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This summer a group of mostly school-aged children from our community will travel on a mission trip to help rebuild a rural community devastated by flooding in 2016, damaging hundreds of homes across this beautiful, Appalachian town. Three years later, residents are still in need of repairs and rebuilding from the flood. While there, they will invest in hard work projects and demonstrate God’s love. They will have many opportunities to learn from the community, to better understand the history and experience the rich culture.
On Super Bowl Sunday, our Mission team will be hosting our own ‘SOUP’er BOWL, a fundraising event to support the trip. During Coffee Hour on February 2nd, 2020, we will take donations and sell soup in pints and quarts for people to take home. 100% of the collection will be used to support the mission trip.
We are asking all parents and supporters to assist the children by preparing a pot of homemade soup and donating it for the ‘SOUP’er BOWL event. You can make your favorite soup, stew or chili.
If you plan to make soup please let us know what kind so we can advertise our menu.
"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John." - Matthew 3:13
There is a story that I always share about baptism and it is about a guy named Tom. I met Tom at a time in his life when he was going through some challenging health problems. He was unable to attend church on a consistent basis so I would often visit. We talked about a lot of things and prayed a lot. One of those things we talked about was baptism.
Tom was a Navy guy who had moved around a lot. Wherever Tom was he found a church he liked. It seemed every church Tom attended they required that he be baptized again. So in total Tom told me he had been baptized four times. After reflecting on his four times I asked him, "How much water is it going to take?" He laughed. Tom told me he just liked the churches so he went along with it.
I always wanted to tell Tom that baptism is more than the water. It is about life.
Over the 2000 years of Christianity, different movements in our faith have come to different conclusions about baptism and what the sacrament (or ordinance as some faith movements call it) means. But what if we went way back to when John baptized Jesus in the River Jordan? What could we ascertain in the simplicity of that one moment in time that is recorded in the gospels?
Rev. Karoline Lewis, a theological scholar who I highly admire, wrote a few years back in a commentary called "You Are All My Beloved" about comparing Jesus' baptism to ours. She said the commonality is the "wilderness" where Jesus was baptized. She goes on to say there was no loyalty test or any of the theological attachments we add to define baptism. The only commonality was the wilderness.
You are probably saying, "But I wasn't baptized in the wilderness! What are you talking about?"
Jesus went to the River Jordan in the wilderness to be baptized. If we keep reading in Matthew, Jesus is led by the Spirit to another remote wilderness to be tested and tempted. So I'm starting to think this wilderness is a big deal to God. How does it connect to us?
Right after Jesus' life in the wilderness, He began His public ministry. But did He leave the wilderness for good? This wilderness is bigger than a place in the middle of nowhere with a lot of trees, or just sand and dirt, or some vast expanse of a common topography. The wilderness is where we serve God, grow closer to God, do ministry together, and apparently where God likes to be. It is where we feel close to God and then sometimes distant from our Creator. How often do we read in the Bible that God is at work in places that seem unimportant to a human?
Lewis goes on to say, "Jesus' baptism suggests that ending up in the wilderness is not always about the self but about the other. About God's other. Jesus' time in the wilderness does not necessarily verify his own sense of self, but his sense of self for the sake of who God needs him to be for the world God seeks to save."
The wilderness is a big deal to God. If we go back to the Old Testament and the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt, they all ended up in the wilderness for 40 years. They were not alone in the wilderness because they had each other and the presence of God. Neither was Jesus when He was in the wilderness being tempted. The Holy Spirit was with Him.
The Prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19:4) was depressed because it seemed his call by God only caused him grief. Elijah proclaimed worship of God over worship of the Canaanite god known as Baal. He goes into the wilderness and sits beneath the broom tree trying to hide from the world and everything. Job 30:3-4 tells us that broom trees were found in "wastelands" and "desolate" places. In Elijah's dark moment in the wilderness, God sent help and an angel (messenger) was sent to give encouragement and food to finish his purpose.
In the Bible you can always find God in the wilderness.
Maybe the wilderness is a different way of looking at life after baptism. The wilderness is the community God has called us all to serve and to make an impact on the lives of those we encounter. The wilderness could also be a wide-open place filled with unlimited possibilities for our life. And as we are living out our baptisms in the wilderness, we too grow through not only our service to God but through the occasional revelation (epiphany) and see life in so many amazing ways that we had never seen before.
The wilderness is the place to be.
Does anyone enjoy a birthday over the age of 25? Not so with the members of Ladies Aid, as we will celebrate everyone’s birthday on Wednesday, January 8th with a pizza party, birthday cupcakes and fun! Our party begins at noon, as we’ll meet in the church’s Vestry for this once-a-year celebration. We won’t divulge who our oldest member is but we will say that all members of Ladies Aid continue to do well no matter what their age!
Our special guests at our meetings are our Pastor and our Administrative Assistant who join us for lunch when their busy schedules permit. Our leader, Donna Haines and our Ladies Aid Board members are committed to everyone having a great time at our meetings that are filled with fun and fellowship. Come next week, January 8th to Ladies Aid—enjoy a slice of pizza and a ‘slice of life’!
As our late ‘poet in residence’, Natalie Thistle once wrote: ‘The pineapple says welcome—to all who gather here. Of all of life’s many blessings, we hold our friends most dear.’
The Women’s Evening Group will meet on January 15th at 6:30 PM. Our program for that evening will be the Power of Prayer. We will specifically focus on the Lord’s Prayer and how prayer affects our lives.
For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you. If you know these things, happy are you if you do them."
- John 13:15,17
LSU football coach Ed Orgeron was asked about his New Year's resolution by a reporter recently. Coach Orgeron is an interesting man. Always a college football coach, he has coached all over the country and is known as a very extroverted person. He has never met a stranger. He also has a Cajun accent which is very unique. Some of his coaching jobs have met great success while others have been seen as failures. And very soon he will coach his team in the college football national championship game.
So what is going to be Coach Orgeron's New Year's resolution? His answer to the question was, "Probably to eat less, which will probably not happen."
I think I read a few years ago that most New Year's resolutions meet their death by March. Why is it that we start a new year with so much resolve, hope and good intentions but lose steam so fast as the year goes on? You have to admire Coach Orgeron's honesty. I hope he succeeds in his resolution nonetheless.
A church is no different. Many times leadership gets together and looks for ways to grow the church numerically. New initiatives are started and for a while, good things seem to happen. But kind of like a New Year's resolution, the resolve becomes less and the steam runs out.
Jesus was talking to the Disciples and He tells them that if they follow His example they would be happy. There is a key part in John 13:17 that we should pay close attention to. Jesus was in the middle of washing the Disciples' feet. He was teaching them about service and service to others. He says in verse 17, "if you know these things."
How do you know something? We know a person by spending time with them. To learn something you spend time researching the topic. To serve Christ you learn by doing it. A church is intent on seeing that ministries and new initiatives happen. And to succeed you have to have the resolve to see it through.
Easier said than done, right? There is even a more deeper meaning in what Jesus was teaching. What does "know" mean in this verse? There is something just as important to the doing part. Spiritual growth is just as important. Jesus said that He has shown them the example. History proves that every one of them grew spiritually in their knowledge and doing. We grow spiritually by knowing and growing closer to Jesus.
Maybe you need to grow more in service this year and put your spiritual growth into action. Some of you might need to grow more spiritually and have already grown a lot in service. It all works together. May the resolve be there for it to happen!
Happy New Year to you all! I pray you have a great year. In my prayers I also pray that we are resolved to serve Christ together. I look forward to hearing about the great things God is doing in your life and in your new year.
A New Year 2020—an opportunity awaits—at Friendship Circle, on Thursday, January 9th at 9:30 am. Come meet with friends, share a tasty treat and a hot beverage in our church’s Vestry.
Friendship Circle meets the second Thursday of the month, beginning in January, with our last meeting scheduled April 9th. We enjoy a program that is spiritually based under the leadership of Jean Metcalf. A commitment is not required—if you are searching for the opportunity to make a slight change in your routine, please come and join us!
Please note that the church office will be closed on Monday, December 30th, 2019, and will open Tuesday, December 31st, 9:00 am-2:00 pm.
Happy New Year to You and Yours!
We grieve the loss of Margery Williams, Rev. David C. Williams' wife, on December 9th, 2019. Rev. Williams served as TCC's pastor in the late '70s and Margery was very involved in the life of the church as the pastor's wife.
A Memorial Service will be held in the Lunenburg Chapel of the Sawyer-Miller-Masciarelli Funeral Homes, 763 Massachusetts Ave., Lunenburg, MA, Saturday, January 4th, 2020, at 11:30 am. Visiting Hours are 10:30 am in the Funeral Home. A Memorial luncheon will take place following the Service at Apple Hill Farm, 143 Joslin St., Leominster, MA. Burial will be private.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in her memory to the UCC Christmas Fund www.christmasfund.org, which cares for active and retired clergy and lay employees of the UCC.
Please keep the Williams Family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord." - Luke 2:8-11
As you read this another Christmas Day is in the books. I hope all of you had a wonderful time celebrating. If you did not, I pray for better days ahead. This time of year can bring a mixture of emotions.
Let me remind you of one of the greatest inventions of our time. Or at least I think it is. It is called the gift receipt. For those of you lucky enough to receive one with a gift during Christmas, you can do something amazing with it. You can return a gift that you don't like and get something else. How wonderful is that?!
However, you might want to keep this little bit of joy to yourself. The giver of the gift might get their feelings hurt!
Let me tell you about a gift for all of us that will never have to be returned. It's the gift that keeps on giving.
God sent a messenger out into the fields the night Jesus was born. Shepherds were in the field doing what shepherds do, just going on with life as usual. I guess I would be terrified too if a bunch of "shining" was going on around me. I would be like, "What's happening?! Is this the end?" Maybe I would run and take cover somewhere.
The shepherds would learn about a gift that the people had been waiting on for a long time. Finally, their Messiah was in the messed-up world in which they lived. God didn't send the messenger to the big-wig kings of the world. Nope. On this night, God sent the messenger to the lowly shepherds. They lived with animals. A bath was something they desperately needed. But let me tell you! The gift they would find out about was no stinker.
Then a few more angels showed up and started singing like this, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." I wonder if it was similar to when groups of people go around their community singing Christmas carols. Like the angels who sang to the shepherds, those who do this are messengers of God sharing the blessings of Christmas.
If there is a "gift" we all need to take back is the lack of peace that surrounds us. It seems to be a gift our world keeps on giving us. We are hurried. We are hurt. We see wars either with weapons or with drugs. We worry just for the sake of worrying. We hear about and see that people die for no good reason. We see evil and bad things happen.
We need to return the lack of peace with the receipt and say no more! And then we need to replace it with the gift of peace and share it with all!
Like the shepherds that night, we too have found "favor" with God. We are given the peace of God that can quench a soul who lives in fear. Peace may not happen with us seeing all the hurts around us...but we can know and live in the peace knowing that God favors us all! We are favored! Peace is a state of mind, you could say.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all! Live in God's peace.