Monday, February 25, 2019

How Firm a Foundation

This week seems to have run on a single theme in my life at SPPC. The theme of "foundations." 
On Sunday morning Rev. Irwin preached on God's covenant with the people of Israel, when He gave them the ten commandments. This was "the" definitive foundation of the Jewish nation.

Also on Sunday, we held our annual congregational meeting. This is the time where the congregation reviews its work and its goals and ensures the two align. At SPPC the worship of God is of prime importance. We also care deeply for one another. Those priorities are evident in the reports of the various committees and in our budget. We also give generously to mission work, underlining our care for the whole people of God.

In Bible Study, we discussed Isaiah 43:1 - 44:5.  These passages proclaim, once again, Israel's failure to live up to their side of the bargain Moses made with God. They are to be God's people, He'll provide, protect, treasure and raise them up to to be the light of the world, but they must obey His laws. Despite their dismal record, God does not forsake them. The scripture recalls Israel's exodus from Egypt and God's care of them.  We're back to those foundations of our faith.
For anyone familiar with Handel's great oratorio, "Messiah," the passage resonates with music. The phrases "make straight in the desert a highway" and "every valley shall be exalted" sing from the page. 
Even my non-musical friend said to me, "Isn't there a hymn?"
"There's always a hymn," I replied. Here it is, "How Firm a Foundation, Ye Saints of the Lord," with notes from the late Dr. Cecil Kirk.

Stanza one lays out that the Bible contains the solid foundation of our faith. "How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord/ Is laid for your faith in His excellent word."
In stanzas two to five, the speaker is God. He reminds us of his mercy to Israel. "Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed, I, I am the God and will still give thee aid."  "When through the deep waters I cause thee to go," references the parting of the Red Sea.
"The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine," brings to mind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, where the flame did not burn them.
The hymn concludes with God's assurance that He will never leave us or forsake us. Satan may do all that is within his power to shake the foundations of our faith, but ultimately that foundation is Christ and He cannot be overcome by Satan.

For me, this has been a powerful week of reassurance of God's faithfulness and the immovable foundation on which we build our faith.
Sanctuary flowers, Feb. 24

Monday, February 18, 2019

Snow Day!

Like most of the Greater Victoria area this past week, SPPC had to hang a "closed" sign in the window.  Roads were treacherous, the parking lot was inaccessible, and care for our parishioners urged a "stay at home/stay safe" attitude.

Sunday the sun shone and roads were passible. Our parking lot has been ploughed so we were open for morning service.

Our valiant secretary, Patricia, worked from home then waded through the snowbanks on Friday, to produce a bulletin for Sunday morning, despite the weather.

Our loyal choir, unable to rehearse on Thursday, pulled together an anthem on Sunday morning.

Stalwarts of the Vision 20/20 committees posted reports and gathered information and suggestions in the hall after service. 

Well done, everyone. I'm not sure the Old Testament writer envisioned a snow storm when he wrote these words, but they seem apt for the week that is past. 

"But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work."    2 Chronicles 15:7


Monday, February 11, 2019

Mission in Action

For the past few months, SPPC has been raising money for our mission work by selling soup and meat pies. Sunday, we upped our game with a luncheon after service.
The House Upon the Rock Ministry has undergone some hard times recently, with Dr. Wendy's husband, Pablo, needing life-saving (and expensive) surgery. As well as supporting his wife, Pablo runs the Christian radio station. He is a vital part of our ministry in the Dominican Republic.

Lunch, as usual, was delicious and "gratefully received." The money donated at the door will be  used to defray Pablo's expenses. As well as paying for the surgery, he needs follow up treatments.

Money is always useful, but prayers are sorely needed. And if you every wondered if prayer is effective, let me tell you about Pablo. He had to remain in ICU for ten days. During that time 200 people from his church gathered outside the hospital and said prayers for him. During that time, no one on ICU died. Four members of staff accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Prayer is a powerful witness.
Please continue to pray for the House Upon the Rock and their ministry in the Dominican Republic and for Dr. Wendy and Pablo and Sharon and Paul and all who work to bring the light of Christ to the people in that part of the world.
Special thanks to Darlene, Joan and Diane for organizing this event and preparing the food.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Winter Blahs?

How to beat the winter blahs? One way might be to blindfold your minister emeritus and take him for a walk around the sanctuary. 

Another way is to celebrate birthdays. We had a lot in the first month of the year, but Blanche is a great example of longevity. I'm not betraying any secrets when I reveal that she is over 90.

How does she do it? One answer may be Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church.
Study after study confirms that those who attend church regularly, live longer, more satisfying lives.

A study published in Journal of the American Medical Association in 2016 found that women who attended church more than once a week had a 33% lower chance of dying than their secular peers in the same time period.
Another study found that regular attendance at church (or synagogue or mosque) decreased the body's response to stress leading to longer life spans.
Another study out of Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health identifies a social support network, an optimistic attitude, self-control and a sense of purpose in life -- all associated with churchgoers-- as possible reasons for the relative longevity of those who attend church regularly.

Others suggest that sensing we are part of God's plan imparts self-confidence to deal with the issues of life. At a biological level, that reduces stress contributing to fewer instances of high blood pressure or diabetes, depression and suicide.
In our age, many claim to be "spiritual but not religious." From a health point of view, those who practice their faith alone, do not reap the same benefits as those who are part of a faith community. Being part of a social group--like a book club or a sports team--may fulfil the need for community, but without a shared sense of meaning and a common vision of the meaning of life, these groups fall short of the health benefits of a church congregation.

We love to celebrate birthdays at SPPC. There is cake and singing and laughter and Christian love abounding. Why not join us?