Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Choosing Hymns

As well as maintaining this blog, I'm on the worship committee for SPPC. It's a fun committee - we talk about music. Mainly, we choose hymns for the worship service. Hymns are chosen for a variety of reasons. Primarily we want the words to support the theme of the service, but also hymns as a call to worship, hymns for sending out, hymns for children. We want some rousers and some more contemplative music. We like to include old favourites, (there's a hymn request sheet in the narthex) and newer hymns. We can't please all of the people all of the time, but we try to include variety in every service. Sometimes we'll opt for a familiar tune if the words fit the service very well but the melody is awkward. Discussions can be lively, but they are always good-humoured. 
The work has certainly deepened my awareness of the hymns in our hymnbook, and from other sources. I like some of the newer hymns with their lively choruses, but wonder if they'll stand the test of time. Some of the older ones in our hymn book feel dated and the language convoluted. But some hymns are timeless and powerful, like our "sending out" hymn on Sunday.
Here's a commentary on it  by Dr. Cecil Kirk, late of our congregation.

Forth in Thy Name, O Lord, I Go

There are few hymns which deal with the theme of work, but this is one of them and Wesley approaches the subject in a thoroughly Biblical way.  For Christian people, these words address the matters of the spirit in which we should approach our daily tasks and the difference our faith will make as we do our work.
Immediately we are disabused of the idea that faith and work can be divorced from one another. Sunday worship and weekday work belong together. They must not be separated as though one is spiritual and the other secular. Work is an essential element in the divine plan for human life. God Himself is the supreme worker. He created the world; He made each human being in His own image and He gave each of us the creative instinct which allows us to find fulfilment in our daily work. Nor must we forget that Jesus worked as a village carpenter before going out on His teaching ministry and, no doubt, the lessons He learned there stood Him in good stead as He worked with people. As we go out to our daily labour, we go "in Thy name." That will give us a different perspective. God, in his wisdom "hath assigned" that work to us and so we ask Him to "let me cheerfully fulfil (it)" and to acknowledge Him, not only in what we do but also in what we think and say.
Whatever work we do, it brings its own temptation. Two such temptations are specifically mentioned - overanxiety and greed. Those who occupy positions of responsibility know the danger of the former. Care robs us of our peace of mind and chokes our spiritual life. "The gilded baits of worldly love," refers to love of the world and love of money; both are forms of idolatry which would replace the love of God. So we must be on our guard against these temptations, maintaining our loyalty to Jesus Christ. Not only must we be vigilant but we should "every moment watch and pray", keeping our eyes fixed on "things eternal" instead of becoming absorbed in the transient things of this world.
Just as in worship, we remember God's presence and seek His glory, so too, we must do likewise in our work. Nothing can remain hidden from the sight of God (Heb.4,13). The motto of the school the author attended, translated, was "Work is itself a pleasure." Work is not meant to be drudgery. We should delight to use the skills God has given us in His "bounteous grace." Unfortunately, not everyone has employment that allows this. Perhaps that is why Wesley concludes his hymn with a plea for the ability to "run my course with even joy and closely walk with Thee to heaven." We look for something that will be constant, not given to sudden swings in either direction. But, above all, we ask for the companionship of the Lord himself on the road of life. There is no better friend and there is no better destination.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Book Review

In a recent sermon, Rev. Irwin mentioned Tony Campolo's book, The Kingdom of God is a Party. It is on the shelf in our church library so I took it home and read it.
 It was written in 1990 so some of the examples are dated, but the concept of joy is timeless. The author argues that at times the church has focussed so heavily on repentance and judgement that laughter and partying were seen as sinful.
Campolo argues that the year of Jubilee as outlined in Leviticus 25:8 supports the notion of a party, when all debts are forgiven, prisoners set free and land returned to its original owners. Is. 61:1-2 echos this command and Jesus himself chose those same writings to read in the temple Luke 4:21. Tithing as descripted in Deut. 14, is all about setting aside a tenth of one's wealth in order to hold a party at a place which the Lord shall choose.
The author then goes on to describe several instances of parties that belong to the Kingdom of God as opposed to those that belong to the world. A party for the 'losers' on prom night proved so successful, the "it" kids wanted to attend. Church services where "make a joyful noise," was taken literally and the congregation erupted into singing and clapping and alleluias. Families who have put their commitment to each other above business relationships, sports activities and even church work, if it detracted from the joy of being a family. In the workplace, Christians can become the life of the party by their attitude. Like Jesus, Christians can attract others by living a faithful and joy-filled life. Paul and Silas singing hymns in prison are Biblical examples of partying in dire circumstances. Acts 16: 23-25
Of course, earthly life includes sorrow and hardship. Not even Tony Campolo expects Christians to always smile and sing. There are times when we hurt, times when we cry. We face loss, death and the destruction of cherished dreams. The difference for those who belong to the Kingdom of God, is that sorrow does not overwhelm, death does not defeat. 
The author acknowledges that some Christians find his attitude toward partying hard to swallow. One critic wrote "God is working. Jesus is working. And the Holy Spirit is in us -- working! I work. And when I am really depressed, I work, really work . . .Please consider shelving your party message."
The author counters by quoting Revelations 19: 6 "Alleluia; for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice. . ."

I found this an interesting book, one that gave me much to think about.  "Work for the night is coming," is a common theme in our church, but "Give to us laughter," is an option. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

   Weekly choir practice is back on the calendar.  Bible study is back in session. Sunday school has restarted. Regular committees are back at work. The sign up board has plenty of openings. Hard to believe that just a few short weeks ago we were getting ready for Christmas Eve Service amid worries about the electric power.

      In the "big wind" of 2018, some 800,000 households on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands lost power. Given the circumstances SPPC got off lightly. We never lost power completely but we did lose some. We have a three phase power system. A branch came down and touched the lines. We lost two phases. Not dire, but worrisome just before our biggest service of the year. 
     Our electrical services were so unpredictable life got complicated. Lights in the hall worked but not in the office. The organ had power but  the photocopier did not. Heat was erratic.
     Even once full power was restored timed systems, like the outdoor lights, were unreliable. On Christmas Eve the parking lot and driveway were in total darkness. Regular congregants had a hard time finding the gateway so what chance did visitors have?
     Turns out they managed just fine because we had a full house. The service was lovely. Ironically, we turned off the lights toward the end of worship, leaving the sanctuary lit only by candles as we sang "Silent Night." 

     Clean up is now complete, we think. Welcome all to SPPC in 2019--and bring a sweater, just in case.

Monday, January 7, 2019

More Blessings

Share the Good News
by Janet Smith

At SPPC we take our turn to visit the Saanich Peninsula Hospital to lead a 30-minute service for the residents in palliative care wing.
Usually this falls on the 4th Sunday of the odd numbered months, January, March and so on but a few weeks back the secretary called me to let me know that we had also been assigned Sunday 23rd December! To my shame, my immediate reaction was somewhat selfish to say the Least. Oh, what a nuisance, I thought, right now when I have so much to do.
As I announced this to others, I felt the same sort of reaction. Why us? It’s not our turn.
 Anyhow, a goodly number of our congregation turned out and helped gather residents from their rooms and helped them to the hospital Chapel and together we all enjoyed singing Christmas carols. Rev. Irwin gave a short Christmas message and when the service ended, we helped everyone back to their rooms.

This took all of one and a half hours out of my Christmas preparation, so little time but such a great blessing for those who attended, possibly for some folks, we may have been the only visitors they saw over the Christmas season. Not only was it a time of blessing for the residents but I hope it was also a blessing for those of our congregation that came out to share that time together.
How selfish can we be, when all we think about is what we want and need, yet when we give of ourselves to others, how best we are.
Christmas came, everything fell into place and I was able to enjoy celebrating Christ’s birth with my family in the warmth and comfort of my home unlike so many.
Christmas is a time for sharing the love, hope, peace and joy that Christ came to bring each one of us, I hope we were able to do that for these folks at the S.P.H. for that short time on 23 December 2018.
Go Tell it on the mountains!