Monday, September 18, 2017

Creation

Last week's sermon was based on Genesis 1:1-10, Creation.  Rev. Irwin spoke mostly about the great and large things of God's imagination, light and dark, the heavens and the earth, the seas and the dry land. "And God saw that it was good."
During the glorious days of this week, I noted the smaller details of creation.  Not only are they good, they are most wonderfully made.












Monday, September 11, 2017

commissioning Sunday School teachers
     I attended a writers' workshop this weekend.  We had a speaker who made insider jokes and we all laughed.  We tossed around terms like GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict), black moment, hero's journey and Amazon algorithms.  These are all English words, understandable to anyone, but the phrases hold extra layers of meaning for writers of commercial fiction in 2017.

     Similarly, on Thursday night SPPC choir went back into session. Conversation centred on time signatures, staff lines, rests, repeat signs and rallentando.  Again, words that make sense to the layman, but have a wealth of meaning for a musician that others may miss.

     In our culture we use many terms that are based in Scripture -- cross to bear, Eden, David and Goliath, into the lion's den, -- to name a few.  Some children's games use Biblical titles, Jacob and Rachel or Jacob's Ladder, for example.  Yet, for many in our modern world, these terms have lost their power.  Goliath just means "giant."  They have never heard the whole story of the shepherd boy who said "The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:37  The youth who answered Goliath's boast with trust in God. "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands." 1 Samuel 17: 45-46

  For the Christian, we insiders, these terms are layered with meaning, they remind us of the God we worship, the God who cares for us, who provides for even the lilies of the field.

    On Sunday morning we commissioned our Sunday School teachers.  These faithful servants of the Lord will teach our children and youth to be "insiders" to the language of scripture, to learn the many layers of meaning in a simple story, and to love and trust the Lord, Jesus Christ.  
     The congregation offers its support to our teachers and our gratitude for their willingness to undertake this vital ministry.


Monday, September 4, 2017

Growing Old


     There was a birthday celebration at church last Sunday.  Betty turned ninety.  She had visiting family in church with her and a cake on the table.  And a lovely cake it was!

Isn't it odd that we celebrate birthdays as children and teens, and as seniors, but in the middle-years we are loathe to admit our age? Why are we ashamed of the advance of time after age thirty but embrace it with joy when we are truly old?  Perhaps we've learned wisdom?  That is purported to be a benefit of old age, although I once saw a sign that read "wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone."  

The Bible has some encouraging advice on growing older.  In Ps. 92:12-15, declares that those who walk with God will still bear fruit in old age.  Job 12:12 asserts that "old men have wisdom."  Proverbs  16:31 assures us that "grey hair is a glorious crown."

God designed us to live fully and in His company at all stages of our lives and then, when the earthly body is worn out, to be with Him in glory.  Is. 46:4, 2 Timothy 4: 7-8

Happy birthday, Betty.  May your light continue to shine.  And to all those in the middle years, remember that grey hair is the splendour of the old. Proverbs 20:29 







Monday, August 28, 2017


Before she moved, Edna gave me a great gift, a copy of the Rev. Dr. Cecil Kirk's manuscript on hymns for every day of the year.  
Coming up with something for this blog every week is sometimes a strain.  When I'm stuck, I turn to other writers for inspiration.  As a former parishioner at SPPC, I find Dr. Kirk's thoughts reliable and appropriate.  Here is what he has to say on "Be Still, My Soul," his choice of a hymn for August 27.


Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hast’ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Scripture reading;  Luke 21: 13-19

Jane Borthwick made her translation of the German original of this hymn in 1855.  The hymn itself was written in 1752 by Katharina von Schlegel.  Very little is known about her though she is believed to have been the head of an Evangelical Lutheran nunnery in Cothen.  It is not impossible that she may have been attached to the ducal court there.  The songs of the German Pietists were largely unknown outside that country until three women  - Jane and Sarah Borthwick and Catherine Winkworth - translated them into English.  Jane and Sarah Borthwick published a volume of translations under the title Hymns fro the land of Luther" and it was there that this hymn first appeared.  Miss Borthwick was a devoted member of the Free Church of Scotland and was actively engaged in missionary  and social work.

When first published in English, the hymn was headed "Submission" and was accompanied by the words of Jesus:  "In your patience possess ye your souls."  This is the key to the theme that runs all through the hymn - the Christian's attitude of complete trust and submission to the Lord in times of grief, pain or bereavement.

One of the great assurances of the Christian faith is that we are not called on to travel the pilgrim road alone or unaccompanied.  "the Lord is on thy side."  He is our constant companion in every situation whether glad or sad.  It is important to know this because Jesus himself described Christian discipleship as cross-bearing.  He stated that anyone who would come after Him must be prepared to deny himself and take up the cross daily and follow Him.  (Matt. 16: 24)  That cross may be "of grief or pain" and yet we must be prepared to bear it patiently trusting God to provide the strength and to order our way for us.  Whatever happens to us "he faithful will remain" and however difficult the road we are called to walk we know it "leads to a joyful end" because Christ Himself will be there.

As we look back over the years that have gone, we can see the ways in which God has provided for us and directed our way.  So very often our understanding of the divine guidance is fully understood only as we look back to it.  For the present all may now seem dark and mysterious but we rest our confidence in the loving presence of our God and when we do so we shall discover that "all . . . shall be bright at last."  Our Lord is as capable of ruling the stormy passions of the world around us and those that beat within us as He was of controlling the elements of nature during His earthly life.

The further we travel along the road of life, the more likely it will be that some of the travelling companions of the years will depart through death.  The loss of such friends can be a real trial for us.  We have valued them for their support and encouragement.  Their loss means that we are cast more and more upon the One who comes to us "to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears."  But more, He fills up the voice that has been created for "thy Jesus can repay from His own fullness, all He takes away."

Life passes all too quickly by and "the hour is hastening on when we shall be forever with the Lord."  That thought should fill us with hope and expectation.  Here below we have human "disappointment, grief and fear."  There has been the sorrow of defeat and loss; we have been confronted with change and our eyes have known bitter tears.  But we have so much to look forward to.  We shall experience "love's purest joys" and we shall arrive "safe and blessed" in our heavenly home.  With such blessings we can "be still" in the presence of the Lord.
                                                                     -- Rev. C.J. Kirk


Monday, August 21, 2017

Mixed Emotions

Wednesday afternoon we experienced a text book case of "mixed emotions" at SPPC.  Our friend, mentor, fellow traveller, and example, Edna, has decided to leave our fellowship.  Not because she doesn't like us any more, but in order to be closer to her family in Ontario.  We couldn't let her go with a celebration, of all that she has meant to us and all that we hope for her, but the celebration was tinged with heavy hearts.  
Bin-Sie  paying tribute


We wish you all that is good, Edna, health, relationships, a loving congregation, and steadfast faith.  We will miss you in so many ways -- your departure leaves gaping holes in the fabric of our congregation -- but we thank God for the time you spent with us and we know He will uphold you and give you meaningful work in your new church. 


 
Edna responds







Janet presents a gift from SPPC














God speed
We wave farewell with much love
 and gratitude.

The Congregation at SPPC.  





Lots and lots of food














Monday, August 14, 2017

Sanctuary

This past week has been one of high tension.  Wildfires in the Interior of B.C. have blanketed this part of the province with smoke, a reminder of how quickly life can turn, putting our normally safe homes  in peril.
Media is full of stories about famine, floods, riots and a boat load of refugees being pushed into the sea.
In world affairs, two unpredictable leaders are "playing chicken" with nuclear bombs.
Anyone who isn't stressed, has his head in the sand.

And now it's Sunday.  At SPPC Rev. Irwin has returned from holiday.  Our friends are in the pew.  A man with a cheerful smile pours coffee.  There are cookies on the table.  Here, in the worship of God, I find sanctuary.  The minister preached on hope, using Psalm 13 as his text.

I came home and looked up a previous Bible Study, Praying the Psalms, by Juanita Ryan, and I found a lesson on Psalm 57, a prayer of distress.  At the time of writing, David had fled from King Saul and his 3000 men. In fear for his life, David hid in a cave and called out to God, "Be merciful to me . . . because I come to you for safety."  David goes on to detail the danger that surrounds him.  His enemies have spread a net to capture him, they have dug a pit where he might fall in.  His enemies have teeth like spears and arrows.  This is no pretty poem.  David is desperately afraid.  In his distress, he calls on God, confident that the Lord can and will protect him.  By the end of the Psalm, he says "I have complete confidence in God.  I will sing praises to him.  God's constant love reaches the heavens and His faithfulness touches the skies.

This morning's sermon, on Psalm 13 covered much the same material.  God is constant.  God loves us.  When we cry for help, God hears.   We will know trouble, it may endure for a time, but in the end we belong to God.  He will rescue us, just as he rescued David from the armies of King Saul.

When our world is in crisis, we can turn to God for courage.  We can pray to God for wisdom for our leaders.  We can trust God with our lives.

The Sunday service included "What a Friend we Have in Jesus," which includes the lines "are we weak and heavy-laden, cumbered with a load of care, . . . take it to the Lord in prayer.. .  In his arms He'll take and shield thee, Thou wilt find a solace there."

It's a lovely summer day here.  The sun is shining, there's a cool breeze.  I could have spent my Sunday morning at the beach, on the golf course, out in a sailboat or reading in the garden.  I'm so glad I went to church instead.  "Can we find a Friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share?  Jesus knows our every weakness.  Take it to the Lord in prayer."











Monday, August 7, 2017

First Impressions

They say familiarity breeds contempt, it also breeds a type of blindness.  We become so used to a space or situation that we don't really see it with clarity.  We just see a familiar settinge and are content.  Since our church expects to welcome visitors each week, I thought I'd take a look at our place as though I'd never seen it before.

Entering through the front door, the visitor is met with a set of comfy chairs and a table.  Seems like a nice touch.  

This week there were fresh flowers in the narthex as well.  A sign we living in an area of gardens and gardeners. 

 The bulletin board, while not a work of art, is cheerful.  For the past couple of weeks, members of the congregation have been asked to draw an outline of their hands and add them to the collection.  I'm used to seeing this as a Sunday School project, but adults have entered into the game with enthusiasm.  The outline won't show that some hands are smooth and pale, while others are gnarled and freckled.  Maybe that's a good thing.  We have a display of willing hands, regardless of age or health or circumstances.

There's also a picture of Creative Play.  That's a weekly program held during the summer where children, our own and visitors, are invited to enjoy an activity, led by different members of the congregation.  The program gives parents a safe place for their children during the sermon time, and it gives Sunday School teachers an opportunity to enjoy the whole service uninterrupted.  This bunch looks like they had a good time.




On the opposite bulletin board are sign up sheets, for fellowship, for flowers, for greeters, for readers, for pray-ers and any other need that arises in the congregation.  Here is an opportunity for those hands on the other wall, to do something practical for the congregation.



After the busyness of the narthex, the visitor comes through the double doors of the sanctuary to find a serene room with the usual furnishings of a church -- pews, pulpit, choir loft -- and a bouquet of fresh flowers.
As a member, it is hard for me to see our building with the eyes of a stranger, but I hope the combination of activity and serenity is pleasing and a blessing to all who enter here.