Vision of the Seven Candlesticks – Albrecht Durer, 1498
The revelation given to John begins with an awesome image of Jesus. It is not an image of the babe of Bethlehem, or the one who turned water into wine, or the one who healed the ill and embraced the outcast, or the one who was rejected by religious authorities and crucified by the powers political. The image is of Jesus the Christ, Jesus raised and reigning over all history with all honour, glory and authority (Revelation 1:12-16). It is an image of assurance and encouragement given to a generation of Christians who were suffering an eruption of evil, asking about the presence and relevance of the One they worshipped.
Perhaps of most assurance and encouragement was the fact that this Jesus was found in the midst of seven candlesticks. The candlesticks were well-accepted symbols of the churches, the seven churches of Asia to whom John passed on this image of Jesus. This vision reminds those Christians that the Lord of all history is found not in corridors of palace or majesty of temple or influence of market, but with them, dis-spirited, weak and faithless as they are. There Jesus the Christ stands. Here he stands. With us. Now.
To make the image even more personal, the great German artist Albrecht Durer carved himself into the scene. You may think that is John kneeling before the One like a son of man, but it is Durer, with his own hooked nose! With John, with Durer, with so many before us and around us, we are invited this Sunday to gather in worship of the One who not only lives and reigns above, but is with us and for us in our churches.
If you are in the area, please join us in the worship of God this Sunday. Have a look at the Order of Worship below. There is a nursery for infants and a programme for children during the service. And lots of free parking on the street and in the city lot off Queen Street just behind the church.
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The Transfiguration of Jesus – Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov (1806-1858)
When we speak of ‘the cloud’ these days, we speak about the great digital resource pool available through the internet. Originally ‘the cloud’ was where data could be stored and made accessible to individual computers throughout the world. Increasingly ‘the cloud’ is where even software programmes themselves are stored, rather than taking up precious memory on any individual computer.
In the Christian scriptures, ‘the cloud’ is a symbol of the divine mystery and presence. Recall the pillar of cloud that lead the people of God through the wilderness, and the cloud that descended upon Mount Sinai as Moses was given the stone tablets. This Sunday morning we will complete the season of Epiphany (from the original Greek meaning ‘manifestation’) with another cloud. Peter, James and John see Jesus transfigured with light, Moses talking on one side and Elijah on the other … and ‘suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ (Matthew 17: 1-8).
In preparation for worship at the beginning of this new week, I have been thinking of these different clouds. And how providential, that being the first Sunday of the month, we will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper. Unlike the disciples of old, merely observers of the divine presence in that cloud, by baptism we are united with the Risen Lord, we know ourselves raised into that cloud ourselves, albeit for a time only for a time … If you are in the area, please join us. There is a nursery for infants and a programme for children during the service. And if you can’t be with us, have a look at the inside of the Order of Worship belong, and join us by reflecting upon the passages of scripture and prayers. After all, it is not only the transfiguration of Christ we celebrate, but by the grace of God the transfiguration of Christians in the cloud of God’s presence and love …
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The Baptism of Christ (detail) – El Greco (1541-1614)
Artists over the centuries have imagined the baptism of Christ in many different ways. The Greek painter who spent a large portion of his career in Toledo Spain and there was known as El Greco himself painted this scene several times, each time with a different perspective, a different emphasis.
When I consider the meaning of various scenes of Scripture, I think of the truth of the adage ‘You never step into the same river twice’. Part of the truth is that the river itself is never the same – the water itself flows past and changes constantly. The other part of the truth is that we ourselves are constantly changing, and therefore experience life differently.
What I appreciate about this particular rendition of this scene are the eyes of Jesus. Sometimes Jesus is imagined with eyes looking down, head bowed with humility before the Holy One above whose commission as Christ he here publicly accepts. Sometimes Jesus is imagined with eyes looking up, head raised to the heavens, with the Holy Spirit descending from the Father above, with Jesus receiving assurance for the divine task before him of the renovation of humanity. But here, on this canvas, it is as if El Greco has Jesus looking directly into the eyes of the people around him. And at this point in my personal life, I find here a particularly meaningful dimension of the baptism of Jesus.
It is as if Jesus is saying ‘I am here to bring God to humanity, I am here to renew humanity and this world. I am here … for you.’
Have a look at the Order of Service for this Sunday and join us in the worship of the God of love, Father Son and Holy Spirit. There is a nursery for infants, a programme for children, and ample free parking along the street and in a public lot behind the church off Queen Street.
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The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated by many Christian communities around the world this Sunday, Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic. The resources for this year have been written by the Christians of Latvia. There are devotions for each day and can be found at https://www.councilofchurches.ca/our-faith/week-of-prayer-for-christian-unity/eight-days-biblical-reflections/
I was nurtured and serve in a particular branch of the Church of Christ known as ‘Reformed’. And today I remember that at what is acknowledged as the beginning of this tradition, Jean Calvin prayed for the purification and renewal and reformation of the Church, not its division.
In April 1552 Calvin in Geneva wrote to Archbishop Cranmer “Amongst the greatest evils of our century must be counted the fact that the churches are so divided one from another that there is scarcely even a human relationship between us; at all events there is not the shining light of that holy fellowship of the members of Christ, of which many boast in word, but which few seek sincerely indeed. In consequence, because the members are torn apart, the body of the church lies wounded and bleeding. So far as I have it in my power, if I am thought to be of any service, I shall not be afraid to cross ten seas for this purpose, if that should be necessary.”
The ‘greatest of evils’ is even greater for the four and half centuries that have passed since. I believe we are being brought to understand how much our communion and our witness is undermined by our division. Our different perspectives and experiences of the Holy One revealed in Jesus are not exclusive but complementary. Our different gifts provide balance and therefore strength. And perhaps most important of all, our unity is the express will of the one whose name we bear – ‘There will be one flock, one shepherd’ (John 10:16).
This morning at St. Andrew’s we will celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by welcoming the newest addition to our downtown Christian leadership, The Rev. Susan McAllister of Princess Street United Church. Join us in praise, and especially in prayer (ample free parking is available along the streets and in the public lot behind the church just off Queen Street; a nursery for infants and programme for children is offered during the service).
I conclude with a phrase in the Latvian liturgy that introduces the reading of the Scripture lessons … ‘The Word of God is an explosion of love in our lives. Thanks be to God.’ So may it be!
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These weeks of Epiphany we are exploring what it means to be human through some of the characters of the gospel according to Matthew. With the magi, we have acknowledged that we live in a world of grace, with God seeking us out and drawing us in. With Herod, the big king who was threatened by the little King, we have acknowledged that there is something in us that resists the intrusion of God into ‘our’ world, and that the result includes the suffering of innocent others as well as our own. This morning we conclude by looking at the Christ child, and the new beginning we believe the Holy One has given us, and has given humanity, in him.
Jesus as a child in Nazareth
I like this painting a lot. It speaks of the return of the Holy Family from refuge in Egypt to settle in Nazareth (Matthew 2:19-23). But it speaks even more loudly to me of the humanity of Jesus. It reminds me of all those quiet years of our Lord spent ‘en famille’ and in ‘ordinariness’. Even more, it reminds me how Jesus laid down a new way for all humanity. This painting declares the great embrace of God in the incarnation by transposing the gospel narrative to a typical Cameroonian village. It is exciting to wonder about God growing a new humanity all around the world, perhaps even in my community and life!
It is part of an awesome series that can be seen at www.jesusmafa.com (with this painting reproduced with permission from Vanderbilt Divinity Library.)
Join us this Sunday to wonder, to pray, to praise. (A nursery is offered for infants, and programme during part of the service for children. Ample free parking is available on the street and in the public lot behind the church on Queen Street.) And linger afterwards for a monthly congregational pot-luck lunch!
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Are you a Student who enjoys Singing?
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (corner of Princess at Clergy)
invites applications for its Choral Scholarship Program
Successful candidates will:
- receive an honorarium for singing in the church choir
- gain choral experience and vocal technique, note reading and theory
- have fun singing with a friendly supportive choir
Choir rehearsals are Thursdays 6:00pm to 7:30pm
Please apply to our Director of Music, John Hall:
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org (residence) email@example.com (church)
Phone – 613-354-5066 (residence), 613-546-6316 (church)