Rhythm of Life
Rhythm of Life
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
It seems so very different to worship online this morning. Cathy and I watched two live streams, both very good and reminding us of the church as a global community, and at the same time missing our immediate family since we could not gather this day. Through this past week it has become obvious that the more distance we keep, the more we realize that we were created for community. At the dawn of creation this was recognized by God when he saw Adam alone and said, “It is not good for man to be alone” before creating Eve to be with him. And Jesus remembered that when he was about to ascend back to the Father, promising to send His Spirit and said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” When we gather at church it is often said, where two or three are gathered, there he will be also, but today we are encouraged that even if we are in individual spaces practicing social and physical isolation, we are still never alone. Our God is watching over us and ever present with us. We hear his words through Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” May God grant each of us a blessing of his nearness.
As another item of rejoicing, although we can’t post it on our screen at church, we do want to congratulate Mike and Annie Oegema, as new grandparents, Heiko and Helen Oegema, as great grandparents, and also Uncle Derek and Uncle Ian, as Cam and Kristi have been blessed with a baby girl, Charlotte Ann Oegema born yesterday. Hopefully we can share their joy in person soon but for today give God praise as we are. More details on their Facebook page.
It has been a very unusual week and for many of us it is stressful, experiencing an isolation from each other, family members and also our community of friends. As we watch our Prime Minister speaking to our country each morning, we also are feeling the sense that this current environment that we live in may exist for a while. Therefore I want to send a prayer for each of you that a hedge of protection be around our homes, to keep us all safe during this season known as Covid19. It is hard to imagine that we cannot come together to be in fellowship and worship tomorrow, especially in a time when togetherness and being in presence with God as a family has been a great encouragement and strength in times of difficulty. In that thought we are still encouraged, that as we hunker down at home our God is still with us and Jeremiah 29:11-12 comes to mind. "11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." This passage gives us the hope that we are not alone and that even as we walk through this valley physically on our own, he is with us to guide us safely through. I am feeling stressed myself that I am not able to be present for you and pray that my presence is not needed at this time, but also wish to assure you that in my heart I am with each of you and praying for you. Pastor George
After nearly 5 years of re-visioning and reshaping the direction of ministry at what was First Christian Reformed Church of St. Thomas, the ministry has found a new identity and hopefully a new goal to lead us into the future. On September 29th 2019, in a dedication service, we took on a new name, ‘The Junction’ A Church for Everyone. Zephyr Bloch-Jorgense once said, “Dedication involves making the space to let young ideas take hold; every tree was once a seed and every company was once an idea.” That was so true when in 1952, a group of young immigrant families from the Netherlands came to Canada in search of a better life. A life of opportunity. With hard work and much dedication the ideals of this young and vibrant generation gave birth to establishing a faith community here in our city. We became known as the ‘Dutch Church’ which was relevant to that time since most of the people were of that decent and the original language of Dutch was used during services; since English was not yet well-known. But time has changed that dynamic, and we have become a multi-cultural community and are proudly Canadian today.
Dedication has several meanings and one of those says, dedication is the willingness to give a lot of time and energy to something because it is important. Faith in God and service to him is very important in this community, and the variety of expressions of that faith has led us to a church that since then has grown and given birth to two more venues in St. Thomas, at Fellowship CRC on Elm St. and at Destination Church on Talbot St. Over the years our church became a family of believers that loved, supported, and offered a hope to many other people as well, reaching out into our community.
One example; in the early 1980s after war and oppression devastated Cambodia, and many from that country were searching for refuge, the people of our church responded and today we are proud of the Cambodian Fellowship that worships in our facility every Sunday. They too, worship in their own native language, but while they worship separately they are a valued and deeply loved part of our DNA as we share fellowship with them. Today we are again seeing an influx of refugees from various parts of the world coming to this great country, and St. Thomas, as a city is welcoming them and enfolding them. It is our prayer that they too can find a faith loving community connection here, and we are open to continuing to coming alongside of families in need.
With the passing of 67 years, First CRC has made many transitions. As any living organism knows, some of them painful, some of them with great joy. Each with sacrifice and hard work. One transition that we made was to rebrand our faith community as ‘The Junction’, deepening our commitment to be a place of connection where people from all walks of life can find a home in this place called St. Thomas. Which was what we celebrated on September 29th as a day of remembering and rejoicing. We open the day with a continental breakfast and an interactive worship service marking the memories of our past and refocusing our vision to a new future. After the service there was a ribbon cutting ceremony in front of our new name on the building, dedicating this building and our people, once again to the mission of God. We did that because we wanted to demonstrate openly our dream. Dedication by definition also means, “a ceremony in which a building, especially a religious building, is opened for use and its purpose is state.” But it is more than just a building; it is a passion to share as “A dedication is also a ceremony in which something is formally opened or made available to the public.”
This is our main dream. That although we have been identified as a cultural entity, and have reached out to cultural communities in need, and continue to be open to that; what we are seeking more than anything is to be truly Canadian and multi-cultural, while at the same time bringing each of us into one family and celebrating the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We welcome people from all walks of life to come and experience the love and joy that we have found in Christ Jesus. It is to our God that we dedicate our lives and mission to grow his kingdom here in this community. A seed God has planted in our hearts from the beginning and which he gathers his fruit today. But as in any harvest, that opens us to being re-seeded for the future. Therefore, we look forward with anticipation to that next chapter in our lives and continue to dream of the possibilities of what the next 50-75 years might look like. May God be praised.