April 18: The Body of Jesus

WELCOME to this post for Digby Baptist worship on the Sunday before Earth Day, 2021. We begin with a visual prayer…

(Psalm 139:1, 7, 13-18; Luke 24:36-48) J G White ~ 11 am, Sunday, April 18, 2021, UBC Digby

It’s spring! In my distracted moments, I’ll call them, when I’m not paying attention to you and me – humans – what have I been doing? 

Wandering in the local woodlands looking at the trees coming to life, with the mosses and lichens and liverworts upon them. Watching for the first signs of life from the ground – the early early flowers and leaves. Seeing and hearing a few birds that have returned: American robin, song sparrow, palm warbler.

I’ve been digging in the earth of the Parsonage, pulling out weeds, trimming bushes and taking cuttings, and even planting some tulip bulbs I never got planted back in the fall. I’ve been sharing a photo every day of something in bloom – a herb, a shrub, a tree. 

Online, I’ve been watching the new volcano in Iceland. It is now one month old. Glowing orange lava continues to spew out of now about eight fissures. Scientists and hikers are hanging around, getting lots of amazing footage so the rest of the world can see. 

Perhaps you also are enjoying things that delight you this season. Among the many things that mark this week, will be Earth Day (which is as old as I am). With April 22nd this year I decided to spend three Sundays on things earthly, physical, worldly. We are creatures of this creation. A lot of things can happen in our conversation with God about our life on Earth. 

Today, let’s think about the human body. When have you ever heard a sermon about the human body? We are always speaking of heart and mind and soul and spirit and psyche and all that. The one way we pay concerted attention to the physical body is as we pray for healing and help in the face of sickness and injury. (And old age.) 

We do know Jesus. He did not seem to suffer from any sicknesses. Did not suffer from old age either – He died by age 33, it seems. He was seriously injured: tortured and executed. Jesus – Son of God, Son of Man, was God and human, with a human body. (Jesus’ body)

So let us look once more into Luke chapter 24, the day of Jesus’ resurrection. It is up in the evening now; Cleopas and the other disciple who talked with incognito Jesus finally recognize Him when they stop to eat. Then these two disciples rush back to Jerusalem to tell the others.

And Jesus appears to them all. 

They think they are having a vision of some ghostly apparition, but, “Touch me and see,” says Christ, “for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (L 24:39) This is the real, physical, Jesus of Nazareth, alive once again. 

It is a real big thing that God ‘became’ a human being. There is no story quite like this. At Christmas we celebrate this, with the big term ‘incarnation.’ God in the flesh, in the body. Now, we tell the story of God, as a person, who dies.

Sally McFague, ecological and feminist theologian, rightly declared: 

Chrisitianity is the religion of the incarnation par excellence. Its earliest and most persistent doctrines focus on embodiment: from the incarnation (the Word made flesh) and christology (Christ was fully human) to the eucharist (this is my body, this is my blood), the resurrection of the body, and the church (the body of Christ who is its head). Christianity has been a religion of the body. (The Body of God: an Ecological Theology, 1993, p. 14)

With Earth Day this week, we can celebrate again. God joined the earth. God gets right into creation, in Jesus, a human being, with a real body. This morning I almost had us sing ‘Joy to the world, the Lord is come…’

Perhaps a few of you have visited the Holy Land. I have never been to Israel. Those who have relate the impact it can have. When you get past the modern day civilization there, the three world religions that vye for Jerusalem, the old church buildings that were built on top of every place something special happened in the Bible stories – one sees the landscape that has been there for two thousand years, and one remembers Jesus was alive here.

I walked today where Jesus walked,
In days of long ago.
I wandered down each path He knew,
With reverent step and slow.

Those little lanes, they have not changed,
A sweet peace fills the air.
I walked today where Jesus walked,
And felt Him close to me.

In the master plan – the Master’s plan – God gets a human body, like yours and mine. And this whole story lifts up humanity. God comes down to us, so to speak, and we are lifted up. 

We also know, from the beginning, that Our bodies are good. It was good that Jesus have a physical body; it is good that we do. In the Genesis 1 story of creation, day six tells us of all the animals coming into being, and the humans. “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” (Gen 1:31a) 

As we just remembered, God’s greatest work was done in a human body, that of Christ crucified. And the good work goes on in our human bodies today. 

We recited some verses of Psalm 139 today. Here is an ancient song of faith – of course, one Jesus also knew – and it declares so poignantly the marvel of each human life. It is physical, and yet it is more than just that. We are ‘knit together in our mother’s womb,’ and we are ‘made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.’ God, ‘your eyes beheld my unformed substance.’

And now, while we each live, we get to behold the unformed substance of God. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are our ways God’s ways – yet we get to look into these things. Rejoice in this: we are part of all creation that can look for the Creator, can know and love God, can grow and be healed into the image of God. We are part of the world that can enjoy the whole world. View the whole world – the whole universe, actually. We get to see some of the past, and even the future, like few if any other creatures can. Such is our life, in these bodies.

Even with our limitation, with our diseases, with the disasters of the human body and brain, we live for good reason. Things are not perfect, but they are part of the big picture of physical life, with God, here. 

Let me tell you about one of my profs, years ago. Merrit Gibson. Born in 1930, he was one of three sons of a Baptist minister and a woman of the Levy family. Merritt grew up to know the Faith and to trust Jesus, and he grew up to love the outdoors and all nature. He went off to the Baptist university in Wolfville and studied biology. He played hockey there. He went on to study more. To get married and raised a family. He came back to Acadia to teach biology. He served as a very faithful layman most of his life in the Canning Baptist Church.

Dr. Gibson was an accomplished, kind man. You might not notice anything unusual about him. But if you did, you would see he just had one arm; born with one arm. No wonder he specialized in embryology. That’s the course he taught me. How an embryo grows from a fertilized egg into a fetus, into a baby, born to become an adult. Or how any animal grows from its egg. 

How an embryo grows into a person with just one arm would have been of interest to him. Yet, he learned and taught so much more to so many thousands of people. He wrote books about all the natural history of Nova Scotia: the birds, the plants, the amphibians, the snails, all of it.

Dr. Gibson shall always be, in my memory, a man of Christian faith who embodied a gracious and wise understanding of human bodies and all living beings. He had a good body. He helped students like me use their brains and bodies too. (The brain is part of the body.) 

Then, one evening, a decade ago, I was driving to my cottage and noticed an ambulance at the Gibson home in Canning. Dr. Gibson had a stroke and died that night. The wonderful human body and brain ‘fails us,’ we might say. Yet, for eighty years, that body had succeeded, I’d say. Praise God!

You and I are earthy people. ‘We are dust, and to dust we shall return.’ (~Gen 3:19) Men and women of dust: Earth dust and even stardust. We get to gaze upon creation and see that This earthly body, this whole planet, is good. This ‘dust’ from which we come. 

So, let us be careful not to treat our physical source like a ‘dustbin,’ a garbage can! It should be no surprise to us that, in the Greek New Testament part of the Bible, the word Jesus uses often, that we call ‘Hell,’ is Gehenna. Gehenna was a small valley where garbage was dumped and burned in Jerusalem. The place of punishment is like a burning garbage dump! 

We are making Earth into hell in plenty of places.

Once or twice, on past Earth Days, I’ve invited my fellow church members to join me in a little hike to do some garbage clean-up along some trail around town. If you travel the highways and byways you can find plenty of garbage, and even plenty of ‘dump sites.’ Some of them have signs that say, ‘NO DUMPING,’ and, ‘UNDER SURVEILLANCE.’ 

Let’s not only do this again this year, please pray about a project. A project I’ve mentioned almost every year. I would love us, Digby Baptist, to come up with a new goal, each year, to reach by April 22nd. A new way of doing things that is better for creation. We develop some way to use less furnace oil. Or use up less paper, or less electricity, or less water. This year we take one step, next year another. 

I am still waiting for our first official step!

God so loved the world (the Greek word is cosmos) that God’s one Son was sent to us so that people can put their confidence in Jesus and not be destroyed. God loves the world of people, and God loves the world of everything. Didn’t Paul even write of a hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Rom 8:21) Whatever that means, the Creator cares for all creation.

We are slow to change, and join the caring project. Late theologian, Sally McFague (1933-2019), said:

Most of us live with the strange illusion that we are  other than our bodies, that we and those we love can and will exist apart from them, that our spirits will live on, here or “in heaven,” after death. Centuries of Christian speculation about life after death have encouraged a diffidence toward the body at best, distrust and hatred of it at worst. That attitude is at the heart of one of the central cries of our time: the inability to love the “body” of the earth. The ecological crisis will not begin to turn around until we change at a very basic level how we feel about bodies and about the material creation in all its incredible variety and richness of forms. It is not enough to change our live-styles; we must change what we value. (Ibid, pp. 16-17)

Our behaviour changes as we grow in our values. We value this earth, before the new heavens and the new earth. We value all other people, who are also made from the same dust we are: and the same water, and the same atmosphere. We value the other creatures with whom we share creation. More about then next Sunday. 

For now… hear Jesus say again, “Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.” The vision of his real body may inspire so much in us. 

His wounds speak of His sacrifice for us all.

His scars speak of the real pain God knows completely.

His flesh and bone speaks of the Divine value placed on the physical world.

His temporary life here – 33 years – speaks of how the Spirit values these short lifetimes: we all can matter. 

Jesus’ goodness and perfection speak of the greatness possible in this life, this one rugged life on earth.

Jesus, in the flesh, is not only to be worshipped, but to be followed. Let us follow Christ.

PRAYER after the Sermon Let us    pray.

Jesus, God of body, if You guide us: lead us to know and love our own bodies, to care for the bodies of others around us on earth, to be compassionate towards all creatures of our God and King, and to love the whole cosmos into which You came. Prevent us from going astray in our thinking and our actions, and unite us for your glorious purpose and Your plans among us, Lord. AMEN.

April 11: Credo: I Believe

WELCOME! This Sunday at Digby Baptist Church is the celebration of Baptism by immersion of a believer! We also remember a dear saint who died one year ago today, Jean Brittain. And we consider some of the basic things we believe as people of the crucified and risen Jesus. The full worship service plan is here in the Bulletin. Below you find some text and video from the service.

(Psalm 30:1-5; Luke 24:13-35) J G White ~ 11 am, Sunday, April 11, 2021, UBC Digby

Six months ago today I preached a sermon, on my birthday, that created some controversy. I spoke personally of a few things, saying ‘I believe in this…’ ‘I believe in that…’ Those were not all central, pivotal beliefs about Christ and our Faith, but they were significant issues. Today it seems right so speak again of things I believe, and that you also may believe. Other things, some of the more central things, the main things. Things the whole Christian Church might declare in the old creeds and so forth. 

I believe Jesus is God drawing near to us. 

I believe Jesus is unseen, but recognizable. 

 I believe Jesus communicates, & is in fellowship with us. 

I believe Jesus’ words and actions.

I believe Jesus suffered and died and arose.

I believe Jesus is our hope and our life.

I’m going to pick these things out of today’s Gospel story; we just heard it from Luke 24. This beautifully told story from that day of His resurrection. Two disciples walking out of town, to a village called Emmaus. Jesus – alive again, after his execution – meets them.

I believe: Jesus is God drawing near

Usually it is in December that we worship with scriptures and songs that call Jesus by the Biblical name ‘Emmanuel’ which means ‘God with us.’ The clearest and best way God is with us is Jesus the Christ, the Messiah.  

In today’s gospel story, two disciples we have not heard about before – not two of the famous twelve – are walking from Jerusalem to an unknown village called Emmaus. “Jesus himself came near and went with them.” 

The ways Jesus the Son of God comes near to us today, and walks with us, is different, and the same, as this. His resurrected body no longer walks the earth. By the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Jesus, is still near. Very near. 

Me, I’ve been taught this – led to know this – all my life. For which I’m grateful. And I keep seeking to understand how I meet up with Christ today. And how you do, in your life. And how to explain it. And how to walk more closely with Him, so to speak.

This baptism we witnessed today, it is a declaration of faith. Terry believes he too has met up with Christ, been touched by God, and he has responded to the offer of a new kind of life, which is eternal. Terry was looking for this, praying for this, waiting for it. And then, back at Christmas, it happened. He had a spiritual breakthrough, I’d call it. The living Jesus became very near and real to him that day.

We sang ‘Baptized in water,’ which tells some of what we believe Jesus does among us here and now. God ‘shows up,’ we might say. So today, as the hymn also said, ‘God’s praises we sing.’

I believe Jesus is the great way we get to meet God. Also, I believe: Jesus is unseen, but recognizable. There is something very unseen and hidden about God on earth. Like the wind that blows – we never see the air that is moving: we see the clouds moving, the trees bending, the mist or snow blown in it, we feel it on our face, in our lungs. So it is with God, who is Spirit. Jesus today is invisible and real. That baptism hymn mentions being ‘sealed by the Spirit.’ Terry, and I, and perhaps you, feel we belong to the invisible God now, it’s a sure thing.

That day He was brought back to life, Jesus walked with Cleopas and another disciple along that road.  ‘But their eyes were kept from recognizing him,’ we are told. 

Somehow, this is how God has set things up in our world. The Creator, who gets very personal with us, remains hidden, subtle, gentle, underneath and behind things. Always just around the corner. One great Christian writer called this ‘The Divine Conspiracy.’ (Dallas Willard) It’s not a bad conspiracy, against anyone. God’s ways are only against evil. It’s like the conspiracy in that winter song that says, Later on we’ll conspire as we dream by the fire / to face unafraid the plans that we made / walking in a winter wonderland. (Felix Bernard & Richard B. Smith)

There is a gentle, unstoppable Power for good in our world. I believe we get to call that Power Jesus, our Saviour and Master. 

And… I believe: Jesus communicates, and is in fellowship with us. 

On that day long ago, described in Luke 24, Jesus said to the travelers, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” The two people told Him all the dramatic things that had just happened at Passover, including the death of their Rabbi, and the stories that now His tomb was empty and was alive again. They don’t realize it is Jesus who is there, listening to them.

Then we find that, beginning with the Torah and the prophets of the Bible, ‘he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.’

As we already noticed, Jesus is not walking around among us like this now, all these centuries later. But in Spirit, the presence of the living God is still available. 

Ninety years ago, missionary Frank Laubach was undertaking an amazing Christian challenge: working to be aware of the presence of God every minute of every day. His books tell remarkable stories of communicating with the Lord. Here is one, from May 24, 1930.

The day had been strenuous, so I climbed “Signal Hill” back of my house talking and listening to God all the way up, all the way back, all the lovely half hour on the top. And God talked back! I let my tongue go loose and from it there flowed poetry far more beautiful than any I had ever composed. It flowed without pausing and without ever a failing syllable for a half hour. I listened astonished and full of joy and gratitude. I wanted a dictaphone for I knew that I should not be able to remember it–and now I cannot. “Why,” someone may ask, “did God waste his poetry on you alone, when you could not carry it home?” You will have to ask God that question. I only know He did and I am happy in the memory. (from Letters of a Modern Mystic)

Think back to the lyrics we sang for the baptism today. We sang these phrases: ‘marked with the sign of Christ the King,’ ‘one with His rising,’ ‘we are His children.’

We belong to a King, not a dead king, a living One. 

We also get to live now and forever because we get reconnected with God, reconciled. In a good relationship.

We are God’s children now. This is why in the Church we are always using this word, ‘fellowship.’ I think it is a bit of an old-fashioned word these days, but it expresses this special quality of togetherness among people with God. I believe Jesus is a prime way God connects with us and communicates. 

Next, I believe: Jesus’ words and actions.

Look again at the scene in Luke 24. Those two disciples, Cleopas and an unnamed person (perhaps the wife of Cleopas?), they come right out and speak of Jesus of Nazareth as ‘a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.’ 

Deeds and words. How wonderful that we have, all these centuries later, so much of Jesus’ words right here in scripture. And then there are all the stories of his life recorded here. We keep going back to the Bible, again and again, when we become disciples of this Master. As the baptism hymn said, we are ‘trusting His promise.’ We find that Jesus has many promises for us that He keeps. 

It might be that one part of salvation is most important to you. The promise of eternal life, after death, may mean so much to you. Or, forgiveness for the problems you cause could be the gift you are most grateful for from Jesus. To have a real connection with God may be the biggest thing in your mind that salvation brings. Or being completely loved and having real purpose to your life might make all the difference to you. I believe Jesus’ words and His actions have so much to give us.

And with Good Friday and Easter just a week in the past, I believe Jesus suffered and died and arose. This is what had just happened, and those two disciples of Jesus talk it all over with the man they don’t yet realize is their Master, Jesus. 

Our baptismal hymn said we are ‘cleansed by the blood’ and also ‘dead in the tomb with Christ our King.’ The main events in the Jesus story are for our help. They take away the problems: like washing them away, like killing them off.

There have been many books written to explain the death and resurrection of Christ. Many sermons preached. When it is all said and done, the facts of the matter are the facts. It is a story. It is not an explanation we share. It is not a bunch of good theories, or good theology, good Bible teaching. It is simply the stories of Jesus – these events. 

I believe in the telling of these stories. We share these events. We share the impact this same Jesus has had, now, because of what happened so long ago. 

In his book, Wishful Thinking, Frederick Beuchner said, A Christian is one who points at Christ and says, ‘I can’t prove a thing, but there’s something about his eyes and his voice. There’s something about the way he carries his head, his hands, the way he carries his cross – the way he carries me.’ (1973)

So, I believe: Jesus is our hope and resurrection. Along with getting rid of what’s wrong in our lives and in this world, Christ is also giving out what is best. We find in Him a living hope. Hope for freedom from wrong, and from pain, from problems, from our mortality, from our isolation. In the hymn, we sang that we are ‘heirs of salvation,’ ‘free and forgiven,’ ‘born of one Father.’ With Christ we inherit something big. We are free from what we call sin. We have a new life – born again, born anew, born from above, so to speak. 

Did you notice what Celopas and the other disciple said they had hoped for? “But we had hoped that he was the one to set Israel free.” The one to set them free (they were all Israelites, remember). Then they told Jesus, who was still incognito, about the other disciples, women, who, that very day, had seen the tomb empty where Jesus was placed, and angels there. Messengers who said Jesus was not there, ‘don’t look for the living among the dead.’

It is so satisfying when a person gets prompted to seek Jesus. So exciting when he meets Christ. So profound when he takes some steps to follow and be a disciple of Jesus. Today it has been our privilege to witness Terry’s baptism as a believer. He has been raised up from the waters of baptism: which is an acting out of what happens in the human spirit. It is a resurrection. It is an act of God. A new beginning in this life. And the promise that when death actually does happen, there is a resurrection, a new and eternal life for Terry Comeau. 

This is the powerful promise we considered today when we remembered Jean Brittain, and her eternal life.

Now, you may be thinking we are just about at the end of the sermon. And you’re right. But you may also see that I am only half way through today’s Bible text in Luke 24! Also true. But I see in the rest of what’s here a repeat of my points – just in the opposite order, actually(chiastic structure). 

Cleopas and the other disciple say they heard Jesus is alive again! I believe Jesus is our hope and resurrection.

Jesus tells them that the Messiah would suffer and enter his glory. I believe Jesus suffered and died and arose.

Jesus then uses their scriptures to explain all sorts of things he did. I believe Jesus’ words and actions.

Next, the three of them stop for the night, and share a meal together. I believe Jesus communicates, & is in fellowship with us. 

While they are having dinner, the two disciples suddenly see that this man who walked with them along the road was Jesus, all along! I believe Jesus is unseen, but recognizable. 

Celopas and the other traveler go back right away to tell their friends. They tell them Jesus is alive with them!  I believe Jesus is God drawing near to us.

I believe such things. 

What do you believe, today?

PRAYER after the Sermon Let us    pray.

Holy God, Holy Spirit, we bow to Your goodness and wisdom. Help us see what we believe and know, and grow in truth and love. Any things we need to forget and reject, help us do so. Any goodness we have received today, keep it close to our heart and mind and body. Forgive our failures to live out the good things we believe and Your own will for our lives. In the name of Jesus we give thanks for all the rich blessings of this life, and the next. AMEN.

April 4: Easter Worship Service – 11 AM – The Day of Resurrection

WELCOME to this celebration of Life! Here are some parts of our service for this awesome holy day, including video of: Children’s Time with Heather, solo by Margo, Sermon by Jeff, and Holy Communion at the end. The full service plan can be found in the Bulletin.

PRAYERS of the People: God of joy, we lift our voices, we lift our minds, we lift up our hearts, our fellowship is given life – by the death and resurrection we see today. It is the springtime of the human spirit. We praise and worship You – Sovereign, Son and Spirit. 

We view the whole story now, complete. And the finale is still in our future today. Forgive our lack of faith. And forgive the ways we live as if there has been no sacrifice and no resurrection, and as if there is no promise for our future. There is! We believe – help our unbelief.

Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!

 We pray for each other, in this fellowship the living Jesus has made. People are ill all around us – some in body, some in mind and heart, some in spirit, some in their relationships: be the healer of every ill for them. People die around us – some of them tragically: have mercy and give comforting hope. People face hard decisions and challenging times – and some are so isolated and alone: draw near, Holy One, and be the guiding Good Shepherd. 

Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!

 This year, at this time, our world is in danger, O God. So it has been for two thousand year, and for thousands before that. Yet You speak hope and purpose and a future into this troubled neighbourhood we call Earth. Amid the going down of planes and boats or crashes of cars and trains, amid the cruelty of governments and militaries and corporation, in the face of the ravages of diseases and the pandemic and poverty, amid the violence of wars and of individuals: give a peace the world cannot give, we pray!  

Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!

 How grateful we are for the goodness of this life. Let this day of hope and amazement bring us to some real, practical blessings in our lives. Blessings to share. Oh the hope You give us! And you send us out to bring that hope to other people. Help us tell the Christ story, and live for Him, in His name, as His ambassadors now.

Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!  AMEN.

AMAZED at What Had HAPPENED (Psalm 118:17, 21-24; Luke 24:1-12) J G White ~ 11 am, Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021, UBC Digby

I really like that quotation from Handel’s Messiah in that 1903 song by Joseph Knapp and Fanny Crosby.

I know that my Redeemer liveth.

Then, the Crosby lyric goes on to say:

And because He lives, I too shall live.

I know.

I know my Redeemer. 

I know that my Redeemer lives.

I know that I also will live.

To know something so surely that a song like that springs out from the heart: that is real knowledge.

But the resurrection of Jesus never starts out that way. Even His predictions of it, beforehand, were not believed or understood, not to mention the experiences of the eyewitnesses on that historic day. 

But, I will mention those experiences.

Luke tells us the story with honest emotion. Two women named Mary, and Joanna, and others were, at first, perplexed. The Authorized Version says ‘much perplexed,’ while our NIV pew Bibles simply say they were ‘wondering.’ I’m sure some of them were puzzled (Msg) when they got to that fresh tomb, yet it was empty.

For some people, all these centuries later, the record of the resurrection puzzles them. It brings out our curiosity. You may have wondered deeply about this event in history. Is it history, or simply a story? Literal or maybe mythical?

A friend who used to be a pastor in this area said this the other day, on social media, talking about the Bible stories of Jesus’ death and resurrection:

To me, however, whether or not the detailed stories recalled more than 100 years after his death are factually true, this moment is supremely precious.

We are gifted by the words of our great teacher… to love without ceasing, to forgive even the most horrendous of crimes against us, to live in peace and humility and hope. To give ourselves up to one another.

Such immeasurable blessings cannot be diminished by time or the veil of inner grief. Or the translations in a book.

Jesus’s gift of the reign of God is embodied in his words and his deeds.

His death, and His living here after that, are at the pinnacle of Jesus’ deeds. Each Holy Week we bring the questions of our hearts and minds. Each Easter we hear the old news, so good and so puzzling. He lives. 

Those first viewers of an empty tomb, and an angelic messenger, soon become terrified. Fear is a natural reaction to something that is unbelievable or strange. Especially in a cemetery.

We have the whole horror genre in literature and film based upon scary cemeteries, zombies, the walking dead, ghosts, and other ways of the dead reanimating (remember Dr. Frankenstein’s monster). 

It does not seem to be this kind of horror that grips the faithful women. It is simply fear and awe in the face of mystery and glory. 

We soon are told they do remember, as the angel suggested. They remembered this is just what Jesus told them would happen. He would be executed, and on the third day live again. 

Perhaps there were other things Jesus told them that also went to the back of their minds – misunderstood, disbelieved, incomprehensible. In our lives we have things Jesus said and did that we cannot sort out for ourselves. It all takes time, doesn’t it? Those moments, when we remember, when we get it, are wonderful. 

It happens in practical, personal ways. As with a person who learns, after years of living, that he really is loved and he does matter to others. Sometimes this happens when tragedy strikes. In a time of weakness and some need, the person becomes a bit more vulnerable, out of necessity, and sees more of the love and purpose in their own life. 

I would call that a personal moment of resurrection. Getting in touch with the life that is bigger than death. The love that is greater than sins and limitations. 

Jesus said both of these things: I am the light of the world. You are the light of the world. (John 8:12; Mtt 5:14)

Perhaps this April you will have a little resurrection. A step into the light, into more abundant life, life in Christ. It is a foretaste of the glory to come. 

Now, as we wander through the emotional responses of Luke chapter 24, we see next the response of the disciples spoken to by those women who’d been to the tomb. They don’t believe it. It seems like nonsense, like they made it all up. Denial is a normal response, even to miracles and acts of God. I’m quite a cynic myself, at times. 

Maybe your own story is one of not believing the whole Jesus story in the past, but finding faith at some time later in life. You can tell how disbelief was overcome. How you met Christ. How you “had to admit God was God,” which is how C. S. Lewis put it, in his own testimony. 

It is a matter of meeting up with the living God, isn’t it? Like those men, who did not believe the women who claimed Jesus’ body was gone, many people just don’t take someone’s word for the impossible story. They have to see for themselves. Then, they know that their Redeemer lives.

At least the disciple Peter was curious. Or maybe more energetic than anything. He ran to the tomb, we are told. It was a bit later that he, and others, met up with Jesus, alive again, but different, greater. He still had the wounds to show in His body, but he was living more clearly the new life, the eternal life. Jesus went first, for us to follow.

Anyway, we don’t despair when people do not believe what we believe about God: that there was this form of God named Jesus, who lived and died and lives. We don’t give up, and we can get over blaming them. They may simply need to have their own experience of Christ. See Him real in this day and age. Sometimes shining through the light of those who are the light of the world. Then they see the greater Light. They meet Him.

The women who’d been to the tomb, they had an urgency to tell what they’d glimpsed. And Peter seemed urgent, in his impetuous curiosity. Yes, there is urgency. We have urgency even when we don’t have all the answers. We can at least speak of what we saw, the bit we do know, the wonder and hopes we have inside. Like Jeremiah of old, we may have a ‘fire in our bones,’ an intense need to speak the faith we have, a message to share.

And it still takes time for the truth to set in. Peter is amazed at the empty tomb. He wonders to himself. He had to be puzzled, like the women disciples had first been. Today, we take time to talk with people about faith, and give them time to process it, because it is amazing.

Perhaps, as a pastor, I get the privilege of these sorts of conversations more than most. Talking with folks about faith. About spiritual experiences. About Bible texts. About theories and thoughts and big questions. Just recently I’ve had wonderful strangers, out of the blue, come along in my life, to talk with me. One, to talk about being born again and being baptized. Another, to talk about dealing with the guilt of a decision that was made years ago to have an abortion. Yet another person, to talk with me about death and dying – her own death. In each conversation – each one a new little relationship – I hope and pray Christ in me will do some good, shine through. And I am getting some holy light shining on me from these other people. 

I know that my Redeemer lives.

When you get to chat about any important things, you have a blessed opportunity to be a bringer of good news. It may be with what you say, what you know, what you’ve experienced and can share. Or it might be by listening and understanding the one who shares with you. You might also be an evangelist partly by simply being there, being a listener, being good in other ways you do good. 

A lot happened in one day, the day of Jesus’ Resurrection. A lot of emotional responses. A lot of breakthroughs started for those people. Eventually, they were all amazed at what had happened. 

I think I admitted a while ago a lesson I heard and that I want to learn. When I meet people, anyone, pause and take time to have a more important conversation. Don’t just skim across the surface and make smalltalk. Learn to be ready to ask something deeper, and to hear something important, from the heart. 

This would be good for me; perhaps good for many of you to work on doing the same. If we listen more, and say more, we will be amazed at what happens. Some Christians put it this way: we will be amazed at ‘how God shows up.’ 

Our readiness for good, holy conversations, will come as we get trained to hear people out who are wondering or puzzled about God. People who are afraid. People who are remembering some bit of the faith they once knew. People who think religion or even spirituality is nonsense. People who are seeking, and even urgently hoping for Something. And people who are amazed at Something. 

Sometimes that Something is the Holy One. The Living God. The risen Christ. 

I am amazed at what happened on the day of resurrection, celebrated at Easter. I know. 

I am amazed what happens today around me, and the Spirit shows up. I know that my Redeemer lives. 

I am amazed at what happens among all of us. 

I know that we also will live.

Thanks be to God! Jesus lives. Hallelujah! Amen.

PRAYER: We ‘stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene.’ We wonder at how he could be raised, be alive, be with the world in Spirit today. ‘Amazing love! How can it be?’ We bow and receive the blessings today, the blessings of resurrected, eternal life. Send us out to share the news – in how we live, how we praise, how we speak, how we give, how we rest, in Christ Crucified. 

We know that our Redeemer lives. Hosanna! Hallelujah! Amen.

Watching My Words

(Jeremiah 1:11-19; Luke 24:45-53) – J G White
11 am, Sunday, August 25, 2019 – UBC

Dryden is a six-year-old. A friendly, energetic six-year-old. When we are together, he loves to play hockey, visit the Fire Department, cook eggs for breakfast, jump on his trampoline, ride his bike, go to the beach, and many other things.

And he asks to do many things. All the time. Can we do this? Do you want to do that? When can we go there?  Though I never raised any children, with this grandchild I know I must watch my words. Don’t promise anything I will not do. Don’t say, “yes, we can,” if we might not. I have to mean what I say. 

So I have to watch my words. Not just my Ps and Qs, but be a man of my word, eh? Jeremiah had to watch his words, as a spokesperson for YHWH God. The LORD God promised to watch ‘his’ word.

When the LORD spoke to Jeremiah and said, “I am watching over my word to perform it,” God meant it. ‘I will do what I say I will do.’  

What God wants spoken gets spoken!

What God speaks gets done! Start with the creation story of Genesis 1. God speaks, and things happen. “Let there be light.” And there was light.

“I am watching over my word to perform it.”

But there is a watching the word in another sense.  Literally watching. Visual messages: things you see. These first messages to young Jeremiah were visual – he literally watched for the word of God. “What do you see, Jeremiah?” An almond branch; then a boiling pot… This happened regularly to the prophets of old. And the Psalm writer. ‘The heavens are telling the glory of God…” Psalm 19.  

Actions speak louder than words, we say. Body language speaks so much too. A picture is worth a thousand words. 

God opens minds to see and hear and know and understand the word, in all its forms. We looked at a scene from the end of Jesus’ life today. The very end of the book of Luke. It’s one of the moments when we are told He ‘opened the scriptures so they could understand them.’ For those disciples, this was what we call the Old Testament. There is so much ‘opening so they can understand’ that goes on. This continues to be a promise from God, that truth, reality, the message and meaning, will be made clear.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many moments too when God declares that the people will not understand. Even Jesus had moments when he said this. But there will also be times to know the word.

And there will always be sharers of the message to us. Jeremiah was to exercise his ministry no matter what. No matter what opposition or hardship – or how hard the words were for the people. Jeremiah would be strong and be protected for his long years of prophetic work – and he was protected. God’s words were a sure thing.

We have times when we know what we know: a divine message that is a sure thing.

My experience of this is subtle, gentle, gradual, I’d say. I am often looking for how the Spirit will speak next. 

At the start of this year, in the winter, with a couple friends, I got into hiking in the frozen swampy woods, looking at the lichens on the bark of the trees. Learning about them, looking for the rarer species. I remember when Greg and I were walking, and found our first Yellow Specklebelly on the trunk of a maple tree. We did lots of looking for the newly named provincial lichen, Blue Felt Lichen. Eventually, after many weeks of hiking and taking note of every Blue Felt Lichen that was found, Jonathan spoke of them as these living things on the trees that were following him, watching him!

About the same time, in a Bible study group with some of you, we got talking about the classic Christian book, “The Five Love Languages,” by Gary Chapman. He suggests that different people express and experience love in different ways: by receiving gifts, or quality time, by words of affirmation, or acts of service (of devotion), or physical touch.

Next time I was out in the woods, I thought, prayerfully, ‘Master, you know my love language. You speak it for me. You give me joy in every tree and branch, every rock and rivulet out in the woods. Every beautiful thing I can receive as a loving gift from You, O God.’  

Since then, I think of this from time to time, and view every created thing as a word from my Saviour.

That’s one of my experiences of the word this year. How have you seen the word of God? 
When has a message become clear to you?
What have your experiences been?
Do tell…

May we keep watch over how we receive messages that are critical: correcting, warning us. 
May we keep watch over how we share the messages we have, and do our part as witnesses.  
May we keep watch over the word and the worship that train us and keep us in touch.
And our Saving God keeps watch over all this guidance for us.