Monday, September 29, 2014

The Bible Jesus Read

Book Review

by Linda Cliff

The Bible Jesus Read  
                By Philip Yancey

When I discovered this book in our library and decided to read it, I though it would be a book about what Jesus had actually said about the Old Testament.  Instead I embarked on an exploration of parts of the Old Testament. Yancey takes the reader through a careful look at the books of Job, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and the Prophets and relates these ancient writings to life today.

The book begins with a discussion of why so many of us avoid the Old Testament. However, he presents the argument that we cannot understand the New Testament (the New Covenant) apart from the Old.  “Without exception, every New Testament author wrote about the new work of God on earth while looking through the prism of the earlier or “old” work.”

We begin with Job; in this chapter man’s relationship with God is stripped to its bare essentials.  In Deuteronomy Moses takes the time to reflect on the hard lessons the Israelites had learned and the harder ones they would soon face.  The Psalms are looked at as a source of both spiritual medicine and aggravation.  Ecclesiastes is labeled the cynical view point of a worldly author and the Prophets as confusing, weird and sounding alike.

I am sure you are wondering why you should read this book.   Yancey is very honest in his writing about his own feelings and doubts as he explored these parts of the Old Testament.  There seems to be no holds barred about his own doubts and confusion.  This helped me as a reader to continue on in the book.  I was curious about what I was going to learn.  There are three questions that Yancey helps the reader to explore.
  • Do I Matter?
  • Does God Care?
  • Why doesn’t God act?

These are universal questions that Christians and Non-Christians alike are asking.  A read through “The Bible Jesus Read” will give you new insights into the heart of God the Father and His Son Jesus.  I feel that the lessons I learned while reading this book will continue to echo in my mind as I continue my studies of God’s word. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Hope Is Built

by Martha MacCracken

My hope is built on nothing less, Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
 I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus' name.  
                                                                                                    Edward Mote 1797-1874

 Some days, time just slips away for me, especially if I have chosen to spend time on the internet, searching out versions of favourite hymns and gospel songs.  It started innocuously enough - I wanted to hear some more songs by the Gaither Gospel groups.  I credit both my parents - my Baptist mother and my male quartet loving Dad - for instilling this love of southern gospel music in me.

 Anyway, the internet is an insidious thing - it learns what you like and then cleverly suggests other songs that you might like.  Before you know it, you are clicking on a suggested link and then another one, and then another one, and way more than an hour has passed.  By then, I am immersed in gospel songs by older groups like The Cathedrals singing "Oh, What a Saviour" or university choirs or Alison Krauss performing "As I went down in the river to pray" or David Phelps singing the powerful and spine-tingling "He's Alive" by Don Francisco.  (And may I suggest that you also listen to Dolly Parton's stunning version of "He's Alive"?)

 Recently, I clicked on a link to a video by the Australian evangelical group Hillsong United and heard them perform "Our God is an awesome God" in concert - very moving.  And then another song was suggested: "Cornerstone".  So I clicked on it, and discovered that it was the group's reworking of one of my favourite hymns - "My Hope is Built on Nothing Less".  The verses were the same as the original but the refrain

 "On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
 All other ground is sinking sand,
 All other ground is sinking sand."

 had been changed  - lyrically and musically to

 Christ alone; Cornerstone
 Weak made strong, in the Saviour's love
 Through the storm, He is Lord
 Lord of all." 

Initially, I was not sure that I was happy about this tampering with a beloved old hymn, but I gave it a few plays and found that I liked it.  But I also still loved the original.

Now, I must confess:  one of the first things that I do when I sit
down in the pews on Sunday is check the hymns listed in the bulletin.  I search eagerly for the names of my favourite hymns - some dating back to my childhood, others learned and loved later.  And yes, there are still some which I simply do not like.

 On a recent Sunday, I was so pleased to see that hymn 404 - My Hope is Built on Nothing Less - was to be the third hymn that morning.  As noted above, I had been listening to the hymn online, and now, here it was, waiting for our congregation to sing it.  How fortuitous.

 And then Larry began to play the opening bars, and something did not sound right.  I did not recognize the music and it quickly became apparent that using the smaller "words-only" hymn book as I often do, has its drawbacks.  The tune (Eisenach) being played was not the one that I knew and loved. 

        (I later learned that I was not alone in my surprise.  As Larry said to me, if the choir had not still been on its summer break, someone might have mentioned the alternative tune to the one in our old Book of Praise.  And Larry kindly played the William B. Bradbury version, as it is shown in my mother's 1933 Songs of Faith (Baptist), the following Sunday both before and after the service. Thank you, Larry!)

As so often happens in life, what we want and what we expect are not always what we get.  In this case, while I had anticipated the loved words and the tune that I knew so well, I did not get both.  But the decades-old words still maintain the heart of the hymn, the message is still true, and my soul is restored.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bottle Drive

We expect the church to be busy on Sunday, but Saturday? Check your expectations.  This Saturday, we had a very active parking lot.

    The bottle drive was another fund-raiser for the mission trip to Dominican Republic.
 Young and old pitched in to help.  Some drove a truck.  Some sorted cans and bottles.
 Some made coffee and cookies for the volunteers.

    By the end of the afternoon, we'd collected a respectable outcome for our efforts, and then the bounty overflowed.  Just after closing time a truck, with a trailer full of bottles and cans made a drop off, and our "respectable" showing, became a "wow" showing.  Enough that the recycle depot waived their pick up fee.

     The final tally is not yet in, but we've raised over $600.00 through the bottle drive.  The good news is that it's not over yet.  As Rev. Irwin explained during the children't time on Sunday morning,
the church will continue to receive recyclable bottles up until the time of the mission trip, so if you have a few empties still sitting in the basement, bring them in.  If you see some empties in your neighbour's garage, offer to bring them in too.
 As Diane remarked, the big truck and trailer was a wonderful sight, but it is truly amazing how "a little" times "a lot" adds up to a big offering.  

   Our thanks to all the volunteers from the congregation for their contributions.  We also had help from a neighbouring congregation and personal friends, so thanks to them too.

    A few weeks ago, I mentioned "Faithlink" on this blog.  One of the goals of that group was to make our churches more visible in the community.  As well as raising funds for mission, the bottle drive made us visible to those outside our congregation.  Thanks be to God. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Change of Season

September is upon us and, despite the school closures in the public system, life is moving from the relaxed pace of summer to the more routine days of fall.  
    The Saanich Fair is a great transition landmark, showcasing the best of summer's bounty and sending us off to a new term.  As usual, I enjoyed the Fair and found this gem tacked to the wall in the Junior's section. 

Yes, that is Rebekah's name on the entry tag and that is a first prize ribbon attached.  

And this is the poem that won her first prize.  Congratulations, Rebekah.
I saw other winners from the Cunningham family, too.  Theirs has been a very busy household.  Oh, and there were some roses with my name on them, too.

    Now, we're on to the new term at SPPC.  The senior choir began rehearsals last week and the Living Flame Choir starts next Sunday. Sunday School classes started yesterday.  We had a commissioning service for the teachers during worship.
      Anna teaches the 6-10 year-olds with help from Joan A.  They are studying Moses, following the Lectionary readings from Exodus.  You may remember that Irwin encouraged the congregation to do those readings too, as an aid to Sunday worship.  See, adults are in school too.
     Norma will continue to follow the DiscipleLand Curriculum begun last year with the middle grade children, ages 11-15.  This year they will focus on the steps to inductive Bible study.  Again, Irwin handed out that assignment to the congregation at the beginning of summer.  In case you've forgotten -
   1.  What does it say?
                  Look for the unexpected
                  Identify key words
                  Who, where, what, when . . .
    2. What does it mean?
                  Look for grammar, parallels, poetry, structure, metaphors,                     context.
    3.  What does it matter?
                  Look for direction, guidance, insight.

   Diane will lead the senior class in a Bible study and with their preparation for the mission trip to the Dominican Republic in March.

    To start off the new term, we held hot dog day in the parking lot after church and invited the neighbourhood.  

Monday, September 1, 2014


Matt 5: 14-16 

   Lecturers on church growth like to ask the question, "If your church closed today would anyone notice?"  It's an uncomfortable question.  Our congregations are important and relevant and dear to the hearts of members, but does the outside world take any notice?  Why?  Why not?  What can we do about it?
   A number of churches on the Saanich Peninsula have banded together to work on an answer to that question.  Representatives from four Anglican congregations, one Catholic, one Lutheran, one independent  church and Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church met in the spring to explore ways of working together in the wider community. to share the love of God and Christ, to raise the profile of the Christian church here and to publicise the good works that the churches are already doing.

   Possible future activities include joining pre-established events such as markets, fairs, and parades; creating our own event, perhaps an outdoor worship service in the band shell; a community service.
    A letter will be going out to all nineteen churches on the peninsula inviting them to join with us in this initiative.    
   The venture is named "FaithLink."  The representative from our congregation is Jean Strong, our clerk of session.  If you'd like to participate on the committee or just share some ideas, feel free to talk to Jean about it.
    The influence of the Christian church in our society has waned, but that doesn't mean we give up. 
Luke 13: 20-21

  The theme of Sunday's service was Moses and the burning bush.  Rev. Irwin made the point that a burning bush in the desert was not unheard of.  Heat and aridity did create spontaneous combustion from time to time. What was remarkable about the burning bush described in Exodus 3 was that it burned and was not consumed.  It was an attention getter.  He illustrated his point during the children's story with a blowtorch!  It worked.  We all noticed!  That's what Faithlink is all about.  

Let's get noticed.