Daily Prayer, May 16

Jeremiah 34:4 Thus says the Lord concerning you: You shall not die by the sword; 5 you shall die in peace.

Eternal One, whose days are without number, and whose sense of time is timeless: this day I remember that I am dust, and to dust I shall return. But mainly, Lord, I pray for those who face death. Someone right around me will die today, from my own community. I may not know them, but You do. For those who were expecting the end, may there be courage. For those who face an untimely end, may there be as much mercy as possible. For those who are losing a friend or neighbour in these days, may they have peace, and be a blessing to their departing loved one.

In the name of Jesus the Christ, may there be eternal rest for those who leave this live this week. Before the end, if there be any overwhelming anxiety or pain, by they be set free from these troubles. And then may each one ‘rest in peace.’ In the will of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Worship, May 15 – Exodus: a new path

WELCOME to this post for our ‘Family & Friends Service,’ May 15, 2022. Digby Baptist welcomes you to read and view these parts of our service. Full plan for the worship time is in the Bulletin, also here on our website.

SERMON: EXODUS: A New Path. So, Sharon and I are moving; we make our ‘exodus’ about two weeks from today. On Friday we spent the day in Amherst, in the empty house that is now ours; meeting a few of the staff, and other folk, at First Baptist Church; and touring the long term care home where Eric, Sharon’s father, will be moving soon.

Like any such transition, it takes time, it is a journey. The Bible stories called ‘Exodus,’ about fifty pages long, tell how an ancient ethnic group got their freedom. They wandered for forty years in the Middle-Eastern wilderness, on their way to a Promised Land. They were just beginning those forty years, led by Moses, when they received the Ten Commandments, pictured in our stained-glass window at the back.

We make a lot of ‘exits’ in our lives. In many cases, it is not just about leaving or getting away from somewhere. It is also about going to a destination, even when the end of the journey is mysterious. We all face changes. A wise, pastoral counsellor friend used to say, to ask, really, ‘are you making a change away from or towards? Are you making a change because you are trying to get away from something, or is it really because you are attracted to something else?’ Good question.

Our keynote Bible story today has in it a little sermon – the synopsis of one bit of preaching by the Apostle Paul, one day in Athens, Greece, almost two thousand years ago. Preachers often seem to look at this story as an example of good preaching, from one of the first great Christian preachers. Yet the immediate result is small: a few converts, two of whom are named here in this chapter.

Without going into depth to understand what this audience in ancient Greece was like, that day, it seems on the surface like this sermon could fit our age. With this beginning, I could make it my own sermon. 

Dear thinkers of Digby, I see how extremely spiritual you are in every way. For as I scrolled thru your postings and looked carefully at the sayings your share, I found among them many promises to ‘send prayers,’ to support those in crisis, and to stick only with those people who do not ‘take energy from you’ or do ‘serve you.’

What you do to connect in spirit, to give out blessings, and to do self care, I proclaim to you. All things are one, from the One who is our Source. And our Source can be met in Jesus, whose stories are right here, and who we can meet in mystical ways today.

Forty-some times a year I give a speech about this sort of thing. I often think of it in terms of ‘a new path.’ What is the next best step for you (and me) to take? I like looking at the big picture of our lives, but what can we do this week? Take the next good step.

Paul, we could say, is giving a New Path here to his audience. An exit from their religion, or philosophy, and the entry into a new way, what they called the Way of Jesus. This ‘Way’ is now a couple thousands of years old. It is a world religion like others: a huge tree with many branches, each one different from the others. At its core, it is about connection. Humans with the Divine, with God, and with the rest of things, including each other. 

Let me quote one of the great evangelists of the mid 20th century, Watchmann Nee. If you are expecting the usual ‘repent and be saved’ stuff, this may surprise you. What is required of a person to be on the right path with God? Nee wrote: We are not required –in the first place–to believe, or to repent, or to be conscious of sin, or even to know that Christ died. We are required only to approach the Lord with an honest heart. 

We come now to the single requirement demanded from us. Quite often people preach the Gospel to a person by using a number of “points,” only to find that the next day the person will say, “I have forgotten the third point. What was it?” Salvation is not a question of points! Salvation is not even a question of understanding or of will. It is, [as we have seen,] a question of meeting God–of people coming into first-hand contact with Christ the Savior. (Foster & Smith, Devotional Classics, 1993, pp. 324, 327)

A real change in our path, a new path, can come from a meeting. A connection. A holy moment, experience. But then it becomes a pathway when the rest of our lives are also on that track. 

No wonder the ancient Hebrews were given the Ten Commandments, and many other patterns for their community life. All of life matters, and is where people live with God. When we take a new path, make a turn with our lives and go in a new direction, it is all about our day-to-day living. It is not just about a new philosophy we have of the world, or some new beliefs we believe in. A real faith or philosophy of life touches how we live life. I am all about integrating these two. I have decided I need both. I need to study with delight plants and birds and lichens; and I need to pray together with people. I need wide open spaces and adventures; and I need dedicated buildings and worship gatherings. The overlap gives me more grace. This hour should be all about the rest of our lives. And all the rest of our lives is holy. For it is out there that we and God, Reality, Higher Power, do our thing. 

Author Richard Foster tells the story of a Russian spiritual director who was once severely criticized for spending an inordinate amount of time talking with an old woman about her turkeys. “Don’t you understand?” he responded, “this woman’s whole life is in those turkeys.” ‘So it is with us:’ writes Foster, ‘our whole life is in the daily, the ordinary. And we have a heavenly Father who delights in showing us that he is the God of the ordinary.’ (Foster & Smith, Devotional Classics, 1993, pp. 367-368)

Perhaps our time is like that of the people of Athens, long ago. Lots of sharing of information and ideas. Lots of debates and differences of opinions in society. Plenty of paths to follow, whether you want to pay attention to being a spiritual being, or not. 

You have choices for your life path, from today. How you pay attention to your purpose, your goals, your spirituality, is, I hope and pray, in your own hands. But there will be, from outside of you, the occasional intervention, a meeting, even a miracle.

Some of you might claim to be on a new path, right now, at least trying. Perhaps you are taking up more ‘self care,’ or doing something more in the community, or learning some new things, or developing a relationship, or seeking healing for something.

You who are our guests today: choose well your path this year. Be blessed.

You who are my people, of the congregation: choose well your path this year. Be blessed.

And You, the gathered Church: choose well the path you share. You are exiting an old reality, and embarking on a new path. Be blessed.

PRAYERS of the People. Today, let us share a prayer in which I will speak a sentence, ending each time with ‘we search for God,’ and then you can respond: ‘In You we live and move.’

Spirit of life, we have praised You, we have sat together under Your word, we have offered some things as gifts, we have sought guidance together; we search for God. In You we live and move.

Creator, after all our attention to You, now we ask, we seek help, we pray for people and places. We need attention. Our neighbourhoods need attention. Our world needs attention; we search for God. In You we live and move.

We pray for those known to us and those dear to us who are in distress. Those who need healing in body, those who need healing in mind and heart, those who need healing in relationships, those who need healing in spirit; we search for God. In You we live and move.

We pray for those facing terrible fires: our neighbours of Bear River First Nation whose Band Office burned, and the land near Yarmouth and near Upper Musquodoboit on fire; we search for God. In You we live and move.

We pray for women facing pregnancy amid the conflicts over abortion and the longings for life. The emotional power of our relationships and our human bodies is intense; we search for God. In You we live and move.

We pray for millions in this world caught up in violent conflict, in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, and several African nations, and more – let there be leadership for peace, and help for those surviving or fleeing; we search for God. In You we live and move. 

We pray, Jesus Messiah, for people of faith around us, and for ourselves. We believe; You, help our unbelief! And be a great Shepherd to us and to other congregations who are looking for leadership or making other big decisions; we search for God. In You we live and move.Such things we pray, ending with the words that come to us in scripture, from You: Our Father, who art in heaven…  AMEN.

BENEDICTION Love in all sincerity,
loathing evil and holding fast to the good.
Let love of the community show itself in mutual affection.
Esteem others more highly than yourself.
May the blessings of God almighty,
the Creator, the Christ, and the Charismatic Spirit,
be amongst you and remain with you always. AMEN.

Daily Prayer, May 12

Matthew 15:11 “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a person.”

Jesus, I draw close to you now. This moment of prayer: fellowship. My thouhts and words: a conversation. Let the things You spoke in scripture come to mind when needed, as part of You speaking with me. And may the Spirit even use the Bible to speak for my soul.

After all my years of life, teach me anew to speak well. Give me more patience and grace for those near me when their words are unkind, or rude, or lengthy and bothersome. Open my heart, Master, to understanding what someone else is feeling and needing, not just what they are speaking. And, by Your grace, help me be more interested in understanding than in being understood. Amen.

Daily Prayer, May 11

Ezekiel 34:16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak…. I will feed them in justice.

O Good Shepherd, there is so much guiding and protecting and gathering and feeding and controlling needed in human life. Be the Shepherd and Guardian of my soul, I pray. Sustain my whole self, my body, my relationships, and my whole journey in this life. Jesus, I would ask the same for others, so many others. I think in particular of people who need a lot of guidance and help right now.

Dear Great Physician, today is Nurses Week, so I pray with deep gratitude for nurses in many places, doing their work. I am so aware, Jesus, of how demanding this job is now, in Canada. I know many more nurses are needed. And I know You can send the Spirit to sustain and inspire those who do healing and sustaining work. Be the Good Shepherd of nurses this week. Amen.

Daily Prayer, May 10

Psalm 18:39 For you girded me with strength for the battle; you made my assailants sink under me.

I call out to You, today; You are my God and Holy Companion. Before I open my eyes, the light of Your presence is there. Before I take a step forward, You are there to ground me and to guide me. Before I speak up, and before I receive any message, You are there to make connections. Praise to You, Lord of all! You are my all in all.

Master, I have this life, and this new day to live. Thank You! I use it to bless others. I pause to pray and care for others. This day, World Lupus Day, I pray for those who face this particular autoimmune disease which gives pain and takes away energy, is hard to deal with and makes living hard. Bless those who work towards helping and healing. Bless those who strive with energy of body and of spirit. Help them win the battle today. Amen.

Daily Prayer, May 9

Colossians 2:9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority.

Holy God, who will fulfill and complete all Your plans: I praise You as a new week is starting. I adore You as grace flows to me. I seek Your wisdom as truth is offered to me. Glory, honour, praise and thanksgiving to You, mighty One, today and always.

Cosmic Christ, who is in all and over all and through all and before all and leading all things: as the old saints taught, You, Jesus, are completely God and completely a human being. So, You are something far better than the many other methods we people try to ‘be spiritual.’ You are like me; You are also infinitely more than me. You have power and authority over every spiritual power, every physical power, every economic power, every social or governmental power, every intellectual power. Yet, I must say, as I bow: Your showing Yourself and fixing this troubled world is a very slow process, very subtle, and not obvious. How long, O Lord? And how on earth are You really going to heal my world? It’s me, Jesus. Hear me. Amen.

Worship, May 8 – Genesis: a New Beginning

WELCOME to this post for the worship service for ‘Mothers Day’ 2022. Full service details and announcements can be found in the Bulletin, here on our website. After the service, some video clips will be included in this post.

SERMON: Almost two weeks ago, I was planning my final five sermons. I would call them Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. That same day, I was feeling under the weather, and tested positive for COVID-19. My final five became the final four messages! 

And it is just as well I did not preach last weekend, because on that Tuesday I got very frustrated and unhappy with you. Sharon and I were packing up the garbage and recycling around here, and what I found in the bins in the kitchen drove me wild! Ugh, I thought, after eight years, eight years here! these people still are a train wreck of recycling. 

Anyway, I cooled down, and got over it. “Gardez votre sang froid.” I’ve had more time to plan my preaching. Today, I have planned this Genesis theme: new beginnings. A new beginning for us church people is what is about to happen this year. 

Perhaps all the trash we keep putting into the world, our climate impact, our spreading of invasive species, and so forth, calls for a new creation, a new bang to start it all over again! It is hard to have hope with all the discouraging news around us. How can things be refreshed without crashing and burning first?

The timeless message of Genesis chapter one is timeless because it speaks of a newness that can happen again and again. God is a God of new beginnings.

There can be Genesis out of chaos: there can be a new beginning out of the dark. The famous first sentences of the Bible paint a picture of a chaotic realm where nothing much is. Only disorder and darkness are there, for the Spirit of God to hover upon. 

Into that unorganized void the Creator spoke. ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light, a good light. 

This scene gets at something that is deeply true about reality, and the God of it all. Light, goodness, order, can come out of dark disorder. ‘It’s always darkest before the dawn,’ we say. Out of chaos comes beautiful things.

On this Mothers Day I notice some mothering images in the Bible. I mentioned Romans 8 just a few weeks ago. To me this paragraph is exciting, but also mysterious. I’m not quite sure I understand it. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning together as it suffers together the pains of labor, 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved.

Somehow, this whole world matters. Matters to God. I know, we sing, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through,” but the New Heavens and the New Earth come together at the end of the whole story. And, as Paul seemed to think, the whole creation groans as if in labour, along with us, waiting for soul and body to be renewed.

Things are rather dark for creation, or so it looks to us. The collapse of the environment, including the climate, could well be a crisis. We people are so slow to change, to figure it out, to do what needs to be done and to stop what we need to stop doing. But may springtime around us inspire us. Remind us that the cycle of life is but a hint of the creation from chaos that started it all. The will to live, in all things, is great. It is from God. It will go on.

Here are some things I saw springing up in recent days…

Our main text today was from Acts, chapter 9. The famous conversion of Saul, who mostly gets called Paul. This is Genesis out of evil: there can be a new beginning in the life of wrongdoers

Now is perhaps like other moments we have known, when our faith in humanity is damaged. There are too many people doing too much wrong too often. Just this past week, the apartment next door to my parent’s house was raided by the police and a bunch of ‘troublemakers’ living there were taken away in handcuffs. Nearby, in the village where my cottage is, there was a murder committed. Yesterday, up in Parrsboro, where I lived 20-some years ago, theft of copper wire at two sub-stations put the power out in a third of Cumberland County!

And this is just the local news.

And these are the extreme cases of wrongdoing. Of course, our scripture is of Saul, quite a serious wrongdoer. No wonder the Christian fellow, Ananias, is reluctant to believe Saul is scheduled to get prayer and blessings.

You and I are all here at our various stages of recovery from sin. We worship because we know the One who has given us new life. There has been a genesis out of evil, a new beginning; maybe more than 1 new beginning for us. And we strive to have confidence in a God who can work such miracles in all human souls. 

I think of someone I know, and you know, who went through a dark night of the soul, twenty years ago. If she were here today, she could tell you how she got to a crisis point, dealing with the abuses in her life, her mental health, and the choices she had made. It was a make or break moment when she called out, wondering if God was really there. And God broke through to her. God was there!

That was Sharon White, and it happened to here while she was living in, of all places, Amherst, NS. Jesus, the Light of the world, breaks through in people’s lives.

This is a traditional “three point” sermon today. So thirdly, I’d say I believe in Genesis out of the faithful: there can be a new beginning in the life of a Christian

This we see in the story of Ananias, here in Acts 9. He’s a ‘good guy’ in the story, a disciple of the risen Jesus; yet he also has some learning to do, and a fresh conversion of himself. Ananias of Damascus is given a little mission: to go to a certain home on one of the main streets in town, to pray and bless a visiting man named Saul of Tarsus. Ananias seems quite alarmed! This Saul is well-known as an opponent to the new movement of Jesus followers. 

Ananias needs a conversion, and he gets it. He does respond to God’s prompting, and goes to this home where the enemy is staying, lays hands for prayer upon Saul, and speaks the promises to him. Saul then sees again. But Ananias also sees something new: more was possible than he expected. 

There is always more for us, as followers of Christ. We are always pilgrims on a journey. I think one of the great ‘spiritual formation’ texts in the Bible is from Galatians 4. The apostle Paul wrote to his Christian brothers and sisters to encourage them. Paul was very emotional, he wanted his friends to make progress! 19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you! Paul felt like he was trying to give birth to these believers, he deeply wanted them to be more and more like Jesus.

I must admit I have also had times when I’ve felt this way. I’ve longed for one person to study the Bible more, for another person to develop their ways of talking about their faith, and for someone else to declare themselves to be Christian by getting baptized. It is sometimes my job to be a spiritual midwife to other believers, as it was for Paul, and help Christ ‘be formed in you’ one stage more.

There can be a genesis for church people: a new beginning. As there was a new step of faith and action in the life of Ananias. He went ahead with his God-given mission to bless nasty Saul.

So for the ‘conversion’ of believers I also pray. ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’ Perhaps as you pray for me, my next chapter will also have a Genesis, and by some miracle I too will be better than ever before. Keep on praying with your life for the renewal of the earth, for the renewal of those who seem wicked or wrecked, and for the renewal of those who are Christians. Our Mighty God blesses all!

Daily Prayer, May 7

Genesis 15:5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Jesus Christ, my Morningstar, lighten my world today, I pray. It is a beautiful spring weekend. It is a new opportunity for life and blessing sharing. It may be the eve of a starry night, and time for rest. I give thanks for the beauty of the skies, Master. Not only is the sight wonderful to the eyes, the knowledge of what is up there and going on is mind-blowing! I am in awe.

Today, King of the Heavens, is Astronomy Day. With the sun and the moon and the stars I bow down to You, and take pleasure in joining all the rejoicing. I thank you for people who truly learn and teach about the things of the skies, and inspire me. I’m grateful for the artists and photographers and storytellers who share what’s out there. I am in awe that the world of spirituality is even beyond all this. Wow. Glory to you, Jesus! Amen.

Daily Prayer, May 6

Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Creator, I look to You today. May my prayerfulness simply be my friendship with You. Let me enjoy my life today, and also recognize that my life is not just my own – it is a gift from You, it is a gift from my mother, it is a gift of the earth and all that sustains me. Praise be!

Amid the gratitude, Master, there are upsetting things. Down in the USA the sudden controversy about abortion and human rights has exploded on the scene. There is such sadness, God, and anger, about the millions who are aborted around the world every year. There is such anger and sadness also about the role of women with their own bodies, and how to deal with the harm and abuse against them that is prevalent the world over. God of mercy, wisdom, love, and life: what is to be done? I sit back and might say my bit. You, show grace and give help to all pregnant women and the ones in their wombs. Amen.

Daily Prayer, May 5

Genesis 38:27 When the time of her delivery came, there were twins in her womb. 28 While she was in labor, one put out a hand; and the midwife took and bound on his hand a crimson thread, saying, “This one came out first.”

God who births all creation: holy are You, glorious Your ways and all Your gifts. Thank You for my life; I got birthed and raised and grew and matured. These spring days are so full of new life, I get recharged just seeing green leaves and hearing birds everywhere. Every year, earth is still full of surprises! This new day, I pray for people who are ill, thinking certainly of people I hear of each day now, sick with COVID-19. Bless, bless, bless.

Today, Master Maker, I give thanks for midwives, who for millennia have aided mothers in birthing their children. I pray for midwives in NS today, so little seen and heard, but so adored and appreciated by those who are aided by them. On this International Day of the Midwife, I honour those who do this amazing work. Amen.