Features Musings: How Christmas Might Make Us Like God Advent Means Mission
Departments SGC Discipleship Ministries Resource Centre Financial Update
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Cover: Lily Sider Design: Clement Lee Contributors: Marion Cameron Karen Cassel Sam Lee Gene Tempelmeyer
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Musings: How Christmas Might Make Us Like God by Gene Tempelmeyer
Testament Paul described Jesus’ birth as God’s plan before the beginning of time.
“Although God knew that man (sic) would fall, he did not become flesh through some actions of the devil or of man that made it necessary. He became flesh because it was the Divine Plan and mystery before the ages to unite man with God in Christ.” (Gregory the Theologian, “On God and Christ”, emphasis added).
I don’t have space enough to list the various early Christian writers who wrote that the birth of Jesus made the reconnection between God and humanity possible and that the cross and resurrection made it possible for this salvation to become eternal. In the birth of Jesus, the Holy Spirit of God and the human body of Mary literally united God with humanity. This union of God and humanity in the person of Jesus Christ reopened the path for all humans to have union with God. This birth, according to Orthodox theology, is an act of salvation. This was the plan from the beginning of time.
“God became human so that we might become god.”
eretical, weird and new-agey. These are words that come to mind reading the above quote. Except that these words were written by Athanasius of Alexandria (296 – 373 AD). Athanasius, well respected in both the western and eastern traditions of Christianity, was a formative figure in defining the meaning of the Trinity and the Two Natures of Christ: divine and human. While building a foundation for both “rites” of Christianity, the thought of Athanasius especially continues to define Orthodox faith. His book, On Incarnation, explores the meaning of God becoming human in Jesus Christ. In Athanasius’ explanation, Bethlehem is as important to our salvation as is Calvary. One of his followers, Gregory the Theologian (329-390 AD, this is Gregory the Theologian of Nazianzus, not to be confused with Gregory Kay the Theologian of Spring Garden) pointed out that several places in the New 4
Which brings us back to the new-agey quote from Athanasius. He was working on the foundation of an even earlier writer, Ireneaus (died 202 AD). “…our Lord, Jesus Christ, who did through his transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.” (Against Heresies). Both Ireneaus and Athanasius were reflecting on biblical texts such as 2 Peter 1:3,4: “For His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. By these He gave us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption of the world through evil desires.” (emphasis added) Athanasius distinguished between God’s “essence” and God’s “energy”. He clarified that we do not become the being we call “God”. That would eliminate the distinction between creator and creation. But, he said, we may come to participate in God’s energy. 5
In a process Orthodox churches call “theosis”, the Holy Spirit purifies our hearts and illumines our souls. Sin is a spiritual disease. We gain spiritual health through a lifelong process of becoming more and more like Christ by imitating Jesus’ humility and selfless love. Prayer, fasting, and works of charity are means by which we restore and rebuild our sin-damaged souls. Theosis is impossible in isolation. The Orthodox understanding of salvation is love in unity with Christ and with other people. Orthodox belief relies neither on works nor solely on faith for our salvation. If we are not living in a loving relationship with Christ and others, both works and faith are in vain. What does matter, as Paul wrote to the Galatians, “is faith working through love.” A common critique Orthodox writers make of Protestants is that Protestants tend to begin theology with the problem of sin and thus the purpose of God becomes finding a way to rescue us from this sinful world. They observe that Protestants begin with a negative. Then the glory of God is seen in the fact that He redeems some of us. Ireneaus considered Adam and Eve to be spiritual children needing to grow up to become fully human. Jesus was born into this world a human being who was fully alive, a model to which the Holy Spirit directs us. We are to inhabit this world as Jesus inhabited this world: a miraculous union of divine and human. Ireneaus wrote, “The glory of God is a human being who is fully alive.” This needs to be read in the context of theosis. Benjamin Cahne, a current Orthodox pastor, describes it this way: “God did not create in order to redeem, He created in order to deify – to give all of Himself to man in ecstatic love – to grant the life of the uncreated Holy Trinity to man.” I find all of this helpful to my understanding of the saving work of God – and my appreciation of the importance of Christmas. The work of our salvation requires the whole Trinity. The Holy Spirit unified with Mary to produce Jesus: the divine-human Son of God. Jesus showed us how living in this union creates an abundance of life – here, in this world. The Father answered Jesus’ prayer on the cross for our forgiveness. Empowered by the Father Jesus defeated 6
death. When we have waited, the Father sends the Holy Spirit to unite with us somewhat like He united with Mary to join human to divine. As we are filled with the Holy Spirit we begin to participate in God’s “energy” and grow more and more like the Son: Jesus Christ of Nazareth. And so we are sent into the world. I am more comfortable saying that God became human so we can become more fully human. But as I understand what Athanasius was saying about becoming god, I am reminded that being fully human is not the same thing as an old beer commercial suggested when they encouraged us to “grab it with gusto.” Fullest humanity is more likely found in a stable than in a palace or shopping mall. And much more likely found in prayer, fasting, and charity than in a beer can. I have not converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. It interests me because other streams of Christian faith freshen my own Baptist well. (Early Baptist writers, by the way, did not consider themselves to be either Roman Catholic or Protestant: two warring factions from which the Baptists offered a “third way.” It was only over time that Baptists were co-opted into the Protestant movement which came to be defined, in popular thought, as “any Christian who isn’t Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.”) As I prepare to celebrate Christmas I find these thoughts from our Eastern siblings a helpful way to reflect on the power of God becoming human flesh as a small baby. ”God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son…” Before He gave His Son on a cross He gave His Son in a stable. The stable is not, perhaps, merely a necessary prelude to the main saving action of the cross. In the stable, God goes beyond reaching out to us. God goes beyond visiting us. God literally joins us. As Eugene Peterson wonderfully translates the first chapter of John: “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.”
Partnering with Families
SGC Discipleship Ministries
Intergenerational Worship - December 3, 2017
hy do we have intergenerational worship? We believe that to be a disciple of Jesus, it is important for us to be part of the body of Christ. We cannot be a healthy disciple without the community of believers. This means that we care more about being together than being separate. We care more about how we can be the community of Christ than what we like or dislike. Intergenerational worship may not be what you prefer but it is an act of discipleship. It is an intentional decision to be together as the whole body of Christ; to worship together as a community. It is also a time in which adults can model how we worship Jesus as a community. It is a way in which parents and caregivers can engage their children and youth in worshipping God. We want to encourage you to make the effort to engage with your children during our time of worship and have created prayer stations that will help you to help engage your children in spiritual practices.
Faith at the Table We are offering two workshops after a meal together Sunday, February 4th, 12pm-2pm Speakers: Miriam Little & Brett Ullman Please register at http://tiny.cc/springfat Faith at the table - April 15 Topic: TBA
Date Night: A night to promote intimacy... March 3rd, 5pm-9pm Childcare at the church building $5 per child *parents are responsible for meals, snacks will be provided
Spring Garden Summer Day Camp 2018 Week 1: July 30-August 3 Week 2: August 7-10
Spring Garden Weekend Camping Trip 2018 July 20-22
Christmas Season Schedule
Sunday Morning, December 24 - Big Group Sunday Nursery & Toddler in Toddler's Room PreK - Grade 5 in Children’s Theatre Youth can help downstairs or can stay in worship
Sunday Evening, Dec 24 - Christmas Eve @7pm Nursery & Toddler in Toddler's Room Sunday, December 31 - Big Group Sunday Nursery & Toddler in Toddler’s Room PreK - Grade 5 in Children’s Theatre Youth can help downstairs or can stay in worship
December 7 - Youth Event Cost: $5 6pm-9pm at church
December 16 - Christmas Party 5pm-9pm at Sam’s Casa Potluck $10 Gift Exchange
SGC: Youth Sunday Morning Worship Gatherings:
To stay up to date on what is happening for your youth, please visit our google calendar which has all our planned events. http://tiny.cc/springyouth
December 10, 17 - We will be having regular worship gatherings for youth in grades 6-12, after the musical portion of worship in the main worship area. Children and youth will continue their programs and worship gathering in their classrooms following the children’s blessing. Youth will meet in the youth lounge. December 3, 24, 31 - Youth are encouraged to stay upstairs in worship. They can help out downstairs on the 24th and the 31st. 10
Advent Means Mission by Gene Tempelmeyer
Level One: Operation Good Thing Bags – For a number of years we have worked with Youth Unlimited to provide holiday gift bags to homeless youth. These gift bags provide necessary hygiene items and personalized holiday cards to youth living in both Eva's Initiatives Youth Homeless Shelters here in Willowdale. You can provide a bag for one person by making a $28 donation online at willowdaleoutreach.yugta.ca. Most of us have someone on their Christmas list who is hard to buy for. I have found that a great gift for these hard-to-buy-for people is helping someone else in their honour. This is much more meaningful than a new pair of socks or a gift card! An Operation Good Thing bag makes an excellent gift. This Level One project provides an opportunity to make a one-time donation.
hristmas celebrates one of the central beliefs of our faith: in Jesus, God came to us in human flesh. This “coming” of Jesus was also a “going out” from the right hand of the Father. It provides the ultimate example of leaving one’s comfort zone. Each Christmas we select a handful of projects we encourage you to support as a way of following Jesus by leaving the comfort of the church to go out into God’s mission in the world. Through us God continues to come to people in our human flesh. Our Christmas mission projects are selected to offer us opportunities for stepping beyond our comfort zone at a level that provides each of us with a reasonable challenge to follow Jesus into a deeper level of discipleship. Some require money. Some do not. The more connection we make with people different from ourselves, the more we learn and the more adventure we experience. These opportunities contain different levels of contact. Consider taking your discipleship to the next level by moving up one level of connection from your present comfort zone.
Level Two: Make your own Advent Box – Some of us did this last year and found it a great way to focus on the meaning of Advent. Remember the Advent calendars that open a window to a piece of chocolate or a small gift? This is an especially good tradition for children to help them count down the days to Christmas. But what if instead of taking something OUT of an Advent calendar we put something INTO an Advent box? Following the example of “Good King Wenceslas”, each day of Advent (which begins on Dec. 3 this year) we end our family dinner by reading a short passage, praying for people who need help, and placing a nonperishable food item from our own kitchen cupboard into our Advent Box. We will provide a resource for this in early December. Then on Sunday, Dec. 24, we will bring our Advent boxes to worship and place them on the platform as a gift to Jesus in His frequent disguise as one of the poor and needy. If you are not able to attend on Christmas Eve, you may bring your box in the next time you are able to attend and we will make sure it gets to someone who needs it. One of the benefits of this activity is that foodbanks report generous donations in December but experience a falloff in 13
donations in January. Arriving in early January, our Advent boxes help keep people fed in the new year.
Initiatives provides. To follow Jesus is to be part of God’s mission in the world.
This Level Two project provides a hands-on opportunity to experience giving, connected to four weeks of spiritual and devotional life for an individual or a family. Level Three – Angel Tree Christmas – This is the third year we will partner with Prison Fellowship to provide Christmas gifts for kids whose parents are incarcerated. You will have an opportunity to sign up to purchase gifts on behalf of an inmate. You will then receive the name of the child(ren), a card signed by the inmate to go on the gift, and an indication of what the inmate would like to give their child. You will also be given contact information for the child(ren)’s care-giver to arrange delivery of the gift. Gifts are $30 for each child. We no longer have families in Toronto to buy for, but there is still an opportunity early December to get a gift for families living in remote parts of Canada. For those with children at home, this is a great experience to involve our own kids in a mission activity. Get them to help select and wrap the present and take them along to deliver it. There is nothing that develops a discipleship mindset more effectively than involving people of any age in a mission connection like this. This Level Three project provides an opportunity to show a hurting family God’s care. This also makes an excellent gift for that person who probably doesn’t need a new pair of socks.
I have two adult children of whom I am quite proud. If I could go back and do one thing differently in the formation of their faith and spiritual experience, I would, beginning at a very early age, take them along with me in personal encounters with people who need to see human flesh on God’s love and care. I would show them how to talk safely with people who live rough. I would try to give them opportunities to converse with millionaires and a beggars to learn that there really is not much difference between the two. Whatever our age, the more we connect with people who are different from us, the more we realize they are not nearly as different as we first thought. Whatever our age, we grow by engaging in new experiences that carry us out of our present comfort zone into a broader appreciation for everyone who shares our planet. Jesus joins us. He welcomes us in order to send us. He sends us in order to welcome us. This is what advent is about.
Level Three – All Ages Skating and Pizza Party at Mel Lastman Square – On Sunday, December 21, we are invited to join Jesse James (Youth Unlimited Willowdale Outreach) and the youth at Eva’s Initiaves Willowdale Youth Homeless Shelters for a party. The party is from 6:30 – 8:00 PM. All you need to do is show up and be reasonably friendly. Again, this is a great experience for kids, too. This Level Three project provides a face-to- face opportunity to meet, chat with, and show God’s care to a young person who has nowhere to live other than the shelter of a bridge or the shelter Eva’s 14
Painting Workshop 3: Lots of Paint and Lots of Texture
Saturday, Dec. 9 One of the most frequently questions people ask Gene is, “How do you get so many textures with your paint?” This class will cover using brushes and painting knives to great texture in a way that contributes to the basic composition and story of the painting. We will also look at how layering colours on one another make new and unique colours adding depth to the painting. You probably want to have a least some painting experience for this class. Location: Spring Garden Church, Multi-Purpose Room. Date: Sat, Dec 9 Time: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm Lunch: Bring a bag lunch or walk to take-out on Yonge Street. Age: The class is designed at an Adult level. All ages are welcome, and ability to work at something for several hours is required. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Cost: $30 per person to cover the cost of materials. If you are interested to sign up, please email Michelle Li at email@example.com. 16
Spring Garden’s online library catalog can be accessed at springgardenchurch.ca/library
If you know of books or DVDs that you’d like to recommend to the Resource Centre, please contact Karen Cassel firstname.lastname@example.org
Recomendations From The Resource Centre A Boy’s guide to making really good choices, by Jim George
It’s never too early to give young boys a resource that will help them learn the skills for making right choices in life. This book is designed to help boys ages 8-12 learn how to think through their options, realize the possible consequences, and develop good decision-making skills. With the use of helpful stories and illustrations to walk boys through the kinds of choices they are likely to face each day, the author addresses issues including how to: • listen to their parents • do their best in school, sports, and activities • select friends with care • be kind to siblings and others • help out at home and use good manners Through the use of real-life scenarios, Jim George equips boys to build good character― the kind that will stay with them for life and honor God’s standards.
A Girl’s guide to making really good choices, by Elizabeth George Every girl is a beautiful creation, uniquely equipped by God to do His work in the world. But as girls are growing, changing, and making choices about the kinds of lives they will lead, they are bombarded with conflicting messages about what it means to be a woman. The media says one thing, boys say another, and friends seem obsessed with whatever is newest and coolest. As a result, girls too often hand their decisions over to those least qualified to make them. Into the breach steps Elizabeth George, bestselling author and beloved Bible teacher. With wisdom, gentleness, and tremendous grace, she guides tween girls ages 8 to 12 through the most challenging decisions they face, teaching them to let God―not the world― define who they are. Discussing such topics as attitude, friendships, crushes, parents, school, and avoiding bad situations, Elizabeth helps girls see that the very best choice of all is a choice to live within God’s will.
Sinners in the hand of a loving God: the scandalous truth of the Very Good News, by Brian Zahnd
eternal punishment in hell, and the final judgment in Revelation, Zanhd maintains that the summit of divine revelation for sinners is not God is wrath, but God is love.
In his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Puritan revivalist Jonathan Edwards shaped predominating American theology with a vision of God as angry, violent, and retributive. Three centuries later, Brian Zahnd was both mesmerized and terrified by Edwards’ wrathful God. Haunted by fear that crippled his relationship with God, Zahnd spent years praying for a divine experience of hell. What Zahnd experienced instead was the Father’s love—revealed perfectly through Jesus Christ—for all prodigal sons and daughters. In Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, Zahnd asks important questions like: Is seeing God primarily as wrathful towards sinners true or biblical? Is fearing God a normal expected behavior? And where might the natural implications of this theological framework lead us? Thoughtfully wrestling with subjects like Old 20 Testament genocide, the crucifixion of Jesus,
Spring Garden Baptist Church Monthly Financial Update Please check the weekly email from Spring Garden for the latest financial information. You will also find information posted in the church building. Remember that to receive a 2017 tax receipt your donation must be received by Spring Garden by Dec 31, 2017. In addition to giving your donation through our weekly Sunday offerings you can: 1. Send an etransfer to email@example.com. Be sure to send a separate email with the etransfer password in it. 2. Donate online through Canada Helps. There is a link at springgardenchurch.ca/giving.
Leadership at Spring Garden Pastoral Team Gene Tempelmeyer, Pastor 416-223-4593 firstname.lastname@example.org Greg Kay, Worship and Mission Pastor email@example.com Margaret Sutton, Pastoral Care/Seniors firstname.lastname@example.org Sam Lee, Pastor of Discipleship, email@example.com Michelle Li, Church Office and Communications Manager firstname.lastname@example.org Jeremy Ranasinghe, Discipleship Ministries Assistant email@example.com
Ext. 222 Ext. 224 Ext. 226 Ext. 227 Ext. 221 Ext. 223
Deacons Sam Chaise firstname.lastname@example.org Adora Chui email@example.com Lesley Daniels firstname.lastname@example.org Joanne Laing â€‹email@example.com Gonzalo Librado firstname.lastname@example.org Shannon Loewen email@example.com Peggy Moore firstname.lastname@example.org Esther Penner email@example.com Doug Willson firstname.lastname@example.org 24
647-968-5065 905.962.3897 416.806.5373 416-617-6582 416.229.2695 647-202-0701 416.225.2406 416.227.1840 416.221.0450 25
Elders Garth Barron email@example.com Darlene Boyd firstname.lastname@example.org Cindie Chaise email@example.com Cheryl Chapman firstname.lastname@example.org Joanna James email@example.com Barrie Porter firstname.lastname@example.org Brad Sider email@example.com Corinne Sutton-Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
Life around Spring Garden
416.738.0530 416.222.6963 647.928.0862
Advent Potluck Lunch - Dec 3
416.829.4210 647.200.6853 647.704.7710
Discipleship Ministry Interns Sarah Lander - Children’s Intern email@example.com Diana Boisvert - Youth Intern firstname.lastname@example.org Calvin Pais - Parent and Family Engagement Intern email@example.com
Spring Garden Church T 416.223.4593 112 Spring Garden Ave. F 416.223.6126 Toronto ON M2N3G3 www.springgardenchurch.ca firstname.lastname@example.org Prayer Line 416.223.4038 26
Join us for an Advent potluck lunch on Sunday December 3rd. Please bring a fully prepared dish (main course, side dish, salad, or dessert) down to the multipurpose room that morning. We'll enjoy food and fellowship as a community after the intergenerational Advent service. Everyone is welcome! We are in need of VOLUNTEERS! - some to help set up, some to help put out the food, and others to help clean up. Please sign the volunteer list in the lounge. For more details, contact Esther at email@example.com. 27
The Salvation Army Christmas Kettle Campaign North York Temple, The Salvation Army, is currently recruiting volunteers (age 15+) for our Christmas Kettle Campaign. Volunteer Bell Ringers stand by a Christmas Kettle at one of our locations throughout North York. Shifts are between 2-4hrs long. Please contact our Christmas Kettle Coordinator at 416-225-7968 Ext. 0 or firstname.lastname@example.org
OPERATION GOOD THING
youth in both Eva's Initiatives Youth Homeless Shelters here in Willowdale! Help us celebrate the triumphs, good choices and lives of Eva’s youth in Willowdale! 1. DONATE $28 now to give hope to a homeless youth in Willowdale - willowdaleoutreach.yugta.ca 2. JOIN the ALL-AGES SKATING & PIZZA PARTY at Mel Lastman Square skating rink on December 21st (6:30pm8pm)!
Community Music Concert - The Promise Please join us for the Third Annual presentation of “The Promise”. A musical journey through the anticipation of Advent, the commitment of the Annunciation, the humility and simplicity of Christmas and the joy of the Epiphany. The Promise is based on a compilation of music written and composed by Dave Trafford for the Youth and Family Choirs of St. Bonaventure’s Church. Over the past six years, the Willowdale community has worked together to provide holiday gifts and cards for 460 homeless youth in homeless shelters. This SEVENTH year we are aiming to assemble another 65 holiday gift bags. These gift bags provide necessary 28 hygiene items and personalized holiday cards to each
“The Promise” will take place on Saturday December 9th at 7:30pm at Spring Garden Church. (Yonge and Sheppard) For more information and to purchase tickets please visit our Facebook page @ThePromiseOfAnAge. 29
What’s Happening Life in Spring Garden
Weekly Tuesdays 1:00 pm - Pastoral Team Meeting in Meeting Room Wednesdays 10:00 am -11:30 am - Refresh Women's Group - in West Lounge (childcare provided) 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm - ESL cafe - Wednesday in East Lounge (starting Oct 18th) Thursdays 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm - The Thursday Bunch - in East lounge Sundays 9:00 am - 10:00 am - ESL Bible Class - Sunday in Basement Hallway 9:00 am -10:00 am - Sunday Morning Bible Study - in Meeting Room 10:00 am - 11:30 am - Sunday Morning Worship (communion on the first Sunday of the month) If you would like to receive a weekly email update on what’s happening in Spring Garden, please visit the SGC website (www.springgardenchurch.ca) and add your email address at the bottom of our home page to subscribe to our weekly update
This Month Dec 7 - 6-9pm- Youth event (pg 11) Dec 9 - 9am-3pm - Painting Workshop 3 (pg 16) Dec 16- 5-9pm - Youth Christmas Party (pg 11) Dec 17 - 6:30-8:00pm - Light of the World (pg 23) Dec 21 - 6:30-8:00pm - Skate and Pizza Party with Homeless Youth (pg 14, 15) Dec 24 - 7:00 pm - Christmas Eve Worship - bring your Advent Box (pg 13) 30
Our Values We believe in a humble God who came not to be served, but to serve. Therefore we engage in sacrificial and active service to those around us. We strive to be good stewards of God’s gifts and talents by serving one another in humility. We aspire to regard others as higher than ourselves, which liberates us to creatively take risks in serving others for God’s glory. We believe in a God of grace who came to save the world, not to condemn it. Therefore, as we are continuously receiving the gift of God’s grace, we seek to grow in that grace and extend it to others. We strive to define ourselves by what we are for, not what we are against. We believe in a God who knows us, and who desires to be known. Therefore we embrace a journey of faith that requires us to constantly strive for a personal, intimate and transformative knowledge of God. We strive to be led by God’s Spirit in supporting and encouraging one another in working out our faith. We believe in a creative God. Therefore we are open to expressing our faith in new and creative ways that reflect the beauty and complexity of our creator. We are called to use our creative gifts in worship and service as we engage with our world. We take joy in the diversity of gifts that allow us to delight God and participate in His ongoing story. We believe in a triune, relational God who calls us to come together as a diverse community of believers. Therefore, we want to walk together, supporting one another physically, emotionally and spiritually. We strive to be a welcoming, inclusive family that goes through the joys and the trials of life together, acknowledging that God uses this community to deepen and mature our faith. We believe in a God who loves this broken world and wants to reconcile us to Himself. Therefore we are commissioned by Christ to go out into the world, meeting the holistic needs of the local and global community. God calls us to participate in a redemptive work that he has already initiated; in humility, we will partner with others to work alongside and chase after Him. We believe in a God who is our center. Therefore where we are on the journey is less important than that we are moving towards a deeper relationship with Christ. We believe and participate in God’s redemptive work in all people, which gives us the freedom to come as we are, and to accept others as they are. We each are on a unique journey to become who God has created us to be.