October 25th, 2020

The Greatest Love of All

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Matthew 22: 37-39

Russian Empress, Catherine the Great. P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman. Wayne Gretzky, The Great One. We label people ‘great’ when they are the most accomplished, most important, and the very best.  Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, so he quoted a well-known verse from the Hebrew Bible all about love. Christians and Jews share this commandment in common. In fact, the love of God, neighbour, and self is one of the greatest commandments for most world religions.

For Christians, the challenge has been how to show ‘great’ love in our everyday lives. What’s the point of embracing the greatest commandment, if we don’t live out that love in obvious and tangible ways? Love of God, neighbour, and ourselves is not meant to be hoarded and hidden, but it’s meant to be shown and given away. The true value of that love is seen when we support each other, encourage each other, challenge each other, and ultimately, share the greatest love of all with God, with our neighbour and with ourselves. Thanks be to God.

October 18th, 2020

A Question of Loyalty

“Give to God what is God’s.” Matthew 22: 21

When we gather together for dinners with family or friends, (or at least when we used to) most of us have been advised to avoid two subjects, religion and politics. Those two topics can cause conflict and awkwardness around the table because people can have pretty strong feelings and differing opinions about each.

Jesus was confronted by religious leaders, who tried to trick him into speaking against the ruling empire. Jesus knew they were trying to test them, so he turned around their questions to make them confront what was most important to them: politics or religion, government systems or God.

Christians today are still torn between those two loyalties. How do we engage meaningfully in our society and be responsible citizens, and at the same time, proclaim faith in God? How do we put Christ first, even when we have competing loyalties? Perhaps, we can learn from Jesus who said to give to God what is God’s. For us today, that might look like putting our support behind those things that help rather than harm, to causes that bring about justice rather than injustice, to focusing on what we all need rather than just what we want, and to acts of kindness and generosity. When we give to God what is God’s, we honour God and put Christ first in our lives. Thanks be to God.

October 11th, 2020

Joyful Gratitude

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

Do you remember as a child being excited about the little things, things that seemed to lose their appeal as you got older? Remember the wonder of a shiny rock, the miracle of an extra big earthworm, or the satisfaction of making a big mud pie that stayed together long enough to bring it into the house to show your parents. Such joy!

In these challenging and unusual days, joy might be hard to come by. We’re still grieving what we’ve lost in the last few months like getting together with family for holidays, sending the kids to school without anxiety, spontaneous outings to a restaurant or a movie, or a stress-free trip to the grocery store.

The first followers of Jesus faced many challenges too. They lived under an oppressive regime, there were no social services, and the early church was still trying to figure out how to best serve God with a diverse group of people. One of their leaders, Paul, wrote letters to teach, encourage, and help them. For Christians, we read those letters today in the Bible to find strength in our own struggles and to be reminded to have a spirit of joyful gratitude. “Rejoice”, he said.

Rejoicing doesn’t mean we’re going to be happy all the time, but it means that despite all the challenges, we can be grateful for all those things that lead to joy. It might be something simple like the leaves changing colour, apples and pumpkins ready for picking, and fall sunsets that give us a lightshow. I pray that this Thanksgiving weekend you will know joyful gratitude and rejoice in the little things.

Alliston Out of the Cold UPDATE

Have a look at this update from Alliston Out of the Cold and consider how you might be able to help out. THANK YOU!!

Alliston Out of the Cold is struggling to get enough volunteers this year due to fears of COVID, as well, many younger people are home schooling their children. We currently have about ½ our regular number of volunteers confirmed. We have decided to delay our opening until mid November or the 1st of December in hopes of recruiting more volunteers. We are also doing a deputation to the Town of New Tecumseth for funds to help us hire an overnight staff person to decrease the number of volunteers needed.

The new COVID guidelines for social distancing have also affected the number of people we can house. We will be able to house 8 guests instead of 12 guests and we will have no ability to flex to more beds as we have in the past.

We currently only have one part time paid staff year-round, our executive director. We do hire intake staff during our operating season (Nov-April) to admit and engage guests with services to change their homeless state. The intake person is a qualified social worker or equivalent who works three hours in the evening, when guests arrive, to admit and counsel them.

We are currently struggling to have enough money to complete our year. We are at high risk of being unable to open our overnight shelter this year, which will leave many out on the street. To mediate this, we have a launched an Outreach program with one part time staff and volunteers. We have partnered with the Good Shepherd Food Bank to provide food. We have other donations of needed supplies that are given out like blankets, sleeping bags, mats, toiletries and clothing. The Outreach team is making appointments as well as mobile stops in Alliston, Tottenham and Angus right now. They are helping to connect people to services for housing, social services and employment in an attempt to get them off the street before winter.

The majority of our funds come from community donations as well this past year we participated in the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser which netted us $47,000 (about half of our annual budget).

We are now taking food donations for the shelter start up. The following items are needed:

  1. Juice boxes
  2. Granola bars
  3. Cereal
  4. Jam
  5. Fruit or pudding cups
  6. Canned meats like salmon, tuna, ham or chicken/turkey
  7. Ground Coffee
  8. Tea (regular or herbal)
  9. Hot Chocolate
  10. Pancake mix
  11. Ketchup
  12. White Sugar
  13. Laundry detergent
  14. Fabric softener sheets
  15. Paper towel
  16. Toilet paper
  17. Kleenex
  18. Used Blankets if good condition that are washable
  19. Large Garbage Bags
  20. Small compost bags

We also appreciate gift cards for Zehrs, FreshCo or Costco as we use these for day to day items like bread, milk, eggs, margarine, etc. These items can be brought to the church on Sunday morning or during our office hours, Wednesday and Friday mornings.

If you have clothing please donate it to the Clothes Line as we have an relationship with them and offer tickets to our guests to go in and get free clothing.

Thank you to the Knox congregation for all its support in the past and for its continued support!

October 4th, 2020

Sacred Unity

“Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22: 19

For some Christians denominations, the first Sunday in October has been designated World Communion Sunday. It was meant to foster Christian unity and our shared values and mission as followers of Jesus. Communion, Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, these are all names for the meal that Christians share together with bread and wine. We eat and drink in remembrance, thanksgiving, and celebration of the sacrifice and gift of new life offered by God through Jesus Christ.

In the unusual and challenging days of this pandemic, it is not safe for us to share this meal together like we used to as we gather in our places of worship. But, that doesn’t mean that we can’t remember, give thanks, and celebrate that people throughout the world all share a common hope, peace, and love found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We are encouraged and strengthened in our faith when we experience the sacred unity of believers across cities, countries, and continents. Thanks be to God.

 

 

September 27th, 2020

“Who do you think you are?”

“By what authority are you doing these things and who gave you this authority?” Matthew 21: 23

This was a question the religious leaders asked of Jesus when he was teaching the people new ways of having a relationship with God. They wondered who in the world did Jesus think he was. Jesus had challenged the status quo with calls to care for the poor, freedom for the captives, and an invitation to ALL people into God’s kingdom. This did not go over well by those who adhered to certain rule and laws that were not to be challenged.

The religious elite of the day were like one of those jokes about changing a light bulb. “How many Presbyterians does it take to change a light bulb? Four: one to change the bulb and three to talk about how good the old bulb was.” How easy it is for us to get stuck in a rut of what has always been and quickly reject new ways of looking at the world, especially God’s way of looking at the world. As Christians though, to be authentic followers of Jesus, that is exactly what we are called to do.

We are called to critically consider the systems and practices that we fall into that do not honour God or each other. We are called to question the authorities of the world when they don’t uphold the dignity of all people. We are called” to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8). This is who we are. Thanks be to God.

September 20th, 2020

“The Scales of Justice and The Gift of Grace”

Jesus said, “So, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Matthew 20: 16

Remember as a child arguing over who should get the biggest piece of cake or the best toy to play with? It felt so important at the time. We like when things are fair and when we are rewarded for our hard work and when others get what they deserve. This is how the world thinks about justice, but we learn from the Bible that God looks at justice differently.

Even if you don’t know much about the Bible, you might have heard this line from Jesus, “the last will be first and the first will be last”. It just doesn’t make any logical sense, it just doesn’t seem fair. When Jesus said it, he was teaching his followers about God’s justice. God looks at justice from a perspective of grace. Grace is underserved favour and love. We can’t earn it and we don’t deserve it, but through Jesus Christ, it is gift of God for all of us. Maybe when we see all people through God’s eyes, our own scales of justice will shift to God’s gift of grace. Thanks be to God.

 

September 13th, 2020

“Forgiveness Habit”

“Peter asked, “How often should I forgive?”…Jesus said, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18: 21-22

They say it takes from 18 to 254 days for a habit to form and about 66 days for a habit to become automatic. There are habits which are healthy and life-giving and others that are harmful and even dangerous. I would be curious to know how many habits changed in the last six month and how many new habits began. I bet you never thought wearing a mask would become a habit or learning how to stay 2 metres away from others would become second nature. It may not seem obvious when thinking about habits, but offering forgiveness is one of the healthiest habits one can have.

Forgiveness is a central value for Christians. Forgiveness means letting go of anger and resentment. It means wiping the slate clean with a chance to start over, not only for the forgiven but for those doing the forgiving. It is important to remember that forgiveness doesn’t erase consequences, nor does it give license for abuse or injustice. Forgiveness is a burden lifted and an act of mercy. Forgiveness is a habit that softens hearts and reconciles relationships. Jesus’ forgiveness of us is limitless and we are expected to do the same for others. In these uncertain times, a healthy forgiveness habit is needed more than ever.

September 6th, 2020

“Hope in Hard Times”

In times of trouble and great stress, we find ways to cope and get through whatever challenges we are facing. Some people seek out companionship with friends and family, some find solace in getting away from it all, some are strengthened by the experience of those who have overcome great adversity, some fall back on the best cure of all, chocolate!

While, it may be true that chocolate will ‘sweeten’ any trial or tribulation, it really can’t take away the fear, worry, and stress of a really hard time. Chocolate may help us cope, but it won’t make the pandemic that has changed our lives so much in the past 6 months go away. So, where can we turn?

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” “Nothing can separate you from the love God.” “The Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles.” “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” These are all verses from throughout the Bible that have reassured, strengthened, and encouraged people for centuries. I think there is comfort in knowing that we are not alone, that God knows what we are going through, that God walks with us through difficult times, and that God has given us a language for expressing our fears and for proclaiming our hope. Christians believe that even when things seem hopeless, hope is found in God’s Word and God’s presence. Thanks be to God.

August 30th, 2020

“Who knows?”

 “Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Matt. 16: 15

How are we known to others? Maybe by our family grouping: parent, spouse, child, sibling, or cousin. Maybe by our talent: artist, athlete, author, musician, math whiz, or carpenter. Maybe by our employment: teacher, sales person, factory worker, doctor, or bus driver. Maybe by our personal characteristics: kind, impatient, generous, angry, or courageous. There is not a one-word answer to describe us because we all have varied and interesting identities with different gifts and talents and experiences that shape who we are.

Jesus asked his followers: “Who do you say I am?” One of them, Peter, said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” If you had to answer that question, who would you say Jesus is? I bet many would give the same answer as Peter, but I also wonder if Jesus is different things to different people at different times. Jesus is shepherd caring for us, his flock. Jesus is healer, helping the outcast. Jesus is truth, the Word made flesh. Jesus is comforter in times of need. Jesus is miracle-worker, living God’s power in the world. There is not a one-word answer to describe him either. There are many traits of Jesus, the Messiah, who knows which one will change your life.

Next week, we will begin in-person worship at the church. Please read Re-opening Plan. As well, our worship service will be recorded and posted online within a couple days for those who are not ready to return to church yet.