Monday, 21 December 2015

The Baby in the Manger

The Baby in the Manger
Luke 2:1-20
                Not too often do we turn on the television or radio or connect with the internet to find out what is happening in the world that we hear something good. Tragedies around the world in various forms are calls us to gather to listen and to hear the news of the suffering of people, natural disasters or scandals involving leadership. Yet in recent years television newscasters are now ending their broadcast with something lighter, a feel good story or even people who share good news.
                Good news for all people is what the angels told the shepherds. Good news- the promised One has been born. The one we have been waiting for to redeem us his born. He is on earth and just starting out his life on earth.  But why did the angels tell this great news to shepherds- because they were the ones most open to receive it as all they had were the sheep they were tending in the middle of the night. Yes, they risked their livelihood walking away when they walked to see ’this thing which has happened.” They risked the lives of the sheep from enemies while they went into Bethlehem and found Jesus, the infant king in a manger.  There they saw his parents and the baby. They gave no explanation as to why they were there. They were overcome with joy and they worshiped Jesus as the One who would be king of their hearts and saviour.
                We do not hear about these shepherds again but hopefully they were not fired from being shepherds. But t=if they were- what an opportunity they have in now spread the good news of Jesus.

                As we draw closer to celebrating the birth of Jesus- do we look to His birth as Good News? Or are we caught up in the stuff of Christmas preparations that we cannot look in the manger and see the Promised Infant Kind, the Son of God?  What meaning does this Good News mean to you? Jesus was born for what purpose? Was it merely a promise set before us to deal with now being fulfilled? What did God have in mind for us when he made that promise, hundreds of ears before?
                What do you see as you look in the manger? A baby, a promise, a future hope all wrapped up in cloths and waiting for visitors? Waiting for people to come to him. Jesus waited a long time for people to follow him and to hear what he had to say. But how he was to save the people would not happen until he was 30.  So people continued to wait, to watch and listen to him. And when it was time to put into his purpose of life, death and resurrection, he did with the strength and voe of God the Father.
                As we anticipate celebrating Jesus’ birth- let us look at him in wonder but remember him in faith as the one who suffered, died and rose again. This is the story of our Christmas- the baby who brings good news.
                May God bless you as you share time with friends and family this Christmas.!

BLOGS- we will write again on January 6—Epiphany—a day of gifts and celebration.

Friday, 4 December 2015

HEAVEN Part 3 : The Home of Blessedness—No More

Part 3 :  The Home of Blessedness—No More
God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.  Revelation 21: 4

Heaven is filled with “no mores”—no tears, death, sorrow, crying, pain, night, defilement curse- And for us who live in earth, living without these is difficult to understand. Our world is filled with distress for we know that there are so many people facing many kinds of problems. Starvation, homelessness, war, abuse, crime all seem to be increasing. Yet what is our future? When we think about what is come are we fully understanding what a new heaven and new earth include? It is in Revelation 21-22 that we read of John’s vision of our eternal home. It will be radiant with God’s glory and this new city of Jerusalem will be the eternal dwelling place of all who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. All who have been saved will walk the streets of gold in transformed glorified bodies. And there will be many ‘no mores’.  But will we miss these?
No Tears- Because our days on earth are filled with tragedy, suffering, disappointment and evil many people cry many tears. People cry out of loneliness, buried secrets, tragedies, pain, rejection and loss. Yet God promises that there will be no more tears; he will wipe them away. It is our comforting and loving God who will take away the hurts of this world.
No Death- We have often heard people remark, “Death is a part of life.” Death enters every happy family circle eventually. Sooner or later someone dies and no one can escape this passing and reality that our life on earth is brief. There will not be a need for vigils at bedside or the need to see loved ones slowly decline; there will be no need for funerals for life will be eternal
No Sorrow or Crying- We will not need to grieve or mourn or to have sorrow. There are many occasions for sorrow- own sins and shortcomings, personal misfortunes, disappointments in others and distressing national concerns. In the new Jerusalem we will never mourn. We will be sin-free and experience no adversity or discouragement and never have occasion to be concerned over the world’s conditions. There will be no crying due to shock of pain and hurt. No heartbreak in heaven..
(This No More listing will be a part of next week’s reflections.)

REFLECTION: Can you imagine no more crying, tears, death? I find it difficult to do as I witness even the toughest men and women cry as the death of loved ones. Men who are tough as nails to the outside world melt at seeing their mother or father’s bodies in caskets. Or women who are overcome at the death of children and infants. The pain, the sorrow the grief is ingrained in them and only prayer, comfort and support enable them to function. I can only imagine a little bit about what not experiencing this would be like. Heaven is an amazing place. But are you going there? How do you know?
God we thank you for the promise of a new heaven and a new earth where there is no tears, death, crying or sorrow. We can only understand this a little bit because we have experienced many reasons to cry and mourn.  Enable those who are remembering loved ones this day to be encouraged and reminded that they are not alone. Enable us to reach out to others as they are in need. Bring comfort as only you can. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

RESOURCE:  Richard DeHaan. Heaven: An Eternal Place of Hope, blessing and encouragement. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers

Friday, 6 November 2015

HEAVEN Part 3 : The Home of Beauty

Part 3 :  The Home of Beauty
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face
the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.  Revelation 20: 11

When we think about the eternal home of all who believe in Jesus as personal Saviour we naturally ask, “What kind of place will it be? What will we do there? It is a heavenly city from within and without. Its beauty from without.
Its beauty from without—jasper walls that are massive but clear as crystal (144 Cubits in height) Light is able to pass through these walls and radiate brilliant rays fo dazzling colour for all to see.  No one will be able to enter the city apart from God’s grace as the wall is too high to be scaled by human efforts and the only portals are guarded. All that is needed to be able to enter is salvation and no one has rejected God’s plan. Salvation is the gift of God’s grace.
The foundation of the New Jerusalem is visible and is indescribably beautiful. It comprises 12 layers of different precious stones- sapphire to emerald this stretches all around the city. In these foundation stones will be inscribed the names of the 12 apostles of Jesus who first proclaimed the message of a risen Christ to the world.
In the walls of the heavenly city are 12 gates of pearl which will never close. The gates are open for salvation is still offered freely to everyone. In the gates are inscribed the names of the 12 tribes of Israel for salvation is of the Jews.
Its beauty from within-As we enter the city we see a golden street, a crystal river  and the tree of life. The street of the city was pure gold like transparent glass. The street of gold suggest the pure and holy walk of God’s redeemed in their eternal home. A river clear as crystal will flow proceeding from God’s throne and of the Lamb. This is the river of life which flows from God through the entire area and flow forever.  There will also be the tree of life and in heaven we will be free to partake of the fruit of the tree, a species which will be on either side of the river and will produce fruit continuously.
REFLECTION: When we think of the beauty of this new city, Jerusalem, do we get stuck in the beauty or do we look to the One who created it? Who prepares it and is planning it now? These ideas of the new Jerusalem were shared with John in Revelation 21-22. Does reading this encourage you to experience God’s grace or renew your faith? In heaven we will live forever in the presence of our love Saviour. Life will be rich and full and we will know purity, bliss and love- like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. Are you excited about this promised home for us ?
God how we marvel at the vision of your New Jerusalem. It is magnificent and in its wonder—we can hardly imagine its glory. Reveal to us we pray your love in Christ so that we will accept your grace and mercy and know you as our Saviour and Lord. How precious the sight of this new city; may we ever hold this in our hearts as we live in peace on earth yearning for that day when we will see this for ourselves. Amen.

RESOURCE:  Richard DeHaan. Heaven: An Eternal Place of Hope, blessing and encouragement. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers

Saturday, 31 October 2015

HEAVEN God’s Dwelling Place and Ours

God’s Dwelling Place and Ours
“I will dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15

When we think of heaven we often reflect upon a place that is beautiful and where all will live eternally with God. This is a place where hopes will be realized, blessings will be given through God’s gracious hand and encouragement awaits. Heaven in itself brings healing and calms sorrows. But what and where is heaven? How do we understand this eternal resting place?
Different scripture passages describe heaven as: God’s habitation, God’s home, God’s dwelling place, where God’s throne is and is from where God reigns.  God dwells in heaven yet His presence is everywhere. He abides in heaven and yet is present throughout all His creation.
God also hears the prayers of His people from heaven and it is where he accepts the worship of His people on earth. Heaven is also home to the angels who continually go back and forth from earth and heaven and heaven to earth. Heaven is also home to the cherubim and seraphim and other types of angels.
Heaven is also the place where God’s saints dwell forever. Heaven is ‘our eternal home”. When we die our bodies no longer function, but our souls lives on. For those who believe, the soul at death immediately enters forever into the presence of God. And this is where things differ in terms of belief. Some people refer to those who die as being ‘asleep’ and that their souls cease to exist  until some time in the future. This refers to soul sleep which a soul with no existence apart from the body could not be sleeping-. Death involves physical and spiritual separation. Physical death is when the soul is separated from the body. Spiritual death is the eternal separation of the soul from God. The believer in Christ may physically die but he can never die spiritually because he will never experience the separation of his soul from God.
John 5:24-26  Whoever lives and believes in me  shall never die.

Heaven is the habitation of God and is the home of departed saints where they abide forever in the presence of Jesus. The only condition to enter that eternal home is faith in God’s Son Jesus.
What is it you think of when you hear the word ‘heaven’? Is it where God and saints live together or where God is alone?  If God is in heaven, how do we experience “His presence on earth”?
Holy God we praise you for your promise to us that we will one day be with you where you dwell in heaven. Help us to understand what this means as we seek to have faith and believe.  Enable us to understand ‘God’s habitation’ and what we might understand heaven to be like. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

RESOURCE:  Richard DeHaan. Heaven: An Eternal Place of Hope, blessing and encouragement. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers 2014.

HEAVEN Part 2 : The Holy City

Part 2 :  The Holy City
“I Saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Then I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.”  Revelation 21:1-2

Heaven is where God dwells but a new heaven is also the place that is promised after the universe will be shattered and a transformation of what we know will take place. From this will emerge a glorious new world. A new heaven and a new Holy City called  New Jerusalem. This holy city will be the capital of this new heaven and earth and is the eternal home of God’s faithful people.
But where is this heaven? Is it in the northern skies as exaltation does not come from east, wet, or south according to Psalm 75:6. But where it is located is unknown.  The heavenly Jerusalem is where the patriarchs or faith looked forward to entering when they died. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were not able to enter the Promised Land on earth. Yet God had prepared a city for them (Hebrews 11:10-16)
Where will this heavenly city be during the transitional times after the earth is destroyed? It is uncertain but during the tribulation period (before the millennial age) the heavenly Jerusalem will become visible to earth dwellers. It is like a satellite city above the earth as John describes in Rev 21:2. And it is as described in Hebrews 12 is developed in three stages 1) heavenly Jerusalem where the spirits of the dead now live 2) the satellite city from which certain believers commute to earth during the millennial age and 3) the settled city, which will ultimately rest upon “a new earth”.
The holy city as described by John rests upon 12 jeweled foundations and sparkling like diamonds in the sunlight and it is huge square of 12 furlongs each (Rev 21:15-16). This holy city is heaven with plenty of room for all who believe. Those who believe are now citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem and someday they will enter the New Jerusalem!
The New Jerusalem is described by John in Revelation as something beyond words, magnificent and glorious and yet it will be a long time in the making after the world as we know it ceases to exist. But what do you think of when you hear about this New Jerusalem? How would you describe this city? Is it where you want to go and be for all of eternity? Why?
Wonderful God of grace we thank you for the promise of the New Jerusalem a city where your believer and children of faith will one day live. We thank you for this promise of where eternity will be spent and shared and we rejoice with those who are already with you. Help us to keep hope in the knowing of your Son Jesus and through your creative plan we praise you for this gift in faith. Speak to our hearts as we wonder, as we pray and as we share our fears and concerns about this New Jerusalem. Enable us to hear this story with love and hope. Amen.

RESOURCE:  Richard DeHaan. Heaven: An Eternal Place of Hope, blessing and encouragement. Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Worrying About What is To Come

Worrying About What is To Come
“Do not worry about your life…”
Matthew 6:25-34
The days are shorter, the leaves are falling off trees and there
is a chill in the air. How do we understand this in between season of autumn when it is not as pleasant, often raining and even just miserable before winter sets in? It is a time of transition and like the squirrels running about to store food for the winter, we often look to what lies ahead for us- with cold, snow of winter and we worry as we anticipate the storms which will keep us indoors and off roads. We worry about what is to come when in essence we cannot control it, nor can we predict it. All we can do is to live through it and to do so with faith.
With the Thanksgiving turkey now being made into soup or casseroles, and the morning dew mixing with fog, autumn is an in between time of reflecting on the wonderful summer days passed and the need to look for something to celebrate again. Halloween we know is not too far away but as a celebration it is not one for a big meal or gifts nor does everyone understand why children trick or treat or even why the chocolate bars are so small. We are mid way from summer to Chrsitmas and we worry.
We worry because of the changing seasons and the weather, we worry about the safety of people on the roads if they travel, and we worry whether we can do the regular tasks we are called to do or whether we need help, assistance or medication. We worry over what others are doing or thinking and we wonder we really should be doing as we go about our days.
Jesus teaches that worrying will do nothing to aid us in our life and worrying about our future will actually hurt us more than we realize. Yes we have certain needs to be met but when those needs are met are we satisfied? Or do we yearn for more and worry about it? Jesus says that those who do not believe are the ones who worry and those who believe are called to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness and everything we need will be given. We need not worry about tomorrow—just look after each day as it comes—one day at a time. Each day has enough trouble and I would also say blessings on its own. This we know is easy to hear but most difficult to follow. Yet as we know we are also to give thanks under all circumstances because God does bless us. Yet are we really giving God thanks as he so deserves? Maybe if we turn our worries into thanksgiving we will understand this in between time and wait with expectant hearts for God to act.

Holy One, we thank you for the many blessings we receive and we pray and hope that the worrying we do will be put aside in order to focus on these many blessings. Show us your way O God and teach us to know you as we seek to live following your way. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks
Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.
 I Thess. 5:18
In all times and under all circumstances we are called to
offer our thanks and praise to God not just when the calendar tells us that it is the season of harvest, bounty and abundance or that this weekend is the traditional day when we share together a lot of food with family and friends.  We are supposed to offer to God our thanks and praise under all circumstances and in all ways. But do we? Do you pray and offer God thanks even though you may not be thankful about your current circumstances?
Just think about this for a moment. Are you frustrated because you are getting older or that your body is growing weaker in specific areas? Maybe you have had some medical tests and are worried or wondering about what will happen next.  We are to be thankful in all circumstances but it is difficult when what we held as good is changing our life. How does one say thanks? Be grateful that we have doctors who are educated and can diagnose problems. Be thankful that tests are able to be done because of a good health care system and we might find out what is happening to our bodies. Give thanks to God that you have been given life, it may not be the life you wanted to lead as your body changes, but you have life and can continue to love others.
As we prepare to have a special meal with family, let’s not forget to have Jesus with us and reminding us to give thanks to God. Jesus reminded us to give thanks because he himself offered to God the Father/ Creator thanks. Thanks for knowing that he was not alone in his ministry, in his last days and Jesus knew that he would return to heaven. Jesus also taught us how to pray and to remember him. He gave thanks and then broke the bread symbolizing his sacrifice for all who believe and he shared this with his disciples. An in the action of giving thanks, breaking the bread/pouring the cup we have the sacred, holiest moments when God calls us to love, heal and forgive. This is giving thanks in an abundant way.
Paul wrote, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” No matter what your circumstance, be sure to take the time and thank God—not only this weekend, but every day. Amen. For God loves you and wants you to fully live, and to live life abundantly in Him. Rejoice and be glad. God loves you.


For all your goodness God, we give you thanks.  For family, friends and those who are not yet known to us. We praise you. For family gatherings where tensions may rise and for gatherings where stories are passed on from one generation to another again and again. We praise you God and ask that you speak to our hearts and enable us to look at the blessings we have from you. Amen.

Peace I Give You

Peace I Give You
John 14: 27
                The small flags were quietly standing in rows. Suddenly
they moved in unison as a gust of wind came by, causing a quiet rustling of flags on their miniature posts. The parade marshall shouted, “March on the Colours” and the colour party carrying bright flags of the country, province and the Royal Canadian Legion along with rifles marched toward the War Memorial in the cemetery.
This colour party marching towards the Memorial marked  the beginning of Legion Week and the veterans, family members and friends from other branches gathered to show their respect their thanksgiving and to pray together. This year is different as this Legion Week begins on the day set aside by the United Nations and known as the International Day of Peace. In 1981, the United Nations declared September 21 as the day when we should pause to pray and to also act in ways to bring about peace in our hearts, our communities and around the world.
The theme of the UN International Day of Peace is “Partnerships for Peace-Dignity for All” and it aims to highlight the important of all segments of society around the world to work together to strive for peace. The UN works with partners that were active in its creation and thousands of people today who are involved in government, civil society, private sector, churches and other non-governmental organizations all with the same goal of establishing and sustaining peace on earth.
But the essential question is from where does peace come? When Jesus was preparing his disciples for what was to happen after he returned to God the Father, he gave them peace. Not as the world understood peace but as He gave it to be essential to serve others in faith and with hope. Peace was essentially to help others as they needed each other to understand what Jesus wanted them to do.  And he did not want them to be afraid for the Spirit would come and be with them.
Peace for us is more than the absence of war and destruction. It is the ability to see one another with hope and in Christ’s love. Peace begins within and this often starts when we pray and ask for forgiveness for what we have done wrong. It also begins when we reach out to others. Let us think of this as we remember those fallen in wartime and all those who have died for the sake of peace in our world.

PRAYER of St. Francis:
Lord make us instruments of Your Peace, Where there is hatred, let us sow love.
Where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master grant that we may not so much seek to be comforted as to comfort, to be understood, as to understand, to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

QUESTION: How is the peace of Christ reflected in your life and in the lives of those whom you meet?

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Anyone in Christ is a new creation, the old has passed away.

Anyone in Christ is a new creation, the old has passed away.
2 Corinthians 5:17
                Transitions and changes occur every year when we
approach Labour Day Weekend. This weekend honouring those who work in many different walks of life signifies the end of summer’s carefree no routine days and the beginning of another academic year. There are many children, youth and young adults who will experience new settings of where they will spend their time learning. Whether it is ‘big school’ for the first time which might include riding a school bus to High School where the idea of being lost with the rest of the Grade 9s is standard. Then there are those who will begin studies in colleges and universities where you are known only by a number until you make an effort to ask questions or share your understanding.  There might also be those times when as adults people change places of employment to do similar work and there are those who still face uncertainty. As we approach Labour day let us reflect on the summer that seemed to fly by; the warmth and humid days, the opportunity to play sports and swim, and of just sleeping in as an important part of preparing for what is to come.
This also holds true for churches and church families as the summer has been a time to slow down a little, enjoy the Spirit as we receive it and to know again that Christ will call us to gather to be the family of God. For our purpose as a church is to grow in faith as the disciples of Jesus so that we might live out our faithful love and commitment to Christ in all we say and do. But in order to do this we need to experience the Spirit. And we must be open to receiving the Spirit in new ways. For we are always changing and growing not only within ourselves but with those with whom we worship. Are we open to the Spirit speaking to us and do we seek out ways that we may touch others in faith?
                Are we willing to share and become what God intends for us to be as we begin this new academic year? Are we willing to serve Christ knowing that what used to be is no longer received the same way? Are we willing to live Christ’s way with a renewed attitude and faith? Are you willing to offer to God your life in His service?  An older hymn calls us to work until we can no longer. But to also rejoice because we may work in many different ways.
Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the morning hours;
Work while the dew is sparkling,
Work ’mid springing flowers;
Work when the day grows brighter,
Work in the glowing sun;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man’s work is done

Holy God, we pray for all who work and in all the ways your work is completed today. We ask that we might receive fair compensation for what we do, and to know that as we work your hand guides and protects us. As Labour Day draws near show us your way and teach us how to love you as we serve you in this time and place. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Behold, I make all things new.

Behold, I make all things new.
Rev 21:4
                General Council 42 met in Corner Brook, NFLD from August 8 to 15 with the overlying theme from Revelation 21. This Council gathering would prove to
be historic, filled with hope for the church we are becoming and with the level of commitment and faithfulness shared by the commissioners we have reason to say, “God is with us, we are not alone.”
                With many different topics, concerns and the need to ground all our work in worshiping our God, priorities were set for the work which must be completed. Priority one was to receive the report of the Comprehensive Review Task Group and to learn of the 190 proposals which were generated in response to the recommendations. A Sessional Committee was set up for this purpose and this group began meeting prior to everyone’s arrival in Corner Brook. Their task was to come up with a working document based upon the recommendations of CRTG and all the proposals. This working document then served as the basis for the GC business priority of the framework for a new governance structure for the United Church. This structure based upon all the information gathered and the recommendations will include Communities of faith, regional councils and a denominational council.  The task before GC was then to define these in terms of general practise. For it was also agreed that another task group would be established to refine and define each of these statements. The concern for many leaving the meeting was how many regional councils and where they would be established. As there is no definitive answer at present this could be 6-60 and more reasonably around 15-20.
                Other business priorities were what would occur in the meantime for transitions to take place. Financial considerations were discussed well before GC42 met and there will most likely be layoffs in the spring if not before of GC staff. It is hoped that these individuals might be rehired into the regional councils but this is not certain at this time.
                The recommendations of the CRTG were received but not all were approved as presented. Instead of establishing a College of Ministers, there will be denominational office of vocations which would oversee ministry personnel as a whole. A working group will also be established to consider the Association of Ministers which would be a support network.
There were several other topics under that sessional committee review of the CRTG report, but what is apparent is that people from the churches were heard and responses made. It is time for change and transition in the church and it begins not at General council but in the church. We need to have the hope of Christ’s resurrection if we are to continue to be his faithful followers serving today. We need to look at our local communities of faith and ask serious questions regarding stewardship of time, energy and money and the best use for God’s ministry and mission with what we have received. The question is are we willing to be changed and transformed by God’s spirit as we encounter something new?
                A new song sung at the GC 42 became a favourite very quickly because it not only asks us about our faith, but to put this faith into action. Thank you to Wanda Stride for this song:
Do we dare? Eat the produce of the hills do we dare? Touch the gifts of the earth? Do we dare? Dip our feet in the oil? Do we dare try God’s new thing? Do we dare?
As for me and my house we serve the Lord! Let the soles of our feet touch the rivers we ford
Baptism blessings for our new beginnings yes me and my house we dare to serve the Lord!


Holy One we thank you for challenges and the opportunity to change who we are because your Spirit is moving in and around us. Help us to realize that we are not alone when changes occur- you are with us as we strive to serve you in faith and with hope. Guide and protect us as we share with one another in Christ’s name. Amen.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The greatest of these is love

A Reflection on Transition

“The greatest of these is love” 
I Cor. 13 13.

            This week is filled with endings and beginnings as both my sons
will end a chapter in their life only to begin a new one in the fall. My youngest son completes Grade 8 and the older one finishes Grade 12. They will both move to new schools, new challenges and many new opportunities. But it is this week that has been challenging for me. My little boys are not so little anymore! Sure they like to take things apart and put them back together just as they did when they were little but it is also a time when they are preparing for what God has in store for them both. And I am grateful that they believe this too!
            This is what I believe- God is preparing them for what is to come and has been all along. My husband and I are merely coaches as they continue to grow up and find out their abilities and interests. And sometimes the coaching means pushing and sometimes it means just letting things be.
            I am feeling these transitions not because I am getting older, but because I see them taking on ideas for themselves and offering their opinions and their gifts for the sake of others and not needing my hand to shush them, push them or even encourage them. This too is because God showed me how to love others and I learned this from my family. I just pray that this kind of love will continue to be shared.
            Paul wrote in I Corinthians about the ‘most excellent way to live”.  This is a life filled with love. And as we read through this chapter so often shared a weddings and funerals, love is described in many ways and with many attributes—patient, kind, not envy, boast, not proud, not rude not self-seeking, not easily angered; rejoices in the truth, always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres; and never fails.
            Paul describes love in action as a child who talked and though and reasoned as a child. Yet when maturity set in he became a man and put childish ways behind. But the real person he was is but a poor reflection of the whole person he became. A person who loves.
            As the summer begins, I give thanks to God for His love shown to me in Jesus and the ability to share this love with my family and others. This time of transition will continue until the younger son goes to high school  and the older son starts university in September. It is almost like getting ready to start again and they are—new chapters in their life with God leading them.
            Let us remember all those who are graduating and preparing for something new. Let us remember them in prayer and with love and encouragement. Let us rejoice that God will lead them for they are His children.

Holy God we thank you for your love and your willingness to encourage us as we walk into challenges and changes. Show us your way and enable us to reach out to others as we grow and love others as Jesus taught. Be with us as we face these times of transition in this life and always. Amen.

PLEASE NOTE: There will not be a reflection for July 1 and 8. Watch for a new series beginning July 15. 

Friday, 19 June 2015

“The Way Ahead”

“The Way Ahead” 

            Where now is our authority? According to Phyllis Tickle’s
Great Emergence, there is no consensus even though the scriptures present an active, effectuating agent in every part of time and space but the Spirit teaches a believer in revelation and infusion must be honoured as a principal form or source of direction. God Himself cannot be confined to a very old book (p.146) Yet reflecting on this is where the emerging ideas exist. Tickle argues that there is something in between.
            Orthonomy is a kind of ‘correct harmoniousness’ or beauty which is a tool for discerning the truth and therefore the intent and authority. An example is that an emergent will be quick to say the Virgin birth is so beautiful that it has to be true whether it happened or not.
            Theonomy is what is used in contrast to name the priniciple that only God can be the soruce of perfection in action and thought. But how does one best pierce through to His meaning, the bible itself being the only source of authority. (p. 150) Tickle notes that neither of these ideas are sufficient. Yet when asking an emergent Christian where authority lies—in Scripture and the community. The duty, the challenge, the joy and excitement of the Church and for the Christians who are a part of this, is in the discovering what it means to believe that the kingdom of God is within one and in understanding that one is thereby a pulsating, vibrating bit in a much grander network.  The emergent church is- a conversation as it just can not ‘be’
            The theology of the great emergence comes from the revisiting of foundational assumptions of  Christian faith. This ‘revisiting’ will then lead to a theology of society’s reconfigured understanding of the self, the soul, the humanness of being made in the image of God.. Tickle states, “Regardless of what its theology eventually matures into, there is no question that the Great Emergence is the configuration of Christianity which is in ascendency (p.162)
Tickle presents the emerging Christianity as something relating to what is found significant and existing presented in balance with God. This seems simple enough but what if we were striving to go deeper into our feelings, would we dismiss the stories inspired by God or do we look elsewhere in our experiences? Just what do you think is the Great Emergence? How is Christianity changing for you and is this significant for your faith development?

Holy God, we praise you for you are the same no matter what we experience and know—we have faith in you. Help us to understand the role of ‘church’ for us and call us to serve you in this new way of being loved and loving others as Christ taught. Hear these things we ask and we ask that you would answer our prayers in faith and with hope. Amen.

Phyllis Tickle The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books,2008. Chapter 7.

This concludes this series on the Great Emergence. Watch for a new series next week!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

“Behold I make all things New” Rev 21:5

“Behold I make all things New”  Rev 21:5

            ON this date in 1925 a unique event occurred in Mutual Street Arena,
Toronto. The United Church of Canada was born through much work, prayer and an Act of Canadian Parliament. Discussions across the country through the three founding denominations raised unique concerns which led to the formation of a truly Canadian church. The Presbyterian, Congregational and Methodists joined together amidst uncertain times and out of the desire to share the Social Gospel and keep the Good News of Jesus Christ alive in the country which was emerging on its own after World War I.
            Ninety years later we are called to celebrate the Good News of Jesus Christ as a recognized and changing church. We are known for our welcoming of all people, facing difficult issues head on and looking at who Jesus is in light of how we reach out to others.  We are the United Church of Canada and we are facing a time of challenge and change as the support for international ministries declines and the ongoing question of who we are and how we govern/structure ourselves is questioned. Our national gathering will take place in August 2015 where decisions of organizational structures will take place and we will move forward as we work with the Spirit’s guidance.
            As we read of the challenges facing the UCC and in light of Phyllis Tickle’s ideas of an emerging church, we acknowledge that this is what is occurring. A new church which instead of having its unique perspective based on its name, to a gathering of people who like to take on special challenges as they grow in Christ’s Spirit. But how does the emerging church relate to what was done before? How do we know and grow today? What is emerging for us as people of the United Church? These are questions which are not easily answered but through faith we will learn and grow together as a community who loves God and reaches out to others with Christ’s love.

God is calling us to look at who we are in 2015 and into the future. Where we will be 10 years from now is in His hands and His Spirit will lead us to this ‘something new” What emotions or thoughts do you experience as you read about the challenges facing Christian churches today? Are you needing to reflect on your connection to the church today? How might today’s church be made more relevant to you?

Holy God bless our United Church of Canada this day as we celebrate 90 years of being your church focused on Christ and committed to serving you. Guide us into our future through your Spirit’s grace and hope. We ask in the name of  Christ. Amen.

Phyllis Tickle The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books,2008. Chapter 6

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Re-Formation and Resulting Questions

Re-Formation and Resulting Questions

            In the first part of the fifth chapter of Phyllis Tickle’s “The Great Emergence”
the author cites many influences which have brought about change in the 20th century and which resulted in the church experiencing transformation as well. Tickle describes Einstein’s theories of relativity, Heisenberg and his uncertainty principle along with the historical quest of Biblical scholars to look for the real Jesus. Tickle recounts the story of Pentecostalism as a Christian movement entering into the mid stream and its influences within the black and Latino communities. With the advent of the automobile enabling people to travel, the mindset of staying in one place for your entire life was now gone and pursuing interests for oneself grew.
            Tickle continues her discourse and includes other influences which changed the way Christians shared the story of Jesus and especially the ways in which people chose to receive it or not. She cites Marxism as a stabilizing factor like the church for it gave stability and became community centres where the hope of the uniformity of belief was to be shared.
            However ideas of a generic God became a part of the normal ideology and the idea of questioning one’s faith in a God was openly received. And the people questioned who and what they were- and this was in the early 1930’s and 1940’s!
            The world of Christianity was changing and the world itself was soon facing even more difficulties as war loomed. What would this mean for the family? The church? The faith of the people who believed in the authority and wonder of God would be challenged and changed again.
            Tickle’s overview continues—next time! 

Tickles overview sites world history and local church; scientific discoveries and ideological innovation as influences in the ever changing Christian church. As she takes us through this overview, she also reminds us of the emerging thoughts and ideas of Christian churches which did not exist before. Pentecostalism, black-Latino Christian music and the need for authority all influenced Christian churches like never before.
History tells us that the world does change through the innovative thoughts and discoveries of this world. The question one might ask is do these discoveries continue today and where do they lead? Are we being led to something better/ or just different?
What role does God play in all of this for you if God does? How and to what extent?

Our discussion of the overview of the emerging/ changing church offers further background so that we might find out if we are spiritual but not religious- or whether we are the church of today with spiritual depth as received from God.

God of grace and love we praise you for your word to us throughout history. Our world is constantly in motion as people move and grow and are innovative. Help us to realize these ideas and changes so that we may learn. Enable us also to see that the Church is not dying but reinventing itself for your purpose and glory. Call us to be one with each other in your Spirit as we reflect on your love and blessings each day. Amen.

Phyllis Tickle The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books,2008. Chapter 5

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Re-Formation and Resulting Questions

Re-Formation and Resulting Questions

            Phyllis Tickle’s “The Great Emergence” offers us a historical
overview of what has led to a resurgence or refocus of our Christian faith at this time in the 21st century. From Darwin, Freud and the Power of Myth Tickle suggests that science and scientific discoveries of the 19th century have gradually led us to the day when we as people can choose to believe in what is being presented or not, by simply turning off media. She states that years ago there was little choice in what people could and did believe. Today, with a flick of a button or switch we can turn to or away from information that goes against or challenges our thinking, our ideals, our faith.
            From Faraday to Freud the term scientist was developed to include those who studied chemistry, biology and medicine, and the unconscious. In just over 100 years science has led people to a new conscious and yet the question most raised is that of ‘self”.
            Tickle states that the questions are endless as are the media sources willing and able to broadcast them, unanswered into every North American life. But the question that is central is the same as it was years before, “Where now is the authority? Where now is our authority? She states, “Religion empowers the answers by sanctifying them; but it is itself not so much defined by those answers as it is characterized by them. It is the authority answer which defines.” (p. 73)
            The two questions of the Great Emergence Tickle offers are: 1)What is human consciousness and/ or the humanness of the human? And 2) What is the relation of all religions to one another… how can we live responsibly as devout and faithful adherents of one religion in a world of many religions?

Tickle takes us through history based upon discovery by learned people who were not afraid to question and seek answers. Their nature in itself could not be slowed down and it was subsequent leaders that offered to us a different world because of their passion to understand what was going on around them.
Do we have this passion today? Do you have this passion to find out more? Emerging Christians are the immediate products of the twentieth century. What they see what they do and the materials with which they work were all shaped by a particular place in time and space. Do you agree/ disagree with this? Why? What causes us to be who we are today?

Holy One we praise you for those blessings you bestowed on researchers and those who questioned what they read and saw around them,. Through them we have learned so much about your creation that we cannot fully understand. Yet we know that we are still searching for answers and looking to you or a better place in this world for us and for future generations. Held us in your hand and guide us to where you want us to go. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Phyllis Tickle The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books,2008. Chapter 4

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Only the scripture and the scriptures only

Sola Scriptura, Scriptura Sola—“priesthood of all believers}
Only the scripture and the scriptures only

            Phyllis Tickle’s “The Great Emergence” teaches us the history of
Christianity through the need of change in order to bring about the change itself. She retells the story of the Reformation when what was being challenged was a clear and general understanding of who or what is to be used as the arbitrator of correct belief, action and control.  The question almost immediately answered by avid followers as only the scripture; the scripture only and the priesthood of all believers. This led however for the need of universal literacy and with it the interpretations of what is read. But what we might also note is that during this time the printing press was invented which caused many to have books and articles in their hands for the first time. These told the latest news  but also stories of people’s lives which influenced people’s thoughts, reactions and responses to what was being shared including their faith. And of course, was the church capable of being wrong to teach otherwise? Yes!
During this Reformation period these changes separated churches because the people wanted and needed to understand their new world. It was not flat, they could sail west or south and found new civilizations. But what caused most concern is that the church was already transmuted into something very different. Protestantism  itself broke into other factions with their own hierarchy, leadership and teachings. Due to the emergence of a new world and all its potential, the church changed.
Tickle argues that we are now 500 years later and a new is again emerging. A new world which in seconds news about earthquakes, baby births and even individual situations close to home are shared for all to know. Yet the church somehow is not fully grasping this- yes the scriptures are shared to all who believe, but what is needed now is that this task be done in innovative ways. What withstood time is no longer viable but do we still wish it the same as before?

Only Scripture- priesthood of all believers. These are the basis for Protestant Reform. This means that the Bible is foundational for our understanding of God. It also means that everyone has equal access to God, if they have faith. The teachings of the church are not to be ritually based, but actions are to be reflective of the One whom we worship.
What is your idea of the Protestant Reform and the role of Scripture and that all believe and are able
God we praise you for our historical churches and how at one time this was common understanding of who we were and how we worshiped you. We understand that your love is unconditional- never changing in this- yet we have changed because of your grace and love shown to us in Jesus. Enable us to expres our need for your church family and how worshiping you with heart and mind is key to our faith development. Be with us we pray in our churches- across denominations and around the world. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Phyllis Tickle The Great Emergence:How Christianity is Changing and Why. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books,2008. Chapter 3

Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God

We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called… Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
 I Cor.1: 23-24

            The church must change or die. There is a Great Emergence
in the church and there is a hopeful future if we are to understand what is to come. But we must have a healthy faith.
            These are statements written about ‘the church’ in the last fifteen years. And also we do not wish to face it as a religious body the reality is these changes are already occurring not based on what we like or do not like, but because people are choosing what the church of the future will be.
            Phyllis Tickle’s “The Great Emergence” states that about every 500 years or so the change has what is called a ‘rummage sale’ a cleaning out of the old and a welcoming of the new—ideas, ways of worship, governance and membership structures but what is foundational for the church is that Christ Jesus is shared in faith. However this ‘rummage sale’ occurs, it does not only affect one or two congregations, but several churches and then even more in a ripple effect because it also effects literacy which leads more or less directly to the technology and world exploration and trade.
            This is key to our understanding of church today and what may emerge in the years ahead and we must not be afraid for what will emerge will not be right or wrong but different.
            This is especially true of the United Church in 2015. General Council 41 authorized the Comprehensive Review Task Group to put everything on the table within the structures of the church. Their report has been released and discussions are flowing what the possibilities might be because of their recommendations brought forward. As congregations/ boards/ presbyteries and conferences discuss the recommendations, there is much hope and fear of what is unknown.
            But, as Tickle states—the rummage sale has to happen in order that there are new possibilities of the Spirit which will lead us into the next 90 years.

Does holding a rummage sale image help you or hinder your idea of the church’s history? What do you see as positive when the church looks at itself and sees its emerging need to change?
What do you see as important for changing the church in structure and governance?

Loving God we pray for our churches- across denominations and around the world as there is much transition and change and hope placed in what was done before and what your Spirit will begin in us.
Show us what you would have us do just as you guide us and lead us on our personal paths of faith. Amen.

Phyllis Tickle The Great Emergence:How Christianity is Changing and Why. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books,2008. Chapter 1    Comprehensive Review Task Group report “United in God’s Work”

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

be strong and whatever you do, do it with kindness and love.

Keep your eyes open for spiritual danger; stand true to the Lord;
... be strong and whatever you do, do it with kindness and love.”
I Corinthians 16:13-14

Having a healthy faith comes down to honesty and integrity of the heart. Healthy faith uses the Bible to challenge itself not justify itself. People with a healthy faith look to be humbled, to surrender, to be held accountable, to be corrected and to be malleable in Christ’s strong but gentle hands. A healthy faith recognizes that God uses life experiences to do the hard work of transforming us into the image of his Son. Our lives enable us to develop a healthy faith in God. This pursuit is never ending and at times we may see tremendous growth and times of near stagnation. Yet through all times, God asks us to seek him as he seeks us so that we might develop a mature faith.
There are 8 core elements which characterize a mature faith.
1.      Trust in God’s saving grace and believe firmly in the humanity and divinity of Jesus.
2.      Experience a sense of personal well-being, security and peace.
3.      Integrate faith and life, seeing work, family social relationships and political choices as part of one’s ‘religious’ life.
4.      Seeks spiritual growth through study, reflection, prayer and discussion with others.
5.      Seeks to be part of a community of believers in which people give witness to their faith and support and nourish one another.
6.      Holds life-affirming values, including commitment to racial and gender equality, affirmation of cultural and religious diversity and a personal sense of responsibility for the welfare of others.
7.      Advocates social and global change to bring about greater social justice.
8.      Serves humanity consistently and passionately through acts of love and justice.

Imagine if everyone who claim the name of Christ could truly be said to possess a mature Christian faith. What a wonderful world we would live in! But we know that this takes time effort and energy. The first-century believers in Jesus did turn the world upside down—why can’t we?
Would you define your Christian faith as mature? Or maturing and in process of growing closer to God? In reading the list of core elements which characterize Christians of mature faith, which elements do you see yourself doing well? Which elements do you think need more attention? Maybe there are some elements listed above which you have not even thought about!
When we consider having a healthy faith, it is looking at these core elements and enabling balance to occur- self growth and caring for others. All are a part of one’s healthy faith and growth in relationship with Jesus and this is what each one of us is seeking-- A stronger relationship with Jesus.

PRAYER: Loving God, we thank you that we may grow closer in relationship with you and that through this life, our journey of faith takes on new ways to show you how much we love you. Help us to seek Jesus and to learn from His teachings each day of our life. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

This reflection is based upon ideas of by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton More Jesus Less Religion: Moving from Rules to Relationship. Colorado Springs, Co: Waterbrook Press,2000.     Chapters 14- Epilogue

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Non-Defensive, Non-Judgmental and Respectful Faith

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you- who are you to judge your neighbour?  James 4:12

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Philippians 2:3

Non-Defensive, Non-Judgmental and Respectful Faith

            Has someone ever challenged you about your faith beliefs?
How did you respond? Those with healthy faith refrain from ‘defining the truth for others but offer what they have experienced in their own lives in order that others may understand and see for themselves what Christian faith involves. Healthy faith attracts people. Those who become touchy and defensive repulse other people; they forget how incredibly attractive Christ was as people were drawn to him.
            We are called to bear one another’s burdens and to forgive. Tolerate one another remembering that you, unworthy as you are, have been forgiven of all your sins by Jesus Christ. We forget this when we think we are better than others. But if we are to have healthy faith we are not to judge others. Healthy believers look for similarities of experience that might help establish a relationship. They also look at developing their own personal relationship with God that they have no time to judge where others might be in their relationship.
            How respectful are you in your faith? The church often sees “isms” as divisive factors—age- young and old, sex- male and female, unemployed-working. These are divisive because there is a need to take individuals as they are and offer respect because we are all brothers and sisters in Jesus. But do we do this? We often judge and then respond. We often counter anything suggested by those on the margin or lift them up to the extreme. But what happens too is that there is a need to know Christ. Respect His Spirit’s work in others and accept this for we might even grow through this too.
To be challenged in our faith enables us to question what we believe, to find out answers, ask questions for ourselves and talk with others who are Christians. They too experience what you encounter and from one each other- all will grow stronger.

Have you judged/ misjudged other people in your life and then later discovered the need to retract your thoughts about them or even your actions against them? What is it that causes us to do this? Not knowing how to communicate effectively or to be sensitive to the needs of others is often blamed. But one of the most important reasons we do things like this on impulse is because we just don’t know any better. We have not learned to listen properly, be attentive to the needs of others or even looked to others for help and assistance in discovering difference amongst people,
What might you do to grow in this and learn to have more tolerance?
God, you love us all- red brown yellow black white- male female—and you know us for who we are because you created us in your image yet made us to be individuals with minds to think and hearts to love. And you call us to love others as you do. But we don’t do this well. We judge and misjudge, we are not tolerant or willing to be tolerant and we do not always respect the faith of others nor do we always respect others. These are fundamental in how we relate to others as human beings and we fail to do this well. Help us, teach us as Jesus did. Show us how to love you and reach out in your loving ways. Be with us in our daily challenges we pray. Amen.

This reflection is based upon ideas of by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton More Jesus Less Religion: Moving from Rules to Relationship. Colorado Springs, Co: Waterbrook Press,2000.     Chapter 9-10

Friday, 10 April 2015

Vulnerable Faith

Then Jesus said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Matthew 26:37-38

Vulnerable Faith

            Just when you think of Jesus and his perfection before God
we read a passage like the above and realize how vulnerable Jesus was. He did not want to be alone in this time of need. He needed his closest friends with him.And what did they do as he poured out his heart to God? They slept. But they did not leave him, yet. They were there waiting with him and watching for something to happen. They were unsure but Jesus knew, “the hour had come”. He was in a vulnerable position. He could have walked away but what would this have helped.
            We too find ourselves in times when we are vulnerable and it is easy to give up or walk away but if we disclose that secret vulnerable self to another the relationship that begins is incredible. Yes being vulnerable means taking risk but if we protect ourselves with secrecy and hypocrisy, we build a prison inside ourselves that locks away our hearts from others.
            But it is difficult to be vulnerable and open our hearts up because we’re afraid others will criticize, ostracize or even be disgusted at the ‘real’ us when they discover that we are not perfect or that our image does not match reality. Ironically however, those who hear our stories are not real to the image we project on them either. It is a matter of faith when we look to Jesus. He was overwhelmed and wanted his friends to be with him, just to be present. He was struggling and needed them.
            Healthy Christians can admit their struggles, their failures, their sins and their emotional weakness. They do not have to pretend they are always on top of the world. They can admit when they are wrong and they are real. We each need to be able to let God be in control  for we have nothing to lose by being real-except our pride.

Jesus was real as he prepared for his arrest and trial. He wanted his closest friends with him to watch. They fell asleep but he knew that they were present with him and did not wander away. Jesus was in a vulnerable position as he waited to be arrested and by opening his heart to his friends and asking their support, he enabled a closer relationship to develop. He made himself vulnerable so that others would draw closer to him. What is it that you need to do so that others see the real you? How often have you thought about the you that others see, and the real you? Is there a big difference in these? What might you do to change it? Sharing in prayer is the first step:
Holy God, you know e through and through; even better than I know myself, even better than my real self. Open my hearts and come and make me yours. I have many struggles, failures, sins and weaknesses but through O God, I may become well, stronger and better.
Show me who you are for me and enable me to draw closer to you as you come to me. Come to me O God of love. Amen.

This reflection is based upon ideas of by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton More Jesus Less Religion: Moving from Rules to Relationship. Colorado Springs, Co: Waterbrook Press,2000.     Chapter 8