Matthew 5:23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.
Jesus, my Saviour, Teacher, Lord and Friend, I greet You today; I bow to You; I hear Your voice. Thank You for reconciling me to God, and for giving us a ministry of reconciliation. I pause to think about how I have been reconciled to You, how You have mended broken relationships in my life, and how I have served to bring healing between people in Your name.
On this day of Truth and Reconciliation, help my body to rest, my mind to listen, and my heart to learn. And, Jesus, may I discover what I can do to fulfill at least one of the ninety-four Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, from 2015. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. Amen.
Psalm 139:13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Saviour Jesus, I approach You today like a chick huddling under the wings of its mother hen. I cling to You today; I rejoice in the safety and security You offer, even when life is dangerous. At the same time, I am in awe that You are one of us, and yet are God. Born of a woman, You entered time and space on our terms, to be one with us.
O Master, the holiness of life is a challenge. From conception my life was amazing. And yet, each person, with their body, needs freedom and safety and dignity. The loss of unborn children is a disaster, too great to number. The loss of freedom and even of life for women is also a disaster. The abortion issue is no simple thing, Jesus. Oh, can there be compassion and freedom for every being? And, Lord, can I see and receive and respect another person’s point of view? In Your name, help. Amen.
“But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Holy One, the words of scripture teach me day by day. Yet I also praise You for speaking without words, without writing: simply by way of all the things around me. My circumstances show Your hand. All creation speaks Your wisdom. Beauty calls forth awe and worship from my own soul.
I think now of moments I have had in the forest somewhere: Keji, Acacia Valley Trails, the Rockies – wherever. The trees reach up through the years, the mosses carpet the earth, the animals roam and fly and swim according to their own schedule. Creator, may all things living be my teachers. I thank You for what I have learned from all the things that have emerged from Your creative love. As September ends with National Forests Week, I pray for people who manage woodlots, and those striving to protect our forests. Let the trees clap their hands! Amen.
Acts 15:2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders.
Holy One, our Maker and our Leader, I thank You on this new day for Your ‘guiding hand’ in all things. Were it not for the leadership of Jesus in my life, I would not be where I am today. I pray for people I know who really need some guidance and help right now: may You reach them and help them on a good path.
As a new week begins, may the Council of our denomination be blessed, the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada. As Brent, Doug, Rhonda and Peter guide our Council, may the whole group represent well all the Churches. May they be inspired by Your present work, O Master, going on all around us. And may I remember that I an not alone, not a lone believer, but I can be part of a local Church, Association, and the CBAC. Amen.
WELCOME to this post for Digby Baptist’s worship service of Almighty God. On the website here you can also find the whole plan for the service in the Bulletin, along with plenty of opportunities for prayer and ministry. Video segments from worship are included in the post each week on Sunday afternoon.
Sermon: Awe Someplace (Gen 27:1-4, 15-23; 28:10-17; John 1:43-51)
When does God ‘show up?’
Where does God ‘show up’ in our lives?
How has God ‘shown up’ for you?
The story of Jacob’s ladder can speak to our minds and imaginations about those awesome, special experiences of God that we have.
Twenty-five years ago I graduated from Acadia Divinity College in the spring, and in the summer began my ministry in Parrsboro, NS. My first sermon, on July 21st, was from this Genesis 28 text. I named that sermon, ‘How Awesome Is This Place,’ when I preached it at Parrsboro in the morning and Diligent River that evening.
For today, I was going to call this, simply, ‘Awesome Place,’ but changed the title to, ‘Awe Someplace.’ A moment of awe, of holiness, a ‘God moment,’ can happen anywhere, anyplace, often someplace we don’t expect.
To review the story that Ardith read, I think I can do no better than my twenty-five year old self, in that inaugural sermon. We heard a familiar story–that of Jacob and the stairway to Heaven. After his dream, Jacob said, “How awesome is this place!”
At this point in the story Jacob is fleeing, at least he is wandering. He had just tricked his older brother, Easu, and his father into giving him, Jacob, the birthright – the rights, privileges and property that the oldest son always got in their ancient society.
So here he is, a little bit lost, a little bit hungry, a little bit guilty, and he rests for the day. He lays down with his head on a rock. He should have expected a nightmare if anything, after what he’d been up to, and with a rock for a pillow. But the vision he has is not a bad dream.
Steps lead upwards, messengers of a heavenly court parade up and down, from earth to heaven and heaven to heart. This is Amazing! God is here!
How does God show up now? Where does the profound experience happen? As with Jacob that day, it is often in the midst of a crisis.
Let me go back in time again and tell you a little story. It was twenty years ago, right now, that I was going through a series of interviews in Windsor with the pulpit committee of the Baptist Church there. Each meeting was at the home of Millie and Eric. Eric was the chairperson of the committee, looking for their new lead pastor.
I went to Windsor, and in my twelve years there I got to know Eric and Millie very well. What wonderful people! Eric had been an insurance man, Millie a nurse. They were both delightful. Eric had this way of talking and telling stories & joking that, sort of, well, he started sentences but didn’t end them… you figured out what the ending was.
Anyway: very loving and devoted people, very active in the Baptist Church. Millie had grown up in Kentville Baptist, Eric in a United Church outside Windsor. How did they really end up at Windsor Baptist Church, I wondered. How did they really know God? They told me.
They told me the story of one of their three sons, Michael. They told me of his life, his marriage and young family, just begun. They told me of his illness. They told me of the time they spent with him in hospital.
I’m not telling you details – it’s not for me to tell – but they told me of this moment, when the end was near for their son, and the pastor of the Baptist Church came in. They told me of how close and real God was at that moment, and when Michael died, in 1988.
Some people lose a beloved one and feel God has rejected them, failed, maybe ain’t there. Other people profoundly meet God in that hard season.
You know these experiences. You have your own stories. You tell them. Things got very real and beautiful last Monday, at the Study Group, didn’t they? Our homework had been to write a letter to the Lord about meeting God in our lives. You shared your letters, your experiences. And sometimes, it was at the hardest moments of life that GOD WAS THERE. Someplace difficult, painful, challenging, you had a moment of AWE.
Or, it was in retrospect, looking back, that you saw the Presence of the Holy, Loving God. Hindsight is 20/20, we say.
So, when fugitive Jacob dreams of the stairway connecting the heavens and the earth, it was just at a crisis point, when he had earned no such privilege, nor asked for a sacred vision. And he responds with faith, with confidence. He actually makes a vow – this is in the verses after what Ardith read – Jacob declares:
the LORD shall be by God,
this stone set up as a pilar shall be God’s house,
I will give one tenth of what I receive back to You.
So, it becomes a matter for Jacob of personal faith, a matter of public worship, a matter of generosity and giving. He responded abundantly.
I saw this happen years ago – back in Parrsboro – with some people. So, one Hallowe’en, a friend and I got all dressed up in these scary outfits and went around visiting a few other folks, mostly from the church. At one home we stopped in at, their neighbours happened to be there: a young couple who lived across the road. They were quiet; we didn’t get well acquainted.
Six months later, the local funeral home called upon me to conduct the service for a man I’d never met. This deceased fellow was the father of the young man I’d met at Hallowe’en. Somehow, a connection was made with the son and his wife. They started coming to the church: every single Sunday. She was a Christian, and he became one. We celebrated their baptisms, they helped with many projects, they responded abundantly. They even fed me lunch on many a Sunday, after service.
Some of you have likely responded to special moments of the grace of God. You took new steps, you made new habits, you followed some new path.
Amazingly, it can be when people are in trouble that the Spirit shows up and something profound happens. “Surely the Lord is in this place,” exclaimed Jacob, “and I did not know it!”
We must remember that the ‘big’ meetings with God can be in locations one does not expect, or in circumstances that do not seem holy at all. Sometimes ‘in Church’ the miracles happen, but not usually here. More often it will be in all the other places. Out in nature; travelling; at a moment of illness or injury; at work; listening to ‘non religious’ music; reading something; having a random chat with someone.
So we learn to respect the spiritual experience of other people. And we need to show the younger generations that we respect what and how God will reach and touch them. It is also so important we respect the difficult times others have, especially when some say ‘it’s their own fault.’ Jacob was on the run from the trouble he’d caused when he got blessed. He was still going to be the carrier of a blessing for the world.
Awe, an awesome meeting up with the Holy One, will happen someplace or other. Any place. We are here today, probably not because this is a more awesome place, but we are here because of the awe we experienced someplace else. We bring that moment, that memory, that power to this shared worship of the One who blesses us all.
Now let me end with that Gospel scene of Jesus calling some of His first chosen disciples: Philip and Nathanael. They are a bit awestruck by this new, traveling prophet. What does Christ end us saying to Nathanael?
You will see greater things than these.
Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. (Jn 1:50-51)
You will see greater things. And they do.
I think, when I hear this, of something John later tells us Jesus said. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. (Jn 14:12)
Jesus has, as He put it, gone to be with His Father. From those Two we have the Holy Spirit, present now. Can we do greater things than were done in the past? Will we see greater things? I am still a believer in these. I am still looking, watching, and seeking these things.
There is awe, someplace.
Rejoice in it! Rejoice in our awesome God.
In a time of crisis, we see Christ.
In what kind of crisis have you met God?
PRAYER after the Sermon Let us pray. Mind at large, we bow in awe of Your presence, revealed in creation. We join with others in praising You.
Heart of our own hearts, we remember those deeply moving times when we knew You, and You moved us. Holy are You.
Spirit of life, we pray to be guided, we walk to be faithful, we give to make a difference in the world. Empower Your people.
In the name – the power and authority – of Jesus. AMEN.
Acts 15:4 When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.
Holy One, though You are available everywhere, I praise You for the moments that are special, the places that stand out as holy, the groups that are following Your way, and the occasions that are filled with Your Spirit. And, glory be!, when I heard stories from other people, I see that You meet them differently than You have met with me. For the diversity of faith experience I rejoice, Mighty God: Your ways are wonderful.
This weekend I am called upon to pray for the Second North River Baptist Church, near Salisbury, New Brunswick. May their fellowship, discipleship, and service in the community be encouraged and strengthened. May they be a light shining on a hill for Jesus. Amen.
Hebrews 2:11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.
Jesus our Brother, kind and good, with the light of a new day shining in my life, I know Your friendship again. I think about the many times You have been by my side. I remember the good advice I have gotten from You. I am grateful for the sense of Your closeness at times when I could have felt alone. I praise You, Master, for as with Your first disciples, today You still tell us You don’t call us servants, but You call us friends.
Saviour, this is National Big Brothers & Big Sisters Month, so I pray for this program that continues to link up youth with young adults for good friendship and mentoring. I also call out for vulnerable children and youth who have few mentors or mature friends to bless them. Let there be new opportunities; let me be a good friend and mentor to people in my community; let people see You as God the true family member. Amen.
Psalm 103:2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits— 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases…
Jesus, great physician, today I pray as I might often do for my own health. As You give protection and healing, You also give guidance on how to live in healthy ways. Aid me in following the good paths and good advice that are given to me. This week, perhaps I can take one good step in the right direction of diet, exercise, medication or treatment or therapy. Thank You, Master, for the opportunities I have right at my fingertips.
Son of Man, my prayers are for all the cancer situations out there today. Along with being Blood Cancer Awareness Month, September is also Childhood Cancer Month, Men’s Health Awareness Month, Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and Thyroid Cancer Month. It is overwhelming to remember all these things that threaten so many people! Release me from anxiety about what might happen in my body, and the bodies of loved ones. In Your mercy, You can reach into every life, every situation, every disease – known and unknown. I am grateful that You have no trouble handling it all. Help everyone of us to handle these health challenges. Amen.
Genesis 8:22 “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
A new season begins, and another ends, O God. Outside, it is a time of beautiful harvests and bright colours, of migrating birds and cooling skies. Thank You for the returning seasons, different as each year can be.
Even though these seasons are unceasing, changes in the climates of the world seem to be here to stay. Creator, make things clearer for me, so I can understand what is truly going on, and how much I am part of the problems and the solutions. I pray also for the people of the world, with many differing opinions about climate change and the environment. Teach and train us to listen to one another, respect one another, and work together: for the sake of this planet You, Master, have given us. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.
O God of love, O King of peace, this day I turn to You. On this United Nations International Day of Peace, I pray for peace. Let my prayer be an ongoing conversation with You. Let us talk about peace among nations and peoples, peace in locations where conflict has gone on for decades or centuries, peace among victims and perpetrators, peace in families that have fought and among neighbours who don’t speak, peace within me and within others we need more serenity or more fellowship with You, my God and King.
What is peace, Spirit of truth? And what makes for peace? On this beautiful, last full day of summer, all can seem so peaceful around me. Allow me to see something through Your eyes, some place that I can pray for, and build peace. And remind me, Lord, that ‘peace, like war, is waged.’ Set me to work. Amen.