Tag Archives: forgiveness

Whose Feet Have You Washed? Whose Bread Have You Shared?


Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday is here.  This is the night on which Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and instituted the Eucharist or communion which we still celebrate to this day.  It is also the night on which he was betrayed in the garden of Gethsemane.

“And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table,took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ 7Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ 8Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ 9Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ 10Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean.” (John 13:2 b- 10)

Other than when we are babies and later possibly under nursing care, we don’t often have someone bathe us.  One of the early signs of separation from a parent is when a young child starts to want to wash on their own or even want privacy in the bath.  In Jesus’ day, people’s feet got dirty every time they left the house.  Servants would wash people’s feet when they entered the house.  Jesus took this servant role in the story above and it embarrassed the disciples who were lower on the social hierarchy than Jesus.  In the absence of servants it should have been one of them washing Jesus’ feet.  When Simon Peter hears that he must be washed clean in order to share with Jesus he asks for even more.  


Several years ago my Bible study group were involved in planning the service for Maundy Thursday.  We usually have a pot luck dinner on that evening prior to the service.  We were very interested in the foot washing part of the story and decided we wanted to include this in some way.  People were too uncomfortable with the idea of actually doing foot washing and we ended up setting up two hand washing stations.  People came forward and one of us dipped their hands in a bowl of warm water, and the other had a soft towel and dried their hands.  I was at one of the stations doing the hand drying and I have to say that it was a most amazing experience of intimacy with members of my church family and one I will never forget!

” While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ 27Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’” (Matthew 26:26-29)

Tonight as we reenact this meal shared by Christ and his disciples I pray that we are granted that sense of intimacy as we allow him to wash us clean once again.

Today’s readings were found through a web-based Bible search tool with the New Revised Standard Version.  http://bible.oremus.org/

Santa Claus, Christ, And The Easter Bunny


Bonnets and Baskets Tea

What events do your family celebrate?  Many families celebrate birthdays and  anniversaries as important family milestones.  For Christian families we celebrate Christmas and Easter, Muslim families Ramadan and Eid, Jewish families Passover, Chanukkah, etc.  For the purpose of this post we are going to focus, as I usually do, on the Christian traditions.

 

What is the first image that comes to mind when you hear the word Christmas?  I’m willing to bet that for a number of you it was either a tree or Santa.  Sure, lots of people would have pictured a manger scene, a star, an angel, or maybe an Advent wreath, but for every one of those I bet there are two people out there wishing they could have a do-over.  How about Easter?  Images like crosses, palms, nails, empty tombs, mix in with brightly decorated baskets filled with chocolate and candies, bunnies, and chicks.

 

Both of these celebrations have, at their hearts, the life of Jesus Christ.  Christmas celebrates Jesus taking on human life in the unlikely form of a helpless infant who was almost immediately the focus of a plot to kill him.  Easter celebrates Christ’s rising from the dead, but not without the pain and sacrifice of his arrest, and crucifixion.

 

The other day I was surprised to hear students in my class discussing Easter gift giving.  I don’t mean asking what their family puts in the Easter basket/ what the Easter Bunny brings, but actually discussing the exchange of Easter gifts like we do Christmas gifts.  It seems silly that the idea bothered me a bit, after-all I really enjoy buying Christmas gifts for people, and of course opening mine.  It just doesn’t seem to be a part of Easter. 

 

My husband and I have drawn some odd lines with our family traditions. We told the kids all about Santa Claus and even now read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve, after getting home from the midnight communion service.  We decorate extensively (well, I do), have stockings, and exchange gifts.  Somehow this doesn’t seem to lessen the event as a celebration of the birth of Christ.  Easter on the other hand is all about church.  I put up a few decorations like spring flowers to brighten things up after the long winter, but we have never pretended even for a moment that there was an Easter Bunny.  We coined the term Easter Parents to explain who put out the tiny pile of treats on Easter morning (not to be touched until after church). 

 

It seems hypocritical to “lie” to our kids and tell them about Santa Claus, the spirit of Christmas who enters into people and makes them more giving, and then not follow along and tell them about a bunny who delivers treats to children on Easter.  I’m sure no real harm would be done.  It is just that while at Christmas we are celebrating an entirely happy event, the birth of a child, Easter is much more complicated.  Jesus was a gift from God.  Like the birth of any child this is a joyous event.  Theoretically, our gift giving is inspired by this gift. 

 

Easter is about a huge sacrifice made by an innocent man to take away the sins of others.  Jesus bled, was ridiculed, and died a shameful death.  That is the most amazing gift anyone could give to another, but it is not easy to deal with.  We celebrate Christ’s defeat of death when he rises on the third day, but the celebration is necessarily coloured by the events of the previous week.  I see no role for a bunny carrying a basket of eggs here.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I think bunnies are adorable.  I have a couple little ceramic bunnies on my mantle along with a jug of artificial spring flowers and palm branches.  My kids will get a few chocolates, a book, and new socks or something on Sunday morning.  I love Cadbury Easter cream eggs, and think the ads with the bunny clucking like a chicken are brilliant.  But Easter is about church, services like Good Friday complete with the somber reminder of the cross, as well as Easter worship with communion. 

 

 

Targeting Intimacy with God


http://www.flickr.com/photos/storem/133599246/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Today in Family Living class we were looking at the filter theory on relationships.  The idea is that the intimacy level of a relationship can be judged, or improved, by rating degrees of seven filter areas.  The people closest to the bulls-eye of our target are those with whom we have the most intimate relationships.  If you want to improve your intimacy level then working on any of the filters further in will help. 

  

If we apply this filter to our relationship with God how would we fare?

 

#1 Physical and Emotional Closeness – On the physical side of this scale we run into the same snag as people for centuries because since the ascension of Christ there has been no solid tangible presence of God on earth.  We can not reach out and touch God, but the emotional attachment to God is probably the earliest that most of us remember.  God is love, how can we not be emotionally attached? (We will leave the issue of anger at God for another day)
 

#2 Sharing Values – As Christians our very understanding of values comes to us from the word of God.  While it may be true that people who are not Christian share many values like honesty and loyalty with us, the Bible provides with a clear moral outline which is not provided in the secular world.


 
#3 Reward Expected – If we were looking for reciprocity in the relationship I’m afraid God would be left the loser on reward expected.  From God we expect much and have his promise to count on.  If we believe, we can expect forgiveness and everlasting life.  Rewards don’t get much better than those!  What do we give to God?  We do well to give God thanks and praise.  If you have done the catechism you will recognize this as the chief end of man.
 

#4 Time Spent Together – Here is one area where most of us could stand to improve.  God is with us 24/7 through the presence of the Holy Spirit, but how often are we truly with him?  One hour/week in church?  Are we with God when we are at committee meetings at the church?  Some part of every day as we study the Bible or pray?  Moments of crisis only?  I think it is safe to say that we can all stand to increase our time spent together with God.
 

#5 Level of Exclusivity – We know that God loves every person in the world just as much as the others.  God is the only God and expects us to remember that.  This is the first commandment, ” I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;  you shall have no other gods before me.” (Deut. 5:6-7)  This exclusivity is also the core of the shema, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One” (Deut. 6:4).   Jesus taught that, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Matt 6:24)

 

#6 Level of Commitment – We will never live up to God’s level of commitment shown in the sacrifice of his son, himself, on the cross for our sins.  On the other hand, we can rely on both his help in standing firm and his welcome back after our failures.


#7 Degree of Disclosure – Whether or not we choose to share with God, he already knows everything about us, but he wants us to share with him.  He desires that intimacy with us.   Admitting our sins and weaknesses can be very daunting for us, even when we know it won’t be new news to God.  If we share it with God, that means that we have to admit it to ourselves. 

 

So, do you see some areas in which you can work to increase your intimacy with God?  I know I do.  Let’s aim for that bull’s eye! 

Choose Now Part 1


Choose Now!

How many times in books, movies, Broadway musicals, and television shows have we seen this story?  A young attractive girl or guy has been dating for a while.  They are very popular and have more than one person vying for their affection.  One day the two, or more, either discover that they are not alone or get tired of it and demand that the young person choose now.  They are unwilling to share, they want all of the person’s love and devotion.  Torn, most of the movie will be about the agonizing decision. There are two possible endings to these stories, either the person chooses, or they try to keep both and in so doing lose both.  This is our story today.


In our story from Joshua (24:1-2a, 14-18) God comes right out and says “Choose now!”  Either follow the gods of the local people or follow the God of your ancestors who has done so much for you in the past.  Making the choice to follow God today is a commitment to last a lifetime.  This may be easy today, but all sorts of challenges will arise: “losses, betrayals, promises of success from other gods of wealth and position and power.”  How do we make good on our commitment?  How do we keep ourselves in line and avoid falling back in with those other “gods”?


How many of you have tried to change a habit?  Quitting smoking, getting rid of the credit cards, eating a more healthy diet, and exercising more are all examples of common habit changes.  Was it easy?  For the first few days many of these things probably go pretty well.  We have committed to a plan, we are keen.  As time goes on we run into the other challenges of life and these new patterns can very easily fall by the wayside. Without even thinking about it we reach for a chocolate bar or a cigarette after a stressful day at work.  One leads to another and we are right back where we started.


What do we have to do to be successful in these efforts?  Many people join support groups where they go each week for encouragement, a reminder of the benefits of the change, a reminder of the goal.  With this sort of support people can often make major changes in their lives.


Making the choice for God involves a life change as well.  In a way the message we get from the reading in Joshua is that we need to remember our goal.  For our support we need to read our Bibles, need to hear it read in worship and discussed in classes. If we want to remain faithful we need to put ourselves in a place where we will be reminded daily of all that God has done and has promised us in His son Jesus Christ.  This is what led us to our choice in the first place.  To quote a sports phrase, we need the Bible to help us keep our eye on the prize.


In the Gospel lesson we have basically the same challenge put to us.  Jesus completes his explanation of His purpose here as the bread of life and then we hear the reaction of the disciples.  To paraphrase, “are you kidding?  That is way too hard!”  Like the disciples, we are keen to sign on for the salvation, but not so keen on following Jesus path of persecution and suffering and death.  We are frightened by the idea of carrying our own cross.

Aug 27, 2006 Stanley

Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18

Psalm 84

Ephesians 6:10-20

John 6:56-69

Am I Judas? : Our Role In The Passion Story


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

Affirmations To Brighten Your Day


click on – affirmations– to read

Noah’s Covenant With God: Has God Found A Loophole?


It has been raining here in New Brunswick for a couple of days.  I am not normally one to enjoy rain, but at this time of year when you can watch it melting away the snow on the yard and the ice in the driveway I love it!  The worst that happens when it rains, for where I live, is that we might get a little water in my basement.  This is not the case for my friends who live near the St. John river.  When their basements flood it is right up the stairs, their driveways wash out etc.

 

None of this holds a candle to the destruction that floods have caused in India, Australia,  and many other countries in the past months and years.  But even the footage of the cars being swept out of the parking lot and down the stream from Australia is nothing compared to the power of the earthquakes and tsunami waters in Japan this week.

 

My Lenten reading yesterday was about Noah’s Ark.  In the story introduction it was covering the behaviour of  mankind and God’s reaction to that behaviour.  It actually amazed me that I never noticed this section of scriptures in the times I have read through Genesis.  There were references to sons of gods making babies with daughters of  humans, Nephlim and all sorts of strange stuff.  I actually felt a bit like I was reading something from Greek mythology.  I am still curious about this and will continue to puzzle my way through to some kind of understanding of the passage.  The key point though is simple, things were bad and God was fed up!

 

Driving along in the car my daughter and I got talking about this passage and how strange it sounded.  She agreed with the mythology sound and mentioned the fact that most of the world’s religions include a story of a great flood.  We agreed that it makes sense that there really was a flood of somewhat immense proportions and that each group relayed the story through their own perspective.  

 

It is hard to read about God being so angry that he actually regretted having ever created us and wanted to wipe us out.  So much of our comfort comes from God resting at the end of the day and saying, “It is good!”  He was happy with us, he sent his son to save us because he loves us, and yet here he is very early in our story regretting our very creation.  

 

We agreed that things must have been pretty desperate.  My daughter asked if it was better or worse now and whether I ever wonder if God regrets having promised never to flood the world again.  If you were in Japan right now you might be justified in wondering if God has found some sort of loophole in that covenant he made so long ago with Noah. 

 

There isn’t really any way to compare the level of human depravity now to that of the time of the flood.  If it hadn’t been for Noah being a righteous man, we wouldn’t be here at all.  Look what has come from one righteous man and his family.  We should take some comfort in that.  At a time with attendance in the main-line churches is on the decline we need to remember that sometimes just one righteous man or woman standing up for what is right can result in stunning change!

 

As for the victims of the earthquake and flooding in Japan right now, and for those continuing to struggle with the results from earlier disasters, we need to remember them in our prayers, give as we are able whether that be in funds or service.

 

If your church is not taking donations to help the victims of disasters, you have no church, or you don’t know the best way for your money to make a difference on the ground I would recommend Presbyterian World Service and Development.  Find their relief link at presbyterian.ca

A Song: The Lord’s Prayer


Lord’s Prayer for Charles

The Lord’s Prayer

Song dedicated to Charles Deogratias

 

Our Father, mighty God, king of heaven and glory

My father, awesome God, sitting right here beside me.

 

You rule over all the world with justice, love and forgiveness.

May we all sing of your greatness and speak your name with wonder.

 

Lord I pray for your great kingdom here on earth as in heaven.

Help me, Lord, not to question your plan and purposes for me.

 

Lord send me, from your bounty, food for me and my family.

Not all we wish but what we need and keep our eye from tomorrow.

 

Please forgive that I have sinned and hurt the people around me,

When through your help I forgive the ones who’ve hurt me and love them.

 

For tomorrow, please protect me, from giving in to temptation.

Shield me from the evil one who works to separate me from you.

 

For your kingdom and your power and glory are forever,

Not just my life, nor the past, bur for time beyond all, Amen.

I wrote this version of The Lord’s Prayer in 2004 after an inspiring series of sermons on the prayer by my good friend The Rev. Charles Deogratias who is a chaplain with the Canadian Forces ordained by the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Don’t Look Too Closely, You Might See The Flaws


At the after Christmas sales at our local Fabricville store I found really nice pre-quilted fabric with chickadees and holly leaves on it.  If you follow this blog you will already know that I am a sucker for chickadees, so I bought the remaining amount without any clear idea of its eventual purpose.

While still on our break I made a tea cozy which turned out just as I wanted, and a cover for my Kobo reader which works but is not quite what I wanted.  This left quite a bit of fabric, enough to make a table-cloth or place mats.  I opted for the latter and cut them out.  I purchased enough bias tape to finish all the edges and then I was back to work and the project just sat.

I recently got back at the project and with some advice from a friend on mitred corners I did my first one.  It took several tries and corrections but it worked pretty well.  The second one worked really well and I am happy with it.  After school yesterday I finished four more of the place mats with varying degrees of success.  On a couple the bias tape pulled or puckered, on one the zig-zag stitch got all messed up on the corner.  I stopped for the night after finishing one and remarking to my daughter that my mother-in-law would be rolling over in her grave if she saw the work I had done.  Maybe the last two will go better tonight.

The thing is, if you aren’t actually looking at the stitching, they are quite nice.  And really, how many people will sit and scrutinize the stitch work on their place mat when they are eating a meal and talking with friends and family members?  This leads me to my point…

We have come to expect that things should be perfect.  With machines doing much of our manufacturing we expect that what it does on one item will be exactly the same as it is on every other.  Assuming the set-up was done correctly, the machine would have had none of the problems I faced on my place mats.  

Can the same be said for our lives?  Are we expecting perfection?  If we are. we will be sadly disappointed!  People are not perfect.  We can not expect that everything will turn our just as we like, that we will get everything we want.  We certainly know the possible results of getting obsessed with having the perfect body.  Some people take steroids which have all kinds of nasty side effects, people fry their skin in tanning beds, and worst of all some people end up starving themselves.  With this being National Eating Disorder Week the dangers of Anorexia Nervosa are front and center for those of us who have no first-hand experience.

There are two thoughts that come from all of this.  The first has to do  with what we should expect of ourselves and others.  If you are coming to my place I have invited you to see me and I trust that you are not there to judge my house keeping skills.  For me this situation would mean that I need to let go of obsessing to have everything perfect so that I can enjoy your company.  For you I guess it means that you shouldn’t look too closely in the corners when you come to visit me.

My second thought is that God sees every detail, every nook and cranny, but through Jesus we know that He has already forgiven our sins and is more focused on our conversation and our time together.