WELCOME to this website post for this Sunday in mid March. Digby Baptist Church is worshipping in person, with some restrictions, and with tarps catching raindrops from our leaky roof – which will be patched quite soon! 🙂 The Bulletin here on the website has full service details, announcements, and items for prayer. video from the service is added here after the 11 am service.
SERMON: Blessed if You Do – During the Second Great Awakening in North America, 200 years ago, many popular travelling preachers arose. American evangelist Lorenzo Dow decided at a very early age to devote his life to teaching the word of God and began preaching at the age of 19. Although his views were similar to those of the Methodists, he was never formally affiliated with them. He roamed on horseback throughout the northern and southern parts of the U.S. Dow’s dramatic sermons, eccentric manners, and strange looking clothes made him a frequent topic of conversation. He died in 1834, and in 1836 his written works were edited and published. They included “Reflections on the Love of God,” a strong criticism of preachers who supported the doctrine of Particular Election and confused their congregations by pointing out conflicting statements in the Bible. In it Dow chastised “… those who preach it up, to make the Bible clash and contradict itself, by preaching somewhat like this: ‘You can and you can’t – You shall and you shan’t – You will and you won’t – And you will be damned if you do – And you will be damned if you don’t.’ “ (David Wallechinsky & Irving Wallace, The People’s Almanac, 1975-81)
‘Damned if you do; damned if you don’t!’ We use that phrase all these years later whenever we get into a situation where we just can’t win. Like when I meet someone out walking whom I have displeased and disappointed. Do I ignore them, or do I speak up and say, ‘Hello, how are you?” Neither way may have a happy ending.
Let’s leave ‘damned if you do’ behind, for now. Today, I want to preach about Jesus’ phrase, ‘Blessed if you do.’ What can we do to get blessed? “If you know these things you are blessed if you do them,” He says, recorded in John 13. What things was Christ talking about? At that moment: serving others, with real humility and sacrifice. The washing of feet was His object lesson. “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (13:14) It’s another memorable lesson from the Master, & ‘More like the Master I would ever be.’
We are, naturally, a fellowship of folks who have learned to do a lot of things we know, from Jesus. Maybe I should say we are ‘supernaturally’ a fellowship who does what Jesus taught. We are no mere ‘believers,’ we are doers, disciples – journeymen apprentices to Jesus. We remember how Jesus’ ‘Sermon on the Mount’ ends. He closes with the parable of the wise and foolish builders. “Everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house upon a rock…” (M 7:24)
We are blessed if we do – do what Jesus teaches. The world is also blessed when we do and not just believe or trust or think rightly. So, this is the place where the gathered people are being trained to live the best life. The real, practical training happens when we get together here on days other than a Sunday. Many of you were in here on various days this past week. How did your apprenticeship to Jesus go? You studied 1 Peter 2 with others in the Parlour. You tore apart walls around a furnace in the basement. You vacuumed carpets around here.
And out there in your lives, the Spirit sought to lead you, transform you, bless someone else through you. Wasn’t that good!?
One of my own visions for the local church – a group like us – is to see us as a real spiritual resource centre for people. We are a place people can come to belong with God. To do meaningful things with life. To find hope and purpose. To join others in a journey that we share, though none of our footsteps hit the exact same bits of ground on this road of life and eternity.
Once a month I meet, online, with a group of Baptist pastors from across Canada. This month and last month we were talking about barriers to people believing what we believe, and barriers to belonging. Something that came to my mind, in the conversation, was the miracle of believing that people can actually get along. ‘Why can’t we all just get along?’ we cry. But we don’t. And Christians sure don’t seem to get along in the world any better than other folks.
To act like we humans can be different, and respect one another, and share some of our spirituality, and work on things together – ain’t this all a big miracle!? I believe in it, and I find this rooted in so much New Testament teaching. From Paul’s image of the people as body parts that live together organically, to Peter’s picture of a temple of living stones built together with Jesus as the Cornerstone – I believe Christ builds His Church, and the gates of Hades cannot prevail against it.
We know we fail to belong because we fail to get along. I want to look for and see the success of Jesus in each of you, and in me, and be built together in love.
The attitude, the approach to others of serving them: this changes things. To serve by washing someone’s feet – very seldom will this be physically using soap and water on human feet. Some people do this, yes. But we have a multitude of actions that serve. And in that serving the Spirit of Jesus is alive, in us, among us.
How to get ourselves to do it – that can be hard. I have many great things I know that I could do with my life… why don’t I get around to doing them!? I have read so much about spiritual disciplines: fasting, confession, solitude, meditation, silence, pilgrimages, sacrifice – why don’t I actually do them!?
Fighting Spiritual Obesity: A workout for fat Christians, posted by Julie Ganschow (Blog: Biblical Counseling for Women)
Setting aside your physical weight, my question for you today is “Are you a fat Christian?” In other words, as a child of God, are you taking in nutrients and teaching on the Word of God never to use it in your life? Truth should build the muscles of faith. Conviction should flow into a changed life. God’s love and faithfulness should cause our lips to sing and praise. Wisdom from other saints should stimulate actions. A changed heart should mean a changed life. The power of the Gospel should get us active in spreading His glory to the nations and His love to those around us! In other words, spiritual intake should equal spiritual outflow.
… Instead, I want you to burn some spiritual calories and do something with what you have already learned.
Likely the big reason we are not doing what Jesus teaches us to do is because there is some block, some broken connection, some way in which we just don’t know how to do what we want to do. What Jesus says do looks good; we just may not have the training of heart and mind and conscience and habits actually to do it.
I remember well my Christian Education professor, Dr. Ohsberg, saying that the people in the pews don’t need to know a whole slew of details about this or that Bible event: they need to know HOW – how to do what the Bible tells them to do.
We know ‘do to others as you would have them do unto you.’ But what do we do? Instead, we read online things like this: The only people who deserve to be in your life are the ones who treat you with love, kindness and respect. There is a place for boundaries with people, but Jesus teaches, ‘bless those who curse you.’ I think Christ has some care, and kindness, and energy for us with the so-called ‘negative people’ in our lives.
So let’s finish off by coming full circle: back to blessing and cursing – or damning. Maybe you have noticed what I have about these ancient Middle Eastern people in the Bible: they were big believers in speaking a curse over others, or speaking a blessing. It was something they were always doing. You cursed an enemy, or cursed the day you were born, or cursed a fig tree that bore no fruit. You spoke a blessing over a town that showed you hospitality, you blessed your children when you were on your deathbed, you blessed the food you were to share.
We tend not to believe, exactly, in putting a curse on someone, or on pronouncing a blessing on others. But we do the same things. We certainly pray; people ‘send prayers’ all the time. And perhaps our turning away from those we dislike – ‘don’t waste your energy on them’ – is our way of enacting a curse.
Jesus spoke to His friends and apprentices of serving, as He had served. Just like washing a guest’s feet – the job of a household slave, not a host! Be people of blessing; bring goodness to the neighbourhood; share grace – which really is a gift, or an undeserved favour, or a good thing the person could not do for themselves.
We are still in school with Jesus, learning to serve deeply, to love our neighbours, even to love our enemies. For me, that is the key: for Him to be my Lord and Teacher. It’s all in the training, the discipline, the practice, the experience, the quality time. The school of life, the school of hard knocks, whatever school you find yourself in – stay enrolled with Christ right there. You may be in the school of retirement, the school of grandparenthood, the school of downsizing, the school of cancer, the school of hobbies, the school of travelling, the school of moving to a new town, the school of a new disability. Jesus goes with you there.
This is a life of serving others. It is a path of being a blessing where you go. Do you not know you are a gift to this world! A gift from Christ.
So, hear once again Jesus’ words:“Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Be blessed to know what to do.
Be blessed to do what you know.
We’ll be blessed if we do.
Our world will be blessed if we do.
PRAYER after the sermon: O God, there are people and situations we do bless. We ask You to bless them. And there are other folks and circumstances we want cursed: put a stop to the terrible things, Mighty One. Forgive our petty ways, our times of being easily offended, and our slowness to serve others humbly. Make me a servant. Make our lives flow on in endless song. Take my hands, Lord Jesus, let them work for You. Bless the Lord, O my soul. AMEN.