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.

Worship, Sept 5 – A New Beginning

WELCOME to this post for worship among the people of Digby Baptist Church. Here, you will find the text of the sermon, and video recordings of a few elements of worship. More service information is available, and many announcements, in the Bulletin:

Q: Where is the first baseball game in the Bible?

A: In the big inning. Eve stole first, Adam stole second. Cain struck out Abel. The Giants and the Angels were rained out.

The suggestion I drew from last week’s ideas for this sermon was “The Beginning.” One of the others happened to be “A New Beginning,” whatever that means. Since Next Sunday we begin to tell the whole Biblical story over again, starting with Genesis chapter 1, I thought we still could explore the theme of beginning one extra Sunday, as a prelude to the rest of September. 

How do we tell the story of the beginning? We have some old ways in Christianity, many of which go back to Judaism, of course, in the Torah. How we tell a story matters. How we answer a question says a lot about our answer. The tales we keep repeating in word and song have their influence. I would not call it brainwashing, but there is an element of training the brain when we repeat something. Our thinking, our talking, our heart and conscience get molded by what we repeat, when we claim it is our story, about us. 

Humans are meaning makers. A big element of the meaning of our lives is our origin. Creation. Where we came from seems to tell us something about where we are now, and where we are going. Also, it makes claims about Who is responsible, or what. The beginning is a big subject. 

Looking at creation, we start looking into the past, the deep past. And purpose. And the powers that be. What was it Paul said, preaching in Greece?  

The God who made the world and everything in it… made all the nations… so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him–though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘in him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ (Acts 17:24-28)

And one of his letters, Paul says, Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. (Romans 1:20)

What things that God has made have inspired you, and perhaps led you to God? What things in creation are special to you? Perhaps the night sky. We hear this in today’s Psalm, number eight.   When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? (P 8:3)

Christian author, Brian McLaren, writes of this experience he had when a kid.

Some neighborhood buddies . . . invited me on a weekend retreat with the youth group from their Southern Baptist church. And that’s where spirituality snuck up and crashed upon me like an unexpected wave at the beach.  

[After supper,] a few friends and I snuck away to a hillside and found ourselves sitting under one of those sparkling autumn night skies. I walked several paces away from my friends and lay back in the grass, fingers interlocked behind my head, looking up, feeling strangely quiet and at peace. Something began to happen.

I had this feeling of being seen. Known. Named. Loved. By a Someone bigger than the sky that expanded above me. Young science geek that I was, I pictured myself lying on a little hill on a little continent on a little planet in a little solar system on the rim of a modest galaxy in a sea of billions of galaxies, and I felt that the great big Creator of the whole shebang was somehow noticing little, tiny me. It was as if the whole sky were an eye, and all space were a heart, and I was being targeted as a focal point for attention and love. And the oddest thing happened as this realization sank in. I began to laugh. I wasn’t guffawing, but I was laughing, at first gently, but eventually almost uncontrollably. Profound laughter surged from within me.

“God loves me! Me! God! At this moment! I can feel it!” [Brian D. McLaren, Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words (HarperOne: 2011), 5, 7, 8.]

Let me ask again, and actually get some of your answers. What things that God has made have inspired you, and perhaps led you to God? What things in creation are special to you?

Most of you know me well enough to know my personal answers. 

The year I turned ten years old I truly started to be aware of the whole world around me. It was the year John Lennon was killed – I remember that. It was the year Mount St. Helens erupted – that got my attention. 

It was the year a documentary miniseries appeared on TV: Cosmos: A Personal Voyage – with Carl Sagan. I watched it; I soaked it up; I loved it. A couple years later, my parents got me the book. 

Cosmos tells the story of the universe, and of how peoples and cultures and scientists have explained that story, over the centuries. Better than science fiction is science itself, to me. This amazing universe is awesome and inspiring. 

Here are the first lines of the first chapter of the book.

The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us–there is a tingling of the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.

The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. (p. 4)

So I now realize, forty years later, how influential all this stargazing and cosmic storytelling was upon me. 

Also, I now believe all this awe and wonder has been part of me searching for God, for truth, for reality: perhaps groping and finding the One who was never far from me.

My sense of awe and joy gives me hope. Hope in this world and the God of this world. And hope that what began, and became so beautiful, is headed somewhere. 

Do you sense this, from time to time?

I think a sense of beauty brings out the best in us.

A sense of awe points us toward Something More.

A sense of creation, and our part in it, leads us to Creator.

And the story of Christ assures us that this physical world matters, it is important, is good, is worth redeeming, and will be saved, renewed, reborn. Here we are, and today we will eat a bit of factory-made bread, and drink some grape juice. They did grow from the ground somewhere. They are real, physical. Just as Jesus was here.

Some people have been suggesting, in recent decades, that a New Story needs to be told and shared. The story of the universe, taking place over the course of fifteen billion years. From the primordial flaring forth (the big bang), to the formation of our galaxy, to the condensing of our sun and planets, to the development of life on earth – it tells us humans we are all made from the same amazing stuff. We are all one family. And we are one with all the things of the earth. ‘What are humans beings

that God is mindful of us,

mortals, that God cares for us?’

Yet we are crowned with glory and honour. We have such brains and spirits. We can see and know and remember and understand. We can talk and observe and wonder and imagine. We can connect with the Divine and get to know God. What privileges are ours!

So, we each get a new beginning when we see the whole story, and that we are here, with God, in it. We tell the story, we tell our story, in many, many ways. 

Paul told the story in one way when in Greece, another way when he had a different audience. We also learn, as the generations are born and grow up, how to tell the story of God with us. Or, we could be learning. How to have important conversations with loved ones. With a friend or neighbour. Even, from time to time, with a random stranger. We share where we see that we came from. Where we all came from, long ago. And where we are headed.

Next Sunday, we will explore the beginning again, with the first of the two creation stories from Genesis. Until then, let us glimpse the beginning of all things by looking up, and all around, and deep within.

PRAYER after the Sermon: O magnificent Maker of all, 

O Spirit of truth and love, O Christ who walked in our shoes:

If we have learned something good and new, keep us faithful to that vision. If we have gotten distracted by errors or arrogance, wipe these from our memory. If we have been inspired, give us the courage to tell our story and Your story, in ways that those around us will appreciate. 

We have sought You, longing, looking, delighting. 

We gaze into the awe and wonder again.

We are grateful for fellowship with You. AMEN.

Ready to Give an Answer

(Acts 17:22-31; 1 Peter 3:13-22) J G White
Sunday, May 21, 2017, UBC Digby

Visitors Friday evening… A United Church minister who preached a sermon series on the stained glass images in her churches.  

Noah’s Ark in stained glass.
Peter uses that Genesis story as a link to Christian baptism and salvation, those Gospel ideas.
1 Peter 3 Elements of the Gospel here…
Christ suffered for sins; righteous for unrighteous
To bring you to God
Put to death in flesh, made alive in spirit
Proclaimed to spirits in prison
Noah’s ark – saved through water
Baptism saves you – an appeal to God –
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ
Christ now in heaven

This is all typical salvation language.  We think of our work here, and the work we support around the globe, being about salvation.  

Soucy ministry… As Latin America Team Leaders Bruno and Kathleen work with CBM’s Field Staff and church partners in Bolivia, Brazil, El Salvador, Cuba and Nicaragua. They also support CBM’s work and relationships in Argentina and Costa Rica.

Caring for the needs of the spiritually poor and the physically poor.

Example…  Reflections on Brokenness

Broken foot, broken systems, broken people, and broken communities – this is where we live. Our work, through CBM partnerships takes us into places where a person like me can break their foot just walking in the streets of Cochabamba. A city where a Canadian, supported by Canadian churches and individuals can access a good hospital and pay for well trained doctors and get back on her feet within a month! While we are so thankful, we are also very aware that for many of our Bolivian friends and others living where CBM works, life is not quite so simple.

For people living in the margins, whose daily work barely meets the basic cost of food and housing and access to quality health care is nonexistent, options are limited and people who need health care are discriminated against due to their poverty. One friend refuses to seek further treatment for her cancer because of the shame she feels when her doctor “treats her like a dog” whenever she is unable to pay. Many adults suffering from the effects of Chagas’ disease do not seek treatment that while free, is often located in communities distant from their rural homes. Leaving their subsistence farms and families to seek treatment that usually spans one year, is just not practical. Life for these people is neither fair nor just.

We also see examples of churches with an inward focus, of church leaders who are poorly trained to lead others to be present and active in their communities, all of which can prevent Christian communities from being God’s agents of change.

A good and wise friend shared recently, “God’s rule will prevail ultimately over egos, lies, power plays, cruelty and corruption. Our task is to nurture good hearts so that we can bear fruit though our relationships and commitments.”  

Nurturing hearts and relationships… part and parcel of our Good News methods too. And the old-fashioned ways are not adequate.  That old-time religion may be good enough for some, but not for me, and not for our mission locally.  

It was fifty years ago that the poetic author and pastor, Frederick Buechner, penned these thoughts.

“I shall go to my grave,” a friend of mine once wrote me, “feeling that Christian thought is a dead language — one that feeds many living ones to be sure, one that still sets these vibrating with echoes and undertones, but which I would no more use overtly than I would speak Latin.”  I suppose he is right, more right than wrong anyway.  If the language that clothes Christianity is not dead, it is at least, for many, dying; and what is really surprising, I suppose, is that it has lasted as long as it has.  

Take any English word, even the most commonplace, and try repeating it twenty times in a row — umbrella, let us say, umbrella, umbrella, umbrella — and by the time we have finished, umbrella will not be a word any more.  It will be a noise only, an absurdity, stripped of all meaning.  And when we take even the greatest and most meaningful words that the Christian faith has and repeat them over and over again for some two thousand years, much the same thing happens.  There was a time when such words as faith, sin, redemption and atonement had great depth of meaning, great reality; but through centuries of handling and mishandling they have tended to become such empty banalities that just the mention of them is apt to turn people’s minds off like a switch… (The Magnificent Defeat, 1966) But I keep on using them, said Buechner.

And we know from scripture itself the wide variety of words and images used to get at these mysteries we call God and the Gospel.

Another way to give answer to the hope inside us is found in Acts 17.  The summary of Paul’s sermon to the philosophers of Athens. Elements of the Good News here:
Spiritual practices: altar
God is creator
God transcends human life, is independent of us
God is life-giver, sustainer
People search/grope and find God
God not far from any of us
In Him we live and move and have our being
(Epimenides, 6th C BCE)
‘We too are his offspring’ (Aratus of Soli, 3rd C BCE)
God commands repentance
God has fixed a time of judgment
God’s judgement is right
God’s judge is appointed, raised from dead

A very different kind of sermon, as Paul begins to share the Gospel.  It is very much in the language and thoughts of his audience in Athens.  Their culture, not Paul’s Judaism.  

So, in our day, our ministry is cross cultural.  Right here in Digby.  For a churchy person like me to reach others.  For a retiree to reach a 20 something with the Gospel.  We must speak into their lives and ‘language.’

Jeff Carter ministry…

Reaching the very different culture of youth in Europe.  


Much of Jeff’s expenses relate to the travel required to promote and facilitate the workshops involved in training youth and children’s program leaders. Jeff spends a great deal of time mentoring leaders in the youth departments of the partner organizations that make up the EBF so they in turn can support emerging leaders in their own countries.  He is also involved in teaching at the IBTSC but I would say it is a smaller portion of his time for sure. – Barb Keys

HORIZONS is the training program offered by the European Baptist Federation Youth and Children Committee to youth leaders from around the world in numerous languages. HORIZONS is offered by a joint partnership of the European Baptist Federation with Canadian Baptists Ministries as part of our mandate to equip, encourage and empower youth and children’s workers to bring the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the next generation.

So our friend, Jeff Carter, is “Equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.”  Making youth leaders ready to give account for the hope that is in them.  Jeff tells this:

Over a year ago I had the privilege of teaching a young man in my pastoral training course at the University of Bucharest in Romania. Dragos (Andrei) Hogas is the youth pastor at the Filadelfia Baptist Church.

He shared with me the challenges of his youth work, and we spent long discussions talking about possibilities.  Eventually, he took the Horizons (Romanian) course and had since become a mentor for the program. I had the privilege of helping him organize a Horizons LIVE leadership retreat for the youth leaders of Bucharest and to preach in his church.  Now he has organized a Horizons LIVE event to happen in Torino, Italy this June, where his brother is the pastor of a Romanian church there.  

Some of the exciting things that have transpired over the past year are that Andrei has been able to overcome the challenges and his group is growing!  I have had the privilege of meeting them myself!  Also one of his youth leaders will come to the Acadia/EBF Youth Leaders Institute that I’m privileged to organize and teach in May in Czechia.  One life touched, and you never know where it will lead!  Praise God for His blessings!

It is a big piece of work to take Good News into youth culture today, in Europe… and in Nova Scotia.  

11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.  Ephesians 4:11-13

Christian mission is more than just ‘salvation’ language.  Jesus’ help is to the whole person, and the whole society.  

As we approach local people in our mission field, we look keenly to see their concerns.  So we view the entry points to the seniors of Digby town and municipality.  We grow to understand the cultural issues for children, youth, and their parents these days.  
We can ask what are people concerned with…
Truth? Belonging? Survival?
Mortality? Goodness – being good?
The Environment?
The First Peoples on the land?
Health and healthcare?
Forgiveness & inner healing?

The Gospel of Jesus touches all these, and more.

You are especially gifted and prepared to give an answer to the hope that in is you.  Your voice is a good one for certain people you meet up with.  Not everyone, but some.  With more practice and preparation we can be even clearer and more compassionate in sharing the Spirit in whom we live and move and have our being.