Intercession might be compared to loving our neighbours on our knees Charles Bent

Leo Tolstoy tells the story of three hermits who lived on an island. Their prayer was as simple as they were simple : ‘We are three, you are three, have mercy on us. Amen’. The bishop heard about these hermits and decided that they needed guidance in proper prayer, so he went to their small island, and instructed them : after his instruction, the bishop set sail for the mainland, please to have enlightened the souls of such simple men. Suddenly off the stern of the ship the bishop saw a huge ball of light skimming across the ocean, it came closer and closer until he could see that it was the three hermits running on top of the water. Once on board the ship they said to the bishop, ‘We are so sorry, but we have forgotten some of your teaching. Would you please instruct us again?’ The bishop shook his head and replied with new-found humility, ‘Forget everything I have taught you and continue to pray in your own way.’

The bishop spoke humbly and truthfully, and yet … this summer at St. Andrew’s we are receiving encouragement from fellow Christians in prayer: prayers by women and men, from 20th century America, Celtic Scotland, eighteenth century England, medieval Germany, and this Sunday we go right back to the first century of the church.

It is a prayer composed around the year 96 A.D., found in a letter sent from the Christian community of Rome to that of Corinth, an epistle known as I Clement (after the bishop of the time). It is a time of great insecurity even persecution for God’s people, and yet they look beyond themselves, in trust to God and in care of others. Intercession was a significant dynamic in the ministry of Jesus (‘I am praying for them’ John 17:9) and remains an integral part of his work (‘Christ Jesus who died and who was raised, who is at the right hand of God … intercedes for us’ Romans 8:34). Intercession is also a integral dimension of the witness of his people. It is the experience of many that through our prayers of intercession, not only does God work in this world but God also works upon us.

Here is a prayer of intercession, here is an opportunity to grow in the way of Christ for the sake of his kingdom of peace and justice for all …

We beg you, Lord, to be our help and our support.
Free us from our troubles; take pity on the lowly; raise up those who have fallen; give help to the poor, health to the sick, and bring home those who have wandered away. Feed the hungry, ransom captives, give strength to the weak and courage to the faint-hearted.
Let all peoples come to know that you alone are God, that Jesus Christ is your child, and that we are your people and the sheep of your flock.
(1 Clement c. 96 A.D.)

Join us in the worship of God!

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I was a very young lad when our family visited Albert Schweitzer, just a couple of months before he died in 1965. Renowned for his mastery of Bach on the organ and his radically open Christian theology, Schweitzer had answered a call to put the gospel into action by dedicating his life to service as a physician in a remote hospital in Lambaréné Gabon West Africa. It was there that I was introduced to this Nobel Peace Prize awardee. But all that I can remember of the visit are the frogs that jumped out of the bucket when I went for a shower!

In my study for the theme of this Sunday’s service of worship – gratitude – it was good to read again something by Albert Schweitzer and honour better hs memory. In a passage reprinted in the Order of Service (below), Schweitzer refers to the ten lepers healed by Jesus (Luke 17:11-19). He notes how many Christians dismiss the nine lepers who did not return to Jesus to give thanks. Schweitzer, however, encourages us not to give in to bitterness and judgement of the world. He suggests that all ten healed lepers were grateful, but only one articulated their gratitude. ‘A great deal of water is flowing underground’, he writes, but Christians should be the ones who express their gratitude to God in word and deed. ‘We ourselves must try to be the water which finds its way up; we must become a spring’, of gratitude. Such lives of expressed gratitude would give God glory and joy, and also be a witness and encouragement to others.

This Sunday we will hear a poem by e.e. cummings ‘i thank you God’, and consider ways we might take up the chorus and be springs of thanksgiving to God for faith, for life …


i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

e.e. cummings (1894-1962)

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I was not really surprised. I usually try to find a work of art to place on the cover of the Order of Service, one that is related to the theme of the morning’s sermon. You will notice below that the photo that finally filled the place is a rather generic one of the church steeple with the St. Andrew’s cross atop.  My search this week retrieved little that was relevant.  When I typed in the word ‘eternity’, Google insisted on providing me with images of a perfume and the like!

We are continuing our series of summer prayers, and this Sunday will focus on one by the great English poet and preacher John Donne (1572-1631). We will read the biblical passage on which he was preaching when he shared these words (the story of Jacob seeing a ladder of communication between earth and heaven, between humanity and the Holy One: Genesis 28:10-19), and then his prayer itself:

Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house where shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity; in the habitations of thy glory and dominion, world without end. Amen. 

Donne uses four phrases that evoke four dimensions of human life as we know it – sight, sound, security and time – and after naming the extremes that we know only too well, Donne describes the promise of heaven as being ‘equal’. The declaration is of balance, of completion, in the presence of God. It is a perspective and promise that is not an escape but an encouragement for life now. Eternity not only provides strength for the journey but shapes the contours of the journey. We believe it is Jesus who leads us to ‘dwell in that house’, and also that his way is one of care for neighbour, of justice for the poor and peace for all. I believe it was Oliver Wendall Holmes who said that ‘Some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good’, but perhaps he had it backwards – might it be that more consideration of eternity might shape a better life and world now?

Reflect upon the wisdom of other Christians printed at the end of the Sunday morning bulletin below. And if you are in the area, join us in the worship of God!

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P33 Celtic Cross at sunrise

The season of summer can be a time of reflection and renewal.
As each of these weeks begin, I invite you to be opened more fully to the mystery and opportunity of life by considering the experiences and prayers of others before us.

This Sunday I will explore a prayer by Alistair Maclean, a minister of the Church of Scotland and Gaelic scholar, who captured a new way of thinking about and speaking to God in the tradition of the people of the Hebridean islands. The phrases are evocative in their beauty, the assurance is strong in the gospel of God’s care …

Though the dawn breaks cheerless on this isle today,
my spirit walks upon a path of light.
For I know my greatness,
Thou hast built me a throne within thy heart.
I dwell safely within the circle of thy care.
I cannot for a moment fall out of the everlasting arms.
I am on my way to glory.

The Order of Service is attached below. If you are in town, join us!

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Hollyhock beside the limestone of the St. Andrew's Manse

Hollyhock beside the limestone of the St. Andrew’s Manse

The Sundays of Summer

Remembering …
Sunday, July 5, 10:30 a.m. As we begin the first full month of summer, we share bread and wine and remember God’s promises in Jesus Christ … for life (I Corinthians 11:17-­‐26). We thank Helen Lowe for playing the organ this morning.

The Rev. Ralph Kendall
Sunday, July 12, 10:30 a.m. We welcome Ralph to the pulpit, as he explores ‘Is that really in the Bible?’ (Esther 1:1-­‐ 22; Matthew 5:38-­‐48; 2 Timothy 3:14-­‐17). Elders Donna Delacretaz and Ada Mallory will lead in prayer, Andrew Fraser will lead in music.

The Rev. Dr. Karen Bach
Sunday, July 19, 10:30 a.m. Karen is well-­‐known and much appreciated by St. Andrew’s, and we are grateful to have her leadership in our worship once again.

Allison Dyach
Sunday, July 25, 10:30 a.m. Allison came from Knox Church Waterloo to worship with us while at Queen’s Faculty of Education. In June Allison attended the Truth and Reconciliation events in Ottawa as a representative of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. We will welcome Allison back to St. Andrew’s to share her reflections and our calling as Canadians and Christians. Elders Alberta Saunders and Larry Moore will lead us prayer.

Our minister returns from vacation with a series of sermons that invite us to enter into the prayers of others.

‘Though the dawn breaks cheerless on this isle today,
my spirit walks upon a path of light.
For I know my greatness,
Thou hast built me a throne within thy heart.
I dwell safely within the circle of thy care …’
Sunday, August 2, 10:30 a.m.
The first prayer to be explored is by Alistair Maclean, steeped in the spirituality of the Hebridean isles. And all ‘who love the Lord a little and wish to love him more’ are invited to gather for Holy Communion.

‘O sweet and loving God,
when I stay asleep too long,
oblivious to all your many blessings,
then, please wake me up,
and sing to me your joyful song …’

Sunday, August 9, 10:30 a.m.
This morning we will be guided in worship by a prayer offered by Mechthild of Madgeburg (1207-­‐ 1282). We will also with joy gather to baptise Isla, daughter of Jonathan, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

‘Bring us, O Lord God,
at our last awakening
into the house and gate of heaven … ‘

Sunday, August 16, 10:30 a.m.
Our summer prayers continue with a contribution by the great English poet and cleric John Donne (1572-1631), reminding us of the larger frameworks of life.

‘i thank You God for this most amazing day:
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;
and for everything which is natural
which is infinite
which is yes’

Sunday, August 23, 10:30 a.m.
A 20th century prayer is provided by the American poet e.e. cummings, an invitation into the spiritual discipline and delight of gratitude.

‘God of wholeness,
you have created us bodily
that our work and faith may be one …’

Sunday, August 30, 10:30 a.m.
And as our contemporary, in the English Wesleyan tradition, Janet Morley contributes our final summer prayer, helping us give voice to our need for ‘wholeness’ from the ‘God of wholeness’.

Personal Prayers for Summer

Creator of all, thank You for summer! Thank You for the warmth of the sun and the increased daylight. Thank You for the beauty I see all around me and for the opportunity to be outside and enjoy Your creation. Thank You for the increased time I have to be with my friends and family, and for the more casual pace of the summer season. Draw me closer to You this summer. Teach me how I can pray no matter where I am or what I am doing. Warm my soul with the awareness of Your presence, and light my path with Your Word and Counsel. As I enjoy Your creation, create in me a pure heart and a hunger and a thirst for You. Amen.

That we can glimpse you within creation is a beautiful thought, but also tells us that you desire to be seen, to be found and known. Open our eyes, Lord, as we walk through this world, feel the wind and sunshine, see the majesty of creation unfolding before our eyes. Help us to see you. Amen.

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Yesterday I had the opportunity to tour the Alex Colville exhibition at the National Gallery. The paintings are really quite remarkable, and all the more so once I better understood their context. The scenes are of the ‘ordinary’ of the east coast of Canada – a dog leaping to greet a child returning from school, a couple lounging on the deck of a ship with the woman looking straight at us through her binoculars, a horse running past a clapboard country church. Colville spent a lifetime documenting, even celebrating, the ‘ordinary’ as a result of his experiences as a young man. After graduating in 1942 from Fine Arts at Mount Allison University, he had enlisted to serve in the Canadian War Art Programme. The scenes of the terrible devastations of war, and the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, remained with him upon his return to Canada and through all his years. It was as he remembered those scenes that he appreciated, and painted, and celebrated, the ‘ordinary’ scenes of daily life and relationships of loyalty and love … with deep gratitude for the security he dared not take for granted, and that he knew could so easily unravel.

The Holy Table of St. Andrew's 'Do this in remembrance of me'

The Holy Table of St. Andrew’s
‘Do this in remembrance of me’

This morning we continue our custom of sharing bread and wine around the Lord’s Table. With these ‘ordinary’ realities, we celebrate the extraordinary grace of these days – we did not choose to be born but we have life, before we were born our God came in Jesus to show us the love that will not let us go, whatever our season or circumstance our God assures us that evil will not triumph over good and that life is the enduring, ultimate reality. Around the Lord’s Table, we ‘do this’ (1 Corinthians 11:17-26) and we remember most of all that he lives, and that in him we live.

Have a look at the order of service, and join us if you are in the area, as we remember and rejoice!

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IMG_3760 two birds singing


I love waking to not only the light of a new day but also the songs of the birds in the maple and scotch pine trees around our downtown home. John Donne called the song birds of the earth ‘heavenly choristers’, and I agree. As we gather for our second annual outdoor service, we will consider ways the scriptures invite us to hear the birds call us to joy and trust, to God. To name just a few, think upon the insignificant sparrows cared for, the mother eagle sheltering her young, the birds nesting at the altar of the Lord. And we will sing with the birds, more hymns that usual, each of which refers to the birds and their praise. Have a look at the order of service below, and join us if you can, and linger for a congregational BBQ. (In the case of a rain cloud breaking, we will continue our songs but perhaps in the shelter of the sanctuary … as do the birds in the branches of the trees.)

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