Fritz von Uhde. Der Gang nach Emmaus (1891)

Last Sunday I mentioned reading about an uproar in England, over the National Trust rebranding the Easter weekend event on its over 300 historic properties from ‘Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt’ to ‘Cadbury Egg Hunt’. Many Christians expressed dismay and even anger about dropping ‘Easter’.

Beyond wondering how Christian is the symbol of the ‘Easter egg’ itself, I was amused to read also that John Cadbury, the founder of Cadbury in 1824, was a Quaker. As a committed Quaker, John would probably have had little interest in the current uproar – he did not believe in ‘Easter’ himself, or any special Christian day for that matter, because he believed that every day is one on which to encounter and celebrate the Risen Lord!

At St. Andrew’s, we certainly not limit Easter to one Sunday. With many other Christian traditions, we will celebrate Easter as a season, lingering before the mystery and the joy of the Resurrection, continuing the celebration for 50 days all the way to Pentecost.

This Sunday we begin with the wonderful story of the two despairing disciples walking away from Calvary whose hearts and lives are renewed by a stranger who accompanies them (Luke 24: 13-35). The sermon title is taken T.S.Elliot, The Waste Land (lines 359-365)

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman –
But who is that on the other side of you?

If you are in the area, have a look at the Order of Service, and join us. There is even a congregational pot luck afterwards, with always lots to share with visitors. There is ample parking on the streets around and in the public surface lot just behind the church off Queen Street. And during the service there is a nursery offered for children and a programme for children five and over.

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‘Calmly plotting the resurrection’ is the title of a book of Lenten devotions by Donna E. Schaper. It is a great title. The ‘plotting’ refers not to active arrangement (as in ‘they were plotting a coup’) but to charting the movements of another (as in ‘they are plotting the orbit of the comet’). Schaper challenges me to be open to identifying and joining the movements of God for life, in my life.

This Sunday we ‘plot’ the path of Jesus towards Resurrection.  In the cantata ‘No Greater Love’, the Choir of St. Andrew’s will point to this path of Jesus with scripture and song. It begins with the praise of others, but proceeds through betrayal, abandonment and death.

In plotting the path of Jesus, to light through darkness, we are reminded of the great power and promises of God for Christ and Christian. We are reminded that when we face darkness, even death, God is not absent, God is at work for us there, perhaps especially there. In plotting the path of Jesus, we who follow grow in trust and calmness, allowing our lives to show the same generosity towards others and strength in truth that was lived by Jesus.

Join us in the worship of God this Sunday. There is a programme for children and a nursery for infants during the service – before the service they are invited to gather with the Minister in St. Andrew’s Hall and with palms in hand process into the sanctuary behind the choir! Free parking can be found along the neighbouring streets and in the public surface lot just behind the church off Queen Street.

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Photo Credit: Ashley Fraser, Ottawa Citizen, 2015

I was amused by an article in the Globe and Mail recently in which a novice runner enrolled in a 5K run, missed the exit, and continued to eventually complete the half marathon – the surprise, the exhaustion, the exhilaration!

For Christians, there is a similar exhaustion and exhilaration, but little surprise – we know we are in for a full marathon from the start line. ‘Follow me’ our Lord says, without boundaries of time or distance. The theological doctrine of justification (that by the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus we were wondrously put right before God) is counter-balanced by the doctrine of sanctification (that the journey of becoming God’s people by the work of the Holy Spirit is long and challenging).

What keeps Christians persevering in the way of Christ? Two answers are highlighted in this Sunday’s readings from the Letter to the Hebrews (Chapter 12). One points to the cheering of the crowds who line the way –  ‘so great a cloud of witnesses’ who by their faith and life in Christ now provide us with example and encouragement along the way. The other points to the fact that the course has an end – a finish line that is none other than ‘the city of the living God’, reminding us that we are of origin and of destiny. Exhilarating indeed!

Join us in the worship of God this Sunday if you are in the area. You would be welcome. There is available during the service a nursery for infants and a programme for children. There is free parking along the streets around the church, and in the public surface lot just behind the church off Queen Street. Be sure to have a look at the announcements found within the Order of Service, and consider each a personal invitation to grow in Christian faith, community and service … with us!

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When I googled images of ‘faith’, it was fascinating to see how often there appeared a picture of someone leaping from one precipice to another. I guess it may have something to do with the expression ‘a leap of faith’, but it struck me how different is the Christian experience of faith.

In the ‘leap’ image, faith is known between two certainties. Or between what is presumed to be certain. One could always slip while leaving one solid rock or land short of the other. The rock itself could conceivably crack. A powerful headwind could suddenly arise.

When I think of faith, I do not think of my ability to jump, or of a time between certainties. For me, faith is the assurance that I am never ‘on my own’, or ‘between’. Faith is not defined by what my feeling or activity or circumstance, but by the assurance known in Jesus Christ that I am always accompanied and even carried.

As a Canadian Presbyterian it was the Westminster Catechism that shaped my early theological perspectives. Its first question is answered ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever’. This is solid stuff, placing our lives squarely upon the sovereignty and certainty of God. But I must admit I sometimes find that the Heidelberg Catechism held so dearly by my Christian Reformed sisters and brothers touches my heart more fully – ‘My only comfort in life and in death is that I belong to Jesus Christ, my faithful Saviour’. Yes, this is faith, in the Christian context. It is all about Jesus, what God has done through him, what God assures us in him.

So for an image, I prefer not a ‘leap’ between certainties but a ‘path’ upon certainty. Faith knows many seasons and circumstances, but it is the assurance God gives us that we travel not alone, nor in vain. We are on a journey, sometimes wild, sometimes wonderful, but one laid down by Jesus ‘for us and our salvation’ as the ancient Nicene Creed declares. This Sunday we continue through Hebrews and come to the great verse, ‘Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the certainty of things unseen’ (Hebrews 11:1).

Thanks be to God. Join us as we gather in the worship of God. There is a nursery for infants and a programme for children during the service. There is free parking along the streets around and in the public lot just behind the church off Queen Street. Have a look at the order of service, and be sure to consider the announcements as a personal invitation to join in faith, fellowship and service with us.

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The ‘Entreaty’ Mosaic – Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

These days of journey to Easter I have been appreciating a time of reflection provided by West End Presbyterian Church of Richmond Virginia. Each daily devotion offers a work of art, a quote of poetry or prose, a passage of scripture and a portion of music. The mix is quite eclectic, on the days and between the days, and I find it very inspiring.

One day this past week the track was from ‘Sleeping At Last’ entitled ‘101010’ (hear it using the link below). The song opens with the words …

Hold your breath and count to 28.
Change is slow but i feel it taking shape.
Folding over us like waves
On origami ocean tides, we sway

Like blueprints constantly being rearranged.
Over microscopes we plan and strain.

The finest print in the whitest ink,
Before it dries, there’s no time to think.
It feels like everything we’ve known is sink or swim

But grey is not a compromise –
It is the bridge between two sides.
I would even argue that it is the color
That most represents God’s eyes.

Tuesday March 14 :: Workmanship

In an age when fear and anxiety seem infectious, encouraging isolation and intolerance, I am moved by this reminder of God’s mediating, reconciling ‘eyes’ and activity in Jesus Christ … and our call in Christ to build and walk the bridges that create community. It is a theme before me as I prepare the sermon for this Sunday, a continuation through the New Testament letter to the Hebrews, arriving at the the great image of Jesus our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-5:10) – he who brings the Holy One before humanity, and humanity before the Holy One. ‘Grey’ eyes, indeed!

Join us Sunday morning if you are in the area. A nursery for infants and a programme for children during the service are offered during the service. There is free parking on the streets around and in the public surface lot just behind the church off Queen Street. Have a look at the Order of Service below, and the many announcements and invitations that follow. We look forward to welcoming you!

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Life is often referred to as a journey. The life of faith particularly so. Along the way, I am finding our exploration of the Letter to the Hebrews helpful. And certain thoughts became clearer as I came upon this work by Mark Rothko, ‘No. 8’.

The people of God have been freed from slavery. They have been freed for new life in a new land. But between the enslavement and the abundance they wander. As recorded in the passages of this Sunday morning, the wandering is difficult. And at every turn they complain to Moses and to God. They long for the security of place and position, even if of slavery, over the fragilities of freedom.

The people of God have spoken of their experience as ‘wandering in the wilderness’, as if it was a time of emptiness, a location and season of being lost. But might this not have been the fullest time of all, when there was nothing ‘but’ the presence, provision and promises of God?

They found it impossible to move beyond the human experience of ‘wandering’ to acknowledge the certainty of divine ‘accompanying’. They were so exhausted physically and spiritually that they held out for one particular definition of ‘rest’ and neglected the offer of the more profound rest at hand.

In Rothko’s painting, the red reminds me of the sands of the human journey, but my eyes are drawn to the light that covers the whole expanse. Like God’s people of old, I think that I too need to move out of a perspective of insecurity and an experience of ‘lack’, into an acknowledgement of the presence, provision and promise of the Holy One over all. That will be the ‘rest’ of my heart’s desire, not of geography or economy but of relationship.

If you are in the area, join us in the worship of God along life’s journey. (But remember that we spring forward an hour!)

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There is a nursery for infants and a programme for children during the service. There is free parking along the neighbouring streets and in the public lot just behind the church off Queen Street. We look forward to welcoming you.