“Freedom and Love”
Freedom, oh freedom, oh freedom, freedom is coming,
Oh yes I, yes I know, oh yes I know, oh yes I know,
Freedom is coming, oh yes, I know.
That was the song that kept running through my head as I reflected on our reading from the Book of Acts for this Sunday. What a wonderful text about the power of God to release us from the things that keep us bound and suffering, and bless us with the gift of freedom!
In a few conversations this week, I invited people to read over the story and to identify the ways in which various people were bound or even enslaved, how they were freed from bondage, and to notice what they did with their freedom.
The most obvious example is Paul and Silas. At the beginning of the story, they seem to be free, but their actions with regard to a slave-girl in Philippi lead to a complaint by people of influence, and they are arrested, beaten, and imprisoned in a jail. We imagine their chains and shackles, and are struck by the risk and sacrifice that the early Christian leaders were willing to take on as they spread the gospel … Read more »
“Blessed to be a Blessing”
Have you ever heard a sermon about Lydia before? I haven’t ever preached one, nor have I heard someone else preach one either. Perhaps that’s just because the Book of Acts doesn’t go into much detail about the business-woman from Thyatira who sold purple cloth.
Other than the fact that she was among the women that Paul met down by the river outside of Philippi, we don’t know much about her. But those few details, combined with the important points that she became a Christian, that her whole household was baptized, and that she provided support and hospitality to the apostles in Philippi is actually quite a lot!
Of course, we might get distracted by the somewhat miraculous way that Paul and the others decided to go to the city of Philippi. During the night, Paul had a vision. I expect it was a dream. There stood a man from Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” He was already wondering where to go next, looking for somewhere where the people would be receptive to the good news, and the strange dream gave him confidence to sail for Philippi – a … Read more »
“Come and Stay at My Home”
This morning’s passage from the Book of Acts is a story about faith-sharing and a story about church-planting. In the early days of Christian Church, apostles like Paul were intentional about going out, sharing the good news about Jesus, and helping new worshipping communities to get started.
They followed the Spirit’s leading, and paid attention to dreams and visions and ideas that came to them in the middle of the night. And the church grew, and lives were blessed, and love was shared, and hope soared.
I heard a statistic the other day from our Synod’s Congregational Development Coordinator, Jo Szostak, that in the last 20 years, 53 new congregations have been formed in the Presbyterian Church in Canada. 20 of those were Korean congregations, 18 were other ethnic congregations, and only 15 were non-ethnic Presbyterian congregations. I don’t know the numbers on how many congregations have closed in that time, but I’m sure that it’s quite a bit higher.
Jo attended a conference a couple of weeks ago for people in our Presbyterian Church who would like to work on starting up new worshipping communities. That would include new churches, but also other creative new ministries … Read more »
When I read this morning’s Psalm earlier this week, I kind of shuddered. It was the imagery of fire, and lightning, and mountains melting like wax that caused that reaction. As I thought about the terrible fire burning in Fort McMurray, the power of the flames struck me as immense. I heard a fire chief on CBC radio describing the fires that continued to rage in Fort Mac. He explained that there were some sections and neighbourhoods of the city that were untouched by the fires, but that might not last. The fire is powerful and determined, and it will find those areas, he explained. It wants to find those areas.
I don’t know what experience the psalmist had with fire, whether he had seen a blaze grow out of control, or lost his home to a terrible fire, but I think he understood the power, determination, and danger of a fire. But instead of describing tyrants or evil powers as being like fires that seek to destroy our lives and livelihoods, the psalmist instead describes the Lord our God as being like fire.
He writes: “Fire goes before him, and consumes his adversaries on every side. … Read more »
Revelation 21:10, 22 – 22:5
This is the time of year at St. Andrew’s when we are busy making plans. It may not seem that obvious just from attending worship here on Sundays, but behind the scenes, in the committees and groups, and among the staff of the church, plans are being hatched.
As many of you likely know, our congregation makes plans on a yearly basis. The committees of Session (like Worship, Christian Education, and Outreach), set goals in the Spring, and bring them to Session for approval at the beginning of May. They write up reports of their activities over the past year for the Program Report, and highlight their new plans in the form of goals that are presented at the Annual Program Meeting at the end of May. Things usually get a little quieter over the summer, and then we all get to work again in September to put our plans into action throughout the year.
Once in a while, we also get the congregation together to do some deeper reflection and longer-term planning for our mission and ministry. At one such gathering quite a few years ago, St. Andrew’s wrote and embraced a mission statement: “St. … Read more »
“Jesus is Praying for Us”
There’s a continuing theme that begins in the Gospels, continues and grows through the Acts of the Apostles, and is picked up again and again in the letters of Paul and others in the time of the earliest Churches. It’s the idea that the love of God and the Good News of Jesus Christ is for all the people of the world.
Jesus was born to a Jewish family and lived as a faithful Jew. His ministry began among the Jews and for the Jews, and then it began to spread. Jesus went beyond the boundaries of religion, race, gender, and social standing… engaging in conversation with those beyond his immediate community, reaching out in love to those on the margins of society, and by the end of the Gospels, encouraging his disciples to go and preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth, to all the people of the world.
This morning I decided to include two readings from the Book of Acts. The first one about Paul and his friends going to Macedonia, meeting Lydia, and Lydia and her household being baptized, was the reading assigned for last … Read more »
Revelation 21:10, 22 — 22:5
As we move through the season of Easter and towards Pentecost, the readings continue to prepare us to function as community without the physical leadership of Jesus. We are invited to participate in our own salvation and to continue to struggle towards a more just and faithful expression of community in Christ.
In the Book of Acts, Luke writes about the progress of the early Christian church, and in today’s story he describes the conversion of Lydia, a “faithful woman.” It is the second reading in Acts that features and names a woman. Two weeks ago, we heard about Dorcas, a beloved follower of Jesus who provided clothing for the widows in her community.
Luke is noted for his inclusion of women in his writings, and here he portrays Lydia with remarkable agency as she chooses to convert and then actively supports the fledgling Christian community.
Agency is a lesson that John reaffirms in his portrayal of a man who is cured on the Sabbath. Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be well?” The man accepts Jesus’ invitation and immediately is freed from physical and spiritual paralysis.
Finally, John’s vision in Revelation of a new heaven … Read more »