Batteries need charging (September 2007)
We live in a world of power. Much of the electrical power we use is supplied by the provincial electric grid, and as long as the power is on, we usually take it for granted. We flip switches for lights and electrical appliances, and don't give a second thought to where the power comes from.
Increasingly, though, we also live in a world of battery power. I tried a little exercise recently. I attempted to list all the devices which I use every day (or at least once a week) which run on battery power. Here is what I found:
There is a battery to operate the garage door opener. The remote button on the keychain to unlock the car doors or open the trunk is powered by a battery. The car itself needs power drawn from its battery in order to start it.
My laptop computer runs on a battery. My digital camera is powered by two batteries.
The remote controls for the television, for the cable box, for the VCR, and for the DVD player all run on batteries -- two in each one. The clocks on the wall in my study, and in the kitchen, both run on batteries. The new digital thermostat runs on two batteries.
Smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and the security alarm system are all "plugged in" but can also run when necessary on battery power. Flashlights -- kept in the car and in the house for emergencies -- need batteries. I am reminded by my family that batteries are needed for most watches, calculators, and walkie-talkies.
The musicians in my family use instrument tuners and tape recorders, all of which run on -- yes, again, batteries.
The lapel microphone I use in public worship also runs on a battery.
Many folks (though I am not one) rely on a cellphone, which also needs a battery.
These last two items bring into sharp focus the point of my inventory exercise: a dead battery is a problem, and is generally discovered precisely at the time when a live one is needed!
Some of the batteries we use are rechargeable. In order to be filled with power, they need to be "plugged in" regularly.
The design of battery power is to enable us to use devices when not directly connected to the power grid. As individuals we are freed -- by batteries -- to use power when and where we need or want to. Yet that power is not unlimited. The batteries must be regularly recharged or replaced.
The design of battery-powered devices mimics in some ways the design of our bodies -- and our souls. Just as our bodies need regular recharging with food and water, sleep and sunlight, in order to function well and with power, so our spirits need to be recharged. Our souls are nourished on the word of God, through worship, fellowship, and even through service. Ultimately, we are designed by God to be nourished and fed spiritually by Him. Just as batteries need recharging, so do our spirits.
Paul knew that the source of spiritual battery power was the Holy Spirit. In writing to the church at Ephesus, he told us how he prayed for the recharging and renewal of the people of God:
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:16-19, NIV).
As we change or charge our batteries, let us also give close attention to the recharging of our spirits. Daily in prayer, weekly in worship, and periodically in the celebration of the sacraments, let us make diligent use of the means God has appointed to graciously supply us with power to live.
In Christ, the all-powerful One,
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Giving thanks (October 2007)
Psalm 105: 1 - "Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done." (NIV)
"Give thanks to the Lord" appears as counsel no less than thirty-four times in the NIV translation of the Bible. More than a third of those instances appear in three psalms, Psalm 107, Psalm 118, and Psalm 136.
These psalms each offer a reflection on reasons God's people are invited to be thankful. Psalm 107 describes four different groups of people who found themselves in different but all very much dire circumstances, at their wits' end, and who cried out to God in their distress. Having experienced God's gracious help, the psalmist bids them to "give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love".
Psalm 118 is a celebration of the saga of the saints: those who with God's faithful help, have overcome the trials of life, and who are eager to sing the song of the redeemed, and in so singing are strengthened to face whatever the future may yet bring. Some scholars believe it was the hymn Jesus and his disciples sung just before going out to the Mount of Olives on the night of his arrest. Martin Luther wrote on the wall of his study, "The 118th Psalm is my Psalm, which I love." It is designed to be the song of every believer: "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever."
Psalm 136 takes up the refrain, "His love endures forever," attaching it to a great list of the mighty deeds of God in creation and redemption, from the making of the sun and the moon, to the parting of the waters of the Red Sea. "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good."
Though the centre-piece of our annual Thanksgiving celebration may be a dinner of turkey or ham and a host of trimmings, shared with family or friends, we will cheat ourselves of many of God's blessing if our giving thanks begins and ends with grace at the table or even a special prayer remembering "all our many blessings".
We would do well to reflect on the psalms of thanksgiving, and then, inspired by the psalmists' example, compose our own litany, listing some of the great deeds of our God, and lifting them up before God as a sacrifice of thanksgiving. In so doing, we may well find our spirits lifted, soaring with the psalmists of old, and the company of Christ's people around us.
Here are a few of my own prayers of thanks. I invite you to compose and add your own.
Give thanks to the Lord, for the gift of our world -- for the sun that shines and warms, the moon that hangs and turns, and the stars that twinkle and shoot.
Give thanks to the Lord, for the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat.
Give thanks to the Lord, for the parents who brought us into the world, for the families who raised us, providing shelter and warmth, care and challenge.
Give thanks to the Lord, for a God who takes a personal interest in us, sending Jesus to live with us and die for us, and the Holy Spirit to awaken in us our need of a such a Saviour.
Give thanks to the Lord, for that same Spirit, who comes to dwell in all believers, and imparts such a rich diversity of complementary gifts.
Give thanks to the Lord, for the Church of Jesus Christ, a body to which all who embrace Jesus and are embraced by Him belong, transcending time and space, age and gender, nationality and ethnic origin.
Give thanks to the Lord, for good works prepared in advance for us to do, to introduce others to Christ's love and build them up in faith and hope.
Give thanks to the Lord, for the rest that remains for the people of God, and the eternal home which even now is being made ready for all the adopted brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
Give thanks to the Lord, for the promise of His return with the angels, to gather His people, and to summon His own to the great marriage feast of the Lamb.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, and His love endures forever.
1 Thessalonians 5: 18 - "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (NIV)
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Remembering Remembrance Day (November 2007)
The observance of Remembrance Day means many different things for many different people.
As one of the "baby boomer" generation, born after World War II, I have no personal memories of life during the war years, but as the son of a father who served overseas and of a mother who trained as a nurse during the war, I grew up in a home and community where Remembrance Day was always observed. Without fail, on November 11th, we walked downtown to the local cenotaph, where a long parade of veterans always gathered, usually under very gray skies, with the wind blowing, often accompanied by snow or sleet. Hymns were sung, prayers were said, and wreaths were laid in grateful remembrance for those who laid down their lives while defending king and country and seeking to ensure the freedom and make the peace, which we knew we enjoyed.
When I went off to university, the great carillon bells in the Soldiers' Tower at the University of Toronto summoned us to a short but solemn service of remembrance on November 11th, in front of the wall where chiseled into the stone were not only the names of students and staff of the university who fell in either World War I or II, but also the words of poem, "In Flanders Fields", penned by army medic and Toronto graduate John McCrae before he succumbed to illness contracted while serving on the battlefields of France in 1917.
The Toronto Scottish Regiment also met for a special service in the regiment's home congregation, Knox Presbyterian Church, Toronto, at 2:00 p.m. on the Sunday afternoon on or prior to November 11th, accompanied by the pipes and drums, and sang among other pieces the regimental hymn written by a former minister of that congregation. The bugler's sounding of The Last Post was always a very poignant moment in that service.
When I graduated and went west to pastor two rural farming congregations in northern Alberta, I was greeted shortly after my arrival by the President of the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, who came to request that I conduct the annual Remembrance Day service, held in the community hall, followed later in the day by a community dinner. This was a totally new experience for me, but one which introduced me a number of veterans with many different stories to tell of wartime experiences -- tales of losses and survival -- and families who very much wanted to remember.
After we moved to New Brunswick, among the privileges of ministry I conducted the funeral and burial for the last surviving veteran of World War I in Carleton County, New Brunswick. He was a member of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church there who lived to the ripe age of 103 with a mind clear enough to recall details of his wartime service, including a stint among the military police, and to affirm his gratitude for the privilege of resuming life in a developing Canada, working to improve roads and witnessing great progress in transportation and communication.
The last of the World War I veterans have left our midst, and with the march of the years, it will not be long before the last of the World War II veterans will also pass. There remain, of course, veterans of the conflicts in Korea, the Persian Gulf, and now Afghanistan. Many recent immigrants to Canada have arrived as refugees from the destruction wrought by war in many corners of the world and also know all too keenly the cost of freedom.
It is, I believe, a sign of God's providence that the annual day of prayer for the persecuted church sanctioned by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada coincides this year with Remembrance Day. We are called to remember those who for the sake of Jesus Christ are hunted, imprisoned, and tormented, and the families of those who have laid down their lives in faithfulness to Jesus Christ. He laid down His life for us, freeing us from sin, and opening for us the gates to live here and hereafter in the kingdom of God.
On Remembrance Day, we remember. We remember the sacrifices and the scars, and, lest we forget, renew the pledge we owe to those who have gone ahead to follow faithfully. We thank God that not only has Jesus gone ahead, but that he remains to accompany us as we journey, and as we journey with all who walk the road of self-sacrificial service of others in Jesus' name.
Remember those earlier days ... when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. (Hebrews 10: 32)
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow-prisoners, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Hebrews 13: 3)
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13: 7)
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead. ... This is my gospel, for which I am suffering. (2 Timothy 2: 8)
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G(racism) (December 2007 - January 2008)
1 Corinthians 12: 24-25 - "But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should
be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other." (NIV)
"Random acts of kindness" is a phenomenon which has become part of the Tim Horton's lifestyle. A driver when paying at the window in the drive-through
line for his or her own coffee decides to pay for the coffee order of the driver in the car behind them. This unknowing and unsuspecting driver is a
"victim" of a "random" act of kindness, and receives a gracious surprise when reaching the payment window: what was ordered is handed over, free of
charge! What's more, the one who paid for the order has driven off, and the driver has no way to express thanks to that person.
Sometimes, the recipient of the surprise act of kindness will undertake to share the gift, by paying for the order of the driver next in line, and
the "random" act of kindness spawns further tangible expressions of joy and goodwill.
I have thought a little about this "random acts of kindness" phenomenon, while reading a challenging and insightful book by David A. Anderson,
entitled, "Gracism: the art of inclusion" (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2007). The author is an African American who pastors a
congregation which is ethnically diverse. He is aiming to point the way to a Christ-centred and biblical model of inclusive church growth,
in the context of an urban cosmopolitan culture which has brought together people from a wide variety of national and ethnic origins. I think
he has something to say to us in Ottawa and in other Canadian urban centres.
His major premise is that the key to overcoming attitudes of racism --which tend to leave even Christians thinking and living based on a "You
in your small corner and I in mine" framework -- is for individual members of the body of Christ to engage in acts of gracism. Gracism seeks to
counteract racism through offering individuals who may be marginalised an intentional act of grace -- an undeserved but loving hand of affirmation
and inclusion. One example he uses is that of an individual standing in a long line at an airport who graciously makes room ahead in the queue for
a family of foreign origin obviously confused and running late while others were vigilantly guarding their places, eager to exclude any possibility
of having their place in line usurped.
Anderson roots his theology of inclusion in I Corinthians 12, where Paul reminds us that certain parts of the human body which "we think are less
honourable" (verse 23) we care for "with special honour". In the same way, the church as the body of Christ is called to give careful attention and
"greater honour" to parts of the body which lack such, in order that -- intentionally -- the whole body may be strengthened.
Gracist acts are not "random" acts of kindness directed toward unknown persons behind us in a drive-through line whose needs we do not know, nor
are they blindly executed "affirmative action" programmes that deny rights to others. Rather, gracist actions are those which seek to promote the
health and healing of one or more members of the body of Christ by intentionally offering to individuals in need of special care tangible evidence
of the love of God found in Jesus Christ which none of us deserve, but which all of us need. Anderson challenges Christians to relate to others,
especially others obviously different in colour, class, or culture, with personal, intentional attention, based the attention and care Jesus gave
to the Samaritan woman. Using Paul's counsel in I Corinthians 12: 22-26, he proposes that we become a community of individuals who will say and act
"I will lift you up"
"I will cover you"
"I will share with you"
"I will honour you"
"I will stand with you"
"I will consider you"
"I will celebrate with you"
These simple statements and actions, when directed to those who may find themselves excluded on the margins, may bring into the centre individuals whom God is graciously inviting to be part of his family.
As we ponder the real reason for celebrating Christmas -- the deep meaning of God through the birth of Jesus becoming one with us -- taking human flesh and living among us -- to reveal to us how much He loves us -- let us become gracists. Let us strive to be individuals who have eyes to see those who are different, and the courage to reach out to them. Let us undertake to offer intentional acts of grace so that others will sense the grace of God for them.
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That all of them may be one (February 2008)
John 17: 20-21 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one,
Father, just as you are in me and I am in you." (NIV)
One of Jesus' deepest, most passionate prayers breathed while He was here on earth was his prayer for the unity of the Church. He was not wishing that
everybody on earth would agree, or that people would simply "live and let live". No, Jesus made it clear that he was praying specifically for the unity
of His disciples. "I pray ... that all of them may be one."
Jesus desired, and still desires, that His followers -- those who believe in Him and count themselves as belonging to Jesus -- would be united. He
prayed for His immediate circle of disciples, that they would be protected and enabled to tell and show faithfully to the whole world the truth and
the love revealed by God in and through Jesus. The unity for which Jesus prayed was the unity of the first community of His disciples, and, ultimately,
the unity of the whole Church, throughout the whole world and through every period of time.
This unity is not an end in itself. If Christ's followers are united, and are seen to be united, the world will be the better able to grasp and receive
the truth of the good news that Jesus came to save sinners and rebuild lives to God's honour and glory now and for all eternity. The kingdom which God
has designed to build is a community in which all Christians are united in our common confession that "Jesus Christ is Lord."
My attention was drawn recently to the written basis on which the Renewal Fellowship within The Presbyterian Church in Canada was founded. I call these
words to our attention, for they summarize well the basic affirmations that unite the followers of Jesus:
- The unity of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit in the Godhead.
- The sovereignty of God in creation, revelation, redemption and final judgement.
- The divine inspiration and entire trustworthiness of Holy Scripture as originally given, and its supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.
- The universal sinfulness and guilt of all people since the fall, rendering them subject to God's wrath and condemnation.
- Redemption from the guilt, dominion and pollution of sin, solely through the sacrificial death (as our Representative and Substitute) of the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God.
- The bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and his ascension to the right hand of God the Father.
- The presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the work of regeneration.
- The justification of the sinner by the grace of God through faith alone.
- The indwelling and work of the Holy Spirit in the believer.
- The one Holy Universal Church with is the Body of Christ and to which all believers belong.
- The expectation of the personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are not called to all look the same, or sound the same. We are not re-made into the image of Christ to be clones. Rather, amid the diversity spawned
by our Creator's beautiful, artistic genius, each of us is unique. Like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, each one shaped and coloured slightly differently,
we are destined for the Holy Spirit to fit us togethers, members one of another, to be the body of Christ. Our unity is in Christ.
May Christ be pleased to unite us in faith, in hope, and in love, as we live together to show and tell the world the love of God found in Jesus Christ.
Seeking and rejoicing in the unity of the faith and of the faithful,
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Right under my nose! (March 2008)
Sometimes what we are looking to find is right under our noses. We can see it, and hear it, and smell it, and not recognise what it is.
Last month, to celebrate Family Day, we cooked a turkey for a family dinner at home. In preparation, I had removed from the inside of the partially frozen turkey the neck and the giblets, and put them in a small saucepan with some water on the small burner on the back of the stove. After carefully washing the turkey, I placed it in a large roasting pan, with a cover, and put the bird in the oven. When the giblets came to a boil, I turned them down to low heat; the oven, meanwhile was set at 350 degrees F. With the turkey in the oven, I turned my attention to other things.
A couple of hours later, I could smell the turkey cooking, and we began to enjoy the aroma, anticipating a delicious dinner. After awhile, though, the smell turned slightly sharp, and from my study I returned to the kitchen to check on the turkey. Carefully I removed the roasting pan from the oven, and noticed that one of the wings of the turkey was touching the side of the pan, and had dried out -- to a crisp. I thought it a little odd, but I pulled the wing away from the edge of the pan, added a little water, put the pan back into the oven, reduced the temperature to 300 degrees F, and returned to my study.
Half an hour later, the smell of turkey cooking, or burning, had intensified, and I returned to the kitchen again to check on the bird. There was still plenty of water in the roasting pan, and no evident signs that the turkey was burning. I have a reputation for cooking large turkeys which boil over and spill juice into the oven, setting off smoke detectors, but this was a small turkey well-contained within the roasting pan. There was, contrary to past experiences, no evidence of anything smoking in the oven.
Suddenly, though, hearing a small sizzle, I lifted the lid from the pot of giblets on the back burner of the stove, and discovered to my dismay that the pot had boiled dry. The neck of the turkey was raw on top, black on the bottom, and stuck to the pot! The source of the smell was now obvious. In fact, all along, the answer to the problem had been right under my nose! I had searched carefully, looking at the turkey, but missed the obvious -- the pot right under my eyes, and my nose! Needless to say, we enjoyed a turkey dinner -- but without any giblets in the gravy.
The Bible's record of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus shows us that there are several instances when Jesus as God's answer to human searching was present -- right under the noses of those who were looking. The centurion who was an eyewitness to the death of Jesus was one:
Mark 15: 39 - And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!" (NIV)
The disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus and then sat down to a meal with him were two others:
Luke 24: 30-32 - When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?" (NIV)
In the case of the centurion, it was only after Jesus had died that the centurion having observed the manner of His death grasped the fact that he had in fact been an eyewitness to the death of none other than the Son of God. In the case of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, it was only after Jesus broke the bread at the table with them that they grasped the fact that they were in the presence of the risen Lord and Saviour.
There are times in our lives when Jesus is present with us, and yet we fail to recognize the obvious -- even though Jesus is "right under our noses". May God give us eyes to see, and ears to hear -- and noses to smell. Most of all, though, may He give us minds and hearts to grasp His presence with us.
With a prayer for each to recognize God with us in our Lent and Easter journeys,
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Is winning everything? (April 2008)
Luke 12: 15 - "A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (NIV)
Several times recently I have heard a player or a coach say, "Winning is everything." Is it? Is an evening in the company of friends spent watching a sports competition "nothing" if one's favourite team loses the game? The conversations over the game may have strengthened the bonds of a friendship which may provide far more strength and comfort in the future than celebrating a fleeting victory in the present ever could provide. There is more to a hockey, basketball or soccer game than simply winning.
When the political candidate or party which one has supported loses the election, is everything lost? In Canada, at least, we would admit that the "losing" side still retains the right to speak and argue in the court of public opinion. The right to vote in another election remains. The opportunity -- and responsibility -- to communicate with those elected has not disappeared.
Those who have "won" certain gains -- through education, business, or investment -- may appear (and in some senses be) better off than others who may have failed to pass the test or gain the business or return. Yet the experience gained through the "loss" may well fit one to succeed in the future. Winning is not everything.
Jesus introduces the parable of the rich fool by reminding people that life is far more than possessions. The fool whose plan was to build even bigger barns to hold his huge harvest so that he could put his feet up and do nothing the rest of his days is confronted with his own mortality. Before he sees the light of the next day, he is summoned away to face God.
Even if one is successful in accumulating material goods and storing them, the risk of loss, either sudden or gradual, remains.
Recently, I had reason to sort through a box of materials put away in another place some twenty years ago. The materials had been packaged carefully to preserve the contents. As a result of having been moved from its original location, the box had at some point been exposed to dampness. Opening it, I discovered that the contents had suffered, and instead of being carefully preserved were now musty, dirty, and damaged beyond repair.
Matthew 6: 19-20 - Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy ... but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy." (NIV)
Jesus won the greatest -- and most important -- victory of all time when he remained sinless to His final breath. He won the victory over sin, and death. In rising victorious to be crowned King forever on the throne of heaven, Jesus is the real and lasting winner. His winnings -- of paradise and eternal life -- are secure. When we place our trust in Him, we gain an interest and share in those winnings. All our losses and defeats here and now are to viewed and evaluated in the light of what He has won for us. Let us hold our earthly possessions less tightly and let our defeats rest less heavily upon us.
Jesus Christ is risen today!
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Legacy of a Life ... Memories of Mariano (May 2008)
2 Corinthians 10: 5 - "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (NIV)
Dr. Mariano Di Gangi -- saint, scholar, shepherd, statesman, and servant -- was summoned to higher service on March 18th at age 84, after some 62 years of service as an ordained minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some at Parkwood Church will remember him as guest preacher on a few occasions until 2004 when illness prevented his taking further preaching engagements. Others will recall him as minister at St. Enoch's Church, Hamilton in the 1950s, as spokesman for Interserve during the 1970s, or as pastor at Knox Church, Toronto in the late 1980s. I remember him as an inspiration and example to students preparing for ministry and as a leader in the cause of Christ -- seeking to preserve and promote the health and honour of the Church throughout the world and through The Presbyterian Church in Canada in particular.
Dr. Di Gangi would be the first to say that we ought not to think of him, but rather of Christ. Yet, with the apostle Paul who said, "I urge you to imitate me" (1 Corinthians 4: 16, NIV), we are called to follow others inasmuch and insofar as they follow Christ. We have reason to reflect on those qualities which seen in the life and witness of Mariano Di Gangi show us who we are called to be as disciples of Jesus Christ. I give five, and in keeping with his fondness for "apt alliteration's artful aid", each starts with the same letter "s".
A saint - A saint is a sinner saved by grace, who is slowly but surely by the Holy Spirit being sanctified. There was among the testimony of those who knew him most nearly -- his family -- common affirmation that Dr. Di Gangi's life gave consistent evidence of words and deeds, attitudes and actions, married in happy and humble service to Jesus. He lived for Christ in all he did. He was rightly described as a Renaissance man, whose love of art, music, and letters all found fruitful expression in his painting, his music, and his writing. Coming once to live in a newly-painted manse, he caused some consternation to the hardworking church managers by asking if could have permission to paint the walls in one room, which he transformed into a beautiful fresco. His published exposition of the texts in Handel's Messiah has enhanced the understanding and appreciation of concertgoers. The gems of wisdom mined from a lifetime of reading the great theologians and preachers of the Puritan period will continue to inspire
future generations of pastors to preach the word of God faithfully.
A scholar - A scholar seeks to master a chosen field of study and share the fruits of learning with those who will follow. Dr. Di Gangi's Italian heritage led him to recover the writings of the Italian reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli. His work in translating them has ensured their availability to the wider Church in our generation and those to come.
A shepherd - A shepherd is a pastor who seeks in the manner of the Great Shepherd, Jesus, to feed and protect the flock of God, the sheep for whom Jesus laid down his life. Among the Italian immigrants in Montreal in the 1940s and the Scots-Irish steelworkers in Hamilton in the 1950s, Dr. Di Gangi called men and women to find the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ, and equipped and nurtured them for service. He led the church in Philadelphia in the 1960s amid the challenges of the civil rights movement to integrate its witness and embrace those of all races and ethnic origins, and continued two decades later in cosmopolitan Toronto to gather a congregation from all corners of the world, training students in some cases to return their native lands to live and lead for Jesus Christ.
A statesman - A statesman is a leader skilled in the management of public affairs, bringing together many for a common cause and inspiring their service. Whether directing the work of the Board of Evangelism and Social Action across the whole of The Presbyterian Church in Canada from 1955-1960, leading the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada as President from 1969-1971, or directing the international work of Interserve across two decades until 1986, Dr. Di Gangi's service as a wise and respected statesman for the Christian Church has few equals among his generation of Canadian Presbyterians.
A servant - A servant serves, doing without complaining what is asked. I remember Dr. Di Gangi telling me once that he was returning from a trip to Italy in order to discharge his duty to serve as a commissioner to the General Assembly, at the height of a great controversy which then troubled the peace of the church. I recall another instance where though in great pain on account of troubles with his back he sat faithfully through long sessions where the church was gathered again to seek and to do the will of God. In his final years, his calling was to lovingly care for his dear wife as she struggled with impairment of memory that sometimes comes with advancing age.
Two memorial services were held: in Ottawa on March 22nd, and in Toronto on April 22nd. On both occasions, the gathered congregation sung in heartfelt thanksgiving to God the great hymn, "For all the saints who from their labours rest". May the passing of this saint, scholar, shepherd, statesman, and servant inspire us to sing and serve, seeking to take all our thoughts and intentions and make them captive to Christ.
O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor's crown of gold.
Your pastor, much enriched by knowing the Lord's servant,
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General Assembly (June 2008)
Not quite a teenager, I was introduced to the then-new 1972
edition of The Book of Praise. The front page caught my eye. Entitled,
"The Call to Worship", there was a selection of scripture verses,
suitable to summon a congregation to worship. Most were short, and
One, though, was long, and in an old translation:
"Ye are come unto mount Zion and unto the city of the living God, the
heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels; to the
general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in
heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men
made perfect. Wherefore let us have grace, whereby we may offer
service well-pleasing to God with reverence and godly fear."
At the time, I could not imagine this being inspiring. In 1981, I attended General Assembly in
Ottawa as a young adult observer. Sharing with several hundred others in singing --
unaccompanied -- the paraphrase of Psalm 122, "I joyed when to the house of God ...", I came to
appreciate the significance of "a general assembly" for worship.
Now I understand that those words -- from Hebrews 12 -- are intended to be used to call us
to worship here on earth, but at the same time keeping in view the great General
Assembly in heaven of all the saints.
This year, our 134th annual General Assembly gathers -- again in Ottawa
-- at Knox Church for opening worship, with accommodation and
business at Carleton University. Let us uphold the commissioners,
praying for them grace, that they "may offer service well-pleasing to
God with reverence and godly fear".
Please pray especially for Dr. Hans Kouwenberg, moderator of the last Assembly, who is to preach
the opening sermon on Sunday evening, June 1st, and uphold Cheol Soon Park who is to be
nominated to serve as moderator of this year's Assembly. Let us also remember those of our
youth contingent here at Parkwood who participate in the Presbytery of Ottawa Youth
Worship Band which is due to lead worship for the Assembly on Tuesday morning.
Your pastor along with Parkwood's representative elder, Phil Campbell, are among the
commissioners appointed to represent the Presbytery of Ottawa at this year's General
Assembly, and will value your prayers for wisdom and grace.
In Christ's service,