Matthew 10: 39 “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
“Nobody said it would be easy.” Has anyone ever said that to you? Did it make you defensive, did it make you want to give up, or did it help you persevere and accept whatever challenge you faced? Jesus made it pretty clear that following him would not always be easy. In chapter 10 of Matthew’s gospel, he said some pretty uncomfortable stuff. Jesus said he did not come to bring peace the way we understand it, that to follow him we must love God more than our families, and that we may lose our lives for his sake. That is some tough talk!
The reason for that “tough talk” is that there is commitment and risk in following Jesus. Being a Christian means taking our worldview and turning it upside down. Instead of mere tolerance, there is real reconciliation, instead of grudging welcome there is radical hospitality, instead of fleeting forgiveness, there is life-changing mercy and grace, instead of fickle acceptance, there is divine and everlasting love and life.
Following Jesus is “risky business”. It will not always be easy and at times it might be really hard. The good news is that it is worth it. Choosing to follow the son of God, is also joy-filled, hopeful, and life-giving business! Thanks be to God.
Matthew 10: 7 “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’”
Remember when we used to travel? Okay, it wasn’t that long ago, though it might feel like it if you had a tripped planned in the last few months that was cancelled! When we do travel though, most of us have a certain way we like to pack what we’ll need for our trip. Maybe you roll your clothes to fit as much as possible in your suitcase. Maybe you keep everything organized by using Ziploc bags for groups of items. Maybe you throw everything in last minute, hoping you didn’t forget your toothbrush. Maybe your suitcase is so full, you have to sit on it to close it!
When Jesus sent his first followers to live out the kingdom of God on earth by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and seeking the lost, he told them to travel light. No organized suitcase for them! Jesus didn’t want anything holding them back from sharing the good news that God’s kingdom was near. And when people wouldn’t listen, Jesus told them to shake the dust off their feet and move on.
Followers of Jesus today are also sent out to tell the good news. It doesn’t take fancy luggage or a well-packed suitcase to share glimpses of God’s kingdom of love and mercy, joy and hope in the world. There should be nothing holding us back from accepting Jesus’ invitation to live in that kingdom because we are all welcome. Thanks be to God.
Genesis 18: 14 “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?”
In the Bible, the story of Abraham and Sarah took a humorous turn. When they were called to be God’s people, God said they would be the ancestors of a multitude of nations. And yet, they grew older and older and had no children. One day, some visitors, God’s messengers, came to visit. They told the elderly couple that Sarah would have a child. The news was so unexpected and unbelievable that Sarah laughed. She found it funny that in her very old age, the impossible would happened. So, the visitors asked: Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? The answer to that question is no; there is nothing too wonderful for the Lord. God promised Abraham and Sarah a child and they had a child when it seemed impossible. God’s fulfilled promise was pretty wonderful for them.
God makes promises to us as well. God promises us strength and provision. God promises us forgiveness and a chance to start over. God promises us unlimited grace. God promises us abundant and eternal life. God promises to be present with us now and forever. God’s promises are good news and so wonderful that we might find ourselves laughing too, not with disbelief, but with joy. Thanks be to God.
Please note: I know we are all looking forward to being together for worship again, but Knox and St. Andrew’s Churches will continue to worship on-line for the foreseeable future despite the recent loosening of restrictions in the province. There are a number of considerations to take into account, including protecting our parishioners and staff and preparing our buildings to ensure all safety protocols are in place so that in-person worship is as risk free as possible. Our Session will be working on a plan over the next couple of months and will update you as soon as possible.
The Bible tells a beautiful story of how the world came to be. Each “day”, God made the heavens, the earth, water, land, plants, and animals, and each “day”, God declared what was created to be good. The Bible is, of course, not a scientific account of history and there are many proven theories about the beginnings of the universe and our planet. But even with God’s gift of science, Christians believe that it was more than coincidence or chance that our planet was created. We believe that the hands of something beyond what we can fully understand was part of the creation of this amazing planet that we live.
Our planet is a gift. It is a gift that requires care for its health and survival. The damage done by overpopulation, overuse of resources, production of toxic emissions, destruction of wildlife habitats, and many other harmful human practices are real and current concerns for the earth’s survival. Christians have a responsibility to care for God’s created world. Creation care is an act of justice for all living things to ensure God’s gifts are protected and honoured and it is part of our calling as Christians today.
In the beginning, God created and it was good, we must take action today to care for our planet and protect God’s Good Creation.
Acts 2: 4 “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”
Earth, wind, and fire. No, I’m not referring to the R&B group popular in the 70’s, but the celebration of Pentecost. For Christians, Pentecost refers to the 50th day after Easter when the Holy Spirit came upon the earth to the first followers of Jesus through the rush of wind and tongues of fire. Pentecost is also celebrated as the “birth”day of the church. This story in the Bible is filled with wonder and mystery and a little bit of humour. The people who experienced the breath of God upon them could suddenly talk together even though they spoke different languages and their neighbours thought they were all drunk!
Sometimes there is just no logical explanation for the way God works in our lives and being “filled with the Holy Spirit” is one of those mysteries. Some people describe the Holy Spirit as a feeling of conviction about something, of being aware of your conscience, of discerning a call to action, or having a sense of peace. No matter how we experience the Holy Spirit, we know that God has given us an advocate and equipped us to be the church, even in these unusual times. Thanks be to God.
Acts 1: 8 “ You will be my witnesses…to the end of the earth.”
A witness is someone who shares their knowledge of an event or a person. We rely on witnesses in our justice system, those who can accurately describe what they’ve seen or heard.
Jesus’ final instructions to the disciples was a call to be witnesses, to tell the world what they had seen and heard when they were with him. It is really amazing that after 2000 years, Christians continue to be witnesses to what they have seen and heard from Jesus. We witness to the way he welcomed the stranger, the way he forgave sinners, the way he ate with outcasts, the way he healed the sick, the way he taught us to pray, and the way he loved us enough to die for us.
As we continue to witness to the ends of the earth, be encouraged that Jesus is still present in our lives when we act in the same way he did. As we forgive, serve, and love, Jesus is seen and heard in our world. Thanks be to God.
“For in God, we live and move and have our being.” Act 17: 28
When this line from the Bible was written, the culture of ancient Greece was rich and well-developed, with art, politics, philosophy, and religion all competing for the attention of the people. The apostle Paul pointed out their worship of ‘an unknown god’ by telling them of a ‘Known God’; a God who is creator and sustainer of life, who lived in the world as Jesus, who died and rose from the dead so that repentance, righteousness, and love would prevail.
Today is no different, we have a rich and well-developed culture with competing voices and distractions trying to get our attention and to gain our trust and our loyalty. Sometimes, it’s not easy to filter out life-giving truth from those things that leads us in directions that are not helpful and even harmful.
The good news is we have a guide, a God who is ‘known’ in creation, in our worship, in our hope for the future, and in many acts of love. Thanks be to God.
Finding our Way
In John 14: 6, Jesus said, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.”
Last year, when travel was something we could do, my family and I went on a long distance walk along St. Cuthbert’s Way. We began in Melrose, Scotland and ended on Holy Island/Lindisfarne in England, a distance of 100kms. On our long walk, we always had to make sure we were going the right way. Thankfully, along the route, there were guideposts with arrows or symbols that told us were heading in
the right direction.
When Jesus said he was the Way, he was talking about himself being the way to God: if you follow Jesus, you will find God. Jesus is the guidepost that leads to the one who offers us new life, grace beyond measure, and undeserved love. In our lives, we are given many options and choices for finding our way, but not all if them are life-giving and sometimes we get lost. Following Jesus, as the Way to God, keeps us on a path in the right direction; a path where the values of forgiveness, inclusiveness, justice, and peace lead to life with God. With Jesus, finding our WAY is not that hard after all.
The Good Shepherd
Psalm 23: 1-2
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters.”
Those verses come from one of the most well-known passages in the Bible, written thousands of years ago. This is a passage that is often used at funerals as a source of hope in a time of loss. The image of a shepherd, one who cares for vulnerable creatures, reminds us of God’s care for us. The description of fields and still waters are a calming picture for people in crisis, especially today. God invites us to accept this vision of the world, a vision of compassion, renewal, and abundance. It might be hard to imagine that world right now, but these words give us hope and comfort that all is not lost, that God, our Shepherd is with us now and forever.
Luke 24: 30-31
“When Jesus was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”
One of the things, after a month of lockdown, that you might be missing is gathering with family and friends to share a meal together. Maybe you’ve missed a birthday or anniversary celebration or just a regular get together around the table. Our congregation loves to eat together. This Saturday would have been our Turkey supper and Sunday would have been our monthly Friendship Sunday lunch with birthday cake. It is never only about the food though, it is about the fellowship, being together, and sharing our lives.
After Easter, when Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to two travellers, but they didn’t recognize him at first. It wasn’t until he sat at a table and broke bread with them that they recognized that they were in the presence of the risen Lord. Sometimes, it is in the simple things of sharing companionship and a meal together that Christ is known to us and we are not alone. Even in this time of isolation, we can reach out to family, friends, and neighbours by phone or FaceTime, and share fellowship and food and be the presence of Christ to each other.