard.

We are often asked to ignore the words of Jesus and take the easy way of hate and bigoty. For blaming another is far easier than accepting the responsibility for ourselves.

What did Jesus answer to those who would entrap him?

Matthew 22:34-40
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

 A very important reminder when those who hate appeal to the easy and simple

The Lord's Blessing

Noral

Moderator responds to violence in Charlottesville, Virginia and Nairobi, Kenya

Our hearts have been broken yet again by the violence and the incitement to violence we have
witnessed in the world over the weekend. In Charlottesville, where white supremacists clashed
with anti-racist protesters with deadly consequences. In Nairobi, where violence between the Luo and the Kikuyu has produced equally deadly consequences.

At the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis 1, we are taught that all human beings are made in the
image of God. At the end of the Bible in the book of Revelation, human beings “from every
nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages,” gather together to bring glory and honour to God who sits on the throne and to Jesus Christ. Between these bookends telling us that human beings of every ethnicity and culture are made in the image of God, James 3:9,10 reminds us we cannot both praise God and curse our fellow human beings who are made in the image of God. We pray for a world where all human beings recognize their fellow human beings as being made in the image of God.

God who made all humans in your image, we come to you with broken hearts.

We live in a world where human beings curse and disrespect other human beings on the basis of the other’s skin colour. We live in a world where human beings attack and commit violence
against other human beings on the basis of the other’s ethnicity.

We weep over the loss of life that has occurred. We pray for those who have lost loved ones.
Bring comfort.

We pray for those who feel fear because of the violence. Bring the peace which passes all
understanding.

We pray for those who have learned the violence is the way to deal with racial and ethnic
difference. Bring a change of heart by your Holy Spirit.

We celebrate the courage of those who speak and act for peace and reconciliation between
ethnicities and races. For as your Son, Jesus, declared, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they
will be called the children of God.”

God of grace, your Son Jesus Christ took into himself the hate and violence of the world, through the work of the cross we pray all human beings will come to recognize their fellow human beings as being made in your image.

We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

From the website of the Presbyterian Church in Canada

Lord have mercy!

When I heard Karen would be preaching on Psalm 137, with its verses about heads smashing on rocks, I was definitely curious. In what context could we ever include sentiments like these in the word of God?

When we actually read the Psalm, it was worse than I expected. "Happy shall they be who take [the Babylonians'] little ones, and dash them against the rock!" How are we to take this? I was grateful when Jim read this Psalm, he didn't end it with the traditional "This is the word of the Lord." I don't know if I could have responded with the "Thanks be to God" after hearing these cries.

But before we even got into this unsettling Psalm, Karen led the children in prayer during children's time. She had them stand in a circle, and imagine God at the centre. As they prayed, they took steps closer to God, tightening the circle and coming shoulder to shoulder with one another. Prayer brings us closer to God, but it also brings us closer to God's people.

Keeping this circle image in mind and coming back to the Psalm, we learned it was written when the Babylonians had just captured Jerusalem, killing many of the Jewish people, and capturing many others. The author was a survivor so destroyed by this loss, they couldn't even sing. The psalm begins with grief, and ends in anger - enough anger to wish upon his enemies the same pain and suffering he feels.

And even now, 2500 years later, we feel this same grief and anger. This is the grief and anger of people all over the world, past and present, who've had everything taken from them and feel like nothing is left. It's hard to see, hard to accept, hard to feel, it makes us uncomfortable. But it exists. And seeing this pain and suffering opens us up to see the mercy of God, to see God's compassion and care, even when situations seem impossible.

So much of this morning pointed to beauty. Our responsive Psalm 84 showed us, Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young. The Vivaldi duet brought me near tears with the beauty of the music and the soaring voices. The church building and the faces of the friends beside me in the pews-it was a beautiful morning. It was a lot to hold in my heart this dichotomy of a God of beauty, and a God who allows the atrocities that make a god-fearing man want to smash babies heads on rocks.

It was a great relief to sing, Will your anchor hold. Its familiar refrain reassuring that despite waves of feelings of grief and anger, and even feelings of great beauty, God is a steady anchor. While it's important to allow ourselves to be unsettled by the pain people feel, it doesn't need to be the end. God's mercy is complete and God's justice is sure.

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour's love.

 

Maureen R.