Archive for May, 2010

May 16th, 2010, 7th Sunday of Easter

While I was at Presbyterian College, one of the expressions we were very fond of “a-ha! Moment”. You know what that is. We have all had them. The first time I heard of such a thing, by a different name, was in seventh grade, when we studied a little bit about Archimedes, the Greek mathematician and scientist. His story, which I am sure most of us have heard at some point, goes like this: the local tyrant contracts the ancient Greek polymath Archimedes to detect fraud in the manufacture of a golden crown. The tyrant, who was named Hiero, suspects his goldsmith of leaving out some measure of gold and replacing it with silver in a wreath dedicated to the gods. Archimedes accepts the challenge and, during a subsequent trip to the public baths, realizes that the more his body sinks into the water, the more water is displaced–making the displaced water an exact measure of his volume. Because gold weighs more than silver, he reasons that a crown mixed with silver would have to be bulkier to reach the same weight as one composed only of gold; therefore it would displace more water than its pure gold counterpart. Realizing he has hit upon a solution, the young Greek math whiz leaps out of the bath and rushes home naked crying “Eureka! Eureka!” Or, translated: “I’ve found it! I’ve found it!” Whether this is true or not, doesn’t really matter. It makes for a great story, and anyone who has learned it, remembers it – at least partly because of the image of a Greek man running naked through the streets. Many other great discoveries have happened in just such an astounding way. The word “eureka” is still a part of today’s vocabulary, and this is what we meant by “a-ha moment” – the moment when something suddenly became clear. We can be struggling with a problem for hours, or even days, and all of a sudden the little lightbulb goes on, and we see the solution. For me, that used to happen a lot in math class. You remember those number problems – things like: Two trains leave from two different stations, heading towards each other. If the stations are so many miles apart, and each train is traveling at a different speed, (of course, the exact numbers were given in the problem!), how long will it take before the trains collide. For some reason, the teachers never seemed to like my answers, which usually involved averting the disaster by having someone send a telegraph first to make sure that the accident didn’t happen. Anyhow, I would work at the problem for what seemed like forever, without success. And when the teacher would explain it – or when my father would explain it – all of a sudden things seemed really clear, and I would rush to finish the rest of the problems before the light went off again. If this happened at home, it wasn’t too bad, but sometimes, it happened in school, while the teacher was working out the problem on the board, and people – including me – would sit looking blankly at the numbers marching all over the place. When we suddenly realized what she was saying, when we “got it”, someone would often say out loud, “Oh, now I see what you mean!” That often caused embarrassment, as the person really didn’t mean the words to be heard by everyone.
Of course, in seminary, we were not talking about mathematical or scientific discoveries, but they were eureka moments, nevertheless. We were talking about the time when we each realized that this God stuff, this Redeemer stuff, was true. We were talking about the moment when we realized that God was calling us to do his work. We were talking about the moment when we knew for sure that Jesus was the son of God, and that he had died to save us. Talk about a eureka experience, an a-ha moment! I don’t think that solving any math problem can top that.
And in today’s readings, the disciples had an “a-ha” moment, the moment when they were first called apostles. If you think about it, in the Gospels, the followers of Jesus were called “disciples”. It is not until the first chapter of Acts that we hear the word “apostle”. Listen again to what Luke wrote: In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. Many people use the words APOSTLE and DISCIPLE interchangeably, and if they think about them at all, they don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out the difference. I used to think that DISCIPLE referred to anyone who followed Jesus, while APOSTLE referred specifically to the Twelve Jesus called by name. But that is not quite accurate.
I could give you an explanation of the difference, using Greek words, and going on for several pages, but instead, I’ll quote from a book I read a couple of years ago. The book is called: Lamb, and is subtitled The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. It was written by Christopher Moore, and is not unlike some of the great Monty Python material. Anyhow, in this book, the whole apostle/disciple conundrum is explained quite clearly. Jesus is called Joshua, which may well have been what many people called him in those days, kind of the way we can call a woman Madge, when her name is actually Margaret. So Moore wrote: Then [Joshua] made the call: “Okay, who wants to be an apostle?” “I do, I do,” said Nathaniel. “What’s an apostle?” That’s a guy who makes drugs,” I said. “Me, me,” said Nathaniel. “I want to make drugs.” “I’ll try that,” said John. “That’s an apothecary,” said Matthew . . . “Apostle means ‘to send off.’” . . . “That’s right,” said Joshua, “messengers. You’ll be sent off to spread the message that the kingdom has come.” “Isn’t that what we’re doing now?” asked Peter. “No, now you’re disciples, but I want to appoint apostles who will take the Word into the land . . . I will give you power to heal, and power over devils. You’ll be like me, only in a different outfit. You’ll take nothing with you except your clothes. You’ll live only off the charity of those you preach to. You’ll be on your own, like sheep among wolves. People will persecute you and spit on you, and maybe beat you, and if that happens, well, it happens. Shake of the dust and move on. Now, who’s with me?” And there was a roaring silence among the disciples . . . Joshua stood up and just counted them off . . . You’re the apostles. Now get out there and apostilize.” And they all looked at each other. “Spread the good news, the son of man is here! The kingdom is coming. Go! Go! Go!” They got up and sort of milled around . . . Thus were the twelve appointed to their sacred mission.”
So, the difference between being a disciple and an apostle is that the apostles make more of a commitment. The disciples follow Jesus, and probably live a good life, but don’t really do much about spreading the good news. As apostles, they – and we – are called to do just that – to spread the good news. Now, you know that for most of the Gospels, the apostles were not the brightest followers Jesus could have had. Too many times, they didn’t understand what he was saying to them. And, even though they had seen him killed, and knew that he had risen from the dead, they still didn’t get it. Not until he made them apostles, not until the ascension, which we are celebrating today. That is when the apostles had their a-ha moment; that is when they knew what it was all about. In the Gospel reading for today, Luke wrote: Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Finally, finally, as Jesus was about to return to the Father, they understood. They understood all of the references to the Old Testament, and how Jesus was the one who fulfilled the prophecies. They understood the parables, the stories Jesus told. They understood all the healings and miracles. They understood why Jesus had to be crucified. After spending three years with Jesus, they finally knew what it was all about, and there is no greater gift they could have been given. There is no greater a-ha moment than the one when Jesus Christ is accepted as the son of God, as the Redeemer who was sent to save us.
And, having gotten this gift, this gift of acceptance, the apostles are told that they have to share it. Jesus said to them: You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you: and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Note, they are not equipped to share the gift yet. They have to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. In the church year, that will happen next week, on Pentecost Sunday, when the Holy Spirit will descend on the apostles as they are gathered together. Waiting is probably the hardest thing we have to do, but it is also one of the most important things we need to do when we are discerning God’s will for us. The prophet Isaiah wrote about waiting, when he said: Those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. Look at the way Isaiah said this. They WILL renew their strength; they WILL run and not grow weary; they WILL walk and not be faint. He didn’t say that they MIGHT renew their strength or MAYBE they will not grow weary or be faint. No, while waiting, these things WILL happen. This is all a part of God’s gifts to his apostles – to us, this time of waiting, which allows God to work in us so that we will be able to work in others.
This last scene of Jesus with the apostles is re-enacted every week during worship. Every Christian denomination ends worship in the same way, with a dismissal and a blessing. In the Book of Common Worship used by the Presbyterian Church in Canada, we are told: The dismissal is brief and direct, preparing the people to return to daily life. A charge, based on Scripture and challenging the people to Christian discipleship followed by a benediction or blessing sends them forth. This means that, every week, you are challenged to share the good news, just as the apostles were challenged on that first Ascension Day.
Luke tells us that, after Jesus blessed them, they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem, filled with great joy. Have you ever noticed that, when people are filled with great joy, they cannot stop smiling? They cannot stop sharing their joy. I saw it last weekend, when I performed a marriage. The groom was positively beaming, and his joy was so contagious that the assembly was filled with it, too. I have seen it when people are showing off a new baby. They just can’t stop smiling. This joy filled the disciples after Jesus blessed them and gave them the charge – after they were changed from being just disciples into true apostles.
Now, in this particular church, I have noticed that we are very good at being disciples. And there is nothing wrong with being disciples. As disciples we follow what Jesus taught us. We do what is expected of us. We are good about coming to church. Many of us are familiar with Scripture, and can quote verses appropriate to situations. We are welcoming. When new people arrive, whether they are visitors to Quebec, or people who are seeking a church family, we make them feel welcome. Fellowship is a big part of this church. During the past couple of weeks, members of this church have been giving their time to work on the church grounds. Already there is an improvement, and there is more to come. This is another part of discipleship – this working together for the betterment of our church. Each week, someone makes sure that coffee and tea are ready for the fellowship time which follows worship. Most of us don’t question it – we just head over to the Kirk Hall after we finish up in the church, and have a social time. And this is another part of discipleship.
As a congregation, we have taken part in several affirmations of faith. We have promised to walk with new members on their faith journeys. We have seen young people confirmed, and new elders ordained. Each time, the congregation has made vows, and this is part of discipleship.
As disciples, we are always students, we are always learning, and this is a good thing. We can never stop being disciples. But now, it is time to do more. Now, it is time to – as Joshua said in the Gospel according to Biff – apostolize. Now, it is time to spread the good news. Thanks be to God.

May 9th, 2010 6th Sunday of Easter

Today’s Gospel reading needs to be heard in context. It takes place at the last supper. Jesus has told his disciples that he is going to be betrayed. He has even revealed Judas as the one who is going to betray him, and he has told Peter that he, the rock upon whom Jesus will build his church, is going to deny him three times. But, right after all this bad news, Jesus sets out to comfort his followers. He promises that, even though he is leaving, he will return, and he promises the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, who will be with them forever. Because of this, he tells the disciples, they should not grieve that he must leave them. Listen again to Jesus’ words of comfort: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid. Now, for me, the interesting part of this is that he says: I do not give to you as the world gives. How DOES the world give? And how does this compare with the way Jesus gives?
Well, I think that we know the answer to that. Anything we get from the world is only temporary – it will not last. No matter how we cherish it, it will eventually be no more. Great civilizations vanish, so why then would we be arrogant enough to think that the things we have will last? Listen to a poem by Shelley, which says it far more eloquently than I could.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.
But what Jesus gives us, that peace that passes all understanding, that we will have forever, if we but listen to him, if we but keep his commandment.
In many churches, either after Communion, or at some other point during worship, there is often something called “passing the peace”, when members of the congregation shake hands or hug, and say something like “Peace be with you.” Some people are uncomfortable with doing this, while others rejoice that they are able to take part in such an expression of Christian love. But, for the sake of those people who may be uncomfortable, I have decided not to do it as a regular part of worship, even on those days like today when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. I do stand at the exit after worship, and shake hands with those who wish to do so, and I think that by doing this, we are sharing God’s peace. But I have often wondered what we mean when we offer each other peace? What kind of peace are we talking about? Are we talking about an absence of conflict or war? Are we talking about some kind of ethereal, mystical peace, in which everyone sits quietly together, naval-gazing? Or is the peace that Jesus gives us something completely different?
I think that the peace Jesus wishes us is a peace that allows to be still, and to listen to the voice of God, as Elijah finally did. There is a story about a rich man who wanted a picture painted that would depict peace. So he commissioned an artist, and told the artist nothing more than that. I want a picture that shows peace. And he left it to the artist to figure out how best to depict it. So the artist painted a picture of an English country-side – all green, with a soft blue sky. There were a couple of clouds drifting overhead, and a cow grazing in the field. The rich man looked at it, and said, “That’s not what I want. I want a picture of peace.” So the artist went away and thought some more. The next picture he brought to the rich man was of a mother holding her baby. The baby was sleeping, and the mother was looking down at the baby with a gentle smile. Surely, thought the artist, this picture will satisfy my patron. But no, this was not what the rich man wanted either. So the artist returned to his studio, and this time, he was not happy with his job. He couldn’t figure out what the rich man wanted. He thought, and he thought, and he paced up and down. Finally, he prayed about it. Then he went to his blank canvas and began to paint furiously. A couple of days later, he brought the finished painting to the rich man, who studied it carefully. Then he said, “This is exactly what I wanted. Finally, you have captured the essence of peace.” And what was the picture? It could have been painted in my home province, as it showed a storm dashing against a cliff beside the sea. Black rain clouds were being blown furiously by the wind, and lightning was flashing in several places. The waves were crashing furiously against the cliff, and whitecaps were everywhere in evidence. But if you looked carefully, right in the middle of the picture, under an overhanging rock, there was a small seabird, safe and dry in her nest. The bird was totally at peace, even with the storm raging all around her.
And this, this is the peace that Jesus wished for his disciples, and that he wishes for us today. This peace, even in the midst of turmoil, even in the midst of horrible things happening all around us, this is the kind of peace he means.
After all, most of us are not going to have the opportunity to live in the country, where all is placid. And, even if we do, we soon realize that country life is not all that peaceful. Animals need to be fed, fields need to be plowed, crops must be harvested – no, country life is definitely not as peaceful as the first painted claimed. And any of us who have lived with babies can attest to the fact that the peaceful moments are few and far between. Babies cry. They cry to be fed; they cry to have their diapers changed; they cry because they have a pain in their bellies; they cry because they just don’t want to be put down. Those wonderful, peaceful moments when the baby is sleeping in his mother’s arms are few and far between.
So rather than wish us the kind of worldly peace that the first two paintings showed, Jesus gives us a peace that will always be with us. In the middle of turmoil, in the middle of any kind of trouble, we know that we have a rock to shelter us. We have someone who will care for us as the shepherd cares for his sheep. When a storm comes, the shepherd gets his sheep under some like of shelter. Likewise, the mother bird will gather her chicks under her wings at the first sign of danger. This is an image which has been applied to God in both the Old and the New Testaments, and I believe that it is one of the most powerful ones.
There is a hymn which isn’t used very often any more, but it is still in the Book of Praise, and I’d like to quote some of it right now. The chorus of it: We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll, fastened to the rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love. Many of these old hymns say exactly what needs to be said. It is in the Saviour’s love that we will find peace, not in any of the things of the world. We think, Gee, if I had some more money, I would be at peace. Or, if I were healthier, I would be at peace. Or, if I had were in – or out of – a relationship, I would be at peace. We look for peace. Many of us pray for peace – peace in the world, and peace in our hearts. But maybe we are not looking for the right kind of peace. Maybe we are looking for a worldly peace, rather than the peace that Jesus promised.
In Hebrew, the word SHALOM is often translated simply as peace, but it actually means much more. It refers to a kind of wholeness, a completeness, and this is the kind of peace which Jesus promised. It refers not only to the absence of war, but to the absence of the very causes of war. Imagine a world in which there was no intolerance, no prejudice, no injustice. How, then, could there be war? It refers not only to an absence of pain, but to an absence of the causes of pain. Forget popping painkillers – with this kind of peace, you won’t need them. Doctors can put away their prescription pads, because we won’t need them.
Listen again to his words: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid. Jesus is the one who gives us this peace. By allowing Jesus into our hearts, we will be a part of this peace. And this peace can be part of churches. But it isn’t always. At one time I was part of a congregation which was not at peace. Members of the congregation fought with the minister and among themselves. There were definite camps within the church, and it reached a point where the church eventually closed. Do you think that this congregation allowed the peace of Jesus Christ to be part of congregational life? I have also been a member of a congregation – a mush smaller one – where love was the element in every single event. Every Sunday worship, every annual meeting, every social event – they were all shaped by the love these people shared. These people had accepted the gift of peace given by Jesus.
This peace can be a part of our personal lives. But it isn’t always. Husbands and wives can snap at each other. Parents and children can snap at each other. Siblings – well, we all know the story about Cain and Abel, so we know what siblings are capable of. But Jesus offered us – individuals, families, and congregations, his peace. All we have to do is to take it, to accept it.
And once we accept this peace, then we will share it. Note, I did not say We will WANT to share it. I said we WILL share it. There is a quote from Martin Luther that I think is appropriate here. “Can a rock that has been in the sunlight all day not fail to give off warmth and heat at night?” Have you ever felt a rock that has been in the sunlight all day? It does radiate warmth for some time after the sun goes down. Just so with us and the peace that Jesus gives us. A Christian who has lived in the sunlight of God’s love, in the joy of God’s peace, will radiate God’s love to others, will radiate God’s peace to others. But we can’t radiate God’s peace and love unless we first experience it ourselves. Like the rock in the sun, we need to soak up the sunlight of God’s compassion. We need to absorb God’s love and peace into our very souls. And when we do this, then we can give it to others. Like the rock, we will radiate. Think of the children’s hymn This Little Light of Mine. I think that this is what that hymn is really talking about. As Christians, we can and should share the light of God’s love, the light of God’s peace with others. As Christians, if we have accepted it already, then we have no choice but to share it.
We can find this peace, without even looking too hard. Because it is all around us. It is found in living a life of faith, in walking in accordance with the words of Jesus Christ, in placing our trust completely in God. We may live in a world of turmoil, but, like the little seabird in the painting, we can be at peace with God. We can be at peace with each other. But better than the bird, we don’t need to huddle in a nest, waiting for the storm to pass. Because we know that, once the storm does pass, then we will have the wonderful gift of God’s peace with us forever. Thanks be to God.

Sunday, May 23

There will be no worship at St. Andrew’s this morning. We will be joining Chalmers-Wesley United Church as they welcome a youth choir from Ontario, who are presenting a version of the Exodus story, entitled “Are We There Yet?”

May 2, 5th Sunday of Easter

Well, today was quite a day. We had two great readings from Scripture, either of which could have given me enough material for several sermons, and in a few minutes we will be ordaining our new elders, which should certainly be mentioned in the sermon this morning. After careful consideration, I decided to focus on the reading from Revelation, partly because this is one of the books of the Bible which is often neglected, and also because, just at it heralds a new heaven and a new earth, so too is St. Andrew’s moving into a new phase of its life. This started almost a year ago, when I was called to be the minister for this congregation, and is continuing as we ordain Matthew and Kathleen to Term Eldership. I will not go into any of the details about that, as you will hear them in a short while, but I just wanted to show how this movement is an important part of church growth and development, and how this church, in particular, has been taking steps to make movement a part of this congregation’s life.
The chapter from which we read this morning is the second-last chapter in the Bible, and, as with much of this book, is concerned with presenting a vision of what is to come. I found it kind of ironic that, just as we read the 23rd Psalm last week – which is often used as part of a funeral liturgy – so this week our reading from Revelation is also often used as part of a funeral liturgy, particularly the part which reads: 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. That is the nature of life itself, isn’t it? That the old order passes away, and is replaced by the new order. Children are born, grow up, leave home, and have their own children. As years go by, things change. And, while change for the sake of change can be daunting and unpleasant, natural change is something that we have all lived with, and will continue to live with. St. Andrew’s has changed since it was first founded, in 1759, which is why it is still here in 2010.
So, let’s see what we can find in our reading for today which will apply to what is happening right here, right now. This is one of the odd books of the Bible – one which is often not read, and if it is read, is often misinterpreted. The unfortunate thing is that many people who have read Revelation, have not read anything else in the Bible, so it is no wonder that they cannot understand what it really means. So right now, I want you to forget everything you may have heard about this book of the Bible, and look at it as it was written, as a book meant to comfort the community which had lost its leader, the community who was grieving for the death of Jesus Christ. Imagine the way we felt after the events of September 11th a few years ago, and this is probably close to the way the early Christians were feeling. Everything that they accepted, everything they believed in, had been ripped from them by the authorities, and they had to pick up the pieces and go on. From this atmosphere of despair, from this atmosphere of loss and mourning, John’s Revelation appeared, to give them hope, which it still does today.
You know, even though there are a great many people who claim not to be religious, who have not read anything from the Bible, most of them are still familiar with Revelation, even if they do not recognize that it is from the Bible. For instance, if you read the whole of chapter 21, you will see that many of the ideas we have about what heaven will be like actually came from this part of the Bible. The pearly gates that feature in so many jokes? In verse 21, we can read: The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The idea that the streets in heaven are paved with gold comes from the same verse. We also believe that Heaven will be completely perfect, and that, too, comes from the book of Revelation, in which heaven is described as a perfect cube, measuring 12 000 stadia on each side. And before you ask, I did the looking, and found that a stadia is about 185 metres, so this means that heaven, as pictured here, is just over 2 million metres on each side. Of course, we have to remember that this was a vision, and is not meant to be taken literally.
Now we are going to look at some specific words and phrases, and see not only what they meant at the time they were written, but also what they can mean for us, now, in 2010 in Québec City.
First, let’s look at the word “new”. The writer of the book of Revelation was speaking to new Christians, to Christians who were expecting the second coming at any minute. But it speaks to us today. Then, the new Christians had moved far from the law of Moses, and were in the birth pangs of creating a whole new church. Now, we can look at the word “new” and give it a couple of meanings. It can mean something which was recently made, as in new wine; or it can mean something which was not used; or, as it is used in Revelation, something totally different from what went before. At St. Andrew’s, you have already started something new. You did this first last year, when you called your first woman minister. And now we have the privilege of adding two new elders, neither of whom is old enough to be considered an elder in the physical sense of the word. But unlike John’s vision, our old did not pass away. Some members of this church have been members for better than 50 years, and they are still contributing to the life of the church. Those members act as a funnel, to bring what is best from the past to combine with the new, and to make sure that We celebrate our age, we are excited about the fact that this congregation is 250 years old, and that our sanctuary will be observing its 200th birthday this summer. We are a blending of the old and the new, and that is the best way for a church to operate. We welcome new members, with their new ideas, and their new ways of doing things, even while we cling to what is good out of the old.
Let’s take a look at the 4th verse of our reading, where it is written: the old order of things has passed away. In this new city, this new Jerusalem, there will be many things which are different. This has happened many times at St. Andrew’s many times, and each time, St. Andrew’s has become a better church. In the very beginning, before any of us can remember, the early Presbyterians in this city decided that they needed their own church. Before this, if what I have been told is accurate, they rented space in various places, including the Jesuit College. Early ministers came from Scotland, but this has not been true for a long time now.
I remember being told that Isabel Maccartney was called to be the first woman elder here several decades ago. At the same time Bertie Branion was called, and I am sure that it could not have been easy for them, or for the congregation as a whole. But it happened, and St. Andrew’s not only survived, but prospered. There are still churches which refuse to call women as Elders, and they are poorer for it. And now we have another change, one which will be explained after the sermon. Things will be different, things will change. Now, I can’t promise that there will be no difficulties as we make the transition, but I can promise that God will be with us as we do this. We have people here to guide us, people who know St. Andrew’s far better than I do. That is the joy of having a long-established congregation. There are people here who can remember what it was like here 50 and more years ago. There are people here who have gone through transitions, with all the issues that transitions can cause, and the church is stronger because of it. I look forward to walking with you on this journey, and to seeing where we will be at the end of it.
In all this talk about the new heaven and the new earth, many people miss a phrase that I consider crucial – one that clearly shows where we are now, and who is with us. We read: The dwelling of God is with men and he will live with them. Now, lest anyone take offense at the word “men”, I should tell you that, in the Greek, the word which is used is not gender-specific, so what it means is that God was with the early Christians then, just as he is with us now. You may not have noticed, but most of the other sentences in this reading talk about something that will happen – something that is to come. But here we are clearly told that the dwelling of God IS with us. To me, this means that the new heaven and the new earth are here – that the new time has already begun. It began with the birth of Jesus Christ, and will continue.
As Christians, our lives are a series of new beginnings, starting with baptism. Then, for most of us, our parents made promises in our names. At some point, we decided for ourselves that we wanted to be full members of a particular church, usually the one in which we were originally baptized. This affirmation of faith, like our baptism, was done in front of the congregation, and marked another beginning, another chance for us to show that we believe. Several times a year, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and each time we do this is a fresh start, a way to connect with God and our faith community. And now, in this sanctuary, we are part of another beginning, a revitalization of our session.
In a few minutes Kathleen and Matthew will make their vows, but they will not be alone. As the congregation, you will also make vows, vows to support them in their ministry. Through these vows, you will be sharing in their ministry; you will be a part of it.
There is a saying: The longest journey begins with a single step. We are taking that step today. It is my prayer that our journey together will be lit by the lamp of faith, and that each step we take will guide us further down the road God has prepared for us.
Thanks be to God.

May 2010