Biblical Messages

“Raising the Bar” Revisited

As I mentioned last week, I thought I came up short on my conversation about John 13.31-38, and especially Jesus’ new command to love one another as he has loved us.  So I’m taking a second crack at it here.  The message begins at 36:48.  [Edit:  message upload fixed!]

Encouragement From The Word

Make Canada Thine Own!

Here’s one from the vault.  Happy Dominion/Canada Day weekend!

In recognition of our Dominion’s 152nd birthday, I thought I’d share with you a poem, often sung as a hymn (to O Canada, of course), written in 1915 by Canadian Methodist teacher-physician Albert Durrant Watson (1859-1926).  Let it be your prayer, as it is mine, for our nation.  (At St. Paul’s, we’ll sing this on Sunday.)

Lord of the lands, beneath Thy bending skies,

On field and flood, where’er our banner flies,

Thy people lift their hearts to Thee,

Their grateful voices raise:

May our Dominion ever be

A temple to Thy praise.

Thy will alone let all enthrone;

Lord of the lands, make Canada Thine own:

Lord of the lands, make Canada Thine own!

 

Almighty Love, by Thy mysterious power,

In wisdom guide, with faith and freedom dower;

Be ours a nation evermore

That no oppression blights,

Where justice rules from shore to shore,

From lakes to northern lights.

May love alone for wrong atone;

Lord of the lands, make Canada Thine own:

Lord of the lands, make Canada Thine own!

 

Lord of the worlds, with strong eternal hand,

Hold us in honour, truth and self-command;

The loyal heart, the constant mind,

The courage to be true,

Our wide extending Empire bind,

And all the earth renew.

Thy name be known through ev’ry zone;

Lord of the worlds, make all the lands Thine own:

Lord of the worlds, make all the lands Thine own!

 

Lord, all the nations belong to you.  Make all their citizens yours, by grace, that your Kingdom may come on earth, just as it is in heaven.  Amen.

He will rule from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Psalm 72.8, NIV).

Biblical Messages

Raising the Bar

Sometimes, as a pastor, I prepare with a particular goal in mind and when I’ve finished preaching my message, I have found it does not come out quite as I had hoped.  Today was one of those days.  It was not a bad message at all; but I’m not sure it said all that I hoped it would say.  I may tackle the same passage next Sunday and see where that goes. But for now, here is the worship gathering from June 23, 2019 with a message, “Raising the Bar”, from John 13.31-38.  The message itself starts at 32:28.

Encouragement From The Word

Lessons from the Raptors’ parade

In case you’ve been otherwise occupied recently, I can tell you that the Toronto Raptors won the championship of the National Basketball Association last week, and that the city hosted a little party to celebrate the victory in downtown Toronto on Monday.

Oh, by the way: that little party had about two million people in attendance!

In some ways, the news about the victory parade from the Canadian National Exhibition grounds to Nathan Phillips Square (Toronto city hall) was a bigger story than the Raptors’ win itself.  Everybody expected a crowd, but nobody expected the size of crowd that appeared.

Sadly, there was some violence that marred the happy occasion, but thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

I think there are a couple of lessons in this for the people of God.

One is that we should always be prepared.  In the wake of the parade and its many onlookers, the City of Toronto sought to learn from its mistakes and be ready for such a gathering if it ever were to happen again.

A maxim to which I’ve long subscribed is that the church will always receive as many guests as it is ready to receive.  So, for example, if a congregation is hosting a ‘big day’, such as Christmas, Easter, or an event to which the community is invited, it needs to be sure that it has sufficient priority parking spaces set aside for guests. It needs to have people prepared to be hospitable and welcoming to those who may be stepping inside the church building in fear and trepidation.  It needs to be prepared with the words that are used so that no ‘insider language’ is used, and people who may be unfamiliar with the church and its worship can fully understand what’s going on.

Another lesson for God’s people is to be aware that, as Jesus said, “The fields are already ripe for harvest” (John 4.35, NLT).  Many congregations struggle these days, but the aerial views of that parade last Monday were a reminder for churches everywhere – not just in Toronto – that there are still many people who have yet to be reached with the good news of God’s saving love in Jesus Christ.

That’s not to say that all the people attending that parade were not followers of Jesus; I know for a fact that some of them are!  But when we despair that the church is going to die for lack of attendance, we do well to be reminded that there are many people in our communities, large and small, who do not follow Jesus.  Our task from Jesus is to reach out to them in grace and humility with the truth of his love and mercy.

It’s God’s job to grow the church, but he yearns for willing partners in accomplishing that task.

So, congratulations to the Toronto Raptors!  And may the church of Jesus be ready to receive the many people who have holes in their souls and need the good news that only he can offer…through us.

Biblical Messages

A snapshot of the church

This worship gathering was primarily led by young people, and their theme was the Holy Spirit; my job was to integrate with their theme, so I chose to bring a message from Acts 2.42-47 that shows a picture of the early church as it responded to the giving of the Holy Spirit.  The message itself starts at 39:37, or you can watch the whole service below.

Bonus: an audio recording of the message is below, if that suits you better…

Encouragement From The Word

The Sound of Silence

The sound of silence.

For some, it is a reference to Simon and Garfunkel.

For others, it is the noise made by the refrigerator or the HVAC system.

For some, it is deafening.

For others, it is the most beautiful sound on earth.

Whatever it may mean to us, the sound of silence is a gift, whether we acknowledge it or not.  For it is in silence that we are most clearly able to commune with God as friend to Friend, as servant to Master, as disciple to Lord.  Think about it:  when you are having an intentional conversation with a close friend, you’re probably not having to shout over a loud racket, right?  When it’s a serious conversation, there’s probably no discernible noise in the background.

So why not do this with the Lord?

At times, we may wonder why we don’t hear from God; it’s less likely that God is silent, and more likely that we are not making space to listen.

As you read the Bible, as you pray – whatever shape that takes – consider doing it accompanied by the sound of silence.  You may be surprised how much you hear.

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress; I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 62.5-6, NRSV).