August 14, 2022.

Message for August 14, 2022

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Mark 8:27-33

Max Lucado is one of my favourite authors and he recalls this episode from his university days in his book, “God Came Near”.


“‘You mean to tell me God became a baby and that he was born in a sheep stable?’  The one posing the question was puzzled.  His thick eyebrows furrowed in doubt and his eyes squinted in caution.  He looked as though he’d walked down from one of the adjacent Colorado mountains.  And he sounded as though he honestly didn’t know if the story he was hearing was a mountain legend or the gospel truth.

‘Yes, that is what I mean to say’, the lecturer responded.

‘And then, after becoming a baby he was raised in a blue-collar home?  He never wrote any books or held any offices, yet he called himself the Son of God?’

‘That is right.’

‘He never traveled outside of his own country, never studied at a university, never lived in a palace, and yet asked to be regarded as the creator of the universe?’

‘That’s correct.’

‘And this crucifixion story … he was betrayed by his own people?  No followers came to his defense?  And then he was executed like a common junk-yard thief?’

‘That’s the gist of it.’  The authenticity of the questioner didn’t allow you to regard him as a cynic, nor to dismiss him as a show-off.  To the contrary he seemed nervous about commanding such attention.  But his desire to know was just an ounce or two heavier than his discomfort, so he continued.

‘And according to what’s written, after three days in the grave he was resurrected and made appearances to over five hundred people?’


‘And all this was to prove that God loves his people?’


‘Doesn’t that sound rather …’  He paused a second, looking for the right adjective.  ‘Doesn’t that all sound rather absurd?’

All the heads turned in perfect sync and looked at the lecturer.  All the heads that is, except mine.  My head was spinning as I was forced to look at Jesus from a new angle.  Christianity … absurd?  Jesus on a cross … absurd?  The resurrection … absurd?

The lecturer’s response was simple.  ‘Yes.  Yes, I suppose it does sound absurd, doesn’t it?’”


As Lucado went on to write, he didn’t like that answer at all, and we might not like it either.  To say that the Christian faith is absurd and silly-sounding?  Don’t be absurd!   And yet if we think about it, the story of Jesus and even the very Bible itself may well sound rather absurd or silly to those without faith or who have never heard it before.  Indeed the apparent absurdity of it all is borne out in both of this morning’s scripture passages.

The event described in today’s first passage happened back at the very dawn of recorded history.  Abram was 99 years old when God told him that he was going to be the father or ancestor of many nations.  As proof of this, God said that Abram’s wife Sarah, despite her old age, was going to bear a son.  As further proof of all this, God also gave Abram a new name; no longer would he be called Abram, from now on he would be called Abraham which when translated means “exalted father”.  And so the story of salvation, the chain of events leading up to Christ, began.  It began with God telling an elderly couple that despite the seeming impossibility of it all, they would have a child of their own.  But what was Abraham’s initial response to this news?

He laughed.  As he pointed out, he was almost 100 years old and Sarah was ninety!  How could they possibly have a child at their age?  God said that he was going to be the father of many nations?  Why he couldn’t imagine being the father of even one child!  The whole thing was laughable!  But while laughter greeted the beginning of the salvation story, anger and denial greeted its predicted climax.

Towards the end of his earthly ministry Jesus asked the disciples about who the people thought he was.  They answered that some people thought that he was the great prophet Elijah returned, while yet others thought that he was John the Baptist raised from the dead.  Jesus then put his disciples on the spot by asking them what they thought.  “You are the Christ”, said Peter.  Jesus told him that he was right and then went on to talk about what sort of Christ or Messiah he was.  He concluded by telling the disciples that contrary to popular expectations, as the Messiah he was going to be rejected and killed.  On the third day though he would be raised from the dead.  But what was Peter’s response to this?  In effect, he told Jesus not to be absurd because such things could not and would not happen to the Messiah!  Jesus’ response was to tell Peter off.

Laughter then greeted the beginning of the story of God’s salvation and denial greeted its predicted climax.  Both Abraham’s and Peter’s response was to say, “don’t be absurd”.  Lest we be too harsh on them though, how many people today respond to Christ and the gospel with laughter or denial?  “You Christians say that God so loved the world that he gave his only son … don’t be silly!  Why would God ever care about me; who and what am I to him?  You say that God cares about my aches and pains, my job security, my old age, or whatever else?  It’s laughable and can’t possibly be true!”  How many people even deny the salvation story?  They insist that there is no god, and that the Bible is all make believe.  There never was a man named Jesus and even if there was, he must have been mentally ill!  Imagine going around saying that we should love everyone, never mind saying that he was the Son of God!  And then to say that after his death he was brought back to life and lives forevermore, and that we shall too?  Truly when we think about it, the story of salvation may well sound rather absurd.  Max Lucado certainly realized the apparent absurdity of it all.  To return to what he wrote:


“Why God did it is absolutely absurd.  Think about it.  It was a fiasco.  Even the holiest of heroes sometimes forgot whose side they were on.  Some of the scenarios in the Bible look more like the adventures of Sinbad the Sailor than stories for Vacation Bible School.  Remember these characters?

Aaron.  Right hand man to Moses.  Witness of the plagues.  Member of the ‘Red Sea Riverbed Expedition’.  Holy priest of God.  But if he was so saintly, what is he doing leading the Israelites in fireside aerobics in front of the golden calf?

The sons of Jacob.  The fathers of Israel.  Great grandsons of Abraham.  Yet, if they were so special, why were they gagging their younger brother and sending him to Egypt?

David.  The man after God’s own heart.  The King’s king.  The giant-slayer and songwriter.  He’s also the guy whose glasses got steamy as a result of a bath on a roof.

Adam adorned in fig leaves and stains of forbidden fruit.  Moses throwing both a staff and a temper tantrum.  King Saul looking into a crystal ball for the will of God.

These are the chosen ones of God?  These are the ones who were to carry out God’s mission?  It’s easy to see the absurdity.  Why didn’t he give up?  It is inexplicable.  It doesn’t have a drop of logic nor a thread of rationality.”


So writes Lucado, and yet there is an explanation for it all.  Lucado knows it and so too do we.  The answer and explanation for the story of salvation is quite simply this; the love of God for us and all of his children.  And as we all well know from watching others or even from our own first-hand experience, love is not always logical or rational.  Love doesn’t always make sense.  At times love even seems to be foolish, silly, and even absurd to those who aren’t experiencing it.  Even so, what it all comes down to is love.  The entire Bible from beginning to end is a love story.  It is the story of God’s love for his creation and all therein.  It is the story of God’s love for Abraham who greeted the beginning of the salvation story with laughter.  It is the story of God’s love for Peter who greeted the climax with denial.  The Bible is the story of God’s love for each one of us too.  God’s love and God’s salvation; we may greet them with laughter and we may even deny that they exist, yet they are always ours for the asking.  God’s love and God’s salvation; as absurd or unbelievable as they may sound, they are what the Bible, our faith, our church, and our very lives as Christ’s disciples are all about.

Pastoral Prayer

Gracious God, hear us as we come to you in prayer this summer morning.

We thank you for the goodness, variety, and beauty of your creation.  We thank you that you have called us into existence and that we are here, a part of it.  We thank you for what this season means for so many people; a break from school or work, and an opportunity to live life at a slower pace.

We thank you for your love that comes into our lives in ways other than through your creation, through such as our families and all the people whom we love and who love us.

We thank you for your very self; that you are a God of love.  We thank you for your Word given to us through the scriptures.

We thank you for your love as revealed to us through the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of your Son.  Truly your love, mercy, goodness, and compassion are over all that you have made.  We pray that you will help us to never forget this.  Help us to love, even as we are loved.

We pray this day for everyone who, for whatever reason, feels unneeded, unwanted, and unloved.  We pray for the sake of all who are ill, and all who mourn.  So often so many of us act as if the pandemic is over and that life has returned to normal, and yet it hasn’t.  We pray for the staff in our hospitals as they struggle, physically and mentally, to provide the much-needed care.  We pray too for the members of the various levels of government as they wrestle with how to improve our medical system.

We remember and pray this day for all of your children who lack even the most basic medical care, as well as those who hunger, have no place to call home or, for whatever reason, live in fear.

We once again pray for the people of Ukraine and especially for those who live in the occupied parts of that country.  We pray too for Israel and the occupied territories after the latest flare up of tensions and violence.  We pray for peace and justice, not only in those parts of the world but also throughout the whole of your creation.  To this end we pray for the work and ministry of your church which, despite her failures and shortcomings, is still your Son’s body here on earth.

We ask these things in your Son’s name.  Amen


August 7, 2022.

Message for August 7, 2022

Luke 10:25-37

Next year will mark the 160th anniversary of the death of Sir Frederick Treves.  In his day Treves was one of the most famous doctors in the entire world, in large part because he was the personal physician for three monarchs, Queen Victoria, Edward the Seventh, and George the Fifth.  Indeed Treves is credited with saving the life of King Edward when he became seriously ill.  His prominent position as the monarchs’ personal physician brought Treves into close and regular contact with many other great people but he never lost his sense of compassion for those less fortunate than himself.  That compassion in fact is his claim to fame today.

One day while in London, Treves happened to walk by an old building that displayed a banner advertising what was commonly called a ‘freak show’.  Being curious, he bought a ticket and went in but what he saw horrified him.  Amongst others, he saw John Merrick who is best known to us today as the “Elephant Man” and the principal character of the well-known movie that bears the same name.  Merrick’s head was as large in circumference as his waist and his face was so deformed that it could show no emotion whatsoever.  Merrick’s arms and legs were also grossly misshapen.  Treves was so moved by Merrick’s plight that he promptly made arrangements to rescue him from the sideshow.  Treves, who was a renown surgeon, then performed what surgery he could to improve Merrick’s appearance and quality of life.  After that he made arrangements for Merrick to be cared for, and all of this was done at Treves’ own expense.  And this is Treves’ claim to fame today.  He is not remembered for his hobnobbing with royalty, the rich and the famous; rather he is remembered and respected today because of his compassion and care for John Merrick.  To put it another way, Treves is remembered and respected today because he quite literally lived out today’s scripture passage.

Luke tells us that one day a lawyer sought to trap Jesus by asking him a deceptively simple question:  “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus in turn asked the lawyer what he thought and his reply was to quote the words of what we call “The Great Commandment”:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.”

Perhaps to his own surprise, the lawyer was told that he was absolutely right, and that if he did these things then he would have life, both now and forevermore in all of its fullness.  Despite being told that he was right though, the lawyer was still unhappy.  Being more interested in trying to trap Jesus than in learning, he then asked Jesus another question:  “Who is my neighbour?”  As he so often did, Jesus didn’t answer the question directly but told a story instead, a story that is one of the best known of the entire Bible.

Jesus told a story about a Jewish man who was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho.  On the way he was robbed, beaten, and left for dead.  As he lay there, a priest came along but this religious professional didn’t stop to help him.  He didn’t because if the man was in fact dead and if he touched him, then he would become ritually unclean and unable to perform his duties in the Temple.  A little while later yet another religious professional, a Levite, came along but he didn’t stop to help either.  Then a Samaritan arrived.  The Jews and Samaritans literally hated one another and were mortal enemies but even so, he stopped.  In fact he not only stopped, he even bound the injured man’s wounds, took him to the nearest inn, and then made arrangements for him to be looked after, and all of this was done at his own expense.  Jesus ended the story by asking:  “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?”  The answer of course was obvious, and Jesus concluded the conversation by telling the lawyer to go and do likewise.

This then is today’s very familiar scripture passage and when we think about it, its message appears to be fairly straightforward.  As the people of God and the disciples of Christ, we are called to keep the Great Commandment and love God with all of our capabilities; physical, mental and spiritual.  We are also called to love our neighbours as ourselves.  And our neighbours are anyone and everyone who needs our help in any way, shape, or form.  It doesn’t matter whether they live next door or far away, nor does it matter whether they are near and dear to us or not.  Why it doesn’t even matter whether we like them or not!  If a person needs our help, then that person is our neighbour and we are obliged to help them as best we can.  Truly today’s lesson may not be the easiest to obey but it is certainly easy enough to understand.  As I thought about this though, I was struck by one of its assumptions.  We are called to love our neighbours just as much as we love ourselves, but I wonder; do we in fact love ourselves?

Some people, and perhaps even most, would say that the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.  Many people in fact would argue that this is one of the problems facing the world today; that we love ourselves far too much and do not care enough about the needs of others or the world around us.  To use an example, most people agree that there is a problem with global warming and that something ought to be done about it.  Polls confirm this and yet poll after poll also indicates that most people by far are unwilling to do much, if anything, about it if it means any real sacrifice or inconvenience on their part.  And yet while most people believe that people are self-centred and love themselves far too much, not everybody agrees.  In fact a number of psychologists and sociologists claim that one of the greatest problems facing us today, both as individuals and as a society, is that too many of us really don’t love ourselves or have a high opinion of ourselves.  And if this is true, then the question has to be asked; if we do have such a low opinion of ourselves and have so little respect for ourselves, then how can we possibly respect others, never mind love them?

The truth is that if we cannot accept such as the way we look, the things we do, or forgive ourselves when we mess up, then it will be a very real challenge, if not impossible, for us to accept others never mind love them.  As the famous philosopher of days gone by, Bertrand Russell, once said, “A man cannot possibly be at peace with others unless he has learned to be at peace with himself.”

There is a lot of wisdom in this.  Only if we can love ourselves can we obey Jesus’ command to love others.  But this kind of thinking of course may go against the grain for many of us.  I’m sure that we all agree with the idea that we ought to love others, but to say that we must love ourselves first?  This sounds so selfish and egotistical!  Why this even seems to fly in the face of everything that Jesus ever taught!  As Christians we are supposed to be humble and self-denying, not walking around loving ourselves!  What we have to realize though is that loving ourselves does not necessarily mean that we are putting ourselves first.  To love oneself does not mean that we think that we’re better than everyone else or that we deserve better than everyone else either.  What love of self does mean is that we accept ourselves for who and what we are, that despite all of our failures and shortcomings we are still God’s beloved children for whom Christ came, lived, died and was raised for.

Truly the message and promise of the Gospel is that God loves each and every one of us.  This does not of course mean that God always approves of what we say and do but even so, he still loves us.  This is the good news and even the great news of the Gospel, and as St. John famously said, “We love because God loved us first”.  Truly it is the love of God for each and every one of us that sets us free to live the Great Commandment:  “And you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength.  And you shall love your neighbour as yourself.”




Pastoral Prayer

          Gracious God, hear us as we come to you in prayer on this summer morning.  We thank you for this summer season itself with its heat and long days, even as the days now grow a bit shorter every day.  As we give you thanks, we pray for all those who have found the heat and humidity of the past week a burden to be borne rather than something to be enjoyed.  We especially pray for those who labour outside, or live or work without access to air conditioning.

We give you thanks for the life-sustaining rain of this past week, even as we pray for all whose fields and orchards are parched.  We pray for the people of Kentucky after their massive rainfall and flooding, and we remember too the people of our own and the American West where the devastating forest fires continue to burn.  As the world becomes ever warmer and the weather becomes ever more unpredictable, we pray for your creation.  Grant that in all we do, we may love it and care for it just as you do.

We give you thanks this morning for all of the special people in our lives, praying for their well-being and safety.  We pray this day for healing in the lives of all who are ill, and comfort in the lives of all who grieve.

As the pandemic continues, we pray for the nurses and the other staff in our hospitals as they struggle to provide the care that we all expect.  We pray for all the caregivers who feel tired and burned out, buckling under the burden of caring.

We pray this day for the people of Ukraine as the war continues with no end in sight.  We pray for the people of Taiwan with the increase in tensions in that part of the world.

We pray this day for your church, both near and far, and we pray as well for all of her members as we strive to be your Son’s faithful disciples, fulfilling his word and doing his work.  Help us to love you with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and help us to love others just as we are most certainly loved by you.

We ask these things in your Son’s name.  Amen


July 3, 2022.

Message for July 3, 2022

Luke 7:1-10

The Roman Empire was one of the greatest empires that the world has ever seen but it was also a very grim place for most of its people.  While some people were fabulously wealthy, most of the people were slaves and mistreated as such.  Even the majority of those who were free lived lives of grinding poverty, and this made for a very unhappy populace.  This was especially true in the city of Rome and in an effort to keep things under control, the government came up with a programme that we call “bread and circuses”.  What this meant was that everyone in the city was provided with free food and entertainment.  Part of the entertainment were the gladiatorial fights in the Coliseum.  It was thought that by going to the Coliseum and watching men fight each other or wild animals, the people would forget about how unhappy and wretched their lives were.  This worked too and so for centuries the emperors staged their bloody spectacles in the arena.

Not surprisingly the deaths of thousands of men, women and even children, not to mention the animals, all in the name of sport, disgusted most of the Christians.  No one however dared say or do anything about it until a young man named Telemachus did.

Telemachus was absolutely sickened by the so-called games and his revulsion grew until one day he couldn’t stand it any longer.  With a loud cry he vaulted over the barriers onto the arena floor.  He rushed over between two duelling gladiators and with a loud voice shouted, “In God’s name, stop it!”  But they didn’t stop and within seconds Telemachus himself lay dead.  While Telemachus never knew it though, he was one of the very last people to die in the arena.  It was a pivotal moment, an ‘ah ha’ moment as if it were, because everyone was so sickened by his death and so admired his faith and courage, that the so-called games came to an end.  A blood-thirsty era came to a close because of one man’s faith and courage.  But while Telemachus probably never realized it, by doing what he did he was following in the footsteps of a whole host of others who went before him including the centurion in today’s scripture passage.

The centurions were the backbone of the Roman army and the equivalent of today’s sergeants.  They were hard men and people to be reckoned with.  As it happened, a slave that belonged to this one particular centurion was deathly ill.  Now most centurions probably wouldn’t have worried too much about the health of a mere slave but this one did and, like everyone else in Galilee, he had heard about Jesus and his miracles.  He decided then to ask Jesus to do something to help, but it also appears that this centurion was a diplomatic man.  As a Roman officer he could have simply ordered some of his soldiers to go and get Jesus, but he didn’t.  Instead, he asked a delegation of Jesus’ fellow countrymen to intervene on his behalf which they gladly did.  The delegation told Jesus about how wonderful this centurion was and that he most certainly deserved Jesus’ help.  Unlike the vast majority in the occupation forces, this official both liked and respected the people whom he governed; in fact he had even built them a new synagogue!  Jesus agreed to help.

As they approached the centurion’s house, they were met by a second delegation and they too had a message for Jesus.  In it the centurion said that he was not worthy to have Jesus come into his house, all Jesus had to do was say the word and the slave would be healed.  When Jesus heard this he marvelled:  why here was a Gentile, a non-Jew, a person who wasn’t expected to know anything about God and he had more faith than anyone else that he had ever met!  Perhaps not surprisingly then, when the delegation returned to the centurion’s house, they were told that the slave had been cured.

This is the miracle of the healing of the centurion’s slave and while we may not realize it, that healing was a most significant event in Jesus’ ministry.  It was because it marked the very first time that a person who wasn’t Jewish demonstrated faith in Jesus.  That centurion is the spiritual forerunner of not only Telemachus but also the millions and even billions of people in the world who would eventually come to believe in Jesus even though they weren’t Jewish.  He anticipated the faith of the vast majority of Christians including us, and that of course is what today’s lesson is all about; faith.

A Christian Reformed minister named Arthur DeKruyter has written a book entitled, “Journey to Joy:  The Disciplines of your Spiritual Life”.  One of this book’s aims is to encourage people to deepen their spiritual lives and their relationship with God.  DeKruyter says that in order for this to happen we have to understand what faith is and what it involves.  He says that faith has four separate and yet inter-related components:  belief, trust, courage and last but not least, action.  He also says that without all four of these we cannot have a living, vital faith.

The first of these components is belief and when we think about it, that’s rather obvious, isn’t it?  How can we possibly have faith in God if we do not believe in him?  Indeed when it comes to God and his reality, all we can do is have faith.  We certainly cannot prove anything; why we can’t even prove that God himself exists!  We can’t see God or touch him.  To be sure, we can say that the world around us testifies to his existence and presence along with his love and creativity, but does it really?  To me it most certainly does, but an atheist can and does argue that the world is nothing more than the result of the laws of nature and that God has nothing to do with it.  When it comes to God’s existence and even his very nature, we can’t prove anything.  All we can do is believe in him, but of course belief is not enough.  If we want to have a living, vital faith then we also have to put our trust in God and not just when things are going well.  Faith means putting our trust in him even at those times when there seems to be no good reason for doing so and a lot of good reasons why we shouldn’t.  This brings us to the third aspect or component of faith and that is courage.

While we may not often give it much thought, it really does take a lot of courage to believe in and trust in God.  At those times when it seems as if everything is going wrong and that our world is slowly but surely crumbling around us, it may seem foolish and perhaps even down-right stupid to trust in God, never mind believe in him.  And yet this is what we are called to do and in fact what we often do.  No matter how bad the storms of life may be, we still trust in God and believe in his presence, goodness, and mercy.  And when we do this we are, whether we realize it or not, demonstrating the greatest of courage.  And this leads us to the last aspect of faith:  action.

If we truly believe in God, trust him, and have the courage of our convictions, then our lives will show it.  As the old saying goes, “actions speak louder than words”, and the way we act is often the best indication of what we truly believe.  We may say that we believe in God and that we trust him, and we may even think that we do, but whether we do or not is revealed by the way we behave.  St. James touches on this last component of faith in his New Testament letter when he wrote “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead”.

Truly a living, vital faith consists of four separate and yet inter-related components, and the principal character in today’s lesson demonstrated all four.  The centurion believed in Jesus and trusted in him.  If he didn’t then he would never have asked Jesus for help.  The centurion also demonstrated courage by sending for Jesus.  What must his fellow Romans have thought of him, a respected officer of the occupying forces, asking this traveling rabbi for help.  How degrading!  Truly that centurion showed faith and courage by asking Jesus for help in the first place and then, far more impressively, by sending a second message stating that Jesus didn’t even have to come to his house in person.  All that Jesus had to do was say the word and the slave would be healed.  Truly today’s lesson is one of the greatest stories of faith in the entire Bible because it, like few others, captures what a vital, living faith involves.  Belief, trust, courage and last but not least, action.

Pastoral Prayer

Gracious God, hear us as we come to you in prayer on this summer morning, the last day of a long holiday weekend.

We thank you for what it is that we have been celebrating this weekend, the birth of our nation.  We thank you that despite its failures and shortcomings, we live in a country filled with dreams and aspirations of all the good that can be.  So often we focus on what we perceive to be wrong and yet, we truly are so blessed; all we have to do is look at the world around us and think of all the people who so desperately want to move here.

We pray this day for the migrants everywhere who are on the move in search of better lives for themselves and their families.  We especially remember this day the victims and their families of the tragedy that happened in San Antonio this past week.

We pray not just for the migrants but the refugees as well; all those who have fled war and violence in their native lands.  We especially remember the millions who have fled the current war in Ukraine, and we pray for their well-being and safety.

We pray this day for the sake of healing in the lives of everyone who is ill, and we pray too for the sake of the peace and comfort that only you can give in the lives of all who grieve or are troubled.

On this summer morning we give you thanks for the goodness and beauty of this day, and that we are here as a part of your wonderful creation.  Help us to care for the world around us and help us to use its resources wisely and well.  Grant that not only your creation but also the life of the world around us may be all the better, richer, and fuller for our being a part of it.

We ask these things in your Son’s name.  Amen




June 26, 2022.

Message for June 26, 2022

Luke 10:1-12

In one of his sermons, the American preacher William Willimon relates an episode from his younger days when he was in Scouts.  Every summer they would go to a camp and one of the activities was swimming in the lake.  When the boys were in the water they had to follow the ‘buddy system’; in the interest of safety they had to have their assigned partner near them all the time.  Then, every once in a while, a whistle was blown and when it was the boys had to stop what they were doing, join hands, and hold them up in the air.  And if they were not close enough to immediately join hands then the two boys were ordered out of the water and not allowed to go back in for the rest of the day.  Now we may not realize it but in a sense that is what Jesus did in today’s scripture passage; he instituted a buddy system for the safety and well-being of his followers.

In today’s scripture passage Jesus sent 72 of his followers to the towns and villages that he planned to visit in the near future.  These people were to prepare the way for him by giving, as if it were, an advance taste of what he would be saying and doing; in a sense they were like modern day campaign workers going to a town before the leader shows up for the big rally.  Jesus however knew that they would not always be welcomed and that what the 72 would be doing might even be dangerous; as he said, “I am sending you out like lambs among wolves”.  That is why for their own support and protection he sent them out in pairs.  Indeed Jesus knew full well that both they and their message would sometimes be harshly rejected.  As it was then so it still is today.

Last week we celebrated Boston’s 200th anniversary and the sermon was preached by the Rev. Dr. Mark Lewis.  I found it to be a very thought-provoking sermon and, in the interest of transparency, much though not all of what follows is inspired by it.  For those of you who were not able to be present at the service, the sermon was entitled “I Don’t Feel Connected to God Anymore” and it began with the state of the church in Canadian society today.  The statistics are certainly disheartening.  Back in the 1940’s over 70% of Canadians regularly attended worship on a Sunday morning but since then that number has steadily shrunk until we’ve got to where we are today.  Just prior to the pandemic about 10% of us regularly attended Sunday services but now it is estimated that only about 7% of us do.  To put it another way, and while it is too early to be sure, the early indicators are that only seven of every ten people who attended church on a regular basis two years ago still are.  But why is this happening?

There is no shortage of answers and ideas.  One is that many of those who no longer come have found other things to do on a Sunday morning.  Others simply prefer to read the sermon or watch a service online.  Another explanation for those who have turned their back on the church is that they never got past the ‘Sunday School stage’.  This is to say, they learned the stories of the Bible as a child but never got any further.  To these people many of the stories in the Bible are just that, mere stories that they find rather unbelievable in our modern scientific age.  To use two examples, we can think of the Creation story where it is said that God created the world in seven days, and the Temptation Story where there is a talking snake in the Garden of Eden.

In light of modern scientific knowledge, many people today find stories such as these unbelievable and so they reject the church altogether.  This however is unfortunate because it fails to do the Bible justice.  Yes, the Bible most certainly does contain facts and history but back when the Bible was written, most people conveyed the truth by telling stories.  To put it another way, the factual truthfulness of the story didn’t really matter.  What really mattered was what the story was telling us.  Indeed I suspect that many people of the ancient world would be bewildered by the rejection of the Bible by many people today simply because they don’t think that it is factually true.  The people of the ancient world would say that we have missed the point altogether.  Yet while some people reject the church because of their understanding of the Bible, other’s reject it because of their understanding of God.

I remember one of my colleagues talking about a young man who had recently joined his congregation.  The young man was married and had his own business.  At first he was full of enthusiasm and was in church virtually every Sunday.  As time passed however his enthusiasm dwindled and his church attendance became increasingly sporadic.  My colleague asked him why and in reply the young man said that he thought that he had made a pact with God when he became a Christian and joined the church; that God would look after him and that his life would be smooth.  Well, there were still disagreements at home and hassles with customers at work.  The man reasoned then that since God hadn’t kept his side of the bargain, why should he keep his?  But while some people may reject the church because of their understanding of God, yet others reject it because of their understanding of the very church itself.

When we look back at the history of the church there is a lot to be proud of and yet, there are many times when it has not lived up to the teaching of Jesus.  In the past for example, there were episodes such as the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition.  More recently we can think of various sex abuse scandals, the residential school system and the abuse that happened in some of those schools.  Moving on to the present day, we can think of the issue that is consuming the church today, including our own denomination, and that is gay marriage.  On the one side are those who, based on their understanding of scripture, believe that gay marriage is wrong.  On the other side are those who, based on their understanding of scripture, say that since God is love and that God created gay people the way they are, such marriages should be permitted.  And so the debate rages, but what do many people on the outside of the church looking in think?

In the eyes of many and probably most people in our society today, the church is simply discriminating and hypocritical.  The church says that it loves and welcomes everyone, but it doesn’t really.  In fact many say that a church’s refusal to marry gays is like a church refusing to marry someone because of their ethnicity, age or some other characteristic that they have no control over.  Indeed whether it be in the movies or in TV shows, what is the popular stereotype of a Christian today?  A person who is kind and caring, or a person who is harsh, judgemental, self-righteous, and rather dislikeable?  While it was written many years ago, the poet Shelley captured the feelings of many people today when he said, “I could believe in Christ if he did not drag along with him that leprous bride of his – the church”.

Sadly, whether it be because of their perception of the Bible, God, or even the church itself, many people look at the church today and say, “thanks but no thanks”.  This however leaves us with a paradox; even as people are turning their backs on organized religion, many are not giving up on religion altogether. In fact in poll after poll most people say that while they are not ‘religious’, they are ‘spiritual’.  What they mean by this is that while they do not attend church services or participate in the life of a congregation, they still believe in God, pray, and have ‘spiritual’ thoughts and feelings.  In short, they are off on their own doing their own thing.

A poem written by Emily Dickinson back in the 1800’s anticipates and captures the attitude of many people today.


Some keep Sabbath by going to church,

I keep it staying at home.

With a boblink for a chorister,

And an orchard for a dome.


Some keep the Sabbath in surplice,

I just wear my wings,

And instead of tolling the bell for church,

Our little sexton sings.


God preaches – a noted clergyman,

And the sermon is never long.

So instead of getting to heaven at last,

I’m going all along!


The sentiments of this poem sound so appealing and reasonable to so many people today; who needs the church?  The problem though is that if everyone is off in their own corner doing and believing their own thing, who is to say what is right, just, or true?  In effect we are indulging in a religion and even in a God of our own imagination.  The reality is that both we and the world need the church.  We do so because despite its many very real failures and shortcomings, the church is still the one institution in the world that is committed to following Christ and doing his will.  The church is the one institution in the world that is dedicated to proclaiming and living the good news of the gospel.  We cannot, should not, and even must not be off on our own doing our own thing.  Jesus knew this, and that is why he sent the 72 out in pairs.  He knew that he was sending them out like lambs amongst wolves.  He knew that they, and we, need one another for comfort, instruction, support, and protection.  He knew that they, and we, need a buddy system.



Pastoral Prayer

Hear us we pray as we come to you in prayer on this, the very first Sunday of summer.  We thank you for this season of warmth that is now upon us, even as we remember and pray for all for whom the heat and humidity of the past week was a hardship to bear.  We thank you for what this season means for so many people; holidays, and a break from the routine.  We pray for the safety and well-being of all throughout the summer as we even now look forward to next week’s holiday weekend.

We give you thanks for what it is that we will be celebrating next weekend, the birth of our nation.  We thank you for all in our nation that is good, even as we regret the failures and shortcomings of the past.  Help us to learn from the past, so that we might truly do better and be a better nation and society in the future.

We pray this day for the many places and nations that are not as blessed as we are.  We pray for the people of Ukraine as the war continues.  We pray too for the people of Afghanistan after this past week’s devastating earthquake, one more tribulation on top of all the others:  the drought, and the collapse of their society and economy after the takeover by the Taliban.

We thank you that in a world where so many go without, we are blessed with an abundance to eat, as well as peace and security.  We pray this day for all those who are struggling to get by even as prices continue to rise, and those who are forced to resort to charity in order to feed themselves and their families.

We thank you for the health and the abilities that we have, praying for those who are ill or coping with the challenges of their infirmities and growing older.

We thank you for this church to which we belong, and the larger church of which we are a part.  We pray for the ministry and well-being of your Son’s body here on earth as she continues to minister in these difficult and challenging times.  Grant that she, and we, may do our best to carry out her ministry here on earth until the day comes when your will truly is done here on earth as it is in heaven.

We ask these things in your Son’s name.  Amen


June 12, 2022

Message for June 12, 2022

Romans 8:12-17

Patria Potestas.  This is a Latin phrase and it simply means that the father is all powerful.  This phrase certainly describes the role of a father in ancient Roman society.  When a child was born for example, he or she was placed at the father’s feet.  If the father picked the child up, then the child was kept and became a part of the family.  If however the father for whatever reason refused to pick the baby up, then the child was either killed or abandoned, to either die or else be claimed by someone and destined to become a slave.  Roman fathers never lost their power of life and death over their children either.  A man could be forty years old for example with a family of his own but if his father ordered him to do something, anything at all, then he had no choice but to do it.  A father’s word really was law until the day he died and so, rather obviously, fathers were people to be reckoned with.

The ancient Romans however didn’t just emphasize a father’s authority, they also emphasized something else too and that was adoption.  Adoption was very common amongst the ancient Romans, and it wasn’t just infants or young children who were adopted; older children, teenagers, even adults were adopted.  Why?  Simply because it was a way of cementing a business relationship or a friendship.  Given a father’s power though, most people thought long and hard before putting their child up for adoption.  Once the decision was made though, there were two steps.

The first was a symbolic sale.  Three times the natural father offered his child up for sale.  The first two times he bought his child back.  The third time however he didn’t and just walked away.  The adopting father then bought the person to be adopted and after that they went to see a judge.  The judge was told why the adoption should take place, and if he thought that the reasons were sufficient, he approved it.  What this meant was that the new father now had complete power while the old one had none at all.  In fact, according to the law, the adopted person’s life before the adoption didn’t matter and it was as if it had never happened.  The adopted person was thought to be a new person with a new name, a new life, and a new family.  I don’t doubt though that some of you are probably wondering; what is the point of me telling you all this?  The reason is that this background information is absolutely crucial if we are to truly appreciate what Paul wrote in today’s scripture passage.  Remember who it was addressed to?  The Romans!

In today’s passage Paul drew a parallel between God the Father on the one hand, and a Roman father on the other.  Like a Roman father, God the Father is all powerful.  He is not to be argued with or only obeyed if we are in the mood to do so.  God’s word is law and as the Father, God can do whatever he wishes with us.  And who are we to argue?  What can we do about it if we don’t like what God has done?  Cry?  Sulk?  Complain?  There is certainly no higher authority that we can appeal to.

God the Father then is a being that we might, with very good reason, fear and perhaps even dread but, said Paul, we don’t have to.  In fact Paul, like Jesus before him, said that we can even call God ‘Abba’, which when translated simply means ‘daddy’.  We can do this simply because God the Father loves us so much that he even adopted us!  Paul even insisted that we are just as much God’s children as Christ himself!  Granted, we are not divine like Christ and we most certainly are not perfect like Christ but nevertheless, we are still just as much God’s children as his very own son!  And if that is true, and Paul insisted that it is, then something else follows; Jesus is our brother!  Jesus is just as much our brother as our own biological siblings!

Now to Paul, and hopefully to us too, this is tremendous and even mind-boggling news.  To think that Christ is our brother and that in the eyes of God we are equal to Christ himself; we are just as precious to God as his very own son!  This may well sound too good to be true and may certainly be hard to believe, but Paul insisted that we can believe it simply because God himself has said so!  But when were we adopted?  When did we become a part of the family?

On the day that we were baptized.  On that special day, no matter where or when it was, God claimed us forevermore as a part of his family.  We may be good, faithful members or we may be straying members but nevertheless we are still a part of the family.  And while we may take this for granted or even think “so what”, it really is an honour to be a part of the family.  As Paul also reminded those ancient Romans though, where there is privilege there is also responsibility.  Just like Christ our brother, we too must dedicate ourselves to living the lives that God would have us do, resisting the temptation to do wrong.  Like Christ, we too must strive to love everyone, everywhere, at all times without exception.  This does not of course mean that we must always agree with everyone.  Nor does this mean that we must always approve of what someone does.  What this does mean however is that we will always strive to exercise respect and consideration, trying our best to be kind and compassionate.  Certainly, being a part of the family doesn’t give us a right to treat others any way we please.

It was after a very contentious church meeting during which a lot of hurtful things had been said with a great deal of anger that one man bitterly said, “The church always brags that we treat everyone like family but by golly, that has to stop!”  What he meant by this of course is that all too often it is our families who see us at our worse while complete strangers see us at our best.  It is ironical but true that sometimes we will treat the members of our families in a way that we would never treat outsiders.  When it comes to the other members of God’s family, we should treat them with the same respect and consideration that we would show to our big brother, Christ himself.  If we wouldn’t say it to Jesus, then we have no business saying it to anyone else.  If we wouldn’t do it to Jesus, then we shouldn’t do it to anyone else.  And yet, while it is our families who sometimes see us at our worse, it is also our families who can see us at our best.  Consider this true story.

The man had driven into town to pick up a new tool and his two children, Helen who was eight and Brandon who was five, were with him.  When they arrived at the mall, they saw that a large temporary petting zoo had been set up in the parking lot.  Both of the kids loved animals and eagerly asked if they could go and see the animals.  Figuring that both he and they would be happier if they weren’t trailing behind him as he looked at the tools, the father gave them each a quarter and off they went.  A short while later though the father was surprised to see Helen standing there beside him.  He knew that she loved animals and he asked her why she wasn’t in the petting zoo with her brother.  Her reply was to say that it cost 50 cents to get in and so she had given him her quarter so that he could go in.  And then the girl said the most beautiful thing that her father had ever heard her say:  “Love is action”.  After saying that she made it clear that she didn’t expect her father to give her 50 cents so that she could go and join her brother.  Giving her brother the quarter was her gift of love to him.  When the father was asked later why he didn’t just give his daughter 50 cents, he said that he wanted to honour her choice; that sometimes love does mean sacrifice and comes with a price.

Indeed, we should never forget that it was Christ himself who paid the price so that we might be members of the greatest family of all … the family of God with all of its privileges and responsibilities.



Pastoral Prayer

Gracious God, hear us as we come to you in prayer this late spring morning.  We give you thanks for this season of beauty and goodness, and that we are here as a part of your creation.

We thank you that in a world where so many people are hungry, we are not.  We thank you that in a world where so many people lack even the most basic medical care, we do not.  We thank you that in a world where so many people lack even the most basic of freedoms, we do not.  We thank you that in a world where so many people live with strife and violence, we do not.

We give you thanks for our loved ones and our families, praying for their well-being.  We give you thanks too, not just for our biological families but also for our spiritual one.  We thank you that we can even call you Abba when we pray, simply because you are like a loving father.  We thank you that you have, as Paul said, adopted us and claimed us forevermore as your beloved children.  We realize that nothing in ourselves makes us worthy of this and that all we can do is thank you and do our best to follow the teaching and example of Jesus, your son who is also our brother.

We pray for the well-being and ministry of your family, your church here on earth.  We pray for all who are hurting this day; those who hunger not just for food but also for justice and respect.  We pray for all who are ill; not just physically but spiritually.  We pray for all those who are weighed down by grief and regret; grant that they may find peace.

We pray for peace in Ukraine and for all those coping with the effects of that devastating conflict; those who have fled or lost their homes, and those who have lost so much more.  We pray for all at risk because of the threat to the world’s grain supply.  We pray too this day for all those struggling to get by and make ends meet as both inflation and interest rates continue to rise.  Grant wisdom we pray, to those in positions of authority that they may know best what ought to be done.

We ask these things in your Son’s name.  Amen

June 5, 2022

Message for June 5, 2022

Pentecost and Communion

Genesis 11:1-9

Acts 2:1-13

While driving down to Omagh last Sunday, Susan and I were talking about how much Milton has changed in the past fifteen years or so.  There are of course the physical changes with the building of so many new subdivisions and warehouses, but there are also many cultural changes as well.  We can think of languages for example.

At one time English was the language spoken by the vast majority of Miltonians.  To be sure other languages were heard but they made up a small proportion of those spoken.  Now however we hear all sorts of different languages whether we be on Main Street, at the Farmer’s Market, Walmart or anywhere else.  According to the latest statistics that I could find, English is still by far the dominant language and is spoken by about 70 percent of the town’s population.  Without getting bogged down with the numbers, other languages that are now commonly spoken in Milton are, in no particular order, Urdu, Punjabi, Spanish, Polish, Chinese, Arabic and Tagalog to name a few.  Truly we now have a very multi-cultural and multi-lingual community and this is said to be the key to our growth and prosperity or, as the slogan goes, “our strength is in our diversity”.  While this may be our attitude though, such was not the case in the ancient world and that is reflected in this morning’s first scripture passage.

Thousands of years ago when people tried to account for all the different languages and cultures in the world, they did so by telling a story.  According to this story, there was once a time when everyone in the world spoke the same language.  The people were nomads and traveled all over until they reached the plain of Shinar, which is in modern day Iraq.  They decided to settle down there and then they invented something with tremendous implications for the future: they invented bricks.  Now this may not seem to be all that spectacular to us, yet it was.  Up to this point the people had lived in tents but now they could build all sorts of permanent structures.  And what did they decide to build first?

A great big tower, one that would reach all the way up to heaven itself.  They thought that everyone would be so impressed by this marvel that they would never want to move away, but that’s not the way it turned out.

According to the story, God came down from heaven and when he saw what they were doing he remarked, perhaps humorously, “Behold they are one people and have one language and this is only the beginning of what they will do.  Nothing that they propose to do will be impossible for them”.  To stop the people, God decided to confuse their language and since the people could no longer communicate with one another, they were unable to complete the tower.  God then scattered the people across the face of the earth.  This is how people of long ago accounted for the world’s many different languages and cultures.  From their perspective, multiculturalism and multilingualism were not a blessing but rather a curse.  They represented separation and division, but as the Bible tells us, even as God separated us so too has he brought us back together again; he did so in that famous event that we remember today.

Today of course is Pentecost and is the day when we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit.  According to Luke, the disciples were gathered together in one place when suddenly the room was filled with a sound like the rush of a mighty wind.  Then there appeared what seemed to be tongues of fire that touched the disciples without hurting them.  Once they had been touched by the flames, the disciples started proclaiming the glory of God in all sorts of different languages.  This was the beginning of the Christian church but Pentecost also marked something else:  it marked the reversal of the Tower of Babel episode.  The human race was divided at the Tower of Babel but at Pentecost we were brought back together again.  Unity was restored since we are one in our faith in Christ.  In the words of the campfire song, “we are one in the Spirit”.  Or at least that is the ideal.

When we look at the world around us it often seems as if there is far more Christian disunity than unity.  To be sure there are a number of ecumenical organizations that seek to break down the barriers that have long separated the various branches of Christianity but, despite all of their good work, the barriers remain.  We can consider the number of denominations for example.  Despite all the ecumenical work, there are more denominations in the world today than ever before.  And even within the various denominations there is division as well.  We can think of our own for example.

We, along with hundreds of thousands of others in this country, call ourselves Presbyterian and at one time we had a lot in common.  It didn’t matter where you were, if you walked into a Presbyterian church on a Sunday morning you knew what to expect, ranging from how the minister would be dressed, to the hymns and the order of worship.  There were of course local variations but not many.  Such however is no longer the case.  Some congregations like ours are traditional in style while others are anything but.  We use an organ while others use a keyboard, guitars and drums.  We sing from the 1972 Book of Praise while most congregations use the 1996 version.  Many others in fact don’t even use hymnbooks at all, preferring to sing more modern hymns projected onto a large screen at the front of the church.

The differences though aren’t just confined to the way in which congregations worship.  They are also reflected by what congregations believe.  Last year’s General Assembly for example said that marriage may now be understood as a covenant relationship between a man and a woman or else between two consenting adults.  It is up to the Sessions and ministers to decide which definition they believe to be true, and there is total freedom of conscience in making the decision.  Not everyone of course agrees with this, and this issue is one of many that the General Assembly, which begins meeting later today, will have to wrestle with.

Truly whether it be in our own denomination or in the larger church, there seems to be far more disunity than unity.  Looking back to that special Pentecost Sunday though, one thing that we ought to note is that when the disciples started proclaiming the glory of God, they did so in all sorts of various languages.  Pentecost did not make the linguistic and cultural differences disappear.  What Pentecost did do however was put the differences in their proper perspective.  Whether it be cultural or theological, we Christians do have some very real differences but even so, they are still outweighed by what we have in common; our common faith in Christ and our commitment to him.  We are one too because of God’s love for us, and there is no greater reminder of this than the sacrament that we are about to celebrate.

We Christians have many different understandings of what Communion means, and we most certainly celebrate it in many different ways.  Some denominations even restrict who can receive communion, saying that you must be a member of their denomination in order to partake.  The differences are very real but even so, the vast majority of Christians by far obey Jesus’ command to celebrate Communion and “do this in remembrance of me”.  Despite all the differences surrounding Communion it still binds us together.  Let us now then celebrate the Lord’s Supper, affirming that we are still one in the Spirit, bound together by God’s love for each and every one of us.



Pastoral Prayer

Hear us as we turn to you in prayer on this late spring morning, this first Sunday of a new month.

We thank you for this month just barely begun, with its long days and short nights.  We thank you for the opportunity this time of year gives us to spend more time outdoors.  We thank you for the life and the growth in our gardens, fields, and orchards.  We thank you for everyone and everything that adds so much to our lives.  Above all we thank you for the holy wonder that is you, the source of all life in all of its glorious abundant fulness, now and forevermore.

On this Pentecost Sunday, we thank you for what it is that we remember and celebrate this day:  the coming of the Holy Spirit.  We thank you for all that this means, that through the Spirit you called your church into existence.  We pray for your one holy church, and we especially pray for our branch of it as the General Assembly begins meeting later today.  We pray that through your Spirit you will bless and guide the Moderator, the Clerks, and all of the commissioners as they wrestle with the contentious issues before them and try to chart the way forward.

On this Pentecost Sunday, we thank you that through the Holy Spirit you are always with us, no matter where we go, what we are doing, or what may be happening.  Help us then to put our faith and trust in you.

We pray this day for your comforting and healing presence in the lives of all those who are hurting.  As we so often have, we once again pray for the sake of the people in Ukraine.

We give you thanks this day for the life and service of the Queen as she celebrates seven decades on the throne, praying for your continued blessing upon her.

In your Son’s name we pray.  Amen




May 29, 2022

Message for May 29, 2022

Philippians 3:17 – 4:1

        While rummaging through my files recently, I came across a clipping from years ago entitled “Seeking the Perfect Minister”.  It is a bit dated, but it is humorous and supposedly describes what a search committee thought that their next minister ought to be like.


“The perfect minister preaches for exactly 15 minutes.  He condemns sin but never upsets anybody.  He works from 8:00 a.m. to midnight and is also a janitor.  He makes $100 a week, wears good clothes, buys good books, drives a good car, and gives $100 a week to the poor.  He is 28 years old and has been preaching for 30 years.  He has a burning desire to work with young people and spends all his time with the seniors.

The perfect minister smiles all the time but with a straight face because she has a sense of humour that keeps her seriously dedicated to her work.  She visits church families, shut-ins and the hospitalized every day.  She will also spend all her time evangelizing the unchurched but will always be in the church office when needed.  This is the perfect minister and if this describes you, please send your profile to our interim moderator.”


This was obviously written tongue in cheek; there is not nor ever has been a perfect minister.  Indeed in my experience most ministers are well aware of their failures and shortcomings.  Can you imagine then a minister being brave enough or foolish enough to get up in a pulpit and say to his or her congregation, “Listen to me!  From now on I want all of you to be just like me!”  I can only think of one person who would dare say that, and that person was St. Paul.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul told them that they should try and model their lives on his.  Right after saying this, Paul then went on to tell them that there are two basic orientations or philosophies of life.  The first is to live primarily for oneself with the attitude being that I am number one and I will spend most, if not all of my time and resources looking after me!  This attitude is summed up by asking, “What will you do for me rather than what can I do for you?”

The second basic approach to life said Paul is very different.  It means trying to be like him or, more to the point, trying to be like Jesus.  And even though Jesus was the Christ and the Son of God, he didn’t go around demanding that others treat him as such.  Rather Jesus was humble and put others first; he did so simply because he loved and had come to serve rather than be served.  Paul insisted that being geared primarily to oneself or to others are the two basic choices or orientations to life, and that everyone has to make a choice between the two.  Paul begged the Philippians then to choose wisely but he also hoped and prayed that they would live up to what they truly were, the citizens of heaven.

This is a part of what Paul had to say to the Philippians and there wasn’t anything particularly new in what he wrote.  Indeed, Jesus himself had taught much the same thing.  One thing that Jesus did do however was emphasize the difficulty and challenge of being one of his disciples and striving to live a life of service.  Jesus knew full well that this doesn’t come easily or naturally which is why he said that trying to live as one of his followers was like trying to enter a city through a narrow gate; it was hard.  How hard?  The word that Jesus used for trying to do this is best translated as ‘agonizing’.  If we take it seriously, it is not easy to live as a Christian.  Rather it can be hard, challenging, and perhaps even downright agonizing at times!  In the end though, and it doesn’t matter how young or old we may be, we are left with a fundamental choice as to how we will live our lives.  Which then is our basic or core approach to life?  Do we take the easy way and live primarily for ourselves?  Or do we opt for the harder more challenging way, God’s way?

In a sense we have already answered this question.  If we were not at least interested in living God’s way, then you probably wouldn’t even be reading this message right now!  The important thing that we have to realize though is that choosing to live God’s way is not a once and for all choice or decision and then that is the end of it.  Rather, it is an ongoing process.  In the words of the great Scottish scholar of days gone by, William Barclay:

“It is easy to think that once we have made a commitment of ourselves to Jesus Christ we can, as if it were, sit back as if we had achieved our goal.  There is no such finality in the Christian life.  A man must ever be going forward or necessarily he is going backwards.”


        Barclay was absolutely right; when it comes to our lives as Christ’s disciples there is no standing pat because we are always either going forwards or backwards.  In fact whether we are going forwards or backwards is revealed each and every day by the things that we say and do.  Our everyday behaviour proclaims what we truly believe.  As a person once said, if we really want to know what a person truly believes, then don’t watch their mouths and listen to what they say.  Rather watch their hands and pay attention to what they are doing.  That is the point of this old story.


        There was once a man who owned a magical ring and whoever wore it became so honest, sweet, and caring that everyone loved him or her.  The ring had been in the family for generations and been passed down from one generation to the next.  One father though had three children and the question arose as to which one would inherit the ring when the father died.  The children started to argue bitterly over who should get it.  The father thought about this long and hard and finally came up with a solution.  What he did was have two exact copies made of the magic ring.  These copies were so good that no one could tell the difference between them and the original.  He told his children that the rings would be randomly distributed amongst them after his death and that no one would know who had the real ring.  At the end of a year though, everyone would know who had it because of the way in which they had behaved.  The children agreed to this and after their father’s death, the rings were distributed, but what happened?  At the end of a year no one knew who had the original ring.  No one knew because all three of the children lived as if they had it.


        The moral of this old tale is obvious.  What we truly believe and what we truly are is revealed by what we say and do.  If we truly believe in Christ and think of ourselves as being his disciples, then this will be reflected by the things we say and do each and every day.  We will take our faith seriously and strive to follow the teaching and example of Christ, even when it seems to be agonizing at times.  But of course as we all well know, none of us can live the way God wants us to all of the time.  Even with all the willpower and all the good intentions in the world, we inevitably get it wrong; we do so simply because we are only human.  But when we do mess it up, all is not lost.  It isn’t because as St. John said:


“If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”


        If we confess then we are forgiven, and it is this, the forgiveness of God, that enables us to pick ourselves up and try again.  It is this that sets us free to live our lives in hope and without fear.  We can learn from our mistakes and journey on, secure in the knowledge that when we are less than successful living the lives that God wants us to, we can and in fact will be forgiven.  This is the great liberating promise of the gospel; that we don’t have to travel through life weighed down by a guilty conscience and regret for the past.  We are free to move on simply because, as St. Peter wrote:


“He himself bore our sins on his body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed.”


        And so we are.









Pastoral Prayer

        Gracious God, you have called us to be your Son’s disciples, and this means that amongst many things we will be a praying people.  Hear us now as we do just that.

        We give you thanks for this May morning and the beauty of your creation that surrounds us.  We thank you for the richness and goodness of your creation, even as we remember and pray for those for whom your creation has not been so good.  We especially pray for all those whose lives were, and still are so dramatically affected by last weekend’s storm, coping with the downed trees and the loss of power.  We pray for those who lost their homes and those who lost so much more, including loved ones.  We pray as well for all those who lost their children, grandchildren, friends, spouses, or colleagues in the horrific massacre his past Tuesday in Texas.  Comfort all those who are grieving and grant healing to those who have been wounded whether it be in body, mind, or soul.  We pray for our American neighbours as one mass shooting follows another, even as they appear unable or unwilling to do anything to change things.

        We pray this day for all the other places where there is so much death, pain, suffering and heartache.  We pray for the people of Ukraine as the war continues; the people living there and those who have fled and are now refugees in their own land and elsewhere, including our own.

        We pray for our land and especially our province as the election enters its final stage.  We thank you that we can choose who we think would be best suited to govern, praying that you will help us to choose well.

        We thank you for our church family and also the larger church of which we are a part.  With the General Assembly beginning next Sunday, we pray for all of the commissioners as they wrestle with the contentious issues before them.  Guide them we pray.  Grant that charity, respect, and unity may prevail.  To this end we also pray for the Moderator and the Clerks of Assembly.

        We ask these things in your Son’s name.  Amen




May 22, 2022.

Message for May 22, 2022

Revelation 21:1-6a

          Sometimes things happen in the world that have such an impact that even years later we remember where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news.  Depending on our age for example, it might be the end of the Second World War, the assassination of JFK, or perhaps the death of Princess Diana.  I am virtually certain that all of us remember where we were and what we were doing when we first heard about the attacks on 9/11; it is seared into our collective consciousness.  I wonder though, will the horrific tragedy in Buffalo last Saturday when a young man, twisted by hate, killed ten people just because they were black, be added to this list?  Will people years from now remember where they were and what they were doing when they first heard this news?  Or, despite all of the media attention of the past week, will this tragedy be largely forgotten and relegated to being just a footnote in the history books, just one more mass shooting of many in the United States?

Only time will tell, but no matter how history may record it, what happened was a devastating tragedy.  But as horrible as this mass shooting most certainly was, it wasn’t the only bad news last Saturday.  There were also the latest reports on the war in Ukraine, including a prediction that it may profoundly disrupt the world’s grain supply, raising the possibility that up to fifty million people may go hungry.  There was also a report out of Afghanistan on how the economy there has collapsed since the Taliban took over, with the real possibility of mass starvation.  While watching all of this unfold on TV, I said to Susan that we live in a sad twisted world where people, for whatever reason, think it is right to kill and injure others in the name of God, religion, politics or whatever else.  It truly seems as if we are far removed from the Kingdom of God and its values such as love your enemies, pray for them, turn the other cheek, forgive, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  And yet while we may be far removed from the kingdom of God here on earth, we are not without hope either.  Hope in fact is the wonderful promise of today’s scripture passage.

It was a sad and discouraging time to be a Christian.  Almost five decades had passed since the resurrection of Jesus and the first rush of enthusiasm had long since dissipated.  Then, to make matters worse, there was a harsh government crackdown on the Christians.  The Roman Empire was remarkably tolerant when it came to religion and in fact the authorities didn’t care what, if any god, a person worshipped.  What the authorities did insist upon however was that everyone worship the emperor once a year.  This was a loyalty test and most people, convinced that there were all sorts of different gods, didn’t see this as a problem.  To the Christians however this was a major issue.  They would obey the laws and pay their taxes, but they absolutely would not worship the emperor as if he was a god!  The result was a severe crackdown and many Christians were executed.

One person who was caught up in all of this was a respected church leader named John.  For some unknown reason though John was luckier than most because instead of being fed to the lions, the authorities decided to send him into exile to the remote Greek island of Patmos.

While on Patmos, John experienced an incredible series of visions.  Years later he wrote them down and we know them today as the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation.  Revelation however didn’t just become the last book of the Bible, it also became the most debated and most controversial book of the entire Bible and it’s not hard to see why.  When we read Revelation with its talk about such as the Lamb that was slain, the Beast, and so on, we are transported to a world far different from our own.  Truly, as one person has said, reading Revelation is a little bit like reading Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” or “Lord of the Rings”; we enter a world of symbolism where nothing is quite the way it seems.

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise then that there is a lot of debate about this book and how it should be understood.  Some scholars for example say that more than anything else, Revelation is history and should be understood as such.  John, using coded symbols that were clearly understood by his original readers, was making a commentary on Christian-Roman relations at the time.  Others however say that Revelation, far from being history, is really prophesy and a prediction about what is going to happen on this earth at the end of time, the final showdown between good and evil.  Yet others, while agreeing that the book is prophesy, insist that it isn’t about the end of the world at all.  Rather they believe that it is all about the end of our individual lives and what happens to us when we die.  According to these people the New Jerusalem represents heaven or the life yet-to-come.  And yet others say that all three interpretations are right and that Revelation is about what was and shall be, both personally and on a grander scale.  And which interpretation is the right one?

In the end, I don’t think it really matters because the bottom line is still the same.  To put it simply, no matter how we understand it John’s visions offer us a tremendous message of hope, and that message is this; that in the end God is going to get what God wants.  To put it another way, eventually the Lord’s Prayer will be fulfilled and God’s will will be done on earth just as it is in heaven.  This was the tremendous message of hope that John held out to his fellow discouraged and suffering believers, and this is also his message of hope to us too.

As we all well know from firsthand experience, there are times when life is hard and filled with heartache, tragedy, and sorrow.  At times life can be very unfair.  We also live in a world where evil is very real and very powerful.  Sadly, we live in a world where a young man can be so twisted with hate that he can take a gun and think that it is perfectly alright to kill people out doing their grocery shopping on a Saturday afternoon, and all because of the colour of their skin.  But even so, despite all of the heartache and suffering in this world, in the end God is going to get what he wants.  And what does God want?  A world, a creation, where love triumphs over hate, good over evil, and justice over injustice.  I like this story from years gone by.


The slaves were out working in the fields on a hot summer morning when they saw the master and his family come out of the house dressed in their fancy clothes on their way to church.  Then one of the slaves started singing an old spiritual:

“I got shoes, you got shoes, all God’s children got shoes.  When I get to heaven, goin’ to put on my shoes, goin’ to walk all over heaven.”


That is what that barefoot slave thought heaven would be like.  Heaven would be the place where he would be free.  Heaven would be the place where he could own a pair of shoes and walk wherever he wanted to.  Heaven would be the place where all of the world’s injustices and inequalities would be no more.  Heaven would be the place where God finally gets what God wants.  And that, no matter how we interpret it, is the great promise of John’s Book of Revelation.  Indeed what better, more fitting end to the Bible could there be than this tremendous and wonderful message of hope and promise?  To return to today’s scripture passage:

“And I heard a great voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’”.

We live in a hurting world, but we do not live in a lost world without hope.  The last book of the Bible contains the last and greatest promise and prediction of all; God is going to get what God wants.



Pastoral Prayer

Gracious God, hear us as we come to you in prayer, not to confess or to praise, but rather to share with you our joys and concerns.

We give you thanks for the gift of this, the middle day of a long holiday weekend.  We give you thanks for what this weekend means for so many people, the unofficial start of the summer season.  We thank you for everything and everyone that makes life so good.  We thank you for the goodness and beauty of the creation around us.  Help us to remember that it is your creation, entrusted into our care to be used wisely and well.

As we give you thanks for this world in which we live, we remember John’s vision of the world yet to come where nothing that has cursed the human race shall exist any longer, and all the tears shall be tears of joy.  Until that day comes may we truly be your Son’s faithful disciples.

We pray this day for everyone who, literally or figuratively, weeps.  We pray for those struggling with health issues and those who so desperately miss a loved one.  As inflation continues to rise, we pray for those who are wondering how they can possibly get by.

On this long holiday weekend, we pray for the safety of all out and about, and we pray too for the safety and well-being of your children in Ukraine as the war continues.  We pray for those outside of that nation affected by the war, and those trying to cope with all of the disruptions including the threat to their food supply.  We pray this day for the plight of the woman and girls in Afghanistan as the Taliban tightens its control, restricting education and dictating how they must dress and live.

We pray this morning for our American neighbours after the mass shooting last weekend as they try to come to grips with the terrible realities of racism and gun violence.

We remember and pray for our own nation and society as well with the discovery of yet more graves at the site of another former residential school.  Help us to confront the reality of our past so that we might learn from it, and by doing so be a more just and kinder society.  Grant we pray, that there may truly be reconciliation.

We ask these things in your Son’s name.  Amen


May 15, 2022.

Message for May 15, 2022

Acts 9:1-9

If historians were asked what the most important event in the year 1809 was, most would say that it was the Battle of Wagram.  That battle was a huge one and was fought between the Austrians and the French, led by Napoleon Bonaparte.  The result was a decisive French victory that cemented Napoleon’s control of Europe for another six years.  This, according to most historians, is the event in 1809 but I am not so sure.  In that same year a Frenchman named Nicolas Appert invented something that I would say was of far greater importance.  And what was Appert’s discovery?

He discovered how to can food safely.  Now this may not sound like a big deal to us, but his discovery changed the course of history.  Back then there was no refrigeration or freezing of food.  The only way that meat and fish could be preserved was by either smoking it or salting it.  And there was absolutely no way of storing food such as fruits and vegetables for any length of time either.  The result was that hunger was always a possibility, much of the food could only be eaten in season, and people had to live close to their food supply.  With the invention of canning however, food could now be stored safely and transported over long distances.  This enabled cities to grow and resulted in economic growth.  Canning also enabled the explorers to travel further and helped lead to the export of Western values throughout the world.  Appert’s invention attracted little attention at the time, but it was a pivotal event in the history of the world; things would never be the same again.  Such was the impact of the event described in today’s scripture passage as well.

Today’s passage describes the conversion of Paul.  Saul, as he was called at the time, hated Christianity with a passion and thought that it was his God-given mission to rid the world of all its Christians.  Paul for example encouraged the mob to kill Stephen, the very first Christian martyr.  Paul made life so miserable for the Christians in Jerusalem that many of them fled to Damascus.  Not content with his work in Jerusalem, Paul then got permission to go to Damascus to persecute the Christians there.

As Paul approached the city something very strange happened.  He was literally blinded by an incredibly bright light and then heard the voice of Jesus himself saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  Overwhelmed by this experience, Paul went from being the great persecutor of the church to its greatest supporter.  In fact the profound influence of Paul lives on today as he is the author of most of what we call the New Testament.  Truly while no one realized it at the time, the conversion of Paul was one of history’s quiet yet decisive turning points.  Having said that though, the story of Paul’s conversion certainly hasn’t lost any of its popularity down through the years and it is not hard to see why.  The conversion of Paul after all is a tremendous story of hope.  If Paul could repent and turn his life around, then anyone can!  If there was hope for Paul, then there is hope for everyone!

This is something that we want to and even sometimes need to hear.  This in fact is how most people understand today’s scripture passage, as a tremendous message of hope.  Then however, starting a couple of hundred years ago, some people started understanding today’s passage in another way.  They said that in order to be a ‘real’ or ‘true’ Christian, one had to have had a special conversion experience just like Paul.  If one didn’t then their Christianity was called into question.  One person who shared this belief was John Newton who wrote the influential hymn “Amazing Grace”.

Newton was the captain of a ship that transported slaves from Africa to the New World in the most appalling and degrading conditions imaginable, but he didn’t care.  Then one day while caught in a tremendous storm at sea, Newton had a special spiritual experience.  Overwhelmed by it, Newton left the slave trade and eventually became an Anglican priest.  He alluded to his conversion experience in his hymn “Amazing Grace” when he wrote, “How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed!”

No one should doubt Newton’s experience and how God chose to work in his life.  It does not follow however that this is how God does or even must work in everyone else’s life; that if a person cannot point to the time and place that they first believed, then they are not a ‘real’ Christian.  This insistence however has led to a lot of unnecessary hurt and anger.

There was once a young Presbyterian minister who went to visit an elderly woman in his congregation.  The minister firmly believed that if a person did not have some sort of special spiritual experience, then that person was not a true Christian.  The minister wanted to know when the woman had been born again and her reply was to say that she had never had such an experience.  Even so, she said that she had been baptized, attended church all her life and tried to follow Christ’s teaching and example.  She added that there had never been a time when God and Christ had not been a part of her life.  Her minister though told her that that was not good enough and that he would pray for her.  Perhaps needless to say, she felt both angry and hurt by his comments, but the irony of all of this is that that minister ignored the teaching of his own Presbyterian tradition.

There can be no doubt that God can and does sometimes grant people special spiritual experiences.  A person however does not become a Christian at the time of a special spiritual experience; rather a person becomes a Christian when they are baptized.  No matter how young or old a person may be when they are baptized, it is then that they are born again of water and the Spirit and given the gifts of the Spirit.  Why even Paul himself did not become a Christian until he was baptized by Ananias days after his special experience!  All of us are by virtue of our baptism born again, but of course being baptized is just the start.  To use an analogy, a child is not just physically born and that is it; the child must be nurtured and cared for as he or she grows from being a baby to a toddler to a child to a teenager and then to an adult.  The physical birth is just the beginning, and so it is with us spiritually as well.

Ethan was baptized this morning, but that was just the beginning of his spiritual journey.  The seed of faith was planted but, like a physical seed, it must be nurtured and cared for if it is to take root, flourish and grow.  The seed of faith is nurtured by the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, as well as by the church family of which the child is a part.  And when we are older, we nurture our own faith through such as worship, prayer, the books we read and the music we listen to.  Through all of this and more, our faith grows and matures.  This is one of the reasons why I find baptisms so special.  The baptism is a child’s spiritual birth and the formal start of their spiritual journey, and every time I celebrate this sacrament, I marvel at the child’s potential and wonder what the child will grow up to be like; what God will accomplish in that person’s life.

The conversion of Paul truly was one of history’s quiet turning points but such was its impact that it has led some to say that unless a person has a special experience such as his, that person is not really a Christian.  The truth however is that just like Paul, one becomes a Christian when they are baptized.  It is then that we are born of water and the Spirit.  It is then that we are born again.  Have we ever had a special spiritual experience?  Maybe, maybe not.  Are we born again Christians?  Absolutely!  By virtue of our baptism, being born again and being a Christian are one and the same thing.  We can’t have one without the other.



Pastoral Prayer

          Gracious God, as we come to you in prayer, we thank you for the gift of this day.  We thank you for the goodness and beauty of your creation this spring morning.  We thank you that we are here as a part of your good creation.  We thank you too for the lives of all who are so dear to us.

We thank you this day for the life that comes to us through your Son; his teaching, example, death and resurrection.  We thank you for your call to us to be your Son’s disciples, and for the purpose and meaning that that gives to our lives.  We confess that there are times on life’s journey when we may feel that our lives are aimless and of little value or purpose.  Help us to remember that our being here at this place and at this time is not just a fluke of nature; that you have placed us here and now for your own good reasons and that by doing so you give all of our lives value, purpose and meaning.

As we celebrated the Sacrament of Baptism this morning, we pray for all who do not realize that they have been baptized or have abandoned the spiritual journey that began with their baptism.  Help us we pray to remember that even when we forget about you, you never forget about us.

We pray this day for the sake of healing in the lives of all those who are ill, whether it be in mind, body, or soul.  We pray for peace and strength for all those who grieve, those who grieve for the loss of a loved one and those who grieve for the past with its mistakes and regrets.  Help us to remember that one of the great promises of the gospel is that what is, is not what must be.

As we so often have, we again offer up our prayer for the sake of the people in Ukraine as the war and resulting upheaval and suffering continue.  Truly may your will be done there, and everywhere, just as it is done in heaven.

Looking ahead to the long holiday weekend which will mark a welcome break for so many people, we pray for the safety and well-being of all.  We pray too for our province as the election campaign continues, giving you thanks for the freedom to elect those who govern us.

In your Son’s name we pray.  Amen

May 8, 2022.

Message for May 8, 2022

Mother’s Day & Christian Family Sunday

Ephesians 5:21-30, 6:1-4

As we all well know today is Mother’s Day, and with this in mind I thought that it would be interesting if today’s message focused on some of the great mothers of the Bible.

Looking at the Bible, the first famous mother is probably Rebecca who was married to Isaac and was the mother of Jacob and Esau.  Is she really a good advertisement for motherhood though?  Rebecca after all was the one who blatantly favoured one son over the other and even hatched the scheme where Jacob, by pretending to be his older brother Esau, gained the family estate.  No, I decided that Rebecca really isn’t the sort of mother we want to affirm on this special day.  I then turned to the New Testament and thought about the greatest mother of all who is of course Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Mary is said by many to be the example of faith and motherhood and yet even Mary apparently had her doubts about Jesus; how else can we explain the time when she, along with other members of the family, sought to take Jesus home because they thought that he was beside himself, which is the Bible’s way of saying that they thought he was mentally ill.

No, I decided that I wouldn’t preach about great mothers of the Bible this morning but then I had another idea.  Today isn’t just Mother’s Day; within the church, today is also Christian Family Sunday.  I decided then that I’d talk about the great families of the Bible, but I soon discovered that the great families are far and few between.  We can think of the very first family in the Bible, Adam, Eve, Cain and Able.  They were disobedient, deceiving, jealous, and one brother even killed the other.  Hardly a great example!  I then thought of Jacob.  Jacob wanted to marry Rachel but was duped into marrying her sister Leah instead.  When Jacob was finally allowed to marry his beloved Rachel, they were anything but a happy family.  The two sisters were jealous of one another and their kids hated one another.  To make things worse, Jacob blatantly favoured Rachel’s offspring.  After Jacob gave Joseph the coat of many colours the result was Joseph being sold into slavery by his half-brothers.  Perhaps this isn’t the greatest family to focus on today either!  Moving on, we can think about King David’s family.  His almost reads like a soap opera with all of the jealousy, hatred, and violence.  David may have been the man after God’s heart, but it is hard to find a more dysfunctional family than his.

Turning to the New Testament, we can think of King Herod and his family.  Herod seduced and then married his brother’s wife.  He also allowed his stepdaughter to dance for the royal court which was very inappropriate.  As a reward she was promised whatever she wanted and, urged by her mother, she demanded the head of John the Baptist on a platter.  This most certainly is not the kind of reward that most caring mothers would advise their daughters to ask for!  Turning once again to Jesus’ family, they didn’t believe in him.  To be sure his brother James eventually became a pillar in the early church but that was only after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  After giving it some thought then, I decided that I really didn’t want to preach about great families of the Bible either.  Then I had another idea.  I would preach about what a Christian family is supposed to be like.

In some of his letters St. Paul includes what scholars call the “Household Codes”.  These codes describe what Paul thought a Christian family should be like, and in the words of one of them:

“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives and so not be harsh with them.  Children, obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord.  Fathers, do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged”.

I mentioned this idea to Susan and asked her what she thought.  I quickly found out!  “You’ve got to be kidding; ‘wives, submit to your husbands’ and so on?  Do you really think that it is a good idea to preach that on Mother’s Day?”  I quickly agreed that that wasn’t such a great idea either.  And yet …

There can be no doubt that the Household Codes, reflecting as they do a male dominated culture, do offend many of our modern sensibilities but there is more to them than meets the eye.  This is to say, yes Paul told the wives to submit to their husbands but he also told the husbands that they were to love their wives just as Christ loves the church.  And Christ of course loved the church so much that he died for its sake.  The key to the marriage relationship then was mutual respect and love.  The same went for the parent-child relationship as well.

Paul said that children were to obey their parents but at the same time, the parents weren’t to be petty tyrants either.  Instead, they were to be patient and understanding.  Once again, the key to the relationship was to be mutual respect and love.  Looking at the Household Codes we think of how old-fashioned they seem to be, but behind their old-fashioned and sexist appearance the codes are really very modern.  Love one another, respect one another, and use Christ and his love as your inspiration and example.

Earlier in this message I made mention of some women from the Bible who were something less than perfect mothers.  I also made mention of some parents whose child rearing skills left a lot to be desired.  I did this tongue in cheek, but I was also making a serious point.  There never has been and there never will be a perfect mother or family.  Even so, on this Mother’s Day and Christian Family Sunday, we still dare affirm the ideal and that ideal quite simply is this, that we will try to love and care just as God does.  God loves us, not for what we do, but sometimes despite what we do.  God loves us for who and what we are.  With this in mind, I would like to share two stories with you.  The first is obviously fictional while the second is true.


A woman died and arrived at the Gates of Heaven.  While she was waiting for Saint Peter to greet her, she peeked through the Gates.  “This is such a beautiful place” she said.  “How do I get in?”

“You have to spell a word”, Saint Peter told her.

“Which word?” the woman asked.


The woman correctly spelled it and Saint Peter welcomed her into Heaven.

A year later, Saint Peter asked the woman to watch the Gates of Heaven for him that day.  While the woman was doing this her husband arrived.

“I’m surprised to see you”, the woman said.  “How have you been?”

“Oh, I’ve been doing pretty well since you died”, her husband told her.  “I married a beautiful young woman and then I won the lottery.  I sold the little house you and I lived in and bought a big mansion.  After that my new wife and I traveled all around the world.  We were on vacation, and I went water skiing, fell, hit my head, and now here I am”.  Then he asked her, “How do I get into heaven anyway?”

“Well, you have to spell a word”, the woman told him.

“Which word?” her husband asked.

“ Kyrgzstan” came the reply.


Contrast this to this true story.


It was a busy morning when an elderly gentlemen came to have stitches removed from his thumb.  He stated that he was in a hurry as he had an appointment at 9:00.

I had him take a seat.   I saw him looking at his watch, and decided that as I was not busy, I would evaluate his wound.  It was well healed, so I talked to one of the doctors and got the needed supplies to remove his stitches.

While taking care of his wound, I asked him if he had a doctor’s appointment as he was in such a hurry.  The gentleman told me no, that he needed to go to the nursing home to eat breakfast with his wife.  I then inquired as to her health.  He told me that she had been there for a while and that she was a victim of Alzheimer’s Disease.

I asked if she would be worried if he was a bit late.  He replied that she no longer knew who he was, that she had not recognized him for five years.  I was surprised and asked him.  “And you still go every morning, even though she doesn’t know who you are?”  He smiled as he patted my hand and said “she doesn’t know me, but I still know who she is.”


The man loved his wife simply because of who she was, and so it is with God and us.  And it is the same with us too.  It doesn’t matter whether we be talking about our mothers, our fathers, our spouses, other family members or anyone else for that matter; love is remembering and caring about the other person, despite their imperfections. That is how God loves us and that is how we are to love others.  And it is this, our choice to love, that we celebrate and affirm this special day.



Pastoral Prayer

          Gracious God, hear us as we turn to you in prayer on this Mother’s Day and Christian Family Sunday.

We give you thanks for what it is that we remember, celebrate, and affirm this day.  Whether they be with us or with you, we remember our mothers and give thanks for all in them that is good, kind, and faithful, for all that they have meant, mean, and always will mean to us.

We give you thanks this day for all the other members of our families and the other special people in our lives as well.  On this May morning, we thank you for life’s many blessings but as we do so, we pray for those for whom this is not such a good day.

We pray for all the people who are haunted by the actions of others in the past, and by their own mistakes.  As we celebrate the ties that bind this day, we pray for all of the relationships where those ties have, for whatever reason, been frayed.  We pray for relationships in crisis, where trust has been replaced by distrust, love and affection by dislike or worse.

We pray this day for everyone who, for whatever reason, feels alienated from their family.  Help us to remember that none of us are perfect.  Help us, as best we can, to forgive others when they have failed us or let us down.  Help us, as best we can, to love even as you love us.

We pray for the sake of healing, understanding, and reconciliation, for there is so much pain and heartache in the world around us.

We pray for the sake of peace, within us and between us.  We pray for the sake of peace between the nations, even as the war continues in Ukraine.  May the fighting come to an end, the suffering alleviated, and justice be done.

On this Christian Family Sunday, we give you thanks for this church family of which we are a part.  We pray for your blessing upon her and her ministry to the world, both near and far.

We ask these things in your Son’s name.  Amen