It’s obvious by the sights and sounds that the Christmas season is upon us. And we know it is all about the birth of Jesus.
There is no rational doubt that Jesus was a real person. Avowed atheists admit he lived. Jews who do not believe he was God’s Messiah admit he lived. It should be no threat to anyone to admit there was a Jewish rabbi-type named Jesus. Muslims admit that.
The rub comes when the declaration is made that he was the Son of God, born of a virgin, and raised by God from the dead.
I want to look at Jesus, void of any of the things used to make him divine. I want to ask what it was about him that more or less took the world by storm.
First, it was not because he promised “pie in the sky.” Jesus did not introduce the idea of life continuing after death i.e., the resurrection of the dead. While the Sadducees represented the more conservative Jews, just accepting the “books of Moses” as authoritative, and therefore rejecting the resurrection, (Mk 12:18) the Pharisees taught the resurrection of the dead. Hence Martha could say to Jesus, concerning her dead brother, Lazarus, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection of the dead.” Jn. 11:24.
Neither were the Jews the only ones who believed in existence after death. The Greeks and Romans had their own ideas, as did other people all over the world. On this continent “the people” believed in the Great Spirit and buried necessary things along with the dead to be used in the “happy hunting ground.”
While the resurrection is a central theme in the letters of Paul, it seems there was something else. Perhaps it was that in Jesus there was an inclusion that did not exist under Jewish law, an inclusion that did not involve any law, Gentile or Jewish. It seems that in Jesus, Paul saw that relationship with God was not based on rules, genealogy and purity regulations, but on who God is, as revealed in the life and teachings of Jesus. In Jesus, the weight of thinking God could never really be pleased because of our constant failures, i.e., sins was removed. In Jesus, Paul and the others saw God in a new way. They saw a God whose very nature was love and kindness. They took Jesus at his word because it made sense. When he said to love the enemy and be good to them, he tied it in with God, saying that God “is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Lk. 6:35-36)
If I believe in God, (or the gods) then I have to decide what form that belief will take in my life. If the gods are fickle, as were the Greek gods, then I am left to the “fates”, or the particular whims of the gods at that time. I can never really know.
Even if I believe in the one God, am I going to live under the weight of constant disapproval because I am constantly impure or unclean (sinful) because that is my understanding of God? Can I find some salvation in offering sacrifices, even though I’m not sure how the blood of another living thing removes my guilt. That’s pretty much the law of Moses.
Looking at the Old Testament I think there is a progression away from the strict requirements of the law of Moses, to a more personal relationship with God. Such as in the Psalms. But it seems to be a bumpy road which got even bumpier by the time of Jesus.
I don’t think Jesus’ miracles (others did them as well) were the glue that stuck the early Christians together. I think it was the good news about the nature of God. That good news changed everything. Now relationship with others was based on God’s relationship with them. The love of Christians for others became their hallmark and is recorded in Roman history.
It might be said that the early Christians lived in the excitement of the expectation of Jesus’ quick return. That’s true, but when he did not return, while they had questions, they did not stop living the life he had taught. Why? Because when they lived out Jesus’ words, life was better. Did the teaching become corrupted at times? Yes. But wherever the ethical teachings of Jesus were practiced, the world saw the value of the words from this carpenter’s son from Nazareth. That’s one reason why we remember the time he was born.
CONCERNS: Stephanie Dixon had surgery on her arm and received a good report on another test. Regan, the ten year old boy with brain cancer is blind and slipping away. His grandfather, Richard is the one who lost a leg recently in an accident. Wayne and Susan Phlegar are both having health problems. Teryn Gaynor’s uncle has lung cancer. Zona Fisher has been dealing with back pain. Leena Bolin’s uncle is recovering from a near fatal surgery. Her brother Nick is now in hospice care. Ron Matney had to have his lower leg removed and now has a prosthetic leg. Keep the following people in your prayers as they deal with various problems. Gary Overstreet, Rich Crites, Mary Smith, Jim Hunter, Hannah, Gil Richardson, Deana McRoy, Stephanie Rigny, Marge Greenwood, Sharon, Connie Crite’s brothers, Jenni Cullum, Helen Nicklas, Alma Martin and Tim Elder.
OUR DAILY BREAD: DEC. 2-7
Monday: Isaiah 53:1-12
Tuesday: Matthew 28:1-20
Wednesday: Ezekiel 34:1-16
Thursday: Acts 21:37-22:16
Friday: Psalm 14:1-7
Saturday: Revelation 20:11-21:9&22-27
OUR DAILY BREAD: DEC. 9-14
Monday: Psalm 139:1-24
Wednesday: Matthew 12:1-14
Thursday: Colossians 2:8-19
Friday: Revelation 2:1-11
Saturday: Matthew 16:13-28
THE ADULT CHRISTMAS PARTY
This year’s adult Christmas Party will be Saturday, December 14 in the annex. Appetizers at 5:30 and we’ll eat about 6:00.
This year it will be an old fashioned Christmas. Please bring a $5.00 or so gift for the gift exchange, and as in past years, if you can, make it something made locally or in America. Home made is even good. If you haven’t signed up yet, please do so. Next Sunday is the last Sunday before the party.
Super Sunday is the Sunday following the Christmas Party. That means any leftovers will still be fresh! Plan now to stay for the fellowship meal.
Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, those of you who receive the bulletin locally via mail, may not get it before Sunday. However it was mailed a day earlier than usual.
The steering committee talked about the plans to upgrade the worship service with the songs scriptures and other announcements via a visual system. We are checking to see which would best serve our needs and will began to work on this as soon as possible.
The cost of buying the equipment for this improvement has come from money donated for that purpose beyond the regular contributions.
The steering committee has decided the budget for 2014 will be the same as this years. When copies are ready the congregation will be asked for its approval of that budget, or suggest any changes.
It is easy to forget the work we have been doing for the troops winding down the war in Afghanistan. Try to remember to bring mixed cereal (assorted small boxes) granola bars, breakfast bars, pop tarts, instant grits, instant oatmeal, Little Debby’s but no chocolate. Also, coffee, creamer, sugar, and artificial sweetener.
Wed 27 Nov 2013
It’s obvious by the sights and sounds that the Christmas season is upon us. And we know it is all about the birth of Jesus.
Thu 14 Nov 2013
When I say it depends on where we stand, I mean our point of observation, as if we were looking at something from just one angle. That’s where some of us are when it comes to God. Not intentionally, but because that’s where we have found ourselves due to external factors such as family traditions, both religious and social.
If Christmas was not a happy time for you as a child, your view of Christmas will be shaped by those experiences. It would be the same for birthdays and personal relations. Growing up in a home where there are drugs, drinking and abuse will shape how one sees domestic life. It is the same with religion, and especially the view of all things God.
When it comes to God all of us are introduced to a religious viewpoint, primarily by our parents, or some other person. That would involve certain doctrines, i.e., teachings.
Historically, at least since sometime after the first century, sin and hell were among the first words that pierced our brains. The idea of being born sinful dominated the Christian religion, and in some cases, still does. Sin and sex were twin siblings. We could have easily coined a new word called “sinuality” which would have defined sexuality.
Think about your own developmental beginning as a Christian. Was not your sexuality, your coming of age, the beginning of your serious concern about being a sinner? Perhaps not, but there is significant evidence that in many cases it is.
I’ve mentioned before that the time the Jewish boy was “bar mitzvahed” at age 13, he was not being cleansed from sin. The term literally meant “son of commandment,” meaning he now had the rights of Jewish manhood. The Jewish girl was “bat mitzvahed” at age 12. Actually, both the boy and the girl were automatically “mitzvahed” at that age. The celebration ceremony was optional. However, it did exemplify joy of the occasion as an important moment that had nothing to do with sin.
Somehow, those ages, or the age of Jesus when he was in the temple, became for many, “the age of accountability.” Which had far more to do with sin than reaching a time of maturity toward God’s commandments, which was the emphases of Jesus in the temple. We do not teach that Jesus became accountable for his sin at twelve years old. He was actually about thirty when he was baptized “to fulfill all righteousness.”
However, many young, “You’d better become” Christians, face the dilemma of becoming something they cannot stop, becoming sexually aware, and the helplessness that it’s very happening has made them sinners worthy of hell. “Dirty” and “Nasty” are familiar words to many a preteen.
So rather than being introduced to a loving parent who understands everything about us and has declared it good, we are introduced to a God who created us in a certain way, but is now disappointed, especially in the area of our sexuality. “Put on some pants, Adam!”
God, from that viewpoint, sees our sin first and our worth last, if we dare use the word “worth” about ourselves. As long as we never see God from another viewpoint, we will live a life of guilt and shame, even if we theoretically say we are forgiven for our constant sinfulness. We will never feel secure in our relationship with God because it is all based on how well we keep the rules, and they are many. Grace is what we receive when we pass the test with a perfect score, less a few jots and tittles along the way. We become attracted to passages that suggest God punishes us to make us better. In fact, there are those who feel punishment is God’s way of showing love.
I knew a family that adopted a little girl who had been abused by her parents, but especially by her mother. Her adoptive mother told me during the first few years the little girl would come to her and say, “Do you want to spank me?” Why? Because the only time she had any emotional contact with her mother was when she was being punished, so the punishment became warped love. It is sad when God is seen that way. It destroys the possibility of a healthy relationship and becomes the eyes through which everything is evaluated about God.
From such a relationship there come certain demands on the part of the one who sees God as an unsatisfied father. If the child has to please the unpleasing parent, then the parent should respond in kind. If there is punishment for failure, then there should be rewards for success. Therefore, God should do God’s kind of stuff. God should give the child who has the best grade what the child asks for. God should answer that child’s request for safety, providential protection, good health, wealth, and so on. If the reward of such things is not the result of working for the grade, what good is any of it?
What is interesting is that none of those things which have been preached and seen as the reward for obedience, are the qualities of being a good and loving parent
Is a parent unloving because they bear children they cannot be sure they can always keep safe? Is the parent unloving because they give life to a child they know they cannot always protect? Can the loving parent guarantee good health? Even being born with the proverbial silver spoon in the mouth is not set in stone. But when love has to be earned, then such rewards are to be expected.”What kind of a God lets these things happen?” The same kind as a parent who knows the dangers of life but still gives life to a child.
So what does God want? First of all, God wants us to know we are loved, with no conditions. God wants us to know we are all God really has. What purpose does God have without us? Who would there be to know the purpose of God, if not us?
The psalmist grasped the concept when he said we were created a little lower than the angels. That’s not bad.
CONCERNS: Betty Branch has returned home. Stephanie Dixon had surgery on her arm to see if there was a cancer related problem there. Zona Fisher is dealing with undetermined back pain. Mike Brown has been able to return home to Ala after emergency surgery in California for a detached retina. Mary Smith is about the same. Both Susan and Wayne Phlegar are dealing with back pain and other issues. Leena Bolin’s brother, Nick, is not well at this time due to the cancer. Rich Crites sister is now in a nursing home Those recovering from, or dealing with cancer are: Rich Crites, Deana McRoy, Hannah, a school friend of Garrett Lee Williams, Jim Hunter, ten year old Regan, Stephanie Rigney, Marge Greenwood, one of Connie Crite’s brothers and Sharon,. Others with prayer
needs are Gil Richardson, Gary Overstreet, Richard, the grandfather of Regan, (car accident) Jenni Cullum, Helen Nicklas, Alma Martin, and Tim Elder.
OUR DAILY BREAD: NOV. 18-23
Monday: Psalm 119:1-24
Tuesday: Matthew 12:22-37
Wednesday: Revelation 3:14-22
Thursday: Galatians 2:11-21
Friday: John 15:1-11
Saturday: Psalm 112:1-10
OUR DAILY BREAD: NOV. 25-30
Monday: Psalm 48:1-14
Tuesday: Romans 11:33-12:8
Wednesday: Luke 15:1-10
Thursday: Galatians 6:1-10
Friday: Psalm 23
Saturday: Psalm 19:1-14
Today, Nov 17 is Super Sunday. Plan to stay for the fellowship meal following the service.
STEERING COMMITTEE MEETING
There will be a steering committee meeting in the library following the Super Sunday meal. The budget for next year needs to be planned.
THE ADULT CHRISTMAS PARTY
The adult Christmas Party this year will be on December 14. A sign-up list is on the foyer table. Please note the time suggested for the party. If that is too early and an hour later would better suit you, write “later” on the line with your name. The theme this year is a traditional Christmas. We will have the tree up by the next Wednesday we meet.
As we have in past years, we will not meet on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving due to those who will be away and involved with activities of the day.
We thank those who were able to come out and help split wood for the fireplace. Especially Roger Fisher for using his truck to pick up and return the rented log splitter, and Wayne Flora, who while he could not be here, worked on two Wednesday evenings before the soup supper cutting up the fallen tree in the lower church yard so it could be split as well.
Please remember to pick up the things the troops ending the war in Afghanistan need. Especially at this time of year when they are far from home. They need mixed small assorted cereal boxes, granola bars, pop tarts, instant grits, instant oatmeal, and Little Debby’s, but no chocolate. Also coffee, sugar, sweetener, and powdered creamer.
Judy and T. J. Hall are grandparents again. Kin and her husband, Tyler, had a baby boy a week or so ago. His name is Thomas Grady.
If you are a Sams card holder through the church, your membership is due by Dec. 3. The cost is now $45. Let Keith know today if you want to continue.
Fri 18 Oct 2013
Because we were late making our decision to go to the ACU Lectures, on the return flight from Abilene, Wayne and I were not seated together. The plane was a small jet with a row of single seats on one side and a row of double seats on the other. Wayne was seated in the first single seat inside the door. I was seated in the first isle seat in the double row behind the bulkhead.
I saw the red-vested Rottweiler-mix service dog come through the door. At the end of his leash walked a dark-haired woman who looked to be in her thirties. She stopped at my row and said, “It looks like I’m going to be your seat mate.” I stood up and she slipped into the window seat. When she was seated with her service dog at our feet, she stuck out her hand and introduced herself as “Chris,” but it was longer than that and her last name sounded Italian, which it was. I told her my name and she asked the question”: What did I do for a living?” I dread that question. I told her, as well as why I had been in Abilene. She said she was a retired Marine and a Catholic. I told her that Catholic scholar Luke Timothy Johnson had been one of the ACU lecturers. We talked a little about the new Pope and I asked how long she had been in the Marines. She said eight years. I asked if she had been in a war zone and she said no. I was curious, but wanting to respect her privacy. Here was a former Marine with a service dog, who had no visible injuries and had not been in a battle zone.
I told her I liked dogs and asked if I could pet him. She said yes and that she wanted people to pet him because it meant they looked at him first instead of her. I wondered what had caused her to need him. I asked his name and she said it was something that made me think he was a pureblood, which I knew he wasn’t. She told me he was named after a friend who had been killed in Afghanistan. But she called him “G-Man” for short, as well as “Buddy.”
The rest of this story is spread over about three hours, some in the terminal, due to a computer problem, and then again on the plane. The events that follow may not be in chronological order, but during the time in the terminal, she, Wayne and I exchanged pleasantries about our families and lives.
She was returning to Boston where she had grown up. She could play nine musical instruments and especially loved the drums. Her father had told her not to learn another one because she might become mediocre. So I assumed she was a person who tried to perfect anything she did. She had been the vocalist in a sixties classical rock band. She asked if I recognized the name of someone. I told her I didn’t. She said he was one of the guitarist’s who tried out for their band and went on to play, I think she said, for Arrowsmith.
It also turned out she was older than she looked, being the mother of two children, one foster child and two grandchildren. She was also divorced.
Her father had been, for a certain part of her life, a stay-at-home dad for her and her brother and sister. He later opened a construction business where he taught her building as well as auto mechanics. One of her first jobs was at a full-service gas station. She said her parents had brought them up to be of service to others. Her brother had trained to work with, I think she said, those afflicted with Aspergers syndrom. Her sister worked for a shoe company and modeled the shoes on QVC.
Since she was so close to her father, and because he had been a Marine, at some point she decided to join up. Her first job was a mechanic, then a door gunner on a “Huey.” Then, for most of her eight-year tour, she was part of a search-and-rescue team stationed in Arizona. I’m not sure why, but for the last several years she had lived in Abilene. She returned to Boston every two years for a visit.
After a time I felt I could carefully ask the question that was on my mind. I asked about G-Man. She said his primary purpose was to warn her about someone approaching from behind. I told her if she didn’t want to talk about it I would understand, but I asked what had happened? She said she suffered from PTSD. She said Marines do civilian search and rescue in the states. It was the ones they could not save and the smell of burning flesh that finally caused her to collapse emotionally. The result was polymyalgia and crippling rheumatoid arthritis, which I understand happens when the autoimmune system is damaged by stress. She told me that she had spent years in a wheelchair and that just three weeks earlier she had been walking with two of those canes that come up on your arms for support. She indicated that her illness and therapy had been the thing that had taken the toll on her marriage. She said since she was Catholic she did not believe in divorce, but he was not, so she didn’t stop him. She was happy for him, and heard he had married a nice woman.
As we prepared to leave for Dallas/Fort Worth, she told me this was the first time G-Man had flown with her. All the other times he had traveled in the baggage compartment. It seems it takes time to certify a service dog for actual in-cabin flight. Since other passengers who could make their connection at DFW had been placed on another flight, I told her I would move so G-Man could sit in my seat. She said she didn’t want him to get use to sitting on furniture. He did great.
As we talked, I told her if I could change what had happened, I would. She said she wouldn’t let me. She said as a Marine, she was the strongest, fastest woman in her unit. Now she was learning a new way to serve. She was returning to Boston to live. There she would get an apartment, live off of her disability funds, and was to become a volunteer manager at newly opened Pets for Vets organization. Much like other such organizations, Pets for Vets trains and places rescued animals with veterans who suffer from PTSD. She added that her parents had not seen her walk unaided in eight years and she was going to surprise them by walking through their door.
CONCERNS: Susan and Wayne Phlegar have been dealing with pain issues. Betty Branch is now at RMCH undergoing therapy. Alisa Flora’s brother, Mike Brown suffered a detached retina while visiting in California. He remains there after having surgery. Mary Smith’s improvement is slow. Erma Williams dad is now at home. Remember Rich Crite’s sister; Gary Overstreet, Leena Bolin’s brother Nick; Hannah, a classmate of Garrett Lee Williams has leukemia. Gil Richardson (muscular dystrophy). Those recovering from or dealing with cancer are: Rich Crites, Jim Hunter, Deana McRoy, Stephanie Rigney, Marge Greenwood, Regan, the boy with brain cancer. Regan’s grandfather is recovering at RM rrom a car accident. Sharon, a friend of Del Bolin, Connie Crites’ brothers, one with cancer and the other recovering well after heart surgery. Also Jenni Cullum, Alma Martin, Ron Matney and Tim Elder.
OUR DAILY BREAD: OCT. 21-26
Monday: Genesis 15:1-21
Tuesday: Psalm 2:1-11
Wednesday: Mark 5:1-20
Thursday: Hebrews 9:6-14
Friday: I Thessalonians 4:1-12
Saturday: Psalm 130:1-8
OUR DAILY BREAD: OCT. 28-NOV.2
Monday: Genesis 2:15-3:7
Tuesday: Exodus 4:1-17
Wednesday: Hebrews 11:1-18
Thursday: Ephesians 4:17-32
Friday: II Corinthians 4:7-18
Saturday: Psalm 47:1-9
PEAKS OF OTTER HIKE AND PICNIC
Today (Oct. 20) is the annual Peaks of Otter Hike and Picnic. The park is open and we will be eating about 5:00 PM at the picnic area. If you are riding the bus up, try to get there as early as possible because it may be crowded. Also; we will need someone to help get all the food, drinks and cooking supplies to the park. Erma Williams will not be able to be there again this year, so please help out with firewood, and a propane tank for the stove.
SUPER SUNDAY This is also Super Sunday. That means you can eat every meal away from home today. Stay and enjoy the fellowship.
Keith and Jo Wagner will be taking about ten days of their vacation this month and a few days in November. They will be gone from October 24 through November 3. Keith will be in the office on Monday, November 4. This means the first bulletin for November will not be printed. However, since it contains the service roster for that month, Keith will be sent to those on the members e-mail list as soon as possible. Those speaking for Keith while he is away will be announced.
Thanks to Keith and Holly Wagner, with help from Roger Fisher for repairing the ceiling inside the downstairs entrance.
You may have noticed that a rather large locust tree has fallen in the annex yard. We hope to have a Saturday in early November when we can not only cut it up, but also rent a log splitter and prepare it and the other wood we have for the annex fireplace. If you have a truck with a trailer hitch on it, we will need you if you can help.
FOR THE TROOPS
We had a good start but now have dropped off some in helping the Troops who are closing out the war in Afghanistan. The list of needs is on the foyer table. Added to that should be coffee, creamer, and sugar, both natural and artificial. Here’s the list so you can have it handy. The above plus Mixed cereal (small assorted) granola bars, breakfast bars, pop tarts, instant grits, instant oatmeal and Little Debby’s, no chocolate.