“Turn from your sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” Matthew 4.17
Throughout the season of Lent we are taken on a journey of self-reflection. For some, this involves denial of things that we might prefer to enjoy, others commit to a more rigorous life of prayer and Scripture reading, and still some are torn by guilt to “give something up” and still fall prey to our homegrown coffee-shop who offers special incentives to keep us in their stores.
We might view John the Baptist as a personification of a Lenten journey. His lifestyle was one of denial and of drawing toward God. He kept very little to himself and invited people to prepare themselves for the coming of the Kingdom of God. This preparation requires the gift of repentance. Through this gift, we are invited to recognize where we have fallen short of God’s best, and wish to acknowledge the need for forgiveness.
The Kingdom of Heaven was the primary message of Jesus. In this message, Jesus was saying that God has reestablished his reign over his Kingdom. Time and time again, this was the message Jesus proclaimed and the one that the disciples were sent out to proclaim as well.
The difference between John’s message and Jesus’ was the “soon-to-be” and “it’s here”. We have that the same message to proclaim; God, who created you, wants to be in relationship with you. The freedom for our gift of repentance comes in the gift of Jesus’ death on the cross. This Kingdom, this restored relationship is for today.
Like the disciples, we have been given the opportunity to share this good news, today. Our communities are desperately in need of the knowledge that the Kingdom of Heaven is here. Broken lives are made whole, the oppressed are freed and the hungry are fed – this is Good News that we are invited to share.
As we continue in our Lenten journeys, let us look for opportunities to share this message and be active residents in the Kingdom today.
Yesterday, in our staff Chapel, we were reflecting the Jesus Prayer. A beautiful prayer, attributed to the Desert Fathers in the 5th Century.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.
It wasn’t the first time I’ve come across this gem, but on this visit, it really resonated with me. Perhaps it was part of the meditation that came with it –
My whole desire was fixed upon one thing only — to say the Prayer of Jesus, and as soon as I went on with it I was filled with joy and relief. It was as though my lips and my tongue pronounced the words entirely of themselves without any urging from me. I spent the whole day in a state of the greatest contentment. I lived as though in another world.
– The Way of the Pilgrim
I inadvertently took on this challenge to be intentional with praying this prayer. Too help, since I look at my iPhone more than most other items throughout the day, I created a wallpaper, as a reminder. My intention is to repeat the prayer whenever I unlock my phone.
“He shall have dominion also from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” – Psalms 72:8
Today, many of us will gather together with friends and family – some around a BBQ, watching fireworks and other to start their camping season. It is a week of celebration, and rightly so. There is much that we have to celebrate – we live in country full of diversity and freedom. A country that was founded upon the principles that recognize the supremacy of God.
Some of us have seen a lot of change occur in our country over the last century. Before my grandfather passed in 2008, he would often share stories with me of his childhood, his years in military service and his adult life in Moncton NB. No matter what story I heard, he always finished with “It was a different time than you’re living in, Shawn; much different than mine.” I was never sure if that was positive or negative and in one of my last conversations with him, I asked him. Papa was always direct. He looked out the window of his porch for a few moments, and then turned back to me saying “Cherish what we’ve been through. And be smart with what you have now.”
Those words have echoed in my mind many times since that conversation. Some see the shrinking of churches as something to fear, but perhaps we should see it as an opportunity. An opportunity for us to stand confident in our relationship with Christ, which is much bigger than a church, and share that relationship with those around us. We should be smart with what we have now. We have a nation that is deperately searching for truth. Today, perhaps we could recommit ourselves to seeing God Kingdom furthered in Canada.
Lord of all power and mercy, we beseech thee to assist with thy favour the Prime Minister of this Dominion, and the Premiers of the Provinces. Cause them, we pray, thee, to walk before thee in truth and righteousness, and to fulfil their office to thy glory and the public good; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Happy Canada Day! Thank you for joining with us.
John Howard Yoder,
The work of God is the calling of a -people, whether in the Old Covenant or the New. The church is then not simply the bearer of the message of reconciliation, in the way a newspaper or a telephone company can bear any message with which it is entrusted. Nor is the church simply the result of a message, as an alumni association is the product of a school or the crowds in a theater are the product of the reputation of the film. That men and women are called together to a new social wholeness is itself the work of God, which gives meaning to history.
Dear Friends of Threshold Ministries –
The Board of Threshold Ministries meeting in Haliburton County on April 11-13, 2012, received the recommendation from Bruce Smith that that we appoint Shawn Branch as National Director to work out of the National Office in Saint John. He also recommended that following 16 years as National Director, he might best serve Threshold Ministries as “Ambassador at Large”, doing so from Toronto.
By resolution we have made Bruce Smith ‘Ambassador at Large’, with the assignment to cultivate support for the ministry and do the work of an Evangelist across Canada.
- Shawn Branch is National Director Elect until October 1, 2012, when he will become National Director.
Threshold Ministries is an across Canada Ministry committed to seeing God’s Kingdom furthered through creating and partnering with local parishes, ministries and individuals.
Please remember to pray for Bruce and Shawn as they take on these responsibilities.
Sincerely in our Saviour’s Name,
John W. Irwin
Chair, Board of Directors
Click here to download a copy of the Press Release.