John the Baptist
Hans Gottfried von Stockhausen, 1967

John the Baptizer is calling the people to be open to a new beginning with God. That new beginning, we believe, they knew, and we know, in Jesus the Christ.

As I think of John pointing to the approaching Good/God, I think of the wonderful phrase ‘Faith is a bird that feels the light and sings while it is still dark’.

And this Advent, as I consider not just the coming of Christmas but the coming of the Kingdom of God,  I wonder … Is faith a verb for me? Does my faith cause me to act in ways that visibly point to God’s promises for humanity and demonstrate God’s presence in this world? Upon what action could I place my name, as a mark that I have put my faith in the God who is before us? I shall think on this.

If you are in the area, we warmly invite you to join this Sunday for corporate worship. The Advent soul will be lifted by some wonderful music that includes a sweep from the Genevan Psalter of 1551 through J.S. Bach and Charles Wesley to contemporary Joan Collier Fogg.  There is ample free parking on the streets about and in the surface public lot just behind the church on Queen Street. There is a nursery and a programme for children during the service. Have a look at the Order of Service, and the announcements … and join us!

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Have a look at our monthly newsletter. Its format is a bit strange, due to the fact that it is meant to be distributed as a three-fold paper document. But we pray you will consider each announcement a personal invitation.

Notice the Sundays of Advent, Christmas Eve service, Hogmanay, and so much more!

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‘On the Way to Bethlehem’ – Sanctuary Banner by Anne-Marie Gabrini and Fern Houston

‘On the way to Bethlehem’ – this is one of four new banners to be unveiled this Sunday morning. I love it.

I love the ‘naif’ style, with its flowing simplicity. The sun is rising, speaking of the new day about to dawn in the birth of the ‘Emmanuel’, ‘God-with-us’. A shepherd is unawares that soon he will be caught up in something awesome. A simple wine skin and bag lie on the ground, a meal is being prepared over a makeshift fire and a donkey is relieving his thirst speak to the journey of a couple. The Holy Spirit hovers over all, in the process of transforming an ordinary scene into something extraordinary.  I love this banner. I love each of the banners.

What I find most moving about ‘On the way to Bethlehem’ are the forms given to Mary and Joseph. Mary is wonderfully rounded in belly, pregnant with the One she is to name ‘Jesus’, ‘God saves’. But I look at Joseph, and I see his contours equally wonderfully rounded. It may just be the wind blowing his gown full, but I see a man portrayed symbolically as participating in the birth of the Saviour.

Is this not the call of Advent? We live the other side of the birth of Jesus, but before the completion of the Kingdom of God he began. God is at work among us, in others around us, we are called to support them and their work like Joseph supporting Mary. The call is for us to support any work of peace and justice that might point to the Realm of Peace and Justice that God has begun in Christ and supports through Christians.

This Advent we will be exploring the theme ‘Faith is a Verb’, beginning this Sunday with a look at Joseph and ourselves. If you are in the area, we warmly welcome you to join us. Have a look at the Order of Service below. There is a nursery for infants and a programme for children during the service. And there is ample free parking on the streets about and in the surface public lot off Queen Street just behind the church.

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Pilgrim’s Progress was written by John Bunyan in the seventeenth century and became, and has remained, a classic work of Christian faith. It is an allegory, describing ‘Christian’ along his journey to the ‘Celestial City’: every character and every experience is symbolic of our faith journey.

One scene came to mind this week as I was pondering my sermon. Christian is travelling with a companion named Hopeful. Their journey has been filled with trials and exhaustion, both physical and spiritual. At one point they had veered off the King’s Highway because this alternate way looked easier, and slept that night on the grounds of a castle. It turned out to be on the grounds of Doubting Castle, and its owner Giant Despair found them and locked them in his dark and nasty dungeon, where they were beaten and suffered terribly. The ordeal continued for three days and nights, and despite their wounds, they lifted up prayers of praise to God (like Paul and Silas in prison Acts 16:25). Just before dawn on the third day, Christian jumps up and exclaims ‘What a fool am I, to lie in this stinking dungeon, when I could just have easily been walking in liberty. I have a key in my bosom, called Promise, that can, I am sure, open any lock in Doubting Castle’. The two got to their feet, unlocked the cell irons, and set out again along the King’s Highway.

What might we receive from this scene? When doubt and despair come upon us, I am reminded that they need not overwhelm us. In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, and by our baptism into him, we have seen our destiny, we carry with us the key that opens the way to life, free and full. That key is a symbol of the promise God has made to us in Jesus. Using that key allows us to continue along the way of life.

‘Living into the Promise’ is what we will consider as we begin this week of grace.

If you are in the area, we warmly welcome you to join us. There is ample free parking along the streets around the church and in a public surface lot just behind the church off Queen Street. During the service there is a nursery for infants, and a programme for children.

What could be more appropriate than to begin the week of St. Andrew’s Day (November 30) in God’s praise at St. Andrew’s!

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Jean-Francois Millet – The Angelus (1857-59)

It became one of the most reproduced paintings of the nineteenth century. It shows two individuals pausing during their harvesting of potatoes for prayer. After completing it, Jean-Francois Millet wrote ‘The idea for The Angelus came to me because I remembered that my grandmother, hearing the church bell ringing while we were working in the fields, always made us stop work to say the Angelus prayer for the poor departed’.

The painting had been commissioned, but when the purchase fell through, it was sold for 1000 francs. Less than thirty years later, it exchanged collections for 750,000 francs.

I found it interesting that between being completed for the commission and the actual sale, Millet added the steeple in the background. It certainly adds aesthetically to the work of art. But it is also a reminder of the connection between personal faith and the witness of the Church. This Sunday we will consider the steeple, and how the architecture of our church building is a reflection of, but also speaks to, our Christian faith.

Samuel Taylor-Coleridge once noted ‘An instinctive taste teaches (us) to build (our) churches with steeples which point as with a silent finger to the sky and stars’. The pointed steeple of St. Andrew’s is a reminder of the Holy One and of Eternity, built upon the four-square base of a stone tower, a reminder of the worship of the people, calling for us to participate.

A church steeple certainly points us ‘up’, but there is another dynamic to be considered also … just as a lightning rod reminds us not only of flashes in the sky but also a power that descends. I will hold this part mainly for the sermon itself, but warmly welcome you to join us!

Have a look at the Order of Service below (we will be receiving new members with great joy) and also the invitations to grow in Christian study and community during the week. Sunday mornings a nursery is offered for infants and a programme for children during the service. And free parking is available on the streets around the church and in the public surface lot off Queen Street just behind the church.

The bells they sound on Bredon, And still the steeples hum.
‘Come all to church, good people’ – Oh noisey bells, be dumb;
I heard you, I will come.                                     (Richard Milnes)

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