All Things to All People?

Please be sure to scroll below for a second reflection on today's Sunday worship.

Today’s Sermon was centered around Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 9 verses 1-23.

The New Testament clearly states that the model for ministry is our Lord Jesus Christ. The nature of our ministry is service. The motive for ministry in Christianity is love. The measure for ministry is sacrifice. The authority of ministry is submission. Finally, the purpose of our ministry is the Glory of God.

In the Gospel according to John, Jesus said, John 14:12 (NLT), “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.”

The greek word for works is ergon which means an action that carries out, completes, an inner desire (link). What Jesus is saying is that if we truly believe in Him, we will do exactly has He had accomplished and even bigger things.  This is the will of God the Father.  So before we accomplish the greater things that Jesus talks about, we need to first accomplish the exact same things he accomplished: demonstrating the Fruit of the Spirit. 

So what things did Jesus accomplish in His ministry? He first demonstrated the fruits of the spirit in His everyday life and in His character. Jesus always fully demonstrated the fruits of the spirit in His actions (Galatians 5:22-23).

Then, we are called to exercise the gifts of the Spirit such as wisdom, faith, healing gifts, etc. (1 Corinthians 12: 8-10). These clarify our purpose in life and who we are called to be and the type of responsibility we have as Christians to help build the Kingdom of God. Paul makes it clear when he says in: 1 Corinthians 9: Verses: 22-23. “To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak: am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. And I do all things for the gospel’s sake, that I may be a joint partaker thereof.”

Paul is showing the extent to which he is willing to sacrifice his life for the Kingdom. He is ready to try and fit in with different types of societies so that he may share the good news of the Gospel, even if it means putting his life on hold, just as long as he remains true to who is in Christ Jesus.  As Rev. Karen said, Paul says to consider fitting in for the sake of the Gospel. But, to not lose sight of whom it is we are called to be in Christ Jesus: Saints.  Paul identifies himself to be a servant of God.

In the same manner, we need to consider the world changing around us. We need to try and fit in without losing sight of who we are called to be. We need to try and make ourselves known as Christians in different communities by demonstrating the fruits of the spirit.

Also, we should consider accepting, not tolerating, different backgrounds especially in a diverse country in order to demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit. This will help us move forward with the gifts God has given us so that we may work for the Kingdom to come.

 Everything is worthwhile when we follow the will of God.  How do we stay true to God but still have an inclusive approach in today’s world? We can only do so but first demonstrating the fruits of the spirit in our actions before we go out into the world to do the will of God. We will only be able to approach the world, if we are confident in our understanding of the importance of the fruits of the Spirit and the role they play in our character building especially after baptism.

Today’s service included the baptism of a child. As a congregation Rev. Karen asked us if ‘we promise to raise the child in the love and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ within the home and the fellowship of the church’. We all responded that we would. I remember sitting there thinking that, having a different background as the child, would somehow play a role into how I would approach the child to build a friendship, so that I could contribute in the upbringing at church.

I truly believe that our cultures influence our interpretation of friendship and fellowship. However, Jesus has freed us from cultural ties and has allowed us to all interpret love through His spirit. This would be a great example of how I would have to try and understand her cultural upbringing in order to approach her and assist her through life with the help of the Holy Spirit.

I would have to build some sort of trust with her family in order for them to be comfortable around me so that I may be allowed to share with her the Good news of the Gospel.  All in all, we need to find a balance between trying to be accepted by people and trying to stay true to who we have become in Christ Jesus.  

In my understanding of the good news of the Gospel of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is ready to guide us in the sharing of his word. However, the question is, do we demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit in our day to day lives before we go out into the world to accomplish the works that we are called to for?

Vanessa N.

Sunday, May 14

As numbers in various church denominations decline, there is one argument, one old chestnut there is oft repeated: "If only we didn't have so many denominations, our churches would be fuller! Our congregations wouldn't be in such peril!" The position really doesn't bear arguing, but it does reveal a latent belief that if only everyone else were simply willing to worship as we worship, and pray as we pray, and sing the songs that we sing, everything would be fine. There is silent blaming in that argument, make no mistake.

Leaving aside the ludicrousness of such a position, Paul's words in 1 Corinthians Craig read today are particularly prescient. As Paul writes, he became "all things to all people". Well, how can this be so? Did he quite literally take on other faiths, other cultures, other ethnicities, in order to evangelize? Or did he, instead, so fully embody his words from his letter to the Galatians - Now there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one - that his capacity to appeal to and identify with the peoples he encountered became universal?

What Paul writes - indeed, what Jesus states throughout the Gospels and Paul expresses in his letters - is the immateriality of difference. Culture, division, "otherness" are not summarily erased through faith in Christ (clearly: there are at least three different Presbyterian denominations just in North America, let alone the myriad other denominations and churches across the continent and around the globe). But in Christ those differences are made immaterial to salvation. Jesus is the ultimate universal truth, regardless of the many aspects that unnecessarily divide us.

I've always hated talk of teaching people "tolerance". I don't want to teach tolerance. Indeed: I don't want to tolerate or be tolerated. I don't want to merely accept someone who is different: I want to embrace that difference, not as a source of division but as a source of glorious nuance and abundance. I find myself wondering if we, as Presbyterians in Canada, can honestly say that we are doing the same. Are we, as a church, seeking to "by any means save some"? Are we embracing the "wondrous variety" (as Morgan Freeman's character in Robin Hood so elegantly phrases it) God has painted into this world in so very many ways? And if maturity of faith is to be our very best self, are we ready to acknowledge that each self is, needs be, individual and unique?

In Christ, difference no longer means exclusion. In Christ there is therefore now no condemnation. 

Jew or Gentile.
Slave or free.
Male or female.
Or neither. Or both.
Political left or right.
Straight or part of the LGBTQIAA community.

Darlene M.

Called to be Saints

During the sermon, the understanding of the foundation of our faith centered on identity inspired me most. Understanding my purpose in life as a Christian is all about my understanding of who I am called to be as a Christ, a member of the body of Christ.

Paul makes it clear to us, that being followers of Christs means more than just attending church. He touches on the importance of the body of Christ. The community of saints, who are called to be ‘different’, special in the eyes of the world. We are called to reflect the image of the living God. 

I would really like to highlight the meaning of Holiness: set apart for something special. God wants us to be Holy. That is his intention from the start, when Adam and Eve were created.  It is our calling. We are made special. 1 Corinthians chapter 3 verse 16, really challenges our understanding of who we are as Christians by asking us if we truly understand how holy we have been made because of the blood that was shed by the son of God for us. 

I really enjoyed Rev. Karen’s attention to the communities during Paul times and how status shaped a person’s interactions in the community. The idea that Christ Jesus would come and challenge everything known to man is brought up in the way the church gathers. It gave me the time to reflect upon the way in which the church behaves today. I reflected upon the interactions I have at work. Working as a teacher in a Islamic Elementary school, continually makes me reflect on my beliefs and my behave. I continually ask the Holy Spirit to let Him live through me so that my life can be the testimony of his word. It’s very challenging to not be able to openly share the word of God. However, the Holy Spirit has made me understand that, it is not necessarily through actual words and conversations that I will testimony of his glory. But, it is in the way I interact with people that will set me apart to be a saint and a follower of Jesus. 

I’ve noticed that, since I have focused on the understanding of who I am called to be, a saint, I have been able to let the actions do the talking. Some kids will immediately say that I am not of their faith because of the way I interact with them. Some are curious enough to ask me questions about my beliefs. I came to understand that the Holy Spirit is the doer and that I am the follower and that is why my interactions at work illustrate the word of God. 

Furthermore, the way in which we represent Christ in our communities, relies on our understand of who we are in Christ Jesus. How do we as Christians, saints, embody the word of God, at work, in our thoughts, in our way of living? The Holy Spirit lives in us for a reason. He is there to guide us in our every step. He is the living word. 

When Rev. Karen, brought up the special tea cups that her friend took out every time they had lunch, it made me think about whether or not I set aside time for God in the same way. How do I set my life apart to spend that special time with God? How do I let God do? Rather than trying to manage my life with God. What things in my life do I set aside for God? That should be everything. We are called to give all of who we are to Christ, as saints, so that we may be made Holy and justified and blameless for judgement day. We are called to be glad in Jesus, as Psalm 40 verse 16 stated. Find the peace and the fullness of life in Christ and all the blessings shall be added on to us. The Holy Spirit lives in us to help us understand what it means to set aside your wisdom and to replace it with the wisdom of God so that you may be Holy. 

Thus, our faith is centered on our Identify in Christ as saints who are called to let the Holy Spirit live through us.

Vanessa N.

PCC Urges Prime Minister to Respond to Crisis in South Sudan

From the PCC website

The Presbyterian Church in Canada, Anglican Church of Canada and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops have written a letter to the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, requesting more aid and attention to the famine situation and human rights violations happening in South Sudan.

The churches hope the Prime Minister will bring additional support to the United Nations mission in South Sudan, more humanitarian assistance and will assist in restoring the rule of law and protecting human rights. As well, the letter asks that the Prime Minister work diligently with Canadian businesses both at home and abroad, as well as with the international community, to prevent weapons and other military-grade material from reaching South Sudan.

“Mr. Prime Minister, if the violence continues unabated, the ethnic tribes in South Sudan risk becoming further alienated from one another, making the governing of this young country more difficult and complex when eventually there is a cessation to the violence. The deep social scars which will inevitably follow this civil war could put South Sudan into a perpetual state of volatility with the outbreak of further societal ills ever present. We already witness this tragic state of affairs in other regions of the world. The international community cannot allow this to be repeated in South Sudan."

Download the full letter – English

Learn more about The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s work in South Sudan through Presbyterian World Service & Development and make a donation

Sunday, April 30

Today is Music Appreciation Sunday and here at St. Andrew's we are triply blessed by our senior choir, our bell choir and our children's choir.  Through their gifts and the generous sharing of those gifts, we are lifted up to God so that we may more fully praise Him.  Today's anthem "Joy Is Come!" certainly did some spiritual raising up for me after slogging my way to church through what is hopefully the last sleet of the season.  With such a joyful noise ringing in my ears, how can I not see the rest of the day as a blessing?  

Rev. Karen spoke, in a different context, about the Spirit coming among them and giving them life.  To me, the ministry of music only enhances the work of the Spirit in providing a forum whereby we can express our infinite joy at knowing God through his son, Jesus.  And as Rev. Karen also pointed out, Jesus' forgiveness of our human weakness and our sins is definitely something to sing about.  So this week when you find yourself humming along to a favourite piece of music or head-bobbing with the car radio at an intersection, take a moment to thank everyone who brings the gift of music to you. Right now I'm humming one of my favourite hymns, "All glory, laud and honour to thee, Redeemer King, To whom the lips of children made sweet hosannas ring". Have a blessed, joyful and tuneful week.

Laura M.

Sunday, April 23

It struck me today when Huda said that the resurrection is not a one-time occurrence. We shouldn't mark it one day out of the year and then go on about our business as if it hadn't happened. We need to strive to see things through a "resurrection lens" because Jesus continues to live in our world. Even in the midst of darkness and pain, Jesus is here with us.

In trying to see our world today through a "resurrection lens", I was reminded of a great Presbyterian theologian from my childhood - Mr. Rogers. This quote of his often floats around social media when there has been great violence or disaster: "When I was a boy and would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."

To me, this is one of the ways that Jesus continues to be alive and present in our world today - in us carrying out his work. This is how, I think, we can live as "Easter people" - at this time of year and always. The hymn we sang after the sermon - Come to us, beloved stranger - is one of my favourites. Such a lovely prayer - for Jesus to be with us, especially when we are broken, and for Jesus to make us a blessing to others. It is up to us to go out into the world and share the ever-present hope and joy of Easter.

Laura S.

Sunday, April 16

Easter Sunday morning at St. Andrew's was a wonderful celebration despite the rain, with the lilies towering high in the sanctuary.  This Easter, what most struck me was the phrase "the power of resurrection."  Thinking through to the core of the Easter story, this year I was particularly moved by the notion that the resurrection story is a narrative about power, and how power can come from surprising things, and through surprising things. 

Easter, of course, is about surprises: the surprise of the empty tomb, the surprise that no earthly power, not the Roman Empire, not the leadership in the Temple, could ultimately defeat the purpose of a life spent in passionate and humble service, with integrity.  In the Biblical story, the tale is about Jesus, but in some ways the Easter story is a story for all times and for all of us.  The notion that one's life's work, even if ended unheralded, even if unrecognized, can speak forward powerfully into the future is compelling and applies more broadly than just to ancient Jerusalem.  The power of the resurrection that I am most drawn to is the idea that love is stronger than death.

He is risen indeed.

Rebecca B.