Worship at Home: May 31 – Pentecost!

Welcome to this plan for worshipping together while we are at our homes. This is the 200th blog post on our website! Pastor Jeff White prepares this and hopes it continues to be helpful to us all, from near and far. More information is available each week in the Bulletin. Today is celebrated by many Christians as PENTECOST. Read the whole story in Acts chapter 2, if you need a refresher.

Worship Welcome Acts 2:17, 18, 21 (MSG) Peter quoting Joel

“In the Last Days,” God says,
“I will pour out my Spirit
on every kind of people:
Your sons will prophesy,
also your daughters;
Your young men will see visions,
your old men dream dreams.
When the time comes,
I’ll pour out my Spirit
On those who serve me, men and women both,
and they’ll prophesy.
And whoever calls out for help
to me, God, will be saved.”

Hymn 290 Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart

Spirit of God descend upon my heart
Wean it from earth thro’ all its pulses move
Stoop to my weakness mighty as Thou art
And make me love Thee as I ought to love

I ask no dream no prophet ecstasies
No sudden rending of the veil of clay
No angel visitant no opening skies
But take the dimness of my soul away

Hast Thou not bid us love Thee God and King
All Thine own soul heart and strength and mind
I see Thy cross there teach my heart to cling
O let me seek Thee and O let me find

Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear
To check the rising doubt the rebel sigh
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer

Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love
One holy passion filling all my frame
The baptism of the heav’n descended dove
My heart an altar and Thy love the flame

– George Croly, 1867

Prayer Fire of God, Sacred Flame, Spirit, Who in splendour came: may we know You again, now. Come to us, Holy Spirit. Call us to You, Holy Spirit. In the name of Jesus, who promised You, we pray and praise. Some of us ask simply that the dimness of our souls be taken away. Some of us fervently seek Your power and filling and glory, and plead for You to move again among us! Some of us are confident today, as every Sunday, that You will be near and powerful. O Spirit of communication, open our minds to understand what is real and true, open our hearts to the river of compassion, open our senses to trust Your guidance. AMEN.

Scripture Deuteronomy 5:1-22 [The Ten Commandments] – ten readers

Song Awesome God (The video, below, seemed like a great rendition to Pastor Jeff.)

Children’s Time God’s Languages

Scripture Hebrews 12:18-24

Sermon Stay The Blazes – Jeff White

Indeed our God is a consuming fire. Such words can put fear into people’s hearts; ‘puts the fear of God into them!’ Have you ever been frightened by God, or by a religious experience?

Author, Philip Yancey, tells of each fall in the church of his childhood, the prophecy conference that was sponsored. Silver-haired men of national repute would stretch their prophecy charts… across the platform and expound on “the last days” we were living in. 

Yancey says, I listened in fear and fascination as they drew a straight line south from Moscow to Jerusalem and sketched in the movement of million-strong armies who would soon converge on Israel. I learned that the ten members of Europe’s Common Market had recently fulfilled Daniel’s prophecy about the beast with ten horns. Soon all of us would bear a number stamped on our foreheads, the mark of the beast, and be registered in a computer somewhere in Belgium. Nuclear war would break out and the planet would teeter on the brink of annihilation, until at the last second Jesus himself would return to lead the armies of righteousness.

Yancey concludes, I grew up at once terrified and desperately hopeful. (Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, 1995 p. 239)

So, it is not surprising that many people want to halt or “stay” the fire of God. Keep away. ‘Stay the blazes,’ we could say. (As in, “I hope the court will stay the execution.”) Halt meeting up with the fires of the Holy Spirit, or even alarming human preaching.

definition of 'stay'

Indeed our God is a consuming fire. This is powerful, poetic language. In our celebration of Pentecost we rejoice in God the Holy Spirit, given to believers. We look back to that scene, recorded in Acts chapter 2, when the disciples of Jesus heard a rushing wind, and flames of fire seemed to appear above each person. God – the Spirit – came to their spirits and bodies. 

They spoke… they spoke in the various languages of the many visitors to the city. All the pilgrims to Jerusalem heard these Galileans speaking in their own ‘foreign’ tongues. God is a Spirit of communication.

Yet, all the supernatural stories of the Spirit, from the scriptures and from history, still can be alarming. Some of us like things on Sunday morning done ‘decently and in order,’ (1 Cor 14:40) nothing getting out of our control. Not to mention when the Pastor visits, or when someone religious knocks on our door, or if there is a chance of ‘speaking in tongues’ at prayer meeting. (We don’t even have prayer mtngs!)

This is a human tendency among believers. The faithful often fall into caution and what’s comfortable. We may hold on to our own dramatic experience, but don’t want a different one.

Two hundred years ago, and more, evangelical revivals were sweeping through the Maritimes, like the ebbing and flowing tides. One influential and legendary travelling evangelist was Henry Alline. An element of the gatherings in many towns was exhortation: the public speaking of lay people, to their family and friends, about the Saviour and their great need of Him. Alline’s faith, and preaching, and teaching were intensely personal, and he encouraged this public witnessing. In his journal, from 1782, he tells of ministry experience in Liverpool. 

Almost all the town assembled together, and some that were lively christians prayed and exhorted, and God was there with a truth. I preached every day and sometimes twice a day; and the houses where I went were crowded almost all the time. Many were brought out of darkness and rejoiced, and exhorted in public.

Historian, George Rawlyk, tells that Alline was particularly moved by “a young lad” who took “his father by the hand,” and cried out, “O father, you have been a great sinner, and now are an old man: an old sinner, with grey hairs upon your head, going right down to destruction.” “O turn, turn, dear father,” the son imported “return and fly to Jesus Christ.” There were according to Alline “many other such like expressions and entreaties, enough to melt a stony heart.” (Rawlyk, Ravished by the Spirit, 1983, p. 113)

This revivalism was, of course, frowned upon by many in the established churches: Anglicans, Presbyterians, and so forth. Yet this evangelical way was powerful, and influential. It is part of our history, our roots of faith in Nova Scotia. 

I notice that my beloved, and now retired, professor of Church History always gets quoted by his former students for saying, “The Church has always institutionalized how the Spirit moved last.” (Dr. Bob Wilson) Something great happens with God, and we want to keep it that way, keep doing it that same way, and not do the next new thing. Meanwhile, the Holy One has moved along and is working in new ways, and left us behind. 

Our reading from Deuteronomy 5 set the stage today for Hebrews 12. Deuteronomy sees Moses retelling the whole story of Exodus and the Law, and so forth, before his death. Today, we read of him rehearsing the Ten Commandments. Did you notice the mention of fire, there at the holy mountain, and the fear the people had? Scared of the fire of the mountain, the people insisted that Moses only approach God. 

So, in the early days of Christ and the new covenant, the book of Hebrews speaks of all these things that happened thirteen hundred years earlier. 

18 You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them.

It is a whole new chapter of faith that the people have come into, not the old path. It is new, with Jesus the Christ. In this chapter, the imagery of Mount Horeb (aka Sinai) and of Mount Zion (Jerusalem) are contrasted. The Bible scenes those Christians read about are not what they are headed for. There is a new vision.

What they remember, by reading the Torah, is the fearful scene of God’s reality. The Holy One had used every sense and power available to be present. 

Touch: an untouchable mountain
Vision: blazing fire and darkness
Emotion: gloom
Music: trumpet sound
Verbal: words that frightened

The new experience, in Christ, is different, greater, grander, and less frightening. It is a vision of a new Holy City (as in Revelation 21). “You have come to…”

Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. This is a picture to point to the indescribable. 

innumerable angels in festal gathering. There is nothing alone or isolating about paradise. And there is praising and celebrating.

the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven. This is what the preacher of Hebrews (a book that is like one very long sermon) calls the believers who have already died.

God the judge of all. I keep thinking that the greatest thing about God always being called The Judge, is that no one else judges us, and we do not have the final say on anyone else. That’s good news!

the spirits of the righteous made perfect. Here again are believers, humans, from earth, who have been made complete by God. Holy forever.

Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant. Of course He is at the centre of the vision. He is the source of the new way, new agreement, new covenant, new relationship.

the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Genesis tells us of Abel being killed by his brother, Cain. Abel’s blood cried out from the ground for justice, for vengeance. Jesus’ blood, on the other hand, also spilled out on the ground through violence, cries out with forgiveness.

If we look hard enough, we can know the Spirit speaking, through history, and today, in all the various ‘love languages’ to us people. Communicating in every way possible to us, in our wondrous diversity. There are Words of Affirmation, and so many of these words recorded in the Gospels for us. This means a lot to some people.

There are Acts of Service. Jesus’ actions speak louder than words to many people.

There is Receiving Gifts, and the concept of ‘Christ as the perfect gift to us’ makes sense to people whose love language is giving and getting gifts.

There is Quality Time, so that the mystics among us value the deep times of devotion with the Spirit.

And Jesus gives Physical Touch. The ways He broke the social and religious rules to touch the untouchable sick, embrace the certified sinners, and then eat with them, was radical! Some people seek and feel His touch today.

Each one is important and expresses love in its own way, the love of God for us and our world.

But we can be uncomfortable with ways that are not our preferred ways. We want to ‘stay the blazes,’ halt the energy of God that we fear.

So, if you are not the ‘touchy feely’ type, you might want to avoid the religious experiences that express emotion physically. Or, if you share love with people by giving things and receiving gifts, meditation and inactive prayers may leave you cold and could seem pointless.

Yet such things are simply the path of loving God for other, different people. It is a matter of personality, of culture, simply a matter of creative differences in humankind. Spirit speaks all our languages.

In Church history we can see the variety of religious expressions that share the truth of Christ, yet are quite different. These live on in the present day. Years ago, I found the categories taught by Renovaré helpful. Renovaré is a Christian, spiritual renewal organization, founded by Richard Foster. 

We can see some Churches are of what we could call the Holiness Tradition, with a focus upon having pure thoughts, words, actions, and overcoming temptation.  Wesleyanism and the Nazarene Church grow from this branch. 

Another way is the Charismatic Tradition, welcoming the Holy Spirit and exercising spiritual gifts. We think immediately of Pentecostalism, but there are many believers who share this, including the charismatic Roman Catholics.

There is the Contemplative Tradition, with an emphasis upon the inner life of prayer and fasting, meditation and solitude. We likely imagine monks in Catholic monasteries, but I have met a few Baptist mystics in my life!

 We can see among believers throughout history a Social Justice Tradition, focused upon helping others in practical ways. One hundred and fifty years ago the ‘Social Gospel’ movement arose in North America, and in many ways lives on. For years now I’ve liked our Canadian Baptist Ministries’ emphasis on ‘integral mission,’ which means serving people in every way: spiritual, physical, mental/emotional, and social. 

Renoavré speaks also of an Incarnational Tradition. This means paying attention to uniting the so-called sacred and secular parts of life. The focus is making present and visible the realm of the invisible Spirit.

And, if Baptists had to choose one of these six categories, I think it would be the Evangelical Tradition, with its emphasis upon sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and being rooted in the scriptures. 

Do any of these paths seem like they describe you? And is any one (or more) something you know you’re not fond of? 

Wherever we are on our journey of salvation, we will find ourselves on a path quite close with some believers, and seemingly far from others. A wider, balanced view of these biblical traditions of Christianity can help us respect and appreciate other saints among us. And we shall learn from one another, be led by one another, and me ministered to by one another… sometimes in surprising ways. 

The multiple ways we need to hear from God are provided. Our fear of ways strange or different can be overcome when led by the Spirit. And we ourselves will be challenged, grow farther into Christian maturity, and have fewer moments when we want to ‘stay the blazes’ of God, and instead, we ‘approach the throne of grace with boldness’. (Hebrews 4:16)

Thanks be to Jesus Christ, our Master! 

Thanks be to the Spirit, God’s Presence!

Thanks be to the Almighty, our Strength!

Offering One of our partners in the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada is Crandall University in Moncton, NB. This university is supported to a great extent – financially and prayerfully – by the churches of the CBAC. Remember the graduating students, who did not get to gather for graduation ceremony or other festivities. We did not yet set a goal for 2020 in terms of Digby Baptist’s giving to Crandall. You can give, as always, by designating to Crandall University on your offering envelope. For an update on Crandall click HERE.

Prayers of the People We offer prayer, O God, and these words guide us to pray along the same path together, today. May the path be along the way of Jesus – in Your will and plan.

For all Your expressions of love and power, we rejoice. You speak our language, whatever it be. And when there are no words, You are still there. Hallelujah!

From a world of trouble, we pray. One act of violence sets off a blaze of trouble and anger, and screams for justice. We pray for those who ‘can’t breathe,’ who are still oppressed, disregarded, hated, hurt, killed. We bow to face our own personal prejudices, some deeply hidden, and wake up to the privileges that unfairly are ours. God of justice, God of forgiveness, God of reconciliation, God of compassion, show mercy!

We continue in prayer for a world that is sick. Sick in body with a virus. Sick in soul, with all the nastiness that rises up in the human spirit. Sick in society, with the ‘us vs. them’ attitudes that harm. Let the fire of the Spirit burn brightly again, and speak in each person’s language the message that is needed.

In our local lives, we rejoice that You are a local God! Near and creative. We pray for one another. We remember the family and friends and church of the late Pastor Marc Phillips, so suddenly taken from us. We remember George T and Marj W in our local hospital, grateful now they can have a visitor or two, at long last. We remember those whose isolation is hard, and really taking a toll on heart and mind and soul. O Comforter, come! and comfort Your people. 

But also, ‘stir us from placidness.’ Light a fire under us, whatever prompting is needed. Spur us on, for this is not a time just for waiting and watching. These – but the beginning of our prayers – we offer in the name of Jesus, who taught us to say: Our Father, who art in heaven… AMEN.

Hymn Spirit of Gentleness

Benediction

Go out into the world,
and labour to bring forth new life.
Dream dreams, pursue visions
and speak of God’s goodness
in the words of those who would hear.
And may the God who breathed life into creation be your delight.
May Christ Jesus give hope to your dreaming,
and may the Holy Spirit, your advocate and supporter,
…set your hearts ablaze with a passion for peace. AMEN.

— copyright © 2003 Nathan Nettleton

Worship at Home, May 24 – ‘Christian Mindfulness’

Welcome to this online resource to help us share worship together. More information is available in the weekly Bulletin. Today’s service plan focuses on meditation and mindfulness, using Psalm 119, among other scriptures.

Celebration of Ministry

Please submit a prayer (you have composed) for our Prayer Booklet. You can drop it off on paper on weekday mornings, mail it, or email it to us.

Some of the Deacons (and Pastor) got to meet this past week (online, via Zoom) and talked about things including these: weekly worship plans, anniversary guest speaker, plan for ‘re-opening’ in the future.

We have not been together for ten weeks. We have not been able to celebrate one another’s birthdays! Happy Birthday to all you born in April and May, such as Dwight, Edna, Sonny, Terry, Carolyn, Bev, Angela, Myra, Linda C., Lexi, Joyce L, Murray, Diane H., Mason and MacKenna. God bless you all.

Next Sunday is Christian PENTECOST! We shall celebrate the Gift of God the Holy Spirit with us.

Worship Welcome Psalm 119:169-176 – Rob & Sara Wilkinson

169 Let my cry come before you, O Lord;
give me understanding according to your word.
170 Let my supplication come before you;
deliver me according to your promise.
171 My lips will pour forth praise,
because you teach me your statutes.
172 My tongue will sing of your promise,
for all your commandments are right.
173 Let your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.
174 I long for your salvation, O Lord,
and your law is my delight.
175 Let me live that I may praise you,
and let your ordinances help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek out your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments.

Silence for about 20 seconds.

Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes, so that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.

Hymn 557 Open My Eyes, That I May See

Prayer Silently now, I wait for You, ready, my God, your will to do; open my heart, illumine me, Spirit Divine! Mighty Master, we share the same praises with You today, though we are apart. We give thanks for what is possible, in these days. With hymns ancient and modern we praise You. With the longest chapter in the Bible, we pray to and with You. With the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts we put ourselves in Your hands. Guide our worship today, in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Silence for about 40 seconds.

Song Thy Word

Children’s Time

Offering The offering bottle at the back of the pews collects funds for Canadian Baptist Ministries, for our relief and development work in the world. Of course, you can designate offerings for this ministry on your envelope from time to time. (This fund was formerly called The Sharing Way.)

Solo: ‘Rainbow’ – Sharon Marshall

Scripture Psalm 119:145-152 – Sara & Rob Wilkinson

145 With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord.
I will keep your statutes.
146 I cry to you; save me,
that I may observe your decrees.
147 I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I put my hope in your words.
148 My eyes are awake before each watch of the night,
that I may meditate on your promise.
149 In your steadfast love hear my voice;
O Lord, in your justice preserve my life.
150 Those who persecute me with evil purpose draw near;
they are far from your law.
151 Yet you are near, O Lord,
and all your commandments are true.
152 Long ago I learned from your decrees
that you have established them forever.

Silence for about 60 seconds.

Sermon: Christian Mindfulness – Jeff White

Last year, this question was posed by a reader to Focus On the Family, the well-known and very large American ministry organization:

What is mindfulness? Some say it’s a positive form of meditation — and so I thought it might help me manage stress. But others believe it can negatively impact mental and spiritual health. As a Christian, I want to be sure I don’t go down a wrong path.

It is so good to ask questions about the many spiritual practices that we hear about, in our day and age. ‘Mindfulness’ is but one, and I think a very popular concept, right now. The short answer – and it’s pretty good – that Focus On the Family gave was this:

Generally speaking, mindfulness is a technique of deliberately focusing your attention on the present. You don’t let yourself be distracted by other thoughts constantly running through your head; you clear “noise” from your mind.

Mindfulness (some use the word grounding) is characterized by meditation and relaxation techniques. The idea is to become more self-aware. You pay attention to thoughts, feelings, and sensations in that moment — without purposefully deciding whether they’re good or bad, and without becoming overwhelmed or overly reactive. In short, you tune in to what’s real right now.

The FOTF writer concludes: Like anything, mindfulness can be misused. However, it doesn’t automatically contradict the Christian faith. We just need to make sure we approach it in a wise, biblical way.

The trend in our culture to be healthier by being ‘mindful’ is a good trend, in a sense. People are facing the fact that many of us could stand to live more in the moment, and deal with the anxieties and worries we keep in our minds, which are rooted in the past and the future. In what we call His ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ Jesus speaks about worry at some length. 

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

…27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?

…33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Mtt 6)

So, to strive for the Kingdom can include a few parts. We strive for the King – to know and serve Christ. We strive to know what God is active doing, around us, and join in to do our part. We also can strive to know ourselves, as citizens of the Kingdom. Philippians 3:20 tells believers “our citizenship is in heaven.”

To be mindful, to live in the present moment, is graciously possible with our Saviour. Jesus is not only inspiring, He becomes our instructor. 

I remember well, a decade ago, how a friend looked at Holy Week with thoughts of how amazing Jesus was. In this way: knowing what was to happen to Him, He went through each day of that week before His death so calmly. Back and forth Jesus went, into Jerusalem, and back out to Bethany. Into the Temple and out. Teaching, healing, getting ready for the Passover with His close companions. Jesus was living in the moment, yet was prepared for His future.

Prayer and meditation were built-in parts of the devotional life of Jews, back then, of course. We notice Christ taking the disciples away to quiet places for prayer – surely they were long, extended periods of time. Jesus’ hours in the Garden of Gethsemane are so memorable. On the edge of terrible suffering, quiet time was necessary.

And there are all the moments before the culmination. For instance, before He chose the twelve disciples, He went away, all night, for prayer. (Luke 6:12-13)

Prayer, meditation, solitude, silence – all these elements of our walk with God, are so important, and all take time. More time than I give them, I know that anyway! Every few years I make an attempt, for a season, at Christian meditation. Silence. Not praying a bunch of words. Trying to be quiet, silent, in my thoughts. Trying to sit before God, and listen. And just be. Be still and know that God is God. (Psalm 46) 

For two millenia now, Christians have worked on ways of being present to Christ through meditation. There are many paths and teachings. A couple of the most helpful writers about this, for me, have been Dallas Willard and Martin Laird. There are many other good ones. 

Willard was a Baptist teacher who wrote more about how spiritual discipline works, and less about the how to of these things. He pointed out to me how important solitude and silence are in our lives with Jesus. He says,

In silence we close off our souls from “sounds,” whether those sounds be noise, music, or words. Total silence is rare, and what we today call “quiet” usually only amounts to a little less noise. Many people have never experienced silence and do not even know that they do not know what it is. Our households and offices are filled with the whirring, buzzing, murmuring, chattering, and whining of the multiple contraptions that are supposed to make life easier. 

Have you ever heard the sound of silence? 

I have fond childhood memories of annual trips to southern Ontario, to visit grandparents and other family. There were, of course, excursions to the sights to see in the GTA. A lover of all things science, I looked forward to visiting the Science Centre in Toronto. I guess the Discovery Centre in Halifax is like this? I have not been there. 

At the Science Centre (around 1980 anyway) one very cool exhibit was a soundproof room. The walls of the room and the hallway leading in were lined with black, foamy, corrugated material that absorbed sound. Enter, be still and quiet, and one heard nothing. Nothing! For the first time in my life I ‘heard’ nothing. 

To practice mindfulness, as a Christian, is to find silence. Silence for our thoughts and feelings inside. And there, we may offer ourselves to the Holy One as we never have before. Isaiah 30:15 says, For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. But you refused…

Leading up to this sermon today, I suggested to you all that we work our way through Psalm 119. 22 days of Psalm 119: it has 22 sections of eight verses each. Each section, in the ancient Hebrew language, begins with the same letter of that alphabet. Every one of the 176 verses includes a word that means law, word, commandment. This long Psalm must be the result of an inspired time of meditation upon the fullness of the Old Testament, which was enjoyed and appreciated by the composer of this Psalm. Imagine this task of writing a long, alphabetic poem about obeying God’s word. For us in English it could be 208 lines long!

Reflect now on this. If you spent time on Psalm 119 each day (or most days), what did you discover? What was your experience of God? What did you learn or see in yourself? (Remember, we learn so much from our failures.) 

Psalm 119 is so repetitious, eh? So many mindfulness and meditation practices use repetition, to keep a person focused, to quiet the mind and the thoughts, to get deeper into our souls. 

Now, I must admit that I have yet to be clear about what ‘meditation’ means. I have actually used it in a couple ways. It means a few things to us. 

Usually, among Baptists and others, I find we call a short sermon or devotional talk ‘a meditation.’ And that’s fine. One has mulled a scripture over, pondered it, prayed, and then talks about it. You see in a plan for a church service ‘Meditation,’ and it means a talk by a preacher.

The ‘meditation’ I am speaking of today is a form of prayer. Well, this comes in many forms. There is praying that is thinking over a scripture for an extended period of time (what we did with Psalm 119 for 22 days). There is guided meditation, when one person suggests thoughts and images for a group to follow in their imaginations. And there is silent meditation, which seeks to quiet the thoughts and distractions of the mind, and simply be quiet inside. I guess you could tell that has been my focus today. 

Like the soundproof room at the Science Centre, I seek the soundproof room of my inner life with God. I recommend it to you also. Seek the quiet path. Silent prayer. Meditation. Contemplation. Whatever you want to call it. Such times are sabbath moments for us, little times of rest for our souls. 

Any technique we find that the Spirit helps us use is a blessing. And the habits we form are simply tools. Martin Laid puts it this way:

A gardener for example, does not actually grow plants. The gardener practices finely honed skills, such as cultivating soil, watering, feeding, weeding, pruning. But there is nothing the gardener can do to make the plants grow. However, if the gardener does not do what a gardener is supposed to do, the plants are not as likely to flourish. In fact they might not grow at all… The skills are necessary but by themselves insufficient. 

(Martin Laird, Into the Silent Land, 2006, p. 54)

It is God who is sufficient, and who appreciates and will bless our efforts. Our efforts to “be still and know.”

Psalm 119: 148 My eyes are awake before each watch of the night, that I may meditate upon your promise. 151 …you are near, O LORD.Whether we meditate and become ‘mindful’ in the middle of the night, or we find times during the day that work for us, let us quiet ourselves. Let us teach one another (testify to) the methods that we have found helpful. Let us receive the gracious promises of Jesus, who said, 28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11)

PRAYERS of the People
We all have many people for whom we pray today. We have many things we know about in the world that concern us. We have ourselves and our walk with God, in this strange time, to talk about.
Take time to bring all these people and events to mind, in the name of Jesus.
Then, let us simply be quiet, in prayer. Stay away from words and names and lists, for about a minute and a half. Then, have some closing thoughts for prayer…

SILENCE for 90 seconds (OK, in the recording, I took about two minutes.)

Finally, we know we are Your beloved ones.
We think about whatever is true.
We think about whatever is honourable.
We think about whatever is just.
We think about whatever is pure.
We think about whatever is pleasing.
We think about whatever is commendable.
We think about whatever is excellent.
We think about whatever is worthy of praise.
Help us to do the things we have learned and received and heard from Your guides in our lives.
God of peace, be with us.
AMEN.

Psalm 119:10 With my whole heart I seek thee; let me not wander from thy commandments!

Hymn 45 Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Benediction (using Psalm 119:76-77)

Let God’s steadfast love become your comfort,
let God’s mercy come to you, that you may live,
and let God’s law become your delight;
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. AMEN.

Psalm 119 Contemplations Week 3 (May 18-24)

Precious Promises ~ May 18 ~ Psalm 119:121-128 ~ Ayin “Truly I love your commandments more than gold, more than find gold.” (127)

As you pray over these eight verses today, notice what things in ‘God’s rules’ you really love. Which ones are really important to you? Ask why this is. And go on to remember the laws and teachings that you do not like as much, and don’t bother following. Meditate upon all these things.

Redeeming Rules ~ May 19 ~ Psalm 199:129-136 ~ Pe “Redeem me from human oppression, that I may keep your precepts.” (134)

Perhaps this long Psalm is finally wearing on you, seems so repetitive, and is too much about keeping the rules. Then again, you may be finding some refreshing moments with God in these ancient words. Read over today’s verses again, looking for messages of freedom. Consider how the boundaries given to us actually make freedom possible.

Small Servant ~ May 20 ~ Psalm 119:137-144 ~ Tsadde “I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts.” (141)

We have been feeling the emotional impact of these many verses. We see here so much experience of people trying to be faithful: loving faithfulness and struggling with it. As you pray over today’s eight verses, what verse resonates most with you? What words tell your story? What phrase is your prayer today?

True Tears ~ May 21 ~ Psalm 119:145-152 ~ Qoph With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD. I will keep your statutes. (145)

Richard Foster wrote about “The Prayer of Tears,” and reminds us that often, weeping can be praying. Use these verses of Psalm 119 to remind you of the times you have wept, and what that said to God. Perhaps you can give thanks for your tears, and the One who received them, Who promises that “every tear shall be dry.”

Ultimate Urgency ~ May 22 ~ Psalm 119:153-160 ~ Resh. Look on my misery and rescue me, for I do not forget your law. (153)

Today’s segment can get us in touch with our urgency. Some crises are so important, and something needs to happen now! In the face of that, quiet prayer is still needed. With Jesus, come away to a quiet place. Take each of these eight verses, and take time to pray over each one. See where the words lead you.

Words Wowed ~ Psalm 119:161-168 ~ Shin ~ May 23. Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words. (161)

There have been some amazing phrases in this Psalm, the longest chapter in the Bible. You will likely keep some that were ‘new to you’ close to your heart now. Today, let verses 161-168 inspire you to create some new habits of scripture or meditation or prayer in your daily life. Examples: take time each day for awe. Or plan ways to praise God seven times a day. Or check in at the end of each day on how you were truthful. 

Yearning You ~ Psalm 119:169-176 ~ Taw ~ May 24. I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight. (174)

The actions of God, and the messages of God, are all about our connection with the Holy One: the communication; the relationship. It is so worth doing our part to stay connected with the One who has saved us for good work. The sheep went astray, but the Shepherd longed for us, even more than we longed for the Shepherd. Yearning for God is one of the best things that can grow from our meditation upon scripture.

Worship at Home: May 17 ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality’

Welcome to this resource for worship at home. The Bulletin, with other prayers, announcements and information, is also available here on our website. This May we have four weeks of attention to our mental and emotional well-being; today we consider emotionally healthy spirituality.

Worship Welcome John 4:23-24
Jesus said: “the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Song Way Maker (sung by a choir in Michigan)

Prayer God, our Way through the wilderness, guide us, heart and mind and body, through this worship time. Some things will keep our attention more than others – a song, a verse, a story. Guide us. Some things will distract us – noises around, aches and pains, wandering thoughts. Guide us. Some things will bring up strong feelings, even emotions we’ve buried for a while. Guide us, we pray, and all who seek You in worship this Sunday. All who sing, and study, and pray. We remember the words we share: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name… AMEN.

Scripture Psalm 119:113-120 – Maggie & Mike Beveridge

[Meditate upon each eight verse section of Psalm 119 each day of this month (May 3-24 for the 22 sections). A plan for this, and some guiding thoughts, are here in this blog, and on our Facebook page.]

Solo: Psalm 23 – Joyce Marshall

Scripture 2 Corinthians 7:2-16 – Dianne Banks

Sermon: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – Jeff White

Jessica is a gifted manager in her company. She has been a Christian for fifteen years and loves spending time with God. When the vice president of her company was making schedules for managers to meet with clients out of town, he asked Jessica to pick the weeks she would prefer to travel over the next three months. Within the week Jessica emailed him the dates and eagerly awaited confirmation. None arrived. Jessica called his office the following week.

His administrative assistant answered. “Well, according to the schedule I have in front of me, the next three months are all full,” she said. “I guess this means he doesn’t need you right now. But thanks for calling.” 

Jessica sat stunned in her chair. “Thank you,” she replied robotically and hung up. 

For the next two weeks Jessica wrestled with God and herself. She asked God for forgiveness for the anger she was feeling. She tried to figure out why the vice president had changed his mind. She humbled herself to God. She cried out in prayer for love toward her coworkers. She lost sleep.

Finally, she concluded God was dealing with her stubborn self-will.

Over time Jessica distanced herself from the vice president and other managers, avoiding them whenever possible. During the next two years she worked hard, but she felt like she had hit a ceiling in how far she could go with this company. Eventually, she took a position with another company. 

Jessica is committed to her personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She practices spiritual disciplines. The problem, however, is that her commitment to Jesus Christ does not include relating to people in an emotionally mature way. Instead, she misapplies biblical truth and follows, most probably, the relational skills learned unconsciously in her family growing up. (2014, pp. 166-7)

That’s from Peter Scazzero’s book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. There are a number of books one can read about emotional intelligence and maturity, and Scazzerro’s is one from a thoroughly Christian perspective. Emotionally healthy spirituality is an important facet of the abundant life Christ works to develop in us.

I mention from time to time my pastor friend who gives a mini sermon about being a ‘well-rounded square.’ Are you a well-rounded square? He takes his cue from Luke 2:52 ~ Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in divine and human favour. Growth in these four areas – wisdom: mentally; stature: physically; divine favour: spirituality; human favour: socially. Jesus grew up well-rounded in these four areas… so can you and I.

We still have growth and development to do, even if we are forty or fifty, seventy or ninety. At this point in our pandemic precautions, our mental (and emotional) health may well be a bit strained. We are finding out how resilient we are in our emotional intelligence, our inner self, our mental health and ability. With Christ, in Christ, we can grow in this wisdom. We need this!

To be in touch with our own feelings and inner thoughts is so important. To express ourselves well goes hand in hand with this.

So I chose our main text for today, chapter seven of Second Corinthians. On this page of Paul’s letter to the church in that ancient city, he shares so much emotion; and he proves he is wise. Just listen to the emotional words and phrases in these fifteen verses. (From the translation Dianne read from, the CEV:)

your hearts!
mistreated hurt
proud encouraged
troubled fears
cheers up glad
sorry concerned happier
feel bad harmed
angry shocked eager
care nothing to worry about
disappoint
loves trembled with fear
really glad

Many of these words get repeated, as you noticed. One thing you can be sure of with the holy scriptures, emotions and mental health are right in front of you. From the family dramas of Genesis, to the sagas of the judges and kings, to the powerful words of the prophets, to the emotional expressions of Christ and Paul and the believers – people’s hearts are opened up for us to see. 

One example: our use of Psalm 119 this month may be used of God to train us in emotional health. This longest of the Psalms is all about enjoying ‘the law,’ the holy scriptures. Notice the strong and expressive words about enjoying the Bible, obeying it, and facing those who are opposing this way of life.

I hate the double-minded
but I love your law.
(113)
let me not be put to shame in my hope.
(116)
My flesh trembles for fear of you,
and I am afraid of your judgments.
(120)

Strong language! Some verses are not ones we would compose, today, but others are. It all awakens in us feelings and deep thoughts that we may have kept hidden, even from ourselves. 

We relate to God as an emotional Being, who has feelings, and feels deeply. As Peter Scazzero says in his book, “The journey of genuine transformation to emotionally healthy spirituality beings with a commitment to allow yourself to feel. It is an essential part of our humanity and unique personhood as men and women made in God’s image.” (pp. 44-45)

The Bible shows a God who takes delight in things (including us), gets angry, regrets and repents, rejoices, weeps, is troubled, cries out, rests, and loves with an everlasting love. These are all emotions and responses gifted to us, in creation.

And so we see a saint like the Apostle Paul expressing all these things too. We learn from his example, and his mistakes. 

So, what happened in the Church of Corinth that led to Paul writing this chapter we read today? There must have been some problem!

Yes, there sure was. But we are not told exactly what happened in this or the other letters of the NT. Clearly, someone in the congregation had opposed and had a conflict with another person – probably with Paul himself. “when we came to Macedonia… we were afflicted in every way–disputes without and fears within.” (7:5) 

Paul had written them a letter about the ‘fight’ that happened, a letter which obviously upset them, grieved them, for a while. “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it.” (7:8) Paul rejoices that his friends there regretted what had happened, and ‘repented’ – made a turnaround.

In the end, Paul, as a pastoral mentor of the congregation, was vindicated. “So, although I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did the wrong, nor on account of the one who was wronged [me, Paul?], but in order that your zeal for us might be made known to you before God. In this we find comfort.” (7:12-13)

This episode in the early life of this Church, and their leaders, is but one example and inspiration for us to grow into emotional health and spiritual maturity. These people were all on a journey, as we are. Learning to know God, to know ourselves, and to relate beautifully with one another. See, we are becoming ‘well-rounded squares!’

There are many steps and stages we can take on our journey of growing up and growing stronger in Christ. The scriptures and our circumstances are the classroom, the ‘school of life,’ we might say.

Taking some cues from Scazzero’s teaching, let me suggest the following biblical paths we can take. These are but a few of many steps available. 

Know thyself.’ I can’t take it for granted that I know myself really well, deep inside: my heart, soul, mind, psyche, ego, however we label our inner parts. “We are fearfully and wonderfully made!” (Ps 139)  

Back in First Corinthians, Paul beautifully said, “For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within?” (2:11) Yet even a man or woman may be out of touch with his or her own soul. Psalm 19 prays, “But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults.” (19:12)

So, know yourself. This is an ongoing work, sometimes a special project for us, with our Master. Know yourself, that you may know God. In the opening of his Institutes, John Cavin wrote:

Our wisdom… consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.

Peter Scazzero speaks of three temptations toward a false sense of oneself. Temptation 1: to think ‘I am what I do.’ This is all about performance, in family, work, education, community, church, wherever. Temptation 2: to think ‘I am what I have.’ We think of ourselves in terms of our possessions, or what we feel we lack. Temptation 3: to think ‘I am what others think of me.’ Getting in touch with how Christ esteems us is a big remedy for this.

 Four words of guidance in this book are:

One: pay attention to your interior in silence and solitude. We will delve into Christian meditation and mindfulness next Sunday, May 24. 

Two: find trusted companions. Many of us have a few friends, or mentors, whom we can trust greatly and share life. When we do not have such people, we must seek. When we have folks to help us, but don’t speak enough with them, we can make a new start.

Three: move out of your comfort zone. Yes, Scazzero has used a cliche phrase, but his point is good. This takes willingness to be and feel awkward, with courage and trust in Jesus.

Four: pray for courage. Courage to explore who you are in Christ. Courage to take steps deep within. Courage to be. 

Another big part of the journey of emotionally healthy spirituality is Sabbath keeping and daily devotion. Scazzero calls his chapter on this ‘Discover the Sacred Rhythms of the Daily Office and Sabbath.’ 

For a year at least I have really wanted to explore ‘Sabbath keeping,’ and will likely preach about this some time later. Our daily times of special focus upon God are of great importance to our growing up in Christ. Some of you read each day from ‘Tabletalk,’ or ‘The Daily Bread,’ ‘The Upper Room,’ or an email devotion you receive. You may have a Bible reading plan you use. Or a prayer list. 

Lately, this is what I have been doing. (This changes from year to year and season to season.) In a quiet moment at the start of the day, I use an old (1936) book of daily prayers, by John Baillie. Then I read my Bible chapters for the day, Old and New Testaments. Then I read from the in-depth devotional, ‘Tabletalk.’ Then I pray, often using some words from a book of prayers by Walter Brueggeman. 

I find that the scripture passages, and the teaching and prayers of others, prompt my thinking and praying in ways I would never have done on my own. Emotions are suggested that I might have not noticed in myself, or have avoided. 

Yet, the quiet times without words are important too. Feelings don’t need words. As I said, more about this next Sunday.

One last thing from the book, ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,’ among the many things I could mention. Practice the presence of people. We have heard of ‘the practice of the presence of God,’ but how brilliant to make paying attention to other people a spiritual discipline! Jesus grew in favour with people, socially, we are told. So may we. 

M. Scott Peck told a story of meeting a fellow student in highschool one day, at age fifteen. 

I suddenly realized that for the entire ten-minute period from when I had first seen my acquaintance until that very moment, I had been totally self-preoccupied. For the two or three minutes before we met all I was thinking about was the clever things I might say that would impress him.  During our five minutes together I was listening to what he had to say only so that I might turn it into a clever rejoinder. I watched him only so that I might see what effect my remarks were having on him. And for the two or three minutes after we separated my sole thought content was those things I could have said that might have impressed him even more. I had not cared a whit for my classmate. (M. Scott Peck, A World Waiting to Be Reborn, 1993, pp. 112-113)

Peck’s reflection on this, like ours, can be a first step towards ‘practicing the presence of people.’ When Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” it could apply to the life of our mouths & our ears! (Jn 15:13) Doesn’t this take us full circle? Noticing how we listen and speak takes us into knowing ourselves.

May the God of true feelings and deep compassion bless you to feel your own feelings. May the letters and songs and stories of scripture give you courage to be your authentic self, in front of God, in front of others, and in front of your mirror each morning. May the fellowship of the faithful train you and me to be emotionally healthier in spirit. 

“It makes me really glad to know that I can depend on you.” (2 Cor 7:16)

PRAYERS of the People A bidding prayer
Praise God for one thing about God…
Adore God for two beautiful things about Jesus…
Give thanks for three blessings of today…
Give thanks for four blessings of the past week…
Ask for help with these five personal problems…
Ask for help for six others with problems…
Seek a blessing for seven people facing illness…
Seek a blessing for eight families facing tragedy…
Pray for guidance for nine leaders…
Pray for help in ten nations of the world…
Ask the Spirit to refresh these eleven Churches….
Ask the Spirit to teach us all these twelve lessons…
Amen.

OFFERING We have not had an opportunity, since our Annual Meeting, to set some mission goals for the year, 2020. Remember the work of our denomination (CBAC), our Baptist Association, ADC, Crandall University, CBM, our Partners in Mission (the Bustins & Soucys), and so on.

Hymn 519 It Is Well with My Soul

Benediction by William Sloane Coffin

May the Lord Bless You and Keep You;
May the Lord Make His Face to Shine Upon You
And Be Gracious Unto You.
May God Give You the Grace Not to Sell Yourself Short,
Grace to Risk Something Big For Something Good,
Grace to Remember that The World is Now
Too Dangerous for Anything but Truth, and
Too Small for Anything but Love.
So May God Take Your Minds and Think Through Them;
May God Take Your Lips and Speak Through Them; and
May God Take Your Hearts and Set Them On Fire,
Through the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Amen.

Psalm 119 Contemplations – Week 2 (May 11-17)

Increased Integrity ~ May 11 ~ Psalm 119:65-72 ~ Teth. Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. (66)

Let’s start to use a different approach this week. Read through verses 65 to 72 slowly. Does one verse or phrase grab your attention more than the others? Take time to ponder it. Read it all slowly again. Ask in prayer why that verse is important to you now. Read it slowly once more. Is there a way for you to respond? Something Your Master is asking you to do in this word?

Joyful Judgments ~ May 12 ~ Psalm 119:73-80 ~ Yod. Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word. (74)

Let’s do some ‘holy reading’ again, with Psalm 119. Read these eight verses, and notice what stands out. Ask, prayerfully, ‘is it You who is pointing this out to me, or not You?’ Read the verses again, slowly. Are there things about your personality that lead you to pick out that one verse? Are there things about what’s going on with you today that led you to notice it? Read the verses once more, and try to quiet your mind, thinking only of these phrases you see here.

Keep Calm ~ Psalm 119:81-88 ~ Kaph ~ May 13. My soul languishes for your salvation; I hope in your word. (81)

Today’s theme of ‘needing help in our souls’ can bring us into the Holy Presence. It is a real lament we read today. Do you need to be sad? To cry out for justice? To hope desperately for rescue from a situation? Or, remember a time in your life when you walked through a dark valley and were desperate for God.

Limitless Lord ~ May 14 ~ Psalm 119:89-96 ~ Lamed. I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad. (96)

As you go over these verses today, notice what is perfect and what is not perfect. The need for perfection can be a deep need we feel. We obsess over little things that are not just right. Or we see the big issues that need to be fixed, but are not. Quiet your thoughts, and sit before God in quietness. Seek to be still and know the Perfect One near you.

My Meditation ~ May 15 ~ Psalm 119:97-104 ~ Mem. Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all day long. (97)

The word ‘meditation’ comes up often in the 176 verses of Psalm 119. With your body resting and quiet, take time to quiet your mind, and seek to be still in your thoughts. As you go over today’s eight verses, choose one small phrase as a focus for Christian meditation. Say you choose, “I do not turn away.” Then, when you become still, but your mind wanders, go back to the words you chose. “I do not turn away.” Repeat the phrase in your mind, slowly, whenever you get distracted. Seek the simple light and presence of God.

No Night ~ May 16 ~ Psalm 119:105-112 ~ Nun. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (105)

Light and darkness are deep images of our experience. If possible, light a candle for your meditation time today. Or turn on a battery operated candle. Whatever works for you, whatever you have at hand. Simply pray quietly, with the light as something to focus your attention. Remember, remember, remember, Jesus is the Light of the world, our inner Light, and He is the living Word to us.

Others Off-track ~ May 17 ~ Psalm 119:113-120 ~ Samek. I hate the double-minded, but I love your law. (113)

It is Sunday again. ‘Right’ and ‘wrong’ get our attention, when we “get religious.” Knowing what’s wrong can help us stay on the right track, but can also tempt us to beat up on others whom we see doing wrong. Today, pray prayers of confession. Ask to be shown the deeper causes of your own failures and faults. Seek Jesus, who loves you enough to give up His life for you. May His forgiveness come, and “hold you up.”

Worship at Home: May 10 – Mother’s Day

Welcome to this resource for worship at home. We can share this plan to pray and look to the scriptures together, while apart. This May we have a month of attention to our mental and emotional well-being; today remembering the stigma of illness.

Worship Welcome Luke 1:46-48, 52-53
As Mary said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour
on the lowliness of his servant.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.

Hymn 532 Be Thou My Vision (sung below by a church in Cincinnati, OH)

Prayer O Lord of our hearts, open our vision today, we pray. Open us to see You, to see ourselves, to see one another, to see a new vision of Your world.

O Lord our soul’s shelter, while we are sheltered in our own homes, fill us with courage to grow and explore our own souls. Lead us, Spirit, into transformation, holiness, and action.

O Lord our dignity and our delight, raise us up to praise and proclaim the goodness of life, in this world of suffering and pain. We worship today to the best of our ability: increase our faith!

High King of Heaven, meet us in the low & lowly places where we live, and scatter Your blessings again among all the needy. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Scripture Psalm 119:57-64 Meditate upon each eight verse section of Psalm 119 each day of this month (May 3-24 for the 22 sections). A plan for this, and some guiding thoughts, are here in this blog.

Offering We thank God that we can still offer worship at this time, from our own homes. We can still serve one another with friendship and prayer, with little errands and listening ears. We can still contribute tithes and offerings for our local congregation and for ministries around the globe. Praise be!

Piano Medley In the Garden / May the Good Lord Bless & Keep You / Amazing Grace – Brenda Eisener, Ottawa, sister of Eddie Dunn

Scripture 1 Samuel 21:10-22:2 – Heather Parry

Sermon Crazy Contagion – Jeff White

“So, tell me about your mother.” This popular cliché in psychology was the hallmark of Sigmund Freud. Today is the end of Mental Health Week in Canada: good timing for us all, isn’t it?! Today’s sermon is not a therapy session for you (or me!), but it is an opportunity to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches about the health of the mind, and God’s part in healing and helping. Yet there is still so much stigma, so much looking down upon these problems and those who suffer them.

The Sunday evening study group has been continuing – online – to work through our study of mental health and the Church’s ministry to people facing mental illnesses. One whole chapter of Amy Simpson’s book, ‘Troubled Minds’ is about the stigma of mental illness, and how stigma against people lives on in churches.

How people deal with illnesses of the mind is part of our culture. We are steeped in a culture that still fears mental illnesses, stereotypes the people suffer- ing, makes fun of them, and uses a lot of methods to avoid dealing with them. This has been the case for centuries, in many different cultures. There is a stigma about ‘madness/craziness,’ that lives on with us. Even the use of these terms that are out of date says something. They become rude and demeaning.

We looked back, way back, today, to the Hebrews in the time of King David. We find him on the run, and ‘feigning madness,’ at one point. Pretending to be mad, crazy, insane. 

The biography of David is a complex story – just as yours and mine is – and in 1 Samuel 21 and 22 we find him fleeing from Saul and other men of power in those days. David comes into the realm of Achish, king of Gath (a realm known as Goliath’s home turf, remember?). David’s reputation precedes him, and he finds the people of the royal court know all about him. Fearing king Achish, David pretends to be mentally ill. He scratches on the doors. He drools. 

His ploy works. Achish treats him as harmless: actually, just bothersome. “Why do I need another madman around here?” declares Achish. David gets sent on his way, & runs off to another place. Later, we can read of David & Achish getting along quite well.

To pretend to be mentally ill is not something we think of doing often. Or is it? In court cases, the accused may ‘plead insanity’ so as to not be held totally responsible for his or her illegal actions. There have been cases when someone ‘in their right mind’ tried to get off with this as an excuse. 

But even in pop culture we know about pretending to be mad. I remember the TV series M*A*S*H, with Corporal Klinger: he tried for years to be kicked out of his military service overseas by acting crazy: bt cross-dressing. He wanted a ‘Section 8,’ a discharge from the army for being mentally unfit. 

‘Crazyness’ is funny in our eyes. We laugh. Making fun of people who don’t ‘act normal’ becomes contagious. We all start laughing, rolling our eyes, and acting foolish ourselves. But this gets transferred to real people, brothers and sisters who suffer from illnesses of the mind. 

It is also frightening: we fear it. This builds the stigma against suffering people. 

Is ‘crazyness’ contagious? Can we catch it by getting too close to someone? This may be an irrational fear, but it can be a real fear. Moreover, people fear mental illness because it ‘runs in the family.’ The genetic element can predispose someone to become sick, we fear, and the family of origin can perpetuate unhealthy relationships and abuses that cause emotional harm and illness.  So we think – based on facts – but we also exaggerate the dangers.

I remember a dear friend, a wise friend, who spoke of the depression that ran in his family. His father died from a gunshot, out in the field, alone. One son said it was an accident. The other always figured it was actually suicide. Others in the family had mental illnesses; some had died by suicide. 

So the fears around illness grow. Despite our faith in a God “who heals all our diseases,” a Saviour whom we call the Great Physician, a Spirit we call our Comforter and our Advocate. 

Let me tell you some of the story of Amy Simpson, and her mother. Amy Simpson is editor of Gifted For Leadership and managing editor of marriage and parenting resources for Today’s Christian Woman. She is the author of ‘Into the Word: How to Get the Most from Your Bible,’ and, ‘Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission.’ Simpson tells us:

I grew up in the Midwest, one of four kids in a loving family. Dad was a pastor for ten years, serving two small rural churches. Mom was a homemaker. Our family loved to go camping, and all of my best memories of family life have the six of us crammed into a pop-up camper, swimming in a lake somewhere or sweating together with the wind thrashing our hair, three in the front and in the back of our sedan. 

My mom is a gentle person, creative, funny, resourceful and very smart. She always encouraged my creative development, indulged my love for reading, taught me to clean the house like I meant it, sparked my love of a good pun and showed me how to get organized. Mom is also the person who led me to faith in Christ when only four years old. 

Yet there’s more to our story. Mom has suffered tremendously and has been the source of much of my own suffering. Ours is a very complicated relationship—as all her relationships are. While I didn’t know enough to question the normalcy of our family life when I was a child, I knew something was wrong. This undefined knowledge nagged at my family as we did our best to ignore it. As it became harder to ignore, we started looking for help—and came up short. When I was a teenager, on the day I waited at school for someone to pick me up and no one came, it became obvious.

My brother, who had stopped at home on a break between college classes, had found Mom in the kitchen, completely unable to function. She went to the hospital. When I called home from a pay phone to find out when someone would pick me up school, a neighbor answered and said Mom had had “a stroke or something.”

It was no stroke that had indelibly altered Mom and our family. That was the day she had her first full-on, debilitating, confusing, terrifying, mind-bending, truth-twisting, hospital-worthy psychotic break. And it was a long time before I understood what happened. 

When I was fifteen, Mom picked me up at school to take me to a dental appointment. I could tell immediately that she wasn’t functioning normally; I recognized warning signs that she was headed for another “episode.” 

I remember thanking God that I could legally take over driving if I needed to and asking Mom if she had taken her medication that day. Her answer was not straightforward…

We did make our way safely to the dental office…

After half an hour or so with the dentist, I returned to the waiting room and approached my mom, who didn’t look at me. Suddenly I realized my instincts had been right, and my earlier fear was realized: something indeed was wrong with Mom…again. And it was up to me to help her.

After a couple of quiet attempts to rouse her, I began to attract attention. People sat and stared at me, wide-eyed, as I tried to get her to respond. 

With everyone in the room continuing to stare, I walked over to the reception desk and asked the woman behind the counter – who was also staring – if I could use the phone. “No, there’s a pay phone around the corner.” When I explained that I needed to call my dad for help, I didn’t have change for the phone, and it would be a local call, she still refused and pointed to the pay phone. So I went back to my mom and wrestled with her rigid arms, pulling them aside enough to get into her purse and get the quarter In needed for the phone. I went back to the receptionist to ask if she could keep an eye on my Mom while I went to use the pay phone. She shrank back in horror and asked, “Is she dangerous?”

While Dad was on his way, one of the dentists became aware of what was happening and did what she could to help get Mom to the car. Dad and I took her to the hospital for another of her psychiatric stays and restabilization on medication. 

 …I went home with Dad and back to “regular” life. I never talked to anyone about what I had experienced.  (pp. 21-26)

This is one story of fears and stigma about illness. Near the end of her book, Amy Simpson declares:

What’s remarkable about this life is not that we have pain, that we suffer, that life gets so ugly we can’t even look at it. The remarkable thing is that  we have anything but suffering. That there is a large supply of goodness in this world. That despite our best efforts at self-destruction, grace still shines on us, and the sun rises. That we are surrounded by beauty. That we know how to laugh. That we can laugh and cry at the same time. And – most remarkable – that our suffering and pain themselves become the media for some of God’s most beautiful work. It’s called redemption, and we overlook it every day. (p. 201)

She tells us, By God’s grace (and I’m not using that term flippantly) and for his glory, my siblings and I are all healthy, productive and living in relationship with Christ. We can say that God has redeemed our suffering. …He has granted us sensitivity to other broken people we might otherwise have shunned.

Mom is currently doing well, managing her illness and benefiting from the advances made in the latest generation of anti-psychotic drugs. She enjoys a strong and growing relationship with Jesus and benefits from the ways her church helps her stay grounded in that relationship. (p. 209)

Thanks be to God, Amy Simpson’s suffering, and that of her family, have borne beautiful fruit, including her own healing, helping ministry of teaching about the human mind and divine promises. 

For me, this week, there is one more scene from scripture that speaks. The next vignette in the saga of 1 Samuel. Chapter 22 starts with David on the run again, and finding a hiding place in a cave. But he is not truly hidden. His family members and others gather with him. In fact, we are told, Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them. Those who were with him numbered about four hundred. (1S22:1-2) 

David – a man of skills and spirituality, of sins and deep failures, of a big calling from God – he is clearly a natural-born leader. This list of people who were drawn to him in that moment catches my eye: those in distress, those in debt, those discontented. Such beaten-down people were the ones attracted to David at that time. 

We see King David, of course, as a precursor of the final Anointed One (Christ/Messiah), Jesus of Nazareth. Look to the Gospels and see the people, sometimes great crowds, attracted to Him. Those he spends His time with: the sick, the poor, the oppressed and unhappy, the ‘sinners.’ Much like those drawn to David, centuries before. 

The stories we have of the Saviour show Him meeting and blessing people who had lost loved ones, people who were suffering or dying, people who had no hope, people who were being crushed by the powerful, people who had got themselves in a lot of trouble, people who were considered ‘unholy.’ It is to them Jesus went. 

When criticized, Jesus said He came not to the well, but to those who were sick. 

His mother knew this. Remember her poetic praise when she was pregnant? Remember the kinds of things she said?  (Luke 1)

48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
51 he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

Good News! for the lowly, the humble, the hungry. He came to the broken. He came to the traumatized and tragic. He came to the depressed and dispossessed. He came to the rejected and rough- around-the-edges. He came to us.

So, perhaps the bottom line is this. We dispel our stigmas against those who are ill, simply by joining Jesus, and finding how we can view all others though His eternal eyes. With His wise care. With His pure heart. And our own fears and stigma about ourselves, when we are weak, are banished by the Comforter Jesus sends to our souls.

Prayers God of family, Parent of the fellowship, Lover of our souls: we gather all our separate prayers into the themes of the day, and our common conversation with You happens again. Praise be!

Holy Trinity, one of our earliest commandments is to ‘honour our fathers and mothers,’ that our life upon the land we are given may be long. We give thanks for all those who nurtured us and have been life-giving. Before You, we face our failings and fears about family and our relationships. We face the griefs and sorrows. We face the neglect and hurt. Shepherd our souls now; forgive us and make us forgiving; reconcile and recreate us, in Your mercy.

It is mercy, blessing, miracle we seek for so many people, in so many places today. We pray for three-year-old Dylan, missing in Truro, and his family, and the searchers. We pray for workers of all sorts in our homes for special care and hospitals, especially Northwood, where so many deaths have been faced. We pray for our own beloved ones who are isolated in this time, those in and out of hospitals, and those feeling downcast, depressed or alone now.

We look back to Jesus, how He grew in wisdom, stature, and in favour with God and people. We see how He went to all who were wrecked and ruined, all who were poor in spirit and downhearted. Oh come to them again. Come to us; & when we are strengthened, send us out. With respect and care for all we touch.

This weekend of Motherhood, we shall not be visiting our mothers. This weekend of graduations, the universities shall not meet. This weekend of spring, the snow falls heavy. Unlimited One! You are not hindered by the events of these days; so let love unlimited still flow and go. We join You in reaching out for goodness and help in our neighbourhood, and Your world. 

We still are longing to be connected. Not just with one another. With You. This day, and every day, we lay ourselves at Your feet. You, raise us up, and shine through us. In the name of Jesus. AMEN.

Benediction  from 1 Kings 8:56a, 57, 58a

Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people… according to all that He promised.The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our ancestors; may He not leave us or abandon us, but incline our hearts to Him. Amen.

Worship at Home: May 3

Welcome to this resource for worship at home. We can share this plan to pray and look to the scriptures together, while apart. This week, we welcome Lic. Sharon White to our virtual pulpit.

We now begin a month of attention to our mental and emotional well-being. This Sunday we also remember the Lord’s Supper, which we have not celebrated together since March 1st. To share the Lord’s Supper today, at home, you could use some bread or cracker or muffin, and some juice (grape, cranberry, apple, whatever).

Worship Welcome Psalm 119:1-8
Happy are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord.

Happy are those who keep his decrees,
who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways.

You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
O that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!

Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous ordinances.

I will observe your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me.

Hymn 244 Easter Song

Prayer Hallelujah! Amen! Hosanna! 

We praise You from our homes, aware again of Your grace and power in our lives. Precious were all those moments when we gathered together because of You. Now, as we miss one another, draw us close to You. As we long to be together in our familiar pews, we also long for the ways we hear from You when we worship. Though we cannot sing together, may our souls sing today. Though we cannot clasp one another’s hands, may our prayers embrace one another now. Though we cannot smile as we send one another out, may we be guided to speak an encouraging word to one another all this week long. 

As we share worship today, we pray for others who do the same. May the folks of Sisson Ridge Baptist Church, Plaster Rock, NB, be blessed by Your presence and Your word today.  And let all the words and meditations of our service be accepted in Your sight. In the name of Jesus the Lord. AMEN.

Solo You Carried Me – Sharon Marshall

Offering As we consider our individual offerings for the month, pray also about what we, the Church, offer to our neighbourhood in this cautious season.

Scripture Romans 8:35, 38 & 39

Message “Stronger Together” – Sharon White

Well today May 3rd, we start our 7th week of isolation and in some ways, it does not seem like we’ve been isolating that long, yet in other ways, it seems longer. As we feel lonely and isolated, when we can’t meet together, and our regular routines are gone, sometimes our perceptions of time can get distorted.

In Canada, the first full week of May is designated as ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). They have been promoting this specific mental health week each year since 1951. Which is why I feel that next week’s theme of Mental Health is very important, especially now with the current events, the loss of close friends or loved ones, the Portapique tragedy, the crash of an Armed Forces helicopter taking the lives of its crew of 6, and facing more weeks of isolation because of Covid-19. In all of this, we may be feeling weary, frustrated, sad, angry, or just feeling down and unfocused. When we do not have control over what is happening around us, having any or all of these emotions is understandable, and it’s okay to not feel okay! This is why I think the timing of Mental Health Week is a good reminder to focus on our mental health!

Mental health, mental illness, and self-care need to be talked about more often, otherwise, how will our feelings and the issues get out in the open, how else do we break the stigma of “looking like we have it all together when we don’t.” So, my message this morning is one that I hope starts discussions around mental health within families and amongst friends.

But there’s a problem in speaking on this topic today, mental health is too broad of a category to cover it all here in the time that we have because there are so many layers and they overlap with one another that can make talking about it very confusing. So, imagine mental health as a circle made up of wedges. In one wedge place the 9 types of mental illnesses [anxiety disorders, depression & bipolar, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, anxiety disorders, PTSD, postpartum depression, schizophrenia, and children/youth & self-injury]. In another wedge place, the treatments [medical, psychotherapy, ECT’s, spiritual] and supports; a 3rd wedge could focus specifically on care for the caregivers; a 4th wedge narrows in on addressing the area of addictions [where a person with a mental illness also has a substance abuse problem]; and then we could group all the feelings around mental illness in wedge #5, (for example the feelings of anger or rage because a person doesn’t want the mental illness they have or it’s disrupting their life or ruining their marriage). And the final wedge that I want to focus on this morning is the wedge of self-care that’s needed for one’s overall mental health, which as you know is a continuum; (take a look here at the model of this continuum).

Self-care is the most important aspect that affects all the wedges within mental health because self-care is what we do for ourselves and others to care for our mental health, and it builds our resilience against the stresses of life! (Take some time this week to look over the CMHA website, link here).

Mental health & illness, disease & sickness, isolation, death of family/friends, tragedies, loss of employment all have something in common. Suffering! Suffering is experienced by every person, unfortunately, we suffer many times in our lives, and sometimes it is downright gut-wrenching! However, suffering is also a key emotion that binds us collectively as one as we try to find meaning in it! When I looked through the scriptures for today’s message I realized it was difficult to narrow down on one or two verses that deal with suffering. The Bible describes community and individual suffering throughout its pages. For example, we could use any number of these Psalms of lament [44, 60, 74, 79, 80, 85, 90], or the trials that Job endured. The reasons for the suffering don’t matter, but in it, we share the same feelings of weariness, sorrow, confusion, numbness, anger, or hopelessness. I want us to see with fresh eyes someone who suffers, to understand them from our own sufferings – because we realize that deep down, we are the same because every heart has or will endure some suffering. We were all made in God’s image, we all suffer, and through our pain, we can reach out to offer understanding and empathy to a loved one, neighbor, friend, and even a stranger.

How does this tie in with Mental Health Week and Covid-19 isolation? Take a look at the picture provided here. It shows how our present-day sufferings from Covid-19 can be a trigger for increased mental health concerns with increased anxiety, fear for the lives of vulnerable loved ones, decreased job security, decreased financial security, it’s moved us into a state of survival mode, and the necessary isolation for our health worsens the feelings of aloneness and despair that were major concerns in our society before Covid-19 existed.

However, right now we struggle because we can’t meet and reach out, we can’t give and receive the important relational connections to share our burdens and grief, and we are missing our sense of belonging in a family. We’re unable to mourn our losses together, neither can we worship as a congregation in ways we’ve become attached to and it can make us question the church’s sense of purpose; sometimes it makes us question our sense of worth and purpose. Suffering and isolation can trigger a variety of feelings and when this happens the relational connectedness, that sense of belonging and sense of worth and value that’s so vital for life between humans is temporarily lost! The remedy to this is human re-connectedness! It is important, even critical for our mental health; and it’s also important for us as a faith community! The CMHA has a good short article on the benefits of social connectedness (link here); they state that social connectedness is the cure! Connectedness binds us back together as families, groups, congregations, and as communities.

When we struggle we can also go back to our basic Christian teachings, that each one of us is a child of God, that He knew us as He formed us in the womb, and from that children’s song that tells us “Jesus loves the little children”. God has always and will always love us, especially in our pain, suffering, and also in all the joys of life. This points me to a verse in Romans chapter 8: in verse 38, “…that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.” That answers the question asked earlier in verse 35, “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? No! Nothing can separate us from His love. It is because of our suffering, that our doubts lead us to feel we have lost favor with God. My research on these verses denies this possibility of God not loving us, stating that the point of such sufferings is the evidence of a union with Jesus, who has also endured sufferings, and not a cause for doubting a loss of God’s love because of them. Rom. 8 Verses 38 to 39 reminds us “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So, why do we still feel alone when we suffer? Let’s be honest, maybe because our western society is an individualistic one that lacks the promoting of deep social connections. Add to this our present-day Covid-19 health protocols for safety that create more isolation and loneliness. Without deep human connections of care, we lose our footing to the foundation of love and hope that help us endure our present sufferings. Connections allow us to share our burdens and lighten our loads! Relationships built upon trust, concern, sharing, support, and time together all create a family that isn’t always based on blood relatives. These kinds of relationships bind the hearts and they are worth their weight in gold! They allow us to build resilience and bounce back!

Our province has found some ways to be stronger together and bounce back in our loneliness of these recent tragedies! We have candles in our windows to show we remember those who died on April 18/19th, we post rainbows and hearts on Facebook to thank our frontline healthcare workers, we join online virtual vigils and musical events to have a sense of community and togetherness in our common grief to lighten the burdens in the hearts of families grieving their loved ones. We can, in our own areas reach out to friends and family members to help them build their resilience, by encouraging them to:

  • Stay informed, but to limit exposure to news and social media
  • Keep threats in perspective
  • Access reputable sources of information only
  • Establish a routine, exercise for 20 minutes 3 times a week
  • Engage in meaningful and enjoyable activities
  • Reach out for help when struggling
  • Practice gratitude with self, with family, and with strangers
  • Eat well, avoid alcohol & stimulants as a means of coping
  • Practice mindfulness or meditations
  • Daily count your blessings

And we can go to Christ in our prayers, our music, and in our devotions to connect with the One who loves us unconditionally, to the Creator who gave us life and who gave His life out of love; from God, we get the strength to rise again and continue the journey to do the right next step!

As we virtually celebrate communion this morning, gather yourself some bread and juice or water, knowing that your church family, as well as many other Christians, also gather in remembrance. Today, through our communion, we remember the sacrifice given by Jesus out of love for us, we remember to connect with his suffering through our present pains to connect with Him again; and may we feel the strength from knowing that others within their own homes receive the elements. May we feel a sense of unitedness again and a renewed hope knowing we are stronger together in Him and each other! Amen.

Prayers of the people

O God, in Christ You are reconciling the world to Yourself: may the Spirit of Truth speak to our hearts, and remind us of our great hope. We confess the doubts and fears we have…  The words we spoke or typed that hurt others…  The lazy prayers we gave…

Renew me; renew us; renew Your world, we pray. 

This day we pray for people who are facing hard times. Those suffering from illness or injury…

Those who do not have enough to live on…

Those who face depression, or anxiety, or dementia, or addiction, or other such health issues…

Those who need some spiritual hope or even a breakthrough in their lives…

Those who mourn a loss, especially those who mourn untimely deaths in these days, including the losses in our Nova Scotia communities and our military… 

Our prayers are also for us, Your Church, because we still need to deepen our habits of prayer and study. May we find this an opportune time to develop our life of prayer and scripture, meditation, fasting, silence, and even worship.

And now, we each worship to share a holy communion, a fellowship that reaches across the globe, remembering and honouring the body and blood of Christ. In His name we pray. AMEN.

Hymn 708 Blest Be the Tie

Home Communion We who truly and earnestly repent of your sins, who have love and concern for our neighbours, who intend to lead a new life, following the commandment of God by walking in holy ways: we draw near with reverence, faith and thanksgiving and take the Supper of the Lord to our comfort.

We are come together today, in obedience of Jesus’ command, to partake of the Lord’s supper. To its blessing and fellowship, all disciples of the Lord Jesus, who have confessed him before others and desire to serve him, may come. This is not our/my table, but the Table of our Lord.

1 Corinthians 11:23-24 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

Prayer of thanks for the Bread (from The Didache, 1st Cent AD)

We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus, Thy Servant : to Thee be the glory for ever and ever. As this bread was scattered over the hills and having been gathered together became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together out of every nation, and every country, and every city and village, and house, and make one living catholic Church. To the praise and glory of Thy holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

Eat of this Bread in remembrance of Christ’s body, broken for you. (Eat the bread.)

1 Corinthians 11:25-26 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Prayer of thanks for the Cup: Spirit of life, in the name of Jesus we share the fruit of the vine, remembering His sacrifice at Calvary. We bow to worship the Saviour who died. O help us remember. Though we are separated today, in You may be know we are One in Christ. AMEN.

Drink this in remembrance that Christ’s blood was shed for you, and be thankful. (Drink the juice.)

The Lord’s Prayer 632 Our Father… AMEN.

Benediction Jude 24&25 Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

PSALM 119 Contemplations – Week 1 (May 3-10)

For twenty-two days, join me in meditating up a section of Psalm 119, the longest Psalm, the longest chapter in the Bible. Each day, read the eight verse section, and spend some time with the verses. There will be some suggestions for you each day.

Pastor Jeff White

Active Adoration – May 3 – Psalm 119: 1-8 Aleph. I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances. (7)

Psalm 119 has twenty-two parts, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Every verse of each section begins with that letter of the alphabet (in Hebrew). Today’s eight verses are the first section, and are filled with blessed happiness and worship. Ponder these verses and how our actions (following God) go hand in hand with our praise of God (adoration).

Blest Beginning ~ Monday, May 4 ~ Psalm 119:9-16 ~ Beth. How can young people keep their way pure? By guarding it according to your word. (9)

The first verse of this section is well known. Years ago, when I was about twenty, a dear friend and mentor gave me a study Bible, and when he signed it he wrote this verse there. It is true for every age. Read over today’s eight verses, and consider how you can guard your way of living each day by God’s guidance.

Clear Counsel ~ Tuesday, May 5 ~ Psalm 119:17-24 ~ Gimel. Your decrees are my delight, they are my counselors. (24)

As we read this third section, we may begin to see a pattern, or it may seem to be getting repetitive. It is! In fact, every verse of this Psalm has a word in it that means God’s law, way, guidance. They vary in the many English translations, but today’s eight verses have these words: 17 word, 18 law, 19 commandments, 20 ordinances, 21 commandments, 22 decrees, 23 statutes, 24 decrees. Pray about how these things have been your counsellors through the years.

Divine Deliverance ~ Wed, May 6 ~ Psalm 119:25-32 ~ Daleth. My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to your word. (25)

Many themes of prayer and study come up over and over in this long chapter. Today’s verses deal with times of trouble and need. The soul is feeling low and sad, dealing with falsehood and shame. Remember what verses of scripture have sustained you, and why certain ones have stayed with you in your heart and mind for many years.

Education’s End ~ Thrs, May 7 ~ Psalm 119:33-40 ~ He. Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end. (33)

So much of the time we treat the Bible as our textbook. We follow Jesus as our Rabbi, our Teacher, our Master. As you go over verses 33 through 40 today, ask the Spirit of Jesus to show you what you have been taught, and how you have been trained in His school of life. Ask also to be shown what lessons are next in the faith curriculum.

Fidelity Forever ~ Fri, May 8 ~ Psalm 119:41-48 ~ Waw.  I will keep your law continually, forever and ever. (44)

This section of Psalm 119 seems to emphasize how a person sticks to the word of God and truly enjoys it. And that’s just why we stick with something – because we enjoy it, we value it, we love it. As you meditate upon these eight verses, pray that you may be led and inspired to be more faithful today than yesterday, because you love what you hear from God.

Grounded Goodness ~ Sat, May 9, Psalm 119:49-56 ~ Zayin. This is my comfort in my distress, that your promise gives me life. (50)

Today’s part of the poetry mentions hope and comfort. It mentions opponents: the arrogant, the wicked. It mentions singing! Life is a mixed bag of experiences, and Psalms deal with it all: all that happens to us, all we do and feel, all that is terrible, all that is worth celebrating. Meditate upon these verses by rewriting them in your own words, for your situation, your life today.

Holy Hurry ~ Sun, May 10 ~ Psalm 119:57-64 ~ Heth. I hurry and do not delay, to keep your commandments. (60)

‘Hurry up and wait’ is what happens to us sometimes. In this pandemic season, there can be a lot more waiting going on. We wish things would hurry up and change! Take time, with these eight verses, to consider how you rush, and how you slow down. Examine yourself, with God, to see how you are doing at quieting yourself and resting in Christ.

Worship at Home: April 26

Welcome to this resource for worship at home, in a time when we are not gathering to worship together. We can share this plan to pray and look to the scriptures as one, while apart.

Worship Welcome Psalm 27:1, 4

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

One thing I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
and to inquire in his temple.

Hymn 251 Thine Is the Glory

Prayer O Christ: crucified and resurrected! We turn directly to You together, in need of abundance in our lives. O Light of the world, we bow before the light of Your glory, Your guidance, Your comfort, Your insight, Your energy for good, Your truth about the past, present, and future. Dear Eternal Son, we feel fragile in these days, but we also gather our strength – may we do so in Your name: by Your authority and power.

We share a Christian sabbath today so we can see things eternal, not just the temporary things. We have been earthly minded, and not always heavenly good, we confess. We bring our regrets to you, our fears, our grief and anger today. World events and local events press in on us! Lighten our darkness, we pray.

Mighty Maker, we are not alone, we live in Your world. As we pray and praise separately together, we remember the millions around the world with whom we worship You now. Today we pray in particular for the believers of New Beginnings Christian Ministries in Kingston, NS. May they not simply survive this upsetting, crisis time: may they thrive!

And may we all be brought together as one, in our praying together. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name… AMEN.

Scripture Psalm 108:1-6, 10-13 – Sharon & Jeff White

Offering As a congregation offering a sacrifice of praise, we also offer our finances for our work and worship “together.” Our Church phone bill is a simple expense each month, but what an important tool it is in these days! Let us continue to share what we have, that our ministry may not only continue, but grow during this pandemic time.

LAMENT (Using Psalm 90)
(Amid Environmental Ruin)
Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
But our dwelling place, the Earth, is coming to ruin!
Even the present relief of pollution
is but a blip in the downfall of the air.

Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
We are not God. We are not long-lived.
We are not paying attention to the centuries ahead.
We are not becoming good ancestors. Have mercy.

You turn us back to dust, and say,
“Turn back, you mortals.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are like yesterday when it is past,
or like a watch in the night.
For two hundred years we have been wrecking our world.
For fifty years Earth Day has called us to live better here.
Yet we forget yesterday, and imperil tomorrow.

You sweep them away; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning;
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.
Our own lives are short,
and the lives of the poor on the planet even shorter.
The failing environment fails them before us.
Yet the first ones harmed on the planet are not us,
but the plants, birds, insects, whales, and all…

(Amid Violence)
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
Oh, may there be mercy!
The violence one week ago in Nova Scotia alarms us in heart and soul.
The grief is too much to bear. The disaster struck far too many.

The days of our life are seventy years,
or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;
More than twenty people’s lives cut short.
More than twenty to mourn, and honour,
and mourn, and celebrate, and mourn.

even then their span is only toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Oh, the terrible, heroic work that had to be done
by those who responded first.
Oh, the pain and trauma presented to so many.
Oh, the toil and trouble!

So teach us to count our days
that we may gain a wise heart.
We count every valuable day of those who were lost.
We count every tear, every plea for answers,
every candle lit in a window,
every tartan displayed and every bell rung.

(Amid a Virus)
Turn, O Lord! How long?
Have compassion on your servants!
How long, indeed, shall the pandemic live,
shall our isolations and quarantines go on,
shall our lone and fearful habits endure?

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
We look for ways to keep busy and helpful.
We long for ways to keep young ones learning.
We cry out for ways to help those in need,
whose lives are falling apart in this crisis.

We are desperate for joyful gatherings.
Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us,
and as many years as we have seen evil.
Yes! We want to make up for these lost weeks.
We cry out for freedom to walk the earth.
We cry out to gather for joy and celebration.
We cry out to gather for mourning and burials.
We cry out to get to work again and to serve.

Let your work be manifest to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let there be real power for healing in:
the research and treatment of COVID-19,
the isolation and care we take, day by day,
the striving for safety in nursing home & prison,
the creative ways we struggle to get work done,
& worship, & fellowship, & to be family.

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and prosper for us the work of our hands—
O prosper the work of our hands! AMEN.

Solo My Life Is In Your Hands – Joyce Marshall

Scripture John 1:1-18

Sermon Light Shines in the Darkness – Jeff White

I think of myself as a peaceful, non-violent person. You might say that about yourself. But I live, with you, in a world of Violence. The past seven days have alarmed us with this, shaken us.

Yet we live in a culture of violence. It’s like part of the air we breathe! Well, most of us breathe it.

This showed itself to me this week as we watched the National news program. Not something I had been doing much at all, until this year. ‘Tuned in’ on the computer. Some minutes of news about the horrible shootings in Colchester County. Then, even online, there is a commercial break, advertising the other TV programs on the channel. ‘Wild Bill,’ with images of police officers and guns threatening to shoot. 

More news, about the shootings and burned down houses in Portapique. Commercial break… ‘The Oland Murder,’ a commercial with images of blood.

More news, and now they turn to the virus outbreak. Then commercials – the same commercials over and over, I might add. ‘Luther,’another show with guns shooting, knives wielded, fists fighting, explosions, according to the ad.

We are entertained all the time with violence, with guns, ‘cops and robbers,’ twisted characters with twisted minds doing terrible things. And then we freak out when it really happens around us. 

It is a dark world. Perhaps people’s fascination with evil and violence is a way we try to figure it out, derive meaning from the meaningless, cope with the nastiness of humanity.

 The magnificent beginning of John’s Gospel in the Bible says 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. Those who are Greek scholars tell us these are rich, poetic, Bible phrases. This gets translated:

the darkness did not overcome it. (NRSV)

the darkness has not overcome it. (NIV)

the darkness did not comprehend it. (NASB)

the darkness has never put it out. (GNT)

the darkness couldn’t put it out. (MSG)

darkness could not diminish it! (TPT)

What is ‘IT’? What is this ‘Light?’ Jesus the Christ. The ‘Word,’ as it says also in this prologue. This powerful poetry gives us the light that the darkness cannot handle. Though we, of this world, see how the True Light does not get all the attention. John proclaims: 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.

So the violence continues. Evil sometimes thrives. Trouble transfers from one person to another. 

For me, facing the mass shooting took time. It was a matter of wandering back into my memories, into relationships, into nature, and into scripture. 4 steps.

I thought back to many trips driving through Portapique; I lived west of there, in Parrsboro, for five and a half years. Going by and never stopping, I used to think the name of one of the little roads was interesting: Five Houses. 

Once, years ago, I stopped and walked along the beach there. And just once I travelled with a couple older friends from Windsor, where I lived, to the annual service at the United Church in Portapique. The minister happened to be an old friend of mine. With my landlady and her sister I went to an old family home in the area, and I took a photo for them of a painting there of the old homestead, where their mother’s ancestors had lived.

The church is now closed, and the building now privately owned. 

Then I thought of people I know now, with connections in the area of this terrible violence. For years I have known a woman from Short’s Lake whose daughter was the teacher killed on the weekend. I know two families who live at a place called Little Dyke, just 18 kms from Portapique. They are shaken up! And so on… we see many personal connections, only a few degrees of separation.

A third part of my facing this news was to get out in the woods, like I always do. I biked up the sandy railbed. I walked into the woods, off the trails. Wandered around some woody beaver ponds. Watched the birds. 

I hope you have your own quiet practices to give you time and space for letting your mind and heart wind down and quiet and be still and rest. And pray.

My own fourth way of processing this mess was to use scripture. I was sort of focused upon what scripture would speak to others, for others, who are hit closely by the tragedy. But it was for my heart too.

I looked for the laments of the Bible. I pondered Psalms 13, 22, 42 & 43, 94, 143. I rewrote Psalms 42& 43 for, well, for me, I guess. All about the shooting. 

Today we read Psalm 108. It has a bit of the lament element to it.

6 Give victory with your right hand, & answer me, 

so that those whom you love may be rescued.

‘I’m not rescued. I need to be rescued. Please rescue!’ That’s what many a lament sings, mournfully and energetically. This week has been such a time, for lament in our shock and grief.

We each may need to take a sabbath rest too. A sabbath from the news – TV, paper, internet, radio. One full day a week with none of it. Even each day we need to control our own schedule, and take breaks from the bad news, if we are prone to be getting it all day long. Perhaps you will be guided to take more than one day, and retreat for several days from the oppressive negative. Not to hide from reality, but to allow the Spirit of the Master to balance your soul. I still have posted in front of me on my desk 

Philippians 4:8-9. 

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things

Notice the light that is shining in the darkness.

I’ve talked a lot, here, about the violence of this moment. Let me just end with this consideration. God is peace, not violence. I know we have a lot of biblical material that is violent, forceful, militaristic, triumphant, judgmental and all that. We see it for sure in Psalm 108, a prayer for victory! The singers call out for the Almighty to help, and not abandon their military efforts:

10 Who will bring me to the fortified city?

    Who will lead me to Edom?

11 Have you not rejected us, O God?

    You do not go out, O God, with our armies.

All these centuries later, I wonder if Jesus would answer, “Yes, God will not go out with your armies. The days of those ways of winning are over. I submitted to violence and died, to end it.” So God has not rejected them, or us. God is rejecting our violence. How can we follow this Way, and reject violence?

The traumatic terror of this past week has come to us amids this Virus crisis, and makes it harder. Oh, to be with you, dear friends! To be near you, to face the terrible news we all face together. But we cannot. We must just speak at a distance, one by one, or by phone. We are sacrificing our togetherness for our lives. It is temporary, but it is long. 

Can you sense that we are still one in Christ? I know you can. Because we miss one another so much. We miss our worship together on Sunday mornings. So we know we are still family, the family of God.

John speaks to us from his first chapter.

12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

Children of God. I think there is a sense in which to be ‘a child of God’ means two things. Every human is a child of God. Part of the human race, created by the Father, Son and Spirit, made in the divine image. 

But there is also the coming home to God that is needed. The power to be adopted, to be grafted back into the vine, to be born afresh into this holy family – this is all gift, all grace. To become children of God is an act of God, so to speak. We get back to where we belong in the first place, by the work of Jesus. 

Psalm 108 says 12 O grant us help against the foe, for human help is worthless. Our foe so much and so deeply is separation, isolation, in spirit. Separated from God, from one another, even from our own selves. The ministry of reconciliation is Christ’s and ours! We are still one, even when we are alone now.

Right now, we cannot get together each week to celebrate this. One day, will will again. 

God seen as Three, the Trinity, is God as Relationship. This cannot be broken.

The third and final challenge of our week has been, for me at least, to celebrate Earth Day. Even the 50th anniversary of Earth Day! We hear the call of God in all creation to be a good and blessed part of our Environment on Earth.

I’ve already pointed out that God the Trinity, including Jesus the Christ, is the Creator. What does John proclaim?

2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.

In my early years of figuring out God the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I thought at least one Christian hymn made a mistake. Isaac Watt’s ‘Alas and Did My Saviour Bleed?” (#208)

Well might the sun in darkness hide,
and shut its glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
for His own creature’s sin.

“Jesus is not the Mighty Maker!” I thought. “God the Father is the Creator.” But no. It is not quite like that. Christ was there too, before creation, part of the creative process. John’s prologue celebrates this. Of Jesus, the Christ, the Word, the Light, John says: 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him

We, we humans, are part of the world that can know Him. And we realize we are known by Him.

It is important for us to be deeply in touch with creation. For the sake of creation, and for our own well-being. My times out there this past week were blessed opportunities for quiet, serenity, solitude, prayer, meditation, self-awareness, God-awareness.

Martin Laird tells the story of a driven ballet dancer who finally found solace…

The woman could blow like silk across the stage or drive like a storm through the corps de ballet. To watch this world-class ballerina was to behold light and grace in human form. But if you would ask her about her own experience as source of beauty and inspiration you would see only a vacant stare of shocked disbelief. She would speak instead of an obsessive and torturously perfectionist mind that left her grinding her teeth.

She had a lot of anger, and pain and fear inside her. But then: She did find solace. She took long walks out on the Yorkshire moors. If she walked long enough, her roiling mind would begin to settle. She described how on one occasion her anxiety began to drop like layers of scarves.

While this experience out on the moors happened only once, it proved a real turning point in her life and drew her into the way of prayer. She knew from her own experience that there was something in her that was deeper than her pain and anxiety and that when the chaos of the mind was quieted, the sense of anguish gave way to a sense of divine presence. (Laird, Martin, Into the Silent Land, 2006, pp.20-22)

Let us seek Jesus’ way of non-violence.

Let us trust our connection as the Family of God.

Let us walk gently upon the Earth together.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth. Ps. 108:5

Visual Prayer:

Song God of Wonders

Benediction
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.
Deep peace of Christ, of Christ the light of the world to you.
Deep peace of Christ to you.

Worship at Home: April 19

Welcome to this resource for us in this time when we cannot gather in one place on a Sunday. Make the most of the parts of the service here. Many of you, like me and Sharon, also view or read other services from other local churches on Sundays.

This week, for Digby Baptist, we are pleased to have our Pastor Emeritus, Rev. Don Robertson, offer the message from God’s word. We will also thank our God today for Jean Brittain, a dear person in our congregation who departed this earthly life last weekend. AND, we also celebrate the birth of Eliana Taylor Grace Vassallo, 7 lbs 11 oz, early on Thursday morning! – Pastor Jeff

Worship Welcome Psalm 27:4-5

One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.

Hymn 235 Christ Arose! (Low In the Grave He Lay)

Prayer Life-Giver: the enemy, death, is no longer in power! Praise to You! Holy One: all that is wrong and terrible and hurtful dissolves in the light of Your glory and goodness. Praise to You! Father of Freedom: even in isolation and quarantine our spirits are set free by the Cross and Resurrection. Praise to You!

We bow the knee, from our separate places of worship. We seek again to be honest to You, God, to be free with our emotions, to be seeking help for our next step in life. Let mercy flow, in the name of Christ, Lord of heaven and earth. Guide us through the wilderness, to the unpredictable promised land.

There is much in life that touches us deeply, Holy Love. Our loss of people like Jean Brittain is one. And we cannot even gather to mourn or praise or laugh! Support us, we pray, especially those closest to Jean, in all these days, until we can gather again. Yet we also rejoice now in birth – the wonderful life of Eliana Taylor Grace Vassallo, who was born on Thursday! O how grateful we are for her, and her safe arrival.

We look to Your beauty, God, now. We find we can abide in Your temple while we are at home, when we are out, even when we lie down to rest. We offer our worship now, with all the hope and trust we have. AMEN.

On Holy Saturday, April 11th, our beloved Jean completed her life among us, and her service to the Lord here was finished. Someday in the future we will be able to gather, and to thank God for her. Until then, we remember, we are grateful, and we keep on singing! Listen to this trio, sung just last month by the Ladies Ensemble (Margo, Heather & Jean): “Bow the Knee”.

https://www.facebook.com/sarefina/videos/3008563939208566/
In honour of the late Jean Brittain.

Offering Our offering is a way we answer the call of God to be together, to be one, to be united in Christ. Thank-you, one and all who have been dropping off your offerings in the box in the hallway, or delivering them in other ways.

Scripture 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 16-18

Song When Answers Aren’t Enough – Cairine Robertson

You have faced the mountains of desperation
You have climbed, you have fought, you have won
But this valley that lies coldly before you
Casts a shadow you cannot overcome

When answers aren’t enough, there is Jesus
He is more than just an answer to your prayer
And your heart will find a safe and peaceful refuge
When answers aren’t enough, He is there

Greg Nelson / Scott Wesley Brown
© Universal Music Publishing Group

Sermon Do Not Lose Heart – Don Robertson

the Rev. Donald Robertson

As your Pastor Emeritus, I appreciate the opportunity, during this time of separation and uncertainty, to bring a message from God’s Word. We need to be reminded that although we are physically separated from each other temporarily, we are spiritually together in Christ, who has promised: “I am with you always.” The message consists of just four words from 2 Cor. 4:16: “Do not lose heart.”

A psychology professor was giving his students a written test. He asked one question concerning a particular type of mental illness, “What would you call someone who walks back and forth screaming his lungs out one moment, then weeping uncontrollably the next?” One of his students wrote, “a hockey coach.” Well, I’m sure that coaching hockey, or basketball, or football teams, especially on a professional scale, can take a heavy toll emotionally. I read of one famous coach who was well known for his habit of chewing on a towel during an exciting game. Coaches, of course, aren’t the only ones who have to deal with extraordinary stress; many ordinary people do as well, including, at times, you and me.

The apostle Paul was one such person. In his letter to the Corinthians, he writes, “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16) What does he mean by outwardly wasting away? He means that daily life takes its toll – physically, emotionally, and mentally. Paul himself was constantly aware of the physically and emotionally depleting effects of the trials and troubles he endured in the course of his missionary journeys. He knew what it was to face hardship, persecution, and imprisonment. He well knew that anxiety and affliction can take a heavy toll.

We’ve all watched political leaders age almost before our very eyes, under the heavy responsibilities of their office. We’re told that during the Vietnam War, U.S. Secretary of State, Robert McNamara underwent tremendous physical and emotional stress. Toward the end, when it was obvious that the war could not be won, his wife reported that he began to grind his teeth at night, and that he slept fitfully.

In the early 1900s, the top ten killers in the U.S. and Canada were all infectious diseases. Today, it’s estimated that the top ten killers are all stress related. “Outwardly, we are wasting away,” writes Paul. We all know what he was talking about. Worry and fear can play havoc with our physical and emotional balance in life.

Do you remember the story of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving? In the story, Ichabod Crane, a school teacher in a small New England village, was courting a young lady. His rival for her hand was a younger man. In the community, there was a legend about a headless horseman who rode around the countryside at night. One night, Ichabod’s rival dressed up as the fabled horseman, and laid in wait for Ichabod. As Ichabod rode by, the headless horseman took pursuit. Poor Ichabod was so frightened that he spurred his horse, and was never seen again. If only he had turned and faced the object of his fear, rather than fleeing in panic, he would have discovered the truth.

Every stage of life has its own particular worries and concerns. Right now, in the midst of this corona virus pandemic, our concerns center around family, health, jobs, and finances. These concerns are real, and

they are challenging. Yes, life takes its toll. That’s why Paul says twice in this chapter, “We do not lose heart.” Why? Because “though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” How is that possible? How can we keep growing stronger internally and spiritually, even when life is taking a toll on us physically and emotionally?

There are three ways.

THE FIRST STEP: WE MUST HAVE A STRONG FAITH IN THE FUTURE.

Paul writes: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (vs.17) The apostle Paul had a future hope that all the fiery trials of the present could not diminish. Winston Churchill was once asked by a reporter what was the greatest weapon his country possessed in its fight against the Nazis. Without pausing a moment, he said, “It’s what England’s greatest weapon has always been – hope!”

We can’t live to the full without hope. When people have no hope, deterioration is rapid. Paul’s hope was based on his faith in Jesus Christ, and the promise of eternal life. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.” (vs.17 and 18) This includes all that we mean by the word “heaven.” In 1 Cor.2:9, he writes, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” With our limited eyes and minds, we can’t conceive what awaits us in the Father’s house in heaven.

Even Jesus endured the Cross because of, as the scripture says, “the joy that was set before him” as he anticipated returning to the Father.

Against the background of future glory, the trials and tribulations of our present circumstances appear in their true perspective. They are “light and momentary troubles.” As Paul says elsewhere, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom.8:18) Stephen, in the hour of his death, looked up and saw a ring of angry men hurling stones at his prostrate body. Had he seen only that, his spirit might well have failed him. But he looked again, and saw “the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,” and his spirit was filled with a courage and a faith over which his persecutors had no power whatever.

The apostle Paul had his eyes fixed on what is unseen, on what is anticipated. This hope kept him from losing heart. Belief in the future can do that. This is the first step we need to take to keep from losing heart, to strengthen our inner being, while our outer being is wasting away. Believe in the future, and in the hope of heaven.

THE SECOND STEP: WE MUST FOCUS ON THE TASKS AT HAND.

Paul writes in verse 11: “For we are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal bodies.” Paul is describing here a daily dying to self so that the living Christ may reign supreme on the throne of his being, thus fortifying him to face the challenges and trials of everyday life. Confident in the future, Paul concentrated on the tasks before him, relying on the power of the living Christ within. Jesus, through his spirit, would strengthen him, moment by moment, day by day.

Focusing on the present – how vital it is! Wise people learn to let go of

regrets over the past and anxieties over the future, and are able to concentrate on the things that must be faced today. F.W. Boreham once told about a man in his congregation who seemed to have a special peace in his life. One day, as they talked, Mr. Boreham asked him about his calm sense of assurance. After some hesitation, the man replied, “I’ve always made it a rule that when I shut the door, I’ve shut the door.” He went on to explain that it had once been his habit to go to bed taking his troubles and fears with him. Sleeping poorly, his health gradually began to be undermined. He continued, “One night, I got up and went to the window. It was a beautiful night. The garden below and the fields beyond, were flooded with a silvery moonlight. The perfect tranquility mocked the surging tumult in my brain. Why had I locked my office door so carefully if I wanted all my ledgers and order forms to follow me home? Why had I closed my bedroom door so carefully if I wanted all my cares and worries to follow me? I recalled a verse of scripture that says, ‘casting all your care on him, for he careth for you.’ I knelt down there by my windowsill, with the delicious air of the still night caressing my face, and then and there, I asked God to forgive me. Ever since, when I’ve shut the door, I’ve shut the door.”

That’s good advice for all of us. It’s too late to do anything about the past, and who knows what tomorrow will bring. Besides, tomorrow will be determined, at least in part, by how we perform today. So let’s shut the door on the past, and even on the future, and let’s make today as purposeful and productive as we can. Let’s die to self daily, and allow the living Christ to reign on the throne of our being, remembering that he is our daily friend, guide, and companion. Believe in the future and in the promise of eternal life. Focus on the tasks at hand, remembering that Jesus, our living Friend and Savior, has promised to be with us always.

THE THIRD STEP: WE MUST HAVE A COMPLETE SENSE OF TRUST IN A LOVING HEAVENLY FATHER.

Paul writes in verse 7: “ But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that this all surpassing power is from God, and not from us.” Then he goes on to show the result of such a trust in the presence and power of God: “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed.”

As R.G. Letourneau once said, “Worry and trust cannot live in the same house. When worry is allowed to come in one door, trust walks out the

other, and worry stays until trust is invited back in again, whereupon worry walks out.” How true it is! So, Paul writes to the Philippians: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil.4:6-7)

A construction crew was once building a road through a rural area, knocking down trees as they progressed. The superintendent noticed that one tree had a nest of young birds, not able to fly. He marked the tree so it wouldn’t be cut down. Several weeks later, he came back to the tree and checked to see if the fledglings were gone. They were, so he ordered the tree cut down. As the tree crashed to the ground, the nest fell free, and some of the materials the birds had gathered to make the nest were scattered about. The man picked up a scrap of paper that apparently had been torn from a Sunday School pamphlet. On it were the words “He careth for you.”

That’s the good news for today. The same God whose eye is on the sparrow, is watching over you and me. There’s no burden that he won’t help us carry, and there’s no valley we walk through alone if we put our trust in a loving heavenly Father.

Many of our best loved hymns, such as “Blessed Assurance,” “To God Be the Glory,” “I Am Thine, O Lord,” “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross,” and “All the Way My Savior Leads Me,” were written by a woman who at the age of six, became totally blind. Her name was Fanny Crosby. She had a vital and infectious faith in God, even at a very young age. When she was only eight years old, after two years of darkness, she wrote this poem:

O what a happy child I am, although I cannot see
I am resolved that in this world, contented I will be
How many blessings I enjoy that other people don’t
To weep and cry because I’m blind, I cannot, and I won’t

And she didn’t! With a simple, trusting faith in a loving heavenly Father, she went on to make her life a blessing to the whole world.

So, whatever your circumstances may be this week, whatever trials and tribulations you may face, God is saying to you: DO NOT LOSE HEART. Even if life takes a toll on your outer person, your inner person can ever be made strong. BELIEVE IN THE FUTURE, FOCUS ON THE TASKS AT HAND, AND KNOW THAT HE CARETH FOR YOU.

Prayers – Jeff White

O Shepherd and Guardian of our souls, we cast all our cares upon You, because You care for us. You care for those in our prayers. You care for this whole world of beauty and of troubles.

Amid the virus crisis around us, the usual illness and injuries continue among us. Our prayers are for patients in hospitals, like George, who has been in hospital so long now, more isolated than so many of us. Our prayers are for those isolated in homes for special care, with visitors and weekly activities cut down almost to nothing. Our prayers are for the leadership of our Churches, and all who follow in the fellowship: Creator, guide our creative obedience in these days of limitations and change.

In this information age, guide us through the maze of misinformation and lies. Spirit of Truth, lead us, and make us wise in our own words, we pray.

In this crisis of caring for ourselves, point our eyes and our hearts out to the world, in need. Stir our hearts to make the right sacrifices for the sake of others now.

And in this season of introspection, give people quality time with You, amid the long hours: be they of work and striving, or of isolation and boredom. Keep us prayerful for those who are suffering and dying, and those who are fighting disease and disaster. Glorious God of Care and Compassion, to you we bow the knee, to You we sing our faith, in You we abide today, in the name of Jesus. AMEN.

Hymn 619 God Will Take Care of You

Benediction from Genesis 31:49

“The Lord watch between you and me, when we are absent one from the other.” In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.