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Blessed are you, O Lord our God, ruler of the universe.
You call all people to walk in your light
and to seek your ways of justice and peace,
for the night is past, and the dawn of your coming is near.

Bless us as we light the first candle of this wreath.
Rouse us from sleep,
that we may be ready to greet our Lord when he comes
and welcome him into our hearts and homes,
for he is our light and our salvation.
Blessed be God for ever.

Join us for the first Sunday of Advent. There is a nursery for children three and younger, and a programme for older children during the service, if they wish. There is free parking available along the streets around and in the public surface lot behind the church off Queen Street. Have an advance peek at the Order of Service, and the announcements that follow. Welcome, in the name of Christ!

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This morning we will take time to count our blessings, and give thanks.

We give thanks for the blessings of … living in a corner of creation wondrous and a city beautiful … friends and strangers and family who accompany us along this journey … the promise that our lives are of origin and destiny, and that we are loved with a love that will not let us go … the church that binds us not only to each other but to God.

And this Sunday, even as we also welcome new members, we will hear about yet another blessing. It is a blessing we hear about from Paul, who apparently quoted Jesus – ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35).

It sounds counter-intuitive and is certainly counter-cultural. As I continue to ponder its meaning in Christ, I am helped by a story told by Eugene Peterson in his book ‘Run with the Horses’.

Peterson tells how he saw some birds teaching their young to fly. Three young swallows were perched on a dead branch that stretched out over a lake. “One adult swallow got alongside the chicks and started shoving them out toward the end of the branch—pushing, pushing, pushing. The end one fell off. Somewhere between the branch and the water below, the wings started working and the fledgling was off on his own. Then the second one. The third one, however, was not to be bullied. At the last possible moment, his grip on the branch loosened just enough so that he swung downward, then tightened again, bulldog tenacious. The parent pecked at the desperately clinging talons until it was more painful for the chick to hang on than risk the insecurities of flying. The grip was released and the wings began pumping. The mature swallow knew what the chick did not—that it would fly—that there was no danger in making it do what it was designed to do.” Peterson writes, “Birds have feet and can walk. Birds have talons and can grasp a branch securely. They can walk; they can cling. But flying is their characteristic action and not until they fly are they living at their best, gracefully and beautifully. Giving is what we do best. It is the air into which we were born. It is the action that was designed into us before our birth.”

You are invited to join us in counting our blessings, and considering even more blessing! A nursery is available for infants and preschoolers up to 3, as is a church school programme during the service for children who prefer not to stay in the sanctuary. There is free parking on the streets about, and in a public lot behind the church off Queen Street. Have a look at the order of service, and join us!

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Restorative Justice.

As Christians we know the forgiveness of sin and the gracious embrace of God; we hear and experience God’s promise of new beginnings. This week we are reminded that we are called to be agents of God’s forgiveness, embrace and gracious new beginnings for others, and in particular the men and women who are caught up in our contemporary system of retributive justice governed by fear and anger.

Did you know that Canada’s crime rate has hit a 45 year low this year, but this year also marks an all time high of people incarcerated in prison? I didn’t. Did you know that two thirds of provincial prisoners have not been convicted of anything: they are in prison only because they cannot come up with bail, exposing a link between poverty and incarceration. I didn’t. Did you know that a typical Canadian prison cell was built for one prisoner and now houses three, and they are allotted twenty minutes fresh air a day? I didn’t. Did you know that the annual average cost to incarcerate an individual is now estimated to be $117,000? My mind fills with thoughts about how such a sum could be spent more productively, respectfully, and indeed faithfully.

As we continue this autumn through the Acts of Apostles, we arrive at a scene in which Paul is in prison (Acts 16). The earth trembles, the doors open, and he is freed. When the jailer awakes, he prepares to kill himself, knowing well what the consequences were for those who allowed prisoners to escape. But Paul shouts that he has not left. He has remained, not out of passivity or fear but thinking of the jailer. This jailer embodied oppression and violence, but Paul did not respond to him with hate or even apathy. To this individual the apostle extended a new beginning. As the doors of the jail were opened for Paul, so did Paul open his oppressor to life. There is freedom, and there is freedom.

Lots to think about. Lots to prayer about.

Due to a glitch in the church office, there is no Order of Service appended online this week. You will just have to join us in person … and you would be welcome!

 

 

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One way we can exercise committed Christian stewardship within the Church is to enrol in PAR. Words of explanation and encouragement are included in the Days of November. Here is a brochure that provides more information, and instructions for enrolment.

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Have a look at our congregational newsletter for the month. (It is meant to be folded into three, so you need a bit of imagination to understand its layout!) Please consider each announcement a personal invitation to join us in Christian worship, community and service. It is the month that includes St. Andrew’s Day!!

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The last post, lament and reveille … with silence at the centre … and prayers for peace. The apostle Paul crossing from one continent to another with the gospel, and the first Christian of Europe is a woman, Lydia of Philippi (Acts 16:6-15). A celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the presence of the Living One.

There are several threads to our service of worship this Sunday morning at St. Andrew’s. Come as you are, and allow God to weave these threads, and many others, together for good, for your strength, for your joy.

Have a look at the Order of Service and join us if you are in the neighbourhood. Clergy Street is now open! A nursery and programme for children are available during the service.

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As we journey through the book of Acts, we hear now the story often called ‘the conversion of Cornelius’. It is fascinating and it is challenging – I hope you can join us!

Cornelius is a Roman centurion stationed in Caesarea, who becomes the first non-Jew, the first Gentile, to be welcomed as a Christian, into the fellowship of the Church, and embraced as a brother in Christ. The Church becomes the Church!

After reading and re-reading this story, I have thought it might better that this story be called ‘the conversion of Peter’. Peter has been raised within the covenant people and raised up by Jesus as representative of the ‘rock’ upon whom the Church will be built. On his way to Caesarea Peter receives a dream, with a command from on high to eat food long forbidden to the faithful. He resists eating the ‘gentile’ food to keep himself ‘pure’ as one of God’s chosen people, but finally Peter understands – God has enlarged the boundaries of those to be embraced within the community of the faithful, and now to be numbered among the faith he needed to enlarge his own embrace.

How wonderful to hear and ponder this story on Reformation Sunday, with the great exhortation brought forward over the centuries – the Church ‘reformed … and always reforming’! Not change for the sake of change, but change in accordance with the call of the Holy One. As with Peter, so may it be with Presbyterians.

Join us if you are in the area. The concrete sidewalks have been poured along Clergy Street and are open. Ample and free parking is available along neighbouring streets and in the public lot off Queen Street just behind the church. During the service there is a nursery for infants and children up to and including 3 years of age, and also a programme for older children. Have a look at the order of service and the announcements – I invite you to consider each a personal invitation to grow in Christian faith, community and service. You would be welcome!

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