Posts

Showing posts from April, 2020

A Short reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter

Image
Third Sunday of Easter




Lord, it has been a few weeks since Easter, and a few more before that since we have come together in person to worship you.  And the time has been hard, Lord...  We have experienced a whole host of differing emotions:  fear, anger, frustration, joy, sorrow, boredom...   And we are unsure of what tomorrow will bring, and for how long we shall have to walk this desert journey....

I wonder if this is how the Israelites felt as they left Egypt?  Sure, they were free from slavery.  But gone, too, were the things that had made life certain and secure.  Gone were the ready sources of food, and work, and community.  Gone was the identity and the pattern of routine.

We, also, have lost our familiar routines... our common identity and our close connections.  Our readily apparent sources of food and work are also gone... or at least, less obvious.  And it is unnerving...

I wonder if this is what it felt like after the resurrection, after the ascension, when the disciples had …

The Elephant in the Room

Image
The Elephant in the Room

We talk about many things at church... we argue about just as many.  Some things, though, we don't address readily or easily.  They make us uncomfortable... possibly because they hit too close to home, or possibly because they are problems and issues we don't know how to solve.  They are questions that resist answers.

One such issue, the Elephant in the Room, is about creating lasting disciples of Jesus.  I love how this video describes it: the George Foreman Grill problem.  We are all on board and in love with Jesus and His teaching at first... but as soon as we encounter the struggle (or the drudgery) of faith... well, we fall away.  Or we get bored and move on.  Put another way, we lack a sense of stick-to-it-iveness.

We see this all around us... people who made bold assertions of faith, yet a few years into the program... where are they?  They seem to fall away, picked off by the "worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth." (Ma…

Looking to be fed

Image
Looking to be Fed

Maybe it's because I am Presbyterian and we are known for our love of eating... or maybe it's because I love Chinese food so much...  but I find the image of the Chinese Food Buffet so appropriate to our spiritual life.

Let me explain...

Every single one of us is hungry.  Obviously, some more than others... and to be clear, I am talking about spiritually hungry, not necessarily physically hungry.  This can be seen in the common phrase, "I'm spiritual, but not religious."  People know that there is something missing in life that they are looking for...  something that the typical; work, hobby, family things just can't quite satisfy.  There's an itch that we need to scratch... and we are all looking for that things that will satisfy.

As Christians, I am hoping that you have come to know that Jesus is what your hunger is calling out for...  He's what fills the God shaped hole inside.  And many of us encounter Jesus when we gather togeth…

How to Live in a Pandemic

How to Live in a Pandemic

The Coronavirus pandemic, and the resulting restrictions of free assembly and travel, raise the question of how Christians ought to deal with such circumstances.  Clearly there are some who advocate rigidly adhering to all the rules and regulations, and sometimes even going further...  And then there are those who see all of it as a test of faith, and advocate civil disobedience.  What's a Christian to do?

In 527, Martin Luther addressed a similar concern in his letter "Whether One May Flee From A Deadly Plague."  He was faced with what was called the bubonic plague... a fearsome, and bloodthirsty killer whose mechanism of transmission was not known or understood.

Put simply, Luther described a middle ground between panic and foolhardiness.  He saw people who were refusing medicines and sensible precautions, and he described them as tempters of God.  He likened them to people who would refuse to help a neighbour put out a house fire saying, &quo…

Revelation part 5: Two Heavens

Image
Two Heavens

Well, assuming you haven't skipped to the end, you've survived some pretty extreme and scary stuff!
And now we pause to consider something that we all long for... but perhaps we don't truly know about... because we so seldom actually learn about it:  Heaven!

Think about it...  We all want to go there when we die.  We'd actually like to have a version of it here on earth.  People write books about it, and make movies on it...  some even claim to have seen it.  But what exactly does it look like?  And how are we to find out?

The good news is that there is some great information and great descriptions in the Bible... and we can learn a lot about this wonderful place.  But why bother?

Well, maybe we should seek to know more about heaven so that we are empowered and encouraged to live well here on earth now.  Peter writes,  “What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” …

Revelation part 4: God Wins

Image
God Wins

Here we continue that frightful and fantastic scene recorded in Revelation...  Moving from the scene of judgement and tribulation, we turn now to cosmic conflict and calamities.  The language is highly symbolic and supernatural... What does it all mean?

There are innumerable interpretations of the Revelation, however, this message is probably indisputable:  Jesus wants his followers to be faithful to Him no matter what and no matter how long it takes.  No matter if there is persecution by ancient Romans or Jews, or by some modern or future governmental entity.  No matter if there are wars, or rumours of wars, natural disasters or climate change.  As Jesus told Peter, "Have faith in God."

Listen to the second act of the Tribulation... perhaps as told by the angel Michael.
What is the central message... the foundation of Hope that is offered to us through this message of extreme struggle?  It is a message that can profoundly change our experience of today and its stru…

Revelation part 3: The Tribulation Begins

Image
The Tribulation Begins

As one moves past the third chapter of Revelation, we enter uncertain territory.  We become unsure of the framework the rules of interpretation, the meaning of symbols and even words...  No wonder so many people throw up their hands and walk away in defeat.

But consider for a moment how difficult it must have been for John, a simple person using limited human language, to describe heavenly realties that far eclipsed human experience and knowledge?  Even ourselves, whom we consider advanced in our ability to define and describe and explain... how might we fall far short of being able to comprehend, let alone explain, the majesty or magnitude of what was seen in heaven?

It is good to remember that God is God and we are not... and yet God still desires to communicate with us.  And so as we move forward and deeper into these mysteries of God... let us suspend our need to dissect and explain each and every detail... and instead, prayer for the Holy Spirit to guide an…

Revelation part 2: The Scariest Bible Verse

Image
The Scariest Verse

This is a continuation of the Eye Witness Bible series on the Book of Revelation.


The Apostle John wrote down seven letters, messages from Jesus to each of the seven churches of the region.  These letters are a mixture of praise and encouragement... and also reproof and correction.  Some of the words must have been particularly hard to hear...

These letters, while originally addressed to the ancient Church, also are directed to us today...
I wonder what words speak to us today... to you?

Listen to the Elder from the Church in Laodicea shares his experience of these seven letters.  Consider the study questions that go along with this video.
And maybe you want to share what words are the scariest for you to hear.  And what words bring the greatest comfort.
Blessings,
Jeremy   (pastor@epcn.ca)




The Scariest Verse Study Guide (Click the link above to open the Study Guide)

Revelation part 1: Letters for Difficult Times

Image
Letters for Difficult Times When life gets crazy, there is one subject that always turns up... Revelation!  I'm talking about the book of the Bible.  And, please note... it's Revelation, not the plural, Revelations.  Just one of them... that's enough.

A much misunderstood and maligned book, the book of Revelation has much to offer us if we are willing to read it and consider it carefully, and prayerfully.  It was originally written to the Christian Church in the Roman Empire who were facing extreme pressures and persecutions.  It was written with an aim to both encourage, and also rebuke.  (Reminds me of Paul telling us that all Scripture is useful for teaching, instructing, encouraging and correcting and rebuking.)
Since most of us have some spare time on our hands, and since most of us will encounter talk about this book that is ill informed and ill intended... perhaps we should all make an effort to get to know what it truly has to say to us.  Get to know the author, th…

Finding Focus when Fears Surround

Image
Matthew 14:22-36    Peter Walks on Water

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”  “Yes, come,” Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.30 But when he saw the strong[d] wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.  Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,”Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.  Then the disciples worshipped him.  "You really are the Son of God!" they exclaimed. (Matthew 14:28-33) How do you respond when the storms of life blow?  The story of Jesus walking on the water appears in three of the four gospels, (Matthew, Mark, and John).  But only in Matthew's gospel do we read about Peter walking on water.     Mark Driscoll has shared some beautiful insights about this event that are worthwhile to consider, especially considering ou…

In God we trust... or do we?

Proverbs 3:1-12
My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,

for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.

Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

The Morning After

The Morning After

I'm not sure how you experienced Easter this year...  In years gone by, I would have taken part in wonderful Sunday worship, sung great hymns and songs of the faith... maybe eaten a bit too much, shared laughter and love with friends and family...  and then awoken on Monday to a much anticipated day of rest.

This year was obviously very different.  There were no joyful gatherings.  There were no mighty choruses of song.  There wasn't even a great feast and laughter shared with family and friends.
It was hard to remember that it was any different from Friday, or Tuesday, or any day.  It felt so wrong.  And yet... maybe that is what makes it so right!?  Or should I say, relatable?

Let me explain before the heresy trial starts.

One of my favourite Bible stories is entitled the Road to Emmaus.  Perhaps you remember it.  A stranger (spoiler alert: it's Jesus) walks up to two disciples that are dejectedly walking back home from Jerusalem.  The stranger asks the…

Easter Sunday - Resurrection

Easter Sunday - Resurrection

We usually begin Easter Sunday with the bold proclamation "He is Risen... He is Risen Indeed!!"
But that is not how the first Easter began. 

No, that first Easter Sunday was filled with grief... with automatic actions of love tinged with hopelessness... and yet also touched with an intuition that there was something more.  What, no one could name.  But there WAS something more... there had to be!

And it was women who were the first voices of that Easter morning...  We've too long had the debates around women's liberation, and so we don't really get the full weight of this fact.  It was not Peter, or John, or even Thomas or Andrew who got to experience the first glimpse of Resurrection.  It was a woman!  Mary!

Perhaps there is an ironic twist to this whole scene...  A garden, a man and a woman.  In one scenario, it is the woman who leads the man into tasting forbidden fruit.  In the second scene, it is the promised Saviour who appears …

Black Saturday - The Last Day

Black Saturday - The Last Day

They say that hindsight is 20/20... that we see most clearly after an event.  Another friend has suggested that crisis brings clarity (A crisis creates clarity) ... that challenging circumstances help peel away the things that cloud our vision. 

But all of this requires the opportunity to sit and reflect...

Such is Black Saturday.  The Crucifixion is over, the deed is done.  But yet to be revealed is what exactly has been done... what will be revealed with the sun...

Joseph of Arimathea...  such a small character in the grand narrative of Jesus' life... but what a story to tell.  His story speaks of a growing fascination with Jesus... and the uncomfortable challenge that fascination will cause with a man's position and title.

And it begs the deeper question... what will Jesus challenge in us?  This love we profess... how will it conflict with our daily choices... our life's ambition?  How will we respond?  And will it be too late?

The Last Day …

Good Friday - Peter & Pilate

Good Friday - Peter & Pilate

Sometimes it is hard to notice what is going on around you.  You hear the story being told, you see the events unfolding, but our attention is misdirected... subverted... and somewhere along the line we find ourselves lost and confused.  What just happened?

I wonder if the events of Good Friday were just such a situation?  Jesus and the disciples going about their business, but only one of them truly knew where the path was going.  Sure, Jesus had spoken plainly of his death many times... but it seems like no one was really listening, too busy with their own plans and agendas... hopes and fears.

I wonder... am I still too busy with my own thoughts?  Am I still missing the point?

Let us listen again to the events leading up to the crucifixion... Let us seek to truly listen... and prayerfully ask, "Lord, what am I missing?  What would you have me notice?"

It is the beginning of the end... and the end is only the beginning...

Peter & Pilate S…

Reflections on Good Friday

Reflections on Good Friday

Each year in our community of Collingwood, the larger community of Christ comes together to worship and remember the gift of Good Friday.  Shedding our denominational skins, we lift up what we hold in common: the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This year, though, it will be a little different.  This year we will not be gathering en mass to sing songs, or pray, or reflect on what this great event means to me, or us, or the world.  But let us not suggest that the Church has "closed" or been postponed!  Heaven forbid!

Though we may not meet as a gathered group, yet still we are the Church!  And as we come together in prayer and worship, the Church still gathers and is powerful and pertinent.

To assist us in this, a couple of local pastors have recorded some passages, one has recorded an Easter message.  Some have recorded prayers.  I am including these in this post so that, should you not know where to "go" for worship, then s…

Sabbatical

First things first...  this is not my own work!  A dear friend shared this poem with me and allowed me to share it...  You can find more of her inspirational writings at:  https://sarahjoycovey.com/
In the midst of troubling times, there is always an invitation...  What do you hear?
Sabbatical Maybe we all needed to slow down to press pause to notice to find ourselves to find faith to be home and at home to rest and to wake up again.
Maybe we needed this to remind us of stillness of solitude of silence of sabbath.
We are a forgetful people.
Maybe one day a week has not been received has not been observed has not felt like enough.
Maybe sabbath’s holy work has been neglected dismissed forgotten.
Maybe we have been shallow-breathing for much too long and depth is overdue.
Maybe it isn’t really that surprising that a respiratory virus has brought our lives to a halt for a season.
Maybe it is for a rest-orative purpose.
And so, now that we have to we realize that we get to and we inhale a…