ElijahRembrandt

It is a poignant scene, drawn for us by Rembrandt. The prophet Elijah has fled his own people for his life, and a woman of another land has sacrificially shared what little food she had. And now as her son lies without breath, Elijah cries ‘Why did you do such a terrible thing to this widow, O God? She has been kind enough to take care of me, and now you kill her son.’ (I Kings 17:20)

Why do the good suffer? Why does tragedy afflict the innocent? Where is God?

These weeks of Lent we journey to Jerusalem, and we do so with integrity, with deep honesty. This is not an easy path, for we acknowledge cries of grief and lift up questions of life and death.

But through the cries and the questions, we shall hear that God is in the midst of it all, at work to bring good out of evil and life out of death, and we shall leave singing of what we have heard in Jesus Christ – ‘I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry … I, the Lord of snow and rain, I have borne my people’s pain …’

Thanks be to God. Join us!

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St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is once again inviting qualified students to apply for summer positions working as Cultural Interpreters this coming summer, to offer interpretive tours of our historic church.

If you are (or know of) students looking for summer employment and this is a good fit, please see below job description and application instructions. Note that the deadline to apply is March 15, 2015.

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Based on a fifth century icon in the Byzantine Museum Athens.

This past Wednesday evening members of a variety of downtown churches gathered to begin our walk towards Easter together. As ashes were placed upon our flesh in the shape of the cross, we acknowledged our frailty and failings … but also our hope. It is all rather counter-intuitive but profoundly true – in allowing an emptying we enter into an experience of being filled, by the grace of God known in Jesus Christ.

The Kingston Symphony will be offering a performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah on March 15th. It offers us a great opportunity on Sunday mornings to consider the gospel for human life anew through the experience of Elijah. We begin this morning with Elijah having fled to the wilderness, alone and vulnerable. But there the ravens bring him bread in the morning and meat in the evening. And when the brook Cherith dries up and he must flee further, the small quantity of flour and oil of an equally vulnerable widow are replenished day by day sufficiently to sustain both of them (I Kings 17:1-16). The providence of God. Life rarely unfolds as we choose or plan, but by the grace of God there is life.

When we gathered to plan our next combined community service, for Good Friday, I passed a phrase on the church office countertop – ‘Inhale love, exhale gratitude’. This will be a season in which I will focus even more fully upon the daily love of God that sustains me and us, and respond naturally and fully with gratitude.

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We rarely sing these days. We enjoy hearing others sing, whether from a personal playlist or at a live concert, but even at sporting events we have someone else sing our national anthem for us. And our lives are the less for it.

Generations before us have declared that singing is good for the soul – it not only gives the soul voice, but singing can draw us close to God. Early Augustine (354-430 A.D.) would write ‘… in the song of the lover (there is) love’ (1), suggesting that when we sing to God in love, the love of God comes close to us. Or as many have said often since, ‘They who sing well pray twice’. It is no wonder that singing remains an integral, if counter-cultural, part of Christian worship today.

This morning the sermon will examine a passage from I Thessalonians 5, and the story behind a hymn that was based on it, ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’. It is a hymn that is close to us, in faith and also in geography, written by Joseph Scriven and published first just upriver from us in the Port Hope Evening Guide, and the circumstances of its composition make the words all the more moving. Join us, to sing the faith, to grow in faith … and life!

And have a look through the worship notes and announcements.

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(1) ‘For he who sings praise, does not only praise, but also praises joyfully; he who sings praise, not only sings, but also loves Him whom he is singing about/to/for. There is a praise-filled public proclamation in the praise of someone who is acknowledging (God), in the song of the lover (there is) love’
Sanctus Augustinus, Enarratio in Psalmum 72, 1: CCL 39, 986 (PL 36, 914)

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This Sunday we celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. As we sing the great hymn ‘The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord’, we will be reminded that there is only one church, the Church of Christ. And that Orthodox, Protestant, Roman Catholic together, we are united by ‘one Lord, one faith, one birth, one holy name professing and at one table fed, to one hope we are pressing, by Christ’s own Spirit led’. Humility before each other, hope in God alone.

‘Oikomene’ was the classical Greek word used to speak of ‘the whole inhabited world’. In Christian circles, it (and its derivative ‘ecumenical’ in English) has come to refer to the whole Church of Christ. This morning we will meet the disciples in a boat upon the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14: 22-33) – they are terrified, and to them comes Jesus upon the water. The symbol of the boat is an appropriate one for the Church – perhaps adrift, perhaps beset by storm, but never abandoned by its Lord (notice the mast at the very centre of the boat!).

In the evening we will gather with others from across the city to witness together to our unity in Christ (St. Mark’s Lutheran, 263 Victoria, 7 p.m.). Join us, both morning and evening!

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The week comes to a close and I look forward to beginning a new week of grace in praise and worship. And I am moved by the words with which John Hall, the Director of Music at St. Andrew’s Kingston, will welcome us in the Order of Service –

I come from a family of teachers, but I myself, preferred not to go into teaching as a full-time profession. Instead, I chose a career where one can never stop learning. The piano is a complex instrument and one can spend a lifetime understanding it and learning how to service it. After 40 years as a piano technician I like to think that I am still getting better at it. Similarly with one’s faith; we need to continue questioning, learning and sometimes teaching about our faith throughout our lives. We never have all the answers, but throughout this process of questioning and learning, our lives can only get richer.

John’s theme of learning is intentional as well as accurate. This morning our worship we welcome a team from Geneva House to lead us in worship of God – Geneva House is a Christian community of fellowship, study and witness at Queen’s University, and supported by many local churches, including St. Andrew’s. Together we will consider the words of the psalmist (#119) that will be sung as an introit,

Teach me, O Lord, your way of truth, and from it I will not depart; that I may steadfastly obey, give me an understanding heart.

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In preparation for worship, I offer this prayer:

God our maker, we are grateful that you created us free and curious persons, inhabitants of this beautiful earth. You have revealed your love for us by giving us both the capacity to make choices and the ability to heed your guidance. We are students in your world, O God, and as we pass through the years, help us to remain eager learners of your ways.
With the Bible as an open book in our hands, may our minds open as well.
With Jesus as teacher and example, may our hearts enlarge in discipleship.
With your Spirit as inspiration, may our wisdom increase.
Fill this time of worship with your presence. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen. (Glen E. Rainsley. Hear Our Prayer)

Have a look at the Order of Service, and join us!

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Sunday January 11 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sir John A. Macdonald. As Presbyterians we add a particular dimension to the national discussions and celebrations of the day – we remember that our nation’s first Prime Minister was raised within the worship of St. Andrew’s Church Kingston, of which his father, Hugh Macdonald, was among the first elders. As a young lawyer and member of St. Andrew’s, John A. Macdonald seconded the motion at a congregational meeting to begin Queen’s College in 1841, which later became Queen’s University.

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‘The faith that shaped the man who shaped a nation’ will be highlighted during this special afternoon hour in the sanctuary. We will be greeted at the sanctuary doors by folk in attire of the first half of the nineteenth century. The same Scottish metrical psalms sung in the early 19th century will be sung again – six of them, including ‘All people that on earth do dwell’, ‘God’s name for ever shall endure’, and ‘Ye gates, ye doors lift up your heads on high’ – but as was the custom then, unaccompanied, led by a precentor with a tuning fork. We will hear about other distinctives of the Presbyterian worship of Sir John’s childhood and youth,  including the use of Communion Tokens, as these of the congregation of St. Andrew’s from the year 1823.

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Join us!

This hour in the sanctuary will be followed by a demonstration by the Royal Scottish Country Dancing Society in St. Andrew’s Hall from 6-7 p.m., Scottish nibbles in the manse from 7-8 p.m., and a performance by Salon Theatre back in the Hall at 8 p.m. All free! Ample parking available along the streets and in the public lot on Queen Street just west of Clergy.

 

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Medieval European art is highly stylized, with elongated figures and stiff poses. It may not be to everyone’s taste but it does focus our eyes upon the intended message. Take this panel from a psalter of the 12th century at Westminster Priory in England. It accompanies the text of the Baptism of Jesus, as we will read this Sunday, Mark 1: 1-11. I am struck how clearly the servanthood of Jesus is communicated as he sets out upon his public ministry, with Jesus of small stature before John the Baptiser, without clothing of any kind, and head bowed. I am also struck how clearly the affirmation of Jesus is communicated, not only by the Spirit descending like a dove, but by the waters of creation (with its fish!) leaping up to acknowledge him. ‘You are my beloved’ is heard loud and clear – ‘beloved’ because he has accepted the call to work a new beginning for humanity.

With the congregations of St. George’s Anglican and Sydenham Street United, we will also read Psalm 72. This day marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Sir John A. Macdonald. This father of Confederation had affiliations with all three ‘streams’ of the Church over his life time, and this psalm is said to be the one from which the title (‘dominion’) and the motto (A Mari usque ad Mare) of the new nation of Canada arose – ‘May he have dominion from sea to sea’ (verse 8).

Join us! And come early at 10:10 a.m. for a pre-service, by-request hymn sing.

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