Thanksgiving: great when it’s easy, an awesome antidote when it’s not

By the Rev. Canon Anne Moore
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The writer of Psalm 34 wrote, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.” Billy Graham once wrote, “If I were to list all the things for which I’m thankful, I’d never have time to eat my turkey dinner!”

Can you say the same? Sometimes when I am the leader for a ‘quiet day’, I will hand participants a sheet of foolscap and ask them to write down as many thanksgivings that they can think of. The thoughts often start quite quickly but then begin to slow. Then, after more thought, the list becomes easier and easier and longer and longer. And that is the way it ought to be: what a wonderful world God has given us to share.

If you are feeling blue, give thanks. If you are feeling overwhelmed, give thanks. If you are on top of the world, give thanks. If you can’t sleep, don’t start worrying about your present situation or worrying that you will be tired in the morning. Instead, give thanks.

At all times and in all places, giving thanks is the way to change our mind-set, and then our behavior.

Billy Graham also said, “We live in a confused and chaotic world, and at times we might be tempted to give in to despair. But God loves us, and only Christ can transform our hearts and turn our despair into hope. Is He the foundation of your life? If not, make this a day of true thanksgiving, as you invite Christ to come into your life and save you.”

If you have done that, you will know true joy. You will hardly be able to stop praising God, especially for sending Jesus to save us by His death on a cross. Please don’t expect that your troubles will suddenly leave, but, with God’s Holy Spirit working through you, you will discover that you have clearer direction and an expanded capacity to deal with them.

Giving thanks for all of you.

Salt and Light: Compelling words from the late Rev John Stott

Pastor, preacher, writer and evangelical leader John Stott always aimed in his teaching and writing to bring people back to the concrete reality of Jesus' life and sacrifice. He held hard to the conviction that the central message of the gospel is not the teachings of Jesus, but Jesus himself, the human/divine figure.

The following quote from his book Issues Facing Christians Today perhaps best brings this to Light, with the needed dose of saving salt.

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"Our Christian habit is to bewail the world’s deteriorating standards with an air of rather self-righteous dismay. We criticize its violence, dishonesty, immorality, disregard for human life, and materialistic greed.
‘The world is going down the drain,’ we say with a shrug. But whose fault is it? Who is to blame? Let me put it like this. If the house is dark when nightfall comes, there is no sense in blaming the house; that is what happens when the sun goes down. The question to ask is, ’Where is the light?’ 
Similarly, if the meat goes bad and becomes inedible, there is no sense in blaming the meat; this is what happens when bacteria are left alone to breed. The question to ask is, ’Where is the salt?’
Just so, if society deteriorates and its standards decline until it becomes like a dark night or a stinking fish, there is no sense in blaming society; that is what happens when fallen men and women are left to themselves, and human selfishness is unchecked.
The question to ask is, ‘Where is the Church? Why are the salt and light of Jesus Christ not permeating and changing our society?"

When he died in 2011, Billy Graham wrote of his dear friend: "The evangelical world has lost one of its greatest spokesmen, and I have lost one of my close personal friends and advisors. I look forward to seeing him again when I go to Heaven."

A principal framer, with Billy Graham, of the landmark Lausanne Covenant, Stott’s more than 40 books have been translated into over 72 languages and sold in the millions.

Hallelujah Haliburton! Sizzling Summer Service 10

harry morgan preaching

harry morgan preaching

Close to 500 people from the various churches in town gathered on a recent sunny, pleasantly cool Sunday for the 10th annual ecumenical service in Head Lake Park. As glorious as it was to join with brothers and sisters in Christ, all also had no doubt of God’s hand steering the surrounding ominous clouds away till the gathering began to wrap up. A clear weather miracle in this our summer of either deluge or excessive heat!

St. George's glenda burk does a great job relating to the kids

St. George's glenda burk does a great job relating to the kids

United Church minister Harry Morgan reminded listeners he had given the sermon at the first service 10 years ago, so figured it was high time to do it again. He proceeded to elaborate on his now-famous contention, “We will all be 'United' in heaven,”  by adding we will also all be Baptist (since we’re all baptized), Anglican (since we all speak English), Faith (well yes, we have it), Pentecostal (we all live in the church age, initiated with the Day of Pentecost), and Catholic (in its literal non-churchy meaning of universal, all-embracing).

the other morgan family (from Lighthouse pentecostal) & friends

the other morgan family (from Lighthouse pentecostal) & friends

Anglican priest Anne Moore read what are likely the strongest scriptures on the topic, from Ephesians and John. 

Paul, writing to the church in Ephesus, urges readers to live “in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4: 1-6).

Jesus reminds us in John 17 of his constant intercession for believers to live in unity with each other, as well as with him and with God:
I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:20- 23).

"How about we call ourselves the Church in Haliburton?" Harry wondered, "sort of like the Church in Ephesus—one common name?"

“The effectiveness of our outreach and evangelism is directly related to our unity,” he emphasized. "Leaders of the churches in Haliburton gather for prayer every two weeks, we all get along and are friends." 

Musicians from many denominations lead in praise

Musicians from many denominations lead in praise

The next ecumenical gathering for the churches will be a Praise Service on Wednesday, September 27, at the United Church. Watch here for more details.

The wheat, the weeds and the wait

Jesus used another illustration. He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who planted good seed in his field. But while people were asleep, his enemy planted weeds in the wheat field and went away. When the wheat came up and formed kernels, weeds appeared.
The owner’s workers came to him and asked, ‘Sir, didn’t you plant good seed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?’
He told them, ‘An enemy did this.’
His workers asked him, ‘Do you want us to pull out the weeds?’
 He replied, ‘No. If you pull out the weeds, you may pull out the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest. When the grain is cut, I will tell the workers to gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to be burned. But I’ll have them bring the wheat into my barn.’

— Matt. 13:24-30, God’s Word Translation

In a recent sermon on the parable of the wheat and the tares, the Reverend Anne Moore compared the workers’ reaction to their employer’s answer (‘the enemy had done this’)—their desire to do something immediately to get rid of those weeds—to our own observations and imperatives when we see evil in the world.

The cancer returns; the job is eliminated; the relationship ends; depression sets in; a loved one’s life is cut short; a congregation is divided; war forces thousands to flee as refugees; the world turns its back on people in need.  'Why doesn't God DO something?’ we agonize. 

Simply by expressing that we prove we know there are evil forces in the world we cannot eliminate or control, she noted. We have the sense this is not what God intended, and that sense can be near unbearable. So we may be tempted to explain the evil by assigning it to some greater design of God.

'Don’t worry, it’s still part of God’s plan;' or 'He never gives us more than we can handle;' or 'His purpose for this will reveal itself in time.' Yet all these explanations, meant to be comforting or helpful, end up blaming God for tragedy.

“God does not will evil for us in any way, shape or form," Anne assured listeners. "Our tragedies are not part of God’s plan. God never, ever, wants us to suffer. When we do, when tragedies strike, it is the result of evil, not God. God created us, loves us, and as Paul wrote, God works for the good in all things.”

Remember, ‘an enemy has done this!’ as the farmer in the parable reported to the workers wondering about the weeds.

But the question remains: Why doesn’t God do something? This parable, and others, don’t provide a direct answer, Anne admitted. What they do show is that God’s sovereign rule over the world proves not quite as straightforward as we sometimes imagine or wish.

She offered some excellent questions posed by Bishop N. T. Wright as helps in thinking this through.

Would people really like it if God were to rule the world directly and immediately? Every thought and action would be weighed, instantly judged, and, if necessary, punished using the scales of His absolute holiness. If the price of God stepping in and stopping a campaign of genocide was that He would also have to rebuke and restrain every other evil impulse, including those we all still know and cherish within ourselves, would we be prepared to pay that price? If we ask God to act on special occasions, do we really suppose that He could do that simply when we want Him to, and then back off again the rest of the time?

Instead of answering the why’s, the parable really presents the need to wait.  Yes waiting is difficult, but like the farmer, we must wait for harvest time.

The obvious truth is we cannot control God. We wait, and we pray, for the harvest.

As Jesus more fully explains the parable to his disciples, the point of waiting becomes even clearer. He himself, Jesus says, is the ‘farmer’—the one sowing the good seed. The field is ‘the world’; the good seed are children of the Kingdom. The ‘tares’ (weeds) belong to the devil’s domain, and the enemy sowing them is Satan (Matt 13: 36-43).

So the point of ‘delayed judgement’? Many more will be saved!

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Note: An alternate translation for tares or weeds—‘darnel’—is likely the best, adding remarkable depth to Jesus’ parable. Wheat and darnel usually grow in the same production zones and look almost exactly the same until the kernel-containing heads of the plants form. Even then, the differences are slight. Some call darnel ‘false wheat’, others wheat’s ‘evil twin’. Its official name, L. temulentum, comes from a Latin word for 'drunk'  since when people eat its seeds, they get dizzy, off-balance and nauseous. High doses cause death.  

A revelation on the word ‘mass’ (whether you use it or not): we’re all to be missionaries

By Bill Gliddon, St. George’s Church organist and choirmaster

Do you know the origins of the word ‘mass’, as in the service celebrating the Eucharist, or Holy Communion?

The mass is the central worship service of mainline Christianity, and the word used in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions, and quite often in the Anglican and Lutheran churches.

It derives from the very early days of Christian worship, when the priest ended the service by declaring, in Latin, “Ite, missa, est”, which, when translated into English, basically means: “Go, you are sent out”. So in a real sense, ‘mass’ means ‘mission’.

At the conclusion of a worship service in which we pray, hear God’s word, sing praises and receive the ‘life-giving sacrament’ ordained by Jesus at the Last Supper, we are sent back out into the everyday world to be ‘missionaries’!

The Way family heading back to Zimbabwe!

This is exciting news from Jeff and Carole Way, missionaries to Zimbabwe who recently returned to Canada due to difficulties fullfilling visa requirements. You can read our earlier stories here: Love in action: the Way family's adventures at Eden Children's Village, Zimbabwe and Update on the Way family and their mission in Zimbabwe.
Special report by Jeff and Carole Way

Here’s our plan

We are aiming to be back at Eden Children’s Village by January 2018. We had been living there over the past two years on temporary visas; to live there long term the government requires that we bring US$100k in assets with us. Our plan over the next six months is to raise these funds (in the form of a truck (that we desperately need there anyway), plus our regular monthly living expenses.

Why we are going back

Zimbabwe has just been declared the poorest country in Africa (it was one of the richest in 2000!) and this is having an impact on Eden as more and more children are abandoned by parents who are unable to care for them.  The need for more homes is urgent. Eden really needs Jeff’s help to build them. As a licensed practical nurse, Carole plays a vital role at the medical clinic, especially helping with baby delivery. More and more people arrive daily at the clinic looking for medical attention. Eden is desperate for Carole to return.

Not only is the need great, we just can't wait to get back! The goal to serve at Eden hasn't changed: God has called us to be there, so we will do everything we can to return. God is so much bigger than the many issues plaguing Zimbabwe and we are trusting that He will work on our behalf to get us back there, where we will work on your behalf to serve the poorest of the poor, the abandoned and orphaned children. If the situation is too dangerous for us to return in January we will pursue a partnership with Eden and other orphanages outside of Zimbabwe until it is safe to return.

Get a glimpse of daily life in the bush

Have you wondered what life must be like in rural Africa? We’d like to show you! We want you to feel connected to us and our life in Africa so we’re going to tell you some true stories, African style.  Every other day over the next few months we’ll be offering one-minute snapshots of real-life living in the poorest country in the world.

You can check out our first installment, A Noseful of Goat, on our brand new blog on our brand new website: zimbabways.org

Be part of changing the lives of the poorest of the poor in Zimbabwe

Over the next few weeks we’d love to invite you to join with us as we make our way back to Zimbabwe. Perhaps you have heard the African proverb, 'If you want to walk fast, walk alone.  If you want to walk far, walk together.' We want to walk far with YOU. We want to share this experience with our friends in North America.

  • Sign up to get our one-minute snapshot stories in your inbox here.
  • To find out what Lia and Naomi think about going back, click here.
  • To get more information about our fundraising goals and how you can help, click here.

The Ecumenism of Beauty

Ecumenism. Does the idea of another well-intentioned interfaith event or mostly-ignored theological commission on the topic excite, annoy, or put you to sleep? Does the very concept seem improbable? Whatever you think or believe about ecumenism, we can’t ignore the fact Jesus wanted this, prayed for this, for all of us who call ourselves believers.  Eugene Peterson's The Message puts it well:

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The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.
—John 17:21-23

A new book on the topic, The Ecumenism of Beauty (edited by revered art historian Timothy Verdon), presents it from an entirely more broachable and beautiful angle: the arts. Published to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther attaching those 95 reformational theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church, the book brings together artists and thinkers from Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant traditions. With accessible writing and gorgeous full-colour images, it does do some wrestling with the historic tension between art as icon or idol. Mostly it simply shows how art, like genuine faith, entails an encounter, not an intellectual discussion or argument.

The book’s contributors—artists, scholars, and clergy—share the belief that beauty and art can bridge differences, unite people in 'shared admiration’ and possibly become an instrument of communion among separated Christians. They will also take part in a symposium organized to commemorate the Reformation’s 500th anniversary later this year, with sessions to be held in  Paris, Strasburg, Florence, New Haven (CT), and Orleans (MA).

True worship as true hope

By Karla Iyonmahan, DDS

It is a word that should bring to mind a kind of lifestyle, a way we go about handling our affairs, our relationships with people and with Him. Without question it must be undefiled, pure, and give glory, honour and reverence to our most merciful, adoring (of us) God.

You know, the God who went out of His way to sacrifice living in His heavenly realm, to enter ours, in order to set us (‘the captives’) free. The One who, no matter what, keeps us as ‘the apple of His eye’.  The One who has stated, repeatedly, in His Love Letter to us, that He will provide for us, will never leave us stranded, never forsake us.

If it is still not clear, He is the same One Who stated that He will deliver us in times of trouble, because we have set our love on Him. (Psalms 91: 14, 15). You DO remember Him now, right?

So there is no reason to be callous. No reason to not give Him your whole-hearted worship; a humbleness, a grateful, ‘bowing down in the heart’ kind of unwavering adoration that exhibits your utter amazement and awe for all that He has done, and for the Love He held for you even when your back was turned toward His outstretched hands.

One should never attempt to simply ‘bandy about’ when it comes to the worship of a God that has given literally everything, including Himself, to YOU.  

Is there an ounce of pure worship in you?

Jesus sings

By the Rev. Canon Anne Moore

Among the words:

“The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.  There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: ‘The right hand of the Lord does valiantly; the right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.’ I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.”

The words must have comforted Jesus as he knew the cross lay just ahead. The final Hallel Psalm (Ps. 118) contains these meaningful words:

“Open to me the gates of righteousness that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.”

Jesus was about to enter gates only the righteous could enter. We thank him that he has become our salvation—the chief cornerstone, the building block for all time and all people.

In the years following Jesus’ death, those words must have also been a comfort to the disciples when they sang the same songs, remembering singing them with Jesus but also now knowing what a comfort they must have been for Jesus that night. And how appropriate. Perhaps they sang them to themselves as they prepared for their own horrible martyrdoms.

Singing is now an essential part of Christian worship. James wrote: “Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.” Singing is spontaneous for those who are cheerful; and Christians, in spite of their circumstances, are to be cheerful people! Even John in his vision of heaven recorded in the Book of Revelation sees the saints, the martyrs, constantly singing praises to God before the throne.

Of course we don’t know what the tunes would have been for these songs. But it was important for early Christian writers to record the words. Scholars have listed various of these early Christian songs from scripture, although they would not really be recognizable to us as songs. One example given is from 2 Timothy 2:11-13:

 “The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” That doesn’t sound like a song to me!

Or how about Philippians 2:5-11:

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Or 1 Timothy 3:16: “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.”

I see these as more like a creed, a statement of belief. If we compare these Scripture passages to the words of some of our songs, we come up short. Much as I detest the tunes of some of our old standard hymns and their old-fashioned language, they taught good, solid theology. I love modern Christian music. I listen to it a lot. I came to faith in Jesus because of the singing of what some people like to call ‘happy clappy’ music.

If our music is to proclaim God’s glory and be of benefit to unbelieving listeners, we must be careful what we choose to sing in our worship. We also need to make sure the music does not distract from the message conveyed. This isn’t the easiest thing to do. If you want to have a conflict in the church, just try changing the music!

The question needing to be asked regularly is: “Why are we singing?” Many times the answers may be: ‘because it is so pleasing to me’, ‘because I like the tune, it reminds me of…’, ‘the words are meaningful to me.’ Underlying those answers but difficult to articulate may be the idea that the music gives me a particular emotion. However, these are all wrong answers because each puts ourselves at the centre. In effect,  it’s all about me, my tastes, my life.

So let’s try again. Why are we singing? Why did Jesus sing? What did he sing? The Psalms are songs given to King David and others, had stood the test of time, recognized all the emotions humans have, but lifted up God in praise, proclaimed God’s laws, and always had God as the focus.

As Paul wrote to his friends in Colossae:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:16, 17)

We know what psalms are. While we can’t be certain what Paul meant by hymns, they may well be expressions of praise written by early Christians. Spiritual songs are probably more about testimony. They would have expressed in song what God has done for us.

An example may be in the Book of Revelation where the redeemed gather in heaven before the throne of God.

They sing a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood, you ransomed for God, saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth.’ Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!’  Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, ‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever!’” (Rev. 5: 9-14)

Spiritual songs bursting forth from Spirit-filled, joy-filled believers: what beautiful praise of God. Are we doing the same?

Jesus was a singer. Those who know him will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. As the psalmist wrote: “Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His name; tell of His salvation from day to day.” (Psalm 96:1,2)

All other religion and philosophy founders lie dead ... but Jesus is alive!

By the Reverend Canon Anne Moore

Easter is almost upon us and we begin to ponder that great mystery: when Jesus’ followers arrived at the tomb on that first Easter morning, they found that the stone had been rolled away. They couldn’t understand and looked for logical answers. Then two angels appeared, asking, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen!” This scene at the empty tomb expresses the uniqueness of Christianity among other religions. Jesus Christ is the only living, risen Saviour.

A conversation between a Christian missionary and a Muslim teacher illustrates the point. The Muslim wanted to impress the missionary with what he considered to be the superiority of Islam. So he said, “When we go to Mecca, we at least find a coffin, but when you Christians go to Jerusalem, your Mecca, you find nothing but an empty grave.”

To this the believer replied, “That is just the difference. Mohammed is dead and in his coffin. And all other systems of religion and philosophy are in their coffins. But Jesus is risen, and all power in Heaven and on earth is given to Him! He is alive forevermore!”

Yes, the empty tomb testifies of a risen Saviour. It assures us of our own salvation if we reach out to Him. I invite you to join in worship during Holy Week to prepare for the greatest event in the world, and on Easter, the Day of Resurrection, to celebrate with joy.