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Why pray?

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Hespeler, 18 November, 2018 © Scott McAndless Matthew 6:5-8, James 2:14-17, Psalm 138 W hy pray? That seems to be a question that people ask with increasing urgency these days. We are living in a time when “thoughts and prayers” have become a very unfortunate cliché. Every time there is a tragedy, every time a gunman walks into a school and opens fire or a man walks into a synagogue and starts mowing people down, it has become a part of the national liturgy.      Political leaders, celebrities and religious officials send out their Facebook messages and tweets: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims.” And people have caught on. They have recognized that “thoughts and prayers” has become a kind of a code – a code that seems to mean, “Let’s not do anything and, for God’s sake let’s not change anything just because some tragedy has occurred. Instead let us say something that makes it seem like we care.” It is amazing to see, but we are to be living in a time when praying for somethin…

Reflections at the conclusion of Transform 2018

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The Transform Conference in Orillia Ontario was intended to be about just that: transformation. Some useful tools were offered but the point in coming together was not to get more tools that you might use to enhance your ministry. Stories of church growth and development were told and shared, but the point in coming together was not to take an incremental step in church size or programming.
The goal was transformation and that is a pretty ambitious goal when you think about it. If such a goal were to be fully realized, wouldn’t everyone have to go home as completely different people than the ones who came? Wouldn’t they have to return to churches that were soon radically different from the churches they left?
Well, I don’t think that that is what happened during our gathering, but I do think that the seeds of true transformation were offered and if those seeds are well tended, real transformation is possible.
Our keynote speaker, Dr. Grace Ji-Sun Kim, offered us a series of practices …

Transform 2018 Day 2 Reflection: Grief

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Day two of the Transform 2018 Conference began with very meaningful and moving worship service that was led by the eight Canadian Presbyterian ministries that are focussed on Indigenous people and communities.

In many ways, this service set the tone for the entire day, especially as ministry after ministry talked about their experience of ongoing injustices -- things like residential schools, the sixties scoop, youth suicides, drug addiction, missing and murdered Indigenous women. The sorrow expressed was deep, but the worship that accompanied it was nevertheless beautiful as it appealed to the limitless love of God.
This worship let us directly into our first session with our speaker, Dr Grace Ji-Sun Kim, and it was what prompted her to spend some time talking about the Korean concept of Han (a concept that I had previously only encountered in an episode of The West Wing). Han, she explained, is the sadness and sorrow that is felt in response to systemic injustice. In Korean culture…

Transform 2018 Day 1 Reflection: Lament

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I am at the Presbyterian Church in Canada's Transform 2018 Conference in Orillia for a few days. This is the first of what is expected to be a yearly conference with the goals of helping participants to:
Embrace a missional culture that encourages initiative and risk-takingDiscover new ways of nurturing faithful, vibrant and generous ministryEncourage generous investment in the mission to which God calls usBuild relational connections that embody Christ’s missionsI would just like to take the opportunity while I am here to share some reflections and thoughts. Here is what struck me after only the first few hours.

This evening our keynote speaker, Dr. Grace Ji-Sun Kim, mostly took the time to introduce herself and her story -- setting the remarks that she will make during the rest of the time in a context. She also introduced some themes that will be highlighted.
Lament
One of the themes she introduced briefly was lament, stating, as I have often thought, that lament is a practice tha…

I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God

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Hespeler, 4 November, 2018 © Scott McAndless – Baptism Luke 1:8-20, Daniel 9:20-23, Psalm 91:1-16 Z echariah was a priest – not an important one, not one of those wealthy priests who lived in the big houses in the prosperous Upper City. They had money and political connections and were famously corrupt. They were in so deep with the enemy – with the Romans – that the people had nothing but scorn for them anymore. But big important priests like that; they wouldn’t have had anything to do with Zechariah or his wife Elizabeth.       Zechariah was just a low-level priest who would never be rich or powerful but he took his position seriously. It was his job, when his turn came around, to stand in the temple, to stand in a place where he was uniquely in the presence of God, and to carry all of the hopes and the dreams and the burdens of the people to the very throne of God. That is an awesome responsibility especially in times of great trouble, and Zechariah certainly lived in times of grea…

So you are no longer a slave but a child

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Hespeler, 28 October, 2018 © Scott McAndless – Baptism Galatians 3:23-4:7, Psalm 78:1-8, Mark 9:33-37 O ne day, when his disciples were being kind of awful with each other – when they were arguing and fighting with each other because this one thought that he knew exactly how things ought to be done and was frustrated that no one else would listen to him and that one thought that the other guy over there wasn’t giving him the respect he deserved and then there was this other one who totally hated all of the songs that the other guys would sing when they walked down the road – anyways I don’t really want to get into it but they were being kind of typical for them honestly and so Jesus decided to do something that would help them to see what was really important about what it was that they were doing together.       So this is what Jesus did. He said to the disciples, hang on for a minute guys because I need to show you something. And he went over to a place by the side of the road where…

When "Fanboys" Change their Minds

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Hespeler, 14 October, 2018 © Scott McAndless John 20:19-29, Acts 20:7-12, Psalm 16:1-11 I f there is one thing you need to know about Simon, it is this. He loves Apple. I’m not talking about the fruit here; I’m talking about the company. Simon doesn’t just like Apple products, Simon doesn’t just exclusively use Apple products. Apple products give meaning to his entire life.       I mean, you probably know some people who always have the latest and greatest model of the iPhone®, who you never see without the ends of Apple Earpods® hanging out of their ears, who do all of their work on a Macbook Pro®, read and create with an iPad® and an Apple Pencil®, but I’m not just talking about that. For Simon that is only the beginning. He does that almost without having to think about it.       No, Simon goes out of his way to make sure that every part of his life bears the Apple logo on it. His entire home is run by his HomePod®. Any appliance that is not able to connect to it is not the kind of…

Gratitude

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Hespeler, 7 October, 2018 © Scott McAndless Communion, Thanksgiving Genesis 1:27-2:3, Matthew 12:1-14, Psalm 92:1-15 I t was late on the sixth day when the Lord God turned to the newly created humanity and said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” And the LordGod said to Godself, since this responsibility for the Earth has now been passed on to the humans, then I declare that this work of creation is finished. What more do I need to do? The humans can be in charge. I’m sure that will all work out fine. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And very truly did humanity hear that command and they said one unto another, “Okay, you heard the Creator, we’ve got some work to do! There is a whole world out there to have dominion over and that adds up to a whole lot of filling and subduing. And yes it w…