The other day I was getting a coffee refill at work and when I opened the fridge door I was met with the above picture. I took a moment to stand and consider my options, when I would normally just grab my usual. Did I want to take my coffee black that day? It would still have all the caffeine and be very diet friendly. On the far end of the scale was the flavoured cream which has sugar as well but would turn my drink into something almost like a luxury. Then there are the three levels of 1% milk, 2% milk and 18% cream. As a rule of thumb one might say that the higher the fat content, the richer and more appealing the coffee.
Can the same be said of our choice of church? Most of us attend the church in which we grew up without really giving it much thought. I have no intention of making any judgements on the different denominations of the Christian church. We have many different denominations, I believe, because no single style would satisfy everyone. This is largely because they are a function of religion which is a human construct, and not of faith itself.
At their hearts all churches are like black coffee. The essential elements of scripture, faith, and worship are central to each. We could call that the Holy Catholic Church.
International flavoured coffee cream
What are the ingredients that determine the percentage of cream in our churches? Music is an easy one to look at. If we consider plainsong or Gregorian Chant to be 1% and move towards the more complex that would put the style of simple choruses at 2%. The 18% cream might be the contemporary rock style and the more elaborate classical style music would then be the sweet specialty cream. I don’t think that works quite right. First, it left out the traditional hymn style and second, I don’t think many people these days would consider classical and formal music to be the sweet specialty. Since most churches don’t use plainsong these days maybe the lowest fat music should be the basic hymn, the sweetest the choruses with their strong emotional appeal. The other styles would fill in the center.
Preaching style would be another ingredient. The 18% might be the “fire and brimstone” style of preaching which has too much weight to be low-fat, and hardly sweet. The sweet would be a style that focuses entirely on the love of Christ and the idea that good Christians are always happy and successful. 18% preaching might include audio-visual displays or be somewhat off the cuff, while 2% is likely to be serious but deeply thought out and well composed.
The metaphor may seem a little strained, but even if we normally attend the church in which we grew up, there are times in our lives when we may find ourselves standing at the refrigerator door considering our options. For some this happens when a relationship begins or ends, when we come up against something to which we can not reconcile ourselves, for some maybe even just when we are bored. The point is to remember the central issue and keep that black coffee in our cups. Cheers!
Posted in Reflections
Tagged 1% milk, 18% cream, 2% milk, change, Christian rock, Christianity, church, classical, coffee, details, faith, fashion, God, Gregorian chant, hymn, ingredients, International Coffee Cream, Jesus, music, preaching, reflection
Am I Judas?
Tell me Lord,
What is my role in this?
Am I just an innocent
observer on the scene?
Am I needed
to help show others how
events occurred within the life
of the resurrected Lord?
Am I Judas?
Have I betrayed you?
Do I share your bread and wine
then turn away and sin?
Will I gladly
give up your name for those
wanting to bring down your church
in turn for some reward?
Am I Mary,
Crying beside the cross
and come early to the tomb
to find the stone is gone?
Do I wonder
why your grave’s empty?
Do I run and tell my friends
he’s risen from the dead?
Am I Thomas?
Do I fail to believe
until I put my hands inside
and feel the wounds myself?
Give me faith Lord,
help me to conquer this,
to know that Jesus lives again
and He waits for me.
Jesus gave up
his very life for me
to buy forgiveness for my sins
as long as I believe.
This bright message
is the best I’ve ever heard.
Jesus died that we may live,
Glory to the Lord!
words and music by Cathy Scott
audio file to follow
Posted in Music, Reflections
Tagged betrayal, Christianity, church, cross, faith, forgiveness, God, innocent, Jesus, Judas, Lent, Mary, music, passion story, reflection, reward, sin, song, stone rolled away, Thomas
The story of Jesus meeting with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well doesn’t stop where we left off yesterday. This woman doesn’t just accept Jesus’ word, but she immediately starts to evangelize. She goes back into the town, where many people probably don’t normally speak to her because of her lifestyle, and speaks to everyone she meets to let them know that the Messiah is at the well! These are not the right people, and they are not in the right place!
Jacob’s well, the scene of our story, is at the entrance to the valley between Mt. Gerazim and Ebal. The source of much of the division between the Samaritans and the Jews was that the Samaritans built an alternative temple on Mt. Gerazim. In Jesus’ talk with the woman, when the discussion of which place was correct to worship God, the mountain where Samaritans worshiped or the temple in Jerusalem where the Jews worshiped, he makes it clear that it won’t be long before the issue of place will not matter. The huge divide between the Samaritans and Jews will not matter anymore because everyone will worship in spirit and in truth wherever they are.
Why is it that the wrong people are so able to see Jesus as Messiah and to accept this? Why were the Samaritans who followed this woman out of the city able to see and accept what the disciples were not? Is it because they have no vested interest? After-all, if you aren’t in a position to deserve anything and it is offered anyway wouldn’t you jump at it?
Whatever else might be said of the disciples, they were Jews, the chosen people, they worshiped God and followed the customs and rules of the temple. They would have firmly believed that the temple in Jerusalem was the proper place to worship, that the Samaritans were not people in God’s favour, and that Messiah was coming for them alone. The Samaritans, on the other hand, did not even expect Jews to talk to them, especially after some Samaritans had scattered bones in the temple in Jerusalem, and after the Maccabean uprising was put down, allowed their temple to be dedicated to Zeus. They had nothing to expect of Jesus, so when he offered them the living water they were happy to accept.
So, are we thirsty? I know I am. As thirsty people, are we more like the Jews who are sure of our position and right to the water, or are we more like the Samaritans unsure that we deserve anything?
With potable drinking water at risk all over the world, and especially in Japan and other places which have had recent natural disasters, this seems like a good time for this question of thirst. We in Canada don’t have much to worry about in terms of water. We have lots for us, so much so that we are careless with it and just expect that it will remain this way. Physically we are more like the Jews in this story, sure we will have the water while others may struggle. Spiritually, though, I think our thirst is a bigger problem for us than those in the developing world. As Christians we are lucky to have found the rock from whom the living water springs, even if we stray and find ourselves thirsting again we know that through prayer Jesus is still there for us.
There are so many people out there who don’t even know for what they thirst. They will try anything to fill that need, but it won’t work in the long-term. They remain thirsty. Like the woman at the well we need to go back to town and tell people what we have learned and offer to lead them to the man at the well. If you meet a thirsty person do you not offer them a drink?
Posted in Bible Study, Reflections
Tagged belief, Bible, Christianity, evangelism, faith, God, Jacob's well, Jesus, Lent, Messiah, prayer, reflection, Samaritan woman, temple, thirsty, worship, wrong people, wrong place
In John 4:5-42 we meet Jesus at the well of his ancestor Jacob. By now should not be at all surprised that he is doing something he shouldn’t. In this passage he is talking to someone he shouldn’t, he offers living water to the wrong type of person, and he foreshadows a change in the order of things that would have been very unpopular with the Jewish leaders of the day.
He speaks to a Samaritan woman. She was at the well alone in the middle of the day, not the time women regularly went there, so she was trying to avoid people who knew her and would have ridiculed her, staring and talking behind their hands about her. That alone smacks of scandal! This woman he meets at the well is a person whom he should have ignored for at least three valid cultural reasons of the time.
1. Men were not supposed to talk to women they didn’t know, it just wasn’t done.
2. Jews were not supposed to talk to Samaritans.
3. Not only was she a Samaritan woman, but she was a woman who had been married to five different men and was currently living with a man outside marriage.
As the Pharisees were keen to point out, Jesus spent far too much time with sinners, he should have just walked away!
Many of us are familiar with the story as it unfolds; Jesus is alone, he asks for water, she points out all the reasons why he shouldn’t be talking to her, he offers her a different kind of water which will quench a thirst deeper than the physical thirst, she is down-to-earth and points out that he has no way of drawing water from the well and brings up their mutual ancestor Jacob who had dug the well in the stone, he shows that he knows all about her even though they have never met and he is visiting the area, he tells her that he is Messiah and she believes!
Everyone gets thirsty. In fact, water is the most important thing for our basic survival. We can live much longer without food than we can with no water. Sometimes in our modern-day we don’t even manage to recognize when we are thirsty and mistake it for hunger, so after we eat we still have that uncomfortable feeling. This is one of the things you will read about if you are trying to lose weight and or live a more healthy lifestyle. This kind of thirst can be satisfied with a good drink of water.
The Israelites who had followed Moses out of Egypt were thirsty and there was no well or source of water around. (Exodus 17:1-7) This would be a most disturbing circumstance and so we are not surprised when they go to complain to Moses about this and ask for water. The story does not indicate how long it had been since they had their last chance to store up water, but presumably if they had not gone to complain, God would have led them in range of a water source before it was too late. The thing is, though, that while they may have been physically thirsty, what the Israelites really thirsted for was the assurance of the presence, love and care of God with them. This was the test, if God is really with us he should be able to satisfy our thirst. And so God provided water out of a rock, in a way like Jacob would do years later for his people and flocks.
While the woman was talking about water to drink, Jesus was offering himself to us as the source and sustenance of life and assurance of God’s continuing presence with us. Jesus is the Messiah, believe and you need never thirst again!
Posted in Bible Study, Lectionary, Reflections
Tagged Bible, Christianity, evangelism, Exodus 17:1-7, faith, God, help, Jesus, John 4:5-42, Lent, Lent 3, Mt. Gerzim, promise, reflection, rock of salvation, Samaritans, survival, temple of Jerusalem, water
Posted in Reflections
Tagged affirmations, change, faith, forgiveness, help, improvement, kindness, problems, promise, quiet, reflection, survival, time, worry
I have been feeling a little blah today. I was happy with my outfit that I wore to work, things went well, the sun was out for a large part of the day, but I still felt blah. After work I headed out to Second Showing, my favourite little consignment boutique, to chat with the owner for a bit and to see what was new. As usual I had a great time! On top of enjoying myself with banter and looking at all the pretty clothes I did one thing that is almost guaranteed to perk me up, I bought a new purse!
I realize that this is a rather shallow fix and that I am usually against consumerism etc. but I really love the feeling of putting my things in a new purse and slinging it over my shoulder. Whatever I’m wearing takes on a new look and for better or worse I feel, dare I say, chic!
I don’t remember reading anything about commercial therepy in the Bible. In fact, one of the readings recently was about Jesus clearing out the money changers and sales people from the temple in Jerusalem. (John 2:15) Our posessions are often more our gods than God, and Jesus also instructed some people to sell all they had and give it to the poor. He sent his disciples off on mission without a change of clothes, or a purse of money.
Hmm…I was blah, then I was a little more perky, and now I feel guilty. Does this pattern sound familiar? It isn’t as easy to buck our culture as it might seem up front. Jesus was aware of this even two thousand years ago when he said, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matt 19:24 Thank to God, we don’t have to try to do it on our own.
Posted in Reflections
Tagged Bible, blah days, boutique, Christianity, consignment stores, consumerism, distractions, fashion, God, help, Jesus, Matthew 19:24, purse, reflection
This past Saturday at lunch time I was seated in a living room with some women who have been very important in my life for almost twenty years, the members of my Women’s Institute branch. At forty-six years old I am the youngest by ten years, our oldest member at ninety-three was not able to attend that day. Most members are retired, one lives on a working farm, three of us live in the city. Some are knitters, some are quilters, we have some prize-winning bakers etc. What do we have in common? We are all women, most have or have had husbands and children, most have worked hard either at home or outside our homes. We have experienced life as women and all that entails and we all wanted to help our community and keep on learning.
We were gathered together for a luncheon and the final meeting of our branch. After ninety years our branch has disbanded. We will no longer be meeting together on the first Saturday of each month to plan community service and learn something new. No more lucky cup and napkin prizes, no more pots of tea and sharing our stories.
In case you don’t know what Women’s Institute is, it is an organization which began in Canada when a farm wife Adelaide Hoodless learned about pasteurization after her son had died from drinking unpasteurized milk. Horrified that her son’s death had been preventable she felt she needed to share this information with other women. The motto for the organization is For Home and Country. Do you remember the movie Calendar Girls? The group they belonged to was Women’s Institute.
I will miss the group. When we talked about it at the luncheon we agreed that given the internet available everywhere for education that role of our group is now covered, especially for people living in cities. I believe that the work we do in the community will be missed. Our final work as a group was to give our remaining funds from the sale of our hall to a number of charities in our area. In the end we can be proud of the work that was done by our group over the ninety years.
Posted in Reflections
Tagged baking, change, charity, community, community service, disband, friends, kindness, knitting, lucky cup, lucky napkin, mothers, quilting, reflection, tea, time, wives, women, Women's Institute
Sorry about the absence of a post yesterday. WordPress was having troubles and I couldn’t get onto the system.
Last summer my daughter was at camp for a month and part-way through that time I met her for a weekend. One of the main tasks for the weekend was to get all her laundry washed. We weren’t at home so that meant heading to the laundromat with her bags. It had been years since I had been to one, and she had never had the experience of getting her dirty laundry out of a bag and into washers in a public place. When I came across the picture above it got me thinking. W hen you think about some of the things that have changed in the last fifty years or so, one of the big changes will be in the area of what things are private and what is public. The expression in the title was a common thing to hear ‘back in the day’.
There have been some very important advances made with the end of the dirty laundry plan. Some of the things that were not aired were; child abuse, spousal abuse, alcoholism, mental disabilities, physical disabilities, mental illness etc. People who were different had been kept behind closed doors. People who needed help had no way of getting help. This has changed. Most people in our society today do not consider family violence acceptable and we have processes in place, child protection, transition houses etc, to help the victims and laws in place to deal with the abusers. We no longer lock up most people with metal illness and have found successful ways to treat most illnesses. This is all good!
My concern lies in the popularity of “reality” shows in which people with serious problems allow themselves to be filmed while dealing with them. The show Intervention for instance films people in the very midst of their addictions. There is some instructive or cautionary value to these shows, but I don’t think that it is good for the addicts in general and I think that too much of it is possibly harmful for the viewers as well. Someday, presumably, the addicts will recover and want to put that behind them, but their children and grandchildren will have that ugly footage with which to come to grips. There is a big difference between being in the public enough to get help and being in the public media!
It is debatable whether or not public figures like politicians and stars have the same right to privacy for their “laundry.” On one hand, if you choose to be in the public eye then you ought to know that your life will be an open book. It is only right that people should know about the personal life of the people for whom they vote. On the other hand, who among us doesn’t have a secret or two we would prefer didn’t go public? Does it follow that a politician who cheats on his or her spouse will do a poor job representing his or her constituency, or making decisions for the public good?
Jesus is noted for having hung around with the wrong types of people. These tax collectors and other sinful people had lots of dirty laundry and everyone knew it. The Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:5-42 had gone through 5 husbands already and was living with a man to whom she was not married. I’m sure that the people in town were all too aware of this, but she didn’t have it written on her robe and was not out there telling everyone she met. And yet, Jesus knew all about her. Whether or not our faults and failings are public knowledge we know that they are at least open knowledge for God.
For most of us, our dirty laundry consists of mistakes we have made of which we are not proud and which we would like to keep quiet. They are those very sins for which we need the forgiveness that has been offered us through the grace of God. We don’t need to wave these sins on flags in public, indeed we don’t need to confess them to an intercessor, we just need to lay them before God and ask for forgiveness. Jesus has already paid the price of public humiliation and death for those sins so that we are reconciled with God through him. You don’t need to go public with your sins, just admit them and take them to God.
Posted in Bible Study, Pet Peeves, Reflections
Tagged "reality TV", Bible, change, Christianity, dirty laundry, family violence, God, help, intervention, Jesus, laundromats, mental illness, politicians, privacy, promise, public figures, reflection, Samaritan woman, secrets, sin, TV, well