First News

On Prayer - Insights from the Ancients

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When it comes to prayer, I find it more complex and confusing the longer I am a Christian. I have often found myself wondering why God needs to hear what I just said.  At other times, I catch my mind drifting into boredom when others pray for the minutia of all details.  Does God really help you find a parking spot when you are running late for an appointment?  What or who is prayer for?  Is it true that if I can get more people to pray for something, the likelihood of that happening increases accordingly?  I have a confession to make, I have more questions than answers.  So instead of confusing you with my ignorance, let me attempt to point you in the right direction, to time tested insights on prayer from the Ancients.  If some of these sayings below leave you with more questions about prayer, go and find a likeminded friend and ponder on these together.    

John Tsang                       

 

John Cassian (360-435 AD)

"When the soul is solidly rooted in peacefulness, when it is freed of the bonds of every carnal urge, when the unshaking thrust of the heart is toward the one supreme Good, then the words of the apostle will be fulfilled. 'Pray without ceasing,' (I Thes. 5:17).

It is a bigger miracle to be patient and refrain from anger than it is to control the demons which fly through the air.

For whatever our mind has been thinking of before the hour of prayer, is sure to occur to us while we are praying.  Therefore, what we want to find ourselves like while we are praying, that we ought to prepare ourselves to be before the time for prayer. For the mind in prayer is formed by its previous condition.  

Evagrius of Pontus (344-399 AD)

"The one who prays is a theologian; the one who is a theologian, prays.  The reality of God, experienced through prayer affects human understandings of God and of the self.                                                                    

St. John Chrysostom (349-407 AD)

He who is able to pray correctly, even if he is the poorest of all people, is essentially the richest. And he who does not have proper prayer, is the poorest of all, even if he sits on a royal throne"

You can set up an altar to God in your minds by means of prayer. And so it is fitting to pray at your trade, on a journey, standing at a counter, or sitting at your handicraft.

Whether or not our prayer is heard depends not on the number of our words, but on the fervour of our souls.

The test of the sincerity of one's prayer is the willingness to labour on its behalf.

Sayings of the Desert Fathers 

Abba Nilus said, "Everything you do in revenge against a brother who has harmed you will come back to your mind at the time of prayer.  Whatever you have endured out of love of wisdom will bear fruit for you at the time of prayer."

Do not be always wanting everything to turn out as you think it should, but rather as God pleases; then you will be undisturbed and thankful in your prayer.

If Moses was forbidden to approach the earthly burning bush until he had loosed his sandals from off his feet (Exodus 3:5), how can you not cast away from yourself every passionate thought when you wish to see Him, Who is above all feeling and thought, and to converse with Him?

Prayer is an activity becoming to the dignity of the mind, or rather, is its real use.

As bread is food for the body and virtue is food for the soul, so spiritual prayer is food for the mind.

Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

The fruit of silence is prayer.
          The fruit of prayer is faith.
               The fruit of faith is love.
                    The fruit of love is service.
                         The fruit of service is peace.

Posted by John Tsang

Community Carol Sing 2019

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With the absence of a Worship Minister this Advent season, Anthony and Justin made the mistake of combining the forces of the Klassens and the Findlays to produce this year's Community Carol Sing. "You can keep it simple," they said. "There is no Worship Minister; you are only volunteering. No need to change it up and make things too difficult". Together, Courtney and Robin Klassen, and Kurtis and Katie Findlay set to work on a program that would stun, confuse, and ultimately push the audience out of their comfort zone. They crammed as many terrible jokes, awkward video clips, ugly Christmas suits, and even a song that forced people to jump up and down, into a manic hour-long singsong fest. Despite all of this, many compliments were handed out by exuberant audience members, declaring their love of the evening and how much fun was had by all.

Amidst all of the irreverence, there were a few moments that stood out above the chaff. The live nativity featured many of our church children and was set to the backdrop of our beautiful sanctuary with a full audience belting out Joy to the World louder than the organ could play. An appearance by Frosty the Snowman brought smiles to the faces of everyone, even causing some kids to break out in a modern dance routine named after a practice in dental hygiene. There was also Daniel's touching story that reminded us that Christmas is full of surprises, the greatest of which is the coming of our Lord made flesh.

All joking aside, this really was a special time for the four of us. We tried things we weren't sure would work and retooled some of the long-standing Carol Sing traditions. It was really fulfilling to see our hard work pay off in the way the audience was fully participating in the evening. Looking out from behind the drums at all of the faces singing so abundantly, I saw so many people that I had never seen before. This was truly a community event in which folks from all over came into our building to have a good time. The message behind Christmas wasn't buried by snowmen and reindeer, and we hope that it lets people know that we Christians aren't the stuffy, uptight people that can be portrayed in media. It is for this reason that the Community Carol Sing is one of our most important annual events.

Thank you to all of you who helped out in front of and behind the scenes, to everyone who came out and sang, and for all of you who voted for Olaf in the Great Snowman Debate of 2019.

Kurtis Findlay

Posted by Kurtis Findlay

Advent 2019

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The Coming King: Good News for the Least

The Bible speaks of the birth of Jesus as the coming of a king. In doing so, it describes the kind of king he will be. But the promise of a coming king is also the promise of a coming kingdom. Many of the Old Testament passages in which we see a foreshadowing or a direct prophecy of the coming of Jesus give an indication of the kind of kingdom over which he will reign. Those passages are almost as much about the characteristics of the coming kingdom as they are about the coming king.

This Advent we will be looking at the Coming King and at the good news that his coming kingdom has for the marginalized people of the world. We will reflect on four passages which announce the nature of the kingdom the promised king is coming to establish, and we will see that it is good news for those who usually come last in society.

We will begin (Dec 1) with Isaiah's prophecy of the birth of a child in Isaiah 9:2-7. 

For to us a child is born, 
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders...
He will reign on David's throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.

On the second week of Advent (Dec 8), we will look at Mary's Magnificat in Luke 1:26-56.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me...
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.

On the third Sunday of Advent (Dec 15), we will examine Jesus' own announcement of his coming kingdom in Luke 4:14-30.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.

It is also common in Advent to look forward to the Second Coming of Christ. So, on the fourth week of Advent (Dec 22), we will consider Jesus' description of the return of the king in Matthew 25:31-46.

Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

Our Advent series will end with each of these threads of the Coming King and the Coming Kingdom being drawn together and declared as good news in the evening services on Christmas Eve (Dec 24). This Christmas Eve message will be suitable for you to bring anyone along to hear. 

 Maranatha!
Come Lord Jesus!

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View the full Advent Calendar 2019 here

Pick up some invitation cards at Connection Point and in the Narthex and invite someone to church this advent season!

Posted by Anthony Brown

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