If you’re not quite ready to say “good-bye” to the Christmas season, then I’ve got some really good news for you. This Sunday, January 6th is Epiphany, which means Christmas isn’t over yet.

Sometimes known as the “12th day of Christmas” or “Little Christmas” Epiphany is the ancient Christian celebration of the day a group of Magi (a.k.a. wise-men) from the east arrived in Bethlehem to worship the young Messiah Jesus. But of far greater importance than the excuse it gives us to squeeze in a few more Christmas carols and to leave our trees up a few more days is the reminder that Epiphany provides us that Jesus is God’s gift to everybody, regardless of their religious or spiritual background.

The religious background of the Magi was just about as different as you could get from Jesus’ own very Jewish background. For example, the wise-men’s fondness for astrology is explicitly forbidden in the law of Moses and elsewhere in the Old Testament scriptures. And yet, in spite of all of the ways in which their religious views and practices diverged from the very scriptures that foretold the coming of the Messiah, the Magi chose to journey hundreds of miles across deserts and mountains in order to kneel before Jesus and worship him with precious gifts as the true king of God’s people.

Perhaps even more remarkable is the way in which God alerted the Magi of Jesus’ birth and of its significance, and then guided them to his Son to worship him as Messiah. We are going to explore all of this in more detail on Sunday, but what it all points to is the fact that Jesus did not come into the world to be the Messiah of just one particular ethnic group, nor was he born to be the saviour of just one particular religious community. Jesus came as a gift to the whole world and to every single person in it, and whatever their religious or non-religious background might be God is actively drawing everyone to the amazing gift of his Son. All of that and more is what we are going to celebrate this Sunday at St. Paul’s.

On a sadder note, this Sunday will also be St. Paul’s last regular Sunday morning with the Gowan family (Christian, Jessie, Gillian & Elliot).

After more than six years of Christian Gowan leading our musical worship at the 10:30 service, and Jessie Gowan contributing to our parish’s ministry to children and youth, the Gowans are following a call to begin worshiping more regularly a little closer to home in Quispamsis. Worshiping closer to home will mean that their children can attend worship with their classmates and that Jessie and Christian will be able to invite their neighbours to experience Christian Community right there in their own neighbourhood.

We hope you can join us this Sunday morning following the 10:30am service as we gather for cake and coffee in honour of the Gowans and as we let them know just how much we appreciate them and everything that their family has contributed to the life of St. Paul’s.

Weekly News 2018 03 22

During the season of Lent we’ve been exploring the idea that followers of Jesus are called to live what Michael Frost calls “Questionable Lives.” He explains, in his book Surprise the World, that Christians are called to live in such a way that those around them, who do not yet believe in or follow Jesus, are surprised by the things that their Christian neighbours do, and as a result are compelled to ask them questions about why they do what they do. These questions, in turn, create opportunities for Christians to share their faith in Jesus with their neighbours in a way that is natural and personal.

So far, we’ve explored 4 of the ‘questionable’ habits that Frost focuses on in his book: 1. Blessing others, 2. Eating with others, 3. Listening for the prompting of the Spirit, and 4. Learning Jesus. This Sunday we’ll be looking at the 5th habit, which is to practice seeing ourselves as Sent.

But that’s not all we’ll be doing this Sunday. We’ll also be starting our journey through Holy Week to Easter by remembering Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem just days before his crucifixion and death.

The approach of Holy Week and Easter has gotten me thinking a lot about the reasons behind our Holy Week and Easter traditions, and which of these traditions are really ‘questionable’ in the way Michael Frost proposes.
We may wonder, for example, why exactly people decorate and hunt for Easter eggs, but these are such popular and obviously fun traditions that they don’t tend to raise many questions for people.

Far more unusual to people (at least these days), and therefore questionable, are traditions like waving palm crosses on Palm Sunday, foot washing on Maundy Thursday, time spent in solemn reflection on Good Friday, praying and singing in the dark on Holy Saturday, and shouts of “Alleluia! The Lord is risen!” on Resurrection Sunday. If our neighbours could see us doing these things they’d probably have all kinds of questions for us.

Part of the answer to why we do these things is because they are traditions that have been passed down to us and which many of us have observed every year since we were very young. But there are deeper reasons for these traditions.

When observed with an openness to the presence and working of the Holy Spirit, these traditions offer us the opportunity to enter into the mystery of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We were not there when these things happened, but when we believe that it was for us that Jesus lived and died and rose again, these traditions offer us the chance to participate in these ancient and mysterious events.
And by participating, not just in these traditions, but mystically in the events to which they point, our sense and understanding of what God has accomplished in Jesus is enriched and deepened, and we are given a new appreciation for the hope and promise of salvation.

I hope you will be able to join us this Holy Week and Easter, if not in body then in the Spirit, as we observe these traditions, seek to enter the mysteries to which they point, and, by God’s grace, deepen our rootedness in His power to save.

The Red Triangle Award recognizes long and meritorious service, outstanding contributions and achievement in the community. This year’s recipients are Stephen MacMackin and Bill MacMackin.

These brothers and business partners are each involved with numerous organizations and initiatives in this community and beyond. Together, they represent decades of volunteer commitment and leadership that has helped advance the Greater Saint John community. Both have served on a variety of boards and have been involved with a number of projects that quietly moved our community forward.

The Red Triangle Award Gala will be held on Thursday, April 12 at 6:30pm at the Saint John Regional Y. Tickets can be purchased online at www.saintjohny.ymca.com , at the front desk of the Y or by phoning 634-4922.

For More News …