Painting by Piero della Francesca, 1448-50

I love how the visual arts can help me appreciate new dimensions of the gospel. Take this classic painting by Piero della Francesca, voted in a 2005 poll ‘Greatest Paintings in Britain’ to ninth place! Perhaps it is the sense of time-standing-still that captivates our eyes and interest in our hyper-active contemporary lives.

This scene is so important and inspiring that it is recorded in all four gospels of the New Testament. The baptism of Jesus at the Jordan River is the moment the public ministry of Jesus begins, a ministry that would continue through healing and preaching and embracing, even through crucifixion to resurrection and ascension.

What intrigues me is the tentativeness of John as he baptizes Jesus – look at the awkward position of John’s one leg and hand. Even more intriguing are the reactions of the three women/angels to the side of Jesus – they look perturbed, disturbed, even shocked. And the question confronts me … why this tentativeness, why this shock?

I know the answer may not only help me to better understand the baptism of Jesus, but my own. I look forward to this Sunday and the exploration of these questions.

If you are in the area, we would welcome you to join in the worship of God. Have a look at the Order of Service below (and the announcements – please consider each a personal invitation to join us in Christian worship, community and service), and some additional information about the service that follows.

Download (PDF, 458KB)

During the service there is offered a nursery for infants and a programme for young children if desired. There is free parking on the streets around (please note that the time-of-day restrictions on Clergy Street north of Queen are not in effect on Sundays) and in the surface civic lot just behind the church off Queen Street. There is a wheel chair lift available in the doors of the church closest to the manse (the courtyard is entered from the driveway half way along the St. Andrew’s block of Clergy Street) and a wheelchair ramp is available through doors along Princess Street. If you have any other questions, please call the church office Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. – noon, or email anne@standrewskingston.org

The snow howls, the wind blows. The church will be open for prayers and praise, but please journey only if it is safe. Remember the wonderful words of George Herbert, ‘Seven whole days, and not one in seven, will I praise thee’ Lord!

 

Christ among the Teachers (1896) by Vasily Polenov (1844–1927) Русский: Христос среди учителей

Wonderful are the moments when the ‘gospel of Jesus Christ’ becomes the gospel for you and me. I experienced yet another such moment as I came across this canvas by Russian artist Vasily Polenov. It shows the boy Jesus deep in conversation with teachers in the temple, during that trip to Jerusalem when he would tell his anxious parents ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ – Luke concludes by saying ‘And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years …’ (Luke 2:52).

It is wonderful to be reminded how our Lord increased in wisdom during his earthly years, growing in a knowledge of his relationship with his heavenly Father, and of his calling to offer humanity a new beginning through life and even death. It is wonderful because it is a promise for his brothers and sisters that they too might grow in wisdom through their earthly years … that whatever my season or circumstance, I am still being grown in wisdom by the grace of God. It is humbling, and it is my greatest hope, in Christ.

While young, Polenov wrote that he dreamed of ‘creating a Christ who is not only expected but who has already come into this world and is making his way among the people’. Decades later, at the time of painting this scene, he wrote ‘I love the gospel tales beyond words. I love this naive and honest story, love this pure and lofty ethics, love this singular humanity which permeates the entire teaching, and finally I love this tragic, horrid but also grandiose finale’. To ensure the authenticity of his paintings, he had travelled through Palestine, Syria and Egypt. This painting was the first of what turned out to be a series that Polenov worked on for the next 13 years showing other scenes from the life of Jesus, finally totalling over sixty in number.

Christ is ‘making his way among his people’. And we welcome Christ as we are willing to be grown in wisdom. It is a journey, and it is good.

If you are in the area, and have the courage to set out in the snow and wind, we would welcome you to join in the worship of God. Have a look at the Order of Service below (and the announcements – please consider each a personal invitation to join us in Christian worship, community and service), and some additional information about the service that follows.

Download (PDF, 315KB)

During the service there is offered a nursery for infants and a programme for young children if desired. There is free parking on the streets around (please note that the time-of-day restrictions on Clergy Street north of Queen are not in effect on Sundays) and in the surface civic lot just behind the church off Queen Street. There is a wheel chair lift available in the doors of the church closest to the manse (the courtyard is entered from the driveway half way along the St. Andrew’s block of Clergy Street) and a wheelchair ramp is available through doors along Princess Street. If you have any other questions, please call the church office Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. – noon, or email anne@standrewskingston.org

 

After Rembrandt’s death in 1669, this canvas was found in his studio, unfinished. It is presumably one of the last paintings upon which he was working (with the figure in the background probably added later by someone else). It conveys a great strength of assurance, an assurance known by the artist and available to us.

The scene shows Simeon holding the Christ child. The biblical context is the Jerusalem temple at the time of the child’s ‘presentation’ or dedication to God, but the focus is fully upon the old man and the infant. As I gaze upon this man who knew his earthly days coming to an end, with his eyes closed and hands folded in prayer, I can also hear his words and feel his deep joy as he knew God’s promises of a new beginning for humanity fulfilled as he held that infant …

Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
   according to your word; 
for my eyes have seen your salvation, 
   which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
   and for glory to your people Israel. (Luke 2:29-32)

As an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto I attended Rosedale Presbyterian Church, and every service concluded with the choir singing these words of Simeon. It was a wonderful reminder that what Simeon knew so clearly in that Christ child, we know even more surely in the fullness of Christ, living as we do this side of his life, death and resurrection.

We can wait in confidence and we can go in peace, knowing that God is faithful, and we have nothing to fear.

If you are in the area, we warmly welcome you to join in praise and worship of God. Have a look at the Order of Service below (and the announcements – please consider each a personal invitation to join us in Christian worship, community and service), and some additional information about the service that follows.

Download (PDF, 415KB)

During the service there is offered a nursery for infants and a programme for young children if desired. There is free parking on the streets around (please note that the time-of-day restrictions on Clergy Street north of Queen are not in effect on Sundays) and in the surface civic lot just behind the church off Queen Street. There is a wheel chair lift available in the doors of the church closest to the manse (the courtyard is entered from the driveway half way along the St. Andrew’s block of Clergy Street) and a wheelchair ramp is available through doors along Princess Street. If you have any other questions, please call the church office Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. – noon, or email anne@standrewskingston.org

Scène du Massacre des Innocents – Léon Cogniet, 1824

The magi, the strangers from afar representing the whole of humanity, arrive to worship the Babe of Bethlehem as King of Kings. It is a moment of wonder and of joy, one that we will celebrate as our own with some of the great hymns of the season. If you are in the area, you are warmly invited to join the chorus!

But in the story that Matthew shares, what follows is completely different (Matthew 2: 16-23). It is a scene of evil unleashed, of the Holy One fleeing for life and of innocents suffering death. Upon canvas, the French artist conveys the chaos, the carnage, the fear amidst the fury of violence. In the face of that woman we see so many faces through human history, from Rachel in Ramah to those of Yemen, Sudan and Syria today. And the cry is lifted up through the generations ‘Why, God?’, and even ‘Where is God?’

Though rarely acknowledged, this is a scene that is part of the Christmas story, and of Christian faith. Here we are reminded that evil is part of human life, as it remains part of us … but God is at work in the midst of evil, opening a way through Herod’s ruthlessness for a Saviour of humanity, and ultimately opening a way of life through death for all in that same Jesus. The Christmas story and faith declare that God has begun the renewal of this world and that what God has commenced God will bring to completion. In the meantime Christians live with the reality of evil and suffer its injustices, they live often with tears … but they live without despair. We live in the trust that what God has commenced God will complete, and that even now ‘God is at work to bring all things together for good for those who love God’ (Romans 8:28). It is this trust that has given Christians strength through seasons of personal tragedy and the courage to resist the powers of this world by participating in God’s realm of peace and justice.

This Christian way is not easy, but it is the way of life.
At the beginning of a new year of grace, what can we say but only ‘thanks be to God’.

Download (PDF, 453KB)

During the service there is offered a nursery for infants and a programme for young children if desired. There is free parking on the streets around (please note that the time-of-day restrictions on Clergy Street north of Queen are not in effect on Sundays) and in the surface civic lot just behind the church off Queen Street. There is a wheel chair lift available in the doors of the church closest to the manse (the courtyard is entered from the driveway half way along the St. Andrew’s block of Clergy Street) and a wheelchair ramp is available through doors along Princess Street. If you have any other questions, please call the church office Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. – noon, or email info@standrewskingston.org

 

 

 

 

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them (Luke 2:20).

William Bell Smith – National Gallery of Scotland

The first Christians saw the story of the shepherds as their story. Like the shepherds, they also felt led to the side of one who was God’s offer of a new beginning for humanity. They also fell to their knees as they glorified and praised God. And they too lived to share the good news of how their lives were changed by this encounter with the Holy One.

I love this depiction of the adoration of the shepherds by a nineteenth century Scottish artist, who included not only women among the shepherds but also a bag piper! It encourages me to think how our adoration might be more inclusive, and more distinctive …

As one year gives way to another, by the grace of God, we join the shepherds and generations of Christians before us in praise and adoration. We will gather in St. Andrew’s Halll for an informal hour to sing all the remaining carols (particularly those referencing the shepherds!) and lift up our prayers.

If you are in the area, we warmly invite you to join us!

I am humming the tunes already … Angels from the realms of glory, The first nowell, See amid the winter’s snow, In the bleak mid-winter, Go tell it on the mountain …

An hour of carols and readings that tell us the story of God coming among us, as one of born, born in Bethlehem. There will be bells in the tower ringing, and handbells also in the sanctuary. There will be singing of both choir and congregation. And all will hold a candle to receive the flame from the Christ Candle, and together we will sing ‘Silent night, holy night’. All welcome! Have a look at the Order of Service below, and join us if you are in the area. And look further below for additional information about accessibility and parking.

Download (PDF, 145KB)

There is free parking on the streets around (please note that the time-of-day restrictions on Clergy Street north of Queen are not in effect this evening) and in the surface civic lot just behind the church off Queen Street. There is a wheel chair lift available in the doors of the church closest to the manse (the courtyard is entered from the driveway half way along the St. Andrew’s block of Clergy Street) and a wheelchair ramp is available through doors along Princess Street.