The word has been used much too freely in recent days. War. People talk about culture wars. About worship wars. About minor conflicts, as if they were major issues. And then . . . reality reminds us that we in North America are insulated from the horrors of what war actually is. We watch news feeds of a Russian invasion into Ukraine from the safety of our comfortable houses – events that push the complaints that “our freedoms are being eroded by government overstep” on the one hand and that those “fighters” inconvenienced us (we don’t use that term but that’s our complaint) on the other to nothing more than embarrassing.
I don’t blog. There are enough opinion pieces in the “blogesphere” that I don’t need to add yet another matching or dissenting reaction or point of view to what has already been said. I may editorialize occasionally in our Monday Musings and I might say something light in passing regarding some political figure or incident in our Sunday messages. However, what is happening in Ukraine – to Ukraine – is a serious matter and cannot be ignored.
We in North America need to be careful as we condemn Russia for their aggression . . . careful that we not express the attitude that “Russia is bad/the west is good”. We have . . . well, maybe not ignored what “the other world super-power (the one just to the south of the Canadian border)” has done in other sovereign states . . . but we have not spoken out loudly when their government has gone on the offensive (and by so doing have been offensive, especially when God’s name has been used to justify their actions). I realize . . . I accept . . . people will disagree with me . . . but I can’t see (and I’m speaking from a Christian perspective here, not a nationalistic perspective) reason or justification for war (even if it is “just”) . . . although from a personal or human perspective I ask “can we not defend ourselves from attack? It’s the whole “attack” thing that I . . . fight.
Please . . . forgive my rant (and be glad that the delete button works well!). Ranting does nothing. Sitting back and mumbling and complaining does nothing. Are there things though that we can do? Indeed!
General Superintendent Dr. David Busic has asked us to pray (and that is where we always need to start). Pray for . . .
- Safety of church and leaders. Some of our churches are being used as bomb shelters.
- Finances and resources. Food and money are limited.
- Movement of refugees. Many women and children are fleeing the country for safety reasons - while most men are staying to defend their country.
- Unity for the church. Ukraine and Russia have many family and friendship ties.
And if we are going to pray about finances and resources, perhaps we can give as well. There is a “special giving emphasis” most months at Trinity Church. In February we were asked to give – along with our regular tithes and offerings – a donation in support of the two churches we sponsor in Cuba. Thank you for your generosity – our support was more than the minimum asked. We did not have a giving emphasis for the month of March. If you would . . . if you are led . . . give to humanitarian aid in Ukraine. You can give through our regular giving channels at the church (envelope, e-transfer, or the Canada Helps giving button on our web site). You can also give directly to Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Canada (mail to 3657 Ponytrail Drive, Mississauga, ON L4X 1W5, or donate online at www.ncmcanada.ca – or call 1-905-602-8220 or 1888 808 7490). Designate your gift "Ukraine".
It was not really a series. Not even a mini-series. It was just two messages, the second building on the first. A reminder (last Sunday) of the reality of temptation and that we cannot escape it. A reminder (yesterday) that temptation is not a one-time event or occurrence but that it is ongoing in our lives. It would be nice if once we resisted the temptation to say “me” (and isn’t that what temptation – sin – is all about? Me?) – if once we resisted temptation it would never come our way again.
Unfortunately, the threat – or promise – of a “more opportune time” is real. We will be tempted once. Twice. Thirty times. And more. The type of temptation to do (or not do) something or to say (or not say) something may change as we mature as followers of Jesus, but the temptation to choose “me” does not end, throughout life. And so often . . . we fall to it. We can identify with the Apostle Paul, who wrote I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time . . . It happens so regularly that it’s predictable.
But thankfully, that isn’t the end. Thankfully, as Paul Harvey would say, we look to the rest of the story. And the rest of the story is that by the power of God we do not have to fail . . . we do not have to fall . . . God gives us the power that we need to live for and in Him. We can, in Him, walk away from temptation and use that word that Eve and Adam didn’t: no! We can focus on the good news instead of the bad news!
You can “revisit” yesterday’s service on our Facebook page (click here) and on our YouTube channel (click here). Watch . . . be challenged . . . be blessed. The message transcript is available on our web site (click here).
Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday. It is followed by Ash Wednesday . . . the first day of Lent. And we know that it is Lent because Tim Horton’s Roll Up the Rim commercials have started.
So while Lent is a time to – some would say – rediscover Jesus . . . to renew our relationship with Jesus . . . to look deeply at our lives through prayer and fasting to see if we have – how we have – wrested control from Him, a coffee shop encourages us to try to win donuts (among other things). Interesting. The temptations just keep coming.
As you set your mind and heart to Jesus through Lent . . . as you chose to fast for spiritual growth . . . remember that this is a time of growing closer to Jesus . . . of disciplining yourself so that you can better hear His voice. As has been said, fasting is a way to place ourselves in the way of grace by withdrawing our reliance on earthly things so that we can feast on God’s presence and power. You can . . .
- Fast from foods normally associated with “feasting”: chocolate, desserts, coffee/caffeine, alcohol, etc.
- Fast from media or entertainment: cell phone, TV, streaming video, radio, music, email, computers, video games, etc.
- Fast from habits and comforts: shopping, looking in the mirror, makeup, elevators, parking in a spot close to the store, finding the shortest checkout line, reading online, following sports, etc.
The goal is to gain an awareness of how much we have and of how much we take for granted . . . and to strive for a greater awareness of what Christ wants of us as we look to passion week and to Resurrection (Easter) Sunday.
Shrove Tuesday . . . Ash Wednesday . . . that makes this coming Sunday the first Sunday of Lent. Our journey to Easter – with Jesus – has begun. But what of that journey? Stephen Mattson wrote As Christians, we sometimes mistakenly try to compensate for God by presenting our faith as easier than it really is. We cover up the ugliness and hardship of authentic faith.
He said while following Christ is beautiful and worthwhile, disappointment, pain, suffering, betrayal and hurt are also a part of life, and Christians aren’t immune or excluded from these horrors. Contrary to a life of ease, comfort and luxury, following Jesus demands sacrifice, honesty, vulnerability, conflict and a lifetime dedicated to loving others. This is really hard – a commitment not meant to be taken lightly.
Mattson was talking about how we in the church sometimes present our faith to others, to those who are searching for spiritual meaning that we have developed relationships with, as a life of benefit. Jesus said no such thing. He told us – He guaranteed us – that following Him would be difficult: curtly he asked one who wanted to be a disciple Are you ready to rough it? [Luke 9:58] It is a good question. Are we going to follow Him as He calls, or are we going to (as did the one called the rich young ruler) walk away from Him, disappointed, because we will not be “blessed” as we think we should be?
As we meet Sunday morning at 11:00 Eastern to sing and to pray and to learn, He says come This Way. We’ll join Him on His journey as He heads toward Jerusalem . . . and all that meant for Him and all that means for us.
If you do not feel comfortable joining with others in the congregation in person please join us through our Facebook feed (click here) or our YouTube feed (click here) – or link directly from our web site (click here). Please “check in” – let us know if you worship with us “live or delayed”. If you do join us “in person”, remember to give yourself ample time to go through our COVID protocol.
We meet Wednesday evenings at 7:00 – gathering for a virtual prayer time through ZOOM. John Wesley said that God does nothing but by prayer, and everything with it. Join us for this important part of the life of the church, as we search for God’s direction and power as a congregation. Please e-mail the church at firstname.lastname@example.org for log-in information.
Sunday School ministries has shared a prayer and Bible reading schedule for us to follow through Lent . . . 40 days of prayer, to help us as we look for renewal in Christ. Please e-mail the church at email@example.com to request a copy.
The heart of our focus as a church is to point people to and to help people into the Kingdom of God. Sometimes, though, we get caught up in making sure the church machinery runs properly and we get caught up in making sure church services run smoothly and we get caught up in day-to-day living itself. And so we pause. We listen for the voice of God. We listen to the voice of God. So we can start again.
Our denominational leadership is calling us to to pause and to listen. We have been invited to join with the 500,000 Nazarenes in USA and Canada in a prayer initiative called The Half-Million Mobilization.
More information will be shared in the days ahead, but plan to be part of this concerted time of prayer which will begin May 1 and continue through to Pentecost (June 5). Begin now . . . join us as we pray for protection, for direction, for revelation, and for renewal.
Thank you again for your faithful support of the work we are trying to accomplish for Christ through what we do as a church . . . for giving generously of your tithes and offerings to the meet the needs of our local church. We continue to receive our tithes and offerings through e-transfer (firstname.lastname@example.org) and through the Canada Helps web site (click here).
Slowly . . . or perhaps quickly depending on the way you look at it . . . COVID/pandemic restrictions are being loosened. Nearly all of Ontario’s major COVID-19 restrictions will lift this week: the two biggest changes will be the lifting of Ontario’s proof of vaccination requirement for indoor non-essential settings and the lifting of capacity limits in indoor public settings. However, masking will remain in place, although officials have hinted the policy could be lifted sometime in March.
And we are told that it may be necessary to put some of these measures back into place as infection rates will still be monitored.
This means that anyone who wants to join us in the sanctuary this coming Sunday is welcome, although caution is necessary. Masks will still be required – in fact, we are in no rush to dispense with them. We will still need to take care to maintain distance. Some may feel freer than others regarding distance and masking. Cleanliness of the building will be maintained. Let us continue to respect one another as we return to community worship . . . let us always respect one another!