As snow fell last night, yet again and some more here in Kingston … the palms are ready to be waved. The weather varies from year to year, but I always look forward to this Sunday, for the way this scene of Jesus riding into Jerusalem elicits the joy, the excitement and the strength of our Christian faith.
I love the way the early 20th century artist Wilhelm Morgner captures the intensity of the scene – the humble king on a donkey, the palms of the people’s praise arching like sound waves to eternity – but also the darkness all around and between. I notice at the very centre of the canvas a figure of solid black. We are reminded of what lies ahead for Jesus as he enters Jerusalem. But I also notice that the dark figure is surrounded by a circle of light.
As this Holy Week begins, I am moved once again by the determination of our Lord to live the love of God at all costs. And I celebrate the amazing gospel that this is the life the Sovereign God will redeem and raise, promising that life is the last word for him and for all who would follow him.
Palm Sunday, 10:30 a.m. Join us!
Sunday March 22, 10:30 a.m.
We conclude our journey with Elijah this morning (I Kings 19). The prophet has been loyal to his God, and his trust has not been in vain – the Lord was revealed as the One with life-giving power, symbolized here by a downpour of rain after a time of terrible drought. But even this gift of grace is not sufficient to turn the heart of the people and their king, Ahab … and Elijah must flee once again. In the wilderness once again, he hears a voice within whisper that all is futility, all is failure, and he cries out ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life’ (verse 4). It is a voice that many have heard, even and perhaps particularly people of faith.
But an angel was sent to embrace Elijah with care, setting bread and water by his head, for life. And later when Elijah was withdrawn in a cave, the Lord came, not in the wind, or earthquake or fire, but in a ‘still small voice’. While the voice within Elijah spoke of futility, this voice spoke of a continuing journey, one filled with purpose by the Holy One – Elijah was commissioned to anoint new rulers for the peoples, to open up new beginnings.
The voices we hear – the voice of human despair, the voice of holy grace. Not one or the other, but both.
Have a look at our Order of Worship for this Sunday, and if you are in the neighbourhood, join us!
Sunday March 15, 10:30 a.m.
After the high drama of Elijah’s confrontation on Mount Carmel with the priests of Baal, this morning we explore a much quieter scene (I Kings 18:41-46). And yet it is a scene that is filled with great spiritual strength, one that moves me deeply. The Lord God has proven the claims of other gods empty, and now the prophet Elijah waits on the mountain for the Lord to act. He waits for rain promised by the life-giving God in whom he trusts.
The very posture of the prophet was one of trust and patience – ‘Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he bowed himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees’. Elijah sent a boy to scan the horizon for the clouds that would bring the rain. The boy return to report only a clear sky. Elijah sent the boy again, and again there is no cloud in sight. Seven times the prophet sent the boy, and only on the seventh time was the wisp of a cloud seen.
Elijah, on the top of Mount Carmel, announced the impending rain before any single cloud in the sky appear (I Kings XVIII, 41-46) – Marc Chagall, 1956 – Musée national Message Biblique Marc Chagall, Nice, France
As a Christian, I wait for God’s ‘rain’ of justice and peace for humanity promised in Christ Jesus. There may be little evidence of the arrival of the Kingdom of God, yet Elijah reminds me of the profound perseverance of life in faith. We continue in our posture of trust – we continue to extend water to the thirsty and food to the hungry, we continue to embrace the refugee and care for this creation – not on the basis of what we do or even see, but because God is faithful to God’s promises.
So be it. Amen.
May it come soon
to the hungry
to the weeping
to those who thirst for your justice,
to those who have waited centuries
for a truly human life.
Grant us the patience
to smooth the way
on which your Kingdom comes to us.
Grant us hope
that we may not weary
in proclaiming and working for it,
despite so many conflicts,
threats and shortcomings.
Grant us a clear vision
that in the hour of our history
we may see the horizon,
and know the way
on which your Kingdom comes to us.
A prayer from Nicaragua in Bread of Tomorrow
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!
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.
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.
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.
(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)