Prophetic Authority

(Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Mark 1:21-28)
Jan 28, 2018 – UBC Digby – J G White

This week I bought an Almanac for 2018.  It happens to be Canadian, the Harrowsmith Almanac.  I am curious about the Long-term weather forecast, yes.  I’m not interested in horoscopes, and there are none in this book; it’s got astronomy, not astrology.  Mostly, I am interested in the comprehensive seed guide.

Farmer’s Almanacs are still respected, believed to have some authority, and some prophetic power.  

Here’s a peculiar prediction: Legend says that a July forecast of “rain, hail, and snow” mistakenly appeared in The 1816 Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Robert B. Thomas, the Almanac’s founder, recalled the books and had new ones printed, but news of that forecast had gotten out. He became the subject of much ridicule—until July brought rain, hail, and snow throughout New England!
 (www.almanac.com/content/predicting-snow-summer-1816)

1816 was ‘the year without a summer,’ after a volcanic eruption that affected the weather across the globe that year, and kept things cold.  

To know our future, or some upcoming things: how amazing that would be, we might think.  What will the weather do throughout this year?  How will the stock markets fare, and our investments?  What illnesses or injuries are in store – for which we can prepare, or perhaps even avoid?

There is something in us that longs for the security of seeing more of the path ahead.  Those inner longings for more control of the future. Where can we get some prophecy with real authority?

Jesus.  You knew I was going to say this.

You’ve heard the story of the Pastor on a Sunday morning who gathered the children to the front, as usual for a story?  He produced a small cage with a furry animal in it, long ears, wiggly nose, strong back legs.  “What have we here?” asked the Pastor.
After some silence, one of the children piped up and said, “Well, it looks like a bunny, but, knowing you, it’s gotta be Jesus.”

We come today to a story – and we are still in Mark chapter 1 – of Jesus’ impressive authority.  He is in the town of Capernaum, up on the north shore of the lake we call the Sea of Galilee.  Capernaum ends up becoming Jesus’ home, in a way, amid his travels from Galilee to Jerusalem and around.   At least, His home base.

It’s Saturday, the Sabbath, He’s in the community religious education and worship centre, the Synagogue of Capernaum. He takes up the role of a rabbi, a teacher, and of a prophet, speaking for the Lord God.   Something about what He says, and how He says it, impresses everyone.  They are astounded.  Mark, here, does not tell us any of what Jesus said. But the crowd senses in Him an air of authority.  

Then Jesus performs this healing, cleansing, exorcism – whatever we call it now, they called it casting out an unclean spirit.  And Jesus’ actions lead the amazed onlookers to speak about His teaching, a new teaching?  His actions speak louder than words.  The people continue to be impressed by His spiritual authority.  Here, at last, is ‘a prophet like Moses,’ as had been promised, sometimes hoped for.  

Today, in Christianity, we declare this Jesus to be our authority in life.  Our Way in life too.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus said.

We meet up with people in our lives who, well, who have an air of authority.  Who speak, and you listen when they speak.

I remember a dear ole couple, years ago, Harris and Mary.  People of great faith.  Harris had retired and returned to his tiny home community.  He was a member, and deacon, in a little Baptist Church of 20 people.  But he and Mary also came every Sunday morning to the bigger, town church.  In fact, they were the tellers every Sunday – counting up the offerings. I remember one winter Sunday morning when the snowstorm was so bad no one bothered to call me, the Pastor, to know if the service was cancelled.  It was so obvious.  But who drove their big car to town, to the Baptist Church, at 11 am?  Harris and Mary.  Harris was one of those men of few words – very few words – so when he did speak, you listened.

The voices you and I heed today are sometimes quiet, sometimes bold, sometimes trendy, sometimes traditional.  Who’s your authority?  What do you give authority to in your life?  

A Farmer’s Almanac, as you plan your garden and your travel this year?  A horoscope to guide your personal path?  Are there authors, well-known speakers or teachers who you look to in 2018?  Do certain friends or people in your family have a big influence on what you do?  Are there problems and anxieties that run a lot of your life?  Or do you decide to be your own best guide?  Check-in with yourself about who and what guides you.  It is worth doing.

That story in Mark 1 tells of a moment when a crowd was impressed by a new kid on the block, a new itinerant prophet, Jesus of Nazareth.  Could he be the prophet like Moses?

We read also this morning from Deuteronomy 18, with that verse about a prophet or prophets like Moses to be raised up among the people.  This chapter holds guidelines for the ministry of the Levitical Priests in ancient Israel, and for the ministry of Prophets.  The chapter briefly speaks of aspects of prophecy not allowed, then of the proper actions of a prophet, then of how to discern between true and false prophets.

Wouldn’t we love to make it so simple today! they we’d know what predictions of the future are right!  Right?

Well, we might find in this Old Testament chapter that the work of God’s prophets, then, was not all about predicting the future.  A prophet to speak on behalf of God is what was asked by the people at Horeb, where they received the Law, the Ten Commandments, and all.  Moses was not in the business there of laying out a whole bunch of future predictions.  He was giving out the Law, the boundaries of their special life as God’s people.  How to live.  A prophet like Moses could be expected to teach how to live now.  Not how to know your future.  

One Bible commentator put it this way: “Biblical prophecy is not the ability to predict events next Tuesday.  Rather, it is a form of clairvoyance that arises out of meditation on scripture.  The content of the clairvoyance is insight into the nature of God’s security….” (Soards, Dozeman & McCabe, Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, 1993, p. 132)  

A couple weeks ago Martin Luther King Jr. Day was celebrated in the United States.  Listen to this oft quoted bit from one of his speeches, a speech that is forward looking, but not predicting the future, rather, inspiring people to work for that bright future in the now, the present.  

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.  Longevity has its place.  But I’m not concerned about that now.  I just want to do God’s will.  And He’s allowed me to go up the mountain.  And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land.  

I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.

So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything.  I’m not fearing any man.  “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

King spoke these words the night before he was assassinated.  He was longing for a future, seeing it, but happy in the now.  

To be safe and secure with God is not all about knowing the future.  To strive to know secrets about the future is pretty much always not a way of resting secure in the arms of God.  

Author and peace activist John Dear lives in New Mexico.  In his book, The Beatitudes of Peace, he offers twelve signs to help us identify a true prophet.  Notice that none has to do with future predicting.

First, a prophet is someone who listens attentively to the word of God, a contemplative, a mystic who hears God and takes God at God’s word, and then goes into the world to tell the world God’s message.

Second, morning, noon, and night, the prophet is centered on God.

Third, a prophet interprets the signs of the times.

Fourth, a prophet takes sides. A prophet stands in solidarity with the poor, the powerless, and the marginalized.

Fifth, all the prophets of the Hebrew Bible are concerned with one main question: justice and peace.

Sixth, prophets simultaneously announce and denounce. They announce God’s reign of justice and peace and publicly denounce the world’s regimes of injustice and war.

Seventh, a prophet confronts the status quo.

Eighth, for the prophet, the secure life is usually denied. More often than not the prophet is in trouble.

Ninth, prophets bring the incandescent word to the very heart of grudging religious institutions. The institution that goes by the name of God often turns away the prophet of God.

Tenth, true prophets take no delight in calling down heavenly [lightning] bolts. Rather, they bear an aura of compassion and gentleness.

Eleventh, prophets are visionaries.

Finally, the prophet offers hope.

(John Dear, The Beatitudes of Peace: Meditations on the Beatitudes, Peacemaking and the Spiritual Life, 2016, pp. 117-119)

I notice that the very first sign of a true prophet, according to this guy, is that the person is centred on the word of God.  Looking back to Moses as a model, Moses was all about delivering what became scripture to the people.  The whole book of Deuteronomy is deutero – second, nomy – word or law.  Moses, before he dies, telling their whole story and the law all over again, to the people.

It was years ago I heard Dr. Roger Cann say something like this, in a question and answer session at some conference I was at.  “Don’t look for some new and special revelation from God, when you have not yet used the Bible which you have, right in front of you!”  A few of you know Roger, retired in New Minas after a career as a Pastor, Missionary and Baptist leader.  ‘Christian, don’t look for signs and signals while you still have scripture gathering dust.’

The story gets told that, just before the death of comedian and actor W. C. Fields, a friend visited Fields’ hospital room and was surprised to find him thumbing through a Bible. Asked what he was doing with a Bible, Fields replied, “I’m looking for loopholes.”  Our sacred texts are not just for cramming before finals – before death.  Nor is scripture just to help us get our future right.  It is for Holy communication now – every day.

A gospel song says (Ira F Stanphill)
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds, who holds my hand

What kind of almanac is the Bible?  What kind of forecaster is Jesus?  The Bible, and Christ, come from far back in the past, and point out the future – yes – but are put to use in the present.  
What prophecy do you and I need?
To know the future?  Our future?  No.
To live well in the now?  Yes.
To have good guidance?  Yes.
Seek and you shall find.

The People Believed God

(Jonah 3; Mark 1:14-20) Week of Prayer for Xian Unity
11 am, Jan 21, 2018 – UBC Digby – J G White

The whale of a tale is over, and Jonah is sent again to the Assyrian capital city, Nineveh.  This time, Jonah goes.  He gives one of the shortest sermons on record.  “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Perhaps that is why it worked!

Here is a Hebrew prophet, commissioned to go north east to a city known for violence.  No small wonder Jonah was more than reluctant.  Suppose God chose Donald Robertson and said, “Get up, go to Pyongyang, North Korea, that great city, and tell the Supreme Leader and all the people that I am very displeased with them, The End Is Near!”  What would Pastor Don do?

But Jonah is quite a different person, really. When you read the whole story – about three pages – we find Jonah is spiritually arrogant, uncooperative and even malicious.  

Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, the people of the great city of Nineveh believe the short sermon.  Their own King believes the message.  They believe there is yet another option to the foretold destruction.  They act.  

And God breathes a sigh of relief.  This grand city of people (and animals) does not get destroyed.  

With our curiosity and our sanctified imaginations, we might wonder, in the story, why these people believed God.  Why, on earth, did they believe Jonah?  And maybe we wonder what they actually came to believe.

People believe in new information step by step.  We all begin somewhere.  And what grabs our attention, well, it ain’t the same for all of us.  I have always been one to wonder: how do others believe God, believe in the path they take, believe in themselves in a new way?  

Brian McLaren is a prolific Christian author and speaker now, after an early career as a Pastor in the US.  He had a lot of doubts as a young person, coming out of a conservative Christian upbringing. It took a lot of time for McLaren to believe God.  In his late teens, he went as a counsellor-in-training to church camp.  On the second day of camp, everyone was sent off for a time of silence and solitude. The idea was to get alone somewhere and talk to God.  It wasn’t much of a spiritual experience.

At some point, though, I distinctly remember praying this prayer: “God, I want to stop fighting you.  I want to be one hundred percent committed to you.  …I want to say yes to you.  I only ask for one thing.  Before I die, please allow me to see the most beautiful sights in the world, and hear the most beautiful sounds in the world, and feel the most beautiful experiences in the world.  

No lightning bolts or visions of angels ensued.

The evening brought more harmless if not inane camp games and songs, and we were about to go to bed…  But a few friends and I decided to take a detour and look at the stars.  It was a clear, dry, high-pressure-system night, and the stars were glorious.  I went off by myself… and I lay back in the grass and gazed.  And a thought, or series of thoughts, came to me with power… I felt loved.  The thoughts went like this:“Those stars are glorious, but [I am more precious to God than a star.] God did not send Jesus into the world for stars, but for me.  The God who made the stars and galaxies and space and time sees me lying here on this hump of dirt, and he loves me.  I am loved.”

And with that experience I started to laugh.  It wasn’t funny, exactly; it was joy.  It was pure joy…

(McLaren, Finding Faith, pp. 301, 302)

Other people take other paths of faith and experience what is Biggest and Greatest.  Such as a poet like Emily Dickinson.  Not a person for church and traditional Christian beliefs and practices, her famed poetry expresses holiness. Somehow, she believed God too.

[In this poem, she mentions a Surplice – a vestment worn by clergy or choir, and a Sexton – a church caretaker.]

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –
With a Bobolink for a Chorister –
And an Orchard, for a Dome –

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice –
I, just wear my Wings –
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton – sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman –
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –
I’m going, all along.

Those who are not just like us can and do believe and have faith.  We see diversity in our own pews.  Many began in pews somewhere else before you ended up here.  

Hands up: Anyone here who used to be in an Anglican congregation?  In a United Church?  Roman Catholic?  Wesleyan?  Presbyterian?  

Our reasons for church moving are many.  Occasionally it has to do with the beliefs and teachings, and the practices of that variety of Christians.  We leave that behind for something we like better.

But I think, more often than not, we move from one tribe of Christians to another for other reasons.  Not much to do with what they believe.  We move away from conflict with people in the local church. We move away from stylistic things we dislike.  We get in a fight with some people, so we leave.  We dislike the music, or the pastor, or somesuch, so we leave to find a better church.

And, conversely, we gather people into our fellowship, not because they want to be Baptist Christians, but because they find people welcoming to them, or they like the worship service a lot, or the building speaks to them, or they love the church’s ministry out in the community.  

So we have a rich variety in our fellowship.  We may not all know what it means to be a Baptist Church, but we bring our experience of the whole Church together: United, Pentecostal, Catholic, Anglican, Wesleyan, Lutheran, whatever.  Our experience of believing God in those other spiritual tribes.

One Baptist Professor I knew (MRC) used to get called
‘the best Anglo- Baptist I know’ by his friend who was an Anglican Canon. A Baptist pastor friend of mine (GWP) calls himself a United AngloBaptiBuddhicostal.  In the fall I chatted with a teenager I know, whose family has Baptist roots, but goes to the Wesleyan Church.  I said, ‘You’re really a Wesleyan, eh?’  He said, “I guess I’m a mutt!’

Maybe a few of you would claim to have a mixed pedigree too.  And that can be quite healthy, and mean that you are well-rounded.  

In a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, our praying could take us into knowing who we have become, and how we can be better team players with the others in our own part of the world.  We have enough experience in those other churches to know that those other groups are filled with people who also believed God.

The Week of Prayer can be a time to celebrate our diverse unity.  The many ways people believed God, the different things people see in Jesus.  What you see in the Lord is different from what others see in Him.

And so we read about Him too, today.  Like Jonah, what we are told about Jesus’ first sermons is brief.  “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”  (Mk 1:15)

Andrew, Simon Peter, James, John.  What did those fishermen of Galilee see in Jesus?  They got right up, left their work, and followed this man. What impressed them?  Who knows?  Clearly, whatever they saw in Him convinced them.  Called to them.  Compelled them.

They many paths people walk with God are illustrated in the many ways Jesus spoke with people.  His approach depended upon the person.  To some, Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
To another, “You must be born from above to see God’s realm.”
He said the Kingdom of God is like a seed, a lamp, a bit of yeast, a woman seeking a lost coin, a buried treasure…
To a man Jesus said, “You know the commandments?” then, “Go and sell what you have and give to the needy.”
To a woman he said, “Is there no one to condemn you?  Neither do I.  Go and sin no more.”
To some He said, “you are forgiven,” to others, “you are healed,” to another, “salvation has come to this house today!”  

What has Jesus said to us?  Many, many different things.  Yet He has drawn us all in, to Himself.  This is the grace of God.

And in that more ancient story, of Jonah sent to Nineveh City, I see Divine Grace. I see Divine grace in:
The reluctant prophet who goes ahead with the mission.
The people of Nineveh who believe the message.
The people of Nineveh who hope against hope.
The people, and King, of Nineveh, who believe God might actually be better than the preacher said!
And, indeed, there is a God who is better than all the preachers and prophets.

One With God

(1 Sam 3:1-20; Psalm 139; 1 Cor 6:12-20)
11 am, Jan 14, 2018 – UBC Digby – J G White

Some of you will remember the Marshall Rosenberg story about his grandmother, his Jewish grandmother, who welcomed everyone.  Including Jesus Christ…

It’s a true story of a time when a man came to my grandmother’s back door asking for some food.  This wasn’t unusual.  Although grandmother was very poor, the entire neighborhood knew that she would feed anyone who showed up at her door.  This man had a beard and wild, scraggly black hair; his clothes were ragged, and he wore a cross around his neck fashioned out of branches and tied with a rope. My grandmother invited him into her kitchen for some food, and while he was eating she asked his name.
“My name is Jesus,” he replied.
“Do you have a last name?” she inquired.
“I am Jesus the Lord.” (My grandmother’s English wasn’t too good.  Another uncle later told me he had come into the kitchen while the man was still eating, and grandmother had introduced the stranger as Mr. Thelord.)
As the man continued to eat, my grandmother asked where he lived.
“I don’t have a home.”
“Well, where are you going to stay tonight? It’s cold.”
“I don’t know.”
“Would you like to stay here?” she offered.
He stayed seven years.  (Nonviolent Communication, pp. 193-194)

It’s crazy to think you are Jesus, or God, eh?  And people who seriously think that humans can be one with God are, well, not Christians, are they?  Maybe some other religious traditions allow for this, and some odd, new age spiritual people.  But not believers!  Our goal is not all to become God?

Jesus said, “I ask …on behalf of those who will believe in me… that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us…”  That’s from one of the longest prayers of Christ recorded in the Bible, in John chapter 17.  Jesus praying that His people may be one, as much as he and God the Father are One.  And that we also be in Them.

But our life is lived as separate people.  I am not you, you are not me, we are not God, and so on.  In fact, a big separation between people and God is often so great that it is totally possible not to know or believe there is some amazing thing called God.

Look again at that ancient story of a young Hebrew boy named Samuel, working with the priests in the sanctuary at a place called Shiloh.  The scene is set with these words:  Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli. The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

God, the God of these people, seemed distant.  One night, as Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, the LORD called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!”  And went over to his master, Eli, who he thought must have called him.  This happened three times.
Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy.
Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.'” So Samuel did so… and the conversation with God started.  

Once young Samuel was told the alarming word – a judgment upon Eli and his wayward sons, he ended up telling the bad news to his master.  Eli simply said, “It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.”
Eli and his sons were running this worship centre, and running it badly.  Yet, it is Eli who mentors young Samuel to hear the voice of God.  And Eli accepts the divine judgment that is to come upon him and his wicked sons.  
Good was done by Eli, a failure, a sinner, a religious charlatan.  God was still at work in the priest, Eli.

That was a few thousand years ago – and our forms of worship, Christian worship, are far different.

This week I thought about the religious professionals who are supposed to be worship experts, and experts on God. There was a string of comments posted on facebook, started by Rev. John Campbell, who we know from Acadia Divinity College.

Serious Question:
Is it ok not to enjoy every
element in a worship service?

campbellquestion

John then started off by saying: First, let me say I love my church and pastors.  I just got to thinking, through the choir piece today, that the style of the song isn’t one that would be [my] personal preference.

It just got me thinking if in worship I should ignore my preference and pretend they don’t exist, or is it right to acknowledge them, accept them and just worship anyway.

KD I don’t always enjoy every aspect but the thing is to realize that other people might enjoy it and help them come into the presence of God. A well- rounded worship service is very difficult to craft.

JG There are some of the songs/choruses which I do not necessarily agree with or like. I worship anyway. I believe it is all part of being with family….

SL I have never attended a worship service in which there was no element I disliked, but I try not to let such things prevent me from worshipping. …I try not to complain or let it interfere for any longer than I can help.

AC I think it’s okay. I, for instance, strongly dislike “greet your neighbour time”. That’s just the introvert in me. There are also songs that I don’t like but I need to learn to not let that interfere with my reason for being there.

RB  it doesn’t have to do with ur personality… I personally hate the “spread your germs with your neighbor time.”

SC Yes. Part of the task of community is to ‘make space’ for one another’s temperaments so that the Worship Service is contextual and expressive of the diversity of temperaments in that particular congregation. Plus, the better metric is to ask whether God “enjoys” it.

MM Whether God enjoys it is EXACTLY the right metric!!!

Separate from this online conversation, another friend posted this statement: GF Every moment is a #GodMoment not just the ones we think are neat-o // Romans 11:36

Who is a worship service for?  The classic answer is God.  Church service is for God. Today, it gets said: in worship there is an Audience of One.  God.  Unlike a concert or a lecture, where one or a few on stage have a large audience of people listening, worship is a group with an audience of only One, of God.  

But we are all listening in.  All enjoying parts of it, learning from some of it.  So I got wondering, lately, if, when you enjoy something on Sunday morning, if that is also God enjoying it.  When I like one part a lot, if God is in me, liking it too.  So, if the choir sings, and then some of you applaud, is that one way God shows appreciation, through you clapping?  

In the New Testament we can read words about us being in Christ, and Christ being in us.  We heard today from 1 Corinthians 6, a paragraph about things not to do with our physical bodies. In Paul’s advice he writes this:

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? 17 But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.  19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?

One in spirit with God.  This is the greatest reconciliation; when two become one.

Three hundred years ago, there was this monk in a monastery.  Born Nicholas Herman, he took on the name Brother Lawrence.  He is now famous for his practice of the presence of God: God always there, every moment of the day.  Someone who interviewed him wrote:

The most effective way Brother Lawrence had for communicating with God was to simply do his ordinary work.  He did this obediently, out of a pure love of God, purifying it as much as was humanly possible.  He believed it was a serious mistake to think of our prayer time as being different from any other.  Our actions should unite us with God when we are in involved in our daily activities, just as our prayer unites us with Him in our quiet time.  (Fourth Conversation, The Practice of the Presence of God)

Things went the same way in the kitchen in the monastery, where he worked.  Although he once had a great dislike for kitchen work, he developed quite a facility for doing it over the fifteen years he was there.  He attributed this to his doing everything for the love of God, asking as often as possible for grace to do his work. He said that he was presently in the shoe repair shop, and that he liked it very much.  He would, however, be willing to work anywhere, always rejoicing at being able to do little things for the love of God.  (Second Conversation)

Think about God being with you, in you, and enjoying every moment of your life.  Suffering every moment of your suffering.   Meeting every person you meet.  This kind of life, of ‘prayer without ceasing,’ as 1 Thessalonians 5 says, is something we can work towards.  It is never too late to work at this.  As Brother Frances wrote in a letter to a friend:

I’m amazed that you haven’t let me know your opinion of the book I sent you…. Practice it energetically, even in your old age. It truly is better late than never.

I honestly cannot understand how people who claim to love the Lord can be content without practicing His presence.  (Third Letter)

Might this be what we are here for?  To dwell each hour close to our loving and true Source.  Consider these beloved phrases of Psalm 139.  Poetry about us and God.

Where can I go from your Spirit?  
Where can I flee from your presence?
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
   intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.

God remains beyond our explaining. Yet, our Faith shows us the Light that is within.  We are from God; to God we return.  We are with God today.  Our oneness with each other and the Creator is something for which our Master Jesus prayed.  

And of which the apostle Paul wrote.
But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?  

See the Plan

(Ephesians 3:5-12; Matthew 2:1-12)

Jan 7, 2018 – UBC Digby – J G White

One day, three men set out together.  Their journey would be long, and difficult mainly because it was so long.  They had a goal in mind, a motivation.  They had planned their route, at least some of it, and had some tools to guide their trip.  They took provisions with them, and had some planned stops along the way: places where the hospitality would be good and they could rest and refuel.  They also had to be wise enough to prepare for the unexpected.  

When was this day?  Yesterday, January 6, 2018.  Was it three wise men?  I won’t claim that.  It was two local fellows and I, making a 50 km hike from East Ferry to Digby.  50K

Yesterday was, to some people in the world, Three Kings Day.  We know little from scripture about these wise magi – not even how many of them there were – just the three gifts are named.  They apparently did have a plan, and they accomplished their mission.

Much of the Christian Church celebrates January 6th as Epiphany. Jesus the Messiah being shown to the world.  Beginning with the Magi who come from farther east to the Middle East.  We even call this little season Epiphany, the first six or more Sundays of the year.  Jesus gets shown to the world.

Amid the run-on-sentences of Paul’s letter, what we call Ephesians in the Bible, is Paul’s claim that he gets to do this: …to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God… (E 3:9)

How have you found out about God’s plan?

How has Jesus been shown to you?  

Did He come and meet you somehow?

Did you take a long journey to find Christ?

See the plan of God… for you.  Personally.

“God has a wonderful plan for your life.” ?!  We should heed some warnings about this claim.

From on online page for a small church:

Speak your future into existence. If you do, guess what will happen to your future? You got it; you will have what you say!

Matthew 19:26 “With God all things are possible”. You will persevere, you will win, you will come out on top!

God wants you to succeed in every area of your life. The power for your success comes from one person only – God! Deuteronomy 8:18 that says, “But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth…” God gives you that power to establish His covenant through you, which means He wants you blessed in the city, blessed in the field, blessed going in, and blessed going out.

There is more to the plan than this, of course.  

Is not the Plan for God for all one that deals with problems, evil, pain, trouble, suffering?

In his book, Prayer, Philip Yancey speaks of this by talking about a film we’re going to watch soon.  “… Keeping company with God also includes expressing the times of trial and frustration. In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye keeps up a running dialogue with God, giving credit for the good things but also lamenting all that goes wrong.

In one scene he sits dejected by the side of the road with his lame horse.

“I can understand it,” he says to God, “when you punish me when I am bad; or my wife because she talks too much; or my daughter because she wants to go off and marry a Gentile, but … What have you got against my horse?!”

The Jesus plan, that we remember here today, goes right through pain and death, doesn’t avoid it.  And those who follow are told: 12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.  1 Peter 4

What has God’s plan for you been?  Can you tell it briefly?

We also see the plan of God… for us.  Church.  Together.  My two congregational meetings in the fall about our ministries were intended especially for you folks who are not on leading committees, to share what you see our plan could be in this and the years ahead. Almost none of you came.

Have you any visions, ideas of what the plan is for us in 2018?

See the plan of God… for them?  Outsiders.

This is truly what the writings of Ephesians are all about.  …the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Ephesians 3:6

Out of the faith and practice of one ethnic group in the Middle East comes a Saviour, Teacher, Leader, a Manifestation of God, who is for all religious and ethnic groups!?!   Wow.  The New Testament becomes the story of all the people meeting up with the Spirit of Jesus, in those sent to them, such as Paul.

    As Jesus was, so are we. Archbishop William Temple said, “The Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.”