1 Corinthians 12:31 “But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.”
The colder weather and snow this past week means there is no denying that winter has begun and with it, the holiday season. Retailers are advertising their best sales, stores are decorated in red and green, and our favourite holiday foods are finding their way to grocery store shelves. But, with ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ comes requests for help for those in our community who are not able to buy special holiday treats and gifts for themselves and their families. My Sister’s Place, SHIFT: Alliston Out of the Cold, the Rotary Club, and the Good Shepherd Food Bank are just a few local organizations who need our help. Individuals, community groups, and churches have the ability and opportunity to share their gifts this year, so please reach out and help as you are able.
Our Sunday worship service will be focusing on the work of The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s service branch called Presbyterians Sharing. Gifts from congregations across Canada support the work and mission of the church in local communities, national initiatives, and partnerships throughout the world. Together, we build strong congregations, serve vulnerable people, walk with Indigenous people, seek justice, and share God’s love around the world.
Psalm 16: 11 “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
There are times when the problems of the world seem overwhelming, unsolvable, and depressing. The affects of climate change are alarming and there doesn’t seem to be an end to age-old conflicts. The divide between the cost of living and a living wage is widening and the mental health, along with the physical and economic, damage done by the pandemic is still not fully known. It seems hopeless, at times.
The Bible has its fair share of descriptions of hard times, conflict, and people feeling hopeless. But, it has been God’s enduring promise that life will always overcome death that kept them and keeps us going. Despite all the challenges, we are on a path of life. Together, we work towards a better world for all.
Mark 12: 44 “For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
In the Bible, Jesus commended a woman for giving all she had, when others barely made a sacrifice. These days, the word sacrifice usually means giving up some comfort that we grown used to. Sacrifice, by definition, is the act of giving up something that you want to keep, in order to do something to help someone else.
This week, as we mark Remembrance Day, the word sacrifice has a much greater meaning. We honour those who gave their lives for freedom and those who continue to serve and protect. Their sacrifices, made for the greater good, should always be honoured and never be forgotten. Let us remember those who gave it all they had.
Ruth 1:16 “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”
Some of us know couples who have been married for over 60 or even over 70 years. They are an amazing example of commitment and love. When couples were asked what the secret to their long-lasting relationship was, they said things like communication, respect, patience, forgiveness, and living a long time! We call that kind of love, steadfast.
The Hebrew word ‘hesed describes steadfast love that is kind, faithful, reliable, and long-lasting. It is the kind of love God has for us and we have for God. In the Bible, we learn about ‘hesed’ love from the story of Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi. When life became challenging for them, they chose to continue to support, and care for each other. Ruth, in particular, committed to being there for Naomi in a powerful example of loyalty, kindness, and steadfast love.
Mark 10:50 “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.”
In the most difficult situations in life, we all need encouragement and hope. When things seem too hard for us to handle on our own, the phrase ‘Take Heart’ represents the support and help offered by others. Maybe it’s a family member or a friend or even a stranger who can encourage us and give us hope when we are having a tough time. Maybe it’s that surprise act of kindness or mercy that gives us the strength to keep going or start again.
In the Bible, a man seeking healing from Jesus cried out for mercy. He was desperate, crying out louder and louder. Finally, Jesus learned of his presence and the crowd told the man to “take heart, get up, he is calling you.” The man ran to Jesus and was healed. Even more than that, the man answered the invitation to follow Jesus and to be part of God’s kingdom in the world. Take heart, be encouraged, have hope. It is all those things that enable us to ‘get up’ and be part of the new life God call us to.
Mark 10:45 “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Have you ever agreed to do something without really knowing how much work or how involved it was going to be? The first disciples of Jesus were a bit like that. They left everything to follow Jesus not really knowing or understanding how their lives would change and what was expected of them. As they travelled with Jesus, hearing him preach, seeing him perform miracles, and helping him share good news, they realized following Jesus was more than they thought it would it be. They realized that following Jesus meant serving others, not serving themselves.
During the pandemic, it became apparent how important the service industry is and how often we have taken it for granted. Something as simple as getting groceries became dependent on those who went to work while others stayed safe at home. It was not only necessary, but life-saving for some people to serve others by going above and beyond what they ever expected. As we slowly move into a post-pandemic world, let us appreciate all those who continue to serve us and others.
Matthew 6: 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
“Don’t worry about a thing, ‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.” This line from the catchy song by Bob Marley is one of encouragement and hope. As we celebrate our second Thanksgiving during the pandemic, it has been hard at times to believe that everything will be alright again. And yet, even when we worry about the future, we can continue to give thanks for unexpected joys, small mercies, and acts of kindness that we’ve known over the last two years.
In the Bible, Jesus encouraged people to leave their worries behind and trust that God would know and provide them with what they really needed. Imagine if our worry was transformed into hope, trust, and gratitude so we could live each day in the fullness of life promised by Jesus. Imagine if our last thought every night was one of thanksgiving for the day that had passed and a firm belief that in the end, “every little thing gonna be all right.”
John 6: 33 “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Pita, Naan, Roti, Focaccia, and Chapati are all flatbreads from different places in the world. For centuries, bread has been a staple food for many people from a variety of cultures. It is no wonder that in the Bible, Jesus used the image of bread to help people understand his true identity as God’s Son. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” He went on to say that the bread he offered would fill and satisfy people more than any kind of bread one could eat.
Being filled with the bread of life means we fill our lives with Jesus. From Jesus we receive the nourishment and energy to live in the peace, hope, and grace that connects us with God and connects us with one another. On World Communion Sunday each year, churches across the globe gather (safely) around the Lord’s Table to remember and give thanks that Jesus is the bread of life who continues to fill and satisfy our hunger. Thanks be to God.