Welcome to this resource for Sunday, in a time when we are not gathering to worship together in person at Digby Baptist Church. We can share this plan to pray and look to the scriptures together, while apart. Simply follow along, read what is here, use a Bible, click on the links. The Bulletin is available here also, on this website, with other resources for prayer.
So, you may want to choose a quiet place to sit for this time of prayer and study. You may share this with others in your home. When the time is right, begin…
Worship Welcome Romans 1:8, 11-13 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you…
Hymn 552 My Faith Looks Up to Thee
Prayer: Perhaps, O God, it is with many, many others that I pray at this time. Not just me, or just a few of us. A great number. From Digby Baptist. And all the others who worship on this beautiful day.
May this be a moment of looking up to You. May we discover it is not far, far up or away that we look to You. It is near at hand that Your Spirit and Your grace and Your word is found. Even in our mouths is Your message.
So we give thanks. Our spirits sing, with the hymns of faith. Our minds open to Your word in scripture. Our prayers we pour out for ourselves and the whole world. We bow to be humble before You. A virus has humbled all the systems of this world; may we be even more humble before You.
So, be our wise Teacher today, Spirit of God. Who, with the Father and with Jesus, reigns forever and ever. AMEN.
Offering Our monthly or weekly offerings provide for many things. Such as our Church website. The expense is small, but the ministry can be tremendous. Our website and facebook page and emails are administered by our Secretary and our Pastor. At this time, as you can see, the sermons, prayers, and other resources are posted here each Sunday morning. During this time, Pastor Jeff is still working from his Study at the Church, usually Sunday through Thursday mornings. Offerings can be dropped off in a box in the hallway outside the Pastor’s Study. Or put them in the mail to Digby Baptist Church, P. O. Box 35.
Prayers for the present crisis: Click Here
Scripture Exodus 12:1-6, 43-47
Hymn 530 Be Still My Soul
Scripture John 19:38-42
Sermon Lo, In the Grave He Lay, or: Seven things to give up – Jeff White
A lot of our plans have been put to bed since last Sunday. And when we get to raise them up again is uncertain. It is the unknown stuff that is alarming, giving us fear, making us upset, disturbing things.
The scripture stories I chose for today – I do hope you read them – take us to moments of drastic change. The Passover of the Israelites, and the burial of Jesus. I chose John 19 because of Nicodemus. This is our third and final week with Nicodemus.
Christians are still four weeks away from Good Friday and Holy Saturday, when we let the Bible take us back to that time when Jesus was dead and gone. But let us go there today. Face what it feels like when a great leader of hope dies. When the best plan seems to fail. When a victory seems to be a disastrous defeat. And see what some people did then.
Remembering when Jesus was put into a new tomb, I call this talk, ‘Lo, In the Grave He Lay, or: Seven things to give up (and not just for Lent).
One: Socializing, Celebrating, Entertaining. Lots of local socializing, even special celebrations, are all put to an end. Or scaled down to a bare minimum. Our grandchildren turn seven and three this month: the party is cancelled.
Music and entertainment in many venues is over for a season. The choir I joined in the fall: we have been rehearsing every Tuesday all this amazing music. No more rehearsals; the concerts are cancelled.
What about weddings and funerals? Our mourning and our dancing is going to be so limited now. We’ve never done it this way before. Togetherness and gatherings are at the heart of any community, any society. Shutting them all off is a new challenge.
Our scripture story from John today takes place during a big annual gathering for the Jews: Passover. It is a time for family gatherings, for special food at a special feast. And this time, the leader of a new movement gets executed. Jesus of Nazareth.
In John 19 we can notice Nicodemus, a minor character in the Gospel of John, but man of some interest. He became a disciple of Jesus. Mentioned just three times, today we see him on the day of the death of Jesus. The sun is about to set. And with the sunset begins the Sabbath, a high and holy day, especially because of the Passover celebrations.
What happens here can say something to us today. When part of his world falls apart, Nicodemus stands up to do some generous work, behind the scenes. Nicodemus, and another man, named Joseph, take care of the body of Jesus. They take care of the embalming and burial. In a moment of crisis – their Master has been executed – they take action.
I think it’s remarkable what these men do. They were followers of this Jesus, though Joseph, at least, was secretly a disciple. Perhaps Nicodemus had also been quiet about his faith in this Messiah. As we saw last week, some of his fellow Pharisees raised suspicions that Nick was taking Jesus’ side.
The time of celebrating Passover gets overshadowed, for Jesus’ friends, by this violent death. And now He is buried. Lo, in the grave He lay. Celebrating what this Messiah would do is over also. What is really going to happen next. In the face of what must have felt like disaster and defeat, Nicodemus and Joseph do something important behind the scenes. But they also show themselves to be disciples of this Jesus. When a crisis comes, followers of Christ rise up to do what needs to be done, quietly, generously, faithfully.
Two: Work. Work for many people is changing or has stopped. Me, I’m doing phone visiting now – nothing in person. Maybe I will do some shouting across a street, or phoning people while I see them through their windows. 🙂 That’s a good idea!
We are becoming aware of the work that has run out for many people in this time. For others, going to work is different now: at home, or much quieter, or different things need doing. And some people, still at work, are making sacrifices, because they are at risk of catching the virus. Healthcare workers, for instance.
In that very different situation, Nicodemus and Joseph took on the role of undertakers. It was what was needed. They used their influence and wealth to bury Jesus. Not their usual, day-to-day job, I’m sure.
In Nova Scotia there is a Funeral Cooperative called Arimathea, named after Joseph of Arimathea. Whatever other work he did in his life in the first century, he is remembered for the care he showed on that day of crisis, when Christ was killed.
What can we do in this year of crisis? How does our job change, or our volunteer jobs? I’m sure you are thinking of this already. Continue to pray and discover how the Spirit shall lead you.
Three: Buying and Selling. I had better move along, if we want to get to all seven points!
Shopping ramped up and maybe is petering out now. I’m not sure. The marketplace sure has changed, that is for sure. We are giving up on some of our same old ways of buying and selling. And what it looks like next week, and next month, none can fully forecast. Not to mention the big picture – the industries and the financial markets – and the poorest of the poor at the bottom of the whole system.
Jesus looks to have lived the last few years of His life as a travelling peasant. We never hear of Him doing any carpentry at this stage. The people who were poorest and sickest were often given the most good news by him.
When Christ was born, His Jewish parents faithfully took him to the temple on day eight. They could not afford the usual sacrifice, so they gave the poorer option: a couple pigeons. Thirty some years later, Jesus is executed, and these two wealthy benefactors step in to give him a proper burial. Joseph of Arimathea has enough pull to talk with Pilate and get the body released. Nicodemus has enough resources to provide very generously the embalming spices.
In between Jesus’ birth and death, He spoke, in word and action, of wealth and poverty. In our present mess on Earth, we could still learn more from Christ’s teaching.
Four: Healthcare. We sometimes call Jesus the Great Physician, and well we should, with all the scenes of healing recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We also have had high expectations of our healthcare system here in Canada. How that is shifting and changing right now in NS for this pandemic is complicated.
Many of you know what it is to have a family physician, and then that doctor leaves, or retires. And what do you do? How long do you go without a doctor? Or, how far do you travel to your physician.
Mine is up in Windsor.
Have you ever wondered what the people in Jerusalem, who had been healed by Jesus, thought when He got arrested, interrogated, and executed? The great Teacher, the compassionate Healer, is gone! Also, those who were finding a spiritual rebirth, a new path, emotional stability, new hope. Their Healthcare Worker was gone. For good, most all of them though.
The world has been through disasters of disease and destruction before. The world seems to become a more dangerous place, sometimes suddenly. Do we trust Jesus again, even if He there are moments He appears silent, or absent? In fact, He is not.
Five: Education. What education do people have to give up, now? Schools and colleges have stopped, though for a many it keeps on, online. A theological seminar I always attend in June just got cancelled; a Saturday lecture I help plan is going to be presented in June, but online, I’m guessing.
I don’t need to go over the news about this challenge to students and teachers and everyone involved. I need simply to say two things about this today. One: consider prayerfully the impact of this pandemic on the students and instructors. Two: consider what kind of teachable moment this is for our Rabbi, Jesus. Yes, the One we saw getting buried today. Now, He lives, and in Spirit continues to offer instruction in how to live this life. Yes, even the unexpected turns of life in March of 2020.
Joseph and Nick respected this teacher enough to serve Him when He died. Remember that amazing conversation Nicodemus had with Jesus alone, one night? The One who challenged Nick challenges us today. Let us listen, and learn, and be transformed more, and live.
Of course, in a pandemic, people are going to die. So, of the things we have to give up, number Six is People, people who die! This is the crux of the crisis, of course. The world would not be upset and turned on its head if it were not for a tiny virus that does kill off some of the people it touches. Even when people cannot gather for a funeral or burial, there are burials going on. Perhaps with just two people attending to the body, like Joe and Nick with Jesus, long ago.
Dear Christian, we are prepared for this. Prepared by Jesus Christ. At the heart of the whole story is this moment: Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. He can handle death. He can handle a lot of death. God comes into our world and deals with suffering and evil and death this way: He suffers and gets killed by evil. Yet life comes back! The God who truly died, and yet now lives, is the God who can take us through a pandemic. As I said, this has happened before.
And so, we, Seven: Worship together. Except we have had to give that up too. We worship alone today, or in tiny groups. The NT word for the Church is ecclesia, meaning an assembly or gathering of people.
Even when we do not gather in the same place, we can gather ‘in spirit,’ so to speak. Unite in the Holy Spirit. In the name of Jesus. In the life we know and share already. It goes on, while we are deployed for good work at home, in this strange solitary life now.
Don’t I always say to you that, after Sunday service, we go out to be the Church, wherever we go? It so happens that it may be a long time before we gather together again. Remember those who get shut-in and came to their last service with us long ago. They don’t get to gather in our building, but they (you) are still ‘in the church.’
So it is for all of us now, for a season. Whatever creative ways we find – thanks to technology – to worship together on a Sunday, or study together on a Monday, from our own homes, we keep together in the Spirit and the name of Christ.
Many things we have had to lay down now, and it may feel like these things are dead. But do you believe in resurrection? There will be new life, one day, for celebratory gatherings, for education, for work, for simply visiting one another? I believe in resurrection. And, I believe things will be different. It will be a new life for us all.
Song 516 Be Still and Know
1. Be still and know that I am God. (X3)
2. I am the Lord that healeth thee. (X3)
3. In thee, O Lord, I put my trust. (X3)
Prayers of the People:
God who is one, who is holy, who is immortal and invisible, only wise: some of us feel one, separate, alone, unseen by others, isolated. We try to act wisely: our purposeful disconnect is for love, love of the whole world. May that love grow in us, even as we cope with a new way to live from day to day.
We give thanks for spring! The plants are awaking and budding. The migratory birds are returning and singing. The days are stretching out, minute by minute. We give thanks for Christ! His journey to the cross we remember, with all the lessons along the way. May we learn from Jesus to face death and disaster. May we gain from Jesus an abundant life.
We give thanks for Church! And family! And friends! We pray now for everyone:
Everyone like Peter, who receives chemotherapy, or other treatment for cancer. Jesus, bless.
Everyone like Jean, who receives oxygen at home, or other aids to refresh their living. Jesus, bless.
Everyone like Dottie, who waits for surgery or medical help, and wonders how long it will take. Jesus, bless.
Everyone like George, who spends time in hospital, and whose loved-ones wait with them to see what care is needed next. Jesus, bless.
Everyone like Alison, who is expecting the birth of a child in these uncertain days, and looks forward to a cherished new life. Jesus, bless.
Everyone like Margo, who is still out at work each day, meeting the public, and needs to keep clean and safe. Jesus, bless.
And everyone whose days are too quiet, and closed in, and uncomfortable, because of social isolation, which can drag spirits and moods down. Jesus, bless.
O Spirit of Holiness and Love, give us a sabbath rest today, as needed. Prepare us for the week ahead. And take delight in us, Your people. Do so even as we pray: Our Father, who art in heaven…
Hymn My Lighthouse
Benediction by William Sloane Coffin
May the Lord Bless You and Keep You;
May the Lord Make His Face to Shine Upon You
And Be Gracious Unto You.
May God Give You the Grace
Not to Sell Yourself Short,
Grace to Risk Something Big
For Something Good,
Grace to Remember that
The World is Now
Too Dangerous for Anything but Truth, and
Too Small for Anything but Love.
So May God Take Your Minds and
Think Through Them;
May God Take Your Lips and
Speak Through Them; and
May God Take Your Hearts and
Set Them On Fire,
Through the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,