WELCOME to this worship post. Sermon text, and some prayer, is here, plus video segments from the service at Digby Baptist. The full service plan can be found in the Bulletin.
Memorial Moment for the late Nelson McCullough
For years now, going back at least to when I arrived here, Nelson and Dottie have arrived on Sundays here bright and early, and found their way to their usual pew. Two of the first to arrive every week, and two of the very faithful, during this recent COVID time they have been absent. And then we lost Nelson. Back in March he entered our local hospital, and in just a few days he died. His quiet presence no longer seen among us. The usual places we would see him around town, no longer knowing his familiar face.
I believe it was just family members who gathered at a cemetery for the final farewell for Nelson McCullough, so today, we in his Church, pay tribute and give thanks for him, and pray for Dottie once again.
Scripture tells us Jesus said: (Matthew 5:3-10)
May we be comforted again today.
May the meek and the humble be welcomed by God.
May there be peace, and the promise of heaven for us.
Let us pray.
God, Giver of life, we give thanks for Nelson today, these months after he left us. Many had not seen him for a while, in these days of so much isolation. Now we praise You for everything we remember and cherish about him. May all that was good about Nelson live on in us.
Our prayers are also for Dottie, that this time of living alone may be blessed by You, loving Master. Sustain her own health and well-being, and comfort her in this season of change. Bless, we pray, others of Nelson’s family, and his circle of friends. We honour his memory by thanking You, God, for his life among us. In the name of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. AMEN.
PRAYERS of the People God, with all the critters of creation we speak our own praises today, worshipping together and seeking to be true.
Holy Spirit, on this eve of All Saints Day, we praise You for inspiring us by those who have gone on before us. We pray now because a small group is going out to shop for a digital piano this week. Guide and inspire us as we work to make a good decision. We give thanks again for the late Vince McCarlie, who provided funds for us to update our keyboard instruments.
Jesus, our Redeemer, it is also the eve of our international Baptist Women’s Day of Prayer. May all the women who gather tomorrow, or at other moments, be filled with Your Spirit, inspired in their praying, and empowered to serve anew.
Among us here in Digby, Eternal One, we bless Marie Woolaver today, who has probably been coming to this house of worship for about 99 years! As she begins her 100th year, may she be strengthened for each day, inspired to share her wisdom, and encouraged in the face of any and all challenges.
Generous God, bless, we pray, our Winter Clothing Give-Away. We rejoice in all the hats and mittens and coats that have been accumulating for months. Now bless our workers who prepare for the day of the event: may each item bless each recipient.
Forgive us, we pray, when we pause our compassion to protect ourselves, for the moments we have been too proud of the self- serving work of our Church, and for our caution that is unwilling to take risks for the love of people in need. Cleanse us from such neglect and error, we pray, as we look to the cross of Christ.
Our praying is for dear friends in need…
And for the world we pray. For Sudan, where the military has seized power; for Haiti, where gangs are blocking ports and cutting off fuel shipments; for Iraq, after an attack killed eleven people; and many other troubled situations we hear about.
From this house of prayer, hear us again, and from this room, send us out to keep on praying, keep on doing good, and keep on being Your Church, seven days a week. AMEN.
Holy House (1 Kings 5:1-5; 8:6-13, 22-30; John 2:13-15, 20-21) Today, part five of this five part series on the local church. To end: Holy House, not haunted house – though that was a tempting title. For we could easily stretch the phrase to mean the presence of God the Holy Spirit in a house like this one.
Thank you, St. Paul’s Reformed Episcopal Church, for building this building, in 1876. Nine years later, the Digby Weekly Courier reported this: (September 6th, 1885)
The Reformed Episcopal church has been purchased by the Baptist congregation of this town, who feel the need of a larger and more commodious place of worship.
The building was put up in 1876 at a cost of about $7000, as a place of worship for a congregation in connection with the R. E. Church, and the Rev. Mr. McGuire was the first minister called. …His successors were Mr. Fury, Mr. Lavell, and Mr. Adams, none of whom ever attained to the popularity enjoyed by Mr. McGuire.
Being thus unfortunate in the ministers sent to them, the congregation became gradually dispersed and broken up. The church was finally closed and has remained so for the last three or four years, excepting its temporary occupation during the summer months by the Presbyterians. The Baptists have got a very nice church for the small sum of $2000 and are to be congratulated on the acquisition.
Religious buildings – ya gotta love em… and hate em. On Thursday morning, here in this room, we had quite a few visitors, for the memorial service of Donna Baxter. Some remarked about how lovely this place is. The same morning I noticed, after a day and a half of heavy wind, the latest patch of shingles that came off the west-facing roof!
And there is the challenge of a congregation being, primarily, a group of people with certain work to do, and not be a group tied to a certain building. How often does a shrinking congregation refuse to leave its building, refuse to join another church, or refuse to keep going after they sell the building? I mean, twelve people can be a Church; they don’t need to own property! Yet it seems that every single time, the church just dies. (I could be bold and call this suicide.) Better to die than go on without a building, apparently. Very sad – very common.
A decade or more ago, in the Windsor Church, I was teaching about this, and emphasized the confusion we have with the word ‘church.’ Church can be an event, a Sunday morning event, say. “Is church over yet?” ask the children outside in the hall at one minute to twelve. Church can be a building. “The Baptist Church is at the corner of Montague Row and Mount Street.” But, in its best use, Church is a group of people. So I told the Windsor Baptists to call Sunday’s gathering ‘worship’ or ‘the service,’ but not ‘church.’ Call the place the ‘church building,’ and call us, the people, The Church. 🙂
Of course, there is a long, biblical tradition of special, grand, ornate, holy temples for religious purposes. The big tent in the wilderness with Moses and the Israelites – the Tabernacle; the first Temple built by Solomon; the second Temple – a rebuild of the old, begun by Ezra and Nehemiah. Not to mention the various shrines and altars in various towns and wilderness places, mentioned in the Old Testament. This first Temple, built under the guidance of King Solomon, took seven years. Read back in 1 Kings chapters six and seven for all the incredible details about the quarried stone, the lumber from the cedars of Lebanon, plus cypress and olive wood, the gold that overlaid so much, and so on. It is awesome to imagine it… if you like that kind of thing.
Today is Reformation Sunday – remembering the outcry against the Church’s corruption, failures, and it’s money making, back in the 1500s, for such things as the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. 504 years ago today, Martin Luther tacked his 95 complaints against his Church to the door of a church building in Wittenberg.
The problem then was not new. Look way back to the building of the Hebrew Temple in Jerusalem. 1 Kings 5:13 -14 tells us: King Solomon conscripted forced labor out of all Israel; the levy numbered thirty thousand men. He sent them to Lebanon, ten thousand a month in shifts; they would be a month in Lebanon and two months at home; Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor.
The Temple, in Judaism, became a glorious thing, and an ideal looked back upon after it was destroyed and gone. The remnants of the second Temple today, in Jerusalem, are considered holy. How interesting that the visions of John in his Revelation include a new Holy City from God, yet John says, And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. (R 21:22)
Our sense of identity today, as a Baptist congregation, is like many others around us. We are a people closely tied to our building. Does it serve us well? Does it serve God’s mission in Digby County? Or do we serve our building? Let not the tail wag the dog! Let us not be enslaved to it. Perhaps the limitations of our pandemic have been training us to be Church, and even to worship, when gatherings were not allowed, or simply are not the same as before.
Last fall, as the pandemic continued, Anna Robbins, of our Acadia Divinity College, had a dream; I call it her Firefly Dream (Nov 25, 2020 facebook post)
I had a dream last night. I was walking through a neighbourhood in the dark. It could have been any neighbourhood. Everywhere around me were fireflies, lighting up the night. Fireflies on the pavement, on the bushes, the grass, flying in the air. It was wondrous, magical. When I awoke, the thought on my mind was this: As we are scattered from worship, each of us carries the light to our workplaces, neighbourhoods, homes and backyards. It is wonderful, magical, and God’s gift of grace. We shine like never before! Leaders, forget about the fancy footwork to make an impressive production right now. Your focus is to feed the fireflies so we can burn brightly, as God has scattered us for mission.
Let me give three points at the end of this little sermon. There is a proper pride and care of a building that is a house of prayer for the people. People can have a sacred building, with its special features and attention to detail. In ch. 9 we can read the visionary answer Solomon gets from the LORD God: “I have consecrated this house that you have built, and put my name there forever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time.” So let us care for this tool.
There must also be purpose for having and using a building dedicated for worship and ministry by the faith community. King Solomon’ s prayer of dedication, and God’s answer, illustrate all the prayers and blessings that were the purpose of the Temple: the building stood as a meeting place of the human and the divine, and a way to focus upon the blessings of God. So let our building be for Divine human fellowship, not merely for us and our man-made projects.
So, there must also be protection against the dangers of becoming too attached to the building. Or, becoming distracted by saving ourselves or pleasing our own egos. There is another telling of the story of the building of Solomon’s Temple, in 2 Chronicles. When God answers Solomon there, in chapter 7, we find these famous Divine words: “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” The secret of success with an incredible worship centre is all in the people, not the building. I am the Church, you are the Church, we are the Church together.
We will pause one more time for a short interview with a local believer. I will have a conversation here with Shayne Moore. Before we do, let us pray.
PRAYER after the Sermon This is the place where we pray, where we learn, where we love, where we leave to serve You. Saviour, train us well, correct us, and make us keep the main thing as the main thing: Your life among us. AMEN.
INTERVIEW with Shayne Moore: Welcome, Shayne! You are the fourth of our weekly guests this month to chat with me about the theme of the day. We’ve had an active Church member, a couple active non-members of Digby Baptist, and you are one of our members who actually worships with a different Church.
Today, we’ve been exploring worship buildings in the Faith. Shayne, I wonder, first, if you have any questions for me, or something you’d like me to explain more or say more about?
Second, what are some of your own thoughts abt Churches and our buildings?
Thirdly and finally, I wonder if you could tell us about some sacred experience you’ve had that was not in a ‘holy house’ at all.
Thanks so much, Shayne, for joining us today and sharing these things with us!