FROM PASTOR DAVID’S DESK
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be save through him.(John 3:16-17)
As I sit down to write this, we are approaching the midpoint of our Lenten journey. The midweek services have been meaningful and have grown in attendance. The inspiration for the Pastors’ Soup Supper an hour before the service belongs solely to Pastor Bob. The simple meals are being enjoyed by many with fun and fellowship as part of the menu. Meanwhile, each of us continues our own personal Lenten pilgrimage. By the time you read this, Easter will be in sight and holiday plans will have been made. The church calendar is full of special services and we approach the resurrection of Christ in awe and wonder. Yet, in the back of our minds is the question, “Why?”. Why would God do such a thing as sacrificing his only son for us individually and for humankind collectively? It seems almost too good to be true, but it is true! While attending Mid-winter convocation at Luther seminary this past January, I discovered a well-known author I knew nothing about. His name is Steven Charleston. He is a Bishop in the Episcopal Church in the United States and is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation. In his book, Arrows of Light: A Spiritual Diary, he wrote a passage that helps to answer the “Why?” for me and I would like to share that with you. Please read over more than once, think about what it says, and contemplate what it says about your importance as a child of God. You are of more value than can be measured on the scale of material design. In the eyes of God, you are beloved, held as dear to the heart as any child ever born to any parent whose longing to love has ever reached the edge of forever. You are more than simply important, you are needed, you are a cornerstone to someone’s dream, answer to prayer for those you touch each day. You are light in evening shadows, a beautiful reminder that we are each born to bless, a living song that makes even the sad soul smile and the old memory rejoice. You are hope. You are healing. You are a gift. Believe in who you are and treat your life with care. It does not matter at what stage of life we find ourselves; what Steve Charleston wrote applies. When we wonder “Why?” to the miracle of Easter, or to just the daily living of our lives, think about these words and what they say about us in the eyes of God the Father. The sacrifice of God’s only son for each one of us is almost beyond comprehension, but when we think about how God sees each one of us, and not how we see ourselves, we can understand a little more clearly “Why?”. Blessings as you complete your Lenten journey and celebrate the Easter season,
For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.(Luke 22:27)
At some point during our grammar school years we were taught the difference between a noun and a verb. Simply stated, a noun is the name of a person, place, or thing. The verb is a word to describe an action. We were later instructed on the different kinds of nouns and verbs. It all seems so simple now, but that was not necessarily the case back in grammar school. When we think of church, we think of a noun. It is a place where we gather on Sunday mornings for worship and at other times throughout the week for other purposes. But have you ever thought of church as a verb, an action word? A church is more than a building. It is genuinely the people who gather in that building. Without the people the building would just be another empty building. It is the people who make the word church a verb. We gather, greet, sit, stand, read, pray, sing, share, pass, receive, and are sent. We also laugh, cry, eat, celebrate, mourn, talk, listen, clean, wash, decorate, undecorate, change, fix, replace, and even sweep and shovel. As you can see, church really is a verb. But we are never more of a verb than when we serve. We, the church, are called to serve one another, as well as our neighbours, whether it be those close to us in our city, or those in need on the other side of the world, or somewhere in between. As followers of Jesus Christ we are to live out his example serving others. Serving others takes many forms and we are given many opportunities to serve. Jesus prepared a meal for the multitudes to remind us that we feed people not because we believe they deserve it, but because they are hungry. The same reasoning held when he cured the sick, healed the lame, raised the dead, forgave sins, and sacrificed his life for us. And we are called to do the same.As opportunities present themselves, no matter how large or small, we must always remember that we, the church, are called to serve as our Lord served, without judgement or reservation. I don’t know about you, but I much prefer being a verb, an action, rather than a noun, a static person, place or thing. Let us go forth serving others as we follow the example of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, showing everyone that church is more than a noun, that church truly is a verb.
I said to myself, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.
(Ecclesiastes 1: 16)
I have just finished reading, Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom, by Ariel Burger. It is an amazing book that I highly recommend. Elie Wiesel was a Holocaust survivor, a Nobel laureate, activist, adviser to world leaders, and author of more than forty books. But when asked, Wiesel always said, “I am a teacher first.” The author, Ariel Burger, was a life-long student of Elie Wiesel, a Teaching Assistant, and a friend.
One of the many lessons I took from this book was, “A quest is never in vain.” Burger goes on to explain that experience is God’s way of communicating with us. Our personalities, our intuitions, are not things to be discarded or transcended. Our questions are not impediments to faith; they are faith.
I have never thought of experience as being God’s way of communicating with us. It is a new revelation! But looking back over my 71 years, it does make sense. All the experiences of my life, some pleasant and good and others not so pleasant or good, have brought with them lessons for my life, God’s wisdom being communicated to me even though I may not have immediately recognized God’s voice in these lessons. There have been times when I have been slow to respond to these lessons or rejected them altogether, and there have been times when experience has immediately taught me a valuable lesson.
I am sure all of us can think back and reflect on times when an experience or experiences from our past have been God’s way of communicating with us. Some experiences bring us comfort. Some experiences challenge us. Other experiences provide us with wisdom and insight. But have we ever really considered that it was God communicating with us through our everyday experiences? There were times in my life when God’s voice was so loud it could not be ignored. But there were many other times when God’s voice was so subtle, I missed or easily ignored it. But I am grateful for the memory that allows me to look back and consider how God’s voice was in those past experiences and how those experiences shaped me, my faith, and my future. There are many review lessons waiting for me to go through. There are many opportunities ahead for me to stop and listen to God communicating with me in future experiences, and to learn.
I look forward to the journey, the new awareness of God’s voice in my life. I hope you will reflect on your own life and carefully consider where you experienced God communicating with you through your experiences and will listen ever so carefully for God’s voice in your future experiences.
Wishing you God’s Shalom,
I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
It seems like only a couple of months ago I was writing my January article for the St. Ansgar Newsletter and wishing everyone a Happy New Year for 2018! Where did the time go? What happened to 2018? Many people have told me that as you grow older the years pass more quickly. I believe they are correct.
Since I am not one for New Year’s resolutions and I am a bit of a romantic, I tend to look back before I look ahead. The year 2018 was an exceptionally surprising year. I pushed myself beyond my normal physical limits and walked the Camino. With plenty of uninterrupted “think time” I was able to make some well thought out decisions about my personal and professional life. Some decisions brought about major changes in my life and will continue to do so in the years to come, while other decisions were less noticeable, but equally as important and life changing. I am happy with what evolved out of 2018.
Now it is time to look ahead to 2019. I have no idea what this year will hold. The only thing I know for sure is that it means another birthday - and the numbers only get bigger. My son will be married in May and we have another family celebration in June. I have been asked to preside at the wedding of a good friend in September. So far, 2019 is looking good.
Whatever else develops throughout the year remains a mystery. Being an optimistic person, I am looking for more good things to happen than problems to develop, but one never knows. Whatever unfolds in 2019, I know I will not walk through the year alone. God promises to be with us in the good times and the bad. Sometimes we forget that God is there during the good times and we feel that God is not with us in the bad times. But a promise is a promise, and God promises to be there even when we forget or don’t take notice. God promises to always be present in our lives.
It is my prayer that you will have a blessed 2019 and that you will always remember as you journey through 2019 that you are not walking alone. The Lord your God goes with you.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
It is my unscientific observation that December is probably the most generous month of the year in the Christian world. We go to endless efforts trying to find the perfect gift for our loved ones. When my sons were young, that perfect gift was often motivated by some new toy advertised on television and a challenge to find. We tend to be more generous with our giving and often support financially additional worthy causes during the Christmas season. With all the hype around Christmas, we need to be reminded of the real reason for the Christmas season.
The perfect gift was given to us on that first Christmas morning when the Christ child entered our world. God’s only son became human so that he could teach, preach, heal, and ultimately sacrifice his life for our sins. Our eternal salvation was the gift God gave to us that morning. There can be no more perfect gift, more generous or meaningful, than God’s gift to us.
When we hear, “Keep Christ in Christmas,” remember that there can be no Christmas without Christ. Anything less is just a frenzy of gift giving and a day of settling for something other than the perfect gift. We have all received the perfect gift, but it is up to us to decide what to do with it.
When we start shopping this holiday season, we need to remember that the perfect gift has already been given to all of us. We cannot top this gift. It is always good to be generous with our loved ones and support the worthy causes that speak to us. But we need to take time to remember the real reason for the season and give God thanks for God’s loving and perfect gift to us.
Wishing you a Blessed Christmas,
For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish.
(1 Peter 2:11).
We made it! Pastor Katherine and I walked the Camino! Beginning in St. Jean Pied de Port, France, we walked our way to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. While I have been home since the 12th of October I am still unpacking the experience of this pilgrimage.
We met some amazing people from all over the world. “Buen Camino,” is the official greeting among the pilgrims. We would often encounter the same people along the way, but also made new “friends” daily. There is a special camaraderie among the pilgrims and helping one another is a natural thing. The people of Spain along the Camino were also very helpful and welcoming. I admit I do not know much about the history of Spain, a place I don’t remember studying in school, but my experiences have created a new appreciation for the country and its people.
Pastor Katherine and I walked together in conversation, in silence, and in shared wonder. We attended worship services along the way. Most communities offered a Pilgrims’ Mass every evening and the pilgrims would receive a special blessing at the end of the service. Although the mass was done in Spanish, the blessings were often done in several languages. All pilgrims were always welcomed.
Walking in the splendour
and awe of God’s beautiful creation, having the time to disconnect, to think and reflect, to share and discuss, to pray as we walked, brought us closer to God, to a clearer understanding of our calls as pastors, and to a deeper understanding of God’s continuous presence in our lives. Finding words to describe the feelings we experienced, and are still experiencing, is almost impossible. I am not sure they exist.
One thing we would say to each other when the days got long or the going difficult was, “One step at a time!” So, while the experience is overwhelming, and I am unpacking the pilgrimage, I must keep reminding myself to do it, “One step at a time.”
Pastor Katherine and I are planning a presentation for our church families soon. We both sincerely appreciate your interest, prayers, and your encouragement. Believe me when I say they made a big difference in our pilgrimage.
Wishing you a “Buen Camino” as you make your pilgrimage through life,
I will thank you forever, because of what you have done. In the presence of the faithful I will proclaim your name, for it is good.
(While you read this, if all goes according to plan, I will be somewhere in Spain walking my way to Santiago on the Camino. The longest part of the journey will be over, but there are many more kilometers to go, and questions to answer.)
In the month of October, Canadians set aside a day in which to give thanks for their many blessings. While the focus was originally on the harvest each year, we have come to see the many other blessings we have received. In fact, we have received so many blessings that we often overlook the simpler blessings. How often do we stop to thank God for the gentle breeze that cools us on a hot summer day, or the beautiful blue of a cloudless sky? We are surrounded by God’s many blessings. We walk among God’s many blessings every day. They are so obvious that we often overlook them and forget to thank God for these everyday blessings that enrich our lives.
One of the best antidotes to worry is gratitude. Through the very act of giving thanks for all that we have been given – the soil, the air, the growing plants, our fellow creatures, and each other, just to name a few – we begin to see things in a different way. When we are feeling low or alone, let us remember to look around at all the many blessings that surround us and show our gratitude by giving thanks to God for all that God provides.
Hymn #829 in our Lutheran Book of Worship is titled “Have You Thanked the Lord?” The words of the refrain are a great reminder that every day is Thanksgiving Day and that we should give thanks to God every day for God’s unlimited blessings.
The words of the refrain are:
Have you thanked the Lord? Have you praised God’s name? Don’t you know that no tomorrow is quite the same? Have you thanked the Lord? Have you knelt in prayer, and rejoiced that, rain or sunshine, our God is there?”
As you give thanks for the big blessings on Thanksgiving Day in October, take a moment to remember the many blessings that we take for granted. And as you look around each day of the year, take a moment to give thanks for the many blessings we all take for granted and make each day a day of giving thanks. Have you thanked the Lord today?
Praying God’s continued blessings upon you and your family.
You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off; do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
As most of you know, September 9th after church, I am leaving for the walk of a life time! Pastor Katherine and I will be joining thousands of other people from all over the world who walk the Camino each year. We will begin in St. Jean Pied de Port, France, and finish in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, a distance of 778.5 km (483.7 miles). All we will have with us is what we can carry in our back packs, weighing no more than 15 pounds.
Why such an undertaking you may ask? Honestly, I ask myself that same question several times a week. I am not even sure I know the answer. This pilgrimage is not only physically challenging, but also spiritually and psychologically challenging. We live in a chaotic world. The pace of life is hectic, leaving little time for contemplation or spiritual renewal. Like many of you, I often find myself frustrated by all the distractions that prevent me from study, prayer, and self-examination. This is an opportunity to slow down and allow some space in my life for these things. Such a pilgrimage also allows time for answers to be understood and integrated.
What about when you have had an extended or uninterrupted quiet time to reflect, read, pray, or listen? It may happen on an evening walk, while riding a bicycle, working in the garden, or the quiet time after the grandchildren have returned home. During such times do you feel yourself being drawn closer to God, finding yourself
returning to the centre of your being, a more satisfying and comfortable place, where listening to your heart and your God becomes easier?
I have always found time for personal renewal and reflection when I am outside in God’s creation, especially near the water or in the mountains. There is a special closeness I feel to God when I am walking in the bush or on the beach. I am looking forward to having this extended uninterrupted quiet time to walk with God, to listen and hear, to feel and grow.
It is important to remember God is always with us, even in our hectic and chaotic world. Sometimes we forget this promise, forget to listen to God’s voice which can become lost as we are swept away in the craziness of our everyday lives. Yet God quietly stands beside us, walking with us, always ready to be heard.
A pilgrimage is a religious journey regardless of the length of time or distance. This is my pilgrimage and only I can make it. The journey will be one of a kind and can never be repeated in the same way again. Know that I will be carrying you in my heart and each day along the way I will be praying for you. I look forward to what lies ahead, even though it will be challenging in many ways. Hopefully when I return October 12th I will be a better person, pastor, and servant of God. Until then, “buen Camino.”
Wishing you God’s shalom on your pilgrimages,
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
One of the biggest obstacles to prayer is often our approach to prayer. We tend to think prayer is mainly about asking God for things. Yet, in reality, prayer is less about asking for what we want than it is about sorting out what we should want, identifying what matters most.
How do we make space for God to change us? First, we listen. Prayer begins with listening. The Hebrew word for listening is shema. But in Biblical Hebrew, shema means much more than listening in the auditory sense. It refers to internalizing, responding, obeying, doing. The King James Bible used an old English word to translate shema: that word is hearken. When we pray, we hearken to God’s voice not just with our ears, but also with our mind, heart, and body. To listen to God’s voice, whose voice is not audible, is not easy in our world of noise. Hearing often requires more of the heart than the eardrum.
Remember, we can speak to God directly through prayer. Yet, we will not feel God’s presence powerfully every time we pray. Great pray-ers may feel a closeness to God one out of five or ten times. Yet, over time, God will become a regular presence. Our relationship with God deepens as we pray.
Prayer is different for everyone. I like the imagery in what Rabbi Evan Moffic wrote: The feelings I bring to prayer are different from those you bring. But God is big enough for both of us. One of the ways I picture God hearing prayer is like water being poured over ice. If you fill a glass with ice and then pour water into it, the water touches all the ice cubes. But it touches them in different places and in different ways. In prayer we are the ice cubes. God is the water. God’s spirit hits each one of us differently. You might leave prayer filled with gratitude. I might leave brimming with hope. Someone else might leave with greater acceptance. Over time, however, all of us will leave with greater happiness and perspective.
Rabbi Moffic goes on to write about many of the benefits of prayer including:
prayer focuses our mind
prayer smooths our rough edges as we do it day after day
prayer makes us more emotionally aware and intelligent
prayer adds meaning to our livesA study conducted by Professor T. M. Luhrmann of Stanford University concluded that people who prayed regularly report greater satisfaction with life. They are more likely than those who don’t pray to see purpose in their lives and meaning in their deeds. Those in her study showed more robust immune systems and decreases in blood pressure.
Whether we use traditional prayers or prayers directly from our hearts, or a combination of these as we feel appropriate for our circumstances, we are talking with God. Ultimately, though prayer consists of words, its influence extends beyond these words. Prayer shapes our behaviour. It shapes our values. Prayer helps us cultivate the graciousness and ethical sensibility toward which God consistently directs us.
My prayers go with you and I pray God’s shalom for you always.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
What is a Christian? Maybe a better question
might be: what is Christian behaviour? I find that
I am very troubled by the events of May 14th in Israel and Palestine. It is bad enough that, thanks to the meddling of the United States, Gaza has suffered the deadliest day since 2014 and that the peace process has probably been set back at least a decade, but what I find even more upsetting is that certain people who call themselves evangelical Christians believe American foreign policy should support Israel to help fulfill Biblical prophecies about the second coming of Christ. Not only are they playing with God’s timetable, but they are breaking the commandment of Christ.
Two pastors were chosen to represent Christians at the dedication of the U. S. Embassy in Jerusalem. One of them had previously stated publicly that the Bible made it clear that Hitler and the Holocaust--when about six million Jews were killed--were part of God’s plan to return Jews to Israel. He said God allowed it to happen. In a news interview the other pastor said, “Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism--not only do they lead people away from the true God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in hell.”
To me, the words of these two pastors and the attitudes they reflect do not represent what it means to be a Christian. Their words and actions do not demonstrate Christian behaviour. Yet millions of people believe that they represent the Christian faith. In reality these words and actions are a denial of Christ’s commandment of love for one another.
We are all God’s children. We were all created by the same loving God. God’s love
is demonstrated in the opening chapters of Genesis when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and God did not kill them, “but made garments of skins for the man and for his wife and clothed them.” The stories of God’s love continue through the Old and New Testaments until God’s ultimate love is demonstrated in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, that we might live. Whatever our religious denomination or our faith tradition, we all pray to the same God. What God does with those prayers is up to God and how God looks upon his diverse creation is only God’s business, not ours. We are given one command and that is to love one another--not to judge, critique, or persecute, but to love one another.
Martin Luther wrote, “As Christians we live in Christ through faith and in the neighbour through love.” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote, “Holiness belongs to all of us when we turn our lives into the service of God and society into a home for the Divine Presence. That is the moral life: a world where we aspire to come close to God by coming close, in justice and love, to our fellow humans”.
In these troubled and trying times, let us pray for world leaders as they make decisions that impact us all. Let us pray for our neighbours who are different from us that we may be open to listen, learn, and understand. And let us pray for God’s guidance in ways that we can show love to our neighbours as God first loved us.
Wishing you God’s Shalom,
Sometimes we don’t fully understand why things happen the way they do in the church. For example, this year May is a busy month according to the liturgical calendar. Before we come to the end of the Easter season on May 13th, the Ascension of Our Lord is celebrated on Thursday, May 10th. Unfortunately, because it is on a Thursday and not a Sunday little attention is paid to this important day in the life of the church. At this time Jesus promised the disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) This takes us to the Day of Pentecost on May 20th. Pentecost is sometimes called the church’s birthday but might more importantly be called the church’s baptism day, since the gift of the Spirit is the fullness of baptism. The first Sunday after Pentecost, May 27th, is Holy Trinity Sunday and we celebrate the triune God. The trinity is something we cannot fully understand. It is often referred to as a mystery. Beginning June 3rd, we enter what is called Time after Pentecost and this lasts until November 25th which is Christ the King Sunday. The Church year ends on this Sunday and the new year begins with the first Sunday of Advent.
I appreciate the organization of the liturgical year. When we look at the major church holidays, and the month of May, it is easy to see that there is an order to the worship life of the church. We don’t go willy-nilly Sunday after Sunday, but approach worship in a meaningful and connected way. When you see a change in the colour of the paraments, or the missal I am holding, or the chasuble I am wearing, which should all be the same colour, look at the top of your bulletin and see what exactly in what season we are worshiping. Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “For everything there is a season, a time for every matter under heaven.” This includes Sunday worship as well..
Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord;” and she told them that he had said things to her.
Christ conquers death on Easter. He takes on his shoulders the sins of us all. He teaches us that because he lives we will all be able to exchange the clothes of mortality for the bright shining clothes of eternal life. Easter means the Mary Magdalenes of life no longer need to weep and mourn. Easter means that all of us are given a butterfly of hope to emerge from the cocoon of sin, so that we might spread our wings and fly into the April sunshine of God’s eternal care.
On Easter Sunday, we choose to believe and love like the disciples. We can open the doors of our hearts to the reality of the resurrection. We can join in the Easter parade of saints, martyrs, and servants who have followed Christ who has called all of us to “Come and follow me.” On Easter Sunday, the bells of resurrection are ringing. The cross on the roof of our church is pointing to heaven. The tomb is empty. The banquet table of the Lord’s Supper is calling. The baby born in a stable in Bethlehem is the risen Saviour. Jesus Christ is risen today. Hallelujah!
Praying God’s blessings for you and your family this Easter season.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If we live by the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit.
(Galatians 5: 22-23, 25)
I am not big on New Year’s resolutions. Statistically, they are not very successful. What seem to be sincere efforts at self-improvement fade quickly, leaving one discouraged and feeling defeated, especially if the word diet is included in the list! Yet, self-reflection is always a good thing and the New Year seems like an appropriate time to begin. After all, the New Year is a time of optimism and new hope.
For me, this passage from Galatians is a job description for life. I visit this passage often, but am especially mindful of it at the beginning of the New Year. Each “fruit of the Spirit” can be a challenge. I need to be guided and supported by the Spirit to develop, strengthen, and maintain each one of these “fruits.” At times I find the task overwhelming. The list is neither short nor easy and mastering the list is not possible in a year, or many years, but becomes a lifetime endeavour. My hope is that I improve at least a little in each “fruit of the Spirit” annually. But I also select one “fruit” a year for more in-depth development.
This year my focus will be on joy. I don’t mean joy in the secular sense, that quickly fleeting or temporary feeling. Christian joy has less to do with emotion and more to do with belief. For the religious, joy is always about relationship, and that relationship is with God. In secular terminology, joy is happiness. For the religious person, joy is happiness in God.
Religious joy means more time with God, more Spiritual development, more listening. In a life that at times seems overwhelming and filled with all sorts of distractions, finding quiet time with God becomes difficult. And I will honestly admit that what should be a daily priority often drops down the list of things that need to be accomplished. Something is drastically wrong when the one thing that brings true joy, that brings me closer to God, is neglected.
So, this year there will not be any New Year resolutions for me. I will make one commitment, with two parts, to God and to myself. First, I will continue to work on all the “fruits” of the Spirit. Secondly, I will commit to specifically seeking joy by spending more time allowing myself to be led by the Spirit. In other words, among other things, I need to be quiet and listen! Perhaps there is a lesson in this for all of us.
Blessings on your New Year and any commitments you might be considering!
FROM PASTOR DAVID’S DESK -JULY/AUGUST 2017
Posted on June 29, 2017 by admin
FROM PASTOR DAVID’S DESK
Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. (1 Peter 4:10)
I would like to say “THANK YOU!” for your continued support and the call to serve you as your pastor for another five years. Our journey together has been interesting to say the least. I have been your part time pastor, your interim pastor, and your full time pastor, all within a period of five and a half years. I look forward to continuing my role as your full time pastor for the next five years beginning February 1, 2018.
Since the first call to be your full time pastor, I have been amazed at how willing everyone has been to step up and do the so many and varied jobs necessary to be an effective church. What we have accomplished in this short time has been significant. Together, from over 500 pairs of socks to providing meals for students in the neighbourhood, we have shown ourselves to be a church sensitive to the needs of those around us, as well as a caring and generous community happy to meet those needs.
We have opened our doors to an increasing number of groups and organizations that have shared many positive and appreciative comments about not only our building and our grounds, but also our welcoming and warm hospitality. We have hosted several events for the wider Lutheran community in London and the Thames Valley Ministerial. Last year, we had 122 Lutherans from Redeemer, St. Ansgar, and Trinity attending our non-picnic picnic on the July 1 weekend. We hosted the Lutheran Social Services (London) Annual Meeting and look forward to hosting their annual Meet and Greet next January. We are able to do this because of your active participation and support. No one alone could accomplish all that we have accomplished together.
I could go on and on, from our expanded library and Sunday School program, to clean ceiling fans and the new cupboard in the Wittenberg Room. A lot of good things have happened in a short time. But our work is not done. There are many needs and many challenges that will come our way. We are in a good position to meet those needs and challenges, but we cannot rest on all our past accomplishments. We have proven our commitment to doing God’s work, and now we need to remain focussed on our mission as we face the future together. As we begin the next chapter in our ministry, let us always remember that God walks with us. We never walk alone.
FROM PASTOR DAVID’S DESK
If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
(Galatians 5: 25)
I am probably one of the few people who really enjoys the requirement of two weeks of Continuing Education that pastors are supposed to do each year. Maybe it is because I spent most of my life in an academic world. It is not that I am any smarter than anyone else; it is just that I like to learn, which would probably come as a surprise to many of my high school teachers. Maturity may have something to do with birth of my love of learning.
As many of you know, I spent the week of May 14th in San Antonio, Texas, at a Homiletics Festival. What is that you may ask? Well, it is a conference on the art of preaching. Over 1,800 preachers from all denominations and from all over North America gather each year to hear and study with the best of the best. These gurus of preaching not only write books and teach university classes about preaching, but they actually preach. There were eight of us from the Eastern Synod in attendance. The morning session and the afternoon session always begin with a worship service and one of the experts actually does the sermon. Following worship that same person gives a lecture on his or her preaching. There are also special lectures and events in the evening.
I find the worship services nourish my soul and the lectures challenge my intellect. I also find this a very humbling experience. It is impossible to hit a “home run” sermon every Sunday, but we pastors keep trying. It amazes me how the message I hear in a sermon can be very different from the message one of my colleagues hears. But I guess I should not be surprised because often on Sunday morning someone will say something about how a sermon I just finished spoke to him or her in a way I did not see coming. I love when that happens.
When two or more are gathered the Holy Spirit is with us. I firmly feel and believe this to be true. The Sunday morning sermon would be just a bunch of words without the intervention of the Spirit in the writing, delivering, and understanding the sermon. When we gather on Sunday morning it is the presence of the Holy Spirit that makes our time together special, different from any other gathering.
The Day of Pentecost is Sunday, June 4th, this year. On this day we celebrate the Holy Spirit as the power of God among us that heals, forgives, inspires, and unites. We also celebrate the birth of the church, the community of God’s people central to God’s work in the world. It is comforting to know that we are never alone, that the Spirit is always with us, on Sunday morning as we gather for worship and fellowship, when we are at home wrestling with a passage of scripture, when we are ministering to others in God’s world, and for some of us as we try to write a “home run” sermon.
Easter Message from Bishop Younan
The Easter Message from Bishop Younan
As we continue our Easter journey through the fifty days to Pentecost, I am sharing this timely Easter message from Bishop Younan, the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Having spent a total of six weeks in Palestine and Israel I am acutely aware of the oppression the Christian people suffer in these countries. These are the descendants of the original Christians. Many have left, with many coming to Canada. In light of the reality under which these people live, I hope you can find the same meaning and hope in Bishop Younan’s Easter message as I have.
Shalom, Pastor David
Resurrection Joy in a Fearful World
Easter Message 2017 – From Bishop Dr. Munib Younan
“…the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” ~ Matthew 28:5-8
Alleluia, Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia! Al-Masih qam! Hakkan qam!
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, on Palm Sunday morning, after being in church and feeling encouraged by the message of “Hosanna!” sung by the children and the congregation, I heard the sad news of the massacre of our sisters and brothers in two churches in Egypt. One cannot receive such horrific news except with tears. The feelings of great joy on our feast day, and great sadness over such a horror, are inseparable—much as the great joy and great fear of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were inseparable as they ran from the empty tomb.
And so I must confess that as I prepared this Easter message from Jerusalem, the city of the crucifixion and resurrection, to the whole world, I had some doubts in my heart. I thought: What message can I bring this year that is different from past years? Has the Easter message lost its meaning, disregarded by Christians as well as others? Is it just a message of idealism, far from the lived experience of people today? What does the resurrection of Jesus have to say to us in the midst of the terrors, chaos, and uncertainty of today’s world?
But then I remember that the life of faith is not always one of assurances or certainties. Jesus’ own disciples struggled to understand his teachings and his journey to the cross. Peter denied Jesus three times. The guards at the tomb were so afraid that they became “like dead men.” Mary Magdalene and the other Mary ran from the tomb with “fear and great joy.” And on the walk to Emmaus, the disciples did not recognize the risen Christ until the breaking of the bread.
Therefore, there is no shame to admit that here in the Middle East it is a very challenging time to proclaim and live the Good News of the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus. The struggles we are facing are very real and are becoming even more complicated. We have good reason to feel confused! And still, the message of Easter comes to us very clearly: Christ is risen! The powers of sin and death have been defeated! And as the angel of the Lord has promised, the risen Christ now goes before us to lead the way in this broken—and often frightening—world.
I think of the story of St. Augustine, who was full of doubt but prayed earnestly for the gift of faith in God. While he was praying, he heard the voice of a child saying, “Pick it up and read! Pick it up and read!” He thought this could be the Lord telling him to read the Holy Scriptures, so he searched and found a Bible. Then he opened it and read the first verse he saw, from the Letter of Paul to the Romans: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh or the gratification of your desires.” (Romans 13:14) The young Augustine read no further, for there was no need. He later wrote: “No sooner had I reached the end of the verse than the light of certainty flooded my heart and all dark shades of doubt fled away.” (Confessions)
Thanks be to God, the risen Christ always comes to us when we are full of doubt, and shows us the way of love and light! For this reason, even in the midst of our confusion and sadness over the killing of innocent Christians at prayer, we can say with certainty: There is no religion which accepts the killing of innocent worshipers, who were doing nothing but seeking closeness with God. These acts are untenable and unaccepted in any religion. We are grateful that the vast majority of Muslim friends also stand with us as equal citizens against such horrors.
Today we are also facing a horrible and confusing situation in Syria, in Iraq, and across the Middle East. We see the images of chemicals stealing the breath from children, and of cities lying in rubble, and we wonder, “What can we do?” At the same time, we see missiles flying and we are afraid of what comes next – for Syria, and for the whole Middle East.
And again, although we may feel confused, because we have seen the risen Christ we know one thing for certain: Syria has no need of more weapons, more violence, or more massacres, or more extremism from anybody. This is creating international tension, straining relations between friends and partners, and we are afraid of what comes next. I urge world leaders to hear the words of Jesus to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, after Peter had cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant: “Return your sword to its sheath! For those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” Violence breeds violence, whether it is committed by terrorists or by governments. I call on the leaders of the world: Return your swords to their sheaths! Bring instead peace based on justice to Syria, to Iraq, to Palestine and to the whole Middle East. Bring a future for us and for our children.
As Christians in the Holy Land today, the turmoil in these many neighbor countries is very frightening. At the same time, here at home we are in our fiftieth year of occupation. Many Palestinian Christians are asking, “How long, O Lord? When will this end? Where do we belong?”
For this reason, I feel it is important to acknowledge that even as we sing our joyful “Hallelujahs” and celebrate Our Lord’s victory over death, some fear and confusion and doubts still remain. And yet, we must remember that we are not alone. These are the very same feelings the disciples felt after the resurrection of Jesus.
When our Lord was raised on that resurrection morning, the earth shook, an angel arrived in a flash of lightning, and the stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb. It seemed the very foundations of heaven and earth had shifted. What we proclaim today as Good News, at that time was only confusing, frightening news! The guards, the women, and the disciples were all afraid of what they saw and heard. They were all afraid of what would come next. They wondered what the resurrection meant for their lives.
And yet, this same earth-shaking event is the one that gives us hope today. The powers and principalities of sin and death could not overcome the love of God. Yes, they could crucify Jesus. Yes, they could bury Jesus. But they could not bury God’s love for the world!
In the midst of their confusion, the angel told the ones gathered at the tomb, “He is not here, He is risen!” In the midst of bombings, Christ is risen! In the midst of persecution, Christ is risen! In the midst of violence and occupation, Christ is risen! In the midst of poverty and sickness, Christ is risen! In the midst of war, Christ is risen! And in the midst of our families, our communities, and our churches today, Christ is risen!
This is our hope, and we must cling to it. The message of Easter is not idealism. Christ’s victory over sin, death, and despair, is the only hope that has kept Christians steadfast in this land for two thousand years. It is the only hope that carried the saints of every age through trials, struggles, and persecutions. And it is the only hope that today will carry us through these confusing times in the Middle East and throughout the world. The Good News of the resurrection gives Christians clarity and purpose, no matter where they are, and no matter what the future brings. Jesus, the Morning Star, goes before us to lead the way—and the Way of Jesus is always the way of peace, justice, mercy, healing, reconciliation, respect for diversity, and living together as one people of God.
Therefore, Palestinian Christians will continue to be steadfast in our land. We will continue to carry the message of resurrection in the face of all who promote a culture of death. In the midst of power struggles, political maneuvering, and the growth of extremism in our world, we will only proclaim the culture of life and life abundantly, will full dignity for every human being. As we celebrate Our Lord’s victory over death, in this 500th year of the Reformation, let us trust that Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection have already liberated us by grace. We are not afraid! Despite all troubles and tribulations, let us go out from our churches and into the world with the joy of the resurrection, knowing that the risen Christ goes always before us. Let us encourage one another with the two-thousand year-old Easter greeting of Jerusalem:
Hallelujah! Christ is risen! Al-Masih qam! Hakan qam!
April 2017 Message from Pastor Dave
Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but he has risen. (Luke 24: 5)
Is Easter incomplete if you did not receive a chocolate Cadbury egg? Thanks to modern media advertising many people, young and old, think Easter is a failure if they do not receive the expected goodies. After all, what is Easter without enough assorted candies to cause a diabetic coma? Sadly, for many Easter ends with the Easter basket.
Those who know me know I love my sweets, and no one enjoyed their Easter basket growing up more than I did, but Easter in my family did not stop with the colourful eggs and jellybeans nestled among the assorted candies. Easter was a time for family and for church. Holy week was a week that always felt different in my home. There were the usual joyful preparations for family arriving and Easter dinner, but there was also an underlying seriousness that grew as we approached the Three Days. We attended Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services as a family. The reality of Easter was better understood in the context of the worship experience of the previous two days. After all, you can’t have Easter without Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. I am very grateful that my parents made sure my sister and I knew and experienced the entire story, not just the fun part.
As we approach Holy Week and the Three Days, I hope everyone will participate in the entire journey, and not just settle for the easy parts. Easter is not just about running to the empty tomb. Easter is also about the journey after the empty tomb, about allowing this journey to take us to the deepest regions of our hearts and minds. In the resurrection of Jesus Christ God gave us such a miracle of love and forgiveness that it is worthy of our full attention and consideration. The resurrection is not an ending, but a beginning.
A chocolate Cadbury egg is so very insignificant compared to the gift of the resurrected Christ that it probably should not even be mentioned. Yet, it receives more attention during the Easter season than does the risen Christ. So, I guess the question is, “What is in your Easter basket? Is there room for the entire Easter story, or have the Cadbury eggs crowded out the true gift of Easter, the entire story of the Resurrected Christ?
Shalom, Pastor David
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