The Last Post… from outgoing Pastor Jeff White

Today, not a prayer or a service, but a bit of fun: the song parody Jeff shard Sunday afternoon at the Farewell Gathering for him and Sharon White. In order to follow his pilgrimage to Amherst, NS, over the next three weeks, go his his blog online:

Now I’ve heard there was a secret Word
that Jeffrey preached, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for sermons, do ya?
Corinthians fifteen, forty-fifth
The Adam fall, the Jesus lift
The scattered souls are gathered Hallelujah
Hallelu Jeff, hallelu Jeff, hallelu Jeff, hallelujah.

Maybe there’s a choir above
And all I’ve ever sung of Love
Is Sunday hymns and Choir, Bethlehem Journey
It’s African Heritage night
It’s the Men’s Choir and Silent Night
It’s a bold and it’s a golden Hallelujah
Hallelu Jeff, hallelu Jeff, hallelu Jeff, hallelujah

Baby I’ve hiked here before
I know these trails and I’ve walked far more
I’m used to living plants and birds and fauna
I’ve seen the lichen’d basalt arch
Nature’s not a mere ‘resource’
It’s a bold and it’s an engrossing Hallelujah
Hallelu Jeff, hallelu Jeff, hallelu Jeff, hallelujah

There was a time to let you see
What really helps the refugee
The family was Rima’s and Shekrallah
Sharon fund-raised and broke even
The thousands raised were seventy-seven
And every twoonie can was Hallelujah
Hallelu Sharon, hallelu Sharon, hallelu Sharon, hallelujah

Your Church was strong but you needed proof
You saw the shingles off the roof
The beauty of this mansion overthrew ya
She tied you to constant repairs
But break free and be brave to dare
And look outside for what God can do thru ya
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.

You say I took the new vaccine
I wore a mask, I preached on screen
But still I was so limited to see ya
There’s hope for touch and love restored
It doesn’t matter what ya feared
The Holy One has spoken Hallelujah
Hallelu Jeff, hallelu Jeff, hallelu Jeff, hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
Did God reveal? Did Jesus touch?
I sought the truth, I didn’t come to rule ya
And even though our time’s all gone
I stand before you with this song
And nothing to regret, just Hallelujah
Hallelu Jeff, hallelu Jeff, hallelu Jeff, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

Worship, May 29 – Deuteronomy: a Final Sermon

WELCOME to worship for this Lord’s Day, among the people of the United Baptist Church of Digby. Today we say farewell to Pastor Rev. Jeff G. White and Licentiate Sharon White. They arrived in June of 2014, and now move to Amherst, NS. They give hearty thanks for these years of life and ministry shared together!

Full service plans can be found in the Bulletin here on the website. Future prayer days and Sundays may not have a post here for some months, until a new, permanent Pastor is called.

PRAYERS of the People: Devoting ourselves to You, we pray, Holy God. We have prayers and songs that speak our love of You, our gratitude for good things, our trust in all You are and all You do. For showers of blessings and answers to prayer we give You thanks, Giver of all good gifts. And before the Saviour, Your Son, we are humbled once again.

Interceding for one another we pray. For all who are facing illness or pain, day by day, we pray. We call out again for healing. We plead for hope and comfort. We ask for strength in the face of grief and troubles people face. As You answered in the past, dear Master, touch them all again, today.

Growing in spirit and in our actions we trust You to do more improvements in us. Sometimes we feel we should have made more progress by now, in our lives. Today, be our guide. Today, encourage all who are discouraged. Today, show us how we support each other.

Beginning anew we pray for the world in need. There are millions of new beginnings needed around the globe! Spirit of Gentleness, come in power to help the suffering, aid the refugee, feed the needy, set free the enslaved, and empower the downtrodden.

Yearning for forgiveness, for healing of our souls and our memories, and for answers to our questions, we have come to You, Living Lord. As you, Jesus, show us the Way, we pray for all who need an opening of the heart and a saving of the soul. Give answer to the many questions people have, and give Yourself again to us. 

These things we pray, in Your power, and to Your glory. AMEN.

SERMON – Deuteronomy: a Final Sermon. Deuteronomy: these thirty pages in your Bibles present themselves to us as Moses’ final speeches. The old leader is on the verge of dying, near the border of the Promised Land. So what does Moses do? He goes over their whole history and teaching, one more time. Moses’ final grand sermon, this is Deuteronomy (which means second law).

I give my final sermon to you now. A few things you’ve heard before that could bear repeating. Remember.

  1. If there is any encouragement from Jesus Christ for you – and there is! – soak it up. God is love. All we need is love. Love covers a multitude of sins. Tap into the great love that is available. Love one another, as I have seen you do already. You share the same Spirit – that holy presence that inspires you to keep asking questions about life, to make sense of it, to look for answers. You all share this. No matter how very different you are from one another, you share the great flow of the love of God.
  2. Make my joy complete. Be together. Be one. Make the decision every week to be a team, and not to neglect one another. Notice those who are newer to the family. Forget not those who are out of sight and out of mind. As I’ve said before, one of the greatest miracles today is for human beings to be united. Religion is a miracle. People still getting together for worship is special. You are a rare minority; you are precious. You choose not to be alone. You choose to give yourself to the others. It’s beautiful.
  3. Grow your humility, and become real admirers of everyone around you. I was remembering recently that every person I meet in the course of a day is a gift. A gift to me. A gift to the world. At least, I could act like this is true. Did I treat them like this? Remembering how valuable they are? Could I focus upon them, instead of me, whileI was near them? Well, just because I seldom do this, I can still start afresh, and get trained to do better. Each encounter a lesson in loving someone else, instead of just me. Remember what Maggie wrote about Mike? Those locals Mike respected, helped, befriended. I know many of you know how to do this also. We’re getting set free from our own petty conceit; praise God!
  4. So look to the interests of others. Here we are, Church, this is the school of love, divine love, agape. It’s a trade school, really: very practical, day-to-day skills. The bits of classroom stuff and book learning are to aid the living of our lives. Goes all the way back to the Children of Israel. In Deuteronomy 6 is the shema, ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One.’ ‘Shema Israel, Adonai Elohim…’ And what learning aids did they have? The Commandments, the Word. They recited them, sang them, put them on bracelets and upon their foreheads. The young ones were taught lessons, and then saw it all put into practice from day to day. How to treat other people: these are the lessons of Love.
  5. So let the mind of Christ be in you. Moments ago we sang a version of the Christ Hymn from Philippians 2. This is one very special piece of Christian scripture. You can take John 3 away from me, Genesis 1, or Psalm 23, but please leave me with Philippians 2. Whoever Jesus is, whatever Jesus is, the Mindset of Christ can be in us. What does this mean, the mind of Christ. Well, Paul is about to quote the song to tell us. I can remember times, in my young life, when I really had people I admired, and what did I do? I copied them. I tried to enjoy the things they enjoyed, do the things the way they did them, read the authors they quoted, hang around the people they knew, I even dressed a bit like they dressed. Like a three year old copying what the grown ups do and say, we follow the ways of Jesus, and therein is the heart of our mind training.
  6. Ah, but Jesus did not count equality with God as something to be grasped or exploited. Isn’t that one of the big teachings of the Church, through all the ages? Jesus IS God. The Son of God is equal with God the Father, and God the Spirit. Yet, with the most powerful humility, Jesus came to be one of us, not to be GOD. Some of the prophets and kings of old, with great power or wisdom or whatever, they let it go to their head. Solomon the wise made a mess of his married life. David the great King also. Even Elisha the prophet used his power to have some children killed off by a bear attack after those kids teased him! Jesus let go of all power and pretense. That was extraordinary humility.
  7. So Jesus emptied himself. He became a slave to the whole world. A mere human. Yes, a human being is an amazing creature. But in the grand scheme of things each one of us is just one little speck in the flow of time and earth. Dust you are, and to dust you shall return. In one breathing bit of clay we meet the Divine One, in Jesus of Nazareth, of an ancient time and place. We think of Him as wonderful, and so amazing. Sure. Thankfully at Christmas and Holy Week we remember Him: God as a mere human.
  8. And He dies. Paul’s hymn says this was obedience, the pinnacle of obeying. We could say that the rest of us have to obey this. Billy Graham used to say that the death rate in America has been remaining quite high. 100%! You and I must obey mortality. So did Christ. Plus, Jesus obeyed his route of truth and compassion, which set him at odds with so many, who had him executed. We all have this part of us that reacts against Jesus and the way of peace and love. We play our part in rejecting. And while we kill Him off He prays, ‘Forgive them; they don’t get it.’
  9. Next, death is not the end. Not the end of the story. God exalted Him and gave him a title and a reputation above all others. This is how the world works, my friends. Our reputation with God is our real reputation, our true standing in the world. One of my favourite authors quotes a friend of hers who wisely said this about people’s opinions: “What other people think of me is none of my business!” I think that’s very cool. Oh, to be totally free of everyone’s judgments about me. The whole Jesus story is telling us that God thinks very highly of us, counts us very precious, and just won’t give up on us. That opinion matters.
  10.  So, in the end, knees will bend. Bowing down is not a common practice, certainly not in a Baptist Church. Anglican and Catholic Christians have some bowing habits. We kneel only in the words of our songs. One of my very favourite old hymns says, Angels help us to adore him; / Ye behold Him face to face; / Sun and moon, bow down before him; / Dwellers all in time and space… (H. F. Lyte)
  11. So, do confess Jesus Christ as Lord. Put this into your own words. Put it into practice. Declaring it by your baptism years ago was great, but keep on declaring Christ. You know the other actions that point to the Saviour. They are humble actions. Give generously. Speak well of others. Give really good answers for why you live as a Christian. Be a bringer of healing among people. Speak the truth.
  12.  And, work out your salvation ‘with fear and trembling.’ I must thank you for the privilege of being allowed into your lives, to meet your souls, and with you to struggle with the angel of God, like Jacob did, for a blessing. The struggle is real! And it will go on. I have to let go now, and see you fly on your own, with all your other helpers, but not me. I so want your next pastor to be really good, and take much better care of you than I did! For your funerals and weddings and baptisms I will never again minister to you here. In my absence I must trust you to the Holy Spirit’s care, and those placed in leadership.
  13.  So I know God is at work in you for truly good things. Not that I imagine some happy-go-lucky future for you. I don’t. But I see an incredible God taking pleasure in you, happy with you, the people. 

I have now told you nothing new, not one thing you have not heard before. I have simply spoken deutero-nomy, what’s been preached already. But it is new, because it is Good News. To me, you have been Good News people. May God bless you always to be Gospel People. 

In the name of the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

FAREWELL LITURGY: Church Keys Dear Joe, I will no longer need the keys to this corner of God’s Kingdom, for Church ministry. I return the keys to this building and the Pastor’s Study, for you will have new ministers to serve among you.

Membership List  Dear Marj, I give you this copy of the members and adherents of the United Baptist Church of Digby, not that I have been the record-keeper, but I have been a soul-keeper. My ministry to all these people, and the whole community, is completed today.

Music Book Dear Cairine, the joys of worship have been great for me here, among you. I give you this music book: it happens to be organ music, given to the organist here in 1924, when the instrument was new. You all will keep singing your praises and making musical testimony, once I take my voice & plans away.

Computer Dear Children, I give to you the computer – actually just the power cord for the laptop we use here. All these tools are yours, and you have the power to use them in new ways without me.

Church Register Dear Bonnie & Stan, when I was new here, I got to participate in your wedding ceremony. This year I conducted my final wedding in this place, and final funerals. Rejoice that such ceremonies will continue among you, with powerful grace & hope.

Water Pitcher Dear Wendy, it was a great joy and a privilege to baptize you here, as you declared your faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Baptizing is no longer my work here, but it will always be the work of this Church, helping people have faith and follow Jesus.

Communion Tray Dear Heather, it has also been a privilege to conduct the Lord’s Supper right here, and share Holy Communion at Tideview Terrace and in other homes. Now, this sacred service will continue in my absence, while my fellowship with the saints here shall remain dear in my memory.

Bible Dear Barbara, the reading and study of the Holy Bible has been central to me, and the foundation of all my work and worship done here in the name of Jesus. May you all continue to ‘read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest’ the scriptures, to the glory of Jesus in His Church.

BENEDICTION: May the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, rest upon us and all our work and worship done in His name. May He give us light to guide us, courage to support us, and love to unite us, now and for evermore. AMEN.

Daily Prayer, May 28

Philippians 1:12 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the progress of the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard[g] and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ

Spirit of grace and freedom, I thank You today for the great freedom I have, freedom to do so many things, go so many places, be so much. And in Christ my soul is free also. Praise to Jesus! The stories of faithful people who have lost their freedom is inspiring to me, and also challenging, Lord, because I take for granted the liberty I have.

Mighty God, on this Amnesty International Day, my prayers are for people who are not given the same human rights I have. There are millions who are not ‘free’ as me; help me to understand, to know, and then to speak up for those who are not treated well. Grow my understanding of human rights, and how I can do my small part for justice and freedom in this world. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Daily Prayer, May 27

2 Chronicles 7:13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain or command the locust to devour the land or send pestilence among my people, 14 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.

Creator, God of all life, I thank You for the springtime. As a weekend begins, people are rejoicing in the foliage and flowers and birds and fish. Even in days of rain I thank You that all is provided, the earth is watered, the season warms up, beauty and life prosper. Despite the environmental crises and challenges, life goes on.

But as I go outside, I face the little pests, and these can be serious. Lord God, May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and the ticks certainly are now plentiful. They even cause fear and keep people from going out in the wild places. Bless with strength, comfort and healing those infected with Lyme. Teach us to live out in nature while managing the problem. And remind me, dear God, that many people in the world face far worse infections every day. Have mercy upon them. Amen.

Daily Prayer, May 26

John 3:17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Holy Jesus, Christ in me: the Word tells me there is no condemnation now for those who put their trust in You alone. I bow to You, thankful for the powerful mystery of salvation. As You once explained things to Nicodemus, explain to my hart today the hope and the path, afresh.

I confess I know my own ways of condemning others… and even condemning myself. I judge often, and so am judged. Master, show me how this comes back to bite me, and let me see the ways I am projecting my own self criticism onto others around me. The language of sin and guilt is so deep in my religion. It is rooted in the Bible, yes, but You speak ‘peace,’ You speak ‘yes,’ You reconcile, You speak ‘I do not condemn you.’ Speak again, Lord, for Your servant is listening. Amen.

Daily Prayer, May 25

Jeremiah 31:15 Thus says the Lord:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.

O God, Heaveny Father, Eternal One: a voice is heard again, now in Texas, with the loss off to many lives in a school. O God, have mercy! Hear the cry of the people. Hear the intense grief. Hear the anger. Hear the despair. Hear the pleas for help. I know that I cannot stop such violence in the world. I know that I can’t stop it in my own province. But what can I do, Master? How can I help one person from becoming violent? How can I protect the innocent? How can I comfort those who mourn, at a distance?

It is not enough to pray and leave it all in ‘Your hands.’ It is not enough. What does it take to be a person of peace? To be a citizen who calms the waters and is all for healing the hurts that could lead to violence? What does it take for us to be a human family, a team for safety and serenity? Come, Holy Spirit. Come as the wind and renew. Comes as the stream and refresh. Come as the fire and purge. Come as the dove and be present. Bless, O God, bless. Amen.

Daily Prayer, May 24

Leviticus 19:10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner.

My God, You are rich in mercy, I turn my heart to You. Rekindle my desires, this day, for what is really valuable: fellowship, sharing, praising, giving. I turn my thoughts to You now, in a prayer. Let my actions follow. God of all nations, I look to You as the Father of all peoples. And so, Jesus is Brother to all, and all are my kindred. Even now, in springtime, as I enjoy the speedy growth of all plants, I see they are my sisters and brothers too: the trees, the herbs, the birds, the beasts, the bugs.

So help me remember, this week, those closest to me: the humans. Especially those in need. Sometimes, Master, the need is hidden. Sometimes it is clear to me. Some of those in need are within my sight, and some are far away. Yet I can do things to benefit them all. May I not be wasteful of food this week, and find some way to provide for others. May Your grace and power be upon all the workers of the local Food Bank. May hunger fade and flee from the land. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Prayer, May 23

Esther 4:14 “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”

For some, dear God, today is another day of rest and gladness. Let folks be safe and grateful for a holiday. Others are at work today, Master, and may they be encouraged in all they do. I thank You for the privileges that provide what I need, and afford me extra times to rest and relax and enjoy some hobbies.

God my King, on this Victoria Day I worship You, giving thanks for rulers and authorities who have responsibility to lead and even to inspire. May Your goodness and guidance be upon Elizabeth our Queen, Justin our Prime Minister, Tim our Premier, Ben our Mayor, and all in authority. An yet, Almighty One, this is but my own nation and place in my prayers. Let these leaders have their influence upon others in this world, that peace and joy by increase for people beyond my town, and outside Canada. In the name of Jesus, Prince of Peace. AMEN.

Worship, May 22 – Numbers: Sharing God’s Grace

WELCOME to this post for divine worship at Digby Baptist Church. Full service details are available in the Bulletin, here on the website.

SERMON – Numbers: Sharing God’s Grace. Numbers. Numbers are interesting. One, two, three. One hundred. 3.14159. Six six six. A billion, a trillion, a googol.  I’m surprised at how I enjoy watching math videos on Youtube, even though all the math how-to I learned forty years ago is now forgotten. 

Numbers. Numbers are powerful. Numbers of people. A family, a community, a church, a cultural group, a nation. Digby Baptist is, officially, a couple hundred people. Digby town is a couple or 3 thousand. Amherst is ten thousand. 

Numbers. Numbers is important. The Biblical book called Numbers. It tells more of the story of the ancient Children of Israel, in the wilderness, led by Moses. The book begins and ends with a census; hence the name of the text, ‘Numbers.’ 

In chapter eleven we have this story, about a number of leaders who were chosen to help Moses – seventy elders. Filled with the Spirit, they were. But a couple of fellows were not with the rest, yet still they prophesied, spirit- filled. A tattle tale told on them, to Moses. Moses’ second- in-command says, ‘yeah, you tell them, Moses!’ But what does Moses say? “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!”

This is what I want to explore today: the ministry of a number of people, the sharing of the grace of God. So let us turn to this letter of joy, called Philippians. 

We read someone else’s mail, or so it might seem. The apostle Paul wrote a letter to his Christian friends in the town of Phillipi. Paul is imprisoned. But his letter is beautiful. And it is so special and inspired it has been saved for generations to read and ponder, and meet God in these pages. Let’s walk through these words, written to a number of people. 

The start of his letter: 3 I thank my God for every remembrance of you, 4 always in every one of my prayers for all of you, praying with joy 5 for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 

There is great joy over these people, who are partners in the gospel. The Gospel. What is the gospel? There is so much to say, even this preacher does not know where to start. This good news is, in one sense, simply the story of Jesus. Along with His story, is the confidence that this story reaches beyond its time, even to us, and makes life different, better, new, for us. Christ is our centre.

In my teenage years I was in the Christian Service Brigade, rather like scouting but overtly Christian, with Bible memorization and prayer and so on. In my twenties, the CSB leaders in Middleton had a reunion for all the boys and leaders who had been in the Brigade. They even had a punch bowl with Tang in it, complete with spruce needles floating, just like on our camping trips! I always remember what the key leader, John Tufts, said about that kind of youth ministry. It was very simple. He said, to be successful it must have two elements. It has to be fun, and it has to be Christ-centred. 

We are a local Church, a number of people who should be connected because this is Christ-centred. I always look for that connection. You too; remember it.

In Philippians 1 Paul has great joy over these people, this number of people, this group. These ones, long ago, were partners with Paul in this new movement, the Jesus movement, the Way of Jesus. It was not about a bunch of individuals. They were a group, a fellowship, a team.

Next, Paul wrote, 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. This is one of those Bible verses that gets brought out and quoted often, to encourage and give hope and inspire. But it may or may not apply to any group of us today. Sure, I might have confidence that the good God started to do among you will get finished. Or I might not have confidence that things will be finished. 

I have been thinking a lot and a lot and A LOT about what good we have done together over the past eight years.  Much of it is still hidden from my eyes, somehow. That’s probably good for me and my ego: it’ll help me be slightly humble. 

I do see things like… an opening of our hearts and a relaxing of former strictness. I see it in the ways you know how to include people who, years ago, might have been frowned upon for their behaviour, their looks, their differences of opinion, or their religious history. I like to think the Master will do even more with you, Digby Baptist, to love and include people, with the power and authority of Jesus. You know the very different sorts of folks Christ spent His quality time with!

Paul is so personal in this letter, of course. 7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I hold you in my heart… He clearly had spent time with them, in their town, and was keeping in touch, now that he had been arrested and was no longer a free man. He knew what God would do with them because he knew them well

I know you well, thanks to our eight years together. I will certainly hold you in my heart. So many of you are generous at saying that and promising that. On Monday, at the Bible Study Group, Bonnie recited a freshly composed ‘Ode to Jeff’ which was fun but also touching. (I have a lyric ready for you that I’ll present at the reception next week.) Last Sunday, Dianne presented me and Sharon with other gifts of creativity: not one beautiful quilt but two! And from a few people already we’ve been given overly generous cash donations, with words of thanks. Etc.

It is quite fitting that we, in congregations, often speak of being ‘church family.’ We are given, by Creator, the work of holding one another in our hearts. 

I was a bit upset last week when I visited a shut-in I know (for the last time) and she seemed to think I had been mistreated while here and not appreciated – by Church people! I’m not sure how she got that idea; I think she is just a bit out of touch and perhaps slightly confused. I tried to listen well, and then quietly say I did not feel badly used here, but cared for and supported. 

Next in Paul’s sentences we get to the title of my sermon: for all of you are my partners in God’s grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. Partners in God’s Grace; sharers in God’s grace.

I keep saying my way of explaining grace. I don’t limit it to ‘getting something good we don’t deserve.’ That can sometimes be true. Mostly, I say GRACE is something that happens that is above and beyond what we could have done. Grace is: more good appears than we could come up with. There is a supply of goodness and blessings that is bigger than us, even all of us people put together. 

This was needed for Paul and his friends, while he was imprisoned. How could they be partners in the faith with a setback like that? Grace. Today, how can we be partners in the Faith with the limitations of a pandemic, and all the wrecking of plans and togetherness? Grace. More is possible with God than we can cook up on our own. Yes!

In the next line Paul is back to his deep friendship with these people. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the tender affection of Christ Jesus. 

You are probably like me; you long for people in a few ways. You long to see someone who is away from you; you long to be together. We’ve had a lot of that. I’m going to feel that in the months ahead, when I am seldom back in Digby. It will be a bit like the longing I’ve had for a few months to have Doug still alive, and Mike. Or how I’ve wished I still had in pew fellowship Barb and Nancee and Linda, and others.

We also long for people… to make progress. You know, to make a good decision and act on it, to be healed from some serious problem, to be reconciled to someone. We long for good things to happen to one another. 

Twenty some years ago I was dating a woman in the town where I lived. One signal that she was not the right one for me was the way she had a bad attitude about some people. She had a coworker I knew, and that coworker had something really nice happen. My friend turned up her nose, and said that woman didn’t deserve what she got. I couldn’t believe it! We are here to long for the best for other people. (Not to mention pray for our enemies.) I’ve been so happy to see compassion in you all. 

Speaking of this, the finale of our reading today was: 9 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what really matters, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Dear Church, we are a support group for our progress. I think my main pastoral focus is personal progress – in you. I don’t focus on ‘getting people saved,’ though that is a definite step of personal progress a lot of people could use! I don’t focus on recruiting people into the Church, though I know this is on my mind a lot, probably for selfish reasons. I am concerned and curious about the spiritual growth of humans, mainly the ones I know and care for. How do you learn something important? How do you make a personal change? How do you take your next best step? 

A lot of my pondering this is about God, what God actually does with you. How does the Spirit intervene? When does what we, the Church, do make a real difference in people’s lives? That is the question for our day and age. 

We share God’s grace. We share what Jesus does to transform us. We share the message that this is real today.

Let us   pray. Spirit of truth, may the lessons of the scripture grow our faith and action. May the distractions be forgotten. 

As we worship together, we dedicate the offerings we have brought or sent in, for the good work we do together. Inspire us to give well, Holy God, and to spend our resources in excellent ways. 

God of Love, as we hold one another in our hearts, we pray for healing and help for many today. We ask for guidance and courage along life’s pathway. We seek from You a touch of courage and a release from all the fears that keep people isolated and distant. And we bless our Pulpit Committee in the searching work they are undertaking for the fellowship. 

Risen Christ, this past week was like many – there were many deaths as well as times to gather and give thanks. With resurrection hope, comfort all who mourn, bless those who are facing death, and also be near those who walk with those at the end of life. 

God of the Universe, our prayers are for the whole world, held in Your hands. We ask for your steadfastness and strength in:  the alarming high inflation rate in many nations.

the concerns of an outbreak of wild polio in Mozambique.

the shortage of infant formula in the United States brought on in part by faulty production methods resulting in contamination and infant deaths.  

the damage to property and loss of life as Uruguay has been hit by the strong winds and high waves of a subtropical cyclone.

the people of Iraq who are suffering under the eighth sandstorm to engulf the country since mid-April. We pray for the countries of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria and Bahrain who are suffering these intense and more frequent storms.

and the sufferings of the pandemic, wars, famine and impoverishment around our world. Even the news of monkeypox spreading is one more drop in the bucket of anxiety: let there be grace and serenity, we pray.

Now, as Richard of Chichester prayed: Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day. AMEN.

Prayer, May 21

Leviticus 13:5 The priest shall examine him on the seventh day, and if he sees that the disease is checked and the disease has not spread in the skin, then the priest shall confine him seven days more.

O Healer of every ill, to You people have turned since our lives began. On this beautiful earth there are many diseases that afflict us, and I pray today because a new one is in the news this week. Whether monkey pox or COVID-19 or any other ill alarms me, I seek Your peace. For more than two years now, a greater element of fear has covered the earth, and all our precautions make the problems seem very serious. Once again, guide my mind, what I imagine, what I believe, and what I chose to do.

Master, as the priest in Israel long ago tended to those who were ill, I see today the team of healers in my part of the world. How I thank You that we have all the medical professionals, and the resources, and the technology to heal and strengthen and comfort. I ask for mercy in the lives and work of those who are stressed and challenged by their work in the medical system. I pray for those who are newly trained to be doctors, nurses, and other caring professionals. May they be inspired, encouraged, strengthened, and respected. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.