Saturday, 9 May 2020

COVID-19, Saturday, May 9, 2020

Dear Church Family,

This is my final daily message of this COVID-19 season, at least in Ancaster.  Tomorrow will be my final service with the Ancaster Christian Reformed Church and then on June 3 Gerald and I make the move to Cobourg. What with my birthday and Mother’s Day and my farewell, the house looks like a flower shop; there are cards on every table, and my inbox is overflowing with blessings.

Thank you for your expressions of appreciation for these daily messages; I’ve enjoyed writing them and pray that they provided some encouragement to you.  I wish that this, my 55th message, marked the end of the pandemic, but we are not there yet.

But at the same time, we know how the story ends.  God has promised that he would never forsake us. And Jesus has promised to return and make all things new.  So, I leave you my favourite biblical theme – that of hope.

Romans 5, beginning with verse 2:
“We boast in the hope of the glory of God….We also glory in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Pastor Rita

Friday, 8 May 2020

COVID-19, Friday, May 8

Dear Church Family,

Today is my birthday.  Birthdays are supposed to be that one day of the year where you are entitled to be spoiled a little, to eat what you want to eat, and to do some of things that you want to do.  When I was a kid, we could pick any breakfast cereal we wanted – I always chose Alpha-Bits. Gerald brought me some flowers and gave me some plants for the garden, and over the weekend, the kids are planning some distanced visits; one of the families might even provide dinner (East Side Marios maybe??).  I am spoiled and blessed!

Now, as for the things I want to do today…

This is my 54th daily message during this COVID-19 pandemic.  On April 1 I wrote this:

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.

What have you done in the last month and a half that you always-wanted-to-do?  I’ve done a couple of jigsaw puzzles (only 2), played the guitar a bit more (not very well), and kept up my writing.
Whether you are celebrating something today, or simply facing day #54 of the COVID-19 pandemic, this day is a gift to you from God.

This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it! (Psalm 118:24, ESV).

Pastor Rita
PS Is it just me, or do Alpha-Bits taste different than they did 50 years ago??

Thursday, 7 May 2020

COVID-19, Thursday, May 7

Dear Church Family,

Today I joined a dear friend at the graveside for the committal service of her mom.  A blue sky with a few clouds provided the backdrop. The first dandelions brightened the grass around the casket.  I could hear the birds singing.  All this, via video.

Family members read Scripture – my friend read that beautiful verse from the resurrection chapter:  “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet…” (I Corinthians 15:51).  The family spoke the words of committal together, they placed flowers on the casket, and they sang.

Jesus my redeemer
Name above all names
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Oh, for sinners slain

Thank you, oh my father
For giving us Your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
'Til the work on Earth is done

When I stand in Glory
I will see His face
And there I'll serve my King forever
In that Holy Place

Thank you, Rita and Wes, for inviting us to share this precious time with you.
Jesus’ words:  “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy” (John 16:22).

Pastor Rita

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

COVID-19, Wednesday, May 6

Dear Church Family,

Things I miss during COVID-19:  well, first of all, 12 little people – my grandkids.  But I’m going to put all people in one category – family, friends, church family.  For sure, it’s interaction with those I love that I miss the most.

I miss books too.  I’m grateful for the library app on my phone, and for the commentaries on my computer, but yesterday someone referred to a book of poems, that I’m pretty sure it’s on my shelf at church.  And to just hold a real book in my hands, I miss that.

And then there’s the list of things that I only do occasionally – eating out, going to a movie, a trip to Florida, shopping. But I wonder if I miss those things mostly because I know I can’t do them right now.

The apostle Paul says that he had “learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). That’s an impressive statement.  We can strive for that contentment.  But read a bit further, and you’ll see that Paul is not talking about sitting on our hands and waiting for this to pass.  He goes on to say this:  “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” 

And this is God’s encouragement and promise, from Deuteronomy 31:6:  “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified… for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Pastor Rita

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

COVID-19, Tuesday, May 5

Dear Church Family,

I was reading an article in this morning’s paper about COVID-19 crime trends.  Most traffic-associated incidents have gone down.  No surprise there, as there are hardly any cars on the road.

Crimes that have increased are commercial break and enters, which are up by 131 per cent; and stunt driving, up 23 per cent.  Both of those tell me that some people have too much time on their hands.

And so, this morning, a couple of passages to caution you against wasting these days and to encourage you to make the best of the opportunities before you.

First, from Proverbs 6:16-19:
There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:  haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

And from Ephesians 5: 15,16:
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity…

Go make the most of this new day. 
Pastor Rita

Monday, 4 May 2020

COVID-19, May 4, 2020

Dear Church Family,

Yesterday’s weather was so lovely. For one day we again enjoyed a taste of what is to come.  But here we are again, back in cooler weather with some rain, and, dare I say it, some snowflakes in the forecast for later this week. 

Feels a bit like the COVID-19 crisis.  We get one day when the numbers are in the 300s, and then it’s back into the 500s.  We hear some hopeful news about things opening up and then some else says it might go on for months. 

The all-ready/not-yet coming of God’s kingdom is like that. Is the kingdom of God a future reality to be hoped for or is it a present reality to experience now? We know how it will end, and we already catch glimpses of it.  But still we wait.

Jesus says that the “kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:21).
But in Romans 8:23 we read:  we “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”
Already, but not yet.

Enjoy God’s kingdom today, and remain hopeful for the fulfillment of the promise of Revelation 21:5: “I am making everything new.” Everything.
Pastor Rita

Sunday, 3 May 2020

COVID-19, Sunday, May 3

Dear Church Family,

“I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
Those are Jesus’ words; you can find them in Matthew 6:25, 26.

Apt words for this COVID-19 season, or for whatever it is that is causing you to worry this morning. Today is Sunday.  Spend time in worship- not as an escape from your troubles, but as a time to give them over to God.

May God receive your worship as a gift to him, and may time spent with God remind you of how valuable you are.  You are invited to join the Ancaster Christian Reformed Church worship service this morning at 10 a.m.  Holy Communion will be part of this service.  You can find us at
Pastor Rita

Saturday, 2 May 2020

COVID-19, Saturday, May 2

Dear Church Family,

“Let us rejoice today and be glad.” Psalm 118:24.

Many of you have some very serious struggles going on in your lives right now.  Yet this verse challenges us, encourages us, to rejoice. God doesn’t place that challenge before us in a void.  We can look around us and see his hand-written notes of encouragement – a bird at the feeder, the first dandelions, a beautiful sunrise.

Whatever our rejoicing looks like, let it be God centred.  He loves you, and he gave us the capacity to rejoice in him. 

“Let us rejoice today and be glad.”
And from the end of that psalm: “You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you.  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

Pastor Rita

Friday, 1 May 2020

COVID-19, Friday, May 1

Dear Church Family,

I think May is my favourite month of the year.  April showers give way to the promised May flowers.  Everything is so green, our lilac bush is ready to burst open and the neighbour’s magnolia tree is starting to show off it’s glorious blossoms.  In May the days are longer, it’s getting warmer, and summer is stretching out before us.  May is also the month we celebrate Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit.  I love May!

I pray that this year, May will be a beautiful gift for all of us.  We’ve heard some hopeful news about lifting restrictions and opening things up.  Hang in there, be hopeful.

Jesus loves each of us and he gets it. He has experienced every emotion that we do.  Just go talk to him, and he’ll remind you of that.  Hebrews 4:15 says that “we do not have a high priest (a Saviour, Lord) who is unable to empathize with our weakness.”

Yes, Jesus gets it; he understands what we are going through.  And God is faithful.  Those are two bright spots as we begin a new month. I leave you with that beautiful verse from Genesis 8:  “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”
Pastor Rita

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 .
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,  .

“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.

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