Daily Prayer: Fri, July 30

Genesis 37:28 ~ When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

God, creator of all and lover of freedom, many scripture stories tell of of slavery and freedom. Today I give thanks to You for my own freedom, including the freedom from fear of so much; it is a real gift to me. As I go about my day, be the Guide and Guardian of my thoughts. May I not take for granted the endless possibilities I have. I pray for those who are not so free.

Master, today is the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. It is such a horror to learn about all the human trafficking that goes on, even in our own nation. So many people get caught up and trapped, enslaved in work that is terrible. Oh, that they might be set free. And oh that young people would be protected from the dangers that lurk, so they will never become victims of these crimes. In Your name. Amen.

Daily Prayer: Thurs, July 29

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.

Mighty Jesus, victorious over sin and death: as I live my day here, another olympic day in Tokyo has been going on, across the globe. Though it is joyful to celebrate ten medals for Canada so far, let there be the greatest joy over the achievement of playing each sport by each athlete. May there be continued safety for all, in the face of the ongoing pandemic, and the intense heat and humidity. May Japan be blessed as the world looks to Tokyo and to the hints of international unity and friendship shown at this event.

Today, may I strive to have ‘olympic’ faith, pressing on to the goal of the upward call of God in Christ. May my life today be more of what is possible, by the grace of God. Grow in me more fruit of the Spirit, that I may bless my circle of influence. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Prayer: Wed, July 28

1 Corinthians 12:15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.

Holy God, embodied in Jesus the Lord, today I thank You for my whole body, with its many parts, so many hidden and unseen. How incredible has been the making of me! Praise to You! In the face of illnesses and injuries of my own body, may there still be healing, and all the care needed to help me live each day to the fullest. And may You inspire me to do the best things to take care of myself.

Master, on this World Hepatitis Day, my prayers are for all who suffer with viral hepatitis, whose liver is affected by such diseases, those who develop cancer, and those who die. Across the globe more people will die this year from hepatitis than from AIDS or from malaria. With mercy and with power, equip the peoples to prevent the spread of disease, and to find paths of healing. In Your name. Amen.

Daily Prayer: Tues, July 27

Exodus 20:18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear.

God the living Fire: the experience of Your glory in days of old was so often by fire and smoke and wind. Today, even the morning sun in Nova Scotia was orange and hazy with the smoke from fires across North America. O have mercy upon the communities and woodlands that are burning! Bless those who must flee the flame and smoke, and bless those who must head straight into them, to put them out.

I pause to rest in You and appreciate the safety and the rains that have surrounded me this year. You, I thank, and join my voice to that of the birds and the waves and the breeze today – all creation praising You! Amen.

Daily Prayer: Mon, July 26

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. – John 13:31-35

God of this new day, Renewer of our souls, Giver of good news: thank You for this mandate Jesus gave at ‘the last supper.’ And I know He spoke and showed this lesson more than once: so many times! New every morning is Your love, and new every day is the lesson of compassion.

Show me the next step I can now take to be compassionate, kind, and loving. For people who have hate in their lives, may there be new caring and goodness. For people who feel isolated and alone, may there be friendliness and faith. For people who have been deeply hurt, may there the healing and wholeness, so lovingkindness can blossom again for them. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Worship – July 4: Victimize! Us In Spite of Them?

WELCOME; quite a bit of this week’s in person service is presented here in this blog. See the Bulletin for more information. Today, we receive a special offering for pastors Lori and Roy Bertaux, whose home and contents burned up last month. We also make Food Bank offerings on the fist Sunday of the month. The next posts for Daily Prayers and for Sunday Worship will likely not resume until Monday July 26th.

Revelation 21:3-4 John’s vision in Revelation envisioned this:

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

Opening PRAYER

PRAYERS of the People: Loving, holy God, we offer worship to You today, grateful that we, and so many others, are together again in physical fellowship, praising and lamenting and listening before You. We dedicate our offerings of money in the name of Jesus: for our Church work, for pastors Roy and Lori, for our Digby Food Bank. May these gifts be blessed.

Receive our prayers of love: deep love for those we care for who are suffering, those who are sick, those who face sadness and grief, those who are isolated or alone, those who are injured in body or in spirit, and those who feel trapped by their own sins.  

We offer our hopes and our questions about people we wish would get to know You, Jesus, and Your real power for life. What can we do to bless them, to guide them, to encourage them in Your direction? Hear our prayer.

And we offer prayer for the whole world.
Bless our nation, when we are unsure how to celebrate;
Bless those who mourn children who faced a terrible fate.
Bless the folk who left the church, never to go back;
Bless the faithful who are seeking to get back on track.
Bless our American friends on this, their special day;
Bless them in Florida as they dig, and mourn, and pray.
Bless the many nations troubled by COVID-19;
Bless the poor and needy who still have no vaccine.
Bless the places cursed by heat and drought this summer;
Bless the many peoples who are displaced by hunger.
Bless the terrorized and those in places where there’s war;
Bless us peaceful, stronger ones, so we’ll do something more.

In, with, for, and because of Christ. AMEN.

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12

SERMON: The stories of our lives are diverse and difficult and amazing. Every week, the stories of people’s lives are in the news, and new stories come to light that were hidden away. There is a lot of terror and tragedy out there. We get to rethink a lot of things we take for granted.

Such as going to school, as a child, a school that was safe and happy, close to home, and of my own culture. That’s what I had.
Such as freedom of religion. I had this also.
Such as traveling freely across borders of all kinds – across Nova Scotia, the Maritimes, across Canada, to the USA, to France, to Bolivia. That’s where I’ve been free to go in my first fifty years.
Such as clean running water, vaccinations and dental care, opportunities to go to college and to get jobs all life long. I’ve had these also.
Not so for everyone.

So we hear the voices of victims. We listen to their stories. We hear their laments. We come to terms with our own part in the systems that oppressed, and the privileges we have because others do not have them.
One of the sad realities is victimization, and when a victim becomes trapped in how they have been hurt. They become a victim: that becomes one’s identity, one’s attitude. ‘I am a victim.’ And one lives in that.
But we know Jesus, and Jesus wants to set victims free to live, and be more than just victims of what’s happened.

One of the New Testament preachers, Philip, once explained Isaiah 53 to a traveler who was reading that scripture. (Acts 8) Some great Suffering Servant is getting destroyed: who was it? What does this mean? Philip explained this is Jesus, the Messiah. The ultimate Victim. And yet, He does not live as a victim, does not go through it in spite of His enemies. He actually goes through His pain and humiliation for the sake of His enemies.

Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before the shearer,
so he does not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7)
He was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities,
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed. (Is. 53:5)

Jesus was the Victim to end all victims (to coin an awkward phrase). Christ leads the way through victimization, into freedom and healing and greater life.

It takes real work, and time, and cooperation, to make our way through a healing process – for ourselves or for others. The Spirit can guide, the Spirit can apply the victimization of Jesus to any other victim, and lead a healing journey for the spirit and the body.

For to stay a victim is unhealthy, and can be a real dead end. It can become a violent, bitter attitude toward others in this world we share. Pastor Sharon, my wife, really should be preaching this sermon, for she has a remarkable life story to tell about harm and hurt and abuse – and an incredible healing journey, filled with miraculous moments when Jesus intervened.

We explain the meaning of life by telling stories. I have spent six sermons talking about some negative stories that we might live by; yet God offers a better storyline for our lives. A better view of the world and what our Master has planned for us all.

Today, let us finish the story, the parable, by Gareth Higgins and Brian McLaren, the Seventh Story.

THE PEOPLE kept hurting,
and hurting each other

so a sixth story was created
that says if we can’t find peace, security, and happiness
by ruling the world or overthrowing the rulers
or withdrawing into isolation or getting rid of a minority
or by accumulating shining objects,
then let us never forget our sorrow,
or the pain others have caused us,
for no one has ever suffered like us

THE PEOPLE would make sure that no one
would ever forget that they were the victims
that their suffering was their very identity,
and that no one had suffered as much as them

and then, something new
a poet came to town
a storyteller who knew that
the DOMINATION STORY
the REVOLUTION STORY
the ISOLATION STORY
the PURIFICATION STORY
the ACCUMULATION STORY
the VICTIMIZATION STORY
were all destined to fail

they were destined to fail because they invited every human being, who is already interdependent with every other human being, and even with the earth itself, to pretend instead that we are in a competition

the poet knew how to build things like tables
where we could all sit and eat together
she taught that the people most oppressed by the six stories should be the most honoured
she taught that our differences aren’t a reason for shame, punishment, or exclusion, but instead, they are marks of what make us most lovable

she invited THE PEOPLE to join her in forming a new community where status would depend on service and domination would be replaced by equitable community
where revolution would begin in the heart and would lead to reconciliation, not revenge, transforming the process by which we live and learn
where deadening isolation would be replaced by rejuvenating silences
where we would learn from and celebrate folk on the margins
where we would share, not possess, and heal each other’s wounds in a new story of power-with not power-over
of collaboration not competition
of beauty not belligerence

the poet had a radical idea
the seed of a Seventh Story that will heal the world
the earlier six stories all claimed that the path to peace, security, and happiness was about WINNING
us over them
or us overthrowing them
or us staying apart from them
or us cleansing ourselves of them
or us having things that they don’t
or us being more important than them because of our competitive suffering…
but in the Seventh Story, the story of reconciliation, we still get to win, just not at anybody else’s expense
in the Seventh Story, human beings are not the protagonists of the world
Love is.

The Story of Love
it’s a story in which some of us know that our purpose is not merely self-interest but the common good
Some of Us For All of Us
(Gareth Higgins & Brian McLaren, The Seventh Story, 2019, pp. 8-46)

This story is inspired, of course, by the life of our Jesus, who grew up, as Isaiah 53 said, to be despised and rejected, a person of suffering, acquainted with grief. He absorbed punishment so there will be no such thing as punishment for us anymore. Though we wander like lost sheep out in the wilderness, Jesus becomes a sheep to be sacrificed, for us. He did no violence at all when His suffering came, not even with what He spoke.
This was the way of God for Jesus, and for us. To take away evil and violence and aloneness and pain and death. He experienced all of this, for us. Loving us.

So, out of His terrible death, Jesus saw light, light to shine upon us all, within us all. He did the right thing, to make us all ‘right with God.’
So He is great. We have worshipped Jesus again today. And we remember in a few moments His great sacrifice. With a simple little feast: by sharing bread and drink, with one another, with a whole world of believers, and with His Spirit today. Christ makes us one, in Him.
Now, let me end with the finale of the Seventh Story.

[another long pause]
they killed the poet, of course
the Seventh Story was too much to take for people with visions limited to the narrow circle of self

but the poet did not actually die
her story is alive, right now
the story lives wherever someone reveals the other stories as failures
the story lives every time someone lives for all of us
or offers a glass of cold water to a thirsty stranger
or a blanket for a naked person
or engages in sacred practices of friendship, lament & hope
the story lives wherever there are exchanges of power and gifts between the strong and the vulnerable,
creating community
the story lives wherever there are artistic endeavors that show us we’re not alone, and tell us where to go next,
and remind some of us to live for all of us

because there is no them. +
(Gareth Higgins & Brian McLaren, The Seventh Story, 2019, pp. 47-55)
AMEN.

PRAYER after the Sermon: Spirit of truth, Messiah who makes us one, God and Father of all: now, help us hold fast to the word You have shared with us, and help us forget the stories that were not from Your lips.
Make us good listeners to others, as they tell their stories. Make us good members of Your Church, as we take responsibility for one another. Make us good, so the world will be a better place.
Now, we prepare for the supper of the Lord Jesus. Open our minds to remember Christ. Open our hearts to receive all who are in fellowship with us in the world. Open our spirits to be nourished by the Spirit of Jesus. In His name. Amen.

Hymn # 783 ‘Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face’

RECEPTION of New Member: June Haight

COMMUNION

SONG # 843 ‘May the Lord, Mighty God’

BENEDICTION:

Daily Prayer, Fri, July 2

Luke 4:18-19 “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

O Timeless One, half of this year is now over. Let me count the blessings. O Life-Giver, the second half of the year has begun. Let me be confident in You. O Ever-Present God, today is my day to live, now is the moment to experience, I am what I am today. Let me live and give and receive well.

Mighty Master, this does not seem like a year of Your favour to many of us. it seems more like a time of trouble. For the rest of this year, I ask for help with balance in my attitude and my actions. Can I become more realistic and more positive at the same time? Can I become more generous and more grateful at once? To You I turn. Amen.

Daily Prayer: Thrs, July 1

Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

Creator, thanks and praise to You for this land, from sea to sea to sea! Creator, how good You are, meeting us day by day in each corner of creation! Creator, I raise my eyes to Your world of people and places, living things and long-lived elements: this is a rich world, troubled though it be.

Before You, this Canada Day, I acknowledge that I did not build this neighborhood that is my home, I stand on the shoulders of great and hard-working people of various cultures and languages who lived here before me. Now, inspire me, I pray, to be a good ancestor to all who follow me on this land. Help me, in Jesus’ name, to have a pro-future faith: a spirituality that leads me to be good for the earth and the people who will live long after me. Amen.