“Uncertainty”

May 27th

It is said that the only thing that’s constant is change. True enough, but I would say that the only thing that’s truly constant is uncertainty. We can be sure of change, perhaps, but we can be even more sure that we are not ever sure about everything. The “will I?”s, “what if?”s and “what’s next?”s are always with us. Even when our plans unfold as they should, we wonder if they will continue to do so until their completion.
Uncertainty means today’s weather forecast is tomorrow’s punchline. A well-intended action by a helpful friend tosses a monkey-wrench into our well-oiled machine. What seems like a bad idea turns out to be the best one ever when it’s actually played out. A well considered essay suddenly takes a different turn.
Uncertainty is a curse for those who fail to take reality into account and those for whom humility is a foreign word. When we make room for life’s little interruptions and our own shortcomings uncertainty might throw us a curveball, but we’re ready to either catch it or at least try avoid it hitting us. To make room for uncertainty prepares us to deal with whatever comes accordingly. That doesn’t guarantee joy or success; it does, give us the certainty that we will be able to face whatever comes head-on, without hesitation.
The uncertainty of my move to Coldwater comes from losing the full support of St. James and wondering if I’ll be able to live up to my new congregation’s expectations. For you St. James, the uncertainly lies in what your future without the leadership of your own Pastor; for the good people at St. Andrew’s, Coldwater, it’s whether or not they’ve made the right choice. Uncertainty seems to be the order of the day.
In the midst of this uncertainty, one constant will see us through. We know we are God’s beloved children, and we believe that we are honouring and serving our Creator. We might not do it perfectly, or even absolutely correctly, which is why there are moments of sorrow or anger in the midst of life. But we do have the certainty of a God who will be there for us no matter what happens.
To honour God is to love as deeply as God loves us, to serve as faithfully as Jesus serves humanity, and to let God’s Spirit of wisdom guide our thoughts and actions. When we immerse ourselves in God’s heart we can be certain that God will support us through other Christ-like brothers and sisters, and empower us to do what is right, good and just. Whatever uncertainty we may have, God is certain to see us through to whatever good end is in store for us.

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“Affirming”

May 20th

An old, well respected word is back in the headlines: affirm, in its various forms, is a term being used by churches (and other institutions) to indicate that a congregation or denomination not only welcomes and includes all people, regardless of gender, race, social status, sexual orientation or other qualifier, but also recognizes their uniqueness and accepts them for who they are.
To include someone means they are welcome to worship with you, without having to get to know them or even look them in the eye. To affirm someone means learning about them and validating them as they worship next to you. Going deeper, affirming someone means knowing enough about them to be able to say “I appreciate you and love you” because of the unique gifts and skills (and maybe even the shortcomings) that make you who you are.
To be an affirming congregation is an especially important distinction for LGBTQ people because it means that they can be their true selves and participate fully in all the congregation has to offer. More importantly, it recognizes them as children of God no different from any other human being. This is not loving the sinner and hating the sin, by any stretch of the imagination. This is saying that whether you’re straight or gay, you’re equally a child of God, and not that one is a sinner while the other is above reproach.
While being affirming might have a bit of a slant to it right now, it’s a wonderful word to use as brothers and sisters in Christ. When Jesus taught us the new commandment to love one another it was a call to action, not passivity. It is not just including someone on the ball team. It means recognizing their gifts and interests and putting them in just the right position so that they can contribute to the success of the team equally.
God knows us. God loves us. When God calls us to use our time, talents and treasures wisely and wonderfully, God affirms us, loving us for who we are. It is my prayer that one day we will all affirm one another with the same loving attitude of our Heavenly Creator.

“Impiety”

May 13th

A Facebook acquaintance recently posted a verse from the Bible: “St. John 14:6 — Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. [AV]” Yes, he used the archaic language from the Authorized Version. Yes, it’s an inaccurate translation, as ‘man’ should really be ‘person’. But, most importantly to me, despite its pious sentiment, I found its presence on my Facebook feed impious.
I’m a big fan of both the Bible and of Jesus. I read and study Scripture and follow and serve Jesus. But I don’t like to force Jesus on others this way. I will absolutely post Biblical quotes talking about human behaviour and encouraging love. But I find that quotes like the one my acquaintance shared are less than helpful. Their ancient language gives readers the impression that the Bible is out of touch with modern reality and their black-and-white stance seems both heavy-handed and judgmental.
I believe that we all need Jesus in our lives. If we were all more Christ-like I truly believe that we would be the best people we could be and that our world would be as perfect as God created it to be. However, I know that I don’t have all the answers and that forcing my beliefs on others is unkind and unholy. And so, when I see a supposedly pious quote stated in a language nobody uses, I find it less than helpful or holy. Instead, I find it to be wholly impious.
As I mentioned before, I have no problem sharing quotes from the Bible that address how we act or suggest caring for others or challenge an unhealthy status-quo. But I don’t do so very often, and when I do, it’s usually because I need that message more than my Facebook friends and acquaintances do. Most often, when you see those posts on my page it’s because I needed the reminder in my life.
I understand the irony of this missive. I don’t like it when people are judgemental about me or others, yet here I am passing judgment on this acquaintance. But sometimes we have to look at an action and ask ourselves, “is that helpful?”. For people following Jesus, that self-analysis goes deeper, and asks of us, “Is it helpful to others and true to Jesus?” An out of context quote in an archaic translation, I believe, is not helpful. While Jesus used these very words to teach us about Himself, we must use them sparingly, not as a club to browbeat others but as a gentle reminder of who we are.
I would like others to know and follow Jesus. But rather than offer you Biblical quotes I will quote Jesus’ life by following His example. As an imperfect follower of Jesus I know that my life is impious. Yet I pray that, despite my impiety, Jesus perfectly pious love will be revealed through me.

“Healers”

April 29th

10 people were killed in an inexplicable act of violence in my hometown of Toronto, Ontario. Many others were injured by the attacker, and a great number more have been traumatized by being first hand witnesses to the event. There are family members, friends or co-workers grieving the loved ones killed or injured. And countless others, like myself and perhaps even you, are feeling the pain, anger and confusion of this truly senseless, vicious act.
As soon as word got out, emergency responders of all kinds went to the scene. Without hesitation they helped the injured and the traumatized. EMT’s, Police Officers, Fire Fighters and other trained professionals did their job promptly, efficiently and well. A friend of mine posted a picture of her cousin, a Police Officer and one of the first to respond, at work helping the victims. One particular Police Officer is being hailed as a hero for having taken the (suspected) perpetrator into custody without firing a shot. I am thankful for all the men and women, trained and untrained, who stepped up and stood out to bring about order in the midst of confusion and healing in the midst of pain.
On the same day of this awful event a prominent Christian Pastor posted a tweet saying: “You may be suffering today with sickness and disease, but call upon the name of Jesus and by His stripes, you will be healed.” While it’s not connected to the tragedy in Toronto, it hits a nerve with me. Yes, Jesus will heal us. There is no doubt that He has the power to cure our pain and suffering, our sickness and disease. But that’s not how He works in our lives. Jesus heals us Spiritually. He forgives our sins and saves our Souls. But as to the hard slogging of curing our bodies of sickness, disease and injuries, Jesus has another way of getting things done.
That police officer showing great patience and restraint? He was working for Jesus. He might not know it, but Jesus makes use of good people like him to help and heal us. My friend’s cousin? Same thing. Perhaps he is unaware of his lofty calling, but he too is one of Jesus’ helpers. The doctor in the ER? Yep, her too. The many people helping selflessly and lovingly because it’s in their hearts to do so? Indeed, they too are Jesus’ unwitting workers. Jesus does indeed heal us, but He uses us as His earthly tools to accomplish His heavenly desire.
And you? Yes, you too. Whenever you reach out to someone to help them, whether it’s with life-saving surgery or simply holding their hand, you too are Christ’s earthly healer. May God bless us all with such heavenly gifts in the midst of the tragic event in Toronto, and wherever there is pain and suffering.

“Healers”

April 29th “Don’t Just Do It”

10 people were killed in an inexplicable act of violence in my hometown of Toronto, Ontario. Many others were injured by the attacker, and a great number more have been traumatized by being first hand witnesses to the event. There are family members, friends or co-workers grieving the loved ones killed or injured. And countless others, like myself and perhaps even you, are feeling the pain, anger and confusion of this truly senseless, vicious act.
As soon as word got out, emergency responders of all kinds went to the scene. Without hesitation they helped the injured and the traumatized. EMT’s, Police Officers, Fire Fighters and other trained professionals did their job promptly, efficiently and well. A friend of mine posted a picture of her cousin, a Police Officer and one of the first to respond, at work helping the victims. One particular Police Officer is being hailed as a hero for having taken the (suspected) perpetrator into custody without firing a shot. I am thankful for all the men and women, trained and untrained, who stepped up and stood out to bring about order in the midst of confusion and healing in the midst of pain.
On the same day of this awful event a prominent Christian Pastor posted a tweet saying: “You may be suffering today with sickness and disease, but call upon the name of Jesus and by His stripes, you will be healed.” While it’s not connected to the tragedy in Toronto, it hits a nerve with me. Yes, Jesus will heal us. There is no doubt that He has the power to cure our pain and suffering, our sickness and disease. But that’s not how He works in our lives. Jesus heals us Spiritually. He forgives our sins and saves our Souls. But as to the hard slogging of curing our bodies of sickness, disease and injuries, Jesus has another way of getting things done.
That police officer showing great patience and restraint? He was working for Jesus. He might not know it, but Jesus makes use of good people like him to help and heal us. My friend’s cousin? Same thing. Perhaps he is unaware of his lofty calling, but he too is one of Jesus’ helpers. The doctor in the ER? Yep, her too. The many people helping selflessly and lovingly because it’s in their hearts to do so? Indeed, they too are Jesus’ unwitting workers. Jesus does indeed heal us, but He uses us as His earthly tools to accomplish His heavenly desire.
And you? Yes, you too. Whenever you reach out to someone to help them, whether it’s with life-saving surgery or simply holding their hand, you too are Christ’s earthly healer. May God bless us all with such heavenly gifts in the midst of the tragic event in Toronto, and wherever there is pain and suffering.

“Worshipful”

April 22nd

I enjoy conducting worship in retirement homes. While I’m not a huge fan of the old, traditional hymns that are standard fare for the worshippers, it’s a fun challenge to blast out four of their ol’ faves without any accompaniment. After all, it’s not often that I get to use the full power of my singing voice. It’s also wonderful to share God’s Word and a message with folks who really want to be there. Most of us take for granted how easily we get from place to place; the residents that come to worship with me often struggle to get to the hall, so I appreciate the effort they make and the helpers that encourage and assist them.
I don’t expect big crowds. The average is between six to ten souls, which is pretty satisfying; I like to ask questions and give folks the chance to choose the hymns we sing, and that number of people is easily manageable.
The other day, however, I only had one worshipper come. We sat patiently for a few minutes to see if any one else was coming. At five minutes past the stated hour is was clear that it was just going to be Larry and me, so we simply started talking. For the next half-hour we shared stories about faith, our families and work. It might not have been a traditional worship service, but getting to know each other and deepening out relationship a bit was, for me, a holy and blessed moment. Usually I just come and go for worship. I do spend a few minutes meeting and greeting folks before and after the service, but they’re as busy as I am, so when we’re done, the congregation is off and going as fast they can to their next activity. Having the opportunity to sit and chat for once, even with just one person, was a rare and much-appreciated treat.
How often do we rush through things together without getting to know one another? How often do we gather as a group of friends sharing an activity without sharing our friendship more deeply? How often do we worship together as a body of Christ without really understanding the Christ-like people with whom we have gathered?
To know and be known is a Holy and blessed gift. It is a loving action that deepens our relationship. It is a sacred act that allows us to see in a fellow human a unique expression of God’s image. Next time you’re doing something with another person, take a moment to worship together with them, simply by deepening and celebrating your friendship. Look for the “Christ” in them and let them know the “Christ” in you.

“Timely”

April 15th

I recently had the pleasure of conducting the wedding for two lovely gentlemen, one of who has been a friend throughout my ministry at St. James. As is the norm, the wedding ceremony was followed by a fun reception for all the guests. My wife, Lois, and I were included amongst the invitees and enjoyed the fine hospitality of the two grooms immensely. It was a great party!
Following the reception for the wedding guests, there was to be a brief pause, and then a big family dinner hosted by the newlyweds. Not being family members, Lois and I weren’t invited, which was to be expected. Nevertheless, the grooms wanted to make sure we fully understood that it wasn’t meant as a slight; they were simply taking advantage of having so many family members together in one place. Naturally, no offence was taken. I always encourage people to get together for happy occasions, and was thrilled that the groom’s families would be able to have yet another great party.
This timely response to a rare confluence of events is an example worth following. All too often I hear people lament that they didn’t spend enough time with the ones they loved. Funerals seem to be the most frequent times that some families get together, and of course, while there is joy in seeing the people you care for, it’s difficult to celebrate the reunion when mourning the loss of a loved one.
God created us to be with other people. None of us can survive without family members, friends, co-workers, fellow hobbyists, store clerks or friendly strangers sitting next to us on the train. When it comes to families it’s important that we take the time to celebrate when we can, to be together to share our stories and build on the relationships that have shaped us. It’s not always easy; families aren’t perfect and not all relationships are ideal. Sometimes families spread out to places far and wide, making it hard to be in the same place at once. Still, it’s worth the effort to get together without waiting for a special occasion or a tragedy to make it happen. When there are no timely opportunities, for a party or gathering, then they need to be created. After all, the time is always right to have some fun with the people you love.