October 20, 2019
The passage that we read in the Book of Jeremiah today may seem, at first, like an odd choice for our theme today “Hope for the Future”. Being from a…
JOYFUL, THANKFUL AND ENCOURAGED Partners in God’s Mission Resources for today’s service were provided by PCC Presbyterian Sharing Staff and for World Food Day from the Canadian Food Grains Bank…
Bible Text: Psalm 22: 6-22 and Matthew 13: 31-32 | Preacher: Speaker: Phyllis McMaster At the March Ladies Aid Meeting Kathy Spruit did devotions on Parables. So when we were researching ideas for this service we came across an order of service on the Presbyterian Website. She first told us that a parable is simple story used by Jesus to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. One third of Jesus teachings were in the form of parables. There are 50 different parables mainly found in Matthew, Luke and Mark. A parable is made up of a physical idea that is turned into a spiritual meaning. Many of the stories are about agriculture, fisherman and people who worked the land. Jesus was the greatest teacher ever. He wanted people to know who God was, what God was like, and what life was like in His kingdom. Jesus wanted to change the way people thought. He used real life stories in his parables. . Parables used common, everyday people and situations to teach things that are difficult to understand. It is sort of like this: A kindergarten teacher could say that 5-1=4. This is truth. But for young children who do not yet understand subtraction, she might say, “I had 5 apples on my desk. Yesterday Sam ate one of my apples. Now I have 4 apples left.” The apple story is a parable about subtraction. Parables are classified and the one we are going to use today “The Story of the Mustard Seed” is a Kingdom Parable. We first read about this parable in Matthew but references are also made to this parable in Mark and Luke. Kingdom parables have similar elements -- 1. Kingdom of heaven = earthly sphere of profession of faith 2. A man = Christ 3. A field = the world 4. A seed = Word of God 5. Growth = spreading of the word and church growth 6. The presence of evil = birds, weeds, air and yeast When you hear the word mustard, you probably think of the spicy yellow stuff you put on a hot dog. A mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds there is. But when it is planted in the ground, it grows up to be one of the largest plants. It can look more like a tree than a plant. As Jesus said, birds even come and rest in its branches From our scripture reading we see that the mustard seed in the parable grows to be a huge tree, representing the tiny beginnings of Christianity when just a few disciples began to preach and teach the gospel. Eventually, the kingdom grew to huge proportions, encompassing the entire world and spreading over centuries. God’s Kingdom continues to grow today. Today on this Mission Awareness Sunday we must stop to think about faith, our place in the universe and helping our neighbour. There are over a billion people in our world living in poverty. In a world of abundance, we wonder why this happens and where God is in tragedy, and what we can do about it. We can think about our corner of the universe and what we can do to help our global neighbours as an expression of our faith. How can we as people of the global north best help the peoples of the developing south? Many efforts have been made to solve problems and promote development. There was the Green Revolution, designed to banish world hunger. They tried to change financial situations through helping developing countries to develop an economic system. Good governance practices were pursued as the one key to social and economic progress. Experts said that better education of girls was also the solution for achieving social and economic progress. And there have been periods when progress was defined by forgiving national debt or preserving the environment. There has been considerable progress made in many developing countries. But we still spend vast amounts of time, energy and money trying to find out what works best. International development aid by all countries now amounts to one hundred and sixty billion dollars a year. That’s more than half of the entire annual budget of the Government of Canada. What then as Canadian Presbyterians can we do to do good in the developing world. What is our capacity to make a difference with our annual mission budget of about four million dollars? What do the scriptures tell Christians about our responsibility to people in developing countries? How can we deploy our small resources and make a big difference? Today we reflect on the well-known parable of the mustard seed as a possible solution. The mustard seed wasn’t a seed that farmers planted in their gardens. It just grew in the fields. But Jesus chose the mustard seed to illustrate how something small and undervalued can grow and serve…grow not for its own sake, but for the sake of the birds of the air, giving them a place to rest, to observe, to recover. The parable of the mustard seed is often interpreted to represent the power of faith, the spread of the Kingdom and the growth of the Church. From its small and humble beginnings, Christ knew that Christianity would flourish and grow in the world, standing as a tall and welcoming faith, giving people a place of shelter. Our Church’s support for international development mirrors that vision of the small becoming big, of modest investments making a difference in people’s lives, of giving people a better and safer home. I am going to touch on a few activities championed by PWS&D that provide an example of how we help other people rest and recover. In Ghana, there can be a tendency to attribute unfortunate, unexplained events such as a crop failure or the death of a child to witchcraft, with disastrous results for the women involved. Based on rumours, a woman can be called a witch, subjected to abuse and forced to flee to a camp for outcasts. And there they find the results of the mustard seeds that we have sown. Working with the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, women have access to vocational training for themselves and elementary schooling for their children. In their home villages we support education about human rights, respect for women and knowledge about the health problems people once believed that witches caused. Sometimes it takes years, but eventually many women can return to their homes, their families and their communities. It’s a big thing we are accomplishing with only small contributions. The staff at PWS&D have seen firsthand what can be done with just a little. As part of the sustainable livelihoods project in Malawi, a woman named Sara was loaned five dollars. She invested it in a small retail business and netted two dollars. With this small profit she bought a set of dishes. Those dishes meant that each member of her family could now have their own plate rather than eating from a common pot. A five dollar investment significantly improved her family’s health. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world—ranking number 170 of 188 countries on the Human Development Index. Malawi is a country where we Presbyterians have many historical bonds – over half of our mission budget is spent here and where your support is directed at the poorest of the poor. Set on a scorched landscape where rivers have become dried up riverbeds, children rise each morning, often with nothing to face but a day with no programs or resources or toys. Some schools are so poor there are no chairs or desks or chalkboards… just teachers left to their own resources. And of course, there is death. In Malawi, one in every one hundred pregnant women die, and you may have to beat those odds many times over because you may be pregnant often. Nearly three in every one hundred babies die. These women and children are victims of high rates of adolescent pregnancies, unskilled birth attendants and poor emergency care. But change is happening in these difficult circumstances, through your support, along with funds from the Government of Canada. Community organizers teach about good nutrition and early warning signs in pregnancy. Groups are formed for men to learn about their responsibilities to their wives and newborns. Women are encouraged to move into hospitals weeks before their delivery dates and when that can’t happen, bicycle ambulances are provided to get them to the hospital for delivery. In the hospitals safe and private delivery rooms are being built and good quality neo-natal care given. The death rates have dropped dramatically. In some areas there have been no deaths at all, and in others the numbers are well below the national average. Together, through PWS&D, we are helping save many lives and truly carrying out the gospel’s call for social justice. PWS&D is also the agency of The Presbyterian Church that co-ordinates refugee sponsorship. Over the years, PWS&D has helped many congregations including our Presbytery of Seaway Glengarry to support the displaced of the world as they build new lives in our country. To refugees, sponsorship by churches is a life-altering event, not just for them, but also for future generations. And it is all built on the thousands of small contributions that people like you have made to support the work we do together through PWS&D. The scriptures clearly support feeding the hungry, and giving them resources that are a necessity of every day living. Christ urged us to live in the present, and that means responding to very present needs. We often think of the support for those refugees we have brought to Canada. But we need to play a vital role in providing relief for those who stay behind. The United Nations reports that the number of refugees uprooted from Syria has surpassed four million—over half of these refugees are children. We cannot begin to help most of them. But we can help some of them. One of PWS&D programs provides food vouchers to Syrians who have fled to Lebanon. One of the men we helped named Abdal says, “I am not allowed to work here. Without the vouchers, my family would have nothing to eat. You have wide hands. Thank you for not forgetting us.” There are many things we’ll never know or how to solve every problem in the developing world. But, we are blessed with enough knowledge to act in a faithful and effective way toward our global neighbours. Seeds are a miracle of life. They are the sign of what is possible. They speak to the abundance that God intends for the creation. The seeds we sow in gardens and fields are meant for blessing. The seeds we sow in our acts of compassion, healing, peace-making, and justice-seeking, small as they seem, like the mustard seed, are also meant to bless. The seeds we sow are intended to produce a harvest far beyond the tiny seed we start with. We know that through doing small things, through our generosity, people’s lives will be made better. In many cases, you and I won’t see the result. But just as the early Christians sowed their small mustard seeds knowing that a Church and a faith would grow from them, so we can make our own contributions to mission such as Presbyterian Sharing, PWSD or the Syrian Refugee fund, knowing that in our small way we are truly accomplishing big things and advancing the Kingdom. Please share the good news about what our Church is accomplishing in Christ’s name with your families, your neighbours and your colleagues Seize the Day Inspirations A friendly look, a kindly smile, one good act and life’s worthwhile. You may be only someone in the world but to someone else you may be the world. Four things you can’t recover • The stone after the throw • The word after it’s said • The occasion after it’s missed • The time after it’s gone No act of kindness is to small. The gift of kindness may start as a small ripple that over time can turn into a tidal wave affecting the lives of many. Peace is a daily, weekly, monthly process gradually changing opinions, slowing eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. John F Kennedy Let us Pray Thank you, God, for the everyday miracles that your presence brings to our lives: the ordinary acts of love, faith, and kindness that become extraordinary, the perspectives that change, and the new possibilities that emerge. Amen. Worship Source Resources for Mission Awareness Sunday taken from PSWD website and created by Rob Robertson.


May 7, 2017
Bible Text: 1 Perter 2: 19-25 and John 10: 1-10 | Preacher: Speaker: Phyllis McMaster Good morning! Would it be correct to assume we’ve all felt overwhelmed at sometime in your life? I am sure you have all found yourself in a situation where you initially felt it was just too much. Sometimes the entire world situation feels like too much. The rain and floods in communities so close to home The worry about our Senators and are they going onto the next round Trump and his next gaffe that targets Canada and our trading relationship Syrian Refugee crisis in Europe and Africa Cost of hydro and gas I know at times there are situations that seem far beyond our reach. Often I am left wondering, ‘what can I possibly do?’ Let me share an example of how a person can be partner with Jesus to see what can be done and how it not impossible to reach out and care. Rebecca Sherbino (wife of Joel who created this worship service) worked with International Ministries for four years in Malawi. She is now the co-founder and co-director of the Raw Soup Social Enterprise. Here is her story in her words: “I can remember moving back to Canada. At the time we had three young kids and I was a bit at odds of where to invest my time. I wanted to make an impact, and had the time, since I was a stay at home mom. I began to look for new ways to get involved in the community and the church. I had been concerned about a young girl at our church. She had graduated from high school and lived with two parents living on the Ontario Disability Support Program. She seemed to be heading in the same direction as her parents because of some developmental disabilities and a lack of support. I figured I could get involved by helping her find work. For the next year, I drove her twice a week to a job training program and supported her as she tried to find employment. After a year of hard work and kilometres on my car...no job was found. Amanda was unable to find work. Because of her developmental disabilities she is unable to work at the speed required for most jobs and struggles with multitasking in a fast-paced environment. This was very frustrating because Amanda really wanted to work and was a loyal and committed person heading quickly in a bad direction. But what could I do? I had tried and it didn’t work out. Then, one night, my friend and I started to talk about this situation and brainstorm ideas for how we could find a solution. We came up with an idea and approached our congregation at Paris Presbyterian Church to see if they would support a ministry initiative to create employment for people with disabilities. The concept was for people, just like Amanda, who wanted to work but were unable to find a work environment to fit their needs. The vehicle for providing jobs was to employ people to cook gourmet soup that would be sold in the community. “ Fast forward two years and the Raw Carrot is thriving! With seven part-time employees, their not-for-profit enterprise is making a big difference in the lives of the workers and the community. When asked, Rebecca would say the trigger point was being overwhelmed. She wondered, “what could I possibly do?” Rebecca then stepped out in faith and tried something. In the story of the feeding the five thousand we see the makings of one of the great realities of following Jesus. Jesus does not only get our attention in moments when we feel overwhelmed, but He uses that feeling as a catalyst for inspiration. Let us turn back to the passage that was Doris just read and begin to look for some clues that will show us how we can partner with Jesus to make a difference. Jesus had been busy healing people. Now he and his disciples were looking for a little R and R. The crowds, however, had other ideas. They tracked him down. Imagine...thousands of people coming towards you. We often think of this as the feeding of the 5000, but that is not fully correct. Only the men were counted in the 5000—there were women and children present as well (Matthew 14:21). So imagine say 15 to 20 000 people coming toward you! And what does Jesus do? He turns and says to Philip, “where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” Can you imagine if you were Philip? I would be freaking out. I would be thinking, ”Why are you asking me? Go ask an organization or someone else with catering skills.” In Philip’s response, we see that he felt the situation was beyond him. There was no real tangible solution. Philip is overwhelmed. So what does he do -- he makes excuses. Do you ever do that? You see a circumstance or a situation and immediately your mind races into how there is no way you could have an impact. This is pretty much what Philip did when he replies to Jesus, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” Or in other words—there is no way, it can’t be done. Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. But the story doesn’t end there,. Another person steps forward with a plan. Andrew found a boy with a small lunch. Like an equivalent to a modern day Happy Meal, a fillet-o-fish. And he gives it to Jesus reluctantly. I think we can understand why he did it reluctantly. Philip had just crunched the numbers to show it would take six months of a person’s wages to feed everyone. Think about that for a second. And here is Andrew offering a boys lunch of five barley loaves and two fish to feed 5000 plus. Can’t you see yourself there? At times we act like Philip. We are overwhelmed by the circumstances so instead of doing anything we make excuses. Where as other times we may be like Andrew. We have a little to give, but we are not so sure that it will make a difference. The attempt is too small but when we partner with Jesus, a miracle can happen Jesus took that Happy Meal. He blesses it. He gives it out. Not only does everyone eat, but there are leftovers! So where does this leave us. What is our take away? The answer is in Verse 6 of the scripture. Jesus had a plan in mind and by partnering with Phillip ,Andrew and the young boy he was able to do something incredible and amazing – feed the masses . Sometimes we need help to shift our perspective into a different light. When we find ourselves in situations that seem beyond what we can do, we should pause and think about this story. Perhaps Jesus’ request is an invitation for us to join Him. The way I see it is that when we feel overwhelmed, we can either respond like Philip, with excuses, or like Andrew, and start looking for solutions. This one miracle is yet another example of how much Jesus values partnership. He chooses to ask others to join him. I believe that Jesus asked Philip—not to put him on the spot—but to see if he would join him to make a difference. And you know what? Jesus has not changed his ways. He desires to work with you and me to bring about change in this world. Will you join with Jesus to make a difference? What this miracle reminds us of, is how changes often happen in the midst of the challenges. When we begin to see the possibilities in the challenges we face we can become INSPIRED. Let me share a few others examples of inspired work in our Presbyterian church, that Joel has provided. 1. Together We Can! Guatemala project: We see all the challenges that are faced in the world. The lack of food, clean water and basic medication are only a few obstacles men, women and children face daily. We can throw up our hands and wonder what we could possibly do or we can step in to try and make a difference. In Guatemala, indigenous Maya-Mam people living in the highlands have a rich culture, yet face discrimination and deep-rooted poverty borne out of decades of civil war. A lack of economic opportunities and environmental concerns such a climate change, encroaching mining operations and deforestation make it difficult for families to break cycles of poverty. In this area, food insecurity is a daily concern because 95% of the population lives on less than $2 a day and over 75% of children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition. We have the ability to change the lives of these families. Presbyterians support through PWS&D. Ruth Pollock and Diana Kemp were part of this food security project. This Together We Can! project enables families in Guatemala to eat more and better food by improving agricultural practices, that will help the soil to produce more abundantly. Growing a variety of crops—including fruits, vegetable and protein-rich beans—and learning how to cook them, will have a healthy nutritional impact on families. PCC and local congregations have not made excuses, but have worked to help the Maya-Mam people living in the Guatemala. 2. Raw Carrot Soup Enterprise: Back to Rebecca and the Raw Carrot Soup Enterprise, they are doing great work in helping change peoples lives, as their tag line says, ‘one bowl of soup at a time.’ WMS played a role in the very beginning by making a donation that helped Rebecca and her team get of the ground and running. 3. Together We Can ARISE Ministries is another project that was supported by Presbyterians through Presbyterian Sharing. In Toronto Women involved in the sex-trade are one of the city’s most marginalized and victimized populations. Globally women and girls account for 75% of all trafficking victims. And 58 % of these are for the purpose of sexual exploitations. In Canada human trafficking studies have shown the majority of people trafficked are aboriginal women and children. Those involved in the sex-trade, some having been “turned out” into prostitution at 13-years-old or younger, have been devalued through coercion, exploitation, abuse, isolation and prejudice. Together we Can is a program to empower these individuals through relationship and goal setting that they might be able to advocate and reclaim for themselves their lives. The program offers support, weekly street outreach and builds relationships with at risk women, children and youth. Good can come out of challenges if we focus our overwhelming feeling into some type of action. I think of our Presbyteries project to bring two Syrian Refugee familes to our area. Can you imagine how overwhelmed the organizing committee felt when they learned they had to raise a minimum of $50000 to support these families once they arrived. Our area being mainly made up of small rural congregations, this could be seen as a daunting task. With faith and hope, the Presbytery has been able to raise over $22000 dollars and now that one of the families is here more donations are flowing in the support this cause. We can play a small role in the success of this venture. A small donation today when combined with other peoples multiplies quickly much like the story of the loaves and the fishes. Will we allow Jesus to use our lives as we partner with Him. Consider these next steps. Step 1. What is personally going on in your life? Are there situations around you that seem to be a bit too much for you to bear? Do you wonder if there is anything you can do? Is God bringing something, or someone, to your attention? Remember Andrew. See what you have. Start there. Starting is way better than making excuses. And never forget, Jesus values partnership ‘and no gift is insignificant when placed in the hands of Jesus.’ Step 2. Look at the church. Sure we see the challenges ahead. We are shrinking in numbers, our congregation is getting older and there are fewer people to take on leadership roles. However we are grateful for the new faces and families that have joined us and isn’t it just wonderful to have a children’s story every Sunday and Kathy who has taken such an interest in starting Sunday School. Let us work together to find solutions not make excuses. Try taking a different approach and believe that Jesus wants to partner with us. Incredible things happen when we stop making excuses and begin looking for solutions. Remember the Raw Carrot and their goal ‘to change the world, one bowl of soup at a time.’ As it has been mentioned to the kids earlier, examining our personal life and our church will require courage. It will mean being stretched. Jesus came into this world, died for our sake and then rose again, not so that we will be comfortable, but so that we will live an abundant life. And for me, that takes courage, inspiration, faith and hope. What can we do Let us support causes of WMS, Presbyterian Sharing, PWSD or Presbytery of Seaway Glengarry Syrian Refugee Fund. A small amount can go a long way when combined with others to help people less fortunate here in Canada and around the world. You too can have an elastic band. Take one and be reminded that we want to be stretched by God. When we are, it will not only change our life but it will have an impact on others. I want to conclude with some thoughts on inspiration. "Just when the caterpillar thought the world was ending, he turned into a butterfly." "Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone." Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is. Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. There is no traffic jam along the extra mile." The longest journey you will ever take is the 18 inches from your head to your heart. Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people . Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better that when we found it. And as my Seize the Day calendar says for May 7 – Fly High, Be Brilliant. Celebrate all your Accomplishments.
Bible Text: Philippians 1:3-11, Matthew 5: 13-16, Exodus 3: 1-12a | Preacher: Speaker: Phyllis McMaster Our scripture from Philippians 1 is a wonderful reference for our theme today – Learning and Reaching Out Together in Love. Philippians is written while Paul is in prison. He is being persecuted for his beliefs as a Christian. Paul’s faith is real even though he lives in troubled times. These letters express the challenges and heartache of being a Christian but the lst letter if full of hope even as he writes from prison. We can imagine the early church community of Philippi gathering together in the market square to hear a letter from their leader Paul. He has journeyed with them since their formation. They remember his teachings and encouragement. They are eager and excited to hear his words, just like the anticipation we feel in opening a card or an email from a friend. The beginnings of Paul’s letters in Scripture are beautiful. His opening words are full of promise, hope and thanksgiving as he reflects on the gifts and strengths of his community of faith. He opens his letter with prayer giving God thanks for the people in the community and their faith as they help in spreading the Good News and Christ’s light to the world. Chapter 1 contains the longest greeting recorded in Scripture. Paul’s words reflect a wonderful relationship he had with these people. He points to the challenges ahead. He encourages them to ready and faithful during the crucial time to come. He advises them to let their life overflow with love for others. Mission is all about reaching out to difficult situations and places. As Living Faith tells us “Mission is service, a call to help people in need and to permeate all of life with the compassion of God. When we reach out, we share the Good news of Christ. We share God’s love by our actions and our words. Reaching out begins with love. It begins with the strength we find in learning and serving together. As Paul whispers from prison, he prays that the Philippians will overflow in their love for God. He writes “May your love overflows more and more with knowledge and =insight and help you determine what is best. For us we need to love before we know can help and we need to serve others to help with decisions we make. When we are willing to reach out in love, we will find ourselves in places and meeting people we never expected. By God’s grace we step in a whole new world. Rev Scholey who created this Mission Awareness Sunday Worship talks about the worlds that she has stepped into. She recounts her time in the world of disability and rehabilitation when her father became a quadriplegic; She talks about the world of multiple children when she and her husband became parents to triplets She shares her experiences in the world of relief and development through her work with PWSD. In all cases she points out there are things she did not know about these worlds and wondered why she was so out of touch. But in each experience she tells us you learn so much and your life is forever changed by the experiences you incur in the midst of the world. ‘Every one of us is enabled by God to step into worlds that we never expected to enter. We can enter the worlds of a new career, of parenthood, relationships, worlds of grief or illness, worlds of leadership, mission and service. Each time we step into one of these worlds as a person of faith, we seek to figure out why we were called to do this as our eyes are opened to new things. When our compassion and love grows, we gain knowledge and insight in how we can help by developing new relationships and partnership with people and new ways to reach out. Like Paul who drew strength knowing others were praying for him while he was in prison we can draw and be lifted up by the prayers and the strength of others who help us in time of need, crisis or grief. When we travel or support projects through PWSD, WMS or PS we learn that people are grateful to Canadians who are praying for them and caring enough to help them. Mission is more than a transfer of money. It is asking what people need and how they draw on the strength of our prayers and our support. We also draw strength from knowing them and hearing their stories. We can be blessed by knowing their determination, their faith and their willingness to reach out and make things better for their communities. Examples Laura used were her work with Farmers in Guatemala who taught each other to use new farming practice or a volunteer home based care workers as they cared for people with Aids and HIV in their own community. Relationships are also built in local mission and outreach. In love for our community, we share time and resources and figure out how to meet needs. I can think of some things our Church has done that show our love for others – our support for our local food bank and the SnowSuit Fund; our local hospital. Supporting and Encouraging our Presbytery as they plan to bring a Syrian Refugee family to this community; our support to special PS projects such as Haiti and supporting business opportunities for women in Malawi. One Mission Project that I will always remember is Cans for CanHave, where our extra coin and pennies helped support a project of Rev MCPhee in Uganda. Our church raised over $3000 for CanHave. The needs of our communities and the world can be overwhelming. We may not feel that we have enough resources, energy or know how to reach out in Mission. But we have been called by God to love others and play a role. By working together in Mission we can do work locally and globally by learning from one another and as Paul suggests we can overflow with compassion. As we work in Mission we seek to bring the Good News Christ spoke about --where the last are first and there is abundant life for all. We let God’s light shine through us and we see people around us near and far , similar and different as God’s beloved children, As Christians we are called in his name to pray, help, hope and have faith. Paul challenged the Philippians and all of us to continue our food work and to grow in love. He wrote; “the God who began the good work in you will bring it to completion in Christ. With the eyes of faith it is possible. Paul is confident in God’s activity among the Philippians and in the early church long ago. His words speak to us today. Last week I was listening to Ideas on CBC radio. Adrienne Clarkson was talking about the discovery of the heart and how it people and not government or policies that make a good society. She said that God is not an old man with a beard in the sky. God is love and whoever lives in love, lives in God and God lives in them. Love comes from the Greek word agapay and we need to live in a world filled with justice, equality, forgiveness, compassion. We need to think of love as a paradise around the corner. We need to experience all what life gives us in absolute joy and she closed her presentation that she hoped that was your life’s experience. How many are watching the Stanley Cup Playoff’s. Yesterday in the Ottawa Citizen there was a story about the Pittsburgh Penguins goal tender Matt Murray. In his first interview he told reporters his NHL idol was Alex Ault, a retired journeyman goal tender in the NHL. As a kid growing up in Thunder Bay there were 4 teams with two goaltenders each. Hockey was an expensive sport and especially for goaltenders and with all teams being travelling teams it was even more expensive for families. When Matt was 13 Ault purchased each of the 8 goaltenders of the time their equipment and he was one of them. When Ault found out, he said it was really cool to see someone you did something nice for while growing up be appreciative of it and take and turn it into a pro career. This is what mission is all about == doing something for someone else and not expecting anything in return for your good works. Live out you many callings to love and work and serve. How can we a God’s people, as a church, as an organization or as an individual overflow in love and reach out in mission. The God that started the God work in you will finish what He started. Do one thing for a Better World Tolerance How far you go in life depends on you being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these. Tolerance is giving to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself. Equality Martin Luther King Jr. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood. Freedom Freedom--no word was ever spoken that has held out greater hope, demanded greater sacrifice, needed more to be nurtured, blessed more the giver. . . or came closer to being God's will on earth. Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought. Pope John Paul II Humanity Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy. It will open new places in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity. Malala: "I want my child to walk in a world guided by love. This means that everybody will have a job, or the resources to take care of basic needs. A world where families are not oppressed and are connected to their neighbors and their communities, where the best in humanity is honored. That's when we will truly be at peace." Justice Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. Finally, let understand that when we stand together, we will always win. When men and women stand together for justice, we win. When black, white and Hispanic people stand together for justice, we win. Bernie Sanders Summary with Gwen’s Picture: Learning and Reaching out in love Jesus is our Friend Companion for All time Giver of Joy Unending forgiveness Unconditional love Compassionate Infinite patience Faithful trustworthy Let us pray Live out you many callings to love and work and serve. How can we a God’s people, as a church, as an organization or as an individual overflow in love and reach out in mission. The God that started the God work in you will finish what He started. Thanks be to God. Amen.


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.    

ReciproCare in Mission

April 26, 2015
Bible Text: Genesis 12: 1-9 & Mark 16: 14-19 | Preacher: Speaker: Phyllis McMaster Reciprocare “Is this really a word” Yes it is  it is Latin and means to move back and forth. Other meanings Help each other Interact Interdepend Isn’t this what mission is all about “Helping each other” Todays sermon was written by Rev Shirley Gale.  Shirley grew up in Perth and following graduation from Presbyterian College she has served congregations in Montreal, Forest, Port Perry, Ashburn and Guelph.  She is now retired but she hasn’t stopped working.  She continues to work doing pulpit supply  and with congregations on future planning and with those preparing to receive a new minister.   In his book, “Disappointment with God”, Philip Yancey relates this story from his own life.  One time when Yancey and his mother were looking through a box of old photos he came across a crumpled picture of himself at 18 months. He asked her why she had kept this one.  His mother explained that Yancey’s father, at 24, had lain completely paralyzed by polio and was encased from the neck down in a huge, cylindrical breathing unit. Due to the severity of his illness his two young sons were banned from the hospital, so Yancey’s mother hung this photo from the breathing unit just above Yancey’s father’s head. The last four months of his life were spent looking at the faces he loved. Yancey said: “that crumpled photo, was one of the few links connecting me to my father. Someone I have no memory of, and who spent all day, every day loving me.”  Yancey went on to say:  “ . . .the emotions I felt when I saw that crumpled photo were the very same emotions I felt that night in my college dorm-room when I first believed in a God of love…and realized Someone is there who loves me. It was a startling feeling of hope, a feeling so new and overwhelming that it seemed fully worth risking my life on.  That photo and what it represented, had a profound impact on Philip Yancy’s life and faith. I’m sure neither his mother or father would ever have thought that God would work so powerfully through such a simple thing as a photo, nor did they likely consider themselves to be missionaries to their own son.  We serve a God who is always at work, a God whose love is unmeasurable, unconditional, and missional. Missional? Yes, our God is a missional God, whose mission is to draw all people to God’s self in love. God pursues this mission in more ways than we can possibly imagine. One of those ways is in and through people. The primary purpose of the Church, is for its people to go into the world, near and far, serving as God’s missionaries. Serving isn’t always easy, nor is it done in ways that we expect.  Dorothy was from small town where she attended the Presbyterian church She was a life-time member of the WMS and regularly  attended worship. She was very active in the congregation, until shortly after the birth of her daughter when she became bed-ridden with a crippling illness. Each day, for many years, her husband would carry Dorothy to a specially constructed seat in their front window where she would spend the day overlooking the town’s main street. Jean*, a young, six-year-old girl, who attended Sunday School at the same church, started visiting Dorothy twice a week. In the summer, she brought flowers from her mother’s garden. These visits continued until Dorothy’s death seven years later. During these visits, Dorothy would talk about her life, her faith, and all the wonderful things she observed from her second-floor window-seat.  Even though she didn’t know all the people that passed by her window she prayed for them. In her gentle way, Dorothy taught and mentored Jean in her faith journey and planted the seeds of her understanding of mission. Dorothy made Jean feel that she was an acceptable, worthy person  whom God loved. What a wonderful gift to give an extremely shy young girl who wanted nothing more than to be invisible so people wouldn’t see her! After each visit with Dorothy, instead of walking, as usual, close to the buildings, with her head down, hoping she was unnoticed, Jean walked to school down the middle of the sidewalk with her head up, and her face decorated with a big smile. Isn’t it amazing how God used a woman who could no longer walk to help a young girl to walk with new dignity and joy? Jean eventually answered God’s call to serve as an Ordained  Minister, which she does still today.  Dorothy was only one of many people over the years who helped shape Jean’s life and faith. Dorothy may not have realized it, but she was really a missionary - right on her door-step. Today, there is still a great need for such a missionary-minded, nurturing community for the Church to be what God calls it to be and Jesus commanded it to be. We are to be a caring place where people seek God’s guidance to discover effective and meaningful ways to participate in God’s mission. As God’s missionaries we are called to use,  whatever gifts and means God entrusts to us. Sometimes things stand in our way to fulfilling God’s call to serve.  Age, physical limitations, work or family obligations, not enough time, financial challenges, or our misgivings about abilities can give us a feeling of not being properly equipped to do God’s work.  It is important to trust that God has given us the gifts and means, we only have to listen and act. We are reminded by the Apostle Paul that it is often at our own point of weakness that God does God’s greatest work. Paul pleaded with God to be relieved of his weakness – his “thorn in the flesh,” he called it). God responded to Paul saying: ”My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  It is often in times of weakness God calls us to tasks we feel unable to accomplish. The Rev. Shirley Gale, the writer of today’s Mission Awareness Sunday service, was reminded of this call one Sunday just before worship. Knox Church in Guelph has a position called Pastoral Assistant. The position focuses on seniors within the congregation and the community, especially those who live in nursing homes and senior residences, or those unable to attend Sunday worship or other church functions. Shirley was approached one Sunday morning to fill the position.  Shirley, now seventy-three, and retired from ministry because of Multiple Sclerosis, thought she was too old to start active ministry again. Shirley suggested  that the position needed a younger, healthier person. Shirley sat down in the pew thinking the matter over. Well, for over two years now, Shirley has been serving as the Pastoral Assistant. For Shirley, these years have been rewarding and meaningful, even though at times physically challenging.  She is reminded every day that God does use us despite our limitations. Through her work Shirley met Margaret, a person for more than ten years has resided in a full-care facility, bed-ridden because of severe Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. She can no longer move without assistance, nor can she feed herself. And yet, Margaret cheerfully greets each visitor with a warm, bright smile and a receptive ear. What is exceptional about Margaret is her deep faith and the way she shares it so sincerely and simply with everyone. She prays daily for the staff, her visitors, her family, her church family, and the church’s ministries.  She believes her mission is prayer and encouragement for those who do and those who don’t know the Lord. She does it humbly and faithfully. Margaret is one of the persons who has caused Shirley to reflect anew on the nature of mission and how it is so often reciprocal—or as Shirley now calls it ReciproCare. Shirley puts it this way: ReciproCare is simply caring for others and acknowledging that others can and do care for us in return. And, for this reason it is an integral and inseparable part of mission. ReciproCare is giving something of ourselves and realizing that in the very act of giving our gift-of caring  the receiver actually cares for us, blesses us in return. God is present and at work in the giving and receiving of care. The fact is, the things we do for good or ill, affect the lives of others whether we realize it or not. Jane Goodall, renowned for her work among the Tanzanian chimps, said it this way: “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world  round you. The truth is we do make a difference, and we have to decide what kind of difference we want to make.”  Every day is a new day God has given us in which we can “have an impact on the world” around us. A day when we can touch the lives of others with the caring love of our  God, and in the process be touched by them. Opportunities and need for mission are all around us - it can be as close as our own homes, on our doorsteps, or next door, and it is far beyond us in places where only our hearts and tangible expressions of care can reach.  We are called to care. ReciproCare is a gift that blesses both the one who receives the caring act and the one who gives this gift because this reciprocal experience is a powerful reminder of God’s gift of constant, loving care of The Apostle Paul reminds us of the importance of the reciprocal nature of ministry in his letter to the Romans (1:11–12) “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong.” And then adds, “That is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Remember that God’s love and grace equips you to be a missionary today, near and far. God’s mission is the loving redemption and renewal of all people and creation - it is this Mission we are called to live each day, or as one person has said: “To be living Gospels.” Jesus said it this way: “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.”  We can do this assured that we do not journey alone for as Jesus also Said in Matthew: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” In spring our attention turns to planting and renewing our gardens and farm fields. #1 PLANT THE SPIRITUAL SEEDS OF JESUS’S LOVE IN YOUR HEART. #2 PLANT NEWS OF JESUS IN YOUR HEART #3 AS IT SPROUTS AND GROWS - IT STRENGTHENS #4 JESUS WANTS TO SEND YOU TO PLANT THE SEEDS OF HIS LOVE IN OTHERS #5 JESUS WANTS TO SEND YOU TO SPREAD GOOD NEWS OF HIM TO OTHERS. A satisfying life is not measured by what you have but by what you give.  You may only be someone in the world but to someone else you may be the world. I can’t change the direction of the wind but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.  Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough and more.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us everyday. Let us Pray:  Thank you Lord for loving and caring for us and may we reciprocare those to feeling to those around us.  In Jesus name we pray. Amen. Phyllis MacMaster