These weeks of autumn, we continue to hear God’s ‘ten words’ (as they are referred to in the original Hebrew), and we hear ‘honour your father and your mother’.


As I considered this ‘word’ through the week, I found this image particularly moving. For many years when I heard ‘honour your father and your mother’, I thought young children were being addressed, and the exhortation was of obedience. But now I realize that when God spoke these words at Sinai, they were addressed equally if not primarily to adults, and the exhortation was not so much obedience as respect. I find the image above moving, for it shows an adult child seeking and receiving the blessing of an aged parent.

God knows, our parents are not perfect. But this ‘word’ about our relationship with parents is the first that follows the ‘words’  about our relationship with God. So somehow, honouring our parents flows from our honouring God, and the way we honour our parents is a mark of the honour we give God. Might respecting our parents as they age and deal with infirmity and become dependent upon us be a way of acknowledging and accepting God’s care for us in our frailty and brokenness as human beings?

The original Hebrew words for father and mother are expansive, able to include all our ancestors, all seniors. Might honouring our aged parents be the foundation of a society that respects the elderly and all who are vulnerable? As our nation goes to the polls tomorrow, might this ‘word’ be asking us significant questions about the investments we are willing to make in affordable housing, public transport and health care!

Much to ponder. Much to celebrate.
Have a look over the order of service, and if you are in the area, join us!

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As the ten good words of God are heard again this autumn, this Sunday we arrive at ‘You shall not covet’. There is little at first that seems relevant to this Thanksgiving weekend. ‘Covet’ conjures up thoughts of individual acts and objects, but is actually an inclination of the human heart that shapes whole lives and cultures. It is born of our innate insecurity and becomes our need to possess and control, at any cost.

In fact the relevancy of this good word is deep, for the only alternative to covetousness is … thanksgiving! This is why the first Christians were exhorted to ‘give thanks in all circumstances’ (I Thessalonians 5: 14-18). It is only the spiritual discipline of thanksgiving that frees us from the fears and insecurities and powers that otherwise rule us. It is only thanksgiving that lifts us out of little selves and opens us to trust God, and to serve neighbour. It is in thanksgiving that we find freedom.

If you are around Kingston this weekend, be sure to join us … in thanksgiving. (Scroll down to see the Order of Worship – with a nursery for infants with certified caregiver, a programme for children during the service, great hymns to be sung, and a gospel to enjoyed)

And consider lifting up a prayer of thanksgiving this weekend:

Blessed be you, Lord God of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth and makes glad the heart of humanity.
Ancient Hebrew prayer

Give us grace, O Lord, to be ever thankful for your providence, with hearts always ready to provide for the needs of others.
Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)

You who have given so much to me,
Give me one thing more,
a grateful heart, for Christ’s sake.
George Herbert (1593-1633)

All good gifts around us
are sent from heaven above;
so thank the Lord, O thank the Lord,
for all his love.
Matthias Claudius (1740-1815)

For food and drink and friends, we give thanks. Bless, O Lord, our table; deepen our gratitude; enlarge our sympathies and order our affections in generous and unselfish lives, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen
Robert Runcie (1921-2000)

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I remember David Suzuki, Canadian scientist, summing up his life work and message with a simple image. Image a test tube filled with food. It represents the earth. Image a single bacterium introduced into the test tube. Left to grow, it doubles in number every minute. In the first minute, two bacteria. In the second minute, four bacteria. Imagine it takes one hour for the bacteria to consume the entire supply of food, the point at which the bacteria themselves will die. When will the test tube be exactly half full of food and half full of bacteria? In the 59th minute. At the 59th minute, everything looks fine. Just one more minute and catastrophe will strike.

Suzuki the environmental scientist declares that we are at the 59th minute. Perhaps we are at the 59th minute spiritually also. Our lives have become overwhelmed by activity and anxiety.


It is time for us to recover the gift of the Sabbath. It is time for us to recover the discipline and delight of withdrawing and resting, of reflection and of gratitude. It takes time to connect with others, to open ourselves to the Holy. In celebrating a sabbath we find freedom, we enter into the freedom which is the gift of God … which is the point made in the version of the Ten Words recorded in Deuteronomy – ‘Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy … Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day’ (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).

Join me in practising sabbath, beginning in the worship of God!

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I have been helping to prepare a Community Feast here in Kingston that will offer us the opportunity to sit with First Nations neighbours and share an evening of food and music. It is being co-hosted by the Katarokwi Grandmother’s Council and KAIROS Canada, taking up the journey toward healing and reconciliation. (See a notice below the Order of Service with all the details.) During the week I was reminded of a series of paintings Kisemanito Pakitinasuwin—The Creator’s Sacrifice by Cree artist Ovide Bighetty, and one in particular caught my eye this week – ‘Betrayal’.


We continue our journey through the ten words of God and good, arriving now at the third, ‘You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses this name’ (Exodus 20:7). In a very real sense, it is all about betrayal.

When Moses asked by what name he would refer to the Holy One, the answer came ‘I am who I am’ (Exodus 3:14). Worked from the linguistic derivative of the verb ‘to be’ in Hebrew, the Holy Name came to known as YHWH, translated into English as Jehovah, or LORD. The Holy One would be known by working freedom for the Hebrew slaves, and later by working freedom for all humanity in Christ, but the Holy Name reminded all of the profound sovereignty of the Holy One.

In earlier translations into English, this third commandment spoke of taking the LORD’s name in vain, and it came to be reduced to swearing. The New Revised Standard Version challenges us with the broader, more demanding, dimensions of this ‘word’. We make wrongful use of the name of LORD when we speak, invoking God for our own purposes (whether it be within the church to justify our own plans and prejudices or a politician to appear pious and trustworthy), but also as we live, bearing God’s name as God’s people but living without God’s care for the poor and despoiling God’s good creation.

Back to Bighetty’s canvas … That kiss of the disciple reminded me that the Holy One is hurt most deeply by those closest, by us … and not by our words but by our actions do we betray the Name of the good God most grievously. It is in being reminded of this, and it is in acknowledging this, that we are opened to new beginnings, that we are set on the highway of life once again, by the grace of God. Thank God for these signs, these good ‘words’, these commandments, along the way.

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We enjoyed our first ‘road trip’ from Kingston today – across the ferry to Picton and Prince Edward County. It was magic – the history of the United Empire Loyalists, an artists’ studio tour, an antique fair in a fabulous crystal palace, the orchards with trees groaning with fruit. It was such a great day … that I almost forgot this post!


On our return, we stopped at a roadside stall to pick up some squash and corn for dinner. Just as we returned to our car, we spotted a rather well fed rabbit nibbling on the bounty of the stall that had fallen to the ground. I was reminded of the time we lived in the manse of Chateauguay, while I studied at Presbyterian College and McGill and served as a student minister with Maplewood Presbyterian Church. The house was at the end of a street, with an undeveloped hydro right-of-way beside. The back yard was large and also undeveloped. In our youthful enthusiasm, we tilled a large plot of ground, sowed an abundance of seeds and planted a myriad seedlings of every vegetable imaginable. We enjoyed our apprenticeship into gardening that summer. But I was more and more appreciative of the advice we had received at the beginning from a neighbour, to string a chicken wire fence up around the plot. As the weeks unfolded, we saw many rabbits drawn from the field beside to our backyard, and our produce would certainly have been enjoyed by others than ourselves without that fence.

That chicken wire fence has often reminded me of the positive dynamics of the Ten Commandments. The Holy One has raised them up amongst us, not to hold us back from life, but rather to keep the powers of this world from consuming our lives, to keep us in life.


And this morning we will be reminded of an even more moving dimension of the Ten Commandments. These ten ‘words’ (as they are called in the original Hebrew) are shared in the context of relationship, they are spoken in love by the Holy One to the people gathered in the wilderness and through them to all humanity. This Holy One has taken the initiative to be bound to humanity with intimacy and passion in covenant, but as we know from our own relationships only too well, commitment and faithfulness are needed by both partners. ‘You shall have no other gods before me … I am a jealous God’ (Exodus 20:3-6).

As Christians, this embrace, and call, of God we know most fully in Jesus Christ.

Join us in the worship of God. We will begin singing ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty’ and conclude by singing ‘To God be the glory’. After the service, join us for a monthly informal congregational lunch after the service. And in the bulletin below you will find invitations to grow in Christian faith, fellowship and service for the days to come.

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Moses and the Ten Commandments  by Marc Chagall

Moses and the Ten Commandments
by Marc Chagall

Every time I look at this painting by the great Belarusian/French painter Marc Chagall, my heart is warmed. The scene shows Moses, just after he has received the Ten Commandments from the Holy One on Mount Sinai. I do not see some executor of an arbitrary code of law. I see one holding two stone tablets as a parent might hold a new-born infant, filled with affection and joy. I wish I had been introduced to this painting earlier in life.

Gazing at this painting now, I am reminded that the original description of the ‘ten commandments’ is the ‘ten words’. These are words given to us by God, born of love and passed on for life. When we hold them, we hold God’s love and life.

Because the ‘ten words’ are shaped by grammar using negatives, the ‘thou-shalt-not’ language, I have for too long thought of them in terms of constraint and restriction. Now I realize they are all about freedom. Now I think of them like the tethered but floating plastic bottles placed at various rocky areas around the lake at the cottage, warning all boaters of certain areas of danger … and with the whole rest of the lake to enjoy.

And how wonderful that these ten words begin with an introduction of God as the one ‘who brought you out of the house of bondage’ (Deuteronomy 5:6) – the commandments point us beyond themselves to the One whose chief characteristic is the ability and desire to work freedom for the oppressed. We live in a world that knows the experience of bondage all too well, from addictions to possessions and substances, to whole peoples who live under the rule of oppression and war. How good it is to be reminded that God’s will and God’s work is freedom. Amen!

If you are in the area, join us Sunday morning as we begin a new congregational year. Kingston is alive with the abundance of farmer’s markets and students returning to Queen’s and St. Lawrence – St. Andrew’s shall be filled with the praise of God and the joy of freedom. Have a look at the Order of Service …

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Lorna Jones - Artymess

Lorna Jones – Artymess

For many of us in Kingston, this long weekend may bring family BBQs and a variety of outdoor festivals but also a sense that the summer is coming to an end. School buses have already been seen in the streets and the university students are infusing the city with an infectious sense of new beginnings. It is good to pause and remember the origins of the weekend – Labour Day. Its origins in Canada can be traced to December 1872 when a parade was held in support of Toronto newspaper employees trying to limit their work week to 58 hours. The union leaders were arrested under laws that deemed union activity criminal. In protest, an even larger parade was held in Ottawa on September 3, 1873, and in response Sir John A. Macdonald arranged for the anti-union laws to be repealed. Parades have been held the beginning of September ever since, and in 1894, Prime Minister John Thompson made Labour Day an official holiday, to celebrate the value and dignity of work.

It is a theme that we will take up with a prayer crafted by Janet Morley:

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.

In the worship of God, we will be reminded that this world is a creation of God and that it is good; that we are called to work with God in God’s continuing providential care. In Christ, we will be reminded not only that ‘matter matters’ but that ‘people matter’. As we are confronted this week with tragic scenes of whole nations seeking refuge from violence and poverty, and with questions in the midst of an election campaign about what sort of nation we wish to shape, it is good to pray that God might take us and weave us into our communities to ‘maintain the fabric of this world’. Amen.

I hope you can join us. There are some great additional prayers within Sunday’s order of service …

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