Thursday, 30 April 2020

COVID-19, Thursday, April 30


Dear Church Family,

The way numbers are tossed around during this Corona Virus pandemic can become very confusing – data, statistics, totals. The number of deaths attributed to the virus has risen to over 200,000.  And then I read this reminder in the spring newsletter from World Renew that showed up in my mailbox this week: “On January 12, 2010, [an earthquake hit in Haiti]. In a matter of moments, nearly 300,000 people lost their lives.”  300,000.

The COVID-19 crisis has struck close to home and so it is no wonder that it takes up so much of our energy and attention.  Each life lost is a tragedy. But in the meantime, ten years later, the people of Haiti are still recovering from a tragedy that struck so many more people than COVID-19 has. 1.5 million people were displaced; thousands of families were left with nothing.

Please don’t forget about our brothers and sisters who don’t live right next door.  Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

As we grumble our way through these days of isolation, consider how we might love others as we love ourselves.  Maybe sign up for World Renew’s “Free a Family” program.  It’s the least we can do, for the least of these brothers and sisters.
Pastor Rita

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

COVID-19, April 29, 2020


Dear Church Family,

My grandson Nolan is wearing a hat these days .  That’s because his dad performed his first ever hair cut on the young man (this is the "before" picture).  As we like to say in our family, after a bad hair cut: it will heal.  This is the era of trying new things isn’t it!

Last night our church tried something new:  we held our first every online prayer service.  It was really good to be together.  There were 51 screens active, some with two people. I’m sure that for some it was a first, connecting over a Zoom conference call.

We spent our time in Scripture and prayer, bringing before God our deepest needs, mostly regarding the Corona Virus pandemic.  We prayed for our seniors and those in long term care residences, for our health care workers, for teachers and students, for our church, for those who struggle financially and for those who are lonely and discouraged.  And we also gave thanks.

Prayer is not a new thing.  And it’s more than placing before God the list of things we need and want.  Prayer is also “the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us,” to quote the Heidelberg Catechism.  Pray is how we stay connected with God.  And what a joy it was, last night, to connect with God and with his people at the same time.  

“Call on me,” says God, “in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honour me,” Psalm 50:15.
Pastor Rita


Tuesday, 28 April 2020

COVID-19, Tuesday, April 28


Dear Church Family,

Over the weekend, I pulled out my sewing machine and made a couple of masks.  I want to be ready in case things start to open up and the requirement is that we wear face masks.  It’s important that we not become complacent about the future; that we resign ourselves to the current state of affairs.  Things will not always be like they are today.

The teacher in Ecclesiastes reminds us that “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Eccl 3:1). This may be the time to stay home, but the time is coming when we will get back to work and to school and to church and to our families and friends.  Let’s be ready for when that time comes.

Psalm 90:12: Teach us, Lord, to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Pastor Rita


Monday, 27 April 2020

COVID-19, Monday, April 27


Dear Church Family,

Those of you have enjoy bird feeders know that it’s a challenger to keep the squirrels away from your feeder.  This morning I had a different guest.  A raccoon was on our deck railing, contemplating how he might access the treat that dangled four feet away from him. 

Animals are getting a little braver lately, with fewer people around.  If you haven’t seen the news reports and videos about this, you have to look them up – they are so fun. Deer are strolling down the streets in Paris. Jellyfish are floating in the canals in Venice. Mountain goats are grazing on the church lawn in Wales. 

If you didn’t see it for yourself, you might not believe it. God’s promises are like that, aren’t they.  They sound too good to be true. 

“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and lion and the yearling together… The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together…”  Those words are from Isaiah 11:6-9. 

Poetry? Metaphor? Symbolism? Or a promise of what will really happen one day?  Check out the pictures on line, and you decide! 
Pastor Rita

ps the raccoon gave up

Sunday, 26 April 2020

COVID-19, Sunday, April 26


Dear Church Family,

My daughter-in-law is trying to get her kids to journal through these COVID-19 days.  I don’t think it’s going too well!  Too bad, because years from now, we’ll all look back and try to remember how we felt, what we did, how we passed the days.

Remembering is important.  While crossing the dried-up Jordan River, the priests chose twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan.  They set them up on the opposite bank as a monument, a memorial, to serve as a sign.  This account is in Joshua 4, if you’d like to read it.  Vs 6 says this:  “In the future, when your children ask you ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them [what happened here.]” 

Remembering is about looking back to see God’s faithfulness so that you can look forward and count on that same faithfulness.  My last three messages at ACRC will, of course, include some remembering, recalling the seven years I  spent with this church.  Join us in worship this morning.  

You can find today’s service on our website www.anacastercrc.org .
Pastor Rita

Saturday, 25 April 2020

COVID-19, Saturday, April 25


Dear Church Family,

Good news out of New Brunswick.  Effective immediately, outdoor spaces, such as parks, beaches and golf courses are reopening. And people can choose one other household to partner with to form a "two-family bubble."  A plan to reopen Ontario will be released next week.  I think our political leaders might be familiar with Proverbs 13:12:  “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” because  those items are instilling in us a glimmer of hope.

Hope is such a precious thing, and no one knows that better than us Christians.  Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31); we can put our hope in God’s unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).  And my favourite verse: “and hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5).

We don’t know what the plan for Ontario looks like, and we don’t know the time frame.  But we can be hopeful that God will see us through this.
Pastor Rita

Friday, 24 April 2020

COVID-19, Friday, April 24


Dear Church Family,

I’m wearing my red sweater this morning.  I haven’t worn it since Christmas.  Today I wear it under very different circumstances.  We’ve been asked to wear red today as a tribute to the tragic loss of RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson and the other victims in the Nova Scotia shootings. 

Red to celebrate and red to grieve.  Both the joy of Jesus’ coming to earth as a baby and the heartbreak of the loss of those lives remind us that there is something much bigger than our immediate circumstances. Science can’t explain either of these events, even though science seems to have been elevated to the status of a religion these days.

Continue to put your faith in God.  Trust him today.  A word from God for all those who wear red today, for all those who are lonely, fearful, worried:
“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.” (Isaiah 41:10).

I’m not sure I’ll leave the house today, red sweater and all, but with many Canadians, I pray today that those grieving families in Nova Scotia will be upheld by God’s righteous right hand.
Pastor Rita
#WearRedFriday  #NovaScotiaStrong


Thursday, 23 April 2020

COVID-19, Thursday, April 23


Dear Church Family,

What does church mean to you?  What do you miss about not going to church? Who is Jesus to you? 
Those are some of the questions we talked about in my final class with six great students.  We have been meeting for several months in what we call a “profession of faith” class.  These six young people would like to stand up and say that they love Jesus and want to live for him.  And they want to do that publicly.  That’s the tricky part!

Romans 10:9 says this:  “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” That’s a pretty awesome promise. Is it that simple?  Yes, it is.  And these students want to do this.
 
We’ll probably wait for the “public profession” part until we can gather in church again.  I hope to come back to Ancaster for that event. In the meantime, my heart is full, knowing that these students believe that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead.  What a joy, to get to know them. They got to know me a bit better too. A couple of them admitted that they were a bit nervous when we started our classes.  But in the words of one young woman, “it was pretty chill.” 
Have a great day everyone, and “be chill.”
Pastor Rita


Wednesday, 22 April 2020

COVID-19, Wednesday, April 22


Dear Church Family,

In many of the conversations I’ve had lately, people continue to struggle with the “why” question. Why is God allowing this to happen? Is this part of his big plan?  Someone shared with me an article from the NY Times, addressing this struggle and I draw from that article.

Theologian N.T. Wright says that, instead of seeking explanations for our present disaster, we should “recover the biblical tradition of lament,” an expression of solidarity both with our fellow humans and with God himself, who… grieves for his people’s infidelity and in the person of Jesus weeps for Lazarus. The Christian tradition, Wright argues, doesn’t require us to “explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain — and to lament instead.”

Ok, true. And yet, there’s more to be said.

Father Thomas Joseph White writes this:   there is a religious duty to interpret the present moment, not just seek to endure it or escape. “What does it mean that God has permitted (or willed) temporary conditions in which our elite lifestyle of international travel is grounded, our consumption is cut to a minimum, our days are occupied with basic responsibilities toward our families and immediate communities, our resources and economic hopes are reduced, and we are made more dependent upon one another? 

Asking these questions, White says, does not imply crude or simple answers… But we should still seek after them, because if there is any message Christians can carry from Good Friday and Easter to a world darkened by a plague, it’s that meaningless suffering is the goal of the devil, and bringing meaning out of suffering is the saving work of God.

Perhaps in some small way, as we read in Romans 8:17, we are “co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his suffering in order that we may also share in his glory.”
Pastor Rita

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

COVID-19, Tuesday, April 21


Dear Church Family,

We’re not there yet.  While there have been some positive signs of the Corona Virus leveling off, there are still new outbreaks happening. There has been some cautious discussion of reopening, but there is also fear that it might be too soon. And outside of COVID-19, we have heard of yet more victims in the Nova Scotia shooting.

We’re not through this yet, and so, last night at our zoom meeting, our church consistory agreed to have a prayer meeting next week.  If you are part of Ancaster church, and we have your email address, you will be invited to be part of this prayer service. If you are not on this list, perhaps you could mark the date and time, and pray wherever you may be – next Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m.

Philippians 4:6:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
And James 5:16:  “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Prayer is our first line of defense.

Pastor Rita

Monday, 20 April 2020

COVID-19, Monday, April 20


Dear Church Family,

Most of us have come to terms, in some way, with how COVID-19 has impacted our lives.  We’re staying home, we’re physically distancing when we do go out, we’re doing church and school at home. We don’t like it, but we’re ok with it.

And then this – a mass shooting in Nova Scotia.  Quiet, peaceful Nova Scotia.  Sixteen people killed, plus the gunman. We’ve been to Nova Scotia; we know people there.  On the news this morning, the television host interviewed a pastor and asked him for a word of comfort and hope.  And I wondered, how would I have answered that question?  How do I answer that question this morning?

I’ll leave you with two verses.  First, that God says he will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). Never. And secondly, this promise from Jesus, “I am coming soon,” and to which we reply “Amen. Come Lord Jesus,” (Revelation 22:20). Not to take us away to some ethereal place in the clouds, but to have Jesus come back here, to this hurting world, and make all things new and good and beautiful.  Amen, Come Lord Jesus.

Pastor Rita

Sunday, 19 April 2020

COVID-19, Sunday, April 19


Dear Church Family,

I hope you are having a good Sunday. And that your Sunday includes worship-- worship that honours God and that you can enjoy.  That part, enjoying worship, is a great thing.  Yes, worship is about God, but God knew what he was doing when he created us with the ability to worship.  Jesus himself said, “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

For me and Gerald, our Sunday mornings look somewhat different than they used to.  We are developing some new habits.  Like, having coffee during church, watching several church services, and zooming with our kids (we still play Scrabble most Sundays – some things never change!). 
Whatever new habits you adopt, hold onto some of your old habits too, like meeting together, even if it is remotely. If you didn’t catch our church service at 10 a.m., it’s now available through our church website, www.ancastercrc.org  .

“Let us draw near to God…let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together…” (Hebrews 10:22-25).  Have a really good Sunday.
Pastor Rita


Saturday, 18 April 2020

COVID-19, Saturday, April 18

Dear Church Family,

I’m writing this in my pajamas, before I put in my contact lenses, and with a serious bed-head happening.  One of our kids skyped us this morning, and we were still in bed!  There definitely are some advantages to this self-isolating thing.  I’ve talked to others who are finding the more relaxed pace to be a wonderful thing.  They tend to make that statement as some sort of admission or confession.  How can they be enjoying life during a world-wide crisis?

This is who we are, as Christians, isn’t it.  We know that our world is broken and that the effects of sin impact our relationships, our sense of self worth, our economy, ya, everything.  COVID-19 is part of that brokenness. 

And yet, I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart.  I’ve got the peace that passes understanding.  Such a great little song!

A blessing for you, from Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”

Now, I’ll go take my shower and get dressed, and THEN send out  this message.
Pastor Rita  

Friday, 17 April 2020

COVID-19, Friday, April 17


Dear Church Family,

For some of you, today will be a difficult day.  The most deeply and seriously impacted during this COVID pandemic are those who live or work in our nursing homes and seniors’ residences.

I share with you something that my cousin, Diane Hultink, posted a few days ago.  Diane works at Shalom Manor in Grimsby.

"Today was a Difficult Day," said Pooh.
There was a pause.
"Do you want to talk about it?" asked Piglet.
"No," said Pooh after a bit. "No, I don't think I do."
"That's okay," said Piglet, and he came and sat beside his friend.
"What are you doing?" asked Pooh.
"Nothing, really," said Piglet. "Only, I know what Difficult Days are like. I quite often don't feel like talking about it on my Difficult Days either.
"But goodness," continued Piglet, "Difficult Days are so much easier when you know you've got someone there for you. And I'll always be here for you, Pooh."
And as Pooh sat there, working through in his head his Difficult Day, while the solid, reliable Piglet sat next to him quietly, swinging his little legs...he thought that his best friend had never been more right."
A.A. Milne

For you, Diane, and all our other health care workers, and for our seniors, and yes, for each of us, these words from Hebrews 13:5:  “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”
Pastor Rita


Thursday, 16 April 2020

COVID-19, Thursday, April 16


Dear Church Family,

To stay home or not to stay home.  That’s the question.  Most days, the answer is STAY HOME!  My newspaper seems to get thinner everyday, and even with that, two whole pages, one in green, one in pink, were taken up with posters about #stayhome. 

So, when I went out this morning, I almost felt guilty.  I weighed the pros and cons and decided that it was the right thing to do.   I went out to give blood.

Every day of our lives we make choices, decisions.  Some will be good decisions, others not so good.  The bible can serve as our filter through which we run our choices. Here’s a verse that works well for this purpose, James 3:17:  “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

I think giving blood passed this test.  Whatever you do today, or whatever you choose not to do, may your day be full of mercy and good fruit.  Oh, and one more verse, I Corinthians 16:14:  “Do everything in love.”
Pastor Rita

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

COVID-19, Wednesday, April 15


Dear Church Family,

I’ve been hearing people say that what we are experiencing right now will be the new “normal,” that this era of isolation and physical distancing will continue after COVID-19 has run its course.  I don’t believe it.

“It is not good for the man to be alone,” said God, already in Genesis 2:18.  This is probably more a comment on the social nature of humanity than it is about marriage being normative. God’s blessings often including the promise that one would become a “community of peoples” (eg Gen 28:3). Christ followers are like different parts of one body (Rom 12). The church in Acts:  “all the believers were together (Acts 2:44).  And of course Jesus – he went about touching, yes touching, highly contagious infected people (Matt 8:3). 

Things WILL get back to the norm, that is, back to normal, when we can be in community again, enjoying one another’s company.  Because God will have the final say on what things will look like going forward.  So, until the day when we can worship together again, go to a Jays game again, when we can hug one another again, when we can “greet one another with a kiss of love… Peace to all of you who are in Christ” (I Pet 5:14).

Pastor Rita

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

COVID-19, Tuesday, April 14


Dear Church Family,

It’s 27 degrees in Florida right now, at 9:15 a.m. Gerald and I were supposed to wake up in Florida this morning, where I would be starting a week of reading through that stack of books that you have referred to me over the last year.  The books are still on the shelf in my office.  I’m still in Ancaster.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us in very personal ways.  Everyone is feeling the ache of missing our friends and loved ones. All of us are dealing with some degree of boredom and fear and impatience.
Mostly, I’ve been feeling impatient lately. 

And then someone sent me this, a poem they had written:

The cross is empty
The tomb lies bare
He is risen
He is not there

He accomplished on the tree
The plans laid from eternity
That we would live with Him above
Because of His redeeming love

Yes, there’s a bigger picture here, bigger than my Florida plans, bigger than my reading list, bigger than COVID-19.  My plans for what today was supposed to look like have changed completely. “But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart though all generations” (Psalm 33:11).

I read that, and I’m feeling better already.  It may be only 3 degrees out there, but the sun is shining brightly and God’s gift of a new day stretches before us.
Pastor Rita


Monday, 13 April 2020

COVID-19, Monday, April 13


Dear Church Family,
It’s a quiet, rainy, Monday morning.  Yes, we know that Jesus is risen, and yet somehow, it all feels a little too quiet, doesn’t it.  As I mentioned yesterday, I really missed hearing the trumpet on Easter Sunday, and all those triumphant Easter hymns.

There was a pastor, a number of years ago, who did an Easter Sunday children’s sermon.   At one point the pastor asked the children what they thought were Jesus’ first words to his followers after the resurrection.  One little boy sprang to his feet, spread his arms out wide and said, “Ta-Da!”

“Humor aside, the fact is that a celebrative “Ta-Da!” is not at all what we actually find in any of the four Gospels.”  Scott Hoeze, from the Center for Excellence in Preaching in Grand Rapids, MI, says this:  “The Easter stories are filled with some darkness, some weeping, some uncertainty, some doubt.  In almost every instance Jesus does not bang down anyone’s front door gleefully and triumphantly to declare “I’m BAAACCK!” but rather Jesus creeps up from behind.  He comes up behind a weeping woman and a deeply disappointed couple on the road.  He doesn’t stick around Jerusalem for long but directs everyone 80 miles north to Galilee.  In one of the precious few post-Easter/pre-Ascension stories we get in the Bible (John 21), Jesus is depicted as sitting on a log on a beach tending a little fire on which he’s cooking up some fish and biscuits.  How ordinary a setting can you get?!
In other words: the resurrection emerges from the real world of sorrow and uncertainty with a message for that same world…. We too can still encounter the living Jesus in our present darkness, in our uncertainty and fears.” 

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors lock for fear of the Jewish Leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” (John 20:19).

Sounds a bit like us, doesn’t it – together with your family, locked doors, fear. This post-resurrection Monday might feel very much like that first one. And to us too, our risen Lord says, “Peace be with you.”
Pastor Rita

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Easter, April 12, 2020


Dear Church Family,

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Oh, to hear you greeting one another with those words!  Another thing we’ll miss this morning is the singing, -- John on organ, Mary on piano, and Jason on trumpet.  But this virus didn’t stop the resurrection!
 
If you have a chance, before the worship service at 10:00, listen to the song by Ray Boltz, call Watch the Lamb.  If you have children in the house, have them watch the song video with you. 
I read to you the lyrics of that song, a story of a man named Simon, and his two little boys, and a Lamb.

Walking on the road to Jerusalem,
The time had come to sacrifice again,
My two small sons,
They walked beside me on the road,
The reason that they came was to watch the lamb.
"Daddy, daddy, What will see there,
There's so much that we don't understand",
So I told them of Moses and Father Abraham,
Then I said "dear children watch the lamb".
"There will be so many in Jerusalem today,
We must be sure the lamb doesn't run away",
And I told them of Moses and Father Abraham,
Then I said "dear children watch the lamb".
When we reached the city,
I knew something must be wrong,
There were no joyful worshipers,
No joyful worship songs,
I stood there with my children
in the midst of angry men,
Then I heard the crowd cry out
"Crucify Him".
We tried to leave the city but
we could not get away,
Forced to play in this drama
a part I did not wish to play,
"Why upon this day were men condemned to die?,
Why were we standing here, Where soon they would pass by?".
I looked and said, "even now they come",
The first one cried for mercy,
The people gave him none,
The second one was violent, He was arrogant and loud,
I still can hear his angry voice
screaming at the crowd,
Then someone said "there's Jesus",
I could scarce believe my eyes,
A man so badly beaten,
He barely looked alive,
Blood poured from His body,
From the thorns upon His brow,
Running down the cross, Falling to the ground.
I watched Him as He struggled,
I watched Him as He fell,
The cross came down upon His back,
The crowd began to yell,
In that moment I felt such agony,
In that moment I felt such loss,
Till a Roman soldier grabbed my arm
and screamed, "you, carry His cross".
At first I tried to resist him,
Then his hand reached for his sword,
So I knelt and took the cross from the Lord,
I placed it on my shoulder,
And started down the street,
The blood that he'd been shedding
was running down my cheek.
They led us to Golgotha,
They drove nails deep in His feet and hands,
Yet upon the cross I heard Him pray
"Father, forgive them".
Oh, never have I seen such love in any other eyes,
"Into thy hands I commit my spirit"
He prayed and then He died,
I stood for what seemed like years,
I'd lost all sense of time until
I felt two tiny hands holding tight to mine,
My children stood there weeping,
I heard the oldest say,
"Father please forgive us, the lamb ran away".
"Daddy, daddy, What have we seen here?,
There's so much that we don't understand",
So I took them in my arms,
And we turned and faced the cross,
Then I said "dear children watch the lamb"
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Raymond Boltz

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receivepwer  and wealth and wisdom and strength  andhonourand glory and praise” (Revelation 5:12).

He is risen indeed!
Pastor Rita

Saturday, 11 April 2020

COVID-19, Saturday, April 11


Dear Church Family,

On the news this morning, our political leaders are calling for a pause.  A pause on rent and mortgage payments for small businesses and for tenants.  A lot of things are on “pause” right now as we wait for the COVID crisis to break.

Today is the biggest pause day of all.  It’s the day between Good Friday and Easter.  On this day, some 2000 years ago, Jesus’ disciples did, well, basically, nothing.  They waited, but they weren’t really sure for what. We aren’t really sure what we should do today either.  Do some yard work? Clean the house? Life as usual? I always find that this “between” day feels really strange.

Last night Gerald and I watched the rock-opera Jesus Christ Superstar.  Twice, actually.  First we watched the original, from 1971, then we watched the more recent stage show (we’ve been staying up way too late!). At the conclusion of the show, the audience applauded the performances – those who played Judas and Mary and Jesus got a standing ovation. Jesus Christ Superstar, in the language of plays, is what you would call a tragedy.  The hero dies. The story ends. It’s all very sad.

I Corinthians 15:19 says this:  “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 

If the story ends with Jesus on the cross, then Jesus' entire life was nothing more than a sad tragedy.  But this isn’t how the story ends.  Today we pause, here, between Good Friday and Easter.  But we pause with anticipation, and hope because the story isn’t over.  To be continued….
Pastor Rita

Friday, 10 April 2020

COVID-19, Good Friday, April 10


Dear Church family,

Pray with me, a prayer for Good Friday. It is written by MaryAnn McKibben Dana.

O Holy God,
the hosannas have died away,
the palm branches have turned brittle.
Now, today, there is only this –
each of us,
all of us,
sitting in the darkness,
the hymns of lament in the air,
the mumblings of our own feeble confession,
on this Friday
which we tremble to call Good.

What is good about Good Friday?
What is good about the innocent one nailed to a cross?
What is good about the darkness of war that persists today?
What is good about our devastation of the planet?
… about people living in poverty?
… about the fog of addiction, depression, disease and despair?
What is good about the crushing weight of hunger, racism, scapegoating, apathy?

No, there is nothing good and desirable in these things.
Yet you, O God, are Good.

When suffering reigns, yours is the first heart to break.
When despair lurks about, we remember that you were there first,
peering into the abyss and crying out, incredibly:
“Father, forgive them.”

When we feel forsaken, we remember that in your last moments,
you cared for your mother and your beloved disciple,
binding them to one another as a new family.

When we feel overcome by guilt, we remember that you spoke grace to a thief:
“Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Your love for us is just that boundless,
and ever-present,
and Good.
Thank you.
What else can we say here, in the dimness,
in the darkness,
but thank you.
Amen.

I invite you to join us in our online worship service, this morning at 10 a.m. The website is  www.ancastercrc.org
Pastor Rita


Thursday, 9 April 2020

Good Friday worship: THIS IS JESUS


Join us online, Friday morning, at 10:00 a.m. at www.ancastercrc.org

COVID-19, April 9


Dear Church Family,
Dinner as a family, or lunch with a friend.  Those are some of the things we are missing the most during this COVID pandemic.  Eating together is one of the most pleasurable experiences we know.

Today is Maundy Thursday.  Today is the day when Jesus ate his last supper with his disciples. And what an experience it was. During that meal, Jesus explained that by sharing in the bread and the wine, we would be part of Jesus’ body, sharing in his death. During that meal, Jesus got up and washed his disciples’ feet.

The word Maundy comes from the Latin word for command. Jesus was showing his disciples what it would look like to obey his new commandment:  “That you love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).

A few hours later, Jesus would be arrested and endure a sleepless night before the events of Good Friday.

Jesus said that he “eagerly desired” to eat that meal with his disciples (Luke 22:15).
Tonight, at supper time, recall the events of Maundy Thursday.  And then, eagerly desire the day when we can share the communion meal again, and dinner with your family, and lunch with a friend. 
Pastor Rita

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

COVID-19, Wednesday, April 8


Dear Church Family,

It’s Wednesday, hump day. That day in the middle of the week where memory of what you did last weekend is fading, and the coming weekend isn’t yet here. A few of you have expressed appreciation for these daily messages because they help you to remember what day it is!  Confusing times for sure.  Yesterday, on our walk, we did a double take when we saw a house with a huge inflatable Santa on their lawn. (Santa was holding a sign of encouragement for our health care workers.)

Wednesday. Last weekend Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Monday he cleared the temple. Tuesday he took a swipe at a fig tree. But the Bible doesn’t say anything about what Jesus and his disciples did on Wednesday. Scholars speculate that after two exhausting days in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples spent this day resting in Bethany.

Are you exhausted, wondering when this pandemic will come to an end?  Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give your rest” (Matt 11:28).  Catch your breath today, hump day, because the weekend is coming, and it’s going to be great!
Pastor Rita

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