Meet Our New Pastor – John Van Sloten !

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Hello Everyone.

As a way of introducing myself I’d like to share a story with you.

Last week I met with Dirk Vrielink at Tim Hortons to work out some of the details of my calling to the church. Ten minutes into our conversation, a police officer stepped up to our table. As soon as I saw the officer I pointed to Dirk and said, “It was him!” The officer knew Dirk from the school Dirk works at. Then Dirk introduced me, “This is John, my pastor.”

After we shook hands, I told the officer that I really appreciated the work he did. I told him about how I’d preached a sermon on the work of a police officer — interviewing 4 Calgary Police Service officers as part of my research and also doing an interview with the Calgary Herald — and gained a new sense of gratitude for officers who — in a God-like way — run toward the danger and whose work keeps crime in check so that the rest of us can have the space to live in security and freedom. I looked the officer in the eye and said, “Where would our city be without the work you do? Thanks.”

Before he could say anything a five-year-old girl ran up to him and asked if she could give him a hug. Surprised, he looked over at her parents and asked if that would be okay and they eagerly nodded. After the hug the officer said, “That doesn’t happen very often!” He asked about the denomination of my church and after I explained that I was in transition we spoke briefly about his faith background. After a quick goodbye he moved on to order his coffee.

I turned to Dirk and apologized for breaking into “sermon mode” (but I wasn’t sorry). Neither was Dirk. For both of us this was a bit of a God-moment. I told Dirk that this is the kind of interaction that is indicative of the kind of church we’re going to be; a faith community that names God’s already-there presence in all things.

Driving home from the meeting I thought about how perfect that little series of events was. A police offer was deservedly thanked for his work — theologically and via a hug — and Dirk and I got to experience our first church outreach opportunity together.

My hope and dream is that our faith community will be filled with people who experience these kinds of stories all the time.

So, this is who I am. I see God in all things; at work, in relationships, in family, art, sport, politics, the economy, nature and so much more. I believe that our world belongs to God and that all things hold together in Christ. And I believe that naming God’s already-there presence in the world is a beautiful and compelling way to be God’s witness.

Pastor John

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“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” IS 43

One of my favourite texts!

I just wrote this yesterday as a concluding thought for the introduction of my faith/science book:

A PROPHETIC IMAGINATION

Through the prophet Isaiah God says:

“See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you…. I am doing a new thing…. From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you. They are created now, and not long ago; you have not heard of them before today. So you cannot say, ‘Yes, I knew of them.’” Isaiah 42:9, 43:19, 48:6-7, NIV

Even as Isaiah’s contemporaries had trouble imagining what God had in store through the coming of Jesus, it stretches us to think that the Jesus we know now (through the gospels) can also be known through creation. Yet, what else could contain the glory of God apart from a universe?

Theologian Walter Brueggemann writes; “If there is any point at which most of us are manifestly co-opted [by the commonly accepted view of reality], it is in this way. We do not believe that there will be newness but only that there will be merely a moving of the pieces into new patterns…. ”

To believe that God can be known through creation — in concert with the bible, in an authoritative, epiphany-inducing, life-transforming, all-things-filling way — is to trust that God can and will do something new.

Brueggemann goes on to write, “We need to ask not whether it is realistic or practical or viable but whether it is imaginable.”

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It is said that the only constant in life is that change will happen.  This often brings us a sense of fear and anxiety because we find that we cannot control what is happening around us.  This anxiety often expresses itself as anger or frustration with life.

The good news is that God has a plan for us both as individuals and as a congregation.  As we give up control over our path to God and allow Him to guide us to where He wants us to be, we can let go and relax and look forward to all the God has in store for us.  Our prayer can truly become “Your will be done.”

We soon realize that we are right where we need to be at this time and we can look towards taking the next best step forward by praying for His will to be made clear to us.  The change becomes something to look forward to and should not be feared because God is preparing us for this.  Isaiah writes in chapter 43 verse 19 “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”  This is exciting and invigorating.  It is His promise to us and His promise is sure.

In the end we can only go forward in the promise that “…. we know all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

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If someone told me that I could go anywhere in the world, no holds barred, I would pack lightly, take myself to the airport, randomly choose a destination depending on my mood and hop on the first plane.  Planning is not essential for me.  I am all about the adventure of the journey.

Psalm 121 is a song that the Jewish pilgrims would sing on their journey.  This psalm is not only for going from one place to another, it also gives us perspective on our journey through life.  It’s my song.  And let’s face it, music always makes the journey go better.

I have traversed a landscape full of magnificent mountain tops and deep valleys.  There were times of great joy and times of great sorrow.  There were times of hopelessness, that scary feeling of being stuck, vulnerable and weak.  God has promised, however, that he will not let my foot slip. (v. 3)

I admit that when I read this, I am immediately suspicious of false hope.  I want to have confidence in the scriptures, but it’s a dirty road that I travel.  How many times have my feet slipped either inadvertently or on purpose?  How do I reconcile this?  What happens when God’s promise doesn’t seem to match up with real life?

My feet move in progress, but I stand firm in the foundation of God’s infinite power and goodness.

I stand in faith (2 Corinthians 1:24)

I stand in grace (Romans5:2)

I stand in the gospel (1 Corinthians 15: 1)

I stand in courage and strength (1 Corinthians 16:13)

I stand in the Lord (Philippians 1:27)

Wherever my feet fall, my ultimate goal is to stand within the complete and perfect will of God. (Colossians 4:12)

“The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (v 8) God is just as present in the destination as in the journey.  No matter where we are on life’s path, God’s heart does not change.  The Israelites didn’t live to see their final destination across the Jordan.  Joshua lead them over a whole generation later. (Joshua 3). What does this tell me?  Just because it sounds true in our life, it may not come true in my life.  I am a part of a much bigger story. Reality is for all time. I stand, trusting the path of my feet to be woven into His story.   My destination is fixed, I need only keep my eye on the horizon and sing.

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By Rita Burkard

Every year after the Christmas rush, when we have been busy with church services, buying Christmas gifts, visiting people, parties to go to or have, making oilbollen, comes January.  The days are still short, nights are long and the weather is still getting worse before it gets better…it’s January and I get the January blues.  Do you feel the same way?  What do you do other than wait it out?

I thought I would research what experts would advise and found this tidbit on the internet (dialymail.co.uk).  It suggested to: 1) Exercise – that is a given – 10,000 steps a day or at least 30 mins of walking or exercising.  Besides you need to work off the turkey and trimmings!, 2) Plan a holiday – for us that is Palm Springs in February, but if you can’t afford to go anywhere, go for a road trip to the mountains, 3) Balance out your life – The idea is to draw a wheel with eight spokes. Each spoke should represent eight areas of your life. These include:

  1. Your health
  2. Your money
  3. Your social life (including fun and recreation)
  4. Your partner/relationship
  5. Your work/career
  6. Your friends/family
  7. Your physical environment such as your home
  8. Your personal growth/spirituality. This could include your religion, interests, hobbies, for example.

Now, for each area of your life represented by a spoke, give it a score out of 10. Where you score below five, take that area and try to focus on it.

When I look at these areas, the one that I need to focus on is number 8 because of our situation with calling a new pastor to grow our church.  I don’t know what this will bring and this uncertainty is going to take some faith on my part to see what the Lord is going to do.  We are at an impasse, a crossroads, and the only way is forward because doing nothing would be going backwards.  Choosing to go with the Nesting model means we still want to have a Reformed Church in Calgary that is spreading the gospel in the community.  Isn’t this what we want?  Isn’t this what we are supposed to do as Christians?  Then why is it so hard.  We need to support this vision and direction and do what we can to make it happen.  This isn’t a job for one person.  We are Jesus’ hands and feet and we need to step it up and support this for it to become successful.  Praying is a good start but it isn’t the only action we need to take….and it isn’t only for the young at heart, it is for the whole church community to figure out what their role is.

This will be a challenging yet interesting year in our church.  Be encouraged that we all want others to share in the joy we have in Christ.

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats[b]; do not be frightened.”[c] 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil  1 Peter 3: 13-17.

 

 

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God has been doing some amazing things in our community through our church this past year! Take a moment and listen to the video above that highlights the various community engagements we are so privileged to have!

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