WELCOME to this worship post for February 20, 2022. Welcome to this format of service from Digby Baptist Church. More information is available in the Bulletin for this date. Video from the service is added each week after the 11 am service.
PRAYERS of the People: Holy, wonderful Spirit of abundant power: to You we turn with our prayers together this morning. O God of hope, banish our despair, disperse our depression, conquer our hopelessness. With trouble on every side, in this world today, we have come into the light of Your blessed presence.
Forgive our forgetfulness, when we thought You were not near or could not handle the troubles we face. Brighten our spirits, and inspire both our prayers and our actions.
We intercede for:
Russia & Ukraine; mudslide in Brazil
Spanish fishing trawler lost off NFLD
Family lost in a fire near Bridgewater, NS
COVID protocol protests – Canada, France
Hong Kong – cases spiking
2 Races and peoples, lo! we stand divided,
And sharing not our griefs, no joy can share;
By wars and tumults Love is mocked, derided,
His conquering cross no kingdom wills to bear:
Thy Kingdom come, O Lord, Thy will be done.
(Lawrence Houseman, 1919)
Spirit of God, close as our own breath, we bless those nearest to us: Lisa Wong, John Banks, Rollie Wier, Louis Francis, Robert Wilkinson Sr., Amelia Doucette… Dwight and Joe and Peter; Marj, Maggie
Inspire and guide us in our Church Annual Meeting on Saturday. God of a hundred names, You call us by name, and bless us: glory and thanks to You, now and always. AMEN.
SERMON: As I prepared my message for today, the rain was pouring down – outdoors it was coming in horizontally; in here it was pouring straight down on the edge of the pews there! In the news I heard of the makeshift jails set up in Ottawa to receive the many expected arrested people from the protests. Then, my second basically homeless man of the week dropped in looking for a handout. Life is messy!
I’d just come out of three days of watching and listening to the lectures and seminars from Acadia about justice and anti-black racism: how to face the challenge and do something; be active; follow Jesus! It was a call to be courageous! It’s been a week of invitations to me to be courageous, to act more bravely.
I find all the bravery difficult. Perhaps none of you are like me, who finds it hard to be sure enough of things to take a stand. To care less about myself so I can care more for others and for the issues. I admire courageous, decisive people, who are clear about what they see and what they think and what should be done.
So you have not heard me preach on anti-black racism, ever. Or local poverty and homelessness in this rural town. Or clearcutting of NS forests. Or recent protests against all the pandemic policies that some say are a plague. As the crowds were divided about Jesus in Jerusalem, two thousand years ago, so are the crowds divided today, about so many, many things. Important things. Things that matter to Jesus, and to us.
I admire my preacher colleagues like Lennett Anderson, and Rhonda Britton, and Joe Green, who seem always to be taking a stand and speaking out about the troubles of the world, calling for justice and equity and peace. Also, a Div College professor I know, Spencer Boersma, who appears to me clever, courageous, and compassionate.
Here are a few comments from Dr. Boersma last week, posted on social media: (Facebook, February 17)
Pray for Canada as its democracy is under assault.
As I said before the convoy arrived in Ottawa, the protest’s demands were [nonsensical.] The border trucker mandates are issued from both sides, Canada and the US, so for Canada to lift them would do nothing.
As I said before, again, the real reason for the convoy is to make Trudeau look bad.
The protests are the equivalent of someone sitting on another person, then crying violence for when they punch the person off. They goaded him and he fell for it.
So, for a group of people to blockade the capital because they disagree with what a democratic [government] is doing is tremendously troubling. Let’s be clear: blockading the capital is not a peaceful demonstration. It is coercive.
End of quotations. He wrote more than this.
I know enough about nonviolent communication to agree with Spencer that a ‘peaceful demonstration’ can actually be ‘violent’ in a deeper sense. Certain flags being waved are violent, in and of themselves. I know my own attitudes about these things going on – the pandemic, the responses of health and governments – but I’m not standing out on the street corner, or my pulpit, to proclaim them.
When there is a division in the crowd, how does a meek and mild person like me or you, respond? I’m not asking ‘What would Jesus do,’ but really, ‘What would Jesus have us do? You do? Me do?’ Can Christians cope with conflict?
This is the hope I have: The grand hope that Jesus is the Living Water, springing up without fail, and even flowing up within and out of me. And you. As a kid, at Middleton Baptist Church I learned to sing
I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me
makes the lame to walk and the blind to see
opens prison doors, sets the captives free,
I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me!
Spring up, O well, within my soul;
spring up, O well, and make me whole;
spring up, O well, and give to me
that life abundantly!
‘Out of his [heart] shall flow rivers of living water’ Jesus said, harkening back to His scriptures. A steady river of water was trickling into the Parsonage basement on Thursday, in one corner, and getting pumped out at the opposite corner by the sump pump. What kind of flow from the Spirit of Jesus, through our spirits, is happening? That flow of grace and truth and life is a way of describing the source for our wisdom and courage. Then, we decide and act as body members of the Body of Christ today, be it about healthcare, government, race relations, or forestry.
In his Thursday evening lecture from Acadia, Rev. Dr. Lennett Anderson gave seven action steps, the seventh being: Let’s get in good trouble and make some noise! Amen! Yet his first step was: Assume a posture of humility.
What we are reading about is Jesus in the midst of a lot of controversy. His fellow Jews and the various groups and sects are all in a kerfuffle about Him. He has gained a wide following, and a lot of strong opposition. What did we hear from John 7? [Some] in the crowd said, “This is really the prophet.” Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But some asked, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? …scripture said… Bethlehem.”
In this chapter of the story, we have all these players: Pharisees, the Chief Priests, the Temple Police, Jesus’ own brothers, the twelve disciples must be near, plus various other groups of Jews, often just called ‘the Jews’ in English. It’s a religious festival for them all, in their holy city. Jesus creates a stir; the people take sides.
As I said, many of you may be like me, and you don’t create a stir very often. In fact, we avoid trouble. Right? But I have had my moments – as a public speaker every week before a crowd, it is bound to happen.
For instance, I remember so well this certain sermon I preached. I said a few things about Creation, such as these:
As a child I was an artist, a biologist, an astronomer, and a paleontologist… So things in Sunday School like the poster that made fun of evolution I could not fully accept. How old is this rock of ages, the Earth? Six thousand[yrs]? Four and a half billion years?
When someone believes in the evolution of life, and the geological time scale, and a 13.75 billion year old universe: seek to know and understand that person’s world- view, and how amazing this universe story is; then you will both be sharing in an incredible awe…. (Apr 22, 2012)
That sermon got me in some real hot water with a few people in the congregation. One of the retired pastors really took me to task for my heresy. And a couple deacons truly thought it was not helpful, especially Derek, who thought I was confusing some people in the pews.
That was ten years ago this spring, on Earth Day.
I usually keep my head down, stay under the radar. You too? Some of you. 😉 But we follow – we name ourselves after – Christ, who was no shrinking violet. Jesus stirred up so much controversy that, well, we know the story of His betrayal, arrest, interrogation, torture, and execution.
Here is our inspiration: Jesus.
Here is our courage: Jesus!
Here is our correction: Jesus.
Here is our reconciliation: Jesus.
Here is our unity: Jesus.
Here is our guide: Jesus.
Here is our judge: Jesus.
Here is our truth: Jesus.
Here is our life, our living water: JESUS.
This Man, who was at the centre of a controversy about who He was, and what He meant by each thing He said, this Man was the answer to all the problems, all the division, all the enmity. The crowd was divided during that festival about Jesus. In the end, so many have to make a decision about this Messiah: trust and figure out how to follow, or not. The problems of life Jesus speaks to, the potential of life Jesus points to: shall we trust? Choose Him? Side with Christ? These pews are for those who have decided to follow Jesus, and for those who are wondering.
So I see Christ as the best way God reaches me. I am both led to put my confidence in Jesus, and to be confident in other decisions in my day to day life. I have this all-wise Shepherd. I see His image before me every Sunday, a rather unrealistic white European in stained glass. Jesus is far more real that that, to me. He’s not just some spiritual expert, here to comfort me and get me to the next life. This Living Water is what I need to face every choice and challenge.
I’ve always been impressed with the way Dallas Willard made the point that Jesus, for each of us, is an expert, an expert in whatever we need at any moment. At a faculty retreat for a Christian College Willard once asked the professors what they thought Jesus would say to them if He were speaking at the retreat. Willard suggested He would ask them a simple question: Why don’t you respect me in your various fields of study and expertise? Why don’t you recognize me as a master of research and knowledge in your fields? They were experts in subjects like algebra, economics, business administration, French literature… Many of the profs thought, ‘are you serious?’
In our culture, no Christian thinks of Jesus as well informed, brilliant or smart. Willard warns: Far too often he is regarded as hardly conscious. He is taken as a mere icon, a wraithlike semblance of a man living on the margins of the “real life” where you and I must dwell. He is perhaps fit for the role of sacrificial lamb or alienated social critic, but little more. (2006, The Great Omission, pp. 18-19)
When Dallas Willard would say ‘Jesus is the most intelligent man who ever lived,’ some Christians would actually say ‘that doesn’t make sense.’
Yet it does make sense; the most sense of anything. We have God available to us, in ways we can know and understand. Let anyone who is thirsty come to Jesus. Let anyone who believes in Him drink deeply of His Spirit. Christ is here to help us navigate the pandemic. To make life decisions when a major change comes along. To start a new project together when we don’t even know how. To show some courage when there’s a battle to be waged.
So, I did this last week; I said ‘Yes.’ An acquaintance from hiking reached out to me, about protecting forests in NS. She said she recently attended a meeting when an idea was presented to form “dream teams” of folks all over the province to nominate areas to be protected.
She said, The idea is we could go out… and find areas with high conservation values, or endangered species of anything (plants, animals, etc.) or we may already know of areas we’d like to protect, older growth etc. If we could team up perhaps with biologists or knowledgeable folks who know the woods or have lived there for decades to help that would be great. I guess I am one of the ‘knowledgeable folks’ who could help.
So, I said, ‘Yes.’ I realized, it is time for me to take a stand. I know Jesus wants me to make a difference here for all creation, the environment. Christ will have to lead me in this opportunity to join a local ‘dream team.’
What team are you joining this year? And are you taking Jesus with you?
Let there be overflowing life for all of us. Sharing this fresh water of the Spirit, we shall move forward, & stand up for good, for right, for love, for justice, for peace, for life.
Jesus will still divide crowds of people, yes.
Yet we can be very sure about Him.
Pastor’s Letter of Resignation: