Monday, December 30, 2019

The Celebration Continues

December was full of activity for the congregation of SPPC, then Christmas Eve arrived. This is a very exciting service but peace pervades the sanctuary. The old, old story is read. Carols are sung -- so familiar, most people don't need a hymn book. Then the lights are lowered and a flame from the Christ candle is carried through the
congregation, lighting one small candle after another. In stillness and quiet, we sing "Silent Night, Holy Night. All is calm."
What a blessed moment -- all is calm.  We have finished our preparations, we are ready. Ready for the Christ child to come into our lives. This is my favourite moment in all the Christmas season.

Then it is Christmas Day and we gather again, many heavy-eyed from lack of sleep. A day to greet the newborn Saviour and wish each other a Merry Christmas.

And then it was Sunday. I don't know about anyone else, but I felt like we had ten days of "the day before," "the day," and "the day after" then "the day before" again!

Often the Sunday between Christmas and New Year's is a low period in the holidays, but in 2019, this was a high Sunday. Naomi Edith was baptized into the family of God and our congregation.
As Rev. Irwin's grand niece, Naomi's baptism was particularly sweet. 

She was an excellent baby, not even crying when drenched with water, and smiling at all the people who cooed to her.
She wore a christening gown that had been worn from generation to generation, including her great grandfather, for at least 100 years. Another special moment in a day of special moments.

Welcome, Naomi. The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Joy and Love

Happy Birthday to Don. Beautiful cake too!

The third Sunday of Advent is Joy.
A few extra lights to brighten the darkness

The fourth Sunday of Advent is Love
Our Advent lighting is complete

Last week's blog was very long so some events received only a short paragraph. This week, I'm making up for that.

On Sunday afternoon, Dec. 15, Love and Joy pervaded our sanctuary and our hearts. We shared music, fellowship and food with the Jesus is Lord Congregation. We are so happy they've been able to use our sanctuary on Sunday evenings and they are so happy to have a place to worship. 

This Sunday we lit the fourth candle
of Advent. In the afternoon we assisted
with a worship service at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital leading in carol singing.
We had a larger than usual crowd and many happy faces. Christmas carols seem to touch our souls in a special way, evoking memories of happy times, family and loving friends. They make us smile and shake hands and rejoice, regardless of our circumstances.

Music is a gift we celebrate at SPPC, especially at Christmas time.
On Christmas Eve we'll enjoy another time of carols and readings and candlelight.
Plenty of free parking. Enjoy a hot drink and a shortbread cookie.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Advent at SPPC

So much is happening around the church during Advent, this week's blog is an update on events past and others still to come. Get out your calendar.

To begin, Peter had an idea and Tore has a basement workshop. Together they created these
lovely outdoor decorations using the themes of Advent, hope, peace, joy and love. Hope, peace and joy are in place off the roof of the church. Love will appear next week, as we approach the fourth Sunday of Advent. Thanks you two. It looks great and provides a much needed bright spot on the outside of the building.

Last Sunday, the third of Advent two new elders were ordained during morning service. Elders in the presbyterian church bear significant responsibility for the well-being, both temporal and spiritual, of the congregation. Our thanks to Darlene and Tore for filling these positions.

The "out to lunch bunch" has been enjoying good company and good food since September, but this month we had a special event. Thirty six members of the congregation enjoyed a special Christmas buffet at Haro's restaurant in Sidney. We had our own room so all our visiting didn't interfere with other patrons. Fortunately no one kept track of the number of repeat visits to the buffet table.

Sunday was white gift day when we collected some extras for the shut-in members of our congregation and for those in need in our community. The Sidney Food Bank is always grateful for our donations.

There was a bake sale following worship. Thanks to Diane and Darlene and Joan and Linda and Aarol and all who contributed goodies. Thanks also to all who opened their wallets and took home the treats. The money raised goes toward our mission projects.

Sunday afternoon we put on our usual Community Carol Sing. We see many of the same faces year after year. Good to know the church is part of the community Christmas tradition. 
We followed the carol sing with a pot luck supper, shared with the Jesus is Lord congregation. Lovely to meet the evening worshipers in our church building.

Next Sunday we light the fourth Advent candle during morning worship, 10:00 am. In the afternoon we'll host a carol service at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital.

Christmas Eve is our lessons and carols service, complete with candles and Silent Night. Service begins at 7:00 pm.
Christmas Day at 10:30 am we celebrate Jesus' birthday with a short, family service.

With all this activity, it's easy to forget that Advent is a time of waiting. Linda has sent along this little reminder.

Thoughts on an Advent Devotional
Christmas is a busy season and one of the ways I cope with the busyness is to make lists.  One of  the important tasks on my list is to complete an advent devotional.  Today is day sixteen and I thought I'd share some of my thoughts so far.

  • In order to clear the clutter for Christ we have to take a moment to listen intentionally and expectantly.
  • Christ is the most important present to unwrap.
  • Rethink, rearrange and refocus so Christ has room in our lives.
  • For some there is little joy in the season, remember Christ came for the broken.
  • When does Christmas officially begin?  Christmas “officially” began with the fall of man when God put His rescue plan into motion. I never considered this before.
  • Advent means coming--lets be ready for this special guest.
  • Christmas brings us unfathomable Grace and unstoppable Love
  • Don’t doubt God's power, Mary didn’t.
  • Joseph showed no fear when he was obedient after God spoke to him.

Llinda Cliff
  These are some of my reflections from reading the devotional “Making Space” written by Susan Narjala a freelance writer who lives and writes in India.  The devotional is available on line, why not it read for yourself?
I wish you all a merry Christmas.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Caol Sing 2019

One of our favourite Christmas traditions at SPPC is the community carol sing.
This year the event takes place on Dec. 15 at 2:30 pm.
We'll sing old favourites like "O Come All Ye Faithful," "Away in a Manger," "Silent Night," and many more. Words supplied so no need to bring a carol book--just bring a friend and prepare to get into the Christmas spirit. 
The Jesus is Lord Congregation has been using the SPPC building for worship on Sunday evenings. We're delighted that they've agreed to join us for the Carol Sing and for a pot luck supper afterward.
As the old song goes -- "please to put a penny in the old man's hat. If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do,. If you haven't got a ha'penny, then God Bless You."  If you haven't got a dish to contribute to the supper, don't worry about it, we wish you God's blessings anyway. There will be lots of food to go around. If you'd rather just have a cup of tea and a cookie, that's fine too.
We look forward to meeting all our friends and neighbours at the Carol Sing.

9296 E. Saanich Road (at airport roundabout)
Free parking
More information at SPPC 250 656-2241

Monday, December 2, 2019

Advent 1

December and Advent arrived together this year. On Sunday the congregation entered a sanctuary decorated for this most festive time of year. It looked beautiful.
On Saturday, a number of church workers turned up to work the magic that takes a mess and turns it into something lovely. 

Felicity took charge and directed her helpers.
poinsettias in their wrappings declare Christmas season is here

An SPPC favourite, Hazel's knitted nativity.

Barb's antique plant stand creates a perfect display for the flowers

The candle of Hope is lit

December is full of special services. Dec. 8 is Communion and the ordination of new elders.
December 15 is white gift, bake sale, carol-sing and pot luck supper
Dec. 22 Fourth Advent, the candle of joy. Service at the Hospital
Dec. 24 Christmas Eve service at 7:00 pm -- carols, candlelight, lessons
Dec. 25 -- 10:30am  Birthday Party for Jesus  --All Welcome

Monday, November 25, 2019

Report on Bible Study

This week marks the end of our current Bible Study, A Brief Survey of the Bible. There has been lots of positive feedback. The group enjoyed the presentations by John Walton, with his deep love of the Old Testament. We've been inspired by the enthusiasm of New Testament professor, Mark Strauss. 
And we've read! Chapters and chapters and chapters of both testaments. For some it has been the first time they've looked at certain passages, for others it has been a review of old favourites. For all of us it has been a journey of discovery.

We began this study by default, since Rev. Irwin was on sick leave in the fall and many of us Bible Study regulars wanted to continue to meet together. Fortunately, our minister has recovered and has been able to sit in on the last few sessions. Having him available to answer questions as they arise has added tremendously to our experience.
We're coming into December now, so there will be no more Wednesday Bible Study until after Christmas.

On January 15, we will meet at the usual time to discuss a book "If
You Want to Walk on Water you have to get out of the boat."  Linda recommended this book and wrote a blog on it earlier in the year. She will lead the discussion group. Anyone who wants a copy of the book to read can get it by contacting the SPPC office at 250 656-2241

After that -- who knows? The "Brief Survey" raised lots of topics which could be explored in the new year.  Stay tuned for updates.

P.S. Reading through the Bible once is only the beginning. Go back and read again the beautiful parts as a balm to your soul. Re-read the hard parts to enlarge your understanding. Look again at the commandments to encourage you in faithful living. It is a Good Book.
The DVD of "A Brief Survey" will be in our church library

Monday, November 18, 2019

Amidst all the Remembrance Day observances last week, I realized one of the hymns of my youth was missing, "O Valiant Hearts." It does not appear in our Book of Praise,. In fact, lists it as appearing in less than 25 hymnals between the 1920's and the 1990's.
The poem was written in 1917, by John Arkwright, and later set to music. It was an attempt to bring meaning to the millions of deaths brought on by WWI -- the war to end all wars.
It is easy to see how grieving nations would embrace the words of this hymn, which links the sacrifice of so many young lives to the sacrifice of Christ. 
The hymn was was sung at the bur­i­al ser­vice of the Un­known War­ri­or in West­min­ster Ab­bey, Lon­don, No­vem­ber 11, 1920, 
Sadly, the Great War, did not end all wars. Perhaps that is one reason later hymnarys did not include this hymn. However, it was a standard at the cenotaph when I was young and a quick search on-line shows it is still very much a part of Remembrance Day in Britain.
It may not suit our times, but the heartfelt sorrow and grief of so many nations, is worth remembering.

1. O valiant hearts who to your glory came
Through dust of conflict and through battle flame;
Tranquil you lie, your knightly virtue proved,
Your memory hallowed in the land you loved.

2. Proudly you gathered, rank on rank, to war
As who had heard God’s message from afar;
All you had hoped for, all you had, you gave,
To save mankind—yourselves you scorned to save.

3. Splendid you passed, the great surrender made;
Into the light that nevermore shall fade;
Deep your contentment in that blest abode,
Who wait the last clear trumpet call of God.

4. Long years ago, as earth lay dark and still,
Rose a loud cry upon a lonely hill,
While in the frailty of our human clay,
Christ, our Redeemer, passed the self same way.

5. Still stands His cross from that dread hour to this,
Like some bright star above the dark abyss;
Still, through the veil, the Victor’s pitying eyes
Look down to bless our lesser Calvaries.

7. O risen Lord, O Shepherd of our dead,
Whose cross has bought them and whose staff has led,
In glorious hope their proud and sorrowing land
Commits her children to Thy gracious hand.

John Arkwright, 1917  

(Tune: The Supreme Sacrifice) - composed by Charles Harris

Monday, November 11, 2019

A Time for Remembrance

This Remembrance Day Sunday our wreath was laid by Harold Taylor, a veteran of the Korean War, serving with the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. 
Harold was doing his National Service in England when he was eighteen. He was supposed to go to Hong Kong. However, because the first English soldier killed in Korea was only eighteen, there was a protest in England, particularly from the mothers. As a result, the military decided that young men would not be deployed to foreign service until they'd passed their nineteenth birthday. So, Harold stayed training in England for another year. When he turned nineteen, he got his orders for Korea. 
He served in the "police action" there for eighteen months. Back home in England, after he finished his National Service, he found the country in turmoil because of a miners strike. He and Hazel decided to emigrate and Canada offered a hopeful future.  
Examining the Bible Harold received while in Japan, before deploying to Korea

Although Harold was in Korea as part of the British military, Canadians served in that conflict as well. Korea is often referred to as Canada's forgotten war.
When Canada agreed to join a US led military action in Korea, the country was weary of war. The Second World War had ended only five years previously. Even though most citizens agreed with the need to stop communist aggression, they did not feel an emotional or personal connection to Korea, even though 500 Canadians were killed in the conflict.
British casualties were 1,078 killed in action, 2,674 wounded and 1,060 missing or taken prisoner.  
South Korea, however, did not forget the service and sacrifice of people like Harold.  The Republic of Korea holds Canada, and other allied countries in high regard for fighting to save them from falling victim to one of the world's most merciless regimes.

Korean  War Monument to Canadian Fallen (Ottawa)

Monday, November 4, 2019

Book Review -- Linda Cliff

If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat

By John Ortberg

This book was the winner of the 2002 Christianity Today Book award! - And is well worth the read.   The author invites the reader to consider the potential that awaits outside your comfort zone.  Ortberg takes the reader step by step through Peter’s walking on water experience helping the reader to develop the necessary skills to do the same. 
In the preface of the book Ortberg states that he believes there is some aspect of our lives in which God is calling us to walk with and to him, and that when we say yes to his calling it sets in motion a dynamic that is beyond mere human power.  Fortunately there are some essential skills we can learn before we try “water walking”, this is a book that will help you get out of the boat. 

The book begins with a discussion of water walking, the people who risk getting out of the boat and the boat potatoes, the people who stay in the boat.  Ortberg tells the reader there are consequences with each decision but God’s promises about water walking are worth the first step.  
He uses scripture from Matthew to look at each part of the water walking skill.  After having the courage to take the risk the walker needs the wisdom to discern the call. Each chapter focuses on learning a part of this new skill.   Once we have discerned the call, there is the actual walking on the water.  This is when we, like Peter, may see the wind and cry out in fear.  Then there is the sinking which is stopped by focusing on Jesus.  We also have to learn how to manage failure and decide “How big is our God?” How big is Christ in our lives? 

Ortberg leads us through this new skill by focusing on each part of the water walking. He uses Bible references to illustrates how others have taken the risk of getting out of the boat.  He is like any good coach; he explains what is needed and then gives us things to practice so we build both the skill and our confidence.  The book is filled with humorous antidotes that make you want to read more and help to keep the reader engaged when you are doing the hard work of learning a new skill.

I highly recommend this book.  The chapter on fear was one of my favorites and one I reread.  Also the chapter on focusing on Jesus has practical ideas on how to make Jesus the focus in each day. 

If you would like to be part of a group who will do a short study on this book, copies are available at the Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian church.  The group will meet in January 2020 and we would like to welcome you.  Watch this Blog for updates.

Linda Cliff

Monday, October 28, 2019

A Brief survey

During this session, the Wednesday morning Bible Study is following a video series entitled A Brief Survey of the Bible -- Discovering the Big Picture of God's Story from Genesis to Revelation.
That is a very long title for something that is supposed to be "brief," but the Bible is a very long story!
In previous studies we've focussed on one book, or one epistle, or one theme and explored that subject in depth. I've learned so much from those studies. They really help with this one. 
The current study takes a different approach and covers the whole of scripture, in a very brief overview. 
Each lesson covers several chapters of scripture. I'm glad I've had the shorter, deeper studies, otherwise I wouldn't have the language and the background for this survey.  The instructor assumes you know the stories of Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel, and Lot, and Abraham and Sarah, and Jacob and Esau, and the Tower of Babel, and Moses and the parting of the Red Sea, and Joshua and the walls of Jericho and Gideon and . . .  You get the idea. 
Without knowing all those stories, it would be like trying to study Shakespeare without knowing the English language.
Surprisingly, to me, the lessons are not about the people in the stories. The Bible is viewed as God's story and all the characters, even the great King David, are mere bit players. 
It's a fascinating study. If you'd like to join in, it's not too late. Don't be scared off by the amount of reading -- we don't mark your homework. Everyone does what he/she can and we all learn from each other.
If you'd like to see a sample of the instructors teaching, you can find John Walton (Old Testament) here, and Mark Strauss (New Testament) here.These are not clips from our study, but they will give you a sense of what the video is like. 
Wednesday's at 9:30 am, Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church, 9296 E. Saanich Rd. Free parking. The coffee's on.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Faith in Action

Normally this blog focuses on events happening at our church, but today I was reminded that church members have lives outside the congregation and engage in good works away from the church building.
One such couple is Brian and Meta Altenkirk. They were features in the Peninsula News Review this week because of their contribution to the craft sale at Water's Edge Village. 

We've had a chance to enjoy their work at various SPPC events. As shown in the photo above, Brian makes lovely wood things on the lathe and Meta creates greeting cards, but the products of their skill and imagination have a purpose beyond making pretty things.

The Altenkirk's have a daughter who suffers from MS. She was diagnosed at 21. She is now 52. Their daughter is fortunate that the disease so far has not been terribly aggressive. 
Since that diagnosis, Brian and Meta have turned to supporting the MS Society. Every penny they take in from the sale of their crafts goes to MS. Even if their daughter is not in dire need, others are. As Meta says there are many aids that people with MS need that are not covered by provincial health care plans. The MS Society tries to fill that gap.

So, well done, Altenkirk's. For 30 years, without fanfare or the prospect of gain,  you have contributed to the well-being of others. We're so glad to have you in our congregation where we may learn by your example.  Luke 10:34

Monday, October 14, 2019

With Gratitude

Rev. Arnie, our guest minister on Thanksgiving Sunday told a story
about thanksgiving in New England, when the Pilgrims first arrived in North America. Their first winter was very hard with cold and storms and not enough to eat. Legend has it that some days each person received only five kernels of corn as their ration of food. The next year, after a good harvest. The Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving with five kernels of corn, to remind them of five things they were grateful for. It is the legend of the five kernels of corn.
The minister asked what we would name as our five gratitudes. So, for this blog, I thought I'd share my list.

  • The harvest. If you've read this blog much, you know I glory in the abundance of the garden and the orchard.        

 Give thanks to the God of Creation for all He has done.    

  • The people at SPPC who shared their harvest to decorate our thanksgiving table. Any produce not reclaimed will go to the Food Bank, so we have shared in many ways. 

Give thanks to the Holy Spirit who moves people's hearts to do good things.

  • The people at SPPC who take care of our property, keeping it tidy and inviting for all who come. This week, we had the lines in the parking lot repainted, so the lot is safer and more inviting. 

Give thanks to Jesus for teaching us to be servants.

  • A broken fig tree. It reminded me of the parable of the fig tree. Give thanks to God for His Word, our guide and our creed.
  • Faithful members of the congregation who shared their celebrations within our fellowship. Lois just celebrated her 90th birthday. She couldn't come to SPPC, so SPPC went to her.

 Give thanks to Jesus who turned water into wine so that friends and family might enjoy fellowship.

Five is a rather poor number when it comes to listing our gratitudes. Some time ago the Bible Study class studied Ann Voskamp's devotional "One Thousand Gifts." When I started writing them down, 1000 seemed like an unattainable number, but within the year, I'd reached the goal. Five barely scratches the surface.

Happy Thanksgiving. I challenge you to make a list of five gratitudes, then keep going, until you have a hundred, or five hundred or a thousand. God is so good to us, we'll never reach the end.