While it was typical in many respects, this morning's service had an extra spark, as St. Andrew's kicked off its Canada 150 activities with the attendance of Their Excellencies the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada and Mrs. Sharon Johnston.
As I was helping a bit with preparations for the kids' Canada birthday cake event, I was struck once again by how much we as a community enjoy doing this. From ushers to musicians to the refreshment prep team, I met no one who wasn't smiling and a tiny bit excited. (Well okay, the various gentlemen in dark suits with microphones in their ears looked pretty serious!) We love our community and our church and we genuinely enjoy getting things in place so that events run smoothly.
On a much more profound and spiritual level, this notion of service was an underlying theme this morning, as both the Governor General and Reverend Dimock delved into parts of The Sermon on the Mount.
To the delight of the kids, on the pews when they arrived were red paper hearts with words from various Beatitudes on them (mine was "Comfort those who mourn") and these sayings would be their focus at Sunday school.
Reverend Dimock's sermon was entitled "Bearing the Light of God!" and she began with the context around The Sermon on the Mount, of how Jesus's talk to his early Disciples had been watched by a curious crowd. Karen pointed out that those Disciples had given up everything conventional in their lives, leaving their families, their jobs and their status in their communities in order to serve with Jesus. In front of the crowd, Jesus was honouring them and offering nothing less than a new world view. He rewrote Old Testament ideas of restriction and prohibition ("Thou shalt not ...") to instead honour their humility, faith and compassion ("Blessed are ...").
Jesus told his followers that they were the light, and they needed to use that light to illuminate places of hardship and suffering.
Karen's sermon enlarged upon the scripture readings of Matthew 5:1-16, which had been read by the Governor General. He had singled out Matthew 5:9 in particular: "Blessed are the peacekeepers, for they will be called the children of God."
He recounted to us his most recent trip to Israel, noting that he had visited the spot at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem where, 3200 years ago, King Solomon had stood calling all tribes to come and find peace.
Sadly, peace is not a steady presence in that part of the world, but we as Canadians have an opportunity to become peacekeepers in our country. The Governor General explained that he saw Canada as being a 150-year experiment in diversity and at this milestone anniversary, it is up to us to reflect upon our past and gird ourselves for the future. As peacekeepers, we too can be the light and work to make sure that our Canadian experiment succeeds.
On that note, it was wonderful after the service to see the flags representing all of our congregation's countries of origin flanking the Canada birthday cake in Grant Hall. Their Excellencies met many of the kids, and as he was heading downstairs to meet the congregation, the Governor General was heard to say to one little boy that he had to go play with the adults now, and he hoped they would be as much fun!