“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” Matthew 25: 21
It takes a whole lot of faith to invest in something: whether it’s investing money in the stock market or a business venture, investing in a child’s education, investing in a product that promises to make like better, or investing in a serious relationship with another person. It also takes some risk and trust to make an investment when the outcome is unknown, and the reward may take awhile. Some people are more comfortable with risk than others.
Jesus told a story about investing and what it means to use what we’ve been given and how to live up to our potential. In some ways, it’s about God investing in us and expecting a good return, even when the odds are uncertain. We are responsible for using our resources and our gifts to make the world a place that reflects God’s love for us. Followers of Jesus strive to be God’s wise investment and to hear Jesus say in the end, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
Test of Time
“Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Matthew 25: 13
We are a culture that celebrates the newest thing: fancy phones, amazing gadgets, and innovative scientific discoveries. It’s funny how quickly the novelty fades and the latest fads become old news. It makes me wonder: what things stand the test of time? What things still have meaning and value long after they were shiny and new?
In the Bible, Jesus taught that following him wasn’t a fleeting choice, but a life-long commitment that would need to stand the test of time. He told a story about a group of bridesmaids, some who had enough oil for their lamps and some who did not. The bridesmaids who were not prepared for a long wait are like those who put more value on the things that come and go, rather than the things that stand the test of time.
On Remembrance Day, we honour those who gave their lives for freedom and those who continue to protect the values that have stood the test of time; justice, peace, honesty, and respect. We are fortunate to live in a country that believes that all people, no matter their status, religion, gender, or ethnicity, have a right to a life where those values are protected. We are reminded this week that we all have a responsibility to uphold the values that have stood the test of time.
Blessings in Disguise
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5: 8
“God Bless You!” Sometimes we throw that phrase around without really thinking about what it means. The word bless means to ask for divine care, to praise or approve something, and to seek protection. We often think of a blessing as a reward, something good that’s happened. This has been one tough year and it might seem like blessings are hard to come by.
When Jesus stood on a hill and gave a sermon Christians call The Beatitudes, it was to a people who knew hard times. The list of blessings from God gave them hope that God knew their struggles and was still present and active in their lives.
Today, we too seek to know that all is not lost, that there are still good things happening around us. The Beatitudes point us in the right direction. The Message translation puts Matthew 5: 8 this way: “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” When I hear this blessing, I am reassured that in all of life’s challenges right now, we are not without hope that God is still blessing us in ways that are seen and ways that are unseen. Thanks be to God.
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.
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.
“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.
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:
- Juice boxes
- Granola bars
- Fruit or pudding cups
- Canned meats like salmon, tuna, ham or chicken/turkey
- Ground Coffee
- Tea (regular or herbal)
- Hot Chocolate
- Pancake mix
- White Sugar
- Laundry detergent
- Fabric softener sheets
- Paper towel
- Toilet paper
- Used Blankets if good condition that are washable
- Large Garbage Bags
- 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!
“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.
“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.