November 8, 2015
Bible Text: Hebrews 9:24-28 and Mark 12:38-44 | Preacher: Rev. Bruce W. Kemp, Reverend Bruce W. Kemp OF SACRIFICE AND LOVE OF SACRIFICE AND LOVE This is a day that in our churches we set aside as a time of remembrance. It is a tradition that has been maintained for close to 100 years.  It is a tradition that saw its beginnings with the end of a war that came to be known as World War 1.  Of all the conflicts known to the modern era of history, this was the first war that effectively engulfed the whole world. And while it essentially was fought in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, it changed the landscape of the world. Unfortunately, it did not satisfy all conflict and there have been many wars to follow it. But for large parts of our world today, war is something we read about on our computers and perhaps see images of but have little personal contact.   For others – even in our community – war in our present day is something which continues to be very real. And while they may not personally live in the midst of that conflict, they deal with the pain and suffering of those who have chosen to be part of the solution to conflicts in various parts of the world. Often I was asked why a man of the cloth would even consider being a chaplain in the armed forces. For many people it seemed like a contradiction. In their minds, they had images of the chaplain blessing guns and condoning death and destruction; but the reality is far from that. The reality is that the chaplains are there to provide spiritual comfort and counselling to men and women who are asked to face situations that we can never imagine and help them to make sense of the crazy world in which they find themselves. And while as chaplains, we are not allowed to use weapons, we would find ourselves exposed to many of the situations that those who are armed face and may even face many of the same dangers.   And so we have taken time this morning to remember not only the sacrifice of those who died in the major conflicts of the past century as well as the conflicts of this century, but to remember all those who came home and have had to live with the memory of what happened to them and to their comrades.  We remember the families of those who served and are serving. We remember the civilians caught in the places of conflict, those who have died and those who have lived.  As a nation and as a people our responsibility to those who served cannot end when they come home. All of us carry baggage from our lives; our experiences shape who we are and who we become. For those who experience severe traumatic experiences, the baggage can be more oppressive. And just as we know that emotional, mental and physical baggage cannot be just dropped like a sack of potatoes, so for those who served the baggage often hangs on.   In our lives as Christians, we carry not only emotional, mental and physical baggage, we also carry spiritual baggage. The interactions that we have as a community of faith bring to us challenges that touch mind, body, heart and spirit. And we can carry that baggage with us from place to place.  For many of us we will spend a lifetime trying to find a place to deal with the baggage that we have picked up.  One of the struggles we have is finding an appropriate place to unpack that baggage.  Nobody likes the experience of opening their suitcase at the airport to repack.  Our life is exposed to the world. True enough, most of us will find the same items in all our bags but we may have something different or special, something that we have kept hidden in our bag, something that maybe even those closest to us now have no idea.  Unpacking our baggage in a safe place with people we trust is something for which we all hope.  What I am speaking about is finding a place and/or a person with whom we can unpack that baggage and begin to lighten our load.   When we come to a place of worship, we may have an expectation that we can open our spiritual baggage. We may believe in our heart and mind that this is a place where we can lighten our load and find that peace of spirit that we seek. We may believe that we will be able to find forgiveness and healing for the hurts that we carry. I put it that way because too often our expectations are not reflected in the reality of what we find.  In my first congregation there was a lady who was faithful to worship but never attended communion. When I asked her why, she replied that she was not worthy to come to the table because she was not perfect in her life.  Often we judge ourselves or others harshly for the sin in our life. We struggle to be perfect but realize all too often that perfection is beyond us. For some this realization ends in despair as they come to believe that they are beyond redemption and that they will ever be known by their sins.   The author of the letter to the Hebrews knew all too well the struggles of the people to whom his letter was written. He knew that they were not perfect people and that their struggle to be perfect – as so often they believed they need to be – would lead many of them to despair of any future with God.  They feared that God would only love them if they were so perfectly following the lead of Christ.  And often we have brought that kind of perfection into our communities. Its effect is often to cause many to turn away from God believing that only when they are perfect will God receive them.  If that’s the case, I should never feel the hand of God or the voice of God or the Spirit of God in my life.   The author to the Hebrews wants us to reflect on the reality of our lives. We will sin, we will carry baggage but we do not need to despair of our sin or be afraid to reveal our baggage.   In Christ God has become the mediator between Him and us. The death of God in Christ was to give us freedom from our sins and hope that we will not be afraid to reveal our baggage to Him and to one another. For many the second coming of Christ is seen as judgment but it is a judgment that people will place on themselves. Our sins have been paid for – not only the sins of those alive in the time of the incarnation but the sins of all those who have come into this world since and who will come into this world until the end of God’s time. The second coming of Christ is to receive those who have committed themselves in this life to loving God and striving to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.   And so as we remember this day the human sacrifice of life made by those who died and those who survived that we might live in freedom, let us not forget that sacrifice of God in Christ who not only died for us but lives that He may come again to receive us not in judgment but in love. AMEN
Bible Text: Joshua 1 1-11 and Revelation 1: 1-6 | Preacher: Reverend Bob Martin Norman Vincent Peale was one of the gurus of the 1960's, 70's, 80's and even the 90's - if he had lived in the st decade he would have been the Dr. Phil - the darling of the talk shows - as he expounded his belief in the power of positive thinking based on Scriptural principles espoused by Paul -  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me and Joshua who heard the word “Be strong, be resolute, do not be fearful or dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”   Joshua was a man who could see the possibilities in strange places unlike many of the others who only saw the impossibilities. When the Israelites came to the banks of the river Jordan for the first time, Moses sent twelve spies to investigate the land, to examine its strengths and weaknesses and to report on its resources.  They all came back with tales of the wonder of the land.  They brought back grapes, pomegranates and figs to show the people....but ten of these men spoke of the utter impossibility of it ever being theirs.  “The people are giants, the cities are well fortified, they said.  It will be impossible for us to take this land and settle in it. Their attitude is typical of a vast section of the population today - both inside and outside the church.  They see and magnify the probelms until the impossibilities overwhelm the possibilities and they concede defeat before they have even started.  They make mountains out of mole hills....   The other two spies came back from investigating the land and confirmed all the stories of the other ten.  But their attitude was different.   This is a marvelous land.  It is over-flowing with milk and honey.  Certainly they were great, tall, strong people but...the taller they are the harder they fall.  Let’s get on with it.  Two for....Ten against....the people would hear none of it and so they turned back into the desert until a new generation would rise.  Joshua and Caleb... This morning I would like us to learn just one thing about Joshua which is supremely important Joshua was a man of faith.   He had the promises of God and he believed them.  Listen to them:  Be strong, be resolute, do not be afraid or dismayed for the Lord your God is with you where ever you may go (1:9) This promise is not only for Joshua.  It is for all believers who trust in the Lord.  Listen to what God said to Isaiah:  Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.  (Isaiah 41:10) Jesus said to the disciples after His resurrection:  Go into all the world and preach the Gospell....An d I am with you always, even to the end of the world. These are the verses which we need to hold onto when we are undertaking new ventures, when we are considering frightening prospects or just when we lack confidence.  Crossing the Jordan was a great test of the faith of the people.  It was the eastern border f Canaan - the Promised Land.  Some have used it in hymns and in preaching to equate Jordan with death and Canaan with heaven.  But Canaan was not heaven - a land flowing with milk and honey - yes - but also a land of strife and blood shed and warfare - which it continues to be to this day. Can you imagine his horror on the appointed day when he found that the usually placid river was a roaring torrent (3:14).  What should he do?  Put off the crossing until the river went down?  Common sense demands it.  But faith and common sense do not always go hand in hand.  After all, Paul says God chose the foolish of the world to confound the wise.  Joshua had a vision.  He had a positive outlook. Much of what restrains us today is lack of faith. We are afraid to do something new, something different, something innovative.  When we have a vision - what do we do with itÉ  For years there were great slag heaps of spent shale surrounding our villages in Scotland.  Then someone had an idea - a vision.  And they went to the Scottish Oils and offered the 100,000 pounds - a lot of money back in the 70's - and that person then began to market the slag.  It was ideal for road beds.  A branch line was built from the Edinburgh - Glasgow railway.  Soon the bings were gone and he was rich.  A special gun was built to fire pellets of seeds mixed with fertilizer into the slag which could be reclaimed and now they have disappeared under grass and bushes and trees.  When we hear the voice of God saying ”Go and I will be with you” – we are not willing to take that step in faith and we are not always faithful to our calling as Christians.  We may sing “Be Thou my Vision”  but we do not want to act upon it. Be strong, be resolute, do not be afraid or dismayed for the Lord your God is with you where ever you may go. Joshua was no superman.  Listen to the promise: Be strong - he knew weakness... Be resolute - he wavered... Do not be afraid - he knew fear.... Do not be dismayed - he certainly needed encouragement. All his life had been a preparation for this moment when he would put the vision into action and make it a reality - just as Moses' life had been up until his confrontation with the Pharoah...Jesus spent 30 years in training, if you like...in the home of Mary and Joseph...experiencing what it was to be truly human...Paul's learning and education...Joshua had learned to be a man of faith.  He chose the way of faith and having made his decision he marched the people down into Jordan. The instructions were quite clear “when the priest who are carrying the ark touch the water with their feet the river will stop flowing....”  So what do you follow - faith or common sense?   I believe that God speaks the same words to us: Be Strong.  We have the Holy Spirit - the Strengthener.... Be Resolute in your faith - have we ever known God to fail?""" Faith is something very wonderful - it is Godès gift to you - not to keep but to share, to give away. That is why it is so important to speak with God day by day, to consult with Him and take seriously the guidance we receive from Him. Joshua 1:9 Be strong, be resolute, do not be fearful or dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. And especially to hear the words “Do not be fearful or dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”. Remember also the words of God to Isaiah “fear not for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God.” This surely is the crux of the matter "I am your God.'  

Moses, a Man with Excuses

October 25, 2015
Bible Text: Exodus:1-17 and Hebrews 1: 1-4 | Preacher: Reverend Bob Martin Apologies  Sermon not yet available electronically


October 18, 2015
Bible Text: Numbers 11:4-6, 10-18, 24-30 and Mark 9: 38-50 | Preacher: Speaker: Phyllis McMaster Message: God’s Spirit at Work Today our service of worship celebrates the mission and ministry we do together through Presbyterian Sharing.  We join with other Presbyterians to proclaim the good news of the gospel in Canada and around the world.   Presbyterian Sharing helps develop innovative ministries for children and youth.  We equip leaders to do effective ministry.  We support, encourage and enrich congregations in the areas of worship, evangelism and mission, Christian education, stewardship, planned giving, leadership and congregational development and renewal.  We help ministries to grow.  Together through PS we speak up for the voiceless and support healing and reconciliation.  Supporting Presbyterian Sharing is a marvelous way to participate in the life giving mission of God. How many of you followed Pope Francis when he was in the Cuba and the US.  I was very inspired by the man and his focus on the family and those who are in search of a better life.  In his presentation to Congress one paragraph has a lot of meaning for us and our commitment to Presbyterian Sharing.  Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.” — Address to Congress, Washington D.C. Todays theme is God Spirit at work. Spirit comes from Hebrew and Greek roots meaning breath, air, strength and wind. In our Old Testament reading today we find Moses inviting 70 leaders of the Israelite community to join him at the meeting tent erected outside of the camp. The meeting tent was the place where the community prayed and worshipped God.  We are told that, in that tent, the leaders will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit so they can share with Moses the burden of caring for the Israelites, who are still wandering in the desert after escaping a life of slavery in Egypt. The elders are filled with the Spirit, as promised, and begin to speak the words of God.          But two leaders do not join the others. For some reason Eldad and Medad stay in the camp with the rest of the people. Even though they aren’t with Moses, the Spirit descends upon them and they, too, begin to prophecy and speak the words of God.            A young man notices this and runs to Moses to report what he has seen. Joshua, who is with Moses, calls on him to stop these two rebel elders. After all they are prophesying improperly and outside the meeting tent.            But Moses doesn’t see it that way. Instead, he asks, "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” We hear of a similar story happening to Jesus years and years later.          The disciples are faithfully following Jesus, learning from him as they go. But one day they notice strangers driving out demons in Jesus' name and try, unsuccessfully, to stop them.           Later, they tell Jesus about the incident. Like Joshua, the disciples thought Jesus would want this unusual behavior stopped.  Instead he surprises them by saying “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.”           It’s a message that appears again and again in the Bible: God works in unexpected ways through the words and actions of all types of people to bring about God’s mission. The Holy Spirit continues to work through all sorts of people today – some of whom we know, others we will never meet. God even works through you and me.  The scriptures remind us that the God who holds the great earth and vast sea in his hands, as the psalmist puts it, is not restricted by human notions and limitations.  God touches human hearts and accomplishes wonders in ways and places we may never anticipate. Today, as we reflect about our mission and ministry through Presbyterians Sharing let me share with you a few places where God’s amazing spirit is at work through some of the ministries we support together in Canada and around the world. As a Community Health Advisor, Michelle Verwey is a PCC mission worker serving alongside our Church of North India partners in central India. Together they plan and implement community health projects in the Vindhya-Satpura region. Recently Michelle has begun helping the Mendha Local Committee plan a new project. Presbyterian involvement in the Mendha area began when missionaries planted a church there in the early 1900s.  Even then, it was one of the poorer regions in the area. Michelle works with a community committee made up retired nurses, community leaders and others – including some local members of the church. She provides technical advice, encouragement and support as they decide on projects that will make a difference in the community. Currently the community is looking for ways to train subsistence farmers in ways to increase crop yields. It also hopes to provide women with skills training and encouragement so they can form groups to save money, open bank accounts and access loans.  This will allow them to purchase farming materials to increase crop production, pay for their children’s school fees and start small local businesses such as a community store. The work has only just begun, but part of the long-term vision for the Mendha project is to help children finish school and provide adult education in reading, writing and basic mathematics. The committee hopes this will reduce the vulnerability of families to chronic poverty. Can you see the Spirit of God moving – through the actions of Michelle and the local committee – as they serve one another to declare good news to the poor? Heritage Green Presbyterian Church was planted in the late 1980’s with a vision of reaching the families of Upper Stoney Creek, Ontario, with the good news of Jesus Christ. Through a series of tragic events, this vision was never fully realized and by 2013 there were only a dozen or so worshippers on Sunday mornings and virtually no children. Despite the fact that the community around them was rapidly expanding with young families, it looked like Heritage Green might close. But God planted a new vision for a family-focused ministry that would look completely different from the community that was worshipping there. It would have two ministers – even though the congregation couldn’t support even one. It would focus on family ministry – even though there was only one family in the congregation. The kind of radical change required an enormous leap of faith for the existing congregation. In order to see this vision come to life, they would have to become the “soil” for this new replant. The congregation was invited to receive and nurture new families with love, acceptance and faithfulness. Help from the Presbytery of Hamilton and Presbyterians Sharing would help these seeds of faith grow. The congregation soon discovered becoming soil isn’t particularly glamorous! In fact, it required dying to who they were in order to see something new come to life, but the vision was exciting enough to make the risk worthwhile. So the congregation said “yes” and the replant began. Just nine short months later, Heritage Green has turned a new leaf!  Easter Sunday 2015 was celebrated with over 100 worshippers, a full third of whom are children. With an average weekly attendance of well over 60, there is new life springing up everywhere. Many of the families have never attended a church before.  They are encountering Jesus and asking questions like: What does God require of my life? What is the kingdom of God? Can you see God’s Spirit at work as people risk change? The church is still in the early stages of this replanting story and everyone is excited to see what God has in store next! These are stories of God at work in the people around us. We participate in these wonderful ministries through our gifts to Presbyterians Sharing. Let us thank God that the Holy Spirit continues to be at work in these and other unexpected and exciting ways. And may we hear the words of Moses who said: “I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” Life-Changing Mission “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) The Spirit of God invites us into life-changing mission. We are surrounded by a world in need. As servant of God, we are called to give voice to the voiceless all around us who have given up hope that life can be better. We are called to forge partnerships in mission and service to give witness to Christ’s love for all people. Therefore it’s not the size of our church that matters, but the size of our hearts joined in faithful service. We understand that reaching out is a continuing commitment. It takes time. Jesus teaches us to treat the people’s need for healing, justice, and mercy as holy and tells us to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Because His love knows no boundaries, neither does our service. Mission is part of the “grammar” of faith, something essential for those who listen to the voice of the Spirit who whispers “Come” and “Go forth”. Those who follow Christ cannot fail to be missionaries, for they know that Jesus “walks with them, speaks to them, breathes with them.” Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. Thousands of people are escaping persecution in their countries and travelling in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities," "Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation." We must try to embrace the whole of humanity and those that listed in Matthew 25 – the poorest, the thirsty, the hungry, the stranger, the sick and the naked. May God bless you. May God give you strength. May God strengthen you to keep moving forward. When you find yourself in the position to help someone, be happy and feel blessed because God is answering that person’s prayer through you.  Remember our purpose on earth is not to get lost in the dark but to be a light to others so they may find their way through us.   I want to leave you with some Godly reminders Today, don’t harden your hearts Above all, love the Lord your God Love your neighbor as yourself Trust in the Lord with all your heart Be still Do not fear Be strong and courageous Give cheerfully Be grateful Be obedient to God Glorify God always God Bless You And remember Today I am blessed.   Let us Pray: Thank You, Father, that You are the God of the small things as well as the large things. You give us such pleasure in the everyday sights and sounds of Your creation, as well as the constant assurance of Your never-ending presence. May we never take these blessings for granted. Amen.    
Bible Text: Matthew 5:13 | Preacher: Speaker: Kathy Spruit Children's Story Today we are going to talk about salt.  How many of you like salt?  Would you ever eat a spoonful of salt?  That would be pretty awful, wouldn’t it?   Hold up Table Salt - What sorts of things taste better with salt?  Who would like to taste popcorn?  How does it taste without salt?  It’s ok – but it is missing a little something.... Now, what happens when we add a little salt...how does that taste?  Better?  Without salt, popcorn doesn’t taste as good, does it?   What else does salt do?   It can keep meat and fish from going bad without refrigeration.  That’s why we eat beef jerky.   Hold up Epsom Salts - Salt has healing and cleansing properties.  It can be used to clean wounds.  It can also soothe sore muscles.  Runners sometimes use bath salts to relax after a race. Hold up Ice-melting Salt - Do you know what happens when you put salt on sidewalks in the winter when there is lots of ice on them?  That’s right!  It melts!  Salt can change ice ot water.   Salt can do ALL these cool things – and more!   In today’s reading, Jesus says that Christians are the salt of the earth.  It’s sort of funny to think of ourselves as salt, isn’t it?   In Jesus’ time, salt was very important and valuable.  In fact, it was so valuable, that people were sometimes paid with salt instead of coins!  Can you imagine your mom or dad being paid with a bag of salt?  That’s where the work “Salary” comes from.   So what do you think Jesus meant when he said that Christians are the salt of the earth?  Here’s one way to think about it: Just like salt makes things taste better, we can make the world a better place by looking after our neighbor and sharing God’s love. Just like salt saves food from spoiling and cleans things up, we can help clean up and care for God’s earth. Just like salt changes ice to water, we can change people’s lives through our actions. And just as salt soothes and heals, we can listen to people who are hurting and say things to make them feel better.   Today is Presbyterians Sharing Sunday.  Some of the money we put in the offering plate supports Presbyterians Sharing.  With this money, we work together with congregations across Canada to support all kinds of people – in Canada and around the world.  Together we are salting the world:  sparking love for God and love for one another. A little bit of salt – on food, in water, on roadways – can make a big difference.  And we can make a big difference too – in our schools, in our neighbourhoods, in our country, and even in the world!   You are the salt of the earth.  You can make a difference!


October 11, 2015
Bible Text: 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 & 1 Corinthians 1: 1-9 | Preacher: Speaker: Jan Clapp First Thessalonians 5:18 says “Give Thanks in All Circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” So today we are celebrating Thanksgiving and we celebrate this once a year.  But you know God wants us to be intentional about our Thanksgiving every single day of the year.  He wants us to develop this spiritual habit of giving thanks and the more deeply we understand God’s Love, the more grateful we are going to be. So what does it mean to be grateful in all circumstances?  Well, we can thank God in every circumstance because God is in control.  He can bring good out of evil.  He can turn around the stupid mistakes we’ve made and no matter what happens God isn’t going to stop loving us.  So there are a hundred things to be thankful for in any circumstance even when the circumstances are not what we might like. I think being thankful in all circumstances is God’s will because it creates fellowship.  Gratitude always builds deeper relationships between us and other people and also between us and God.  So whoever you want to get closer to, start expressing gratitude to that person.  If you’ve moved a bit away from a spouse, for example, then perhaps you need to start doing what you did when you were dating:  Express gratitude; write little notes of kindness and encouragement; make calls or – hey – even text during the day.  Just to tell that person that you are thankful for them.  Do those things you used to do!!  Maybe you’ll find that the reason you’ve lost that “lovin’ feeling” is because you stopped doing the things that created that loving feeling early on..... and just maybe you are taking each other for granted.   Look at your group of friends:  Do you encourage each other?  Do you build each other up?  Because as you build others up you will find that God builds into your life as well and you will find you have a deeper relationship with Him as well as others. Psalm 69 verse 30-32 says “Then I will praise God’s name with singing and I will honour Him with thanksgiving.   For this will please the Lord more than sacrificing an ox or presenting a bull with its horns and hooves”.  There are just so many places in the bible about being thankful and magnifying our Lord. So we should arise each morning and lie down each night with thankfulness in our hearts.  No matter what else is going on, no matter what battles we face, what trials we endure, what shadows come our way to cast darkness over the light of our joy, at the end of the day, no matter what – we are FORGIVEN!  We are set free and we should always, always remain thankful. Although this sounds obvious, it’s sometimes hard to live that way - because we face battles and trials and shadows – because, worse than all of these is the sometimes exhausting monotony of life.  The 9 to 5 grind or the Monday to Friday weekly routine.  As we know we hear from many retired folks that they are busier than ever so this does not exclude them.   As life goes on we know that it is often made up of repetitive tasks and routines.  Sometimes those things have a way of dulling our shine – of making it hard for us to remember to be thankful.  It is hard to remember that we have been given the gift of salvation and everything else we have – whether it be a little or a lot is simply icing on a very  - very good cake. So what do we do then?  How do we fight routine, fight monotony, fight the repetitive nature of life?  Well if we take our cue from the Old Testament we begin by remembering; by telling the story; by saying once again what God has done for us.   So we have to remember – we have to be thankful for what God did for us yesterday.  We also have to have our eyes open today because today Gods is doing something in your life; in my life; and in the lives of all who love and serve Him.  If we’re not careful we will quite simply miss it.  It’ll zoom past us like a million other moments that we didn’t notice.  Sometimes we don’t see well what is happening around us – especially if we are carrying a heavy burden..... or struggling through a difficult season....that can cloud the way we see things.  So just like the fog that gathers on the windshield in your car on cold mornings, our emotions, the stresses we are feeling, the hurts or losses we are trying to come to grips with....these things can fog up our vision and make it difficult for us to see.  Sometimes the best way to clear the fog is to stop and make a list of the things that you need to thank God for RIGHT NOW...THIS MOMENT...THIS INSTANT.  Not from yesterday, not for tomorrow – but for RIGHT NOW.  And when you are making your list, leave the gig things off the list....like your health....your home....your income.  Those things are fairly constant in your life.  Limit yourself to things that are only happening today.  So what is the thing that you will do today that you don’t get to do every day?  What is something unique at this moment?  Make a list, focus on what you are thankful for RIGHT NOW and that fog begins to lift – just like when the car warms up and the heat begins to clear the windshield.  Now I’m not saying that the burdens will leave you, but it’s hard to be so weighed down by them when you are focusing on things you have to be thankful for. So I think it’s good to remember and be thankful for what God is doing for us RIGHT NOW... TODAY!  I mean....here we are able to come together and worship God.  Not everyone in our world can do that.  Uncertainty is a constant in our world but it is a blessing to know that God holds the future.  That is what we call HOPE.  We may not know what the future holds but we know who holds the future.  We have to trust that God will continue to be at work tomorrow.  I do think that hope if vital to our faith, vital to our lives and vital to what is means to live thankfully.   The Psalmist wrote:  “All who worship God, come here and listen”   I will tell you everything God has done for me.  I prayed to the Lord and I praised Him.  If my thoughts had been sinful he would have refused to hear me.  But God did listen and answered my prayer.  Let’s praise God.  He listened when I prayed and He is always kind.  Tomorrow is in His hands and HE is always kind.  So at this time let’s remember what God did for us yesterday.  Let’s also remember what he is doing for us today.  Let’s trust in the fact that God will give you more reasons to be thankful tomorrow.   October is a time to acknowledge and to Give Thanks. It is a time to reflect, a time to give thanks, a time to acknowledge the little things...the big things...all the things others do...to make your life better.   Happy October!  Happy Thanksgiving!!            
Bible Text: Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12 & Mark 10:2-16 | Preacher: Reverend Bruce W. Kemp   Over the last number of centuries we have grown accustomed to meeting in buildings constructed to the glory of God. These buildings have been designed to reflect the symbols of our faith and to draw our attention to the heavens.  And while the shape of these buildings vary from rectangular to round, they are often filled with intricate woodwork and stained glass windows designed to focus our minds on the life of Christ and to remind us of the sacrifice made on our behalf. In fact the buildings are designed to encourage us to see the space as holy space.  Any church building – from the simplest country church to the most ornate cathedral – any one of them can evoke a sense of the divine to the person who truly seeks to find God.   Moreover our buildings are filled with structures to highlight the specific rites and practices that mark our faith.  The baptismal font is ever present in most churches. In some it takes a place of especial prominence. Its place reminds the believers of that moment when they decided to dedicate their lives to God. If their baptism was as infants, the font would remind them of the faith which they had known all their lives and which they had affirmed when they made their formal declaration and commitment.  The communion table for us takes a central place in our buildings. It is a simple table designed to remind us of that first last supper that Jesus shared with those first disciples.  And while others have chosen to place altars as a sign of the sacrifice of God in Jesus Christ, we have chosen to focus on the communal sharing of a meal.  Our table is simple for it is not the table itself that makes the sacrament so special or the elements that are placed upon it for our consumption but rather it is the presence of the One who calls us to come to this table and it is the remembrance of what the elements symbolize.   Remember that that first table in that upper room held no magic. It was not made of special wood or endowed with a special blessing. It was a table. What made it special was what was put upon it and even then it was the meaning with which those elements were imbued.   Another structure that is prominent in most of our churches is the pulpit. Often larger churches will have both a pulpit and a lectern.  The lectern is the place from which the Scriptures will be read.  In many communities, the Gospel reading will be read with the congregation standing.  The reading of the Word of God has ever been with us. The Jewish synagogues always included the reading of the Word of God and we continue that practice today.  Many of us use the Revised Common Lectionary to guide our year.  The lectionary encourages us to explore all the parts of the Bible and to ever remain acquainted with the history of the people of God and to be reminded of the struggles they went through as they sought to live their lives with God.  The reading of the Word of God can be powerful in and of itself. When we ask God to open our minds and hearts to the words contained in the Scriptures, we are seeking to learn the lessons of life that God desires us to know and discover how we can make them an active part of our daily life. I would encourage all readers in worship to not feel that you need to rush through the readings. Take the time to enjoy it. It will aid all of us in hearing the words and pondering them in our hearts and minds.   For many of our churches, it seems strange perhaps that the pulpit is higher than the communion table.  There are many good reasons for this. Primary of course was the need for the preacher to be seen and heard by all who were in attendance. Modern day microphones have largely eliminated that need.  But there also was the sense that the Word of God was critical to the faith of the people. The preaching on the Word of God has been and continues to be a vital part of our worship experience. Even more so, it was the major part of the worship experience when the singing of hymns was not as prevalent as it is today. Today our worship experience is rich with song and special music.  Perhaps there are some who feel that the minister needs to talk for at least 15 minutes to make the time here worthwhile but it should be all the elements of the worship experience combining to provide us - as a community – with the strength and encouragement to go out from here to live our lives as the people of God and to seek to be servants by responding to the needs we find around us.   And so we are surrounded here in this place with a space that has been dedicated to the glory of God and filled with symbols that remind us of our relationship to our God.  But is this what is meant by our life in the house of God?   The house of God is an ancient term used by the people of God for centuries.  It was a way for people to be able to relate to God. After all, they had houses, so it only made sense that God would have a house.  But they also knew that their houses were mobile. Remember that the first people to come to know God in the time of Abraham were wanderers taking their sheep and goats wherever they could find water and grass. They gave no thought to a permanent dwelling place.  And so for them the house of God was not in one fixed place. The house of God was wherever they were for they knew that God was with them always.  When the first temple was constructed, that was the first time that the people came to believe that there was one house in which God dwelt. Of course, this caused great distress to the people when the exile occurred because they felt that God would not be able to find them because He was in His house in Jerusalem. Yet they came to understand that while God may be in the temple, He was also with them in their exile.   Perhaps we too have come to believe that God can only be found in the places we have constructed.  Perhaps we have come to believe that our life in the house of God is within these walls.  But the reality is that our life in the house of God is far larger than this place. For the house of God is the heavens, it is the universe, it is the creation that we see and the creation we cannot even glimpse.   Our life in the house of God is the life we live day by day.  And wherever we walk, whatever we are doing, whomever we encounter, we are ever in the house of God!


September 27, 2015
Bible Text: Proverbs 3:1-6, Hebrews 10:19-25 and Luke 10:38-42 | Preacher: Speaker: Donna McIlveen Stir the Pot Thank you for the invitation to be with you on this, St. Andrew’s anniversary Sunday.  Anniversaries are a great time for celebration and that’s what is happening today.  It is good to celebrate – to come together, brothers and sisters in Christ, together in worship – to make a joyful noise to the Lord…as the Psalmist puts it…for the Lord is good and his steadfast love endures forever.  On days like today we look back over the years and remember gatherings, other special occasions, and of course the people who we shared them with.  Anniversaries though not only provide an opportunity for reflection on the past, but remind us to look around, to give thanks to the Lord our God who has gathered us here today, and to look down the road as a congregation, encouraging one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.   As we look back we know that throughout the years this congregation has been a place where many families have gathered to worship…to pray…to sing…to study…and to enjoy fellowship together.  Families have gathered for baptisms…for weddings…and for funerals.  Some of those memories are shared by just a few people…others by many families.  Some memories are precious…some bring a tear…a sigh…and some bring a smile to your face.  But whether the memory is special for one or many…the link for all memories is that they are a part of the story of St. Andrew’s…a branch of the fellowship of Christ’s people.  And if it was not for Christ, we would not be gathered here this morning.  If it were not for Christ’s death and resurrection we would not be here.  It is not what we have done in the past…as good as those deeds were.  It is not our relationships with one another…as cherished and as caring as they are.  It is Jesus Christ that has loved us and chosen us and given us life…and without him this building is nothing but an empty shell.   But thank God, this building was built with the desire to share the gospel message in this community… and that it was built with Christ as its cornerstone…and it is Christ’s message that continues to be its reason for being today.  And we must not forget that.   The words we read earlier from Proverbs remind us to not forget.  “My child, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”   Trust in the Lord.  In all ways acknowledge him.  Words that we should heed as we look down the road.  We know that the road a congregation travels is not always easy.  The challenges of being a congregation today are many.  It is easy to become discouraged.  But the challenges of being the church are certainly not new.  Read through the New Testament letters and you quickly see the many challenges that the early church faced…way back when.  And even in the Presbyterian Church in Canada there are challenges.  I found an old article that speaks to some of those challenges…challenges that even 100 years ago, congregations faced.  The following article appeared in the April 1910 edition of the Presbyterian Record.  The article bemoans the trend towards a lack of religious obligation.   “Escaping from God would fittingly paraphrase the notion that some people… especially young people… seem to have… if one may judge from their lack of any evident feeling of religious obligation… when, on week end parties… they spend Sunday in the country.  There is nothing more startling to any thoughtful… not to say religious observer… than the way in which Sunday is being made a day of strenuous pleasure taken by ‘Saturday to Monday’ city people invading quiet country haunts or lakeside watering places, with noisy disregard to the hours of the day of rest and worship.”   So even a hundred years ago, church attendance was a concern… and the distractions of other activities being undertaken on Sunday… and the misplaced priorities of the youth… my goodness that all sounds so familiar.  If only stores weren’t open on Sunday… if only hockey practices were scheduled for other times than Sunday morning… if only people didn’t head off to the country and make Sunday a day of strenuous pleasure as apparently was the case 100 years ago… if only… then our churches would be filled.  100 years ago the expectation was that people would just come to church.  They would attend the church of their fathers and forefathers.  Church buildings were geographically located so that they people could get to them with horse and buggy.  Times have changed, and no longer is the church building the focal point of a community.  And for some it is not a part of life at all.   How many of you have heard of the ‘Nones’?  Not ‘nun’…but ‘none’.  The Nones are the non-religious, who when asked to identify the group they belong to, they opt to tick the box for ‘none’.  According to the Pew Research Council in the USA, 1/3 of adults under the age of 30 identify themselves as ‘nones’.  In Canada, the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences states that one in four adults declare no religious affiliation.  The reasons are varied, including bad experiences and negative undertones, but for some they simply just don’t see any need of it.  They haven’t totally thrown out belief in God, but don’t want the trappings…the perceived negative trappings…associated with organized religion.  The nones are known as believing without belonging.  Or as one writer put it, rather than referring to the group as ‘nones’ we should say ‘somes’…for some of the nones are seeking more.  They are caring and compassionate, but they just aren’t participating.  Diana Butler Bass in her book “Christianity After Religion” calls this trend ‘participation crash’.  There is a weariness with the institutional church.  The church – whether it means to or not – is driving away those who care about the faith but have grown to dislike the organized church.  If the current trend continues, today’s church will be remembered not for evangelizing the world but for creating the largest religious group known as the ‘nones’.   Well that’s a bit of a downer message for an anniversary service.  Or is it?  The church is Christ together with his people.  All people.  The gospel message that the church proclaims is for all people.  The challenge for the church is to keep its focus on Christ and the gospel message.  Too easily the church gets distracted by many things.  Just like in that wonderful, challenging gospel story of Martha and Mary.  Not a traditional anniversary reading, but a story that reminds us to keep focused on the better part.   When looking at the story of Martha and Mary, we often see it as a story about the merits of doing or not doing tasks.  Of action versus contemplation.  But we know that there is merit in action and merit in contemplation.  Both are important.  And Jesus never says to Martha, your gift of hospitality…of stirring that pot of soup…is not important.  His words to Martha are said in response to her words of judgment against Mary and the implication that Jesus himself didn’t care that Martha was left to stir the pot all by herself.  Martha was weary of stirring the pot…and her weariness distracted her from the reason she was stirring the pot in the first place.  Martha welcomed Jesus into her home.  She saw that he was tired and hungry and so she went to prepare some food for him.  But her gift of hospitality went from being an offering to a chore when she looked at her sister Mary…then put her expectations onto Mary…and then finally told Jesus to tell Mary what for.  With every passing moment Martha was becoming more and more resentful of her sister Mary… and rather than ask Mary herself, she asks Jesus to intervene.  From Martha’s perspective Jesus should have seen that she was becoming overwhelmed and then responded to her need by telling Mary to stop sitting there and do something useful.  She wanted Jesus to get on Mary’s case.  Why Jesus can’t figure it out is beyond Martha’s reasoning at the time and instead of asking Mary directly, she goes to Jesus and says: “Can’t you see what’s happening here!  Do something about it.  Lord, don’t you care?”  Martha was tired of stirring the pot…and so rather than stir the pot of soup she was cooking…she decided to stir the pot of resentment.   But Jesus doesn’t do her bidding for her.  Jesus doesn’t tell Mary to get up and go help her sister Martha in the kitchen.  Nor does Jesus scold Martha.  What he does is gently correct her.  He says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”  The one necessary thing was fellowship with Jesus.  Time with Jesus… listening to him… and Jesus was not going to take that away from her.   When we think that the better part is what we are doing, and the accolades we will receive from doing…over and above who we are doing them for…then we have not chosen the better part.  The busyness is a distraction from the better part.  As the writer of Hebrews put it: “Let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith.”  The better part is not judging the actions of others by how we would act and then by extension putting that action…or lack of action…on another.  The better part is keeping the focus and remembering why we stir the pot.   How does the writer of Hebrews put it: “Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.”  Provoke.  Not usually a positive word.  Nor is stir the pot usually used in an encouraging way.  Provoke…stir the pot…and do so, not with distraction, but with encouragement to love and good deeds.  Provoke one another to love and good deeds.  Stir the pot to love and good deeds.   Encouragement is a powerful tool that we should embrace as Christians.  I believe that encouragement can transform the church and our relationships in amazing ways.  Way back when the letter to the Hebrews was written, encouragement was at a short supply.  The people had become discouraged and default setting was to not bother showing up for worship.  If you read further on the 10th chapter you get a pretty good sense that life as a Christian had been anything but easy.  The congregation had endured abuse…persecution…suffering…and the loss of property…and now they were plain weary.  They were weary in well-doing.  They were weary of the demands put upon them. They were weary of following the Christian way.  And in their weariness they started to drift away.  They started to neglect their faith.  And as the years went by the weariness grew. The early church had challenges.  The church today has challenges.  But when we keep the focus on Christ and Christ’s message.  When we stir the pot to love and good deeds…then we are heading in the right direction.   On this anniversary Sunday as we reflect on the church…as we remember the stories…and we ponder the challenges…I want you to look around this sanctuary.  Today the pews are full.  But we know that is not always the case every Sunday.  My challenge to you today…on this anniversary Sunday…is to take time this week to pray asking God to bring someone to mind who you can then invite to church.  Perhaps that person is a ‘none’ or a ‘some’.  Invite them to church…for worship…for fellowship.  Invite them to come and see.  Invite them to come and be a part of this community.  They will be every bit as much of a part of our congregation as we are…if we invite them in.  Some will come without any church background.  Some will come with a church memory from childhood.  Some will come from different faith traditions.  Some will challenge us to stretch ourselves…to see the world through different eyes.  Some will challenge us to change…if we let them.  It is not up to us to grow the church.  But it is up to us to plant the seed…and water the soil.  As the apostle Paul put it so well when writing to the Church in Corinth: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.’  God gave the growth.   So as we celebrate St. Andrew’s anniversary this day…may we all rejoice in the blessings of God.  Blessings that God has poured out on this congregation over the years.  And as we move into the future, may God continue to bless this congregation as we stir the pot of love and good deeds, doing so always in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.


September 20, 2015
Bible Text: James 3:13-4:3 AND Mark 9:30 - 37 | Preacher: Rev. Bruce W. Kemp, Reverend Bruce W. Kemp HOW TO BE A GREAT PERSON   One of the greatest struggles we have as people and as people of the Word is how to live a life that honours God but also soothes our ego.  Everyone seeks to be recognized and acknowledged for their contributions to the life of the community here in this place as well as in our homes, our places of employment, our social clubs and with our friends.  Being recognized and acknowledged as having value and worth is critical to our well-being.   But too often we either boldly assert ourselves over others so that our value will be acknowledged or we retreat in abject humility to a place where any value or worth we may contribute to the community becomes muted or even ignored.  Becoming a great person, though, is neither about  being so humble as to never allow us to feel any pride in our abilities or talents nor is it about being so bold as to believe that we possess talents and abilities unrivalled anywhere in the world.  Becoming a great person is about finding our place within the community and allowing others to encourage us as we encourage them to share our lives together.  God seeks for us to find fulfilment in life but not at the expense of another person.   When Jesus speaks to the disciples and tells them to be first you must be last, he is reminding them that the greatest among them will be the one who is willing to recognize and acknowledge the value and worth of those around them.  The world in which we live encourages us to be bold in our dealings with one another. We are encouraged to look out for ourselves, to grab the bull by the horns, to be aggressively assertive, and to promote ourselves.  Certainly there is nothing wrong with sharing with one another our vision for the life of our community and how we may be able to make contributions but we are to be conscious of how our thoughts, words and actions may impact the life of someone in the community who is not as sure of themselves or who feel that they have less to contribute.  And who does Jesus look to when he is seeking for an example of how the disciples can start on the path to greatness? He points to a child. He then takes the child and places the child in the midst of them and then takes the child into his arms. The child probably has the least ability to make a difference in the world at that moment but for Jesus this child represents the very heart of greatness. To have the ability to see, acknowledge, accept and love a child whose life is just beginning opens us up to see, acknowledge, accept and love those whose lives have been lived and influenced in ways that will bring challenges to us.  If we cannot take time for them, we probably will not be willing to take time for others.  If we think ourselves too good or too important or too great to bother with a child, chances are we will think ourselves too good, important or great to bother with anyone else whom we may feel are beneath us.   It is a fact of our human existence and dilemma that even though we will acknowledge our God and the physical presence of God in Jesus Christ as the greatest person among us, we will still seek to know who comes second, third, fourth and so on.  Somehow we need that pecking order.   In the letter that the apostle James wrote, we find that Jesus’ words concerning greatness are still a struggle for the people.  It seems that everyone in the community wants to be seen as the most important.  People were seeking to become teachers in the community but without the necessary skill and aptitude.  People were boasting of their faith in God but not showing it in practical ways.  In a real sense, people had lost the heart of wisdom.  Wisdom is not just a matter of knowledge.  People can have great knowledge but lack wisdom. Wisdom is about knowing how to apply knowledge in such a way as to truly encourage and teach others the lessons of life as God has given them. How often we want to share our knowledge or experience. We want others to know how knowledgeable we are. We fear someone else might be seen as having more knowledge or a greater experience than ourselves and we will not be valued.  But remember the wisdom of Solomon who knew so well that a wise person often says little while a fool will run on at the mouth.   Someone once said that he didn’t like silence. He said it was like death but silence is fuller of meaning than we may imagine. In silence we can observe movement, we can hear breathing, and we can feel our heart.  But silence scares us.  It scares us because we are so surrounded by the sound of traffic and commerce that the idea of being silent is to us a void.  It seems to be an empty place that we need to fill but in truth that so-called empty place is fuller than anything we may imagine. It is a place where God can be heard, where he can be felt and where we can touch and be touched.   In this passage, James does not tackle all the issues that cause us to struggle with what it means to be great people of God but he does touch on a number of them.  He begins by cautioning us against a wisdom that encourages bitter jealousy and selfish ambition.  Such wisdom brings disorder to our community life as a Christian congregation and disorder to our life in general. When we become jealous of the abilities or talents of others, we can find ourselves seeking for ways to derail them and promote ourselves instead. We can find ourselves working to bring division within the community and so disrupt its life and peace.   He then points to the wars and fights that he sees. He knows too well that the jealousies we feel come from our desire to have something we can’t or to be someone we cannot be. He recognizes that we all struggle with finding our place in the community and recognizing the gifts and talents and abilities of one another.  When such things become all-consuming, the community is in grave danger of dissolution.  Even more, he would say, we are at risk of losing the vision and goal of our faith and life and descending into an abyss of self-promotion and aggrandizement. To counteract this tendency within us, he encourages us to seek for the real wisdom of God. He tells us that such wisdom is pure, that is, it is untainted by the jealousies that afflict us for it seeks to honour the life of all. Further he adds that such a wisdom is peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity.   The true wisdom of God that we are to seek for and practice in our life will not desire to cause war and strife but will desire to find peace for mind, body and spirit. It will desire to gently instruct and persuade rather than be heavy-handed. It will be open to reason for it will be willing to listen to the thoughts and ideas of others and see whether there is any truth and any good in what is being suggested. The ideas and thoughts of others will not be summarily dismissed.  The true wisdom of God will be full of mercy for it will not seek to condemn but to inform and teach and it will be a wisdom that will not be seen as temporary or fleeting nor will it be easily shaken.  It will be a wisdom that can be trusted.   We can be certain of what we believe and express it in a firm yet gentle way. We can be sincere in what we believe and yet reveal that we are open to listen.  We can be great people without being dominating or domineering.  After all, no one of us is perfect. Every one of us will make mistakes. How we deal with our mistakes and the mistakes of others will reveal whether our wisdom is of God or of man.   Remember the words of Paul in speaking of Jesus. He reminded the people in Philippi that Jesus was above every other creature in creation. In other words, he is the greatest person to ever walk on the earth yet he did not celebrate his greatness by lording it over others. Instead he emptied himself of all vanity and self. He put himself in the position of one who serves, of the lowest in the pecking order. His greatness came not from people looking to him to worship him but from him looking at people with compassion and mercy.   Who among us will be remembered as the greatest? Perhaps we will never find the answer. Perhaps we should never seek to be that person but each of us can be a great person by striving to encourage, uplift and forgive others, by recognizing the heart and life of others in the community and by bringing peace and sincerity to others through words and actions.  

Abraham – A Man of Conviction

September 13, 2015
Bible Text: Genesis 22:P 1-47 and ?St. John 3: 10-21 | Preacher: Reverend Bob Martin Genesis 22: lf    God tested Abraham   John Calvin said “ ..this passage contains the most memorable narrative. For although Abraham, through the course of His life, gave astonishing proof of faith and obedience, .................  this inflicted a wound far more grievous than death itself: ..........  paternal grief and anguish which being produced by the death of an only son,  ..........  torn away by a violent  death, but by far the most grievous that he himself should be appointed to slay him with his own hand.” That just about sums it up for us - does it not? It was and is a shocking, brutal and harsh story which leaves us startled and amazed when we read it. We are startled that God would demand such a thing' We are amazed that Abraham would acquiesce, that he would get up early in the morning to do this terrible thing which God had asked. We look on with incredulity as Isaac was bound and laid on the altar. Abraham and Sarah had been living in the land of Canaan. In their old age they had accumulated wealth, prestige and power. They even entered treaties with the people. Life was good and tranquil. Isaac was growing tall and strong and Ishmael was already married to an Egyptian woman. More than that,  Abraham was growing in faith and spiritual stature. Already he recognized God as “the Almighty'' in giving answer to the question "is anything too hard for the Lord?" At Beersheba he recognized God as "the Eternal God." The One we describe as being the same yesterday, today and forever - unchanging and unchangeable' In this situation of peace and tranquility he receives this shattering command: take your son, your only son Isaac whom you love .... sacrifice him as a burnt offering .." The Scriptures tell us that this was a test. A test can do one of two things: it can strengthen or it can destroy. Calvin points out that Abraham had been tested before but that these tests were for his mortification ie.  for his discipline and strengthening. In the manufacturing process of motor vehicles ..... tested to destruction .... But Paul tells us that "no temptation has seized you except what is common to man. God is faithful and will not ret you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But, when you are tempted He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (1 Cor. 10: 13)     Genesis 22: lf    God tested Abraham   Now to us this seems to be an extraordinary temptation. Yet when we think that Abraham had been living for a long time in the land of Canaan where the people were accustomed to human sacrifice and where men did sacrifice their first born sons to their gods as sin offerings, this idea was not new to Abraham. Nowhere in the scriptures up to the point do we read of human sacrifice being specifically prohibited, yet in the light of what Abraham had experienced of God as the Almighty and the Eternal the whole idea must have seemed incredible and repugnant. Isaac represented: A beloved son Isaac : laugher - this was where it hurt most - the child of his old age. 2The fulfilment of promise Now what was Isaac's part in all this?  Noah’s children and their trust in their father ........... First, we have to come back to Abraham and say that his spirit of faith had passed on to his son He had been to worship with his father before. He had seen the sacrificial animals being herded towards the altar and as they traveled with Isaac carrying the wood he asks innocently "father, here is the wood and the fire but where is the lamb for the burnt offering." And Abraham replied "God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering." I wonder - how much of this was an answer to pacify Isaac and how much was a response in faith in the promise "through Isaac your offspring will be reckoned." as Abraham wrestled with the ideas of God as Almighty and as Eternal? Secondly we have to note the submission of Isaac. There is no way in which this old man could have bound this young fellow and lifted him onto the altar without his submission and co- operation. Thirdly, can you imagine Isaac's last memory of his father as a priest standing with arms raised clutching a knife. At that very moment God spoke again to Abraham. The test was over. He had passed with flying colours. God said "Now I know that you fear God." And as Abraham looked round, there was a ram caught in the bushes by its horns. As Calvin said, it is a memorable passage in the Scriptures. It is also a passage of Scripture which creates more problems for us the longer we study it. But putting aside the problems, the narrative tells us two things: Genesis 22: lf    God tested Abraham   the first is that God will from time to time shake us from our complacency and that He will make demands upon us which we feel are totally unreasonable but our God is a challenging God. He will make us question the way things have always been down, He will make us examine our beliefs as Abraham was forced to examine his ..... , He will make us turn around as did Paul .... Secondly, out of this story we have the great doctrine of substitution which found its fullest expression on Calvary. Abraham's conviction was that God Himself would provide the sacrifice was fully realized when the ram appeared On Calvary Jesus is our substitute. He died in our place and to take away our sin. He bore our penalty and paid the price. We are told that God was satisfied and the work of redemption was finished. The doctrine of substitution is widely practiced today. There are times when substitution is not a bad thing and may even be necessary but mostly it is a poor solution. It is better to have the real thing. We substitute money for time as we try to buy our children's affection. We substitute words for action. We substitute good intentions for good works. We substitute talking for listening. We substitute "getting by''for excellence. We substitute soap operas for real living. We substitute instant gratification for anticipation. We substitute popular ideas for proven theories. We substitute our own importance for the centrality of God, focussing our thoughts inward ...... We substitute popular theology for that which is based and grounded in the Word of God. We substitute our own ideas and thoughts and feelings for the clear instructions of Jesus. We substitute material for spiritual. We substitute tangible for intangible. We substitute good works for salvation by grace. We substitute our morality for God’s teaching in the Scriptures. We substitute our own merits for the merits of the Lord Jesus. We substitute good wishes for zeal. Why? The substitution is inadequate and totally worthless. Genesis 22: lf    God tested Abraham   Abraham did not just have good wishes or good intentions he had zeal for the Lord - a love for God that surpassed even his love for his son and we are told that on that dreadful morning he got up early to go to the place of sacrifice ....  He had zeal. ln his biography of the young Teddy Roosevelt, David McCullough tells that his mother found out that he was so afraid of Madison square Church that he refused to enter it alone. He was terrified of something called "zeal". It was crouched down in the dark corners of the church ready to spring out at him, he said. When she asked what a zeal might be, he said he was not sure, but thought it was probably a large animal like an alligator or a dragon. He had heard the minister read about it from the Bible. Using a concordance she read to him all the passage containing the word zeal until suddenly, very excited, he told her to stop. The line was from St John 2: l7 "and His disciples remembered that it was written 'the zeal of thine house has eaten me up ....."' People are still justifiably afraid of the zeal of the Lord for they are perfectly aware of its disturbing, challenging life changing potential. Abraham had it, Isaac and Sarah and all his people knew that while the Lord is good He is also challenging and demanding. God Himself has provided the sacrifice, the way of salvation, the certainty of acceptance with Himself. Why do we not, like Abraham, choose the gift that God has given us, claim the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ and put all our trust in Him for time and eternity. There is, after all, only one name given under heaven whereby we must be save and that is the Name of Jesus. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.