The Revs. Smiths’ Message for July 25, 2021

Dear Friends,

It seems we spend a lot of our time worrying about whether we will have enough and be okay, all the way from the stories that fill the headlines, to our own day-to-day struggles.  Will we be able to beat COVID?  Will the Olympians be safe?  Will there be some rain for the fires in BC?  Will we have enough to pay the rent next month, and even to be able to retire sometime.  We live our lives with a sense of scarcity, with a very commonsense idea of what is possible and what is not.

In biblical times, for most people their existence was pretty much hand to mouth — much more precarious than ours.  And yet the message Jesus proclaimed was of a God of abundance.  Not the abundance of hoarding up our riches in storehouses, but of being cared for and having our daily bread and something to share with others.  When a huge crowd gathered around Jesus to hear his teaching and he instructed his disciples to feed them, they asked, “How do you expect us to buy enough for this many?”  And from a gift of a boy’s lunch, all are not just fed, but “filled,” and with basketsful of leftovers (John 6: 1–14).  There is an abundance, even beyond what we thought was possible.

“The Miracle of Feeding the Multitude” by Henri van Waterschoot (died ca. 1748); taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

There will be enough and extra.  This might be Jesus’ response to our tendency to view the world and our lives through the lens of scarcity.  God’s sheep are fed, and able to live in peace.  By grace may we look forward in the confidence that God will provide enough, for all our needs, and with leftovers to share.

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for July 18, 2021

Dear Friends,

It sits in a clearing on the edge of the wood, weathered and grey, dead, a stump of a log.  Yet from the heart of its rings comes a bouquet of green leaves.  Life emerges out of death.  The regeneration of creation is surely one of God’s miracles.  Remember God’s words through his prophet, Isaiah?  “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)

The Colorado River near Page, Arizona in the Great Basin Desert. By Adrille. CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported. Full photo credit at bottom.

As we move out of lockdown, what will the new life be like?  May we see again God’s creative power making all things new.

Thanks be to God.

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

Photo by Adrille. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, July 17, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for July 11, 2021

Dear Friends,

You know the challenge of the “elevator pitch”—reducing your argument or sales pitch to the duration of an elevator ride—say, 30 seconds.  With the Christian faith, we might say, it is to understand and embrace the love of God for all people, and to answer the call to extend that love to others, particularly those who are vulnerable.

Interior of one of the elevators at the New Children’s Hospital in Helsinki, Finland. Sinikka Halme CC BY-SA 4.0 International. Full photo credit at bottom.

We are been overwhelmed by significant tragic news over the past week or two; a heat wave and terrible fires with most of a town destroyed in BC, a collapsed condominium tower in Florida, a political assassination in Haiti, and the ongoing shame of the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of indigenous children from residential schools in Canada.  The psalms of lament come to mind in the sorrow we feel with such devastating news.

The two elements of our short expression of our faith are helpful here.  There is the assurance of the love of God for all people, and especially the families and loved ones of those suffering from these terrible events.  And there is the concern, prayers, and assistance flowing from people of faith who are in a position to help to lift them from their suffering.

May they know through our responses that God is with them.

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

Photo by Sinikka Halme. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, July 10, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for July 4, 2021

Dear Friends,

“Be still and know that I am God … The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”

Psalm 46: 10a, 11

When we are traveling we like to check out license plates.  How many different provinces/territories/states can we find?  It is a bit tough these days with borders closed.  The slogans are always fun, trying to figure out what they tell you about the region.  Alberta — Wild Rose Country, Nova Scotia — Canada’s Ocean Playground, Florida –The Sunshine State.  One of our favourites is New Hampshire — Live Free or Die!  So dramatic! For New Brunswick, our only officially bilingual province, the slogan is simply, “Be … in this place — Être … ici on le peut ”  Just be — don’t do.

Image of a New Hampshire license plate from 1989–1998; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

We spend most of our lives doing.  It’s that old Calvinist streak in us — the Protestant work ethic that says we must be busy or we are not worthy.  The Psalmist writes of being still and knowing God, of just being, and feeling the presence of God.  We hope these summer months will give all of us time to just be — and sense that the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, July 3, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

Update on our 2021 Mission Project

Our congregation accepted the Mission and Outreach Committee’s proposal to have a mission project this year to help reduce inequality by raising $10,000 for the Scarborough Centre for Healthy Communities Food Bank. Unfortunately, one impact of COVID has been that more families who are struggling to make ends meet have to access the food banks. This Mission Project was only approved in March and, so far, donations to the Mission Project total $2,685.00. We are not sitting on these funds. A cheque for $1,000.00 has been sent to the SCHC Food Bank, with more to come.

Fundraising chart
Mission and Outreach “Moving Forward Together” Project Update 20210621

If you are able, please make a financial donation to this project to help our neighbours. You can mail or drop off a cheque to the church, or give easily online here (select Mission Project in the drop down menu).

Committee changes

As we look forward to the return of activities and in-person worship, a couple of our committees have changed leaders.  Sandra O’Brien is stepping down as convener of the Nurture and Education committee, and is heading up the Fellowship committee. The Rev. Helen Smith has offered to take on the leadership of the Nurture and Education committee.  Thank you to both Sandra and Helen for your important contributions to the life of our church.

The good news about our new minister

It is with great pleasure and thanks to God that I can report to you that the Presbytery of Pickering approved the call to the Reverend Chuck Moon, and (through the magic of technology) the call was sustained by the Presbytery of Grey-Bruce-Maitland.  The call was placed in the hand (electronically) of the Rev. Chuck Moon and he has accepted it, effective September 1, 2021.

There is work to do in terms of preparing for Chuck’s arrival and welcoming him and his family to our congregation and our neighbourhood.  But for now, let our prayers be of celebration and thanks, that we have Chuck arriving to minister to us.

—Bruce Morrison, Clerk of Session

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for June 27, 2021

Dear Friends,

Summer’s here, and school’s out!  Well almost — just two more days.

I enjoyed school a lot.  I might have helped that I did pretty well in terms of my marks.  But all of it – the challenge of learning, my circle of friends, school sports and activities – were things I loved.

But even for me, I couldn’t wait for the end of June and the beginning of the holidays.  Freedom, sleeping in, no homework, fooling around with my friends, travel — it was great.  And especially right now, with two whole months stretching out before us, it seemed like heaven.

Midnight sun in Inari, northern Finland. CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported. Full photo credit below.

This has been a tougher year than normal in our schools, and that is true for teachers and administrators as much as for students.  My guess is that for all of them, the arrival of summer holidays this year is especially welcome.  Responding to COVID-19 seemed particularly tricky for our schools, so my guess is that the sighs of relief and the shouts of rejoicing in all the schoolyards (or living rooms!) will be heard right across the city.

From the days of creation, rest was a part of God’s design, for our enjoyment and renewal.  Enjoy your holiday — you deserve it.  Especially this year.

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

Photo by Tevfik Teker. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, June 26, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for June 20, 2021

Dear Friends,

I think we are getting there.  This week I did something I haven’t done for 15 months. I rode the TTC.  I love the TTC.  My Presto card still worked.  I got on the right subway platform, remembered which end of the train to enter so that I would be at the right spot at Kennedy to get the escalator and stairs up to the LRT.  And I remembered where to get on the LRT to get off at the right spot at the Scarborough Town Centre.  A young woman gave me her seat. Oh yes, some seats were blocked off and we all had to wear masks.

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) bus 8665, type Nova Bus LFS, Route 144 to Wynford, 2018. Taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

But as, on the last stage of my journey, the bus trundled along the old, familiar route, and the recorded voice called out the stops — Dolly Varden (which I always call Dolly Parton) and Markham Road, on to Scarborough Golf Club Road and Orton Park, I felt more and more that truly, I am coming home.  

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, June 19, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for June 13, 2021

Dear Friends,

This week the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada adopted two important resolutions: the approval of same-sex marriages, and the ordination of LGBTQI elders and ministers.  These questions have been before the church for many years, and have been the topic of many reports and study documents.  To say the least, it has been a topic over which the church has been divided.  The votes were decisive, but not overwhelming:  64% were in favour regarding marriage, and 61% for ordination.

For many, this is cause for great rejoicing.  LGBTQI individuals have long felt the rejection of the church, and have suffered ridicule and shame by a body which proclaimed a God of love.  For a picture of that suffering, you can view the YouTube video, “Not all are Welcome,” which was part of the report of the Rainbow Communion at the assembly (watch for the parts filmed at GCPC!).  For many of those who have suffered that exclusion, this feels like a new day, and many are celebrating this huge step toward being a more inclusive church.

Not All Are Welcome: Video from Rainbow Communion Special Listening Committee re. LGBTQI

As many of us celebrate, we must remember that we are still a divided church over this matter, and that if we espouse a God whose love is for everyone, we are called to have compassion for those who will struggle with these changes.

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, June 12, 2021, edition of Tidbits.