Daily Prayer, April 30

Psalm 150:1 Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty firmament!

What is is about praise, O God, that it automatically comes out of me? Why do I need to appreciate good things, enjoyable things? And why do I need to say something? Was it just because I learned to do this from my family and society. “Please and thank you,” we are taught and we teach. They are “the magic words,” so to speak, and they sure do make life kind and polite.

And then, Master, there is all the praise of You. The worship built into my church life. I praise You ‘in the sanctuary,’ in the room with pews and a pulpit. More than this, I feel inspired at other times to praise You in the sanctuary of the woodlands, or the beach, or the hilltop. My whole world is holy ground, and everywhere I can lift my soul up to You. Alleluia! Amen.

Daily Prayer, April 29

Psalm 149:3 Let them praise his name with dancing,
making melody to him with tambourine and lyre.
4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
he adorns the humble with victory.

Lord of the Dance, I hear the call to lift up my heart and move my body, rejoicing in You, my Saviour. On this International Dance Day, I remember the joyful moments when Your great blessings we celebrated. Song and dance live in every world culture; may I find my own ways to worship you with my body and soul, today.

On top of this, it is incredible for me to think that You enjoy us – You take pleasure in me. Remind me, day by day, that You are ready and waiting each morning and each moment to spend quality time with me. You, Holy Spirit, want to dance within, and also to rest and abide with serenity. You, Perfect Parent, want to be pleased with Your child. Forgive the ways I hide from You, and pretend that You are not there. Open the path of joyful fellowship. Amen.

Daily Prayer, April 28

Genesis 12:5 Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan.

God of Abraham and Sarah, You are the sending God. I praise You for showing and guiding and protecting and planning for us all. I pray today for people who are making a move, or are still settling in to a new place. And for those who are wondering and pondering a change, or simply waiting for one. In the housing crisis I intercede, Lord. Help those who are looking for a home, for an apartment, or for a place in long term care. In the name of Jesus, who often had no where to lay His head, I pray for the homeless today.

Now, show me, Master, how hospitable I am to those who are newcomers to my neighbourhood. Take me the next small step toward having a generous welcome and a genuine interest in people, rather than a suspicious curiosity. Grow in us all a love of strangers. Show me again how You care. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Daily Prayer, April 27

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.

Prayer for Kind Speaking

by Jan Phillips, 2016

Be my speaking, You, the Word
that tells no bitter lie,
shape my lips in such a way
that only You get by.

Take away my anger,
cast out all my need to blame,
let my words be comforting,
a balm to someone’s pain.

Let me not forget the power
of words to soothe the soul,
let my stories be a fire
to lost ones in the cold.

Be my words, come flood my mind
come drench my every cell,
till the thoughts beneath my words
rise up form You as well.

Daily Prayer, April 26

Genesis 19:18 And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords; 19 your servant has found favor with you, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life; but I cannot flee to the hills, for fear the disaster will overtake me and I die.

Holy Spirit, my living, loving God, to You my heart turns today, seeking a graceful connection with You. Whether I am at rest or on the move, stay with me, guide, and keep be grounded in good things, Lord. I am grateful for the blessings I count today.

I realize, all-present God, that many people are on the run, even fleeing. The folks in and from Ukraine are on my mind, of course. Every blessing to them! And yet today is Chernobyl Remembrance Day, on which, in 1986, the nuclear power plant disaster begin, in northern Ukraine. The fleeing from the area began and continued for a long time. The long-term radiation effects are still ongoing, mighty God. Today, let there be comfort and hope for all who grieve, who remember, and who strive to make life as healthy as possible. Amen.

Daily Prayer, April 25

Exodus 8:17 Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and gnats came on humans and animals alike; all the dust of the earth turned into gnats throughout the whole land of Egypt.

God of creation, I rejoice in another spring day. Every week many new things are arising from the ground, buds breaking open on branches, and birds arriving in the land. Your world still teems with life, and I breathe in Your blessings! Thank You.

With all the living things bursting forth, there are pests, Lord. We people joke about how two mosquitos were allowed onto Noah’s ark, but these bugs are mostly just an annoyance for me. On this World Malaria Day, I pray for the many millions of people who live where malaria is a threat, spread by mosquitos. Hundreds of thousands of people die each year, Master, and I intercede for those who work to protect people and heal them. Let this disease not be forgotten among the other threats that get more attention. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Worship, April 24 – The Desire of Every Living Thing

WELCOME to this post for the Sunday service of the United Baptist Church of Digby. Full service plans can be found in the Bulletin, here on our website. Along with the text of the sermon and a few other things, there should be some video from the service added Sunday afternoon.

Sermon: The Desire of Every Living Thing. Happy belated Earth Day! For about the past decade I have taken note of this annual observance that began the same year I did. And though I may seem to be hinting that this sermon is about the Earth and caring for all that’s here, I’m not really going there today. On this ‘second Sunday of Easter,’ I am looking for inspiration. Inspiration from the word of God in scripture, and the word of God in nature.

 A Psalm prescribed for today, number 145, had a phrase in it that caught my eye. ‘The Desire of Every Living Thing.’ Earth day, or other moments, even Spring itself, often can celebrate every living thing. When we celebrate them, what can God say?

There are many lessons from life, I mean, from living things. Two summers ago I preached a series of Old Testament parables, stories we don’t often seem to mention; remember? The Trees Elect a King, The Two Eagles and the Vine, The Thistle and the Cedar. Jesus’ better known parables may come to your minds: The Mustard Seed, The Sower and the Seeds, The Man with a Hundred Sheep. 

There can be other lessons from life, from living things nearby. Job once spoke to his visiting (and debating) friends:

7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you;

    the birds of the air, and they will tell you;

8 ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;

    and the fish of the sea will declare to you.

9 Who among all these does not know

    that the hand of the Lord has done this?

10 In his hand is the life of every living thing

    and the breath of every human being. (12:7-10)

We have the long, spiritual tradition of God keeping everything alive, every creature, of which there are billions. And we are also sustained. And all these things can reveal stuff from God, from the Spirit just behind everything. Today, instead of the Bible trees and animals, what critter might you choose to hear a lesson from? From which organisms around here would you seek a parable? Tell me.  (The mayflower? The seagull?)

I chose other critters. Today, let me spend some time with three. First, the hummingbird. 

From the Hummingbird learn its lesson… when the season is right, they leave Central America and fly to Eastern Canada, travelling far, as their ancestors did. So for you: go the distance to feed on Christ and be a disciple; don’t stay doing the same thing all your life long.

Perhaps you see your life like that of a hummingbird. You still have to do a lot, and you keep doing the same thing, over and over again. Well, that is a part of life. But may there be for you the opportunity to make the most of the different places you flit and fly and soar and strive. 

From the Hummingbird learn its lesson… It drinks from the many flowers that show themselves to it as the season goes on, and as it travels widely. Many wise teachers, and saints with testimonies, can inspire and instruct you: make use of them all. You likely do.

Because of what I am doing with my life, I look to other Baptist Ministers to inspire and lead me. It’s just natural. I don’t really like telling stories about pastors, because I am not preaching to pastors – well usually only to one or two among all the rest of you normal human beings!

There have been a number of Baptist ministers die recently. (We’re dying off all the time!) (John Bartol: All the good men are dying, and I don’t feel so well myself!) One of them who dropped dead, as I said a couple weeks ago, was a strong influence on me, a true mentor and friend. When I was young, I actually copied him, for a while. I went to his funeral on Thursday. 

Another Pastor became more of an adversary, though he wanted to help and mentor me. It was his teaching that was not to my liking, and some of my views displeased him a great deal. I watched his celebration of life on Friday. 

Both these sorts of people are important in my life. Both nourish me, train me, test me, grow me. Thank God for both of them, and everyone in between. 

Here’s a third parabolic saying, though really a bit of a joke we may have all heard before: From the Hummingbird learn its lesson… when you don’t know the words, just hummmmm. 🙂 

Psalm 100:1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. It’s the ‘make a joyful noise’ bit that is a Christian cliche. You know, the folks who are not known for singing. When there is a big enough crowd in the pews, and all are singing a familiar song, the ‘joyful noise’ people can pipe up: no one will hear them. 😉

When I say ‘just hum,’ I mean, worship anyway. Praise your way. Join in however you can. It’s God’s command for you, yes. It is also God’s delight. Make the Master happy. Give God something to smile about. When the saints go marching… around… join in that number. Don’t merely be a spectator. Let your soul sing. 

Let’s move on to another live organism. One of my favourite local swamp plants, Eastern Skunk Cabbage.

From the Skunk Cabbage learn its lesson… when it is still winter, the flower buds create their own heat and melt their way up out of the frozen, muddy earth. So use your energy, the energy God has given you, and rise up to bloom! 

Do you have any such energy? Do you think you do? I know, you could be at a low ebb. But your inner Source, the fiery Holy Spirit is there. The miraculous skills you’ve been given, he wisdom and knowledge planted in you, these are still all there to warm up and grow up and blossom, even just a bit. Every bit counts. 

I remember those words of ‘eager longing’ in Romans 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God… And, 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now… I think of the swampy skunk cabbage plant, in the month of March, doing its chemistry and creating heat, thawing out the ground and snow above it. As if it is longing for, working for, patiently headed to give birth to a bloom and a fresh flush of leaves. You can bloom too!

From the Skunk Cabbage learn its lesson… it is not named after the skunk for no reason! Every part of the plant – flowers, leaves and fruit, stink. So be strongly scented, in spirit, but with the aroma of Christ. 

Are you familiar with this bit of the Bible: words of Paul in his second letter to Corinth? 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. What an interesting image. (Can I call it an olfactory image?) 

People at this time of year seek Mayflowers, and find them. Sometimes, you can smell them before you see them. A year ago some fellow out west asked locals, by way of social media, if anyone here knew where they could pick some to get them to his mother, living at Tideview Terrace. I volunteered, and had them delivered to Lillian Burke. She enjoyed the mayflowers, just one month before she passed.

When is our aroma, our aura, our area giving the strong hint of Jesus – Jesus is near?

From the Skunk Cabbage learn its lesson… it grows its roots deep into the swamp, and when needed, the roots pull the heart of the plant down deeper, where it can flourish and grow. (True. I’m not making this up!)

Though the plant stinks to us, the deer browse it, and black bears like to dig and eat it up. Research has actually shown that the plant, that looks like a big hosta from your garden, has long, stringy roots that will reach down, then shrink to haul the base of the plant deeper into the mud. Thus it grows bigger, stronger and more secure. 

To be deeply rooted is a common phrase to humanity. What more could I say about it? Except, perhaps, the how-tos. How to be deeply rooted in Jesus. Well, that’s a sermon for another day. 

For now, one final organism, the Lichen, and just one new, sacred saying: From the Lichen learn its lesson… though it looks like one leafy thing, it is a hidden, perfect partnership, between a fungus, and a plant, and maybe a bacterium, and perhaps another mould, or more! So be a partner, be a team player with diverse people; cooperate, and be changed by your connections in the name of Christ. 

Greg Jones spoke of this yesterday, didn’t he, at our Association meeting. Dear Church, be a partner with others, with other groups in the community. Get creative. Do something more with, say, the North Range Art Club, or the Admiral Digby Museum, or Turning the Tide, or the Food Bank. We will even become different by doing good work together.

When we speak of these lichen organisms, we use the biology term ‘symbiosis.’ This is a close, cooperative relationship that truly helps, even creates something new. Teamwork: think teamwork. Or, as I said at Bear River East yesterday, associate together. Find out what associating together can look like, and what God will do. 

To conclude, let me tell you how I pondered this Psalm 145 phrase: You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.  I wondered what to emphasize. 

‘The desire of every living thing.’ Each single creature?

Or, ‘The desire of every living thing.’ Everything, all of them, together?

I know, I was playing with words, but that’s what we do when we meditate, ponder, imagine, wonder, pray the scriptures. ‘The desire of every living thing;’ what does everything want? All living things together, in a heap, what do they want? And us with them? Together, what are we seeking? Needing? Creating, with our Creator?

This may be the greatest lesson from God’s creation: the togetherness of it all, the teamwork, the integration, the constant connection. On the purely human level, remember that Jesus prayed that we may be one, as He and Father God are One. Now that is oneness. 

The desire of every living thing for the food and all they need – let us join them and know what we want, as a group. We want togetherness, and all that it brings. 

No wonder Bible images of heaven are filled with every living thing together, in harmony, without violence, perfected. Someday, the Psalm will come true:

My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,

and all flesh (everything with a body) 

will bless his holy name forever and ever. AMEN.

Let us   pray. Jesus, Master, risen from the dead: every life, every year, every day we seek vitality, goodness, purpose. May these hopes and plans we have pondered be guided by Your Spirit into our hearts and our actions, when they are within Your will. And wherever we have gone astray in our thinking, lead us out. In Your name. AMEN.

Daily Prayer, April 23

Revelation 2:3 I also know that you are enduring patiently and bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary.

Mighty God, it truly has taken strength for me and others to remain active in Your Church. Sometimes it has been You who have been patient and energetic when we truly did get weary. Today is a day before worship day; I thank You for Saturday. May I be energized for gathering with the faithful on Sunday, and praise the name of Jesus.

Even though it is Saturday, it is the day of the annual gathering of our Baptist Association Churches. Today we gather at the Bear River East Church. May all of us, these more than thirty congregations, sense we belong to one another; and may we be all the more: teammates for all the Good News there is to share. Amen.

Daily Prayer, April 22

Matthew 6:9 “Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven…”

Today, an Ojibway prayer:

Look at our brokenness.

We know that in all creation
Only the human family
Has strayed from the Sacred Way

We know that we are the ones
Who are divided
And we are the ones
Who must come back together
To walk in the Sacred Way

Sacred One,
Teach us love, compassion, and honour
That we may heal the earth
And heal each other.

Daily Prayer, April 21

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, to You I turn quite often, seeking healing and help in the lives of many people. Even while I declare You as the ‘healer of every ill,’ I know there are many times a person is not healed. Let Your benefits be plentiful for all who suffer or are troubled today, I pray.

Master, in this Parkinson’s Disease Month, I pray for all who face this disease in their bodies. May the elderly be encouraged, and those younger who suffer with this be strengthened. May caregivers be blessed, and all the medical folks and researches be guided and supported in their work. Life goes on; show Your love, I pray. Amen.