Islington's Lenten Devotionals - Mon., Mar. 18, 2019

For What Do You Thirst? (1)

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 55:1-9

Focus: For What Do You Thirst?


Water is the essence of life. About 60 per cent of the human body is made up of water, and we cannot live without it.

People in the Middle East, where Isaiah prophesied and where, centuries later, Jesus preached, know what it is to be thirsty. They live in a place where it only rains in the winter, and some years, not much even then. We can feel thirsty just thinking about that parched land.

It is natural that we thirst for what is missing in our lives. For some of us, it may literally be water, even in a country like Canada with water in such abundance. But water isn’t the only necessity of life, and neither are food or shelter. Less tangible, but equally real, are the spiritual needs that we all have. 

We yearn for life to have meaning. We need a sense of belonging. We thirst for a connection with God, however we understand the mysterious unknowable One. 

The phrase “everyone who thirsts, come to the waters” is an invitation to everyone who thirsts, an invitation that includes you and me. Jesus may have had this passage from Isaiah in mind when, in one of my favourite gospel stories, he told the Samaritan woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”(John 4:13-14.)

In a time of drought, we thirst for water. In the dry patches of our lives, we thirst for meaning, for wholeness, for awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence within and around us. We thirst for these things even when we cannot really describe what we are lacking. 

When we feel thirsty for something that we struggle to name, we are part of a long tradition.  It was already established in the time of the prophet Isaiah, it continued through Jesus’ time, and it is part of our experience today. 

Where do you turn when you are thirsty? Where is the well that slakes your spiritual thirst?

The invitation is there for us.  “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters …”

Prayer:  God, our source of life, help us to remember that we need never be thirsty, that when we turn to you, you are already with us. Amen

Nora Saunders

Islington's Lenten Devotionals - Mon., Mar. 18, 2019

Giver of the Perfect Gift

Voices United Hymn #116

Giver of the Perfect Gift


Giver of the perfect gift, only hope of human race, hear the prayer our hearts uplift,
gathered at thy throne of grace.
 
Though the accusing voice within speaks of many a wrong to thee,
thou canst cleanse from every sin, thou canst set the conscience free.
 
Who can save us, Lord, but thou?  Let thy mercy show thy power, lo, we plead thy
promise now, now in this accepted hour.
 
Oh, may these our Lenten days, blest by thee, with thee be passed, that with
purer, nobler praise, we may keep thy feast at last.
 
God the holy trinity, grant the mercy we implore, God the one, all
praise to thee through the ages ever more.
 
To be honest, I was surprised to find this hymn ‘Giver of the Perfect Gift’ in the Lenten section of our Hymn Book. To my mind, Lenten hymns are usually centered on themes of waiting and temptation so the title of this piece caught my eye and challenged me to seek its place on this year’s Lenten journey. What I discovered was an effective change of approach. Rather than the lyrics gradually building up to the message of the good news of Easter and the Resurrection, this hymn begins with us praising God for the ‘perfect gift’ - Jesus’ resurrection. This feat, suffered and achieved for all of us, is the reason for our Christian faith and for our hope of eternal life as Jesus explains it to his disciples in John 14: 1-4.

Verse one of the hymn has us lifting heartfelt prayer and concludes with us gathered at God’s ‘throne of grace’. What a joyous, merciful and absolutely extraordinary place to find ourselves during the Season of Lent; or, for that matter, at any time of the year!  This is the seat of unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness that only God, in his great mercy, can provide. Words from Joyce Rupp’s Valentine Prayer come to mind:  “Praise to the One whose love soothes with the ointment of mercy and transforms with the touch of compassion”. Remarkably, all that the Giver asks for from us is our sincere repentance and a desire to want to know Him! It sounds amazing but it’s true and it’s a blessed place from which we can further explore and deepen our faith in this Lenten Season.  

Fittingly, Verse 2 addresses temptation, sin and conscience (through the accusing voice within).  We are fortunate, however, that we have just visited the ‘throne of grace’ which, we know, is always available on the path back to a right relationship with God. Verse 3 begins with a disturbing question (“Who can save us?”) but quickly reminds us of God’s omnipotent power and the promise to forgive (‘we plead thy promise now’). Verse 4 directs us to honour and learn from our Lenten musings and discoveries so that we are able to fully appreciate the good news of Easter ‘with purer, nobler praise’. Verse 5 brings us back to praise for the Giver – but this time, we are praising God, ‘the Holy Trinity’, (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). This feels wonderfully appropriate because we are now concluding this song of praise by specifically acknowledging the work of the Holy Spirit, the third aspect of God. It is the Holy Spirit of God who gives us the desire and the power to be blessed and transformed by our personal faith journeys.   

Prayer
Loving and gracious God, we praise you for providing the Perfect Gift to all who are open to receive it.  By the power of your Holy Spirit, help us to journey toward a deeper relationship with you and with your Son, in whose name with pray. 

May Hutzel

 

Islington's Lenten Devotionals - Sun., Mar. 17, 2019

It’s St. Patrick’s Day,

Scripture Reading: Matthew 4:18 - 20

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, “Top of the morning to you”!

 
All around the world today green is the colour for sure. Major landmarks like the CN Tower, the Colosseum in Rome, the Sydney Opera House, the Victoria Falls in Kenya, Niagara Falls, sites in Greece, Brazil, Moscow, and the list goes on, are bathed in green light to celebrate St. Patrick, Patron Saint of Ireland.  It feels like the whole world is yearning to be Irish. This relatively small island has had an enormous impact on the world. In fact, there are more folks claiming Irish heritage (70 million) than the population of The Republic of Ireland (about 6 million) and Northern Ireland (about 2 million) combined. The influence of this small country has been enormous.
 
Our entire family went for a trip to Ireland in 2010. It was a pilgrimage for us to see Enniskillin, the place where my Dad was born, which is a two hour drive from Belfast; and also, to see Westport in the Republic, where my husband’s family were from. We went to the church in Drumcliffe where many of our Gordon ancestors had worshipped and where my Grandmother had played the organ as a young girl.
 
My Dad often told the story of my Grandmother (born in 1870) playing the “new hymns” of an Irish composer Cecil Alexander—much to the concern of her parents. Cecil Alexander was born in Dublin and spent much of her life in Derry after marrying Rev. William Alexander, Anglican Bishop of Derry. She composed over 400 Hymns and poems, many of which were written for children. In our Voices United Hymn book, we have 6 hymns written by her: “Once in Royal David’s City” #62, “There is a Green Hill Far Away” #152, “All things Bright and Beautiful” #291, “I Bind Unto Myself Today” #317, “Christ Be With Me” #318, and “Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult” #562.
 
In Cecil’s lifetime there was much tumult in Ireland. She was born during the time of the potato famine when Ireland’s population dropped from 8 million to 3 million due to death and emigration. She lived during the time of “The Fenian Uprising 1867” when families were torn apart with political and religious unrest but the message of her hymns and poems was consistent: follow Christ’s Call.
 
In the words of her hymn, Jesus Call Us O’er the Tumult (verses 4 and 5), we see:
In our joys and in Our sorrows,
Days of toil and hours of ease,
Still He calls, in cares and pleasures,
“Christian, love Me more than these!”
Jesus calls us! by your mercies,
Savior, may we hear your call,
Give our hearts to your obedience,
Serve and love you best of all.

Cecil heard Christ’s Call. With her position in society she could have chosen a life of ease but that was not what she felt she was called to do. She used the proceeds of her hymns and poetry to build a home to provide education for the deaf and built a shelter for unwed mothers in Derry. She felt called to use her God given gifts in service to others.
 
In our scripture today, we see Jesus walking by the seaside and he calls out to Peter and Andrew fishing and says: Follow Me and I will make you fishers of Men. And they straightway left their nets and followed Him.

Christ’s calls on our lives did not stop with Peter and Andrew at the seashore in Galilee, or with Cecil Alexander in Ireland. The calls keep coming “follow me” and I will lead you to new life. What would our troubled world look like if we listened and followed?

An Irish Blessing 
May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities, and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered, and protected.
May your soul calm, console, and renew you.
Amen

Isla Grady
 
Stained glass window in memory of
Cecil F. Alexander, in St Columb's Cathedral,
Derry, Northern Ireland

Islington's Lenten Devotionals - Sat., Mar. 16, 2019

Lessons in Patience

Scripture Reading: Luke 13:6-9

Focus: Lessons in Patience


The man in the fig tree parable has a fig tree that, after three years, has produced no fruit. He is ready to give up on it!  The gardener, who has been caring for it through this time without results, asks that it be given another year to see if it will bear fruit.
 
It can be really hard to be patient.
 
As any gardener or farmer knows, our efforts at preparing the soil, watering, and fertilizing make a huge difference, but they are not everything. There are things beyond our control too - like weather and the pace at which a plant grows.
 
Some people are “late bloomers” too. Some of the most amazing people are “late bloomers”. 
 
It is said that Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was four years old, and was a terrible student in school. Julia Child didn’t learn to cook until after she met her future husband. And remember, Jesus was about thirty years old before he began his ministry (although presumably he may have been working as a carpenter before that).

I expect you know some less famous people who were late bloomers, who took awhile to “find their feet”. Some of those I can think of may have made me a little impatient as they took their time growing up. Now that I can see the wonderful adults who have emerged, I am humbled to think of my earlier impatience.
You and I may be impatient, but I believe that God is endlessly patient with us. I am grateful for that. I thank God for that.
 
Prayer:  Patient God, thank you for the great variety of living things on earth. Help me to understand the wondrous reality that you offer a world where each of us develops in our own way and in our own time. Amen

Nora Sanders

 

Islington's Lenten Devotionals - Fri., Mar. 15, 2019

Love Your Enemies

Scripture Reading: Luke 6:27-36

Focus: Love Your Enemies


This scripture goes against our human nature by asking us to do something we would not normally want to do. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for the happiness of those who curse you, pray for those who hurt you, lend money to our enemies and don’t be concerned about whether or not they repay you.” This teaching is revolutionary and I imagine it was as difficult to understand in Jesus’ day as it is now.

It seems to be in our DNA to hurl insult for insult; just watch any parliamentary channel or a school yard fight where one kid throws a punch and the recipient retaliates. What kind of business people would we be if we loaned money without expecting to be repaid? We all know a good credit rating is very important if you are trying to make a big purchase or want to borrow money. And that can only happen if you have repaid previous loans. So … what does Jesus mean by this scripture? It doesn’t make sense. Jesus seems to be expecting the impossible! He goes on to say that there’s nothing particularly wonderful about loving those who love you and doing good to those who do good to you. Even sinners do that! But if we look at the end of this passage, Jesus gives us the answer. He tells us to be compassionate to those who hurt us, just as our Father is compassionate towards us (v 36).

Many years ago I worked closely with someone at church. He was unkind and either ignored me completely or cut me down whenever he could. I grew to resent him and I did not want to pray for him. In fact I argued with God that I would be a hypocrite if I asked God to bless him because if I was really honest, I wanted God to punish him. As so often happens, I was reading a book at the time, where the author gave me a different perspective. He said God places “Sandpaper People” in our lives to smooth off our rough edges. Just as a woodworker needs sandpaper to bring out the beauty of his creation so God places people in our lives to act like sandpaper and smooth our rough edges. Suddenly I was able to thank God for placing this man in my life and I was honestly able to ask God to bless him. My perspective changed completely when I realized that through this man’s hurtful ways, God was doing something in my life to make me more beautiful.

A number of years later this man told me that God had used me to minister to him. What joy I felt to know God could use me even when He was teaching me an important lesson on forgiveness. That’s exactly what Jesus promised … if we can pray for our enemies, our reward from heaven will be very great.

Prayer: Gracious God, help us to forgive others as you first forgave us. Fill us with your compassion. Amen

Lynne Bullock

Islington's Lenten Devotionals - Thur., Mar. 14, 2019

Spirit of God

Hymn # 378 Spirit of God, Descend upon
my Heart, Come, Holy Spirit, Come


Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth; through all its pulses move.
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art,
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.
 
I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
No sudden rending of the veil of clay,
No angel visitant, no opening skies,
But take the dimness of my soul away.
 
Hast Thou not bid me love Thee, God and King?
All, all Thine own, soul, heart and strength and mind.
I see Thy cross; there teach my heart to cling:
Oh, let me seek Thee, and, oh, let me find!
 
Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear,
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh;
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.
 
Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The kindling of the heav’n-descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.
Lyrics by George Croly 1854
 

This hymn is written by Reverend George Croly, LL.D. (1780-1860), born and educated in Dublin, but who spent most of his adult life in London. In 1854 he wrote and compiled a book, Psalms and Hymns for Public Worship. When I hear this hymn it feels more private, than public. I am touched in a deeply personal way when I sing or read this ardent prayer that asks the Holy Spirit to enter my heart.

It’s no surprise that music and poetry are brought together to create songs that resonate within us. Sometimes it’s a tune that lingers; other times it’s a lyric. In this case the two come together for me as soon as I begin to read the lyrics. The minor key draws me into a thoughtful state which invites me to hear the message as a prayer.

I may not speak to God with Thee’s and Thou’s but I can identify with the writer’s desire to want to love God as best I can with all my soul, heart, strength and mind as the Great Commandment asks (Deuteronomy 6:5-6, Matthew 22:37,Mark 12:30).

The requests in the fourth verse are ones with which I am also familiar. Doubt, rebellion, impatience – they rise up threatening to drown out the quiet notes of peace and joy that make up the melody I long to hear. Then somehow something reminds me that God is near - a divine hum catches my attention. I turn my heart to listen and sure enough I realize that I am not alone and I am loved. That knowing is like a spark that helps me catch fire again.  
  
Prayer: Come, Holy Spirit, Come,
Sing your song of love loud enough for my heart to know that You are with me always. Help me to share it with others so that we can sing together in harmony. Amen.
 
Dale Kucharczyk

 

Islington's Lenten Devotionals - Wed., Mar. 13, 2019

Faith and Fear

Scripture Reading: Psalm 27

Focus: The Daily Struggle Between Faith and Fear


I feel so thankful for the times in my life when I have been challenged to memorize scripture. These words of the psalmist have encouraged me: “I have laid up thy word in my heart that I might not sin against thee.” (Psalm 119:11)

It is marvelous how God uses what we have committed to memory to speak to us just when we need to hear God’s voice. The inspiring Psalm 27 comes to mind when I am feeling afraid. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? “ (v.1). Visualizing myself guided by the light of Christ and strengthened by God’s saving power has been a great comfort in times of struggle and despair.

We are surrounded by danger, by evil that leads us away from God. David’s struggle was with literal enemies and armies, ours may be with negative thoughts and difficult circumstances. Our challenge is the same - to not be enveloped by fear but to trust in the Lord. “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord.” (v.14).

The key to living a life of trust is to look at our priorities. The psalmist shares “One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” (v.4). God invites us to seek Him and our response needs to be “Thy face, Lord, do I seek” (v.8). If our priority is to develop a closer relationship with God, we will be open to being taught and led by God on our path of life (v. 11.) As God guides and protects us, our lives are filled with joy (v. 6).Thanks be to God!

Prayer: Loving God, we thank you for filling our lives with your light and love, and protecting us from evil. Help us to remember to turn to you when we feel afraid. Amen

Margot Jewell

Islington's Lenten Devotionals - Tues., Mar. 12, 2019

Citizens of Heaven

Scripture Reading: Philippians 3:17 – 4a

Focus: Citizens of Heaven


Writing to the church at Philippi from prison, Paul is reflecting on how his lowly circumstances align him with Jesus’ experience. This letter shows a pivotal moment in Paul’s theology. This is the first time in the sequence of Paul’s letters that it has been important for him to look back at what Jesus has done. Whereas before, the importance was placed upon what Jesus would soon come to do (save us from wrath), now Paul is looking to Jesus’ example for instructions on how to live. Doing so diligently, Paul calls the Philippians (and by extension, us) to follow suit.

Transformation of our ‘lowly’, earthly bodies into the glorious body of Christ is a major theme throughout this letter. The sense is that one order of reality will give way to a greater order of reality. But it does not come by feeding our stomachs. It comes through faith in Christ. What I hear in this passage especially is a call for surrender. This is a disciplined surrender, a self-emptying surrender, where we give up our appetites for earthly things, leaving space only for God. This is the process of sanctification.

Yes, it is a tall order. But every moment is an opportunity to recommit ourselves to the highest ideals. We need not judge nor attack ourselves (or others) when we slip – which will happen – but we can refocus ourselves immediately, continually developing habits of presence and openness to the Spirit. It is God’s strength working through us that transforms our earthly bodies into glory. Moment by moment, we have the opportunity to more deeply realize our citizenship in heaven. It is both now and not yet. Every glimpse we are given, every foretaste of heaven, is a call to stand firm in the Lord. Our strength is God’s strength. Citizens of heaven, awake!

Prayer: God of Glory, shine light on our path, guiding us through our Lenten journeys. Keep our sights set on your heavenly realm, turning our attention away from earthly appetites. Open our hearts to the power of your Spirit and transform our bodies to become vessels of service for your sake. Grant us strength and discipline, that we might realize our citizenship in heaven. Through your Son, Jesus, we pray. Amen
.

James Aitchison

Islington's Lenten Devotionals - Mon., Mar. 11, 2019

God’s Promise to Abraham

Scripture Reading: Genesis 15: 1-12, 17-18

Focus: God’s Promise to Abraham


When I’m in the Godly Play rooms downstairs on a Sunday morning with the youngest members of our church family, one of my favourite stories to tell is The Great Family. It’s a story that tells the whole saga of God’s call to Abram/Abraham and his family. One of the most powerful lines from the story says that, “God came so close to Abram, and Abram came so close to God, that Abram knew what God was saying. ‘You will become the father of a great family, and Sarai will be the mother. The members of the great family will be as many as there are stars in the sky and grains of sand in the desert.’” This line is inspired by today’s Lenten scripture text, especially Genesis 15:5. This is the first part of God’s promise to Abram. While he and Sarai are old, they place their trust in God and God’s promise.
 
The second part of God’s promise to Abram is found in Genesis 15:18, “The Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.’” This part of the covenant is more problematic than the first part. A postcolonial reading of this text asks important questions like: Who was already living in the land promised to Abram? What happened to these people? Why do we never hear their story?
 
My experience of being on pilgrimage in Palestine in 2017 brought this text to life. The land of Palestine is included within Abram’s covenant. Part of the tension that exists in the West Bank, where Christians, Muslims and Jewish people live, is that some people believe they are the true ancestors of Abram’s covenant and that leads to the oppression of other descendants of Abram and subsequent acts of violence. I believe that oppression grounded in this covenant with Abram’s is unholy and contrary for God’s love for all the world. I know that land ownership and control is at the heart of many conflicts all over the world: neighbour to neighbour, nation to nation.
 
As we focus on Reconciliation as a Christian call at Islington United during this Lenten season, this is an important text to pray over. It is important to think about our own theology of the land. I wonder this Lent, what God’s dream of reconciliation is for this land?

Prayer:
Holy One, Thank you for including us as members of Abraham’s Great Family, which numbers as many as the stars in the sky or grains of sand in the desert. We pray for peace and reconciliation between peoples in the land between the Nile and the Euphrates. We pray for peace and reconciliation between peoples in the land we call home.  Amen.

Reverend Adam Hanley

 

Islington's Lenten Devotionals - Sun., Mar. 10, 2019

From Temptation to Triumph

Scripture Reading: Luke 4:1-13

Focus: From Temptation to Triumph


Three years ago, I wrote a devotional on this same passage which focused on the three specific temptations the devil offered to Jesus, and Jesus’ three responses that came directly from scripture. When I re-examined the passage for today’s devotional, I began by looking at Jesus’ entire 40-day fasting experience in the wilderness. I had always pictured Jesus alone, strong and contemplative, easily able to resist temptation - after all, He is the Son of God. But then I imagined the hot, dry desert winds during the day and the very cold temperatures at night. Jesus would have most definitely been hungry and physically weak during this time, but Luke reminds us that Jesus was not alone because the Spirit of God was with him. Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit…and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil” (Luke 4:1-2).

At different times in our lives we may also find ourselves stuck in a wilderness. As Christians we know that we are not alone during such times of trial and temptation, for we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit who provides spiritual nourishment when we call out for strength and help. We may be going through a dry and dusty time in our Christian journey, perhaps questioning why we have to wait so long for God to answer a specific prayer, or why we struggle so during a time of weakness or addiction, or why when we need help the most, God seems so far away.

Is this passage a reminder to draw on the Spirit’s power and presence throughout our entire wilderness experience, day by day, to its completion? Jesus “ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.” A physical, emotional, and/or spiritual challenge can malnourish us - body, mind and spirit. When confronted by the devil Jesus drew from the well of God’s Word to answer each of the three temptations. Jesus prefaced each response from the ancient scriptures with the phrase, “It is written”.

When we find ourselves in a wilderness of joyless apathy, doubt, illness, despair, or fear-filled anxiety, we can call on the presence of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Word to sustain us through the temptation and beyond:
If you cannot find the words to express praise to God during a time of trial, it is written:
You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. (Psalm 118:28)

If you doubt the presence of God in your situation, it is written: I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)
If you are in physically weak from disease or addiction, it is written: Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. (Ephesians 3:20)
If you are threatened and feel insecure, it is written: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
If you are overwhelmed by fear and anxiety, it is written: Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
 
After the temptation experience, Jesus returned to the synagogue where he read from book of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (61:1,2).  Jesus ended the reading of this passage by declaring, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).
 
Bold statements to begin his earthly ministry to be sure, but bold statements that we can cling to when we need to be reminded that Jesus is with us, the Holy Spirit dwells within us, and that God loves us. We have that guaranteed assurance available to us throughout our lifetime on earth.
 
Prayer: Almighty God and ever-present Spirit, compel us to search for the scriptures that will fortify us against life’s trials and temptations. Dear Jesus, help us to stand firm on the promises of your Word. Amen
 
Esther Khubyar

Islington's Lenten Devotionals - Sat., Mar. 9, 2019

I Love to Tell the Story

I Love to Tell the Story (VU 343)
1. I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love. I love to tell the story because I know ‘tis true; it satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.
                         
Chorus: I love to tell the story, ‘twill be my theme in glory, to tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.  
                                                           
2. I love to tell the story; more wonderful it seems than all the golden fancies of all our golden dreams. I love to tell the story, for some have never heard the message of salvation from God’s own holy word.
3. I love to tell the story, for those who know it best seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest. And when in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song, ‘twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.

Some people are natural story tellers. They rise to the occasion when there is an audience and they can take an everyday incident and make it so funny. I have a brother who was born with this gift and he always kept us entertained, especially at the dinner table. The stories he told brought the people he was talking about to life and we felt like we had been part of the story ourselves.

Jesus also told stories to his disciples to help them understand what the love of God looked like and how to love one another unconditionally. Through story Jesus taught who their neighbour really was and how to trust God when things looked impossible. Hymn writers took these stories that Jesus told and set them to music because they knew music often touches our hearts and souls in a way the spoken word doesn’t. “Music is the language of the soul” as Martin Luther so wisely said.                                                                                                                                                                           
I was not the story teller my brother was. I was a little more serious and grew up thinking I was going to be a missionary. However, at age 18 I realized I was falling in love and those far away mission fields no longer looked so inviting. In prayer I sought Jesus’ will on this matter. I told God I was willing to give up my boyfriend if he wasn’t part of the plan for my life, but I needed to know by Friday night so I could break the relationship off, if I had to. Instead, God led me to a scripture (1Kings 18:26). In the King James Version, verse 26 says, “Choose you one bullock for yourself.” My boyfriend’s last name was Bullock and I saw this as God’s answer to the fervent prayer I had just prayed.

So, instead of being a missionary in a faraway country, my mission field became my classroom. I taught for 34 years and every day I prayed with my children, and taught them to pray for one another. I told them stories and taught them catchy songs about Jesus that would hopefully stay with them for years. I told the old, old story of Jesus and His love as many different ways as I could. And because I have a personal relationship with Jesus, I also love to tell my story - how God, who created the heavens and earth and everything in it, is the same God who cared so much about an 18 year old girl that her prayer was answered with definite direction about the plan God had for her life.

What a wonderful God we serve and what a privilege it is to tell the story of Jesus and His love.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
Prayer: Jesus, help us to be so grateful and so in awe of you that we will delight in sharing the story of your love. Amen                                                                                                                                                     
Lynne Bullock

Islington's Lenten Devotionals - Fri., Mar. 8, 2019

The Heart Matters

Scripture Reading: Romans 10:8-13

The Heart Matters
 
The apostle Paul writes to the church in Rome, explaining that the believers need not look far to find Christ, but that in looking for the Word (John 1:14), they will find Jesus very near them. He is in fact very close: in their hearts and on their lips. By believing through faith and proclaiming that faith, they will be saved. But saved from what? Saved from being without God, saved from living an eternity without the all-encompassing love of the Creator, the Holy One, the Divine.

The amazing thing is that Paul tells the Roman and us that the same Lord, the same God, is God for everybody. We are all gathered in His divine love.

God loves us, no matter the skin colour, whether we are young or old, short or tall; it makes no difference at all which country we are from, what our orientation or chosen identity is, whether we are “Jew or Gentile”. In fact God has created humankind with such diversity which can and needs to be celebrated. And still, every human has a heart and God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). God doesn’t care what a person looks like but looks at the inner attitude and behaviour. Here in our hearts is where our belief is rooted and from there we proclaim His Word, giving witness to our faith.

And thus we are lifted up to be in God’s presence.

Prayer: Loving God, thank you for creating us in such different ways but with the same heart. A heart that gives you praise and worship. We proclaim our faith in words and actions, knowing that you are the same Lord for all. Amen


Dorothea Vickers

 

Islington's Lenten Devotionals - Thur., Mar. 7, 2019

Bring your Basket!

Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 26:1-12

Bring your Basket!
 
In today’s scripture we are witness to the pre-eminence of ‘giving back’ to God for all God has done for us! Or as some today would have it: “paying it forward”. The practice of tithing a tenth or facsimile of our income to share with the priest to distribute to the needy is an ancient one.

This is more than an act of charity to the foreigner, fatherless children or widows, as important as they are. This is a model for living well. The intention of gratefully sharing a portion of all we have is an integral part of healthy human practice. It acknowledges that we all need each other at some time and that giving back to community in the name of gratitude is a fundamental human activity.

Sadly, our Western cultural and particularly North American emphasis on the individual (rights, ownership, etc.) has weakened the notion of the common good. As Donne so aptly wrote centuries ago, “no one is an island”! We need each other throughout our life journey, and creating rituals around giving and offerings is a supremely humane and sacred activity.

The writer of Deuteronomy is interested in helping people understand the history and context out of which their people, descendants of a wandering Aramean, need to bring their basket. You see, bringing our baskets to God gives us a sense of identity and belonging in the human family. We are part of a larger story, not just the story of our own small time and place.

How deeply have you understood the call and blessing of tithing – of bringing our thanksgiving baskets to God?

Prayer: Giver of Life, give me a deeper understanding of the connection between sharing my basket and who you have called me to be. May all the baskets I share be magnified to serve your divine and loving purposes.
Amen

Pattie Aitchison


Islington's Lenten Devotionals - Wed., Mar. 6, 2019

God is my Refuge

Scripture Reading: Psalm 91: 1-2, 9-16


Focus: God is my Refuge
 

One of my favourite hymns, whether leading worship, or singing in the congregation, is On Eagle’s Wings, Voices United #808. Everyone seems to love singing the chorus:

And I will raise you up on eagle’s wings,
bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in palm of my hand.
 
Whether it is Josh Groban singing, or the collective voice of a worshipping congregation, the words are so calming and reassuring. “And I will raise you up…”
 
Father Michael Joncas has composed more than 300 liturgical songs, but his name is most widely known for On Eagle’s Wings. Father Joncas said the song came about when he was visiting a friend in Washington in 1979. One evening while he was there, his friend got word that his father had suffered a fatal heart attack. Father Joncas wrote On Eagle’s Wings in the days that followed, and it was sung for the first time publicly at the friend’s father’s funeral.
 
The song is based on Psalm 91, the Book of Exodus and the Gospel of Matthew. It became popular as a contemplative song at Catholic masses as well as Mainline Protestant services. It is now sung during services of many Christian denominations, and was performed at many of the funerals of victims of “9/11”.
 
The promise of the song is that those who “dwell in the shelter of the Lord” can trust that the Lord will “raise them up on eagle’s wings, and hold them in the palm of his hand.” The faithful need not live in fear, because they can find refuge in God. So also, those who trust in the Lord, can be assured that God will be our protector, our rock, our salvation. In life and in death, God will raise us up on eagle’s wings. The psalmist uses the eagle as a metaphor for God.
 
Psalm 91 describes God’s protection and providence. “No harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For God will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
 
Many of you know that my mother died in November at the age of 100.5 years.  Her prayer, and the prayer of her family, was that she would remain well enough to live in her own home until it was time for her to go to her eternal home. Except for the last five days, Mom was out of bed, showered and dressed every day. She went to sleep finally in the comfort of Dorothy Lei Hospice, surrounded by the love of her family, and the care of a compassionate nursing staff. She experienced the promise and hope of the Psalmist

 

Because they have set their love upon me I will deliver them;
I will uphold them because they know my name.
When they call to me I will answer,
I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue and bring them to honour.
With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my saving power.
Verses14-16 NLT

 
Let us begin our Lenten journey by choosing to dwell in the “shelter of the Most High” and “rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Then each of us can say with confidence that “God is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
 
Prayer: God of love, we long to be united to you.  Help us, on this Lenten Journey, to clear away any obstacle that prevents us from accepting the grace of Christ. No matter what we face in this life, increase in us knowledge and patience, kindness and holiness of spirit, so that by the power of God at work in us, we may live in the shelter of the Most High, and rest in the shadow of your love and grace. Though it may seem that we have nothing, if we are reconciled to you, we possess everything, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Reverend Mark Aitchison

 

Islington's 2019 Lenten Devotional Series

Introduction

Islington's 2019 Lenten Devotional Series

This project is dedicated to the Life, Ministry and Mission of Jesus Christ
and our shared ministry at Islington United Church.
 
Welcome Friends to the Islington United Church Lenten and Easter Devotional project. May these offerings encourage you to develop a personal relationship with our Lord.


We are about to embark on a daily journey during the 40 days of Lent, through the emotions of Holy Week and the triumph of Easter. Members of our Faith Community have offered their gifts of creativity to share devotional opportunities; they represent the diversity that is Islington United Church. Some of the submissions are responses to the scriptures that are part of the Lenten lectionary; others are commentaries on the poetry or history of classic hymns that continue to resonate over the years; still others are personal reflections of how the contributor experiences God.

The overall theme is Abundant Life, readers will have the opportunity to experience the gift of a week of guided prayer within the 40 days of Lent. We have been given permission to post the daily pages that develop the theme of the Week of Guided Prayer**- more information can be found on our church website or at the main office. Our hope is that through these devotionals you will catch a glimpse of the wonder, beauty, and goodness of our God.

Thank you to all who answered the call to participate in this project. Saying ‘yes’ is an act of faith; we trust that God, “the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth” will empower us to create as well. For many of us, this was a challenging new experience. We felt humbled and a little vulnerable as we shared some personal insights as well as precious stories about our faith journeys. We thank our leadership team for their encouragement, support and participation. Most importantly, we give thanks to God “who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.”(Ephesians 3:15, 20 NRSV)*

 

May this Lenten journey draw you into deeper relationship
with the Christ who walks before, behind, beside and within you.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8 NRSV) 


* A word about the scriptures – The scripture passages can be accessed by simply clicking on them. You can also visit www.biblegateway.com . Many translations of the Bible are available; sometimes it is helpful to read from one or two different versions. Our pew Bibles are the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). A couple of others available are the New International Version (NIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT). There is also a modern paraphrased version called The Message (MSG) or The Voice (Voice)

** Week of Guided Prayer is an ecumenical initiative under the direction of the Western Ontario Waterways Region(WOW) of The United Church of Canada. Theme graphics by liannamation.com.
 


Web Development and Support by AdelphaTech | Site Powered by Kentico CMS for ASP.NET