The very best Christmas gift: our hearts

By Fr. Ken McClure

"What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a wise man I would do my part; yet what I can, I give him—I give my heart." [from "In the Bleak Midwinter" by Christina Rossetti]

I like this verse. I like it because it effectively articulates the tension that exists between hoping that Christ will come and anxiously preparing for the inevitability of it. With all the ‘what do I get them’ nervousness that comes with the execution of the ‘perfect’ Christmas celebration rustling around in our brains, the sentiment of our verse provides us with the link that connects Jesus to each and every one of the other relationships represented on our Christmas shopping lists; demanding that as we wonder what we're doing for each of our friends, family, and obligatory gift recipients (we ALL have those), we also wonder what we're doing for Christ. 

We give our heart; but what is that? 

When I think of matters of the heart, I think of Love. 

The weekly themes of our Advent journey have demonstrated that this divine expression of Love is built upon a foundation. It begins with Hope, which makes Peace possible. Where there is peace, Joy follows, and joy felt within the peace that comes from hope opens our hearts to Love in its fullest sense. 

With this in mind, I offer that what we give to the Christ child when we give our hearts is a commitment to continue to ask our Advent questions: 

What is my Hope? Where do I find Peace? How do I feel Joy? When do I open myself up to the Love of God? 

These are questions of the Heart, and when we ask of the heart, we give of the heart!

So, as we continue to journey with our Lord through the coming year, let us ensure that the gift we have provided, and have been provided, doesn't get tucked into the back of the closet (or worse: returned). May each step we take with Christ hereafter, be taken with an Advent obligation to prepare for the next step, so that all our steps may be filled with Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, leading us always to the open arms of God.

Merry Christmas, and God Bless us Everyone!  

What should it profit a man if he should gain beer for a buck but lose his soul?

By the Rev. Ken McClure

This past week our provincial government introduced a bill into legislation intended to provide the good people of Ontario with beer for a buck.  

So far with this government, we have lost the basic income program pilot—a program which has proven to improve the quality of life of those who need it most, yielding the accompanying societal benefits of more people living well. We lost that, but we have beer for a buck.

There has been a noticeable erosion in this government’s commitment to democratic principles, with assaults on local and regional governments and elections in an effort to chip away at the value of our vote, and therefore the impact of our voice. All of this has happened without public consultation, but we have beer for a buck. 

We are experiencing more severe forms of weather at an increasing rate, something which is directly attributable to the human impact on our environment, and yet our government has repealed cap and trade on emissions. [The cap-and-trade system aimed to lower greenhouse gas emissions by putting caps on the amount of pollution companies in certain industries can emit—Ed.] At a time when we need to be doing more our government is trying to do less, but we have beer for a buck.

Now don't get me wrong, I have no moral objection to this because it's beer. I myself have been known to pop the top off of a nice cool one on a hot night, but I've read enough about the Romans to know when bread and circuses are being dangled to distract the masses. Remember, there was a period when we Christians were the fuel for the circuses:  we were thrown to the beasts and brutes of the arena! As was then is now, and Caesars will do what Caesars do.  

Thankfully there's little risk that I’m going to be tossed to the lions for thinking, acting, and speaking (or writing in this case) like a Christian. As the people of God we are the stewards of creation, and the keepers of each other. We are formed by God, called by Christ, and empowered by the Spirit to perform these tasks. As much as I may enjoy some tasty suds after a hard day's work, I don't want to get them cheaper as a bribe to ignore what's being done in my name.

And so for every case of beer I buy I intend to donate any money our government has laboriously saved me to the 4Cs here in town ($10 for Every 24, $5 for Every 12, $2.50 for a 6 pack). I encourage anyone else reading this to find an organization that supports people or the planet, and do the same.

Our government may ignore the sacred moral obligation we all have to care for the earth and each other, but we shouldn't—no matter how hard they try to distract us.

A clarion call for Christian unity: Sizzlin’ 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.