Saturday, April 16, 2016

Church #18. First Presbyterian Church.

Hello and welcome to another chilly Alberta spring morning! The church service started at 11 am , as I was walking through the shockingly quiet and uninhabited, downtown core. It was much more humid then normal, with the snow half-melted, and a homeless man on almost every block asking for change. I highly suggest walking down Jasper ave at 10:45 am on Sundays, as you can hear all the church bells ring!

All the large churches were ringing together in there different tunes and distances. From the Basilica on one end , all the way to McDougall United at the other. I am guessing this is one of the oldest churches in the city, considering it says it is founded in 1881,  and Alberta did not become an official province in Canada until 1905.

This was the front entry.

After taking my seat the church leader came to the front along with the choir. Announcements were made, and there was a performance by the choir fallowing the lighting of the Christ candle. The population of this service was roughly 90 people, majority were caucasian and seniors among some visible minorities. There are definitely children at this church (roughly 15 is what I could count). But in contrast to the majority of the congregation, almost all of the children were African-Canadians.

And then....a hand bell performance? In April? I am not sure about you, but I am very surprised to see a performance outside of the Christmas season. But regardless, I always enjoy listening to hand-bells. For those of you that do not know what hand-bells are, here is an example.

Next was children's time, so as per usual, all the munchkins ran to the front of the church to sit on the front row. The question of the day was "Who do you want to be like when you grow up?"  There were plenty of interesting replies: some of the kids wanted to be pilots, some doctors, and even scientist. One young man declared "I want to be a YouTuber!"

Then the church leader asked them what kind of super powers they would like to have. And as you can imagine that received a variety of colourful answers. Then the church leader asked why no one said they wanted to be like Jesus? And they wanted their power to be the ability to love people? Then a young girl raised her hand  and explained that she knew that, that was the answer he was looking for, but she refrained from speaking up because she didn't want to spoil his speech.

This resulted in roaring laughter throughout the congregation.

After leading them through a simple prayer, the children were excused, and went downstairs for Sunday school and then we got our sermon of the day. Today we heard the conversion of Paul:

* Paul got a name change after his conversion. His original name was Saul. 

Acts 9:1-19 NIV.

"9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength."

In the process of creating the "100 Churches 100 Sundays" blog, it has become inevitable that I would be encountering the same sermon more than once. I have definitely heard the conversion of Paul before at other churches. (ps. Mckernan Baptist Church 100% nailed this one with the speaker they brought in! Good job!)

We also heard;

ESV — John 21:1-19
* this was the third time that Christ appeared to the disciples after his resurrection.

" After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 this was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

The church leader today addressed what I felt to be a really pertinent question; "Why is there evil and suffering in the world?" 

The church leader explained that a lot of it has to do with people. "We get what we want by hurting others." He went on to give a scenario of two siblings fighting over a toy and how one child finds out that hinting the other child on the head is an effective way to get what they want. And then he highlighted the cycle of abuse, pointing out that "sometimes when we get hurt, we want to hurt others back!" He also noted that sometimes people hurt others because they want power. But what I found most intriguing was the last comment, that "Some people hurt other because they think they are right!" 

This really stuck a cord with me in light of the recent Ted Talk I watched entitled. " The Doubt Essential to Faith".

This speaker highlights the importance of doubt, in keeping us in check and how it is key to preventing the raise and terror of fundamentalist religions.

The Church leader echoed this exact same message when he said;
"I cant say this loudly enough.....- Being Right is a CURSE! " 

"...Suicide bombers think they are doing the will of God! And so did Saul! " 

He also went on to say "For as much as your hurt anyone, you hurt Jesus". And that that the proper Christian response to being hurt is to forgive, because we are all guilty of such things. I found this church leader interesting in how he was very clear and real about his position stating that he doesn't believe that God is "puppet master in the sky" or a God or wrath and damnation, but a God of love and redemption.  Here are a few more quotes for the day!

" Love all people, not just some people!" 
"...may the worst conflicts between nations be on the soccer fields and basketball courts!" 

So after the service ended, I was just getting up to take pictures, and I ended up making eye contact with a woman in her 60s, appearing to be a stereotypical Church lady, wearing a gold chain with not a cross, but an ankh.


Now considering all, this kind of threw me back. Because I know people that wear ankhs, and they are very strong pagans, that quite frankly would never step foot in a church for fear of catching on fire. ( *but please note, that is only the ones I know.)  Not to say that is always the case, after some research I have discovered that this symbol actually is considered to be acceptable by some Coptic Christians, but overall it is a largely pagan symbol.

Link- New World Encyclopedia/Ankh

 Now as for the building, I do suggest you check this place out! Especially when you get into some of the side room, and back halls, you really get a feel of some of the "castle-like" old world architecture. The bathroom in the basement is definitely an interesting sight to behold. Picture time!

I know I have used this video clip before, but considering that this is the "First Presbyterian Church", I simply can't help myself. Yes I am doing this. 

Ps. I know that you may have noticed that I marked this Church as #18. I did this after conducting a careful re-count, and discovering that I made an unintended jump from #17 to #19.  technically this Church should be #61. Thank you for your understanding.

Have a good week everyone!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for publishing such a wonderful to read blog. The part where you write about the need to feel and express doubt is dead on and it is surprising to find that so many people do not see this necessary truth today. Faith is a wonderful thing, but blind faith can be very dangerous indeed.

    Carson Coronado @ Old St Marys Detroit