“Unexpected Things” - by Pastor Bryan Fox - April 2018

Back in the middle of March I was writing for another publication to which I am a regular contributor. In that article, and at the time with different things in mind, I wrote, “April this year is going to be an especially memorable month.” For example, did you know that April is National Kite Month? Even the weeks of the month have been recognized. I like the first one especially. Week 1 was designated "Read a Road Map Week" - and just when I finally got a GPS thingy for the car.

When I wrote that March article about April being “an especially memorable month” little then did I know two things: One, that maybe I have the gift of prophecy after all, and two, that the ice storm of April 14, 2018 will likely be an event that none of us will ever forget as long as we live! This past weekend we all saw a “winter wonderland” of ice and snow appear before our wondering eyes as spring was taken over and showed no sign of any imminent recovery. But recover it did, sort of, a few days later, and spring will win the war with winter, even though this year the battle is brutal. On the bright side, this got me to thinking about other “unexpected things” besides an ice storm in April.

When someone you have known for a long time leaves unexpectedly, it’s unnerving, upsetting, unsettling. Someone you have respected, lived and worked with, laughed and cried with, whether the leaving is for a new job, or moving to a new town, or leaving for Heaven, it’s hard to cope, hard to adjust. We know, for we have all had things like that happen personally, and more than once in a lifetime. But haven’t you discovered that in life, living with the unexpected is, well, to be expected?

I read recently of an American town where the early spring pothole situation got so bad that residents took to spray-painting rants and even explicit pictures near the worst cases to get the city’s attention. It worked; the city sent out work teams. They removed the graffiti, but left the potholes. Now fellow taxpayer, that was not unexpected, was it?

It’s a sad fact and irony of life that often things that aren’t good are always expected. We have all heard of Murphy's Law that says "If anything can go wrong, it will", and some cynic has added, “And always at the worst possible time”.

Whenever I get frustrated with things in life that I cannot change I turn to the one Book that has not and never will change, the Bible, the Word of God. And when I turn there I love what I read. I love being treated with honesty and integrity. No lies, no pretense, no ignoring truth and replacing it with fantasy. The Bible tells it like it is. For example, it says “The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all”. (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

Now that puts us all onto the same level playing field. Now I know where I stand, and what to expect! Life is not going to be easy, but the pressure is off. I don’t have to be the fastest or the strongest or wisest or richest or most educated.  And the next verse addresses life’s biggest question. “No one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.” (Eccles. 9:12)

Well, there you have it. No sugar-coating the hard facts. Every person on earth is on the same journey. But listen, no one has to take that journey alone. The one who will dare to face the unexpected by trusting the God of the Bible will soon learn that the Creator of time and space cannot be controlled by it. Nothing ever comes unexpectedly to God. So when we read, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: he gathers the lambs, [that’s us!], in his arms and carries them close to his heart,” (Isaiah 40:11) then we can confidently say to the unexpected, “Bring it on”!                     

                                                                   “Fading Glory”                               by Pastor Bryan Fox   - March 2018

In February we watched the whole world, or at least those countries that have a season of ice and snow, basking in “Olympic Glory”. But let’s be honest, whenever one of our athletes won a medal, no matter what colour, didn’t we all sort of take credit for it? And when they lost, wasn’t it a bit embarrassing? But of course not for us, it’s only about us when they win. (Hey am I the only shallow soul around here or are you in the kiddies’ pool with me?)

But whenever they win, (and win they did, in record numbers), don’t you agree the individual athlete’s talent and time, toil and tears, somehow always get lost in our personal, silly excitement and pride? And their names are mostly forgotten until four years from now when perhaps they will appear again on the world’s stage. Sadly, their glory is soon gone.

Glory is something I suppose everyone seeks and would love to have. And the truth is that for most of us the only glory we will ever have is the glory we bestow upon ourselves. I guess that’s what we call “pride”, and I’m told that’s generally not good! The Good Book says, “First pride, then the crash— the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.”

It has been my privilege to have been serving as the one-day-a-week chaplain of two nursing homes for many years now. I can tell you there’s no glory attached to that job, nor should there be. Tears yes, glory no. As far as I’m concerned, the glory, if there is any, should all go to the staff members who faithfully serve there, “24/7” as they say. And I know that those wonderful people sure don’t feel any glory in what they do. Often it’s just the opposite. But here’s something I want you to know.  What everyone working in long term care, (leaders, if they’re good ones, and staff, if they are “called” to what they do), what they’re actually doing is “pastoring”. Every one of them is a pastor. Does that surprise you? Most people think that all pastors do is preach at church people, and point fingers, and some set themselves up to pilfer what they can from “the flock”. Not true, except maybe for the pilfering part. Sadly that happens, but thankfully mostly on TV. But take note, those people who pilfer are not pastors!

Why is that? Because another name for a pastor is a shepherd, and what do shepherds do? They look after sheep. And what do sheep need? The hurting and vulnerable ones especially need daily provision, constant protection, healing care, empathetic understanding, wise guidance; in short, loving, tender, never failing, and never fading love. No glory there. And all that is what true care-givers do, in nursing homes and in hospices and looking after a loved one at home.

And in the church that’s what all of us need to be doing, not just the one who stands behind the pulpit on Sunday morning. We are all called to minister, to serve, to do the work of pastors. The pastor has the task “to equip Christ’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up  until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ".

So what does all this mean to you? Here’s some great news for all those who lead and serve others, and it’s from the Bible so you can trust it. “When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away”.

What you say? Me? Glory? And a crown? And what I have done will not be forgotten? Wow! Hey, that’s great news, but don’t forget why it’s true. Remember it this year on March 30th, Good Friday.

“Crown him with many crowns, the Lamb upon his throne. Hark, how the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own! Awake, my soul, and sing of him who died to be your Saviour and your matchless King through all eternity.

Crown him the Lord of life, who triumphed o'er the grave, and rose victorious in the strife for those he came to save. His glories now we sing who died and rose on high; who died eternal life to bring, and lives that death may die.

Crown him the Lord of years, the Source, the End of time; Creator of the rolling spheres, in majesty sublime. All hail, Redeemer, hail, for you have died for me; your praise shall never, never fail through all eternity!”

        [1] Proverbs 16:8 “The Message”     [2] Ephesians 4:12-13              [3] 1 Peter 5:4       [4] Words by Matthew Bridges