Worship at Home, February 6 – Faith & Healing

WELCOME to this plan for worship service for us all to share from our homes or wherever we may be. Follow along with the readings and recordings. May we not only be drawn close to God but also to all who are offering these same prayers, hearing the same songs, and studying the same scriptures. More information is available in the weekly Bulletin, here on the website. Next week, February 13, we plan to be open for service together in the pews of #2 Mount Street, Digby. 🙂

Psalm 40:1-3 (Passion translation)
1 I waited and waited and waited some more,
patiently, knowing God would come through for me.
Then, at last, he bent down and listened to my cry.
2 He stooped down to lift me out of danger
from the desolate pit I was in,
out of the muddy mess I had fallen into.
Now he’s lifted me up into a firm, secure place
and steadied me while I walk along his ascending path.
3 A new song for a new day rises up in me
every time I think about how he breaks through for me!
Ecstatic praise pours out of my mouth until
everyone hears how God has set me free.
Many will see his miracles;
they’ll stand in awe of God and fall in love with him!

HYMN # 517 The Solid Rock

Opening PRAYER: We lift up our hearts to You, Holy One; may we not be disappointed. We rise to see the light of Your goodness shining upon us and our bitter world. We do whatever we can to stay close and connected with one another, in this strange time of limitations. O Healer of every ill, we gather our praises and prayers together for the sake of everyone. Our bodies are amazing yet fragile, our minds and hearts bright yet fading, our relationships rich yet tarnished. Show us Christ within us, the hope of glory.

We give ourselves in worship; give Your Spirit to us again, we beg You. We give our offerings for our work and worship, done in Your name. We give our time this day to be refreshed and given new hope. Give us enough that we overflow with hope to our world!

The Lord’s PRAYER

STORY Big Journey: Ch. 6 – read by the author, Tyler Van Halteren

SONG Footprints – sung by Joyce Marshall, 2020

SCRIPTURE John 4:46 – 5:18 read by Bev & Peter Dickie (Thanks for some personal words also.)

SERMON: Faith & Healing (Jeff White) James 5:14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective

So wrote James, author of a letter near the end of our Bibles. Faith and healing: how do they work together? We all want to know. We all put our faith to work, for the sake of healing sickness. People ‘send prayers’ all the time.

From John 4 and 5 we read a couple healing stories, in which Jesus was the healer. What interesting stories. What real stories, with such reactions from people.

Look at that first scenario. Perhaps it feels familiar to our experiences. A child needs healing. The parent has to travel for healing – walking to a town 20 kms away. He begs for attention, and the child is at the point of death!

At first he seems to get some not so comforting words from the healer. But then is told the kid is cured. The man travels again, hoping, trusting, but surely has to stay somewhere overnight on the way home. What wondering about the child must have haunted his journey, and that night away from home.

The next day, traveling, he gets a message: Yes! The boy is healed! The man truly believes; everyone believes!

The world we live in is very different from first century Palestine, yet we Bible followers today surely try to make connections with our own experiences, in our faith, and our quests for healing. 

Our grandchildren are visiting for a couple days and nights this weekend. As many of you know, the younger one, Amelia, has had a few serious health problems since her premature birth, almost five years ago. 

Her time in her mother’s womb had to be ended abruptly in March of 2017. Born at 26 weeks, she weighed just over one pound. Her first 118 days she spent in the IWK, in neonatal intensive care. Her breathing, her feeding, and other functions were not good – she wasn’t ready for birth! It was an intense, emotional roller-coaster, especially for her parents. For instance, many times her breathing stopped, and her little body had to be prompted to take her next breath. 

So the parents went through a lot of traveling that year. Traveling and staying away from hope, hoping for the healing of their child, not knowing what would happen. They begged for attention from every medical professional – and Amelia got it. They pleaded with God over and over when the little one was near death! Sometimes, the direct words of doctors or nurses did not sound comforting or compassionate. But amid the many warnings of the worst that might next happen, there was progress, and healing. There was life! There was survival and growth. As ‘Nana Sharon’ said many times, there were hundreds of miracles.

We all believed and feared, at the same time, over and over. After years of oxygen, and feeding tubes, medications and medical appointments, Amelia lives her happy life. Still feeding mostly by a feeding tube. Still on one medication. Still wearing pull-ups. In pre-primary now, she is almost five years old, delayed in every way, but on her way into a life of big, bright hopes. 

Many children do not make out so well. Many others have it pretty easy, getting to age five very healthily. Amelia’s is a story of faith and healing, for her parents, and grandparents, and many friends. Sharon and I thank you again for being part of this personal story.

Jesus as Healer is a prominent way many of us seek Him. Just as it was in His earthly lifetime in a small area of the Middle East. Each event of curing was unique. Like your experiences and mine of the Great Physician.

As I studied the scriptures last week, I considered how Jesus’ healing was limited, and unlimited. It was limited in a few ways, really. That royal employee whose boy was deathly sick, he had to do some waiting and worrying. Walking all that way to the town where Jesus was. Probably hoping this miracle healer would pay a house call in Capernaum, Jesus abruptly said, ‘he’s healed.’ Good news, but could it be believed? All that Jesus said does not seem particularly comforting. Jesus did not always make a big show of things, or answer a personal problem just as people hoped He might. 

Yet there is the unlimited side of healing in our Faith also, seen here in these examples of Jesus. The boy very quickly recovers from death’s door, beginning at the very moment, it turns out, when Jesus simply declared the cure. What happens to that young fellow inspires the whole household. John calles this healing the second sign, as he tells the Jesus story. What happened pointed the way, shone some light, for people to follow. 

Immediately, John chapter 5 begins with the next healing saga, told briefly but with many details in the plot. This time Jesus heads back into the city, Jerusalem, and by a pool used for ritual Jewish washing are ill and crippled people. One man has been unwell in poverty there longer than Jesus has been alive. Does the crippled man even show any faith? Yet, he gets healed by Christ. When the fellow gets in trouble with the religious authorities, he puts the blame on the healer, whom he does not even know by name. Later, after getting better acquainted with Jesus, he tells the authorities who He is, and for breaking Sabbath regulations, Jesus gets in deeper trouble. 

Nevertheless, it is a healing miracle, again. Jesus, the unlimited Miracle Worker, as the Hand of God, heals this fellow also without fanfare, without him having to get into the healing pool at the magic moment he’d been waiting for all his life. Jesus’ miracle is not even limited by the man’s lack of showing any faith. He did not even answer when Christ asked if he wanted to be made well! The crippled man did not even need to know who Jesus was, what His name was, or anything. The powerful grace of God is unlimited. And, perhaps it extends to the whole person, not just the body. When they meet again Jesus tells him not to sin any more, so nothing worse happens. Many commentators have seen this being about the spiritual, emotional, mental life of the man above and beyond his now healed body. 

Healing, miraculous healing, without limits, is what many people of Faith hope for, and even have great confidence in. Others of us are more cautious about miracles. We hope. We pray. We wait and see. 

Because the unlimited power Jesus shows is also limited. As I look at this story in Jerusalem, by the pool of Bethsaida, what about all the other folks there? What about them? Were they healed? Doesn’t look like it. 

And you could look at the one man healed – after 38 years of disability – and wonder why it took so long. Some of you have asked this same thing about people who suffered a long time before relief came. ‘How long, O Lord?’ That is the cry of the Psalms also. 

There are limits on the healings in the prayers of the people. Not everyone gets healed. 

As I got ready to speak to you this week, I at first thought most of my sermon could be me reading you a long story, as told by our friend Jennifer, years ago, about her suffering and treatment for ovarian cancer. It is an amazing testament about faith and a quest for healing. Once again, I’ll leave the whole, beautiful and dramatic saga for another occasion. Today, here is an excerpt from these Facebook posts she shared in 2019, with all her friends. She was in hospital at the time. Just listen for how amazing Jenn’s attitude – her faith – was, in this time.

June 1 8:09 pm  Odd things and observations from life in the VG. We know we are exactly where we are supposed to be and God is allowing me to convalesce and recover here daily. The staff is wonderful. Everyday is interesting! It is an adventure!  [Here are 8 of about a dozen points:]

1. The water is contaminated. I can not shower. I cannot wash my hair. I need to wear a mask and close my eyes to wash my hands and flush. If cancer doesn’t kill me…. the water could. Jon cleans me up with bottled water from the kitchen for sponge baths and to try and wash my hair in the sink. Refreshing!

2. It costs $14.50 a day during the week to park our car here.

3. Anytime my friends come to visit me in the daytime on a weekday there is no parking in the lot. Or on any nearby streets. Parking is a real problem here.

4. The internet is slower than our internet on the mountain that comes over satellite. I think Jon said the wifi is .3 to .78 Mbps. 

It also kicks him off every two hours. He can get his work done on it and we are glad for it. Apparently until recently only one floor had it. Thank you to whoever fought for it and paid for it for patients on this floor!

5. There is a nice little cafeteria in the building but it does not feed patients. Patient meals are prepared at the infirmary site and shipped out to the other hospitals and they are later heated somewhere here. you have to order them a few days ahead or they pick what you get. My first meal was burnt spaghetti on a disposable plastic plate. Not sure how that happens… I have had good bad and ugly delivered but I have also had to throw so much food away it sickens me.

6. The nurses are amazing. I haven’t had one yet that I haven’t liked or that hasn’t taken wonderful care of me. The lab technicians each morning are great too. The doctors are fantastic!

7. Last night one of my neighbours was rather irate about the mice running around and no one seemingly doing anything about it. Pretty sure I saw one in my room last week. I didn’t announce it. I feel like I’m camping here. There are always rodents when you camp. I do feel bad for Jon because his bed is closer to the floor than mine. We gave our nurse a peace offering for her to give the man and apparently it may have helped soothe him.

8. Last night one of my neighbours died.

Jennifer beautifully wrote a number of other updates about her journey, some of them very creative and entertaining. This was June 1st, 2019; she died June 20th. 

Jesus the Healer is limited. They are His own sovereign limits, we might say. There is a lot of mystery in how and when ‘miracles’ are done. And Christ is also unlimited

As one of my Pastor friends always says, God heals in three main ways. Sometimes, by some miracle: unexplained, prayed for, perhaps sudden. Sometimes healing comes through treatment and medicine and surgery and better diet and so forth. And sometimes God’s healing comes by dying and entering the completion of eternal life. 

Our personal faith and our healing develop during our lifetimes. They develop as we share them with one another. They grow as we live, and as we die. For we also say, with Christ, we never die

Remember Jesus, again and again. Christ is the author of our faith, and of our healing, and of our resurrection.

PRAYER after the Sermon: Saviour, like a written prescription: may these thoughts about scripture be good for our complete health. Master, like the medicines we take: may our next steps be healthy ones. Jesus, like the air and water and food we receive: may we also feed on You in our souls, and be renewed, day by day. AMEN.

Celebration of Ministry – Take a look at the notes in the Bulletin. Annual lecture series at Acadia (online) will be important, February 15-17.

PRAYERS of the People: Saviour of all creation, we pray before we end our sharing in worship. After another winter’s storm we look into the calm and cold with gratitude for the beauty and bounty of our world. Forgive our taking for granted of the safety and riches that are all around us. Forgive our clouded vision that does not see those who are neediest and most vulnerable. Forgive our forgetfulness of the spiritual activities that keep us on track: prayer and praise, scripture and sacrifice. Yours, Jesus, is the healing power for our souls and our fellowship with others. Make things right!

Sovereign God, from Ottawa down to Digby, the challenges of our leadership are great. We cry out to You, for the coronavirus and all our precautions seem more and more divisive, pitting people against one another, in every community. How can there be healing, O God, in our relationships? We see reports of protests in various places here in Canada. We pray again for peace and justice, fairness and protection among all our people.

We also invoke Your power to heal and help those ill with COVID-19, and those whose healing for other problems is hindered by the pandemic. Eternal One, we do rejoice in answered prayers, healing help, and medical treatments that have been helpful and successful. Praise You, for the great blessings we’ve seen!

Now with these words, we ask for grace in every situation:

HYMN #238 Because He Lives – Cairine R., organ and chimes, 2020

BENEDICTION: 3 John 2
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul.
And may the presence of God – Abba, Christ and Spirit – live in, around and among us every day. AMEN.

Worship at Home, Jan 30 – He Told Me Everything

WELCOME to this plan for shared worship at our homes. PSALM 42:1-5

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night,
while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God,
with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help 6 and my God.

HYMN # As the Deer – sung and played by Margo Nesbitt

PRAYER: Holy One, for whom our souls long, to You we turn, with all our power, all our hopes, all our habits, all our tools for seeking and finding You. All the Bible words of longing for You speak our language. Thanks and praise for those times when we truly sensed You were close and real and good. Let there be a miracle again today, in our own homes, as the snowstorm wanes. Let there be praise! Let there be holy fellowship! Let there be whatever You know is good for us. Amen.

SCRIPTURE: John 4:1-42 – ready by Jeff White, Margo Nesbitt & Joy Potter

SERMON: He Told Me Everything – preached by Jeff White. Do you know anyone who knows everything? We likely all have known a few people who seemed like real ‘know-it-alls,’ which is more about the attitude they present than their actual expertise. I’m sure I have mentioned to you before a dear colleague of mine who was like this. Sadly, he suddenly dropped dead about ten years ago, but in his life he was a Baptist Minister and an expert in Baptist Church History – certainly in the Maritimes. He was a very friendly guy, and always positive, and always full of information. He had an answer for everything. He volunteered with scouting, did some biology at Keji, was musical, on and on…. He seemed like he knew it all. 

This can be a very annoying trait in a person, right? I’m sure this friend of mine was not liked by everyone, and came across as a real ‘know-it-all.’ The trouble with him was, I think he kind of did know it all! He was very intelligent and astute and knowledgeable. Bless his heart, he did wonderful service for the Lord, is now gone, but not forgotten. He was an unforgettable character!

Here, in our worship, the unforgettable Character at the heart of things is Jesus the Christ. And, of course, we likely believe our Saviour is a Know-it-all of a whole different order. As we started walking through the Gospel of John this month, we look again deeply into who Jesus is, we get to know Him better. 

I’m grateful for Joy and Margo who helped me read most of John chapter four, and pay attention to the story. What stands out for you in this ‘woman at the well’ tale? Ya know, for me, the most amazing moment is when the woman is back in downtown Sychar. She says to her neighbours, “Come and see a man who told me everything I had ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”  Somehow, this is amazing, good news to this gal. She seems hopeful, excited, impressed. Is he, maybe, the Messiah? Or, as the Samaritans likely would have said, is He the Restorer? That was their title for the One they hoped would return, a prophet like Moses of old. Is He the One? she asked. Come, come and meet Him!

Having grown up hearing this John 4 story, I was trained to notice that Jesus seems to have this supernatural way of knowing all about her: that she had five husbands, and now is not married to the man she’s with. This view of her mainly as a sinful woman is not the only view to be taken of her, but in evangelical protestantism it has been the main attitude. So no wonder I see something amazing here. However Jesus presented Himself to her, it was a positive experience

I mean, if some religious fellow came up to you at Tim Hortons, and in chatting, told one on one some of your secret sins and failings, how might you feel? Embarrassed? Horrified? Angry! Frightened? Ashamed and guilty? 

‘The woman at the well’ does not feel these things does she? Not much, I’d say. However Jesus said all this to her, she became totally impressed. It came across as ‘good news.’ She went home and told everyone. He told me everything I had ever done! Jesus was a ‘Know-it-all’ who was compassionate and built her up, somehow.

Let’s walk through the whole story and consider it. I see seven scenes in what we read today. First, the woman meets Jesus, and they speak of water: water from the well, and living water. The Rabbi uses His usual rhetorical methods and uses a practical element to speak of human spirituality. The great Teacher uses whatever is at hand for His teaching. Jesus knows every method of teaching and guidance that will work for you. 

Second scene: The talk about the woman’s partners: five former husbands and her latest man. It has been pointed out to me that the emphasis upon this woman as a terrible sinner is not the only thing to home in on. She may well have been a victim of others, trapped in a cycle of relationships that was not the normal approved patter of life. Apparently, in centuries of Bible interpretation, she has often been remembered mainly as a witness of Jesus, not as a forgiven terrible sinner. And we will get to her testimony in a moment. 

I think there are many direct and indirect ways our Master will tell us all about ourselves. Have you ever sensed that God knows everything about you? The good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful? And have you then felt it was all good news, from the Spirit? Just like whatever we hear from our family doctor, or specialist. So called good news or bad news is all news that helps us: helps us do whatever we need to do next, be it live, suffer, heal or die!

Third scene: I guess she was not totally impressed at first by Jesus’ knowledge of her male partners: she immediately seems to change the subject. To the subject of being a prophet and of worship – Samaritan worship and Jewish worship: never the twain shall meet!

 This people group called Samaritans were really a branch off of the Hebrew vine of the distant past. They believed the true place of worship was at Mount Gerizim, not Mount Zion in Jerusalem. They took only the Torah, the first five books as holy Bible, not the prophets and writings that the Jews also had in their canon of scripture. For a long time they were enemies of the Jews. In fact, their temple on Mount Gerizim had been destroyed by the Jews in 128 BCE, cementing their animosity. As John reminds the reader here, Jews and Samaritans did not share things – they wouldn’t eat together and show the usual Middle Eastern hospitality. 

Anyway, Jesus is breaking some cultural rules here in this meeting, and breaks their religions down too. Neither holy mountain will be, in the future somehow, the true place of worship. “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (J 4:24) Maybe one of my favorite scripture verses, since I have always been so interested in Christian worship. 

There is a lot to deal with here in what Jesus says – and He is offering this incredible teaching to this Samaritan woman, despite what those from the outside might say about her. Even though He knows everything she has ever done, Jesus tells her some mind-blowing secrets. 

One of the things about the Spirit of Jesus knowing everything about any person: He knows the beautiful blessing and purpose of each person. So we had better not think any person we meet has nothing to offer the world. Everyone does. And so do you! As a Balinese dancer once said, “There is someone out there who needs you. Live your life so that person can find you.”

Fourth scene: the disciples come back after shopping in downtown Sychar. They seem alarmed that Jesus is having this talk with a woman, not to mention she is one of these Samaritans. But they don’t say anything about it. 

My one thought about this moment is to remember I am a disciple. And I must admit when I am not happy with Jesus. There, I said it. Maybe this means that sometimes I am unhappy with Jesus in the form of His people today, His Body, His Church. Sometimes I don’t like what I read in the Bible, His Word. Sometimes I am angry with how my prayers to Him turn out, unanswered. You and I are going to be like those disciples of old, and not get it, not approve, not be totally confident. That will be OK. I like Paul’s word about Christ in his second letter to Timothy: (2:13) if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

Fifth scene: switch to the woman, who left her water jar at the well, and rushed back into her town. She tells everyone about this Jew she met. She impresses them, and a bunch of townsfolk head out to the well to meet the Man.

Early Christian theologian, Ephraem the Syrian (306-373), summarized the scene beautifully:  Jesus came to the fountain as a hunter… He threw a grain before one pigeon that he might catch the whole flock… 

At the beginning of the conversation he did not make himself known to her, but at first she caught sight of a thirsty man, then a Jew, then a Rabbi, afterwards a prophet, last of all the Messiah. She tried to get the better of the thirsty man, she showed dislike of the Jew, she heckled the Rabbi, she was swept off her feet by the prophet, and she adored the Christ.

Scene Six: back to those disciples and Jesus, at Joseph’s well. You noticed this was an old watering hole? Had been Jacob’s, famous Jacob we read all about in Genesis, with his 12 sons who became the 12 Tribes. 

Also, in Biblical stories, a lot can happen at a well! More than a couple times men get hooked up with their future wives at such a well, including Jacob, Isaac, and even Moses. No wonder the disciples are alarmed when their friend and Rabbi is having a one-on-one chat with a strange woman there! 

But the conversation of Master & disciples is triggered by food. ‘Have something to eat,’ they tell Jesus, after the woman leaves. He takes the teachable moment and gives a mini-sermon about spiritual food. And harvesting. These men, we notice, went into unfriendly territory to get some bread, but did not seem to be on mission. Unlike the local woman, who told the town about Jesus, and was at that very moment leading them out to meet Him!

Usually, your best mission field, and mine, is our own people. For me, that is religious people (hence, I am preaching to you, the converted!), but also to nature lovers, and hikers, and so forth. You, you have your own audience, your own people. You are the best witness among them.

Seventh and final scene: the townspeople meet Jesus, and He ends up staying there a couple days with them. ‘Many Samaritans from the city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” (J 4:39) & more believed; they saw for themselves. 

We Baptist Christians stand deep in the stream of Evangelicalism. Maybe I feel this more than you folks of the pews, but I do feel the push to spread ‘the word’ and ‘get people saved.’ Here again, I am reminded that it is the work of the Spirit of God to reveal things to people, and to save them. It is not my work to save people. This is Jesus’ wonderful work. When someone sees for themselves the things of God, that makes all the difference. 

You and I, like that unnamed Samaritan woman, let’s spend time with Christ, and do our part just to say to others, ‘Hey, I want you to meet this Guy. He really impresses me. He knows everything about me. And still welcomed me!’

PRAYER after the Sermon:  Source of living water, thank You for pouring out again for all people, and offering life. Bread of the world, as You have fed us today, so help us keep on feeding our minds and hearts and bodies with good nourishment. Encourage us to reject the junk food that will spoil our attitudes and our inner hope. In Your holy name. AMEN.

CELEBRATION of Ministry: For upcoming events and items for prayer read the Bulletin. You may make offerings to Digby Baptist by mailing them; dropping them off in the box in the hallway or the box outside the Hall door; or e-transfer (using trainfan43@gmail.com).

PRAYERS of the People: With our alphabet we pray, O God:
Alleluia! We praise and worship You all the more.
Bless us, beginning our week together, as we pray our requests.
Care for those who are ill, mourning, depressed, or troubled.
Defend those who are weak, who are mistreated, who are poor.
End the threats of war and violence in our world; this is a big prayer!
Forgive the many problems we have caused, even the hidden ones.
Give us hope in the face of our goof-ups and also our serious guilt.
Help us deal with all the hold-ups this pandemic has caused.
Inspire us to keep on being Your Church, an incarnation of the Spirit.
Jesus, be the centre of our joy and our joint activities.
Keep us on a path that is in Your Kingdom.
Love must abound: be the source and the giver of compassion in us.
Mourning, we miss Mike, and pray for dear Maggie in this sad loss.
Nearby there are others in our prayers, in hospitals, care homes, etc.
Overseas our prayers can reach, because of You. Bless the Ukraine.
Peace over there is our prayer, where conflict is threatening.
Quickly give help to those who face hunger, drought, flood or storm.
Rescue those who are without hope in their spirits: Redeemer, save.
Somehow, we don’t know how, You can reach those who need faith.
Truckers are troubled, Master. Bless everyone to understand & trust.
Unmet needs are still rampant in places like Afghanistan: help, Lord!
Violence in homes and families is very common, even here. Help!
Where are wonderful things, Jesus? Wherever You are. Thank You.
X-ray vision is Yours, so help us examine life to see Good News.
You’re still at work, Yahweh: yesterday & tomorrow in Your hands!
Zero are the things we need when we rest in You. You’re our A to Z!
AMEN.

HYMN # 568 Take My Life and Let It Be – sung and played by Margo Nesbitt

BENEDICTION:  Psalm 42:11b

Hope in God; for you shall again praise Him, our help and our God. Amen.

Worship, Oct 3 – Holy Ground

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.

Recognize God’s Voice

Lent 3 (Ps 95; Ex 17:1-7; John 4:5-42)
March 19, 2017 – UBC Digby – J G White

Noah’s in his rec room, making some things for the home.  He’s a very good carpenter:
Vooobah, voobah, voobah.  Bing.
“Noah.”
(quietly) “Somebody Call?
Vooobah, voobah, voobah.  Bing.
“Noah!”
“Who is that?
“It’s the LORD; Noah.”
… “Right!” (Bill Cosby, 1965)

Oh, to hear the LORD’s voice.  To recognize it.  To have a conversation.  

Psalm 95 today exclaims: O that today you would listen to his voice!  To sing to the LORD, to kneel before our Maker, to be the sheep of God’s pasture, to listen to His voice… It happens when we recognize the speaking of God.  Perhaps this Psalm hints at three good steps for people of Faith to learn:
One. Hear the Voice.
Two. Know it is the Voice.
Three. Respond appropriately.

Step Two, recognizing the Voice continues to be a challenge.  There are at last Eight ways people are addressed by God in the Biblical record.

One.  A supernatural phenomena with a voice.  The burning bush Moses meets, Exodus 3.  Jesus baptism: heavens open, dove descends, voice.  

Two.  A supernatural messenger or angel.  Angels visit Mary, and Joseph, on separate occasions, Mt 1, Luke 1.  

Three. Dreams and visions.  Pharaoh’s dreams Joseph interprets, Genesis 41.  Paul’s dream of the man from Macedonia, saying, “Come to Macedonia and help us” Acts 16.

Perhaps you have heard the story of Patrick of Ireland.  After escape from slavery in Ireland, Patrick devoted his life to ministry.  While studying for the priesthood, he experienced recurring dreams in which he heard voices say, “O holy youth, come back to Erin and walk once more amongst us.”  His superiors let him return to Ireland in 432 CE to seek reconciliation and spread his faith.  (Shane Claiborne, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, 2010, pp.185-6)

Four. A natural phenomenon.  Psalm 19 The heavens are telling the glory of God … Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.  There is no speech, nor are there words… yet their voice goes out through all the earth.

Five. An audible voice.  Young Samuel hearing his name called in the night. 1 Samuel 3.  Or, is this what Saul heard when he met Jesus one day travelling the road to Damascus? Acts 9.

Six. By the scriptures.  Peter preaches to the crowds stirred up by those filled with the Holy Spirit.  He quotes the OT, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, & your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…(Ac 2)

Seven. A human voice. The words of someone can be a word from the Lord.  We might go back to the stories of Moses, who is assured by God, “I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.” Ex 4.  And the prophets of old experienced the force of God’s word that had to come out of their mouths.  Jeremiah 20:  If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

Eight. Human spirit/thought. Our own thoughts and feelings inside – can regularly be the Holy Spirit speaking. Proverbs 20:27. The human spirit is the lamp of the LORD, searching every inmost part.  The light of God shines within, at our ‘deepest place.’ Psalm 16 remarks I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.  

Among these ways the Divine Voice is heard, the most common and usual for us – in friendship with God – could be the most ordinary ways:  The Bible.  Creation.  The voice of other people.  And our thoughts within us.  In these we detect the ‘still small voice.’

Dallas Willard claims that the still small voice — or the interior voice, as it is also called — is the preferred and most valuable form of individualized communication for God’s purposes.  (Hearing God, 1999, p. 89)  He also claimed that the more spectacular ways that God speaks go along with the less mature levels of the spiritual life. (Ibid, p. 111)

Quite a few years ago, I was at a point in my life where I needed to know what to do next.  I had a decision to make. I was twenty years old.  I’d had weeks and months of thinking it over, talking to people about it, and trying to pray into the answer.  But when would I know, really know?

Then, it happened suddenly.  A single moment when it all felt clear, at last.  The straw that broke the camel’s back was a couple sentences from a devotional book I’d been given.  When I read this, one evening, suddenly I knew.  I knew the answer; I knew my decision.

Many of us have a sort of vision of the kind of person God wants us to be.  We must be true to that vision, whatever it is, and we must try to live up to it, by living the way we believe we should live.  …In all people there is the good person which God sees in us, the person we could be and that God would like us to be.  (Twenty-Four Hours a Day, 1975, Dec. 2)

It seemed so clear that, in the moment, my Saviour spoke to me.  How do we recognize this?  We can see three factors in the Voice of the Master.

One.  The Tone. God speaking has a certain weight of authority about it.  When Jesus taught along the way, people remarked at how he taught with an authority that was greater than the usual religion teachers of the day.  So to with the quiet, contemporary voice of the Spirit to us.  When certain Bible verse stand out to us, or something strikes us in words someone speaks, or a thought comes to us from within – a tone of authority in it can signify the Holy Source. Other ideas of our own, or words we hear that catch our attention, will not be so clear and strong.  

  1. Stanley Jones said, Perhaps the rough distinction is this: The voice of the subconscious argues with you, tries to convince you; but the inner voice of God does not argue, does not try to convince you.  It just speaks, and it is self-authenticating. It has the feel of the voice of God within it.  (Jones, A Song of Ascents, 1979, p. 190.)

So choosing the right way is not like the cartoon of the devil on one shoulder, and an angel on the other, both trying to sway us.  The voice of a true angel will simply be clear, not so much trying to sway, as simply stating the truth.  

We heard an old scripture story from Exodus 17.  We notice, perhaps, the strong frustration, and desperation, of the people, now traversing a wilderness they did not know.  The people quarrelled with their leader, Moses.  They complained.  They were demanding.  Moses almost sounds testy, “Why do you quarrel with me?”  On their behalf, Moses goes to YHWH God with his own desperation: “What shall I do with this people?  They are almost ready to stone me.”

Then note Yhwh’s calm response.  The instructions sound clear, and unaffected by the hotheadedness of the people.  At this moment, at least, there is a quality of clarity and straightforwardness.  ‘Go there, take them, use this, do that.  I will be there,’ says God.  And water comes from the rock.  

The Voice of God has a tone of authority to it.  

Two.  The Spirit of the voice, as Dallas Willard calls it.  God speaking has a spirit of  exalted peacefulness and confidence, of joy, of sweet reasonableness and of goodwill. (Willard, Hearing God, p. 177)  Again, it is as Jesus was, as Jesus is.  The voice is in accord with His demeanor.  

What we call the story of the woman at the well, in John 4, continues to impress me.  Dick and Evelyn helped us hear it today.  It records a series of events that might have many lessons for us in it.  I keep on noticing how the woman, here in Samaria, reacts.  Especially when she goes back to town, there among her own people.  

The woman is impressed. Something about Jesus made a very positive impression on her. About this Jewish traveller, she keeps saying, “He told me everything I have ever done.  Might he be the Christ?”  We notice she has some definite life experience – five husbands in the past, and now she has a man she’s not married to.  

There must have been something in how Jesus spoke with her that made this good news.  He knew her story.  He told her so.  But she is excited about Jesus.  She suspects He is the long-awaited Messiah.  He sure did not come across as her judge and accuser, or as holier-than-thou.  

She is so enthusiastic that her fellow Samaritans invite this Jewish teacher to say a while.  And many of them get convinced He is the Christ.  The spirit in which Jesus spoke was so convincing, so open, so good.  

So, much of what we hear, in the still-small-voice will also be like this.  The message will have the Spirit of Jesus about it.  There is a certain grace in it.  

The book of James, with it’s strong warnings about how to speak, and the dangers of the human tongue, tells us this: But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. (3:17).  If only our own voices could always be like the wise voice of God with us.

Three. The Content.  What is said; the message, the meaning. Does it make sense that it’s from Christ?

I shall always remember the anecdote my OT professor told, from his days as a young pastor in the midwest of the United States.  He had a fellow in his church who got convinced of weird things, occasionally. Like the time the man claimed the Bible was telling him to put cream cheese in his wife’s hair.

That might not be harmful at all, but not useful either.  I got the impression from my prof that this just did not seem to him like a bit of guidance from God.  

When an idea, an impression, a message comes along that might be of God, does it seem to be the sort of thing God would say to us?  That is the question.  Naturally, the scriptures play a big part in this.  Charles Stanley wrote: “God’s voice will never tell us to engage in any activity or relationship that is inconsistent with the Holy Scriptures.” (How to Listen to God, 1985, p. 51)  What we know of God in holy history help us us know if a message is divine or not.

Though it is not all so simple, of course.  I believe our Bible is as big a book as it is because any one small piece of it is not always enough.  All together, it is the complete word of God – one verse here or there – even one whole book – can lead us astray.  So we read one chapter of the Bible in light of all the others.  

When we wonder – ah, is that You speaking to me, Jesus? – then we bring our whole impression of Him from scripture to bear.  Does Jesus say the sort of thing we think He is saying to us us now, in the moment?

As I look back on Christians in history, over the past few hundred years, I am often impressed by how humble they were, and what a large sense they had of sin in their own lives.  They seemed to feel so unworthy in the face of a Holy God.  But along with this they shared a deep amazement and gratitude in the face of Christ’s great love and acceptance.  

Here is an example from the writings of John Bunyan, an early Baptist preacher and famous author. He still felt the weight of his failures from time to time.  He said:

One day, as I was traveling into the country and musing on the wickedness and blasphemy of my heart, and considering the enmity that was in me to God, that scripture came to my mind: “ Having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20).  By which I was made to see, both again and again, that God and my soul were friends by his blood; yea, I saw that the justice of God and my sinful soul could embrace and kiss each other, through his blood.  This was a good day to me; I hope I shall never forget it. (Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, p. 46)

The holy purity of almighty God, and the supreme kindness God shows us are but two big aspects of this One we seek to hear.  When we suspect the Spirit is speaking to our spirits, what is said will match up with what we’d expect from the kind of God we know.  God’s voice says only the kinds of things God would say.  

Thanks be to God for that tone of authority, that Spirit of Jesus, and that clear content that makes divine messages recognizable.  The sheep get to know the Shepherd’s voice.  

Worship Fully

(Isaiah 2:1-5; John 4:19-26)

1st Sun of Advent, Nov 27, 2016 – UBC Digby – J G White

Have you ever been part of a conspiracy?  No?  Well, when the snow arrives, don’t let me catch you singing this: (Richard B. Smith, ‘34)
Later on we’ll conspire As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid The plans that we’ve made
Walking in a winter wonderland.

To conspire together is to make plans together.  Today, I invite you to join the Advent Conspiracy, a movement among Christians to do December differently, to live Advent without all the traps of the Season that is just beginning to catch us.  Shopping, rushing, wanting stuff, pigging out, getting in debt, forgetting Bethlehem.

The first of four themes for Christians in Advent can be Worship.  Worship Fully. Come and Worship.

Isaiah the prophet exclaimed to the Jews of old: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob” (2:3)  Isaiah paints one of these visions of the Hebrew Holy City and their Temple as the highest mountain, raised up, to which all the peoples of earth will be attracted.  Attracted and gathered to Almighty God.

God calls. Come and worship. Christ calls.

It was the night of the annual Santa Parade of Lights, Windsor NS.  Out by the local mall parking lot, the many vehicles, floats, and groups walking were lined up.  The local Baptist Church even had a float.  On the trailer was an old ‘pump organ’ that the pastor played, dressed in old-time garb and a top hat.  Others dressed in Victorian outfits were there to sing the carols. But in the front of the float was a rough structure with a feed-trough in it.  A young couple huddled there, dressed in old, Mid-Eastern clothing.  A baby doll was in the straw of the manger.

As the parade wound along the streets of the town, with the crowds of young and old alike cheering them on, at once Mary and Joseph saw this… A child in the front row called out: “Hi, Mary!  Hi, Joseph!”

A moment of worship, in Santa’s parade?  Full- fledged worship happens outside our own buildings.

One day, Jesus with his disciples traveled through the region called Samaria.  The Samaritans were like the Jews, but had broken away generations before.  They had their own holy mountain for worshipping God, not Mount Zion in Jerusalem.  But when Christ has a private conversation with one of the locals at a community well, He reveals some amazing things.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21, 24)

Our worship of the Son of God transcends the buildings and the rituals we know so well.  Our worship includes our private moments of devotion, and the spontaneous praise that happens anywhere.  

And when we worship fully, it is so that God may Teach us. Show us the way.  Look back to those words of Isaiah 2:3 “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord… that he may teach us his ways…” Isaiah goes on in his prophecy: For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

God’s ways, God’s law, God’s word.  Our worship, together, can be at the heart of this.  Of our practical training as disciples. Our apprenticeship to Jesus.  Our following of our Master, our Shepherd.  So Advent, these weeks before Christmas, can be a time of learning and training.

So we use the Jesse Tree this year.  A decoration that puts up, each day, a symbol of an Old Testament person, or event.  We remember the ancestors of Jesus, as well as our many mothers and fathers of faith.  The spiritual heroes of the Bible.  During this week a fruit tree will go up, reminding us of Adam and Eve.  Noah’s ark will go on the tree, remembering that story, and God’s covenant then.  And so on.

We also listen to the words of the many carols that are still sung and played all around us right now.  On the radio, on street corners, in the stores, on the internet.  We still learn from the stories of the Messiah coming into the world.  
Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.  Hmm… Jesus has more hands-on things to teach us about reconciliation.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, and fit us for heaven, to live with thee there.  Christ still has things to do with us to prepare us for heaven.
God with us is now residing, yonder shines the infant Light.  There is more to enjoy that we know, when it comes to God living with us here and now.

What we learn from God when we focus upon God has results.  It changes us, wonderfully.  We get trained to go out there and make a difference.  We worship so We may Walk in His Paths.
Isaiah 2:3 “…that we may walk in his paths.”
Isaiah 2:5  O house of Jacob, come, let us walk    in the light of the Lord.

I was reminded last week of what someone once said to me about the danger of being ‘spiritually fat’ Christians.  You know, we have been to many many Bible Studies, and retreats, and memorized scripture, and prayed.  And we still want more of that.  But what do we DO?  Sometime we need to get up off our duff and get out there and do what we know in the cause of Jesus.  

The Rev. Sam Shoemaker was a great preacher of the 20th century, an Episcopal pastor, and one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous.  He wrote this poem as an Apologia for his life.

I stand by the door.
I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out.
The door is the most important door in the world –
It is the door through which [people] walk when they find God.
There is no use my going way inside & staying there,
When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where the door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men,
With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it.
So I stand by the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for [people] to find that door – the door to God.
The most important thing that any [person] can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands
And put it on the latch – the latch that only clicks
And opens to the [person’s] own touch.

[People] die outside the door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter.
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live on the other side of it – live because they have not found it.
Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him.
So I stand by the door.

Go in great saints; go all the way in –
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics.
It is a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in.
Sometimes venture in a little farther,
But my place seems closer to the opening.
So I stand by the door.

[ There is another reason why I stand there.
Some people get part way in and become afraid
Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them;
For God is so very great and asks all of us.
And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia
And want to get out. ‘Let me out!’ they cry.
And the people way inside only terrify them more.
Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled.
For the old life, they have seen too much:
One taste of God and nothing but God will do any more.
Somebody must be watching for the frightened
Who seek to sneak out just where they came in,
To tell them how much better it is inside.
The people too far in do not see how near these are
To leaving – preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door
But would like to run away. So for them too,
I stand by the door.

I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how it was
Before they got in. Then they would be able to help
The people who have not yet even found the door.
Or the people who want to run away again from God.
You can go in too deeply and stay in too long
And forget the people outside the door. ]
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God to hear Him and know He is there,
But not so far from [people] as not to hear them,
And remember they are there too.

Where? Outside the door –
Thousands of them. Millions of them.
But – more important for me –
One of them, two of them, ten of them.
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
So I shall stand by the door and wait
For those who seek it.

‘I had rather be a door-keeper
So I stand by the door.

This is walking in his paths.  This is walking in the light of the LORD!  This goes hand in hand with true worship, worshipping in spirit and in truth.  

[ Micah the prophet famously asked:  (6:6a, 8)
“With what shall I come before the Lord,
   and bow myself before God on high?
He has showed you, O mortal, what is good;
   and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
   and to walk humbly with your God? ]

Your December can be a season of worshipping God fully.  All we are, worshipping all God is.  Our lives an offering to Jesus the Christ.