The Revs. Smiths’ Message for April 4, 2021

Dear Friends,

It is a time of many different emotions.  From the sad, sombre mood of Good Friday, through the patient waiting of Saturday, on to the joy of Sunday morning.  During these days, we encourage you to go to this interactive page and click on the links for each day.  Our time through the last days of Holy Week is enriched by these aids to reflection.  And there are some pleasant surprises. If you click on the book “Read, Wonder, Listen” for Maundy Thursday, Laura Alary is reading the story.  And some of you may know Doug Kendall.  If you click on “Read, Wonder, Listen” for Good Friday, Doug is reading the story.

“Victory over the Grave” (before 1907) by German painter Bernhard Plockhorst (1825–1907); from the collection of the Immanuelkirche, Berlin; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

It is a time of many different emotions, as Ann Weems puts it in her poem:

The Time for Kneeling
The Lamb has been slain.
and the sheep have scattered.
Now is the time for kneeling,
         the time for believers
to kneel and call upon his name
         to kneel and rise again:
the community of the resurrection.

Kneeling in Jerusalem, Ann Weems

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Thursday, April 1, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for March 28, 2021

Dear Friends, 

The worship celebrations for this strange COVID year bring us now as the people of God to Palm Sunday, where we follow Jesus in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the solemn events of Holy Week.  He will break bread with his friends, wash their feet, be betrayed by one of them and denied by another, tried and executed, with words of forgiveness on his lips at the end.

Santa Teresa de Jesús” (St Teresa of Ávila), painting from between circa 1850 and circa 1860 by French artist Alfred Dehodencq (1822–1882); from the collection of the City Council of Seville and held at the Casa consistorial de Sevilla; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

By coincidence, this Palm Sunday is also the birthday of St. Teresa of Ávila, a 16th century Spanish noblewoman who felt called to life of poverty, simplicity and prayer in the convent. She is remembered for a series of mystical visions that she received which shaped her spiritual life.  One of her best loved reflections, and one that seems good to guide us as we move into this sacred week, is this quotation.

Christ has no body now, but yours.  No hands, no feet, but yours.  Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world.  Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good.  Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world.

St. Teresa of Avila

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, March 27, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for March 21, 2021

Dear Friends,

It is a great week for musical milestones. March 23 is the day in 1743 that Handel’sMessiah” had its London debut performance. That’s the one where King George II rose to his feet during the Hallelujah chorus and we’ve been doing that ever since. Messiah is commonly performed at Christmas but Handel wrote it for the Lenten/Easter season.

March 24 is the birthday of American hymn-writer Fanny Crosby. Born in New York in 1820, Fanny Crosby penned thousands of hymns under over 100 pseudonyms, since hymnal publishers were reluctant to include too many hymns by any single writer. Her most famous hymn is “Blessed Assurance”, #687 in our Book of Praise.

And March 21 is the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach, born in Germany in 1685. Our hymn book contains 11 hymns composed or harmonized by Bach, including #239, the much loved “O sacred head, sore wounded” from his “The Passion According to St. Matthew” oratorio. When a composition was finished to his satisfaction, Bach always wrote on the bottom of the page, the initials S D G, for Soli Deo Gloria, “to the glory of God alone”.

O Sacred head Sore Wounded” by J.S. Bach, performed by the Choir of King’s College Cambridge at Easter 2011.

I thought of these initials as I logged off our Annual Meeting this past Wednesday. Such a good spirit, even on ZOOM! Such hope and energy for God’s mission. S D G.

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, March 20, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for March 7, 2021

Dear Friends,

Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.

Luke 6:20–21
“The Sermon of the Beatitudes” (1886-96) by French artist James Tissot (1836–1902); from the collection of Brooklyn Museum; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

A woman tells the story of when her family moved to a new town when she was 12 years old. At her new school, she approached a group of girls from her class at lunchtime to see if she could join them. They conferred in a huddle for a moment, then one reported, “Unanimously, no.” This woman survived that rejection, and came to find strength in her place of brokenness, but the wound was one that would never leave her.

God calls us in the church to make it a place of unconditional acceptance; where, no matter how often you have been knocked down, you will find a place; where, no matter how often you have been rejected, you will be embraced and loved; where no matter how often you have been told you’re no good, you are accepted and valued. It is all grounded in the love of God for us, a love we are called to share freely.

It is about building the reign of God — that place where the rules are different. Here the foolish are wise, the weak are strong, the lowly are lifted up, and everyone has a place.

Thanks be to God.

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, March 6, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for February 21, 2021

Dear Friends,

Did you have pancakes on Tuesday? Pancake Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Carnival — all ways of having one last hurrah before the sober season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.

Lent is a season of quiet reflection leading up to Easter. It is made up of 40 days, symbolic of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. It began last Wednesday, and goes to the Saturday before Easter. If you are counting, remember Sundays are not included because they are always days of celebration, of resurrection.

The Fight Between Carnival and Lent” (1559) by Dutch painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525–1530 – 9 September 1569; from the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

This year, Dr. Tori Smit, our Synod’s Regional Minister for Faith Formation, has worked with Presbyterians in our Synod and with the Foothills Presbytery, South Carolina, PCUSA, to provide us with virtual gardens we can visit each week during Lent. You received the first link to one with Ash Wednesday’s special Tidbits. Have you checked it out yet?

We’ve now posted the link to the Lent Garden for this upcoming week. Once you are in the garden, follow the directions on the white board to find the scripture readings for this week. Then click on the Little Free Libraries for stories, the guitar for music, the gnome for a craft. Try the hanging flower basket, the door, the picnic basket and see what you will find. This week a minister from our Presbytery is reading one of the stories and it is from Laura Alary’s book, Read, Wonder, Listen!

Lent is a six-week journey and these gardens are one way we can walk slowly and reflectively through the season of Lent, day by day, and week by week.

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Friday, February 19, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for February 14, 2021

Dear Friends, 

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

1 John 4:7

Jessica is drawing a picture. “Tell me about your picture,” her teacher asks. “It is a picture of God”, she replies. “But Jessica, nobody knows what God looks like.” says the teacher. “They will when I’m finished”, says Jessica.

Agape AIDS orphans in Hyderabad, India releasing balloons on World AIDS Day , December 2018. See below for full photo credit.

How can we know God? John tells us in his letter. Love one another and you will know God. This is not the sweet, sentimental love of many a Valentine’s card (which I know are quite wonderful to receive), but love that works hard to care for the other, love that in John’s words is “not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” (1 John 3:18). Love your family members, love your church family members, love the person who is different from you, love the person who drives you crazy, love the stranger, love your enemy. Love.

May your life filled with love, filled with God.

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, February 13, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

Photo Credit: “AGAPE kids releasing balloons in memory of all the other global AIDS orphans and sending love wishes”, on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2018. Photo attributed to AGAPESCHOOL, Agape AIDS Orphan Care in Hyderabad, India. licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. For more details, see the file page at the Wikimedia Commons.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for February 7, 2021

Dear Friends,

Happy Fishy February!

If you are starting to feel like every day is Groundhog Day over and over again, here’s a new activity we can all get behind and it involves fish, not groundhogs!
The Mission and Outreach Committee is drawing our attention to the problem of food insecurity in our community, particularly during this pandemic. They have obtained information from volunteers in Food Banks with regard to what are the most needed food items at the Food Banks.

Fish is one of them.

“Feeding the multitude” (1433), Armenian illuminated manuscript by Daniel of Uranc; from the collection of the Matenadaran, Yerevan, Armenia; taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

The M & O Committee challenges us to purchase an extra can of tuna or salmon when we do our weekly grocery shopping, and drop it into the Food Bank Collection Box at the grocery store.

Every month M & O will be highlighting one of the greatest needs at the Food Bank. Stay tuned!

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, February 6, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for January 24, 2021

Dear Friends,

In a Tidbits last spring, we talked about the Breath Prayer. It is a prayer format we can use anytime. It consists of two brief sections. The first section is the “breathe in” and the second section is the “breathe out”. So, for example, you could pray, breathing in, “When I am afraid,” breathing out, “I put my trust in you.”

Sheridan Voysey, a British writer, has written the following Breath Prayer, based on the fruits of the Spirit, as found in Galatians 5:2223. The receiving and releasing follow the rhythms of our breathing.

“Lord God, fill me with your Holy Spirit
I receive your love and release my insecurity
I receive your joy and release my unhappiness
I receive your peace and release my anxiety
I receive your patience and release my impulsiveness
I receive your kindness and release my indifference
I receive your goodness and release my ungodliness
I receive your faithfulness and release my disloyalty
I receive your gentleness and release my severity
I receive your self-control and release my self-indulgence”

Stained glass rose window at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, depicting Galatians 5:22-23.

Give thanks with every breath you take.

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, January 23, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

Image credit: “Dublin Christ Church Cathedral Passage to Synod Hall Window Fruit of the Spirit 2012 09 26.jpg”, from the Wikimedia Commons. Attributed to Andreas F. Borchert under CC-BY-SA Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for January 17, 2021

Dear Friends,


O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for God’s steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 136:1

If you read Psalm 136 from beginning to end, you will see that it has 26 verses, and that the second half of every verse reads, “for God’s steadfast love endures forever.” The psalm was probably originally read responsively in worship, and 26 times in a row, the congregation’s response was the same, “for God’s steadfast love endures forever.” Do you think the Psalmist is trying to get us to notice something?

To every statement about the wonder and beauty of creation, for every item in the litany of how God’s people were brought out of slavery and given a land of their own, in every challenge or uncertainty that confronts the people of God still, that confidence and faith are still secure, because the answer is still, “for God’s steadfast love endures forever.

Maybe it is meant to teach us that the beauty and wonder of the creation around is an instance of, and a pointer to, that steadfast love of God. Maybe it is meant to be a public acknowledgement that indeed, every human circumstance, every trial or tribulation that is our lot can be answered by the steadfast love of God. Maybe it is meant to call the forgetful to remember how history bears this truth out, that wherever and whenever the people were lost or hungry, or thirsty, or sick, or oppressed, invariably they were guided, fed, healed and set free, through the steadfast love of God which endures forever.

What with political tensions in our neighbours to the south, a pandemic whose hold on us only seems to get worse, and with the coldest days of winter still ahead, we may feel at the mercy of dark forces beyond our control. To our despair, the Psalmist would probably say, remember how God has been there for you in the past, and face your uncertain future with hope. And our response, with people of faith through all the ages, will be, “for God’s steadfast love endures forever.”

May that be our confidence, our hope and our joy.

In Christ,

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, January 16, 2021, edition of Tidbits.

The Revs. Smiths’ Message for January 10, 2021

Dear Friends,

The other day I was going for my walk down the PanAm path on the hydro corridor just west of our home. A man, walking his dog, was walking towards me, in my lane! I decided it was easier for me to move, so I moved over to the other side of the path. “Oh, the dog won’t hurt you.” said the man. “I’m not afraid of the dog.” was my reply. He laughed and said, “Yes, that is what things have come to these days, isn’t it?”

At the end of 2020, there were lots of lists around of lessons we are learning from the pandemic. One lesson common to many lists was the importance of connection, of community. That is such an integral part of our Christian faith. Luke, in the book of Acts, writes about how the early Christian community devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers, day by day, spending time together in the temple (Acts 2: 42–47).

“The Bread Cutter” (1933) by Swiss painter François Barraud (1899–1934); taken from the Wikimedia Commons.

As we look over the past few months, maintaining connections with one another has not always been easy. We can’t spend time together in the church building or visiting in our homes. That is what things have come to these days. But through phone calls, Tidbits, the website, the informal carol sing on Zoom last month, the novel methods of holding the Village Fair online and of distributing the Amnesty letters, and through prayer, we maintain our connection to one another.

And one of these days, as the vaccinations ramp up, we’ll be together — in person!

Revs. Bob and Helen Smith

A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, January 9, 2021, edition of Tidbits.