Monday, September 24, 2012


by Linda Cliff

 A Biography from a Believer
          by Paul Johnson
Jesus of Nazareth is the most written about and discussed human being in history.    The author of this book looks at the records that are available about Jesus the man.  He talks about Jesus’ day to day life and teachings in the context of the Roman Empire of His time.  This description and discussions about Jesus in historical context added to my understanding of Jesus, both his humanity and his Godliness.

Since this is a biography, the author starts with Jesus’ birth, childhood and youth.  It is in this first chapter that the reader learns of the times and society into which He was born.  The New Testament stories of his birth are reviewed and contrasted adding to the wonder of the event.  The author also explores his childhood and youth looking at the accounts that are available and talks about how this time was used in preparation for his ministry.

The author continues with chapters highlighting the Miracles, Parables, and Jesus’ encounters with Men, Women, Children and the Aged.   Familiar bible stories are related and discussed to add to the reader's understanding of Jesus the man, yet God.  There is a chapter where Johnson looks at what he refers to Jesus’ new Ten Commandments.  He prefaces the chapter with the statement that these ideas come from “close study of the Gospels”.  Three of these new commandments are Balance, Mercy and Courage.  I found this to be a very interesting chapter as it takes the reader in a new direction and asks the reader to looks at how Jesus’ teaching are applicable to Christians today.

There is a chapter on the trial and Crucifixion of Jesus and then a wonderful chapter on the Resurrection.   Johnson begins the description of that day starting just before daybreak and  then continues with what happens during the ensuing hours.  He looks at the accounts of the resurrection from the Gospels and then synthesizes them into one story, start to finish. I found this helped me to understand the day in its entirety, something that I had not done before.  It was like reading a newspaper account of this wondrous event.

The Gospels are used as the source for the life of Jesus.  The author refers to this as eyewitness accounts and does it in such a way that you feel you are reading an historical account of Jesus’ life.  However, the emphasis is also on the spiritual significance and importance of these accounts.  When I finished reading this book I understood about the times in which Jesus lived and preached.  I also had a greater understanding of how His teachings and life continues to to be relevant: “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.

Ed. Note:  Linda has generously donated a copy of Jesus, a Biography from a Believer, to the church library.
For another review, click here   

Monday, September 17, 2012

In Other Worlds

by Alice Valdal

My book club decided to read The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.  It has caused quite a stir since its first publication in 2008, spinning off two sequels and a movie.  As I started to read, I couldn't help but notice the similarities to other dystopian literature.  Like The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham, there is a barricade to separate the forest from the town.  Like George Orwell's 1984, there is a sense that the state is watching its citizens every moment, watching and waiting to bring down punishment for any deviation from the mandated behaviour.  The heroine's neighbourhood seems straight out of the slums of Dickensian London.
    Books of this genre often show starvation, either of the body, the mind or the spirit.  In Fahrenheit 451, books are burned and minds starved of intellectual nourishment.  In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, religion is outlawed, families are eliminated, (children are "decanted" and raised in hatcheries)starving the spirit of love.  In the Hunger Games, the people are physically hungry.  
    The protagonists live in a hostile environment, fear pervades the pages. The book cover is black.  Even the ending, after the protagonist has survived one trial, there is a hint that things will get worse, not better.
     I closed the book with a sense of malaise.  Why, I thought, can no one foresee a future filled with light and hope and joy?  Then I remembered.  Someone did. "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.  And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, not crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away."  Rev. 21: 1-4

Monday, September 10, 2012

School's Back

   The kids in your life may groan about a return to the classroom, but you'll hear a big hurrah from the Bible Study group when our sessions resume on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 9:30 am in the Ross Lounge.  By request, the Wednesday morning group will begin with a three week study on the book of Jonah.  You may remember the musical production, Jonah Man Jazz  presented by the choirs a few years ago.  While that interpretation was fun, the Bible Study will take us beyond the story of a man swallowed by a whale and into the deeper lesson of the scripture.
    This would be a great study for someone wanting to test the waters but not sure they want to take on a longer project.  The coffee is ready when we gather at 9:30 am.  The room is generally buzzing with chat, there are Bibles available as well as large print handouts of the study scripture.  Usually there are goodies.  No pre-registration required and you don't need a back-pack.  Just pull up a chair and join in.

     The Wednesday evening study begins in October and will by trying something different this term,  a video study on Ray Vander Laan's "Faith Lessons Series."  The videos take the viewer on an archaeological exploration of the Holy Land and the lectures discuss the significance of these places to modern day Christianity.  More details available in a few weeks.

       Another program that gets underway this month is the Christmas musical, City Lights, written by your blog mistress.  Rehearsals begin on Sept. 16, 11:30 in the Sanctuary.  Can you sing? dance? act? paint scenery? operate a spotlight? sew? . . . many skills are needed to present this annual treat for the congregation.  Contact the church office for details if you're interested in being involved.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Be Thou My Vision

       The fall equinox may be a few weeks away still, but the Labour Day weekend marks the end of summer for most people on the Saanich Peninsula.  We go on one last camping trip,  or take in the  Saanich Fair, or start clearing the annuals out of the flower beds.       
    Kids go back to school, church programs kick into gear, music lessons start up, choirs reassemble, the calendar fills with appointments.  We are at the end of one season and the beginning of another.

     Phyllis Lindsay chose "Be Thou My Vision" as one of the hymns at her farewell service.  I think it's a great poem to consider at the start of the Fall term.

Essay by Dr. Cecil Kirk:

Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 2. 1 - 13

This hymn, a translation from the ancient Irish, is the work of two women who together have produced one of the finest hymns written in this century. Mary Byrne was born in Dublin and educated at the Dominican Convent there. She entered the Royal University of Ireland and graduated in 1905. She became a research worker in Irish for the Board of Intermediate Education. Her contribution to the Dictionary of the Irish Language was noted for its erudition. An old Irish poem from the 8th century was translated by her into English prose in the journal called "Erin" in 1905. In 1912 that translation was versified by Eleanor Hull who was born in Manchester and founded the Irish Text Society in 1899. In 1931 she received an Honourary Doctorate from the National University of Ireland.

The Celtic Church existed from the fifth to the twelfth centuries and flourished in Ireland from the fifth to the seventh century. It was a church noted for its mystical fervour and its ascetic rigour. Its unique contribution to Christianity lay in its fervent missionary activity and its devotion to learning, so much so that Ireland became known as the land of saints and scholars. Missionaries went out to Scotland, England and many parts of the continent of Europe. The study of Greek was preserved and Celtic Christian art developed. During its time it kept Christianity alive while the so-called Dark Ages were casting their shadows across Europe.

It is out of this tradition that our hymn comes. Jesus Christ is viewed, first of all, as the Vision that draws us. The word is used to designate not only what we focus on but also what we strive for. When we set a goal before us we are enabled to develop a long-range perspective that helps us to see the disappointments and defeats of today as of little consequence when viewed against the heavenly vision. He is also called Wisdom, something dear to the Celtic Christian and highly regarded in the Old Testament.

Throughout the hymn there are constant reminders of things associated with this period in Irish history. It was a tumultuous time and Christians frequently had to fight for their very existence. It was the period of the Viking invasions from the north so it is not surprising that we have references to battle shields, swords, round towers, high kings and such like. As we have already noted, the Celtic Church was famed for its asceticism and so we sing "riches I heed not nor man's empty praise". These are fleeting things of no worth. It is Jesus Christ who is our inheritance, he alone can be "first in our heart" and of him we can say "My treasure Thou art".

As the people of the coastal areas of Ireland fled for refuge to the high towers when they saw the high-prowed Viking ships approaching, so we flee to Jesus for "my soul's shelter". He is our high tower; he is "Power of my power". The day will come, however, when "after victory won" we shall enter into the joys of heaven and we shall bask in the light and warmth of "heav'n's Sun". Until that day dawns we ask him to be our vision and the one who is "Ruler of all" in our life.

This is a hymn that throbs throughout with a sense of devotion and love to God and as such it has few equals. Everything is focussed on the climactic phrase, "thou and thou only, first in my heart" just as everything in our daily lives must have this goal also.

Ed. Note.  Thanks to Edna Kirk for sharing Dr. Kirk's writing with this blog.