This Saturday, the 28th, we will hold a workshop in the church that will talk about the role of church leaders in difficult or anxious times. One of the principles of that leadership is that “We recognize that Beginning Again is a Way of Life – that we believe in the resurrection – that new life comes.” We tend to think of the 1500s on Reformation Sunday, and we tend to think of the departed on All Saints Day, but they are both important reminders that God is a reforming, reconciling and resurrecting force at work in our lives today, and saints are all around us right now, and we ourselves are saints when we open to that force and let it work through us.
Beginning again is at the heart of Christ’s way in part because it is human nature to stray or fall. There has never been a saint who did not need to pick herself back up and begin again from time to time–in fact for most of us, many times a day! Also, change is the nature of life, it is a constant, so the community of saints needs to be reforming and reconciling itself and resurrecting constantly, beginning afresh in response to change within or around it.
The first hymn this Sunday will combine two old favorite traditions, the words of the 84th Psalm and the tune of the Christmas carol, “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.” We will have read the Psalm responsively before we sing, addressing these words to God: “How lovely is your dwelling place…. A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” The church is called the house of God and the body of Christ, so on one level the Psalm is talking about how calming and comforting it can feel to be in our beautiful sanctuary. Jesus said that the realm of God is also within us, and Paul said that our bodies are temples, so on another level, the Psalm is talking about how lovely it is to sink into the presence of the Spirit within us and trust and rest in it because our true self is as beautiful and full of love and peace as any sanctuary.
This Sunday the lectionary readings remind us to persevere in our struggle to make this world more like the realm of God’s mercy, justice and peace. We will hear the beautiful promises of Psalm 121:
I lift up my eyes to the hills– from where will my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep…
We will hear Jesus tell the story of the widow who would not stop knocking on the door of a cold-hearted, unjust judge until he relented. Jesus said, “Will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?” (Luke 18:1-8)
We will be taking our annual Neighbors in Need offering, joining our small congregation’s contribution to a much greater united force that is knocking on the door of a cold-hearted world persisting in its pursuit of justice. The theme this year is: “This we believe…No child should go to bed hungry.” The Silent Meditation in the bulletin tells us that “Nearly one in five children…16 million…in America live in households that struggle to put food on the table.”
The Silent Meditation in the bulletin this Sunday is from our former neighbor in the Upper Valley, the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, who said, “Joy is the most essential Christian emotion. Duty calls only when gratitude fails to prompt.” We do not have to look far for sources of gratitude and joy. We are surrounded by a gloriously colorful fall steadily unfolding under deep blue October skies. We have a loving congregation full of people with diverse gifts and talents who are helping us worship and serve in a variety of ways. We have children in the church who are eager to participate, and not just in refreshments! (Please remember to bring colorful leaves for them this Sunday for the Burning Bush they will be creating in Sunday School!)
And yet we also have around us plenty of reasons to despair, plenty of opportunities for discouragement or resentment. We see people around us who are not grateful and not joyous. Sometimes we ourselves slip into negativity. The scriptures and hymns this Sunday remind us to have faith and to live our faith as a path to well-being, gratitude and joy. The question in a life of faith is, what does our gratitude or our joy prompt us to do now for God and for our neighbor? Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes for October 9, 2016→
This week in Sunday School, the children will be learning the story about Moses and the burning bush, and the congregation has been asked to help by gathering beautiful fall leaves for a craft project the kids will be doing. Here are some that were collected on an afternoon walk today.
We remind ourselves on World Communion Sunday that we are a part a greater whole, and that the worldwide church is at the same time absolutely united in Christ and yet almost infinitely diverse in the ways it looks and believes and worships and acts. It is helpful to look at both our unity and our diversity on a global scale. It helps us feel that we are not alone and that together we have far more power as a force of Christ’s love than we can sometimes feel as an individual congregation. It also can help us appreciate the differences we have within our own small, beloved community, and realize that our diversity of perspectives, personalities and gifts is a strength to be celebrated. Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, October 2, 2016, World Communion Sunday→
On September 25 in Sunday School, the kids learned how Joseph’s dreams showed his people to save up food during their seven years of plenty so they would have enough during their seven years of famine. Then Julie Porter, Sunday School teacher and King Arthur Flour employee, helped the children prepare rolls to bake and donate to the food shelf. (You can learn more about King Arthur’s Bake for Good program at http://www.kingarthurflour.com/bakeforgood/kids/)
President Abraham Lincoln said, “I care not for a man’s religion whose dog or cat is not the better for it.” Our religion is meant to change the way we live for the better both in the smallest of ways that would affect our dog or cat and in the biggest of ways that affect the lives of our family, our neighbors, our church, our community, our nation and our world. How we live this life matters.
How we respond to suffering especially matters, both our own suffering and the suffering of others. As Bishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho write in this Sunday’s Silent Meditation, “Transformation begins in you, wherever you are, whatever has happened, however you are suffering. Transformation is always possible…. We are not responsible for what breaks us, but we can be responsible for what puts us back together again. ”
We will hear one of the most fascinating and puzzling passages in the gospel this Sunday (Luke 16:1-13). Jesus tells a story about a dishonest manager who cheats the rich man he works for, who then praises the manager for his shrewdness. Jesus shocks us by telling us to be as shrewd ourselves. It seems to make no sense until we delve into it and find practical wisdom that we desperately need right now in our church and world. We will hear two other passages about the kind of wisdom Christ calls us to have, one from Proverbs 8 and the other from Matthew, Chapter 10, verses 16-20.
It was a privilege to host the Jeremiah Ingalls Singers from Newbury, VT during our service on August 28, 2016. The Rev. Donald Towle led the singers and gave a very thought-provoking sermon. Below are a few photos and a video of the singers.