The Revs. Smiths’ Message for August 29, 2021

Dear Friends,

So, the time has finally arrived, and in a few days we will officially welcome our new minister, the Rev. Chuck Moon. I can sense the excitement in everyone I talk to, and like everyone, can hardly wait to see Chuck’s ministry take shape in our midst.

Headshot of the interim ministers of the church, the Revs H and B Smith
The Revs Helen & Bob Smith

As central as Chuck will be in our church community’s life, it might be good to remember that we are all a part of a collection in which each of us has a role. In Ephesians 4 Paul reminds the people in the early church that we are all given gifts by the Spirit for building up the body of Christ in the work that it has to do in the world. Each of us has a role, a part to play, and it is in the drawing together of all those gifts in order to see God’s work in us move forward.

With our minister, we are all Christ’s ambassadors in the world, proclaiming to the world the good news of the love of God. Chuck’s work in our midst will bear fruit as we encourage him in it, and offer ourselves and our God-given gifts, to be co-workers with him under Christ.

Together, may we see our church grow and reach out, to God’s glory.

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, August 28, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for August 22, 2021

Dear Friends,

In our neighbourhood it is a delight to watch the children play, not street hockey, but street cricket!  We certainly have trouble figuring out the rules. We got some help, sort of, from the Yorkshire County Cricket Club Rules of Cricket:
You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out.

“Lords-Cricket-Ground-Pavilion-06-08-2017.jpg” – Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, England. CC BY-SA 4.0 International. Photo by Yorkspotter. Full credit below.

When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out.

Sometimes you get men still in and not out. When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out, he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in.

There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men are out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.
Fortunately, it is much easier to follow the rules of discipleship. You just have to, in theologian Paul Tillich’s phrase, “accept the fact that you have been accepted.”

And then you are in, and the game is amazing, and it goes on forever!

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

Photo by Yorkspotter . 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, August 21, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for August 15, 2021

Dear Friends,

Some advice from a butterfly, as recently seen on a T-shirt:

“Fesoj – Papilio machaon (by).jpg” – Butterfly of the species Papilio machaon. CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic. Photo by Fesoj. Full credit below.

Let your true colours show.
Get out of your cocoon.
Take yourself lightly.
Look for the sweetness in life.
Take time to smell the flowers.
Catch a breeze.
We can’t all be monarchs!

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

Photo by Fesoj. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, August 14, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for August 8, 2021

Dear Friends, 

Who could help being caught up in the excitement of the Olympics?  The strength and stamina of the athletes, the photo-finishes, the teamwork — at this highest level of competition is pretty thrilling to watch.

I was struck by the Canadian swimmer, Penny Oleksiak.  She won four medals in 2016 in Rio, so was a star even before she got to Tokyo.  She won two medals, and all eyes were on her, because if she got one more, she would be Canada’s most decorated Olympic athlete.  She failed in her next race, coming in fourth, which just happened to break the Canadian record, but wasn’t enough for a medal.  Where she had her final success, and achieved her record-setting medal-count, was as the anchor swimmer in a relay.

Rio 2016 Olympics – Swimming final session 6 August; Penny Oleksiak seated at centre. CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic. Photo by Sander van Ginkel. Full credit below.

In her comments after that race, she said that she was glad not to have placed in the previous race, because the achievement was even better here — “sweeter” was her word — because it was shared with her teammates.

What a selfless thought.  The one at the centre of attention pulls her teammates into the circle. The one whom everyone is talking about wants to talk about the others who helped her get there.

To me, this is sports at its finest, and an example of how its lessons can extend beyond the swimming pool or track.  No great success is achieved without the support of others — parents, friends, coaches, teachers — and no failure or discouragement is overcome without their encouragement.  To acknowledge that only strengthens us, and helps us all move on to even greater accomplishments.

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

Photo by Sander van Ginkel. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, August 7, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for August 1, 2021

Dear Friends,

Professional basketball player Jeremy Lin was crashing on his brother’s couch in New York, warming the bench at the Knicks’ games, when he was put in to substitute for an injured player.  He went from an unknown benchwarmer to superstar.  During the 2011–12 season he unexpectedly led a winning turnaround with the Knicks.  “Linsanity” was born.  Lin was the first American of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA.  In 2019 he became the first Asian American to win an NBA championship with our own Toronto Raptors.

Jeremy Lin playing with the New York Knicks in 2011. CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic. Photo by nikk_la. Full credit below.

When asked about his meteoric rise, Lin, out of his Christian faith, said it was a miracle, “God’s fingerprints are all over the place, where there’s been a lot of things that had to happen that I just couldn’t control.  You could try to call it a coincidence, but at the end of the day there’s 20, 30 things when you combine them all, that had to happen at the right time for me to be here. That’s why I call it a miracle.”  Many times we look back over our own life stories as individuals and as a congregation and see that “God’s fingerprints are all over the place.” Thanks be to God that miracles still happen.

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

Photo by nikk_la. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, July 31, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

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.

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.