Welcome to this resource for Sunday, in a time when we are not gathering to worship together in person in our building. Simply follow along, read what is here, use a Bible, click on the links. The Bulletin is available here also, on this website, with other resources for prayer. So, you may want to choose a quiet place to sit for this time of prayer and study. You may share this with others in your home. When the time is right, begin…
Worship Welcome – James 4: 7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Prayer (A traditional ‘collect’, as found in The Hymnal, #625, Baptist Federation of Canada, 1973.) Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee and worthily magnify Thy holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
Song When I Say Jesus – Cairine Robertson
Offering Our monthly and weekly offerings provide for many things. Such as our insurance policy. This may not sound exciting to you, but it would if we had a serious mishap in our Church building, the Parsonage, our property or Cemetery. And we would be excited to receive money to repair or rebuild something. Christ never instructed us to build any buildings, or take out any insurance policies, but we use such modern tools to accomplish our mission, God’s mission, in the name of Jesus.
Scripture Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Scripture John 8:28-38 – Pastor Don Robertson
SERMON Free Indeed – Pastor Jeff White
I’m preaching to you this weekend from out on a rock, overlooking the Bay of Fundy. The bright sky is tremendous, the waves are crashing upon the shore, the first spring birds are singing and chirping. And I’ve got this all to myself. No person near me. I’m free, free indeed, out here.
I could do this any day of any year, of course. But the truth is, I’m not quite as free today as I was one month ago, one year ago, one decade ago. The pandemic problem has us limited, isolated, stalled in so many ways. And we are not ‘free to know’ the exact timeframe of anything that is going to happen next. When this or that limitation will end. When the spreading and deaths will start to diminish. When this all will be over.
Via Facebook, this past week, I asked for volunteers who might like to talk with me (over the phone, of course) about freedom. One person responded, by writing a little bit about freedom. She said, “I am feeling anything but free at this time. Yes, l know Jesus meant a spiritual freedom and l believe his word.”
What is it to be free? Truly free, as a human being, in this lifetime? The Saviour was, of course, speaking at that moment of so-called ‘spiritual’ things, spiritual freedom. The freedom of the human soul can be above and beyond any physical and social limitations that are imposed.
The issues Jesus was speaking of at that moment, with some of His fellow Jesus, were sin and judgment, God as Father and Himself as God the Son. So much of the impact of these ideas is upon our relationships. How we relate to God. How we relate to one another. And He seems to teach that it all depends upon How we relate to Him, to Jesus.
There is a freedom to connect with God that Jesus teaches. Well, he does more than teach about it – we’ll get to that later. “The truth will make you free,” he says. He offers truth about what our problems are, truth about what His role is, truth about the reconciliation between us and God, thanks to Jesus.
Nowadays, it is often assumed by people in general that we can all connect with God, whatever ‘God’ is. As if it is a simple matter, an open door. In some ways it is. Yet there are definite barriers to us.
Jesus spoke of this to the Jews who were trying to believe Him, in terms they should have understood. But when Christ spoke of making them free, they objected: ‘We’ve never been slaves. What do you mean?’
Perhaps some of you listening (or reading) have never been enslaved to anyone, or anything. Why do you need ‘freedom?’ Me, I have never felt enslaved.
Here I am today, free as a bird, out on the seashore on a beautiful weekend. Yet, this happens within certain limitations. My own physical ability to walk. Our recent social distancing and all the recommendations about where not to go and how to stay away from people. Still, I am mostly ‘free.’
Then there is the inner Jeff, the me inside that is limited, hurt, confused, and in places neglectful or evil. I’m the kind of guy who avoids ‘doing wrong,’ but the good I don’t get done is the bigger problem. When Paul laments himself in Romans 7, I connect with this half of his problems: “For I do not do the good I want”. (7:19a)
Jesus spoke of ‘slaves to sin.’ This is the freedom from slavery He taught to His fellow people of the Hebrew religion… and others. We keep hearing His words to this day. And he says the truth will make you free. What truth?
Author and teacher of Christian discipleship, Dallas Willard, taught philosophy at a university. He once mentioned a university building that had, in large bold letters upon a wall, this phrase: THE TRUTH WILL MAKE YOU FREE
Nice phrase for display at a college. This is a very short quotation, and it is from Jesus. But Willard thought these six words upon a wall could suggest that, apparently, you don’t even need to know the truth for it to make you free!
When we expand Jesus’ quotation, we hear this: “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
We want to know what’s real all the time.
‘Who’s moving in next door? I see a moving van.’
‘How many local people will the private school at Upper Clements Park employ?’
‘Are there any cases of COVID-19 in Digby yet?’
‘Is Prime’s Farm Market open today?’
‘How are people going to get their offering to Digby Baptist Church now?’
‘Will my hospital appointment get cancelled?’
‘Can I park my car at Point Prim to go for a walk?’
‘When will this all end?
We even have pages in social media now, devoted to questions and answers (and opinions) about everything local.
As we look to Jesus together, as a spiritual community, what questions and answers are here? Well, this includes what we’ve already seen – we could use some help because of the ways we are messed up. Also, Jesus offers Himself as the way forward, the reconciler of all people and God. There is the matter of discipleship: following Jesus as our Master in this life. Hand-in-hand with this is the matter of living well: as Galatians 5 suggests, it is possible to have the fruit of the Spirit grow in our lives, rather than the works of the flesh.
We are in a time of crisis. Some people are severely tested by the measures to slow the pandemic. Some people, so far, have their lifestyle only mildly affected. And what is going on around the world has its emotional impact upon us. When we are squeezed by such circumstances, we can learn. We can trust the Spirit to teach us more of the truth: the truth about ourselves, and others, and creation, and our God.
The one person who responded to my facebook invitation also wrote: Perhaps l need to take a different view of this imposed situation. I believe the earth needs healing and to be free from smog, air pollution, water pollution, etc. So this could be a positive thing and maybe God is saying, believe and have faith, better days are ahead. I know am rambling, thanks for listening ❤️
I am out in nature here, recording a rambling sermon for you folks, and observing the first touch of spring. I am always learning more about the buds that are bursting on the bushes, the birds that are migrating in, the lichens that grow so incredibly slowly across the surfaces of stones. Nothing is much different here. There is a bit of escape here. A bit of Sabbath too.
But the world of humanity – we are in turmoil. And in turmoil we shall learn hard lessons. Back to the book of Romans again, and chapter 5. …suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
I trust that you like those verses, and may even enjoy reading the rest of that chapter, full as it is of challenging wisdom and hope. But I fear this sermon is too dreary and serious already. These are dreary and serious days.
Before I conclude by reading you an old story, let us back up a bit more into this quotation from Jesus. “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” What He is talking of here is clearly about Himself, what truth He is giving, and the human response: be confident enough in Him to follow. Being set free by the truth depends upon this. Knowing Jesus and His way depends on being devoted to Him.
So, it was Bonnie VanTassell who typed a response to my query on the internet about ‘freedom.’ She started off by saying: I think I need to read my Bible daily to get the free feeling.
It is amazingly wonderful the sense of freedom that comes from things that seem like pure limitations. Is the Bible very limiting? Does it box us in? Some would say so. The Bible is beloved by us, yet we easily neglect it, and may have unresolved problems with it. I continue to find, in my life, that devotion to Jesus demands personal Bible reading. The conversation with God goes on and on, as I pour over the pages, again and again.
So the word of Jesus, “the truth will make you free,” is for those who continue in what He teaches, and truly live as disciples of Jesus. When we recognize the shackles that bind us, we know that true freedom of spirit is what Christ offers.
Let me end by reading you a story. An old fashioned story. A story written by William Barton, a hundred or more years ago. One of his many delightful, King James English stories about a wise man, Safed, the Sage. Safed is really a Minister, in days gone by. In Today’s ‘parable,’ he takes a train trip. The story is called: The Iron Fetters.
I rode upon a Train; and the day drew on toward Evening, and the Porter came to make down my Berth. And I sat for a time in the next section, where was a man and a young man. And the Man said, Sit here if thou wilt. And he moved over. And when I sat down, behold, there was something hard under me. And I Essayed to remove it, but I saw what it was, and I pushed it into the Corner of the Seat, for I did not desire to publish unto the people of the Car what I had found. And I said unto the man, I am not very familiar with this kind of Ornament.
And he said, It belongeth unto me.
And we talked of other things. But I saw the young man’s ankles that they were bound with an heavy strap, so that he might walk a little in the Car, but take short steps only. So that not every one noticed that he was bound with Fetters.
And in the Night I heard in the berth that was next to mine the Clank of the Fetters. For the Sheriff took off the strap and placed the iron fetter upon the ankle of the lad, one fetter upon the lad’s ankle, and one upon his own. And this had they done for Four Nights. Even all the way from Seattle to Syracuse.
And I listened unto the clank of the Fetters, and it grieved me that it should be so. And I considered that he that bindeth his fellow man is bound with him; and the Keeper of a Prison is himself a Prisoner; and the fetters of iron wherewith a man may manacle another man bind him also.
Now in the evening I had not spoken unto the young man of his bonds. Neither did I let him see that I had noticed him. But in the morning the Sheriff spake unto me, and he said, This young man and I have slept for four nights in the same berth, bound foot to foot, and neither of us have slept any too well. And last night we spake of thee: and I said unto him, I think that he is a man of God. And now, behold, the lad desireth to speak unto thee.
And it may be that thou canst say good things unto him. For we have come from the Coast, and we get off at Syracuse, and then he goeth to jail to await his Trial.
So I sat with the young man, and I asked him no questions, but he told me many things. And the Burden of it all was this,
I have a good Father, but I thought he was too strict with me, and a good Mother, but I thought she was an Old Fogy. And I loved the Bright Lights and the Praise of the Gang. And I saw in the Movies how easily one might be Rich, and I wanted some Easy Coin. There- fore have they brought me back twenty-five hundred miles for Grand Larceny.
And I spake unto him such words as God gave unto me. And I said. Think not that the chain of iron upon thy feet is thy worst Fetter. For behold, thou wast chained already when thou didst covet that which was not thine own: and in throwing off the yoke of thy father and the advice of thy mother, thou didst become the Prisoner of Evil.
And he said. Verily, I know it.
And the Sheriff said. He is not a bad kid at heart: but thus is it with the man that despiseth the law of his father and disregardeth the tears of his mother.
Now the train reached Syracuse and there was a Patrol Wagon backed up at the Curb. And I said unto the young man, Tell the truth, whatever it shall cost thee. Take thy medicine, however so bitter it may be. Beware of evil companions. Seek forgiveness and help from thy God. And see that thou die not until thou make thy mother proud of thee.
And he asked me for my name, and the name of the City where I dwelt. And he said, One day I shall come to see thee; and then shall be no bracelets on my wrists, neither straps nor irons on my legs, but I shall be honest and free.
And I said unto him, If the Son of God shall make thee free, thou shalt be free indeed.
(William E. Barton, Safed and Ketura: The Third Series of the Parables of Safed the Sage, The Pilgrim Press, 1921)
PRAYERS of the People
O God of Love, our hearts have been opened today; we worship and adore You. Holy Father, Holy Jesus, Holy Advocate: from our separate rooms we praise and pray, free human spirits, in Your image.
Jesus, Joy of our hearts, we want to go about our day with You; every day this week. May there be reason to rejoice & to give thanks, whatever happens.
Christ of Peace that is beyond our understanding, we pray for people who have no peace, who fear and tremble in the face of disaster and trouble. Turn us into peacemakers, with You and among all people.
O Power of Patience and Eternity, in creation we see time is long and the present is short. Let us have the grace to know how to act decisively, and how to wait, for the sake of all, as we face a pandemic.
Incarnate God of Kindness, when systems struggle in healthcare, in the economy, in social fellowship – may we notice the many kindnesses, and may we be people who are kind at every moment.
Creator of Generosity, the sacrifices of Christ call us to follow, and His Spirit inspires us to give. Let us be guided to help our neighbour, and the stranger, with what we have to give: our time, our attention, our prayers, our possessions, our faith.
God of great Faithfulness, we have trusted in healing power, encouraging help, solid hope. Our prayers are still for those most in need, and those closest to us. Let grace for body and spirit abound, and grace grow faith in the hearts who need it.
Spirit of Gentleness, blow through the wilderness of these days. Your reach is wider and swifter than the spread of any virus in human cells, or any computer virus that corrupts. May strong and humble gentleness spread among us, for our world needs help.
Sovereign of Self-Control, as we have bowed in prayer, we look inward one more time. We pray that there may be freedom from fear in these days, freedom from evil impulses, and freedom from despair when times are at their worst.
Now, we look for good fruit to be born, amid our crisis. Even in the face of many deaths in our world, we look to You, Living One, and to the eternal view.
In the name of Him who taught prayer, saying: Our Father… AMEN.
Hymn By Faith
Benediction May the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, rest upon us and all our work and worship done in His name. May He give us light to guide us, courage to support us, and love to unite us, now and for evermore. AMEN.