Monday, May 28, 2012

The Fig Tree

by Alice Valdal

     There's a fig tree on the grounds of SPPC.   
     I grew up in a colder climate than Victoria's so I find the presence of a fig tree amazing all by itself, but as a reminder of Christian life, it is even more wonderful.    As a farm girl, I get the agrarian metaphors in the Bible,-- seed cast on good soil or poor, sheep and shepherds, the lily of the field, the mustard seed -- all of these conjure up real, physical images for me, but the fig tree has always been a mystery, an exotic from a foreign land.  But here it is, growing happily just off the parking lot of my church.

        So, I looked it up. 
        Fig trees require well-drained and fertile soil
 Now that sounds like a parable all by itself. 
       They need to be protected from cold winter winds
 Don't we all experience seasons of faith when we need a little protection from the cold and wind of unbelief? 
        Fig trees need adequate room to grow and respond well to a little fertilizer.  
 The church provides that space for believers to grow, to deepen their faith and to develop their skills.  We all benefit from the enriching experience of fellowship.
         Fig trees don't require much care, but some judicious pruning will improve the crop.  
Ouch.  Who wants to be pruned?  Yet it is necessary in our Christian journey that we examine our lives and discard the elements that draw us away from God.
        Well treated, a fig tree produces an abundance of fruit.  
Now that's more like it.  Nurtured in the soil of the church, we can all yield a rich harvest for Christ.
       No wonder the Bible is rife with references to the fig tree, its very nature cries out for parable and metaphor.   In the Old Testament, verse after verse uses the image of "everyone sitting under his own fig tree" to denote a time of plenty and peace. By contrast, times of strife and war and famine are described as the fig tree dried up and withered, or cut down or shattered.

       The Gospels of Matthew and Mark both recount the tale of Jesus cursing a fig tree because it bore no fruit. Again, in the Gospel of Luke Jesus tells a parable of a fig tree, to show the Master's disappointment when his tree is barren. 
          From Deuteronomy where the Lord promises His people "a land of wheat and barley, vines and fig trees," to John's vision in Revelations  where "the stars in the sky fell to earth,as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind," the fig tree is used to preach and to prophecy, to teach and to discipline.  
          How appropriate that our church has a fig tree.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Summer Reading

by Alice Valdal

 The 24th of May is the Queen's Birthday/ If you don't give us a holiday/ we'll all run away.  So went the schoolyard jingle when I was growing up.  The Queen in question was Victoria, and no, I am not that old! 
     Nowadays we celebrate her birthday on the Monday before the 24th of May so the rhyme doesn't work as well, but the holiday is still a favourite.  The first long weekend of the summer.  Time to open up the cottage, camp in a park, or put in the garden or . . . my personal favourite, read.  On the holiday weekend, I love to find a warm spot in the sun, curl up and open a good book.
    We have some of those good books in the church library.  One of my favourites is the Mitford series of novels by Jan Karon.  The unlikely hero of these books is an aging, balding Episcopalian priest with diabetes and a very large dog.   Over the course of the books he also acquires a wife, a lost boy, and the boy's lost siblings.  The books take place in the south-eastern U.S. but there are echos of the British cozy in the details of village and vicarage life.
      Karon's style is brisk and witty, peopling her novels with an amazing cast of characters -- some wise, some foolish, some eccentric, some endearing -- all part of Father Tim's flock, all loved by him and by Jesus Christ.
      As well as writing delightful books, the author  herself has an interesting story.  From the age of ten she knew she wanted to write a book, but she spent nearly twenty years earning her living in advertising.  Then, shortly after she became a Christian, she quit her job and set about to write the book she believed was her calling.  It didn't work. The manuscript was a mess.  She spent two years trying, but she couldn't make the novel come together.   Everything changed one night, when she awoke from a dream with the image of Father Tim in her mind.  She didn't know who he was, or where the story went, but she was sure it was the story she was meant to tell. 
        So, she started writing and the first of the Mitford books emerged.  Even then it wasn't clear sailing.   Publishers didn't know what to make of her work or how to market it.  In the end, gave the chapters to her local newspaper who published them in serial form. (Dickens anyone?)  In short order that small town newspaper doubled and tripled its circulation, adding readers from all over the country.   Jan Karon had found her audience.
   I'm glad she did.
   If you're looking for a funny, thoughtful story of faith, I highly recommend any of Jan Karon's Mitford books, available in the SPPC library. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

World Wide on the Web

by Alice Valdal

    One of the perks of maintaining this blog, is the chance to look behind the scenes.  I can discover how many times the blog has been viewed, what search engine was used to find it and where readers come from.  I've been amazed to find that we truly are world wide on the web.  News from SPPC has been read in Africa, Asia, Arabia, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, South America, the Caribbean, Europe and North America.  Just lately we've had a lot of visitors from Russia.  So, to all of you, welcome (Добро пожаловать, Recepción, Willkommen, Boa vinda, स्वागत-योग्य,  maligayang pagdating).
   I've recently had the privilege of singing, along with 120 other choristers, Beethoven's great "Ode to Joy" where he proclaims that "all men shall be brothers."  In his day, Beethoven needed a grant from the electoral prince of Bonn in order to travel about 450 miles from Bonn to Vienna.  The journey took weeks.  It might have seemed that Beethoven's dream of universal brotherhood in such a world was reaching for the impossible.  In our amazing technological world where we can communicate across continents and oceans in a matter of seconds,   Beethoven's dream seems more attainable.   We can put faces and names to our brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world.
    So, for those far away from North Saanich, British Columbia,  I'm sharing a few of the faces of Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church.   The photo above shows our sanctuary.
  There are no stained glass windows in our church, but if you look through the plain glass on a Sunday morning, you will see this beautiful forest.

           Inside, you may find us debating in small groups like  this. 

Or in larger groups like this.


Outside, in a quiet spot is our Garden of Remembrance.

You can find out more about our church at our,

  Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm a keen participant in the Bible Study group that meets on Wednesday mornings.  Now, thanks to more technology, you can listen in.
  Click on this link and download any of the lessons.  Be patient, it takes time for the download to complete and it is only audio.  You'll have to look at the still photo above and imagine us all in action.  The study book we are using is John Stott's, Acts  Seeing the Spirit at Work, published by Inter-Varsity Press, Nottingham, England.

    This has been a quick snapshot of SPPC this week.  Thanks for dropping by.  If you like, click the comment button below and say hello.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Let Us Eat Cake

     The month of April was full of birthdays at SPPC.  Irwin's happened to fall on Bible Study day, so we had cake.

Thanks to Janet for suppling the extra calories that day.

Toward the end of the month, 51 women of the congregation gathered for a baby shower. 

We had cake.

There were gifts -- a lot of gifts.

There was laughter and fellowship.

There were April showers too, but no one cared.

If you missed out on cake in April, Mother's Day is coming.  The Living Flame choir will sing an anthem and I'll bet we have cake in coffee hour.  Hope to see you there.