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

http://www.sleepingatlast.com/blog/101010-how-it-was-made

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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Tulips hide far beneath mountains of snow

waiting for spring to invite them to grow.

Tucked away in warm bulbs, they say “Ready Set Go”

on the very same day. How do they know? – anonymous

And so we too must be like the tulip and endure these (hopefully) last few mountains of snow falling on us from the heavens, snowflake by snowflake. In this season’s Burning Bush, we bring to you inspiring personal stories, church family photos, an individual’s journey into Presbyterianism, Presbyterianism in Nicaragua and of course, the year 2016’s drawing to a close.

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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.

 

 

Worship in Lent

Have a look at our congregational newsletter for the month. (It is meant to be folded into three, so you need a bit of imagination to understand its layout!) Please consider each announcement a personal invitation to join us in Christian worship, community and service.

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I was walking Mungo (our Cairn Terrier) last night, and crossed paths with several other dog walkers. I met each with a greeting, but only one replied – in fact only one heard my words, as the others were listening to music or podcast with earbuds firmly in place. It made me think …

As we begin our journey to Easter anew, the first century sermon known in the New Testament as Hebrews will be before us at St. Andrew’s Kingston. It is filled to overflowing with assurance for Christians dealing with struggle, exhaustion and doubt. The assurance begins with the declaration that ‘God speaks’. God has taken the initiative to be in communication with humanity, to speak words of life and mark the ways of life. It is a divine initiative of love taken first through prophets, priests and kings, and now directly and fully through a Son, Jesus the Christ.

God speaks words of life. But are we listening?

With music and news and digital images and messages streaming constantly into our lives, I have a renewed appreciation for the traditional emphasis of Lent being a season of quiet reflection, of carving out the silence and space that God can fill.

Join us in the worship of God if you find yourself in the area this Sunday. Ample free parking is available along the streets and in the public lot just behind the church off Queen Street. A nursery is available for infants and a programme for children. Have a look at the Order of Service, and the invitations that follow. In particular, note the Tuesday evening lenten DVD series ‘Gospel in the City’, and the daily lenten devotional available at https://www.presbyteriancollege.ca/2017/01/lent-devotional-2/

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The Transfiguration of Christ by Duccio di Buoninsegna, d. 1319

I love this medieval icon – Jesus with Elijah on one side, Moses on the other, and the awed disciples below. Most of all I love how the gold communicates the glory in which Jesus is transfigured, the glory of being God-with-us, and as will be seen most clearly at the cross, God-for-us.

As I write this in Kingston, the funeral service for one of my formative theological professors at Presbyterian College is about to begin in Montreal. The Rev. Dr. Joseph McLelland was I believe the youngest professor ever appointed by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Though a generation apart, I felt a bond to him as a fellow Hamiltonian, and it was a great joy later to count ‘Joe’ and Audrey as members of the congregation I served. His area of exploration was Theology and Philosophy of Religion, and explore he did, with creativity and courage. But beyond the college classes, what I remember best was the first sermon I heard him preach – it was on the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17), and how the moment of deep mysticism and joyful clarity upon the mountaintop was followed immediately and intentionally by Jesus going down to heal and embrace suffering humanity. It was at that moment that I began to understand the way of  Christ, and of the Christian.

If you are in the Kingston area, join us for worship this Sunday morning. There is free parking along the streets, and in a public lot off Queen Street just behind the church. During the service there is a nursery for infants and a programme for children. Have a look at the inside of the Order of Service, and consider each announcement as a personal invitation to grow in Christian faith, community and service. In particular, note the Tuesday pancake supper, the beginning of a winter DVD study series, and an ecumenical Ash Wednesday Service, 7 p.m.

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