Monday, October 30, 2017

Reformation Sunday

This Sunday marked the official 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, sort of.  The actual anniversary is Oct. 31, but that's a Tuesday--will we see trick-or-treaters dressed as a monk on Hallowe'en?--, so we marked the day on Sunday. 
One of our members, Barb, added this plaque to our bulletin board in honour of the occasion.  Nice work, Barb!

You may recognize the titles of Rev. Irwin's last four sermons in the titles depicted on the "door."  This Sunday was "Glory of God Alone."  He began his sermon by quoting from the shorter catechism, from the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man? A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

A short answer to the "why am I here" question that plagues some of us from time to time.  We are here to glorify God, plain and simple.  Our modern culture is more inclined to glorify Man than God, but that's not what scripture commands.  
This catechism was developed for the Presbyterian church, but since it relies on scripture, I'm sure Martin Luther would approve it. After all, he wagered his life on the authority of Scripture, over the authority of the church.

The Reformation is an enormous subject, much too large for this blog.  I've touched on a few highlights in the past couple of weeks, but you might like to watch this documentary from PBS for a more extensive course.

Meantime, Barb's "door" is a good summary of Luther's main arguments. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Reformation Hymn

In the month of October SPPC has been paying special attention to the Protestant Reformation, sparked by Martin Luther, when he nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg in 1517.  This act of defiance set off one of the most dramatic and far-reaching upheavals in history, touching on every aspect of life in Western Europe, and hence, North America.  The monolith that was the church in Rome, was shaken and splintered.  Luther's "sola" theology,
  • by faith alone.
  • by Scripture alone.
  • through Christ alone.
  • by grace alone.
  • glory to God alone,
stood against many of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church.  By challenging the pope, Luther opened the floodgates to political, social and theological revolution.

There were other Reformers, Erasmus, Zwingli, Calvin, Knox, Melnachthon to name a few.  Although they had theological differences on the Eucharist, the doctrine of predestination, and the sacraments among other things, all stood firm on Luther's basic tenet, of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Luther was wise enough to know that music was a powerful tool for teaching scripture and theology.  Thus he penned many a hymn.  One of the best known is A Mighty Fortress is Our God.  Here is what Dr. C.J. Kirk had to say on this great statement of faith.

Of all Martin Luther's hymns this is by far the best known.  It was written in 1529 during a climax in Luther's struggle against the Roman church.  That year the Reichstag met at Speier and the Roman Catholic majority ordered that their worship should be permitted in all the German principalities from which it had been excluded by Princes sympathetic to Lutheran teaching, and that prelates and religious orders should be restored to their former properties and revenues.  The Lutheran princes entered a formal "protest" because of which the Lutheran movement became known as "Protest-ant".  In this dark hour Luther wrote his call to battle in this hymn which Heine called "the Marseillaise of the Reformation."
In his struggle Luther felt that he had one helper, God, against all the "mortal ills" prevailing against the reform of the Church.  What were those ills?  They were social as well as spiritual: the hopeless poverty of the peasant, the ignorance of the people, the oppressive powers of barbarous laws, the abuses of the priests and the wealth of the hierarchy.  These are attributed to "our ancient foe", the devil: but he is seen as incarnate in the worldly Pope Clement VII and the intriguing Emperor, Charles V.  All these constitute a triangle of hate and power the like of which the world has not seen the equal.
Such odds might daunt even the boldest but for one thing.  Our trust is in a spiritual leader, Jesus Christ.  He is given the title which the ancient Israelites delighted to give to Jehovah.  He is the "Lord Sabaoth," the "Lord of hosts," the commander of the hosts of heaven.  Here we have a truly Protestant theology.  Our confidence of salvation is not placed in an infallible Church with its sacraments, its relics and its traditions, but in an unconquerable Man who is clothed with the power and authority of God himself.  He remains the same "from age to age" and we know that "He must win the battle."
In that battle Luther saw himself in conflict with the devil, "the prince of darkness grim." with all his supernatural power and cunning.  Against such a foe, human weapons simply could not prevail.  If we confide in our own strength, then all "our striving would be losing" and well we know it.  "And though this world, with devils filled should threaten to undo us" remind us of Luther's defiant comment on his way to the Diet of Worms:  "though there were as many devils in Worms as there are tiles on the roofs, I will go nevertheless."  "One little word shall fell him" and that little word is "the Name that is above every name." (Phil. 2: 9-10).
The final verse is the very essence of Luther's religious belief.  There is personal contact with God, the source of all spiritual power, through the divine Saviour and the indwelling spirit.  The Spirit imparts his beautiful gifts to us (Gal.5:22).  Of what value are earthly things when compared with such priceless treasures?  These things are the symbols and seals of a kingdom that abides forever.  The promise of these gifts comes to us through the inspired word of God, the holy Scriptures, and that was Luther's most trusted weapon.
These words are a witness to the uplifting and sustaining power of the faith of the man who wrote them and these same words continue to be an inspiration to God's people in every crisis of life. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Many Gifts

This weekend we were blessed at SPPC with many gifts, but one spirit.

On Saturday night fifty to sixty people gathered for a late Thanksgiving feast.  Felicity and her friends prepared a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, mashed potatoes, yam casserole, dressing, gravy, green vegetable medley, and cranberry salad.  Followed by pumpkin tars with whipped cream, or apple crumble.  The dinner was sponsored by the Parking Lot Club and was a treat for us all.  More importantly it was an opportunity for members of the congregation to meet and mingle with families whose children come to the Parking Lot Club on Thursday afternoons.  SPPC likes to practice fellowship around a common meal, and in doing so we follow the practice of the early church.  A wonderful way to welcome others into our fellowship.

Then, on Sunday afternoon, a similar number of people had the pleasure of hearing the McKenna String Quintet in concert.  This remarkable family of five, talented siblings has been in Victoria for the past few weeks, studying with various teachers, including the LaFayette String Quartet.  During that time, they have attended Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church, much to our delight.
Their concert opened with Mozart's String Quintet in D Major, K.593.  
This was followed by a vocal duet, Al Shlosh D'varim arr. Allen Naplan and performed by Minja and Marja McKenna.  The piece is based on Jewish morality laws, translated to mean: "The world is sustained by three things: by truth, by justice, and by peace."  The number was a surprising and lovely addition to the concert.

Following intermission the quintet, slightly rearranged, played Vaughn Williams' lush and romantic "Phantasy Quintet."  I overheard someone remark that it sounded Irish, perhaps that's why the family chose it.  Their father's background is Irish.

We then had another vocal piece, this time with all five of the performers singing. Esto les Digo by Kinley Lange is based on Matthew 18:20  "Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I also in the midst of them."  

The concert concluded with Boccherini's "String Quintet in C Major," Op. 42 No.2, a lively and engaging finish to the afternoon.
Except it wasn't really the end, the quintet treated us to an encore, a vocal arrangement of "Loch Lomond."

We had a truly remarkable weekend at the church, because so many were willing to share their gifts in the Spirit of Christ.  Thank you to everyone.  To the McKenna's we wish you well as you return home to Calgary, and on your musical journey.  
To everyone who helped, set-up, cooked, took-down, offered the hand of friendship and prayed for the success of both endeavours, thank you.  God bless us, everyone.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Thanksgiving Sunday

Happy Thanksgiving!  
Canadian thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays.  What joy to celebrate the harvest, to bring in the sheaves, to see the granaries full and the preserve shelves sagging under the weight of summer's goodness.

This year, my harvest wasn't that good. And I've heard the same story from others.  A cold, wet spring knocked the blossoms off the fruit trees.  The rain kept the bees away.  Then hot, dry weather and smoky skies stunted the growth of many vegetables, particularly zucchini, in August.  Can you imagine a gardener asking for zucchini?  Usually we're trying desperately to give them away!
But even with a poor year, the table at the church is filled with the fruits of the earth.

Still, the disappointment with my own crops made me think about other times and other places.  In our world, we don't fear famine.  We can always buy what we need, even if we can't grow it.  But the people of Israel knew famine, it's what sent them into Egypt, and slavery. 
 People in parts of Africa and Asia are starving today, sometimes because of warfare, sometimes because of failed crops.
 On this thanksgiving weekend, when most of us sit down to too much food, let us be grateful for the feast before us and remember those in need.  
A gift to PWS&D reflects our love for God's people everywhere.  Closer to home, there's a box in the narthex for the food bank.

Thanks to all who brought offerings for the table at church, including Heritage Acres. Enjoy the feast and family and friends.  Rejoice in the goodness of God's world.  "Come Ye Thankful People Come!"

Monday, October 2, 2017

McKenna String Quintet

What a busy Sunday we just had.  World Wide Communion, a visiting string quintet and the installation of Rev. Noel Kinnon as our minister emeritus, and the beginning of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  Talk about a high Sunday.

Let's start with the McKenna's a quintet of siblings, visiting our church, who graced the service with their music during the prelude, offertory and postlude.  Such a wealth of talent in one family.  We thank them for their participation.  If you missed them on Sunday, you can hear them in concert on October 15, at the church.  More details to follow.

A minister emeritus in the Presbyterian Church in Canada has no special duties, no special powers and no remuneration.  The title is simply an acknowledgement of affection and esteem from the congregation to the retired minister.  There was no shortage of affection or esteem in Sunday morning's service.  Noel is a great friend to Saanich Peninsula
Presbyterian Church, often filling the pulpit when Rev. Irwin is called away.  Judging by the number of guests in the pews, Rev. Kinnon is also a friend to a great many people, not of our congregation.  Praise God!
Although it was specifically stated that he had no new responsibilities as our minister emeritus, Noel was very much part of the ministry team, taking the children's story and officiating at Holy Communion.

And that brings me to World Wide Communion Sunday.  The McKenna's are not only gifted string players, they sing -- beautifully.  The piece they chose this morning was in Spanish.  Fitting for a day when Christians around the world celebrate communion.  Sometimes we feel small and alone in the hurly-burly of our culture, but Sunday we were part of "a great cloud of witnesses."

Finally, Sunday marked 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  On Oct. 31, 1517 Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg Castle church, beginning a movement that would reshape the western world.  Rev. Irwin's sermon "Sola Gratia -- By Grace Alone," was based in one of the tenets of Luther's reformation.  We are saved by grace alone, by God's gift, not by our deservedness.

Ironically, the Bible Study groups have just begun the study of the Letter of James, a book Luther described as "straw."  James emphasises "works" to illuminate and act out our faith.  Some see this book as a contradiction to Luther's Sola Gratia.  Come along on Wednesdays at 9:30 am or 7:00 pm to see where the study takes us.

As I said at the beginning of this post, quite a Sunday.  Hallelujah!