Monday, August 25, 2014


I just reviewed the last few blog posts and it seems I'm on a food kick.  Must be something to do with the amount of produce in my garden.  This week I'm still looking at food, although not from my garden this time.  I make no apology.  Food is essential to life, a gift from God.  He sent manna to the Isrealites.  Christ likened his body to bread.   Hospitality is a gift of the Holy Spirit and the sharing of food marked the fellowship of the early church.  It is small wonder that food plays such an important role in our life as a congregation.

    At SPPC we partake of the Lord's Supper with dignity and reverence in our worship service,  four times per year, but we practice hospitality and the sharing of food nearly every Sunday, and it is nearly always cake; beautiful, generous, lovingly-wrought cake.  I overheard a newcomer to our congregation remark, "I've been to this church three times and there's been cake every time!" 
    When Marie Antoinette famously dismissed the masses with "let them eat cake," it wasn't these beautiful creations she had in mind.

  We know that the early church was made up of slave and free, Jew and Gentile, men and women, old and young and a sprinkling of Roman soldiers.  Such a diverse group needed to find ways to strengthen their unity.  A shared meal was one choice. Acts 2:46

  Romans 12 talks of many gifts, one spirit.  While the list doesn't include baking cakes specifically, I believe they could fall under the category of giving and serving and cheerfulness.

  In 1 Cor. 11: 2-22 Paul rebukes the members of that congregation for their lack of hospitality, some taking more than their share while others go hungry.  I don't think I've ever seen us run out of cake.

   So, to all those generous, hospitable, talented people who share their gifts so freely, I say thank you. You brighten our fellowship, fill us with good things, inspire us with thankfulness, and no one is sent away hungry.  
      The Saanich Fair is coming up this weekend.  There will be lots of cakes to look at but they'll all sport "don't touch" notices.  How wonderful that we can see and touch and taste.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Fellowship and Health

 A recent article in MacLean's laments the demise of neighbourly interaction.  According to studies, in Canada 30% of people feel they are disconnected from their neighbours.  In Britain, a poll showed one third of people said they couldn't pick out their neighbours in a line up and in Australia sociologists found that even in disasters, neighbours were loathe to help each other for fear of intruding.
   Even while technology and social media gives us the ability to connect with thousands and thousands of people, more and more we are living disconnected lives.  In her book, The Village Effect, Susan Pinker argues that this trend is alarming in many ways, not least in terms of health.  She argues that humans need face-to-face contact as we need air and water.
       Studies show that those who have tight-knit social groups live on average fifteen years longer than those who do not.  Friendship, community, face-to-face interaction strengthens the immune system, regulates hormones and increases the odds of surviving a heart attack, stroke, AIDS and cancer.  There is even evidence that it lessens the prevalence of dementia.

     Pinker's research convicted her so strongly that she has changed her own habits in order to widen her social circle,  increasing her opportunities for face-to-face interaction.
     Neighbourliness is also Biblical.  Psalm 133   speaks of the blessing of harmonious living together, Philippians 1:4 speaks of the apostle praying with joy, for his friends. And, of course, Jesus commanded His followers to "love your neighbour as yourself."
     The demise of neighbourliness is a disturbing trend in modern society, but not in the church.  Opportunities for for friendship and sharing of interests and stories and work and food abound in most congregations and particularly at SPPC.  We have coffee hour after worship every Sunday, often with a cake to celebrate a special event.

      We have choir for those who share a love of singing.  There is a genealogy group for those fascinated with family trees. We have Bible Study groups, a flower committee and a constant need for volunteers in the kitchen.  All of these segments of the congregation are an example of community.  
And we have Friendship Coffee.  The second and fourth Thursday of the month.
 Everyone and anyone is invited to drop into the church between 10:00 am and 11:30 am and share conversation,
laughter, news, troubles and triumphs over a cup of coffee.  

     We often refer to the congregation as our church family, but we're your neighbours too.  Feel free to drop by.

Monday, August 11, 2014


 What do you do with pounds and pounds of zucchini?  I've made zucchini soup -- two types, zucchini loaves -- two types, zucchini quiche, zucchini marmalade and zucchini chocolate cake.  There are still sixteen cups of grated zucchini in the fridge and I'm afraid to look under the leaves in the garden.  
    I've fried zucchini, baked zucchini, roasted zucchini and grilled zucchini.  I've put it in pancakes and casseroles and salads, and I've given it away.  There is still zucchini lurking in the garden.  Such abundance!

    A few weeks ago, Rev. Irwin preached on the parable of the sower, or as he liked to call it the parable of the soil.  He made the point that a return on a seed of thirty, sixty or one hundredfold was a truly remarkable harvest.  Well, all the abundance I have described above is from two seeds.  Two!  
     And even though I'm the one who planted them, it is God who supplies the sun and the rain and the miracle of growth.  Yet I get to reap the harvest.  The shelves in my larder groan under the weight.  My freezer is full.  I have preserved food for the winter and still the plants keep giving.  I have surely reaped a hundredfold.

    Of course, the story of the sower is a parable.  Jesus wasn't speaking literally of sowing grain -- or zucchini -- but of sowing the Word of God.  I pray that I can plant seeds of faith that will grow like my zucchinis.  I pray that God will water them, provide them with light and food and that they will produce an abundant harvest.

P.S.  Anyone want a zucchini?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Unexpected Blessings

By Martha McCracken

The other day I decided to take a rambling walk along the Sidney waterfront, rather than deadhead my flower beds.  It was a fine sunny day with a light wind that made the day seem perfect.  I stopped frequently for minutes on end, from one location to another, to peer over the railings to see what I could see.  I was hoping to see starfish since I had heard that they are under attack by a nasty bug of some kind that it turning them into mush.  I saw nary a one, alive or mushy.

     What I did see was all manner of small sea life:  teeny dark crabs and little red crabs, scuttling sideways in the shallows.  And there were schools of minnows, flitting in the water about ten feet from the shore.  I have no idea what they were but it didn't matter - I just enjoyed watching them. 

    And there were other people out walking and talking, sometimes with a dog or two, and even some with small children who skipped ahead of the adults, shouting out their discoveries.  Most exchanged hellos, and a few wanted to know what I found so absorbing in the water.  Some joined me in peering over the edge to observe as well.

     Sea birds were in short supply, although I did see some English sparrows enjoying dust baths.  That sight always amuses me.  And I did see one solitary great blue heron, flapping its way slowly, making its peculiar croaking call.

     At times, however, I found myself staring out at nothing in particular.  And then I remembered that I was walking alone - Joe was not with me.  He has been gone for over two years, yet it still catches me off-guard.  The trigger this time was probably seeing our grandchildren a few days earlier, and wishing that Joe were here to rejoice in their lives. 

    I could feel tears surfacing and tried to hold them in.  And I was managing it, by focussing on the wonderful life we had together, in Vancouver where we first met at Central Presbyterian Church, and in Sidney when we retired here ten years ago this August.  And I thought about how lucky I am to have such loving family and friends, near and far.

But I still felt very sad. 

And then I heard a voice ask "Are you okay?"

    I looked up into the face of a stranger, a slightly bearded man about my age.  He was casually dressed (this is Sidney after all) and wore a carved wolf medallion on a leather cord around his neck.

     I replied that I was fine, I was just watching the little crabs.  (I did not want to say that I was feeling sorry for myself.)  I thanked him for stopping to ask.

    I guess I was not that convincing.

    The man then asked "Would it be all right if I shared a prayer with you?" And he reached out his right hand for mine.  Without a second thought, I gave mine to him.  And then he prayed aloud, quietly, as if he and I were alone in the world.  They were simple and familiar words, asking God to be with me, to comfort me, and to watch over me, now and forever, in Jesus' name.  I echoed his "Amen".

     Then with a sweet smile, he said goodbye.  I barely had time to say thank you, and he was on his way.  And then my tears came, peacefully.

          " ... Christ in hearts of all who love me,
               Christ in mouth of friend and stranger."

                        St. Patrick's Breastplate / I bind unto myself today  (#276 in Book of Praise)