Jan 17: To Study/Learn

WELCOME to worship, using this post and the worship bulletin. Sorry, we do not have video of a children’s story this week. (Luke 4:14-30) J G White – 11 am, Sun, Jan 17, 2021, UBC Digby

Welcome to School; class is now in session! 🙂 

For at least the first fifteen years of my career, this is what I wore for every worship service, including each funeral and wedding. The old tradition of basic black, academic robes for preaching: a Geneva gown. This really is rooted in the clothing of teachers and students of old. So we declare that the Church is about teaching and learning.

Well, this is one aspect of our life with God, and a good one. One of many aspects we will explore over the next couple months. Some people are drawn to be part of church because of the learning that happens.

Perhaps we see the roots of this in Judaism. Once again today we visit that Bible scene where Jesus visits his hometown, Nazareth, and gets involved in the teaching of the Synagogue on Saturday, the Sabbath.

The Jewish religion – thousands of years old – has changed quite a bit, through time. Before the days of Jesus, they had developed in their towns these meeting places – synagogues – for education, for worship, for legal decisions, and so forth. Communities of Jews, scattered in many places, could still gather to be God’s people together, learning the things of God, learning how to be Jewish. 

Luke chapter 4 (:16) today tells us Jesus went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He, like many other Jews, kept the Sabbath holy, in part, by gathering for prayer and scripture reading and teaching. 

How does spiritual learning happen today? How do people gather and study together? For many, local religious groups are not the place they turn to for spiritual education. For others of us, this still is the heart of our learning about God, humanity, the universe and everything. How churches are meeting together is changing a lot, and not just because of pandemic precautions. The ways of meeting in small groups in homes keeps getting re-invented, including by the ‘Fresh Expressions’ movement. That has new Christian gatherings happening at the coffee shop, the tattoo parlour, the dog walk park, and the brewery. ‘What Would Jesus Brew?’ – that’s the new ‘church’ for some, apparently. 

And these creative ways of meeting can be branches from a traditional church – like us. Our own denomination just last week started a new program called ‘Launch,’ which is all about churches starting new branches of themselves in different ways, out there. Digby Wesleyan is doing this now, with their Tuesday services in the Deep Brook Lion’s Hall. 

The whole world is God’s classroom, and laboratory, with us. We who have enrolled to be disciples of Master Jesus find life lessons everywhere, thanks be to God!

So, church is about getting together to learn. Another important thing people seek from God in the churches is Scriptural understanding. What the Bible means, how to find God in it, how to live the Bible’s way. A system of learning what is real and good, based on Holy Scripture.

This is a hard day and age for TRUTH. In our religion, we make claims about ‘the truth.’ That we are in touch with the source of truth: God and the Bible. Yet the truth about so many things is very hard to know, it seems. 

We are witnessing the tragic finale of a world leader this month. And the whole USA is in a tense and dangerous condition. What is true? What is right? What is fair? What is just? What is needed? What is wrong? Sorting the details out is so challenging – certainly for us as bystanders. The daily news can set our heads and our hearts spinning. I don’t even want ‘to go there.’

Yet my faith stance tells me I have something to say, we have something to say. Lying is a problem. Ridicule and contempt is a problem. Greed is a problem. ‘Looking out for number one’ is a problem. The Bible tells me so. And the Bible will also challenge me and you, the way we live.

 Look at that scene of Jesus in the synagogue. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. (Luke 4:16-17) This was the usual thing. It still is. 

Once Jesus started talking about other Old Testament stories, that day, He got in hot water. He was mentioning non Jewish people who’d been helped, over and above the ‘chosen people.’ His fellow chosen people were furious at this. ‘If this local guy was going to claim to be the Messiah, he had better put the Jews first!’ He didn’t. The crowd tries to kill Jesus! This is the first attempt of a few, before the day we know about when He does die.

So, in our lifetimes, we should not be surprised if we find people who dislike Jesus, or who reject the Holy Bible. Lines from a Christmas song haunt me, a song by an atheist comedian and musician from Australia.

I don’t go for ancient wisdom

I don’t believe just ’cause ideas are tenacious 

it means that they’re worthy

(Tim Minchin, White Wine in the Sun)

The Bible has been tenacious, and some people do not like that. I do. One thing I asked for for my fiftieth birthday was any volume of the seven volume St. John’s Bible. I got it. In fact, I got three of the volumes. This text, Scripture, is so influential and powerful for me. I am here to learn.

And, it goes without saying, I am also here to teach. The role of the Rabbi/Teacher/Preacher/Prophet is strong in human history. People are part of the Christian Church to learn from God through the teachers we have. 

We look up to Jesus, our quintessential Master, Teacher, Lord and Friend. When He began to speak in Nazareth, that day, things started well. (Luke 4:) 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. Jesus was impressive. Think about some of the things Jesus said that most impress you. 

In our lives we have so many great teachers, and through them the Spirit of Jesus continues to train us. I think we are more likely to name some of these others, without giving credit to Jesus directly. You may have been taught well through the years by Billy Graham, or Max Lucado, Joyce Myers, or Martin Luther King, Jr., Anna Robbins or Leon Langille. All these teach in the church, from the church, and for the Christian church.

Thousands of other spiritual teachers are available to us, just in the English language. From other religious traditions, to ‘new age,’ non-traditional perspectives, everything is out there. And everyone has a following. We believers don’t have a corner on the marketplace of spiritual teaching. 

So plenty of folks who used to be in pews are now getting their spiritual instruction for other ‘experts.’ I feel, from time to time, the strong urge to compete, but in my better moments I think I am better just to talk. Just be able to chat with others. Hear how others understand life. Get good at explaining myself without coming across as selling something. We all can do that. I prefer to think that’s what the Apostle Peter would say to us today with his words: Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. (1 Pt 3:15-16)

If the Christian Church is a place for learning of God by getting together, by studying the Bible, and by hearing from teachers – including God – it must also be about life-long learning: always making progress.

 A well-known Southern Baptist theologian quips that the whole of his Sunday school training could be summed up in one sentence (delivered with a broad Texas drawl): “Jesus is nice, and he wants us to be nice, too.” (Cynthia Bourgeault, quoted by Richard Rohr, Jan 14, 2019) there’s a pretty weak gospel! Even Sunday school for children needs to go deeper and farther than this. Not to mention the training we offer to teenagers, young adults, middle-agers like me, and elders like you. 😉

My memory of school days is poor, so I asked some teachers I know about the curriculum. So many things children learn come in stages. You learn the basics, then some more, then you build on that and learn greater things. The first things you learned are not pointless, they are the foundation. 

For instance, in preschool and primary children learn to read and write the alphabet. The methodology now is mainly to learn lower-case letters, along with the sounds they make. The capital letters are added in as they go along. Later, in about grades three and four, the teachers are free to teach them cursive writing, though that is no longer in the curriculum now. 

Some things we learn at an early stage get replaced by better lessons, more detail, more accuracy. A lover of science, I remember learning about atoms. Everything is made up of tiny atoms. In about grade nine I learned the structure of an atom. A nucleus of protons and neutrons, with electrons circling around in orbits, like the planets going around the sun. 

But wait! In grade eleven chemistry I learned this: it is better to describe the electrons as being in ‘orbitals,’ sort of like clouds, around the nucleus, not in simple orbits. They do not actually just spin around in circles; they exist in foggy clouds of probability. 

What I learned in grade nine was not wrong, just simple and basic. Two years later I got a fuller story. And, of course, this prepares me to think that real experts in chemistry and physicals see the atom far differently than I knew it in grade eleven. It is more complex and amazing that I know, even with my minor in Chemistry. 

So it is with God. So it is with the human spirit. So it is with creation. So it is with the past, and with the future. We  learn more. What I learned as a kid about having Jesus in my heart was a very simple thing. As a teen I got basic training in praying and using the Bible and obeying the will of God for my life. In my twenties I was introduced to so much more about human spirituality & Christian theology. In my thirties I got obsessed by the spiritual disciplines, far above and beyond the very basic Bible reading and prayer I’d been taught when I was a kid. & my journey continues.

Sometimes I get concerned about all the failures of the Church I see when it comes to teaching people stuff. We can learn lessons from what we did poorly. Yet there is also such success in what we have taught one another, and I want to see and celebrate these things. God has used us in beautiful ways as students and teachers of faith. And the new things that are always there to be learned – at times we have learned these lessons. 

When Jesus was in the synagogue that day, He clearly was using the old Bible in new ways. The audience got so upset with Him: He must have been making some points they did not want to hear! As it says, When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. (Luke 4:28)

Today, when the Holy Spirit reminds us of all that Jesus taught, we may still get some surprises. We should. I suppose that one of the uses of the church that really still attracts me, is the church as a group for study and learning. This does not appeal to every believer; it does to me. 

So, in the role of spiritual teacher, I need to remember two things. First, not everyone is in church as a classroom. We will look at many other reasons to be here, in the upcoming sermons. Some of you are in church as a family, or in church for a miracle, or in church to do good.

Second, I need to remember that not every one of you wants or needs what I want or need from the Bible. Each sermon is for all of us, with all our different places of faith and understanding. 

This year, may we see our wise God still gather the Church to learn, deeply influence us by the written Word of God, anoint many teachers to guide us, and teach us all more and more, moving us from milk to solid food. 

To the glory of Jesus. AMEN.

Dec 13 – Garment of Praise

WELCOME to this post for the Third Sunday of Advent at Digby Baptist Church. Sorry, but the video of the children’s time is out of focus, but the one from the sermon is better. We know, we know, the sound quality is never great.

Garment of Praise (Isaiah 61:1-11; Luke 4:16-21) – J G White – 11 am, 3rd Sun of Advent, Dec 13, 2020 – UBC Digby

 Sharon was getting her hair cut, last week, and sent me a photo. I spontaneously decorated my own head, and sent her a couple pics. Sharon dared me to post the photos online, so I did. 

Sort of as Isaiah proclaimed, long ago, I got a garland instead of ashes, a garment of praise to replace a spirit of heaviness. 

There is quite a spirit of heaviness in the air. People are seeking ‘the Christmas spirit’ to brighten things, going all out with lights and greenery and all this year. Folks ‘decked the halls’ earlier than ever in hopes of finding some joy.

Our choirs here have sung a song in the past called ‘Garment of Praise.’ The lyric comes right out of Isaiah 61 and other Bible texts. 

Put on the garment of praise
for the spirit of heaviness,
Lift up your voice to God;
Praise with the Spirit and with understanding,
O magnify the Lord!
All you that mourn in Zion, I have authority
To appoint unto you in Zion
Oil of joy that will set you free.

(David Inglis, 1978)

The message of Isaiah chapter 61 was given, it appears, in a dark time for the people of God. It speaks to them in the sixth century, BCE, when some had returned from exile to their Promised Land. 

But all was not well. Drought, crop failure, hunger and inflation describe those years, and their big project to rebuild the Temple at Zion was failing. The prophet Haggai describes the same time period. Rival groups in Judah were bitterly opposed to each other, and their leaders were corrupt. Community morale was low; all the hopes and dreams of getting back to the glory days of old seemed dashed. 

Into this, the words we read in Isaiah 61 rang out:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

Many of us, and so many around us, could use a dose of the same things. We could use a new wardrobe! A jacket of joy instead of a parka of problems, essential oil of enthusiasm instead of perfume de depression, a happiness hat instead of a toque of troubles.

These Isaiah promises are worth hearing now, for it is Jesus the Saviour who still supplies this clothing. He it is who read from this part of the scroll. 

And even Jesus’ reading of Isaiah, in Synagogue that day, was more joyful, more peaceful, than the original text. Ever notice that, when He reads from the scroll, He skipped this line: the day of vengeance of our God? It is right there in Isaiah 61:2, but He chose to stop just before that phrase.

So, let’s go with this imagery. How shall we put on brighter and better clothing? Turn that frown upside down? Overcome fear with faith and hope?

We need to hear the word of Christ. We need to wait upon God. We need to put the faith we have into practice. 

It is our circumstances that drag us down, so often, isn’t it. What can be done about our situation? Sometimes we take just one step at a time, in the right direction. And whenever we get blessed, we share our blessing.

I see people every day who are blessed with a beautifully patterned, colourful mask. Mike Beveridge has one with lobsters and seafood, for instance. I have one that looks tie-dyed. So we bless the world with our mask, covering mouth and nose, and showing the beauty for all to see. Even though they can be difficult to wear, they can become a garment of praise. Praising God for life, and simple ways of protection.

This past Wednesday evening I saw some basic black clothing I thought of as garments of praise. I praised God when I saw these outfits. Hafiza, Abdulrazzak, Ali and Rabea arrived by plane at Stanfield International Airport, dressed in winter coats. Winter coats! First time for them, perhaps. At last, these Syrians, got to make their pilgrimage to a new home in Digby, NS. 

How about this example of literal garments of praise; from Tidings magazine: ‘Out Into Mission at Hillcrest Church.’  Pastor Andrew Morse writes:

Across the Atlantic bubble, churches are poking their heads out of their foxholes to see if it’s safe to come out now. 

…something… has become glaringly apparent. The mission is still moving forward. The mission has not been cancelled. The mission is as important as ever! We’ve just had to make some adjustments and get innovative. 

“How do you love your community and do missions when there are so many obstacles in the way?”

…I would suggest to not be afraid to use the space in your church building differently! It became abundantly clear that people are the church and the building is simply a facility for making ministry easier. The root word of facility is the French word, facile, which means easy. With this in mind, our church has taken its used clothing program, which has been in several tightly packed Sunday school rooms up until recently, and set up our gym to make the clothing more accessible to those still needing clothes for the school year or the winter months. No one else was going to use the gym, so why not? Do you have any spaces that are not being used? Time to get creative! (Tidings, Dec 2020, p. 11)

That’s from Hillcrest Baptist Church in Saint John, NB.

More local, now: I was speaking with Wendi Bradley the other day, who was dropping off a couple of nice new blankets for Grace and Ramona Vincent, living at Annapolis Royal Nursing Home. So, she has to drop them off, and they are not given to the ladies for five days. Wendi then seeks to schedule her next visit with Ramona and Grace for when she can have the blankets given to them. That’s a lot of care and attention for just a couple blankets. But it is a gift of love. It is worth the effort.

The touch of Jesus the Messiah reaches our world, so often, through us, the disciples. A bit of praise shines through, a bit of hope, a bit of care and compassion – and people get lifted up! I see you people doing this all the time. The little batch of cookies delivered with love to someone. The text you send someone’s phone to check on them and lift their spirit. The food you give to a foodbank. 

Take note of all the points in Isaiah chapter 61. Here’s my summary. It is Christ’s work to give such things. And we are invited to join His team and help.

good news to the oppressed
healing the brokenhearted
freedom to prisoners
comfort to mourners
joy for those who are sad
rebuilding what was ruined
becoming ministers of the Lord
justice being done
descendants shall be godly
right things and praise will grow

This is the ministry of Jesus Messiah, and it is the work of God in 2020.

We too can give a joyful reading of God’s mis- sion. We too can offer joyful clothing to our neigh- bours. We too can speak of a year of the God’s favour. 

2020 – it is a number, a year, that may go down in infamy! It has become a joke to ask “What next will happen in 2020?” And we are only half laughing. 

The turn of a year – from 2020 to 2021 – is actually artificial, a human invention. But it still feels to us like a new start. We hope for one, at least. Our celebration of the nativity is also our own invention, but a good one. No matter what day Jesus actually was born, and what year, when people around the globe celebrate the incarnation, incredible things can happen. Many people tune in to Jesus again. 

Jesus is the bringer of new life, as this year ends. He can provide the whole armour of God for us to wear: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the word of God. (Eph 6:14-17) He can help clothe us with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness and love. (Col 3:12-14) It is when we ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ’ that we gain great access to the whole wardrobe. (Rom 13:14)

How does one ‘put on’ Christ? Be confident in Jesus and what He offers. Be paying close attention to Him. Be together with His disciples here and now. Be realistic about how much you need Him. Be ready to take off the other things your soul is wearing now.

Amen.

Nov 1: 150 Years of Atlantic Baptist Women!

Welcome to this post that includes some parts of our worship at Digby Baptist Church. Videos today include the Children’s time, prayers, sermon in three parts (two videos), and saying farewell to Deacon Joyce Marshall.

SERMON: 150 Years of Atlantic Baptist Women (1 Kings 17:1-16; Luke 4:20-30) – J G White – 11 am, Sunday, Nov 1, 2020 – UBC Digby

Strategic Support: Hannah Maria Norris (Armstrong)

November first is ‘All Saints Day,’ so it is very fitting we look back at some believers who inspire us and cheer us on. Today, we celebrate 150 years of Atlantic Baptist Women, an organization supporting mission that has been creative and innovative thru all these years. It all began with one very energetic woman.

It’s 1870. A teacher in the women’s department at Horton Academy in Wolfville is inspired to leave and serve as a missionary in far-away Burma, Southeast Asia. We call it Myanmar today. The teacher was Miss Hannah Maria Norris, from Canso. She wrote,

I was teaching in the Seminary in Wolfville till near the close of 1869. It was during that year that the thought first came to me that I was needed in Burmah [sic). It was a still small voice that made itself heard when I prayed alone, and that rose up to disquiet me amid present activities.

But the Baptists of Atlantic Canada had no funds to send Maria and fund her mission. Just as she is about to embark on a ship bound for Boston, and meet with the American Baptist Missionary Union, some leading NS Baptists intercept her and they suggest she apply again to the Atlantic Baptists and seek the help of the women of our Baptist Churches. After a prayer meeting in Halifax, it was resolved “that an appeal be made to the sisters in these Provinces to supply the funds necessary . . .”

When Miss Norris applied the second time, she was approved, awaiting the raising of the necessary funds. The “Sisters” of our churches had a history of supporting such causes. What Maria organized next is incredible. Her notebook of 1870 contains the entry: “Left home June 23rd [after forming a Circle in Canso), returned August 29th. Met 41 appointments with different churches, organized 32 Societies (Circles), visited seven Sabbath Schools, attended Central and Eastern Associations and Convention . . .Two Circles were also formed in Halifax but I was not present . . .” Three weeks later, Hannah Maria Norris, a school teacher, left for Burma, the second single woman from the Maritimes to go as a foreign missionary. (H. Miriam Ross, Women’s Strategies for Mission: Hannah Maria Norris Blazes the Trail in 1870, Historical Papers 1992: Canadian Society of Church History.)

In barely over two months, Maria organized thirty-two mission societies, and a month later was on her way to Burma! Here is where those first women’s circles were organized: Canso, Amherst, Windsor, Falmouth, Hantsport, Wolfville, Pereaux, Canning, Canard, Upper Aylesford, Billtown, Tremont (Lower Aylesford), Pine Grove (Middleton), Bridgetown, Clementsvale, Hillsburg (Bear River), Weymouth, Yarmouth, Hebron, Beaver River, Ohio, Jegoggin (Chegoggin), plus those in New Brunswick, and two in Halifax not organized by Maria.

This woman was a force to be reckoned with! Dr. Miriam Ross was my professor of missions, and in her paper about Hannah Maria Norris’ strategies, Dr. Ross pointed out the ways Maria used the social networks available to her: family and childhood friends, educational contacts, church contacts, and literature and publications. 

The mission societies that began in 1870 continued, and many others were formed, especially to support the single women who went out to serve around the world. At some point, our women’s missionary society began here at Digby Baptist.

I see in this a manifestation of the challenge to support a travelling servant of God that we see in Jesus our Saviour. As Amelia read for us today, we see Jesus had a hard time in his hometown. Part of his own strategy was to challenge the thinking of the people. His sense of mission was to be wide-ranging. He highlighted the Old Testament stories of helping and healing people who were not Jews in religion or culture, a little family in Zarephath, and a Syrian leader named Naaman. 

Jesus claimed for Himself the ministry spoken of in Isaiah 58 and 61: anointed to bring good news to the poor, freedom to captives, sight to the blind, and so forth. And this work was to be His for the whole world, continuing on long after his death, and resurrection, and ascension away from here. Jesus’ ministry continues at our own hands. Think of Maria Norris, and what is possible!

Integral Mission: Lavinia E. Wilson

Jesus read the words of the Isaiah scroll in Nazareth one day, words that He declared He was now fulfilling, words of a comprehensive ministry. What we, today, call integral mission. Ministry to the whole person and all of society. 

 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

    because he has anointed me

        to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

    and recovery of sight to the blind,

        to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

We could ‘spiritualize’ Isaiah’s words, and say this is all about good news for the spiritually poor, freedom for souls that were captive to evil, sight for those blind to the truth of God, and so forth. And I think it does mean these things. But it also includes help for those poor in things, freedom for those behind real prison bars, and healing for eyes that cannot physically see.

Three months ago I preached to you, briefly, the story of land reform and freedom for enslaved farmers in Bolivia, in the 1920s 30s and 40s. This was the work of Canadian Baptist missionaries, such as the innovative leader, Rev. Dr. Earl Merrick, later of Acadia University. It was also the work of an ordinary young woman from Hillgrove, Digby Co.

In 1901 a new member, baptized into the Hillgrove Baptist Church, was a teenager named Lavinia Wilson. She went on to answer the call to mission overseas. Actually, directly south of us here in Nova Scotia, in Bolivia, where Baptist missionaries had been working since 1898.

Lavinia joined the mission work there in 1919, and served for five years, mainly on the shores of Lake Titicaca, in Huatajata, on the farm that got named Peniel Hall. What was the mission work of Wilson, and Merrick, and others, there? Yes, there was Christian evangelism, preaching and teaching of the Gospel, in that area. There was education for children, and Lavinia was a teacher there. She and an assistant, Alice Booker, began schooling indigenous children, even with some opposition from the local farmers. Wilson also had begun as the first Canadian Baptist administrator of the mission there. The task was to run the large farm there on Christian principles – no small challenge. Canadian Baptists took full responsibility for the mission under these conditions:

  • The Canadian Baptist Mission would take care of the farm with the condition of reopening the school in a permanent fashion.
  • The project would maintain the work of evangelism and education according to a late benefactor’s wishes (Antonia Chiriotto).
  • The new managers would improve and mechanize the farm with modern machinery as soon as possible.
  • The gospel would be taken to other neighboring communities as a witness of the project.

Other workers joined Wilson & Booker to accomplish this work. But after just five years, it seemed the climate of the high Andes took its toll on Lavinia Wilson. Many visitors there feel the effects of altitude illness – I did when I was there for ten days in 2010. Living there is a severe challenge for some. The thin air and low oxygen did its damage, and young Lavinia developed a heart condition, and after she was living back in NS, in Barton, Bright’s Disease, an old term for a kidney disease that accompanied heart disease. She was 46 years old when she died on April 26th, 1933, at the home of her sister here in Digby.

In her long, biographical obituary, it is reported how Rev. Dr. Patterson eulogized her at the funeral in Hillgrove. He emphasized the sacrificial character of her Chirstianity, which was as apparent in her service in his church as it was later in Bolivia. To the strain of handling single-handed the revolution on Penial Hall Farm he partly attributed her final break-down. He also spoke of her fine intellectual qualities which enabled her with uncommon clarity of perception to see straight thru non-essentials to the heart of a problem. This was also evident in her religious faith, which disregarded the unimportant things, looming so large to many, for the fundamental truths.

Here again was a servant of Jesus, used in remarkable ways, even for such a short time. Supported back home by the Women’s Missionary Societies, Lavinia Wilson played an important role in the development of farming, freedom, and faith among the Bolivian people, 100 years ago. 

What is Digby Baptist doing as a mission station here in Digby County, today? 

Inspiring Servanthood: Eleanor ‘Nellie’ Timpany

Poet and activist, Jan Phillips, says, “No matter what our attempts to inform, it is our ability to inspire that will turn the tides.” (Marry Your Muse, 1997)

A portrait hangs in our Church Parlour, the photo of a woman, to inspire us today. She was a local resident and member of this Church who so inspired us that the Women’s Missionary Society took on her name, Eleanor Timpany. Who was Nellie Timpany?

In 1871, likely in Little River, a child was born to Mary and Bernard Havey. The mother, Mary, had been a Denton. The child was named Mary Eleanor Havey. I have not discovered much of her early life. In 1893 she married John Stuart Timpany, who that same year graduated from Medical School in Detroit, Michigan, and was ordained a Baptist Minister. Coming from a family of medical and other missionaries, John set out right away, with his bride, to serve on the mission field in India, under the American Baptist Foreign Missionary Board.

Also in our Parlour is this old photo, showing CANADIAN BAPTIST MISSIONARIES IN INDIA. This is from the late 1800s. Among the servants here are Nellie’s mother and father-in-law, Jane and A. V. (Americus Vespucius) Timpany, who’d served in India for twenty years before’s A.V.’s death at 46. 

It was about ten years later that John and Eleanor Timpany arrived in Hanamakonda, India, and their thirty-two years of work there began. Another Baptist medical missionary, Dr. Dorothy Timpany, described her cousin John’s work this way:

Dr. Timpany had a double ministry. He alone was in charge of the evangelistic work in a 6000 square mile area, but the preaching often met with opposition, until the people saw his healing ministry. In time people asked for a hospital in the area. An Islamic man started a fund to which all classes of people contributed and, after nine years in India, Dr. Timpany had a hospital of twenty-six beds, paid for without money from the American Baptist Board!

(Dorothy E. Timpany, Love Affair With India, 1993)

It was in 1925 that John Stuart and Eleanor Timpany retired to Digby, NS. I believe they lived on Queen Street. John died in 1939. Nellie said of her husband, “He and his father loved the people of India and gave themselves for them.” She went on to live until 1954. Their grave is Woodlawn cemetery. 

These people were clearly inspired by others, in their own family, and outside it. They have inspired many, and continue to do so. We tell and retell such stories, stories of God’s work and intervention, the Master’s planning and purposes, the Spirit’s guidance and powerful accomplishments around us. 

Thousands of years ago, Elijah was inspired to trust God to bless a poor woman and her son on the shores of the Meditereanean, in Phoenicia. When the son died, God used Elijah to raise him back to life! Hundreds of years later, Jesus was inspired to mention that story, an example of God’s care and goodness to every type of person on earth. What stories inspire you? What do you do when you’re inspired? & shall you be an inspiration to someone else? May it be so!

PRAYER Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End of all good things: we pray on this day as we worship and praise You for the gift of the Atlantic Baptist Women’s movement, and each local Missionary Society. We give thanks for Your servants who still inspire us, Maria Norris, Lavinia Wilson, Nellie Timpnay, and many others. Give power and purpose to our own Missionary Society here, in this decade of challenge and need. We pray for our sisters and brothers in the African Association today, who have recently lost two incredible leaders, sister Alma Johnston-Tynes and Rev. Tracey Grosse. As they join that great cloud of witnesses who encourage us, may we continue to run the race with perseverance, O Son of God.

Christ, you turn our eyes to the whole world, each day. Today we pray for the places where there is fresh and alarming violence, and places where the terror has gone on a long time. Disasters strike, Jesus, and we cry of for mercy where earthquake and flood and fire destroy. And, Master of the loving heart, we pray for our friends of the United States of America, as their election finally arrives: may there be good choices made, good working of the whole voting process, and good responses to the election results.

We continue in prayer for those dear to us. Bless in body, and spirit…… and these we name aloud or silently… 

And we pray for ourselves, a fellowship in Christ we call Digby Baptist Church. Still lead us, Master, into the ways of truth that rely upon Your guidance, the actions of love that stem from Your powerful care, and the fellowship of faith that is as wide and welcoming as You were here on earth. O Saviour Jesus, save again today, reach out to save those near us, we pray. In Your name. AMEN.

PRAYER of farewell to Deacon Joyce Marshall

Mighty God, You who know who we are, You who renew our souls in Christ, You who prepare our path and lead us: hear our prayers for Joyce. Take her and bless her as much as possible; we are releasing her into Your total care. But we will still care, dear God, we will keep in touch, we will pray for her, we will even still be inspired and helped by her while she is away. 

We give thanks for the ministry gifts Joyce shared, Heavenly Father; we ask forgiveness for any offenses and harm we have done; we mourn and say goodbye to her whose fellowship and friendship we have enjoyed.

O Lord, bless Joyce and keep her, 

make Your face shine upon her 

and be gracious unto her, 

lift of the light of Your countenance upon her, 

and give her peace. 

In the name of Jesus, AMEN.

Spiritual Leadership

(Jeremiah 1:4-10; Luke 4:21-30) – J G White
11 am, Sun, Feb 3, 2019 – UBC Digby

Linus starts off with a lot more confidence than Jeremiah, eh?

There is spiritual leadership in this life.  We can say this is one piece of good news: God leads, God moves us in a direction.  There is always more.  There is always change.  There is always better yet to come.  There is always a journey. That’s why there is leadership – God leads so we may follow a good way.  

I realize I don’t speak about ‘the will of God’ very often, but it is always there.  The good that the Creator wants us to be part of, that’s always to be found. We all could use guidance to take the right paths.  We just had an Annual Meeting. Did we find some more of the will of God for us? We looked for blessings this morning, for those in leadership.  We prayed over those helping us do the will of God.

I think the Canadian version of Bicker’s ‘Healthy Small Church’ book is John Pentland’s ‘Fishing Tips.’  Pentland’s first chapter, his first fishing tip is ‘Let leaders lead.’  At one point he writes: As for the Church, we’re not just looking to keep the doors open–that is to survive–we’re looking to thrive.  I believe in order to do so, we must look for our purpose in the community. (p. 32)

There is more for us to know about our purpose in the community.  Our Holy and Hopeful God can take us in this direction. Our Choir sang today ‘I’m gonna live so… God can use me!’  

God uses individual voices, uses leaders.  We hear the story of Jesus, at the start of His itinerant ministry, in his hometown Synagogue.  Those who knew him from his childhood see a leader rising up. At first they are impressed, even awestruck.  At least, when Jesus reads the scripture. Once he gives a little sermon about it, the local crowd is violently upset!

He is THE Leader, the One Leader.  But We know the story. He chooses twelve men to apprentice with Him.  He welcomes other disciples, women and men, to follow, for three years.  God finds leaders, and trains them up, and sends them out. Over and over again, throughout the ages. The Master makes use of leaders and followers, of all sorts.  All becoming part of the Body of Christ.

Now, many of you may say you are not a leader, or don’t want to be one now. Of course. And if leaders must lead, then followers must follow.  And, we remember, every so-called leader is also a follower.

Me, I’ve had to come to terms with being a ‘natural born follower.’  But this is partly getting to know my own leadership style. It may be true – a blessing from God – that every one of us is part leader, and part follower. Both roles we can do well, with Christ our Master.

Spiritual leadership must develop, must be developed. This takes work and time. And wanting it.  First off, God wants it. Plans it. Like in the life of young Jeremiah.  A new prophet is prepared. There is a new word from the LORD for the people of Israel.  

Chapter 8 in Dennis Bicker’s book,  ‘The Healthy Small Church,’ is about Spiritual Leadership.  There, he says, God’s will for a person or a church begins with His desire that we be in in a continual state of growth.  God is always more interested in our becoming than in our doing.  Our ministry will grow out of our personal development into mature Christian disciples.  Spiritually immature people can’t lead others in spiritual growth.  (p. 74)

So, today is a new day!  We have a slightly different team of leaders and workers now than last year.  And we now take our next steps. We put one foot in front of the other. I do.  You do. No matter how far we think we have yet to go, we take our next step with Jesus.  I think I have a long way to go in being a Pastor.  So I take one more step.  Maybe that next step is one better thing I can do to help train others as leaders.  Maybe.

Your leadership is as a deacon.  Or as an usher. As a singer. You are a parent of a child and that is your most important leadership in life.  Or you are neighbour who has a lot to do to help others. Whatever. Your leading, your following, grows.

What does the old Gospel song say?  Little is much when God is in it.  

Let me come to a finish by quoting words of Marianne Williamson.  Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. …You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.
(Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love, 1992, p. 190)

I will let the Bible have the very last words.  Jesus said, ‘You are the light of the world.’ (Matthew 5:13)
He also said, ‘Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going…’ (John 14:12)
And from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: ‘For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.’ (E 2:10)