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"He is the same one who shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory in the face of Jesus Christ." - 2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Valentine's Day falls on Sunday this year. Chocolate, flowers, Valentine's Day cards, and stuff like that, you know. Love is once more in the air for all the lovebirds out there. But so are the lonely ones who are reminded that they haven't met that special someone. If you fit this latter category you can still eat chocolate.
Love was in the air when God sent Jesus. If we read the Bible from the beginning to the end, we will be reminded that God loves us. In that love, God got frustrated with humanity as well. But the love has never ceased. And it is good to feel loved, right?
The Early Church was getting its wings and learning about how God-love works. You had gentiles, or the non-Jewish folk, learning how God loves them. You also had Jewish folk who had accepted Jesus who learned about a new way of interpreting this unmerited love. Paul was inspired to describe it in words.
Paul says with love comes knowledge. He compares it to a blind heart that is given light and begins to understand. Think of a person who thinks others do not love him. Then he finds out about Jesus and is enlightened. A lot of people, when they understand this revelation, may have an easier time loving themselves.
Agape love is God's love. It knows no bounds. Different then our lovey-dovey passion, it is a love that transcends time itself. It's the kind of love like a person who would do anything so that person knows. Sounds like Jesus, right?
God's love has no prerequisites. It is what is and sometimes it is hard to fathom. The love we share with individuals has to meet certain requirements. That is not a bad thing. It is just not the same kind of love we receive from God.
The love we practice here is based on expectations. Yeah, we should all have expectations, but a lot of times we set ourselves up for failures. Marriages and other types of relationships end because one or both parties feel disappointed in the other. And that hurts.
The thing is none of us is perfect. Maybe that is why we have a hard time understanding this unmerited love God gives us through his only Son. It can be perplexing to the human mind that we would be given something free. We have been given it and it is something we learn about as we follow Christ.
Love is not easy. If I go back to Scripture, all the love God gave humanity was often not reciprocated. You have most like been in at least one relationship where you felt this way. It hurt, right?
Paul tells the Corinthians that God's light has shined into the darkness that often may reside in our hearts (or soul.) It brings knowledge. The face of Jesus is seen when we love. It's something when we grow in trying to understand this love. Love from God is revealed to us every day as we come out of the fog of not knowing.
Do you know people who have a hard time accepting a gift? I know a few. Every once in a while, I'm that person. I feel like I don't deserve it.
God doesn't work this way. We receive the gift every day. It's a gift of love that we learn through Jesus. The Holy Spirit empowers us to grow in this love and flourish. It's the kind of love that rescues and inspires. And once we learn to share it with others, the world changes and changes.
Thank you, God, for the chocolate, the flowers, and the cards. May your love for us come back to you. Thank you for helping us love others and ourselves. Thank you for showing us love through Jesus.
Happy Valentine's Day, God!
I never knew how bad racism was in our country growing up. Growing up in central Alabama, old symbols of the Confederacy surrounded me. North and south of me were Civil Rights museums. Portions of interstates are dedicated to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King. But I never really thought about it all. It was just a normal part of where I lived.
Many years later, I would hear about how churches across our nation stood up for civil rights. Congregational Churches joined other denominations to support the movement. They stood by black and brown people and with other denominations. There were also churches that preached against civil rights or simply looked the other way.
This past year, we were witnesses to civil unrest in our cities. George Floyd's death woke up a sleeping giant of the devastating effect of racism. Just like Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 1960's, we have been challenged to address the treatment of black and brown people. Questions about white privilege have arisen once more. Many are calling for police reform.
I'm excited about our upcoming Racism Discussion Series starting on February 24th. Our first guest speaker is my friend, Rev. R.G. Lyons. Rev. Lyons planted home churches to serve in impoverished communities made up mainly of black and brown people. He led this ministry in the most dangerous place in a community called West End, which is just outside of downtown Birmingham, Alabama. He has also been a pastor in affluent churches. R.G. will challenge us to look at ways to stand against racism in our community.
On March 3rd, I will lead a bible discussion. We will dive into critical passages related to racism and hopefully learn something new. What would Jesus do? What should today's Church do? These and other questions we will discuss.
The last session of the series on March 10th, Rev. Darrell Goodwin will join us. Rev. Goodwin is the new Executive Conference Minister in our Southern New England Conference. We will hear his experiences as a black and LGBTQ person. He will also connect us to what our Conference is doing to fight racism along with the Wider Church.
Sessions will be recorded for those who cannot attend. Each session will last from 60 to 90 minutes via Zoom or Google Meet starting at 7 PM.
This will be a challenging series. Rev. Lyons and Rev. Goodwin will share stories of heartache, successes, and examples of what we can do to stand up to racism in our church. I pray that many of you will join us. May we grow spiritually and completely love our neighbors as Jesus loves us.
We start this unit with something Jesus said in John 15:12-13, Here is my command. Love one another, just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than the one who gives their life for their friends, (NIrV). Jesus proved this to us when He put us first by giving His life for us. If we say that we follow Jesus, then we should show others how much we love them. . Video, lesson and activity can be found here.
Bottom Line: Love others because Jesus loves you. More than anything, we want kids to know that Jesus loves them. When kids understand how much Jesus loved them, they can see how important it is to share that love with others and point them to back to Jesus.
This Saturday, 2/13 at 2 pm, please join us at Shedd Park in Lowell for a fun filled afternoon of sledding. Please bring a sled, mask and friend. We look forward to seeing everyone in person!
If you have any questions, please reach out to Sue at email@example.com.
In keeping with the decision to conduct remote-only services during the month of February, the Holy Ghost Crew will be presenting Ash Wednesday worship on the evening of February 17th, at 7:00 pm, which may be viewed on our website or via Facebook Live. In order for our families to participate in the imposition of ashes the Deacons have prepared some to be picked up or delivered ahead of time. Deacons will be available at the church at the following times for pickup:
Thursday 2/4 6:30-8:30 PM
Tuesday 2/9 11:00 AM-1:00 PM
Thursday 2/11 6:30-8:30 PM
Tuesday 2/16 11:00 AM-1:00 PM
If you need to have ashes delivered to your home, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to make arrangements.
Please see the attached document for a devotional and some background information regarding Ash Wednesday.Attached File: 83ASH-WEDNESDAY-At-Home-2021.pdf
Yesterday, Donna Haines and I sat down to look at one of the old ‘Records of the Ladies Aid Society' dated September 13, 1950 – 1964. I borrowed four books spanning years from 1931 to 1964 from our church office. Sometimes there are newspaper clippings inserted in the pages. One that caught my eye was a photograph of Donna’s grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Alden Haines of East Street, celebrating their golden wedding anniversary. It noted that ‘Mr. Haines is the former Tewksbury Fire Chief’. It's a wonderful experience to sit with Donna, a ‘townie’, and have her recall the names and where many of our former members lived. The last page and paragraph of Book 1950-1964 in part reads: ‘A delightful social hour was enjoyed when refreshments of delicious apple pie and ice cream, tea, and coffee were served by Alice Pike. Donna commented, ‘Do you recall the Pike House on Rt. 38—the one the Historical Society was trying to get someone to move?’ Alice Pike, a member of Ladies Aid, was also Tewksbury’s Town Clerk and, of course, lived in the Pike House named for the family. Donna mentioned the Town Clerk’s office was an L added to the house that is no longer on the building as it sits on Rt. 38. In an attempt to determine the history of Ladies Aid, I have been enjoying reading the records of this organization that for so many years supported our church with some newsworthy events including concerts, suppers, and fairs. I hope you don’t mind my sharing the history of Ladies Aid with our church family. More to come!
Jesus empowered people. We have amazing examples of His empowerment in the four gospels. In the Early Church, we can read how the good news was empowering followers. Let's dive into one of the stories from Mark 1:21-28.
Mark reports that Jesus visited the synagogue in Capernaum. Like churches and synagogues today, this was where the community gathered to worship, pray, and teach. Back then, Capernaum was a vibrant city and a melting pot of people. It was a desired location because of its proximity to the Sea of Galilee and the commerce it created. Today, Capernaum is more of an archeological site where people visit on their pilgrimage while in Israel. If you visit, you will still see the columns of the synagogue that Jesus visited.
Central to the theme of empowerment is authority. Jesus was in the very beginning of ministry so His authority was being established. We know from the passage that people were amazed by how He taught and the depth of knowledge He shared. People who do this often gain trust easier. And this is when empowerment often comes.
Authority doesn't come overnight. It is established over time. Just because you have a title doesn't mean people will respect you. When it happens, things really begin to click and the empowerment of others starts to happen.
Churches and their actions empower people. Our church works in our community to empower people through missions. So many have food insecurities and very few resources. Through our giving, our Missions Committee shares our abundance with others. Empowerment comes from giving to others. It also comes from ministries we support, building up people by teaching life skills. When loving our neighbors, all people are empowered because we are practicing the principles of the kin-dom of God. Great examples of this are found in the Book of James, which basically reminds us to practice what we preach.
I think of all the civil strife we have had in our country recently. One way to look at it is through empowerment. Black and brown people seek empowerment in hopes our society is not held back by racism and a system that is unfair at times. Do we hear them?
Also, let us consider the spiritual part of life. A healthy spiritual life brings salvation and empowerment. Trust grows in Jesus and a person begins to be transformed into the new creation the Apostle Paul spoke about in his words. Paul also said it was a lifetime thing. We work it out trusting God and in awe. The point? Growing spiritually is a practice of life-long devotion to God.
People are especially empowered when the balance between spirituality and service occurs. They feed off of each other. Our souls are nourished. Let me be bold to say empowerment is part of sanctifying grace as we fill the gaps of life with holiness.
A man came up to Jesus in the synagogue, possessed by an unclean spirit that day. Jesus basically tells the unclean spirit to go away...you have no place in this man's life or this place. The spirit knew Jesus and didn't want His authority to change things. Mark doesn't tell us anything about where it went. So maybe we learn that evil and oppression just don't go away. They have no place in the kin-dom of God Jesus would announce. We are empowered to resist, like we promise in Holy Baptism, and not let these things control our lives. The authority of Jesus replaces the trap of evil and oppression.
This past Sunday, I got a call from a young lady who reached out to our church for help over a year ago. She dropped by our office and we spoke for about an hour. Her daughter and she moved to our town seeking a fresh start. We talked about God and a lot of things. Sadly, her boyfriend was murdered. Involvement in drug culture was the culprit. She was looking for answers. After she left that day, I wondered if I would see her again.
She watched our worship service this past Sunday and was moved. Her goal now is to help and serve others through missions and she felt her call was confirmed. One of her requests was that she, her daughter, significant other, and baby on the way be baptized together later in the year. Beautifully, she is becoming a new creation and positive example to her family. Jesus has saved her from her past. She has been empowered. I would say she was baptized by the Holy Spirit. She and her family will make it official later when baptized with water. Resurrection is occurring.
There are a lot of things that can possess our lives. But they don't have to. The good news of God shows us the way by giving us freedom. The Word of God empowers!
Think of ways God has empowered you. And think of ways you have resisted this empowerment. What comes to mind? What do you want to do with it?
Let us trust in the empowering faith we have been given.
The Budget Session of the 287th Annual Meeting will be at 11AM on January 31st by virtual means. Attached is the full warrant for that meeting along with minutes from the two sessions of the 286th Annual Meeting which need to be approved. Other supporting documents will be emailed this week. Please let the church office know if you require hard copies.
One of the items of business will be to elect delegates to the UCC association and conference for a one year term. The conference annual meeting will be held virtually on Saturday May 8th and the association annual meeting is also in May. Association delegates also attend Ecclesiastical Councils on an as-needed basis as well as a fall gathering. Please let me know if you are interested or would like more information. Association and conference delegates may or may not be the same peopleAttached File: 872021 Budget Meeting Packet.pdf