WELCOME to this post for worship at Digby Baptist Church. Text of sermon and some prayer is here, and video segments from the service are added Sunday afternoon. Other information is available in the week’s Bulletin.
PRAYERS of the People: Creator God, we thank You for this place, this people, this service, this experience of Your holiness and love. Out of the demands and darkness of the past week, we seek Your light and joy.
Lord of the lands, with the Day for Truth and Reconciliation past, and Treaty Day, we listen again for Your wise whisper throughout the land. May we hear the voices of the past, echoed in the people around us. May we know the message of the skies and the sea and the land, and join in praise to You. We are all treaty people; bring us together to know and love and respect one another.
You are giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest! We give thanks for the freedom of miners near Sudbury, who had been trapped underground. We give thanks for touches of healing among us and those we know. We give thanks for the richness of the harvest in our province, and the beauty that meets our eyes in the autumn. Creative God, create in us new hearts to see Your goodness and count our blessings.
All our individual praying we gather together, for this brief hour, Master. Our prayers for the people of the Middle East, the women and men of Afghanistan, the Hatian immigrants in Mexico and Central America. Our prayers for people we know so well here: Dwight and others dealing with cancer, Evelyn Dickinson and others who have moved into a nursing home, as well as other loved ones at a distance who are calling out for healing and help. Hearer of Prayer, to You we have come.
Christ, who gives us the hope of uniting in You, we pray in this moment of disagreements and fracturing of friendships. The path through this pandemic has caused so much stress, and disagreements seem to get deeper every week. The vaccinating, the masking, the many limitations, and how the rules seem to be always changing have worn us down. Master, we are not only weak and testy, we are tired and unsure of the truth.
Refresh us, we pray. Refresh those around us who are most upset. Refresh those who have leadership and responsibilities. Refresh our energy to be sociable and be understanding and embrace diversity.
Now, as we have come to this quiet place with You, meet us. Show Yourself. Dwell among us, within us. Go before us and behind us and above us. Be our Emmanuel. Amen.
(Ex 2:23 – 3:15; 4:104:19-26-17; John 4:19-26 ) J G White
Holy Ground: Today, another ‘awesome place,’ the famed burning bush incident with Moses, recorded in the early pages of the book of Exodus. Someplace in the Middle-Eastern wilderness it happened. For Moses, it was at work, out alone, tending a flock of animals.
Poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning famously wrote, in her poem, ‘Aurora Leigh:’
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
Back in January and February, I preached nine sermons on nine reasons people are part of a Church. Nevertheless, I could distill them down to two main things: to have or to seek spiritual experience, and to belong to God and God’s people.
It is to the experience of God we turn today. My theme for the five Sundays of this month I am calling ‘October Ecclesiology: what church membership means.’ It means the life of our spirits, and sharing our spirituality with one another. Church is a way to focus upon the holy ground we’ve walked.
We find Moses on Holy Ground today. What is our Holy Ground? A holy place? A holy event? A special group of people? Spiritual teaching? Working to do good? Healing or personal transformation? Salvation? Meaning?
The touch of the supernatural in your life and mine is in the songs we sing together, the praying that we share, the texts we study and preach. It is certainly in our reputation, as a two thousand year old world religion. When you or I side with the supernatural Yahweh, Jesus, and Spirit, we call it faith. As a congregation of believers, our own official documents declare we are a people of faith.
From the UBCD Constitution: Article IV – Reception of Members: (Notice the evidence mentioned here.)
Upon recommendation of the Deacons and the vote of the Church, a person may be received into membership:
i) By baptism – A candidate who gives satisfactory evidence by [sic] faith in Christ and a desire to live for Christ, is accepted for baptism.
iii) By experience – A candidate may become a member of the Church if there is satisfactory evidence of Christian experience…
What is the evidence that shows you are a Christian? Can you show that you have walked some Holy Ground? Has God graciously met you, touched you, blessed you?
Holy Ground is an experience! Faith is not a theory, or even a list of facts we may claim to believe are true. Christian faith is confidence in God – a rather personal God – who has actually inspired that confidence inside of us.
How delightful some of our personal faith stories are. I shall never forget what a United Church friend said, years ago, about a holy experience she had. When I knew her, Alice was a retired nurse, living with her husband along a stretch of rural road between villages, near a spot where the moose crossed the road.
Anyway, one day she spoke of a moment of forgiveness, of cleansing, of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Remember, she wasn’t pentecostal, she was United Church. It was like one of those commercials for Mr. Clean, I think she said. There was a sweep of light and sparkle and suddenly Alice felt pure and clean and holy and energized.
Have any of you explained the Holy Spirit with a TV commercial? We each have our own unique moments.
A transformative experience changes our plan for life. Just see the Moses story for inspiration. None of us is called upon to be a Moses in our day, I know, but this patriarch stands in history as a teacher and guide. Minding his own business, he is astute enough to pay attention. He draws near to a burning bush, and finds a new plan for his life. Back to Egypt… to lead his people out. We skipped quite a few of his objections, or excuses, in scripture. The struggle is real, for the rest of his long life. Exodus, and Leviticus, and Numbers and Deuteronomy tell the tales.
The principle is true for us: people are called by Christ into churches, to make a difference. To be disciples. No, disciples are not special servants among us today. That purpose is for every one of us. As Dallas Willard said, discipleship is not for super-Christians only. To be a devoted apprentice of Jesus is for every saved person!
I love the story of Jesus and the woman at the well, as we call her. There is that moment when He speaks to her of worshipping in spirit & truth. No, the holy ground is not just in Jerusalem, as the Jews taught, nor on Mount Gerizim, as the Samaritans believed. The holy ground will be available to everyone, anywhere. The true worshippers will worship in spirit and in truth. So it is today. We gather here, in Digby, of all places! We tell the rest of our village, as the woman at the well did.
There are so many varieties of religious experience. That’s the name of one of those books in my library I’ve never read, but has a great title: ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience’ – William James, 1902. It is so important for us, in one place, to be always in touch with others who are different, somewhere else, but also with our same Jesus.
When I was with pastors touring in Bolivia, eleven years ago, so many things I shall never forget. One simple thing was, on Sunday, worshipping with a little Baptist Church in Cochabamba. Some young adults made up the small worship band who led us in our singing. In Spanish, of course. Have you ever worshipped with a congregation that speaks a language of which you know nothing?
Many of the worship songs were quite familiar – the tunes. We Canadians sang along, in our own language. Yet I was very moved, and emotional. Singing when choked up is difficult. Here we were with these people – so different, and so similar. Most of them poorer than I will ever be. They were showing such hospitality to us, the visiting Canadian pastors: feeding us well, for instance. Together we were sharing Christ, worshipping, being one in Him.
This is the place! To celebrate Christian experience. To give thanks for Xian experience. To share Xian experiences and proclaim the Christ we’ve met. To seek again the X experience. What does that newer song by Gordon Mote and the Gaithers say?
Come, my child, there is a place
When you’re lost, you will be found
You’ll be safe, and you’ll belong
You will hear the sweetest sound
This is the place where we pray
This is the place where we cry
This is the place where we start
‘Til death do us part
Where we say goodbye
Here we leave all our pain
Find forgiveness and grace
Here we walk down the aisle
Dedicate every child
Here in this sacred place
For a number of years I was part of a young adult study group called the Carpenter’s Hands. Of all the things we did, I think the most popular study was Henry Blackaby and Claude King’s ‘Experiencing God’ course. How does one experience God? Here are their steps:
1. God is always at work around you.
2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.
3. God invites you to become involved with Him in His work.
4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.
5. God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.
6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.
7. You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.
People found this quite practical. Personally, I am more fond of the help of author Dallas Willard, in all his teaching about how to recognize the voice of God in our lives. It’s just as well I can’t find his book right now, or else I’d be going on and on about that too! 🙂
So there are ways we can make room for ‘holy ground’ in day to day life. And part of our personal testimony is being able to talk about how we have experienced God, & how we have done things to open the door to the Saviour.
We assume it, but we must also be intentional about making room for ‘holy ground,’ the experience of Christ, in the Church. It is a matter of making room for the holy ground others have walked, who are outside the church. Listen to their stories. Open our hearts and minds to what God does, how the Spirit surprises, who Jesus meets.
In the weeks ahead, we will face some challenges and have some celebrations about the local Church. This is the place. The place where everything comes together today.
Break some bread, come share the wine
At this table there is a place
Bring your fears, take His peace
Come and share this Holy space
PRAYER: Holy God, the burning bush in the wilderness, and the sacred mountains in Israel and Samaria give us a vision of supernatural places and powerful occasions. Remind us how You meet us in the ordinary moments, in the usual places we spend our time.
We pray for dear friends of this fellowship who are not with us today. Remind us, Holy Spirit, to reach out and make them one with us: those who stay at home or long- term care facilities, those who are travelling and at a distance today, those who have not returned since the pandemic first threatened. May they find ‘holy ground’ where they are, on this Christian sabbath day.
Spirit of Truth, as we come to the Lord’s Table, we sing a statement of faith. We confess how we have sometimes lived as if none of this mattered. We have forgotten there is reconciliation; we treat others as if there is no such thing as forgiveness; we run our lives as if Christ were not in charge, nor coming again. We believe; help now our unbelief.
As we offer the bread of the grainfields and the fruit of the vine for this ceremony, we offer our monetary gifts also, in the name of Jesus, and our gifts for the Food Bank. May every simple action be for our transformation and Your glory, today and forevermore. AMEN.