Rhythm of Life
Rhythm of Life
“. . . how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing, and you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37
When I was a child, the small library in my church was located just off the main entrance hall, and it was a portal to a wonderful world. Tall shelves stood stacked in a tiny room not much bigger than today’s walk-in closets. Every selection had been catalogued and then lovingly covered with brown library paper. A church library is a blessing of exploration, and for avid readers the books were both friends and treasures.
One well-thumbed book recounted a number of little anecdotes, word pictures telling of God’s sovereign care. In a particularly memorable story, the writer told of a prairie hen who had not survived the ravages of a grass fire, but who had somehow covered her chicks so that they could live. It was such a clear proof of her fierce protective and sacrificial love.
In the passage above we read of Jesus’ grief as he yearns over the city of Jerusalem. The Jewish leaders had not understood the love of God as he sent prophets to plead with them, to warn them of the consequences of their ways. And now they were so blinded by their self-righteousness and rigid codes of law that they couldn’t even recognize their Messiah or their need of Him.
And so they couldn’t comprehend Jesus’ tears at their unwillingness to accept Him now. Their stubborn and proud hearts had predictable consequences, with far more at stake than they knew. So much unnecessary suffering could have been averted. Instead, Jewish rebellion against Rome caused the destruction of Jerusalem and exile from their homeland for almost two thousand years.
And still God doesn’t abandon them, or us as believers. The Bible assures us that someday, God will again come and live with us, make his home among us. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, take away death, mourning, crying, pain because we will be sheltered by His Presence (Revelations 21).
In these turbulent times, we as a believing community can already experience that safe haven, a small foretaste of heaven. For we are always and forever protected by God’s love, through the One who sacrificed himself so we could shelter under His wings through the storms.
J.J. Tissot, Brooklyn Museum, Wikimedia Commons
. . . Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me, I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:8-10
“When you get old,” said my aunt, who was well into her eighties, “you’re always looking for things.” Currently I’m missing a winter hat and mittens, a cheque, and a schedule, and have looked in all the likely and even unlikely places. How is this even possible?
All of us can remember times when we’ve lost something important to us, even when we were young. Whether it’s due to absent-mindedness or old age, it niggles at us so much that we turn everything upside down until we find it. Sometimes in the process we even get a lot of drawers and cupboards sorted out. It’s a happy day when valuable things are found.
In this parable, Jesus takes an ordinary human situation, and compares it to the way God doesn’t rest when we’ve wandered away. In this time of COVID, people cannot attend church for various reasons. So, as God does with us, it’s important to search them out, to call them by name. People don’t always know how much their presence is appreciated unless someone takes the time to tell them.
We need everyone in this “lost and found” place which is The Junction. We are called together by the love of God. Jesus’ followers were a group with very different ambitions, backgrounds and outlooks on life. That’s the beauty of the church, because we must learn to love and work with those who are not like us, who have different strengths and weaknesses. We need to actively search them out, because our community loses something when they are not there.
As part of God’s search party, we can respond to His nudges, to reach out to someone who’s been on our mind. Sometimes all it takes is a kind word, card or phone call, or just asking how things are going, sharing the ups and downs of daily life. Sometimes it’s in giving and receiving time and talents, the joy of creating something together as a team, or being willing to laugh at ourselves.
When we are re-united with the missing ones there is great joy, for what was precious and feared lost forever is now found. Together we feast on God’s grace at His table, soul-refreshed by Word, music, and prayer.
WELCOME TO ST THOMAS INDWELL
Several of our church family members were treated to a BBQ in Sept to witness the exciting ground breaking ceremony of Indwell at 16 Queen St., St. Thomas. This will be the site of a 45 unit supportive housing project to combat homelessness in our city. The 4 storey structure will also include a new fire station on the ground level and is scheduled to open in the spring of 2023. Indwell CEO said this is an example of Values in Action. Indwell is a Christian based charity that has built supportive housing for more than 700 individuals in London, Woodstock, Simcoe and Hamilton. This will be Indwell’s second joint effort with the city of St. Thomas. The first being the construction and completion of 16 micro apartments on the second level of the Talbot St Transit building. These units are already occupied by grateful tenants. They are operated and managed by Indwell staff. Indwell is also planning a third phase in St. Thomas which will be built on Ross St in the future. This will bring the total of affordable units available in St. Thomas to over a hundred. Thanks to all the hard working, compassionate people that have brought this project to fruition.
Thank you God for blessing our city.
Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” Exodus 33:15
It’s been a season of saying good-bye to beloved people in our church, including a charter member of our community. We are thankful for those God has given to faithfully mentor and guide us through tough times and places. While there were great rewards, sometimes the burdens of leadership could be heavy. Leading the church could be much like navigating the wilderness with the ancient people of Israel, as Moses did.
And Moses’ story has always offered great inspiration to those in leadership, as he is one of the most intriguing Old Testament figures. Surviving Pharoah’s edict of infanticide to be adopted into the royal household, he received an education and training in Egypt’s systems. In a fit of anger, he murdered a cruel Egyptian taskmaster, then fled into the desert to escape retribution. Reacting in anger was to prove problematic for Moses throughout his life.
It must have seemed, then, that tending sheep in the wilderness was to be his destiny. But God had different uses in mind for Moses’ shepherding skills and one day the curiosity that sent him to investigate an ever-burning bush changed everything. Still, Moses stuttered and balked and attempted to evade God’s commission to confront Pharoah, until God finally assured him of brother Aaron’s help. Moses was given the courage to confront Egypt’s ruler through ten plagues, instructed the Israelites in a Passover that spared their firstborn sons. He followed God’s command when he raised his staff to lead Israel through the Red Sea to safety.
Even as the elders cowered in fear on the plain, Moses climbed the fiery heights of Sinai to meet God. He recorded the Ten Commandments along with the meticulous instructions for the priestly offices and the tabernacle in which the nation was to worship. The first five books of the Bible were inscribed by Moses. God would speak to Moses inside the tent, as a friend speaks to a friend.
There were times when Moses’ confidence was low. He begged his brother-in-law, who knew the best places to camp in the wilderness, to accompany them. He initially had trouble delegating authority. He dashed the stone tablets of the law to fragments, outraged to see how quickly Israel had fallen into worship of the golden calf. He sustained a number of challenges to his leadership. Exasperated at the constant grumbling of the Israelites, Moses lost his temper and disregarded God’s instructions. It cost him the opportunity to enter the Promised Land.
But Moses interceded for those same people when their idolatry provoked God to consider wiping the nation out. He defended his wife against his siblings’ criticism, then pleaded for his sister’s healing. Most humbly he walked with God so that God’s presence lit up his countenance, but he had the audacity to ask God to show His glory.
Moses is named as one of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. In spite of his faults (and at the end of his life, Moses couldn’t resist reminding Israel he’d sinned because of them), Moses could climb the mountaintop for a glimpse of the Promised Land, a look into the future. Even fallible leaders can look forward in hope to God’s glorious home for his church. Each generation of leaders passes on the shepherd’s staff, trusting that God will continue to provide his people with all they need to safely arrive at their destination.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2
During our cold winters, Canadians live with a landscape that lies hidden under the snow. Although it may appear there is no life, deep inside a plant is preserving itself and preparing for spring. This is also a time for pruning back branches on trees, or grafting new twigs (called scions) into a host tree. When just the right conditions come along, plants and trees will be ready once more for growth.
Even some household plants follow this cycle. An orchid spends some time in dormancy, a rest period before it can bloom again. It’s important not to give up on this plant as it drops petals, when its leaves lose lustre, when its stems may shrivel. It’s not attractive. Though it may take months, new buds do eventually begin to swell, and we see beautiful blossoms open, one after the other.
Because of COVID, the church seems to be hibernating. We are unable to interact with each other, or the community, as much as we’d like. It appears as if everything has frozen in place, that life in the church as we know it has nearly come to a standstill, and we wonder if a resurrection is at all possible.
In this stressful time, we’ve had to be creative about how we can continue to meet needs. It’s been a time to cut back on programs we’ve run for years, and to graft in new connections online. It’s difficult to understand because we view some of what was cut away as really good. But as a church loved by our gardener, we can trust that God’s inscrutable ways are for our eventual growth and fruitfulness.
As the light increases and conditions again become favourable, the sleeping plant stirs and once again flowers and bears fruit. We, too, awaken at God’s Word, and know that He makes everything beautiful in His time.
“But everything exposed to the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. That is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” Ephesians 5:14