Feb 28: African Heritage Celebration!

WELCOME to our annual African Heritage Celebration. This special event has always been an evening service, in the past, but this year we had to simplify and bring it into the morning worship service. Here, you will find some video from the event; the whole plan is in the bulletin for this Sunday, available here on the Bulletins page. Thanks to Deacon Myra Edwards and Rev. Linda DeMone for the special presentation, and to Organist Cairine Robertson for helping us plan the service. Thanks to Terry Gilbert for her artwork:

We begin with this Pat & Joanna Jarvis DRUMMING video, our ‘prelude’:

https://onedrive.live.com/?authkey=%21ADVtQMDZU9QpFVA&cid=49D059C9B7C9EF3B&id=49D059C9B7C9EF3B%211553&parId=root&o=OneUp

PRAYERS Creator God, we see Your work in ancient times to bring humankind to life, far away. The diversity of your people on earth tells us something of true creativity, awesome beauty, divine purpose, and holy love. And then there are all the other living things here! In Your amazing image we have been made, and can enjoy and understand so much. We praise You for all of life, and our place in it.

In this African Heritage Month, in Your holy presence we become aware of the wider history that is ours. We become aware of our white privilege and the need to celebrate the fact that black lives also matter, O God. You remind us that Jesus was not white.  We become aware of His message for all peoples and nations and languages and ethnicities: we can be one in body and in spirit. 

In this Heart & Stroke Month, we pray for all whose face heart disease or the results of strokes. We also bring the cares of our hearts for all those who are ill or injured, in body or mind. We continue in prayer for folks like Dwight and Bob and Dottie and Don and Richard who are recovering from surgery, and pray for folks like Carolyn, awaiting surgery or other important healing care.

Today, we intercede for our sisters and brothers of the African United Baptist Association, including our close neighbours of the Acaciaville Church. We pray for our friends of the JAC group who would usually be with us tonight – we miss them so much. Spirit of God, inspire us all, today, with stories and songs of justice, education, solidarity, joy and truth. May these be found among us as we draw closer together – in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

African Heritage Sermonette ~ (Acts 2:5-18) J G White. I chose this text for today’s African Heritage service. From Acts 2, the historic scene of Christian Pentecost. The Church gets born here. I chose it because of who was there, and how the preacher that day – Simon Peter – preaches, explaining the incredible scene. 

So, as I read these verses now, watch for these things:

  1. Who were the ethnic groups in Jerusalem for the festival who heard their own languages spoken.
  2. If you know where even a few of these diverse folks were from, imagine what they looked like.
  3. When Peter preaches from the book of Joel, listen for words that might resonate with people of African Descent here in Nova Scotia.

Acts 2: 5-18

This month I read a good book I got as a Christmas gift. Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation As An Exercise in Hope. (2020) It is by Esau McCaulley, PhD, an assistant professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. McCaulley points out that 

A fundamental criticism of Black Christianity is that it is an alien thing, an imposition of the white man through the persuasive power of the whip and the chain. (p. 96) McCaulley, with detail and persuasion shows that black and brown people are in the Biblical story. They are they from the beginning, not to mention so many ethnic groups. 

So I see in the Pentecost scene the great diversity of people included from the start. 

  1. Who was there, in Jerusalem, on that day of prayer and power and preaching? We might not be sure even how to pronounce them all, but we might recognize Mesopotamia, Judea, Asia, Egypt and Libya. Egypt and Libya: this is Africa. People visiting Jerusalem from these northern parts of Africa were in on the first day in history of the Christian Church. 
  2. So, we may not think of Egyptians looking black. Didn’t they all look like those thin white people on the stone artwork of the pyramids? No. Egypt is at a crossroads, at the one land route into Africa. And certainly to the west, Cyrene in Libya, was also definitely part of Africa, and inhabited by diverse Africans. 

When these folks heard some of Jesus’ apostles speaking in their own languages, Peter explains it using the prophetic book of Joel. “God declares, I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh… Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.” So Africans, Romans, Asians, and Middle Easterners are welcomed into the new fellowship of the Holy Spirit of God, that day. And the promise was coming true, Peter exclaimed, that even male and female slaves would be blessed and be prophets for God. So, slaves, and people from Africa, have been Jesus’ people, from the beginning.

KAMALA HARRIS – Presentation by Deacon Myra Edwards

EARLY LIFE

Kamala Devi Harris was born on October 20, 1964, in Oakland, California. She was reared in a predominantly African American neighborhood of Berkeley, and sang in a Baptist choir. Kamala’s mother, emigrated from India to attend the University of California in Berkeley, where she met Kamala’s Jamaican-born father, Donald. Kamala’s mother obtained both a master’s and doctorate degree and went on to have a career as a biomedical scientist. Her father became a Stanford University economics professor. Her mother also ensured that Kamala and her younger sister, Maya, maintained ties to their Indian heritage by raising them with Hindu beliefs and taking them to her home country every couple of years.

Kamala said that her parents met during the civil rights movement and would frequently take her and younger sister to civil rights marches, as a multi-racial American and the child of two immigrant parents, Kamala learned at a young age that the country she called home was not always friendly to its citizens of color. Kamala recalled visiting her father in Palo Alto after her parents divorced and being told by a neighbourhood child that she was forbidden from playing with Kamala and her younger sister, Maya, because they were black. While in elementary school she was bussed to an almost entirely white school in a different district as part of a federal attempt to desegregate schools, something Kamala said made her feel like an outsider.

EDUCATION
In 1976, five years after her parents divorced at the age of 12, Kamala’s mother accepted a teaching position at the McGill University Faculty of Medicine in Montreal. Kamala, her mom and younger sister moved to Canada where she finished elementary school, then attended and graduated from Westmount High School. While living in Montreal, Kamala learned French and even started a dance team at her high school.

After graduating, Kamala moved back to the US where she pursued a degree in political science and economics at Howard University, one of longest standing Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the country. During her time at Howard, she became a prominent member of the campus debate team and pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha (the first Black sorority ever created, whose origins began on Howard’s campus). After completing her degree at Howard, Kamala went on to obtain a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law where she served as a president of its chapter of the Black Law Students Association.

DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY
Kamala subsequently worked as a deputy district attorney (1990-1998) in Oakland, earning a reputation for toughness as she prosecuted cases of gang violence, drug trafficking, and sexual abuse. In 2000, she took a job at San Francisco City Hall where she ran the Family and Children’s Services Division representing child abuse and neglect cases.

It would be in that role, and subsequent positions, that Kamala prosecuted a number of controversial three-strike cases whose harsh sentencing has been the subject of much public criticism. The Three Strike Law, which was first established in 1994 as a part of an aggressive nationwide anti-violence strategy, enforces mandatory life sentences for repeat offenders. A number of states have adopted some form of a three strikes rule that seeks to punish repeat offenders, but California has been widely criticized for its particularly harsh enforcement of the law. Under California’s controversial three strikes law, any person who has committed three felonies, which includes crimes like arson, robbery, drug possession and firearm violations, can received a life sentence. Despite the fact that the law was meant to be applied to violent repeat offenders. Even though Kamala has consistently faced criticism for prosecuting people under the three strikes law, she has defended her actions several times. During a radio interview with The Breakfast Club Kamala said that she “would never apologize for saying that when a child is molested or a woman is raped or human being kills another human being that there should be serious consequences for that.”

DISTRICT ATTORNEY
In 2003, Kamala defeated her former boss, Terence Hallinan to become San Francisco district attorney making her the first person of color ever elected to that position. Her accomplishments in this role include the launch of the “Back on Track” initiative that was designed to help low-level offenders get a fresh start by providing them with education and job opportunities.

However; during a time when the public has become increasingly aware of the violence that police officers disproportionately inflict on people of color, it’s jarring to learn that Kamala opposed a bill that would require her office to investigate shootings involving police officers as well as refused to support body-worn cameras. She has also been reluctant to commit to defunding the police.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

Kamala continued her political ascent by beating Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley for California attorney general in November 2010, making her both the first African American and the first woman to hold the position.

Kamala quickly made an impact in her role by pulling out of negotiations for a settlement from the country’s five largest financial institutions for improper mortgage practices, eventually scoring a $20 million payout in 2012 that was five times the original proposed figure for her state.

Kamala also made waves for her refusal to defend Proposition 8 (eliminates the right of same sex couples to marry), a 2008 California ballot measure that was deemed unconstitutional by a federal court. After the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an attempt to appeal the ruling in 2013, Kamala officiated the first same-sex marriage in California since Proposition 8 was initially enacted.

Additional accomplishments include a successful lawsuit against the false advertising of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges chain, as well as continued legal pursuit of the classified advertising service Backpage, which led to its CEO pleading guilty to facilitating prostitution and money laundering.

PERSONAL LIFE

Kamala married lawyer Doug Emhoff on August 22, 2014, in Santa Barbara, California. She is the stepmother of his two children, Ella and Cole, who affectionately call her Mamala.

U.S. SENATOR
In November 2016, Kamala handily defeated Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez for a U.S. Senate seat from California, thereby becoming just the second African American woman and the first South Asian American to enter the Senate.

Kamala has since joined the chamber’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Select Committee on Intelligence, Committee on the Judiciary and Committee on the Budget. She has supported a single-payer healthcare system and introduced legislation to increase access to outdoor recreation sites in urban areas and provide financial relief in the face of rising housing costs.

Kamala has also made a name for herself from her spot on the Judiciary Committee, particularly for her pointed questioning of Brett Kavanaugh, who faced accusations of sexual assault after being nominated for Supreme Court justice in 2018. And when clips of her persistent and unwavering questioning went viral, it was clear to many that Kamala’s impact on the world had only just begun.

Kamala again made headlines and proved that she was a force to be reckoned with when, as part of the Senate Intelligence Committee, she confronted Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a 2017 hearing about his contact with Russia during the Trump campaign. Her anger and distrust towards the Trump administration was anything but concealed. Having a firsthand look at how things were being run in Washington as a Senator fueled a fire in her to really make change in her country.

2020 PRESIDENTIAL RACE

On January 21, 2019, during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day interview on Good Morning America, Kamala announced she was running for president in 2020 (debate). She stood out as one of the top speakers of the first Democratic primary debate in late June, garnering headlines for taking Joe Biden to task over his history of opposing federal busing for school integration.

She found herself a target of attacks during the second debate after candidates began poking holes in her idealistic healthcare plan, and bringing up many of her controversial decisions as attorney general, her popularity began to slip. In early December 2019, Kamala announced that she was withdrawing from the presidential race.

PRESIDENTIAL RUNNING MATE

On August 11, 2020, Joe Biden announced that he chose Kamala as his running mate. “I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked Kamala Harris — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate,” Biden said. “Back when Kamala was Attorney General, she worked closely with [my son] Beau. I watched as they took on the big banks, lifted up working people, and protected women and kids from abuse. I was proud then, and I’m proud now to have her as my partner in this campaign.” 

Through her friendship with Beau, she got to know Joe.

“I’m honored to join him as our party’s nominee for Vice President, and do what it takes to make him our Commander-in-Chief,” Kamala said. This made Kamala the first Black woman and person of South Asian descent to be nominated for a national office by a major party. She is also the fourth woman in history to compete on a major party’s presidential ticket.

Despite reservations about Kamala’s past as a prosecutor, her road to becoming the U.S. vice president-elect has been historic, and for many, the future is a hopeful one. “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities,” Kamala said during her November 7th victory speech in Wilmington, Delaware.

BOOKS
Kamala published two books in early 2019: The Truths We Hold: An American Journey reflects on her personal relationships and upbringing, and Superheroes Are Everywhere, another memoir rendered in picture-book form for kids.

She first became an author in 2009 with Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer, which explores her philosophy and ideas for criminal-justice reform.

Feb 21: To Do Good & Be Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O that we might see some good…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was disappointing, but we moved on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Good Samaritan Was a Muslim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O LORD, who may abide in your tent?

Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right…

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

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

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

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

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

Feb 14: for Spiritual Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet that would be His real glory

At that crucifixion, a terrible disaster is a miracle.

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

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

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

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

Let us   pray.

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

Long have we sought You. 

Bright Your presence has been in our midst!

Our knowing You has become personal and powerful.

You have empowered us to do new good things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb 7: For Healing & Miracles

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

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

Why Church? Why are people in the Christian Church?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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