Bethlehem_shepherds

During our worship this Sunday before Christmas, we will present our ‘white gifts’ (this year, books to augment the library and support the whole community of Central Public School around the corner from the church) and members of the church school will present in skit and interpretive dance ‘Hope and Breaking News: The Shepherds’ Perspective’.

I remember the time I first read Raymond E. Brown’s ‘An Adult Christ at Christmas’, and how the story of the shepherds came alive for me when I realized that as they told the story of the shepherds, the first Christians were really speaking about themselves.

Like those shepherds of  Israel, many of the first Christians in the towns of the Middle East and Asia Minor were humble, few were of any status, many were indeed slaves. But like those shepherds, to them had come a wonderful message, the good news of salvation, of new beginnings, of relationship with the one true God through Jesus Christ. They had heard the good news proclaimed, not by an angel but by the apostles, Peter, Paul, James, Andrew, Thomas and the communities that grew up upon the preaching of these apostles.

Like those shepherds, they had been filled with wonder and had been willing to explore this gospel, they had dared to believe the best. At the beginning of each week, to mark the day of Resurrection, they met in homes (sometimes marked secretly for fear of persecution), they shared meals, they sang and prayed in a deep and holy fellowship of faith. They had felt the Living Lord in their midst: they had known their hearts opened, their lives changed, as they were grown to live with Christ, in Christ, Jesus Christ who had lain down his life for them and was raised as the first of all who would follow, who called them to take up his way in this world.

Like those shepherds, they returned to their homes and work praising God, witnessing to the glory of God. They lived their best, spoke to family members and friends and strangers about the Christ in whom they knew healing and hope, they lived with an integrity and compassion that attracted others to follow the Way. They cared for the widows and orphans, they knew the joy of being embraced by God, the joy that did not leave them during times of illness, poverty, or oppression, the joy that did not separate happy days from sad days, or experiences of honour from experiences of dishonour, or passion from resurrection. They transformed the homes and streets and cities, living ordinary lives in the most extraordinary ways, from a perspective of abundance, having received life abundant and eternal in Christ, life flowed over from them into their communities. They felt no need to excel, to be exceptional: in the ordinary God had come, in the ordinary they would serve God and know good.

We will reconsider the story of the shepherds this Sunday morning, and are own lives … in the grace of God known in Jesus Christ. Join us!

 

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Every month this congregation inserts an invitation into the university’s student-run paper, The Queen’s Journal. I forwarded this week’s copy to the editor, thinking of the incredible stress that students are facing with end-of-term papers due and exams in full swing –  ‘Take a Break! … beautiful music … words of promise … Join us Sunday at St. Andrew’s Church’. And for a graphic I added a variation on the classic ‘Keep Calm’ poster – ‘Keep Calm: God works to bring all things together for good (Romans 8:28)’. I quickly realised however that there was no issue this week … due to exams! But then I thought perhaps the same invitation might be appropriate far beyond the campus.

This Sunday, an hour filled with Advent words of assurance and anticipation, complemented by carols and anthems that open us to beauty and spiritual strength. Even the preacher will sit back and just receive. Have a look at the Order of Service below (and if you scroll through you will find all the scripture lessons printed out also), and join us!

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14 DUCCIO CALLING OF PETER AND ANDREW

The Calling of Peter and Andrew by Duccio di Buoninsegna (c. 1308-11)

Advent and St. Andrew’s Day!

Andrew is the patron saint of Barbados, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and yes, Scotland. Our congregation bears the name of St. Andrew because most of the members who welcomed their first minister in 1822 were raised on the other side of the Atlantic within the Church of Scotland, as opposed to fellow residents who were originally English and members of St. George’s Church (of the Church of England!).
Today, almost 200 years later, a congregation continues to gather on the same corner at the centre of the city of Kingston, beginning each week in the praise of God and with prayers for God’s world. There are few Scottish accents to be heard, and the congregation now gathers folks originally from many nations and Christian traditions (including Brazil, France, Ghana, India, Korean, Netherlands, Taiwan, as well as many parts of Canada.)
Together we continue to bear humbly the name ‘St. Andrew’s Church’, and the cross on which Andrew is said to have been martyred continues to be found at the top of the steeple. It is no longer a reference to a nationality or a denomination, but a reminder of the faithful life of one of our Lord’s first disciples and apostles.
As we light the first candle of Advent, we acknowledge a new church year commencing. And this year, graciously, we begin on St. Andrew’s Day, and we remember not only our beginning but our calling within the context of God’s great work of offering humanity new beginnings in Jesus Christ and God’s kingdom of peace and justice.
Join us! Please peruse not only the Order of Worship below, but also the many invitations to grow in Christian faith, community and service with us.

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Presbyterians Sharing …

As much as we celebrate the heritage and witness of our local congregation, we know that being part of the Church of Christ is a much larger opportunity and challenge. We are thankful for this sense of being part of greater whole in Christ. St. Andrew’s Kingston participates with 900 other congregations across Canada in partnership with churches around the world, in worship (through Presbyterians Sharing) and in service (through Presbyterian World Service and Development).
This morning we welcome the Rev. Dr. Glynis Williams to share with us some of the stories of partnership. One will be the remarkable story of how as Canadian Presbyterians we have been supporting the translation of the Bible into indigenous, aboriginal languages of Taiwan.

Paul McLean and some of the Paiwan translation team

Members of the Paiwan translation team of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan with Paul McLean of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

After the service, be sure to stay for a congregational pot-luck lunch – please join us, and allow us the opportunity to introduce ourselves casually. Glynis will share some slides over dessert.

Have an advance look through the sunday morning bulletin, and consider each announcement an invitation to grow in Christian faith, community and service.

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Remembrance Sunday

With trumpet and bagpipe and silence, the names of those who gave of their lives for our lives will be read. We will not glorify war, but we will remember them. We will do so in a particularly Christian context, as we will be reminded by words of a St. Andrew’s member printed in the Order of Service for this Sunday …

On November 11th Canadians will gather across the country to honour those who died in the service of Canada. Thousands will be present at the War Memorial in Ottawa, the scene of that horrific and cowardly act against Corporal Nathan Cirillo just a few weeks prior.

Some have used this event to promote policy, asking on the one hand for stronger measures to fight terrorism at home or abroad, or on the other hand to withdraw from involvement in foreign conflicts that have consequences at home.

Let us not allow ourselves to be distracted this Remembrance Day by these debates. Let us remember Corporal Cirillo and Warrant Officer Vincent the same way we remember all those who died in the service of Canada, prepared to stand against evil and tyranny, in the name of peace.

The Reverend Donald Caskie was the minister of the Scots Kirk in Paris at the time of the German invasion of France in 1940. Ignoring opportunities to flee, he stayed behind, risking his life to help thousands of Allied soldiers escape occupied territory. He was finally arrested, tortured and sentenced to death until the intervention of a German pastor saved his life. He wrote: “One had seen the best of human nature during those years… One also saw the worst. The spiritual reward for all the suffering was a sharpened awareness of the range, for good and evil, of the human soul and a more profound compassion for (people).”

Turn from evil and do good: seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34

This solemn time will be framed by two passages of scripture – Micah 4:1-4 reminding us of the ultimate reality towards which we are called to work, one of swords being beaten into plows and all peoples united in peace, and Matthew 2:16-18 reminding us that in the meantime political powers can wreck violence upon the innocents. Our series through the exhibition Rembrandt’s Circle continues with a canvas by Jan van Noordt.

unnamedJan van Noordt, The Massacre of the Innocents, around 1660, oil on canvas.
Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University.
Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 1980 (23-040)

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How might the themes of idolatry and stewardship be connected?

Solomon has been raised within the frameworks of faith, and anointed by God through Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet. He has served as king of God’s people through a period of unprecedented prosperity and peace. And in the scene before us this morning we see Solomon in fullness of age kneeling … not in praise of the faithful Lord God but before a lifeless idol (1 Kings 11).

We prone are to idolatry, even and perhaps especially during times of prosperity and peace. I remember reading a book by the French Protestant theologian Jacques Ellul who suggested that perhaps the idol we are most prone to worship in this time and place is money. In money we trust, to money we grant power. The demands of money for more money shape our lives as individuals and nations, devaluing all things human and spiritual. And the only way to break the power of money is to do with money the one thing it cannot tolerate, that is … give it away. The most effective way of profaning money is by dedicating money to the Lord God and to care of neighbour.
And so, from exploring a scene of the Old Testament and a painting from 17th century Netherlands, we continue with the dedication of our stewardship pledges for the year of grace 2015 and a time of Holy Communion.

Join us!

Eeckhout_Solomon's Idolatry

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, Solomon’s Idolatry, around 1665, oil on canvas. Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University. Gift of Alfred and Isabel Bader, 2013 (56-003.15)

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This is a six part DVD series that invites us to explore the foundations of Christian faith. Filmed on location in the U.K., it takes us on a journey through the Gospel of Mark. Topics include Identity, Sin, the Cross, Resurrection, Grace. Led by the Minister, Tuesday evenings until November 25, 7 – 8:30 p.m. Each evening is independent of the others, so don’t worry if you have to miss one. We have a good sized group signed up. All welcome and free – enter St. Andrew’s Hall by the side door off Clergy Street.