Weekly Devotional from the pastor's desk

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering how to Remember

When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said
to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell
you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, and
after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that
from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’
Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to
them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’

Luke 22: 14-19

Last week I received an email with an attached photograph that made me smile. The picture, taken in the summer of 1998 by a friend, features a group of teenagers and myself at Camp Judson near Mount Rushmore, South Dakoda. Camp Judson is a Baptist Camp. That summer I volunteered to be a leader at the camp. I would like to be able to tell you that I did this because I was a committed Christian with a profound knowledge of the Bible but this would not be accurate. I had just started to read the Scriptures a few months before. At that time, I had a hunch that God might exist but such a divinity certainly had no relevance to my everyday life. If truth be told, I went to the camp for selfish reasons; namely, because a friend with a connection to a Baptist church in Sioux Falls where I was then living, invited me to come along for the week. I was not interested in visiting the camp when he asked me. So, he gave me the added incentive I needed to change my mind; free food and a place to stay for a week. I agreed to come
along.


Over the years I have often thanked the Lord for that week at Camp Judson. What happened there is a story beyond the scope of this short piece, but let it suffice to say that what unfolded changed the direction of my life. When I entered the camp on a Saturday afternoon in July, I was an agnostic (one who believes that God may or may not exist). One week later, when we departed from Camp Judson, I was a baptised believer in Jesus Christ.


Last week, when I received the picture, a wave of memories flooded back to me from twenty-two years ago. The picture reminded me of the seriousness of my baptismal vows, and how they have shaped my life and direction in the years since then. Memory is a powerful thing. God uses it to stake his claim on us, and to inform us of who we really are in Christ.


Jesus’ words, “Do this in remembrance of me” are grounded in his Jewish heritage as well as a profound biblical truth. For ancient Jews, remembering a religious event meant more than calling to mind something that happened in the past. In Jesus’ culture, remembering an event meant bringing it into the present and reliving it by faith. Thus, when Jews remembered the Passover each year, they did far more than just call to mind the days when God led Moses and the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery. More than just recall, remembering for ancient Jews brought the event into the present to be relived again. In this way, they received the same blessings as their ancestors. It was with this understanding that Jesus gathered with his Disciples to celebrate the Passover meal.
 

This understanding of memory can also inform our faith participation today. As Holy Week is about to commence, and despite the strangeness of being cut off from one another this year, I invite you to remember again both the promises of God and those moments in your life when God’s grace has touched you. Have you found peace in gathering at the Table of Jesus Christ or in the gift of music? Then remember that peace and let it shape your life today. Have you publicly proclaimed your faith in Jesus Christ through baptism, confirmation or some other witness? Then remember that time, let it ground you, and even shape who you are today. Through faith may we all remember the life-giving power and hope of God’s beloved Son. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Rev. Scott Kindred-Barnes

March 30- April 5

March 23-29

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling for Elijah.’ And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’ Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, ‘Truly this man was God’s Son!’

 

Mark 15: 33-39

 

Each year during the season of Lent the Church invites people to reflect on the love of Christ. This love can be recognized clearly in the words recited by Christ on the Cross, known often as the Cry of Dereliction: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ In saying these words, Jesus was reciting the first line of Psalm 22. Why did Jesus recite these words in his darkest hour? Why is this one of the few times in the New Testament where the Gospel writers Mark and Matthew preserve Jesus’s words in his Aramaic tongue?

More than a few scholars have pondered these questions, telling us that recitation of the first words of a text was, in the tradition of the time, a way of identifying an entire passage. In reciting these words, Jesus was using them as his prayer. In his daily life, Jesus would have spoken in Aramaic, but only rarely did the evangelists render his words in this language. The fact that Mark and Matthew’s Gospels preserved this line from Jesus’s final hours, shows that they interpreted his ministry as a fulfilment of what the Psalmist foretold.

Psalm 22 is essentially a prayer for help. It is a prayer that unequivocally states the trouble faced by the Psalmist. The prayer questions where the providential care of God has gone. There is a sense of injustice stated in how others have rejected and attacked the innocent one who is deeply troubled, and who is powerless to prevent the loss of life. It sounds like a downer, I know.

But, for the first-century Jewish reader, the explicit negativity stated in Psalm 22 could not be read without also acknowledging the triumph of God over evil. For if one reads the whole of this psalm, one soon discovers that it is a powerful prayer of faith; a faith that defiantly renders even the devastating pains and injustices of this world as subject to God’s redemption. While the first stanza states the Cry of Dereliction, the second stanza stands firm on the redeeming tradition of faith:

Yet you are holy,
   enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
   they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
   in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

So, during his darkest hour Jesus was reciting a prayer of faith. But what can we learn from these words uttered by Jesus from the Cross? William Sloan Coffin, Jr. once encouraged Christians, especially those with troubled hearts, to look to Jesus since what we see in him is the incarnation of love, that is “God’s love in person on earth.” [William Sloan Coffin, The Courage to Love, Jr. p. 11.] What is Jesus saying to us, then?

In 1967 the Belgian diver Robert Sténuit made a startling discovery. In the freezing seabed off Northern Ireland's north coast he found treasure; Gold and artefacts deposited at the resting place of one of the most important ships in the Spanish Armada - the Girona. In 1588 the Girona sank beneath the harsh waves of the Atlantic, taking with her nearly 1300 lives and a huge cache of Spanish treasure. Nearly 400 years later the Girona’s treasure was recovered by Sténuit and his team of divers. One of the most remarkable things to be recovered was a man’s wedding ring. Upon cleaning the ring, the divers noticed that the ring was etched with a hand holding a heart. Under the inscription were the words that translate into English as “I have nothing more to give you.”

The words on this ring, “I have nothing more to give you,” could have been words posted above the Cross of Jesus Christ. For in the Cross Jesus gave us all he had, even his life. John’s Gospel puts it this way: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” During this season of Lent, when many people are feeling anxiety because of the Covid19 pandemic, I would encourage you to reflect on the love of Christ. How much does Christ love you? How much does Christ love me? How much does Christ love all of us? The answer: He had nothing more to give us. Thanks be to God. Amen.

 

 

Rev. Scott Kindred-Barnes

March 15-22

When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;
When you pass through the rivers,

They shall not overwhelm you;
When you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
   and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Deliverer.

Isaiah 43: 2-3

 

For five cold days in December 1952, London, England experienced toxic smog that reduced visibility to a few feet. A heavy fog combined with sulfurous fumes from coal fires, vehicle exhaust and power plants, to produce a pollution that blocked out the sun and created a public health disaster known as the "Big Smoke." So severe was the air quality during this time that many people died. Even those who survived, had to fumble around for five days in the fog uncertain of what exactly was in front of them. In times of uncertainty, when the path ahead doesn’t seem clear, it can leave us feeling vulnerable and frightened.

A common affliction within organized communities is the sense of feeling unimportant and forgotten. The ancient Israelite, defeated and exiled in Babylon in 570 B.C., can be excused for believing his life was less important than those who conquered his people. The early Christian, persecuted by the Roman Empire for her refusal to proclaim Caesar as Lord instead of Jesus, was reminded often of her insignificance. The contemporary person, living in this world of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al can easily feel excluded should he/she be slow to keep up with the growing wave of shifting technology. Indeed, there are always things in life that can make us feel forgotten.

Centuries ago, the prophet proclaimed a message to all who feel vulnerable, frightened and forgotten: “When you pass through the deep waters, I will be with you;” Notice the prophet does not say if but when. In the Hebrew Scriptures the deep waters of the oceans are symbolic of uncertainty and even chaos. It is God who calls order out of chaos, and whose power calms the storms of life. Many centuries later, the disciples of Jesus were sailing on a lake during a storm while the Lord slept in the back of the boat (Mark 4: 35-41; Matthew 8: 23-27; Luke 8: 22-25).

 

The boat was being swamped so the disciples awoke the Lord from his sleep in a panic. All three gospel accounts have Christ calming the storm and asking the disciples where their faith had gone. It was not the fear that Jesus was rebuking. Fear was to be expected; especially in a great storm that threatened their lives. Yet, Jesus questions their faith. Had they forgotten the promises of God? When things unfold that test our faith, we are called to remember that God in Christ promises to be with us:

When you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
   and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Deliverer

The late Dr. J.R.C. Perkin writes about a service he attended in a cellar in Hamburg soon after the end of the Second World War. The city was a ruin, and the people in the cellar were thin and poorly clothed. The people in attendance had brought together a small amount of food which was pooled in a meagre love-feast at the end of the service. An elderly man, whose oldest son had been killed on the eastern front, whose younger son had been shot down by the R.A.F., and whose wife and grandchildren had perished in an American air-raid, gave a brief testimony. The man ended by concluding with a powerful confession of personal faith Aber ich habe Christus, und das ist genug—“I have Christ; that is sufficient.” (1) Friends, through this time of fog, when the Covid-19 virus is testing our faith, I pray that all will know that God in Christ is with us:

 

When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you;

For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Deliverer.

 

 Rev. Scott Kindred-Barnes

(1) J.R.C. Perkin, William Pope, Charles Taylor, Very Present Help (Hansport, Nova Scotia: Lancelot Press, 1979), 14.

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