When you stand in awe of God–that is when you begin to really understand.  But to spurn wisdom and instruction is utter foolishness.  Proverbs 1:7

Our Sunday School is called J.A.M. (Jesus and Me).  Sunday School is held every second Sunday and we encourage families to experience worship together on the other Sundays.

Our Adult Education group meets on Wednesday mornings from 10:30 AM to Noon.  Our study is not aimed at finding the answers, we instead explore the questions of life and faith together, discovering a diversity of ideas and opinions that challenge and strengthen us. [tabby title=”Fellowship”]
And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds . . . Hebrews 10:24

We have lots of opportunity to get to know one another and share all of life’s joys and sorrows.  Following every worship service we have a fellowship hour with plenty of conversation and light refreshments.  We have a number of potluck and community meals throughout the year including an Easter breakfast on Easter morning and a turkey lunch in Advent.  Smaller groups get together as well like our book club  that meets monthly.  Kingston is a hub of post-secondary education with St. Lawrence College, the Royal Military College (RMC) and Queen’s University right in our neighbourhood.  So a natural part of our ministry is Student Ministry as we try to be a welcome and safe church away from home for students in our midst.  We have also partnered with Chalmer’s United, St. Luke’s Anglican and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Churches to host “Sunday Perspectives” a monthly film screening and conversation at the Screening Room.

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1

Education, Fellowship and Worship are all important and wonderful things but if they don’t lead us to love our neighbour they are all just noise to God.  Here at St. Marks we have many opportunities to express the love of Christ to both our local community and the world.  We support the Partner’s in Mission Food Bank and Martha’s table.  Annually we canvas our neighbourhood for non-perishable food donations for the Hotel Dieu Partners in Mission Food Drive.  We serve nationally and internationally as partners with Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR).  We are a partner church with the Inter Faith Refugee Partnership, and are hard at work sponsoring a number of refugee families.  .

Service doesn’t stop with love of neighbour it includes care of creation.  We are proud to be a certified “Greening Congregation of the ELCIC” and our continuously trying to reduce our carbon foot print.  We are a neighbourhood Battery Recycling Center and we produce green energy through the Solar Panels on our Roof.

Our Generous Benevolence  “Last year we offered over $25,000 – 20.7% of our total gifts to God to be used outside of these walls”

. . . an offering is gathered for the mission of the church, including the care of those in need….after the offering is gathered, the assembly stands. Bread, wine, money and other gifts may be brought forward.
Evangelical Book of Worship – order of service notes

This is part of the tiny “red letter” description in our Hymnal which describes what can happen during the service to receive our offering, and what it actually is.
How strange it is when we see what happens next. The bread and wine are consumed as God’s means of grace – a tangible taking in of God’s love for us.

But, oddly the money is transformed.  It starts out as the financial part of our offering representing our gratitude to God for all that we have been given, including the opportunity to receive it through work or income security of all kinds. We take what we have been blessed with by God, represented by money, and offer it to do God’s work.  This is both scriptural and historical. And, may well be good for us psychologically and emotionally to be a part of the good in the world.

But, the money – the “first fruits” of our life appear to be transformed from an offering made to God to do God’s work, into revenue to meet the expenses of the organization. Budget lines are developed, and priorities are set. All too often, the priorities can shift to building maintenance – and it grows more and more costly.

At St. Marks there is a determined culture to use the building – a few folks donate hours and hours of sweat and time (and possibly a few drops of blood when the tools slip!). Many offer themselves to help out whenever they can. The building is used by community groups, music students and others. Gods work is done here, and the offerings that struggle to meet the costs of keeping the building open are significant. Right now, it is a priority.  We also have a place to gather together, joining our spirits and efforts in faithful service.

There is also the gift of human resources – our caretaker, Kim who offers administrative support and music ministry, and of course, our pastor

But, perhaps where I get most hopeful for God’s activities in our lives is where our offerings, from a small, diverse little congregation, are put together to bring about real hope, comfort and care of the world, both nearby and afar.

I cannot help but be humbled when I see that almost $19,000 of our offerings are given into the care of the Eastern Synod, who pools offerings from congregations synod-wide to support God’s work in “big” ways that congregations cant, including supporting the education and training of future pastors, partially funding camps to offer love to hundreds of children annual and youth gatherings to support young people in knowing God’s love for them as vulnerable teens. The offerings are further “paid forward” from our little congregation here in Kingston to the National Church, who pools offerings from across the country to support national and international work in God’s name. From public statements to our secular leaders calling for faithful policies, to responses to global tragedies, a part of your offering to God is being used in real ways to care for real people.

The Canadian Lutheran World Relief was given over 1,500 to be pooled with other offerings to offer tangible care where it is most needed. Individually, or even as a small congregation our impact is small, but as a national church we make a difference in the world.

And, not a penny (or nickel) is wasted – the financial statements are available for your scrutiny.

Locally, we supported Ryandale, Interval House and Dawn House Shelters – over $1,500 goes a long way for a person or family who don’t have a dollar to their name.

Hundreds of meals were served to people who wouldn’t have eaten because of our offerings – financial and baskets of food- to Martha’s Table and the Food Bank.  Together we did much more than ever could have been done as individuals. A community of believers is a powerful force against hunger and suffering.

Last year we offered over $25,000 – 20.7% of our total gifts to God to be used outside of these walls, joined together with offerings across the city, synod and country to breathe God’s hope into God’s world.  Real life impacts in God’s real life world.  It is a blessing to be a tiny part of this much larger picture of God’s work.

It is my prayer we never think we are giving our income to support the revenue budget lines of a religious organization for our own benefit.  I pray we know and are always reminded we are giving offerings of God’s gifts into God’s work in the world – a holy act of love in response to God’s love for us. Amen.