Jesus welcomes the children – Mark 10:13-16

In the 1970’s, pastors and theologians sojourned amongst the Mafa people of the Cameroon, West Africa, and after reading portions of the Gospels, asked them to enact what they heard. Photographs were taken of the dramatic creations. An accomplished local artist was commissioned to translate the photos into paintings. And the resulting seventy paintings were then used to share the gospel in other Mafa communities. It was a wonderful initiative, and has benefitted Christians of many cultures and nations since who ‘see’ Christ and the Christian way anew.

This morning is ‘Students’ Sunday’, and it is our pleasure to welcome the Rev. Oliver Kondeh Ndula to St. Andrew’s Kingston. Oliver is a minister of the Presbyterian Church in the Cameroon, and is one of the international students at Presbyterian College Montreal, completing his Masters of Sacred Theology this year. Oliver will share with us an African perspective upon the gospel.

Have a look at the order of service. It is found below in a format meant for printing, so may be difficult to follow in places as the pages will seem to jump around, but we hope you at least have an idea of who we are and what we are up to – if you are in the area, we hope you are able to join us. And there is even a congregational potluck lunch afterwards! (A nursery and programme for children is offered during the service. Parking is found free on the streets about, including a civic surface lot just behind the church off Queen Street – and note that the time-of-day restrictions on the streets north of Queen are not in effect on Sundays.) We would welcome the opportunity to introduce ourselves.

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Samaritan Woman Listening to Jesus (John 4: 7-26)
Rome, Catacomb Mural, 320 A.D.-350 A.D.

I like this most ancient painting that evokes the scene of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. It shows Jesus radically breaking accepted social conventions of his day, embodying the radical embrace by God of all humanity.

A Jew, Jesus is in the company of a Samaritan. As a male, he is conversing in public with a woman. The painter takes the scene even further, showing the Samaritan woman strongly upright in Jesus’ presence, of equal height, looking straight into his eyes. (I also love seeing a rendition of Jesus long before long hair and a beard became seemingly mandatory!)

In the stillness of the scene, I have the sense that the Samaritan woman is listening to Jesus. It is a wonderful scene to reflect upon for many reasons, and particularly this Sunday as we explore the spiritual discipline of listening. In anticipation, I pass on these words of Frederick Buechner, in his book Whistling In The Dark

Let us say that I can see you: you exist for me in space, which is where seeing happens. But let us say that I can not see you and only hear you, you exist for me not in space which is where seeing happens but in time, which is where hearing happens.
When I have only the sound of you to go by, I do not experience you as an object the way I would if you stood before me, something that I can walk around, inspect from all angles, more or less define. I experience you not objectively but intimately, more like the way I experience the beating of my own heart or the flow of my own thoughts, hearing you speak brings you to me by the most direct of all routes.

Listening to God, speaking through Jesus by the work of the Holy Spirit, is a foundational way of growing intimately in relationship with God and for good … but it is a discipline!

Join us this Sunday morning in worship, including both praise and listening. Have a look at the Order of Service, and the announcements. We would welcome you warmly! (There is a nursery for infants and a programme for children offered during the service. There is free parking available in the city surface lot off Queen Street just behind the church, and on the streets around. Please note that the time of day restrictions on the streets north of Queen are not in effect on Sundays.)

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‘Get on board, little children, get on board. There’s room for many a more’ (African American Gospel Song)

Each month, a congregational newsletter is printed that lists the activities and opportunities of this community of faith. Have a look. We warmly invite you to join us as you are able, as we begin a new congregational year in Christian worship, study and service at the heart of this city.

(The format of this newsletter looks a bit strange on this digital screen – just imagine it as a double-sided tri-folded paper document!)

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This is an image from the catacombs of Callixus in Rome, from the mid second century A.D. It portrays the prophet Jonah, under a shelter of vine leaves, seemingly resting from his labours.

It is good this weekend of all weekends to rest, to rest from our labours and acknowledge God’s labours. If you are in the area, we warmly invite you to join us for a service of worship in the beautiful and historic sanctuary of St. Andrew’s. (Have a look at the order of service below for a preview. There is a nursery for infants offered during the service, and ample parking can be found in the municipal surface lot just behind the church off Queen and on surrounding streets – note that the time of day restrictions on Clergy north of Queen are not in effect on Sundays.) If you are not able to join us in person, you might consider joining in this prayer, placing our labours in the context of God’s labours …

God of wholeness,
you have created us bodily,
that our work and faith may be one.
May we offer our worship
from lives of integrity;
and maintain the fabric of this world
with hearts that are set on you,
through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Janet Morley (contemporary)

The interesting thing about the scene from the catacombs above, to be highlighted in the sermon, is that Jonah is not in fact at ease but rather is angry (Jonah 4). He is frustrated and upset over how God could be so gracious to include not only God’s particular people but all people, even the Ninevites. Perhaps our greatest challenge in life is to accept and participate in God’s work of embrace and inclusion in this world …

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In chapter nine of the novel Moby Dick, the American 19th century author Herman Melville described a congregation of seafarers singing …

The ribs and terrors in the whale,
Arched over me a dismal gloom,
While all God’s sun-lit waves rolled by,
And left me deepening down to doom.
I saw the opening maw of hell,
With endless pains and sorrows there;
Which none but they that feel can tell—
Oh, I was plunging to despair.
In black distress, I called my God,
When I could scarce believe him mine,
He bowed his ear to my complaints—
No more the whale did me confine.
With speed he flew to my relief,
As on a radiant dolphin borne;
Awful, yet bright, as lightening shone
The face of my Deliverer God.
My song for ever shall record
That terrible, that joyful hour;
I give the glory to my God,
His all the mercy and the power.

It is a great poem and would be a great hymn to sing this Sunday as we continue to follow the story of Jonah. The prophet has been shipwrecked, swallowed by a whale, and spat up upon the shore … at the direction of God. ‘My Deliverer God’ indeed!

But the point lies in what follows. Jonah’s deliverance has not been for some open-ended continuation of his life but for a specific calling within God’s sovereign purposes – ‘Get up, go to Nineveh that great city and proclaim there the message that I tell you’ (Jonah 3:2).

The Gate of Mishqi, Mosul Iraq (about 7 B.C.)

We will begin the new week considering the dynamics of this calling of Jonah, and the calling we know in Christ. We would welcome you to join us this last Sunday of August. Have a look at the Order of Service below, and if you are in the area, we invite you to sing and pray and listen and reflect with us. There is a nursery for infants offered during the service. And there is ample parking on the city surface lot off Queen Street just behind the church and on neighbouring streets (note that the time of day restrictions north of Queen are not applicable on Sundays).

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For better or for worse, the Minister is back. And so is the prophet Jonah.

This Sunday we read chapter two. It is only one of four chapters, and it could be argued that it is somewhat peripheral to the main point of the whole, but this is the scene that that comes to mind when most of us think of Jonah.

I love this ceramic plaque hand made by Amir Rom, a graduate of the Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem. I am reminded that the scriptural account speaks of ‘a great fish’ not a whale. But more importantly, this artist wonderfully conveys what scripture describes as the experience of Jonah – less a prayer to be rescued from the depths of the ocean, much more a cry to be restored to relationship with the Lord from whom he had fled. It is a cry that many of us have found on our lips at one time or another.

If you are in the area this Sunday, please join us in the worship of God. Have a look at the Order of Service below. During the service a nursery for infants is offered. There is free parking in the surface city lot just behind the church off Queen Street, and on the surrounding neighbourhood streets (note that the time of day restrictions are not in effect on Sundays).

We look forward to welcoming you, in the name of Christ.

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