TCC Flash - Weekly News
Sola Gratia| Rev. Dr. Norm Bendroth.
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.” Amazing Grace is perhaps one of the most beloved hymns of the past two centuries. It was written by slave trader John Newton.
Although Newton had some early religious instruction from his Puritan mother, who had died when he was 11, he had long since given up any faith commitments. He was known as "The Great Blasphemer," for his hard drinking, foul mouth and ruthless ways. Newton was also the captain of many slave ships. Once on a voyage home, while he was attempting to navigate the ship through a violent storm, he experienced what he was to refer to later as his “great deliverance.” Newton remembered ever after, for "On that day the Lord sent from on high and delivered me out of deep waters." Newton understood that only God’s amazing grace could take a rude, profane, slave-trading sailor and transform him into a child of God.
Unfortunately, Newton continued his slave trading career until 1754 or 1755. While on board he wrote the hymn “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds” while slaves were in squalor below deck, but he didn’t make the connection between his faith and his horrid profession. But God’s amazing grace continued to work in him. He began the disciplines of Bible study, prayer, and Christian reading and tried to be a good example to the sailors under his command. While he continued to serve as a mate and then as captain of many slave ships, over time he hoped to restrain the worst excesses of the slave trade. Newton eventually became a champion in the abolitionist movement.
He left the sea for an office job in 1755 and held Bible studies in his Liverpool home and became increasingly disgusted with the slave trade and his role in it. He became ordained into the Anglican ministry and in 1764 took a parish. There he met William Cowper, a poet who became a lay leader in his church. Each week they would write a new hymn for the Thursday night prayer meeting. The hymn “Amazing Grace,” wasn’t published until 1779.
It took thirty-one years from Newton’s conversion to his writing the beloved hymn. Why so long we ask? Part of it was cultural conditioning. Because slavery was widely accepted, a continuing education in the evils of slavery in light of scripture was necessary, but especially growth in grace. Conversion is rarely instantaneous; it is the beginning of many conversions as we grow in our faith and mature into Christ.
What exactly is grace? It is God’s undeserved favor toward sinful humanity. Grace is God’s unmerited good intention and loving disposition toward those who have gone astray and are “dead in their sins and trespasses” (Ephesians 2:1). Grace, then, is something in God, not in us. It is something God does, not us. “Noah found favor [grace] in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8) confirms this.
Why is grace so important? Scripture is clear that by our own inclination we don’t actively seek God (Romans 3:10-11). Instead, God seeks us (Romans 3:23). Jesus’ mission was “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). God actively pursues a lost and broken humanity, calling us to faith in Christ’s name
What are the benefits of knowing that we are saved by grace alone? First, when we trust Christ we are given eternal life (John 3:16) and abundant life (John 10:10). God makes us a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). God's Spirit continues to provide us with the power to live for Christ and keeps us in the love of God (Roman 8:37-39).
All of life is of sola gratia (grace alone) because God is the One who created us, continually saves us, seeks us, gives us faith, transforms us as we trust, empowers us to live for Christ, keeps us in God’s love, and will take us to be with the Triune God for eternity. These spiritual benefits, if you will, are solely from God’s goodness and grace.
When John Newton was buried, the epithet placed on his tombstone was this:
Born 1725, died 1807. A clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he once long labored to destroy. I decided before my death to put my life’s story in verse. And that has become this song.
Blessing of The Animals - THIS SUNDAY at 2pm| Rev. Dr. Norm Bendroth.
THIS SUNDAY, October 15th, at 2 pm, TCC will have a “Blessing of the Animals” service. October is the month of St. Francis of Assisi’s birthday. You might recall that he is noted for his love of animals and how they communicate God’s love to us. On that day we’ll celebrate and give thanks for God’s creatures great and small, especially our animal companions — beloved household pets (or photos of pets) and favorite stuffed animals.
We will meet in Fellowship Hall. It's a wonderful opportunity to invite friends, family, schoolmates and neighbors to this unique service!
Exploring The Bible: Update| Mercy Delgado.
There's still time for you to sign up for the second course of Exploring the Bible: The Dickinson Series, to help you better understand the Old Testament in the context of the world in which it was written. This course builds on the course offered last Spring.
Please let Rev. Norm know of your interest at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Mercy in the office, so we can order books.
Pie Social & Christmas Fair Meeting October 15th!| Carol Sturtevant.
Many thanks to those participating and sharing new ideas to improve our very successful Pie Social and traditional Christmas Fair during our earlier meetings. Our final pre-events meeting on Sunday, October 15th after worship is very important for continued success and finalizing plans. All are welcome—your ideas, input & assistance are needed for another successful year. Chairpersons & other leadership positions are all in place and new ideas have been “sprouting”. Following the lighting of the common, the townspeople stream over for our well-known Pie Social, visits with Santa and all our creative tables open on Friday evening and Saturday. Please join us and share your ideas or contact Carol Sturtevant, 987-851-4451, Trish Keddie, 987-677-6013, or Brad Staeben, 978-654-6514 for more information.
In order to access the Sunday School curriculum information, important dates to remember or about particular programs designed for youth, please visit our Crib Sheet page.
Protestant Reformation Study| Rev. Dr. Norm Bendroth.
On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, Rev. Norm is offering a four-week study of the Reformation and Protestant principles. The outline will be:
Session 1: Reformation Basics
God is God (not us)
Salvation by Grace through Faith
Guess What? You’re a Priest
Session 2: The Bible
Which Do You Prefer, an Angry God or a Cheap Gospel?
Session 3: Hot Buttons
Session 4: Summing Up
Saints and Sinners
Luther’s Sins—and Ours
The Protestant Principle
Sessions will run Oct. 3, 17, 24 and Nov. 7 and will meet at 7 pm in the Parlor. Please let Rev. Norm know of your interest at email@example.com or Mercy at the office firstname.lastname@example.org so we can order study guides.
Secret Sisters| Mary Lou Adams.
“Secret Sisters” is a new program Friendship Circle members are starting this month. Secret Sisters is a prayer partner program. “Sisters” pray for each other and send a card or a note monthly through the mail.
How would this work? Consider becoming a “Secret Sister” to another woman in our church. Fill out a form providing your Secret Sister with some information about you. On Sunday, October 29th, during a special coffee event in the Vestry, those who want to partner with a Secret Sister will receive a Secret Sister’s name. Trisha Keddie, program coordinator, will assign a “Secret Sister" if you are not able to attend the coffee event; otherwise, you will choose your Secret Sister randomly from a box of sealed envelopes. If you want to send your Secret Sister a small gift, a mailbox will be set up for this purpose.
Friendship Circle is planning this adventure for six months beginning Sunday, November 5th to Sunday, May 6th, 2018. On Sunday, May 6th, your Secret Sister will be revealed during a special event.
If you are interested, more information will be provided in Fellowship Hall during Coffee Hour on Sunday, October 15th and Sunday, October 22nd.
We hope many women in our church will want to participate in this exciting new program that is not only prayer-focused but also intended to create a bond of caring and friendship.
Called to Care
As a community of Faith, we are Called to Care for one another. Please visit our Called to Care page to learn how you can offer or request care for yourself or for a member of our church family.
Your Missions Committee Thanks You!| Missions Committee.
'Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:'- Matthew 7:7 The donation coordinator at the Home for Little Wanderers asked that we not forget the older kids and teenagers. They were certainly not forgotton during our latest pajama drive! Piles of lounge pants were included for the teens in the donation of more than 60 sleepwear items! Thank you! If, by chance, you forgot your donation last week, the side entrance bin is still available until this Sunday.
Another thank you goes out to all who have sponsored a Church World Service school bag. The bags will be presented and blessed this Sunday!
Thank you for the reminder, in a world that seems full of chaos, that goodness, kindness, and generosity are all around us!
Harvest Dinner, Saturday, Nov. 11th| Stewardship Committee.
Please join us for a Harvest Dinner on Saturday, November 11th, beginning at 6 pm in Fellowship Hall as we continue our "Journey to Generosity." The main courses will be catered by the much loved Al Fresca restaurant, and we invite attendees to contribute an appetizer, salad/side dish, dessert, or beverage to share. So that we don't have too many duplicates, please include the type of item that you are planning to share in the "notes" section of your RSVP. Use this link to sign-up.
Children are welcome to attend the dinner, of course. Activities and care will be provided.
We look forward to enjoying a lovely meal together!
Save Your Medicine Bottles!| Mercy Delgado.
We will be setting up a collection bin right outside the church office for your empty, clean, label-free medicine bottles. The bottles will be given to Annmarie Baldwin to use on her next mission with Intercultural Nursing, Inc.
Building Christian Families| Rev. Dr. Norm Bendroth.
The following resources are available to help make it easier for you to have conversations about your faith with your kids and families:
Faith Formation At Home: Tools Your Family Can Use
Helping Families Celebrate a Holy Advent
Sola Fides| Rev. Dr. Norm Bendroth.
President Dwight Eisenhower once said during a speech, “'America makes no sense without a deeply held faith in God—and I don't care what it is.”
Eisenhower was criticized for favoring a generic, watered-down, to-whom-it-may-concern, kind of faith. The point is well taken because faith must have an object. You need to put your faith into something or someone who is worthy of your trust and strong enough to deserve that trust. People put faith in lots of things: the stock market, their friends, a philosophy or ideology, themselves or a Higher Power. These things might be good unto themselves, but will they sustain you as we witness the horrible incidents of the past few weeks? People suffering desperately in Puerto Rico waiting for the necessities of water, food, medicine and shelter. The senseless slaughter of 59 people and the injury of over 500 in Las Vegas this past week.
The question is not whether you have faith or not; the question is if you believe in the right thing. You can have all the sincerely held beliefs you want, but are they true? You can have a “strong and powerful” faith, but if the thing you have faith in is shaky at best or false at worse, then your faith is worthless. It doesn’t matter if we have a wonderful faith. What matters is if we have faith in a wonderful God! It is not faith that saves, but faith in Christ.
For Christians, we put our faith or trust in Jesus Christ, for he alone is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:15–19).
Now that is someone you can trust! For the Reformers, the issue was salvation. How can a sinful, broken human being approach a holy and righteous God without being obliterated in the light of God’s blazing glory? We can’t. That was Luther’s question: how can we approach a righteous God? His answer. By trusting that Christ’s death on the cross made us right with God. All our debts were paid off. The note was nailed to the cross. Jesus offered to God what we could not: a presentation of a perfect human being who lived in continuous obedience to God. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 5: 8)
By putting our faith in the gracious gift of God, the righteousness of Christ is “imputed,” as the Reformers put it, to us. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Imputed is as if we put on a coat that was the righteous and goodness of Christ. When God looks at us, God does so through the eyes of Christ. But that does not mean we are perfect. It means that we are declared not guilty. Our responsibility is to grow into that coat, which is way too big for us, and reflect more and more of the goodness of Jesus.
How can we confidently believe that God is reliable, dependable and committed to our care? How do we know that if we give God our lives and reveal to God our deepest desires that God will show us compassion? So much depends on knowing God’s character, understanding God’s past performance, and seeing life from a divine viewpoint. In Psalm 84:11 we read, “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
TCC Needs Greeters!| Jean Metcalf.
TCC is looking for some smiling faces to greet members and visitors as they arrive for service on Sunday mornings. Greeters can be 1-2 friends, a family or a small group! From 9ish to 9:30 am you'll warmly welcome people as they arrive. Please consider helping your church with this very important aspect of the worship service!
Jean Metcalf will host a Greeter's Table after worship on Sunday, October 15th, to answer any questions and sign up volunteers. You can also call the church office at 978-851-9411 if you're interested in participating.
Coffee Hour Volunteers Needed!| Mercy Delgado.
Do you like to drink coffee (or cocoa or tea) after worship, and maybe have a bite of some delicious treat, usually homemade? Then TCC needs you!
Please consider volunteering to host coffee hour after worship service.
We can walk you through it if you've never done it before. It’s easy & fun, a great way to help out and get to meet other members and guests. We have lots of openings!
Calling All Youth Groups: This counts towards your Shining Light Award!
Contact Mercy Delgado in person or call the church office to sign up.