From the pastor, 2009 - 2010

oct   ·   nov   ·   dec - jan   ·   feb   ·   mar   ·   apr   ·   may   ·   jun


    Return   (September 2009)

    Zechariah 1: 3 - This is what the Lord Almighty says: "Return to me," declares the Lord Almighty, "and I will return to you." (NIV)

    The arrival of September brings out a chorus of "back to ... " -- I'll let you finish the sentence. Some look forward to going back; some dread the idea, and put off thinking about it as long as possible.

    The idea of going back to something, or someone, is a Biblical idea. In fact, the English word "back" appears over 600 times in the New International Version of the Bible; the word "return" appears over 200 times. The notion of going "back" includes the idea of having first moved forward, and together the idea of movement points to a rhythm. Life has many rhythms. The earth moves back and forth, sometimes farther, sometimes nearer, the sun. We rise from our beds, only to return to them and lie down again. We get up from the table, and a few hours later return to it to eat again.

    The prophet Zechariah is commissioned to speak for God, and, among others, he reminds us that God sees our going and coming, and bids us return to Him. In fact, He promises to return to us.

    Sometimes going back means returning to resume a good habit which has been neglected for awhile. Attending public worship, spending a minutes each day reading the Bible or perhaps a devotional meditation, returning to talk to God in prayer in the morning or the evening or both -- all are examples of practices to which we are encouraged to return.

    For others, going back may mean a return to first principles -- asking the questions that are necessary in laying the foundation for meaningful life. Who am I? Why am I here? What am I called to do while I live? Where am I going? How can I be sure of getting there? Going back to first principles may mean re-ordering the priorities of our lives.

    Still others may find that going back means seeking to restore relationships. Re-connecting with children who have grown or moved on; recommitting to engage with a husband or wife, seeking to restore a relationship with a colleague at work or a neighbour -- all these are examples of what a call to "return" might entail.

    The good news is that God is in the "returns" business. Jesus came to tell many stories to encourage return. The parable of the prodigal son, returning to his father after having wasted his inheritance and having made a first-class mess of his life, is the best known illustration, designed to show us the wisdom of "coming to our senses" and turning back, to find our way to a God who is waiting to welcome each one who returns.

    Perhaps this is a point in your life's journey where you need to return to God. Maybe to worship, maybe to worship more regularly, maybe to share in a fellowship group, maybe to take up an avenue of service -- the point to which we return will be different for each of us -- but God's call is for all of us. "Return to me," declares the Lord, "and I will return to you."

    God has promised to return to us ... Dare we not return to Him?

      Your pastor, returned from some vacation, and glad to be back,

        James T. Hurd

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    Time -- and a Prayer   (October 2009)

    Psalm 90: 12 - "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (NIV)

    As I write this on the 30th of September, I am tempted to ask, "Where has this month gone?" Looking back over my appointment calendar, only two days can be found with pages unmarked with meetings, visits, appointments, or services.

    For most of us, the fall is a busy season. The "back to school" schedule for those with children is often marked with not only a return to classes, but also to music lessons, sports practices, and a host of other activities. Students juggle classes, labs, and part-time jobs. For those in the working world, new assignments, fresh deadlines, or extra travel can make the best planned schedules hectic.

    "Where can we find the time?" is often the question in our minds, if not on our lips.

    Amid the busyness, we are challenged by the eternal and unhurried Lord of time to consider each day as a gift, to be savoured and enjoyed. Moses, who spent days on end in communion with the Lord God on Mount Sinai, receiving the ten commandments and descending with his face glowing so brightly that his fellow servants and the people whom He served could not bear to look at him, prays, "Lord, teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." To number our days is not only to count them, but to use each one of them rightly, for the purposes for which God has given them to us.

    Jeremy Taylor, a pastor and chaplain to King Charles I, offered a prayer which captures the spirit of those who would use time in the way God intends it.

    With slight accommodation to current English, these were his sentiments of his heart:

    O eternal God, who has created me to do the work of God after the manner of human beings, and to serve You in this generation, and according to my capacities, give me Your grace that I may be a prudent spender of my time, so as I may best prevent or resist all temptation, and be profitable to the Christian community, and, by discharging all my duty, may glorify Your name.

    Take from me all slothfulness, and give me a diligent and an active spirit, and wisdom to choose my employment, that I may do works proportionable to my person, and to the dignity of a Christian, and may fill up all the spaces of my time with actions of religion and charity, improving my talent entrusted to me by You, my Lord, that I may enter into the joy of the Lord, to partake of Your eternal bliss, even for Your mercy's sake. Amen.

    Let us join in similarly acknowledging our time as a gift from God, and in offering all our time -- one day at a time -- to our Lord in consecrated service. In so doing, we shall be freed from the tyranny of schedules and deadlines, and be enabled to enjoy each of our days as God has designed them for us.

      Your time-challenged but thankful pastor

        James T. Hurd

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    Peace   (November 2009)

    Psalm 4: 8 - "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." (NIV)

    Peace and quiet are hard to find. Remembrance Day 2009 does not find the world at peace; our own country has many under arms in far-flung places seeking, striving, and suffering in a world too full of war. Our 24/7 always-on wired world offers unceasing sightsounds and stimulations; our globally inter-connected economic upheavals have eaten away job security and promised pensions have vanished. We cannot escape the effects of an influenza pandemic affecting people in all walks of life all around the world.

    David did not live in a quiet, secluded cottage on a tranquil lake. Rather, when he ceased herding sheep, he roamed the country, leading armies and fighting battles. Engulfed in inner turmoil, battling temptations and wracked with guilt, he struggled to do what was right in God’s sight. Caught up in civil politics and international intrigues, he was either hunting down enemies or being hunted himself.

    Yet he says, "I will lie down and sleep in peace." How can he do so?

    Calling the right number
    David sleeps in peace, because he knows who to call. He begins the psalm with the plea, "Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God." (verse 1) When we have need of help, we need to know whom to call. The telephone is a lifeline for one living alone, but only if there is someone on the other end to answer, and if we dial the right the number. We need to call in Jesus‘ name and ask Him to speak to the Father on our behalf. He will never be put on hold or have his request denied.

    Remembering the One to whom we belong
    David goes on in verse 3 to declare: "Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord will hear when I call to him."

    Our Dutch friends raised on the Heidelberg Catechism are blessed with having at least the first part of the first question and answer committed to memory:

    Q. What is your only comfort, in life and in death?
    A. My only comfort is that I belong -- body and soul, in life and in death -- not to myself but to my faithful Saviour, Jesus Christ ...

    David is able to rest securely because He knows that God has chosen him, and called David to abide in Him. Not because David was tall or strong or handsome, but because God, who searches the hearts of all, chose, out of His mere good pleasure, David to be his adopted and anointed servant. While David was a young teenager tending sheep, God called him, and set him apart for Himself.

    Trusting in the Lord
    David is prone to strong and violent emotions, leading him to act impulsively, and at times he falls into grievous sin. Yet he knows that humble self-examination is to be a daily exercise. He needs to repent, and to turn away from trusting in the strength of self and to place his trust afresh in God alone. "Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord" is his counsel in verse 6.

    I will call; I will remember; I will trust. All these actions together lead David to the conclusion, "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."

    Amid the challenging circumstances of our lives and all that would try our patience and trouble our peace, let us learn from David, and in the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us follow his pattern. Let us call to the Lord. Let us remember that we belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to Him. Let us trust neither in our own strength nor in the might or power of others, but in the Lord our God. Because He makes us dwell in safety, we will lie down and sleep in peace.

    David was tall or strong or handsome, but because God, who searches the hearts of all, chose,

      Your pastor, in the peace and confident strength of the Lord alone,

        James T. Hurd

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    Value   (December 2009 - January 2010)

    Leviticus 27: 3 - "Set the value of a male between the ages of twenty and sixty at fifty shekels of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel." (NIV)

    The headlines and news reports during the past year have been dominated by stories about the state of the economy. Much of the news has been "bad", and even as reports circulate about the "recovery", the subjects of jobs, incomes, and taxes are still very much on many people's minds. Even in Ottawa, insulated as we have been from some of the worst of the recession, there are still many who are painfully aware of hardships and cutbacks which have followed a downturn in business. Those who have lost savings through investments gone bad and who rely on fixed pensions for income are understandably wary about the future. Those who have lost the pensions they thought they had earned are even more understandably bewildered if not justifiably angry.

    It is good for those who are called to lay up treasure not on earth but in heaven to consider what we value. Not only does such a valuation help us to keep a healthy perspective on material goods, but it also allows us to make a much-needed contribution to public debate on what things we should count as priorities. Where should we as a society be spending our collective resources?

    My reflections today in part stem from two conversations. One involved a young woman caring for a family member. She is seeking to earn an honest, living income by working as a personal caregiver for others, and finds at the end of the month that too few hours at a minimal wage does not translate into enough to pay for the rent, let alone any food. The other conversation was a discussion at city hall about the perceived need to hire three more full-time garbage inspectors, at a total cost of a quarter of a million dollars per year.

    A wage for someone to work as a caregiver -- providing personal help to someone who is unable to do basic tasks of washing, dressing and eating, starts at ten dollars an hour ($10./hr). If one were to work forty hours a week for fifty weeks a year at such an honourable occupation, one would have a gross income of twenty thousand dollars a year ($20,000./yr). Surely helping another living human being to attend to the daily necessities of life is something upon which we would put a high value. Yet if one were to be hired as a garbage inspector -- in part to ensure that what can be recycled is sorted and separated properly from what cannot be recycled -- one would make, with salary and benefits, something of the order of eighty thousand dollars in a year ($80,000./yr). Which or whom do we value more: the individual who needs to be supported and assisted with the essentials of life, and the one who is willing to live and work to offer others such support, or the purity of our garbage, and the one who is content to tell the rest of us how to sort it?

    I don't need to extrapolate the scale and point out that by paying our average professional hockey players a "wage" of two million dollars a year ($2,000,000./yr), we are placing on their "work" to "entertain" us a value of forty thousand dollars a week ($40,000./wk), or twice what we pay a caregiver in a year. Yet I will do so, to make the point that we are living in a society in North America which has completely inverted the value chart. The two million dollars paid to the average hockey player is more than ten times what the average family doctor earns.

    The tax collector whom Jesus called to leave his tax collecting booth and to become a disciple seeking to draw others to follow in the way of Jesus ... the way God designed life to be lived ... the way of life in a loving, supportive community ... took down words Jesus spoke about God's value on "things" and "people":

    Matthew 6:26 - "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (NIV)

    We are to remember first and foremost that our value is assigned by God, and He puts a premium on each man and woman who is made in God's own image. Furthermore, the comparison of our value is made in the context in which God reminds us that He supplies even the lowliest creatures with the necessities of life. Will He not much more clothe us of little faith? We are to be comforted by the fact that God cares and will provide for us.

    We are also to remember -- and to help others to grasp -- that the values of God's kingdom are not the values of a fallen, selfish, pleasure-seeking leisure society.

    Jesus demonstrated God's correct and correcting perspective in a human society that valued power and wealth and leisure much as we do. Amid the mighty modern Roman Empire, the Hebrew believers were marginalised and "tolerated". Yet in such straightened circumstances, the Saviour appeared. Jesus was born in a cold cattle-shed in a small village in the dark of winter. His Father owned the cattle on a thousand hills, but our Saviour would borrow a boat for a bed, a donkey for a ride, and a cross and a tomb to live and die for us sinful sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. His apprenticeship as a carpenter prepared him to walk among the common fisher folk, and to lead them to live to build a new kingdom -- one that would address the human needs of the present but which would finally be established in heaven for all eternity. The riches of his glory were laid aside for a short sojourn here on earth, to be restored upon his return to the throne of heaven.

    How then shall we live for the few short years we have here? Let us, both in our approach to the celebration of Christmas and in our attitude towards resolutions for the New Year, seek to affirm the value of each person in God's sight, and strive to point the way to a biblical and God-honouring scale for priorities within the society among which we are called to be light and salt.

    Valued by Jesus, and seeking to sort value from trash, while preparing faithfully to use my new green box,

      Your pastor,

        James T. Hurd

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    Building   (February 2010)

    Matthew 16: 18 - Jesus said, "I will build my church." (NIV)

    1 Peter 2: 5 - You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (NIV)

    Jesus is building His church. In every generation, Jesus is calling men and women, boys and girls, from among every tribe and nation on the face of the earth, to be His people.

    In every generation, the church is called to reaffirm our partnership with Jesus in working to declare and to realize God's reign over all the earth.

    What is the Church?

    Last spring, we explored the question, "What is the Church?" through a series of biblical studies. We affirmed that the church is:

    • A called-out people
    • A confessing people
    • A spiritual house of living stones
    • The family of God
    • A holy priesthood
    • The Body of Christ
    • The Bride of Christ
    • Branches on the living vine
    • A burning bush not consumed
    • The salt of the earth
    • The light of the world

    The Church is all of these, and more. Each of these biblical images affirms part of the true nature of the Church of Jesus Christ. All of these characteristics refer to the church as people. This is who we are.

    What is the Church called to do?

    To describe the Church, however, requires that we also say something about what we do. It is not merely enough to say who we are. Someone may say, "I am a lawyer."; someone else may say, "I am a nurse." Yet unless we know what the lawyer does, or what the nurse does, we do not really know what it means simply "to be".

    The Church is called to do many things. We are called, among other things:

    • to worship God, in spirit and truth
    • to make disciples, of all nations
    • to share, the love of God
    • to witness, to the saving grace found in Jesus Christ
    • to be stewards, of the gospel, of grace, and of creation

    Where is the Church to be and to do?

    It is true that the Church is invisible, and that wherever two or three believers in Jesus are gathered, the Church is. Yet God calls us to meet together, and in our climate, that requires a building with a roof and walls, within which some -- but not all, and perhaps only a small part -- of the work of the Church is carried on.

    We gather in our building to worship. We do so today, yes; but we are called to plan for tomorrow, too. We gather for fellowship. We do so today, yes; but we also aim to do so in the future. We meet to assist in the training of children and grandchildren today, and their children and their children's children tomorrow.

    Our building needs to be a place where all may come and go in safety, and where access is no barrier. Our building as an expression of our life together as the people of God, is to be designed to aid in making the teaching about God our Saviour attractive to enquirers and newcomers. We are called to be hosts in a place where service in Christ's name to the community shines.

    The church as building is a place to worship, a place to linger in fellowship, a place to learn, a place to grieve, a place to rejoice -- a place to be.

    We thank God for Parkwood Church -- for the people -- for what we are as a part of the body of Christ, for what we will be.

    We thank God for Parkwood Church -- for the building -- for what it has been, what it is, and what it shall become.

    Let us commit ourselves to be and to do, to build and to labour, for the Church of Christ, and that part we know as Parkwood, to the glory of God.

      Your pastor, and fellow-builder,

        James T. Hurd

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    Olympic Glory   (March 2010)

    The original Olympic Games in ancient Greece involved competition "in the gymnasium" to celebrate physical prowess. The fast were motivated to run faster, the agile were inspired to jump higher, and the strong were pushed to be stronger. The winner's crown was a wreath of flowers, but also brought glory and honour to the city-state from which the winning competitor hailed. The winners were celebrated as heroes.

    Our modern Olympics similarly foster physical competitions which give rise to national heroes. Here in Canada, tremendous effort on the part of the nation as a whole and by individual athletes has given us the opportunity to witness a whole series of world-class inspiring and winning performances. We have been proud to watch as the first Canadians to win gold medals in Olympic competition on Canadian soil have been crowned as victors.

    As much as we celebrate physical greatness at the present time, human bodies age and decay, and memories fail. Most of today's champions will be replaced by others four years hence, in the next Olympics. Today's heroes who are now household names will be largely unknown to a new generation fifty years from now. Who can name the champions in any of the Olympic sports prior to the year 2000 -- to say nothing of those from the year 200 BC? Olympic glory is fading.

    There is, however, another competition involving the soul, which, unlike the body, is immortal. The competition to be re-made, spiritually, in the image of the invisible God is one to which all human beings are invited.

    The apostle Paul was of Hebrew origin. When he wrote to the disciples and churches in ancient Greece and Rome, he drew from the gymnasium images to illustrate the spiritual competition to which followers of Jesus Christ are called.

    1 Timothy 4: 8 - For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (NIV)

    To be godly is to be God-like, to be renewed, transformed, into the likeness of God, in whose image we were first created. That image has been marred and disfigured by the effects of sin, but those who respond to the invitation of the Spirit of God to enroll in the training school of Christ are destined to be made perfect in God-likeness, in holiness.

    Unlike the Olympics, where the chances of winning a gold medal are very slim, even for the elite athletes near the top of their sport, everyone who responds to Jesus' offer is assured of victory. And unlike the fading glory of an Olympic win, the Christian transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ is destined to reign with God in glory eternally.

    1 Corinthians 9: 25 - Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last for ever. (NIV)

    Let us celebrate the great victories of our Canadian athletic heroes, and honour those of all the nations who have done themselves and their countries proud. Let us also, and far more importantly, make certain that we enroll ourselves in the race that really matters -- the race to eternal glory, following Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life!

    Your pastor, going for gold, and praying that we will together possess the podium,

      Your pastor,

        James T. Hurd

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    The death of death and the birth of life   (April 2010)

    The convergence of the celebration of Easter and the arrival of spring is a happy coincidence on our calendars. Rarely do the dates match exactly; but knowing that both come within a few days or weeks of each other is a great source of hope.

    In the same way, the coinciding of the end of winter and the anniversary of the crucifixion also makes for a sombre but satisfying season. Dirt and death are swept away together.

    It is wonderful when good things come together in our lives. For some it is graduation, marriage, and the start of a new job all happening at once, like a friend of mine for whom all of the above once transpired within the same two-week period. Others are overjoyed when a move to a new house, the arrival of a new baby, and a financial windfall from a tax refund are all logged on the same page of the calendar.

    Some people are happy when good things come three at a time; others, though, are wary when it is bad things that come three at a time. It is not so wonderful when all the bad news comes at once. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the diagnosis of a serious illness can all pile up, and it seems the whole world is against us.

    There are times when the March/April period has seemed to be the worst of seasons. When I lived elsewhere, I knew someone who used to plan to escape to Florida for about the first thirty days of spring while the snow was melting, partly because he didn't want to deal with the mud and the mess -- or the dirt and debris left over from winter -- until after the sun had done its work to warm things up and dry them out.

    To escape the transition from winter to spring, though, is to miss the beauty and wonder of the signs of spring: the first robins playfully pursuing one another and beginning to build a nest, the first shoots of new life from the daffodil or tulip bulbs in the front garden, the joy of being able to navigate the sidewalks for the first time without boots. To step out and feel that "spring is in the air" is a wonderful feeling. It is invigorating and renewing, not only to feel and see the effects of the sunshine and longer days, but also to see and realise how closely spring follows winter. Darkness turns to light, cold is replaced by heat, and dead branches sprout new life.

    The death of winter and the birth of spring go hand-in-hand. Likewise, the season of suffering and death which culminated in the bad news of Jesus' death on that first Good Friday is followed so closely by the good news of his rising again on that first Easter Day. The death of Jesus for our sin and the resurrection of Jesus as the firstfruits of all who believe are intertwined. We cannot have one without the other. The two go together.

    George Matheson in his hymn, "O love that wilt not let me go" wrote:

      O Joy that seekest me through pain,
      I cannot close my heart to Thee;
      I trace the rainbow through the rain,
      And feel the promise is not vain
      That morn shall tearless be.
      O Cross that liftest up my head
      I dare not ask to fly from Thee;
      I lay in dust life's glory dead,
      And from the ground there blossoms red
      Life that shall endless be.
    As we watch the wastes of winter being cleared away and the colours of the dead giving way to the vibrant hues of life, let us give thanks for the arrival of spring. As we mark the suffering and death of Jesus our Lord on that Friday we call rightly call good, and his irrepressible resurrection on the very first day of the next week, let us rejoice in the life and hope that spring from both His death and resurrection, and which He brings to all who will receive and welcome Him.

    Psalm 30: 5 - "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." (KJV)

    Grieving in death but rejoicing in life and in hope,

      Your pastor,

        James T. Hurd

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    Foxes and rabbits ... and love in action   (May 2010)

    "Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom." (Song of Songs 2: 15, NIV)

    I am usually a peaceful man, who enjoys the wildlife -- birds, squirrels, and the like --which frequent our yard. Last Saturday, however, I was heard to say, "I would like to shoot that rabbit!"

    The problem was that I went looking for tulips in our garden. Having added last year two dozen new bulbs to the previous dozen or so that graced our yard, I was looking forward to a bright swath of colour in both the front and back flower beds next to our house. To my dismay, however, I found only a baker's dozen of flowers scattered in the front bed, and one, single, solitary tulip in the whole of the back yard.

    When I lamented to my wife, "Where are our tulips?" I was quickly informed, "Oh the bunny rabbit ate them!" Now I do not begrudge the neighbourhood rabbits their share of green food, but I do not willingly offer them my finest fresh tulips! Hence my comment to the effect, "Down with the rabbit!" At the very least, there are a multitude of leafy, green, flowering weeds which he would be welcome to chew to his heart's content -- but not my tulips.

    Hence verse 15 in chapter 2 of the Song of Songs caught my attention in my daily reading this morning: "Catch for us the foxes ... that ruin our vineyards that are in bloom."

    Solomon in the Song of Songs writes a poem depicting love. Offering vivid descriptions of a lover and his beloved delighting in each other, the Song of Songs has been understood and interpreted as an allegory describing the love between Christ and his beloved Church.

    To catch the foxes that ruin the vineyard is important to ensure the health and beauty of the garden in which the lovers live and rejoice together. Solomon is telling us that love in action works decisively to remove what is harmful, in order to promote the health of our relationship with our Lord and Saviour.

    In the same way, a shepherd is called to watch and act against anything which might invade or harm or destroy the flock of God. God also calls all of us to be on the alert against the devices of Satan who seeks to tempt, sidetrack, and ruin our relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Now, I might not shoot the rabbit -- but if I am to promote the health and beauty of the garden, I had better plug the hole in the lattice work under the back porch which is an attractive hiding spot -- and fill in the hollow under the gate to prevent the rabbit from gaining entrance.

    Watching for things that seek to destroy the flock of God, and praying for faithfulness to act to address effectively the dangers,

      Your pastor,

        James T. Hurd

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    Foundation for renewal   (June 2010)

    Discussion of Landsdowne Park has dominated the news in Ottawa for months. Pictures of architectural drawings have adorned the front pages of the Ottawa Citizen for several days.

    I drove past the old football stadium recently, and through the Glebe neighbourhood, a few days after the firebombing of the bank building at the corner of Bank and Glebe. It is so obvious that something needs to be done to renew the fabric of a crumbling, decaying part of the fabric of the city. Whatever one's opinion of the current proposal for a new stadium and redevelopment, or the merits or demerits -- and costs -- of the architectural designs under consideration, it is clear something needs to change.

    Time, the effects of weather, and the consequences of ordinary but heavy use, all take their toll on the fabric of buildings and other human construction. Though we like the status quo and resist change, we need to continually renew the fabric of our homes and our neighbourhoods, for time and use wear them away. What was once new fades; what was serviceable at one time becomes an obstacle in a new time and amid a changed environment.

    God called Isaiah to address a society that faced the need for change and renewal amid a crumbling neighbourhood and environment. Ancient Israel was set among neighbouring nations whose greatness and glory had turned to shame. Moral and spiritual decay had given rise to a loss of strength and beauty. Widespread decline was described in terms of the effects of a senseless rampage by those who were drunk, intoxicated with selfish pleasures and unaware and insensitive to the needs of those around them. Out of their minds, people contributed to the destruction, and were unable to grasp the need for a real change. They plodded along from one day to the next, with no vision or passion for a real renewal of their surroundings or civilisation. Their approach to life was summed up thus: "Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there." (Isaiah 28: 10, NIV)

    To this scene and situation God speaks. His mouthpiece is Isaiah, whose voice thunders like a clear, unmistakable trumpet call, announcing his plan for radical change and renewal:

    Isaiah 28: 16 - "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed."

    He is foretelling the coming of the Messiah, the Saviour, who will make all things new. Jesus, who will save His people from their sins, will initiate the renewal of life, laying in his own life and death and resurrection the foundation for a new relationship with God for each individual who receives Him, and the foundations for building a new society, a new community of those who live by faith in God and in love with each other.

    The foundation of personal renewal is a renewed relationship with Jesus. We need, each day, to recommit ourselves to loving the Lord our God with all our beings, and to loving our neighbours as ourselves. This is what following Jesus is all about; this is what professing to be Christians means.

    We are also called to renew the fabric of our facilities at Parkwood, to provide for safe, healthy, and attractive space for Christian education and nurture for children and youth and fellowship for the congregation of a new and future generation.

    We are called, too, to contribute to the wider renewal of the kingdom of Christ in our city, in our country, and to the very ends of the earth.

    Isaiah spoke for God to the people of ancient Israel, who desperately needed to be renewed and to become agents of renewal in their day. By the Holy Spirit, he still speaks to us today, who equally need to be renewed so that we will be renewing agents within the church and community of our day, and for tomorrow's day, too.

    May the picture of Jesus as the new foundation-stone capture our hearts and imaginations, far more fully than any architectural design, and inspire our labours for God in the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

      Your pastor, longing and building for renewal,

        James T. Hurd
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