Devotional June 13

I’ve shared many times how I attempt to be a gardener. I openly admit that I am a great accidental gardener. Whenever I garden with intent and expectation it is a big flop. I end up with a really low yield. But if I just randomly plant without much expectation or hope things blossom. And of course I have great success with volunteer plants that pop up due to my neglect in dead heading the previous year’s growth. I don’t even know how I ended up with strawberry plants, parsley, or dill in my backyard garden. It appears that the minute I try to plan a harvest, reading all the books of companion plants and seed spacing those plants fail…majorly! I suspect that this has something to do with how I build up expectations. I expect plants that I’ve planned out to do well while I don’t expect plants I haven’t planned to succeed. Expectations can be like that, plans can be like that, life can be like that. 

Today Jesus delivers two brief parables about growth to describe the kingdom of God. We know that Jesus liked to use parables as teaching tools. It says so, at the end of our passage. Mark is clear that there are numerous other parables that Jesus shared that the author did not record. Not only that, Mark states that sometimes Jesus didn’t explain the intricacies or lessons of the parables except to his disciples in private. This fact, that we don’t always get explanations, used to really irk me. But I’m currently reading a textbook in preparation for a summer course I will be taking entitled “The Surprising Wisdom of the Parables” and author Amy-Jill Levine says, “The Gospel writers, in their wisdom, left most of the parables as open narratives in order to invite us into engagement with them. Each reader will hear a distinct message and may find that the same parable leaves multiple impressions over time…Reducing parables to a single meaning destroys their aesthetic as well as ethical potential. ” Levine also argues that one of the reasons Jesus spoke in parables is because they helped with auditory memory. We remember a good story far better than an intriguing lecture. Jesus used the parables so that people would remember his preaching. Something for a contemporary preacher to think about!

In the first parable Jesus compares the kingdom of God to seed being scatter on the ground that sprouts and grows while the gardener is asleep. I can appreciate this kind of gardening. I don’t know how my volunteer strawberry plants got in my garden but I’m currently reaping the benefit. To my knowledge, I had nothing to do with those plants getting to where they are now. That speaks a lot to my understanding of grace. There is nothing I have done to deserve the grace of God- in fact, if anything, I don’t deserve it, yet it is still offered. Yes, the gardener scatters the seed but the gardener does not have control over the growth. Yet, the gardener will be the one who gets to enjoy the harvest. There is really a sense of lack of control when it comes to the kingdom. We don’t control it, God does.

As much as I like to be in control of all aspects of my life- I have to acknowledge that there is much I do not have control over. The farmer scatters the seed but it is not the farmer who makes it grow, the farmer doesn’t even fully understand how it grows. Sure, we have a lot of wisdom and knowledge, science and experience that can teach us how something can grow but ultimately we are not in control. Jesus is stating that when it comes to the kingdom of God, the power and nature and will of God, we are not in control. Since God is the one who is in control of the kingdom then there is also mystery to it’s growth.

Jesus then builds on this theme of growth with a follow up parable that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed- a small seed that becomes the greatest of all shrubs. First of all, a mustard seed isn’t all that small nor is a mustard plant, all that great of a shrub, and mustard is my least favourite condiment. As a kid I hated it so much that I would tell people I was allergic. But there is wisdom in this parable as well and for all the times I have read and studied this parable, for the first time I realized it’s not just about the seed that grows into a shrub. The parable ends with, “so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” I couldn’t believe it, as an amateur birder, how could I have never thought about the symbolism of the birds in this parable. Levine points out that when commentators do focus on the birds, the modern take is to connect the birds to gentile nations. If God’s kingdom is symbolized as a small seed that grows into large shrub and the birds represent all the people who will flock to the kingdom, than God’s kingdom includes an array of birds! Or, another take is that the birds also represent the kingdom, because in most translations it is not “birds of the air” as we heard it in the NRSV but rather “birds of heaven” that make their nests in the shade. Levine says, “[This parable is about] the ability of God’s creatures- feathered or flesh- to survive, to make do with whatever is available.”

These two parables insist that the full manifestation of the reign of God will blossom gradually, unavoidably, unexpectedly, in all kinds of conditions, culminating in a state of completion. Jesus is stating that growth is inevitable. That no matter how scattered we humans become in our actions and distractions, the growing conditions will be ripe for God’s kingdom to come. We can plant all kinds of seeds and we may never know or come to realize what growth happened in our lifetime but we can be assured that God’s kingdom will come. I can bet that many of the saints of old, the people who influenced the church and us, had no idea that we would be providing ministry on line. Both parables teach me that we should never be daunted by the small things, never ashamed of modest beginnings, not be discouraged when things seem to be taking a long time to grow- because we are not the ones who control the final destiny or the ultimate growth.

It is our job to scatter that seed but also to reap the harvest. We must see where the soil is ready for growth AND we must not be afraid to take our sickles and harvest when things are ready. Otherwise, we run the risk of having the fruit spoil. Ok- maybe these growth and plant metaphors are getting out of hand so I will say it bluntly. If we have funds or land or resources or ministries that are ready to be harvested- ready to be used to benefit the kingdom of God or manifest the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, then it is our imperative to harvest those things. Building up funds for a rainy day serves no one. Only having our ministries available to inner circles is not reaping the harvest. Having a property that is underused is misuse of the harvest. It is true that we do not know what growth will take place, that’s out of our control, but we can have the confidence that God is in control. And whether our expectations of growth are met or not, whether we planned the planting perfectly or discover volunteer plants in places we didn’t expect, the growth of the kingdom happens, gradually, unavoidably, unexpectedly, in all kinds of growing conditions. Amen 

Devotional June 6 Communion

Last November, Canadian actor Michael J. Fox was interviewed by People magazine. It is not often that I am drawn to these kinds of interviews but the fact that I grew up watching Fox on Family Ties and in the Back-to-the-Future movie franchise made me pause to read the headline. Then the highlighted quote, “My gratitude is deeper now, from having gotten through the darkest times” got me hooked on reading the rest of the article. At the young age of 29 Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. In this interview, however, he discussed how a tumour was developing on his spine and he needed surgery which would render him temporarily paralysed. Over a four month period he learned to walk again- but he was still unstable. He fell and badly broke his arm. He said, “I was leaning against the wall in my kitchen, waiting for the ambulance to come, and I felt like, ‘This is as low as it gets for me.’ It was when I questioned everything. Like, ‘I can’t put a shiny face on this. There’s no bright side to this, no upside. This is just all regret and pain.’ “The interview was due to the fact that he released his 4th memoir entitled, “No Time Like The Future: An Optimist considers mortality.” Fox turns 60 this month and despite his failing body, optimism helped him have hope. He says, “Optimism is sustained when you keep coming back to gratitude, and what follows from that is acceptance. Accepting that this thing has happened, and you accept it for what it is…Then see how much the rest of your life you have to thrive in, and then you can move on.” I am so moved by the fact that Fox could be angry that his body is falling a part and yet he turns to optimism, gratitude and acceptance instead. I have trouble doing that with my minor aches and pains. I don’t know if Fox is a man of faith. But his experiences and wisdom can help us in understanding the message underlying Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians.  

To say that our passage this morning from Paul is only about failing bodies does not give it the power it is due. However, when Paul says, “Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day” I could help but think about the various conversations I have had with so many of you about ageing. About how our bodies and minds don’t always do what we want them to do. About how we can have genuine frustrations and emotional pain because our bodies are changing. And Paul’s words can give us hope when he says, “this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure!” In this I find the optimism when it comes to failing bodies. 

But as I mentioned this passage isn’t limited to Paul’s feelings about physical bodies. Really, the entire passage speaks to Paul’s confidence in the power of God. I’ve noted before that the church in Corinth was a troublesome church. Paul’s letters talk of not only external pressures but internal disagreements that risked splits within the church. The church was often influenced by the Greco-Roman culture that surrounded it and Paul was constantly trying to bring them back from the secular or the profane to the sacred and the holy. I actually think that the modern church could likely identify best with the church in Corinth. And as our denomination begins to meet for General Assembly, to discuss the possibility of full inclusive of our LGBTQ+ members I acknowledge that our denomination is risking a split that could decimate us. But no matter how troublesome the church in Corinth was through these letters we are provided with an abundance of blessings because their troubles, inspired some of Paul’s best work. We would do well as a denomination to return to his words of wisdom.  Wisdom which rests assured in God’s eternal power!

So whether it is referring to our frail bodies or our frail denomination Paul is saying, that our suffering should not deter us from testifying to God’s power. And Paul knows a thing or two about suffering. In fact, at the beginning of this letter Paul says that he experienced some affliction in Asia (2Corinth 1:8). He says that he was so utterly, unbearably crushed that he despaired of life itself. Later on in the book Paul will recount beatings, shipwrecks, and other near death experiences.  So we know that Paul has endured some dark moments since he last wrote this congregation. Underlying all of this is the faith that Paul has in his calling and confidence in God. It is this certitude that gives Paul strength, and likely optimism, to face hardships. But it is also Paul’s certitude that all of these hardships are only slight momentary afflictions compared to the eternal weight of glory beyond all measure. 

At the beginning of the pandemic one of the mantras shared was, “This is not forever but this is for now.” At the time, most of us definitely thought that the “for now” time frame would be only a couple of weeks or months- but we now know it’s longer than that. Yet, we all still have hope, and the science backs us up on this, that it is not forever. Paul’s words help us do something with this anticipation that our current circumstances are not forever. Paul starts this passage by saying we believe and we speak. None of our current restrictions prevents us from doing these things. We believe in a power over our lives that is greater than a pandemic. Note that I am NOT saying this means we compromise the health of others because we believe that our rights have greater power rather, because we believe in a greater power we speak to the hope that is found in life, eternal life, with Jesus Christ. We speak to hope.

New Testament professor, Carla Works actually touches on how this hope is manifested in Paul’s life. She writes, “For Paul, hope is worth allowing oneself to be exposed to hardship in order to proclaim the good news of God’s acts of redemption…Paul can express hope in the midst of adversity…The Spirit’s very presence is his assurance that God is at work creating life and redeeming creation.”

Paul is asking the church in Corinth, and conversely asking us, to think it terms of God’s heavenly realm. Paul refers to an earthly tent versus the building from God, human creation versus God’s creation. And I believe this is what we need to do, focus ourselves on God’s creative power. However, I will also say, that if we are unkind, or intentionally destructive to this earthly tent then what makes us think we are entitled to God’s heavenly building. So, a focus on God’s creative power does not mean ignoring the suffering or need around us. What it does mean is that we speak to the hope found in the salvation story. 

Through communion both our physical bodies and spiritual selves our nourished so that we can speak and believe in the good news of God’s creative power of life over death. Whether it is our bodies or our institutions, or both,  that are experiencing frailty we must refocus ourselves on the optimism found in hope. God is absolutely at work in our mortality so that eternal glory may be made known. Amen

May 30 2021

Trinity Sunday. Haven’t we covered that already? This week we will join our guest preacher, Jessica Foy, as she reflects on the three persons of the Trinity: Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. We’ll talk about their relationship to/with one another, us, and those we meet.

Shirley Guthrie writes, “The same God who is God over us as God the Father and Creator, and God with and for us as the incarnate Word and Son, is also God in and among us as God the Holy Spirit.”

Blessings, Jessica

Devotional May 23 2021

Pentecost is my favourite season in the church. Yes, of course I love the
anticipation and excitement of Advent and Christmas and I always feel deeply moved by the meditation time that Lent and Easter allow but honestly Pentecost is my favourite. This is likely based on the fact that in Sunday school this was the time of year when we could be playful with our lessons. Often we were given pinwheels and told that, just like how we
can’t see our breath we can’t see the holy spirit but it is clearly making the pinwheel turn. I will never forget the year we had a full on birthday party for the church with cake, hats and party games. Or one year we took red tissue paper and half the class danced around pretending to be flames resting on the rest of the class. As an adult this passage often elicits a little chuckle when it comes to the part where the disciples are accused of being
drunk and Peter’s response is, “they can’t be drunk because it’s only 9 o’clock in the morning.” I find Pentecost to be a playful story and most of you know me well enough to know that I like to have fun. There is also a familiarity to this passage that is both a blessing and a curse. It is one of the few passages in the entire Bible that is the same every year no matter what rotation we are on in the lectionary. Which can definitely make it the
hardest Sunday to preach because you hear the same passage every year. But this year, that playfulness of Pentecost was overshadowed by the fact that we are still enduring a pandemic. Throughout this passage it talks about how people were gathering together.
How on earth can a passage like that speak to us in our current context? But then I realized, perhaps our current context can help us see something new in this oft familiar passage.

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. Ok, so the first line doesn’t appear to totally help in this manner. Except that, while it says they were gathered in one place, this place doesn’t seem to be very specific. It doesn’t say, they were gathered in a grand cathedral or a country church- those aspects of Christianity didn’t exist yet. The Holy Spirit, burst on the scene without the need for a dedicated building, it
just showed up where the disciples were. Within the first line of this passage we realize that after over a year of not being able to come together to worship in our church building we can still be the church because the Spirit doesn’t need a specific building to come alive.
The location in this passage is incidental. In fact, it is important to note that as the Spirit gave them the power to speech they clearly left the “one place” where they were gathered and went outside evangelizing to the astonished crowd. And I know, crowds are a bad idea too.
The next line says, “and suddenly from heaven”. While the book of Acts was
written by the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke we feel as if this part could have been written by Mark with all this immediate and sudden language. But this also tells me that the Spirit doesn’t need to be awaken exactly at 10:30am on Sunday morning. The spirit shows up, when the spirit shows up. So, some of you are watching this on a different day- that doesn’t mean that the worship has any less value. Some of us, like me, need the
discipline of timing to ensure that we make space for worship but the spirit can flow at any time.
It really is the Spirit who is on display for the bulk of this passage. I think this is another reason why this is a favourite season. Rightfully so we spend a lot of time unpacking the words and actions of Jesus. As one who studied Hebrew I like to delve into the Old Testament and the expression of God that is found there but at Pentecost we really get to know this strange aspect of the trinity, the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the Spirit is a calm, quiet nudge, but in this story it is a violent wind with tongues of fire, that empowers
the disciples to speak words they could not speak just week’s ago. The Spirit brings hope to the otherwise troubled and scared disciples. The Spirit helps the disciples harness the courage to speak up. The Spirit inspires renewal.
We are exhausted by covid. We are worried about a still unknown future. We are troubled by some of the things this pandemic has exposed like inequality and chasms in our health care. The disciples were tired, concerned, and anxious too, when suddenly they are given
the ability to be bold through the renewing Spirit. There are things about this covid time that we will want to harness. We have learned a lot about worship and ministry and technology and community. Renewal in a lot of ways is afoot.
The spirit’s renewal is also universal. The passage lists a whole bunch of places that most of us don’t know how to pronounce properly. But the reason it lists a multitude of places is because the Spirit wants to ensure that no one is left out. This is a message for people all over the known world from Jews to proselytes, Cretans to Arabs. I will point out
that the festival of Pentecost existed pre-Christian church. Within Judaism it is the festival of Shavouth, a festival that celebrates the harvest- it is a big thanksgiving festival. We have renamed it Pentecost because it happens 50, “Pente” days after Easter. But this is  why so many people were in Jerusalem. They were there to give thanks for the harvest, to
give thanks for the physical nourishment they have received. Little did they know that their spirits would be nourished as well.
Then it is Peter’s words that demonstrate just how expansive this message really is. A reminder that fifty-two days earlier, not even two months, Peter did not have the courage to admit he knew Jesus let alone followed him. Peter went away sulking and ashamed. One commentary says, “The Spirit had emboldened him to fulfil the potential which Jesus had always recognized in him. Are we letting the Spirit embolden us to fulfil
the potential to which we are called both as individuals and as the church?” Are we letting the Spirit help us to fulfil our potential as individuals and as the church? The follow up question in my mind is, if we aren’t, what is holding us back? Are we continuing to live huddled together in one place because we are afraid of what the renewal might bring? Are we perplexed because it is still a mystery to us? Are we worried that we’re going to appear
drunk?
Peter than quotes from Joel which does demonstrate the indiscriminate nature of the Holy Spirit. The young will see visions, the old will dream dreams (and let’s be clear when we are talking dreams we aren’t talking flights of fancy but bold visions), slaves and free, men and women, will receive the gift of the Spirit. There are no societal barriers that
the Spirit can not break. There is an inclusivity to the spirit that no one can deny. If a denying fisherman can become the rock upon which the church is built then any and all of us can harness the playful power of the spirit.

This is such a rich example of what the church should be- not stuck in one place- physically or spiritually, not restricted to who can participate or not, not cowering at injustices. This is a church that allows themselves to be emboldened through the Spirit.
That preaches hope and seeks renewal. Look, I get it, I am not always up for the challenges that the Spirit places in front of me. I have had my fair share of temper tantrums. Trust me, there are lots of times when I don’t know what I’m doing. But I need the playfulness of Pentecost to help me find my voice, to have the energy to be bold, to see where the the spirit is blowing. And that’s when the fun begins! Amen

Devotional May 16 2021 ~ Ascension

In 1967 prolific song writer Jimmy Webb was inspired to write a song when his friend William F Williams flew a promotional hot air balloon for the radio station KMEN. The plan was for this song to used in a documentary about hot air ballooning but the documentary never came to fruition. Over that year a couple groups recorded versions of the song but when it was arranged and recorded by the 5th Dimension the song took flight. It swept the 1968 Grammy’s  taking record of the year, song of the year, best contemporary song of the year and 3 others.  Now I’m going to be honest and say that listening to the song now it sounds a bit dated. According to wikipedia it is a prime example of “sunshine pop” music, a genre of music popular with tv jingles. I’m also going to be honest and say that the first time I heard the song I definitely thought it was a veiled reference to drug use but further exploration revealed that it is literally a song about hot air ballooning. If you know the song, and I know for a fact that there are some of you out there who know this song,  be warned, I’m about to butcher it. “Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon/Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon/  We could float among the stars together, you and I. For we can flllllllyyyyyy. Up, up and away in my beautiful, my beautiful balloon.” I pity all of you who are watching this right now. But the thing is, this song, which is entitled, “Up, up and Away” has been in my head on repeat since I cracked open the Bible to this version of the Ascension. Jesus does this wild “superhero” move and floats up, up and away- but not in a beautiful balloon.  And let’s be clear, Jesus does NOT float away never to be involved in the life of his disciples again, rather Jesus’ ascension forges a deep connection between Christ and church forever.

So how did we get here?  The first five verses of the Acts of the Apostles helps set the tone. It is traditionally understood that the author of Acts is also the author of Luke, partly because the writing style is similar but mostly because both Luke and Acts are addressed to Theophilus. Now it is possible that Theophilus was a real person who commissioned the writing of Luke and Acts. But the name means “lover” or “beloved of God”. So I like to think that these texts were written as an open letter to anyone willing to expand on their relationship with God. As it says in the opening verses Acts is a transitions from “all that Jesus did and taught” to the life and ministry of the disciples, now called Apostles. This suggests that Jesus’ work continues in and through the apostles’ actions. We also get a hint at what is to come, that the Holy Spirit will baptize them with the gift of preaching, proclamation and prophecy. Essentially they will be gifted with some of the skill and power of Jesus. So, while these first five verses seem to just simply a brief re-cap of what we read in Luke it really is a clear link between Jesus and the apostles. Make no mistake that Jesus’ ministry is alive and well through them.

Verses 6 through 11 then narrates this strange story of the ascension. Within the lectionary we can call this “Ascension Sunday” but it is important to note that the ascension happened 40 days after Easter- which means that it was actually celebrated on May 13th this year. More liturgical churches would have marked that day with a service and many of you from Continental Europe may even remember that Ascension Day was marked with a holiday. For some reason, unlike Lent we tend not to mark the 40 days between Easter and the Ascension with much importance. Yet, they would have been an interesting 40 days for the disciples who got to spend 40 days with Jesus, likely sequestered somewhere in Jerusalem just talking about all that had taken place and why. What an incredible opportunity.

Eventually, the disciples decide that there is one last question that needs to be answered and they approach Jesus together, after all there is solidarity in numbers.  And I think the question is quite legitimate since Jesus has been talking about the Kingdom for 40 days but they still do not know when all this will take place. They ask, “is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” essentially, they want to know when this glorious kingdom of God will become a reality on earth. But Jesus tells them that they are not privy to God’s knowledge of these things. But not to be discouraged by this fact because instead of knowledge they will be gifted with power via the Holy Spirit. And through the Holy Spirit they will be transformed from passive participants to active witnesses.

As soon as Jesus promises the arrival of the Spirit- which we know will come just 10 days later- Jesus is lifted up and a cloud takes him out of their sight. Jesus doesn’t even seem to say, “goodbye”. No wonder the disciples are left gazing up toward heaven. I would be too! It appears that Jesus has gone up, up and away.  But why? Well, quite simply put there was a precedence. If you can recall back to the transfiguration when Jesus and a few disciples go up a mountain and there Jesus is transfigured into dazzling white and two other guys appear on the scene, Elijah and Moses. If you know the story of Elijah then you know that as a great prophet after he transferred his authority and power to Elisha he ascends in a whirlwind into heaven! Here the link between the prophets of old and Jesus is clearly being made. On top of that, throughout the book of Exodus when Moses would be deep in conversation with God it often appeared to others in the form of clouds.  Within the Old Testament clouds are a display of God’s presence. Jesus going up in a cloud means that God is present.  Jesus’ ascension also makes the link between Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel Chap 7 of “one like a human being coming with clouds of heaven.”

But I can empathize with the disciples. They are just getting comfortable with the idea that Jesus is back in their life when once again he is taken away and at such a key transition in their ministry. This is a new chapter in their lives, a new beginning. New beginnings, new chapters, transitions can be really exciting but they can also be terrifying. Theologian Gilberto Ruiz points out, “Transitions can initiate new beginnings in the aftermath of trauma. The disciples have just undergone a whirlwind of events, from the crucifixion of their leader to their experiences with him as resurrected Lord, and now they await a new phase of relating to him not in body but through the Holy Spirit.” We are on the cusp of a transition- a post-pandemic world, and I’m going to be honest and say, I’m nervous.  I have had numerous conversations with colleagues who feel the same. We just don’t know what church will look like. But thankfully Vancouver School of Theology principal Richard Topping had some advice for us. He said, “God raised Jesus to raise the world to life…the active agent in interpreting scripture or breaking bread is not primarily us but Jesus is the principal agent. .John Calvin said, “Wherever the Word is preached in the power of the holy spirit and bread and wine shared in obedience to Christ renewal can break out at any moment.”” These comments brought us some relief in knowing that no matter what the post-covid church looks like, so long as the focus is on Christ, things will happen! I also think this is why our New Beginnings building project is so exciting. Yes, its a change and transition but it is going to be a new phase in the way we engage with our neighbours.

While it appears that the physical presence of Jesus has gone up, up and away, the presence of Christ abounds through the life and work of the church. The disciples were the first ones to experience this hope in the very real and living presence of Jesus.  It is why the two men in white robes ask them “why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” Basically they are asking them, “what are you going to do now that Jesus has commissioned you to be his witnesses? This isn’t a time to just stand around looking up. This is a new beginning!” We now carry this torch of hope and renewal in a time of transition. Amen

Devotional May 9 2021 Mother’s Day

Devotional:

One of the many things I miss as we continue to live in the shadow of a pandemic is singing together. Don’t get me wrong I still belt out songs on the regular whether I know the words or tune or not. But it has been awhile since I sang with others. My Mom has sung in choirs for most of her life and on this Mother’s day I think of all the songs she has sung in churches as I grew up. I always like trying to pick out her voice from all the others during an anthem.  I’m so thankful that with the choir program we are using to record our hymns that I get to sing with her. I am sure that many of you who sing in choirs know what I mean when I say I miss singing together.  One of the songs that I often sang with others was the hymn Abide with Me  by Henry Francis Lyte. It’s one of those fairly well known classic hymns that carries with it both a hint of melancholy and assurance. I mean truly, the words are filled with sadness and pain but also the knowledge that through our deepest darkness God abides with us. I would argue that one of the reasons why this is a classic hymn is because it mimics some of those heartfelt laments found in the Psalms. “Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.” The author and Anglican minister, Rev. Lyte, suffered poor health most of his life and at age 54 he developed tuberculosis and died. But for 27 years prior to his death he would often read or sing Abide With Me to parishioners who were enduring hardship or death. It was a sort of personal prayer that he would share. It was sung publicly for the first time at Rev. Lyte’s funeral. The hymn is loosely based on Luke 24:29 when Jesus appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus and they ask Jesus to stay with them or abide with them. But I could not help hearing that song as I encountered the gospel passage for this morning.

This is a continuation of last week’s passage and part of a greater piece called Jesus’ Farewell discourse. It is a large section in John that takes place on the night of the last supper. In our text Jesus transitions from the image of the vine that we heard last week and is expanding the meaning of love and abiding that he hinted at earlier in the passage. Jesus says, “If you keep my commandments. You will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” Last week we compared grafting with abiding but this week we look at what “to abide” really means.

Truthfully, the word abide is perhaps one of those slightly archaic church words that most of us don’t use in common speech. It’s like the words bestow or exalt or liturgy- we all have a vague understanding of what the word means because we’ve grown up with them but if you’re new to the church the words seem old fashioned or strange or completely unknown. To me, abide is one of those words.

Eugene Peterson in his paraphrase of the passage doesn’t use the word “abide” but instead says, “make yourself at home in my love.” And that’s not a bad understanding of the word abide but is that all that the word means? To make yourself at home. I mean, when I “make myself at home” it usually means that I dismiss any formal social etiquette. It means I take my shoes off and put my feet up and relax. To abide certainly means to get comfortable and cozy in God’s love but it doesn’t mean get lazy or complacent. What does it mean to abide in love?

The Greek word for abide is meno and it means “to remain” or “to stay”. For example, much earlier in John when Jesus is just starting to gather the disciples, two of them ask Jesus “where are you staying?” and the word they use is meno. To abide, to remain or to stay; or it can mean to reside or to occupy or to live. Imagine instead of abide Jesus said, “as the Father has loved me, so I have love you; occupy in my love.” It draws on some of that radical language of the Occupy Movement.

If we understand the word abide in that way then we need to move on to the question what does it mean to abide in Christ’s love? Theologian Emily Askew points out that, “Love in this passage is not a psychological state, nor is it anywhere described as an internal quality. Love is an action—a really difficult action. The definition of love here is a radical willingness to die—not for your child or spouse, but for a fellow follower of Christ.” To occupy Jesus’ love is not for the faint of heart, its not even for the romantic heart.  To live Jesus’ love is not for the passive heart, despite the fact that the heart is an involuntary muscle. To reside in Jesus’ love is a continuous process in which those branches we referred to last week bear fruit. Here Jesus ties his previous statement of being the vine and we the branches with this image of abiding in love.

Abide also means to remain stable or in a fixed state much like an interwoven vine of grapes. I think this is why Jesus attaches this abiding imagery to the vine and branches metaphor because to abide is a calling. A calling that keeps us connected and dependent on one another. Or more precisely we are connected to God through Christ but in order for this connection to have meaning, it must be reciprocal and that is manifested through our dependence upon each other. Jesus explains this by redefining his relationship with his disciples as his friends. If we are going to abide, or occupy, or reside, or live in Christ’s love it must be displayed through friendship.

Jesus unpacks this language of abiding by saying, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” The disciples are no longer servants or even students of Jesus’ teaching but friends with Jesus. This of course pulled me into another well known classic hymn, “What a Friend we Have in Jesus” which was written by Joseph Scriven who also suffered much in his life including the death of his fiance the day before they were to be married, estrangement from his family over religious difference, and his own severe illness. He wrote the poem while he was living in Bewdley, Ontario near Port Hope after he received word that his mother was ill. He wrote it in a letter to her to try and bring her comfort despite their fractured relationship. “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear, what a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer.”

The Gospel passage finishes with Jesus stating, “I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” To abide in Jesus’ love means friendship. I know this is oversimplifying a very complicated theology, I know I am running the risk of sentimentalizing something very deep, but just think, if every person you encountered, you encountered as a friend, not a stranger, what that would do to the world. I know some of you well enough to know that some of you can strike up a conversation with anyone and in that brief moment a friendship develops even if you never end up knowing their name. I know some of you well enough to know that you are more like me, you keep your guard up and don’t want to engage in conversations. So, I know that for some of us this idea of seeing everyone as your friend is a lot harder to do! But to abide, to occupy, to live in Jesus’ love means a manifested friendship. Because no matter how fast the eventide falls, no matter how deep the darkness gets, no matter how helpless we become, God abides- occupies, resides, lives- with us. Amen

Devotional May 2 2021

I recently visited one of our local wineries, under the guise that I was doing research for this sermon. As I walked among the just budding vines I noticed something interesting; about half way up the trunk there was a change in the plant structure, as if it had been fused together. When I enquired if the plant was okay. The vintner explained that they prefer to graft their grapevines to a different rootstock. The roots have evolved to resist certain diseases and fungi that are very common in this growing climate but because they want a variety of grapes they graft different varietals to the heartier roots. And as I listened with intent I thought to myself, A-HA! I’ve got my meditation introduction!  It wasn’t until 1864 when grapevines in France began to decline sharply due to a pest that had been introduced from North America that vintners began to graft grapes. Now almost all wines grown in France are grafted to a North American rootstock that is resistant to this pest. Grafting technology is not a new invention within farming. An ancient Chinese farming manual from 6th century CE talks about how to graft pear plants to crab apple stock to increase harvest. But it is actually Paul in his letter to the Romans who writes one of the earliest evidence of grafting practices. In Romans 11: 17 he says, “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches.” In this passage he is speaking directly to Gentiles and explaining how they have been grafted into God’s kingdom.

Last week we heard how Jesus called himself the good shepherd and how he listens not only to his own flock but to the lost sheep outside the fold, hinting at a broader depth to his role as God’s son. This week we hear another “I am” statement. Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.” So, here we have another “I am” metaphor that Jesus builds upon verse by verse. And I’m going to be honest, unlike the shepherd metaphor, I totally identify with this image….I think. But again, just like Jesus qualified his comment about being the good shepherd, so Jesus says “I am the true vine”. This is essentially implying that there are many false vines. Jesus might be referring to the corrupt religious leadership of the day that was distorting the law. Jesus might be referring to false messiahs, all claiming to have a special connection to God. But I tend to believe that Jesus is stating that there is a lot in this world that can give us a superficial sense of worth. Sources of energy that can give us comfort but inevitability do not provide us with the life that Jesus can offer. Distractions that can take us off course under the pretence of being something worthy. Therefore Jesus is the true vine.

And if that’s the case, then God is the vinegrower. God knows the plants, studies their development, provides the right growing conditions and removes and prunes as necessary. However, it is the next line about abiding that made me think of grafting. We will dive much deeper into what this word “abide” means next week but we get a sampler of it today. Jesus appears to abruptly switch gears and talks of abiding in him as he abides in us but he explains that this is because the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, it must abide in the vine. Now, I know, vines and branches are not the same as roots but essentially on a grapevine the branches and vine are one. They must be grafted to something of strength in order to grow. The root must run deep and be resistant to the many dangers that face a plant, particularly in an ever changing climate. I like to think of the root as the Trinity- all that God is, is found in one strong core. It is the foundation upon which we grow. And Jesus explains that there is part of his person that is the vine, reaching out, in teaching and healing, so that the branches can bear fruit. All of which provides the right growing conditions for a fruit bearing vine.

But in this analogy what is the role of the Holy Spirit in all this? Now, bear with me because I’m about to develop this vine metaphor even more. I can remember my elementary teacher Mme. Peltier teaching us about photosynthesis. This incredible  process by which a plant converts light energy into chemical energy which transforms into oxygen and sugars. The sugar helps the plant grow and the oxygen, helps us live. While it is all easily scientifically proven I think that there is still mystery to such an involved process, especially when it is for something as basic as plants. But if I were to develop and deepen this fruit bearing metaphor a little more I would include photosynthesis- an unseen process that gives life and strength. That’s the holy spirit in my books. Without it we can not grow.

So where do we go from here? Jesus says, I am the vine, you are the branches and God is the vinegrower and I have built on this to include the process by which the plant flourishes to reflect the holy spirit, and the trinity upon which this is all grafted is the root.       But what is it to bear fruit? A healthy plant does not have one spindly branch but many branches. This draws on the idea that fruit bearing is not a completely individual practice. It requires the community. Director of the Styberg Preaching Institute, Gennifer Benjamin Brooks says, “bearing fruit means engaging for ourselves as individuals and as the church in those activities and tasks that recognize and invest in the goodness of God’s love by spreading that love to the neighbour whom we are called to love. The specifics of bearing fruit are left to the community as a whole and to each individual who receives the nurture that both Christ and the community provide…Yes we are individuals, but as Christians the individualism so admired by the world must take a back seat to the reality that all that we are and have are a result of the abiding grace of God.”

Community has taken on a new meaning as we all individually participate in this service some watch or listen live, some at a time that works best for them. But many comment on how we can see how many views a service has. Originally I thought it was part of our YouTube culture- we want to see if this is going to “go viral” but I actually think it is because it creates a sense of community. We know that there are others who have seen this service.  We are participating in this together. It is a way for us to feel connected but also a way for us to branch out. Always rooted to the trinity. Growing through the unseen mystery of the Holy Spirit. And in this way we abide in Christ, and Christ in us, and we together as disciples. Cheers! Amen

Devotional April 25 2021

Not having much, actually any, experience as a shepherd I have always struggled with the metaphor of being a shepherd, which may explain why I don’t use the word pastor all that often. However, I recently encountered a metaphor that does appeal to me. Minister and author Craig Barnes wrote in his latest book, Diary of a Pastor’s Soul that he has always been uneasy with thinking of himself as the shepherd of the congregation. That role belongs to Jesus Christ. He writes, “It’s far more helpful to think of myself as a sheepdog that nudges sheep toward the only Saviour of the flock…like all sheepdogs I have to be more attentive to the Good Shepherd than to many other agendas in a congregation. Jesus doesn’t call us to take on every need that comes our way.” While sheepdogs are various breeds like Border Collies or Shelties all sheepdogs are smart, have a loud bark and shed a lot. So yeah with my great intelligence, loud voice and often shedding hair, I definitely identify more with sheepdogs than shepherds. In this morning’s gospel lesson Jesus really builds on the shepherd metaphor which, if you’re like me with very limited shepherding experience, can be troublesome.  The relief comes in the fact that Jesus clearly points to himself as the shepherd not us. 

Jesus also does something strange with the image by calling himself the “good” shepherd. I’ve often wondered why he felt the need to qualify that. The thing is that shepherds were viewed with contempt in 1st century Palestine, so it is a very strange thing to compare oneself to a shepherd. They were poor, smelly, and had a reputation for inappropriate behaviour. While shepherding people was a metaphor for leadership, particularly religious leadership, for much of Israel’s history, it too was often used in a derogatory way.  In fact, the prophet Ezekiel, in chapter 34 of his book really digs into the people who are supposed to be leading Israel and calls them false shepherds. Those who were supposed to be looking after the flock of Israel have done nothing but look out for themselves- thus leading the sheep into exile. I’m not going to preach on Ezekial 34 but I would commend it to you for reading at another time because  when read through the lens of filthy leadership or a leadership that cares only about themselves and not the poor, I find it uncomfortably too close to our own reality. 

And, before we think that Jesus came up with this shepherd metaphor all on his own we have to look at the long use of the analogy through out the Old Testament. I already mentioned Ezekiel, which was written around the 8th century BCE but as early as Genesis when Jacob bestows his last words to his sons, he declares that his son Joseph will be blessed by the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel. And of course, there is the familiar and comforting shepherding language found throughout the psalms, particularly Psalm 23. 

The reasons that Jesus has to declare himself as the good shepherd is twofold. One, he wants to make the comparison between himself and the one prophesied about in Ezekiel and two, because people didn’t expect shepherds to be good.  In the original Greek the term “good” can also be translated as noble or beautiful. This nobility of the shepherd is certainly reflected in the second line of our gospel text in which it says that the good shepherd or noble shepherd is willing to die for the sheep. 

We tend to sentimentalize this image of a shepherd and there is a danger to this too. Sure, it’s very bucolic, the idea of a shepherd in a lovely field surrounded by fluffy docile sheep but that’s not what shepherding is about. It is a costly job that often places the shepherd in danger.  Shepherds were expected to fight off any predators. Unlike a hired hand who will run away at the first threat a shepherd steps in to protect their sheep. And it’s hard work, being outdoors in all kinds of weather at all times of the day or night- this is likely one of the many reasons that I don’t like to call myself a shepherd- I love the outdoors but don’t have the stamina to do it 24hrs a day in all-weather conditions. Jesus is stating that not only is he good but he is the right one for the job. He is the one who will be able to contend with all the challenges that his helpless sheep find themselves in. 

Then there is another key point that is made by Jesus about what kind of shepherd he will be. Not only will he be good, or noble and will lay his life down, not only is he the right one for the job with the courage, strength, and endurance to face the challenges. But will he know his sheep. He will know every cry, he will know every bleat and baaaah. We are known better by Jesus then we know ourselves. And on top of that he will keep an ear out for those bleats he doesn’t recognize. This shepherd won’t just look out for his own flock but for any lost sheep that come his way. Jesus says, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” Here we get an inkling of the depth of God’s not only redemptive but universal love. 

Craig Barnes goes on to say, “Our delight has to come from helping others gather around the Good Shepherd. Thinking of myself as a sheepdog saves me from the illusion that the pastor is necessary. I am cherished and called by the Shepherd to serve the flock. But I can save no one. Getting off that hook is the best way I know to handle the inevitable failures in ministry and still enjoy a long tenure of service to a congregation.” And guess what, you’re all in this with me. You’re sheepdogs too. Our job, is to be the sheepdogs, the constant companions to the shepherd. Training our ears to the commands and yapping our way in the follow through. So, bark bark, let’s hear what the Good shepherd is calling us to do. Amen. 

Devotional April 18 2021

One of my favourite camp songs was “Peace Like A River.” It had some great
actions and went something like this, “I’ve got peace like a river, I got peace like a river,I’ve got peace like a river in my soul (in my soul). I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river,I’ve got peace like a river in my soul.” The song goes on to sing, “I’ve got joy like a fountain and love like an ocean.” With increasingly more difficult actions. The song gets its lyrics from a mish-mash of Biblical verses. It was Isaiah who often referred to
peace being like a river. Joy like a fountain likely also stems from Isaiah but there is a great passage in Romans that says, my God, the fountain of hope, fill you with overwhelming joy (Romans 15:13) and love like an ocean may come from the Psalms Here’s the thing, it only recently dawned on me that rivers aren’t always peaceful. A walk to Nymph Falls will tell you that rivers can rage! As Spring sets in and big melts take place we know that floods can happen and can wreak havoc on communities. I love swimming
in the Quinsam River but you wouldn’t catch me dabbling in the Campbell River just on the other side of the highway. What does it mean to have peace like a river?
I actually think that the Scripture lesson for this morning can help answer that question. We celebrated Easter two weeks ago- and so many of us have moved on from the resurrection story. But in our lesson this morning we are actually still on the day of resurrection. Jesus has already shown himself to two disciples while they were walking to Emmaus. These two have rushed back to Jerusalem to tell their friends and as they are discussing what this could all mean, Jesus appears and declares, “Peace be with you.”
When Jesus begins this conversation and says, “Peace, be with you” we can argue that this was simply a common greeting of the time, and so we shouldn’t read anything into it. But in Greek the word means security, safety and prosperity as well as tranquility. It’s likely that Jesus said, “Shalom”, often a greeting shared between Jews but again it’s meaning
goes deeper to include contentment or wholeness, even harmony. I think it is important for us to think of peace in this way. That it can mean security and safety even when the world is in chaos but it can also mean harmony with the chaos. Jesus is assuring his disciples that even though they have just experienced the most tumultuous few days that all is well
with the world. That if the waters of a wild river are raging around them they can be assured of God’s presence around them.
So Jesus greets them with, “Peace be with you” but instead of peace, the disciples are startled and terrified and they think they are seeing a ghost. If you grew up with Saturday morning cartoons, like I did, then you might even imagine a scene from Scooby Doo- with Scooby jumping into the arms of Shaggy who declares, “a ggggghooost!” Here Jesus is offering peace but their fear, their doubts, their bewilderment, their confusion, all
those unknowns, are swirling around them, like a whirl pool in a river.

Then Jesus does everything he can to prove to them that he is really there-
completely present with them. He tells them to look at his hands and feet. Tells them to touch him so that they can feel his flesh and bones, to feel his body heat radiating off him.
To feel his human-ness. But still the disciples can’t believe their eyes or sense of touch, they are still disbelieving and wondering- so Jesus does the most human thing he can think of, he eats in their presence. Its been so long since we have had a meal physically together, and so it’s possible that we forget what it is like to gather among friends for dinner- how
human that action can be, the wonderful combination of laughter or conversation, and nourishment. Jesus provides peace amongst their turmoil by returning to what they did best- talking and eating together. It is in this moment that their doubt and unbelieving is transformed.
The disciples are transformed from frightened followers to wondering witnesses.
Jesus, opens up their minds to understand the scripture in such a powerful way that less than two months later Peter will transform from a fumbling fisherman to a prophetic preacher. And they are witnesses of these things. They are witnesses to the life, death, and now resurrection of Jesus. As witnesses they are now not only part of the story of God and God’s people but are now tasked with providing this peace. And they will provide it by
proclaiming repentance and forgiveness to all nations. They are to be indiscriminate with how they dispense this peace, a peace that doesn’t not really mean calm from the raging waters but rather calm within the raging waters.
Mike has a t-shirt from the Saugeen river society in Ontario that says, “Advice from a river; Go with the flow, immerse yourself in nature, be thoughtful of those downstream, stay current, the beauty is in the journey.” Perhaps this is what the term peace like a river means. I honestly think that this is good advie for Jesus’ disciples too- because if they thought that this was the wildest day of their life- a day that started with the women
telling them about two men dressed in dazzling white by Jesus’ tomb, and then had two of their friends, who were supposed to be in Emmaus running back to declare that they had seen Jesus- to this moment when Jesus talked through the night with them about the Scriptures-if they think that this is the wildest day then they are about to embark on a wild ride as they preach and proclaim, as they witness to the life, death and resurrection of
Jesus.
Their going to need the Holy Spirit’s help as they try to “go with the flow” and have peace like a river and thankfully that’s on the horizon for them too. But now, it’s up to us- we’re the witnesses, we’re the ones who are to proclaim repentance and forgiveness, we’re the ones who are to offer peace. We have experienced some pretty wild turmoil the last year and a bit. And it may not be calming down any time soon but the world is in need of peace, the peace that Jesus’ presence provides. We too need to go with the flow,
immerse ourselves in God’s creation, be thoughtful of those downstream, stay current and find the beauty in the journey- even when we have our doubts or chaos is around us. But that’s what having peace like a river means to me. Peace be with you. Amen

Devotional April 11 2021 (PWS&D)

Message- Written by Andrea Perrett, convener of the PWS&D Committee

It is a fair statement to say that 2020 was a difficult year and we know that the
challenges continue. We are not in the midst of a 100-yard-dash, rather we find ourselves
in the middle of a marathon. Covid-19 has impacted us all personally; perhaps your work
has changed, your children are at home with you, or you have been personally affected by
the virus. The coronavirus has also impacted communities; businesses are closing, and our
recreation programs and group activities are no longer available.
And the pandemic has definitely impacted congregations; whether you are able to
worship in person, or are staying online, for the first time in our memory our churches
have shuttered their doors and our worship services have been altered for the foreseeable
future, with the familiar singing, passing of the peace and coffee hours being reimagined.
The impact of COVID-19 goes beyond the borders of our country, too. As a
global pandemic, there isn’t a nation that has not had its health or economic situation
affected: sadly, many countries were already running the marathon against food insecurity
or poverty long before Covid-19 became a reality.
While the Covid-19 pandemic is extraordinary, it’s safe to say that we have all
had things we struggle with throughout our lives. When the pandemic is a distant memory,
we will still have sorrows, regrets and losses to contended with in all the important aspects
of our lives.
The Bible is a source of comfort and strength for me, especially over the past
months. And as I have spoken with others, I have been encouraged by the variety and

depth of the scriptures that they have been sustained by during this time.
One of the PWS&D Champions read Psalm 91 earlier in this service. This
scripture says, “You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of
the Almighty, will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I
trust.’” I have found myself particularly drawn to this Psalm as a reminder of where I can
find my shelter and strength. It is comforting to know that for thousands of years, great
clouds of witnesses—including Christ—have also been seeking comfort and strength in
these words.
Empathy is another thing I have been turning towards and grounding myself in
these days. Life is difficult – I know that I am in need of empathy from others, and I am
trying hard to use a hardy dose of empathy with others – simply acknowledging and
understanding another’s suffering. Empathy is one of the foundational values that underlay
our Christian witnessing. Ruth shows us empathy while journeying with Naomi and Jesus
embodies empathy in action when feeding the five thousand. Paul reminds us to be
empathetic with others, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep”
(Romans 12:15), and the second half of the Great Commandment, love your neighbour as
yourself, encourages us to take a posture of empathy. For me, drawing close to God in
Scripture and practising empathy go hand in hand.
We take on a posture of empathy because we first experienced empathy from God
being empathetic with us. Through the incarnation of Jesus, God joined in with our human
story and experienced the depths of life. Simply put, Jesus understands us. He felt the joy
of friendship, the pain of rejection, and died a human death. We know what empathy is
because we have experienced it from God. As we grow more into the likeness and image
of Christ, we begin to take on a deeper posture of empathy—and we act on it. Today, on
PWS&D Sunday, we are reminded that our work of supporting PWS&D – of responding
and lifting up other people and communities around the world—is a witness to God’s
empathy, care and compassion for people.
During these extraordinary times, PWS&D’s partners around the world remain
deeply committed to their work, no matter what is going on related to the pandemic. While
need was great prior to the pandemic, meeting ever increasing need has become even more
challenging. One of our partners from Malawi commented, “Since the beginning
of the outbreak, we have never stopped working.” Our partners are so conscious of the
vital difference the programs are making at the community level, that they continue despite
the difficulties and personal risks. In many areas the pandemic has amplified the needs
that were already present. For example, in Somalia a profound lack of resources and rising
food prices due to COVID-19 have meant that many simply cannot access what is needed
to sustain their own health and that of their children.
Single mother Fatuma lives in a camp with her two-year-old daughter Hawa. A few
months ago Hawa was very sick as she was malnourished and severely underweight.
Fatuma brought her daughter to a nearby clinic supported by PWS&D, which she had
heard about from others in the camp. “I was worried Hawa would die,” recounts Fatuma.
“She spent 12 days in the stabilization centre where she was given medicine, nutritional
feeding and received a transfusion. I was also given meals while she was admitted.”
Now, Fatuma can hold her daughter close, knowing Hawa has made a full recovery.
Through Canadian Foodgrains Bank, in countries like Somalia and Afghanistan, PWS&D
is responding to increased food needs due to COVID-19 by ensuring that families and children have the food they need to survive.

In a number of countries, PWS&D has supported local partners as they repurpose program funds to provide COVID-19 support. Even as we work to carry on with our long-
term sustainable development work, families have received food kits, as well as hygiene and sanitation items, including hand soap and disinfectant wipes. Lester, a recipient of
these items commented, “I’m so thankful for your support, for the masks, for these small
expressions of love. We’re so thankful. Honestly, we didn’t have access to buy these
things since we’re so far out. But now, thanks to you, we have masks, and won’t have to
use our little bit of money to buy them. Thankfully you are here supporting us with these.
We’re so thankful.”
Part of finding our shelter with God is taking steps to extend that shelter to others
around us. As a denomination, our support of programs like this, driven by our empathy,
help to provide comfort and refuge to others around the world. When we see people
seeking the comfort and refuge of God, we are called to use empathy to invite them into
God’s embrace.
This has been a difficult time for us as individuals, as congregations and as
nations around the world. And it seems like the coming months will continue to be
difficult. Yet, as we turn towards God to sustain us during these hard times, we find that
God’s care, comfort and empathy is not limited or finite. As we draw close and find refuge
in God’s shadow during these uncertain times, let us work together to reflect this care to
others and invite them into God’s care as well.
God sides with the vulnerable. Right now, it might seem like we are all vulnerable
– but God is big enough to shelter each of us and to come along side us in our hurt and
suffering. There is plenty of room in the shadow of the Almighty, where we can all find
comfort and refuge.