It is Ascension Sunday, and I particularly enjoyed the challenge of selecting an image with which to focus and extend my thoughts this week.

Some images imagine Jesus in the act of ascending and looking up into the light of glory ahead. Others imagine the scene from the perspective of the disciples, looking up as Jesus ascends with the canvas showing only the bottoms of his feet. And so many others as well!

In the end I landed on this work from 1483 by Melozzo da Forli. I concede that it is more about the Ascended Jesus than the Ascension of Jesus. But for me this image reinforces not just the last scene of Luke’s Gospel, but the whole point of the incarnation, ministry, death and resurrection of our Lord. Here we see Jesus, risen and ascended, standing on the clouds of eternity but even in glory he continues to look upon the humanity of his love, and his hands are raised eternally in blessing of us all.

The hour this Sunday will include wonderful hymns of heritage, from ‘Fairest Lord Jesus’ to ‘Jesus shall reign’ and ‘Crown him with many crowns’, along with readings of Scripture and prayers for our world. As we continue to explore themes raised by Barbara Brown Taylor in her book ‘An Altar in the World’, the sermon will focus upon the act of blessing, God’s initiative and our calling. 

During the service, reference will be made to the ‘Statement on Recent Violence in Gaza’ of the Presbyterian Church in Canada – you can find it at https://presbyterian.ca/2021/05/14/statement-on-recent-violence-in-gaza/

Have a look below at the Order of Worship and announcements for this Sunday. The service will be available online this Sunday from 10:20 a.m. at  https://youtu.be/bfEEjAXjeEE and thereafter on the St. Andrew’s Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/StAndrewsPresbyterianChurchKingston

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Georgia O’Keeffe. Pink and Yellow Tulips, 1925.

Georgia O’Keeffe is known for her close-ups of flowers, like these tulips. Her canvases are much appreciated, and in fact one holds the distinction of the highest price paid for any painting of a woman artist – $44 million at an auction in 2014. But what of O’Keeffe’s own motivation and appreciation?

A flower is relatively small. Everyone has many associations with a flower – the idea of flowers. You put out your hand to touch the flower — lean forward to smell it — maybe touch it with your lips almost without thinking — or give it to someone to please them. Still — in a way — nobody sees a flower — really — it is so small — we haven’t time — and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time… So I said to myself — I’ll paint what I see — what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it — I will make even busy New-Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers …

This theme of ‘seeing’ what is right before us is a spiritual practice suggested by Barbara Brown Taylor in her book ‘An Altar In The World’, one that we all can enter into, and perhaps particularly during this season of pandemic. I think of the invitation, the extortion, of Jesus … ‘Consider the lilies … ‘ (Matthew 6:20). You are invited to join in an hour of the worship of God – hymns, readings of scripture, sermon and prayers – as we ‘consider’ our lives and the presence and promises of God.

In support of the recent provincial ‘stay at home’ mandate, the Elders of St. Andrew’s have decided it would best to suspend in-person worship until further notice. This service will be available online this Sunday from 10:20 a.m. at https://youtu.be/-i4SoXlV2UU and thereafter on the St. Andrew’s Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/StAndrewsPresbyterianChurchKingston

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Dodge Dart (2020) by Carol Aust www.carolaust.com  Used with the artist’s permission

I love this painting by California-based artist Carol Aust. The title of the canvas refers to the car, but the scene is all about the person sitting on its hood. I see an individual lost in thought. But there are other dynamics in evidence also. I can hear the hills around echo ‘Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth’ (Psalm 121) and the geese over head honking their encouragement to take up ‘the Way’ (Acts 9:2). This fourth Sunday of Easter, we continue to explore ‘the Sacred in the Ordinary’, and in particular the common human experience of feeling lost, in all its dimensions and possibilities. 

You are invited to join in an hour of the worship of God – hymns, readings of scripture, sermon and prayers, including a celebration of the Lord’s Supper (so you are invited to prepare with bread and cup beforehand). 

In support of the recent provincial ‘stay at home’ mandate, the Elders of St. Andrew’s have decided it would best to suspend in-person worship until further notice. This service will be available online this Sunday from 10:20 a.m. at https://youtu.be/biMLJcnSQ7o and available thereafter on the St. Andrew’s Youtube channel,  https://www.youtube.com/c/StAndrewsPresbyterianChurchKingston

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Risen Christ by Michelangelo, 1521

The great Renaissance artist Michelangelo gave Jesus is a lot more ‘flesh’ in this statue than I am used to seeing. And that was surely his point. As a committed Christian who reflected deeply upon God and the godly life, I believe he wanted me to ‘see’ that these human bodies of ours are not only the way the Holy One thought it best to bring divine love to us, but a way that we Christians might know and share divine love. The second in a  series of sermons exploring ‘The Sacred in the Ordinary’.

You are invited to join in an hour of the worship of God – hymns, readings of scripture, sermon and special prayers for all in the midst of this pandemic, and particularly for those at work in health care.

In support of the recent provincial ‘stay at home’ mandate, the Elders of St. Andrew’s have decided it would best to suspend in-person worship until further notice. This service will be available online this Sunday from 10:20 a.m. at https://youtu.be/7obMvT-vf9A and thereafter on the St. Andrew’s Youtube channel,  https://www.youtube.com/c/StAndrewsPresbyterianChurchKingston

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In the midst of a provincial ‘Stay-at-Home Order’, it is good to remember the story of Jacob and his declaration ‘The Lord is in this place’ (Genesis 28:16). It is good to remember that this was an experience of the Holy One not of worship in a sanctuary, but rather where Jacob laid his head during a dark night (as portrayed by Marc Chagall in this wonderful painting ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ found at the Musée National Message Biblique Marc Chagall in Nice France). As Christians we believe we have seen this God not only in a dream of a ladder connecting earth and heaven but face-to-face in Jesus the Christ, and experience this divine presence by the Holy Spirit … wherever we are. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians of Philippi (and Kingston!), ‘The Lord is near’ (Philippians 4:5).

You are invited to join in an online service of worship. Hymns will include favourites such as ‘Now the green blade rises … love is come again like wheat new springing green’ and ‘He leadeth me … Whate’er I do, where’re I be, still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me’. Members of the St. Andrew’s ‘Garden Divas’ will be leading in the reading of scripture, and a special prayer of commitment to care for God’s creation will be lifted up in preparation for Earth Day on April 22. Have a look at the Order of Service and Announcements below.

In support of the recent provincial ‘stay at home’ mandate, the Elders of St. Andrew’s have decided it would best to suspend in-person worship until further notice.
This decision was made this week at the monthly Session meeting on April 12. Though provincial regulations allow for a continuing 15% capacity in the sanctuary, the Church received a letter from our local KFL&A Public Health ‘strongly recommending places of worship to conduct virtual services‘, and the Elders felt it responsible to heed this request. Services will be available online each Sunday from 10:20 a.m. and thereafter on the St. Andrew’s Youtube channel,  https://www.youtube.com/c/StAndrewsPresbyterianChurchKingston

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Our worship this morning is online only. It is the final Eastertide service of our Kingston Ecumenical Worship Partnership and highlights the wonderful hymns and music of the Resurrection, interspersed with scripture readings and prayers. We thank Michael Capon, Director of Music at St. James Anglican Church, and a whole host of choristers and musicians for producing this opportunity for us. The service will be available from 8 a.m. Sunday morning on Youtube at https://youtu.be/-N0XSCdKjGw

As per the most recent provincial ‘stay at home’ mandate, the Church Office will be closed for the month. Telephone messages will be retrieved once a morning Tuesday to Thursday. We thank you for your understanding, and extend with you our prayers for all struggling during this season, and the many who are at work in health care and other essential services. 

An order of service is found below, followed by a reflection and prayer posted recently by the World Council of Churches …

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Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Reflection

‘Hope springs eternal in the human breast’ was written in 1732 by the poet Alexander Pope. It captures the profound instinct that dark and difficult times will pass. To hope is to anticipate, even expect that better days will come. More recently, others have shared their wisdom on this theme. Take, for example, what Hellen Keller has said, ‘Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.’ Zig Ziglar said, ‘If there is hope in the future, there is literally power in the present.’ Nelson Mandela’s words are also timely, ‘May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.’ Hope is a bridge that helps us to journey from the difficulties and depravities of the present to a future that looks not only different but better.

Consequently, when hope is lessened or even destroyed, our spirits are crushed. Little wonder that hope is one of the central tenets of the Christian faith! For followers of Jesus Christ, “hope” is more than being optimistic or having a positive outlook on life. It is that and more, for our hope is anchored in the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Our faith, therefore, leads us to affirm that what we hold to as hope enables us to see beyond the current calamities, even beyond the ‘sting’ of death and to maintain still that we are a ‘hope-filled’ Christian people.

In these times, Christian hope, though, also embraces other signs of hope which helps us keep hope alive during this pandemic. The flames of hope are ignited when we see scientists throughout the world, working together to create vaccines. Our hope in humanity is affirmed as we witness nations sharing knowledge and information to mitigate the pandemic, agreeing to quarantine and isolation to protect each other. Though there have been innumerable challenges and difficulties that have emerged since the start of the pandemic, there have also been many signs of hope that remind us that things will get better.

During this week of prayer, in all the varied expressions of lament, concern, intercession and gratitude, there has been a thread of hope, a confidence that God is with us. Our God, who suffers with his people, will continue to bring hope and healing. Paul’s prayer is our prayer that God, the source of hope, will fill us with joy, peace, and hope because we trust him. A hope that is rooted in God, not in outward circumstances. Hope that is expressed in what we do and say. God’s people serving him, bringing hope where there is poverty and suffering. This is our active participation in God’s mission, the Missio Dei.

Prayer 

God of hope,
our hearts overflow with gratitude for your abiding presence during these exceedingly difficult and troubled times.
May the flames of hope remain aglow among individuals, families,
communities and nations during the pandemic.
May our trust in you be affirmed, especially as we continue to navigate each day
the challenges that have confronted us.
Let all that we are wait quietly before you, O God, knowing that our hope is in you.
By your Spirit, may we be grounded in the hope that is proclaimed in your word:
you are our rock and salvation, our fortress where we will not be shaken.
We pray in the name of One who, by his resurrection,
has given us the hope of life eternal, Jesus the Christ, Amen.

https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/prayers/week-of-prayer-over-covid-19-day-6-prayers-of-hope