Holy Week Concert

Holy Week Concert
With Carol Dondale
Accompanied by Cairine Robertson
Noon, Wednesday, March 28, 2018 ~ Digby Baptist Church

Welcome to our Holy Week Concert, featuring soloist Carol Dondale, accompanied by Cairine Robertson on the piano.
This time draws our attention to the story of Jesus in the week of His pain and execution. There are many paths we can take to follow Him, many stories from scripture that can guide our personal devotions. The songs Carol has chosen tell the story in their own creative way, and instill a response in our souls.
I chose to punctuate the music with the Psalms. As the ‘hymnbook,’ so to speak, of the Jews, is was, of course, Jesus’ hymn book also. Twentieth Century theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, taught that the secret of the Psalms, for the Christian disciple, is to remember we are hearing Jesus pray, whenever we read these ancient poems.
So we start with words of Psalm 25, and work our way back through a few pages, as Jesus descends into the depths and darkness of His suffering and death. Christ knew these words at least as well as we do. Listen for his heart at prayer with the Psalms today. And listen for your own soul, praying with Him.

The way of God: Psalm 25:1-5

Just before the music begins, let us pray.
To You, O LORD, we do lift up our souls. With the songs of the day, may we ponder anew what You, Almighty, can do. You lay aside might and power and control, and show yourself in a Man who submits to rejection and execution. Lift up our hearts to have hope: that violence may cease, blaming can end, and light shine out of darkness in our world.
In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked

That classic devotional song inspires our sanctified imagination. We imagine ourselves in those Bible scenes. We picture them as best we can. And, sometimes, the presence of the Holy One shows us something new we had not found before.
The next song is one of my many favourites, among the wealth of English hymnody. We have here the scene of Jesus welcomed into the City that holy week, long ago, the people waving branches and calling out to Him.
Psalm 24 is one of my own favourite Psalms, with its words of welcome into the Temple of worship. In your mind’s eye see the King of Glory coming in. Not the glory of battles won by violence, but the glory of bowing down to enter the desperate human plight.

Entering the gates: Psalm 24:7-10

My Song Is Love Unknown

‘Tis Midnight: and on Olive’s Brow is still in hymn books today – including ours here. It has an interesting lyric, to me. As it reflects on Jesus praying on the Mount of Olives, it says:
yet he that hath in anguish knelt
is not forsaken by his God.
Though we sometimes speak, and sing, otherwise, we find that God the Father does not desert God the Son. The whole Trinity of love and power is seen in Jesus, as He dies. In Jesus we see God, and Love.
So our beloved Psalm 23 is very fitting. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me…. Remember again, Jesus knew this poem as well as we do.

The darkest valley: Psalm 23:1-6

‘Tis Midnight; and on Olive’s Brow

It is the time of the Saviour’s woe. The end has come. One of His so called ‘seven words from the Cross’ is the first phrase from Psalm 22. We are told Jesus said this out loud. For other Jews watching that day, who knew the Psalms, it would bring to mind the whole prayer of desperation and deliverance. In our Bibles this lyric is two pages long. It cries out about a horrible situation, at great length. But ends with trust.
For the moment – this moment of Jesus’ death – let us hear the first eight verses.

Abandonment: Psalm 22:1-8

They Crucified My Lord

This ‘greatest story ever told’ is, I believe, intended to touch every person’s story. Your life story. My life story. Where love needs to break in, it breaks in.
Our own late poet, Leonard Cohen, famously sang
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in (Anthem, 1992)
Flipping back the pages, the biblical poet next gives us a Psalm of Thanksgiving for Victory. Is that what you see in the Cross of Jesus? Psalm 21 has a word in it, one of the greatest words in the ancient Hebrew language of the Bible: Hesed. ‘Steadfast love’ is the best we can do to translate it. This Psalm is actually about their king. With Christ we can see a King, very different from others, who is all about this holy ‘steadfast love.’

Steadfast love: Psalm 21:4-7

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

Jesus, beyond the Cross, lives, we Christians say. We say it with our whole lives, not just our words, eh? A prayer for victory such as Psalm 20 uses phrases about our answers, our help, our favour, our heart’s desire, our petitions. Down in our heart of hearts, where hurts can be hidden, it is there that Holiness meets us, joins us, heals us, shines with inner light.
Jesus is the anointed one – Messiah and Christ are just two other words for the Anointed One. He rises and stands upright. He lives within my heart.

Your heart’s desire: Psalm 20:1, 4-8

He Lives Within My Heart

Now let us go out to love and serve the Lord. Even in this dark and holy week. Thanks to Carol and Cairine for this musical program they prepared. I think the journey has been not only beautiful, but personal.
The tables are prepared in the hall for us to share our lunch with one another. Join us for this feast of fellowship. Amid the chatting and munching, may we know that a shared meal is also a holy and gracious time.
Prayer of acceptance: Psalm 19:14

Let us have grace for the meal.
Jesus: for the feast of music and scripture we give thanks. For the unity of sisters and brothers we rejoice. And for the generosity of food at Your tables we bow with gratitude. AMEN.

Oh, To Be Good!

(Psalm 19; Romans 7:15-25a ) J G White
Sunday, July 9, 2017, UBC Digby

Be good.
Oh, to be good.
Oh, to be good enough!

It could be said that religions aim at making people good, making communities good, making society good.
But we seem to fail at this.

Paul’s writing here in Romans is a challenging read.  There are powerful, poignant moments.  
Sounds very personal and deep here at the end of chapter 7.  I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  (15)
Yet, Paul delights in the law, the rules, the patterns for life. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self... (22)

Such was the Hebrew way.  To delight in the guideBook.  Psalm 19, for instance.  Rejoicing in the word, the law.  It can be a bit of culture shock to get into this.  Though some Christian groups are quite strong on enjoying Bible obedience.  We have a local church near here named the Bible Believers Baptist Church. (Praying for Amelia D)

We do have moments of loving our own rulebooks.  Yet there are more than one. What law code does one follow?
Paul, of old, was a Roman citizen.  Roman authorities.
Paul had been a Jew, and a Pharisee. Law & Prophets.
Paul became a Christian.  The Way of Jesus the Christ.
Follow all three sets of laws?

We too can face conflicting sets of rules, dilemmas. Our ethical standards can crash into each other.  
Man on radio program about ethics… After taking his small child to the hospital, he was charged with injuring the little boy.  In the court proceedings it came down to this: should he lie and say he did shake the infant – plead guilty – to get off easy, or should he tell the truth – no, I did not hurt him – and go to jail for years and years if found guilty?
A personal value: truth telling.
A personal value: be husband and father.
He lied and pled guilty. Was given a short sentence. Years later, he was exonerated and found to be innocent.

We want to be on the right track.  There grows within us a desire for goodness, to be good and right.  It takes many forms of course, but it is there.

There are a variety of motives we humans have for being good, living a good life:
– Ambition and competitiveness: drive for perfection.
My friend Adam and his Everest challenge!  64 times bicycling up a hill in Ellershouse = Mt. Everest.

– To please other people.  Some people – some of us – get caught up in this in not so healthy ways.

– Ego: I’m great, the best. I’m superior. Many of us can have issues with pride, but some are driven to be and show themselves better than the rest.  

– I must! – forced by others. E.g. compelled by parents, etc. The power of parents and other mentors is so powerful.
Story of Madrid advert: ‘Paco, all is forgiven.  Meet me at noon on Tuesday at the Hotel Montana.  I love you.  your father.”  On Tuesday, 800 men named Paco showed up, looking for forgiveness, acceptance, approval from their fathers.

– forced by God… sometimes with an element of fear!
Be good for the sake of saving your own soul.  Earn eternal life or salvation or heaven or whatever you name it.  About ten years ago I was so disappointed one day.  A senior woman of my congregation, who was a leader of groups and attender of Bible studies, was asked by a younger woman “how do I get to heaven one day, where my mother is?”  The younger woman herself had grown up in a Baptist Church and always been involved.  The older woman said, “Well… you’ve got to be good and do your best…”  
What!? I thought to myself.  That is definitely not the Gospel.  But even from the church pews people still sometimes say we need to be good enough for God, and earn our way into heaven.  Goodness grows out of salvation, not the other way around.

– Give up on it totally!  Well, perhaps never totally.
Hermit of Gully Lake… went into hiding for his whole life after going AWOL before being sent off to WWII.
Jean Vanier’s story of his friend counselling a mafia man in his dying days.  In the strong man’s days of pure weakness, he became a wonderful friend.  He found the good life, at the end.

And then, we as Paul describes in Romans 7.  Amid our own codes of right and wrong, our ideals, and our motivations for goodness and badness, we fail ourselves.  We do not do what we want to do.  We have struggles within us.  
After all his convoluted thoughts about God’s law and the law of sin, about the human body and the mind and the heart and the soul, and all this other stuff… Paul cried out:
Wretched man that I am!  
Who will deliver me from this body of death!
Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ!

He said he was delivered – set free – by Christ.
So, Paul expressed a very personal struggle.

Your challenges, and mine, are different.  
Many of us, like Paul, would say that in Jesus we have seen God, met God, received grace, been made right & good, got in touch with who we are meant & made to be.
So when we face a failure, lift up your hearts!
– Be in touch with Christ.
Do your part to be a disciple of the Master.
– Believe in amazing grace.
Life is not about earning your way into God’s good books, or anyone else’s.  

– Believe in others who could use some grace.
Are there people in your life who struggle with their own failures?  Those who need more hope?  Those who could stop striving and start thriving?  Consider your own personal calling, your ministry, to believe in others, be on their side, encourage them.

– Be active in living the good life.
I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly.  – Jesus. Without being perfect, life can be abundant!  Without being easy, life can be worthwhile.

One of many people I knew who died recently in Windsor was a woman named Bette Smith. living abundantly, despite pain and problems.  A founder of the weekly free lunch program at the Baptist Church: House of Hospitality.  Suffered with Crohn’s disease for years.  Persisted.  I was told that in recent months she suffered a great deal.  Have various surgeries that were not successful.  To one friend, who often took her to appointments in the city, she said: it would be better to die.
And it was better to die.  She did, a few weeks ago, and was finally released from all that pain and trouble.  
Her legacy lives on.  Bette lived an abundant life – 83 years – not easy, when her body failed her, but abundant.

So may it be for you and for me, in the grace of God.  God who knows all about pain and trouble.  God who knows all about death and disappointment.  God who know all about sin and circumstances – in Christ He bore that too.
Who will rescue us from this body of death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Now, using rather personal words from Celtic Daily Prayer, let us pray…  (p. 223)