Creative Relations

(Genesis 11 – 2:3; Hebrews 1:1-4) J G White

Trinity Sunday, June 11, 2017, UBC Digby

This afternoon Sharon and I head to Truro for an annual seminar on spirituality and new thinking. On two occasions there in past years, I have had the pleasure of hearing Sister M. T. Winter, a feminist theologian and author. We here know her best, perhaps, as a songwriter – Joy Is Like the Rain, I Cannot Come to the Banquet, Spirit of God.

M. T. asks, in her 2009 book, Paraxodology,

What would it be like if we approached every new acquaintance as if we had met before?  As if we had something in common. As if we were related.  As if we were already friends.  Can you imagine what this would do for planetary peace?  There would be no point in building walls along our nation’s borders when the walls within us that keep people out are finally coming down.  (p. 165)

At the heart of Faith, our Faith, is relationship.  We are relations to one another.  And to all of creation.  And to God.  Hence the old language of God the Father and Jesus our Friend and Brother.  Hence, the beautiful picture of One God as Three Persons.  Yes, the Holy Spirit is one of the Persons, not an It, but a Him (or Her). God is Three; God is Relationship: good, beautiful, perfect relationship. God is love.

All the broken relationships call out for the healing and reconciling God gives.  Our broken relationship with the earth and all living things. Our broken relationships with people: lately, I have been longing for healing among some folk I know who have become enemies of each other.     Our broken relationships with the Divine.  The Good News is that the Holy One takes the big steps to reconcile with us: the story of Jesus brings us back.  

I looked for a short story to celebrate our God who is the very model & source of good relations & conversation.

Cynthia Bourgeault, of the Center for Action and Contemplation, in New Mexico, shares this illustration of communication and fellowship with God.


…Let me offer you a story that was told to me by my longtime friend and teacher, the Abkhazian dervish elder Murat Yagan.

In the years immediately following World War II, Murat recounts, he spent time in a remote corner of eastern Turkey. There he became friends with an elderly couple. Life had been good to them, but their one sadness was that they missed their only son, who had left some years before to work in Istanbul.

One day when Murat visited them, the old couple were bursting with pride, eager to show him the new tea cupboard that their son had just shipped from Istanbul. It was indeed a handsome piece of furniture, and the woman had already arranged her best tea set on its upper shelf. Murat was polite but curious. Why would their son go through such an expense to send them a tea cupboard? And if the purpose of this piece of furniture was storage, why were there no drawers? “Are you sure it’s a tea cupboard?” Murat asked. They were sure.

But the question continued to nag at Murat. Finally, just before taking his leave, he said, “Do you mind if I have a look at this tea cupboard?” With their permission, he turned the backside around and unscrewed a couple of packing boards. A set of cabinet doors swung open to reveal inside a fully operative ham radio set.

That “tea cupboard,” of course, was intended to connect the couple to their son. But unaware of its real contents, they were simply using it to display their china.

Bourgeault concludes: what if inside the Trinity is concealed a powerful communications tool that could connect us to the rest of reality (visible and invisible), allow us to navigate our way through many of the doctrinal and ethical logjams of our time, and place the teachings of Jesus in a dynamic framework that would truly unlock their power?

It is simply a matter of turning the tea cabinet around and looking inside. I know that there is indeed a ham radio concealed inside this Trinitarian tea cupboard. At a time when spiritual imagination and boldness are at an all-time low and the Christian church hovers at the edge of demise, perhaps now more than ever the time is ripe to remove the packing board from this tea cupboard and release its contents.

Look deeply into God.  The Trinity is not afar off, but is very close.  Remember – every day this week, every morning, noon and night – that the Saviour is communicating, in every language you can hear and see and smell and touch.  God is cheering us on, in every one of our prayers, every flower blossoming before our eyes, every scripture we read.  The connection can seem hidden, but it is there.  There is a Spirit who is bringing your spirit to birth, in every chapter of this life.   AMEN.

150 Vignette 1: Digby Baptist before 1867

J G White – Sunday, June 11, 2017, UBC Digby

As we approach the 178th Anniversary of Digby Baptist Church, and approach Canada Day, we look back.  We look back to give thanks to God and to celebrate.  We look back to learn – not only what happened then, but to learn lessons helpful for us today.  We look back that we may be ready to see today, and look toward our future.

We will stop for five minutes to do this each Sunday, until July 2nd.  Today we look back, way back.

On July 1st we will celebrate ‘Canada 150,’ though we would do well to use Sharon White’s rephrasing and call it Canada 150 Plus.  Because there was a lot of life and history before 1867, here on this land.  Even before the first peoples were here, there were trees and animals and sea creatures.  

So too with us, a Church.  As I said in my recent Newsletter, the organizing of this congregation was built upon the ongoing work of Baptist believers in this area.  So today we peek into the Christian life of Digby before 1867, particularly the early Baptists.

It is recorded that Enoch Towner visited and preached in Digby county in 1797.  In 1799 Towner was ordained at Granville. On the 14th of June, 1800, in our county, he united in marriage Jacob Cornwall and Sarah Titus.  For daring to perform this rite he was prosecuted at the instigation of the [Anglican] rector at Digby.  Towner had to appeal before the court in Halifax, and won the case.  Since then Baptist ministers have been allowed to perform marriages.

Father Towner was followed on the Neck by Peter Crandall in 1809.  Crandall was the first preacher to attempt to hold a meeting in the town of Digby.  It was held at the home of a Mrs. McDormand; the house stood right here on this corner.  While a large audience listened attentively the windows were broken by stones by hostile people on the street.  J. H. Saunders’ history says that no other attempt to hold a Baptist meeting was made for another twenty-five years.

Elder Peter Crandall continued his ministry on the Neck and Islands, seeing significant ‘revival.’  By about 1837, Crandall’s churches divided to become the First Digby Neck Church (including Rossway, Waterford and Centreville) and Second Digby Neck Baptist Church (Little River and Tiddville).  In that same year, Rev. Peter’s brother, Rev. Joseph Crandall visited Digby, and performed the first baptisms of believers by immersion.  (In 2009, Atlantic Baptist University was renamed Crandall University, after Joseph Crandall.)

In 1838 Rev. Peter Crandall, of Centreville, died. 1839 saw the organizing of a Baptist Church in the town of Digby, with Rev. Samuel Bancroft as our first pastor.  

I have found very few records of the first forty years of our history.  Carolyn Brown’s historical material, published in 1986, begins in detail with 1879.  More digging into our history is needed.  

You will celebrate more of our history next Sunday, with a little presentation by Dick Levy.


Some of the Spirit

(Numbers 11:24-30; Acts 2:1-21) J G White

Pentecost Sunday, June 4, 2017, UBC Digby

On Pentecost Sunday the Church celebrates the infusing of God the Holy Spirit into the people of Jesus, and birthing the Christian Church.  We just read part of the story, in Acts 2.  We also look back upon the various ways recorded in the Bible of people becoming ‘spirit-filled.’

If you are sometimes like me, you don’t necessary long to be ‘spirit-filled.’ But you do want a bit more of God, some of the Spirit.  An old hymn prays:
I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
no sudden rending of the veil of clay,
no angel visitant, no opening skies;
but take the dimness of my soul away. (George Croly, 1854)

Numbers 11 – the Spirit poured out upon the 70 elders working with Moses.  Two elders not at the Tent…

This happened in a time of crisis, a season of stress for these thousands of weary pilgrims, transients in the desert.  The scene Peter read of us is in the midst of the Israelites hungering.  They are sick of manna; they long for the cucumbers and melons, leeks and garlic they had, even as slaves, in Egypt.  Moses, their leader, is worn out by his troublesome people.

So they gather.  The elders gather in the place of prayer and the presence of Holiness.  After a time of spirit- filled prophecy, God gives them quail… an abundance of birds to eat each day.  In fact, they are cursed with too many quail, so they become sick of them too!

And if you read on in the book of Number you see the stresses continue. In chapter 12, Moses own brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, revolt and try to mutiny!

At the heart of these hard days, God blesses the leaders – and the whole people – with the spirit-filled moment.  This poignant phrase is used: ‘some of the Spirit.’  Some of the spirit of God that was upon Moses is shared with the seventy elders who helped Moses.  As if the Spirit can be carefully parcelled out with measuring cups and spoons.

Oh, how we could use ‘some of the Spirit, in our wilderness time,’ we might say.  Such is our longing.  Naturally, we think of what we want in term of what we have known in our lives of faith.  

  • Worship attendance ~ faithfulness
  • $$ givings up, tithing
  • Multi-generational
  • Holy, moral living people
  • Influence and a voice in the community/world
  • Music like we like
  • Denominational identity: Baptist Christians

We want ‘some of the Spirit’ in all our people to make the Church great again!

The Holy Spirit will teach and do with us as God wants.  God’s agenda.  God’s timing.  Not necessarily with our specific goals in mind.  

The new goals of the people, filled with some of the Spirit, might be like these in our day:

  • count conversations, instead of conversions
  • celebrate individual ministries
  • find ministry outside the Tent, the church building
  • Church ministry base on giftedness of people
  • regard as holy the many new social ways people connect and have fellowship
  • readiness to be smaller in number and use smaller facilities and resources

The work of a small Church in a community can take many forms, these days.  A decade ago a friend was pastor of a very small church on the edge of the woods in Kings County.  One thing they developed was a prayer ministry.  They simply prayed for people on Sundays, and other occasions… and, they were getting answers.  Because of this, they started getting prayers requests from all over.  They took them, and they prayed.  

Dr. Stephen McMullin of Acadia Divinity College tells of his research, and of one Church in the states that was in an area of a city with lots of techie computer work, and a lot of the church people worked in that industry.  The Church had aimed to reach those people for Christ, and part of their plan was to offer worship that did NOT use any digital projector and screen, did not have electric guitars for music, and so forth.  A haven away from computer life.  

Two years ago Sharon and I visited a friend in St. Martin’s, NB, and she toured us around the little Baptist Church in which she was a very active member.  In the basement of the church building was… a weight room, filled with barbells, weight bars, and all this gym equipment.  They developed a weight room in their community, as a ministry.

These are, to me, example of ‘prophesying outside the Tent,’ doing Christ’s work outside the box of the usual ways we have always done church in town or village.  

As we all know, there will be complainers and tattle-tales when the local congregation does weird things.  

Just as there were way back with the children of Israel in the wilderness.  Some young guy ratted on Eldad and Medad, the elders who did not gather with all the others at the Tent of Meeting, but still started prophesying anyway.  And Moses’ own assistant, Joshua, got on board and said, “Yeah, Moses, tell them to stop!!”  Thankfully, Moses had enough humility, and enough grace from God, to say, “Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!”

Didn’t Jesus respond the same way, millenia later, when some of His disciples warned that some guys who were not with them were casting evil out of people in Jesus name?  “Whoever is not against us is for us,” said Christ.

So, if you were given, for a time, ‘some of the Spirit,’ what would that do for you?  

What could the next step in your life be?

I have friend in Mochelle, who, since she retired, has been helping people with their income taxes.  I had a very busy tax season, she says in an email to me.  I did about 280 tax returns all together.  I think I told you I do returns for Stephen McNeil’s office because they offer a drop-off service to people who meet their income requirements.  So I did a lot for them.  And we offered tax clinics through the volunteer program at the United Church this year.

Let us be ready for what ‘some of the Spirit’ will do in us, this church.  Inside the tent, and outside the tent.  Ready, when times are tough for God’s people.  Ready, not to turn up our noses at new things, but ready to bless them.