A clarion call for Christian unity: Sizzling Summer Service 11

crowd shot

Heavenly Highlands area churches gathered Sunday for the far more-sizzling-than-usual service in Head Lake Park. With the humidex making temps feel near 40, the park still overflowed with cheerful local Christians fellowshipping, listening raptly, singing joyfully, praying… and yes, sweating … together.

Dana McMahon presents kids with a capsulized gospel … full of questions and most interesting answers

Dana McMahon presents kids with a capsulized gospel … full of questions and most interesting answers

Paul Graham of Lakeside Church greeted the crowd and opened in prayer, and soon entertaining Harry Morgan of the United Church had everyone laughing and singing along with accompanying musicians from various churches.

Bev Hicks of Northland Faith Church read the scripture for the day, Mark 9:33-41.

The McClure family enjoying the pre-sermon sizzle

The McClure family enjoying the pre-sermon sizzle

Ken McClure, brand-new priest of St. George’s and St. Margaret’s, got to deliver his very first sermon ‘up here’ in what he called, “the beautiful tapestry all around.”  He, his wife Becca and their young son Jack have only been in Haliburton for a week or so but cannot get over the marvels of nature around them. An astonishing tapestry, he said, “which you people here have all seen since Moses was in hot pants.” With that, he had the crowd.

He said he felt privileged to be able to address the topic of unity in such a setting.

“Look around you!” He encouraged all to stand and take a 360-degree gaze around them at both the scenery and the Christians of various stripes. “This is it!”

He wove aspects of the day’s readings into his talk. Jesus words reminding us that ‘to be greatest you must be least,’ and ‘if you love me you must love each other,’ underline the absolute necessity of unity.

Drawing on the words of Jesus in Mark 9: 38-39, Ken reminded listeners of the importance of recognizing the works others do for Jesus and in His name, without focussing on whether they do it your or your group’s way.

We are the Body of Christ, made up of diverse parts being true to themselves, but acting in conjunction … in unity … with others. We need to recognize differences and different approaches as part of unity in diversity 

Staying hydrated

Staying hydrated

Raising his right hand, he held out his thumb and mentioned how our thumb helps us get a grip on things. He then raised and pointed with his index finger, demonstrating its ability to do just that.

“Then, we have our ring finger. It allows us to express our emotions, express our love. We have our middle finger which expresses a rather different kind of emotion. Don’t use that one,” he advised to a chorus of chuckles.

Christopher Greaves, former St. George's and St. Margaret's rector, makes his usual and most welcome guest appearance

Christopher Greaves, former St. George's and St. Margaret's rector, makes his usual and most welcome guest appearance

“Each of them has their own goal, their own purpose, their own ideas, their own ambitions and if they all acted independently they'd just be like this all the time.” He demonstrated by flailing his hand about. “They’d be like a flapper, a flipper for the water I suppose. They wouldn’t get anything done, would they? It’s when they’re working together that the fullness of my created potential comes to be.”

Clearly, the work we do together is an acknowledgment of the Body.  As the Body of Christ, WE embody the Kingdom

“We are one in the ONE!” he concluded to applause.

Sandy Stevens of the Lighthouse Church prayed powerfully over many aspects of life in the community as the service wound down for another year.

Sizzling Summer Service 9: Hallelujah Haliburton!

Since beginning to work on her message for the annual Service in the Park, Anne confessed to having had an old song scrolling around her brain. “I’m a stranger here” by the Five-Man Electrical Band, first appeared on their album  ‘Sweet Paradise’.

lakeside baptist church musicians and singers

lakeside baptist church musicians and singers

She read its first verse:

“Well, I'm a stranger here in this place called Earth
And I was sent down here to discover the worth
Of your little blue planet, third from the sun
Come on and show me what you've done.”

The song goes on to lament how earth’s residents had roundly messed up their ‘paradise’. The words led perfectly into an elaboration on the verses from Ephesians read earlier in the service (Eph. 2:1-22) by David Lloyd of the Lighthouse Church.

There, the apostle Paul points out to the church in Ephesus their once messy, sinful lives. Then, including himself, he wrote:  “We tried to satisfy what our sinful nature wanted to do. We followed its longings and thoughts” (v.3).

In fact, the whole Bible tells the story, over and over, of humanity tending to pull back when God reaches out. We do our own thing, run away, miss the mark.  “But God loves us deeply. He is full of mercy. So He gave us new life because of what Christ has done” (v. 4-5).

 "One way!"   bev hicks and anne moore lead the kids in their charge to the crowd

 "One way!"   bev hicks and anne moore lead the kids in their charge to the crowd

As Bev Hicks of Northland Faith Church had the children remind us earlier, “God's grace has saved you because of your faith in Christ. Your salvation doesn't come from anything you do. It is God's gift” (v. 8). 

 “So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are members of God’s family,” verse 19 goes on to triumphantly remind us.

This brought to mind for many of us the family of Syrian refugees we’re ready and waiting for. Will we be able to help them feel like members of our community, help them heal from the hurts and fears of feeling unwanted and alien in their own country? We all pray we can share the love of Christ effectively with them.

lakeside Baptist church holds several baptisms in the lake after the service!

lakeside Baptist church holds several baptisms in the lake after the service!

The ‘I’m a stranger here’ song ends with these words:

"We got the rivers and the mountains and the valleys and the trees
We got the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea
We got the ―
Oh, you crazy fools!
Don't you know you had it made?
You were living in paradise
                                                          [photo credit: Elaine Figueroa]

                                                          [photo credit: Elaine Figueroa]

But take it from one who knows
Who knows the gates of Heaven can close
I only pray that you take my advice
'Cause paradise won't come twice"

Finding peace with God, only possible by becoming a friend and follower of Jesus, is beyond remarkably easy. Have  a simple conversation with God (that’s prayer). First, tell Him you’re sorry for the things you’ve thought and done wrong. Ask for His forgiveness. Then thank Him, and ask that His Holy Spirit would live in you forever.

Welcome to the family!

The enduring mystery, wonder and JOY of Christmas

by the Reverend Canon Anne Moore

I came across this quotation recently. So many of my senses are involved in reading it that I found it quite delightful.

"Late on a sleepy, star-spangled night, those angels peeled back the sky just like you would tear open a sparkling Christmas present. Then, with light and joy pouring out of Heaven like water through a broken dam, they began to shout and sing the message that baby Jesus had been born. The world had a Saviour! The angels called it ‘Good News,’ and it was.”  (Larry Libby, "The Angels Called it Good News" in Christmas Stories for the Heart)

I think I like it because it reminds me of the King James Version of the Christmas story as Luke records it:

"And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:9-11)

Our little human brains can’t describe that night in the kind of precise adjectives that our computer-obsessed society is comfortable with. This is mysterious stuff! So we have to resort to pictures that aren’t as well defined. That shouldn’t be so surprising. After all we are dealing with a once-in-a-lifetime event—the birth of the Saviour of a world gone wrong. Those unschooled, illiterate shepherds did a fine job of getting their story across. I think it was more in the joy on their faces than in the communication through their words. Each time they told the story, to their families, to their friends, to anyone who would listen, that joy must have looked like a bonfire, rays of hope radiating from their whole beings. Good News! Sing it out!

The story hasn’t changed. When we tell it, do we express that same joy, wonder, certainty? Remember this joy doesn’t have to be limited to just Christmastime. The overflowing joy of knowing Christ’s presence in our lives was one of the themes of Jesus’ final teaching with his disciples the night before he died on the cross. He told them of his extravagant love for them—that he loved them as the Father loved Him (John 15:9). After sharing what this eternal relationship looks like, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (v.11). What a promise! Through Jesus Christ our hearts can be filled with joy—real joy!

May you experience real joy this Christmas and always.
 

Hallelujah Haliburton! Sizzling Summer Service 2015

Heavens opened over Haliburton and the rain held off for another glorious ecumenical service in the park. We joined in lively choruses, kids enjoyed a meaningful presentation by Youth Unlimited's Dana McMahon, and Baptist Church Pastor Paul Graham spoke, appropriately, of our unity in Christ and the need to reach beyond the boxes of our church buildings. 

          Paul preaches to the multitudes