Worship at Home, Sunday, June 28 – UBC Digby 182nd Anniversary

Welcome to this plan for worship at home. Today, we celebrate the anniversary of the founding of our Baptist congregation, which was in the fall of 1838, according to some records. We have a guest preacher today, the Rev. Borden Scott, Pastor of Faith Baptist Church, Lower Sackville, NS. He shares a sermon and scripture by video recording, audio recording, and a manuscript. Borden has been Pastor there for about a decade, and today has some helpful insights about this present time in the churches. We welcome him to our ‘virtual pulpit’ today!

The Pastor, Deacons, and Trustees are in conversation about our re-opening plans, and will be sharing in July the when and the how of our getting together again, at 2 Mount Street.

WORSHIP WELCOME (Matthew 16:15-18)

Jesus once said to the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” Let this same statement be the rock upon which our church is still built: Jesus is Messiah, Son of the living God!

HYMN 745 ‘Jesus Shall Reign’ – Cairine Robertson at the Organ

PRAYER Creator of all, we bow with awe in the midst of this world we enjoy. Giver of life, we rejoice in the new life in Christ we find. Spirit of truth, we worship with thanks for all You teach us and all the ways you lead us. Judge of all justice, we lift up our hearts to You, we bow our spirits before You. Hearer of prayer, to You we have come, and come seeking to bless our world. Still, Small Voice, speak, Lord, for Your servants are listening.

And we pray in the way we know, from You, Jesus: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name… AMEN.

CHILDREN’s Time How Old Are We? – Pastor Jeff White

Anniversary SCRIPTURE Sharing

SERMON: ‘Witnesses‘ – Acts 1:1-8 – Rev. Borden Scott

Or LISTEN to the audio file:

OFFERING It is a long tradition for churches to take up a special offering for themselves on special occasions, including Christmas, Easter, Church Anniversary, and Thanksgiving. Today we offer special thanks and worship to God for the creation of our congregation 182 years ago, and for our calling to do good in our neighbourhood still today. May the monetary offerings we give be worship of Christ as much as anything else in the service today.

PRAYERS Lord Jesus Christ, true and only Head of the Church, at one time we found our mission for ourselves. We claimed, before You, that we are to reach out to those in the church and community conveying Your message. As You make clear the Good News to us, make us also into clear communicators. We pray that we may share the story of salvation. We pray that we may understand our family, friends and neighbours, so we may ‘speak their language,’ know their needs, and grow in love and care for them. You hear our prayers for the ill and injured, the depressed and distraught, the lost and lonely. You receive our rejoicing with those who celebrate, who take steps in the right direction, who have been surprised with a gracious blessing in life. This week, we bless Tjark, who is returning to Germany after these months with us here; we ask for help and guidance in the lives of all who travel or move or cross borders. Turn our prayers also to those we do not yet know, those we do know but avoid, and those we fear or dislike or belittle. Bless them, also, in Your name.

Holy One, our mission statement reminds us to do our ministry through preaching and teaching, with hearts of compassion and loving hands in service. Show us again how our preaching happens in day-to-day small talk, how it happens in letters and phone calls and social media. Sometimes, Lord, we don’t think we know how. But You do. We see those who suffer, around us. We give our hands to You again, that we may serve them.

All-seeing God, we’ve had a vision, to build our church based on the teachings of Christ and on the ideals of giving, living, and serving. We confess that we have heard before that You, Jesus, build Your Church. We confess that at times we, Digby Baptist Church, have been more interested in getting than in giving. We have been more interested in resting and looking back with nostalgia, than in living life abundant and free today. We have fallen into the temptation of serving ourselves, but not many others. Renew our present vision, we pray. We know that this is a dangerous prayer, for it changes us, for the sake of those You love.

We have come this far by faith, Christ. We have learned from our mistakes, Almighty. We have studied and we have stayed with the fellowship, Holy Spirit. Take all this as material for our mission, our work in our part of the world now. May You be amazing now, in Digby. May You be gracious, to Digby, we pray. AMEN.

HYMN ‘This Is Amazing Grace

BENEDICTION (Romans 15:5-6) May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN.

Worship at Home: June 21 – ‘The Trees Elect a King’

WELCOME to this plan for Sunday worship that we can share. Our reunion together in Digby on Sunday mornings is still a ways off in the future. In small groups we may begin to gather. For now, our corporate worship of God is still this shared plan that we use on our own, in our homes. May you find this a helpful guide.

Pastor Jeff will be away during this week for the final days of his vacation, for the July 2019 – June 2020 period.

Pastor Borden Scott and daughter

Sunday, June 28 we celebrate our Church’s 182nd Anniversary! Our guest preacher will be Rev. Borden Scott of Faith Baptist Church, Lower Sackville, NS. In the June 28th service, you can share a scripture. Ahead of time, send an email or text or message to Pastor Jeff. Even send a video our audio recording of you reading the Bible verse you choose. Remember the old-fashioned tradition of answering Roll Call with scripture? This is our technological version, a contemporary way to stand up and be counted for our Master.

WORSHIP Welcome John 13:31, 34. Just before he was arrested, Jesus declared: “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.” “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Let us glorify God. Let us love one another.

HYMN ‘Good, Good Father’ (You may know this song, or remember Joyce M. singing it one Sunday earlier this year.)

PRAYER God, You are good, so good. The quiet praise we offer is mild and small in comparison with You, whom we worship now. May our spirits be uplifted and You be glorified in the moments we spend looking to You alone. ‘As a father has compassion for his children, so the LORD has compassion for those who fear Him.’ (Ps 103:13) We give thanks for the love and care that comes to us from You. Open our minds to receive Your word to us today, and to grow in confidence and trust. AMEN.

Dick Parry recently shared ‘the Father’s Love Letter’ with Pastor Jeff, and we discovered this poem, which started out as a simple sermon illustration, had grown into a whole ministry. (Father’s Love Letter) This video is the ‘Love Letter.’

CHILDREN’s Time God is Love

SCRIPTURE Matthew 10:28-39 – Joyce Marshall

SONG ‘Blessed Jesus Hold My Hand’ – Men’s Choir (May, 2019)

SCRIPTURE & SERMON Judges 9:7-15 ‘The Trees Elect a King’ – Jeff White

Welcome to a summer of storytelling. Today’s new/old parable is a fable told by Jotham in the days of the Judges in Israel. In the days before they had kings… though, as you will see, many wanted a ruler, and some wanted to be the king. The violence and struggle of kings and kingdoms is underway in today’s tale. Hold onto your seat!

 The story of the trees electing a king is spoken by Jotham. He is a son of the late Gideon, a famed judge. You may know the stories of Gideon. You may know the modern Bible organization called ‘The Gideons.’ Here is a story his son, Jotham, told… (JUDGES 9:7-15)

The olive tree, provider not only of olives to eat, but more importantly, oil, refuses the offer to be king. The fig tree also refuses, choosing to stay with providing sweet figs. Thirdly, the grape vine says ‘no,’ and remains to produce grapes and wine for all. Lastly, a thornbush, agrees – he has nothing better to do. Well, the bramble says yes, if, if they are electing him in good faith. If not, let fire be kindled in his thorns and burn them all!

This allegory was easily understood, that day Jotham shouted from a mountaintop to the people. His father, Gideon (also called Jerubbaal) had been acclaimed as ruler by the people, but Gideon refused to rule over them. (Judges 8:22-23) His father, Gideon, had been father of seventy other sons, by his many wives, and one son by his concubine in Shechem, a son named Abimelech. Jotham’s seventy brothers had just been killed by Abimelech. “On one stone,” we are told, they got slaughtered, when Abimelech wanted no rivals for ruling his mother’s kinfolk in Shechem. So Abimelech gets his seventy half-brothers killed. Except for Jotham, who escaped. 

And escaped to call out Abimelech’s unworthiness by telling this fable of the king of the trees. It was not in good faith that Abimelech became the ruler. And, just as his brother, Jotham, declared, his rule would be short-lived. The lords of the Shechemite people turn on Abimelech, and then he gets killed while besieging a city, hit by a millstone a woman drops on him from a tower. 

The struggle to rule so often yields violence, and disasters. There is a temptation, among Christians, to declare that ‘this is Old Testament,’ and we have come a long way since then, thanks to Jesus. He, and His New Testament are better, kinder, more loving.

Did you read from Matthew 10 along with Joyce today? Words of Jesus Himself. Is it a mixed message? Christ speaks those beloved words about us being more important than little sparrows. ‘God sees the little sparrow fall…’ we have sung, since childhood, ‘I know He loves me too.’ And even the hairs on our head are counted (all those long, uncut hairs). Jesus also, at this same moment, speaks of fearing the destruction of our bodies and souls in Gehenna, translated as hell. He claims He came to bring not peace but a sword, and to set people in families against one another! And He even speaks of the need to love Him most and not love father and mother more. What a message for Father’s Day!

This is actually typical of Jesus. He used shock tactics in his rhetoric, though often the surprises in His talks are lost on us, today. When we hear His parables this summer, we will notice how Christ takes traditional wisdom, over and over, and turns it upside down, to make His points. Theologian Derek Flood has written, 

The primary way Jesus taught was by dramatic provocation. He speaks in ironic riddles that tell us to do seemingly absurd things like dying in order to live, and loving people we hate. Jesus is constantly pulling the rug out from under us–saying things that are intended to shock, to throw us off balance. (Flood, Disarming Scripture, 2014, p. 179)

And when we put the teaching – and life story – of Christ in perspective, we start to see the amazing path forward, away from the violence of the past. I tell you that, yes, Jesus and the New Testament are greater in peace and lesser in violence than the Old Testament and old covenant. You may remember me speaking before of the study I have been doing about violence in scripture and church history. I tend to side with Flood and others who are seeking to speak this clearly today, in an age still filled with violence. Others like Brian McLaren, who says, for the world to migrate away from violence, our God must migrate away from violence. (McLaren, the Great Spiritual Migration, 2016, p. 94)

Has your understanding of God and God’s story – the Bible – migrated away from violence?

Let me read you a story. A good, long story. From a modern storybook co-authored by a couple of progressive Christians. It will take almost a quarter of an hour, so let’s begin…

(I am not the copyright holder of The Seventh Story I am not posting the text here. You will need to purchase the book, or listen to me read it.)

There is more to that story; I shortened it a bit in my reading. It calls us to question our knowledge of Jesus, our Prince of Peace, our King of Love. And challenges our scripture study, when we hear Jesus speak of bringing a sword, not peace, and of hating father and mother.

But, look at what else He is saying here in Matthew 10, and remember His attention-getting method of teaching: He startles with a purpose. 

Jesus talks of fearing the one who can destroy soul and body. ‘The Devil!’ we might think. Nope. Even the Evil One gets consigned to destruction… by Almighty God. God can destroy us permanently. And what is the very next thing Jesus says about this God, His Father? “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father… So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Mtt 10:29, 31)

Do not be afraid. You are so valuable to God. This is Jesus’ message in the face of a fearsome Deity. 

And then Jesus is realistic. Realistic about what following Him will be like. It is like walking to your execution (carrying your cross), and this will mean even those near and dear to you will not understand, not agree with your path. Your path of faith. 

Jesus’ teaching here is preparation for trouble, the troubles that come when one follows closely. We have a Master who prepares and trains us. A Saviour who leads the way through violence and even death, in a serene and supreme way. 

Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, But There’s something about that name! (Gloria & William J. Gaither, 1970)

The name of Jesus as Lord. So, now, let us rework those words of the bramble who would be king.

If in good faith we are taking Jesus as king over us, then let us come and take refuge in His shade. But if not, then let the fire of His Spirit come and burn away all that gets in the way of knowing Him. AMEN.

OFFERING Designated offerings from us all, and our Eleanor Timpany Missionary Society, support the work of Darrell & Laura Lee Bustin, in Rwanda (Africa). They work closely with the Association of Baptist Churches of Rwanda. Darrell’s primary focus is in pastoral training and church leadership development. Laura Lee is responsible for overseeing the administrative details for the short-term mission (SENT) teams that come to Rwanda. We also support Laura Lee and Darrell with our prayers and attention to their ministry. The Bustins are right now in Canada, for a period of ‘home assignment.’ Read more here.

PRAYERS God of good and perfect gifts, we give You thanks for your servants, Darrell and Laura Lee, who have been serving in Rwanda. As they are blessed, back home in Canada right now, may those who continue their work back in Africa be blessed. We dedicate all the offerings we give, of money and prayer, in the name of Jesus. 

We rejoice also in the gifts of summertime. While we have peace and ease, here, we remember, Creator, those in the world whose crops are failing, whose economies are collapsing, and whose health is ruined. May our own farmers, health care workers, merchants, police and first responders be strengthened for their work, day by day. 

Saviour, who unites the slave and the free, all the nations, and all creation: we rejoice in freedom this weekend. But prejudice and injustice still go on. We give thanks for the first people’s of this land, millennia ago. But understanding and respect are still lacking among us who are white. Let there be listening ears for the stories told by those who have been oppressed, stereotyped, or racially profiled. Open our ears to listen.

God of love, who casts out all fear, take us, and those who are fearful and anxious, to a new place of calm, of grace, of truth. Show us ways to live in an epidemic, ways that strengthen and build up one another, in body and in soul. Make our hopeful longings for gathering together again fit with You will for us, what is best for all. Guide us.

And guide those who are especially isolated in this time. Those who already were ill, or weak, or weary, or alone. Guide them into the lives of others, who may bless them. 

Hearer of Prayer, You have heard through these months of isolation our concerns for those who, by staying at home, face more danger, rather than more safety. Those who suffer domestic abuse and violence, those who feel trapped and unsafe, those whose mental health suffers greatly in these days, we cry out for them. “How long, O Lord?” Let there be help; let there be mercy.

And so may we all, like Abraham and Sarah of old, still be the blessing people, with a holy blessing to share with the whole world. Good News is for all, for every one; we rejoice! This is Your grace! This is Your power! This is Your love! In Christ, AMEN.

HYMN # 663 Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus’

Big choir, big instruments, big congregation, big hymn!

BENEDICTION John 14:27
Jesus said to His disciples:
“Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled,
and do not let them be afraid.”

AMEN.

Worship at Home, June 14 – ‘Why Parables? Why Stories?’

Welcome to ‘worship at home,’ a way for us to share the same service together while we are distanced. Welcome to the fellowship! Follow along with the parts of the service below. Other information is available in the Bulletin (see link above) and the Anniversary Newsletter.

Our Anniversary Newsletter is available to you now; check on the link above for Newsletters. We will celebrate our 182nd Anniversary on June 28th with guest preacher, Rev. Borden Scott, Pastor of Faith Baptist Church, Lower Sackville, NS.

Pastor Jeff will be taking four days of vacation Monday-Thursday, June 22-25.

WORSHIP Welcome Let’s use the worship scene in Isaiah 6 to provide the framework for our service today. Jeff will say more about this in the sermon.

Worship can begin with praise and adoration of God. It can be very spontaneous, initiated by God. Isaiah 6:1-4

I had a vision of the Lord. He was on his throne high above, and his robe filled the temple. Flaming creatures with six wings each were flying over him. They covered their faces with two of their wings and their bodies with two more. They used the other two wings for flying, as they shouted,

“Holy, holy, holy, Lord All-Powerful!
The earth is filled with your glory.”

As they shouted, the doorposts of the temple shook, and the temple was filled with smoke.

HYMN Holy Is the Lord

Worship continues when we realize who we are, in the presence of the Holy One: Isaiah 6:5 Then I cried out, “I’m doomed! Everything I say is sinful, and so are the words of everyone around me. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord All-Powerful.”

PRAYER Tell us the ‘old, old’ story today, God. Tell us again. Like a child, listening to her father, we like the same story over and over from You. Tell us, we pray, about Isaiah and his vision of amazing worship! We feel so alone and unable to get together on a Sunday morning. Tell us, we pray, the story of Jesus, explaining why He is a storyteller. His parables we know, yet we still forget, and we still do not always ‘get it.’ Tell us, we pray, the story of our own lives, from Your viewpoint. You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until the find rest in You. AMEN.

Worship celebrates the forgiveness that is found when we open up about our problems: Isaiah 6:6-7 One of the flaming creatures flew over to me with a burning coal that it had taken from the altar with a pair of metal tongs. It touched my lips with the hot coal and said, “This has touched your lips. Your sins are forgiven, and you are no longer guilty.”

SONG Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah! Praise Ye the Lord!

CHILDREN’s Time God is Holy

Worship is also a matter of discipleship, an opportunity to learn something: Isaiah 6:8a After this, I heard the Lord ask, “Is there anyone I can send? Will someone go for us?”

SCRIPTURE Matthew 13:10-17, 34-35 – Myra Edwards

SERMON Why Parables? Why Stories? – Jeff White

For years, Isaiah 6 was a favourite chapter of mine. About the time I got to adulthood, worship services became very important for me and my discipleship to Jesus. I’d moved away from home and explored new services in churches and chapels that were not what I’d grown up with, and I soaked it all up like a sponge. A lot of it was formal and fancy. All my experiences were still rather Baptist, but diverse and different from my ‘home church.’ Isaiah 6 was a key scripture, at the heart of things, for me.

A couple ministers who deeply influenced me, then, referred me to a book by one of their old friends, “Come, Let Us Worship.” Written by a Baptist Minister, Jud Levy, it used the flow of Isaiah’s vision in chapter 6 to build a ‘proper’ Christian worship service. Perhaps you see in today’s service that I planned, how the elements of Isaiah’s dramatic encounter guide our steps today. 

One of my mentors was Chaplain to the University, and managed to build his worship plan around the name of the institution. 

A – Adoration of God
C – Confession of sin
A – Absolution of sin
D – Discipleship (scripture and sermon)
I – Intercession (prayers for self and the world)
A – Atonement (blessing of being right with God)

Worship service, when the Church gathers, is a conversation. It is a drama. It has movement, it takes us somewhere. It becomes a story, our story with God.

(The Isaiah 6 flow might also be used as a framework for the path of salvation by faith in Christ.
1 – awesome experience of God happens.
2 – awareness of how small/sinful I am/we are.
3 – a saving and forgiving word is given, in Christ.
4 – discipleship begins: following Jesus, training.
5 – a mission is given, a purpose, a goal, work.
6 – all will be well, and eventually perfect.)

You may be reading along the parts of Isaiah 6 I have in the service today, but what’s next? What was the message, the actual mission for Isaiah? It’s in the rest of the chapter. And what a severe message it is!

9 “Go and say to this people:
‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand.’
10 Make the mind of this people dull,
and stop their ears,
and shut their eyes,
so that they may not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and comprehend with their minds,
and turn and be healed.”
11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is utterly desolate;
12 until the Lord sends everyone far away,
and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.
13 Even if a tenth part remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak
whose stump remains standing
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.

I’m glad this was not my first sermon assignment, as a budding preacher! At least it ends with a bit of messianic hope: from the stump can grow a new life. In other words, there will yet be an anointed one, a Messiah. But the main message is all about the people not understanding.

So, we Christians worship, and we want to understand. Why do we plan these services (which right now happen to be private, in our own homes)?

Some would say they come to Church services for the music. Be it the joy of the music, the making of it, or the experience of praising and worshipping God.

Some would say the best thing about worship is prayer, and our connecting personally with God. In his great book, ‘The Contemplative Pastor,’ Eugene Peterson goes so far as to say, about his ministry, a conviction grew: that my primary educational task as a pastor was to teach people to pray. (Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor, 1989 p. 96)

Many others claim that the heart of worship is education, teaching, preaching the Word of God. Not that every sermon is an academic lecture. There is a lot of testimony and witness, creative writing, poetry and storytelling in preaching, at its best. 

I have not told you many stories yet today, and I’m not going to. But stories – of many shapes and sizes – are so important to sharing faith and sharing life with Christ. So, Jesus tells stories. He gives His ‘sermon on the mount,’ He speaks of esoteric things recorded in John’s Gospel, but He also tells many tales. Parables. All those memorable parables. 

Why parables? ‘Why tell these stories, all the time, Jesus, and in the way you tell them?’ Jesus’ close companions ask Him, and He gives a surprising answer. Seems surprising to me. ‘So you will understand.’ No. ‘So everyone will get it.’ Wrong again. ‘So people of different learning styles will also learn.’ Nope. ‘So they will be easy to remember and retell in the years ahead.’ No, this is not Jesus’ answer.

He paraphrases, from Isaiah chapter 6. “The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen nor do they understand.’” (Mtt 13:13) He actually quotes directly from that chapter. The people are not going to get it. At least some of them. Christ almost says, ‘those who understand are going to understand, and those who don’t won’t.’ Much like what Isaiah had been told to proclaim, centuries before.

Jesus is a wise teacher, a Rabbi of the wisdom tradition who has all the tools of teaching and training at His disposal. He has a Hebrew sneakiness, and subversiveness about His lessons. All these centuries later, and half a world away, we can miss out on how provocative His words so often were. And they still are challenging, and even mysterious. He gives out the secrets, the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, but it is like He uses codes and puzzles and riddles. The greatest of teachers can use such tools well. Built into the lesson of the day is the test, the exam. Not everyone will pass. Some will fail to learn. Today.

I’ve had a few friends through the years who are very clever with words. They can dabble with them and play and have fun with language in ways that are both joyful and bothersome at the same time! 

My friend and ministry colleague, Jeff, for instance. We were always playing with words. He is more skilled. We would have online conversations like this all the time:

Him: we can talk over lunch too
Me: Indeed
Him: I will make a reservation at Rosies
Me: What a reserved guy you are!
Him: I speak with reservation
Me: I hope I can re serve you well when we meet.

Then there was the time my new buddy, Jonathan, was explaining to a group of hikers how to drive to our starting place in Bear River. ‘Take the Christmas Eve exit.’ ‘What!?’ ‘You know, out here is Boxing Day, then Christmas, then Christmas Eve.’ I just shook my head; it did not compute! I was new in town, that was my excuse. I did not know, by number, 101 exits 24, 25 and 26. 😉 

Even the parable Jesus is telling here in Matthew 13 points out that some people will understand the message of God, and some will not. It’s the parable of the sower of seeds. Some fell on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorny weeds, and some on good soil. We’ll look more at this parable one month from now.

It was only Jesus who spoke parables just the way He did, the ones we know so well, from the Gospels. The weeds in the wheat, the sheep and the goats, the lost coin, the pearl of great price. Yet, it was not only Jesus, among the Jews, who spoke in parables. We also find parables in the Old Testament books, parables of a sort. They are little allegories, or holy fables, or anecdotes with an accusation in them. A story with a challenge, we might call them. That’s where I want to take us, this summer.

The word parable is created from a couple words that mean thrown together, or thrown side-by-side. One thing is put beside something else, in a surprising way. The Kingdom of God, and yeast in the bread dough. God’s Kingdom is good. Yeast, in Bible days, was always a negative thing, to be got rid of for Passover, for instance. Throw God’s perfect Kingdom and unholy yeast together… and what do you get?

During this summer, I am going to attempt to ‘throw together’ some of Jesus’ parables with some of the Old Testament fables. We will seek to use Jesus’ wisdom to unfold the parables of Old, from Ezekiel and Isaiah & Jotham & Jehoash. A summer of stories. 

We must tell our own stories too, and listen. The power of stories has been coming to light for me. A couple weeks ago I heard on radio again the 2003 Massey Lectures by Tom King, ‘The Truth About Stories.’ That led me to review the Hayward Lectures in 2018 by Rev. Dr. Randy Woodley, who is, among other things, a good indigenous storyteller.

And we are learning, I hope, that a first step in relating well to people who have suffered, and suffered injustice, is to listen. To hear their story, from them. This is the work of truth and reconciliation. 

People of Faith are storytelling people. I have wanted to be a better storyteller than I am. But no matter. We shall tell Bible stories, and our own stories, as best we can. May our Master bless us.

Today is June 14th, and I was supposed to be going to Tatamagouche today, for an annual week long seminar in theology. It is cancelled. For years I have gone, and remember well one year that was all about stories, biblical, and others – “Once Upon a Time, There Was a Parable.” Not to mention the year that the theme was “The Spirituality of Pop Culture,” with examinations of many movie plots, from Superman, to Disney flicks, to TV’s ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’

Well, let us look at Old Testament Parables, this summer, simply to know them. Here they are, hidden in the pages, little treasures: the Plowman, the Two Eagles and the Vine, the Poor Wise Man… We shall discover which are most valuable to us in our age. Next Sunday, the real storytelling will begin.

Let us read them that we may be wise. Wise when it comes to our own speaking; we can be better storytellers, and thus communicate more deeply.

Let us study them to learn from the past. All the tales we will hear told are from history. They each were important in a moment back in time. And they have been kept for us to instruct us from history.

Let us use them to be trained by God. These Old Testament texts were the Bible of Jesus, and the backdrop for His powerful speeches. These stories are part of the context of Christ. We shall understand Jesus better when we know the Bible better He used.And let us include these Old Testament tales in our scripture work so we may know more deeply our salvation, and our Saviour. The whole, complete Bible is salvation history. The reading of the stories will be good for the redemption of the saints. That’s you and me. Thanks be to God!

Now, here’s a little extra, a bonus video I found that seems to me a good introduction to Jesus’ parables…

Worship, at its best, opens us up to hear the call of God to do something, to take a new step, to be transformed: Isaiah 6:8b “I’ll go,” I answered. “Send me!”

OFFERING Our oldest Baptist educational institution in the Maritimes is Acadia University. Today, the Acadia Divinity College within it is still ours, still run by us, Atlantic Baptists, for the training of pastors and workers in Christian ministries. As a local church, we financially support ADC, as well as their special fund right now (2018-2020) for the refurbishment of the 50-year-old building. Designated gifts can be made any Sunday to ‘ADC’ or to ‘ADC building fund.’

PRAYERS O Divine Master, it is in praying that we are not alone: for You are with us. It is in praying that we are not powerless: for Your strength is made perfect even in our weakness, thanks to Christ. It is in praying that we are not overcome by confusion: for Your wisdom shines within, by the Holy Spirit. 

Light of the world, we pray for our world, upset by sickness and violence, by poverty of necessities and greed for power. We pray for those who march for justice, and for all whose stories have been ignored. We pray for the creatures of creation and the lands and waters and air that are getting a little less of our pollution right now. We pray for our fellowship, especially those ill, alone, isolated, or troubled now. And we pray simply to be, and be with Thee. Amen.

HYMN 669 God of Grace and God of Glory ‘I think this video recording, from a Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, NY, is wonderful and delightful. This profound hymn (with Baptist lyrics) is inspiring, perhaps especially so with this diverse choir, finding they way into it, one by one.’ – Jeff

BENEDICTION Love in all sincerity, loathing evil and holding fast to the good. Let love of the Christian community show itself in mutual affection. Esteem others more highly than yourself. And may the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be amongst you and remain with you always. AMEN.

Worship at Home – Trinity Sunday, June 7 – ‘Love & Peace in Days of Hate & Violence’

Welcome to this plan for worship at home that we can share. Somehow, we pray and sing, study and give, in ways that unite us, while we are separate. More information is available in this Sunday’s Bulletin.

Worship Welcome John 14:26-27 Words of Jesus:
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled,
and do not let them be afraid.”

Hymn # 2 Holy , Holy, Holy

Prayer O Advocate, Helper, Spirit, in the name of Jesus we ask You to guide us to the Father today. So many distractions catch us. So many concerns fill our hearts. So many temptations call us to choose poorly. The old hymn takes some of us back to the days when each Sunday began with these same words. Make holy these moments we share, in word and deed, for worship. May words ancient and modern be used in our conversation now, we pray. Including the prayer Jesus taught. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name… AMEN.

Song # 4 Father, I Adore You – Margo Nesbitt & Jeff White

Children’s Time God is Spirit – Pastor Jeff

Scripture 2 Corinthians 13:5-13

Hymn # 1 I Bind Unto Myself Today

Scripture John 15:18-27 – Bev & Peter Dickie

Sermon Love & Peace in Days of Hate & Violence

Today is, in the Church calendar, Trinity Sunday, celebrating and worshipping God in three persons, blessed Trinity. What does the minister of the word preach on this day? I saw three options (at least). A nice sermon just about the Trinity, working to explain the simple but inexplicable Father-Son-Spirit who is One God. Use a three-leaved clover. Or an egg with yolk, white, and shell. Or water, in frozen, liquid, and gaseous form.

Second, I looked at Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians and thought about how to examine ourselves, to test our faith. Maybe strengthening our faith in this way would be good for us. We could try out a ‘prayer of examen’ in the service. 

Third, take Jesus’ words about hate and Paul’s about agreeing peaceably with one another, and preach about love and hate in a divided world, filled with hate and violence. This is what was chosen. In light of world events, I needed to go here. 

Now, I like the ideals of peace and serenity. Perhaps you love these too. But our world is not filled with these, and you and I can only avoid conflict for so long. Paul dealt with conflict and opposition in Churches. Christ said His followers would face hatred. Let’s start with Jesus. 

John’s Gospel gives us so much of what Christ said to his disciples, in the week before His execution. At one point  He speaks at length about abiding in Him, and of loving one another (this is my commandment, that you love one another). Next, Jesus turns immediately to talk of hate. ‘If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.’ 

Love, and then hate. There will be hate, Jesus warns. Opposition. Enemies. What He calls ‘the world’ is that element in humankind that does not know Him and God, and attacks the good things of God. His ‘haters’ are about to get rid of Jesus, actually. The disciples don’t expect this; Jesus does.

It could be said (I guess it certainly has been said by others) that those who closely, very closely, follow the Way of Jesus will end up in trouble on earth like He did. And that was big trouble, wasn’t it?

Though I offered, online and in the bulletin, a communion service one month ago, I decided against it for today. Remember now, what we monthly remember. The suffering or ‘passion’ of Christ, and His death. The scenes you can read from John 18 and 19 tell of the successful torture and killing off of Christ. You may well remember this was not the first attempt upon His life. Yet there had also been attempts to acclaim Him as king, which He also had avoided. Check John 5:18, 6:15 & 7:1. While He was active, Jesus faced supporters and enemies at every turn, and some of these people clearly were switching sides! 

John’s Gospel preserves for us many words about people not understanding Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus’ talk here in chapter 15 is more of the same. “They do not know him who sent me.” He is speaking of people who do not understand who God is, and that Jesus is the Son of God.

We face the same challenges, when we ‘walk with Jesus.’ There is actual hatred of our attitudes and actions, and of us. There is misunderstanding of our motives, of the Source of the good we strive to accomplish. There are people who are for us, and against us, as well as the undecided and the confused. 

Jesus’ warnings about hatred are of comfort to us, in case we get comfortable & expect our Christianity to go well, when it does not. His message is echoed by Peter, when he writes, 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. (1Peter 4:12)

In this midst of his pep talk to disciples, Jesus speaks a few times of the Holy Spirit. Today, we read this: But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning. Here we find the Son, the Spirit, and the Father all on our side, supporters and guides of we who follow, we who have stepped out in faith to abide in Them, love Them, rely upon Them, and serve Them – the Trinity.

Well, this all can sound very inspiring… until we notice how people who are all supposed to be Christians, all on the same team, disagree and even hate!  From the sublime to the ridiculous, we believers still believe in disagreeing, and disliking.

Here is a cute example. A couple months ago, I noticed on Facebook two of my friends (they are from the same local church) posting things about the gasoline industry. It struck me funny, in a way, because they were opposite attitudes about one problem. First post that was shared:

Second Post, on the same day:  

We, quite naturally, have different attitudes. This is not even a serious example. Other disagreements arise that get us really stirred up. Ours is one of many congregations that could tell its story of having a row, years ago, in which members did not agree, and a bunch left the church. Windsor Baptist had a similar story. Parrsboro had faced something similar.

It is when we truly get hostile toward one another that the problems arise. Jesus’ speech about the haters was not about fellow Christians. It is the conflicts among believers that our other New Testament reading touches.

So, let us turn now to Paul, and a few of his words at the end of the letter we call Second Corinthians. This letter has some treasured verses in it (in Chapter 4, for example). It also expresses the stresses, and some kind of conflict, that had come between the little church in Corinth and their founding Pastor, Paul. From a distance (Macedonia), Paul writes to defend his ministry with them, and counteract the activity of some who oppose him there. “False apostles,” Paul calls them, and even (tongue-in-cheek?) “super- apostles.” But, by this time, Paul has received some good reports about the believers in Corinth, and seems happily relieved (7:6-7).

Amid all the strong language in these dozen pages, the letter ends with some final advice and traditional words of blessing. “Examine yourselves” Paul says. Pay close attention to your faith in Christ. He speaks of his frequent theme of strength and weakness. He honestly writes, “What we pray for is your improvement.”

I chose this text for today not for all this, but for the so-called trinitarian benediction, at the very end. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Today is Trinity Sunday, after all. But the civil unrest and calls for racial justice in the US & Canada have called for our attention over the past two weeks. 

If the words of Jesus, today, call us to face enemies with patient endurance, the words of Paul’s letter call us to be firm and clear and persistent with the truth. Including the truth that people matter, all lives matter to God. Paul spoke strong words at some length to his friends; he did so because he knew and loved them well. Our speaking out, acting out, standing up for someone, ‘taking a knee,’ protesting, writing a letter, or whatever action, will be more powerful and blessed the more we know those of whom we speak. Or those for whom we want our actions to speak louder than words. 

So, there is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate… (Ecclesiastes 3:7b, 8a)

I have never been an activist. Not been the sort to write letters to government, or join marches for causes. About the time I turned 18 years old, I had moved to a town to go to college. Back in the 80s, my mother was quite involved in the Pro Life movement, and she told me, that October, about a Pro Life rally happening on my campus, at the Chapel. Of course, she was suggesting I could go; it so happened she was not coming up for it. So I went. 

I don’t remember the rally being particularly important for me. I think that’s because I was not devoted to the cause. I knew about it – anti-abortion activity was in the news a lot back then – but it did not happen to be a cause I had invested myself in very much, as a teenager.

I don’t mean to suggest you not take part in some campaign or movement unless you are devoted to it. Taking part in a rally or march could be an important introduction to you – a closer look at an important movement in our society. I simply believe that Jesus will lead us into authentic activity that flows from deep in our mind and heart. The actions of others – prophetic actions at that – can inspire and instruct us. And we may become the next prophet in our own neighbourhood. Or the next great follower in a right direction.

And, as we may have seen today, we are to expect opposition, and be prepared for hatred, towards us, and towards those we support and/or follow. Christ, and Paul, will lead us to speech and action that is going to be clear and constructive. Sadly, the deep grief and hurt in crowds of people can too easily become nasty violence, as we see in the rioting and trouble of the past two weeks. When people are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” (Fanny Lou Hamer) they (we) can accomplish great and brave things, and they (we) can also accomplish great violence and vengeance.

The human responses to the terrible events of 2020 show us how we are made in the beautiful image of the triune God, and at the same time have fallen into failure. Here are just three disasters that are having a wide impact, with diverse reactions.

The outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus. Ongoing responses to this pandemic are good, bad and ugly.

Violent shootings kill 22 in Nova Scotia. The mourning and coping will go on. 

George Floyd is killed by a police officer in Minnesota. The response to this continues to flare up and intersects with so many other violent and racist events. 

It is a troubled world; this is to be expected. All the more reason for us to look to a ‘Higher Power,’ One who can do more for good and for human togetherness than we are capable of on our own.

At the end of his serious letter, Paul tells his readers to agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. My best and most basic hope for humanity is in this God, a God of love and peace. Strong promises about what is Ultimate in the universe. Love is a verb, not just a thing. “Peace, like war, is waged,” it is action.

There is a God of love and peace. A God I know in Jesus Christ, who sends the very presence of God, the Spirit, to us. Let the Spirit of Truth tell, once again, of Jesus, crucified and risen. Alleluia!

Offerings come in almost every day of the week – dropped off at the Church, the Parsonage, to the Pastor delivering bulletins on Sundays, and in the mail. Some of our budget each year goes towards the upkeep and expenses of the Parsonage. Last week, a repairman visited to fix the clothes dryer, which had quit. It was an easy fix… for $75. 🙂

Prayers of the People There are many ways our prayers become ‘world-wide.’ Today, add this prayer to all those of our own local community: http://worldinprayer.org/2020/world-news-in-prayer-thursday-4-june-2020/

Hymn Holy Spirit (Getty, Townend, 2006)

Benediction
Through the creative power of God,
the Word spoken in Jesus,
and the love the Spirit pours into our hearts,
may you be strengthened and filled
to do the ministry to which you are called.
AMEN.
(Ruth C. Duck, 1999)