Encouragement From The Word

A snapshot of the Kingdom of God

Last weekend, I had the privilege of speaking three times on the occasion of the 153rd anniversary of Côte des Neiges Presbyterian Church in Montreal.  I suspect that, while I was there to provide spiritual encouragement to the church and to call the seekers to faith, I probably got more out of being among these people than they got from me.  Let me tell you why.

In that congregation I saw a snapshot of the Kingdom of God, and it was beautiful.

The congregation is reflective of its neighbourhood in terms of its ethnic makeup, and there are people from – quite literally – all over the world who worship God in that community.  To watch them in praise, and then in fellowship over meals, was truly a delight.

One incident that stood out for me involved a young Brazilian couple who had just moved to the city for school.  Neither spoke English, but at least one of them spoke Spanish, and serendipitously, a Spanish-speaking woman in the congregation sat with them and translated the service after they wandered in for worship (intentionally seeking a Presbyterian church, since that is their background).  Then, at lunch, she introduced them to the Pastor of the congregation, and he asked if they had any needs.  His desire for these folks, along with welcoming them into the faith community, was to make sure that their physical needs were met – something this congregation has become known for, even among government social service agencies, which are often suspicious of churches.

The young Brazilian couple was then escorted into the church hall to enjoy a great meal, with 150 other people of all ages.  And I’m assured that they will have been given a doggy-bag of leftovers, as happens with several people each week when the church sits down to a meal.  For some in the congregation, that meal is their biggest of the week, and a highlight of their lives.

At both worship and meals, there were children roaming around, making sounds, and what did the church do?  Nothing.  Why?  Because having children roam around, making sounds, is normal.  We can rejoice when these things happen, because they are signs of life.  It’s great to see a growing church in this day and age, and that one is growing!

Somehow, I suspect that when I enter the great marriage feast of the Lamb, it’s going to look a lot like Côte des Neiges Church.  And that will be wonderful!

Why am I telling you this?  The hope is to encourage you, that there are churches being effective in doing God’s work.  I hope yours is one of them.  When we visit other worshipping communities, we have the opportunity to learn things that will help us make our own churches into little snapshots of the Kingdom of God.

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” (Psalm 133.1, NRSV).

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Encouragement From The Word

Peace and unity

On Remembrance Day, we pause to remember and give thanks for those who have fought for our freedom – a freedom demonstrated earlier this week as our neighbours to the south voted in a presidential election.

One of the things I have noticed in recent years, which was writ large throughout the seemingly-endless US election campaign, is that in western society, we are polarized like never before.  And it seems to pervade all spheres, not least the political and ecclesiastical spheres.

In church and state, people seem pitted on either side of one issue or a multiplicity of issues, and the mud-slinging comes from both sides.  What the world needs is what the church can demonstrate if it will:  peace and unity.

To that end, I will let God’s Word speak for itself.  Receive these words from the Lord.  Read them slowly, perhaps a few times.  Allow the Lord to speak to you through them.  And respond practically.

How very good and pleasant it is

    when kindred live together in unity!

It is like the precious oil on the head,

    running down upon the beard,

on the beard of Aaron,

    running down over the collar of his robes.

It is like the dew of Hermon,

    which falls on the mountains of Zion.

For there the Lord ordained his blessing,

    life forevermore.  (Psalm 133, NRSV)

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.  So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.  For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you.  The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong.  So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.  (Romans 13.1-5, NLT)

Biblical Messages, Uncategorized

Songs in the Key of Life: Sage Advice

On this Pentecost Sunday, we remembered the story in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers with tongues of fire, and the unity that brought to these first Christians.  In this message, we looked at the end of Acts 2 and Psalm 133 as we considered that unity is a fruit of community.  Have a listen:

Biblical Messages

THE MISSING PEACE: Peace with your family

Someone once said, “Everyone deserves a close, tightly-knit family…in another city.”  Family is often a source of conflict, because we often let down our guard with those closest to us.  So how can we know peace with our families?  Based on Psalm 133 and Ephesians 6.1-4, you can listen to the message and find out.  (By the way, the orange football was found…behind a stack of books in the pulpit!)