Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Peaceable Kingdom!

The Peaceable Kingdom!
Isaiah 11:6

“And the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb…”  
                One can only imagine a world, a community at peace
for peace was lost at Eden. Yet Edward Hicks an American artist painted over 60 versions of his “Peaceable Kingdom” depicting animals not normally seen together lying in contentment and at peace. This idea of a world at peace comes from the prophet Isaiah 11 who states that “the wolf and lamb shall dwell together in peace when the kingdom of God comes in fulfillment.
                It is difficult to imagine this because God’s Kingdom as we know it is not peaceful- there are enemies and death, war and destruction at various places around the world. But the prophet says that the kingdom will come and everyone will be at peace. This kingdom will come when Jesus the Prince of Peace comes and calls us into his presence and asks us to live loving others. Changes and transitions will be experienced and the kingdom of God as God intended it without sin, will come into existence.
                But how are we to prepare for this or even understand this? As we begin this new church year and Advent our focus is on God’s peaceable kingdom. Hicks’ painting helps us to visualize animals sitting contentedly and at peace but I wonder can we? Can we truly understand this peace and what it means as we enter Advent?  God’s peace may be experienced if we truly believe that the One who comes and was placed in a manger is the one who also enables us to have peace within forevermore. If we believe and have faith we can do many things but are we willing to risk our lives and seek the peace found in Christ Jesus alone?
                Advent is a time of waiting, preparing and looking ahead to Christ’s birth. It is a time to look for the gifts of Christ in others just as others are searching for these same things in us. Where is the love, hope, joy and peace to be seen in you? What do you seek as you look to Jesus and search for these gifts in others? God’s peaceable kingdom is possible if we believe and have faith that Jesus comes to change the world. Do you believe this?

God of grace and love, we thank you that Isaiah wrote about the peaceable kingdom where all of life lives life to its fullest and there is contentedness wherever we walk. Help us to understand that this kind of peace is possible through faith and truly knowing the Baby born in a stable as the Resurrected Christ. God of love open our hearts to receive your peace. Amen.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Eternal Life- What a Gift!

Eternal Life- What a Gift!
Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal
life in Christ Jesus our Lord.     
                The Bible Study group at our church has been studying sin and evil and God’s relationship to people. What we have realized is God did not want sin to enter the world, but by choices made by the fallen angel and by human beings, sin is here. But just like faith and love, to sin is a choice.  And to seek forgiveness for all wrongdoings, is also a choice that God’s people can and do make.
                No matter how righteous and good living a person is, there is always the possibility of choosing to go against God’s teachings and to sin. People may not choose to commit murder or burglary on a regular basis but lying, cheating, acts of fraud are also sinning against God’s and the world’s view of acceptable behaviour. As human beings we are subject to sin yet we can choose otherwise. We can choose God and ask forgiveness for all our wrongdoing. But are we willing to do this?
                The story of Job appears as a test of faith for a righteous man of God. Job endures extreme losses, illnesses, and even the silence of his friends who eventually tell him to ‘curse God’. But Job’s faith is strong and keeps asking God what he did wrong. That is why he has endured so much when he lived a good and faithful life. It isn’t until Job realizes that he is not God and does not understand everything. He states “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” Job’s relationship with God is now stronger and in humility, Job repents. Even the most righteous person sins.
                But all is not lost because gifted us His Son Jesus. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection we have been given hope. And where this hope lies is in Christ Jesus himself. We all sin but we each need to realize that forgiveness is possible through God’s love and beyond forgiveness, we have been promised eternal life. Are we willing to admit to sinning even a little bit?  Let us remember that if we confess our sins God hears and forgives. We all sin and we all may be forgiven but it is up to each of us to repent, to tell God our sins.

Holy One, hear us as we pray to you and offer to you our ‘sorry’ for the sins which we have committed. Forgive us we pray. And enable us to come to you in faith and with hope knowing that you give to us the eternal life through faith. Hear our sins and forgive us we pray. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Standing Up in Faith

Standing Up in Faith
Joshua 24:15     
                Sometimes it is difficult to serve God and to live as
Christians. In our Western culture we are not as familiar with these difficulties because we have rights and freedoms to have faith and worship God.  However we fail to realize that persecution is real in many nations. Christianity has grown in many countries even under oppression and in many cases violence. Yet here in Canada our secular society seems to be growing stronger and so we must ask why? Where is our faith and whom do many Canadians serve?
                In Canada this week, the Members of Parliament were warned by many church leaders to keep their hands off the law prohibiting the disruption of a religious service. Bill C-51 is the work of the Commons justice committee whose task is to clean up the Criminal Code by removing sections that are outdated or redundant. Yet, the Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the B’nai Brith Canada groups are urging this group to keep the section which makes it illegal to “obstruct a clergyman or minister from celebrating divine service or to wilfully disrupt an assemblage of persons met for religious worship or for a moral, social or benevolent purpose.” It has been decided that this section will remain but with updated language so that it will clearly capture all forms of religious and spiritual services.  (Windsor Star, Nov 10,2017 p.NP3)      But what if these groups did not raise concerns? Would it make a difference for our churches and laws? Would it make a difference to you?
                Joshua asked the people who entered the Promised Land whom they would serve. He stated that he and his household would serve the Lord God. Joshua told the people that they had to choose God or the gods of the people of the land in which they now lived. He told them to make a decision and stick with it. They chose to serve God who had been with them for generations as they had left slavery in Egypt to a time of coming into their own land and life.
                Whom do you serve? Are you living life with the need to acquire possessions and money or real estate and stuff? Or are you living life knowing that God’s grace is a blessing and a gift and that God will take care of you for all of eternity if you believe? Do you know God? Joshua’s question is so relevant today when we are unsure of whom to follow, believe and trust. Whom do you serve?

God of love we serve you in faith and with hope so that we might know you and trust you to care for us each day of our lives. Help us to grow in understanding of who you are and who you want us to be and become. Bless us we pray as we continue to live and serve you. Amen.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Remembering with Hope

Remembering with Hope    
                On the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh
hour silence reigns across the country near memorials and cenotaphs as those gathered remember, honour and pay tribute to those men and women who fought and died for the sake of peace in the world. As we put on a poppy this year and hear the trumpeter play the “Last Post” what are you going to remember? There are many people, ideas and images to consider on Remembrance Day. White crosses, poppies blooming bright red in open fields, guns at rest, the flag waving in the wind, and a child asking, what does this mean?
                What does Remembrance Day mean? It is a day to respect the soldiers who fought in battles away from home so many years ago and that they returned home safely. It is a day to honour those men and women who raised up guns or were on battleships, or who flew over enemy lines so that we would not know anyone as enemies. It is a time to remember the willingness and self sacrifice that many soldiers had when war broke out only to return forever changed. And it is a time to say, never again.
                But this is difficult to understand because there has always been war, conflict, death and destruction due to power struggles over land, food and the economy. So what can we do? Pray for peace. Give thanks to those who served years ago and who continue to serve today. Wear a poppy with pride and support the Royal Canadian Legion whose primary purpose is to ensure veterans are cared for and that their needs are met.  And give thanks for those who gave of themselves in war so that we would not know what war is.
                Let us remember this and consider these words by an anonymous poet.
It is the Veteran, not the preacher who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Veteran, not the reporter who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Veteran, not the poet who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Veteran, not the campus organizer who has given us freedom to assemble
It is the Veteran not the lawyer who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the veteran not the politician who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Veteran who salutes the flag. It is the Veteran who serves under the flag.
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. Lest we forget. Lest we forget.

Keep veterans in our memory, in honour and respect O God. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me! We ask this in the name of the Prince of Peace, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.


REFLECTION:  Wednesday, November 1, 2017

                All Saints day is a day when we commemorate all
Christian people of every time and place. The saints in the New Testament usage refers to Christians collectively and it is with this biblical understanding that celebrating this day has spread among Protestants in recent years. It Is often included in many churches as it does celebrate and honour one person but all those who have and did serve faithfully. This ‘communion of saints’ is the solidarity of the living and the dead in Jesus Chirst and when we consider who is included in this we need to remember those people who have walked with God throughout the ages and in any particular church. What are the particular gifts and resources as well as the limitations did some people within any church’s history help to ensure that the church would go on.
                Many people do not understand what October 31 Halloween traditions mean but what is of course most important to children is the receiving of candy if they wear a costume. All Hallows Evening was the time of preparation before All Saints’ Day was celebrated and it was a day to remember those who had died and wearing a costume was to ward off evil spirits. Many people do not believe this but just hand out candy and enjoy the evening. But what does honouring the dead mean?
                When we honour those who went before us we need to remember that people served God in many ways- similar to those today and when they served their intention was honourable and faith filled. This is the same for us. Our teachings and understanding of the world is easily attainable but for those who lived before us the world was smaller and knowledge was limited. Today as we serve the church let us be mindful of who we are and more aware of the challenges and hopes that our forebears endured. Let us be aware of the saints of the past and those who sit amongst us serving faithfully and with love.
                Who would you name as saints in your church family/ life/family? Why?
                How did they serve God? Was it different from what you do to serve in faith? How?
                What do you think future Christians will say about this time period in Christian history regarding                 faithful service to God?
Thank you God of both the living and the dead we praise your holy name for all your servants who have finished their course in faith. We pray that encouraged by their example and strengthened by their fellowship we may be partakers with them of the inheritance of the saints in light. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

God we know it is difficult to forgive others who hurt, wound and offend us yet you ask us to listen to the other, and to respond in love and with faith. Enable us to do this as we are challenged and show us again what it means to be your faithful follower. Help us forgive others as we too need to be forgiven. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Resource:  Gary Inrig, “The Risk of Forgiveness: What it means to forgive”. Discovery Series, ODB Ministries. p. 28-32. NEXT week we will be a new series of reflections!