As the weeks of summer unfold with joy and beauty, the psalms continue to reveal God’s promises and encourage our praise. The Rev. Stephen Kendall focuses our thoughts this morning on Psalm 121 with a sermon entitled ‘Far Away Places’. Join us!
The metrical version of Psalm 121 found in our Book of Praise was written by John Duke of Argyll, who served as the fourth Governor General of our nation. The line etching above shows Crowfoot addressing the Duke of Argyle on September 1881 at Blackfoot Crossing on the Bow river.
Unto the hills around to I lift up my longing eyes:
oh whence for me shall my salvation come, from whence arise?
From God the Lord doth come my certain aid,
from God the Lord who heaven and earth hath made.
He will not suffer that thy foot be moved: safe shalt thou be.
No careless slumber shall his eyelids close, who keepeth thee.
Behold, he sleepeth not, he slumbereth ne’er,
who keepeth Israel in his holy care.
Stephen Kendall is a minister of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, ordained in 1987. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Carleton University and a Masters of Divinity from Knox College, University of Toronto. After serving five years as minister of a new congregation in Calgary, Stephen served an urban/sub‐urban congregation (Fallingbrook Presbyterian Church) for seven years in Toronto. In 1998, he was elected Principal Clerk of the General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church in Canada; a position that includes service to the General Assembly, the interpretation of the polity and policies of our church, and these last years, significant representation of the Presbyterian Church in Canada on the Truth and Reconciliation journey as well as with the World Communion of Reformed Churches. Stephen lives in Toronto with his wife Alison. Stephen rides a Vespa scooter around Toronto, plays bass in the band LostPilgrims.
‘Take heart … do not be afraid’
As he spoke to the disciples of old in the storm (Matthew 14:22-23), our Lord continues to call out today with words of assurance. Join us as we gather to have our faith renewed and our lives strengthened. We welcome the Rev. Garry Morton to the pulpit this morning – Mr. Morton has lived in Gananoque for the past 15 years and in retirement has been active in the Presbytery of Kingston, returning to St. Andrew’s as a welcome friend in Christ.
Prayers taken from the hymns we shall be singing …
Word of God, across the ages
comes your message to our life,
source of hope, forever present
in our toil and fears and strife,
constant witness to God’s mercy,
still our grace, whate’er be fall,
guide unfailing, strength eternal,
offered freely to us all.
Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us
o’er the world’s tempestuous sea;
guard us, guide us, keep us, feed us,
for we have no help but thee;
yet possessing every blessing,
if our God our Father be.
Mid-summer, and with the help of the psalms we continue to explore God’s promises and sing God’s praise. This morning we arrive at Psalm 46. At the conclusion of the sermon we will hear the Scottish metrical version ‘God is our refuge and our strength’ and we shall conclude the service with Luther’s great hymn ‘A mighty fortress is our God’. Join us! As we read Psalm 46 together, what dimension will be used by the Spirit to speak most deeply to you? ‘Therefore we will not fear’ or ‘God is in the midst of the city’ or ‘He breaks the bow and shatters the spear’ or ‘Be still and know that I am God!’ This is the first of the songs of Zion, and one thing is certain – the focus is not upon a place but rather a presence …
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
There is a river whose streams
make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city;
it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar,
the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
‘Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.’
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
We begin every week gathering together before God, seeking guidance and healing, celebrating grace and beauty. And these weeks of summer we are exploring the psalms, the words God has given us to voice to our innermost thoughts and emotions and speak our souls to God.
This morning we join in a celebration of freedom – Psalm 124.
How have you experienced freedom? How do you express your gratitude for freedom?
What might be the particular Christian dimensions of freedom promised and freedom lived?
If it had not been the Lord who was on our side—
let Israel now say—
if it had not been the Lord who was on our side
when our enemies attacked us,
then they would have swallowed us up alive
when their anger was kindled against us;
the flood would have swept us away,
the torrent would have gone over us,
then over us would have gone the raging waters.
Blessed be the Lord,
who has not given us as prey to their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird
from snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
Join us in the worship of God!
During these days preceding Sunday, join also in …
Sounds at St. Andrew’s: Thursday July 24, 7 p.m. Avi Jacobs (on the lawn, organised by the City of Kingston)
An Evening at the Films: Friday July 25, 6:55 p.m. at the Screening Room to see the Australian film ‘Tracks’ and then a time of discussion at the Minister’s home nearby on Ordnance Street. (http://www.moviesinkingston.com/films/tracks.html)
Our lives are never static. We are always on the move, sometimes physically, always emotionally and spiritually. We may long for the security of routine and the comfort of the planned, but we know that human life is defined by movement, and that growth often comes during times of change and challenge.
The psalms accompany us as we move through life, providing opportunities to acknowledge and articulate our innermost thoughts and deepest feelings. This morning we continue our journey (through life and the psalms) and consider the movement from abandonment to embrace, from depths to deliverance.
The psalmist declares that hard times are real and even to be expected, but they do not ultimately define us – the grace and care of God provides the larger framework for human life. The sermon will conclude with a rendition of the metrical Scottish paraphrase of Psalm 30 – ‘Come let us to the Lord our God with contrite hearts return; our God is gracious nor will leave the desolate to mourn’.
‘Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning’. It is not a statement of wishful thinking but of experience.