O sweet and loving God,
when I stay asleep too long,
oblivious to your many blessings,
then, please, wake me up,
and sing to me your joyful song.
It is a song without music or notes.
It is a song of love beyond words,
of faith beyond the power
of human telling.
I can hear it in my soul
when you awaken me
to your presence.

These are the words of a prayer of Mechthild of Magdeburg (1207-1282?). As an adolescent, Mechthild received what she called a divine ‘greeting’ in the small feudal village of her birth, and she saw ‘all things in God and God in all things’. In her twenties she left her family and moved into the nearest town ‘to dwell in the love of God’. In Magdeburg, Mechthild joined the Beguines, a new woman’s movement, devotional and spiritual but not a formal ‘order’ of the Church, and in which she remained for over 40 years. The intimacy with which she spoke about God, with which she spoke with God, remains both startling and beautiful to this day. What I find most wonderful is how Mechthild speaks about the mutuality of a flowing love, about not only us loving God but God loving us. In this prayer, she is asking her Lover to rouse her from sleep and sing again the eternal song of love that we know in Jesus Christ.

It will be the same song of divine love that we will hear as the font is filled with water and we celebrate the sacrament of baptism, God’s gracious love that will not let us go.

If you are in the area, join us in the sanctuary. If you are at a distance, follow along with the prayers and readings as found in the Order of Service below.

 “Reconciliation is not an Aboriginal problem, it is a Canadian problem.”
You may have seen this quote from Murray Sinclair in the newspaper or on television during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) events happening in Ottawa at the end of May. With the gracious support of Rev. Andrew Johnston and the St. Andrew’s congregation, I was able to attend the TRC events in Ottawa as a Presbyterian youth delegate and be a witness to these words of wisdom and calls to action for the peoples of Canada. Throughout the week, we heard stories from Aboriginal elders and youth sharing their painful experiences with the residential school system and the damage that it had done to their families and communities. But, among the tears and sadness, we also heard many messages of forgiveness, love, and most importantly, hope. This Sunday, I will be sharing my reflections from attending the TRC and the message of hope that it left within me. As we look in Mark 4 and the story of how Jesus calmed the storm, I know that if we work together with God, we are able to find a way to calm the storm that was unjustly brought upon the original people of this land.

I once again thank you for all of the support that was given to my friends and I throughout our time at Queen’s University last year, and I look forward to seeing my second church family once again and sharing this message with you.

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Ovide Bighetty  “Creating a New Family”  One of a series of paintings called “Kisemanito Pakitinasuwin” - The Creator's Sacrifice - commissioned by the Indian Metis Christian Fellowship of Regina, of the Christian Reformed Church.

Ovide Bighetty “Creating a New Family”
One of a series of paintings called “Kisemanito Pakitinasuwin” – The Creator’s Sacrifice – commissioned by the Indian Metis Christian Fellowship of Regina, of the Christian Reformed Church.

Sunday May 31st, 10:30 a.m.

I am returning from service as a member of the Ecumenical Jury at the Cannes Film Festival. It was a feast for the eyes on the screen, and I look forward to sharing some reflections of this experience in June. I begin this first Sunday back however with a reminder that the Bible uses listening, not seeing, as the predominant image for the way human beings come to know God, and grow spiritually (Think of the voice of the Holy One heard at the time of our Lord’s baptism and the beginning of his public ministry – ‘This is my own dear son – listen to him’ (Mark 9:7). ‘Listen’ to the scripture lessons in the Order of Service that follows: Psalm 85, Isaiah 46, John 4).
Listening involves a disciplined silencing of the self so the Other can be known. It is a dynamic as important to us in human community as in relationship with the Holy One – in listening we grow in understanding and in intimacy.
Next week the closing ceremonies of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will held in Ottawa. The TRC has been an opportunity for many Canadians, and many Christians, to listen to the experience of native sisters and brothers – it has not been easy, but it has been right and good. We join in prayer this morning for a new beginning in our relationship, one born of listening and of respect.

Last week on Pentecost we remembered that Christ calls out to each of us in our own languages to join his new, reconciled family and become ministers of reconciliation in this land. This week in Ottawa, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada will come to close. This ending is a new beginning – it represents the promise and responsibility of reconciliation. Throughout the Commission’s work, thousands of Indigenous people have bravely shared their stories of residential schools. These schools broke Indigenous families apart and were built on assumptions that Indigenous people and cultures were inferior or savage. The Pentecost vision of unity in Christ is broken. But Indigenous people have begun the journey of reconciliation by daring to tell their stories. Healing has already begun. (Christians) across Canada have listened. The painting you see on the screen was created by the late Cree artist Ovide Bighetty in a Stations of the Cross series of paintings called “Kisemanito Pakitinasuwin” – The Creators Sacrifice. This series was commissioned by the Christian Reformed Church’s Indian Metis Christian Fellowship in Regina. The painting is called “Creating a New Family” as Jesus connects John to his mother Mary. Our hope today is for a church and a nation that honours and celebrates the contribution of our Indigenous neighbours to our shared lives – may we be the new family that God calls us to be.

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Sunday May 10, 10:30 a.m.

"Bach with His Family at Morning Devotion" by Toby Edward Rosenthal (1870)

“Bach with His Family at Morning Devotion”
by Toby Edward Rosenthal (1870)

Every Sunday our wonderful Director of Music John Hall provides notes on the music that he has selected to enrich our worship of God. He describes the context of the composers and their compositions, but also adds personal perspectives on the spiritual and social dimensions of the music. This Sunday John even provided a painting along with his notes!

This is Christian Family Sunday.

We read from the contemporary statement of faith of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Living Faith, that ‘All Christians are members both of a human family and of the church, the household of God.’ And the words of the final hymn will bring together the prayers and reflections of the hour –  ‘Now thank we all our God … who from our mother’s arms has blessed us on our way’.

In between, the sermon will explore how our homes can be a realm where human and divine love intersect. There is a poem that begins ‘Happy the home when God is there’ (Henry Ware the younger, 1794-1843) – I believe the issue is not whether God is present or absent from our homes, but rather whether we acknowledge the presence and promises of God in our homes, whatever our family constellation.

And so we come to the painting contributed for Sunday’s service by John Hall (be sure to read his notes in the Order of Service that follows – yes that is one family!). Amidst all the activity of the scene, a mother is helping a child read the Bible and hear a holy word for life … Helping another (whether spouse, child, grandchild, or even neighbour or friend) know some dimension of God’s love is what ‘home’ is all about.

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We live in an era and a land in which certain politicians will offer any promise or initiative as long as the party’s position is strengthened, with little apparent thought given to the long-term and common good. Before I cast another stone, I must admit that the state of the Church is little better – we are divided into congregations and denominations that vie for support often via negativa and often look only to our own good rather than the ministry of Christ that we hold in common.

‘Presbyteros’ is the Greek word for ‘elder’. The Presbyterian Church is a church ordered by elders elected by the people and ordained to spiritual leadership. I am thankful to be in a tradition that does not make any claim to being the ‘only’ or ‘true’ church, and acknowledges that it is but one way to follow Christ faithfully. But this church does have integrity and relevance – the Presbyterian way has scriptural warrant, is connectional and credal, and ecumenical.

National Gallery of Scotland

National Gallery of Scotland

This morning we will be ordaining and induction of four new elders to service in St. Andrew’s Church Kingston. I am particularly attached to the words of the prayer of dedication found in a former Book of Common Worship (printed below) and pray that the lives of all Christians ‘adorn the gospel and speak of your Kingdom before all’. Contrary to the painting by John Henry Lorimer from 19th century Scotland, these elders will include more women than men (thank God!). And their first act will be to serve us during the Lord’s Supper.

Have a look at the Order of Service attached below, and join us praise and prayer this morning. A nursery for infants and a programme for children is available during the service.

Prayer of Ordination of Elders
Almighty Lord, Prophet Priest and King, who by the power of your Word and the inspiration of your Holy Spirit does rule your Church and has appointed the ministry of faithful women and men to guide and guard your flock by the Gospel: accept these individuals to be Ruling Elders in your Sovereign name; set them apart by the anointing of the Holy Spirit to be shepherds in the Church. Grant them your truth and grace. Save them from pride, self-righteousness, apathy, uncertainty, discouragement and fear of others. Endue them with your holy wisdom and your steadfastness, that they may rule in fear of you for the salvation of your people and the good of the Church. May their lives and words adorn the Gospel and speak of your Kingdom before all. May they be faithful all their days, so when you come as our Great Shepherd and only Judge, each one may receive your recognition: Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.     Amen.

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Sunday April 26, 10:30 a.m.

As I write this, an invitation from the national offices of the Presbyterian Church in Canada has appeared on my desktop screen. It just popped up, but amazingly, providentially, seems directly connected to this coming Sunday’s service of worship …

The message during our worship will be offered by the church school, through readings and interpretative dance, focusing upon God’s great gift in Jesus Christ. It will conclude with lyrics by Matt Maher from his composition ‘Christ is Risen’, ‘Come awake, come awake, Come and rise up from the grave’.

The invitation of my inbox offers an opportunity to take up the life we know in the risen Lord, particularly his ministry of reconciliation. ‘All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation’ (2 Corinthians 5:18).

The invitation is to colour a paper flower – it sounds easy but will be hard. The national Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s closing event will be held June 1-3, 2015 in Ottawa. Church groups across Canada are being invited by KAIROS to make Hearts for Reconciliation, to be ‘planted’ by local school children on the grounds of Rideau Hall, the residence of the Governor General of Canada. We are being invited to embrace our native brothers and sisters who were residential school students and acknowledge that what we offered may have been with the best of intentions but has brought hurt and harm, personal and generational, cultural and indeed spiritual.

To take up the work of reconciliation is not easy for us as Christians, but then it was not for Christ either. And it is the way of life. ‘Come awake, come awake, Come and rise up from the grave’

Join us in the worship of God this Sunday (see the full list of announcements in the attachment below) – there will be papers with flower patterns waiting!

p.s. for more information, check


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