The service video from this morning is mostly edited but uploading the video files is taking much longer than expect. They will not be available one the web page until (probably) tomorrow morning. We are sorry for the delay, but hope you will watch then.
There will not be a regular morning worship service tomorrow, March 15th, but here is what will happen….
A message from Rev. Scott McAndless
Dear people of St. Andrew’s Hespeler,
We at St. Andrew’s, like everyone else, have had considerable difficulties navigating the ever evolving COVID-19 crisis. If we were simply to rely on the directives that are being given to us, we would go on with our service more or less as usual. The Presbyterian Church in Canada has called on congregations to continue with Sunday services unless the local health authorities indicate otherwise. And, since the local authorities are only asking for gatherings of more than 250 to be cancelled, we are clear to proceed.
Nevertheless, official directives do not seem to be quite sufficient at the moment. Therefore, out of an abundance of caution and care for our people, let me state that there will not be a regular morning worship service tomorrow, March 15th, but here is what will happen.
I will go to the church on Sunday morning for 10 am. I will be there and lead in worship and there will be a few people to assist me. There will be no Sunday School this week.There will be prayers and other elements of worship and I will preach a sermon. All of this will be videotaped and posted here on the webpage by 2:00 pm at the latest. I encourage you all to participate in worship by watching. While our worship and especially our prayers will touch on the present crisis, I will, in the sermon, encourage us to lift our eyes beyond the crisis to look at where God may be calling on us to go as a church in our ministry to the community. The sermon title is: When there is no water on the journey.
During this time on Sunday morning, the church will be open. If you are not sick and have no symptoms, you may come in and join us in the sanctuary. However, we will require that everyone who enters must lovingly practice social distance. We will remain two meters apart from each other (unless we come from the same household).
Finally, please remember the church in your prayers and in practical ways. Even if many of our activities are shut down for a while, the financial needs of the congregation will actually not lessen. We appreciate all those who have made their commitment to the church through Pre-Authorized giving. We probably could not weather this without your commitment. If you are able to help us, please consider online giving. There are links on the web page.
We will be assessing the situation throughout this week and the next. Please know that St. Andrew’s is still in operation and will respond to your needs even if we may have to limit face-to-face interactions. For now, Bible study will continue, and the Food Bank is expected to still take place on Thursday. I will begin to post daily prayers and meditations for you on the web page. Please continue to check in.
Be in prayer for the people in the front lines battling the virus and treating its victims. Respond to the needs of your brothers and sisters here at St. Andrew’s, as well as those of your family, friends and neighbourhood. Be loving and full of care as you treat all people with respect even if (in these strange times) you may need to keep at a physical distance. Together we will rise above these unprecedented times. (please pass this message along to people whom you know are not online)
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” -- Isaiah 41:10
With love and care in Christ’s name,
Rev. Scott McAndless
I have written a lot of Annual Reports over many years of ministry. They are not as easy to write as you may think. How do you sum up an entire year of ministry on one sheet of paper, after all? You can’t say everything, of course, but what can you do that will at least give a flavour of what the year was like? I’m always open to finding a fresh approach.
So, here is what I’m going to do this year. You know those lists of questions that sometimes circulate on social media – questions that you are supposed to post on your page and answer while you challenge your friends to answer as well. Well, I borrowed one of those lists and adapted it to make it:
20 Questions about Scott’s 2019
(Do this without fibbing.)
1. Where are you answering these questions?
I am typing this as I sit in the car riding home (I’m not driving!) from a quick visit and a supper with our daughter at college in London.
2. What is your favourite church picture you took during the year?
3. Where was that picture taken?
At our Session retreat at Duff’s Presbyterian Church (February 2, 2019)
4. What was the hardest thing you had to do during the year?
Visit one of our church members in hospital. He was in a great deal of pain, confusion and so weak and there was so little I could do for him.
5. What was the greatest privilege?
Visit that same church member in the hospital and be able to be a part of that awful and yet meaningful and ultimately hopeful moment.
6. What moment in the year will you always cherish?
It was a moment that I cannot share with you. It was a moment of personal counselling that I cannot tell, but the grace of God was a powerful and healing presence. I will never forget it.
7. Best musical memory?
Most every time I got to sing with Joyful Sound!
8. What went terribly wrong and yet God turned it into something wonderful?
On Sunday, February 3, 2019, I was awakened to the news that the furnaces in the sanctuary were not working and it was cold in there, really cold! Oh no! What will we do?! What we did was set up and hold worship downstairs in the Fellowship Hall and we all had a great time and it gave us the impetus to start thinking differently about what we really required to be a church together.
9. What was the latest you stayed up on a Saturday night getting ready for a Sunday?
About 11:30 pm. I’ve gotten to the point that I’m really no good for much of anything after that. I have also gotten to the point, however, when I just wake up at 5:30 am Sunday morning and start getting ready.
10. Coolest surprise?
Carol Johnston knit Rudolph mittens for all the kids on the Santa Claus Parade float. (Somehow, I ended up with a pair, too.)
11. Best New Development?
Our youth grew in number and decided to organize themselves and elect their own leadership.
12. Best sign of hope?
We have a very meaningful moment when our session came together to create a covenant with the help of Rev. Greg Smith..
13. People you couldn’t have made it though the year without?
Our amazing staff. Joni is constantly challenging me (in a really good way) to be my best and bring out the best in others. Paula is so supportive and uplifting. Corey consistently blows me away with her talent and her leadership abilities. I feel I can always count on Glen to get it done. Karen is an amazingly caring presence, pulls people together and makes a meaningful community ministry possible.
14. Best church meal?
There were so many and they were so good but I’m going to have to go with the Thursday Night Supper and Social Christmas feast!
15. Your earliest workday?
December 9, I got to work at 5:20 a.m. It was to open up the church and turn off the alarm for a film crew.
16. Does pineapple belong on pizza?
Umm, maybe, under certain circumstances. Who am I kidding – it’s pizza. Of course, I’ll eat it!
17. Most fun at a new event?
Open Mic. What an incredible cavalcade of the talents of this congregation.
18. Who do you think will read this report?
Everyone, of course! They will pour over it like it’s a newly discovered gospel.
19. Who will comment to you on the silliness of that previous answer?
Joni, Paula, Dominique, Ray and Allison.
20. Who will be upset that you mentioned their name in the previous answer?
Joni, Dominique, Ray and Allison!
Hespeler, 26 January 2020 © Scott McAndless
Isaiah 9:1-4, Psalm 27:1, 4-9, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18, Matthew 4:12-23
Zebedee was getting old. He’d been at this fishing trade for a long time – maybe too long. His hearing wasn’t what it once was and that was probably why he didn’t hear when the man came walking down the shores of the Sea of Galilee and spoke to his sons who were sitting at the other end of the boat. He didn’t even look up from the rather difficult knot that he was struggling to get out of the net.
Besides, he was busy talking – something that he seemed to do all day every day – something that his two sons, James and John, were so accustomed to listening to that they generally responded with nothing but nods and the odd grunt.
“Have you heard about what happened up Capernaum way the other day,” he had been saying to them. “You know Peter and Andrew, the two brothers who have a boat up there? Well, they were out casting their nets just a little off from shore when that new young man – you know, the one that just moved down from the hills in Nazareth – came along. He apparently called out to them across the water and he told them – get this – he told them that they should stop fishing for fish and start fishing for people instead.
“But that’s not the really crazy part, oh no! The really crazy part is that they actually listened to him. They jumped off their boat, leaving behind a pretty decent catch of fish in the process, and swam to him and then started following him. Can you believe that?
“They left everything behind. I mean, I realize that there’s not a lot of good money in fishing these days. I know better than anybody how hard it is to get by, but these are men who have people depending on them. Peter’s got a wife and a couple of kids. Andrew is taking care of his mother and his sisters. I mean, it’s just not fair that they should leave those people behind and go off after somebody just because he’s got these crazy ideas that maybe mean something to them. It’s just not fair that Jesus would even ask them to do something like that.
“Well, at least I know that something like that is not going to happen to me. I know that I can count on my boys to be there for me and to keep this old fishing boat going when I get too old to go out there on the water day after day. You boys know that it wouldn’t be fair for you to leave me and… boys? Jimmy, Johnny? You guys are being pretty quiet back there in the stern. You wouldn’t be playing a joke on your old man now would you? Boys, boys?”
Now, obviously I don’t know if it went down like that. The Gospel of Matthew tells the story very briefly with little detail. Maybe James and John did have a good talk with their father before they got up and left and the old man was in agreement. But I certainly don’t get that impression from reading the gospel story. The point of the story seems to be that they just got up and left. And I can’t help but think about what that meant for their father – how he must have thought it was all unfair.
Last fall in the auction, I put a sermon up for the bidding. I said that I would give the person who bid the most the opportunity to tell me what to preach about one Sunday in January: this Sunday. The winner was Andy Cann. And after, I am sure, that Andy flirted with the thought of making me preach something that would probably end my career, he finally suggested to me the title of this morning’s sermon: “It ain’t fair.” Which, frankly, could still end my career if I don’t watch out.
Now, Andy was thinking about some particular things that happen in the church when he suggested that topic. He spoke about some of the ways in which the burden of the work of the church tends to fall unfairly on certain people. He spoke, for example, about particular case (that I won’t spell out because I don’t have permission from everyone involved), but it was a case where a small group of people were supporting an important mission of the church – something that we are all supposed to be part of – mostly out of their own pockets. That, Andy pointed out rightly enough, that ain’t right.
I don’t really need to get into specific cases in order to explore what Andy was getting at because this is actually something that happens in the church all the time. I don’t know how many times over the years I have had somebody come up to me talking about some very similar situation – a situation where somebody feels as if they (or somebody else) are unfairly loaded with some burden, cost or duty in the church. I don’t know how many times I have heard people complain that others aren’t pitching in and doing their part. And of course, there generally is a lot of truth to what is being said because it is almost never true that the burden of being the church is evenly distributed among all the people.
And part of me wants to use Andy’s question to stir people up, to get them to all step up and pitch in – to make sure that we all collectively own and support the good work that the church does. And, of course, that is a noble goal. But I do generally find that, before we ask people to act differently – to share the load differently – we need to ask why it is that people behave the way that they do now. If you don’t understand that, chances are you will not be successful at bringing about the changes that you would like to see.
The first question, I think, is whether or not fairness is actually what we should be striving for. The answer to that question might be no. When Jesus came along and stole Zebedee’s two sons away from him, the two sons that he had been depending on to take over the family business, do you think that Jesus was aware of the hardship that he might be causing for the old man? I think that he was. I think that he was aware that, to a certain extent, it was unfair of him to deprive Zebedee of the family supports that he had been counting on.
But why was Jesus there? He was there to proclaim a message, and that message was, Matthew tells us, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Jesus was announcing that something so big had arrived that it had changed everything. What’s more, he declared that the arrival of the kingdom demanded a particular response: repentance. The word that Jesus uses there – the word that is translated as repent – is a Greek word that actually means to change one’s mind and one’s heart. Jesus was saying that, because God had turned up on the scene to do something grand, that it was time for everyone to start thinking about life and just about everything else in completely different ways. Apparently, that included thinking differently about things like the expectations that society placed upon you.
What James and John did, getting up and walking away from their lives, may have broken all of the expectations that society had placed upon them, but it was actually the perfect response to the new reality that Jesus had brought into being. All of that is a way of saying that our human notions of fairness, that idea that everyone else should live up to the expectations we have of them, may have been superseded by something greater, something more important, by the kingdom of heaven which blasts everyone’s expectations out of the water – apparently literally in the case of Peter and Andrew.
Now, does that mean that there should be no expectation of fairness in the life of the church? Of course not. But it does mean that we are supposed to look at the bigger picture and not just the fairness of a particular circumstance.
I’ve always been a bit puzzled by our reading this morning from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Addressing the church, he says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” But then, only a couple of lines later he says, “for all must carry their own loads.” Now just wait a minute here, Paul, which is it? Do we carry other people’s burdens or just our own? Surely you cannot have it both ways.
But, of course, Paul knew exactly what he was doing when he put those two contradictory sentences so close together. He was trying to get our attention. He was actually trying to show us that, when we focus on what other people are doing or contributing, we will go astray. That is why, in between those two contradictory statements, he slips in this little gem: “All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbour’s work, will become a cause for pride.”
You see, if we only focus on what other people are doing (or failing to do), the church can never become what it needs to be. Focussing on what other people do, Paul warns us, is the cause of pride. Pride is a difficult concept for us to understand sometimes. Pride can sometimes be a good thing like, for example, when someone takes pride in doing a job well. When you set out to do something and you put everything you can into it and get the results you are trying for, of course you should be able to feel good about what you have accomplished.
Paul is not here warning about that kind of pride because it is a pride that that is related to testing your own work, focussing on what you can do. The problem comes when you try to feel good about yourself by focussing on other people – by putting someone else down so that you look better or by criticizing somebody else’s best efforts. That, Paul is saying, is what is very destructive for the church and in many other areas of life. And I will say that, yes, that is something that I have seen often enough in the life of the church.
Sometimes, for example, the very people who carry the heavy loads at the church, and occasionally righteously complain about it, are trapped precisely because they have this problem. They might well say, for example, that they want somebody else to take on their burden, but what happens when somebody actually steps up to do so? Well, they don’t do it right, do they? They don’t do it in the way that it has always been done, so they can’t take over. And so the person who tries to take on their burden gives up in frustration and they end up still carrying that burden and (even better) still being able to complain about how unfair it is. That is all about a dangerous kind of pride, all about feeling better about yourself by criticizing others and it has no place in the logic of the kingdom of heaven.
Paul suggests that the only way for you to avoid this kind of pitfall is to focus on what you can do, how you can contribute by bearing the burdens of others rather than on who ought to be bearing your burdens and who ought to be doing what and how and so falling into the pride that puts others down. The result of all of that is not always going to be fair in the sense that the burdens will always be equally distributed. But the kingdom was always about more than what feels fair in the moment, it is about changing the way that we look at everything because God has suddenly shown up on the scene.
I feel for poor Zebedee left alone in his boat. The aftermath of all of that cannot have been easy for him. But he also had his role to play and a burden to bear in the great thing that God was doing. I have to believe that he came to realize that, even if it took some time. We all have our roles to play and our burdens to carry. As we all focus on what we can do to carry the loads of others, we will come to find the true strength of the message that Jesus brought.
Stay tuned for lots of opportunities to explore your creativity! Starting on Sunday, January 26th and running for 6 weeks. Something for everyone, adults and children, week days and weekends. Musics and arts!
From the Session, Deacons and staff of St. Andrew's, we wish you all God's richest blessings for 2020!