Longings…

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Currently I’m sitting in a gym in Scarborough at Seneca College. I am here for the 139th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. For the un-initiated, the General Assembly (I will refer to it as: GA, Assembly, #ga139) is the superior court of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The Assembly meets once a year (near or at the beginning of June) and consists of 1/3 of the ordained ministers in our church and an equalizing number of elders (lay leaders within the church). We meet to discern God’s will for our church and to rule on points of church governance. The Assembly meets in a different location every year (the last time I was at Assembly, it was in Sydney, Nova Scotia!).

Assembly can be mind-numbing and frustrating at times, but it can also be a place of hope for the future of our church, a place where we remember that we are in this together, a place where we can encourage each other in being the hands and feet of Jesus reaching out to a world in need.

One of things I have heard more than once in conversation so far in this Assembly, is the longing for our church to be healthy and vital. This makes me smile. Because I have heard so often the concerns and problems that we face. I have heard so often the fear and the frustration with our church. I have heard so often the difficulties and the lack of solutions.

To hear, instead, a longing for health and vitality is a very good thing. Two years ago I longed to be healthier, to be slimmer, to be stronger. And then I made some decisions about how I eat and what I do with my time. Today I am healthier, slimmer and stronger. This trend in my personal life will only continue.

As a church, as we long for health and vitality, we also have the ability to make some good decisions about how we do things. And if we follow through on those decisions, we will find ourselves healthier and more vital. I believe this is what God longs for, for us. I believe there is hope for our future. I believe that the honest, heart-felt longings that I am hearing expressed may be the powerful catalyst that this church needs to embrace a better future.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself
and God our Father,
who loved us and by his grace
gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope,
comfort you and strengthen you
in every good thing you do and say.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NLT

Small blessings..

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It’s interesting to me how certain topics seem to grasp the collective conscious…all of a sudden it seems everyone is talking about IT. Whatever it may be at any given moment. Today it seems there are three topics on the minds of just about everyone I have spoken to: the weather, Mother’s Day and the Leafs (hockey, not the ones on trees).

In my corner of Southern Ontario, the weather has been a little nuts today. There was snow and sleet on the wind. It is the middle of May, so we are all complaining bitterly about this sudden cold snap.

Mothers, especially, seem to be bummed that the day which celebrates all the hard work and endless love that goes into what they do each day, has turned out pretty rotten, weather-wise. It sucks wen bad weather ruins a good day.

But then – is it really possible for the weather to ruin a day? Probably not, if you asked just about any Leafs fan…given that today the Leafs won against Boston and have forced a 7th game in their first round of play off action for many a year.

Each of these topics is small in a way – but each of them points to blessing. Our Moms are a huge blessing to most of us (I have no problem declaring the fact that I would be lost with out my Mom, whose love and concern, cheering and problem solving, humor and faith continue to help make me into the person I am becoming). And even though some have difficult or even non-existent relationships with their Moms, they still have someone who mothered them without being biologically connected.

The weather doesn’t feel like much of a blessing today, but my goodness, a warm bed certainly does. And this weather makes me thankful for all the good weather we’ve had recently and the good weather that will be ours to enjoy by mid-week (PLEASE do not be wrong about that, weather man!!).

And the Leafs…they have broken the hearts of their fans so many times. But right now, whatever may happen tomorrow, they have brought joy and hope and excitement to this part of the world. And those are very good things.

I can’t help but remember one of my favorite Bible verses:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17 NIV

Be happy, my friends, whenever you recognize a blessing. It is a gift from God who loves you eternally. And His love is the biggest blessing of all.

Familiar…

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So today was another funeral at St. A’s. I’ve lost count of the number that we’ve had since this year began. But it has easily been too many. The gentleman whose life we celebrated today was not known to me, but he was an ordained elder in our congregation. He was remembered fondly by many who are elders today.

As the service rolled on, I found myself thinking about the scriptures that were read. I have heard them too many times recently. But because of that, they were strangely comforting to me. There was something in the rhythm of the words, the familiar cadence of these promises of God, that was deeper than the words themselves. Deeper than the things they were describing. It’s hard to explain what I felt as I listened to them yet again.

If there is a sound to the fabric of life, I think it is heard in powerful words of Scripture that are often repeated. The words of the 23rd Psalm – The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want – or the firm voice of Jesus saying “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” or the beautiful writing of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, reminding them that he is convinced that neither depth nor height nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

As I listened, what could have been a very exhausting and sad time (really, it has been too much lately, and I echo the sentiment of one friend who said “I just don’t want to sit in another funeral.”), was transformed and transcended. I found myself deeply moved by by the sense that these words and stories travel with us throughout our lives. They may be often read at a funeral, but they shape and form followers of Jesus in our good moments as well as the bad ones, in our happy moments as often as our sad moments, in our times of celebration and our times of grief.

I am so glad we do not go this road alone.