Encouragement From The Word

The church scattered

I was getting my hair cut yesterday.  (Some of you will think I am living dangerously by admitting that, but some things need to be done, and every precaution was taken.)  Steph is part of our church family at St. Paul’s, and she said something quite important as part of our conversation – much of which centred around the current pandemic.

She said, “Maybe this will help us all slow down.”

Granted, this is not the way any of us hoped the call away from busyness would come.  But the Coronavirus pandemic has forced us to simplify our lives, at least in terms of what we do outside of work and being at home.  We may still want to go out with our friends, or play particular sports, or take our kids away for this extended March Break, but we can’t.  It’s a danger to public health if we do.

The current crisis, though, is not going to end soon.  Even when we are permitted to gather in groups again – for conversation, sports, family and worship – we will do so with a new normal in place, and it probably isn’t going to look like what we were doing a couple of weeks ago.

For followers of Jesus, this season of challenge provides us with a unique opportunity: we can express the love of Jesus in new and highly practical ways.

I participated in a webinar yesterday in which one of the speakers said that the power of the church is not in its ability to gather, but its ability to scatter.

Think about that: for a long time, being the church has mostly been about Sunday.  Everything we do leads up to the Sunday experience.  Right now, though, the typical Sunday experience has been taken away from us.  As a result, pastors like me are looking for ways to engage our people in powerful ways that don’t involve getting together on the weekend.

Some have been thinking about this for a long time, irrespective of crises of this magnitude.  There are 168 hours in each week; they’ve been encouraging us to think about what we do with the other 167 hours that are in the week beyond the worship gathering.  The power of the church is in what we do with those 167 hours we’re scattered.

We could dive into any number of rabbit holes around this, but I won’t do that today.  Let me simply encourage you to be thinking about ways you can make faith in Jesus practical with your neighbours in this time.  Think about ways that you can serve others in Jesus’ name while we have this ‘bonus’ time that we’re not doing other things.

And maybe…just maybe…you might not want to go back to the steady diet of those other activities once you figure out the joy of serving others in the power of the gospel.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another….Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen” (1 Peter 4.10-11, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Hospitality alive!

What could possibly be held in common by a former student, someone I worked with at a denominational formation event, the CBC television show Still Standing, and my vacation?

I don’t normally write about my holidays, but when all of these disparate things came together, I thought it would be worth a post.

One of our favourite TV shows is Still Standing, wherein comedian and actor Jonny Harris (of Murdoch Mysteries fame) visits small, struggling towns in Canada to get to know the people and the difficulties they face with industry closures and the like.  It’s informative and funny, the two things I like best about television.  I knew that this season, Jonny would be visiting Fort-Coulonge, Québec, because an online student of mine last winter, Jane Pitfield, told me that she was having to deal with preparations for his visit to her little town not far from Pembroke, Ontario.  So I really enjoyed watching that particular episode, aired earlier this summer, because someone I knew would be in it.

My wife and I decided that it would be interesting to see what Jane was doing in the little town where her great-great-grandfather was responsible for bringing the logging industry (and thus prosperity).  So we arranged a visit as part of our holidays.

When we arrived, the hostess at the inn run by Jane (in the house built by her great-Spruceholme-Front-Viewgrandfather), we were told to go across the street to the Presbyterian church, where the student minister was waiting for us for a visit.  That was where we met Dave McFarlane, whom I had gotten to know at our denomination’s guidance conference for students last summer.  We caught up and chatted a bit, saw the historic building, and, not wanting to keep him from sermon preparation, we went back to the inn to await Jane’s return from a trip to Ottawa.

Claire, the delightful young hostess, kindly gave us a tour of the inn and the additional facilities that Jane had added on only in the past few years, including a bistro, contained in a barn that had been in her family which she had rebuilt on the site of the inn, and a reception hall (where the community show for Still Standing was taped).  It was so interesting to see such rich history brought back to life in a modern context.

We waited in the bistro for Jane, and shared a tasty supper and conversation with her there.  Knowing we had a campsite to get to before dark, Jane then took us to her home, which comprises an old log cabin that had been in her family many years ago, at the mouth of the Coulonge River, where it meets the Ottawa River – a site where many logs were moved for transport downstream.

We were amazed and astounded at the work Jane has undertaken to help to revitalize this small community where her ancestors had made such a difference.  The inn, the bistro and the conference hall have the opportunity to bring much tourism to Fort-Coulonge, and that fact that she is directly related to someone who is a much-honoured founder of the community has meant she is not considered “from away”, and can have a real impact.

That impact has been shown not only in the revitalization of buildings and industry, but in the skill Jane brings to her community as a politician; she is a former Toronto City Councillor, so she knows how to “get things done” in a political sense.  Though she does not hold the family name – Bryson – she is known as one of them.  Her great-great-grandfather and her great-grandfather were both members of the Québec Legislative Council in the early days of Confederation, right through to the early part of the twentieth century.  Some 70 years of continuous public service were rendered by those two men.  In her own way, Jane now carries that tradition on.

It’s not often one gets a front-row seat to such efforts, and we were glad to see what God is doing through Jane – for as one with a spiritual gift of hospitality, she longs to use that gift to make a difference for the Lord among the people of her community.

Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.  God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another” (1 Peter 4.9-10, NLT).

To learn more about Jane’s work, visit http://www.spruceholmeinn.com/

Biblical Messages

Christ our Strength & Joy

The first letter of Peter, through which we have been working off and on since the winter, has several allusions to the importance of suffering as followers of Christ.  Today, we may be more likely to encounter persecution than ever in recent memory, given the intolerance of biblical Christianity that exists today.

But what is the end of suffering?  Of what value has it for the Christian?  Suffering readies us to spend eternity with God.  Based on 1 Peter 4, you can listen to the message here: