Walking along Kingston’s Inner Harbour near our home, Béatrice and I pass the returning geese and swans, the ducks and loons … and this monument to the over one thousand labourers who died building the Rideau Canal (mainly from malaria!) to protect Upper Canada from the Americans.

My mind crossed the ocean to the ancient high crosses of the Celts, and how they continue to speak so beautifully of the Christian faith. These weeks of May we will listen as …. the elongated central shafts of these crosses declare how Christ has brought together heaven and earth, Holy One and humanity; the wonderful knots and biblical scenes tell of God at work in human history; the distinctive circle points to the Holy One, the Three in One, binding all together; and the location outside, under the open sky, reminds us that this whole world is a beloved creation of a loving Creator.

Being the first of the month, this Sunday we will also celebrate Holy Communion, so you are invited to prepare with bread and cup.  The worship service will available Sunday morning as Video at 
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzEy41z3sqfRm8X_lLfKGUA
and as Podcast at
http://Podcast – https://anchor.fm/st-andrews-presbyterian-church-kingston

Thanks to Thee, O God, that I have arisen today,
to the rising of this life itself;
May it be to Thine own glory, O God of every gift,
and to the glory of my soul likewise.

O great God, aid Thou my soul
with the aiding of Thine own mercy;
Even as I clothe my body with wool,
cover Thou my soul with the shadow of Thy wing.

Help me to avoid every sin,
and the source of every sin to forsake;
And as the mist scatters on the crest of the hills,
may each ill haze clear from my soul, O God.

(From Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica)

In our downtown neighbourhood, several households have made posters for windows or trees along the sidewalk – some are joyous paintings by children, some are well-honed calligraphy by adults; some entertain, some encourage, some prompt thought. It was this one that struck me mid-week as I was preparing my thoughts for tomorrow’s online worship service.

We conclude our reading of the days after the first Easter. Jesus returns to his friends shut up in that room, this second time for the benefit of Thomas (John 20: 24-31). The Risen Lord refused to leave even one of his own in the darkness of doubt and despair. Jesus’ will was for all his disciples to experience not ‘normal’ but a new beginning in their own lives, one filled with the assurance and strength of the resurrection. Such is Jesus’ will for us also.

It was a hard week in many ways, and I invited members of the congregation to share some photos of ‘new beginnings’ seen in our gardens. You will see tomorrow morning that I was able to use some of these in my sermon, but here are some more – thanks to all for the encouragement, thanks to God for the great promise of new life in Jesus, now and eternally!

The worship service will available Sunday morning from 7 a.m. as Video at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzEy41z3sqfRm8X_lLfKGUA
and as Podcast at
http://Podcast – https://anchor.fm/st-andrews-presbyterian-church-kingston

“Resurrection” by Arne Haugen Sørensen (Danish, 1932–)
highlighted by Victoria Emily Jones on her blog Art and Theology

It is Friday morning, and I am about to record another worship opportunity for Sunday morning. And I am struck how bitter-sweet is this new context for Christian faith.

I long for the day we can be together again in the sanctuary, but in the meantime I am encouraged by the way so many more of us are able to join in worship together online than we ever were at one time at the corner of Princess and Clergy.

I am moved as the online images and sounds of the sanctuary scroll across the screen, but they only increase in me a yearning to be again amongst the stained glass windows, to hear the organ and choir, to sing and pray together, to greet friend and visitor in the name of Christ, all of which I realize I have taken too much for granted for too long.

And as real as the anxieties and uncertainties of these days are, they seem to open me to new depths of perspective and understanding in the life of Christian faith.

Bitter-sweet indeed, and so be it. As one of you keeps telling me, ‘God is in it’. Yes, that is our faith, and that is our witness.

On this first Sunday after Easter, with contributions by members of the congregation and our Director of Music, and wonderfully edited by Christopher, we are invited to gather together the homes and neighbourhoods of our city in praise of God and to receive strength from reflecting upon God’s Word (John 20:19-22).

The worship service will available Sunday morning from 7 a.m. as Video at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzEy41z3sqfRm8X_lLfKGUA
and as Podcast at
http://Podcast – https://anchor.fm/st-andrews-presbyterian-church-kingston

Caspar David Friedrich – Easter Morning (1833)

The air remains cool. The moon still hangs overhead. There are shadows, there is silence. Early in the morning, three women journey out from the city to the burial place where they intend to care for the dead body of Jesus. They still cannot believe that the Anointed One has been crucified.
But when they arrive at the end of the road, at the tomb, these three most loyal friends and followers are the first to hear the words that have changed human history and our lives – ‘You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here; see the place where they laid him’ (Mark 16:6).

The painting above is the only one by the renown German painter Caspar David Friedrich with an explicit biblical theme. Devoutly Christian in the Lutheran tradition, Friedrich reminds me that journeys through shadows and sadness to places where we expect only endings can also bring us to places of wondrous new beginnings … by the grace and work of the Holy One … and it all begins here with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

This Easter morning we take up the gospel declared to the women, and the celebration of the generations. This Easter, not gathered together in one place at the centre of the city but in our homes and apartments spread throughout the city, we will shout out ‘Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!’. Let us join together in prayer, in hymn, in reflection … and in joy!
Youtube video (available Sunday morning from 6 a.m.) https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzEy41z3sqfRm8X_lLfKGUA

It is the Lord,
in the dawning
in the renewal,
in the arrival,
in the new day.

It is the Lord,
in the crowd,
in the home,
in the conversation,
in the crisis.

It is the Lord,
in our joys,
in our sorrows,
in our sickness,
in our health …

It is the Lord,
risen and returned,
alive for evermore,
giving me new life,
saving me in strife.

It is the Lord. (David Adam, England)

Patricia Brintle (Crucifixion– it Is Finished, 2009)

Judas, slave of jealousy, where are you?
Peter, slave of fear, where are you?
Thomas, slave of doubt, where are you?
Women and men of Jerusalem, ruled by public opinion, where are you?
Pilate, slave of expediency, where are you?

We are here.
This is Good Friday.
A time to remember the passion of Jesus Christ in solidarity with us, for us and our salvation.
A time to remember that to follow Christ is to be servants of all.
A time to pray, that as we watch and wait with Christ, we may have courage in the hour of our testing.

I invite you to join an online combined Good Friday service, bringing together the congregations of St. Mark’s Lutheran, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian, Chalmers-Syndenham Street and Princess Street congregations. It will feature the reading of John 18-19 and some of the great hymns of the Christian faith, and will be available Friday morning from 8:30 a.m. at 
Youtube video – https://youtu.be/Tz6f8vtU2sI
and as Podcast – https://anchor.fm/dashboard/episode/ecj900

            This is our first attempt at putting together a pre-recorded service for Good Friday and I am very happy that we were able to include the participation of readers and clergy from other churches. It is very disappointing however, that we could not put our choirs together for some anthems. There are several hymns included in the service, which were sung thanks to the generosity and talents of my immediate family members. This was recorded a few weeks ago before the pandemic situation became so serious. It was very awkward even then for the five of us to be spread out in the choir loft and to try to sound like a choir. The hymns were accompanied by the St. Andrew’s pipe organ. The organ music at the beginning and at the end was recorded at Chalmers United Church and performed by Aurora Dokken, the organist of Chalmers and Sydenham St. United Churches. Chalmers and the other churches have some beautiful stained glass windows which are quite inspiring and some are very appropriate for this service. However, since St. Andrew’s is in a way hosting this event, we are confining our visuals to what this church has to offer. Along with this, I discovered in the choir room an old bible printed in 1855 and presented to St. Andrew’s in 1892. It contains some remarkable engravings which are shown during the Postlude. Christopher’s violin solo is a hymn tune from Walker’s Southern Harmony of 1835 and I asked him to play it in the style of that period.

            We live in a marvellous new age of technology with devices that too often get misused. But what a blessing that we have recording and broadcast tools in this time of crisis. I think that although we are not able to get together for worship this year, you will still find the service very meaningful.                  (John Hall, Director of Music, St. Andrew’s)

The Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem – Pietro Lorenzetti c. 1320
Basilica of St. Frances of Assisi, Assisi Italy

This is Palm Sunday, and this year it is different. This year we will be found neither gathered with the followers of Jesus, nor with neighbours and family pouring out into the streets of the city on a holy-day weekend. This year we are ‘alone, together’.

But perhaps this year I may understand more deeply than ever before how this Jesus who once rode into that city of old is now the Risen Lord approaching me, challenging me and this whole tired world, to consider a new way of living, with a gracious opportunity to reset our priorities and recover our humanity.

I invite you to join me in the challenge and the joy of worship together this Sunday online.
As is our custom at St. Andrew’s, being the first Sunday of the month, we will celebrate Communion with brothers and sisters in Christ, and your God – you are invited to have bread and grape juice/wine ready.
Podcast – https://anchor.fm/st-andrews-presbyterian-church-kingston
Video – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzEy41z3sqfRm8X_lLfKGUA

If you are interested in a 2012 paper from the Committee of Church Doctrine of the PCC about the online Celebration of the Lord’s Supper, you can download it at https://presbyterian.ca/resources/resource-finder/download-info/providing-communion-using-technology/

And something special for this special Palm Sunday … Last year Christina M., a member of St. Andrew’s, prepared a series of reflections for Holy Week. Now they can be shared, at a time when perhaps we have more time and inclination to join Christina and other Christians in reflection …

During these weeks when we cannot gather physically, members of the congregation are sharing personal thoughts and prayers as a way of maintaining community and encouraging faith. If you would like to receive a brief reflection from a member of the St. Andrew’s family each morning, just send me an email to be placed on the distribution list – a.johnston@standrewskingston.org

So what was Béatrice doing this week with a pot of red cabbage leaves in one hand and a pot of brown onion skins in the other? You will have to listen the podcast or video to find out!
But the main point is that … Easter is on the horizon, and this morning we return to our preparations by tackling some of the hardest-to-hear yet also most-hope-filled words of our Lord (Mark 8:31-37).

A big ‘thank you’ to John Hall, our Director of Music, and family for their contributions of music and digital recording that allow us to ‘join together, separately’ in Christian worship this day (and with services already in the works online for Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday).

Podcast – https://anchor.fm/st-andrews-presbyterian-church-kingston
Video – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzEy41z3sqfRm8X_lLfKGUA

During these weeks when we cannot gather physically, members of the congregation are sharing personal thoughts and prayers as a way of maintaining community and encouraging faith. If you would like to receive a brief reflection from a member of the St. Andrew’s family each morning, just send me an email to be placed on the distribution list – a.johnston@standrewskingston.org