Feb 21: To Do Good & Be Good

WELCOME to this post for a Digby Baptist Church Sunday morning. Here, we include a bit of video from the service. The whole plan for the service each week can be found in the Bulletin, here on our website.

(Psalm 15; Luke 10:25-42) J G White ~ 11 am, Sun, Feb 21, 2021, UBC Digby

PRAYERS of the People  Today we use this response from Psalm 4 as we pray: when I say, O that we might see some good!, you say, Let the light of Your face shine upon us.  Let us   pray.

Fire of God, Thou Sacred Flame: refine us again, at this late hour of our lives. Renew us by burning away the wastefulness of our time and the unkind habits we keep repeating. You delight in us when we become more beautiful and generous to our neighbours.

O that we might see some good! Let the light of Your face shine upon us.

Spirit of creation, whose goodness gives life to all: we pray for those who mourn, especially those who have tragically lost loved ones this weekend. These deaths make no sense; hear our prayers.

O that we might see some good! Let the light of Your face…

Jesus, who wept over his dead friend, who wept over the whole city: people need to know You are near and weep with us again, lovingly.

O that we might see some good! Let the light of Your face…

Christ, who hungered in the wilderness, who touched every sick and injured person, who faced your own torture and execution: hear our prayers for those among us who are ill and hurting. Bless Dwight, bless Carolyn, bless Bob, bless

O that we might see some good! Let the light of Your face…

Ancient of Days, time is in Your hands: we pray for those waiting for surgery, waiting for therapy, waiting for diagnosis, waiting for healing. We also call out for those who are troubled in heart and mind, that they may be supported and strengthened.

O that we might see some good! Let the light of Your face…

God of all nations, into a troubled world You bring powerful help: our prayers are for the people of Texas and other places suffering in terrible weather; for places of violence and unrest such as Myanmar and the Philippines; and for the worldwide challenges of the new strains of the coronavirus. 

O that we might see some good…

Why Church? Why are people in the Christian Church? To Do Good and to Be Good. Baptist author and philosopher, Dallas Willard, spoke often of the longing of humans to find the good life. How to live a good life? This is the deep quest of so many people. Christianity claims that the Church is the way, with Jesus, on earth now, to become the good person we each are meant to be. 

How is the Church doing, so far? Well, almost 2000 years on? Are we rather dull and worn and failed now?

One of my favourite chapters in C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters is number two, about the Church. Here I see a marevelous glimpse of the real Church that terrifies the demons who work for Satan. A demon named Screwtape writes to his nephew abt. the Christian Church: …we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans. 

Demon Screwtape likes to think that a man on Sunday morning at a Church will see things this way:

When he goes inside, he sees the local grocer with rather an oily expression on his face bustling up to offer him one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands, and one shabby little book containing corrupt texts of a number of religious lyrics, mostly bad, and in very small print. When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided.

It is so true that the real Church reaches far above and beyond what we see in ourselves on a Sunday morning. It is huge! It has a holy God. It is everywhere in history. And so, Church is a way that we live the good life, here and now, connected with every other person who is in Christ, throughout all of time and space. 

But Screwtape was right. This is hidden from most of us, a lot of the time. And all our neighbours outside of the churches do not see the Church that Jesus is building, against which the gates of hades cannot stand. 

Nevertheless, we are here, in this school of the spirit, this seminar for sainthood, this saving place for sinners. We have seen goodness among us, and we know we can be trained for right living in this fellowship. O to be good! 

Let me take some time to tell you a story told by Micah Brickner. He is Communications Director for Eastern Mennonite Missions. He lives in Lancaster City, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Heather: she is pastor of a Brethren in Christ Church called Branch & Vine. Micah tells this experience he had, when he was quite young.

It was winter, in the early 2000s. It was cold. It was also snowing.

My father and I were getting ready to drive to the store in our less-than-reliable 1980-something Chevy Celebrity. The car’s alternator was having some issues, and the engine would not stay running.

We had not traveled very far down the main street in my hometown when the car was not able to make it.

Whatever the issue ended up being, I remembered that we needed someone to help us jump the car’s battery. My father struggled with a form of anxiety that could render him into a significant panic from situations like this one — this one did just that.

I was too young to be of much help, other than walking to someone’s house to ask for help. We did not have a cell phone, and we did not necessarily know what to do.

Suddenly, walking down the street we saw our pastor. We asked for his help, but he said he was running late for a meeting and could not help.

It was disappointing, but we moved on.

Next we saw a neighbor, who happened to be a Sunday school teacher. We asked if he could jump the car. And he responded quickly by indicating that his car’s battery was probably too unreliable to be able to help us. My father tried to explain that this man’s car would be fine, but he continued to find excuses.

We were left to figure out how to solve this problem on our own.

Then an old panel van came driving up alongside our car. The driver rolled down his window and asked if we needed help.

We quickly realized that it was our neighbor … our Muslim neighbor. He pulled onto the side of the road, rummaged for a pair of jumper cables, and quickly helped us get back on the road.

It was such a simple gesture, but it was a meaningful one — one that my family still talks about fondly today.

This man and his wife owned a little gift shop down the street from our house. We were patrons of their business for a long time & found joy in their friendship. Unfortunately, this man passed away a few years later. My parents often encouraged me to shovel their sidewalk while he was sick and after he passed away.

I share this story not to chastise the two Christian men who did not help us, but rather to highlight the kindness of the man who did. This neighbor was willing to openly talk with us about faith and the differences between Christianity and Islam. While we differed in our religious views, we had mutual respect for each other.

My Good Samaritan Was a Muslim

Micah Brickner titled his article: ‘My Good Samaritan Was a Muslim.’ Though not the same as the Luke 10 parable of Jesus, these personal events illustrate the act of being a neighbour, a true good thing in this life. Jesus’ parable is an extreme example of neighbourliness, in a truly dire situation. 

The Africa Bible Commentary simply calls this parable in Luke, ‘Co-travellers,’ and sums up the issues nicely:

People from countries such as the United States of America, South Africa, Namibia, Rwanda and Burundi and other countries racked by racial and ethnic divisions have a special appreciation of this story of the travellers. It deals with racial harmony and what it means to be human and humane, or to be someone with ubuntu, that is, someone who is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, with a servant spirit that says, ‘I am because you are; you are because I am.’ (p. 1251)

Jesus tells this story when answering questions. He keeps on with His teaching theme: what you do matters. To be welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous – these describe actions, not beliefs or thoughts or feelings. For the Church to be a centre for learning these ways of God, we must focus upon this: how to do the things Jesus taught. It is all very practical. 

Once in a while, a local congregation stands out in the message it gives to the community at large. In my research last week, I happened to look at the web page for Branch & Vine, that Brethren Church in Lancaster City, Pa. On their homepage are three simple statements. If they claim these things, so clearly and concisely, they must be making these practical and ‘real.’ That Church says: We Believe…

  1. Jesus loves everyone. 
  2. Church should be simple.
  3. Children should be seen and heard.

I don’t think you can make such brief, direct claims about yourself without doing what is implied. Hypocrisy about loving neighbours, or the church running simply, or children being totally welcome, would soon show up. 

The ways Jesus shows us how to be good and to do good in life are not sublime ideas and theories. They are practical ways of living, day-to-day. 

The great teacher of preachers, Fred Craddock, raised an important issue about Jesus’ parable of the travellers, which Jesus told when talking with a Jewish law expert.

The lawyer knew the answers to his own questions, and in both cases Jesus expressed full agreement. 

Then what is wrong with this conversation? We have two good questions, two good answers, and two men who agree. What else could one ask? All kinds of things are wrong. Asking questions for gaining an advantage over another is not a kingdom exercise. Neither is asking questions with no intention of implementing the answers. …Jesus did not say to the lawyer, “Great answer! You are my best pupil.” Rather, Jesus said, “Go and do.”  (Craddock, Fred, Luke: Interpretation, 1990, p.150)

Ah, how wonderful those moments when we, dear Church, help one another ‘go and do what Jesus teaches. Christ has planted us here as a source of good in the neighbourhood. And I see every day how you are on Jesus’ team, blessing others. 

 I meet one of you in the grocery store, buying a fruit basket for a neighbour recovering from surgery. 

A deacon texts me to let me know about some recent deaths in the community, and the circle of prayer and care grows. 

A parent and children come in here during a cold snowstorm to prepare activity packs for the Sunday kids.

Such actions are our natural ministry – or perhaps, with Jesus, they actually are our supernatural ministry. We are saved to do such good work so that the world will be helped. Not so that we will earn our way into heaven. The doctrine of grace tells us that God’s care and compassion for us saves us, with the actions of Jesus. We don’t earn our way, or become worthy. Jesus is the worthy One. 

The temptation has been, for centuries, to come to Church, to worship God, to earn God’s favour and get enough points and get into glory when we die. More about that a couple sermons from now. I know we do have scripture texts like Psalm 15, that we spoke earlier. 

O LORD, who may abide in your tent?

Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right…

Yet it is Jesus, our Jesus, who takes the final step, and walks more blamelessly that we can, He does right when we do not. Now, in Christ we get two things. First, we get to be considered perfect, blameless, doers of what’s right. Secondly, we actually will do better in this life, with Christ living within us. This week of our lives will be lived better with Jesus than without Him. We will be good neighbours.

Dallas Willard wisely wrote: In the morning we cannot yet know who our neighbor will be that day. The condition of our hearts will determine who along our path turns out to be our neighbor, and our faith in God will largely determine whom we have strength enough to make our neighbor. (Willard, D., The Divine Conspiracy, 1997, p. 111)

To do good, to be a good person, does come down to how we become a neighbour to others. The Lawyer’s question still stands. “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus’ parable remains the answer. My neighbour is the one I treat well. My neighbour is the one who treats me well. 

It is not Mr. Rogers, but Christ Himself who asks us: Won’t you be their neighbour?

PRAYER of Confession Let us   pray. Jesus, our Righteousness, we clothe ourselves with You, we take off our weaker attempts at being good, we submit to all the training You have for us in the school of life. We confess the pride we have in the good we count as our own. We confess the neglect of time and effort and expense for helping those we could help. We confess our forgetfulness of the many life lessons You have offered us. We regret our sins. We ask for hope, that we may truly be better and greater in this world. We turn to You, O Perfect One, to do more now to make us complete, and good, and joyful in this life. It is by Your own power and authority – Your name – that we pray. AMEN.

Feb 14: for Spiritual Experience

WELCOME to this post for St. Valentine’s Day 2021. We continue the theme ‘Why Church?’ Today: For Spiritual Experience.

(Exodus 34:29-32; Luke 9:28-45) J G White ~ 11 am, Sun, Feb 14, 2021, UBC Digby.

Why Church? Why are people in the Christian Church? For Spiritual Experience! To seek & to have ‘mountaintop experiences.’ To share and celebrate their holy experiences. To interpret and understand the things that happened. To be guided and inspired by these special events. 

I have always had this vision of the local church as a spirituality resource centre in the neighbourhood. Might any of our neighbours still see us this way?

We are all pretty much in the habit, the habit of being here, or, in this pandemic, at least reading what goes on here. It is not often someone shows up ‘out of the blue,’ simply to seek a divine encounter, a spiritual experience. It does happen. And, wonder of wonders, a person may have a miraculous encounter, right here in our pews. 

Yet even the scriptures tell us that most major ‘God moments’ for people happen outdoors, in day-to-day life, when folks are minding their own business, or just trying to survive some crisis. Aged Abram counts the stars at night. Moses stares at a bush on fire in the hot desert. Later, he goes up a holy mountain to get all the commandments, and comes down truly glowing. Jeremiah watches a local potter doing his usual work with clay. Elijah, on the run, hears a still small voice after some violence way out in the wilderness. Yes, prophet Isaiah sees a vision of God and spiritual beings in the temple of worship, but maybe he actually had that vision at home on his own doorstep? 

Today, we see Jesus take three of his twelve disciples on a holy field trip. Up an unnamed mountain they go, and the sight they see is beyond explaining. Jesus is suddenly aglow, with Moses and Elijah beside Him, chatting away!

We can say that, if church is about being with Jesus, then being with Jesus is one way to seek special experiences. Stick with Christ, and something remarkable will happen, eventually. There are things we can do with our lives to seek a revelation, an epiphany, a holy vision. 

My devotional reading last week took me to Bernard of Clairvaux, who lived about nine hundred years ago. (1090-1153) We sing three hymns in our hymn books that supposedly go back to Bernard. (O Sacred Head; Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee; Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts) What I happened to be reading from him was about love: Four Degrees of Love. The final stage sounds like one of these ‘mountaintop’ or ‘transcendental’ experiences.

In the first degree of love we love ourselves for our own sake. In the second degree of love we love God for our own sake, chiefly because he has provided for us and rescued us. But if trials and tribulations continue to come upon us, every time God brings us through, even if our hearts were made of stone, we will begin to be softened because of the grace of the Rescuer. Thus, we begin to love God not merely for our own sakes, but for himself. …The third degree of love is the love by which God is now loved for his very self. 

Blessed are we who experience the fourth degree of love wherein we love ourselves for God’s sake. Such experiences are rare and come only for a moment. In a manner of speaking, we lose ourselves as though we did not exist, utterly unconscious of ourselves and emptied of ourselves. (Foster, Richard J. & James Bryan Smith, Devotional Classics: Select Readings for Individuals and Groups, 1990, pp. 42-43)

Many a personal story is told by people who lose themselves in a holy moment, feeling one with the universe, one with God, or at least feel completely flooded by the love of God. 

It is personal experiences like this which we often need to share with others. So the church fellowship is also a place to share our spiritual experiences and celebrate them. How well are we listening? How receptive are you and am I to hearing someone’s dramatic story?

In the evangelical tradition it has often been our conversion stories that are highlighted, and told as ‘testimony.’ One of the famous conversion stories of history is that of John Wesley. Becoming a leading preacher of the 18th century in Europe, he wrote about his Christian conversion in his journal, May 24, 1738.

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart.

Sharing of testimonies on Sunday mornings is no longer a habit we keep here, regularly. Telling and celebrating the special moments with God happens more in smaller groups, I’d say: the Men’s Fellowship, Bible Studies, small committees, among friends, and so forth. Yet some dramatic moments we keep quite private. 

Did you notice how it was, after James and John and Peter saw Jesus glowing with Moses and Elijah? And heard a heavenly voice speak about Jesus? And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen. There is a time and a place for talking about the most incredible visions we have. 

Some of us are still in the Christian church to seek mountaintop experiences. And some are here to share what has happened and celebrate the experience of God. Thirdly, we may be here to interpret and understand what happened. Is the spiritual gift of interpretation among us here?

Look up that mountain again, the mount of transfiguration, with three great heroes and three disciples. It was just as Moses and Elijah, from history, were about done their talking with shining Jesus, that Peter in a confused state suggests they pitch some tents for them to linger in, on that hill. They were not going to hang around at all. Peter did not know what he was saying. It was such an overwhelming, holy experience. Then, after they heard a voice from the clouds, they started their silent hike down from the mountain. 

A dramatic experience is hard to comprehend. Those men had access to Jesus for those few years they walked and worked closely with Him. They had plenty of time to decipher the miraculous things they witnessed. And they still had plenty of questions when it was all said and done, after Jesus had been killed, and then come back to them. 

Making sense of the big things that happen in life takes, well, a lifetime, we might say! Jesus worked with a group, he worked as Rabbi with twelve apprentices. Then Jesus created a new form of fellowship – the Church. Local groups to work out what the Holy Spirit of God was doing in their towns. A Church, like us, is here to interpret and understand the challenges and the glorious moments of life we share together. 

I look back to the Windsor Baptist Church, and wonder about what that fellowship learned from God amid several traumatic events. After I’d been there a while I thought they surely had opportunity to learn from some hard times they’d been through. 

In 1965 their 53 year old paster dropped dead of a heart attack. (That was E. C. Churchill.)

In 1969 their next pastor had to resign with heart trouble – only in his thirties. 

In about 1974 their next pastor moved to a different Church, but also with his Church Secretary, with whom he’d been having an affair in Windsor! 

Their next pastor was quickly put through the ringer, and left before two years was up. After the subsequent and very successful pastor left, around 1984, there was a big fight over if the assistant Pastor should become the next Senior Pastor. The congregation split over that. 

I admit, none of these moments were holy revelations or visions from Almighty God, but these dramatic crises surely each had their divine opportunities. I used to wonder if that church had learned the emotional and spiritual lessons they needed to learn from each harsh event, or not.

It takes time, it takes work in the fellowship, it takes spiritual discernment to interpret the events of our lives. Whether the events are amazing, on the mountaintop, or terribly in a valley of the shadow of death, with some understanding from God, we can move on, and act in new ways, influenced by the God we met in special ways.  

This is the fourth step I pondered. Some people are still in the Christian Church today so they may be guided and inspired by the mountaintop experiences. 

 The famous African proverb says “It takes a village to raise a child,” and so it also takes a congregation to raise a disciple of Jesus. We are all still being raised as disciples, at fifty, at seventy three, at ninety-eight. I think we cannot rely only on our own, personal experiences of the Holy One. Going back to John Wesley, from him we get the Wesleyan Quadrilateral: four key things that guide a Christian. Scripture, Tradition, Reason & Experience. 

We need the Bible, with its stories of Moses, of Jesus, and of all the rest. 

We need the tradition of the believers – the teachings, history, worship, all the Church stuff – the wisdom of the ages, gained from many mistakes made & blessings given. 

We need to think, use our reason, and make sense of the world, ourselves, our neighbours, and our God. 

And we need our experiences: the day-to-day, nothing to write home about moments, and the blow-your-mind things that happen. 

With these blessed tools, we use what we get from the school of life, and take new steps today. I look at what Jesus and those disciples did next, after that amazing, unexplained moment of glory on a hill. Jesus did some more physical healing, with a lesson for the failures of His disciples. And He also pointed toward His goal – which they also did not understand – He was going to get betrayed. In fact, executed. After standing, glorious, between Moses and Elijah, Jesus was now headed towards a hill of darkness where He would terribly die, with a thief on either side. 

Yet that would be His real glory

At that crucifixion, a terrible disaster is a miracle.

There, the God of the ages enters the deepest, darkest valley, and makes it a mountaintop. 

And that same Jesus, Christ crucified, is the One who meets us in our profound moments, when the earthly and the heavenly meet. 

Here, as a Church, the gathered ones, we seek, and celebrate, and understand, and are inspired by the holy moments of life. 

Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing! (Revelation 5:12)

Let us   pray.

PRAYER after Sermon: Jesus, lover of our souls, may it be You who makes us one, now. Not our common pews in this hallowed hall, not the music we have shared, not the sermon to which we nod agreement – let it be a mystical unity that is deeper. You, Jesus, a Person, a God, our Life – be the blessed Tie that binds our heart, with love. 

Long have we sought You. 

Bright Your presence has been in our midst!

Our knowing You has become personal and powerful.

You have empowered us to do new good things.

Holy, holy, holy God: be this week our God of the mountaintop, and our God of each dark valley. In your name, Jesus. Amen.

PRAYERS of the People: Spirit God, we thank You that we are not alone, we live in Your world. And as believers we are not isolated, but are one with so many who are in Christ. We pray for our thousands of sisters and brothers who are Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada. Today, we seek Your blessings and guidance for the people of the Jacksonville UBC in NB. 

As the lectures broadcast from Acadia begin tomorrow, we ask, Master of our minds, that what we learn about mental health will bless us and all around us. Let there be healing for mental illness, strength to cope with crises, and comfort for long term illnesses. 

Master of the loving heart, on this Saint Valentine’s day we seek good things for all: those who are lovers, those whose relationships are hurting, those who are lonely, and those who are satisfied as solitary persons. May every form of love be blessed among us – the romances, the family love, the friendships, the divine compassion.

O Healer of every ill, we pray today for those who suffer and those who are seeking a healing touch…

Holy Jesus, as we read today of You healing a young fellow, our prayers are with all who suffer from epilepsy and other conditions that shatter body and mind from time to time…

Feb 7: For Healing & Miracles

WELCOME to this worship post for February 7 at Digby Baptist Church. Video of children’s time, the sermon, and Holy Communion are here. Full service details are in the Bulletin, elsewhere on this website. Thanks for visiting; thanks for worshipping.

(Luke 7:1-17) J G White – 11 am, Sun, Feb 7, 2021, UBC Digby

Why Church? Why are people in the Christian Church?

For Healing! To heal others. To get a miracle!

This is how some people attach themselves to the fellowship. This is why many keep coming back: for the prayers, the support, the faith in God to heal and help and do far more than we can ever ask or imagine. 

We seek this regularly… month in and month out. We seem programmed, when it is prayer time, to make requests about people who have physical illnesses or injuries. Once in a while we speak aloud of world politics, or natural disasters, but most of what we ask is for help when someone has surgery, or cancer treatments, or broken bones. From time to time, our mental health appears in our prayers. And every single time, one of you asks for prayer for police and first responders.

For all our focus upon healing of the body – and the mind – I can find very few hymns that we know, ancient or modern, that sing about all this healing. It’s always songs for ‘the sin-sick soul.’ ‘He touched me and made me whole’ because ‘I’m ‘shackled by a heavy burden / ‘Neath a load of sin and shame.’ 

The healing ministry of Christianity we see as a continuation now of the physical and mental healing work of Jesus the Christ. People of every age still appreciate the miracle of healing, when it is sought and found. Young people surveyed say things like these:

Stella: I had tendinitis in my left wrist and I got prayed for at church and it went away in a few days. It was a positive experience.

Devon: I was really depressed. I started to pray a lot again, to get this out of me. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. And I didn’t. So after that it’s like, okay, God exists – set in stone.

Malcolm: My sister when she was 17 had a stroke and lost vision in her eye… The pastor at the church went to the hospital regularly to be with her and pray with her and after he prayed with her a number of times she was actually healed – her vision returned – it was an answer to prayer.

To be in a church at the local level can be worshipful gratitude for healing of the past. The miracle we always remember. The answers to prayers bring us back. 

It was about fifteen years ago when ‘Bair,’ I’ll call him, came to see me in my study. He told me a long, dramatic, personal story. Years before, he was working way up north, a heavy equipment operator. Up in the frozen wilderness he was running a big excavator of some sort. Across a boggy pond the ice broke, and the whole rig plunged down. Suddenly, in the icy blackness Blair was struggling to get out of the rig and get to the surface. He had hit and scalped his head – which he did not know in the panic of the moment. Under the black water, he got out of the cab, and up on top, and could reach the surface. He got out, got up onto the ice and snow… he got to live. 

He credits God with that rescue, with an intervention. That is a touchstone in his life. Blair talked about being baptized, as a Christian, but he never went thru with it.

Rescue from death is surely a ‘life-changing’ experience. Even for those around the one who survives, by the grace of God. Such as the Centurion in today’s Gospel story. This man was a soldier, working for the Roman empire. When one of his dear slaves was near death, he heard about Jesus of Nazareth, and put his hopes in Him. Isn’t it remarkable how this unnamed man had confidence in the power-at-a-distance of Jesus, the miracle worker? The Centurion knows all about having authority and giving orders that others then follow, wherever their mission may be. So, with more faith than Jesus’ fellow Jews, this man trusts that his slave can be healed and saved from death without Jesus even paying a visit, or sending some note or bit of holy water or oil: ‘speak the word, and let my servant be healed.’

No wonder we learn in our lives to pray: to join our desires with the Spirit of God and reach people far beyond our reach, with a blessing. We have seen a Divine power and authority that can do so much good. 

The other thing about this Roman Centurion that jumps out at me is a contrast about his ‘worthiness’ to get a miracle for his slave. He had sent some respectable Jews with the message to Jesus, and they claim, right away, that the Centurion is a good, supportive fellow, and “He is worthy of having you do this for him.” 

As Jesus heads towards the Centurion’s house, the man sends friends to tell Jesus not to bother himself, “for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof…” 

Perhaps the seeking of a miracle always takes some humility. Perhaps any prayer for help is a bowing of the human spirit before the great Spirit of love and power. 

So, many stay connected with church because of the way it is a fellowship of help and healing that the world cannot give. And when we are not asking for help, we want to be giving help, be part of God’s team to bless those near & far. 

I wonder, Digby Baptist, if we can develop our ministry of prayer. Learn more about it by doing more of it, in more ways. Have more ways to offer to pray for the people of our community. Do more creative praying for our world. Put into practice the lessons on prayer we have seen from Jesus all along, about solitude, simplicity, forgiveness, healing, fasting, and so forth. And celebrate the praying that makes such a difference in our lives!

Miracles and blessings can come along without our praying for them, of course. Sometimes we get blessed because someone else was praying. At other times, God is simply doing what God does. 

As with the widow and her son, in Luke 7. Here, during a funeral procession to the cemetery outside of a town, Jesus approaches the corpse and the young man gets raised up! Not only is his life saved, his mother’s life is saved from destitute poverty. In their culture she may well have had no way to support herself, with husband and only son both dead. Jesus saw her and had compassion upon her. 

Not every Bible story has such a happy ending. Even though this one does, and when Jesus’ friend Lazarus dies, and when Jesus gets executed. They all end up alive again, yes. But this is not always the answer. Remember when Christ spoke of some mishap that had randomly killed eighteen people? The tower of Siloam fell, whatever that was. (It was within the city of Jerusalem.) ‘Do you think the people that died there were worse sinners than other Galileans? No,’ said Jesus. (Luke 13)

It is the unanswered prayers that bother many people. Or simply the randomness of rescue or death among us all. Why do bad things happen to good people? And vice versa? This keeps many people out of churches and religions and personal faith. 

I have a true story to tell, but it is far too long to tell today. And I do not have permission yet from the husband of our deceased friend to tell it. But I may, someday, tell the story, in her own words, of Jennifer’s cancer treatments. I saved all her posts on Facebook, while she was in hospital, because of how beautifully written and down to earth and inspiring they are. The light and hope and joy that shines from an ill person can transcend the dark drudgery of dying. Jenn certainly blessed the world while she was suffering. Here is one post from her. This was in 2019.  

May 23  This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it!

The consensus is that the cancer is so aggressive that it is causing me to bleed internally and be infected, all of the issues are the same problem. It is growing so ridiculously fast. I can feel it.

We went home last night, driving into the sunset, to have a few precious moments with our parents, Alyssa and puppies. We returned to the hospital and slept until my fever woke me up this morning. IV meds until doctor’s rounds. Chemo sometime this morning. There are no promises.

There is always hope. I am filled with peace. God is good. All the time. And I am humbled that God’s people are praying for me. Thank you! Please pray for my husband and our families too. 

Much love…

Healing and Miracles: I am not sure I have told you one thing new, one thing you did not already know. If you did get something great, that was Jesus. Let me end now, pointing to this interesting ceremony we have, with symbols of injured human flesh and loss of blood. Surely the crucifixion tells us something about God and our own suffering in mind and body. God completely understands.

Ya know, the Roman Catholics always quote that Centurion fellow with the dying slave, when they have their mass, their holy communion. Before they eat the bread and drink the wine, they say a version of this:

“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and your servant shall be healed.”

Let us come to the Table of our Master with humility. With faith in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection. With hope that, in spirit, and with a scrap of bread and grape juice, we shall be with Christ. Let us   pray.

PRAYER after Sermon: God, our Strength, may we live out the healing work that comes to us in the name of Jesus. Help us live when we are well and when we are unwell. And, as always, teach us to keep the wise lessons we gained from You, and forget the weak ideas and poor habits we need to reject. Amen.

PRAYERS (beginning with #414 A Prayer for Healing) We continue, Divine Healer, for the sake of those people we have had in our minds, their names upon our lips. Healing grace for those recovering from surgery or preparing for it: Don, Dottie, Dwight, Reta, Bob, Carolyn…

Protective grace give to those who travel to medical appointments, especially those who must travel in dangerous weather, those who must travel often, and those who must travel so far and spend so much to seek help.

Hopeful grace for those with ongoing health problems that are not going away anytime soon: John, Bobby, Faye, Mary, Jack, Jack, Peter, Donna, Marguerite, Diane, Barb, Irma, Geraldine, Grace, Ramona, Marina… and so many more of us.

And heroic grace give to all those who are discouraged, depressed, or distressed in heart and mind…

Prince of Peace, we talk with You also, here and now, for the sake of peoples around the globe: especially today for the many nations where there is great violence and unrest. For the healing of the nations we pray today. And we rejoice that we can find the path of prayer with You, Jesus, in Your name. AMEN.

PRAYER of Thanks for Servants: Jesus Christ, true and only Head of the Church, we rejoice and give hearty thanks for one another. Bless these willing servants with all they need to accomplish the tasks you have for them, with joy in our work, and with true Christian camaraderie in our teamwork. 

We also are grateful to You, Master, for those who have served You and us in the past years, and now break from their duties as deacon or trustee or committee member or other office. 

Over and above all this, we are humbled by Your calling upon us to serve one another, and we thank You, Christ, for every person to whom we have some ministry, some care or help to offer. It is Your calling upon our lives; be with us in Spirit as we live for them and for You. In Your name. AMEN.

Jan 31: To Obey

WELOCME to our worship blog post for this Sunday at Digby Baptist Church. This week we happen to be having a hymn sing and Bible study as the main body of our service together. Video of the children’s lesson and the ‘Bible study sermon’ are here. More information is available about the service and church life in the bulletin, here on the bulletins page.

(Luke 6:1-16) J G White ~ 11 am, Sun, Jan 31, 2021, UBC Digby

Let’s start our Bible study sermon.

O, O, Obey-O,
everyday-O,
that’s why we say-O,
yes we will obey!

(A Daily Vacation Bible School song)

For many people through the years, taking part in church has been a simple matter of Christian obedience and duty. The right thing to do. It’s wrong not to do it! Did you learn that?

Christianity as a whole movement, or religion, can be seen as an organization full of rules. Do this. Do not do that. Believe this. Do not believe that. Hundreds of times. 

Many people are still the kind of people who find this helpful. The sense of duty and the desire to follow the right path can be strong. 

Nowadays, it might be easy for those of us over 50 to say that the younger generations do not have any sense of duty or obedience. But it may be that they value different things than we have valued. Rules of organizations may not seem helpful to them, nor traditional rules in society about how we communicate with people. Yet other rules of just behaviour, and of being authentic might be important to them. 

The Hemorrhaging Faith study (2011) heard this from some of the Canadian young people that were interviewed:

Seeing people just going to church to go to church. You know, just seeing a lot of …just going through the motions and then their life is a total mess … I didn’t feel these people were happy in their lives …I just felt it wasn’t true, and one-hundred percent pure.  – Marly

I guess one of the things I really struggle with is how people can have a firm belief in God but they have a belief they follow but they can treat people so horribly at the same time when there’s people out there that might not necessarily believe in God but they follow more true to his teaching and are more of a reflection upon Jesus and his character. – Anna

I remember just seeing again certain students …um… go to chapel and pray and worship and then they would leave there and become regular again. What I call regular you know, they would be cursing or doing things they shouldn’t have been doing and I just wondered how …how could they live a double life? – Cal (p. 59)

To be genuine is important, to be authentic and ‘real’ is valued.

Today, our scripture story about Jesus touches on obedience, rooted in the Ten Commandments and other teachings of the Hebrews of old. 

Some of the background is found in:

1. Exodus 20:1-17 The Ten Commandments. Which commandments have been important to you? Which have not been as important? Why’s that?

If you go to church Sunday morning, you love the Church. If you also go to Church Sunday evening, you love the Pastor. If you also go to Wednesday Prayer Meeting, you love the Lord! – saying from a church in New Jersey

I’d say that is humorous, but also severe!

Today’s example, with Jesus, is sabbath keeping.

2. Exodus 34:21 Sabbath obedience. What rules about Sunday have you known in your life?  How is your obedience different now than it was in the past?

Keeping of the Christian Sabbath can help us in several ways. It breaks the continuous cycle of buying and selling; so it could be very helpful in our ‘consumer culture.’ Sabbath sets us free from the busy schedule, and gives a rhythm to our days. Sabbath trains us to take sabbath moments in every day, and longer time within a whole year, and bigger ‘sabbaticals’ in the course of each decade.

The first Gospel scene today is of Jesus and His disciples EATING GRAIN (Luke 6:1-5)

3. Leviticus 24:5-9  The Bread of the Presence. Think over some of the Christian Sabbath rules and regulations you know. How is each one intended to serve humankind and help? (Perhaps scripture even tells us this; what vs?)

The background for this event Jesus mentioned is in:

4. 1 Samuel 21:1-6  David and the bread.

The next scene in Luke 6 is a HEALING (Luke 6:6-11)

Diversity of Jewish teachings on the Sabbath… Some of the Rabbis, in the time of Jesus, taught that any healing work was permitted on the Sabbath. In contrast, the religious community at Qumran taught that one could not even help an animal that was giving birth on the Sabbath!

Sabbath keeping was a distinctive practice of the Jews.

It was a big part of forming their identity. 

5. Exodus 20:8-11  No work on the Sabbath. The day of rest is tied to freedom in this commandment. What are some ways that keeping a Sabbath can provide freedom? What are ways that obedience to other rules helps us?

The third and final scene in the Gospel today is of Jesus’ PRAYER all night not on a Sabbath (Luke 6:)

Preparation for a day of decision – 12 disciples

Was this prayer by Jesus a matter of obedience? Not to any specific rule or pattern. It was simply something He needed to do before the day of decision. A time of personal preparation. He made use of a tool He knew how to use, when He needed it. Perhaps we can see how praying and working with scripture on Sundays, in our lives, gets us ready for other days, other moments, when we need to pray and seek guidance and simply be with our God.

We, in the Church, have many spiritual tools at our fingertips, even if we are a bit rusty when it comes to using some of them. Maybe, like me, you are good at taking part in worship on Sunday, but other sabbath-keeping actions have been lost. Perhaps we should sharpen our skills and habits, and we will have more to offer to others around us.

We are now in the third sermon in this series on ‘Why the Christian Church?’ First was ‘To Study/Learn,’ and the second was ‘To Save & Be Saved.’ These are strong in the evangelical tradition, with our emphasis on scripture and saving people. Bible study is also big in the contemplative tradition: picture the scholars in universities, or monks and nuns in monasteries, making use of their ancient libraries. 

Today is about being in the church ‘To Obey,’ and is important in the holiness tradition, which emphasizes knowing and doing the will of God, obeying the teachings of scripture, and being a person of virtue and good behaviour, avoiding sin. Other reasons for taking part in the church will come in the weeks ahead.

Six Traditions in Christianity come right out of the life of Jesus, our Master and Saviour:

  • Holiness: the virtuous life. 
  • Charismatic: the Spirit-empowered life
  • Contemplative: the prayer-filled life
  • Social Justice: the compassionate life
  • Evangelical: the Word-centered life
  • Incarnational: the sacramental life

Look at the chart printed in the bulletin; estimate where you are in each area on the wheel spokes. Put a mark at those points, then connect the dots from spoke to spoke to form a ring around the hub. 

(From A Spiritual Formation workbook, Smith & Graybeal, 1993)

What are your strengths, as a spiritual being? What are your reasons for being in a church, a local spiritual community? What are not big parts of your life?

As you wander through this week – and a new month begins – consider if obedience and holiness have some influence in your life. And, what other things guide the way you live? 

Consider also those who are not worshippers, not churchgoers. Watch for how they still may be following Jesus. How they pray or study or worship or contemplate or serve sacrificially. How is it Christ is sometimes using them on His team, with us.

Jan 24: To Save & Be Saved

(Luke 5:1-11) J G White ~ 11 am, Sun, Jan 24, 2021, UBC Digby

https://vimeo.com/504100398

Why Church? Why the Christian Church? 

To save and be saved. 

Certainly we of the Baptist brand have put it this way for our four hundred years of history. And when the two largest groups of Baptist Churches in the Maritimes united 115 years ago, we put things such as these in our doctrinal statement, in our Basis of Union:

Faith — Faith is a conviction of the intellect that God will perform all that He has promised and an implicit trust of the heart in Christ as a personal savior…

A Gospel Church — We believe that a church of Christ is a congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel… In the more general sense, the word church is used to designate all whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. 

We are a fellowship of faith; we are a gospel church. 

What attraction do we have for people? Most find no need of the form of salvation we are offering, if they understand us. They must be finding it elsewhere, or some are deciding they don’t need what we claim to have.

We who are here celebrate the better life and joy we have been given, and we seek to cultivate it. At our centre is the sense of being saved, and the mission to help others into this same salvation.

The many styles of Christian faith can be put in a handful of categories. Studying the Bible and sharing the faith are what our Evangelical tradition is all about. Other believers are more about the Social Justice Tradition – living a compassionate Life, caring, alongside God, for everyone and everything. Or some are in the Contemplative Tradition – a prayer-filled life. Another stream is the Holiness Tradition – seeking to live a virtuous life of obedience and purity and right. Yet another is the Charismatic Tradition – living a Spirit-empowered life characterized by the gifts and the fruit of the Holy Spirit of God. And another branch of Christianity can be called the Incarnational Tradition – living a sacramental life that ties the sacred and the secular together under God. 

People of the evangelical stream hold salvation at the heart of things. This is certainly our ethos; even if we don’t always act like we are saved and trying to get others saved, this is the flavour of our traditions, in music, preaching, Bible study, and so on. 

So, what is it we are talking about? What is it to be saved? This must be clear to us, for the sake of being clear to those outside. 

I would simply call it a good connection with God. Not a broken connection, a weak connection, a partial connection. A good connection, a right relationship. How that happens to a person takes many forms. For some it happens dramatically, for others it is a gradual awakening.

Years ago I interviewed the great Atlantic Baptist pastor and church planter, Freeman Fenerty. He said, I liken conversion experience to two kinds. One where a stick of dynamite drives a man from one path to another, and the other like a flower blossoming, and mine was like that. 

So Jesus uses many human servants, or teammates, to help Him make the connection with people, and set them upon a new path. Today we heard a scripture story about Jesus, a scene on the seashore among fishermen. After an awe-inspiring catch of fish, Jesus calls upon one fisher, Simon Peter, to follow him. He will be fishing for people. ‘Catching people alive’ (Africa Bible Commentary). 

The scene here is simply of people meeting God by meeting Jesus. Peter, we see, feels totally unworthy and tells Jesus to go away. But Christ says to Peter he’s just the one he wants, come and follow and I will get you catching people, like your net caught fish. And that is indeed what happens.

When we ever dare talk with people about what our basic Christian message is, we can say it is about meeting up with God. It is about making the connection. A true witness to something is a person who simply tells what they saw, what they know, and not a bunch of other stuff. 

One of the amazing evangelicals I have been reading lately is Watchman Nee, one of the greatest Christian leaders of the 20th century. His ministry was in his native China, and he spent the last twenty years of his life in prison there. Nee wrote:

What is salvation? Many think that to be saved we must first believe that the Lord Jesus died for us, but it is a strange fact that nowhere in the New Testament does it say precisely that. …We are to believe first of all in Him; not specifically in what He has done. (p. 325)

The first condition of salvation is not knowledge, but meeting Christ. (p. 326)

We come now to the single requirement demanded from us. Quite often people preach the Gospel to a person by using a number of “points,” only to find that the next day the person will say, “I have forgotten the third point. What was it?” Salvation is not a question of points! Salvation is not even a question of understanding or of will. It is, [as we have seen,] a question of meeting God–of people coming into first-hand contact with Christ the Savior. So what, you ask me, is the minimum requirement in a person to make that contact possible? 

The basic condition of a sinner’s salvation is not belief or repentance, but just honesty of heart towards God. God requires nothing of us except that we come into that attitude. (P. 327)

If we were to take time, some day, to go around our circle and talk, we would find many different experiences of God. How we each met Christ in our lives is unique.  Some events may be similar between some of us. How we explain it, how we tell what Jesus means to us, is also personal, but is secondary. The first thing is the actual meeting – that connecting with the Divine One that has happened to us.

Of course, many people keep seeking this, when they do not think they have quite found it yet. And out there, outside of the churches, many people are seeking God, seeking what is truly Real. We know that most people around here are not in churches. So God will be found by them outside of church. We know that. That is where they are looking. 

Jesus took Peter and the others and wandered all about. Sometimes into Jewish Synagogues, yes, or to a wedding, or a funeral. But most of the time out along the roads and in the villages. This is again where people will meet up with Christ, even though He is here simply in Spirit. 

To be saved, to be connected, is of interest to many people, I’d say. Looking, and wanting, and needing and wondering are important things for people around us. 

People keep ‘working out their salvation with fear and trembling,’ as scripture puts it. Making a connection with the Holy is not just a momentary event – it happens over and over, and we seek it again and again. When we, a Christian congregation, are a spiritual resource centre for local people, we are ready to take people as they are, at their moment, and help them with their very next step. 

E. Stanley Jones was an incredible missionary to India, and a writer, in the first half of the 20th century. He wrote:

Conversion is a gift and an achievement. It is the act of a moment and the work of a lifetime. You cannot attain salvation by disciplines–it is the gift of God. But you cannot retain it without disciplines. (p. 281)

To have salvation at the heart of our life as a church family, we will have a lot of good things to offer one another. Ways of praying. Ways of drawing close to God, and one another. Ways of learning and of obeying good paths. Ways of developing people, nurturing them. Church consultant, Reggie McNeil, says we are in the people development business! When we get to our Annual Meeting on Wednesday, notice, in every report and each decision, how someone is being nurtured. See God’s work.

We are a fellowship of people being saved because 1. we have met up with Christ, and 2. we keep on drawing near to God. Through all this, the Spirit transforms us. So a third thing is this: as a group we also can be revived. Just and we give credit to our Master for reconciling us, and for healing our souls more and more, so we give God credit for renewing us as a group, in this day and age.

So it has always been. The great 19th century Baptist preacher in England, Charles H. Spurgeon, preached this about revival, back then:

“O!” says one person, “if we had another minister. O! if we had another kind of worship. O! if we had a different sort of preaching.” You do not need new ways or new people, you need life in what you have. If you want to move a train, you don’t need a new engine, or even ten engines– you need to light a fire and get the steam up in the engine you now have! 

  It is not a new person or a new plan, but the life of God in them that the Church needs. Let us ask God for it! (p. 320)

So today, when we feel we need it, we ask for it. ‘Give new life to us!’ A big part of the life we are given, is the capability to help ‘catch people alive.’ Be ‘fishers of men and women.’ Like the fish in the net, caught from Simon Peter’s boat… he and his companions did not do it by their plan or skill. They were the experts, they were the fishermen, yet it was Jesus who spoke to them, and they slowly obeyed, and the catch was awe-inspiring. 

It was just a sign, it pointed to the real mission. ‘Come with me, you’ll catch human souls now.’ 

Catching people alive today is a new challenge for us. The ones we are fishing for don’t want to be caught, eh? Do not forget who the Chief Fisherman is among us. No, not me, not Pastor Don. No, not Andy Stanley, or Francis Chan or the late Billy Graham. We have the same Captain that Simon Peter, John and Andrew had. We have Jesus. At His command we assist Him to save others. 

At His command they are caught alive.

At His command we are saved.

PRAYER Let us   pray.

Master and Maker of creation, You make us and remake us. You bless and rebuild the world. You welcome us into the saving work of Jesus. Do it again, we pray! Save us, and save others. May you catch people alive, in our shallow waters. 

And in this week of prayer for Christian unity, we bless the other congregations who are our neighbours. May their people, their pastors, their buildings, their budgets, their work and worship done in Your name all be greater this year.  Be our Team Captain, for the sake of our corner of the world. Lead us and inspire us, Christ, in this age. 

In Your great name we pray. AMEN.

Jan 17: To Study/Learn

WELCOME to worship, using this post and the worship bulletin. Sorry, we do not have video of a children’s story this week. (Luke 4:14-30) J G White – 11 am, Sun, Jan 17, 2021, UBC Digby

Welcome to School; class is now in session! 🙂 

For at least the first fifteen years of my career, this is what I wore for every worship service, including each funeral and wedding. The old tradition of basic black, academic robes for preaching: a Geneva gown. This really is rooted in the clothing of teachers and students of old. So we declare that the Church is about teaching and learning.

Well, this is one aspect of our life with God, and a good one. One of many aspects we will explore over the next couple months. Some people are drawn to be part of church because of the learning that happens.

Perhaps we see the roots of this in Judaism. Once again today we visit that Bible scene where Jesus visits his hometown, Nazareth, and gets involved in the teaching of the Synagogue on Saturday, the Sabbath.

The Jewish religion – thousands of years old – has changed quite a bit, through time. Before the days of Jesus, they had developed in their towns these meeting places – synagogues – for education, for worship, for legal decisions, and so forth. Communities of Jews, scattered in many places, could still gather to be God’s people together, learning the things of God, learning how to be Jewish. 

Luke chapter 4 (:16) today tells us Jesus went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He, like many other Jews, kept the Sabbath holy, in part, by gathering for prayer and scripture reading and teaching. 

How does spiritual learning happen today? How do people gather and study together? For many, local religious groups are not the place they turn to for spiritual education. For others of us, this still is the heart of our learning about God, humanity, the universe and everything. How churches are meeting together is changing a lot, and not just because of pandemic precautions. The ways of meeting in small groups in homes keeps getting re-invented, including by the ‘Fresh Expressions’ movement. That has new Christian gatherings happening at the coffee shop, the tattoo parlour, the dog walk park, and the brewery. ‘What Would Jesus Brew?’ – that’s the new ‘church’ for some, apparently. 

And these creative ways of meeting can be branches from a traditional church – like us. Our own denomination just last week started a new program called ‘Launch,’ which is all about churches starting new branches of themselves in different ways, out there. Digby Wesleyan is doing this now, with their Tuesday services in the Deep Brook Lion’s Hall. 

The whole world is God’s classroom, and laboratory, with us. We who have enrolled to be disciples of Master Jesus find life lessons everywhere, thanks be to God!

So, church is about getting together to learn. Another important thing people seek from God in the churches is Scriptural understanding. What the Bible means, how to find God in it, how to live the Bible’s way. A system of learning what is real and good, based on Holy Scripture.

This is a hard day and age for TRUTH. In our religion, we make claims about ‘the truth.’ That we are in touch with the source of truth: God and the Bible. Yet the truth about so many things is very hard to know, it seems. 

We are witnessing the tragic finale of a world leader this month. And the whole USA is in a tense and dangerous condition. What is true? What is right? What is fair? What is just? What is needed? What is wrong? Sorting the details out is so challenging – certainly for us as bystanders. The daily news can set our heads and our hearts spinning. I don’t even want ‘to go there.’

Yet my faith stance tells me I have something to say, we have something to say. Lying is a problem. Ridicule and contempt is a problem. Greed is a problem. ‘Looking out for number one’ is a problem. The Bible tells me so. And the Bible will also challenge me and you, the way we live.

 Look at that scene of Jesus in the synagogue. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. (Luke 4:16-17) This was the usual thing. It still is. 

Once Jesus started talking about other Old Testament stories, that day, He got in hot water. He was mentioning non Jewish people who’d been helped, over and above the ‘chosen people.’ His fellow chosen people were furious at this. ‘If this local guy was going to claim to be the Messiah, he had better put the Jews first!’ He didn’t. The crowd tries to kill Jesus! This is the first attempt of a few, before the day we know about when He does die.

So, in our lifetimes, we should not be surprised if we find people who dislike Jesus, or who reject the Holy Bible. Lines from a Christmas song haunt me, a song by an atheist comedian and musician from Australia.

I don’t go for ancient wisdom

I don’t believe just ’cause ideas are tenacious 

it means that they’re worthy

(Tim Minchin, White Wine in the Sun)

The Bible has been tenacious, and some people do not like that. I do. One thing I asked for for my fiftieth birthday was any volume of the seven volume St. John’s Bible. I got it. In fact, I got three of the volumes. This text, Scripture, is so influential and powerful for me. I am here to learn.

And, it goes without saying, I am also here to teach. The role of the Rabbi/Teacher/Preacher/Prophet is strong in human history. People are part of the Christian Church to learn from God through the teachers we have. 

We look up to Jesus, our quintessential Master, Teacher, Lord and Friend. When He began to speak in Nazareth, that day, things started well. (Luke 4:) 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. Jesus was impressive. Think about some of the things Jesus said that most impress you. 

In our lives we have so many great teachers, and through them the Spirit of Jesus continues to train us. I think we are more likely to name some of these others, without giving credit to Jesus directly. You may have been taught well through the years by Billy Graham, or Max Lucado, Joyce Myers, or Martin Luther King, Jr., Anna Robbins or Leon Langille. All these teach in the church, from the church, and for the Christian church.

Thousands of other spiritual teachers are available to us, just in the English language. From other religious traditions, to ‘new age,’ non-traditional perspectives, everything is out there. And everyone has a following. We believers don’t have a corner on the marketplace of spiritual teaching. 

So plenty of folks who used to be in pews are now getting their spiritual instruction for other ‘experts.’ I feel, from time to time, the strong urge to compete, but in my better moments I think I am better just to talk. Just be able to chat with others. Hear how others understand life. Get good at explaining myself without coming across as selling something. We all can do that. I prefer to think that’s what the Apostle Peter would say to us today with his words: Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. (1 Pt 3:15-16)

If the Christian Church is a place for learning of God by getting together, by studying the Bible, and by hearing from teachers – including God – it must also be about life-long learning: always making progress.

 A well-known Southern Baptist theologian quips that the whole of his Sunday school training could be summed up in one sentence (delivered with a broad Texas drawl): “Jesus is nice, and he wants us to be nice, too.” (Cynthia Bourgeault, quoted by Richard Rohr, Jan 14, 2019) there’s a pretty weak gospel! Even Sunday school for children needs to go deeper and farther than this. Not to mention the training we offer to teenagers, young adults, middle-agers like me, and elders like you. 😉

My memory of school days is poor, so I asked some teachers I know about the curriculum. So many things children learn come in stages. You learn the basics, then some more, then you build on that and learn greater things. The first things you learned are not pointless, they are the foundation. 

For instance, in preschool and primary children learn to read and write the alphabet. The methodology now is mainly to learn lower-case letters, along with the sounds they make. The capital letters are added in as they go along. Later, in about grades three and four, the teachers are free to teach them cursive writing, though that is no longer in the curriculum now. 

Some things we learn at an early stage get replaced by better lessons, more detail, more accuracy. A lover of science, I remember learning about atoms. Everything is made up of tiny atoms. In about grade nine I learned the structure of an atom. A nucleus of protons and neutrons, with electrons circling around in orbits, like the planets going around the sun. 

But wait! In grade eleven chemistry I learned this: it is better to describe the electrons as being in ‘orbitals,’ sort of like clouds, around the nucleus, not in simple orbits. They do not actually just spin around in circles; they exist in foggy clouds of probability. 

What I learned in grade nine was not wrong, just simple and basic. Two years later I got a fuller story. And, of course, this prepares me to think that real experts in chemistry and physicals see the atom far differently than I knew it in grade eleven. It is more complex and amazing that I know, even with my minor in Chemistry. 

So it is with God. So it is with the human spirit. So it is with creation. So it is with the past, and with the future. We  learn more. What I learned as a kid about having Jesus in my heart was a very simple thing. As a teen I got basic training in praying and using the Bible and obeying the will of God for my life. In my twenties I was introduced to so much more about human spirituality & Christian theology. In my thirties I got obsessed by the spiritual disciplines, far above and beyond the very basic Bible reading and prayer I’d been taught when I was a kid. & my journey continues.

Sometimes I get concerned about all the failures of the Church I see when it comes to teaching people stuff. We can learn lessons from what we did poorly. Yet there is also such success in what we have taught one another, and I want to see and celebrate these things. God has used us in beautiful ways as students and teachers of faith. And the new things that are always there to be learned – at times we have learned these lessons. 

When Jesus was in the synagogue that day, He clearly was using the old Bible in new ways. The audience got so upset with Him: He must have been making some points they did not want to hear! As it says, When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. (Luke 4:28)

Today, when the Holy Spirit reminds us of all that Jesus taught, we may still get some surprises. We should. I suppose that one of the uses of the church that really still attracts me, is the church as a group for study and learning. This does not appeal to every believer; it does to me. 

So, in the role of spiritual teacher, I need to remember two things. First, not everyone is in church as a classroom. We will look at many other reasons to be here, in the upcoming sermons. Some of you are in church as a family, or in church for a miracle, or in church to do good.

Second, I need to remember that not every one of you wants or needs what I want or need from the Bible. Each sermon is for all of us, with all our different places of faith and understanding. 

This year, may we see our wise God still gather the Church to learn, deeply influence us by the written Word of God, anoint many teachers to guide us, and teach us all more and more, moving us from milk to solid food. 

To the glory of Jesus. AMEN.

Jan 10: Why Church?

WELCOME to this post for the United Baptist Church of Digby. Some video from the morning service is available here. Do read the weekly Bulletin for other information, posted on another page here.

SERMON: Why Church? (Luke 3:7-22; Psalm 51:10-17) J G White – 11 am, Sun, Jan 10, 2021, UBC Digby

Years ago there was a collection of church bulletin bloopers that would circulate around. Including these:

For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.

Evening massage – 6 pm.

The third verse of Blessed Assurance will be sung without musical accomplishment.

The Rev. Merriweather spoke briefly, much to the delight of the audience.

Don’t let worry kill you. Let the Church help.

Let the Church help… kill you! No, that is not what we want, though, tragically, in two thousands years of history, the Christian Church has killed people! 

You are here this morning. Or, you are reading this on paper, or online, perhaps even viewing the video of this sermon. This is ‘church.’ This building gets called ‘church,’ this Sunday event gets called ‘church,’ as a group of people we are named ‘church.’ It’s worth talking about this: why we are together in this. It’s worth hearing from God about this. We claim it’s a divine invention; we quote Jesus: what He said to Peter, one day, “I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” (Mtt 16:18)

Why Church? Why the Christian Church for you? We have our reasons. Jesus has His reasons. Others have theirs.

You could say I am part of this whole thing because it is my job. But I would be part of this if religion were not my job: if I were a local biologist, or farmer, or teacher. 

Perhaps you will ponder today, with me, how you ended up here. I remember my own days of childhood and youth, attending many events of the Middleton Baptist Church. I can remember, slightly, my baptism into the faith, there in the Middleton Baptist building at Easter, 1984, baptized by the Rev. Don Robertson, no less. 

The painting here, by the late Wanda Handspiker, is a peaceful image of this act of faith that gives our Christian tribe it’s name. This looks so much to me like the Annapolis River, from the backyard of my youth. 

With scripture now, we look way back to those dramatic days of ‘John the Baptist,’ preparing the way for the Jewish Messiah. He comes across as a preacher of strong words and practical advice, answering questions from the crowd, as he is busy baptizing people in the waters of the Jordan River. 

To be in a Baptist Church is not actually to name yourself after John the Baptist. John was Jewish, not a Christian. The churches called ‘Baptist’ have their origin 1,600 years after John and his cousin, Jesus of Nazareth. Our ritual immersion of adults in water names us. 

Crowds of people came out to the riverside for John’s baptism of turning away from wrong. He warned them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance.” As important as this water ritual was, it required a change in the actions of the people. 

The rituals and habits and patterns of any church do draw some of us in and keep us. At other times, our religion is mainly about better behaviour. 

The crowds asked John what they should do. Give away your extra clothing and food to people in need, he told them. Workers for the Roman Revenue Agency were there, apparently, and asked, “Rabbi, what should we do?” Don’t collect more money than is actually required of people. Some soldiers were there too, asking, ‘And what about us?’ Be satisfied with your pay; don’t threaten people to get more to line your pockets. 

Some follow a religion and join in to find forgiveness. Others, in order to make a life change and do more good. And others, to escape the threats they see looming. John preached of a Messiah who would “gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 

All this created an air of expectancy. Someone was going to do something special. God was going to get something done, some of those promises we have been hearing for a few hundred years. A new movement was actually about to begin, a new era. 

Some people, today, are in a church for something new, some new movement of the Spirit, some new and powerful activity. Something miraculous. In our present age of terror and epidemics and political mayhem and technology out of control, many people may be looking for shared hope and shared meaning in life. I’m sure that, as we approach 2000 years since Jesus’ execution and resurrection, interest in some kind of return of Jesus will continue, in our lifetimes.

For the moment, in these first weeks of 2021, we will walk through some early pages of Luke’s Gospel. It’s the beginning of the story of Jesus. The story that is at the centre of the church: the Church around the world and across history, and our local congregation here today. 

Artful and humorous Christian writer, Frederick Buechner, claimed: The visible church is all the people who get together from time to time in God’s name. Anybody can find out who they are by going to look. 

The invisible church is all the people God uses for his hands and feet in this world. Nobody can find out who they are except God. 

Think of them as two circles. The optimist says they are concentric. The cynic says they don’t even touch. The realist says they occasionally overlap. 

In a fit of high inspiration the author of the Book of Revelation states that there is no temple in the New Jerusalem, thus squelching once and for all the tedious quip that since Heaven is an endless church service, anybody with two wits to rub together would prefer Hell.

The reason for there being no temple in the New Jerusalem is presumably the same as the reason for Noah’s leaving the ark behind when he finally makes it to Mount Ararat. (Wishful Thinking, p. 15, 1973.)

While we have our temples, here, and our spiritual organizations for one another, we see the decrease of how many take part. The usual ways of being the church in our part of the world have been shrinking, all our lives long. As Mark Cress said to me in 2014, when I was new here, “You’re pastor of the largest dying church in Digby Co.”

Yet, whether it is my job to be here, or if I was simply choosing to be here, I believe there is life here. I like the God we find here, and the ways we find God here. 

For several weeks I want us to explore the ways people connect with being church, as well as the ways people not in church express the same spiritual issues. Issues of belonging, of forgiveness, of eternal life, of purpose in this life, of connecting with God, and so on. The stories of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke will guide and inform us. Our own life stories will be important. And the lives of those outside the churches: I hope to ‘interview’ a variety of people about Christianity 

A 2011 study of Canadian young people and church heard these sorts of things from the folk they interviewed:

You need others to be able to sustain. So people say they are Christian and they do that alone. I mean, c’mon, really? How will you be able to be a Saint by yourself? You need others. I mean, alone? Like, really alone? I think it’s B.S.  – Merlynn

I think that you can make it your own way. I think that organized church is often really [crappy.] – Jill-Ann (She did not use the word “crappy.”)

Some of those ladies in the back row… pray for me every single day… there’s a genuine investment. The two old ladies that ran the church library that I would go hang out with every Sunday and who would always ask how I was doing just loved me like a grandson. – Barry

I just saw so much talk and so many sermons about the good we should do, but yet I didn’t see a whole lot of action from the church. Like, if you would go to a conference or to church, they would talk about all these things that we should do, but you never – you just go home and nothing would happen. – Roy

(James Penner et al, Hemorrhaging Faith: Why & When Canadian Young Adults are Leaving, Staying & Returning to the Church,  2011)

Why Church? Why the Christian Church in your life? In our day and age? We see the prelude to this whole movement two thousand years ago, when John the Baptizer preached and baptized, by the Jordan River. Today, we seek again the Holy Spirit, and the fire of God! Once again, may Jesus appear on the scene. He will speak today. He will act today. He will build His Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. Hallelujah!

PRAYER Let us   pray.

King of kings, Lord of lords, God of all creation: we bow in awe and wonder: You have called us to be the people of Christ in this world. The Saviour’s light is to shine from within us: bless the name of Jesus!

The song we just heard… may it be our prayer. We admit the lack of vision we sometimes show, as Your Church, the low morale and enthusiasm for what we can do and be, the selfish errors we make in the living of our days. In Your mercy, inspire us – breathe into us afresh. Turn our eyes and our attention to our neighbourhoods, outside these four walls. It is here You have deployed us – we give thanks for the calling to be the church in this community.

You, Master, call upon us to pray. To pray to You, with You, because of You. We pray for our world, turned upside down by this latest coronavirus. 

We pray for our neighbours of the USA, with such unrest, and such challenges in their transition of leadership. You know how upset we sometimes are with the news we hear – have mercy, have mercy all this year, we pray, for our friends south of the border need help.

We pray across the whole world, as this New Year begins. The continuing saga of disasters flow endlessly: the earthquake in Croatia, mudslides in Norway and Japan devastating communities; floods, gales and snow in the UK, disappearances in Turkey, Belarus, Russia, droughts, starvation, oppression in Yemen, Syria, Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya and so many parts of Your world – our hearts ache with all those suffering.

Holy One, who promises never to forget us or forsake us: in this Alzheimer awareness month we pray for those near us and those everywhere suffering with this disease and other dementias that so limit and destroy life. We pray also for care-givers and loved ones who are sometimes at a loss over what to do. Give strength and understanding, calm and peace.

And we join together to bless all those who suffer, who seek healing or comfort right now. Especially, we remember folks like Don and Richard and Carolyn and Charlene and Dwight and Bob…   

who are in and out of hospitals right now, seeking help for the body. May these also find strength for their souls today. We pray for Ronnie, at Tideview, in such poor health, that he may be supported all the day long, til the shades lengthen and the evening comes.

This praying we finish with the words Jesus taught:Our Father, who art in heaven…  AMEN.

Jan 3: Twelve More Days of Christmas

WELCOME to this post, our first for a new year. Today’s service has some different elements in it. See the whole plan in the Bulletin for today, here on another page of our website. Video includes some prayers, children’s time and the sermon.

PRAYERS for UBC Digby ~ January 3, 2021. Please note: the sermon comes between Prayer 8 and Prayer 9. Today is a day of dozens. Twelve times I am going to pray, in this service. Each time we will look back to one month of 2020. Each time we will pray for the members and adherents of our congregation. Each time I will also offer one of my daily prayers I wrote in my own prayer journal last year.

PRAYER 1 Let us   pray. Eternal and Everlasting One, we look back with thanks for the year that is now past, and call on You as a new year begins. God of January, 2020, we remember the bush fires that burned terribly in Australia – and we prayed. Thank-You for your blessing of firefighters and all first responders.

Today, Saviour, we pray for Your blessing in the lives of Reta, Carol, Bonnie, Sonny & Dianne, Rodney & Eileen, Michael & Donna, Louise, Bernie & Ellen, Mike & Maggie.

Revelation chapter 4 speaks of heavenly worship. The centrality and power and joy of heavenly worship is strong. Take us back to times of being excited about worship. Your holiness, God, is for me a beautiful thing. Somehow, I have dulled my sense of this. (Jan 9) AMEN.

PRAYER 2 Let us   pray. God of February, we remember the Wet’suwet’en blockades in  British Columbia. We are grateful for Your gift to all of us of the land and sea and sky of creation.

Today, Saviour, we pray for Your blessing in the lives of Kingsley, Mary, Don, Dick & Della, John & Marilyn, Brian & Corinne, Deborah, Marguerite, Elaine & Craig, Linda, Charlene.

Thank-You, Holy Master, for the diverse perspectives of your many children of many nations thru the ages. Broaden our own view of You, that we may know more that’s true. (Feb 6) AMEN.

PRAYER 3 Let us   pray. God of March, we remember the beginning of the pandemic lockdown in Nova Scotia, and around the world. We worship You, for Your care is worldwide and Your compassion crosses all borders.

Today, Saviour, we pray for Your blessing in the lives of Hazel, Sandra, June & John, Peter & Bev, John & Evelyn, Carol, Tom & Cathy, Eddie, Nancee & Adrian.

Master, when I feel like a failure, may You succeed in me. When I feel proud and satisfied, may You be honoured more than me. When I feel better and smarter and more sensible than others, may they be encouraged and empowered. When I feel happy to be different and separate from others, may they know we all belong and have one Master – You. (March 9) Amen.

PRAYER 4 Let us   pray. God of April, we remember the tragic massacre of 22 people here in Nova Scotia, and the helicopter crash in Greece. We give thanks that Jesus is crucified and risen, showing the Divine understanding transcends all suffering and death.

Today, Saviour, we pray for Your blessing in the lives of Myra & Carey, Raymond & Sandra, Murray & Sandra, Lexi, Terry, Ardith, Marj & Doug, Sheree & Philip, Verna & Bob.

Jesus of healing – this is a time of healing and a time of dying. This is the whole world’s focus. In this age we know so much. May we make the most of this knowledge. Keep us wise in helping others. (April 2) Amen.

PRAYER 5 Let us   pray. God of May, we remember that Black Lives Matter. We rejoice in the blessed assurance that Christ’s Kingdom welcomes and respects all peoples of earth.

Today, Saviour, we pray for Your blessing in the lives of Marilyn, Carol & Roy, Dianne, Louella, Geraldine, Gail, Carolyn, Michael, Amelia, Chris, Barb, Jackie & Dick.

This day, O LIFE of life, this day looks to the eyes to be grand. Plans for the day seem hopeful and helpful. The focus is upon joyful things, that’s for sure. May we not forget all who will not have a good day, whose body, mind, or spirit is hurting, or dull, alone or oppressed. Then, may Your good Life flow to them, even through me. In Christ. (June 9) Amen.

PRAYER 6 Let us   pray. God of June, we remember the global recession in the economy, caused by all the pandemic precautions. We bow to You, who have such preferential care for the poor and oppressed, in every age.

Today, Saviour, we pray for Your blessing in the lives of Floss, Joyce, Audrey & Bill, Robert, Louise, Dottie & Nelson, Marion, Darleen & Brian, Joyce.

Bread. We find ways of buying bread, of making bread. It feeds us. It is a pleasure. You, Jesus, speak of being the Bread of life. Today, today may we turn to You for sustenance and pure joy three times. At least three times during the day. (June 13) Amen.

PRAYER 7 Let us   pray. God of July, we remember gathering to worship You again. Though it has not been the same as it was before, we rejoice that You are unchanged, You are still accessible, You are uniting Your people.

Today, Saviour, we pray for Your blessing in the lives of Sharon & Roger, Carolyn, Shayne & Bruce, Margo & Bobby, Geneva, Johanna, Bev & Rick, Bill, Ellen.

Precious God, we call You our Provider. Our economy is a strict, fragile thing. There is no room for sudden sabbath, for jubilee. The ceasing of much business in a pandemic is not a rest, it is a disaster. This is need not be. This need not be? …Is small and local and self- sustainable the way? And is Your holy calling to Your people an economic one? We are not hearing it. (July 2) Amen.

PRAYER 8 Let us   pray. God of August, we remember the terrible explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. How we give thanks for the wonderful work of Your servants there, showing hospitality and giving aid, in that time of great need.

Today, Saviour, we pray for Your blessing in the lives of Janet & Mark, Angela & Dwight, Judi & Churchill, Heather & Dick, Richard, Joy, Wayne, Irene, Barry & Gloria,.

Instead of ‘social media’- socialize with Thee. May it be. Instead of distractions from work – stay working for Thee. May it be. Instead of longing for attention – attend to others and pay attention to Thee. May it be. In the name of Jesus. (Aug 6) Amen.

SERMON: Twelve More Days of Christmas (edited from Dec 31, 2017) – Jeff White

O, once upon a time, near here, ‘twas Christmas time again.
And everybody knows that’s when the famed Twelve Days begin.
So, on the twenty-fifth, Sam asked his friends about the song:
‘Can we go find a partridge in a pear tree? Won’t take long!’

So off the children went to find the gift of that first day;
And when they found that happy bird, they shouted, ‘Hip! Hooray!’
‘What’s next,’ said Gabe, & soon they set out quick, to find the rest;
‘If we could find all everything, yes, that would be the best.’

So off the children went and looked below, between, above,
Until they found two turtledoves who shared a lot of love.
Just like two lovebirds, those two doves seemed filled with joy & care,
Yet also looked so welcoming for more to join them there.

Now, Samuel said, ‘God is love. We say this at our church.’
And Hannah nodded, ‘yes,’ and smiled at birdies on their perch.
Sam asked, ‘What way should we go now?’ & Gabriel said, ‘West.
If we could find all everything, yes, that would be the best.’

Next was the 3rd great Christmas Day; they looked for 3 French hens,
And wisely thought to seek them out among Acadiens.
To Clare the children went, & found three chickens, Une, Deux, Trois,
All clucking by a Frenchys store. The children cheered, ‘Rah, rah!’

So then young Mason pointed out the juice and bread they had,
And Gabriel knew Christmas time had made the birdies glad.
‘Cause Jesus, when He grew up, always shared bread as a guest.
If we could find all everything, yes, that would be the best.’

On the Fourth Day of Christmas time the children’s band set out
To find four calling birds, and find out what they called about!
Up in the sky, near a bright star, four birds sang, bright as morn.
The children knew they took their turns to tell that Christ was born.

Joseph was the adopted dad, and mom was named Mary;
Some shepherds lived nearby, and wise ones came from far away.
‘These birds sing true,’ said Sam, ‘they pass the Bible story test.’
‘If we could find all everything, yes, that would be the best.’

On the Fifth day of Christmas time a challenge grand and bold
Was waiting for the kids: to find some rings, five rings of gold.
‘We’ll never find them,’ Taylor cried, ‘This isn’t very funny.
They’re not like birds up in the trees and we have got not money!’

Then Eliana stopped and stared at something down the road.
And Gracie saw it too: a llama blowing bubbles gold!
Five golden bubbles were provided for the children’s quest.
‘If we could find all everything, yes, that would be the best.’

With brand-new hope the children went down to the llama’s farm.
There, geese were laying eggs within a pen, all safe from harm.
‘Hooray!’ said Gabe, ‘We found day six, and six eggs on the ground.
They’re red and yellow, pink and purple, greenish and dark brown.

Dear Hannah gazed, as if to ask why eggs weren’t all the same,
But then she knew, as they all knew, that all things, wild and tame,
God makes all different, just like us; so she thought, like the rest:
‘If we could find all everything, yes, that would be the best.’

To Sandy Cove the young ones went to find some swans rehearse
(The seventh day of Christmas, it is New Year’s Eve, of course).
The next day was Polar Bear Dip, & yes, some swans were there
To practice for the festive swim: they dove and swirled with flair.

‘If seven swans still practice how to swim, what should we do?’
Sam asked, & Dryden answered, ‘We should practice our best too.’
God gives us good to do & learn & seek &, yes, you guessed:
‘If we could find all everything, yes, that would be the best.’

On the eighth day the kids set out to find some working folk,
As they looked for a dairy farm and eight girls who could milk.
And sure enough they found them all, each ready, set to work,
With smock and bonnet, pail for milk, and happy: each one smirked.

‘They’re nice, but dressed alike!’, said Gabe, ‘I know I am not wrong:
In God’s world here so many different-looking folk belong.’
‘Twas New Year’s Day, and they had just four days to find the rest.
‘If we could find all everyone, yes, that would be the best.’

On the ninth day the group of children, looking far and wide,
Sought out nine dancers talented whose grace each would not hide.
They found a twenties flapper, and a poodle skirted girl,
A gal of nineteen-seventies, and grandma doing a twirl;

Then ladies, each, of Ireland, and Spain, and Africa,
A ballerina, and a girl traditional Mi’Kmaq.
The kids rejoiced and joined right in with them to dance with zest.
‘If we could find all everyone, yes, that would be the best.’

So all the children danced, Amelia and ‘Kenna too,
They simply rocked and bobbed and grinned, ‘twas natural to do.
Well, naturally, ten lords a leaping were easy to find;
They took their cue from the wise women, following behind.

Among the gentlemen wise Dryden noticed, very quick,
That Jesus Christ, the Lord, was there, along with old Saint Nick.
‘It’s when a whole big lot of folks are here that God is blessed.
If we could find all everyone, yes, that would be the best.’

The girls and boys could see God’s ways, before eleventh day:
‘Welcome to God’s kingdom! Welcome to all!’ This is the way.
So when eleven pipers were needed to pipe for heav’n,
They knew it was not just the pied piper for day elev’n.

So many pipes play music, and these players piped their song;
And one piped icing on a cake; a plumber worked along;
A bird, like Piping Plover, payed a tune to join the quest:
‘If we could find all everyone, yes, that would be the best.’

Then, on the final Christmas Day, Amelia and Dryden,
Hannah and Sam, Eliana, Gabe, McKenna and Mason,
Taylor and Grace found 12 drummers drumming; you knew they would!
And all the lessons that they learned of life, they all were good.

‘Christ is born! The Saviour lives!’, the children celebrated;
And all the while the super-duper drumming ne’er abated.
God’s ways are super-creative; God welcomes all as guests.
If we could find all everyone, yes, that would be the best!

PRAYER 9 Let us   pray. God of September, we remember the conflict and justice issues in our lobster fishery. We also remember the months of no school, the challenges of online learning, and the complex return to classes. We trust in You for guidance, and eyes to see all others with compassion. 

Today, Saviour, we pray for Your blessing in the lives of Don & Cairine, Paul & Cheryl, Owen, Steve & Pam, Virginia, Edna, Marlene & Daniel, Dorothea, Keith & Pat, Marilyn.

Let this day brighten for others, because we are in it, and You are in us. Let goodness shine before us, as we meet those in whom You dwell. Let all creation sing because we humans bless it. (Sept 29) Amen.

PRAYER 10 Let us   pray. God of October, we remember it as mental health awareness month, highlighting the strains and stresses upon millions this year. We thank You for the healing work that is done, and support for the downcast that comes from your heart. 

Today, Saviour, we pray for Your blessing in the lives of Myrtle, Reta, Henoche & Barb, Murray & Stella, Mary Ann, Joe & Sharon, Stan & Bonnie, Dave & Flo, Jeff & Laurie, Douglas & Morgan.

As a grand tree dies and is cut down, allowing others to grow, O Gardener, so let us be pruned of those things that are ill and old and wrong and out of place. So let us be pruned of our lack of seriousness about sin and weakness. So let us be pruned of the sources of pride that actually limit our journey, and [limit] the good for others that could come out of our lives. Thanks & glory to You for the wonderful, holy horticulture you have already accomplished in us. (Oct 7) Amen

PRAYER 11 Let us   pray. God of November, we remember the service and sacrifice of so many military members and civilians through the decades. We also remember our neighbours who had elections for their governments. Thank-You for hearing our prayers for all who serve and govern.

Today, Saviour, we pray for Your blessing in the lives of Andrew & Alison & Gabriel & Eliana & Khang, Grace, Ramona, Sandra, Geraldine, Alfie & Mary, Doug, James, Joanne, Helena.

O Saviour, You have saved me from my sin, You are saving me from my sins, You will save me from sin. Alleluia! Today, let me live in this joy, that I may avoid sin all the more, have my sins lit up and crushed, and take new paths away from wrong. Open the way of humbleness to us. (Nov 5) Amen.

PRAYER 12 & BENEDICTION Let us   pray. God of December, we remember the loss of six scallop fishermen, and other serious tragedies. Praise to You, for the ways You weep with us, and that You walk with us on a path to peace.

Today, Saviour, we pray for Your blessing in the lives of Darlene & Paul, Amelia & Jack, Paul, Sharon & Jeff, Barbara & Alan, Ronnie, Sara & Rob & Sam & Hannah, Linda, Marie, Barb.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus. Come, Thou long unexpected Jesus! It is so easy to ignore and be blind to the unexpected, and miss it. Miss You. Let us see You this week; expect the Unexpected. (Dec 9) 

And may the blessing of God Almighty: Father, Son & Holy Spirit, rest & abide with us now & always. AMEN.

Dec 27: A Weary World Rejoices

Our worship service today makes use of parts of a video service provided by Canadian Baptist Ministries. Our own Children’s time video is posted here, and the text of our prayers. The video preacher today is Dr. Jonathan Wilson. The full video from CBM is here, below.

PRAYERS (Pastor Jeff White): God become visible: Emmanuel, God with us: Alpha and Omega, Beginning and Ending: in a year of troubles we have gathered hope! Your presence still has power! Our prayers, our actions, our fellowship has been blessed! Thanks and praise to You, our Saviour, Teacher, Master and Friend. 

Be Thou our vision: as we look back over the year, we see our own fearful responses, our own troubles, our own hurts and failures. Once again, we rely upon Your amazing grace, Your forgiving sacrifice, Your loving welcome to us, the weary wanderers. Lift us up, that we may rejoice!

God in the flesh, we pray for one another, because the flesh is weak, our injuries and illnesses wear us down, and life here ends. Together our prayer blesses these dear people in our midst, and beyond:

God, Holy Spirit, we have sought to have our spirits lifted in this Christmas time, inspired by You. We have worked to bring joy and goodness to others. Bless us to do the same in the year that is ahead. May it be 2021 A. D., anno domini, the year of the Lord: of You, Jesus. 

And so, we pray as we have been taught, saying: Our Father, who art in heaven…  AMEN.

Christmas Eve 2020 – 6 PM

We celebrate the nativity of Jesus Christ with our simple worship service. Check out the Bulletin on the website for the full order of service. Video of the sermon will be posted here before 8 pm on Christmas eve.

What Child Is This? (Luke 2:1-14; John 1:14-18) – J G White – UBC Digby

A Child is born. Many of our best songs of this time, each year, are in the present tense. Not “a child was born” – but “a child is born.” Not “all was calm, all was bright ‘round yon virgin mother and child” – it’s “all is calm, all is bright.” Not “What child was that?” – rather “What child is this?”

What child is this? We find answers when we sing. Another thing about the traditional carols – many are rather old! Our next one, by William C. Dix, was composed in 1865, and put to the much older tune, ‘Greensleeves,’ in 1871. Dix was an insurance salesman in England with a flair for poetry. His twin occupations were marine insurance and writing hymns. 

So, naturally, an old lyric uses some old words in old ways. Maybe that is part of the charm of many Christmas carols – the words have that old feel, with mysterious meanings.

We are going to sing this line about Jesus:

Haste, haste to bring Him laud, the babe, the son of Mary. 

Haste to bring Him laud. To make haste means what? To hurry up, be quick about it. ‘Get on over here and bring Jesus some laud!’ What’s laud? No, not ‘Laud, have mercy!’ Not, ‘Cook with shortening or laud?’ Laud means praise. Praise Jesus.

We are doing this right now: gathering for worship, singing to Christ, speaking words of praise, paying close attention to God the Saviour. 

Mr. Dix’s original words are ‘Haste, haste to bring Him praise.’ 

 Then we will sing

Why lies He in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?

Jesus is in a ‘mean estate.’ We guess from the context what the phrase is about. Jesus is not mean and nasty; God arrives in a poor and needy situation. His ‘estate’ is His condition, His social standing, His class. Yes, and what he possesses as a home; He starts off as a traveller, resting in an animal feed trough.

It is the genius of God’s plan that we humans get to meet the Divine One as one of us. ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ John’s Gospel tells us. And this is still a present tense experience.

In the third stanza we’ll sing, through our masks,

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh, Come, peasant, king, to own Him.

Come peasant, come king, to own Jesus. Dix’s original words were 

Come, tribes and peoples, own Him.

Do you own Him? Do you claim Jesus as yours? You and He belong to one another? You pledge allegiance to Christ? You take ownership of Him as Your Master? This carol invites us to claim and to submit to Jesus. Whether you count yourself a peasant, or a bit of a King or a Queen, own Him

With all the carols being heard on the radio and in the places we shop, our communities all seem to claim Christ, for one annual moment. So when you are somewhere and find yourself humming along, think again of these things.

How do our lives laud or praise God?

How amazing that the Holy One comes among us, in our mean estate!

And how beautiful it is that you and I get welcomed into the story, and can own the One who ‘owns’ us. 

What Child is this?

PRAYERS Let us pray. Glory to God in the highest! Alleluia! From the vantage point of another Christmas Eve we see You again, Saviour. Again, You are a message to us and our world, living in our midst. We see You; We see the glory of God. 

Spirit of grace and truth, we pray for a world needing grace, a world lacking truth. We pray again, because of that beautiful hope we have that there is more good that can happen than we alone can create. We pray because we need truth instead of confusion in our lives. In the name of Jesus, who is full of grace and truth, we ask for blessings among those in need, those who are isolated and alone, those who face violence or fear, those who mourn or are depressed, and those who are ill or injured today.

God of word and story, we see Jesus, born away from home. We make room in our lives for Him tonight. Let the light of Christ shine from within us, and transcend the barriers of our pandemic precautions. Be the great Author of our life stories, now, and the bright Star that guides our way. 

Glory to God in the highest! Hosanna! AMEN.