Worship at Home – Trinity Sunday, June 7 – ‘Love & Peace in Days of Hate & Violence’

Welcome to this plan for worship at home that we can share. Somehow, we pray and sing, study and give, in ways that unite us, while we are separate. More information is available in this Sunday’s Bulletin.

Worship Welcome John 14:26-27 Words of Jesus:
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled,
and do not let them be afraid.”

Hymn # 2 Holy , Holy, Holy

Prayer O Advocate, Helper, Spirit, in the name of Jesus we ask You to guide us to the Father today. So many distractions catch us. So many concerns fill our hearts. So many temptations call us to choose poorly. The old hymn takes some of us back to the days when each Sunday began with these same words. Make holy these moments we share, in word and deed, for worship. May words ancient and modern be used in our conversation now, we pray. Including the prayer Jesus taught. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name… AMEN.

Song # 4 Father, I Adore You – Margo Nesbitt & Jeff White

Children’s Time God is Spirit – Pastor Jeff

Scripture 2 Corinthians 13:5-13

Hymn # 1 I Bind Unto Myself Today

Scripture John 15:18-27 – Bev & Peter Dickie

Sermon Love & Peace in Days of Hate & Violence

Today is, in the Church calendar, Trinity Sunday, celebrating and worshipping God in three persons, blessed Trinity. What does the minister of the word preach on this day? I saw three options (at least). A nice sermon just about the Trinity, working to explain the simple but inexplicable Father-Son-Spirit who is One God. Use a three-leaved clover. Or an egg with yolk, white, and shell. Or water, in frozen, liquid, and gaseous form.

Second, I looked at Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians and thought about how to examine ourselves, to test our faith. Maybe strengthening our faith in this way would be good for us. We could try out a ‘prayer of examen’ in the service. 

Third, take Jesus’ words about hate and Paul’s about agreeing peaceably with one another, and preach about love and hate in a divided world, filled with hate and violence. This is what was chosen. In light of world events, I needed to go here. 

Now, I like the ideals of peace and serenity. Perhaps you love these too. But our world is not filled with these, and you and I can only avoid conflict for so long. Paul dealt with conflict and opposition in Churches. Christ said His followers would face hatred. Let’s start with Jesus. 

John’s Gospel gives us so much of what Christ said to his disciples, in the week before His execution. At one point  He speaks at length about abiding in Him, and of loving one another (this is my commandment, that you love one another). Next, Jesus turns immediately to talk of hate. ‘If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.’ 

Love, and then hate. There will be hate, Jesus warns. Opposition. Enemies. What He calls ‘the world’ is that element in humankind that does not know Him and God, and attacks the good things of God. His ‘haters’ are about to get rid of Jesus, actually. The disciples don’t expect this; Jesus does.

It could be said (I guess it certainly has been said by others) that those who closely, very closely, follow the Way of Jesus will end up in trouble on earth like He did. And that was big trouble, wasn’t it?

Though I offered, online and in the bulletin, a communion service one month ago, I decided against it for today. Remember now, what we monthly remember. The suffering or ‘passion’ of Christ, and His death. The scenes you can read from John 18 and 19 tell of the successful torture and killing off of Christ. You may well remember this was not the first attempt upon His life. Yet there had also been attempts to acclaim Him as king, which He also had avoided. Check John 5:18, 6:15 & 7:1. While He was active, Jesus faced supporters and enemies at every turn, and some of these people clearly were switching sides! 

John’s Gospel preserves for us many words about people not understanding Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus’ talk here in chapter 15 is more of the same. “They do not know him who sent me.” He is speaking of people who do not understand who God is, and that Jesus is the Son of God.

We face the same challenges, when we ‘walk with Jesus.’ There is actual hatred of our attitudes and actions, and of us. There is misunderstanding of our motives, of the Source of the good we strive to accomplish. There are people who are for us, and against us, as well as the undecided and the confused. 

Jesus’ warnings about hatred are of comfort to us, in case we get comfortable & expect our Christianity to go well, when it does not. His message is echoed by Peter, when he writes, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1Peter 4:12)

In this midst of his pep talk to disciples, Jesus speaks a few times of the Holy Spirit. Today, we read this: But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning. Here we find the Son, the Spirit, and the Father all on our side, supporters and guides of we who follow, we who have stepped out in faith to abide in Them, love Them, rely upon Them, and serve Them – the Trinity.

Well, this all can sound very inspiring… until we notice how people who are all supposed to be Christians, all on the same team, disagree and even hate!  From the sublime to the ridiculous, we believers still believe in disagreeing, and disliking.

Here is a cute example. A couple months ago, I noticed on Facebook two of my friends (they are from the same local church) posting things about the gasoline industry. It struck me funny, in a way, because they were opposite attitudes about one problem. First post that was shared:

Second Post, on the same day:  

We, quite naturally, have different attitudes. This is not even a serious example. Other disagreements arise that get us really stirred up. Ours is one of many congregations that could tell its story of having a row, years ago, in which members did not agree, and a bunch left the church. Windsor Baptist had a similar story. Parrsboro had faced something similar.

It is when we truly get hostile toward one another that the problems arise. Jesus’ speech about the haters was not about fellow Christians. It is the conflicts among believers that our other New Testament reading touches.

So, let us turn now to Paul, and a few of his words at the end of the letter we call Second Corinthians. This letter has some treasured verses in it (in Chapter 4, for example). It also expresses the stresses, and some kind of conflict, that had come between the little church in Corinth and their founding Pastor, Paul. From a distance (Macedonia), Paul writes to defend his ministry with them, and counteract the activity of some who oppose him there. “False apostles,” Paul calls them, and even (tongue-in-cheek?) “super- apostles.” But, by this time, Paul has received some good reports about the believers in Corinth, and seems happily relieved (7:6-7).

Amid all the strong language in these dozen pages, the letter ends with some final advice and traditional words of blessing. “Examine yourselves” Paul says. Pay close attention to your faith in Christ. He speaks of his frequent theme of strength and weakness. He honestly writes, “What we pray for is your improvement.”

I chose this text for today not for all this, but for the so-called trinitarian benediction, at the very end. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Today is Trinity Sunday, after all. But the civil unrest and calls for racial justice in the US & Canada have called for our attention over the past two weeks. 

If the words of Jesus, today, call us to face enemies with patient endurance, the words of Paul’s letter call us to be firm and clear and persistent with the truth. Including the truth that people matter, all lives matter to God. Paul spoke strong words at some length to his friends; he did so because he knew and loved them well. Our speaking out, acting out, standing up for someone, ‘taking a knee,’ protesting, writing a letter, or whatever action, will be more powerful and blessed the more we know those of whom we speak. Or those for whom we want our actions to speak louder than words. 

So, there is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate… (Ecclesiastes 3:7b, 8a)

I have never been an activist. Not been the sort to write letters to government, or join marches for causes. About the time I turned 18 years old, I had moved to a town to go to college. Back in the 80s, my mother was quite involved in the Pro Life movement, and she told me, that October, about a Pro Life rally happening on my campus, at the Chapel. Of course, she was suggesting I could go; it so happened she was not coming up for it. So I went. 

I don’t remember the rally being particularly important for me. I think that’s because I was not devoted to the cause. I knew about it – anti-abortion activity was in the news a lot back then – but it did not happen to be a cause I had invested myself in very much, as a teenager.

I don’t mean to suggest you not take part in some campaign or movement unless you are devoted to it. Taking part in a rally or march could be an important introduction to you – a closer look at an important movement in our society. I simply believe that Jesus will lead us into authentic activity that flows from deep in our mind and heart. The actions of others – prophetic actions at that – can inspire and instruct us. And we may become the next prophet in our own neighbourhood. Or the next great follower in a right direction.

And, as we may have seen today, we are to expect opposition, and be prepared for hatred, towards us, and towards those we support and/or follow. Christ, and Paul, will lead us to speech and action that is going to be clear and constructive. Sadly, the deep grief and hurt in crowds of people can too easily become nasty violence, as we see in the rioting and trouble of the past two weeks. When people are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” (Fanny Lou Hamer) they (we) can accomplish great and brave things, and they (we) can also accomplish great violence and vengeance.

The human responses to the terrible events of 2020 show us how we are made in the beautiful image of the triune God, and at the same time have fallen into failure. Here are just three disasters that are having a wide impact, with diverse reactions.

The outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus. Ongoing responses to this pandemic are good, bad and ugly.

Violent shootings kill 22 in Nova Scotia. The mourning and coping will go on. 

George Floyd is killed by a police officer in Minnesota. The response to this continues to flare up and intersects with so many other violent and racist events. 

It is a troubled world; this is to be expected. All the more reason for us to look to a ‘Higher Power,’ One who can do more for good and for human togetherness than we are capable of on our own.

At the end of his serious letter, Paul tells his readers to agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. My best and most basic hope for humanity is in this God, a God of love and peace. Strong promises about what is Ultimate in the universe. Love is a verb, not just a thing. “Peace, like war, is waged,” it is action.

There is a God of love and peace. A God I know in Jesus Christ, who sends the very presence of God, the Spirit, to us. Let the Spirit of Truth tell, once again, of Jesus, crucified and risen. Alleluia!

Offerings come in almost every day of the week – dropped off at the Church, the Parsonage, to the Pastor delivering bulletins on Sundays, and in the mail. Some of our budget each year goes towards the upkeep and expenses of the Parsonage. Last week, a repairman visited to fix the clothes dryer, which had quit. It was an easy fix… for $75. 🙂

Prayers of the People There are many ways our prayers become ‘world-wide.’ Today, add this prayer to all those of our own local community: http://worldinprayer.org/2020/world-news-in-prayer-thursday-4-june-2020/

Hymn Holy Spirit (Getty, Townend, 2006)

Benediction
Through the creative power of God,
the Word spoken in Jesus,
and the love the Spirit pours into our hearts,
may you be strengthened and filled
to do the ministry to which you are called.
AMEN.
(Ruth C. Duck, 1999)

Turning Point

(Acts 2:1-4; John 14:15-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:7-14) – J G White
11 am, Pentecost Sunday, May 20, 2018 – UBC Digby

A major turning point comes in the scripture story of Pentecost Sunday.  What Carol read and the choir sang is the fulfilment of all those words Jesus had spoken.  The Holy Spirit appeared; Christianity was born! What a turning point.

Are we at a turning point? Is this a defining moment for us?  Some of you in this congregation may feel it is. And it may well be, for good reasons.

Did you read the leaflet last week called OASIS 2018: TURNING POINT?  We are part of a family of about 450 Baptist Churches in Atlantic Canada.  And as this whole group meets in August (we call it Oasis) we will catch a vision of where we see we are. Baptist or not, this may be true for you.  The pamphlet says:

We are at a Turning Point.
This is a defining moment in our history as a family of churches.  The choices we make now will have ripple effects for generations to come.
A Turning Point is an opportunity to make a change that will impact the future.  Will we make the right choice?  The right choice is not always the easy or pain-free choice.
We have an opportunity to reshape our future now.  We believe in a great future for the church in Atlantic Canada and the part that the CBAC will play.
Oasis 2018 will focus on what is required of us as a family of churches if we’re going to make a difference joining God in our neighbourhoods.
CBAC staff will be the main speakers at Oasis 2018.  They will help us zero in on our three priorities where we must focus our resources and energy.
By 2025 we’ll see:

  • 300 Mission Edge Churches
  • 65 New Congregations
  • 75 emerging Pastor Leaders (total of 150 pastor leaders)

We believe that we’ll see a God-dream of 3000 Baptisms in one year by 2025.  What an exciting dream! We need 3000 people praying for this. Will you join us?

This lays out the emphasis of our leadership in Atlantic Canada now.  For other hints, just look at the seminars being offering at the gathering in August.  These tell you what we believe in doing.
The Worn Path: moving your church to hospitality
Belonging Precedes Believing
Refugee Ministry: a global way to join God in your nieghbourhood
Fresh expressions for the Mission Edge Church
Being Real: mission edge and the smaller church
Joining God in Our Neighbourhoods & Networks
All this is responding to the present crisis in local churches.  It is about us at the grass-roots. About us.

So, right here, close to home… have you thought that our [your] church is “on the downhill slide?”  This may well be true. I don’t say this because our offerings to the end of April were $2,200 less than we budgeted.  I don’t say this because our expenditures were $8,000 more than our income so far. I say we may be ‘on the downhill slide’ because of other warning signs.  Christian leaders say things like this:

11 Signs Your Church Is Going Extinct (not all eleven…)

  1. Decline has made you cautious
  2. Your affection for the past is greater than your excitement for the future
  3. You mostly listen to the voices of the current members
  4. Your conflict is about the wrong things
  5. Any growth you have is transfer growth

That’s from Carey Nieuwhof of Orillia, ON.

Another expert says: When a church is dying, these are [some of] the common responses.

  • Blame society: It is the world’s fault that the church is not growing.  
  • Seek to save/raise money to help keep the church open.  Bills must be paid. Buildings must be maintained. Establish an endowment fund.
  • Make the members/leaders feel guilty.  Obviously it is someone’s fault.

That’s from Stephen McMullin of St. John / ADC.  These are the warning signs of ill health in the fellowship of believers, in whatever town or city.

This morning we celebrate the Spirit with us in our lives. We heard from Jesus, in his long talk with the twelve disciple, before He was to leave them.  Since He would soon die, and within a month leave them, they were promised they would not be alone. God the Spirit would be with them all.  Do ya suppose God is with us still?

In His first phrase about the Spirit, Jesus said the Spirit of Truth would be with them forever.  Secondly, Jesus says the Advocate will teach and remind them of everything. Thirdly, the Comforter will tell about Jesus, once Jesus is gone.  Fourthly, the Helper will set the record straight about what is wrong in our world, what is right, and how it gets sorted out. And Fifthly, Jesus said the Spirit of Truth will share what comes from God.  Speak what He hears.

We are not lacking Jesus, two thousand years after His lifetime here.  Jesus died, then came back to life, and then left this earthly life, yes.  But God is still with us, Emmanuel. In Spirit. As a wise old pastor, John Bartol, says: the Holy Spirit is like another Jesus.  One with us here, always.  

I am excited here when I see you being stirred up, stirred up to do good.  Stirred up by the Spirit? Yes.

At least three of you – who are seniors – are interested in making some good things happen for seniors. Let’s get together and make things happen.

A group of you are serving and training to help with our children on Sundays. We’re off to a good start.

A couple of you are planning to start a new small group in the fall for care and sharing and support of one another.  

A few of you are keen to learn – to learn basics about the Bible, to learn prayer; or to find ways to have deep conversations and be well fed.  

A group of you are getting on board to help our newcomer friends from Syria bring some of their family members here.  

And a number of you are thinking creatively about how we finance what we do together here.

It is not just our Baptist Convention, CBAC, that is prompting us to be a mission station based in downtown Digby.  God the Spirit is in our moves, our motives, our minds, our melting hearts.

A turning point can come when we feel a crisis coming on, and turn to God.  When we wait together for the Spirit to fill and fulfill.

And at the turning point, we can join in, and become one of the 300 ‘Mission Edge’ Baptist Churches.  A local group that knows we are here and we are together to make a difference among the people of Digby County, and beyond.  A group that can consider changes and make hard choices for the sake of our good work with God. A group that joins the 3000 people praying over the next six years for 3000 people to come to faith in Christ.  

We are at a turning point.  Will we turn?

AMEN.

Abide

(1 John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8) – J G White
Sunday, April 29, 2018 – UBC Digby

Vineyards. We are seeing more of them in NS…

“I am the Vine and you are the branches,” said Jesus, to his disciples of long ago. Are you a disciple of Jesus today?  We do not teach that a person can be a believer, a Christian, be saved, without being a disciple of Christ.  Being a Baptist is not a spectator sport.  It means you are an apprentice to the Master.  Actively learning to live and serve. Lifeskills.  

So we get active with our salvation by abiding in the Vine, living closely with God, day to day.

What does it mean to abide in Christ?

Dictionary on my desk only says this about abide:  1 v. tr. tolerate, endure (can’t abide him). 2 int. a act in accordance with (abide by the rules). b remain faithful to (a promise). (The Canadian Oxford Paperback Dictionary, 2000)

All this does not quite get at what we read here about abiding in the Vine, in Jesus.  Or when we sing Abide With Me.  But, do some people endure Jesus?  Or simply think of Christianity as a way of acting in accordance with God’s rules?  Or act as if it is only remaining faithful to some promise once made?

I want to connect abide with abode: where one lives.  To abide in Christ is to live with and in God.  I inhabit God, and God inhabits me.

What does this look like?  

There is action and contemplation. Doing things.  And then reflecting on what got done, praying, seeking guidance about it.  

These are both part of bearing fruit, and being pruned.  Doing things, and praying/meditating.

Contemplation.  Basically includes Prayer and Bible.  Are you satisfied with your praying?

With your use of the scripture?

I want to offer some guidance for adults in terms of Bible comprehension and use, and the practice of prayer.  I am tempted to invite many of you to a Bible Study only for those who have not been to a Bible Study. If you already have been to Bible Study as an adult, you are not allowed at this one! 😉  I won’t limit it that way. But I’d like to hear who is interested.

Meditation & other spiritual practices.

Pastors’ Retreat this week: resting in God.

These aid our reliance upon the Vine, strengthen our connection. Partly because we get in touch with ourselves, our inner selves, deep inside.  Where the deepest connection with others, and Other, happens.

Action. Do things with God.

Henry Blackaby’s book and study guides titled, Experiencing God, have been popular for twenty-five years.  One of the lessons there is: Join God in what God is doing…  The Spirit is active in your neighbourhood: get in touch with what Christ is doing, and join Jesus there!

Here is an example from Tidings.  Tidings is an Atlantic Baptist monthly magazine which celebrates and resources our ministry locally, and around the world.  In the March issue is an article titled, ‘Eat Out More Often’, by Andrew Morse.

A ministry at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Saint John, NB, that we call Soul Food was born almost a decade ago to respond to the needs of the hungry in West Saint John.  Initially, the program was designed to be like a soup kitchen with delicious food, worship music, and the gospel message all being offered as a service to the community.  Then something shifted a couple years ago and our little ministry absolutely changed.

We invited the congregation to join us at the Soul Food program, and the mealtime became an opportunity to care for and sit down with our neighbours.  We were no longer providing a service as much as we were having meals with our friends. In a period of about two years, the ministry grew from about 15 to 20 folk to around 80 to 100 people.  We absolutely fell in love with them and they knew it!

The dynamics continued to evolve.  Those who initially came to receive a service were soon working alongside us.  Our Soul Food people now helped with setup, teardown, leading hymns, serving the food, and so on.  

This sort of ministry can get a little messy, but I believe it is the kind of pure religion talked about in James 1:27.  (p. 11)

Good action is also a matter of knowing what not to do.  Paring down the excess. Paying attention to how what we do can be changed; just as the Soul Food luncheon did.  We have Jesus’ words about God pruning the vines. For the sake of the whole vine that is to bless the world, it gets trimmed regularly.

Ever notice that overgrown, untended vineyard in Annapolis Royal… Weedy and unpruned for a decade.  There must be pruning in our lives.

Also, abiding with God happens in relationships.  Andrew Morse, at that Church in Saint John, says, People crave genuine love in relationships.  For too long, we have let the fear of making mistakes keep us from doing God’s work when he has simply desired obedience from broken people who love others honestly.  

Our Jesus relationship happens in our people relationships, not just in our alone time.  

There is a horrible song, sung by Tom T. Hall. 😉

Well, me and Jesus got our own thing goin
Me and Jesus got it all worked out
Me and Jesus got our own thing goin
We don’t need anybody to tell us what it’s all about.

That doesn’t work for me!  Ugh.

How we treat one another is how we spend time with Christ, with God, with the Spirit.  I think, in my own life, I am finally beginning to appreciate this.  

After all, Jesus said, “just as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Mtt 25: 45)

And apparently He also said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:12, 13)

And, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” (Jn 15:5)  

So act – do good things – then contemplate your action.  Think and pray, and learn from what you do. Spend time alone so you can be close to God, and spend time with people so you can be close to God.  These must go hand-in-hand.  

Abide: dwell with and in God, in every circumstance, every day. And Christ, the Vine, will grow us as beautiful branches.  Fruitful and good for this world, and forever. Amen.