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.

How can we pray for healing?

Is there a pattern to prayer that works? Is there a way that we can be sure God will answer? What if we pray and our prayers are not answered? How do we find faith? How can we believe?

In a sermon both brilliant and comforting,  David Barker reflects on Mark 5: 21-43 where Jesus heals a woman in the crowd who touched the hem of his garment, and later the daughter of Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue. 

Including stories of those praying in our own time—and the mysterious answers or seeming non-answers—David wrestles with some of our most difficult questions about prayer and faith.

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.