Worship, Aug 29 – The End of the World Show

Welcome to this blog post for the last Sunday of August at Digby Baptist Church. The format of our service is quite different today. Enjoy ‘the show;’ enjoy God! The script below gives the plan for what was to happen. In fact, our guest Heather was away – she had fallen and broken her wrist earlier in the morning! The video clips show the actual conversations we had together.

Opening Theme   Cairine R

Welcome to ‘The End of the World Show!’ – Dick P

Audience Music  Holy Holy Holy   # 2

Opening Dialogue

 Our service today is in the form of a late night talk show, except that this is late in history, an end times talk show. And all our talk is about God, who is coming back, once again in Jesus form. So may this still be a way for us to value God, venerate Jesus, & verify our hope in salvn.

We have a number of guests coming on stage this morning, here at Digby Baptist Church, all familiar faces to you who are regulars here. (Welcome to you, today, who are new to us!) We have some local singers who have been working together musically for years now. We have a busy mother of two who is also an educator. We have one of the most thoughtful eighty-year-olds I know, who does not know how to retire. And we have a recent retiree who has worked in the military, in bussing, and in bylaw enforcement, to mention a few careers.

As usual, of course, at the Casavant console we have our very own Cairine Robertson, carrying our music along as she controls the keyboards. 

But first, let us acknowledge again our great Guest, the living Spirit of God. Let’s Pray.

Wonderful Holy One, amazing as it is, You welcome us here today! Glory and praise to You! May we be drawn to You as we talk together, share music, pray, and hang out here. Forgive our distracted ways, and the greed we have that wants to serve ourselves. Let this time be us serving You, worshipping You, seeking & finding You. As we look once more at the finale of life as we know it, reveal the truth, give us an ‘apocalypse.’ In the name of Jesus, the returning One. Amen.

Musical Guests Heather P & Margo N “Holy Is The Lord”

Thank you for your musical offering, Margo and Heather. Great to have you as part of ‘the show’ today, remembering the audience of One: this is all for God! Now, before we talk for a moment, let me set the scene with ‘Fire and Ice’ by famed poet, Robert Frost.

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

Is also great

And would suffice.

Today is the finale of our five week series about Last Things, our August Apocalypse. I have talked with you a bit, Heather, about ‘last things.’ I know you have some thoughts about last week here. I pointed out the challenge of understanding how the final judgment fits in with us, if we have already relied upon Christ Jesus for salvation by grace through faith. Are we really to be judged for all the things we did or did not do? Aren’t we already forgiven, now?

Later in the show we are going to hear from Revelation 21, which gives us a vision of the new heavens and a new earth. Most scriptural teaching points to earth as our eternal dwelling place. It speaks of the renewal of the earth and the heavens. It is not so much the destruction of the earth – as is so common in our cultural imagination – but a recreation. Remember Paul wrote this, in what we call Romans chapter 8:

22…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. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

There will be a resurrection, and new life, forever. We put this together with various things Jesus said. I know you have some thoughts about this, Heather, as we wonder about Jesus’ promise of many mansions or dwelling places for His disciples, that He makes ready for them….

That’s great. I remember when you shared that in the Monday Study Group. Now, before we move on, do you have anything apocalyptic you’d like to ask of me?

Thanks again, Heather. May Jesus be near you in Spirit. I hope we’ll have you back again soon!

Audience Music All Hail, King Jesus

Children’s Moment J G White

Guest Alison V – Rev. 21:1-14 

Welcome, Alison, to this talk show for the End of the World! You have just shared with us a pivotal scripture about ‘last things.’ Thanks for that. This finale of the Revelation vision is certainly happy and beautiful, after many chapters of struggle and harsh images. 

I confess that, through the years, I have been all over the map when it comes to what I think about the afterlife. As a Christian, I see these two New Testament teachings: We die and go to be with God. ‘Today, you will be with me in paradise,’ said Jesus to a thief on a neighbouring cross. And second, we die, and await the resurrection day, when we get our new, spiritual bodies. Paul, for one, talks at length about this in 1 Corinthians 15.

See what I mean, Alison?

Wise sages, through the centuries, have put these together in a few different ways. I guess I think the most important thing is the final destination, the final form. This gets symbolized at the end of Revelation as the New Heavens and New Earth, the New Holy City that ‘comes down,’ the River of Life, and so on. I think that what this actually will mean, in reality, is a mystery.

Tell us, what things about ‘The End’ give you hope or attract your attention?

Great, Alison, that’s cool. So much of our hope is about relationships – who we will be with in eternity, and what shape we’ll be in, without suffering or grief or pain. Now, just one last thing I wonder. Is there something else you’d like answered about ‘last things?’ 

Well, we thank you so much for joining us today. Please hang around as we bring other guests on, Al.

Audience Music There’s Something About That Name #104

Guest Maggie B – Mark 13:21-37

Thanks for the reading, Maggie. Great to have you and Mike here today. This is certainly an apocalyptic bit from Jesus. This chapter gets called Mark’s little apocalypse, and the material has its parallels in Matthew and Luke. I know, as we’ve talked about this, you pick up on a number of interesting things. The whole question of when or how soon is still confusing for some people. Here, Jesus speaks of ‘this generation’ not passing away before things happen. What has helped you come to terms with this?

Very interesting. I guess I myself have thought there must be some sense in which ‘this generation’ that does not pass away is a long-term group. Or else, Jesus was speaking of some things being fulfilled in the near future, like the fall of Jerusalem that happened in AD 70.

I have had this sense, for years, that some Biblical prophecy gets fulfilled more than once. There is a prediction. It happens a few years later, sort of. Then, more years later, something else happens that fulfills it. And maybe, at ‘the end of the age,’ the biggest, most complete fulfillment will happen. 

I think, for instance, of the words of Joel 2 in the OT. I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophecy… The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood… All that. In about AD 30 Jesus quotes the first verse, and seems to be talking about ‘the last things.’ Then, just a year or two later, Peter preaches a sermon on the next verses, saying this explains what was happening that day in Jerusalem, the day of Pentecost. Joel 2 prophecy happened back in AD 30 and also still in our future.

Maggie, you come to us with a wide experience of Christianity: Baptist, Brethren, even fellowship with Roman Catholics in Bible Study. You’ve lived across Canada, and overseas. I’m interested in what you have seen and learned in other fellowships. I wonder, does anything else jump out at you from Mark 13, and demand your attention?  

Thanks for that. Now, is there anything you want to ask of me, ever so briefly?

We’re grateful you came on stage, Mags. Bless you! 

Just before we bring up our final guest, let me celebrate the ministries that are upcoming:

Next Sunday… What should our scripture be? Theme?

You get to help choose. If you think of some scripture you think we should explore, or a theme, write it down…

Other ministry to celebrate… (as in Bulletin)

Prayer Guest – Dick P

Welcome, Dick. Before you lead us in prayer, I wanted to chat with you for a minute too. Today, we finally look into the final destination: the new heavens and earth, the Holy City: New Jerusalem, all this in the last two chapters of the Bible. Streets of gold, twelve gates of pearl, the Son of God as the Lamb, and the Light that brightened the whole place: it’s all here. What visions of the afterlife have inspired and been most important to you?

Now, all the Bible and Church teaching about ‘last things’ is so diverse and complicated. I don’t want people to be led astray, to be confused, or to be overly fearful of all this stuff. I mean, here is a story told by one Bible scholar. 

There was this well-known radio Bible teacher in the US, Harold Camping, who various times has predicted the date of Jesus’ second coming… (1994 and 2011 for instance) …and the end of the world as we know it. …there was a family physician in the 1990s who was such a devout follower of Harold Camping, and was therefore so convinced that Jesus would return in 1994, that he talked ceaselessly about it with his patients, spent his free time getting ready for the end, and eventually let his entire staff go, since they clearly would have no work to do after September 1994. (Michael Gorman, Reading Revelation Responsibly, 2011, xii)

Dick, what do you think might be some ways for us believers to be alert and watching and prepared for Jesus.

Thanks, Dick. Now, are you ready to lead us in prayer?

Now, as we offer up our closing song together, let me gather up the suggestions for next Sunday’s sermon…

Audience Music Who Is On the Lord’s Side? #666

Sign Off

Now, the show is over – our service is just beginning for the week. Before we end, let’s draw and see what our scripture text or topic may be for next Sunday…

Now:  May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (1 Thess 5:23, 28)

Closing Theme Cairine Robertson

Trash Talk

(Job 12:7-12; Revelation 21:1-6) – J G White
11 am, Sun, Nov 4, 2018 – UBC Digby

I think I have wanted to give a ‘trash talk’ for some years now.  So I brought a trash bag for the sermon today. Let’s see what we do with the garbage.
[Sort some…]

This is not what we used to do with our garbage.  We have come a long way since I was a child, and it all went in one bag to a dump on the edge of town, or got burned or buried in the backyard.

This matters to the God we worship here: how we take out the trash.  How we recycle, and reuse. And how we shop for the things packaged in all this, to begin with.  
God is the Lover of all creation.  

Next June a couple of people will be touring the Maritimes, giving talks and sermons about ecology.  I look forward to what Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow will share.

But is this one of our priorities?  Isn’t God’s project on earth all about Jesus?  All about human souls and salvation and eternity?  ‘This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ thru’?  Many believers look to the future hopes of Revelation, in the Bible, and see that this world, with its problems, is temporary.  John, of the Revelation, hears a holy Voice in his vision say: “See, I am making all things new!”

It makes sense to me for us to do now with earth and sky what the apocalypse will do for it in the future: give a new heavens and a new earth.  If all the Bible poetry that hopes and trusts in a peaceful kingdom inspires us, surely we can come as close to it now as we can. Some examples are in the book of Isaiah.  We can read of the beautiful kingdom, where the wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom. (Is 35).  

I think also of the great moment when the Temple in Jerusalem was dedicated by King Solomon.  After the great day of prayers, we read in 2 Chronicles (7)
12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

If the people will humbly pray and turn from their wicked ways… the land will be healed. Sometimes, our best prayers – and answers to prayers – are in our hands, in our own actions.  If the ideal – and God’s own vision of creation – is beauty and not garbage, then surely we can live into that hope now, without things being perfect?

Let’s sort some more trash and be inspired…

Our consumption, and our waste, matter to our Saviour, now.  So with John the revelator, we can see that vision of new heavens and a new earth, and be inspired to live in better ways here and now.  

As you know, I believe in a local church as a little spiritual community that cares for creation.  My own vision for Church that I articulated to you in January of 2017, has four points.  1. Increase our mission. 2. Decrease our maintenance. 4. Discipleship. 3. Creation Care: be a congregation that is always improving how we live in the natural environment in which our Creator has placed us.  I reiterated this in my annual report to you back in January of this year.  

Think again about this goal: always improving how we live in creation. I hear my Master calling us to this.  I hear the scriptures calling to us. I hear creation call out to us.  There is an inspiring vision of new heavens and a new earth today.  Not just for ‘the end’ of the world.  For today.

When a fellowship of Christians values creation more and more, I see several benefits.  It is good for creation: we stop trashing it! It is a good value to have because doing better and making a difference is truly possible!  We also have a role in our culture to inspire and educate others to reuse, recycle, and respect the whole earth. And, the Good News about Jesus’ Kingdom is comprehensive, total, all-inclusive: saving the whole person, the whole community, the whole planet.  

We are about to have this simple, monthly ceremony we call the Lord’s Supper.  And what are we doing? Taking physical bread and real grape juice and sharing them.  Things that grew from the earth, things that were not human, but are life-giving. We remember that our faith tradition proclaims that whatever God is, God becomes a human, completely a human, within the physical creation.  God enters and joins the earth. For the sake of us all.

What is God like?  God is like Jesus. And Jesus was one of us, an animal here on this planet.  May He inspire us to live well in our time together here. May Christ lead us to make a difference in this critical age. May Jesus’ own sacrifice for our lives change they way we live in every way: from the way we talk about God to the way we take out the trash.  

In the name of the Creator, the Child, and the Spirit.  AMEN.

Rebuilding a Nation

(Haggai 1:15b – 2:9; Rev 21:1-4)

Sun, Nov 6, 2016 – UBC Digby – J G White

Disaster has come.  Disaster is over.  How do we rebuild our lives?  How can we rebuild? This has been the challenge of many a people through the ages.  

Picture this scene from history…  A nation had been conquered and divided.  The enemy had come and taken over.  The capital city, destroyed.  Many of the leaders and civilians taken away from their homeland.  Forced to live in a foreign land.  When would this be over?  When could they return?  Some of the people remained behind, to survive in the ruins and under the rule of the foreign power.

Finally, the day comes, and there is an opportunity for freedom.  To return to the homeland. To rebuild.   But when they get back, the once proud city is still in ruins.  The rebuilding starts, but the situation is desperate, the people who returned, poor.  

Then a prophetic voice speaks up: a voice of hope, a voice of encouragement, a voice of challenge.  Rebuild!  Get to work! God will be with you!

This was the Jews, returning to the Promised Land, 2,500 years ago, in 520 BCE.  The prophetic voice who told them to rebuild their holy Temple and their city, Jerusalem, was the prophet Haggai.

Other prophets and leaders were telling them the same thing back then, the same message from God.  Be strong; take courage.  Work.  Do not fear. I, the LORD, will be with you.  

This Bible text for today took me immediately to thoughts about our world, seventy years ago, at the end of World War Two.  The men and women who had worked and fought and survived were the ones who now had to rebuild their nations.  Rebuild their cities and towns.  Rebuild their homes and places of work, their schools and churches.  

Here in Canada, we did not have the destruction on our native soil… but in Europe, in Russia, in Japan, and many other places, there was much to rebuild.  Not to mention rebuilding of life and hope and the rebuilding of a peace within that had been shattered.

At the end of WWII, about 60 million people had been killed.  Some of this was battle, some of this was disease, some of this was genocide.  The world knows the number 6 million: the Jews who were gone.  26 million Soviet people were dead.  More than 15 million Chinese. Perhaps 6 million from Poland, 3 million Japanese, 1.7 million of Yugoslavia, and so on.  419 thousand Americans, more than 43 thousand Canadians killed.  

So I have been pondering the rebuilding of nations, of cities, of homes, and of the countryside across the globe in the 1940s and after.  This was also the work of our veterans, and the civilian population.

And this is just the story of that war.  Talk to somone who fled Syria in recent years about their home city, still being destroyed today.  How long will it be before those battles are over, and the rebuilding starts?  No wonder so many have left as refugees, never to return.  The deep discouragement is palpable.  

So it was in those days of the Jews returning to Jerusalem after more than 65 years of captivity in Babylon to the north.  The place was a disaster.  The people wanted to rebuild the city, and God’s Temple… but at times they wanted just to survive.  

And that word from God comes to them, while they stand among the ruins on the hill of Zion… Do any of you remember this Temple, this House of God, before?  And now it is nothing.  But be strong, people!  Take courage, leaders!  Work, for I am with you, says your God.  This has always been my promise.  I remain with you in Spirit.  Don’t fear!

When it’s all said and done, we know our lives, our nations, our earthly cities are all temporary.  The promises of God through the mouth of Haggai of old are… yet to be fulfilled, really.  The visions of the Bible book of Revelation point to an eternal hope, almost beyond space and time.  We have this vision of a new heavens and earth, and a new holy city, Jerusalem.  No more pain or death.  No tears or terror.  

Such are God’s longing, God’s promises, God’s plan.  And we keep up the building and rebuilding, towards the kingdom that is coming, God’s will done on earth as in heaven.  We are part of the team to build towards the gracious life that is promised.

I don’t know where this story truly comes from.  Some say it was a church in England that was bombed in the second world war; some say it was in the countryside of France, or in a German town.  As students and others were helping rebuild the church, there was the statue of Christ, badly damaged.  Jesus’ arms were stretched out wide, and the words at the base of the sculpture said, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden.”  But the hands were completely blown off in the bombing, and nearly impossible to replace.  So it was decided to put a new inscription below the statue of Jesus.  “Christ has no hands but our hands.”

In our lives, in our communities, in our troubled world, times will come again when we need to hear from our Maker: Take courage.  Be strong.  Keep working.  Do not fear.  I will be with you; I am with you.