July 2024

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and 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)

While reading last week I came across an interesting fact. Did you know that there is a difference between the giving of charity and performing acts of kindness? This may seem obvious, but it was not something to which I had given much thought.

In the Jewish tradition, of which Jesus was a member, the Rabbis taught that acts of kindness were greater than charity in three ways:

1. Charity is done with one’s money, while kindness may be done with one’s money or with one’s actions, such as helping a neighbour, or visiting a sick person.

2. Charity is given only to the poor, while kindness may be done for both the poor and the rich, such as comforting someone who has lost a loved one.

3. Charity is given only to the living, while kindness may be shown to both the living and the dead, such as helping a family member prepare for the celebration of their life or the life of a loved one.

Making the effort to perform such deeds is a real challenge, especially as we become older. Many of us find it easier to be charitable with our money than with our time. Perhaps that is why Jewish tradition teaches that offering one’s time and one’s heart represents the highest type of giving.

In the Christian tradition the distinction between charity and kindness still exists but is not
regarded with as much importance. Jesus taught that we should give food to the hungry, shelter to those who have none, and clothes to the poor, all acts of charity. Jesus also taught that we should visit the sick and those who are in prison, both acts of kindness. No ranking was ever made. What was important was identified by Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 9:6-7. “The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he identifies the fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Notice that kindness and generosity (charity) are both parts of the fruit of the Spirit.

Beginning with these summer months be mindful of opportunities to perform acts of kindness. Take time to respond to family, friends, and even strangers who would benefit from an act of kindness from you. Also, if an opportunity to do an act of charity presents itself, do not hesitate to respond. Think about the difference between an act of kindness and an act of charity. Both are important, and both give us a chance to do God’s work here and now. Take a moment and ask yourself,
“What would God want me to do?”

Summer traditionally is a time to take a break and let down from our normal routines. It is a time for holidays. Please do not forget that Sunday worship is just as important in the summer as it is during the rest of the year. And remember, we cannot take a break from doing God’s work. Thankfully, God does not take a break from loving us.

Wishing you a summer filled with God’s peace and happiness.

Praying God’s Shalom for you and your family,
Pastor David

June 2024

Whoever becomes humble like this
child is the greatest in the kingdom
of heaven. Whoever welcomes one
such child in my name welcomes me.

(Matthew 18:4-5)

I would like to begin by thanking everyone for your support and good wishes as we celebrated the baptism of my grandson Landon, here at St. Ansgar last month. Your presence, gifts, cards, and caring conversation at the luncheon following the service meant so much to my family. My son Shawn, daughter-in-law Ali, and granddaughter Emery felt like they had returned home for Landon’s baptism.
There are so many people to thank for making that day so special. The people who make up the St. Ansgar church family are very special indeed!

When we think of church we think of a building and Sunday morning worship. This very limited view of church is not the only thing that describes a church. More importantly, the church is the people who make up the community and gather in the building. They are the church. Church is community. I googled the word community and found this definition: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. The sense of community that organized religion can provide.

Our community is important at times of loss. We gather to celebrate the life of someone from the community who has gone on to be with God. But we also gather to share in the happier times too, such
as a 60 th anniversary or a baptism. We come together in small groups for book studies, adult vacation Bible school, confirmation classes, and organizational meetings. What separates us from
service organizations and social clubs is that we gather in the name of Jesus Christ. We hold on to the promise that, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Covid had a negative affect on all church communities as well as other organizations. Members of all communities have been slow to return to them. We have been gradually gaining in the number of people worshipping on Sunday morning, but there are not as many attending Sunday morning worship as there
were before covid. My colleagues in ministry are experiencing the same thing.

Not participating in a community weakens that community, and this holds true for the church community as well. While our hearts remain with St. Ansgar, we also need the investment of individuals gathering for worship on Sunday morning as well as attending other activities offered at the church. The gifts are in what we have to share with each other.

Several activities have been planned as we celebrate the 70 th anniversary of St. Ansgar Lutheran Church, London. On Sunday, June 16 th , there will be a strawberry social following worship, celebrating both the founding of our church and Father’s Day. July 22 nd through July 26 th is our second Adult Vacation Bible School, which is back by popular demand. It is a fun time of fellowship, worship, and a delicious lunch. More opportunities to gather as a community are being planned for
the fall. I hope everyone will consider taking advantage of what is made available, as well as returning to Sunday worship.

For me and my family, St. Ansgar is a very special place, a community that we are so happy to be a part of and that is such an important part of our lives. When my grandchildren are old enough to ask their parents why they were baptized at a church in Canada, it won’t be just because their opa was the pastor. I know Shawn and Ali will share what a generous and caring community the people of
St. Ansgar are, and how much this church family means to our family.

With heartfelt thanks from me and my family,

Pastor David

May 2024

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord,
beg you to lead a life worthy of the
calling to which you have been called,
with all humility and gentleness,
with patience, bearing with one
another in love, making every effort
to maintain the unity of the Spirit
in the bond of peace.
(Ephesians 4:1-3)

April 10 th marked the eighth anniversary of my installation as your full-time pastor. Prior to
that date I served the people of St. Ansgar as your half-time pastor for four years and almost three months, and as your interim pastor for several months during the transition. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve you as your pastor. This June marks the fifteenth anniversary of my ordination and the achievement of my original goal for years serving in parish ministry. For
some, this may not seem to be a long time.

My previous career in education lasted 35 years, and I doubt I will break that record. But I do appreciate the invitation to at least make my new goal for parish ministry 20 years. As I begin my 9 th year as your full-time pastor, I have taken some time to look back and reflect. Despite my age, I came into this calling as a rookie, which seemed strange to some people. It was an adjustment for me because after 35 years I was confident in what I was doing professionally in my educational profession. I learned and grew as a pastor with your patience and understanding. We journeyed together, and I thank you for your support.

Many of those who were the pillars of our church community have gone home to be with God. Each loss has been deeply felt by me as well as by our church family. We made it through the Covid pandemic together, although we remained apart physically. The church building was empty and lifeless during this time, and like so many other churches and organizations the return to normal has been slow, and at times discouraging. Still, we are a faith founded in hope, and life is slowly returning to normal in Sunday worship and our church programming. We hope and pray for the future of our church.

I often say, “I am just the pastor,” and truer words may not have been spoken. So many people behind the scenes make the church work for you. The council does the administrative work that is so important, necessary, and often challenging. Our treasurers manage our financial responsibilities and offer advice on good stewardship of our resources. The worship and music committee painstakingly selects hymns and makes decisions about our Sunday worship and special services. The elements for communion are always on the altar before worship. Individuals make repairs to our building, shovel the snow and salt the ice in the winter, and set up tables and chairs and then take them down. The plants are watered, and the flowers are taken care of each Sunday. The kitchen is staffed by many volunteers who provide coffee and treats on Sunday mornings and food and meals for special occasions. All these people, plus our dedicated and hard-working paid staff, make the church that is St. Ansgar possible. St. Ansgar is here for you because of them.

I have personally marked several significant milestones in our time together, including the death of a parent, the death of an especially close friend, the loss of classmates, turning 70 and then 75, the marriage of my son Shawn to my amazing daughter-in law Alaina, and the birth of two beautiful grandchildren. Emery was baptized at St. Ansgar in November 2022, and my grandson, Landon, will be baptized here on Sunday May 5 th . Your overwhelming love and support when Emery was born has meant so much to my family that they are making the trip from Colorado to share this special time with all of you once again. We are also inviting you to join us as our guest for lunch and a time of celebration and fellowship. A special “Thank You” goes to Sarah Griffin and Heather Ellis from my family for organizing the luncheon.

At times the eight years seemed to have passed in the blink of an eye, and at other times, in all honesty, it seems like the days number a lifetime, but at the end of every day I give thanks to God for all of you and for bringing us together to do God’s work. I am so grateful to have received the call to serve you at St. Ansgar. As we continue our journey into the 9 th year and beyond, we do not know what lies ahead, but one thing is for sure: we journey together with God showing us the way. In the Celtic tradition we acknowledge God above us watching over us, under us supporting us, and on our left and on our right protecting us. We never make the journey alone.

I pray God’s blessing on our time together as we begin the next chapter in our walk of faith and ministry together.

Praying God’s Shalom always,

Pastor David

April 2024

Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to
me, because I have not yet ascended
to the Father. But go to my brothers
and say to them, ‘I am ascending to
my Father and your Father, to my God
and your God.’” Mary Magdalene
went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord…”
(John 20:17-18)

Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!! This is the rallying cry for Christians throughout the world, especially on Easter morning. This year’s Easter morning was indeed a special one at St. Ansgar. With a full house, which included many guests, we celebrated Christ’s resurrection. It was a powerful experience of worship and fellowship.

Now, as the plastic Easter eggs are put away, the real Easter eggs turned into egg salad, and the secular Easter decorations are put away, we also tend to put away the joy of Christ’s resurrection. But the celebration should not end. The Easter season lasts for six more Sundays, the last Sunday being May 12 th . Without all the commercialism and secular distractions, we can more easily focus on the entirety of the good news of Easter.

The overarching theme of the Easter season is one of belonging. The Easter season is a time to find our place in the sheepfold or on the vine. It is a time to remember that no matter what mistakes we
make or doubts we have, there is always a place for us in the sheepfold or on the vine. It is a time to slow down and experience the embrace of the Holy Spirit, and to be aware of our own place in
God’s family.

In our Sunday readings and Gospel lessons for the Easter season, there is a push for unity within the body of Christ. The images are the images that bind us together. It is this unity, within
God and within the body of Christ, that drives our Easter season and should continue to guide our efforts to live out our lives as disciples in the world. Jesus does not ask us to be perfect but to abide in him and to bear fruit.

As our Easter journey continues, as we care for and celebrate with each other as a church family, let us give thanks for St. Ansgar Lutheran Church and all the people who are this church. May we continue to live out our place in God’s sheepfold, our place on the vine of God’s mission, and our mutual love and respect for each other as God’s children.

Christ has risen! Christ has risen indeed! Alleluia!!!

Happy Easter,

Pastor David

March 2024

For God so loved the world that he
gave his only Son, so that everyone
who believes in him may not perish
but have eternal life. Indeed, God did
not send the Son into the world to
condemn the world, but in order that
the world might be saved through him.
(John 3:16-17)

This year the month of March is the month of Lent, Holy Week, and ends on Easter Sunday. There is a certain continuity and flow to March for us this year. Whatever your disciplines of Lent are, we do these not to earn God’s approval but to draw closer to God, to revitalize our relationship with God.
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday with the celebration of the palms and the proclamation of the passion. The Three Days, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday commemorate the last supper, Jesus’ death, and his resurrection. Since each of these three separate events finds its meaning only in attending the three together, The Three Days are seen as one ritual, with only
one dismissal on Easter.

Many people like to take the easy route by only celebrating Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Day because it is a happy day. Maundy Thursday, and especially Good Friday, open our hearts and minds to the cruel suffering that Jesus underwent for our salvation. While not pleasant, this reality awakens us to the sacrifice God made through his Son for us.

As a parent, the father of a son, I cannot even imagine the pain God must have felt as his Son was crucified on a crude cross. The suffering must have been unbearable, both for Jesus and for God. God watched, knowing that the power to stop the crucifixion and save his Son from the pain and humiliation Jesus suffered rested only with God. God watched as his Father as the nails were driven into Jesus’ hands and feet. God watched as Jesus drew his last breath. God watched as a Father as Jesus was laid in a tomb. How God’s heart must have ached.

We often forget the pain of The Three Days with the commercialization of Easter. For many people jellybeans, soft stuffed bunnies, and colourful decorations define Easter. The emphasis is on being happy without suffering, without acknowledging the sacrifice a Father made of his Son for us and for the rest of the world. Yes, Easter is a time to celebrate, but it is a shallow celebration without the recognition of the depth of pain and sacrifice made by God and his Son Jesus Christ. Many people forget that we cannot have a real Easter without the reality of Good Friday.

It is my sincere prayer that none of us will ever have to see our children suffer such pain and humiliation. It is also my sincere prayer that we never forget the sacrifice made by God and Jesus Christ for us and for our salvation. And it is my sincere wish that we all have a happy Easter based on the real reason for the holiday and not a shallow celebration forgetting the suffering and sacrifice that gave us reason to celebrate.

Christ has risen! Christ has risen indeed!

Pastor David

February 2024

Yet even now, says the Lord, return
to me with all your heart,… Return to
the Lord, your God, for he is gracious
and merciful, slow to anger, and
abounding in steadfast love, and
relents from punishing.
(Joel 2:12-13)

Henri Nouwen wrote that “Lent is the most important time of the year to nurture our inner life. It is the time during which we not only prepare ourselves to celebrate the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also the death and resurrection that constantly takes place within us.
Life is a continuing process of the death of the old and familiar, and being reborn again into a new hope, a new trust, and a new love.”

Lent is a time to slow down, to step back from all the clutter in our lives, and to pause so we can hear God’s voice and see God’s presence in our lives. Lent is not a punishment, but a gift. Lent offers us an opportunity to discover the mystery of Christ within us. It is a time of listening to the voice within, but also a time of paying attention to other people’s needs.

Traditionally, we were asked to give up things we enjoyed but distracted us from hearing God ‘s voice, and the activities that kept us from seeing God’s movement in our lives. More recently, it has been suggested that we add something meaningful to our lives such as additional time in prayer or reading from the Scriptures. Either way, the goal is to draw closer to God.

Personally, I do a little of both. I give up something as a reminder of God’s sacrifice of giving up his Son for our salvation. Also, this is a reminder of all the many blessings that I have received in my life, so many that I can give up one or two for a time. Then I add something that I feel is missing in my relationship with God, something that I want to do, but never quite get around to doing. Hopefully, this practice will continue after Lent. Whatever you do or don’t do remains
between you and God. No one else needs to know.

Lent is a gentle but also a demanding time. It is a time of solitude, but it is also a time of community. Lent is a time of reconnecting with God through his Son Jesus Christ. After we have lived Lent attentively, Easter becomes the celebration during which the full proclamation of the risen Christ resonates within our very souls.

Praying God’s Shalom for you as you make your Lenten journey.

Pastor David

January 2024

The heavens and the earth were
finished, and all their multitude.
And on the seventh day God finished
the work that he had done, and he
rested on the seventh day from all
the work that he had done. So God
blessed the seventh day and hallowed
it, because on it God rested from all
the work that he had done in creation.

(Genesis 1:31b – 2:3)

January marks the beginning of a new year, and an opportunity for renewed vitality in our church. Covid took its toll on churches throughout the country. At first people missed worship and the church community. After the long haul of Covid, people became accustomed to sleeping in on Sunday morning, or doing things on Sunday they had previously done during the week. For many, Sunday became
just another day, and the Sabbath, including worship and Christian community, was no longer a priority.

Genesis, chapter 1, tells us that on the sixth day God created Adam. On the seventh day, “God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.” This means that our first full day of existence was a day off. We began our existence on the Sabbath. God created us to rest before we work. If we violate this order, we damage
ourselves and deprive those we love.

The gift of Sabbath forms a new identity within us as well. Our lives are not defined by our ability to produce or succeed. Our value has already been established by the fact that we are the beloved
children of God. To receive Sabbath as a grace, we must first trust that our world and our lives
are being carried along by our Father in heaven. This trust comes to us as we pray and worship
God, acknowledging that God is God, and we are not.

Pastor Bob shared, in his newsletter of September 1988, the wisdom of Sunday worship when he wrote: “The heart of our time together is the sharing of the Word and sacraments. It is in the worship service that psalms, hymns, and melody to the Lord are expressed. Your participation in worship is not only of importance and value to you but it is something vital to the life and strength of fellow Christians. Your presence supports your fellow worshipper in a way which is often not expressed but always felt. We need the assembly of ourselves together in the Lord’s name! That is why God spoke of
it in the Ten Commandments.” Valuable words from a wise man!

It is my hope and prayer that, in a new year filled with renewed vitality, we all will take the Sabbath seriously as a gift from God, and that we will begin our Sabbath in Sunday morning worship, coming together as a church family to praise God and support each other. Let us accept the gift of Sabbath with as much enthusiasm as we accepted the gift of the Christ child on Christmas morning.

Wishing you a new year filled with God’s blessings and God’s Shalom.

Pastor David

December 2023

Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes
from above. These gifts come down from the
Father, the creator of heavenly lights, in
whose character there is no change at all.
(James 1:17 - Common English Bible Translation)
It is sad to see that, in our highly competitive and greedy world, we have lost touch with the joy of giving. We often live our lives as if our happiness depended on having. But I do not know anyone who is truly happy because of what they have. True joy, happiness, and inner peace come from the giving of ourselves to others.

Christmas is a season of giving, but we sometimes worry too much about our giving. The commercials we are bombarded with tell us what the perfect gifts are, and what we need to give in order to make the people in our lives happy. Gift giving becomes a contest, and we focus on the gift instead of the people for whom we are shopping. We are concerned about stretching our finances and about how much we should spend, or not spend. Cheerful giving is replaced by frustration and worry as we lose sight of our reason for our gift giving.

Christmas celebrates the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, who took on human flesh for the sake of our salvation. Innocent of all sins, Jesus carried our sins in his body to the cross and suffered the penalty of death that we had earned for ourselves. Jesus calls us to follow in his footsteps and give ourselves to others in lives of love and service. We can be gifts to those around us, as
Jesus Christ was a gift to us.

As we enter the season of Advent and prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth, let us not lose sight of Jesus’ gift of himself to us. May we find ourselves members of a community that conforms to his example of living lives of love and service. We will not agree on every point; in fact, we may disagree about things each of us believe matter a great deal.

But if we set our minds and hearts on what is true, good, and worthy of praise, that is, if we stake our lives on Jesus Christ, we will share the gifts of encouragement, compassion, and love. We will be a gift to each other and to the community to which we belong.

I sincerely wish each of you a very Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Pastor David

November 2023

For God has destined us not for wrath but
for obtaining salvation through our Lord
Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that
whether we are awake or asleep we may
live with him. Therefore encourage one
another and build each other up,
as indeed you are doing.
(1 Thessalonians 5:9-11)

As is typical at this time of year, we see and hear a multitude of geese making their way from Canada southward to warmer climates. While sometimes a nuisance, these birds are still fascinating. There are certain behaviours of encouragement which geese teach each succeeding generation, and these behaviours also offer some meaningful lessons about encouragement for us.

The geese fly in a V-formation, synchronizing their flapping. The V-shape makes the geese much more energy efficient, with vortices of air created by each goose’s flapping wings giving some airlift to the birds that follow and lessening the drag for the birds behind. Scientists estimate that flying in V-formation enables the geese to fly up to 70% further than if they were flying alone, which they won’t do.

The first goose in the V-formation faces the greatest wind resistance. When the lead goose tires, it rotates out of the lead position and moves to the rear, where it is literally carried on the wing-draft of the geese that are ahead of it in the V-formation.

The geese communicate by sound, with each individual goose having its own recognizable voice. Geese have a vocabulary of approximately two dozen distinct sounds used to maintain directions for the flight pattern, to encourage stray birds to maintain the correct speed and formation, to warn
about predators, to address confusion, and to locate places for food and rest.

If a goose is disabled and cannot continue in the air with the group it will land, but not alone. Typically, two other geese will fall back to care for and be a companion for the ailing goose. I find this behaviour especially encouraging.

Encouragement is an amazing thing. Encouragement will bind the broken-hearted, just as Jesus promises us. When Jesus says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” you do not necessarily have to share blood, sweat, and tears for others, at least not every day. But every day you can lay down your life for others by acknowledging their dignity, their
amazing worth, their wonderful work, the reality of their giftedness, the essence of their loveliness. This will change their day, and change their lives, and make an eternity of difference.
Encouragement will convert someone’s fearful heart, or lonely heart, or a heart of stone into the new heart as God promises in Ezekiel 36:26. “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”
Encouragement is how courage gets into our hearts. Encouragement produces courage. Encouragement makes us strong. It is as simple and profound as that. Encouragement: you have the need, and you have the power.

Encouragement is a need we all have. Encouragement is a power we all have. Encouragement can only work if we share it with one another. Whether it is in our everyday relationships at home, at church, with a neighbour, or even someone we meet on the street, we have the ability to unleash the power that is encouragement. Watch the geese flying in the sky above as we end this fall season. May they be an inspiration of encouragement for all of us. We all have within our hearts an almost endless supply of encouragement for other people. Practice it! Even if we are running short on receiving encouragement, we should always encourage others. After all, we will reap what we sow.

Wishing you encouragement through God’s Shalom,

Pastor David

October 2023

Know that the Lord is God. It is he that
made us, and we are his; we are his
people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his
courts with praise. Give thanks to him,
bless his name. For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

(Psalm 100:3-5)

October marks the beginning of the autumn season and the end of the growing season. As we have all noticed, the daylight grows shorter, and the temperature begins to become cooler. Leaves start turning colours of yellow, orange, red and brown. It is a beautiful season and one of the best times of the year.

For me, autumn brings back a wealth of memories, especially about my grandparents. I was fortunate enough to grow up a block from my grandparents. My grandfather, a successful businessman, grew up on a farm. He never wanted to be a farmer, but he had a huge garden and an orchard. The garden was his happy place. My grandmother, whose career was raising two children and spoiling three grandchildren, would spend her time canning and freezing the produce from my grandfather’s garden and fruit from the orchard. Even though it was a lot of work, she seemed to enjoy it.

When autumn came their labour of love was done for another season. The freezer was full, and the shelves held jars of delicious home-grown fruits and vegetables. There were no shortages or empty shelves to worry about. They had everything they needed, and happily shared their harvest with their family throughout the year. Gathering around the table on Sundays or on holidays always seemed more special because of the love that went into the food we ate. The blessings were plentiful and the gratitude with which they were received was sincere.

We celebrate Thanksgiving in October here in Canada with an emphasis on the blessings of the harvest. Today most of us are far removed from the source of the food we eat. Fruits and vegetables are shipped in from all over the world, picked weeks before and processed in a factory somewhere
along the way to our tables. Yet, we are blessed to have this food and the benefits of a successful harvest. Buying locally takes extra effort, often costs a little more, and is promoted as if it is something new.

Even though our blessings look different in this 21st century, we must never lose sight of the source of all our blessings, God the Father. We have all been blessed in so many different ways. The month of October, and especially on Thanksgiving Day, is a time to stop and reflect on all that we
have received from God’s generous bounty. As the activities of this special month slow down, take some time to give thanks for not only the big and obvious things we have received throughout the year, but also for the little things that God provides, from home canned beets and homemade pickles
to my grandmother’s very special strawberry jam. Also, take time to remember and give thanks for all the people who have been in your life, both past and present. In some way they have all played a part in making you the person you are today.

Not only Thanksgiving Day, or even just in the month of October, but each day of the rest of your life, take a moment to thank God for those things, and those people, who have been a blessing in your life. No matter how long you live, I guarantee you will not run out of things to be thankful for. Thanks be to God!

Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving Day and beyond,

Pastor David

September 2023

And this is my prayer, that your love
may overflow more and more with
knowledge and full insight to help you
determine what is best, so that in the
day of Christ you may be pure and
blameless, having produced the harvest
of righteousness that comes through
Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of

(Philippians 1:9-11)


The summer of 2023 turned out to be an unusual summer. We celebrated the lives of three cherished members of our St. Ansgar family who passed on to God’s heavenly home. We celebrated a baptism in a joint Anglican/Lutheran service at St. Ansgar, and the following Sunday I was invited to participate in a joint Roman Catholic/Lutheran baptism at St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica. I also was privileged to preside at two weddings in Grand Bend, both the children of long-time friends. In July we had our first adult weeklong summer study session, which we often described as an adult Vacation Bible School. (Enjoy Deborah Holme’s article for the details!)

The title of our adult VBS was “Enriching Our Faith Journey.” Our goal was to explore ways of going deeper with God, based on spiritual discernment, which is about finding God’s yearning for the directions of our life. Spiritual discernment is not a once-and-for-all answer to our questions, but a continual seeking for God’s longing as we accept the invitation to live into the abundance God so
freely gives us. Spiritual discernment is not something new. We find many instances in both the Old and New Testaments. In Kings 19:9-18 for example, Elijah is called to a new understanding of listening to God’s voice. In Acts 9:1-9 we read about Saul who went from persecuting the early Christians to playing a significant role in the future of the church, and Ananias who trusted the word he received and became God’s instrument of healing for Saul. Another example is found in Acts 10. Peter faces a difficult decision when he receives a call to minister to the Gentiles. All these acts of spiritual discernment led to doing God’s will for the betterment of the church and those involved.

While our everyday spiritual discernment may not be as dramatic as these examples, it is every bit as important. We were created to be in relationship with the triune God. That does not mean just on Sunday morning or at night before we go to sleep. To be in relationship with God means to be in
relationship all day every day in every way. Like all healthy and constructive relationships, the parties involved must be in a dialogue, not in a one-way communication, but in conversation. This is the result of an ongoing awareness of the parties involved in their relationship to each other.

In our daily opening devotions, we did a form of Lectio Divina, which allowed us to go deeper into the scripture passage being read and to soak in God’s presence in the passage. Our study time each day focused on strengthening personal spiritual discernment which led to some enlightening and some serious discussions. To trust the discernment process, we must assume that God is willing and eager to share God’s longing with us. If we do not believe God wants to share this information and guide us through the Holy Spirit into finding God’s yearning, then it is difficult to walk the journey of discernment.

Our craft activities following lunch were centred around supporting our openness to listening for God’s voice in our lives, in our discernment, and in our faith journey. The Protestant prayer beads help us clear our minds so we can hear God’s voice as we draw closer to God. Using the prayer beads allows us to let go of control and trust the process to bring forth insight. The cross everyone made is a visual aide to help us focus in times of quiet as well as a reminder of God’s gift of love and salvation through Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. The candle we decorated not only reminds us that Jesus is the Light of the World, but also that God is with us as we discern God’s
will for us. The greeting cards are a way of sharing our love with our friends and family as God shares God’s love with each of us.

There is no doubt in my mind that the idea for this week together was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Preparing for, and making this week happen, was a lot of work for a few dedicated people, but the end result was worth it. Sunday morning acquaintances became new friendships. We learned, we laughed, we celebrated. God was with us as we came together. The final evaluation by the participants was unanimous. They want this week to happen again next year with some positive suggestions to make something good even better. One participant wrote in her evaluation that she “learned to look inside herself.” That alone, made the whole week worthwhile.

Again, I want to thank Deborah Holme, Chris Antonovich, and those who helped along the way for all their hard work that made this week possible and such a meaningful success. I would also like to thank, again, the brave participants who risked a week of their valuable time to come out and join in this experiment. We made this journey of faith together and were better for it. I look forward to continuing to make such journeys of faith with you in the future.

Praying God’s Shalom for you always.

Pastor David

July/August 2023

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)
It has been four years and almost nine months since I started walking the Camino de Santiago with Pastor Katherine. No words do this powerful experience justice, and it is hard to explain one’s feelings from the experience. But from this journey reoccurring thoughts surface when you least expect. One of the thoughts that recently surfaced has to do with the backpacks we carried.

Many of us started out carrying too much stuff with us in our backpacks. There is nothing like walking for kilometres and kilometres with a loaded backpack to help you figure out what is really important enough to carry on your back day after day, and what you need to eliminate. I know I ended up sending stuff back home as soon as I could after I realized what was important and what was not important. The journey was hard enough without adding the extra weight of things that were not necessary.

Something I read that was written by a Camino pilgrim which has really stuck with me is that “We carry our fears in our backpacks.” For example, if you are afraid you will run out of food, you carry too much food. If you are afraid of freezing, you carry extra clothing, and so it goes, and the list continues to grow. Of course, all this extra stuff is heavy, which makes us tired and sore and often causes us to be irritable and miss the joy of the journey. If we are not careful, our fears become such a part of us that we do not recognize how much weight they add to the backpack we
carry through life, even though our fears always continue to weigh us down.

Life can be like this. We carry our fears with us, and they add extra weight to our lives, and they weigh us down. This excess baggage of whatever it is that we fear, adds weight to the backpack of
our life. Then the backpack each one of us carries with us throughout our life becomes burdensome and uncomfortable. Soon we become irritable, sore, tired, and unhappy. The extra weight can also cause injury. Our backpacks are meant for necessities, and there is no purpose in adding the extra weight of our fears.

Just like someone carrying a backpack on the Camino that contains stuff that is not needed or serves no real purpose, we keep lugging around that we should have dumped a long time ago. The result is that people in our lives do not get to see the real us. They do not get the best of us. Many times, they are on the receiving end of the pain caused by the useless fears we have been carrying around with us.

Maybe it is time to do what people carrying backpacks on the Camino end up doing along the way, and that is to unlock our overloaded personal backpacks that we are carrying around with us every day. Examine each item honestly, determine if we actually need it or not and if it is really serving a constructive purpose. If not, then leave it behind and move on.

Releasing something is hard, even if it is of no value, because we have been carrying it for so long and we have convinced ourselves we are not whole without it. Once we have the courage to make the decision to dump whatever is hindering us in our life, walk away from it and move forward, we wonder why we were carrying it to begin with. Lighten your load, get rid of the fears and useless junk from the past, and let the real you walk freely on the journey of life that God has given so graciously to you. Let the real you continue the journey and be a blessing to others.

Praying for continued blessings on your journey,

Pastor David

June 2023

In the beginning when God created the
heavens and the earth, the earth was a
formless void and darkness covered the
face of the deep, while a wind from God
swept over the face of the waters.

(Genesis 1:1-2)

It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that spring is here in all its glory, and that summer
is fast approaching. The parking lots at all the nurseries and garden centres are full and people are planting young plants and different kinds of seeds in the ground in anticipation of the beauty and colour found in mature plants as they fill barren spaces. Spring is a time of new life that awakens in us a deep awareness of God’s ongoing creative work.

When we profess our faith using the words of the Apostles’ Creed, we acknowledge our faith in God as the “creator of heaven and earth.” In the Nicene Creed we acknowledge our faith in God as the “maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.” As members in our Christian community of faith we believe God continues to create as we enjoy and live in the busyness and distractions of our daily lives. Yet, we also have a part to play in all of this. God calls us to care for God’s creation both in our own gardens as well as in the world community.

We know our God through Jesus Christ, whose passion is to create wholeness in our lives and in all of God’s creation. Through example, teaching, healing, loving, forgiving, and suffering, Jesus created a new life for us. Through the grace demonstrated in Jesus’ death and resurrection God continues to call us back to new life. Like a young plant, we were planted in God’s Garden to bear fruit. Most of the fruit we bear we will never know or recognize, but we are called to live in God’s Garden to be fruitful. God watches over us as a good gardener would watch over the plants in his or her garden.

If we take the time to look around, we will always see new expressions of God’s continuing creative work. In this season of the year, it is much easier to be aware of God’s creative work than during other seasons of the year, but God’s creative work continues throughout all the seasons of the year, and all the seasons of our lives. Our living God continues to create in our lives, in our community, and in our congregation. God is never static.

Enjoy the beauty that is spring as it matures into summer. Enjoy the fruits of God’s continuing creative work in our gardens, in our lives, and in us. May we all share in God’s creative work, being fruitful as we are called in new ways to love God’s world and our neighbours.

Wishing you a blessed and fruitful season.

Pastor David

May 2023

But the angel said to the women, “Do not
be afraid: I know you are looking for Jesus
who was crucified. He is not here; for he
has been raised, as he said.”
(Matthew 28:5-6)

Several days ago, I decided to tackle the long overdue and dreaded job of cleaning out my refrigerator. Needless to say, I found several unplanned science experiments growing in the
back of the refrigerator safely hidden by some more recent grocery purchases. I could blame this pending disaster on my hectic schedule during Lent and Easter, but the honest truth is that there are at least a hundred other things I would rather do with my time than clean out the refrigerator.

As I was going through the contents of what my grandmother used to call the ice box, I began reflecting on Lent and Easter. Traditionally, Lent is a time of preparation, which I was doing as I made room for the edible food I would purchase on my next trip to the grocery store. But Lent is also a time of self-examination. I realized how wasteful I had been as I tossed food no longer edible into the trash. I was beginning to feel guilty, and rightfully so. We live in a land of plenty. For most of us there is always more where those food items came from, but that does not make being wasteful right. Cleaning out the refrigerator gives one plenty of time for self-examination, even when Lent is over. Hopefully my prayer life and commitment to my ministry are healthier than the food I was discarding. Lent is also a time of renewal. Recognizing where I fall short allows
me to commit to doing better, including my commitment to not wasting the blessings I have received.

Once the light at the back of the refrigerator was visible, I felt like Easter had dawned. Things were looking hopeful and full of promise. The impossible task was no longer impossible. We tend to forget that Easter is not just Easter Sunday, when we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Easter season lasts fifty days. This year Easter ends on May 28 th , with the celebration of Pentecost. Until then the paraments and vestments remain white, and the paschal candle remains beside the altar and is lit every Sunday reminding us that Easter is not over.

Fortunately, I did not need all fifty days to clean and organize my refrigerator. It was bad, but not that bad. I am now free to enjoy the remaining days of the Easter season. We tend to step back and allow the realization of what Easter is, and means, to fade during the fifty days rather than allowing ourselves the joy that comes from continuing to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. We have been given fifty days to celebrate and focus on the greatest gift we will ever receive. Every Sunday should be a celebration, especially the Sundays of the Easter season. Rather than asking, “Where have all the people gone?” the Sundays after Easter, we should all still be coming together
to celebrate the rest of the story.

For now, my refrigerator is clean, organized, and mostly empty. Soon I will make a trip to the grocery store with the commitment to buy only what I will use, to use what I have purchased wisely, and to waste nothing. I also have recommitted to certain other things in my life that the reflection time I had while doing this unpleasant task gave me. While it is doubtful that my refrigerator will always be this pristine and organized, there is no doubt that God’s love for us in the promise of the resurrected Jesus Christ will last for all eternity. Jesus died that we might live. It doesn’t get any better than that. Come and celebrate!

Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed. Let us celebrate with thanksgiving this Easter season!

Easter blessings to you and your families,

Pastor David

April 2023

Mary Magdalene went and announced to
the disciples, “I have seen the Lord;” and
she told them that he had said these things
to her.
(John 20:18)

Our forty-day Lenten journey reaches its destination on Sunday, April 2 nd , Palm/Passion Sunday. Our Sunday worship that day marks the beginning of the Holiest week of the Christian year. We begin the week with the celebration of the palms and the proclamation of the passion. We conclude the week with the rituals of the Three Days, as we hear the story of the passion, death, and resurrection of
Jesus Christ as told in the Gospel of John.

Maundy Thursday marks the beginning of the Three Days. The story of the account of the Passover from Exodus is read. The angel of death punishes the Egyptian oppressors of the Jewish people, but the blood of the lamb will mark the door of the Israelites, and so God’s chosen people will live. For Christians, the blood that saves us from death is the blood of Jesus Christ, shared in the meal of Holy Communion at the Maundy Thursday service. So, we begin the Three Days by receiving Jesus Christ as the Passover lamb, the host at our meal, and the servant of all. The service concludes with the stripping of the altar. The emptying of the sanctuary is a metaphor for both Christ and the church being emptied for death.

We silently gather in the stripped sanctuary on Good Friday morning. We are not pretending that Jesus is still dead, but rather in solemn devotion we acknowledge that the cross is God’s gift of life, and how Jesus’ death brings life. The procession of the cross has been part of Good Friday
services since the fourth century. The cross represents Jesus himself, and we worship the Saviour of the world. The cross of death is praised as “life-giving.” As Christians attend the cross on Good Friday, Biblical images assist our contemplation of the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death. Jesus is the suffering servant, the slain lamb, a small plant, a victorious warrior, a rejected worm, a helpless victim, our high priest, and the incarnate God.

The Easter Vigil is traditionally held on Holy Saturday night. For those churches that hold an Easter vigil this is the most significant worship of the year. This is not part of St. Ansgar’s tradition but it was in my first parish. The Easter Vigil is not a prayer vigil, but a time of telling the story from the beginning.

On Easter morning we gather as people of the resurrection. The Easter morning service does not raise Jesus, but rather proclaims and celebrates his resurrection. Every Sunday, but especially on Easter Sunday, the worshipping congregation enacts the message of salvation by joining to Jesus Christ and one another in Holy Communion. The body of Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, and enlivened by the Spirit of the risen Christ, we share in that body and so become that body. The music and worship service are celebratory on Easter morning. Alleluia!

Easter Day is the culmination of the Three Days, and the beginning of fifty days of celebration. Easter lasts seven weeks, through the Day of Pentecost, the fiftieth day. During the weeks of Easter, the first readings on Sunday morning come from the Book of Acts. By listening to the Acts of the Apostles, the church understands that the resurrection continues in the life of the church, with the power of the Spirit seen now in the followers of the risen Christ, including you and me.

This may be more than you ever wanted to know about the Three Days and Easter, but as Christians and Lutherans it is important to know that we are an important part of a religious tradition that has deep spiritual and Biblical roots. We are the torch bearers and keepers of our faith tradition in a world that is blinded by cute bunnies and secular traditions that have nothing to do with the reason for Easter. We share in the body of Christ and are called be that body in a world that does not respect or understand what being a Christian is, or what we stand for in the world. As Christians, we are an important part of all that I have written about, an important part of the true meaning of Easter. When we gather on Easter Sunday, we are privileged to know what it is we are celebrating
and why we are celebrating. For some people Easter is just another holiday, but that is not the case for us. We know what it is that we are celebrating, why we are celebrating, and we experience the gift the risen Jesus Christ now, and in the eternal future.

I hope you will enter into the entire celebration of the Three Days and Easter. This is our time to be who God called us to be: a participating member of the Christian faith tradition. Come and experience who you are and renew your commitment to the risen Christ.

Wishing you a blessed Three Days and Easter.

Pastor David

March 2023

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.

(Psalm 51:10)

Our Lenten journey began on Ash Wednesday, February 22 nd . Many of us were able to attend the
11:00 a.m. Ash Wednesday service. Sadly, some of you missed out because of the cancellation of
the evening service due to the ice storm. The Ash Wednesday service is particularly meaningful because of the inclusion of the imposition of ashes. This ritual uses ashes to remind us of two central truths of the human condition. The first is that we are mortal. Each year I say, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” as I mark your forehead with the cross of Christ made of ashes. The second truth is that we are all sinners, and as the Hebrew tradition ritualized this, we repent in dust and ashes.

This month we continue our Lenten journey. The entire month of March is included in the forty days of Lent, excluding Sundays, for Sunday is always a celebration of the resurrection. During this special time of preparation for Easter some people give up things such as certain foods, forms of entertainment, or other things they enjoy. Other people choose to do additional things such as spending more time reading their Bible and in prayer, reaching out to their neighbours in a meaningful way, or donating extra money to worthy causes. It is important to remember that these,
or any other Lenten ritual, are not necessary to win God’s approval. Whatever we choose to not do,
or to do, is a way to remind ourselves of the renewal of life that baptism brings.

At St. Ansgar we have scheduled midweek services and are providing Lenten daily devotional guides as
opportunities to enrich your Lenten experience. Our midweek services will be less structured than our Ash Wednesday service, and the morning services are followed by a soup lunch and fellowship. The first soup lunch was well attended and the fellowship especially enjoyable. There is a time to make your Lenten journey alone, and there is a time to make your Lenten journey supported by community. The journey is always easier when shared in community. Please feel free to invite a friend or neighbour. All are welcome!

The traditional prayer after communion for Lent summarizes the meaning of the Lenten season. Compassionate God, you have fed us with the bread of heaven. Sustain us in our Lenten pilgrimage: may our fasting be hunger for justice; our alms, a making of peace; and our prayer, the song of grateful hearts, through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. AMEN

We join together, pilgrims through Lent on our way to Easter. I pray God’s blessing on your Lenten journey. May this year’s pilgrimage to Easter be especially meaningful and renewing.


Pastor David

Feb 2023

Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a
slave, being born in human likeness, and being
found in human form, he humbled himself and
became obedient to the point of death – even
death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:7-8)

February 22 is Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of our Lenten journey toward Holy Week and Easter Sunday. Historically, the Lenten season was a penitential time, more focused on Jesus’ suffering and death and on human sinfulness as the cause of Jesus’ suffering and death on a cross. In more recent times, the church has tried to achieve a balance by lifting up the baptismal emphasis that resonates with Luther’s concept of ongoing baptismal renewal, of daily dying and rising with Jesus.

Normally, no one looks forward to the Lenten season. It is not a time of celebration like Christmas and Easter. But this year I am excited about the plans we have made for the Lenten services at St. Ansgar. Our mid-week Wednesday Lenten services will be done differently than they have been done in previous years. First, instead of a soup supper before the evening worship service, we will be
having a soup luncheon after an earlier worship service. We are offering a “relaxed” worship service at 11:00 a.m., followed by a soup lunch and fellowship.

The lunch will be soup, a good bread, and something sweet to end the meal. The idea behind this is to give people who cannot come to the evening service the opportunity to gather in community, to worship, and for fellowship. An evening service will also be offered for members who cannot come
during the day, beginning at 7:30 p.m. No meal will be offered at the evening service.

Our theme for the five services during Lent is, “Living Our Baptism.....Five gifts of discipleship.” When you were confirmed, you were asked if you intended to continue in the covenant God made with you in Holy baptism:
to live among God’s faithful people,
to hear the word of God and share the Lord’s supper,
to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,
to serve all people, following the example of Jesus,
and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.
Your response was: We do, and ask God to help and guide us.

The goal of our time together at these mid-week services is to rediscover and claim the God-given gifts of discipleship. These gifts overlap and are intertwined as one gift flowing into another and into faithful living. We will be using the four chapters that form the letter of Paul to the Philippians. Each week we will look at one of these five gifts of discipleship. Based on our readings, a discussion will follow, and questions will be asked. It is my sincere hope that everyone will be inspired to take part. As a community we can learn and grow together.

I look forward to worshipping with you in a “relaxed” worship service, sharing a simple noontime meal with those who are able to attend the first service, and casual conversation with you in Christian fellowship each Wednesday during Lent.

Praying God’s Shalom for you always,

Pastor David


Jan 2023

And let us consider how to provoke
one another to love and good deeds,
not neglecting to meet together, as is
the habit of some, but encouraging
one another, and all the more as you
see the Day approaching.
(Hebrews 10:24-25)

As we enter a new year, we are looking for a fresh start, a new beginning. Some of us are looking for a return to normal in the new year, whatever that is. We have survived covid with all the restrictions and adjustments to our way of life that came with it. Yet, covid is still with us and continues to threaten our return to normal. We are tired and growing accustomed to living a more isolated life. Community life has become a virtual experience rather than real in-person

Church attendance has been slowly increasing since our return to in-person worship, but it is not what it used to be. Many have become comfortable watching a worship service on the internet or on television. While these two options have been helpful and served us well during the lockdowns, and during severe weather, they were never intended to become the new normal.

Communities are people. A community is a group of people who share something in common. St. Ansgar is a church community. We are people who share a rich heritage and common faith, who are alike in some way, and who feel some sense of belonging and interpersonal connection. We don’t just belong to some organization. But like so many other church communities, our church community is in danger.

The key to a successful church community is coming together, in person, to worship together, to informally share time together, to do God’s work together. We find a peace in worship surrounded by members of our church family that is not possible in front of a screen. We are all on a pilgrimage, and we can only support each other on that journey through personal interaction. Only by coming together can a church community recognize that those who have gathered for worship make up the body of Christ.

Private devotions in the sanctuary of one’s own home provides serenity. The stillness of reflecting on God in the solitude of the woods or walking on the beach is inspiring. But these experiences, as important and meaningful as they are, still leave us with a need to participate in a worshipping community, for in the worshipping community we are empowered by the blessings of the Holy Spirit, and the blessings of each other.

I am truly grateful for those who have returned for regular worship and fellowship. It is my sincere hope that more of the St. Ansgar Church community will return for regular Sunday worship and fellowship in the near future. The Church Council has taken every precaution to ensure a safe place for all those who enter our building. It is safer in the church than in the grocery store where you shop, or the restaurant where you dine. We miss you and want to see you back among us as we make our
pilgrimage through life together. You are an important piece of the body of Christ. I look forward to seeing you in worship with us in 2023.

Praying God’s Shalom for you in the coming year.

Pastor David


Easter Message from Bishop Younan

The Easter Message from Bishop Younan
As we continue our Easter journey through the fifty days to Pentecost, I am sharing this timely Easter message from Bishop Younan, the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Having spent a total of six weeks in Palestine and Israel I am acutely aware of the oppression the Christian people suffer in these countries. These are the descendants of the original Christians. Many have left, with many coming to Canada. In light of the reality under which these people live, I hope you can find the same meaning and hope in Bishop Younan’s Easter message as I have.
Shalom, Pastor David
Resurrection Joy in a Fearful World

Easter Message 2017 – From Bishop Dr. Munib Younan
“…the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” ~ Matthew 28:5-8

Alleluia, Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia! Al-Masih qam! Hakkan qam!
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, on Palm Sunday morning, after being in church and feeling encouraged by the message of “Hosanna!” sung by the children and the congregation, I heard the sad news of the massacre of our sisters and brothers in two churches in Egypt. One cannot receive such horrific news except with tears. The feelings of great joy on our feast day, and great sadness over such a horror, are inseparable—much as the great joy and great fear of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were inseparable as they ran from the empty tomb.
And so I must confess that as I prepared this Easter message from Jerusalem, the city of the crucifixion and resurrection, to the whole world, I had some doubts in my heart. I thought: What message can I bring this year that is different from past years? Has the Easter message lost its meaning, disregarded by Christians as well as others? Is it just a message of idealism, far from the lived experience of people today? What does the resurrection of Jesus have to say to us in the midst of the terrors, chaos, and uncertainty of today’s world?
But then I remember that the life of faith is not always one of assurances or certainties. Jesus’ own disciples struggled to understand his teachings and his journey to the cross. Peter denied Jesus three times. The guards at the tomb were so afraid that they became “like dead men.” Mary Magdalene and the other Mary ran from the tomb with “fear and great joy.” And on the walk to Emmaus, the disciples did not recognize the risen Christ until the breaking of the bread.
Therefore, there is no shame to admit that here in the Middle East it is a very challenging time to proclaim and live the Good News of the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus. The struggles we are facing are very real and are becoming even more complicated. We have good reason to feel confused! And still, the message of Easter comes to us very clearly: Christ is risen! The powers of sin and death have been defeated! And as the angel of the Lord has promised, the risen Christ now goes before us to lead the way in this broken—and often frightening—world.
I think of the story of St. Augustine, who was full of doubt but prayed earnestly for the gift of faith in God. While he was praying, he heard the voice of a child saying, “Pick it up and read! Pick it up and read!” He thought this could be the Lord telling him to read the Holy Scriptures, so he searched and found a Bible. Then he opened it and read the first verse he saw, from the Letter of Paul to the Romans: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh or the gratification of your desires.” (Romans 13:14) The young Augustine read no further, for there was no need. He later wrote: “No sooner had I reached the end of the verse than the light of certainty flooded my heart and all dark shades of doubt fled away.” (Confessions)

Thanks be to God, the risen Christ always comes to us when we are full of doubt, and shows us the way of love and light! For this reason, even in the midst of our confusion and sadness over the killing of innocent Christians at prayer, we can say with certainty: There is no religion which accepts the killing of innocent worshipers, who were doing nothing but seeking closeness with God. These acts are untenable and unaccepted in any religion. We are grateful that the vast majority of Muslim friends also stand with us as equal citizens against such horrors.
Today we are also facing a horrible and confusing situation in Syria, in Iraq, and across the Middle East. We see the images of chemicals stealing the breath from children, and of cities lying in rubble, and we wonder, “What can we do?” At the same time, we see missiles flying and we are afraid of what comes next – for Syria, and for the whole Middle East.
And again, although we may feel confused, because we have seen the risen Christ we know one thing for certain: Syria has no need of more weapons, more violence, or more massacres, or more extremism from anybody. This is creating international tension, straining relations between friends and partners, and we are afraid of what comes next. I urge world leaders to hear the words of Jesus to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, after Peter had cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant: “Return your sword to its sheath! For those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” Violence breeds violence, whether it is committed by terrorists or by governments. I call on the leaders of the world: Return your swords to their sheaths! Bring instead peace based on justice to Syria, to Iraq, to Palestine and to the whole Middle East. Bring a future for us and for our children.
As Christians in the Holy Land today, the turmoil in these many neighbor countries is very frightening. At the same time, here at home we are in our fiftieth year of occupation. Many Palestinian Christians are asking, “How long, O Lord? When will this end? Where do we belong?”
For this reason, I feel it is important to acknowledge that even as we sing our joyful “Hallelujahs” and celebrate Our Lord’s victory over death, some fear and confusion and doubts still remain. And yet, we must remember that we are not alone. These are the very same feelings the disciples felt after the resurrection of Jesus.
When our Lord was raised on that resurrection morning, the earth shook, an angel arrived in a flash of lightning, and the stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb. It seemed the very foundations of heaven and earth had shifted. What we proclaim today as Good News, at that time was only confusing, frightening news! The guards, the women, and the disciples were all afraid of what they saw and heard. They were all afraid of what would come next. They wondered what the resurrection meant for their lives.
And yet, this same earth-shaking event is the one that gives us hope today. The powers and principalities of sin and death could not overcome the love of God. Yes, they could crucify Jesus. Yes, they could bury Jesus. But they could not bury God’s love for the world!

In the midst of their confusion, the angel told the ones gathered at the tomb, “He is not here, He is risen!” In the midst of bombings, Christ is risen! In the midst of persecution, Christ is risen! In the midst of violence and occupation, Christ is risen! In the midst of poverty and sickness, Christ is risen! In the midst of war, Christ is risen! And in the midst of our families, our communities, and our churches today, Christ is risen!

This is our hope, and we must cling to it. The message of Easter is not idealism. Christ’s victory over sin, death, and despair, is the only hope that has kept Christians steadfast in this land for two thousand years. It is the only hope that carried the saints of every age through trials, struggles, and persecutions. And it is the only hope that today will carry us through these confusing times in the Middle East and throughout the world. The Good News of the resurrection gives Christians clarity and purpose, no matter where they are, and no matter what the future brings. Jesus, the Morning Star, goes before us to lead the way—and the Way of Jesus is always the way of peace, justice, mercy, healing, reconciliation, respect for diversity, and living together as one people of God.
Therefore, Palestinian Christians will continue to be steadfast in our land. We will continue to carry the message of resurrection in the face of all who promote a culture of death. In the midst of power struggles, political maneuvering, and the growth of extremism in our world, we will only proclaim the culture of life and life abundantly, will full dignity for every human being. As we celebrate Our Lord’s victory over death, in this 500th year of the Reformation, let us trust that Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection have already liberated us by grace. We are not afraid! Despite all troubles and tribulations, let us go out from our churches and into the world with the joy of the resurrection, knowing that the risen Christ goes always before us. Let us encourage one another with the two-thousand year-old Easter greeting of Jerusalem:

Hallelujah! Christ is risen! Al-Masih qam! Hakan qam!

April 2017 Message from Pastor Dave

Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but he has risen. (Luke 24: 5)

Is Easter incomplete if you did not receive a chocolate Cadbury egg? Thanks to modern media advertising many people, young and old, think Easter is a failure if they do not receive the expected goodies. After all, what is Easter without enough assorted candies to cause a diabetic coma? Sadly, for many Easter ends with the Easter basket.

Those who know me know I love my sweets, and no one enjoyed their Easter basket growing up more than I did, but Easter in my family did not stop with the colourful eggs and jellybeans nestled among the assorted candies. Easter was a time for family and for church. Holy week was a week that always felt different in my home. There were the usual joyful preparations for family arriving and Easter dinner, but there was also an underlying seriousness that grew as we approached the Three Days. We attended Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services as a family. The reality of Easter was better understood in the context of the worship experience of the previous two days. After all, you can’t have Easter without Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. I am very grateful that my parents made sure my sister and I knew and experienced the entire story, not just the fun part.

As we approach Holy Week and the Three Days, I hope everyone will participate in the entire journey, and not just settle for the easy parts. Easter is not just about running to the empty tomb. Easter is also about the journey after the empty tomb, about allowing this journey to take us to the deepest regions of our hearts and minds. In the resurrection of Jesus Christ God gave us such a miracle of love and forgiveness that it is worthy of our full attention and consideration. The resurrection is not an ending, but a beginning.

A chocolate Cadbury egg is so very insignificant compared to the gift of the resurrected Christ that it probably should not even be mentioned. Yet, it receives more attention during the Easter season than does the risen Christ. So, I guess the question is, “What is in your Easter basket? Is there room for the entire Easter story, or have the Cadbury eggs crowded out the true gift of Easter, the entire story of the Resurrected Christ?

Shalom, Pastor David

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