April 2: Good Friday

Here is our blog post for the Good Friday service at Digby Baptist Church. The whole plan for the service, including the dramatic reading of the scripture, can be read in the Bulletin for this service. Below, you can find the text of the Pastor’s reflections (each beginning with a children’s message) and two videos from this part of the service.

(Children’s talk begins at 8:10.)

Luke 23:1-25 Real People

Let me speak first to the children.
You probably know I live in the house next door.
If I drew it, I might do this…
Think about where you live.
Can you draw a picture of your house?
You will probably draw some of the people and animals that live there, so we can know it is your home.
Jesus had a home too. He grew up in one village.
He moved out and lived in a different town.
He was a real person, from a real place.
We live in Digby County; Jesus lived in Galilee.
Maybe some time you could draw a picture of what you think Jesus’ house looked like, long ago.

Now, let me chat with the adults. 

Making the Bible stories of Jesus come alive and be real can be an important part of our discipleship, following. The Jesus events were real, and He is for real people now.

Four years ago, this short item appeared in The Washington Post, by Alexandra Petri [April 12,  2017]. 

Crucified man had prior run-in with authorities 

I guess this is how we are writing up the victims of crimes now. I did not realize that when you boarded a plane you gave away the right to have your past remain your past… In accordance with this new house style I am writing up an incident whose anniversary some people are celebrating this week.

The gentleman arrested Thursday and tried before Pontius Pilate had a troubled background.

Born (possibly out of wedlock?) in a stable, this jobless thirty-something of Middle Eastern origin had had previous run-ins with local authorities for disturbing the peace, and had become increasingly associated with the members of a fringe religious group. He spent the majority of his time in the company of sex workers and criminals.

He had had prior run-ins with local authorities — most notably, an incident of vandalism in a community center when he wrecked the tables of several licensed money-lenders and bird-sellers. He had used violent language, too, claiming that he could destroy a gathering place and rebuild it.

At the time of his arrest, he had not held a fixed residence for years. Instead, he led an itinerant lifestyle, staying at the homes of friends and advocating the redistribution of wealth.

He had come to the attention of the authorities more than once for his unauthorized distribution of food, disruptive public behavior, and participation in farcical aquatic ceremonies.

Some say that his brutal punishment at the hands of the state was out of proportion to and unrelated to any of these incidents in his record.

But after all, he was no angel.

Real events of real people. For real people today. We face pain and death head-on this morning. This week my heart and mind have been filled with a few losses. 

Sixty, seventy years ago, there was a young fellow who was brought to Sunday school and Church here. He sang in the children’s choir. Later, his own children came here too. The man moved away, out west. In recent years he lived back here in Digby. A couple years ago he became ill, with that terrible disease we just call ALS. 

He died yesterday. His name was Jack.

Jesus’ real suffering and death was for him – and for us.

About two years ago, a young fellow was coming here on Sundays, bringing his little foster sisters and brothers. A few times his older cousin came with him, and she brought her children. Her name was Sammy. This past week a vehicle went off the road in Roxville. She lost her life; the children lost their mother.

Jesus’ real suffering and death was for her – and her children.

For years now, I don’t know, likely about fifteen, a senior man has come to worship here. A quiet man, with his sweet wife – they got married here when they were about seventy years old. They have not been in their usual pew over the past twelve months – we’ve missed them.

A couple weeks ago he ended up in hospital. His wife did not get to visit him before he quickly died. His name was Nelson.

Jesus’ real suffering and death was for him – and for all.

(Children’s talks begin at 4:40 and 13:40.)

Luke 23:26-43 Nonviolence

Let me talk to the children again.
One of our children’s activities this past Sunday was to take a piece of paper, and trace our hand and fingers on it. Then make it into a picture of whatever we wanted.
Today, we could trace our hand, and let it be our hand. You could even draw your fingernails.
What if we got hurt, and needed a bandage?
Today, we remember that Jesus got hurt.
His hands got hurt.
No one gave him a bandage.
This happened before He died.
Lots of us have hurts; we get hurt, once in a while.
Sometimes, when we hurt, we feel like hurting back!
Someone hits us, we want to hit back.
In our story of Jesus, He never hits back.
Jesus’ story will help us not hurt people who hurt us.

Now let me talk to the adults.

Father Richard Rohr (May 3, 2017) says:

We are generally inclined to either create victims of others or play the victim ourselves, both of which are no solution but only perpetuate the problem. Jesus instead holds the pain—even becomes the pain—until it transforms him into a higher state, which we rightly call the risen life.

The crucified and resurrected Jesus shows us how to do this without denying, blaming, or projecting pain elsewhere. In fact, there is no “elsewhere.” Jesus is the victim in an entirely new way because he receives our hatred and does not return it, nor does he play the victim for his own empowerment. We find no self-pity or resentment in Jesus. He never asks his followers to avenge his murder. He suffers and does not make others suffer because of it. He does not use his suffering and death as power over others to punish them, but as power for others to transform them.

Back in June our worship services all were completely online. I spoke to you one Sunday about ‘The Seventh Story.’ The idea, from Brian McLaren, Gareth Higgins, and others, that amid the six basic violent stories of how humans act, there is a 7th story. A story of peace and grace. A story that is given to us by Jesus the Christ. I read you the whole children’s book, ‘Cory and the Seventh Story.’ 

I think I will explore these stories in a series of sermons this coming summer. Our stories of dominating others, of blaming others, of running away from other people, of being stuck in self- pity because of others, and so forth, all are overcome by the story of grace and peace. The Jesus story presents another path. A solution to the pain and problems. Perhaps is it summed up in those unforgettable words of Jesus. “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34)

It is a very violent story we tell in the Church. It is dealing with disaster, head on, again and again. This touches our disasters today. It is a powerful peace we will find, after the crucifixion. 

For now, for today, we must stop and face the pain, the evil, our tragic mortality.

Luke 26:44-56 Darkness

Dear children, have you ever felt afraid of the dark?
Lots of people are scared in the dark: youth and adults.
The other evening it was dark.
I went upstairs into our bedroom. It was very dark.
I did not turn on the light.
I walked on the carpet.
Bump! I kicked the cat that was sitting on the floor.
That cat was surprised – and ran away.
(I think cats can see better in the dark than we can.)
I was surprised! I turned on a lamp.
Let’s pretend it is dark now. Take a piece of paper, and make it into a mask for your eyes. Yeah, close your eyes and cover them. It’s dark!
But we are not scared now, right?
Because we know it is not really dark.
When it is truly dark, at night, say, what do we do?
We walk carefully. We carry a light.
We know a path: how to get to where we are going.
We don’t go alone – we go together.
It was a dark day when Jesus died.
Now, He is alive, and invisible, but with us in the dark.
Thank you for listening.

Now, adults… what does ‘darkness’ mean to us? 

American pastor and beautiful writer, Fred Buechener, put it this way, when it comes to darkness.

We are… God knows, a people who walk in darkness. There seems little need to explain. If darkness is mean to suggest a world where nobody can see very well– either themselves, or each other, or where they are heading, or even where they are standing at the moment; if darkness is meant to convey a sense of uncertainty, of being lost, of being afraid; if darkness suggests conflict, conflict between races, between nations, between individuals each pretty much out for himself when you come right down to it; them we live in a world that knows much about darkness. Darkness is what our newspapers are about…. Darkness fills the skies over our own cities no less than over the cities of our enemies. And in our single lives, we know about darkness too. If we are people who pray, darkness is apt to be a lot of what we pray about. If we are people who do not pray, it is apt to be darkness in one form or another that has stopped our mouths. (Listening to Your Life, 1992, p. 266)

Look. ‘It is about noon, and a darkness falls over the whole region.’ Whether the sun shines through the clouds or not, somewhere today, the attention of Christians is upon Calvary, and that darkness. Whether we are filled with prayer and thoughts today, or we are empty of such things, we glimpse the dark moment of God With Us. 

For me, it is so powerful that God, in Christ, joins us: joins all our pain, our abandonment, our limitations, and our death. 

Yet, as Jonathan Wilson, of CBM, preached, back at New Years: there is a strange beauty and light from the Cross of Jesus. Jesus is glorified by His execution.

Second century bishop Melito of Sardis wrote this, about Jesus’ crucifixion:

Nature trembled and said with astonishment: What new mystery is this? The Judge is judged and remains silent; the Invisible One is seen and does not hide himself; the Incomprehensible One is comprehended and does not resist; the Unmeasurable One is measured and does not struggle; the One beyond suffering suffers and does not avenge himself; the Immortal One dies and does not refuse death. What new mystery is this? 

(Claiborne, Shane, et al, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, 2010, p. 490)

PRAYER  Almighty God, worthy indeed is the Lamb, Your Son, our Saviour. We have entered the story again, the story of Him who died. It is a simple, clear story. It is a mysterious moment in time and space. The power of forgiveness and healing are here. The facing of our fears and mortality are here. Your grace, O God, is here, poured out for the world.

We pray, this day, for ourselves and others. We pray to Jesus, who knows all about our troubles. We remember:
Those who suffer pain each day. Jesus knows.
Those who suffer mental anguish. Jesus knows.
Those who suffer loss, and face tragedy. Jesus knows.
Those who are dying. Jesus knows.
Those who are doing evil and harm. Jesus knows.
Those who are enslaved in some way. Jesus knows.
Those who are treated harshly. Jesus knows.
Those who struggle for justice & fairness. Jesus knows.
Those who are starving for food, or water, or shelter, or friendship. Jesus knows.
He has shown us that He knows all about our troubles.

Now, by the Holy Spirit’s presence, keep us aware of Jesus’ troubles today and tomorrow. Help us watch and wait. Help the world watch and wait. In His name. AMEN.

Oct 11: Mind Change

Thanksgiving Sunday, October 11, 2020 – Digby Baptist Church

Exodus 32:1-14; Luke 23:33-34

Amid all the stories of the Ten Commandments, from the middle of the book of Exodus, is this amazing moment: And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people. [NRSV] It also gets translated:  Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened. [NIV] And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people. [KJV] And GOD did think twice. [MSG]

How striking that, a few times in the Old Testament, we read of God making a turnaround, repenting, changing God’s own mind. Here it is today, after Moses prays and pleads and argues the case of the Hebrew people, who so quickly gave up on their leader and the guidelines God had given them. Perhaps we can offer thanksgiving that our Maker does not make up his mind against people forever!

Do you ever change your mind? 

Does your mind change?

Do you mind change?

I am going to share my personal thoughts today, take you on a bit of a personal journey. I want to speak my mind, of how it has changed, or at least grown in some different directions. For a few reasons, today seemed to be the day for me to do this.

So, I will tell you half a dozen things ‘I believe.’ This is testimony, confession, witness, sharing.

I believe in the Age of the Earth and Evolution. This planet is only about four and a half billion years old, in a universe almost fourteen billion years old. This is a beautiful thing! Thanks be to God!

I suppose this all started in childhood, for me. I loved dinosaurs. And volcanoes. And fossils in sedimentary rocks. And tectonic plates slowly moving across the globe. I loved astronomy. About the time I turned ten years old, Carl Sagan’s TV series Cosmos: A Personal Journey was broadcast. I loved it. 

 At the same time, I was getting other ways to describe creation. I have the memory of a poster in a Sunday School classroom, making fun of a whole series of slimy and silly animals lined up that supposedly led to the evolution of primates, and finally, humans. Looking back, I think I never did reject the beautiful story of biological evolution. As a ten-year-old, millions of years of evolution seemed a beautiful thing to me. 

Plenty of Christians devoted to Jesus have come to terms with creation, God using the hidden processes of millions of years, to build all we see today. I’m grateful that, about the time I turned eighteen, I found a few Christian mentors to open these doors for me, and help me integrate Creation with evolution and the immense age of the earth.

So I am thankful to our Creator for this incredible universe – gigantic, microscopic, ancient & beautiful.

I believe in other Churches, and even other Religions. As a kid growing up the Church was my social centre. Not Jr. High or High School: the Baptist Church. In my teen years I was there for Sunday School and then the Worship Service. I was at the weekly Youth Group, and a Youth Choir, and a Youth Handbell Choir. And the boys group called the Christian Service Brigade. I still have my three ‘Camper of the Year’ awards to commemorate those wonderful days.

I don’t remember once setting foot inside another church in town. I barely knew if any of my school mates went to other churches, not to mention which ones. I knew nothing outside my Baptist Church. 

So it was once I left home I got to know other types of Christians as believers, and started to find out how they did things. I went to the ecumenical Chapel at university, which was, of course, a mix of students and older people of all denominations. I was overwhelmed and completely impressed by the services with lots of responsive readings, hymns I had never heard before, classical organ music, candle-lighting, and robed worship leaders.

Among the new Christian mentors who surrounded me then, I realized a full respect for Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, Uniteds, and others I’d never heard of. Like Lutherans and Moravians. I don’t think I had ever, in my life, been taught any of them were not believers; I just had never learned one thing at all about them! So my introduction to them was as amazing brothers and sisters in Christ. I have embraced them ever since. 

Now, the broader issue of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and so on… I suppose this was a bit challenging to me. I found Christian pastors and professors having very friendly relationships with those of other world religions, and acting with great respect toward their traditions. 

We might contrast this with Bible scenes like that of  Moses and the Israelites at Sinai. They are to be pure and holy, and not get mixed up at all with the other religions of the other peoples who surround them. Their fiasco with the golden calf to represent YHWH God is a big example. It seems they almost get destroyed over it. 

Let me just end this part, not really giving an answer, but saying that I have felt for many years the need to respect people of other faith than me, or of no faith. My own conversation with God about who gets into heaven, and how, is an ongoing conversation.

So I give thanks to God for the many spiritual paths people take, in so much of which God shines.

I believe in LGBTQ+ people. Again, I guess it was not until I went out on my own and was at college that I first knew I’d met people, my own age, or older, who did not seem to be heterosexuals. It took just a little while to get used to ‘these people’ being in the world. I’ll never forget this time a younger friend who was still in High School was visiting me: we were sitting in the Student Union Building one evening. Among the people milling about, Andrew saw this guy walk by and wink at him. “OK, let’s get out of here,” he said as he led the way out.

Then, one starts to see how difficult this life can be for so many. Alongside our scriptural prohibitions against various sexual behaviours, are the examples of Jesus, and others, who treat minority people well, and do things that include those who are ritually unclean, known as sinners, or socially unacceptable. 

Although I remain somewhat traditional and conservative about sexual moral behaviour, I have been, for many years, quietly welcoming and affirming of LGBTQ people. I believe they are people too, they can fully be Christians, they should get married, they can be pastors, and so forth. Our own Baptist denomination does not officially see it that way. For instance, I am certainly not permitted even to assist at a same-sex wedding ceremony. I think this is too bad, but I am not in the business of fighting this kind of policy. I have not felt called to do so, yet.

Somehow, October 11th got named ‘Coming Out Day,’ for those who make public their sexality. I am heterosexual, so I don’t really get to ‘come out,’ like that. But I come out of the closet as a Christian who likes biological evolution, who likes other kinds of religious people, and who likes queer people.

I do thank the Spirit of God for the diverse people of various sexualities, and give thanks that I can discover how truly to respect them. To respect you.

I believe in the Holy Bible, but not mainly as a historic record. These issues I have so far shared about all have ties to the scriptures, of course, and how we work with the Bible. Some of this text is not history, in the strict sense of the word, or in terms of how we do history in our modern era. So, the six days of creation in Genesis 1 I do not think of as some kind of history, or science. It is greater than that. It is poetry. It is mythos, which is a technical term I’m just throwing out there. It is Truth in an artistic form. It is the Word.

Somehow, by 1988 I was ready to hear some new ways of understanding the Bible. I tried to figure out how that happened, who influenced me and taught me. It would not have been the Youth Pastor, as influential and supportive as he truly was for me. He was quite traditional and conservative in his Bible teaching of us. I must have been prepared for new approaches to the Bible by some of the lay leaders of the youth groups and Sunday School. And perhaps the preaching style of the other Minister, the Senior Pastor, Don Robertson, set the tone well for me. I like to think so.

On other issues other ways of hearing from God in God’s word must arise. About other kinds of Christians, and other kinds of Religions, the chapters here must be in conversation. Jesus saying “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” (Jn 14:6) Jesus saying, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also…” (Jn 10:16) And “Whoever is not against us is for us.” (Mk 9:40) 

I believe that when the Bible is not used as only a historical book, or simply as a human ‘owner’s manual,’ it’s influence can be greater and better. It is more. God’s influence will be greater and better. 

I am so thankful for the holy gift of the Scriptures.

So, I could confess many other little things. Let me finish with one that has come clearer for me in recent years. I believe in Non-Violence, in the face of violent scripture and violent Church history.  

We just observed orange shirt day. Well, many people did. I guess I did not. I need to get myself an orange shirt! I need to remember the harm and death of so many indigenous children in Canada. And we face the facts that the residential schools were religious schools, Christian schools. 

And the violence is so blatant in the Bible stories. We peek into Exodus 32, but we don’t dare read the bit here about Moses calling upon the Levite tribe to take swords for the LORD and kill the partying people. “Each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbour.” (Ex 32:27) About three thousand people fell that day, we are told. Cecil B. DeMille didn’t put that scene in his film, The Ten Commandments!

There is serious Bible work to be done to face these stories. It is not a matter of glossing over and forgetting about them. Remember always the many voices in the centuries of literature collected here. Many inspired perspectives preserved in the pages for us, many viewpoints. As Acadia professor, Spencer Boersma, said in a lecture he gave last weekend, “The Bible has multiple lines of reasoning in it.”

I am now working my way through the violence of our faith story. I am looking for Jesus the Prince of Peace in the centre of it all. To me, words like these keep ringing in my ears: 

Exodus 34:6 The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…

Luke 6:27-28 Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Luke 23:34 Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.

I rejoice in the hopes of peace – with non-violence of every kind – which comes from the Prince of Peace.

I will surely change my mind in the years ahead. I have more to learn about life. May you, and may I, have a teachable spirit, always. We will still have moments when we realize we have replaced the real truth with some shiny image that ain’t the real thing. We always get tempted to build our own god to worship, and celebrate the way we want, and make our own rules. We need our mind changed, and heart.

Then, may we have an intercessor. May we have someone like Moses, to pray for us when we get in trouble, and save our necks. 

You know, I think we do have someone to do that! It is Christ. Jesus prays for you and me. He still does.

PRAYERS Let us   pray.

God of all good gifts, as we count our blessings, one by one, we admit the ways we have been unthankful, greedy, not generous, and even ungodly. Some of our privileges have come to us on the backs of others who have suffered. Some of our power we have used to harm others and help only ourselves. Some of our failures we have blamed on others or on our circumstances. You, Master, touch our souls with Your perfect vision, Your perfect remedy, Your perfect blessing. We praise You, Jesus. 

We long for Your touch, and we look for it, in the lives of those in our prayers. Goodness we want for Dwight O, Marilyn H, Jack W & Jack W, Mary W, John B, Dottie M, Bobby S, Faye V, Peter D…

Facing the many illnesses that threaten millions in our world, we pray. We cry out to You, God, for them, and calm ourselves, and even find ways to reach out and help. In the midst of conflict in our local fisheries we look to You, wondering what Jesus would say to fishermen today, by the sea. Speak, Lord, into the challenges. Remembering that many people are hungry today, this weekend when we feast, we turn our eyes with Christ to them. We see Jesus wanting to feed them, to sit down with them, to celebrate with them. May it be so. 

For the fruit of all creation, thanks be to God.

All this in His name. AMEN.

Be Made Strong

(Colossians 1:9-20; Luke 23:33-43) – J G White
11 am, Sunday, November 24, 2019 – UBC Digby

There are plenty of powerful phrases in Colossians chapter 1. This is the one that caught my attention: May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power

So… there is glorious power, available to us? Among the millions who follow the Way of Jesus, many can struggle to find the strength to live life better. 

Another old friend dies, another memorial service is held, and we are a year older too. Not to mention another cancer diagnosis, or ALS, or kidney failure, among our friends. After a while, the losses add up, and it takes strength of spirit to be positive.

Another threat comes to a community – a business fails, or a danger to the local environment arises – or new crime spree starts up. And it takes strength for people to team up and work for better things.

Another news report on radio or TV, and another city is filled with protests or riots, another drought with wildfires rages, another political leader seems out of control. What strength do we have to pray earnestly, and speak prophetically, and do something local for the sake of justice?
Is the glorious power of Jesus for such times?

We are about to enter a special season all about Jesus Christ. Let us dwell upon Him. Look intently upon Him. Discover something more of how we are made strong by Jesus. 

Here in Colossians 1 is an amazing section, verses 15-20, a hymn to Christ, as it were.15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation

This is the beautiful, powerful thing about the so- called Christmas story: the incredible God gets to be seen among us as one of us, a person, a human. This is the profound way to know the Unknowable One: in Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. A big door opens for us to meet up with the Everlasting One: Jesus is the door. When you are weak, isn’t it amazing to know how one can meet the Divine Source of everything?

C.S. Lewis’ celebrated children’s book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, tells of the adventures of four children in the magical kingdom of Narnia. The story is an allegory of Christ and salvation, with Christ represented by the lion Aslan. When in Narnia, the children meet Mr and Mrs Beaver, who describe the mighty lion to them. “Is he a man?” asked Lucy.
“Aslan a man!” said Mr Beaver sternly. Certainly not. I tell you he is King of the wood and the son of the great emperor-beyond-the-sea. Don’t you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great lion.”
“ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. 
Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake” said Mrs Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” The animals in the novel meet Christ as one of them, a lion. In real life, we meet Christ the man.

16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him

We had a memorial service to say goodbye to Carl, and Rene Melanson, yesterday. I shall always remember my chats with Carl, and how he spoke about his talks with Jesus. Sounded to me like Carl regularly talked with Jesus. And just like my visits with him, Carl did most of the talking. It is a very important thing to know that the Great Mystery behind this all can be talked to, like any person. Jesus – God from the beginning – opens the lines to talk, to fellowship, to friendship with God. This is a source of strength.

17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together

Ya know, we can be stronger when we find out we don’t have to hold our world together. We don’t have to save ourselves or anyone else. We don’t need to have it all figured out. We can rely upon Something else. We can trust that Goodness is the Power, and gets the last word. 

In Jesus all things hold together. 

18 He is the head of the body, the church; 

Our denomination – and some local congregations – have used the theme statement: ‘We Are Stronger Together.’ I believe there’s a lot to be said for being together, being a team, being united in our spirituality. As I always say, ‘religion’ is a way of people sharing in common their spirituality; and ours is based upon Christ. 

I believe there is real togetherness, and there is strength for us in being together. I barely need to tell you this; but we are called upon to help others know this. We are told this is a day and age of isolation, of loneliness, of people not joining groups. But the yearning for togetherness can be so deep. I even hear that atheists in some cities have formed ‘atheist churches’ in order to be together like we are!

he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything

We are about to start telling the whole life story of Jesus all over again. We begin next week with preparation for His arrival, born in the Middle East two thousand years ago. In April we will retell of His death at age thirty something. And how He comes back to life, before He leaves His followers on earth. 

We are told Jesus is the firstborn of the dead. Born after death. And the first. So there will be others. We will get to be born after death. Jesus is the first, and opens the gates to life for us. We know the strength, week by week, that people get from trusting in the eternal life promised to people after death. 

19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell

We get reminded that the human, Jesus, was also completely God. Fully human and divine. We, mere humans, get strengthened by this connection between Creator and creature, this Jesus. 

Ever wonder what humans are capable of? Perhaps we all have had times of pondering this. We read of people who are amazing athletes – running long distances, or swimming, or biking, or whatever. In the last couple years, two friends of mine back in Windsor have ‘everseted.’ They went up a steep hill near their home, 64 times in a row – to equal going up the same elevation as Mount Everest. Adam rode his bicycle up the hill 64 times, Andrew ran or walked up the hill that many times. 

Who knew a person could even do that? I was amazed, a year ago, when I took twelve months to learn that I could walk 80 kms at one time, in one day. I would have never guessed I could do such a thing, just a couple years ago!

Amazing physical achievements are one thing. Personal transformation is another. Some people learn to be incredibly generous. Others take a spiritual journey to forgive those who have done terrible and violent things to them. And so on. 

It says that in Jesus, the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. In Jesus we see a human capable of everything, even more than we can imagine. As we learn to put on Jesus Christ, more of God fills us.

20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven

Reconciliation is a powerful thing, today. There is so much brokenness, between people. This is perhaps simply a symptom of how distant people are from God. But we teach that this God is pleased to reconcile all things back to God. It pleases God to do this. As one Psalm says, the LORD takes pleasure in His people. (149:4) Enjoys making things right. This includes all creation, amazingly. 

Billy Graham came out with a book in 1952 called Peace With God. Graham wrote: If you have been trying to limit God—stop it! Don’t try to confine Him or His works to any single place or sphere.     You wouldn’t try to limit the ocean. It is unlimited, what is to be made right in this world. When we start to get reconciled to God, we join a reconciling team in this universe.

Our profound paragraph in Colossians ends with this about Jesus: by making peace through the blood of his cross.

And this is where the scene of Jesus’ execution comes in. The Cross. Here is a King who does not save Himself, but saves others. He does not wage a military war to win a political victory. He submits to the evils of the whole world, so that they will be snuffed out. 
This ‘King of the Jews’ prays forgiveness over all those who are aiding and abetting to His death, or just approving of it. “Father, forgive them.”

We are in pain. Jesus Creator feels our pain. 
We fail and falter. Christ comes to carry us.
We get lost in this life. The Good Shepherd seeks out our souls, leads us back.
We are frightened by the wrongdoer inside ourselves. The Saviour defeats the evil one and gives us a new birth, goodness from the inside out.
We are weak in this world. The Mighty One becomes our strength of spirit. And we are not alone.

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power! AMEN.