August 16, 2017
Running the Race set before us, SPY Survivor Retreat, 2017

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith… (Hebrews 12:1-2a)

Running the race, what a great theme for all of us this summer, especially with the Canada Games in full swing! Let us stop and reflect upon the sacrifices that each has to endure in order to achieve their goals. For some, their summers do not consist of sleeping in until 11:30am each day, instead it’s 5am practice. It is about training the body to be stronger, faster, better than anyone else. It is about being ready for the race. And for athletes who do double duty, like my friend, Heather Moyse, who used to train for Olympic bobsled and rugby during the same year, there is not much “time off” at all. Parents of athletes also know about the sacrifices. But it is the training, and the discipline, and correction that makes you stronger. But the journey of the athlete, like the journey of a Christian, is not always a smooth one. There are challenges, and set backs along the way. Your emotions are always high, and sometimes the challenges make you feel like you’re alone, and it takes all that you have to get back up again. But even in the midst of all of this, you have teammates and supporters who are there to cheer you on, no matter what.

St Paul uses this analogy because he was writing in a time where athletic competition (the Pan-Hellenic Games) were really popular. They knew that as an athlete it involves two things-the journey, and the goal. And both of these can be used as metaphors for our own Christian lives.
As Christians, we too are like athletes because daily we are training for the race of life. Our daily training involves being in the Word of God, in prayer, worshiping together, and than taking that message for the day out in our lives. It is as vital for us as Christians, as it is for athletes to train each day! For us, being in God’s Word helps us to be prepared for the competitions that life throws at us, at unexpected times. When we feast on His Word, we come to know Him more and more, and we will be able to face the challenges and temptations with Him guiding us. His Word is our armour to help us in the battles of life.
As Christians, we too are on a team, of Saints, a cloud of witnesses both in heaven and on earth. When we face the trials and tribulations of life, those competitions, we never do it alone, as we always have our teammates with us. This is why it is so important that we belong to a community of the faithful. We need to be here for one another, helping and encouraging one another onward in this race. And part of our preparation is that we make joining together in worship an important part of our journeys of faith, even in summer it is important that we pause and going in Worship. It is when we are gathered, that we are fed on God’s Grace and His Word.

With all of these things in mind, 15 youth, along with their leaders, spent July 31st-Aug 3rd running the Survivor race in beautiful Lake of the Woods. And in true Survivor fashion, they were divided into three teams and had to complete tasks based on strength, wit, and stamina. They built cardboard boats and raced them. They had to do an obstacle course relay race, which included running, jumping swimming, sliding, and crawling their way to the finish line. They had to find puzzle pieces in the sand, build the puzzle and figure out a riddle and locate coordinates on a map.
All of these challenges reminded them of how important it is to work together to conquer the tasks at hand. They even had to work together to prepare meals, and to keep the living quarters clean. The teams quickly learned how to use the different gifts God has given them to achieve the different tasks. They were encouraged, by their teammates, to overcome their fears so the tasks may be completed. It was amazing to see their grit and determination as they slugged their way through some of these difficult challenges. And yes, after day 1 they were feeling it! But as one youth said.. .“I don’t get sore, I get better”. Which incidentally became the motto for the week!
Besides the tasks, we gathered for an hour each day in God’s Word. Learning what it means to run the race; respecting God’s creation; being His light in the world; and talking about where we go from here.
It was such a blessing watching each of them grow in their faith, and in community. We had such a wonderful week, and we would like to thank Darlene for opening up her cabin for us to learn more about God, and one another. My prayer is that as we prepare to begin another year of youth, Thunder-Clay year, that they will carry with them the lessons they’ve learned from the retreat, not only for this year, but for years to come. For the youth are our present and they are our future. And remember, they too, are running the same race we are. So, let us run the race together, young and old, let us run together encouraging one another along, for we all have a place on God’s team. So let us run the race set before us, being His light, and bearers of His truth to this world.
May our Heavenly Father bless you as you enjoy the final weeks of summer.

 

October 28, 2016
Zacchaeus “The pure one” –“the Righteous one”

The story of Zacchaeus is too amazing a story to not share. As children, we sang songs about him, drew pictures of him in Sunday School and just saying his name, puts a smile on our faces. His story is one of the best known Biblical stories from the New Testament. It is such a human story, a short man climbing up a tree to see Jesus. You can just see it unfold in your mind, someone who would do anything to get a glimpse of the Saviour, of the One who was, who is, and who is to come.
Zacchaeus’ life wzaccas not easy, he was a very wealthy tax collector who spent his days going around taking money from Jewish citizens, and giving it to the Romans. There certainly was no “righteous” bone in his body. His ways led him to be an outcast amongst his people. What a lonely life he must have led.
But on this day, things were about to change for Zacchaeus. Jesus comes to town, and something stirred Zacchaeus to seek Him out, from a tree. He didn’t know what to expect, but the most amazing thing happened. Jesus stopped and looked up at him, and saw what was in his heart. “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down for I must stay at your house today.” Zacchaeus wasted no time, and was happy to welcome Jesus into his own home.
Zacchaeus could have stayed up in the tree, and ignored Jesus’ invitation. Plenty of times people do, why? Because it is much easier to go on with our own life, with our busy schedules, than it is to stop and welcome Jesus into our own lives. It takes risk to stop and allow Jesus into that part of us where our true self resides. But Zacchaeus took the chance and welcomed Jesus in. And it was his encounter with Jesus that changed the way Zacchaeus saw the world. Zacchaeus no longer took from others, but rather he gave.
The story of Zacchaeus is a powerful story of change-redemptive change! As we celebrate Reformation Sunday, may we look deep within ourselves and ask “what part of me, of my life, needs to be reformed?” May you have the courage to be transformed by the Grace and Love of our Lord Jesus Christ. To really experience true freedom in Christ.
Rev Melissa+