resurrection

What creativity! I think it is brilliant to ‘image’/imagine the Resurrection as a London tube station.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is indeed a definite ‘place’, situated in a particular human location and historical time. And it is also somewhat ‘underground’, in that it might be totally hidden from ordinary sight, though totally real.

That Jesus was raised from the dead is the testimony not only of the emptied tomb but even more of witnesses to whom he appeared, alive after death. Jesus did not return immediately to the glory from which he had come, but chose to linger for a time, to embrace his friends and allow them to understand deeply and truly how God had changed the history of humanity. This morning we read the moving story of how the Risen Lord reveals himself to two of his disciples as they walked away from Jerusalem, walking back they presumed to the ‘same old, same old’ (Luke 24:13-39). And how often it is that … understanding comes through the stranger … that times of despair give way to deep joy … that promises long heard come alive in a whole new way … all by the grace of God, known in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

So perhaps Resurrection is less a tube station and more the whole line. In its fullest sense, Resurrection is a journey, our journey as Christians now … through life, unto life. It is a journey during which we are grown in the ways of gratitude and compassion, pointing to the holy and working the good of neighbour, not only following the way of Jesus but accompanied and transformed by the Living Lord along the way. Thanks be to God.

If you are able, please join us in the worship of God. The order of service is attached below. A nursery for infants and a programme for children is offered during the service. Free parking is found on the streets around and in the city lot just behind the church off Queen Street.

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This morning we return not just to the strong beginnings but also to the great joy of the Christian faith, known in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. As we raise our voices singing the great hymn by Charles Wesley, “‘Christ the Lord is risen today’, all creation join to say … Vain the stone, the watch, seal; Christ hath burst the gates of hell … Soar we now where Christ hath led, following now our exalted Head”, it is not just our faith that is renewed, it is our lives. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and our own, and indeed the renewal of this world.

For the cover of the Easter Order of Service, I have selected a painting of the Risen Jesus that jumped out at me the first time I saw it. With bright colours, Whatley conveys the beauty and hope that returns to our lives when we hear that the power of sin and death over us is ultimately defeated.

Stephen B. Whatley (contemporary) London England

Stephen B. Whatley (contemporary) London England

But I see and feel more.
So many great works of art through the ages capture Easter morning with an arresting image of stillness – the triumphant Jesus standing in front of the open tomb, or Mary joyfully embracing the feet of Jesus in the garden beyond the tomb. In this painting I feel movement, the dynamic of life raised … and rising. I hear the great declaration, that for those who are ‘in Christ’, the resurrection life is already at work within us – by the grace of God known in the resurrection, who we have been no longer defines who we are in God’s eyes, and new beginnings are always possible at every step along the journey of life as well as at its end. And as we hear in a final passage from Revelation, I am reminded that this rising of Jesus is a promise not only for us as individuals but also for us as a renewed humanity and creation – ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Revelation 21:5). That is something to celebrate … and to participate in!

Join us, Easter morn! There is a nursery for infants and a programme for young children. Ample free parking can be found in the streets around St. Andrew’s and in the civic parking lot just behind the church off Queen Street.

 

Palm Sunday is one of my favourite celebrations of the church year. I know I am not alone. With joy and anticipation we wave the palms and shout our hosannas. What those of Jerusalem did innocently (John 12-12-16), we do with full awareness, living as we do on this side of the cross. We know the cost of this entry of Jesus into our midst. But we celebrate because we know what God worked in spite of and through that cross ‘for us and our salvation’ as the Nicene Creed states.

This year an added dimension is added to Palm Sunday by our journey through the book of scripture known as Revelation. We arrive at the description of the Rider on the White Horse : ‘Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a great white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True … His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems … On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Revelation 19:11-16).

The humble donkey has been replaced by a white steed. ‘Hosanna’ (God save us) has given way to ‘Hallelujah’ (God be praised). ‘The head that once was crowned with thorns is crowned with glory now’ (Thomas Kelly, 1769-1854). The crucifixion has led to the resurrection. Jesus lives. Jesus reigns.

Jan Lebenstein, stained glass window with scenes from the Apocalypse (1970). Palotine chapel, Paris, France.

Jan Lebenstein, stained glass window with scenes from the Apocalypse (1970). Palotine chapel, Paris, France.

A recent issue of Macleans includes an article suggesting that Jesus never existed and belongs to the realm of myth. It makes this argument on the basis of the conflicting gospel stories of the life of Jesus, and that the earliest recorded Christian witness, the apostle Paul, mentions little about the earthly life of Jesus. The article is intentionally provocative. There is much that can and should be said in response, but most immediately an article like this reminds me that the foundation of Christian faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus. The experience of Jesus alive after death is the beginning of the Christian faith of Paul, as it was in a sense for Jesus’ disciples before and after him, as it is for us. And this is the great reminder of Revelation.

The battle between good and evil continues to rage. But consider the story of a group of prisoners of war. One of them clandestinely hears of a far-off great battle that their enemy has lost, and with that battle the war has been lost. They remain imprisoned, ill-treated, weakened. Nothing has changed but everything has changed. Even as they suffer, they celebrate. This image of the Rider on the White Horse, the Risen Lord victorious, has provided strength to many Christians over the millennia.

We wave palms, and we wave them with joy and anticipation. We wave them and are renewed to live in the light of what is coming, what is ultimate and true, what is.

If you are in the area, join us. The order of service and invitations to participate are attached below. There is a nursery for infants and a programme for children during the service. And ample free parking along the streets and in a public lot just behind the church off Queen Street. A joyous Palm Sunday to you!

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This Sunday we continue our journey through the final book of Holy Scripture. As the seals of the scroll of heaven are opened and the angels blow their trumpets, the events unleashed describe not what Christians could expect but rather what the Christians of the seven churches were already experiencing – disaster, disease, conflict, war, persecution. The faithful of earth are inevitably asking questions about what it all means, where history is headed, how they should respond. How can the faithful remain faithful? These are questions asked then, and now.

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The answer comes in the passage we shall consider this Sunday, Revelation 8:1-5. The seals have been opened one by one, but before the seventh and final seal is opened, there is silence in heaven. Before the next times are inaugurated, the Holy One waits, waits for the prayers of the faithful that rise as the smoke of incense. For reasons inscrutable and incredible, the Holy One has chosen to wait upon the faithful, to work in partnership with them. The prayers of the faithful are an essential part of God’s triumph in human history.
The prayers are of a people who believe that the future can be different than today, that the powers that rule today are not ultimate, that God stands at the beginning and the end, that the future is still open by the grace of God.
As we read this, we are called to be such a people.
There have been many before us, of course. In the midst of trial and tribulation, the first generations of Christians continued in faith to pray, and by their prayers God was able to raise up the Church. This past week we received another episode of Diarmaid Macculloch’s A History of Christianity, focusing upon the witness of the Orthodox Church – through the loss of their spiritual home, the Hagia Sophia of Constantinople, to the Ottomans, exploitation by the Czars of Russia and annihilation by regimes Communist, the people continued to pray. The images of Orthodox worship were magnificent, including many censers and much incense, but even more impressive is the reminder of the discipline and perseverance involved in prayer, in being in partnership with God.

If you are in the area, join us in the worship of God, an hour of praise … and of prayer. There is a nursery for infants offered during the service, and a programme for children. Ample free parking is available on the streets around and in the public lot off Queen Street just behind the church. Have a look at the Order of Service below, and the many announcements with opportunities to grow and serve. And join us this Tuesday evening, 7 p.m., for another episode of A History of Christianity on the wide-screen, focusing on the Reformation.

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Angels of the Seven Churches of Revelation.
Tiffany Studio windows (1902) commissioned for a Swedenborgian church in Cincinnati Ohio

Words of the Holy One are given to John to give to the churches (Revelation 2-3). What I have often forgotten is that these words are given to the angels of the churches. Each congregation is more than a collection of individuals – in the eyes of the Holy One, each is an organic whole and needs to be addressed as such. Each Christian community has their own angel who represents their worship and witness – represents them before the Holy One and represents the Holy One to them. I wonder what the Holy One is speaking to the congregation of St. Andrew’s as this new week begins?

If you are in the area and are looking for a time of praise and reflection, join us! There is ample free parking on the streets around our historic sanctuary and in the city lot just behind off Queen Street. During the service there is a nursery for infants and a programme for children.

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After the snow, the worship! We welcome the Rev. Marian Raynard to lead us this morning. Marian is the Minister of St. John’s Middle Road and Sand Hill Presbyterian Churches, and is coming to St. Andrew’s with Elder Lucy Curtis on behalf of the Presbytery of Kingston to conduct the every-three-year pastoral visitation of the congregation. Lots of free parking on the street and in the city lot just behind the church off Queen Street. A programme for children and a nursery for infants is offered during the service. Join us! And linger for a time afterwards for a congregational lunch in St. Andrew’s Hall – your presence will be the contribution.

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Vision of the Seven Candlesticks - Albrecht Durer, 1498

Vision of the Seven Candlesticks – Albrecht Durer, 1498

The revelation given to John begins with an awesome image of Jesus. It is not an image of the babe of Bethlehem, or the one who turned water into wine, or the one who healed the ill and embraced the outcast, or the one who was rejected by religious authorities and crucified by the powers political. The image is of Jesus the Christ, Jesus raised and reigning over all history with all honour, glory and authority (Revelation 1:12-16). It is an image of assurance and encouragement given to a generation of Christians who were suffering an eruption of evil, asking about the presence and relevance of the One they worshipped.

Perhaps of most assurance and encouragement was the fact that this Jesus was found in the midst of seven candlesticks. The candlesticks were well-accepted symbols of the churches, the seven churches of Asia to whom John passed on this image of Jesus. This vision reminds those Christians that the Lord of all history is found not in corridors of palace or majesty of temple or influence of market, but with them, dis-spirited, weak and faithless as they are. There Jesus the Christ stands. Here he stands. With us. Now.

To make the image even more personal, the great German artist Albrecht Durer carved himself into the scene. You may think that is John kneeling before the One like a son of man, but it is Durer, with his own hooked nose! With John, with Durer, with so many before us and around us, we are invited this Sunday to gather in worship of the One who not only lives and reigns above, but is with us and for us in our churches.

If you are in the area, please join us in the worship of God this Sunday. Have a look at the Order of Worship below. There is a nursery for infants and a programme for children during the service. And lots of free parking on the street and in the city lot off Queen Street just behind the church.

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