Monday, August 23, 2010

Coming of Age

"But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir."
This Epistle to the Galatians (4.1-7) speaks of our growing out of childhood and becoming fully mature as Christian men and women. This can happen at any age when we give our lives to Christ by faith. Then, we come into a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ as sons and heirs to all his abundant riches in our lives; the love, joy and peace and patience we long for.
In the ancient world, the process of growing up was different. Even though an infant was an heir to a great fortune, there was no difference between him and a slave, he was under the control of the stewards and overseers. When he was old enough, he became the heir and was regarded differently, honored and obeyed. Different communities at that time had their own coming of age ceremonies.
1. A Jewish boy, on the first Sabbath after his twelfth birthday, was taken to the Synagogue, where he became "A Son of the Law." There was a clear dividing line in the boy's life. Almost overnight he became a man.

2. In Greece, a boy was under his father's care from seven until he was eighteen. He then became what was called a "cadet," and for the next two years he was under the direction of the state. His long hair was cut off and offered to the gods. Growing up was quite a definite process.

3. Under Roman law, a boy came of age between the ages of fourteen and seventeen. At a sacred festival, he took off the boy's toga, which was a toga with a narrow purple band at the foot and put on the man's toga. He was then conducted by his friends and relations down to the forum and formally introduced to public life. On the day a boy or girl grew up, the boy offered his toy, and the girl her doll, to Apollo to show that they had put away childish things.

We too, when the fullness of time comes, and we receive Christ as our Savior and Lord, are adopted as sons and daughters and become heirs. Consequently, we are no longer slaves or servants but a son and daughter; and heirs of God because God has made us so in Christ. We also are no longer children, we have become adult sons and daughters and have entered into our inheritance. The freedom of manhood and womanhood has come.

The proof that we are adult Christian sons and daughters of God comes from the instinctive cry of our hearts. In our deepest need we cry, "Abba, Father!" to God or "Daddy, Daddy!" "Because you are sons," says Paul, "God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father.""
"Ab-bah" is the Aramaic word for Father. It must have been often on Jesus' lips, and its sound was so sacred that it was kept in the original tongue. Paul tells us that this instinctive cry of our heart to be the work of the Holy Spirit. If our hearts cry, "Abba, Father" we know that we are sons and daughters, and all the inheritance of grace is ours. Have you come of age as a Christian? Are you no longer a child but a son or daughter of God. What a wonderful gift from God!

That's what I think, anyway.

Rev Ron

Be Prepared

Luke  or "Loukas" came from Antioch in present day Syria. Antioch incidentally had "the very first Gentile Household Church" and also where the followers of Jesus were first known as "Christians." Luke was a doctor and known for being observant, analytical and careful in his records.

There are two themes in Luke 12 concerning "financial responsibility." Jesus takes the opportunity to lay down what his followers' attitude to money and possessions should be.

He had something to say both to those who had an abundant supply of material possessions and to those who had not. Both were "to lay up treasure in heaven." It is however not the money that is very often the problem but the love of it. A Roman proverb says, "money is like sea-water; the more a person drinks the thirstier he becomes." It's more a question of how we use what we have been so graciously given by God.

The founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, had a rule of life. It was to "save all he could and give away all he could." When he was at Oxford he had an income of 30 British pounds a year. He lived on 28 pounds and gave 2 pounds away. When his income increased to 60 pounds, 90 pounds and even 120 pounds per year, he still lived on 28 pounds and gave the balance away.

You think we have too many taxes. In Wesley's day, there was a tax on windows and another on silver dishes. The "Accountant-General for Household Plate" demanded an annual return from Wesley. His reply was, "I have two silver tea spoons at London and two at Bristol. This is all the plate which I have at present; and I shall not buy any more, while so many around me want bread."

Jesus speaks in Luke 12  of the servant's preparedness in waiting for the master to return. The "master's return" refers here either to the Second Coming of Christ or to the time of our own death when we are summoned to meet our Maker. There is praise for the servant who is ready. Jesus says "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning." "Be dressed ready for service," refers to the long flowing robes in the east which were a hindrance to work so when a servant prepared to work he hitched up his robes under his belt to leave himself free for activity.

"Keep your lamps burning" said Jesus. The eastern lamp was like a cotton wick floating in a sauce-boat of oil. The wick had to always be kept trimmed and the lamp replenished with oil or the light would go out. So this theme of preparedness permeates the second half of Luke 12. It begs the question, "How would we like God to find us?"

We would like God to find us with our Christian work completed.Life for so many of us is filled with loose ends. There are things undone and things half done; things put off and things not even attempted. Our evergreen list may never be completed but our Christian work should. We are called upon to "Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness."
We would like God to find us at peace with our fellow human beings. It would be a haunting thing to pass from this world with bitterness towards someone in our hearts.

We should like God to find us at peace with God himself. It will make all the difference whether we feel that we are going out to meet a stranger or an enemy, or going to fall asleep in the arms of Jesus. No one can tell the day or the hour when eternity will invade our time and our summons will come. How, then, will God find us?
That's what I think anyway.

Rev Ron

Magnificat Dynamite

In Luke 1.46ff  Mary says, "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is his name."

Here we have a passage which has become one of the great hymns of the church called the Magnificat. It is saturated in the Old Testament, and is specially close to Hannah's song of praise in 1 Sam 2:1-10. (N.I.V.) which says in part, "Then Hannah prayed and said: "My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God."
Stanley Jones has said, "the Magnificat is the most revolutionary document in the world." There are three great revolutions brought about by God in people's hearts. Verse 51 says, "He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts." Christianity is the death of pride, and the greatest of sins is pride. That is a Moral Revolution. Why? Because if a person sets their life beside that of Christ the last vestiges of pride are torn away. Sometimes something happens to shame a person with a vivid, revealing light.
O. Henry tells a story about a lad who was brought up in a village. In school, he used to sit beside a girl and they were very fond of each other. Later in life, he moved to the city and eventually became a pickpocket and a petty thief. One day, he snatched an old lady's purse. It was a clever piece of work and he was pleased with himself. But then he saw coming down the street the girl whom he used to know, still sweet and radiant with innocence. Burning with shame, he leaned his head against a lamp standard and said, "God, I wish I could die!" He saw himself for what he was.

Christ enables a person to see him or herself for what he or she can be. It is the death blow to pride. The moral revolution in the heart has begun.

Then there is a Social Revolution, the Magnificat in Verse 52 reads, "He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble." He casts down the mighty and he exalts the humble. Christianity puts an end to the world's labels and prestige. Upper class, middle class and working class any kind of prejudice or pride melts away.

A scholar named Muretus wandered around Europe during the Middle Ages. He was very poor. In an Italian town, he took ill and was taken to a hospital for waifs and strays. The doctors were discussing his case in the upper class language, Latin, never dreaming Muretus could understand. They suggested that since he was such a worthless wanderer they might use him for medical experiments. He looked up and answered them in their own learned tongue, "Call no one worthless for whom Christ died!"

When we realize what Christ has done for us, it is no longer possible to speak about a common person. The social grades are gone. We are all special and unique and equal in God's sight.

Then there is an Economic Revolution. The Magnificat in Verse 53 reads, "He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty." The hungry are fed ... the rich are sent empty away. That is an Economic Revolution. Our society is a society where each person is out to amass as much as he or she can. A Christian society is a society where no one has too much while others have too little. Everyone must get in order to give away.

There is a loveliness in the Magnificat but in that loveliness there is dynamite. Christianity gives birth to a revolution in each one of us and that in turn brings revolution to our local community, our country and eventually to the world.
That's what I think anyway,

Rev Ron

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Queen and a Little Native Girl

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth, now aged 84, was on a state visit to Canada and as she visited Halifax was presented with a bouquet of flowers by a little nine year old First Nations Mi'kmaq girl named Tyeisha Jordan also known as Angel. As she waited the sweet voices of the Conne River Se't Anewey First Nations Choir sang "Amazing Grace" in the Mi'kmaq language. The Queen, gracious as ever, made her way over and received the floral tribute.

I was both touched by this story and also moved as I remembered another Queen, a relative of Queen Elizabeth known as Queen Victoria,  meeting with a First Nations Child. The story is told by the late Captain Ray Lewis, an American Church Army Officer, recorded in his autobiography "Glory" on the website Here's how Ray told it.

Queen Victoria
"I met a wrinkled one hundred and two year old lady wrapped in a tasseled shawl. She told me in a very thin voice of a trip she had made as a child to Europe. In England, she had performed in a Wild West Show before Queen Victoria. With a twinkle in her eye she related that the whole cast was lined up to be introduced to Her Majesty. Everyone else bowed or curtsied but this five year old adamantly refused."

"The Queen was curious and spoke to her father, 'Why doesn't your little girl curtsy like the others?' The Indian Gentleman replied, 'She's a very independent child, madam, why don't you speak to her yourself?'"

Queen Elizabeth
This little girl was called forward and gently asked why she would not observe this courtesy. "No," she blurted out, "you are not my God! My God's in the United States of America!" Warmed by her directness, Queen Victoria leaned forward and whispered in her ear, "God bless you, my dear! You know where you belong!" This frail child knew where she belonged. She belonged to a great God and knew it.

How quick we are to bow the knee and leave behind our highest principles because everyone else does it. How I wish that more young people and older people too had the courage of their convictions and the courage to stand up for what is right.

That's what I think anyway.

Rev Ron

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Truth and Reconciliation

Sitting Bull's Camp
I would like to offer for your interest the following account from the autobiography of The Rev Canon P.L. Spencer, of his trip to the Residential Schools across Canada in 1892. This has impact upon the ongoing Truth and Reconciliation process in Ottawa Canada. I have added a number of lantern slide pictures from this period to illustrate the text.

Canon Spencer emigrated with his family from England to Hamilton, Ontario as an eight year old boy in 1853 and became one of the five founding clergy of the Diocese of Niagara. He had a great interest in photography and left a legacy of over 2300 glass lantern slides (many of them hand painted) of his visits and experiences all over the world. He became a popular speaker and writer and gave lectures before the advent of cinema on topics such as "Ship and Shanty in the Early 50's", "Olden Days", and "Around the World in an Hour and a Half" illustrated by these same magic lantern slides. He served in Parishes for over half a century in Niagara Diocese before passing away on May 25th 1932 at the age of eighty six. (see his biography at

Passenger and Conductor
It is not often that we can read the actual accounts, hear the thoughts and see pictures of the Residential Schools and native peoples in Canada from 118 years ago. These extracts are offered without comment on my part, but it seems to me that they do illustrate the deep concern that Canon Spencer and other supporters in England had for native people in the Canadian mission field at that time. Here is a partial transcription of Canon Spencer's autobiography, (p. 115-122) provided courtesy of his family.

"In 1892, I was able to carry into effect a long-cherished desire to visit my native land (England). Having by correspondence with the venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel learned that I could be useful in England. I resolved to make a journey through the prairie region and go as far as the coast of British Columbia in order to see with my own eyes the chief mission establishments situated within convenient reach of a passenger traveling by the then slow trans-continental, The Canadian Pacific Railway.
"Who is afraid?"

"Having explained my object to the officials of that great railway corporation, I obtained a remarkably favorable concession, the favor enabling me to travel at a minimum cost and allowing me to break the journey at any desired point. At several places, I gave a lantern lecture on Eastern Canada. I also took a fairly large number of photographs of natural scenery, mission-buildings,  men, women and children, besides some views of Chinese life and worship."

"Among the places to which I gave attention were: Winnipeg and St. Peter's Reserve, Broadview and Grenfell villages, Crooked Lake Reserve, Fort Qu'Appelle, and the Touch Wood Hills Reserves, Calgary City and the Sarcee and Black Foot reserve, Lytton with its Christian Indian settlement, Vancouver and Victoria, each with its Chinese mission and Nanaimo, my farthest point of observation, with its relic of a Hudson' Bay Fort and its coal-mines of untold value."

Swift Current Blanket Shawls
"In Broadview I met "old auntie", a well-known Indian woman of many summers. How old she was could only be guessed, but an approximation of her age was afforded by the fact that she had a daughter who was known to be 80 years old.

"... A few days afterwards when the C.P.R. train was waiting at Swift Current, I saw on the station platform several Indian women engaged in the mercantile pursuit of exchanging highly polished Buffalo horns for their equivalent in silver coins,

"Lest I forget, I will here state that when returning from the coast a fortnight later, I made a closer acquaintance of the same buffalo horns vendors and purchased from them a pair of the prairie souvenirs, thus showing my good-will."

The Lantern Slide Photographs described here and many others can be viewed in the HiVu Photos Gallery in my collection (100 First Nations pictures displayed) at and go to HiVu Photos Gallery. The titles, by the way, are the exact ones written on the magic lantern glass slides by Canon Spencer himself, and I have not edited the autobiographical account in any way, only to modernize some of the quaint English terms no longer in use and strange views expressed as typical of the Victorian era. I wanted it to be as authentic as possible. I hope that this is both enlightening and helpful to us all in our own quest for truth and reconciliation.

That's what I think anyway.

Rev Ron

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Time and Eternity

Someone should invent a "Lifetime Clock" that begins on the day you take your first breath (or maybe the day you were conceived in the womb) and stops at the second you take your last breath. At any moment, on my hypethetical Lifetime Clock, you would be able to read exactly how old you were in years, months, days, hours, minutes and even seconds. I googled "lifetime clock" and discovered there is such a thing, a Life Clock, (see the picture at right) with this comment added,

"There's nothing more depressing than seeing your entire lifetime condensed down into something as small and contained as a clock." (Life Clock on Gizmodo)

With an insight into time, the LORD God told a youthful Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart..." (Jeremiah 1.5 NIV) Before we were even born, God took a note of each one of us and decided what we were going to be!

I was reading Christopher Dewdney's interesting book about time called "Soul of the World" (from Harper Collins) and was thinking about time as a kind of fourth dimension. You don't notice that it is gradually moving on, tick by tick, until you come back from a holiday. Everything seems to be the same in the house until you see an apple left on the counter top by mistake three weeks before. It was perfect when you left it but now is shrunken and wizzened. In fact, everything around the house has changed too, even minutely, but only the apple shows it.

The great hymn writer, Isaac Watts, (1678 - 1727) captured this thought in the fourth verse of his famous hymn, "O God, our help in ages past..." which he wrote as a paraphrase of Psalm 90. "Time like an ever rolling stream, Bears all its sons away, They fly forgotten as a dream, Dies at the opening day." The ever rolling stream of time bears all sons and daughters away and stops for nothing and no one. Like a dream, which is so real while we are asleep, it evaporates and slips our memory when we wake.

Time has to be set in its context of eternity. The Creation is the beginning of time and the New Heaven and New Earth is its close but before and beyond that there is eternity. Jesus is called the Alpha and the Omega (the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet) because he was in eternity before the Creation and will be in eternity once time is no more. The Beginning and the End, we speak about, does not refer to the period of time only but way before and way beyond that in eternity.

I remember taking relatives from England to Niagara Falls and looking over the wall, as we all do, at the tremendous amount of water churning over the edge of the Falls. Like time, nothing can stop it, it just keeps on going. Also at that moment, the skin on my hand is imperceptibly flaking off, oh so gently. Time moves on and we all change.

There was one moment for me when time stood still. I was on a motorcycle trip to Birmingham from Liverpool on a very wet September evening. Time stopped for an instant. God pushed his finger through the curtain of eternity into my time and asked, "Why did Jesus die on the cross?" Before I could answer, "for me" God was gone."From everlasting to everlasting you are God." (Psalm 90.2)

That's what I think, anyhow.

Rev Ron