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Gary’s Thought and Prayer for Thursday, December 3
Max De Pree (1924-2017), a well-known American businessman, leadership author and graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, was fond of saying that beliefs shape practices. He suggested if you want to know what you truly believe, you only need to examine your behaviors. Today’s reading in McCausland’s Order of Divine Service comes from Matthew 7:21-27, which marks the end of Jesus’s beloved Sermon on the Mount (Chapter 5:1 – 7:27). These latter Gospel verses are indeed all about our words and our actions and the foundation upon which both are based; something that has been occupying my thoughts these recent weeks.
Jesus tells his disciples in the opening passage of today’s reading, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Words and actions.
Dr. Richard Beaton, also of the Fuller Theological Seminary, provides a wonderful interpretation of today’s Scripture passage.
What De Pree is getting at is that we all have a set of assumed beliefs; what we think we believe. And then we have our real beliefs, which are revealed in our behaviors. A person can say, “I believe in truth, it is a core commitment of my life.” But in difficult circumstances the same person may lie to gain an advantage. Their real belief or core value is not truth, it is something else. For Christians in the West we affirm and make much of doctrinal statements, views on social justice, poverty, or even what it means to be truly spiritual. Our challenge, however, is to align our practices – the behaviors of our workaday lives – with our stated beliefs. It seems that this is the same problem that is articulated by Jesus here in Matthew.
This is a powerful passage that gets at the heart of Jesus’ message. To be a follower of Jesus means that behaviors and actions – the manner in which we live out our daily lives – are the artifacts of the inner life of faith. More to the point, mere words, performance of deeds, even miraculous ones done in the name of Jesus, or random deeds of mercy will not affect one’s eternal destiny. Religiosity (an excessive or affected religious zeal) will not help either. This will no doubt come as a surprise for many. And it raises the question, if these charismatic elements that seem to evince an alignment with Jesus and his movement do not demonstrate that a person is an insider, then what does? What does indeed?
Dr. Beaton then draws our attention to the closing verses (Matthew 7:24-27) to answer this question.
Jesus closes the Sermon on the Mount with the story of two people and the houses they have chosen to build. The metaphor of the building to describe a life is particularly powerful. One person hears Jesus’ words and acts on them, putting them into practice. The other hears Jesus’ words and doesn’t act on them. Two people, two responses to Jesus’ message. The first person is like a house that has been built on a rock. Its foundation is strong and secure and can withstand any assault. The second is like a house built on the sand. Its foundation is weak and unstable and will eventually be destroyed by the storm. This final story summarizes the entire Sermon on the Mount. The message is clear: discipleship occurs in the everyday practices of Jesus’ followers. …. Or to put it another way, becoming a follower of Jesus is to decide to become a member of his society and is marked by a willingness to live one’s life according to the values and beliefs of that society. One becomes part of the people of God. Jesus’ invitation is an invitation to an encounter with God and a different way of living life. This life will provide not only strength in the present to withstand the various storms that come our way but also the final great storm that sees us through to an eternity with the Lord, to and for whom we have lived a life of devotion. (June 1, 2008)
Trying to be this “insider” challenges us, paradoxically, to adopt a real and more extroverted orientation in following our Lord. It is indeed for many a different way of living life. And it is comprised of two components: words and action. When I say The Creed, I try to use this statement of belief as a reference point to guide my actions in the days ahead. It is a challenge of course as some of my daily encounters – the storms referenced in Matthew’s account – will no doubt truly test the matching between what I have done and what I profess as my beliefs. Then, thinking back to the instructions I received at the Dismissal of the recent Sunday worship service – “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” – I realize a need to pray to the Holy Spirit for strength in my next “storm encounter” so that such a gap may appear less frequently in my future efforts to secure a different way of living my life according to the values and beliefs which our Lord is calling us to adopt in this world.
A strong foundation for our life, as described in today’s reading, is rooted in our faith and trust in Christ. Think of the “house” in today’s reading, as your life. Its construction is carried out day-by-day, year by year and life stage to life stage. God calls on us in the course of building this house to act in a responsive manner to his Word. We are called on to enjoin our words that express faith in God to our deliberate actions that are in keeping with Jesus’ teaching as seen not only in the Beatitudes but elsewhere in the Gospels. Our experiences in building our “house” will face various degrees of storminess. When these challenges threaten to overwhelm the sturdiness of our lives, we know that our faith and trust in God will secure our ability to continue as disciples of Christ willing to serve him to the best of our ability through our deliberate actions that are pleasing to Him and of benefit to those whom we hold dear to our hearts and those we may not know but are also His children.
I can ask myself, “How does my relationship with the Lord
influence my decisions and ask for the Lord’s help with it?”
I am invited to listen to the Lord and the different ways the Lord speaks to me.
The message is – “Speak, Lord your servant is listening.”
not, “Listen Lord, your servant is speaking.”
I pray for the freedom to listen and to respond as the Lord desires.
(from Sacred Space, a ministry of the Irish Jesuits) ... See MoreSee Less
REMINDER ADVENT OASIS 1 - TONIGHT!
WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 2ND 7:30 P.M.
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Mthr. Jennifer's Thought and Prayer for Today....December 1st.
This first Sunday of Advent we light the candle of hope. Hope is what keeps us strong when times are tough and assists us in coping with adversity. Hope can improve our lives, because envisioning a better future motivates us to take the steps to make it happen.
This week I am inspired by Michael J. Fox, who has recently written a memoir entitled “No Time like the Future”. Despite a diagnosis with Parkinson's at the age of 29, Fox had always gotten through each challenge by being positive and holding out hope for a better future.
He has channeled his troubles into a life of advocacy for Parkinson’s awareness, research and treatment. Yet after an already horrible year — where he had faced a death in the family, the removal of a tumor from his spine and the challenge of learning to walk again — he fell and shattered his arm.
Lying on the floor of his kitchen in immense pain, Fox decided he was “out of the lemonade business.” In other words, he no longer wished to focus on the positive or reframe his situation to be grateful for what he had. He decided to stop making lemonade out the lemons life handed him, and instead he was going weep, and wallow in his misery. He found life crippling – literally — and he was done with hope. He was done with being an optimist.
We can all handle one challenge, but two or three at a time has the ability to sink any of us — and also make us begin to question God and wonder if our hope is misplaced.
In a conversation with CBC’s Tom Power, Fox questioned whether he had, in the past, put too bright a spin on his circumstances. "The way I put it in the book was, 'Had I offered optimism as a panacea? Had I commodified hope? Had I been so glib about my positive experiences that it had been counter-productive or not sincere?"
Yet as he reflected upon this and the work of his namesake foundation that he had poured his optimism and hope into, he came to realize that his work had given him more than he had given it. Through what he had started, and the hope he had initially placed in it, he had received more hope and encouragement from others who worked alongside him, and more hope in general seeing the work that came out of the foundation.
Hope is like this. There are days we may wish to throw up our hands and give up, but when we look to what hope gives us — what faith gives us — we come around to a similar realization.
Hope, like faith, is like a mustard seed. Just a little planted, can produce great results. Christian hope is rooted in faith in Jesus. It is the affirmation that God is faithful, and will complete what has begun.
We are allowed to acknowledge that life is not always easy or fair. If you want biblical proof of this, just look to the psalms. But even if life hits us with a one-two punch occasionally that seems to knock us down, we know that God is right there, inviting us back up again and again, for the truth is that even if we give up hope, God never gives up on us.
Hear God’s words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Advent is a season where we are invited to wait patiently and with confident expectation that one day God’s purposes will be fulfilled. So then, let us follow the words of Paul to the Hebrews “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)
As we begin our Advent pilgrimage,
grant us the courage to hope, even in the face of adversity.
Hope for your presence,
Hope for your peace,
Hope for your promise. Amen.
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Advent Oasis 1
Wednesday December 2nd - 7:30pmAll Saints', Whitbyus02web.zoom.us/j/83561561966?pwd=V1B5ZmtZYktnNDRzRVlWMkpmclp3UT09
Lighting of the candle: You are invited to light your own candle at home
Lord God, let your blessing come upon us with the lighting of this candle of HOPE.
May its light be a sign of Christ’s promise of salvation, in this time of darkness.
Now we watch and wait for his coming.
Lord Jesus, come soon!
A reading from the first letter of Peter
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1: 3-9
Malcolm Guite, a great and well-loved Anglican priest, theologian and poet at King’s College Cambridge, wrote these words:
Advent! A holy season in which we connect again with our “inconsolable longing,” as C.S Lewis called it - our yearning for the One who is to come and is also, mysteriously, the One who has come already - come as a child, come as a fellow-sufferer, come as Saviour, and yet whose coming, already achieved, we hold at bay from ourselves, so that we have to learn afresh each year, even each day, how to let him come again.
I believe that it is the paradox of this mystery of the incarnation, this tension between the now and the yet-to-come, which gives rise to HOPE in this season of watchful waiting that is Advent.
Peter blesses God for the new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead which is the promise for all believers. We have already received this gift, and yet we must be patient and wait to open it, rather like a child prodding and poking at the gifts under the tree and longing...yearning... to rip off the paper. This is, indeed, an inconsolable longing.
Yes, we have this marvellous promise of an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, which awaits us in heaven, but we also have to live our lives here on earth before we receive our inheritance.
Peter’s letter was written between 64 and 68 AD, to encourage and bring hope to Christians, at a time when they were facing unimaginable persecution and death every day, both from the Roman occupiers and the Jewish leaders, which Peter simply refers to as various trials. Their faith was tested by fire, but Peter urges them to hold on.
We are also facing various trials in these dark and uncertain times of pandemic, racial conflict, wars and natural disasters around the world, and our faith is being tested. Like the recipients of Peter’s letter, we have not seen Jesus in person, but we love him and believe in him. When we gather for worship on Sunday, in person or on our screens, there is comfort and hope in the liturgy and the message. This is not merely a vague desire that “everything will be all right”. This hope is a reassuring certainty that God is indeed present, and that Jesus is alive NOW. But, inevitably, Monday comes and the News is bleaker than ever. How can we live in hope in our day-to-day lives? How can we live the Resurrection life when our world is in pieces?
Peter assures his listeners that their faith will enable them to rejoice, despite their troubles. In other words, hope and joy are inextricably intertwined. If hope brings joy, then conversely, joy is a source of hope. Indeed, God gives us glimpses of his presence in our physical world all the time, if we allow ourselves to be open to them. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth said recently, “Hope is to be found in the care given to the vulnerable and those in need.” How true! We are all aware of the many acts of kindness and caring by neighbours and strangers to the vulnerable and those in need during the past nine months.
We know that the very act of giving brings joy to the giver as well as the receiver. Our food bank at All Saints’ has received many donations from individuals and organizations from outside our congregation... a sure sign of hope. I am certain that I am not the only one who reconnected with distant friends much more regularly when the pandemic hit. Nurturing our relationships is another source of hope and joy. A year ago, most of us had never used Zoom, or even knew what it was, but look at us now!
Peter reminds his audience that, in spite of their hardships, it is possible to be filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy because of the promise of salvation. Glimpses of God in our daily lives enable us to share in this joy. Occasionally they may feel like a blinding light when something momentous, such as the birth of a child, is a cause for celebration, but more often they are tiny pinpricks of light in the darkness, which could be easy to miss if weren’t keeping watch. Counting our blessings is a sure sign of hope.
In the spring of this year, when garden centres were either closed, or had huge lineups, I grew some of my plants from seed for the first time. Watching the tiny shoots appear, and grow into leaves and then flowers, became a metaphor for hope for me. Then we were blessed with a seemingly endless summer, and were able to take delight in the beauty of God’s creation as the earth came back to life.
Asking ourselves each evening, “What brought me joy today?” and thanking God for it, is a sign of hope. The other week when I was out walking in my neighbourhood, I stepped onto the grass to make room for a couple coming towards me, walking with a young man in his twenties who was pushing a baby in a stroller. Nothing unusual about that, but as we passed and acknowledged each other, I saw that the fellow pushing the stroller had Down’s syndrome. He was most likely a very new uncle. He was beaming from ear to ear, and looked so delighted and proud to be doing that! I thanked God for that moment of joy that I was able to share in those few seconds, which I might so easily have missed it had I not had my eyes – and heart – open.
On this past Remembrance Day I received a link to a short video made by my brother’s choir in Winnipeg, honouring those who were victims of the Holocaust. There were images from the concentration camps that were very painful to see, and a poignantly beautiful song by the choir, entitled Inscription of Hope, by Z Randall Stroope. Each choir member had recorded their individual parts at home, which were then engineered to blend together, along with the grid of their faces on the screen as they sang. The inspiration for the song was these words which were discovered etched on the wall in a cellar in Cologne, Germany, where some Jews were hiding from the Nazis during the Second World War, living in the dark, and facing certain death if discovered:
I believe in the sun,
even when it is not shining,
and I believe in love,
even when there’s no one there,
and I believe in God, even when he is silent.
I believe through any trial there is always a way.
What a powerful and heart-rending testimony to hope even in the face of death!
Although we Christians are not faced with anything like the persecution and death to which Peter refers in the scripture, our lives are threatened in so many ways at the present time of uncertainty. And yet, we have been given the gift of faith, which goes hand in hand with HOPE, so that we can see beyond the now and fix our eyes on the yet-to-come.
Thanks be to God!
Intercessory prayer Please join in the response at home
Loving Creator God, thank you for the hope found only in you. We pray for all who are living in darkness and despair, with burdens they cannot bear,
Lord Jesus, come soon!
We pray for all who are sick, and for those who tend them. We pray for all who wait for loved ones and wait in vain,
Lord Jesus, come soon!
We pray for those who live in hunger, and for those who will not share their bread, for those who are misunderstood, and those who misunderstand,
Lord Jesus, come soon!
We pray for those who are captives and those who are captors, for those whose words of love are locked within their hearts, and those who yearn to hear those words,
Lord Jesus, come soon!
Have mercy on them, Lord. Have mercy on us all.
Father God, as we extinguish our candles, and darkness descends, may the words shared tonight remain within us; may the light of your love be a flame which never goes out. We commend this day to you, and pray for a peaceful rest tonight.
For this we give thanks in Jesus’ name,
Amen ... See MoreSee Less
All Saints', Whitby All Saints', Whitby plans to go live.
5 days ago