Tuesday, 7 April 2020

COVID-19, Tuesday, April 7

Dear Church Family,
Does it feel like today is another day about, well, nothing?  That’s how the Seinfeld sitcom described itself – a show about nothing. For many, today stretches out in front of us like another day of nothing. The days between Palm Sunday and Good Friday can feel rather vague as well.  Typically, we go to church on Palm Sunday and then anticipate the following weekend. But those days of the Passion week were far from empty for Jesus.

On this day, Tuesday, Jesus cursed the fig tree for not bearing fruit.  Then he said this:  “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22).

Don’t make today a day of nothing. Go trim a fig tree, or at least rake some leaves; look for the supermoon tonight, if the sky is clear; spend some time in prayer.  Today is another gift from God, and “Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees takes off his shoes.” Elizabeth Barret Browning.
Pastor Rita

Monday, 6 April 2020

COVID-19, Monday, April 6, 2020

Dear Church Family,

We are entering the “hardest, saddest week” of all time.  That’s what the president of the US has said. It’s also what scripture says.  This is Holy Week, the week leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus.  In my daily messages this week, we will be walking with Jesus as he draws closer to the cross. The chronology in the four gospels differs on some details, but that’s ok.

Yesterday Jesus rode into Jerusalem and then went to the temple.  The Gospel of Mark (11:11) says that he looked around at everything and then went home because it was late. It was the next day, Monday, when he went into the temple courts and threw over the tables of the flea market vendors.
On Sunday, Jesus may have smiled sadly.  On Monday, he is angry. But his anger was calculated, measured, intentional and well-placed.  He had seen how his Father’s house had become a den of thieves.  And then he had waited until the next day to deal with it, and deal with it he did!

You have probably had days when you could celebrate, or at least smile. But you’ve probably also been angry – angry at the closing of our parks, angry at those who aren’t doing the physical distancing, angry at a Louisiana Pastor who still hold services at his church building. Maybe you’ve even been angry at God. Jesus understands.

Yes, this may be the hardest and saddest week in terms of the COVID crisis.  Ironic, isn’t it, that it happens during Holy Week, truly the hardest and saddest week of all time.
Pastor Rita

Sunday, 5 April 2020

COVID-19 April 5, 2020

Dear Church Family,

I do not like them in a house.
I do not like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like green eggs and ham.
I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

Someone sent me an email message this week that reminded me of that book by Dr. Seuss – Green Eggs and Ham. The email talked about preaching in places other than church.  And I thought, I do not like preaching to an empty church. I do not like preaching without having music. I do not like preaching in a house. And I suppose I wouldn’t much care for preaching with a mouse.

But the email message was a reminder that Jesus preached from a boat, on a hillside, in the streets, in a garden, by the seaside, at the temple, in a house, and on a cross. 

That’s a pretty good model to follow.  Paul instructs his protégé, Timothy, to “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season…(II Timothy 4:2).

It’s time to try some new things, like preaching from home, and doing church at home. And while we long for the day when we can gather again, let’s make the best of things.  Who knows, we may even like it.

You do not like them.
So you say.
Try them! Try them!
And you may.
Try them and you may, I say.
…Say, I like green eggs and ham!
I do, I like them, Sam-I-am.
And I would eat them in a boat.
And I would eat them with a goat…
I will eat them here and there.
Say, I will eat them anywhere!

Pastor Rita

Saturday, 4 April 2020

COVID-19, April 4, 2020

Dear Church Family,

We hear so many numbers every day.  In an article in the paper this morning- just one article- 3,000, 5,000, 80,000, 900, 3,255, 2,793, 100,000, 6,000, 12,500, 300,000. And I probably missed a few.  A know some people who love numbers.  Put a spreadsheet in front of them or a three-year budget projection and they light up like a Christmas tree.

Interpreting the numbers requires a bit of effort on our part.  If someone quoted on building a deck for you, and they said it would cost between $3,000 and $15,000, you’d send him home to sharpen his pencil.  That sort of a range doesn’t mean a whole lot.

We don’t know how many people will contract the corona virus.  We don’t know how many thousands of lives will be lost.  What we do know is the one.  The one cousin, the one father-in-law, the one grandbaby who is in the hospital.

The numbers only mean something when the mean someone. 

The bible tosses around a lot of numbers too. About Old Testament battles and the sizes of the armies; about how Jesus fed 5,000+ people in one sitting, about how 3,000 people came to Christ after Peter’s sermon in Acts (2:41); about the 144,000 who would be redeemed from the earth (Revelation 14:2).  So many numbers.  It can make your mind go numb. Estimates, exaggerations, symbolism, representation.

These numbers too, only mean something when they point us to someone.
Caiaphas, the High Priest in the first century, said this about Jesus:  “It is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” 

When all those numbers that are being tossed around start getting to you, remember the one:  Jesus.  Find a church service tomorrow, ok?  There are lots out there, including ours on the Ancaster CRC website.
Pastor Rita

Friday, 3 April 2020

COVID-19, April 3, 2020

Dear Church Family,

Sometime this afternoon, our Premier is going to address us and share data from models predicting the rate and spread of infection from the novel coronavirus.  He has warned reporters that the data will be “stark.”

We can only wonder about his rationale for doing this. I don’t expect the news will instill much hope in us and it certainly won’t alleviate any fears.  But on the other hand, maybe there are some who still need to hear the message that this is serious, that lives will be lost and that we can do our part to make things better.

Makes sense.  We need to read our Bibles in the same way.  God is terribly angry about sin.  Hell is real. Eternal damnation is no joke. Jesus warns that if we disown him before others, Jesus will disown us before our Father in heaven (Matthew 10:33).  If you do not forgive others, God will not forgive you (Matthew 6:15).  Anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement, and anyone who calls someone a fool will be in danger of the fire of hell (Matthew 5:22).  This language should instill fear in our hearts.

Our fears are real. But our fear shouldn’t paralyze us or cause us to despair. Instead, our fear should send us into the arms of the One who tells us over and over again, “do not be afraid.” There are lots of verses in the Bible where God tells us not to fear.  I leave you with this one, Isaiah 41:10:  “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Pastor Rita

Thursday, 2 April 2020

COVID-19, April 2, 2020

Dear Church Family,

While my daytime activities seem sorta normal, I’m feeling the biggest change in my life in the evenings. I used to be out for meetings and visits and gatherings as often as four nights a week, which could be exhausting at times. But now I’m home every night.  They say, “be careful what you wish for!”  While the circumstances are far from ideal, I do enjoy being home in the evening.

If I’m not in a Zoom meeting, or playing online euchre with our kids, Gerald and I are watching The Crown on Netflix.  During each episode, we’ll google the historicity of what is being depicted – the great smog of London in 1952, the Suez Crisis in 1956, and last night it was the 1966 coal disaster in Aberfan where 116 children died.

During last night’s episode, Prince Philip’s mother asks him how his faith is doing.  “Dormant,” he replies. Princess Alice says that faith is the best gift a parent can give a child.  And then she says this:  “Faith helps. No, it doesn’t help – it’s everything.”

Faith is everything. Hebrews 11, that great faith chapter, says that “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  How we need such faith today.  With confidence in our God, “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1,2).

Pastor Rita

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

COVID-19, April 1

Dear Church Family,

Nature abhors a vacuum. These long days, of being cooped up in our homes, can have a lot of empty space in them.  Maybe you are remembering, in some vague sort of way, that there was a time in your life when there weren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things you needed to do, let alone the things you wanted to do.

According to the laws of nature and physics, empty or unfilled spaces are unnatural. Wherever there is a void, the universe seeks to fill it. This applies also to those 24 hours that make up each of your days.  When we were kids, we didn’t dare say that we were bored.  We lived on a farm and mom and dad would readily assign us to chores that would relieve us of our boredom, tasks that often included a broom or a garden hoe, or (horror) a vacuum.

Today try to recall that list from years ago, the one where you had listed all those things you would do if you had the time.  Start the read-the-bible-in-one year; I’m sure there’s an app for that. Learn to play the guitar.  Take up knitting, or painting, or writing poetry, or reading philosophy.  I always wanted to write more, so that’s what I’m doing.

In the very first chapter of the bible, Genesis 1:28, God commands us to  “…fill the earth and subdue it.”  We call this the cultural mandate.  That command, to explore and develop and create and grow doesn’t come to an abrupt halt during the COVID crisis.

Honour God today, by filling your vacuum.
Pastor Rita