Worship at Home: June 21 – ‘The Trees Elect a King’

WELCOME to this plan for Sunday worship that we can share. Our reunion together in Digby on Sunday mornings is still a ways off in the future. In small groups we may begin to gather. For now, our corporate worship of God is still this shared plan that we use on our own, in our homes. May you find this a helpful guide.

Pastor Jeff will be away during this week for the final days of his vacation, for the July 2019 – June 2020 period.

Pastor Borden Scott and daughter

Sunday, June 28 we celebrate our Church’s 182nd Anniversary! Our guest preacher will be Rev. Borden Scott of Faith Baptist Church, Lower Sackville, NS. In the June 28th service, you can share a scripture. Ahead of time, send an email or text or message to Pastor Jeff. Even send a video our audio recording of you reading the Bible verse you choose. Remember the old-fashioned tradition of answering Roll Call with scripture? This is our technological version, a contemporary way to stand up and be counted for our Master.

WORSHIP Welcome John 13:31, 34. Just before he was arrested, Jesus declared: “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.” “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Let us glorify God. Let us love one another.

HYMN ‘Good, Good Father’ (You may know this song, or remember Joyce M. singing it one Sunday earlier this year.)

PRAYER God, You are good, so good. The quiet praise we offer is mild and small in comparison with You, whom we worship now. May our spirits be uplifted and You be glorified in the moments we spend looking to You alone. ‘As a father has compassion for his children, so the LORD has compassion for those who fear Him.’ (Ps 103:13) We give thanks for the love and care that comes to us from You. Open our minds to receive Your word to us today, and to grow in confidence and trust. AMEN.

Dick Parry recently shared ‘the Father’s Love Letter’ with Pastor Jeff, and we discovered this poem, which started out as a simple sermon illustration, had grown into a whole ministry. (Father’s Love Letter) This video is the ‘Love Letter.’

CHILDREN’s Time God is Love

SCRIPTURE Matthew 10:28-39 – Joyce Marshall

SONG ‘Blessed Jesus Hold My Hand’ – Men’s Choir (May, 2019)

SCRIPTURE & SERMON Judges 9:7-15 ‘The Trees Elect a King’ – Jeff White

Welcome to a summer of storytelling. Today’s new/old parable is a fable told by Jotham in the days of the Judges in Israel. In the days before they had kings… though, as you will see, many wanted a ruler, and some wanted to be the king. The violence and struggle of kings and kingdoms is underway in today’s tale. Hold onto your seat!

 The story of the trees electing a king is spoken by Jotham. He is a son of the late Gideon, a famed judge. You may know the stories of Gideon. You may know the modern Bible organization called ‘The Gideons.’ Here is a story his son, Jotham, told… (JUDGES 9:7-15)

The olive tree, provider not only of olives to eat, but more importantly, oil, refuses the offer to be king. The fig tree also refuses, choosing to stay with providing sweet figs. Thirdly, the grape vine says ‘no,’ and remains to produce grapes and wine for all. Lastly, a thornbush, agrees – he has nothing better to do. Well, the bramble says yes, if, if they are electing him in good faith. If not, let fire be kindled in his thorns and burn them all!

This allegory was easily understood, that day Jotham shouted from a mountaintop to the people. His father, Gideon (also called Jerubbaal) had been acclaimed as ruler by the people, but Gideon refused to rule over them. (Judges 8:22-23) His father, Gideon, had been father of seventy other sons, by his many wives, and one son by his concubine in Shechem, a son named Abimelech. Jotham’s seventy brothers had just been killed by Abimelech. “On one stone,” we are told, they got slaughtered, when Abimelech wanted no rivals for ruling his mother’s kinfolk in Shechem. So Abimelech gets his seventy half-brothers killed. Except for Jotham, who escaped. 

And escaped to call out Abimelech’s unworthiness by telling this fable of the king of the trees. It was not in good faith that Abimelech became the ruler. And, just as his brother, Jotham, declared, his rule would be short-lived. The lords of the Shechemite people turn on Abimelech, and then he gets killed while besieging a city, hit by a millstone a woman drops on him from a tower. 

The struggle to rule so often yields violence, and disasters. There is a temptation, among Christians, to declare that ‘this is Old Testament,’ and we have come a long way since then, thanks to Jesus. He, and His New Testament are better, kinder, more loving.

Did you read from Matthew 10 along with Joyce today? Words of Jesus Himself. Is it a mixed message? Christ speaks those beloved words about us being more important than little sparrows. ‘God sees the little sparrow fall…’ we have sung, since childhood, ‘I know He loves me too.’ And even the hairs on our head are counted (all those long, uncut hairs). Jesus also, at this same moment, speaks of fearing the destruction of our bodies and souls in Gehenna, translated as hell. He claims He came to bring not peace but a sword, and to set people in families against one another! And He even speaks of the need to love Him most and not love father and mother more. What a message for Father’s Day!

This is actually typical of Jesus. He used shock tactics in his rhetoric, though often the surprises in His talks are lost on us, today. When we hear His parables this summer, we will notice how Christ takes traditional wisdom, over and over, and turns it upside down, to make His points. Theologian Derek Flood has written, 

The primary way Jesus taught was by dramatic provocation. He speaks in ironic riddles that tell us to do seemingly absurd things like dying in order to live, and loving people we hate. Jesus is constantly pulling the rug out from under us–saying things that are intended to shock, to throw us off balance. (Flood, Disarming Scripture, 2014, p. 179)

And when we put the teaching – and life story – of Christ in perspective, we start to see the amazing path forward, away from the violence of the past. I tell you that, yes, Jesus and the New Testament are greater in peace and lesser in violence than the Old Testament and old covenant. You may remember me speaking before of the study I have been doing about violence in scripture and church history. I tend to side with Flood and others who are seeking to speak this clearly today, in an age still filled with violence. Others like Brian McLaren, who says, for the world to migrate away from violence, our God must migrate away from violence. (McLaren, the Great Spiritual Migration, 2016, p. 94)

Has your understanding of God and God’s story – the Bible – migrated away from violence?

Let me read you a story. A good, long story. From a modern storybook co-authored by a couple of progressive Christians. It will take almost a quarter of an hour, so let’s begin…

(I am not the copyright holder of The Seventh Story I am not posting the text here. You will need to purchase the book, or listen to me read it.)

There is more to that story; I shortened it a bit in my reading. It calls us to question our knowledge of Jesus, our Prince of Peace, our King of Love. And challenges our scripture study, when we hear Jesus speak of bringing a sword, not peace, and of hating father and mother.

But, look at what else He is saying here in Matthew 10, and remember His attention-getting method of teaching: He startles with a purpose. 

Jesus talks of fearing the one who can destroy soul and body. ‘The Devil!’ we might think. Nope. Even the Evil One gets consigned to destruction… by Almighty God. God can destroy us permanently. And what is the very next thing Jesus says about this God, His Father? “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father… So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Mtt 10:29, 31)

Do not be afraid. You are so valuable to God. This is Jesus’ message in the face of a fearsome Deity. 

And then Jesus is realistic. Realistic about what following Him will be like. It is like walking to your execution (carrying your cross), and this will mean even those near and dear to you will not understand, not agree with your path. Your path of faith. 

Jesus’ teaching here is preparation for trouble, the troubles that come when one follows closely. We have a Master who prepares and trains us. A Saviour who leads the way through violence and even death, in a serene and supreme way. 

Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, But There’s something about that name! (Gloria & William J. Gaither, 1970)

The name of Jesus as Lord. So, now, let us rework those words of the bramble who would be king.

If in good faith we are taking Jesus as king over us, then let us come and take refuge in His shade. But if not, then let the fire of His Spirit come and burn away all that gets in the way of knowing Him. AMEN.

OFFERING Designated offerings from us all, and our Eleanor Timpany Missionary Society, support the work of Darrell & Laura Lee Bustin, in Rwanda (Africa). They work closely with the Association of Baptist Churches of Rwanda. Darrell’s primary focus is in pastoral training and church leadership development. Laura Lee is responsible for overseeing the administrative details for the short-term mission (SENT) teams that come to Rwanda. We also support Laura Lee and Darrell with our prayers and attention to their ministry. The Bustins are right now in Canada, for a period of ‘home assignment.’ Read more here.

PRAYERS God of good and perfect gifts, we give You thanks for your servants, Darrell and Laura Lee, who have been serving in Rwanda. As they are blessed, back home in Canada right now, may those who continue their work back in Africa be blessed. We dedicate all the offerings we give, of money and prayer, in the name of Jesus. 

We rejoice also in the gifts of summertime. While we have peace and ease, here, we remember, Creator, those in the world whose crops are failing, whose economies are collapsing, and whose health is ruined. May our own farmers, health care workers, merchants, police and first responders be strengthened for their work, day by day. 

Saviour, who unites the slave and the free, all the nations, and all creation: we rejoice in freedom this weekend. But prejudice and injustice still go on. We give thanks for the first people’s of this land, millennia ago. But understanding and respect are still lacking among us who are white. Let there be listening ears for the stories told by those who have been oppressed, stereotyped, or racially profiled. Open our ears to listen.

God of love, who casts out all fear, take us, and those who are fearful and anxious, to a new place of calm, of grace, of truth. Show us ways to live in an epidemic, ways that strengthen and build up one another, in body and in soul. Make our hopeful longings for gathering together again fit with You will for us, what is best for all. Guide us.

And guide those who are especially isolated in this time. Those who already were ill, or weak, or weary, or alone. Guide them into the lives of others, who may bless them. 

Hearer of Prayer, You have heard through these months of isolation our concerns for those who, by staying at home, face more danger, rather than more safety. Those who suffer domestic abuse and violence, those who feel trapped and unsafe, those whose mental health suffers greatly in these days, we cry out for them. “How long, O Lord?” Let there be help; let there be mercy.

And so may we all, like Abraham and Sarah of old, still be the blessing people, with a holy blessing to share with the whole world. Good News is for all, for every one; we rejoice! This is Your grace! This is Your power! This is Your love! In Christ, AMEN.

HYMN # 663 Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus’

Big choir, big instruments, big congregation, big hymn!

BENEDICTION John 14:27
Jesus said to His disciples:
“Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled,
and do not let them be afraid.”

AMEN.

Canadian Hymn Sing

(Rom 6:5-11; Ps 121; Mtt 10:40-42) J G White

Sunday, July 2, 2017, UBC Digby

Romans 6:5-11  Quite a few Sundays this summer will will hear from the book of Romans.  I will use some of the verses suggested by the Revised Common Lectionary, a list of readings for each Sunday of the year.

In today’s text, we ponder what it means to be one with God, united in Christ Jesus, as Paul puts it here.  It is made clear what we already know.  Our existence has life and death in it.  So, the story of Jesus is the story of God in life and in death.  

I was back to Windsor, where I used to live, on Wednesday.  Went to a friend’s deathbead at the Windsor Hospital.  She was already unconscious, unresponsive.  A woman of great vitality and creativity, in her final chapter.  We were close neighbours for seven years, in the same apartment house.  She also sat in a pew in front of my pulpit there.  

Interestingly, she would talk with me privately about how she disliked most funerals.  She actually disliked all the talk about resurrection and eternal life.  Did not really believe in the whole ‘life after death’ thing.

I appreciated her honesty; and it did not bother me.  To die and then live with Christ is beyond our explaining, and whatever I think about it, or my friend thought about it, it will be what it will be when this life ends, by God’s grace.

These sentences from the book of Romans are also getting at the life and death of various parts our our lives.  The beautiful way things not good can die off in our lives, and the great stuff can flourish and grow.  That’s what I believe in, here and now, and in the next installment.  Let’s hear from Romans chapter 6…

 

Psalm 121 Unto the Hills

This hymn is a song lyric version of the 121st Psalm.  Perhaps it is a rather dull song – music and words – but it is a classic.  Of course, it is Canadian content too.  

The whole book of Psalms is a book of poetry, poetry intended to be sung.  So we sing it. We sing of the hills we look up to.  Even our rather short Mount Pleasant, Beaman’s Mountain, and Mount Shubel can be looked upon with joy and awe.  The inspiring landscape brings out the awe in us.  And the hope.  And the wonder – wondering about it all.  Wondering about ourselves in this world.

A good friend is a paraglider ‘pilot.’ Like hang-gliding, paragliding takes one up to the crest of a great hill, and then one steps out into the wind and soars in the sky.

My friend, Brian, is a very relaxed, easy-going fellow.  His long-time life-partner jokes about him, climbing hills with his wing on his back, waiting for the wind to be right.  She says he goes up there to work out his problems.  Most of us cannot imagine what problems Brian actually has.

When we have problems to face, we sometimes find our way to the mountains – looking from a valley below, or a lookout on top – and we seek help.  

Let us sing Psalm 121, Unto the Hills.  

 

Matthew 10:40-42  In a moment, Evelyn reads from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter ten.  Words of welcoming and of rewards.  

On Canada Day, we would do well to rejoice in the welcome of our land.  The actual land itself was welcoming to the first peoples who got here and called it home.  Those people were welcoming – they had to be – to newcomers from Europe through the centuries. We have the daily opportunity to welcome others we meet.  Welcome them with the spirit and love of Christ.  Welcome the friend and the stranger as we welcome Jesus and the presence of God.  

As Jesus said at other moments, we can bless Him when we help people who cross our paths today in all sorts of circumstances. Let’s hear these words recorded in Matthew…

 

PRAYERS of the People  Let us  pray. July 2, 2017

God: the Singer of the Song, with our hymns and Psalms and spiritual songs we have prayed today…

We have been not dismayed whatever betide.  We pray for those who do feel hopeless and troubled.  We pray for the sick and the sorrowing among us.  We pray for healing of bodies, of souls, of relationships.  

From every race, from every climate, Your people gather… and we have gathered with them, around the Table of Jesus.  Bless the Church, in an uncertain age, that we may be a gracious light in the world.

The wonder of springtime and harvest, the sky, the stars, the sun… is before us.  With the roaring rain and startling lightening we pray for all who are frightened and traumatized, that they may find healing comfort.

We’d rather have You, Jesus, than anything the world offers today.  In an age of buying and selling, of hoarding and stealing, may we be saved from greed and emptiness.

Faithful One, so unchanging, Ageless One, you’re our Rock of peace.  O that there could be a solid rock of peace for the refugees of the world to stand upon, in all the places they flee and suffer.

Angels fall before You, prostrate, worshipping.  On this Canada weekend, we remember the many peoples who worship in many different ways, praying that we may have the grace to respect and know one another.  

Unto the hills around do we lift up our longing eyes.  

All the earth makes a joyful noise unto You.  Let there be joy for those who are surrounded by hate and violence, little celebrations that bring happiness in hard times.

Make us now Set apart for You, our Master, ready to do Your will.  As You taught, may people be transformed from within, and our desires and action become completely that of You, our Holy Source.

We Crown You the Lord of life, who triumphed over the grave.  We give thanks that this little life of ours can be so magnificent: we give thanks!

God keep our land glorious and free.

And now, we go out to express our citizenship – as citizens of Canada, citizens of humanity, citizens of earth, and citizens of the Heavenly Kindom.  

We humbly plead before You, reveal Yourself in us.

In Jesus’ name, AMEN.