Happy Thanksgiving

Do You Ever Wonder?
Recently we were driving home after worship at church. It was a beautiful day, worship was worshipful, limited fellowship on the parking lot was helpful for morale. As much as everything is very different from a few years ago, there was still a peace in our heart. As we travelled home, my wife, because she is artistic by nature, remarked just how beautiful the sky was and how lush and green the trees were, even with the approaching fall and winter. I agreed with her and also reminded myself how blessed we were that traffic was light, making the driving less tense. ,

Then I started thinking about – and wondering – why it is this way for us. We live in a world that is torn apart by strife and hardship. There are wars and rumours of wars. There are earthquakes in various places. Things Jesus said would come. He didn’t add all that we see today because, in Matthew 24 he was speaking to his disciples. They wouldn’t have a clue what he was talking about if he had mentioned wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, erupting volcanoes, climate change, carbon footprint, airplane crashes, drones strikes, nuclear threats and so much more. They might have known what poverty was. But they would not have recognized the meaning of pandemic, exorbitant gun violence, drug trade, terror attacks. If he had mentioned these things as signs of the end of the age, perhaps Peter would once again have taken him aside and rebuked him for speaking such foolishness. And Jesus would again have had to tell him, as in Matthew 16, that Peter did “not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” And he would again have been right to do so. When Jesus said the words about “the end of the age” the disciples were calling Jesus’ attention to the beauty of the temple building. And it was beautiful and impressive. There are stones so large that it boggles the mind to ponder, in an age of no technology or heavy equipment, how these buildings could have been constructed.

But Jesus was thinking, seeing, and prophesying into our day and beyond. Perhaps he already had in mind the day in the future when all those coming occurrences which he knew of, and the disciples could not envision, would come to an end and he would be taking his church of believers of all ages to a new heaven and earth. Then those same disciples will really have something to admire and thank God for. If we look back to the Old Testament, we know that some of the horrors of today were already happening then. Cain committed the first murder. Then God passed judgement, not on the ungodly, but on the righteous who had ignored Godliness (Luther), and destroyed the world with the flood. If we move ahead to Isaiah, we hear God saying, “what do you mean by grinding the faces of the poor?” After that we see God sending his people into captivity in Babylon for seventy years for disobedience. Then look at the book of the prophet Habakkuk. He was pre-Babylonian captivity, and he saw it coming. He sees the wrongs of the world around him. “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save. Why do you tolerate wrong?”(Hab 1:2) Habakkuk is a bit of a philosopher. He asks questions because he wants to understand. He sees what is going on all around his world. In the end, with no clear answer in his mind he finishes his prophecy with these words. “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of the deer; he enables me to go on the heights.” (Hab 3:17-19)

The verse from Isaiah, and the first verse from Habakkuk certainly look much like the world of today. But this last reading from Habakkuk only looks like part of the world today. And that is where my dilemma comes from. Why is it that part of the world looks like the world of Isaiah and many of the prophets, and my part of the world stands in sharp contrast to all that. When I consider myself and those around me, I am no more deserving of God’s goodness and grace than those who have nothing. A prosperity preacher would possibly say it’s because we, or I, am doing all things right. I refuse to believe that. I have known people of strong faith to be some of the poorest people. I sit outside today and look at the calm blue sky, the green of the trees, the peace and the quiet, the abundance of food in the cupboard, and if I need something, I just go to the store and get it. I have good health, good health care, good friends. If I need to talk to a friend to lift my spirits or pray with me, I pick up my telephone. If the peace and quiet need to be enhanced, I just turn on some beautiful music. And it just goes on and on. I don’t deserve this anymore than others with much less.

The truth is – I have no easy answer as to why I am more blessed. One thing I do know – I’m just a sinner saved by grace. Another thing I know – even my best efforts to do what God wants are all stained with sin. And the third thing I know – Thanksgiving Day is coming, and I need to give God thanks for all he gives us. Actually, everyday needs to be Thanksgiving day, even if there may come a time when my life looks like those last verses of Habakkuk’s prophecy. Here is a verse from a poem by Annie Flint.

But God has never said that he would give
Another’s grace without another’s thorn;
What matter, for every day of mine
Sufficient grace for me comes with the morn.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, Pastor Job

Expect the Unexpected

This message was instigated by one of my recent experiences. Sometimes I hear the remark that you should always expect the unexpected. I don’t often give that much thought. Another version of that statement is “I didn’t see that coming!” This time I was on my way to a meeting in Belleville. When I was getting close to the exit, my vehicle stopped running and I was able to move to the right-hand lane, the exit, and onto the exit shoulder. This all required a tow truck. Then the bad news. The engine had seized and needed replacing. I didn’t see that coming. As I was contemplating the high cost, I was then given the good news. It was covered under the company recall plan. I didn’t see that coming either! I offered a silent prayer of thanks and went home. I ‘ve never believed in coincidences. Everything happens under God’s watchful eye, and I wonder whether God has a funny sense of humour or if He allows these things to happen to keep me close. I lean to the second way.

This experience of mine is minor compared to the countless “unexpected” stories recorded in the Bible. It already starts in Genesis 2, when God gave “the man” permission to eat from all the trees in the garden except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil “for when you eat of it you will surely die.”. Did that tree look any different? Probably not because the point was that he had to be obedient to the Lord in all his beautiful creation. So, when Adam did eat of the tree he could fully expect to die. And in many ways, he did. But he did not die physically and in Genesis 3:15 he was promised that the seed of the woman would crush the head of Satan. He was promised a Messiah, a Saviour to repair the damage Adam had done. He couldn’t have seen that coming! Years later we see the arrogant young seventeen-year old Joseph (Genesis 37) strutting around in his “richly ornamented robe”, almost bragging that he had two dreams in which his own brothers would someday bow down to him. He could have expected that his brothers hated him so much that they sold him off to slave traders and he would be separated from his family. What he didn’t see coming was that he would eventually be elevated to second in command in Egypt (Gen. 41) to fulfil God’s will. If we move ahead to Isaiah (Isaiah 6), the prophet had a vision. Isaiah was a prophet who was used to getting messages from God through visions. He had probably come to expect that. What he didn’t expect was that absolutely terrifying vision of chapter 6 where he sees the Lord, “high and exalted” with seraphs flying around and singing “holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory,” to the point that their voices shook the doorposts and thresholds of the temple. What was even more terrifying was that he had seen the Lord and he now expected to die because, as God had said to Moses, “no one can see me and live.”(Exodus 33:20) Add to that the fact that by his own admission Isaiah himself was an unclean man. What Isaiah didn’t see coming was that one of the seraphs flew over to Isaiah with a burning coal in his tongs and burned Isaiah’s lips clean and declare his sin atoned for. That’s when Isaiah realized all this happened because God had a purpose in mind.

Moving on to the story of Jonah we encounter a Jonah who had no desire to go to the city the of Nineveh and warn them that the Lord was tired of their wickedness. Instead, he got on a ship bound for Tarshish to escape from God. He should have known this wasn’t possible and he could have expected trouble. A violent storm came up and the only solution was to toss Jonah overboard so God could spare the lives of the others who were not at fault. At this point Jonah could have expected his life to be over. What he didn’t see coming was that great fish that swallowed him up and kept him safely tucked inside until Jonah was finished pleading with God for his life and promising obedience. Then the unexpected happened and the fish vomited Jonah up on dry land.

Now think of the three friends of Daniel who refused to bow down to the golden idol that King Nebuchadnezzar had built. They would only bow down and worship God. Daniel 3 tells us they were thrown into the fiery furnace which was heated seven times hotter because the king was so angry. From their own words to the king it seems they fully expected to die. But denying God his rightful worship was not an option. What they didn’t see coming or expect was an angel showing up in the furnace with them and walking around keeping them safe.

The New Testament is equally full of stories. Young Mary, because she was engaged to Joseph, fully expected to have a wedding, be married, and have a normal family in that culture. The unexpected was an angel showing up in her room to tell her, a virgin, that she was pregnant through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, this was going to be a boy, and he would be called the Son of God. Later, the apostle Paul hunted down the people who believed in Jesus of Nazareth and were messing with their Judaism. He fully expected the Jewish authorities, and God himself, would richly reward him for his zeal. Then the unexpected appearance of Jesus on the road to Damascus struck him blind and knocked him to the ground. He became the greatest missionary ever.

What is the point of all this? When it comes to God you can expect the unexpected. In all the stories I have cited there is an element for fear. Adam, Joseph, Jonah, Daniel’s friends all feared they would die. Mary was afraid and the angel calmed her. Paul had to change. When God allows the unexpected to happen in our lives it isn’t often easy, but he has a purpose, and we need to trust him even when we don’t see the purpose at the time. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28) That requires obedience and trust.

Pastor Job

Easter Sunday –
Worship Service!

St. Andrew's had their first service on Easter Sunday since March 15, 2020. What a joyous occasion for everyone to share in God's word and reunite with friends.
Pastor Job provided a Good Friday and Easter Sunday message and led the church in the sacrament of Holy Communion.
Music and solo performances were provided by Jacqueline Van Hartingsveldt on the organ, Lorraine Ymker on the piano and Joel Bootsmas on the violin.

Happy New Year

By the time you read this we may already be into another year. I find it impossible to think about what this next year may bring and not reflect on what the last year brought. It is different for each person. Some of you are still grieving the loss of a loved one. You may be anxiously awaiting surgery or still recovering. Others struggle financially. There are those who suffer depression, loneliness, anxiety, loss, abuse, failure of sorts, family or marriage breakdown. We live in a world of addictions, of fear, of anxiety. We can fill a page with a list. Then there are those for whom the past year has been wonderful and they hope the trend continues. I think we can all agree that life is always in a state of flux, that nothing ever stays the same.
Then we ought to remember what it is that remains the constant of our lives. Every “what” has a “who” attached to it. We have just celebrated Christmas, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Look at how the gospels relate the story. Matthew tells us about Joseph’s struggle about having to marry a young girl who was already pregnant. The situation had to be explained to Joseph by an angel to put his mind at rest. Then Matthew launches into the story of the Magi who show up in Bethlehem sometime after the birth of Christ. The gospel of Mark starts with Jesus’ baptism. Luke is the only gospel that gives a more complete narrative of that first Christmas. John tells us that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Perhaps the differences are because the details of Jesus’ incarnation are not as important as the reason, the “who” and the “what.” So then the Christmas message becomes less of the fairy-tale birth so often depicted on cards, in pageants, and in carols. The message is much more about purpose and John says it clearly. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”(John 3:16) That was the message God already gave in Genesis 3:15, the message of his covenant with Abraham, the message through the prophets, the message of the birth narrative, the message of Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. It is that message that will come to completion when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.
And that means, that amidst all the blessings and all the turmoil of life, salvation and Christ are the “what” and “who” that remain constant. Imagine that! Christmas is all about Jesus the Holy Son volunteering himself, in obedience to the Holy Father, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, becoming one of us in the womb of a sinful human being. That is how much God loved this dysfunctional world, the dysfunctional me, the dysfunctional you. He entered this world so that, by believing in him, we have eternal life. It is just inconceivable that Jesus would stoop that low out of love for us. To us it is unthinkable that he would remove himself from that most beautiful place of eternal glory and enter into this desert wasteland with all its sin, its greed, its hatred, its selfishness, its apathy, its abuse, its hurt, and all the resulting factors of those actions, for the simple reason that “God so loved this world.” And because Jesus said, “I and the Father are one,” it can only mean that Jesus has the same love for this world, proving it by his death on the cross. On that cross is where he felt more forsaken by his Father than we could ever experience. And then to top it off, Paul tells us in Galatians 4:6 that God sent the Spirit into our hearts, and that we have become heirs in his kingdom. That means that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all involved in their love for us. All three persons of the Trinity take an active role in God’s love and our salvation. What a support system we have behind us.
So Christmas again reminds us that, as this world convulses and heaves as the result of sin entering through humanity’s disobedience, Christ came to set things right for those who believe in him and follow God’s will. The convulsing and pain of this world won’t stop until our Lord returns. He said he would. But knowing how much he loves us gives us a peace that passes all human understanding. That doesn’t mean our lives will always be peaceful. But there is a peace that becomes the bedrock of our life, our faith, our trust. And that peace brings hope, works itself out in love, and helps us to emanate joy.
And now we go into a new year in the confidence that God so loved and continues to love. That means we can go into this next year “Living for Jesus.” That is a hymn you may be familiar with, and here is the refrain:
O Jesus, Lord and Saviour, I give myself to thee, for thou in thy atonement, didst give thyself for me; I own no other Master, my heart shall be thy throne; my life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for thee alone. With that in mind, and in heart, we can enter the new year with thanksgiving in our heart, with joy in our heart. Each day, as we renew that vow, we can face the day, moving forward in the name of Christ. It is a difficult world we live in. We have two options. We can either be upset, angry, troubled, anxious, following the ways the world spells out for us, following the ways the powers of darkness would like us to go. The other option is to trust and obey for there is no other way because God so loved this world.
On behalf of myself and my family we wish you a Happy and Blessed New Year

Christmas Greetings

MAY GOD Grant you always - A sunbeam to WARM you - A moonbeam to CHARM you - A sheltering ANGEL so nothing can HARM you Laughter to CHEER you, Faithful friends NEAR you And whenever you PRAY, Heaven to HEAR you MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL Ray McCoy

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to our church family, we miss all of you, hope to see you soon. Stay safe & God Bless. – Janis and Joe Drummond

I know we can’t all be together this Christmas, but we will be in each other’s thoughts. Remember to keep the “CHRIST” in CHRISTMAS.– Marie Merrill

Larry and Judy Ducommun would like to wish all their friends at St. Andrew’s a Joyful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love this Christmas season. Merry Christmas! Blessings, Carol & Noah

Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of Love to those who need it the most. Kevin and I are wishing that our wonderful church family have a very Merry Christmas and a new year blessed with peace and grace in your hearts, happiness and great health. May the light of our Savior shine on you this Christmas.-Love Kevin and Laurie-Anne Hay

Wishing everyone a blessed Christmas season. We are missing our friends and family during this pandemic, but you are with us in our hearts & our prayers. Sending love & hugs. Merry Christmas, Bill, Sue, Sara & Gladys Gray xo

To my Church family: although we are unable to celebrate this wonderful Christmas season together, I would like to wish you all the peace and joy of this special time of year. May you and your families enjoy the beauty of the season during this very challenging 2020. Stay safe and God bless. See you in the New Year!-Kim McCann

Wishing all my friends and church family a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Missing our Christmas celebrations and looking forward to seeing everyone in the New Year. Stay safe and healthy-Carol Merrill

This has been an extremely challenging time for each and every one of us, but we have made our way through to this most special time of the year. Since we cannot be together to celebrate as we have become accustomed to do, each of us must gather our special memories of the years past and paint a mental picture of all those wonderful times shared with our friends at St. Andrew’s. I am sending my very best wishes (and hugs) to each and everyone for a most Blessed Christmas, good health, and much happiness in the New Year. Sincerely, Jeanette Globe.

Here we are at Christmas 2020. It doesn't seem possible, since we have missed the important holidays of the year. Easter was not the same, as we were unable to celebrate due to Covid 19. The crucifixion and the rising from the tomb seemed to happen without us singing its praise. Spring turned to summer. Summer into fall and the harvest table was just a memory. Christmas is now here, and the music is starting to come on the radio. The malls are abuzz with shoppers gathering gifts for families. Some of us will not be able to share the joy with families. Thankfully some will be able to connect via the internet. My wish for all this season is for health and happiness and that the new year brings us the ability to join together in prayer and praise. I miss my Church family and friends. Blessings to all of you. Donna Johnson

Merry Christmas to all people at St. Andrew’s, especially those facing health challenges, Rev. Job and family, Bev Boyce, Bev Mott and others. Thank you to Rev. Job for the sermons and people like Carol, Judy, and Larry who keep the shop afloat. John Grebby
I would like to wish my Presbyterian friends and your families a special and blessed Christmas and holiday season. I look forward to seeing everyone in the new year. Thoughts and prayers. Shirley Noble

From the St. Andrew’s Congregation – we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year filled with Hope, Peace, Joy and Love!

Blessings from the
St. Andrew's Family

We would like to extend our blessings and comfort to the community.
Stay safe and healthy and know that God is with you.

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Worship Sundays at 10:30am
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church
67 Victoria Ave. Belleville

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St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Belleville, will share the gospel of Jesus Christ with all people through worship, teaching, and service.

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