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I am having a hard time keeping my fingernails presentable for meetings and pastoral visits. As spring gives way to summer, I continue to enjoy ‘working’ in the garden. It is a season of great joy but also of some frustration, as I am reminded that weeds flourish as well as anything I plant and tend. And I recall a parable of Jesus, about weeds growing in a field of wheat. The issue was that if the weeds were pulled, the sprouts of wheat would be pulled along with them. When the landowner was asked ‘Do you want us to gather the weeds?’, the answer came ‘No, let both of them grow together until the harvest’ (Matthew 13:24-30).

These words speak to me of life far beyond my small city garden plot. What are we to do about all the evil in this world? As I hear these words today, I believe Jesus is highlighting that there is a danger in focusing too greatly on what is wrong – we have a proven tendency to slip into self-righteousness and battle evil in ways that only increase evil in the world. Perhaps much more faithful to God and respectful of others might be a focus upon persevering to do good in the very face of evil. This is all the stronger an imperative when we acknowledge that we are ourselves  that field in which weeds and wheat are growing together – in his commentary Jean Calvin wrote ‘To my mind, the intention of the parable is simple. So long as the Church is on pilgrimage in this world, the good and sincere will be mixed in it with the bad and the hypocrites. So the children of God must arm themselves with patience and maintain an unbroken constancy of faith among all the offences which can trouble them.’

Have a look at the Order of Service below, and if you are able, join us. Come and consider the good, and be renewed in strength for life.

(There is a nursery for infants during the service. We will be introduced to our St. Andrew’s 2015 summer tour guides, Chloe Grande and Annie Dilworth. And our special appeal for the refugees of Syria continues with over $1500 already received …)

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Kingston is celebrating First Capital Day, the day in 1841 that then-Governor General Lord Sydenham declared Parliament open in Kingston, the new capital of the Province of Canada. Children are participating in the history of their city as they gather in a central park alive today with historical reenactments of some of the citizens of eras past.

The Rideau Canal was already one of the distinguishing characteristics of Kingston by that time, completed in 1832. As was St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Kingston, erected 1822.

View of the Great Cataraqui Bay or South Entrance of the Rideau Canal with  Kingston in the distance – taken from the Mountain East of the Locks at Kingston Mills, 1830 Watercolour Thomas Burrowes fonds Reference Code: C 1-0-0-0-77 Archives of Ontario, I0002196

View of the Great Cataraqui Bay or South Entrance of the Rideau Canal with
Kingston in the distance – taken from the Mountain East of the Locks at Kingston Mills, 1830
Watercolour
Thomas Burrowes fonds
Reference Code: C 1-0-0-0-77
Archives of Ontario, I0002196

The flowing waters of the canal remind us today of certain promises of Christian baptism. As the canal was built to protect this land from invasion from the United States, baptism reminds us that we are held with a love that will not let us go. As the canal became a main transportation route, baptism is also all about movement, the continuing experience of God’s Spirit upon us and through us for the good of others. As the canal today is known mainly for the recreation it offers, baptism’s declaration of God’s grace brings joy.

If you are in the area, join us in worship of God, in praise and with our prayers for others. Have a look at the Order of Service below. There is a programme for children and a nursery for infants offered during the service.

p.s. Thanks to all who are busy baking pies today – 67 pies have been ordered for pick up tomorrow, Saturday June 13 at the church, 1:30 – 3 p.m. All proceeds of the pies and envelopes will go to support Syrian refugees who have had to flee their homes for other corners of their land or neighbouring nations, through ACT Alliance and work of partners (International Orthodox Christian Charities, Middle East Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation).

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Ovide Bighetty  “Creating a New Family”  One of a series of paintings called “Kisemanito Pakitinasuwin” - The Creator's Sacrifice - commissioned by the Indian Metis Christian Fellowship of Regina, of the Christian Reformed Church.

Ovide Bighetty “Creating a New Family”
One of a series of paintings called “Kisemanito Pakitinasuwin” – The Creator’s Sacrifice – commissioned by the Indian Metis Christian Fellowship of Regina, of the Christian Reformed Church.

Sunday May 31st, 10:30 a.m.

I am returning from service as a member of the Ecumenical Jury at the Cannes Film Festival. It was a feast for the eyes on the screen, and I look forward to sharing some reflections of this experience in June. I begin this first Sunday back however with a reminder that the Bible uses listening, not seeing, as the predominant image for the way human beings come to know God, and grow spiritually (Think of the voice of the Holy One heard at the time of our Lord’s baptism and the beginning of his public ministry – ‘This is my own dear son – listen to him’ (Mark 9:7). ‘Listen’ to the scripture lessons in the Order of Service that follows: Psalm 85, Isaiah 46, John 4).
Listening involves a disciplined silencing of the self so the Other can be known. It is a dynamic as important to us in human community as in relationship with the Holy One – in listening we grow in understanding and in intimacy.
Next week the closing ceremonies of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will held in Ottawa. The TRC has been an opportunity for many Canadians, and many Christians, to listen to the experience of native sisters and brothers – it has not been easy, but it has been right and good. We join in prayer this morning for a new beginning in our relationship, one born of listening and of respect.

Last week on Pentecost we remembered that Christ calls out to each of us in our own languages to join his new, reconciled family and become ministers of reconciliation in this land. This week in Ottawa, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada will come to close. This ending is a new beginning – it represents the promise and responsibility of reconciliation. Throughout the Commission’s work, thousands of Indigenous people have bravely shared their stories of residential schools. These schools broke Indigenous families apart and were built on assumptions that Indigenous people and cultures were inferior or savage. The Pentecost vision of unity in Christ is broken. But Indigenous people have begun the journey of reconciliation by daring to tell their stories. Healing has already begun. (Christians) across Canada have listened. The painting you see on the screen was created by the late Cree artist Ovide Bighetty in a Stations of the Cross series of paintings called “Kisemanito Pakitinasuwin” – The Creators Sacrifice. This series was commissioned by the Christian Reformed Church’s Indian Metis Christian Fellowship in Regina. The painting is called “Creating a New Family” as Jesus connects John to his mother Mary. Our hope today is for a church and a nation that honours and celebrates the contribution of our Indigenous neighbours to our shared lives – may we be the new family that God calls us to be.
http://www2.crcna.org/site_uploads/uploads/cpd/Reconcililiation_litany0515.pdf

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Sunday May 10, 10:30 a.m.

"Bach with His Family at Morning Devotion" by Toby Edward Rosenthal (1870)

“Bach with His Family at Morning Devotion”
by Toby Edward Rosenthal (1870)

Every Sunday our wonderful Director of Music John Hall provides notes on the music that he has selected to enrich our worship of God. He describes the context of the composers and their compositions, but also adds personal perspectives on the spiritual and social dimensions of the music. This Sunday John even provided a painting along with his notes!

This is Christian Family Sunday.

We read from the contemporary statement of faith of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Living Faith, that ‘All Christians are members both of a human family and of the church, the household of God.’ And the words of the final hymn will bring together the prayers and reflections of the hour –  ‘Now thank we all our God … who from our mother’s arms has blessed us on our way’.

In between, the sermon will explore how our homes can be a realm where human and divine love intersect. There is a poem that begins ‘Happy the home when God is there’ (Henry Ware the younger, 1794-1843) – I believe the issue is not whether God is present or absent from our homes, but rather whether we acknowledge the presence and promises of God in our homes, whatever our family constellation.

And so we come to the painting contributed for Sunday’s service by John Hall (be sure to read his notes in the Order of Service that follows – yes that is one family!). Amidst all the activity of the scene, a mother is helping a child read the Bible and hear a holy word for life … Helping another (whether spouse, child, grandchild, or even neighbour or friend) know some dimension of God’s love is what ‘home’ is all about.

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We live in an era and a land in which certain politicians will offer any promise or initiative as long as the party’s position is strengthened, with little apparent thought given to the long-term and common good. Before I cast another stone, I must admit that the state of the Church is little better – we are divided into congregations and denominations that vie for support often via negativa and often look only to our own good rather than the ministry of Christ that we hold in common.

‘Presbyteros’ is the Greek word for ‘elder’. The Presbyterian Church is a church ordered by elders elected by the people and ordained to spiritual leadership. I am thankful to be in a tradition that does not make any claim to being the ‘only’ or ‘true’ church, and acknowledges that it is but one way to follow Christ faithfully. But this church does have integrity and relevance – the Presbyterian way has scriptural warrant, is connectional and credal, and ecumenical.

National Gallery of Scotland

National Gallery of Scotland

This morning we will be ordaining and induction of four new elders to service in St. Andrew’s Church Kingston. I am particularly attached to the words of the prayer of dedication found in a former Book of Common Worship (printed below) and pray that the lives of all Christians ‘adorn the gospel and speak of your Kingdom before all’. Contrary to the painting by John Henry Lorimer from 19th century Scotland, these elders will include more women than men (thank God!). And their first act will be to serve us during the Lord’s Supper.

Have a look at the Order of Service attached below, and join us praise and prayer this morning. A nursery for infants and a programme for children is available during the service.

Prayer of Ordination of Elders
Almighty Lord, Prophet Priest and King, who by the power of your Word and the inspiration of your Holy Spirit does rule your Church and has appointed the ministry of faithful women and men to guide and guard your flock by the Gospel: accept these individuals to be Ruling Elders in your Sovereign name; set them apart by the anointing of the Holy Spirit to be shepherds in the Church. Grant them your truth and grace. Save them from pride, self-righteousness, apathy, uncertainty, discouragement and fear of others. Endue them with your holy wisdom and your steadfastness, that they may rule in fear of you for the salvation of your people and the good of the Church. May their lives and words adorn the Gospel and speak of your Kingdom before all. May they be faithful all their days, so when you come as our Great Shepherd and only Judge, each one may receive your recognition: Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.     Amen.

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Heart-garden-small-300x190

Sunday April 26, 10:30 a.m.

As I write this, an invitation from the national offices of the Presbyterian Church in Canada has appeared on my desktop screen. It just popped up, but amazingly, providentially, seems directly connected to this coming Sunday’s service of worship …

The message during our worship will be offered by the church school, through readings and interpretative dance, focusing upon God’s great gift in Jesus Christ. It will conclude with lyrics by Matt Maher from his composition ‘Christ is Risen’, ‘Come awake, come awake, Come and rise up from the grave’.

The invitation of my inbox offers an opportunity to take up the life we know in the risen Lord, particularly his ministry of reconciliation. ‘All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation’ (2 Corinthians 5:18).

The invitation is to colour a paper flower – it sounds easy but will be hard. The national Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s closing event will be held June 1-3, 2015 in Ottawa. Church groups across Canada are being invited by KAIROS to make Hearts for Reconciliation, to be ‘planted’ by local school children on the grounds of Rideau Hall, the residence of the Governor General of Canada. We are being invited to embrace our native brothers and sisters who were residential school students and acknowledge that what we offered may have been with the best of intentions but has brought hurt and harm, personal and generational, cultural and indeed spiritual.

To take up the work of reconciliation is not easy for us as Christians, but then it was not for Christ either. And it is the way of life. ‘Come awake, come awake, Come and rise up from the grave’

Join us in the worship of God this Sunday (see the full list of announcements in the attachment below) – there will be papers with flower patterns waiting!

p.s. for more information, check http://presbyterian.ca/healing/
http://presbyterian.ca/wp-content/uploads/Heart-Garden-Instructions-KAIROS-Final.pdf

 

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Sunday April 19, 10:30 a.m.

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A couple of years have now passed, but the time is deeply etched on my heart. For almost two weeks I was privileged to be part of a group from the Presbyterian community in Canada who were invited to learn about the lives and witness of Palestinian Christians. We were welcomed by the ‘living stones’, the people who have kept the Christian faith alive and real ever since our Lord himself walked that land, and now find themselves a besieged minority, neither Muslim nor Jewish.

This is a photo of large stone, one of three by the shores of the Sea of Galilee. These stones lie where it is said the Risen Lord asked Peter ‘Do you love me’, not once, not twice but three times (John 21: 15-20) – graciously offering that all-so-human disciple the opportunity to reverse each of the times he had denied Jesus on the way to the cross.

This morning we will formally welcome a wonderful group of new members into our congregation. Together we will be reminded that Christian fellowship is based upon the repeated forgiveness and enduring embrace of our Lord. Ours is not a great and pure holy love, but a humble, sincere, growing love that is willing to learn from our failures and be open to new beginnings.

We are like that heart-rock with our Living Lord is still working upon us, by water and the Word, to be living testimonies of the grace of our Lord in this corner of humanity.

Join us! A nursery for infants, a programme for children during the service. And after the service this Sunday a pot-luck congregational lunch – bring something if you can, but your presence will be the gift.

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