Vol 5 No. 52 For Everything There is a Season

We find ourselves in the aftermath of Christmas and (as many Christians celebrate) a week away from the day when the Magi are remembered.  We are also obviously on the cusp of the New Year.

I want to capture these three festivals – Christmas, Magi (Epiphany) and the New Year by sharing some quotes and writings from T.S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis and the book of Hebrews.

The first piece comes from The Complete Poems and Plays of TS Eliot and captures perfectly the restlessness that Christmas brings.  Clearly we are excited and have great anticipation of the gift of the Christ Child. But the coming of Christ into our world is also to dispel the darkness.  I am part of that darkness and death, so Christ has come to shake me and my world up as well.  Here is a wonderful account of the distress, the incompleteness the Magi felt as they left Jesus behind in their distant memory.

 

All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down

This set down

This: were we led all that way for

Birth or Death?  There was a Birth, certainly,

We have evidence and no doubt.  I had seen birth and death,

But had thought they were different; this Birth was

Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

With an alien people clutching their gods.

I should be glad of another death. (page 104)

 

The second (Jan 5) reading as C.S. Lewis’ (The Business of Heaven, Daily readings from C.S. Lewis) reminds us that the things of earth are essential (Emmanuel; God with us here, creating with Him a new Kingdom), but Christmas also points us forward to a new creation.

 

The Road

When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a great matter.  He who first sees it cries, “Look!” The whole party gathers round and stares.  But when we have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare.  They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the authority that set them up.  But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road though their pillars are of silver and their lettering of gold.  ‘We would be at Jerusalem. (p.19)

 

Hebrews 11 puts how we shall live in faith, especially v 16:

Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

This chapter and especially this verse frame our lives and the New Year as we face it.

Hebrews 11 (New International Version)

 1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for. 

 3By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. 4By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. 

 5By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. 

 7By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. 

 8By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 

 11By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. 

 13All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. 

 17By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. 

 20By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. 

 21By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. 

 22By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones. 

 23By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 

 24By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. 

 29By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. 

 30By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. 

 31By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. 

 32And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 

 39These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

Finally in wonderful and simple way, Lewis encourage us, no demands, that we recognize our need to change.  The story of the egg is funny, playful and downright brutal.

 

The First Job Each Morning

The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it.  It comes the very moment you wake up each morning.  All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.  And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day.  Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.

We can only do it for moments at first.  But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system:  because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us.  It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through.  He never talked vague, idealistic gas.  When He said, ‘Be perfect’, He meant it.  He meant that we must go in for the full treatment.  It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder – in fact, it is impossible.  It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird:  it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.  We are like eggs at present.  And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg.  We must be hatched or go bad.  (p. 17,18)

 

May we learn from these seasons and be re-made in the image of the Lord Jesus Christ in this New Year.

 

Warmly

In Christ,

Jeremy

jbell@cbwc.ca

Vol 5 No. 51 A Christmas Eve Story

I have been struck by the images of the outsider at Christmas.  Not the little match girl from Dickens, who looks from the outside but cannot come in.  Not Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Tin Man”, as the rejected child who through the cold and the snow looks in at the family gathering at a Christmas that he cannot participate in.  Neither do I think of the manger at Bethlehem and how difficult it was for Mary and Joseph as outsiders to find a home.  No, I’m thinking much more of the simple story told in an interview of a Red Cross worker from Sri Lanka on CBC Vancouver.  The worker was being interviewed by Gloria Macrenko and was telling stories of the aftermath of those who had experienced the tsunami five years ago this Boxing Day.  It is the story of a Sri Lankan man whose house had been rebuilt.  And oh, such a house!  He had never lived in such a house.  Nor did he or his family ever expected to own a building that was monsoon proof and so magnificent that it would last from generation to generation.  He had one problem; he could not enjoy this gift unless he was outside it looking in, so he continue to live in the little lean-to and hovel that he had lived in since the tsunami because it was the only way he could see his house.

Many of us think about Christmas and the gift of the Christ child and the welcome to the brand new beginning, a new home in Christ as it were.  We think about it.  We talk about it.  We think about others experiencing this welcome and warm place.  But we have much in common with the man in the lean-to in Sri Lanka. For some of us, Christmas and the coming of the Christ Child, is something we would rather talk about than experience.  For some of us, we prefer the old ways to the new ways.  For some of us, we can never imagine that something so wonderful could, in fact, be created for us.  This Christmas, I trust that whether we are searchers looking for the Christ at Bethlehem or whether we are those on a journey which never has seems to have a destination, or whether we are believers that are sitting outside, despite the welcome of the Christ Child at Christmas; whether we are any of these people, may this Christmas be particularly new and transformative. May the birth of the Christ, this year, be a new beginning for us.  Our birth into relationship with Him for the very first time or our rebirth again as we pick up the journey of life with the Son of God.

 

Grace and Peace be with you.

Jeremy Bell

jbell@cbwc.ca

 

From Gathering For Worship, The Baptist Union of Great Britain, published by the Canterbury Press Norwich, 2005, p. 354-355

 

Christmas: Incarnation

 

The birth of Jesus as Immanuel, God with us. The wonder of the divine

word made human flesh. Praise and thanksgiving for God alongside us in

Christ and for the opportunities for proclamation which the season brings.

 

Prayers for peace.

Isaiah 9.6f.; Luke 2.6f.; 2.10f.; John 1.10–14; 2 Corinthians 4.5f.;

Hebrews 1.1f.; 1 John 1.1f.

 

For a carol service

Loving God,

we come to hear again the familiar story

and to sing the familiar songs.

Break through our cosy celebration,

that we might recognize your voice

and heed your call.

 

Christmas Eve

God of light and hope,

of stars and surprises:

open our eyes to your glory

and our hearts to your presence,

that we may respond with joy to the angel song;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Invocation

Immanuel, God with us,

show us where you may be found today:

in each human birth,

in family joy,

in relentless tragedy,

in treasured babes

and homeless families.

 

Immanuel,

we rejoice that you are with us

in everything,

through everything.

Lord Christ, be born in us today.

Word of God become flesh in us

that we might live your gospel.

 

Light of the world, shine

in us and through us

for the sake of your world.

 

Loving God,

help us to see your grace,

hear your voice,

and follow in your way;

through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

 

Christmas Prayer

Living God,

 

may the worship we have shared this Christmas

lead to acts of service which transform people’s lives;

 

may the carols we have sung this Christmas

help others to sing, even in their sadness;

 

may the gifts we have exchanged this Christmas

deepen our spirit of giving throughout the year;

 

may the candles we have lit this Christmas

remind us that you intend no one to live in darkness;

 

may the new people we have met this Christmas

remind us that we meet you in our neighbours;

 

may the gathering together of family and friends this Christmas

make us appreciate anew the gift of loved ones;

 

may the stories we have told again this Christmas

be good news of great joy to us and all people

on our lips and in our lives;

 

may the ways you have come close to us this Christmas

not be forgotten

but, hidden in our memories,

be a rich resource

to lift us when times are painful

and humble us when things go well,

for you are our life, our light and our salvation

this season and always,

because of Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

An encircling prayer

For those for whom Christmas is a difficult time of year.

 

God of the past, present and future

encircle in your love and care

those for whom we pray:

 

For the housebound:

keep warmth in heart and home

and cold and loneliness at bay.

 

For the homeless:

give shelter and hope,

and save from despair and addiction.

 

For those facing violence in the home:

affirm their worth and dignity,

protect from blows and shield from scorn.

 

For those missing a loved one:

may memories be precious,

not morbid nor morose.

 

God of the past, present and future

encircle in your love and care

those for whom we pray.

 

From The Lion Book of Christian Poetry, compiled by Mary Batchelor, 2005, p. 198.

Psalm for Christmas Day

 

Fairest of morning lights appear,

Thou blest and gaudy day,

On which was born our Saviour dear,

Arise and come away!

 

This day prevents his day of doom;

His mercy now is night;

The mighty God of love is come,

This dayspring from on high!

 

Behold the great Creator makes

Himself a house of clay,

A robe of virgin-flesh he takes

Which he will wear for aye.

 

Hark, Hark, the wise eternal Word

Like a weak infant cries:

In form of servant is the Lord,

And God in cradle lies.

 

This wonder struck the world amazed,

It shook the starry frame;

Squadrons of spirits stood and gazed,

Then down in troops they came.

 

Glad shepherds ran to view this sight;

A quire of angels sings;

And eastern sages with delight

Adore this King of kings.

 

Join them all hearts that are not stone,

And all our voices prove,

To celebrate this holy one,

The God of peace and love.

Thomas Pestel, 1584?-1659?

 

 

 

 

Vol 5 No. 50 Advent – Week 4

Dear Folks,

 

Welcome to the season of Advent which pre-empts the two secular cultural commercialisations of our day:  the Christmas rush and New Year’s.  It is a declaration by all Christians that this is a season where we anticipate and lovingly await the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of all of us who have chosen to respond to the relationship He has offered to us, and the hope of the world.

Advent historically, and in the preparation of this newsletter, pre-empts the raucous demands of the culture and intentionally and pointedly re-appropriates this season as an experience of worship and adoration.  It will be of interest to some of you that historically Christians considered Advent to be the beginning of the new year rather than the 1st of January.

Claudia Wakeman and I have selected a variety of readings for your own devotional reflection in this month’s newsletters leading up to Christmas.

 

How Can I Be Sure of This?

A challenge and encouragement to spiritual leaders whether you are a treasurer, deacon, Sunday school teacher or youth leader, staff or clergy.

I would like to direct your attention to Luke 1 vs5-25 and 55-80.  It is the story of Zechariah and before you go further in reading this piece would you please read the reference that has just been cited.  I was drawn to this chapter 2 weeks ago while sitting in church and it has touched and haunted me ever since.  I trust it will encourage you this Christmas season.

Zechariah, like all of us who are faith leaders, was set aside by the people of God for a special task; each of us in our own special role.  Zechariah’s role led him in a special way to represent the people in the temple.  Whatever our task, it is likely we are asked to represent someone else, as we perform a ministry or calling that God has asked us too.  When Zechariah is told of the great news that he and his wife, Elizabeth will have a son, he utters the immortal line in verse 18:  “How can I be sure of this?” and goes on to list his limitations.  I cannot tell you how often I have been prompted by the Spirit to imagine or dream some great thing, or have turned my nose up at what God has given, and in the default and pessimism of human nature asked Him “ how on earth can it be solved….doesn’t He know the situation?  Doesn’t He know me? What could He possibly be thinking?”

As a sign to the people and a rebuke to Zechariah, Gabriel strikes Zechariah mute.  I must admit many people have prayed that for me.  I must further admit that I have returned the compliment.  Zechariah had a long time to reflect on what happened that day.  I want to suggest that instead of provoking one of God’s messengers, like Gabriel, to cause us to be mute; why don’t we symbolically set aside the time between Sunday the 27th in the afternoon and the following Saturday to be far more still, quiet and reflective than we usually are.  Having been God’s servants in so many ways, many of us need to be restored and say to the Lord, “Not how can I be sure of this, but Lord how can I, in your strength make it so?”

I hope this is a helpful invitation to Sabbath for each of us.  It has been for me.  I trust it will be for you.  It will be interesting to structure that quiet time and to maybe share the fruits of that time together in the New Year.

 

Warmly

In Christ,

Jeremy

jbell@cbwc.ca

From Gathering For Worship, The Baptist Union of Great Britain, published by the Canterbury Press Norwich, 2005, p. 35

 

Advent 4: Mary’s Faith

 

Mary as a model of faith, as one who responds to God’s call. Women and

God’s valuing of those regarded by the world as lowly.

 

Isaiah 7.14; 9.2–7; Zechariah 2.10–11; Matthew 1.21–23; Luke 1.28–33;

1.35, 38; 1.46–49; 1.52–53; 1 Corinthians 1.26–27.

 

Thanksgiving and Dedication

 

Life-giving God,

we thank you for calling Mary

to be the mother of Jesus.

In a world where men were in control,

you chose a young girl

to nurture the Saviour of the world.

In a world where power is sought,

you turned our values upside-down

by inviting Mary to share in the great work of redemption.

 

We thank you

that still you call women and men

to share in your saving actions.

You call us to live and serve in the way of Christ,

uncertain of the future but trusting in your faithfulness.

Sometimes your choice surprises us,

the way you seem to point daunts us,

and your faith in our possibilities awes us.

 

Help us to say ‘Yes’ when you call.

Enlarge our vision,

strengthen our resolve

and increase our sense of your all-sufficient grace,

that we might be used mightily

for your glory and for the serving of your world;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Intercession

 

Lord, prepare us for your Advent coming.

In our prayers today

we try to come to you,

sure that you will come the rest of the way.

 

Lord, prepare us for your coming – in the church.

Clean out the unnecessary clutter of our church life,

the piles of dead habits,

the cupboards full of prejudice,

the cobwebs of compromise

and the sad rotas of forgotten dreams.

Open our church to the free flow of your refreshing Spirit.

Give to this church a new vision and hope.

We want to belong to you again.

[In particular, Lord, we pray for … a special local plan or project]

 

Lord in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

 

Lord, prepare us for your coming – in the world.

Come, drive away despair from our politics;

revive our dreams of justice;

restore our passion for what is good, right and true.

Establish your just and gentle rule [in places like …]

where peace has been powerless

and violent people have had their day.

Set a flame to the fuse of justice [in places like …]

where arrogant people have defied the moral order year after year.

Guard well the new springtime of hope [in …]

where peace has come like a gift,

wrapped in reconciliation and gladness.

[In particular, Lord, we long for this … a particular world need]

 

Lord in your mercy,

hear our prayer

 

Lord, prepare us for your coming – in our community.

In the problems of our locality

help us never to forget the supremacy of love.

May love motivate our care for this neighbourhood.

May love heal the social ills which drag us into despair.

May love inspire our citizenship to rise beyond mediocrity.

We name in our minds the problems locally of which we are aware

[particularly … local issue]

and pray that love, gracious and practical, will find a way.

 

Lord in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

 

Lord prepare us for your coming – in those in need.

Give us eyes to search the face of the stranger

and there to see the face of the saviour.

Give us sensitivity to hear the doubt and hesitation,

and there, with that person, to share the confusion and futility.

There are those we know who are ill now,

struggling this morning to handle the pain.

Let us pray for them, for you come to us in them,

and you ask for our love.

We give that now, as we name them and love them, in our hearts.

What we have promised in love and prayer,

let us never forget to do.

 

Lord in your mercy,

hear our prayer.

 

Advent Lord, come ever nearer.

Come to rejuvenate our faith.

Come to fortify our social conscience.

Come to open wide our eyes of wonder.

So that when the Saviour comes,

he may steal into our heart – and find them ready.

Even so come, Lord Jesus.

 

Benediction

 

Look forward in hope

to the coming of your Saviour,

prepare the way for Christ your Lord;

welcome him with love and faith

when he comes in glory.

And the blessing of God almighty,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

be among us and remain with us always.

 

From Celtic Daily Prayer, Prayers and Readings from the Northumbria Community, 2002, p. 233.

 

 

O Rising Sun,

You are the splendor of eternal light

And the sun of justice.

O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness

and in the shadow of death.

 

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer

Our spirits by Thine advent here;

disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

and death’s dark shadows put to flight:

 

Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

From The Lion Book of Christian Poetry, compiled by Mary Batchelor, (a Baptist Deacon), 2005, p. 206-207

 

At Christmas

 

Always

in the dark centre

of this season

the birth occurs

noiseless and marvelous

the seers

move on their journeys

there are gestures

of wonder, and at midnight

a resting star.

Always

it is amazing

that the mountains do not relinquish

their momentary grandeur,

bend to the stable,

let the ermine tremble

there

where the oxen

and the angels are.

Jean Kenward (20th century)

It is as if Infancy were the Whole of Incarnation

 

One time of the year

the new-born child

is everywhere,

planted in madonnas’ arms

hay mows, stables,

in palaces or farms,

or quaintly, under snowed gables,

gothic angular or baroque plump,

naked or elaborately swathed,

encircled by Della Robbia wreaths,

garnished with whimsical

partridges and pears,

drummers and drums,

it by oversize stars,

partnered with lambs,

peace doves, sugar plums

bells, plastic camels in sets of three

as if these were what we need

for eternity.

 

But Jesus the Man is not to be seen.

we are too wary, these days,

of  beards and sandaled feet.

 

Yet if we celebrate, let it be

that he

has invaded our lives with purpose,

striding over our picturesque traditions,

our shallow sentiment,

overturning our cash registers,

wielding his peace like a sword,

rescuing us into reality,

demanding much more

than the milk and the softness

and the mother warmth

of the baby in the storefront crèche,

(only the Man would ask

all, of each of us)

reaching out

always, urgently, with strong

effective love

(only the Man would give

his life and live

again for love of us).

 

O come, let us adore him –

Christ – the Lord.

 

Luci Shaw (20th century)

 

Vol 5 No. 49 Advent – Week 3

Dear Folks,

 

Welcome to the season of Advent which pre-empts the two secular cultural commercializations of our day:  the Christmas rush and New Year’s.  It is a declaration by all Christians that this is a season where we anticipate and lovingly await the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of all of us who have chosen to respond to the relationship He has offered to us, and the hope of the world.

Advent historically, and in the preparation of this newsletter, pre-empts the raucous demands of the culture and intentionally and pointedly re-appropriates this season as an experience of worship and adoration.  It will be of interest to some of you that historically Christians considered Advent to be the beginning of the new year rather than the 1st of January.

Claudia Wakeman and I have selected a variety of readings for your own devotional reflection in this month’s newsletters leading up to Christmas.

As we celebrate God’s gift to us in Christ, we are asking one another to reflect on how we share the gifts we have being given with our church, with our community and this family of churches.

 

Warmly

In Christ,

Jeremy

jbell@cbwc.ca

 

Advent 3: The Forerunner

 

John the Baptist as a servant of God’s preparation and call. Thanksgiving

for ministry and for those involved in ministerial formation. Prayers for

those engaged in prophetic witness and its dangers.

Isaiah 6.8–9a; 40.35; 40.9; Jeremiah 1.4–10; Malachi 3.13; Matthew

3.1–3; 3.11; Romans 10.11–15; 1Corinthians 1.26–31.

 

Intercession and Petition

 

God of love and truth,

you call men and women to full-time service

for the building up of your Church

and the proclamation of your gospel.

We pray for local churches and associations

that they might be responsive to the leading of your Spirit,

able to discern the gifts of ministry and the signs of your call.

We pray for regional ministers and those who serve our Union

as they lead and encourage the churches in ministry and mission,

caring for the pastors, and encouraging the people.

God of grace, you call us and you equip us for our calling.

Open our ears to hear your call.

Open our eyes to read your word

and to see your world as Christ sees it.

Open our hands to give what we have and what we are

back to you for your service.

Open our hearts to the wonder and the glory of your love,

that we might all minister in the way of Christ;

in whose name we pray.

 

Prayer for Renewal

 

God of faithfulness and truth,

you sent your servant John the Baptist

to preach in the desert

and summon the people to repentance.

Make us and all things new,

that in the wilderness of our hearts

we too may prepare a way

over which your Son may walk.

 

Kingdom Prayer

 

God our deliverer,

whose approaching birth

still shakes the foundations of our world:

may we so wait for your coming

with eagerness and hope

that we embrace without terror

the labour pangs of the new age,

through Jesus Christ.

 

Collect

 

Living God,

as we remember John the Baptist

who by his integrity prepared the way for Jesus,

and every other faithful witness

who has stood by your truth

whatever the cost,

make us faithful

to the truth we know,

so that by our integrity

we may prepare the way for Jesus

into many lives, to the honour of your name.

 

From Celtic Daily Prayer, Prayers and Readings from the Northumbria Community, 2002, p. 231

 

O Adonai and leader of Israel,

You appeared to Moses in a burning bush

And You gave him the law on Sinai.

O come and save us with Your mighty power.

 

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,

Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height,

In ancient times didst give the law

In cloud, and majesty and awe:

 

Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

From The Lion Book of Christian Poetry, compiled by Mary Batchelor, (a Baptist deacon), 2005, p. 192, 195.

 

Salus Mundi

 

I saw a stable, low and very bare.

A little child in a manger.

The oxen knew him, had him in their care,

To men he was a stranger.

The safety of the world was lying there,

And the world’s danger.

Mary Coleridge, 1861-1907

 

 

Chanticleer

 

All this night shrill chanticleer,

Day’s proclaiming trumpeter,

Claps his wings and loudly cries,

Mortals, mortals, wake and rise!

See a wonder

Heaven is under;

From the earth is risen a Sun

Shines all night, though day be done.

 

Wake, O earth, wake everything!

Wake and hear the joy I bring;

Wake and joy; for all this night

Heaven and every twinkling light,

All amazing,

Still stand gazing.

Angels, powers, and all that be,

Wake, and joy this Sun to see.

 

Hail, O Sun, O blessed light,

Sent into the world by night!

Let thy rays and heavenly powers

Shine in these dark souls of ours;

For most duly

Thou art truly

God and man, we do confess:

Hail, O Sun of righteousness!

 

William Austin (1587-1634)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vol 5 No. 48 Advent – Week 2

Dear Folks,

 

Welcome to the season of Advent which pre-empts the two secular cultural commercialisations of our day:  the Christmas rush and New Year’s.  It is a declaration by all Christians that this is a season where we anticipate and lovingly await the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of all of us who have chosen to respond to the relationship He has offered to us, and the hope of the world.

Advent historically, and in the preparation of this newsletter, pre-empts the raucous demands of the culture and intentionally and pointedly re-appropriates this season as an experience of worship and adoration.  It will be of interest to some of you that historically Christians considered Advent to be the beginning of the new year rather than the 1st of January.

Claudia Wakeman and I have selected a variety of readings for your own devotional reflection in this month’s newsletters leading up to Christmas.

Let me add to last week’s introduction by raising two issues.  First; to use the language of Advent is to be incarnational, to imitate Jesus.  The language of Advent is the faith language of over 21 million Canadians.  To fail to use their language is to miss an opportunity to invite them to community.  Second; this Advent opportunity is one of the most exciting time to invite people to church, as at no other time in the year.

 

Warmly

In Christ,

Jeremy

jbell@cbwc.ca

 

 

From Gathering For Worship, The Baptist Union of Great Britain, published by the Canterbury Press Norwich, 2005, p. 353

 

Advent 2: The God who Speaks

God’s revelation in the scripture. Thanksgiving for the Bible and confession

for taking it for granted. Prayers for scholars, translators, preachers,

and publishers.

Deuteronomy 6.4–7; 30.11–15; Psalms 119.97–98, 103–105; Isaiah 40.6–8;

55.6, 9–11; John 1.1–5; 2 Timothy 3.16–17; Hebrews 4.12–13.

 

Intercession

 

God of revelation,

we thank you that you are not a silent God,

isolated from humanity,

leaving us to guess and speculate

about the things that matter.

We pray for those who serve you

by studying manuscripts and clarifying texts;

for scholars and preachers

who wrestle with the words of life

for the building up of your Church;

for linguists, translators, and publishers

who continue to serve the cause of your gospel

by making the Bible available to more

and more people.

Lord, create in us a hunger for your word,

a thankfulness for your gospel,

and a faithfulness to your commands;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

A Prayer for Help

 

God of eternity,

when the voice of the prophet was silent

and the faith of your people low;

when darkness had obscured light

and indifference displaced zeal:

you saw that the time was right,

and prepared to send your Son.

Set us free from fear and faithlessness

that we may be ready to welcome him

who comes as Saviour and Lord.

 

From Celtic Daily Prayer, Prayers and Readings from the Northumbria Community, 2002, p. 231

 

O Wisdom,

You come forth from the mouth of the Most High.

You fill the universe and hold all things together

In a strong yet gentle manner.

O come to teach us the way of truth.

 

O come, O come, Thou wisdom from above:

The universe sustaining with thy love.

Thou springest forth from the Almighty’s mouth.

Subdue us now, and lead us in Thy truth.

 

Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Immanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

From The Lion Book of Christian Poetry, compiled by Mary Batchelor, 2005, p. 28l, 283

 

From:  A Christmas Sequence 

IV.  The Shepherds

He is so small the stars bow down

The fierce winds ease their breath,

And careful shepherds look upon

The one unsullied birth.

They kneel and stare while time seems gone

The blight on man is all undone

And there will be no death,

For though this be no death,

For though this child will be nailed on

A cross, he’ll be so since

He is the jewel of untold worth,

For him all stars have shone.

Elizabeth Jennings, 20th century

 

 

The Shepherds’ Carol

 

We stood on the hills, Lady,

Our day’s work done,

Watching the frosted meadows

That winter had won.

 

The evening was calm, Lady,

The air so still,

Silence more lovely than music

Folded the hill.

 

There was a star, Lady,

Shone in the night,

Larger than Venus it was

And bright, so bright.

 

Oh, a voice from the sky, Lady,

It seemed to us then

Telling of God being born

In the world of men.

 

And so we have come, Lady,

Our day’s work done,

Our love, our hopes, ourselves

We give to your son.

Clive Sansom

Vol 5 No. 47 As We Approach Advent

Dear Folks,

Welcome to the season of Advent which pre-empts the two secular cultural commercialisations of our day:  the Christmas rush and New Year’s.  It is a declaration by all Christians that this is a season where we anticipate and lovingly await the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of all of us who have chosen to respond to the relationship He has offered to us, and the hope of the world.

Advent historically, and in the preparation of this newsletter, pre-empts the raucous demands of the culture and intentionally and pointedly re-appropriates this season as an experience of worship and adoration.  It will be of interest to some of you that historically Christians considered Advent to be the beginning of the new year rather than the 1st of January.

Claudia Wakeman and I have selected a variety of readings for your own devotional reflection in this month’s newsletters leading up to Christmas.  We’ll talk more about that later.

 

Warmly

In Christ,

Jeremy

jbell@cbwc.ca

P.S.  Update from prayer requests:  The next few newsletters talk about Advent which will pre-empt some other news, but we would be remiss in not telling you that the CBWC-Foundation Board meetings went very well under the leadership of the new chair, David Watt.  And the Banff Pastor’s Conference exceeded all expectations this year.  More about these two events in the new year.

From Gathering For Worship, The Baptist Union of Great Britain, published by the Canterbury Press Norwich, 2005, p. 351- 352

 

Advent 1: The God who Comes

God comes to us in redemption and judgment. Themes of hope, yearning, preparation and confession.

Psalms 24.7–8; 96.11–13; Isaiah 40.3–5; 52.?–10; Luke 12.35–37a, 40; Romans 13.11–12, 14a.

 

Praise and Greeting

Advent God, we worship you: the God who comes.

You are not remote from the world you have made,

but each day you come to us,

blessing us with your presence.

You came in creation itself,

as your Spirit moved over the waters of chaos.

You came in Jesus Christ,

made flesh in our world of weakness and need.

You came in power to raise him from death,

a mighty promise for all creation.

Each day you come, by your Spirit,

gently and powerfully working

in the lives of men and women.

At the end of time you will come,

in power and righteousness,

in mercy and redeeming love.

Grant us the grace to welcome your coming.

Inflame our love to yearn for your presence.

Enlarge our vision to recognize your coming day by day.

We greet you, Advent God.

 

Adoration

Lord God,

we adore you

because you have come to us in the past:

you have spoken to us in the law of Israel

you have challenged us in the words of the prophets,

you have shown us in Jesus what you are really like.

we adore you

because you still come to us now:

you come to us through other people

in their love and concern for us,

you come to us through those who need our help,

you come to us now, even as we worship you.

Lord God,

we adore you

because you will come to us at the end:

you will be with us at the hour of death,

you will reign supreme when all institutions fall,

you will still be our God when our history has run its course.

We welcome you, the God who comes.

Come to us now in the power of Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Prayer of Longing

Lord Jesus Christ

your world awaits you.

In the longing of the persecuted for justice;

in the longing of the poor for prosperity;

in the longing of the privileged

for riches greater than wealth;

in the longing of our hearts for a better life;

and in the song of your Church,

expectation is ever present.

O come, Lord, desire behind our greatest needs.

O come, Lord, Liberator of humanity.

O come, Lord, O come, Immanuel.

 

Collect

O Lord our God,

make us watchful and keep us faithful

as we await the coming of your Son our Lord;

that, when he shall appear,

he may not find us sleeping in sin

but active in his service

and joyful in his praise;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

From Celtic Daily Prayer, Prayers and Readings from the Northumbria Community, 2002, p. 230-231

An evening prayer for blessing during Advent

 

*God of the watching ones,

Give us Your benediction.

 

*God of the waiting ones,

Give us Your good word for our souls.

 

*God of the watching ones,

the waiting ones,

the slow and suffering ones,

give us Your benediction,

Your good word for our souls,

That we might rest.

 

*God of the watching ones,

the waiting ones,

the slow and suffering ones,

 

*and of the angels in heaven,

 

*and of the child in the womb,

 

*give us Your benediction,

Your good word for our souls,

that we might rest and rise

in the kindness of Your company.

 

 

From The Lion Book of Christian Poetry, compiled by Mary Batchelor, 2005, p. 190.

 

The Annunciation

The angel and the girl are met.

Earth was the only meeting place.

For the embodied never yet

Travelled beyond the shore of space

The eternal spirits in freedom go.

 

See, they have come together, see,

While the destroying minutes flow,

Each reflects the other’s face

Till heaven in hers and earth in his

Shine steady there.  He’s come to her

From far beyond the farthest star,

Feathered through time.  Immediacy

Of strangest strangeness is the bliss

That from their limbs all movement takes,

Yet the increasing rapture brings

So great a wonder that it makes

Each feather tremble on his wings.

 

Outside the window footsteps fall

Into the ordinary day

And with the sun along the wall

Pursue their unreturning way.

Sounds perpetual roundabout

Rolls its numbered octaves out

And hoarsely grinds its battered tune

 

But through the endless afternoon

These neither speak nor movement make

But stare into their deepening trance

As if their gaze would never break.

 

Edwin Muir (1887-1959)

 

 

Vol 5 No. 46 Prayers of the Community

Dear Folks,

On a regular basis we ask for prayer support from the constituency and today I wish to do so again.

Remembering previous prayer requests, we begin with thanksgiving, giving thanks to God for the following:

– Sam Breakey, at the Mustard Seed in Edmonton, has settled in marvellously in the last few months.

Paul Pearce, who left over a year and a half ago to join the Beulah Home Society, did an outstanding presentation at Banff on equity and retirement possibilities.  Paul’s contact information is: beulah.garden@shaw.ca

Rob Ogilvie is an incredible blessing and encouragement as the BC Regional Minister and I am very thankful to all those who participated in his orientation, particularly Dawn Johansson (who seems to participate in all our orientations!)

– I celebrate with Nadia VanderKuip and the encouraging news that came out of the Short Term Ministries this year, where there were 70 last year and 283 this year.

-Thanksgiving for the work of Rod Olson at Rocky Mountain College, who is also supported by Joyce Peasgood.  We have a new high with the number of students at Rocky, 13 at last count.

-Several camps this year posted record numbers of campers, or in the case of Keats, even though it had fewer numbers, had a significant number of children becoming Christians.

– We have asked you to pray for the Banff Pastors Conference and we are deeply thankful for the quality, attendance and breadth of the event this year.

Thanks be to God.

 

Requests for prayer:

– Please pray for Tom Lavigne in the incredible and encouraging responses he is receiving in church planting, with over two dozen possibilities thus far.  Please read what is happening in church planting on the new page on our website.  Thanks to Ceal McLean and Brandon Webber for helping to facilitate that.

-Pray for Dennis Stone as he continues to become oriented to the Alberta Regional Minister position.  We are very grateful for his presence amongst us.

– Please pray for Darrell Johnson, along with his wife Sharon, who has just begun as Senior Minister at First Baptist, Vancouver.

– Pray for Ken Nettleton and his wife, Kimberly, as Ken begins as the Senior Minister of First Baptist, Calgary, along with Hugh Fraser who has agreed to stay on for an interim time for the transition.

-Pray for our various camps as they experience some of the most challenging times ever,  particularly around facilities and infrastructure and the major decisions that will need to be made in the months ahead on those issues.

-Please pray for Faye Reynolds and the ministry cluster she oversees, which includes Short Term Missions, Urban Camping, C-Fam and Youth Ministry.  Please pray for Mandi Hecht as she prepares to go on maternity leave from C-Fam in the new year.

-Please pray for Trinity Baptist in Winnipeg and Hillside Church in North Vancouver, as they seek to call a pastor.  Pray for those who have been involved in that process as the Lord guides their path.

-Pray for the church coaching network that is led by Ken Thiessen as they begin their ministry.

-Please pray particularly for David Holten and all the challenges and work around finances which are a part of this time of the year, for him, his staff and churches.

 

Many thanks.

 

Warmly

In Christ,

Jeremy

jbell@cbwc.ca

Vol 5 No. 45 A Debt That Remains Unpaid

In areas of war and peace, war making and peacemaking, we remain a nation in a state of denial and ungratefulness.  This is particularly disturbing as Christians because we should understand, as no one else does, the themes of sacrifice, advocacy and the defence of others.  It is a situation that is also puzzling as we are in a state of war as a country.  A sense of a strong military presence and culture existed in this country until the late 1960’s.  The demise of that culture is neither here nor there, but with its demise arose a self-serving sense as a country that if we “don’t do war”, we are a country that “does peace keeping”.  Turns out we do neither well.  I am not suggesting that we spend more or less on the military.  I am suggesting that we can do two things better.

The first is that we support Baptist Chaplains in the Regular Force and the Reserve in our prayers and our churches.  The following is a list of our dear sisters and brothers in the Regular force and our Western Canadian Chaplains.

The second is an invitation to reflection how we as Christians can bear our responsibility in the defence of others, work actively and passionately for peace and finally, how we as Christians model for ourselves and our country, Christ’s call to be serving and compassionate to all.

We fail to repay our incredible debt to the fallen, the wounded and the many more who were hurt in war when we do not remember this day and when we do not seek to change things as they are.

Warmly

In Christ,

Jeremy

jbell@cbwc.ca

Regular Force:

Maj Art Crawley

Maj Jim Hardwick

Maj Derrick Marshall

Maj Barb Putnam

LCdr Jim Russell

Lt(N) Curtis Duclos

Capt Tracey Edwards

Capt Mario Gaulin

Capt Richard Larsen

Lt (N) Daryl Levy

Capt Matthew Lucas

Capt Larry Pardy

Capt Gordon Poley

Capt Randall Read

Capt Howard Rittenhouse

 

Reserve Force

 

Lt(N) Heather Taylor

Maj Don Collar

Maj Randy Stanton

Capt Paul Beckingham

Lt (N) Dennis Milne

Capt Ian Easter

 

Civ Jeremy Bell (Interfaith Committee of Canadian Military Chaplaincy, ICCMC)

Vol 5 No. 44 Short Term Ministries

This week’s newsletter is an extensive report from Nadia VanderKuip regarding her work on our behalf in short term ministries and mission in our family of churches.  You will see how the relationships of those calling for help, those interested in serving, and a larger desire to encourage one another in the family of Christ is growing amongst us.  Nadia brings good skills and lots of energy to this task.  We are also thankful for Carmin MacMillan, for the CBM personnel and CBM for all the work and skill that goes into our intentional partnership.  I have talked to Nadia about projects already launched in the Fall and am very encouraged.

 

Warmly

In Christ,

Jeremy

jbell@cbwc.ca

STM Update – August 2009

Some Facts and Figures

Sites of STMs

Edmonton Mustard Seed – Edmonton, AB

Hope Farm – Duncan, BC

Urban Promise Ministries – Vancouver, BC

Living Life Ministries – Carlyle, SK

SERVE – Swift Current, SK

 

Groups participating in STMs

Gull Lake Camp – 12 to Edmonton Mustard Seed, 25 to Brownfield

Webster – 15 to Edmonton Mustard Seed

First Edmonton – 6 to Edmonton Mustard Seed

Emmanuel Baptist Victoria – 12 to Victoria Mustard Seed

The Forge – 25 to Hope Farm & Mustard Seed Victoria (Social Justice Camp)

Kits Church – 4 to Hope Farm

Hillside – 40 to Keats work weekend

 

Total Participants: 139

 

SERVE Groups: 144

  • Bonavista
  • Olivet
  • Cornerstone
  • West Point Gray
  • Swift Current
  • Willowlake
  • Berea Baptist
  • Westhill
  • High River
  • Sunrise
  • Peace River
  • Thompson

Total Participants: 283

Groups doing other STMs

New Life – DCLA – 25

First Penticton – Mexico with other churches – 70

Olds – Mexico (number unknown)

Emmanuel Baptist, Saskatoon – Trip to Vancouver with YWAM -20

Prince Albert, SK – Summer Jam – 1000 people walked through the festival/park

 

Discussions with Churches

Six churches were engaged in discussion and each had a group of 2-5 interested people, but due to low numbers or incompatible dates, these Connections did not go ahead.

 

STM Opportunities in the pipeline

  1. Strathcona Church – a church plant out of Kits church – Jodi Spargur
  2. Kinbrace House – refugee housing – Loren Balisky
  3. SERVE 2010 – Flin Flon
  4. The ‘Engage’ Challenge
  5. Vancouver Experience – a tailor made blend of different ministry experiences
    1. First Baptist Lethbridge has already expressed interest for April 2010
  6. White Rock Baptist rebuilding Keats Cluster
  7. Hillside committing to Camp Grace @ Grandview to host holiday dinners starting with Thanksgiving.

Vol 5 No. 43 Building an Intentional Caring Ministry

We are called to love God and neighbours in various and sundry exhortations from Scripture.  As Christians we often hear the dual call of God but mistakenly choose God over neighbour or neighbour over God.  God asks us to choose both.  I John and Matthew 5-7outline the impossibility of splitting the two callings from one another.  My point here is to encourage the re-examination of a false duality challenging our patterns, preferences and imbalances.

My intention is to encourage and introduce the work of Betty Lynn Nylen as a resource that responds to the call of God in the communities in which we live.  Betty Lynn’s story is one of compassion; an incarnational bridge building between faith, church and community.  This story gives us hope and encourages us by Betty Lynn’s willingness to teach and facilitate those of us who wish that kind of input.

Betty Lynn has a unique take on these questions.  See in particular her last paragraph quoting Rob Fitterer.  We will keep the many very different examples of balancing our care for community and the empowering of the latent gifts of our congregations before us in the next months.

I hope you find in this newsletter what we are called to as Christians in this family of believers as Canadian Baptists of Western Canada; a biblical call to reflection and charge but with that exhortation, the absence of guilt.  What we trust in each other is the correction of the conviction of the Holy Spirit not the untidy expectation of humanity.  Finally there is no point in bringing up a challenge unless we also offer each other good, clear and reasonable models for how to engage the issue practically.

Welcome to Betty Lynn Nylen’s story….her invitation and challenge to us all.  (for more information, her contact is: bettythebook@shaw.ca )

 

Warmly

In Christ,

Jeremy

jbell@cbwc.ca

 

  1. How is dedicated Care Ministry different than the general caring done by churches? 

A dedicated Care Ministry is intentional and focused. It has strategic programs that have a multi pronged approach that: 

  • Expands the amount of care given, thus meeting many of the care needs in the congregation 
  • Lessens the care load that has traditionally been seen as the Pastor’s role
  • Can be a powerful outreach tool to the community at large
  • Releases and empowers laity to use their gifts of mercy and compassion
  • Trains and equips volunteers with essential skills to care for others in specific ministries

 

  1. Why is training your volunteers so important? Why is ongoing support so important?

It has been proven in reports by large organizations such as Syncrude Canada, BHP Billiton, and Durabelt,* just to name a few, that equipping and giving people essential skills to do a job makes people more effective in their work. It has been found to:

  • lessens the turnover of workers
  • gives workers transferable skills to be used in many aspects of their lives
  • improves working relationships etc.

 

 The same is true for church volunteers. When volunteers are trained it:

  • gives them essential skills 
  • allows them to use the gifts God has given them 
  • gives them confidence and ability
  • gives people joy and a purpose
  • gives them a sense of being part of the bigger picture in ministry.

 

On -going support is essential to provide: 

  • encouragement and affirmation
  • help with problem solving 
  • a sense of direction so that the ministry and volunteers stay on track with the      

vision and mandate of the ministry

  • further skill development training 

 

  1. What is the impact on the church community and the community at large when you use Care Ministry as an outreach to the community?

The impact is multi-faceted. People are released to do what God has equipped them to do, wounded people receive love and support in Christ’s name, healing takes place.  Often the people who have received healing and growth, want to give back and become part of the Care Ministry themselves. 

The church becomes known as a safe place in the community.  People watch what Christians are doing— they see the commitment and ability, plus the acceptance and care offered by the church.  They are open to coming to the church for help and hearing about Christ’s love once they have seen it in action.  When you change one life you change many. When one person is helped it impacts families, work places etc. The impact is like throwing a stone in the water-the concentric circles reach out farther and farther into the community. 

 One of the biggest proponents of our Care ministry was a Muslim doctor who referred a great deal of his clients to our support groups. He saw such big changes in his clients who had been through the groups and he was thrilled he had a place to refer them whether they had a faith or not. We established a working relationship with this doctor and a great respect for each other. 

  1. How does the Great Commandment (Mark 12: 29-31) play out in Care Ministry

 “Jesus replied, the most important commandment is this: Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbour as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”  

I liked what Dr. Rob Fitterer said in the last Connections about offering “genuine love without an agenda” to university students in their supper program. Before I knew Christ I often felt like a “project” for my Christian friends. Then I experienced love and friendship with no strings attached and I saw Christ in my friend. I knew that was what I wanted–unconditional love and acceptance from her God just like it had been offered to me in person.  I would like the Christians to offer that to all people. Christ’s mandate for us is to learn to love others well, it is His job to save them. Our vision is that people will naturally turn to the church for help because they know what they will receive is love and acceptance in Christ’s name. This happens when people are equipped to do Care Ministry.

*Building Essential Skills in the Workplace Human Resources and Skills Development Canada