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I noticed on a recent walk oak trees are starting to drop their acorns onto the pavement. Seeing them reminded me of the year I sent my mom a box of acorns. She had been living in Arizona for over 20 years and missed our New England seasons, especially Fall. During our telephone calls, she recalled picking bittersweet, finding colorful fall flowers, buying gourds, and placing a pumpkin by her front door. However, when my mother received the box of acorns, she didn’t know what they were. Walking over to her neighbor Nora’s house, she asked, ‘do you know what these are?’ We had a good laugh over this during our next phone call and visit.
It is hard to believe that since March, members of our church family haven’t met in church. The seasons have changed from Spring to Summer and soon Fall. I am hoping that when I return to church I’ll recognize everyone. I’ve heard that members of Ladies Aid are enjoying our church services on their local Tewksbury station and that it is easier for many to ‘go to church’ via this method. Some of our members in our group no longer drive.
Let’s hope by the time I get back to church, I can still drive! One year when I worked in the church office, I rode my bike to TCC. It was fun until one workman yelled at me, ‘Hi Granny’. I think I’ll stick to driving and hopefully our church doors will open soon!
The safety of our staff and congregation are of the utmost importance and we will offer in-person services when it is safe to do so. A re-opening work group has been created with members from various committees and led by the Board of Ministries to compile a list of safety guidelines and divide responsibilities accordingly in support of a safe return to in-person services.
The group continues to meet on a regular basis and a poll will be sent out shortly to assist in determining the willingness of our members to attend services in person. Stay tuned, stay healthy and wear your mask.
There are a lot of things that seem hard for me to do. Paying attention is one of them for me.
I remember when I was working on my undergraduate at Auburn University. Paying attention in classes was not my forte'. I often left the room when I was in the room thinking about other things. Thankfully many of my fellow classmates took good notes. But as time passed I got better at paying attention. I had to be intentional. It took a lot of practice you could say.
Forgiveness is one of those things that a lot of people have trouble doing. I was talking to an elderly lady one day and she brought up her husband. He had passed a few years earlier and she missed him. But she never really forgave him for being an alcoholic. He had cleaned up the last ten years of his life and she said it got easier.
The years of dealing with it hurt her, of course. She loved him but didn't like him, if that makes sense. We talked about healing, at least celebrating his ten years of sobriety, and how the lack of forgiveness can hold us back. After about a year she channeled her hurt into helping others who had similar experiences via Al-Anon meetings. In her way she was practicing forgiveness.
One day Jesus and Peter were having a discussion about forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35). Peter asked how many times should I forgive someone who has hurt me. He offered seven times. Jesus said you should forgive seventy-seven times.
Let me just say if you have to forgive someone seventy-seven times there might be a problem. Seven or less is definitely more manageable. But that dang 'ole Jesus says it takes more. Really?
The "seventy-seven" is probably a reference to a man named Lamech (Genesis 4:23-24). Lamech, a descendant of Cain, killed a man who hit him. He said he should be punished (or avenged) seven times which was a reference to Cain and Abel. We don't know for sure but maybe Lamech knew something about what Cain went through after he killed his brother, Abel. Jesus uses this story to answer Peter.
Let me return to the story of the widowed wife above who was having trouble forgiving her husband. Helping others became her way of practicing forgiveness. That is one way to practice. Sometimes we need to talk-it-out by having someone listen to our plight. Maybe we begin to realize it has controlled our thoughts and emotions for too long and something new needs to happen. Think of ways you have practiced or are practicing forgiveness.
Here is a great quote from a Senator Marvin J. Ashton of Utah, who got what Jesus was teaching. Senator Ashton represented his state back in the late 1950's and early 1960's. He said, "Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has understanding and a forgiving heart...one who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them."
Jesus calls us all to practice forgiveness. Practice hard! You can do it! Keep on running the race! You'll leave yourself better than you were.
One year when working in the church office a package arrived in the mail. Inside was an old Tewksbury Congregational Church cookbook. I know of four cookbooks published by our congregation: ‘Tewksbury Tidbits”, “The Good Cooks’ Cook Book”, “A Book of Favorite Recipes” and “Home-Grown Recipes and Gardening Tips”. Cookbooks contain a history of our community and our church. Avertisers whose business dotted the area such as French’s Poultry Farm, Ralph O. Garland (flowers), Clark’s Store in South Tewksbury, and Dutch’s Dairy among just a few of the advertisers in our earliest books. Sheila Prescott played an important role in our most recent edition published in 2003, writing articles about gardening tips including those for our Friendship Garden.
Our congregation was asked to submit recipes; cookbooks were compiled and sold for various fund-raising opportunities. Many of our older cookbooks contain recipes from members whose businesses enriched our community: Carter (greenhouses), Gale (greenhouses), Anderson (carpeting) McGowan (Principal of high school) and Corey (hardware).
If you are fortunate enough to have a supply of church cookbooks, you can enjoy reading about our history and the recipes our members created in the year beginning when the Friendly Guild published Tewksbury Tidbits.
"Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." - Matthew 18:18
Note: Please read Matthew 18:15-20. Thanks!
Sometimes after cutting myself I make the mistake of aggravating my wound by scratching. Combating this, I'll put a bandaid on it for a few days so it can heal. Most of the time this works and the wound heals quicker. If I don't do this the wound festers.
Conflict between people can fester if we don't do something. The "wounds" just grow and grow and the bitterness takes over. This happens in marriages, where we work, between friends, and in our churches. Many times, if we are in this conflicted state of being, we don't think about how this affects the people around us.
Some think that Matthew 18:15-20 only refers to conflict in church. If we do some research the word "church" wasn't used at this time in Jesus' ministry. The word would not be used until a few hundred years later. Probably a better word would be "congregation" or "assembly." It does not refer to a building as well but simply a group of people. So basically we can apply this to any group or assembly. Rob Richmond talks about this in an article he wrote called "Etymology of the word 'Church'" four years ago.
Jesus encourages those in conflict to first talk to one another. If this doesn't resolve the conflict, He says to seek the help of a friend or two to listen. If this fails, Jesus says to take it to the whole assembly. If none of this works, the last resort is to ask the "unrepentant sinner" to leave. Ouch!
Sometimes people do leave. Many times they stay and work it out. Also conflict might be caused by both parties. Even if that is the case, what Jesus says can be applied to both situations.
I guess for Jesus there is only so much of the scratching of the wound. There is only so much festering allowed. To me the goal of what Jesus is saying is not to "cast out" the person...it is to love them and encourage a time of discernment with God. It is a time of introspection and of spiritual growth. The goal is restoration to the group.
How we handle conflict affects how we look at the past, live in the present, and most definitely our future. Jesus says we can "bind" ourselves to conflict, affecting the future. When we unbind it does not consume us as we move on. Conflict loses in the end because we are willing participants in the advice Jesus gives. We listen to Jesus and in turn listen to others.
I'm not going to end my blurb with a rosey story of how conflict ended. This is for the open-ended conflicts you may have today. We need tools in the toolbox to help us when we have conflict. Leaning on the good words of the Bible, Philemon 4:7 reminds us we are to "pursue what promotes peace" and Romans 15:18 tells us to "live at peace with everyone." Let's not forget what Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:15-20.
Ending conflict is hard work. Doing our best to end it brings the possibility of closure and moving on to something better. So conflict isn't all bad. Practicing the words of the Bible cleans us up and makes us more like Christ. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17, we are a "new creation" with Christ in our life. I hope this helps you look at conflict in a "new" way.
The tree pictured on TCC’s lawn has seen a lot of activities over the years. During the summer of 2019, Bob and Rita Masters served summer beverages and an assortment of baked goods after our Sunday worship services under that tree.
Years ago, the late President of Ladies Aid, who herself was a force to be reckoned with, got wind of the possibility the two trees gracing our church’s front door were slated to be cut down. One morning, she exited from the elevator and entered the church office with the force of her mighty frame and announced that if the trees were cut down, she would strap herself to a tree before she would let a saw touch it. Thankfully, the Trustees got wind of our President’s concerns, and had both trees trimmed by a professional landscaper. We can enjoy our trees thanks to the gumption of our former Ladies Aid President, Eleanor, and the listening ears of our Trustees who saved them.
Within our church family we have some ‘warriors of faith’—those who take on tasks that often seem insurmountable, such as our church family coming together to purchase pew cushions, an outdoor sign, the volunteering to coordinate coffee hour—the difficult task of weeding our Friendship Garden in summer’s heat. Those who suffer illness with grace, those who are there for a meal, a telephone call or a ‘thinking of you’ note.
To all our church family, whose members are behind their television screens, or on their computers for our Sunday morning worship services, but whose spirit resides in ‘A Special Place’ –the little brick church in the village…authored by our late poet-in-residence, Natalie Thistle, I miss you! I am hopeful for the day when we can all gather together and worship—in that special place!
"If you want to follow Me, you must deny yourself the things you think you want. You must pick up your cross and follow Me. The person who wants to save his life must lose it, and she who loses her life for me will find it." - Matthew 16:24-25 (The Voice)
There's an old Chinese proverb that goes like this: If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.
I'm guessing Jesus would like this proverb. Especially this last sentence. It talks about happiness lasting a lifetime. The other things mentioned last a short time.
But let's keep napping and fishing. Nothing wrong with those. And if you inherit a fortune don't forget your friend, Baxter. You could share it by going on a fishing trip. Afterwards maybe there will be time for a nice nap.
A friend of mine called me one day saying he had to give up his customary Sunday afternoon nap. His pastor was sick and he was asked to go visit a fellow church member at the nearby hospital in his place. He graciously accepted but he sure did miss his nap.
One of our church members was looking for someone to take her place and go serve at a local food ministry. No one could be found so they went. Family was visiting from out of state and they didn't want to miss a minute. They went and served. Afterward they returned home to be with family.
I have a pastor friend that goes on a two-week fishing trip every fall season. Many times he has had to drive back to where he serves to conduct a funeral. He leaves his vacation, conducts the funeral, then drives back. The rod is cast and he goes right back to fishing.
A friend of mine felt called to leave his career to go lead a mission in Central America for three years. Sold the house, uprooted his family, went to a place of extreme poverty, and led that mission for the time of commitment. They returned to the USA, bought another house, the kids went back to their school, and he returned to his previous career.
All acts of kindness and service change the world. Jesus said people who want to follow will "deny" themselves. This is not constant denial of the things that make us happy. It's just answering the call to follow and serve before those pursuits. Success to Jesus comes with our sacrifice and service.
There are several examples of Jesus trying to pursue something that made Him happy. Jesus would go to a place to pray and spend time with God. Sometimes He would have to put that on hold to help people. Afterward He would return to his plan.
Thanks for the ways you serve in your community. Jesus goes on to say that people who deny themselves receive a reward (Matthew 16:27). I wonder if part of that reward is some of that lifetime happiness the Chinese proverb talks about? It doesn't go away. It lives on in the community because you made a difference even after our time is up. And it reverberates throughout eternity.