Category Archives: STAYING CONNECTED

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 84

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 84, June 5, 2020
“Sparkle and Shine”

Have you ever considered that your life might shine? The Apostle Paul discovered that truth in a beautiful and personal way as he came to love the church at Philippi. From the warm and tender greeting where he assures the Philippians that he “has them in his heart” to the gratitude he expresses for their undying concern for him when not even one other church “shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except” his beloved friends, those saints at Philippi had been a beacon of hope and encouragement to Paul. Not one to leave things to doubt, Paul affirms the impact of their faithful witness for Christ with soaring praise, “You shine like stars in the universe…” (Philippians 2:15)

Make no mistake, the Philippians do not shine with a light that is their own. The light that shines in their lives is the light of Christ. Paul does not speak of the impact the shining Philippians have made until he has lifted up Jesus Christ. It is only after Paul has called his faithful brothers and sisters to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus…it is only after the humility of Christ, “who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped”…it is only after the humility of Christ has been lifted up…It is only after the self-giving of Christ, “Who emptied himself by becoming a servant, who emptied himself by giving his life on the cross”, it is only after the self-giving of Christ has been laid out as the ultimate sacrifice…it is only after Jesus has been praised as the name that is above all names, it is only after the Philippians have adopted the same attitude as Christ Jesus that Paul is able to tell the beloved saints in Philippi that their lives shine like stars in the universe.

Today’s devotional is the last in this series. I close these daily reflections in the hopes that you and I will enter back into and engage with our world motivated by a commitment and a desire to shine like stars in the universe. The chaos and confusion left behind by the Coronavirus is immense. The loss has been physical, financial, spiritual, mental, and social. Even as the world focused on a pandemic, the glaring realities of racial injustice and inequality have been brought to light once again.

Into this world, at this time, in this place, with these challenges, a letter written to a fledgling church nearly 2,000 years ago somehow manages to speak to us today like it is breaking news. Have the same attitude as Christ. With that attitude shine like stars in the universe.

At a time in my life when I was struggling to discover meaning and purpose, at a time filled with personal doubts, at a time when there was much confusion in the societal events of the day, at a time when I was hoping and praying that my life might make some positive impact on this crazy world in which we live, I stumbled on a book at a rummage sale that led me to explore an old knight’s tale and finally found me plopped down on a couch as I watched a movie based on the Lerner and Loewe’s musical “Camelot.”

Right at the end of the movie, King Arthur is preparing to go to his final battle. His beloved dream of Camelot has crumbled. The Round Table lies broken and shattered by betrayal and deceit. His kingdom is in tatters. The future seems bleak. Strapping on his sword for what he knows will be the last time, the king hears a rustling sound near his tent.

Arthur calls out,

“Who goes there?”

With hesitation a young boy steps from the shadows.

“Who are you?” the king demands

In a small and timid voice the boy says, “Tom, my Lord.”

“And where do you come from?”

“From Warwick, my Lord.”

Eyeing him warily the king probes, “Why are you here?”

Tom straightens up a bit and says, “I have come to fight for the king.”

Not only does that answer surprise the king, you can see him melt just a little.

“Fight for the king?”

“Yes, my Lord, I want to be a Knight of the Round Table.”

Arthur asks, “And how did you decide on this extinct profession?”

What Tom says next floors the king. “From the stories people tell.”

“From the stories people tell?”

“Yes, my Lord, from the stories people tell. Might for right, right for right, and a Round Table for all.”

The cloud that hung so darkly over the king seems to disappear, just for a moment, just for one brief shining moment. Arthur calls the boy over to his side. Even though Arthur knows the battle he enters that day will end in defeat, he now sees that the story might live on. Speaking gently but urgently to the boy, King Arthur says to young Tom of Warwick,

“Listen to me, Tom, and do exactly what I, the king command you.”

Expecting to be sent to the front lines, Tom stands at attention, awaiting his orders. But King Arthur says, “I want you to go home, to grow up, and to grow old.” A look of disappointment fills Tom’s face as the king says these words. Tom is ready for battle. Instead, the king says he wants Tom to go home and tell everyone that once there was a spot. Slowly Tom begins to understand how important it is to tell the story. His disappointment in not going to battle is transformed and he prepares to run and tell the story.

Before he does, the king has him kneel down. King Arthur places his trusted sword on the shoulder of the young boy and says, “I knight you Sir Tom of Warwick.” When Sir Tom of Warwick rises the king sends him off to fulfill his important task. The boy runs, literally carrying the hopes and the dreams of Camelot and the king with him. Arthur watches him go with the sweetest look of wonder and amazement. He shouts after him, “Run, my boy, run.”

Right about then Arthur’s oldest and dearest friend, King Pellinore, stumbles onto the scene. Pelly sees the boy running. Pelly hears Arthur shouting. Confused by this strange series of events, Pelly blurts out, “Arthur, who was that boy?”

King Arthur, his face beaming with hope, shouts triumphantly, “One of what we all are Pelly, less than a drop in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea. But it seems, Pelly, some of the drops sparkle. Some of the drops do sparkle.” The king shouts one final time, “Run, my boy. Run.”

Years ago, a follower of Jesus named Paul wrote to some dear friends, some ordinary, everyday Christians living in a Roman city named Philippi. He told them what a difference they had made in his life. He told them how he loved and longed for them. And he told them that with Christ in their lives they shined. He told them their lives sparkled. I believe that was true in Philippi. But I don’t believe that was only true in Philippi. I believe that the light of Christ is meant to shine in our lives. I believe our lives are meant to sparkle. And I believe that is exactly what Christ does in each of our lives. Children of God, may we live in such a way that the light and the love of Jesus Christ shines in our lives. May we live in such a way that our lives sparkle.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

 

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 83

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 83, June 4, 2020
“A tunnel of love”

Emerging from the complete shut-down instituted during the Coronavirus Crisis the phrase “The light at the end of the tunnel” has been used. There is still a great need for taking the virus seriously and there is no guarantee the virus will not make a dreaded return, but it has begun to feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel…and we are moving toward that light.

I have been in tunnels before. Downtown Houston has a complete system of tunnels connecting the businesses and buildings through numerous underground passageways. One of my favorite tunnels cuts through a mountain on the way to Yosemite, that incomparable National Park in the mountains of California. Breaking free from the darkness of the tunnel you are greeted with an incredible view of the Yosemite Valley, waterfalls cascading, mountain peaks rising in breathtaking formations, and a sparkling stream winding its way through the vast green meadow. Each one of us has undoubtedly experienced memorable tunnels on our journey of life.

My favorite tunnel is not majestic, not particularly impressive, and not even permanent. My favorite tunnel is portable. Perhaps this particular tunnel is my favorite because of the memories attached to it. You see, my favorite tunnel is the tunnel that is formed after a children’s or youth sporting event. Out on a field set apart for soccer, football, baseball or softball, in a gymnasium where basketballs bounce and volleyballs are spiked, when the sporting event comes to a conclusion, the faithful fans form a tunnel. The tunnel is usually made up of parents and grandparents, younger siblings, some dedicated faculty who drop in to cheer on their students, and some old empty-nesters like me who just love celebrating the gift that God has given us in our children and youth. All the spectators line up in two lines facing each other and raise their hands to meet in the middle, forming a human tunnel.

In the same way that the cheering crowd gathers in two lines at the end of a sporting event, today I am inviting you to join me in forming a tunnel. This is a tunnel we are forming to give thanks to God that we have made it this far in our journey through a pandemic that has swept over our state, nation, and the entire world, taking many lives, causing great sickness to others, and leaving our economy and jobs in a state of crisis.

Tomorrow marks the completion of twelve weeks of daily devotionals. The purpose of the devotionals was to help us stay connected in a time of isolation. Tomorrow will be the final daily devotional. Next Monday we will continue our journey in a different format, with daily readings and thoughts from the Gospel of Matthew. To mark tomorrow’s completion of the daily devotionals, we are forming a tunnel to reflect on how God has guided us and provided for us during these days of isolation.

Our tunnel begins forming as the first-responders pair off facing one another.

  • Doctors and nurses and hospital employees, our police officers, members of fire departments, emergency responders all reach toward one another with arms stretched out and hands raised up.
  • All those essential workers who have been working in our stores and grocery markets, driving trucks or delivering mail and packages, sweeping floors and cleaning counters and changing sheets in our hospitals, they need to join the tunnel.
  • Now everyone who has made a mask, get in line.
  • Did you write a note? Make a phone call? Send an email? Stand outside a window and wave to someone in a care facility? Help with grocery shopping?
  • Did you honk your horn and holler congratulations as you passed yard signs that signified this house was home to a member of the Class of 2020?
  • Did you make or bake something just to brighten the day for a friend?
  • Did you say a prayer? Did you shed a tear? Did you make time to listen to someone who just needed a friend?
  • Did you run with Maud? Did your heart cry out for justice when George Floyd couldn’t breathe?
  • When you saw some of the protests break out in violence and the looting and fires that followed, did you turn to the words of the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Did you pray with St. Francis, “Make me an instrument of your peace?”

We are not done with the Coronavirus Crisis, but it does seem there is a light at the end of the tunnel. As recent events have shown, there will undoubtedly be more crises we face as we seek to live faithfully in this world. Facing challenges is part of living. I hope this Coronavirus Crisis has proven to us yet again that our strength comes from forming a tunnel, our strength comes from reaching across and joining hands, our strength comes from working together in unity and harmony, and our strength comes from working together for peace and justice.

Today I am telling you about my tunnel. Today I am inviting you to join my tunnel. But today I hope you will think about your tunnel. Who have you seen reaching out? Who have you seen joining hands? Who have you seen serving and striving to make a difference in a time of darkness?

Forming a tunnel can be a powerful experience, one that both humbles your heart and fills that same heart with hope. All of a sudden I look at the tunnel in my mind and I see Martin Luther King, Jr. reaching to grab hold of the hand belonging to Mother Teresa. Now I see a Pope connecting with a Protestant pastor. Now I see someone who is serving food at a shelter offering a hand of friendship to one who came because they were hungry or thirsty, because they needed clothes, or they were a stranger and needed a welcome. Oh my, now I see Mr. Rodgers extending his gentle hand to touch a Teddy Bear’s paw. When hands like that join you realize the light is not only at the end of the tunnel. The light shines in the tunnel. The light shines in the darkness.

Tomorrow will bring the end to twelve weeks of daily devotionals. It has been such a privilege to share these reflections with you. In anticipation of the end of the devotionals, and in celebration of the tremendous blessing it has been to share this journey together, today a tunnel is forming in my mind. I see you. I see your face. I see your heart. I see a person filled with kindness and compassion. I see a person committed to working for a world where God’s light and God’s love finds a home in each and every person. I see a person who is my friend. I see a person who is my brother and my sister. Standing face to face with you, my dear friend, my arms are stretched out and my hands are raised up. Meet my hands in the middle. Form a tunnel. And as we form a tunnel together, let us give thanks that not only is there a light at the end of the tunnel, that light is with us right in the middle of the tunnel, shining and bringing hope even during the darkest of days.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” (Matthew 4:16)

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

 

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 82

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 82, June 3, 2020
“The truth shall set you free”

The Montreat Conference Center in North Carolina was founded over 100 years ago as a place set apart for spiritual rest, renewal, and recreation. I learned this at an introductory seminar I attended when I visited Montreat in the summer of 2010. The introductory seminar recounted the development of the camp. Milestones along the way included the establishment of a college and the organization of a Presbyterian Church. Billy Graham lived in Montreat. His presence drew visits from presidents and various dignitaries. When Billy Graham’s wife Ruth died, her funeral was held at Montreat’s Anderson Auditorium.

I was taking this all in when something was mentioned that grabbed my attention. Assembly Inn is the majestic centerpiece of Montreat, where many conference participants are housed. All the conference meals are served at Assembly Inn. It is the hub of activity for Montreat. It turns out something else took place at Assembly Inn which is a painful reminder of a dark time in our history as a nation.

In 1942, Assembly Inn was used to house 290 Japanese and Germans who were interred during World War II. I was surprised to learn this information for several reasons. I was surprised simply that Assembly Inn’s history included being used as a detainment facility. I also found myself surprised that Montreat made no effort to hide that fact. It was included in the presentation. Later, when I looked up the history of the camp on the website, the information was included there as well.

Along with being surprised, I found myself being grateful. I was grateful that Montreat made no effort to sweep that chapter of history under the rug. Nor did they attempt to justify what took place in those days as something that could be explained because of the times we were living in and the fear that gripped our nation. No, they simply acknowledged a painful chapter in the history of both a Presbyterian conference center and a nation.

Jesus says in the Gospel of John that we shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free. Every one of our lives has painful chapters. There are times we do not live up to the standards we set for ourselves, and we never live up to the standards of the God who is known for his holiness. We disappoint God. We disappoint others. And we disappoint ourselves

Too often we use huge brooms of denial and justification to sweep our sin and shortcomings under the rug. That is no way to be set free. Jesus calls us to acknowledge our sin, to bring it to the light, and to let the truth of the gospel set us free.

Montreat is a beautiful place. I loved the hikes. I loved the streams and waterfalls. I loved the endless mountain ranges and the canopy of trees. I loved the beautiful Lake Susan in the middle of the camp. But most of all, I loved being reminded that we do not have to run from our past or cover it up. When we acknowledge the truth, the truth that we are broken people in a broken world, our God has an amazing way of setting us free. That is the joy of the new creation that comes through Jesus Christ. That is the joy of God’s redeeming love.

The youth of Dunn’s Corners Church have attended summer camp at Montreat many times. I do not know if our youth are aware of how that Presbyterian Conference Center has modeled acknowledging the truth and allowing the truth to do the miraculous work of setting people free from a painful past. I do know this. Our youth returned from summer camp several years ago and went to work on organizing school assemblies with our youth leader Michael Walton. The rallies are called “Speak out to Reach Out.” The rallies affirm the value of each person, the dignity of each human life. To students who live in a world that can rip apart your self-esteem and strip away your dignity, the rallies brought a message of hope. The rallies brought a message of hope for all teens, of all colors and cultures and backgrounds. The truth was at work setting people free. Now our youth have come together with committed adults in our church to plan an outreach to Ghana. Bridging a gulf that spans more than just a mighty ocean, God is at work uniting the lives of people from different nations and different ethnic groups and different cultural norms. The truth is at work setting people free. The truth is at work bringing people together.

Recent events have exposed difficult and painful realities about who we are as a nation. Thinking of how our friends at Montreat acknowledged the truth of their role as a place of internment in WWII, I am asking myself what truth do I need to acknowledge? What truth do I need to own? What truth needs to set me free to live into the fullness of life that Jesus promised. In these dark and difficult days, Jesus holds out a promise to us. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

 

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 81

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 81, June 2, 2020
“Pray for righteousness…pray for peace”

The Beatitudes are the beautiful blessings Jesus bestows at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Surprisingly, his words of blessing point to a tension that his followers must recognize and a tension with which his followers must wrestle. The tension exists between the blessing of being ones who hunger and thirst for righteousness and the blessing of being ones who are peacemakers. The hunger and thirst for righteousness is on full display as large gatherings of people are protesting the shocking death of George Floyd, which is yet another sign and symbol of racial injustice. The call for peacemakers is also being voiced as many of these protests, designed to be peaceful, have erupted in acts of violence and looting leaving behind personal injury, destruction of property, broken windows and raging fires.

My heart is heavy. My heart is broken. My heart is concerned. In all honesty, my heart is fearful. My heart needs healing. The heart of our nation needs healing.

Feeling at a loss for what I can do during these times of great tension, I am offering something small. I am offering something small with the belief it might be helpful. I am offering a chance to identify the tension we live with, the tension found in the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. At noon today and then again at 6 pm today, Tuesday, June 2nd, in the midst of a time of great tension in our nation, I am going to read aloud the Beatitudes as found in Matthew 5:3-12. I am inviting you to join me at either noon or 6 pm to read aloud the Beatitudes. In the Beatitudes we will come face to face with the tension that exists for those who follow Jesus.

    • We will hear Jesus say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
    • We will hear Jesus say, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
    • Today at noon and again at 6 pm, I am also going to read the prayer of St. Francis, in which this simple man of faith prayed, “Make me an instrument of your peace…”
    • In closing I will say the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer that asks for God’s kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done.

Because I know the tension in our nation is felt in each and every one of your hearts, I am also going to be at a table in our church parking lot for an hour before each of the scheduled times of reading (11 am till noon, and 5 pm until 6 pm).You can come by the table and I will hand you a paper with the Beatitudes and the Prayer of St. Francis. If you come by, I would love to say a prayer with you. If you want to come at noon or at 6 pm we can read the prayers together. Whether at home or in person, I am hoping that you will join me at noon or at 6 pm today. If you do want to join in the prayer, I am including the Beatitudes and the Prayer of St. Francis. (Scroll down to see both prayers)

My heart is broken during this time of such great tension. And yet my heart is hopeful knowing that as we bow our heads together in prayers for righteousness and in prayers for peace, we are also committing ourselves to both of these great causes which mean so much to our blessed Lord.

THE BEATITUDES
Matthew 5:3-12 New International Version (NIV)

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

THE PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

 

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 80

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 80, June 1, 2020
“Row to the end”

On December 2, 1940 Winston Churchill received a letter from Max Aitken, or as he was known by his official title, “Lord Beaverbrook.” A trusted ally of Churchill’s, Lord Beaverbrook had been enlisted to serve as the Minister of Aircraft Production, a critical role as Britain desperately needed to protect their skies. Beaverbrook served admirably, but occasionally he would get tired of the struggle of his office, and he would grow especially tired of his critics. Churchill received a letter from Lord Beaverbrook on December 2, 1940 in which Beaverbrook resigned, saying, “I am not now the man for the job. I will not get the necessary support.” Churchill responded, “There is no question of me accepting your resignation. As I told you, you are in the galleys and will have to row to the end.” (From Erik Larson’s new book, “The Splendid and the Vile,” p. 302)

I read these words of Churchill on Saturday, just two days ago. It was a splendid New England afternoon, finally warm enough to sit outside, blessed with a breeze that was gentle not blustery, birds singing and the sun shining. It was just about the perfect time for me to call up Mr. Coronavirus and tell him I was resigning. I’m done with this. You blew into town three months ago and you have had your way with us, but enough is enough. I’m done with you and I want to have life back the way I like it, normal, untroubled by you and your pesky pandemic.

Darn you Winston Churchill! You had to interrupt my fine resignation speech and state the reality that needed to be stated. Despite my wishes to resign and be done with Mr. Coronavirus, I am in the galleys and I am going to have to row to the end. Although I can be as self-centered as the next person and think something as meaningful as this quote from the great statesman is just for me, I’m pretty sure the message is for you as well. In fact, the message is for all of us. We are in this and we are going to have to row to the end.

When Julie was doing Interfaith work in Houston, her friends in the Jewish community introduced her to Rabbi Tarfun, who said, “You are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Julie started working at Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston in the spring of 2001. At that time rowing in the galleys involved things like resettling refugees from Sudan, Liberia, and Afghanistan. At that time rowing in the galleys led to bringing different faith groups together and working to foster understanding and cooperation instead of conflict and division. At that time rowing in the galleys resulted in sponsoring a Day of Service for the whole city of Houston, restoring an African American cemetery that had become overgrown with weeds and numerous other endeavors to help the hurting. At that time rowing in the galleys included delivering Meals on Wheels to 30,000 people.

Rabbi Tarfun lived in the years after the fall of the Second Temple, which was destroyed in 70 CE. The fall of the temple was a devastating time for the Jewish people. Churchill served during the darkest days of World War II. Not long after Julie was introduced to the quote from Rabbi Tarfun planes struck the World Trade Towers and other targets. Our nation was called on to respond to the horrors of a terror attack.

Saturday afternoon, when I thought I had had just about enough with Mr. Coronavirus and I was composing my resignation letter, fires were burning in the streets of many of our major cities. Our nation was trying to come to grips with the senseless death of a black man who was struggling to breathe. Who does not want to resign and wish it would all go away?

Darn you Winston Churchill! Darn you Rabbi Tarfun! When I want to resign and run and hide, there you are calling me to row to the end and telling me that even though I am not obligated to complete the task neither am I free to desist from it.

And then there is that preacher in Hebrews who starts naming names, names like Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Jacob, Moses and Rahab, names of those who have lived by faith, names of those who did not desist from the task, names of those who rowed until their end, who rowed faithfully until their end, because they believed in a better future, because they believed in a better hope, because they believed God was not done with this world. After naming names in Hebrews 11, the preacher calls us to action. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” At that point the preacher in Hebrews then names the name that matters most. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning it’s shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1,2)

There it is. Jesus did not resign. Jesus did not desist. Jesus rowed until the end, until the very end. Because Jesus did not resign, it is Jesus who now reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Anyway, it is Monday, June 1st. This is day 80 in our daily devotional. And here on Monday, June 1st, the message is pretty clear. Get back to the galley. Grab an oar. And keep rowing. Keep rowing until the end.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 79

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 79, May 31, 2020
“One Father”

Like wildfire the Coronavirus has spread to cover almost the whole world. Added to the flames of the virus we are witnessing once again the fires of racism and lingering injustices for the African American community. This has been complicated by the fires burning from riots in many of our major cities. Now on the Day of Pentecost we have yet another fiery image. Pentecost marks the day the Holy Spirit descended on the early church with what seemed to be “Tongues of fire.”

I do not know how to measure the impact of Pentecost on the fires of the Coronavirus, but the bible is clear about how Pentecost impacts the fires of racism. Immediately the fires of Pentecost brought unity through that strange gift of tongues. People of different languages were able to understand one another. The Holy Spirit brought unity to a great throng of people who had come together from far off places. The flames of Pentecost spread and soon hostilities among Jews and Samaritans were overcome, a shared bond was formed between a Jewish man and an African from Ethiopia, and Peter sat down to eat in the home of a Gentile.

Walter Brueggemann identifies the central vision of the bible in these words, “That all of creation is one, every creature in community with every other, living in harmony and security toward the joy and well-being of every other creature.” (Living Toward a Vision: Biblical Reflections on Shalom, p. 15) The flames that fall on that first day of Pentecost are designed to reach unto the very ends of the earth.

The flames of Pentecost are good flames. The flames of Pentecost represent the fire of the Holy Spirit, the presence of God made real in human lives. Because God’s love is for the whole world, God’s desire is that his Spirit would live in all people, people of every color and people from every continent. Ephesians chapter two proclaims the liberating news that dividing walls of hostility between races have been torn down. The important exhortation that follows calls on the church to take this liberating news and live into a new reality. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:3-6)

The fire of Pentecost is meant to burn brightly in our hearts. The fire of Pentecost is the Holy Spirit. Romans 8 begins on the hopeful note that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8 ends with the powerful promise that there is nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God that in Christ Jesus our Lord. Right in the middle of that very same chapter we are told that through the Holy Spirit we receive adoption as children of God. “…by (the Holy Spirit) we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15, 16) Through the Holy Spirit we are all adopted as children of God. As children of God we all have One Father.

Friends of ours from years back have a marriage that mirrors the kingdom of heaven. The family is wonderfully diverse. The husband is Hispanic. The wife is Anglo. Together they have a daughter and through adoption their family is now a beautiful rainbow that includes African American and Chinese. Unfortunately, the wife has said that sometimes when she takes her kids shopping, she will be approached by people who with a look of judgment in their eyes ask, “How many fathers do your kids have?” She said those comments hurt. She said, “Prejudice is just a really hard thing.”

Prejudice is a really hard thing. The fires of prejudice continue to burn. But there is another fire, and that is the fire of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit who brings unity, the Holy Spirit who gives all of God’s children the Spirit of adoption. It breaks my heart to know our friend has suffered the pain of being asked that hurtful and judgmental question, “How many fathers do your kids have?” But it gives me hope to know that with a fire in her eyes she is able to answer that hurtful question with these words of faith, “They have one father.” What she means is, “They have One Father.” We have One Father. That One Father has adopted us. Together, as brothers and sisters, we are all God’s children. As a song that has meant so much to so many says, “We are one in the Spirit.”

I pray for the fires that are burning today. I pray that the fire of Pentecost would burn brightest of all. I pray that through the Holy Spirit, and through people filled with the Holy Spirit, God would do a powerful work to bring justice, healing, reconciliation, and unity to our world.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 78

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 78, May 30, 2020
“When”

Kipling’s timeless poem begins with the word “If.” Both the widespread fame as well as the enduring impact stand as testament that Kipling made the right choice with that simple two letter title to his epic poem. Me, I might have muddled things up and called the poem, “When.”

Each stanza in Kipling’s classic presents a “when,” a life situation that requires a response. “If” you can do this “when” such and such a circumstance comes your way, “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it…”

Without using the same exact words, Jesus concludes The Sermon on the Mount with a similar “If” and “When” proposition. In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus says in essence, “If you hear my words and put them into practice, you will be like the wise person who builds their house on a solid rock. When the rain comes down, when the streams rise, and when the winds blow and beat against that house, it will not fall, because it has its foundation on the rock.”

With the words “If” and “When” before us today, we must note that the storms of life are not an “If” according to Jesus. The storms are a “When.” The storms will come. In a life that has not even filled sixty years (yet), my time on this earth has seen the assassinations of JFK, MLK, and RFK. There have been wars in such places as Viet Nam, the Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Earthquakes have hit all corners of the earth, as have tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, drought, famine, and pestilence. There have been nuclear meltdowns with the accompanying nuclear waste. Our personal lives are not exempt from the storms. We live in a world filled with diagnoses of cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s…announcements of divorce, trust that is broken, relationships that are shattered, loved ones who die, and dreams that are crushed. And then along comes something like the Coronavirus. The storms of life are “When”, not “If”.

Knowing full well that the storms will come, Jesus boldly says, “If you hear my words and put them into practice, you will be building your life on a rock, and that rock will hold you up. That rock will support and sustain you through all the storms of life.” I believe that. I believe in Jesus. I know that you believe in Jesus.

Beginning Monday, June 8th, you are invited to begin a daily reading program through the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew is the Gospel that has the little parable about building your life on the Rock of Jesus Christ. For eight weeks, beginning June 8th and finishing on July 31st, we will read a portion of a chapter or a whole chapter from Matthew’s Gospel. Luba is putting the finishing touches on a booklet that we will make available to anyone who wants to participate in this spiritual journey. The daily readings will take between five and ten minutes, but I hope you will linger with the particular passage, reflecting on what God’s Word means in your life, reflecting on how God might be speaking to you. We are in the middle of a storm. The storm has rocked our world. The storm has rocked our nation. The storm has rocked our church. And the storm has rocked each and every one of our lives. Where can we find strength and shelter during this storm? We find our strength and our shelter in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is our Rock.

As we prepare to take one more step on a spiritual journey that draws us closer and closer to our Rock, to our Lord Jesus Christ, may these words from a well-known hymn encourage us to stay strong, to stay faithful, to stay committed, and most importantly, to stay close to Jesus.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness

I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand. (My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less, Edward Mote)

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 77

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 77, May 29, 2020
“Addie’s Envelopes”

A woman has lost something of great value to her. A coin has been lost. She lights a lamp. She sweeps the house. She searches carefully. She searches until she finds it. And when she finds it? She calls her friends of course, and her neighbors. She gathers them all together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.” (Luke 15:8,9)

Right before the virus hit and everything shut down, I found my own “Lost coin.” The woman in the parable had to search through her whole house to find her lost coin. I only had to open the top drawer of my desk. Unfortunately, I might have had the more difficult task. Buried inside my top drawer is a collection of rare artifacts that could supply a couple of museums with floors and floors of rare artifacts…pens from the many companies promoting their business, vintage paper clips of every color and size, business cards from salespeople who came by to tell us about the latest hardware, software, church growth information and social media innovation. Various sermon notes are stuffed in. The remains of candy bars I somehow didn’t finish…now that really amazes me, I can’t believe I ever left any remains from a candy bar. The Classics IV would be glad to know I have many faded photographs. And there is more…much more. To those who adhere to the mantra that cleanliness is next to godliness, you do not want to look inside the top drawer of my desk.

So one day right before the virus shut everything down, I was rummaging through the top drawer of my desk when to my great surprise I found my “Lost coin.” The lost coin was actually a one-dollar bill. The one-dollar bill was safely tucked inside an envelope. The one-dollar bill was safely tucked inside a church offering envelope.

One of my most cherished moments during worship is when the kids come forward and I get to spend a few minutes talking with them about God. Every one of the children God has given us to shepherd and care for holds a special place in our hearts. Having a chance to tell them a story, ask some questions, try to figure out how God is working in our lives, those moments are priceless. When Addie is with us, I know there will be an added blessing. Addie always brings me an offering envelope. Written on the envelope is a brief message, and I don’t mind telling you how happy it makes me to read her messages, like the one that said, “I love it when you smile.” With the offering envelope and with the little note, there is always a one-dollar bill.

From the first day Addie gave me an envelope with a dollar in it, I have been placing the envelopes in the top drawer of my desk, saving all the envelopes for a day when we might use her offerings for a very special purpose. I didn’t know what that special purpose would be, and as five years have passed the envelopes have accumulated in the top drawer of my desk.

One day, right before the virus shut everything down, I had been upstairs in our Fellowship Hall, looking at a wall of envelopes. Our youth group and a committed core of adults are planning a mission trip to Ghana. (Note: Due to the Coronavirus the trip is now planned for the summer of 2021) Someone brought forward a brilliant idea for a fundraiser. The fundraiser involves envelopes, 200 envelopes to be precise. The two hundred envelopes have a dollar figure starting with $1 and going all the way to $200. Members and friends of the church take an envelope, and whatever dollar figure is on the envelope, they put that amount in and return the envelope. As the envelopes are taken down, a new envelope goes up. The new envelope is red, and it simply says, “THANK YOU.” I am happy to say there are more than 100 red envelopes saying “THANK YOU” on our wall now.

On that day right before the virus shut everything down, I had been up in Fellowship Hall looking at the wall of envelopes, a wall that was quickly becoming a sea of red, and I was just feeling very blessed to be part of a church that supports young people in their desire to serve the Lord. I went back downstairs to my office and for some reason I have now forgotten, I opened my top drawer. And there was one of the envelopes from Addie. At that moment, I realized the Ghana Trip Envelope Fundraiser was just the right project to support with all of Addie’s one-dollar bills, which also happened to be in envelopes. Well, now the search was on. I pulled everything out of my top drawer, and when all was said and done, I found more than 50 envelopes from Addie. Just like the woman in the bible who found her “Lost coin” there was lots of hootin’ and hollerin’. I was genuinely joyful. And God is so good. I also found an assortment of other bills, not only one-dollar bills but fives and tens and even a few twenties. All told, Addie and the additions added up to more than one hundred dollars.

I was so happy to write about this wonderful blessing. I was working on a newsletter article to let our whole church know. Then the virus hit. Everything shut down. Now figures like trillions of dollars were put before us. In the crush of the virus, I forgot about Addie’s Envelopes. Until last week. I found Addie’s Envelopes again. This time they were sitting next to my desk and it was much easier to find them. Would it surprise you to know that finding her envelopes a second time was just as much a cause of joyful celebration as the first. Maybe even more so.

The virus has done a lot to take the wind out of our sails. When everything shut down there was not much we could do. We felt helpless. Maybe we began to feel hopeless. The challenges before us as a nation and as a world are monumental. Trillions of dollars…that is a lot of zeroes representing a lot of debt and a whole lot of people who are going to struggle to pay rent and buy food and get some clothes for their kids when school starts back up.

Addie’s Envelopes are helping me to remember we cannot do everything, but we can do some things. Yesterday I went back in Fellowship Hall. I saw the wall of envelopes. I found an envelope that just about matches the amount of money we have from Addie’s Envelopes and the various additions. Today I am putting $139 dollars from Addie and her additions in an envelope and I’m dropping it off at church.

Some of our math minded members quickly figured out that if all 200 envelopes numbered from $1.00 to $200.00 were taken and turned back in, this envelope fundraiser would generate $20,100. Wow. That is a whole lot of money. Because of Addie’s Envelopes, I am going to use that wall of envelopes to remember that the way you raise $20,100 is with 200 envelopes…and one of those envelopes for $139 has been filled up with all the dollars one sweet little girl has given over five years, plus the additions of other generous friends. Addie’s Envelopes, envelopes holding one dollar each, will be part of something so much bigger than one single dollar. We have a long journey ahead of us as we recover from the Coronavirus Crisis. Addie’s Envelopes serve to remind us a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 76

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 76, May 28, 2020
“For whom the bell tolls”

During another time of a sweeping sickness, three waves of a great plague swept through London, taking the lives of one third of the population. It was a devastating pandemic. Suffering with all of the symptoms of that deadly disease, John Donne, Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London’s largest church, was quarantined. He lived in isolation as he battled the illness. Every time there was a death in London, the bells of the churches would ring.

In his isolation, in the midst of desolation, seeking to find consolation, John Donne was able to wrestle with his faith until he came to realize that even in death there was the comfort of knowing that all humanity is connected together, related in a mysterious and marvelous way. That came to mind when he heard the tolling of the bell.

Today we face the reality that 100,000 of our fellow citizens in the United States of America have died from the Coronavirus. May these deaths not be forgotten. May these deaths, each and every one of these deaths, serve to remind us that we are all related to one another, that none of us lives to ourselves alone. If we live, we live unto the Lord. And if we live unto the Lord, we live unto one another, for in our Lord Jesus Christ we are one Body. In this one Body, we weep with those who weep.

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

“No man is an Island, entire of itself;

Every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the Sea, Europe is the less,

As well as if a Promontory were, as well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine own were;

Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind;

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls…

It tolls for thee.” John Donne (1573-1761)

Prayer: O Lord, we grieve the loss of life. Please comfort the families of all who mourn. May your peace that passes all understanding guard the hearts and minds of all who have suffered loss. In Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Note: Philip Yancey has an excellent chapter about John Donne in his book “Soul Survivor”.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 75

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 75, May 27, 2020
“Joining hands”

Somewhere in my childhood memories is a picture of two hands clasped together. One hand was black. One hand was white. No words accompanied the picture. Just two hands clasped together. One hand was black. One hand was white.

Although I do not remember exactly where that picture was displayed, my own memory places it hung on a wall or displayed on a shelf in the home we grew up in. If my memory is faulty, which it may well be, and the picture was not in our home growing up, it should have been.

In the summer of 1966 two men met at a YMCA camp. One man was black. One man was white. They developed a friendship that transformed their lives. It also transformed the lives of their children. Interestingly enough the black man was named Mr. Green. His name was Preston Green and he and his family had moved from the deep south, from Louisiana, to a small town in Central California. The white man was named Carl Eberly. Carl Eberly was my dad.

Mr. Green and Mr. Eberly met working as volunteers at a YMCA camp in the summer of 1966. When the pages of the calendar turned to November my dad called up Mr. Green and invited his family to come join the Eberly family for a Thanksgiving meal. Remember, the year was 1966. Remember, racial tensions were high all across our nation. Remember, there were dividing walls of hostility. There was a highway running smack dab through the center of our town. Many of the black families lived on one side and many of the white families lived on the other side of that highway. But that Thanksgiving of 1966 Mr. Preston Green and his family got in their car, crossed that highway, drove down Fitzgerald Lane, and joined our family for a Thanksgiving dinner.

When Thanksgiving rolled around the next year, Mr. Green called and invited the Eberlys to share the Holiday Meal. On Thanksgiving Day of 1967, we crossed that same highway, drove into the Home Garden neighborhood and had Thanksgiving with the Greens. Every year after we would alternate between homes, the Eberlys and the Greens, always sharing Thanksgiving together.

A highlight of the meal was when Mr. Green would make his annual speech. The turkey had been whittled down to just a few bones, the piles of mashed potatoes had been consumed, we had feasted on Mrs. Green’s famous coca-cola jello salad, and so much pumpkin pie had been stuffed in our guts that we were about to explode. It was then that Mr. Green would push back his chair and begin. It was always the same. Speaking to my father, he would say, “Well, Carl, I guess it was back in 1966 that the Eberlys first had the Greens over for Thanksgiving dinner. And every year we have been sharing this fine meal together.” It was so predictable that when my brother and I got to be teenagers, we would have fun and mimic Mr. Green. When he would lean back, so would we. When he would say his speech, our lips would silently mouth the words with him in perfect unison, “Well, Carl, I guess it was back in 1966….”

I will never forget the first Thanksgiving after our oldest son was born. It was 1985. We drove down from Sacramento for Thanksgiving dinner. The Greens were there. We threw the football, we visited, we admired the babies. Then we sat down to eat. We whittled the turkey down to just a few bones. We consumed mounds of mashed potatoes. Mrs. Green’s coca-cola salad was as good as ever. And even though our bellies were full we kept stuffing our faces with pumpkin pie. And then right on cue, at the climactic moment, Mr. Green leaned back in his chair. I knew what was coming. It was so predictable. It was like clockwork. Mr. Green leaned back in his chair…but now I did not lean back and mimic him. Instead I watched with a strange wonder and awe, a profound sense of humility and gratitude. That year when Mr. Green said, “Well, Carl, I guess it was back in1966 that the Eberlys first had the Greens over for Thanksgiving dinner,” I did not joke around at all. Instead I looked at Mr. Green and then I looked at my dad. Without ever making a big deal about it, these two men had helped me to accept people whose skin was a different color than mine. Then I looked at my son, just a baby boy, not even one year old. I said to myself, “I hope that when my son grows up, he will look at me and be able to say ‘my dad taught me how to love and respect people of all races and religions, of all color and creed.’”

In 1966 two men clasped hands. One hand was black. One hand was white. Did they simply clasp hands in friendship, choosing not to let something like the color of their skin come between what proved to be a rich and wonderful relationship that spanned the years? Or did they intend something more, two men of different color purposely choosing to reach out across a racial divide because they believed the world is a better place when people are judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin, because they believed that if God’s final intention is that the wolf will lay down with the lamb, then certainly two human beings, both created in the image of God, can join hands even though the color of those hands is dramatically different.

That was back in 1966. If Mr. Green were still alive right now, in the year 2020, I wonder if he might lean back in his chair and say a slightly different Thanksgiving speech. “Well Carl, it was back in 1966 that the Eberlys first had the Greens over for Thanksgiving dinner…and Carl, there is still work to be done.” I’m sure if Mr. Green and Mr. Eberly were watching the nightly news right now, along with concern for the Coronavirus, they would be deeply concerned and deeply disturbed by the horrible images that tell us race still divides.

Somewhere in my childhood memories is a picture that had two hands clasped together. One hand was black. One hand was white. No words accompanied the picture. Just two hands clasped together. One hand was black. One hand was white. Mr. Green and my dad are no longer with us. Now it is our turn. Now it is my turn. My hand is white. My hand is reaching out. No matter the color of your skin, my hand is reaching out. Two men of different color clasped hands fifty years ago and what they did directly impacted the world in which they lived and the families they raised. Coming out of our time of isolation, what an important chance we are being given. If we join hands now, maybe in another fifty years we will be one step closer to a world where every life is valued and every person is treated with dignity and respect, because every person…because every single person is created in the image of God.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 74

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 74, May 26, 2020
“The mask is temporary”

We have been asked to wear masks when we are in public settings. While many have complied with this request, others struggle to accept the necessity of wearing a mask. One thing I keep in mind is that the masks are only temporary. Whether the wearing of masks lasts a few more weeks or months, perhaps even longer, my belief is that at some point we will no longer wear the masks. Just knowing the mask is temporary has helped me to strap mine on when my first inclination is to choose my personal comfort over the obvious inconvenience.

Knowing the mask is temporary has helped me because I have seen a mask that is not temporary. I have seen a mask that was permanent. The last year or so of my dad’s life, he wore a mask. He wore a mask that was permanent. Before the progressive disease he suffered from took his life, the disease took away his ability to smile. The disease caused what the doctors called, “Masking.” During his last days his face had no expression and no emotion. And then he died.

As our hearts were filled with the great sadness of losing someone we loved so dearly, something truly wonderful happened. My dad’s younger brothers traveled from Ohio to California for his memorial service. Their faces bore an uncanny resemblance to my dad when he was younger, when he could express emotion. At that moment I realized the mask that dad wore those final days of his life was not permanent after all. His mask was only temporary. I saw his younger brothers on the Friday night of Labor Day Weekend. The Memorial Service was the next day, a Saturday. At my dad’s memorial service, I stood up and shared these thoughts about his mask.

“As my dad got more and more sick, I would have dreams that were very difficult. In my dreams, my dad would be smiling. I would awake from these dreams with a sad ache in my heart. One of the first effects his illness had on him was called masking. His face lost the ability to express feelings, and so he could no longer smile. That might have been the most difficult thing to lose.

Take away the ability to walk. Take away the ability to talk. Take away the ability to eat, even the ability to go to the bathroom. That was all bad enough. But don’t take away his smile. Not that beaming smile that would light up at a good joke (or even a bad one), the smile that would ignite when he saw one of his grandchildren, the self-effacing smile that would recognize when he had goofed up or been had by one of our countless pranks. Give us the smile.

But the disease took the smile. And that hurt.

And then yesterday I saw my dad smile again. My dad’s death has brought together a wonderful group of family and friends, ones who have dropped their plans and come here at great cost and inconvenience. That means the world to us. Each one of you being here is a gift. But I don’t think I can describe what it meant when my dad walked into our backyard last night…twice. Two times last night my dad walked into our backyard. His brothers, his younger brothers, Uncle Roger and Uncle Herb flew in from Ohio. It was like seeing dad in his prime. Their faces were full of expression. They were telling jokes like dad. They both went through the food line like dad. And they both smiled. I was drinking a glass of wine, but with apologies to the Swinging Medallions, ‘It wasn’t wine I had too much of it was a double shot of my father’s love.’

I guess that pretty much expresses how I feel about my dad’s death. We miss him. But boy is it good to know the mask has been taken off. Our hope in the resurrection life of Jesus Christ, the promise that he will make all things new makes me believe the mask is gone. Like the book of Revelation tells us, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away…I am making everything new.” The mask is gone. The smile is back. Thanks be to God.”

Someday we will all take our mask off. By someday, I mean this Coronavirus Crisis will eventually come to an end. But the someday I am really thinking of is not a day that will happen here on this earth. The someday I am thinking of is a day when the mask we wear will be removed permanently. On that day we will see God face to face. It is inconvenient to wear a mask. It can also be uncomfortable. But it is only temporary. The mask is only temporary. Someday…someday…some great and glorious day, we will see our Savior face to face, and all that is temporary will fade away. Having that kind of hope in that kind of a God helps me deal with a lot of the temporary challenges we face in this life.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 73

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 73, May 25, 2020
“Memorial Day”

• The muffled drums with their steady beat sending a chill down your spine, causing you to lean in with reverential anticipation for the first words of the stirring hymn, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…”

• The sight of a flag with the stars and stripes rippling like waves in the wind.

• Flowers being laid at the tomb of one who served so faithfully.

• The awesome feeling that engulfs you during a flyover, jets cutting a crisp and clear path through the bright blue of the sky.

• A lone bugler signaling the end of a service that honors a veteran who is now laid to rest.

Memorial Day is a special day every year. In the early 80s our youth choir would sing on Memorial Day at a local cemetery. It was a very moving experience to sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic and O Beautiful for Spacious Skies, surrounded by flags, surrounded by flowers, surrounded by a crowd that came together to honor and remember loved ones, and surrounded by the humbling reality that these were, as the hymn captures so beautifully, “the heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life.”

On this Memorial Day, a Memorial Day celebrated in the midst of the Coronavirus Crisis, I am thinking of some of the lessons these brave heroes might teach us as we face our own battle.

• When the U.S. Army was fighting to defeat the Nazis a soldier’s parachute carried him off course. He landed behind enemy lines. Desperately seeking some sign from his comrades of their location, he searched the mountains behind him. At one moment a light shined, signaling where he could find his fellow troops. He would remember lifting his eyes to the hills, wondering where his help would come from…and he claimed Psalm 121 as his guiding verse for the more than 70 years he lived after that day in battle. “I lift my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord…

• On an LST in the Pacific, a young man stood on board his ship, watching as battles raged, as gunfire was exchanged, and as many ships went down and lives were lost. Searching for some way to calm himself he began singing the hymns he had learned as a child. He sang over the roar of the battle. He sang at the top of his lungs. He sang with all of his heart and with all of his soul. And he promised the Lord if he ever made it home, he would be at church every Sunday, and he would sing at the top of his lungs, every Sunday. I can verify he attended church every Sunday. I can also verify he sang at the top of his lungs…every Sunday. His son said it was a little embarrassing as a teenager to stand next to his dad blaring out all his favorite Fanny Crosby hymns. Years later, when his dad was widowed and had to come to worship alone, that son returned and stood by his father as his father kept right on singing at the top of his lungs. A promise made in the Pacific turned out to bring a lot of calm and peace as we all so dearly loved our good friend Addison.

• At a Veteran’s Cemetery I did a graveside service for a man who had served in the Navy. Along with his service to his country, something this man did upon his return from his military days stood out as being extremely important. War is brutal and it exacts a great toll from the ones who serve. Coping with what has been experienced in war is not easy. This man discovered he had allowed alcohol to become his coping mechanism. He joined AA and found a new beginning. For the rest of his life he not only attended AA, he sponsored a meeting at our church, and he sponsored countless individuals who faced their own battle with drinking.

• Then there is this faithful soldier who is buried in Arlington Cemetery. I have not served in our Armed Forces, but I have heard a phrase used many times. “Leave no man behind.” Soldiers look out for one another. Soldiers have each other’s back. Billy took that seriously. Billy came home from war and married his beautiful bride. They had a long and loving marriage. Then his wife got sick. She had a progressive illness. Billy had learned a valuable lesson in the military. That valuable lesson is one Billy had first learned through his faith in God. Billy loved the verse that is given twice at the end of Deuteronomy and once at the beginning of the Book of Joshua, and then repeated yet again in the New Testament letter of Hebrews. The verse expresses God’s undying commitment to us, to us who belong to God. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Billy had experienced that steadfast love of God, he had lived it out with his fellow soldiers, and now as his wife was slowly losing her battle with a progressive illness, Billy had above her bed, on a sticky note these words of Scripture, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He never did. Billy was right by his beloved wife’s side until the day she died, until she took her last breath, until she made it safely home. Muffled drums…waving flags…flowers at a graveside…soaring jets…and a lone bugler playing taps. Memorial Day is an important day. We have so many who have modeled how to serve honorably in times of battle. May their lessons not be lost on us as we engage in our own battle with the Coronavirus.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 72

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 72, May 24, 2020
“Power”

Power. Power is present at some of the key moments in the biblical story. The presence of power can signal the beginning of a time of great despair, as with the ominous introduction to the Book of Exodus, “A new king came to power…”. (Exodus 1:8) That new king, that new Pharaoh, did not know about Joseph, about all the wonders and works God had done to bring Joseph and his family safely to Egypt. That new Pharaoh used his power to treat the people of Israel ruthlessly, forcing them into difficult and demeaning labor, enslaving them, and making their life bitter. Pharaoh’s use of power was cruel and inhumane. In the great song of celebration that marks the deliverance of the Israelites from their slavery the people give praise to the God whose power set them free.

Samson’s life is almost a case study in how not to use power. This bold and brash young man has great physical power, but his use of it often seems frivolous. Samson uses his power to tear apart a lion with his own hands. Samson makes good on a debt incurred because of his boasting and bragging by using his power to crush 30 men from Ashkelon. Samson uses his power to break the ropes Delilah used to tie him up. But when Samson foolishly reveals to Delilah that his long hair is the secret to his power, that long head of hair is cut off, and so is his power.

The gospels begin with a testimony about power. As crowds flock to John the Baptist, crowds eagerly awaiting a messiah, John the Baptist says, “One is coming after me who is more powerful than I. I am not worthy even to untie his sandals.” That coming one is Jesus. Jesus has amazing power, power to heal, power to make whole, power to walk on water, power to calm storms, power to turn water to wine, and power to feed multitudes. But whereas Samson’s use of power seemed frivolous, the way Jesus used power was very focused. Jesus used his power to glorify God. Jesus resisted the one who tempted him to use his power for personal gain. Jesus did not use his power to gain life, Jesus used his power to lay down his life.

John 13 begins by telling us Jesus knew the time had come for him to leave this world. His death was fast approaching. Jesus knew his death was fast approaching. Although his death was fast approaching, John 13 also tells us, “Jesus knew the Father had put all things under his power…” (John 13:3) What did Pharaoh do with his power…he oppressed and made life bitter. What did Samson do with his power…he squandered it on flashy displays that bolstered his ego. What did Jesus do with his power? In John 13 Jesus took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:4,5)

We do well to think carefully about power, and the use of power. On this Sunday before Pentecost, Jesus promises the disciples they will receive power. And sure enough, the disciples receive power. The reception of power is what the Day of Pentecost is all about. On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descends on the disciples, filling them with power. The power we receive is not a power to oppress others. The power we receive is not a power to make life bitter for others. The power we receive is not a power to be used frivolously and it is certainly not a power to be used to bolster our ego.

The power we are given is the power to be witnesses for Jesus Christ, the same Jesus Christ who wrapped a towel around his waist and washed feet, the same Jesus who said if you want to be great in the kingdom, learn to be the servant of all, the same Jesus who, “Did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-11)

• Jesus, who had all power, lived a life marked by humility

• Jesus, who had all power, became a servant

• Jesus, who had all power, became obedient to death.

• Jesus, who had all power, laid down his life for the world

• Jesus, who had all power, laid down his life for us

These are good things to remember all the time. These are good things to remember on a Sunday when Jesus tells his disciples, “You will receive power…” And it seems to me these are good things to remember as we struggle to figure out how to make our way through this Coronavirus Crisis. We are not left alone to muddle our way through this crisis. We have power. We have power that is from God. We have the power of the Holy Spirit. What a unique opportunity to be witnesses for Jesus Christ, witnesses who have received power, and witnesses who constantly seek to be faithful to the one who humbled himself and gave his life for others. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 71

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 71, May 23, 2020
“An Ocean Devotion”

Memorial Day weekend is a big deal in a beach community. The crowds descend for that first taste of summer, sticking their toes in the sand, basking in the sun, chasing the waves, that tentative testing of the water’s temperature, and long walks by the crashing surf. For those who are able to make their way to the water this weekend I hope you will take time to notice some of the fun signs people have put on their houses, the names on beach cottages that signify a treasured memory or capture the hopes and dreams of long and lazy days by the water.

Some names focus on the feeling of relief upon finally arriving after a long trip…names like At Last or About Time

There is a Sunset Hill…a Toad Hill…a Treasure Hill…a Beach Rose and a Lily Pad

One home has a clever play on words…D’aige A View

A stunning home that sits on the hills above the Atlantic is named Tide Point…which afforded the family a chance to celebrate the marriage of their daughter when the home was renamed Bride Point for the wedding weekend. That was nice.

One home has a clever play on words…D’aige A View

The awesome power of the ocean bursts through names like Spellbound…Crash Pad…and Saltbox by the Sea.

One lucky Rhode Islander was able to secure a great name for a beach house in the Ocean State…Rhode House.

Then there is one with a name that is a clever play on words…D’aige A View…hmmm, somehow, I have a feeling we’ve been here before

This past Sunday we took a long walk down Atlantic Avenue. As we looked at the many houses facing the water, we took time to note their names. We wondered how they decided on the particular name they chose. Then we saw one that had the most wonderful name. It is a name that fits perfectly with, “An Ocean Devotion”, which is the title of my little devotional this Saturday morning of Memorial Day Weekend. The home is named Devocean. I love it. I wish I had thought of that, but at the same time I am glad somebody thought of that…Devocean.

How many of us have had a Devoceanal experience when we come to the beach? I see cars every morning parked at Spray Rock, mesmerized by the crash of the waves and the namesake spray of the ocean waters. Some scamper down to the tidepools in search of crabs or other marine life, wrapped up in the wonders of that fascinating world Under the Sea. And people walk on the beach…families walk together…couples walk hand in hand…young and old…in swimsuits or bundled up in sweatshirts…the sand in a beach town is covered in the footprints of people who come to the waters for a devoceanal experience. And it never disappoints. The ocean never disappoints.

When I saw that house named Devocean, my mind went instantly to my favorite Beach Devotion…to a devotion that has become part and parcel with my faith in God. I am not alone in my love for this particular Devoceanal. Through my forty years in pastoral ministry I have heard time and time again how this one particular Beach Devoceanal has provided just the right message at just the right time to help countless people keep going on their journey of faith.

This beautiful Beach Devoceanal concerns a walk on the beach, but it is not a family walk…and it is not the walk of a couple, whether they be in the first stages of romantic love or whether they be ones who have experienced a love that has lasted through the years. No, the walk is not the walk of families, of friends, or lovers. The walk is a walk shared by two people, but for all the watching world it looks like just a single, solitary individual making the journey. The only way we know two people are making the journey down the sandy beach is to look at the sand…in the sand there are two sets of footprints.

By now I am guessing you know exactly which Beach Devoceanal is my favorite. I do not apologize for sharing this Devoceanal, even though it has been shared over and over and over again. I share it with you today because I remember a day when I was a teenager. Someone read to me a poem about footprints. I was at a point in my life when I was feeling so lost. I was at a point in my life when the depths of my discouragement seemed to have no bottom. I was at a point in my life when I was feeling helpless and hopeless. I was at a point in my life when I was feeling alone. And this one particular Beach Devoceanal spoke to me in a way that lifted my spirit, warmed my heart, filled the emptiness with a sense of hope, and gave me just the word of encouragement to keep going…to take another step…to make another footprint in the sand. This Beach Devoceanal helped me to realize I was not alone. I hope this Beach Devoceanal will be as helpful to you as it has been to me.

FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. He noticed two sets of footprints in the sand. When the last scene of his life flashed before him he noticed that many times there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it was at the very lowest times in his life. He questioned the LORD about it. “LORD, you said that once I decided to follow you you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that at the lowest times of my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.” The LORD replied, “My precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 70

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 70, May 22, 2020
“For our teachers”

2020 Graduation signs are posted in front yards in our small town and I am pretty certain they are in front yards all over our nation. I am pleased to know people are making every effort to honor our graduates. On this Friday of Memorial Day Weekend, a day when our thoughts turn to the end of the school year and the beginning of summer, I ask you to join me in a moment of remembrance for the ones who have taught our graduates. I ask you to join me in a moment of remembrance for our teachers.

One of the great losses in this whole pandemic has been the opportunity for teachers to have a fitting farewell with their students. As I share with you the final words one teacher had with her class, may we all take a moment to remember the sacrifices our teachers make as they buy supplies with their own checkbook, arrive early, stay late, work deep into the night, struggle with the students who struggle, rejoice with the students who succeed, and most importantly care for each of their students like a shepherd cares for their flock.

The following farewell is from Jonathan Kozol’s book Ordinary Resurrections. “Saying goodbye to children in the final days of school is hard for teachers everywhere. They’re all your children now and you don’t usually like to let them go.” Miss Frances Dukes is a second-grade teacher in P.S. 30 in the south Bronx of New York City. “Miss Dukes is a strict and loving teacher with good old-fashioned tenderness, and that last day of school is filled with rituals that many of us remember from our own best days in public schools.”

It is a day when things are a little more relaxed, but Miss Dukes still maintains structure. Miss Frances Dukes still keeps instructing. When Tabitha reads a story about the boy who cried wolf, Miss Dukes praises her for her progress. Although Tabitha mispronounces “woof”, she receives profuse praise. Miss Dukes relates how Tabitha couldn’t understand a single word in the fall, but through hard work and lots of tutoring from Miss Dukes, Tabitha now reads well.

The day is filled with final instructions. This is the last shot for Miss Dukes. She says, “I want the boys here to remember this: When we come into the world our mother cares for us. But when our mother is very old and she is getting ready to depart the world we have to care for her. So I want every boy here to grow up into a good strong grown-up man, so you will always be there for your mother.” Then she adds, “Don’t ever miss an opportunity to tell your mother that you love her.”

The class celebrates birthdays. Elio has turned nine. He has a brand-new tennis racquet on his desk, a present from another teacher. Miss Dukes holds it up and she asks Elio, “Did you know that I play tennis too?”

“You do?” he says.

“I do!”

The idea of their teacher playing tennis seems surprising to the children. She’s such a dignified lady that it’s hard to picture her in shorts and jersey running back and forth across a court chasing a ball. She then surprises the kids by telling them she also likes to rollerblade. The children treat this like a scandalous confession.

In the afternoon a group of girls who have just graduated from the fifth grade come to tell Miss Dukes goodbye. Next year they will be in middle school, but they make a point of seeing Miss Dukes before they go.

It is two-fifteen in the second-grade classroom. All the kids are now in their chairs. Now Miss Dukes begins a very tender speech. “This year we had 29 children in our class, and I think that everybody knows that was too many. Next year, I’m afraid you may have even more…so you need to respect your teacher, and each other, and be good in every way, and if you are, if you’re polite, you’ll save your teacher’s voice—because you know how many troubles I had with my throat this year.

“I’d like to see some of you children go to college and work hard so you can study to be teachers. So all of the mistakes your teachers made when you were growing up, you can be sure you’ll never make. So you can be much better teachers to your students than I was to you.

“And this summer, above all, children, please be safe! And never talk to strangers who approach you in the street. And, every night, please put a book beneath your pillow.

“And be good to your mothers. And listen to your mothers. And be respectful to your mothers. And those of you who will be going to your grandma’s for the summer, please don’t let her give you too much candy.

“All right then…”

“Goodbye, Miss Dukes!”

“Goodbye, children.”

All right then…,” she says again.

“Goodbye!”

“Goodbye!”

“All right then…,” the teacher says, “I love you.” (Jonathan Kozol, Ordinary Resurrections, 307-313)

The Coronavirus has taken so much from so many, but one of the losses we must not forget is that our teachers did not have that last day to say their tender farewells. That’s a huge loss. I have tears in my eyes as this beautiful image of Miss Frances Dukes morphs into the teachers who touched my life. Remembering my teachers, Miss Dukes becomes Mrs. Jones, a fourth-grade teacher who holds a very special place in my heart. Now Miss Dukes becomes Butch Cardoza, a teacher and a coach who believed in me. Now Miss Dukes becomes the whole math and science department at Hanford High School, a dedicated team that sparked a love for learning that has been carried on in countless lives, including many who followed in their footsteps and became teachers themselves.

Now Miss Dukes becomes the ones who teach in the Spring of 2020, the ones whose school year was interrupted in an unimaginable way, the ones who said goodbye one day not realizing they would not see their students again that whole year, the ones who will not have the privilege and the honor of standing before their students on the last day of class in 2020 and saying, “All right then…all right then…all right then…goodbye children…all right then…I love you.” I know I am not alone in having an undying respect and appreciation for the ones who are called to teach. If you share that respect and appreciation, would you stop for just a moment and give a prayer of thanks for the teachers you know. What teachers do matters. What teachers do makes a difference. What teachers do honors Jesus Christ, who one day stopped everything he was doing to open his arms in welcome, saying, “Let the little children come to me, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 69

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 69, May 21, 2020
“Our Summer in Holland”

I was sitting at a restaurant with a woman who has raised two children. Her two children have special needs. This woman and her husband are very close to me. She and her husband have done an amazing job with their two children. The children are doing remarkably well. Both children have graduated from college. Nevertheless, you can imagine her journey has been one of many challenges. Because I have not been on that journey, her experience is one I will never truly understand. But that day in the restaurant the woman shared a story that helped me understand at least some of what she and others experience as they raise children with special needs. It is a story by a woman who raised a son who was born with Down syndrome. The story, written by Emily Perl Kingsley is titled, “Welcome to Holland.”

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.” “Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you never would have met. It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…and you begin to notice Holland has windmills…and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy…and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away…because the loss of that dream is a very, very significant loss.

But…if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to go to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things…about Holland.

With tears in her eyes my friend told that story about Holland. Life didn’t go like she planned. But what I heard her saying, and it is a powerful statement of faith, is that Holland was full of lovely things. Did you have plans for the summer of 2020? Some were preparing for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. An excited group of youth and adults were all set for a life-changing mission experience in Ghana. Graduations were planned. Plane tickets were purchased. Dates were circled for family reunions. Children and teens eagerly anticipated vacations in the mountains, the beaches, amusement parks and National Parks. That was our Italy. We were chomping at the bit to land in Italy and live our dream. Now we know that because of the Coronavirus we are going to spend the summer in Holland. Just like we spent the spring in Holland. Holland might be home for us come the fall. And maybe longer. Probably longer as we learn to live with a new reality.

Here we are in Holland. It would not surprise me to see many, if not all of us with tears in our eyes as we realize our plane has landed in Holland. When I get tears in my eyes, I’m going to try to remember the tears in the eyes of my dear friend, who had been expecting Italy and has now spent some 25 years in Holland raising her children who have special needs. The tears in her eyes were real tears. Obviously, the tears represented sadness and loss. But there was more to her tears than sadness and loss. She has learned that Holland, though not her expected destination, has proven to be filled with some beautiful and lovely treasures, some beautiful and lovely relationships, and some beautiful and lovely experiences.

Welcome to Holland.

· When we mourn because we are in Holland, know that Jesus came to comfort those who mourn.

· When we grieve because we are in Holland, know that Jesus came to provide for those who grieve.

· When we feel like we are sitting in a pile of ashes that represent our burned-out dreams, know that Jesus came to bestow on us a crown of beauty instead of ashes. (Isaiah 61:3) Welcome to Holland. Jesus says, “Welcome to Holland.” Hold fast to Jesus friends. With Jesus as our guide and with Jesus as our friend, I do believe this summer in Holland can be a summer filled with wonder and awe, discoveries of beauty and times of joy, and many, many, many experiences of God’s steadfast love.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 68

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 68, May 20, 2020
“I was glad”

Church has been such a good place for me. My experiences of church and my memories of church are ones that are filled with gladness. I do not know how many times I have stood to welcome you all to worship and the first thing out of my mouth are the words of the psalmist, “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go unto the house of the Lord.’” (Psalm 122:1)

I am glad for the humor we have in church. Without church we would not have about 90% of the jokes ever written. A common thread tying many a good church joke together has to do with people falling asleep during worship…or more specifically, during the pastor’s sermon. Julie’s dad was especially fond of the one about the preacher who was notorious for preaching long sermons. The choir loft in that particular church was directly behind the pastor.

• One Sunday morning it seemed the sermon would never end as the preacher droned on and on. Finally, someone in the choir picked up a hymnal and fired it at the preacher, hoping to knock him out and bring the sermon to a merciful end. Unfortunately, the choir member’s aim was off. The hymnal missed the preacher and hit a woman in the first pew. The hymnal smacked her right in the center of her forehead. She fell to the ground. As her husband knelt over her, he asked with great concern, “Darling, are you alright?” She moaned in a low voice, a voice that was barely audible, “No, I can still hear the preacher.”

For some reason Julie’s dad loved that joke. I never quite understood why, until I led a group of church members on a trip to Italy. Much of our time was spent traveling by bus. As the bus rolled along through the beautiful countryside, especially on afternoons that followed a bountiful lunch comprised of the most amazing food you could imagine, I would often find myself growing drowsy, and eventually falling asleep. It happened often enough that my napping on the bus made an impression on our tour guide. At one point as she was speaking to us on the bus she said, “I have never seen anyone fall asleep so quickly as your pastor.” To which my good friend Mark boomed from the back of the bus, “You should see us when he preaches.”

Ah, church humor. Honestly, I am glad for good church humor. It is such a blessing to laugh together.

I am glad for the humor we have in church and I am glad for the unexpected interruptions we have in church. Church is normally meant to be a place of welcome, but one Sunday church had an unwelcome visitor. A wasp wandered into worship. That wasp must have felt very safe entering a Presbyterian Church…after all, Presbyterians are known for being the Frozen Chosen. What harm could become a wasp in a Presbyterian Church? That wasp found out what harm awaited as on his way toward an alert member his path of flight was interrupted by a swat of the hand sending that poor wasp whirling to the other side of the church where even more trouble lurked. On that other side of the church a member was waiting with his bulletin. Employing the bulletin in a way never imagined by the worship committee, that wasp met his fate as he was squashed and sealed inside the pages of the bulletin. Proud of his triumph that church member lifted the bulletin high in the air as the congregation broke out in cheers and loud applause.

I am glad for humor and unexpected interruptions and…for those beautiful times when a person finds their place in the community of faith. I was talking with a guy a few years ago who said he grew up in a home where neither one of his parents believed in God. When he was ten years-old he said something in his heart was yearning to learn about God. His parents were not going to take him to church, so he got on his bicycle and rode around in search of a church. The first church he found was a Presbyterian Church. Unlike the wasp in our previous story, the people of that church welcomed the little ten-year-old boy and his bicycle. That church told him about Jesus Christ. The man said he was looking for Christ and he found him. I thought he meant he found Christ. He clarified that when he said, “Christ found me.” Christ found a ten-year-old boy in a church that had the wisdom to welcome that little boy and his bicycle.

I’m glad about a lot of things when it comes to church. I’m glad church has humor. I’m glad for unexpected surprises. But most of all I’m glad because of Christ, who has this amazing way of finding us. I’m glad for the Christ who finds us, who welcomes us, who forgives us, who cleanses us, who fills us, and who wraps us in his arms of love. No wonder that time and time again, as we gather to worship our awesome and amazing God we begin with these words, “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go unto the house of the Lord.’”

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 67

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 67, May 19, 2020
“Every day”

The Day of Pentecost is fast approaching, a day we will celebrate in worship on Sunday, May 31st. Because Pentecost is found in the Book of Acts and because the Book of Acts tells us the wonderful beginnings of the church, our Sunday scriptures leading up to the Day of Pentecost are drawn from the Book of Acts. Our celebration of Pentecost in 2020 provides us a unique opportunity to learn from the early church how to respond to a crisis. In 2020 our crisis is the Coronavirus. The crisis facing the first church was learning to live without the physical presence of Jesus Christ, who after rising from the dead ascended into heaven. (Read Acts 1)

The fact that the early church learned to survive without the physical presence of Jesus Christ is amazing. The fact that the early church learned to thrive without the physical presence of Jesus Christ is a miracle, and it is a miracle that is not meant to be limited to that one particular body of believers in first century Jerusalem. Because Jesus has not left us alone…because Jesus has sent his Holy Spirit to be his vital spiritual presence in our lives…because the Holy Spirit brings power to our lives…we too can learn to thrive in our time of crisis.

As the Day of Pentecost winds down, the second chapter in Acts closes us with a vibrant depiction of those early believers who learned not only to survive, but more importantly, believers who learned to thrive. Although Acts chapter two does describe a dramatic burst of spiritual energy on the Day of Pentecost, the filling of the Holy Spirit turned out to be more than a one-time power surge. Acts chapter two uses a telling phrase, and that phrase is, “Every day.”

“Every day” they continued to meet in the temple courts. (Acts 2:46) You get the sense that every day discipleship was the mark of those early believers, who were:

• Devoted to the apostles’ teaching

• Devoted to fellowship (that wonderful Greek word Koinonia)

• Devoted to breaking of bread

• Devoted to prayer

Today is Day 67 of having these daily devotionals, daily devotionals written in response to the Coronavirus Crisis. As there is a time and a season to everything, sometime down the road these daily devotionals will eventually come to an end. But if we are going to survive this Coronavirus Crisis, and if we are going to thrive as we come through this Coronavirus Crisis and establish new patterns of discipleship in the days ahead, while these daily devotionals might come to an end, our daily devotion as disciples must not come to an end.

While these daily devotionals will eventually come to an end, one way I hope to offer encouragement for our daily journey of faith is to offer daily readings in the Gospel of Matthew that will guide us through all 28 chapters over a period of eight weeks. That will begin early in June. At Dunn’s Corners we make available copies of The Upper Room, which is a helpful daily devotion. There is a similar devotion with a title that is very appropriate to Acts chapter 2. That daily devotional is called, “Our Daily Bread.” Daily bread hearkens to images of the manna in the wilderness, manna which was given every day. Daily bread echoes the words of Jesus who taught us to pray for our daily bread. And daily bread goes so far as to give us a seat at the table with those early disciples whose lives were marked by being devoted every day to the study of God’s word, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.

Somehow and some way, we will make it through this Coronavirus Crisis. God’s plan and God’s purpose will not fail. We will make it through this Coronavirus Crisis. Somehow and some way, we will survive this Coronavirus Crisis. But my hope is that we will do more than survive. As difficult as this crisis has been, we have been presented with an opportunity not only to survive, we have been given the opportunity to thrive. How? By putting into practice every day the marks of being devoted disciples.

Some might remember the popular song from the musical Godspell, “Day by Day.” There is another “Day by Day,” an older hymn. The presence of a more contemporary praise song and an older traditional hymn and an abundance of daily devotionals and daily bible reading programs all point to something of utmost importance. From the day the church was born, that great day of Pentecost, disciples who are devoted to Jesus Christ have been putting their faith into practice on a daily basis. Disciples of Jesus Christ practice their devotion to him every day. With that in mind I offer to you the words from the older version of “Day by Day.”

Day by day and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials here.

Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.

He whose heart is kind beyond all measure gives unto each day what he deems best. Constantly it’s part of pain and pleasure, mingling toil with peace and rest.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 66

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 66, May 18, 2020
“Have you seen Jesus?”

One of the highlights of working with youth was the time spent at numerous camps and retreats. Every few months we would set off for the mountains or the ocean. The days would be filled with games, hiking, and competitions. As the day drew to a close, we would gather around a campfire. Wrapped in our jackets the guitars would come out and we would sing songs of faith. Something about the setting, surrounded by the amazing wonder of God’s creation made one particular song stand out.

“Have you seen Jesus, my Lord?”

Invited by the gentle strums of the guitar and sweet voices lifted into the night air, the song would ask us to reflect on whether we had seen Jesus.

• Have you ever looked at sunset with the sky mellowing red, and the clouds suspended like feathers? Then I say, my friend, you’ve seen Jesus my Lord.

• Have you ever stood at the ocean with the white foam at your feet, felt the endless thundering motion? Then I say, my friend, you’ve seen Jesus my Lord.

Have you seen Jesus? Have you seen Jesus in the beauty of the sunset? Have you seen Jesus in the white foam of the thundering ocean? Have you seen Jesus in the lingering tail of a shooting star? Have you seen Jesus as the wind gently rustles the leaves of a tree and the grasses of a field? Have you seen Jesus in God’s majestic and marvelous creation, a creation that fills our hearts with wonder and awe?

From an early age I have seen Jesus in vivid displays of God’s grandeur. It has taken me longer to realize we can also see Jesus when life is not beautiful. That thought has been on my mind as we go through this Coronavirus Crisis. Thankfully there have been near daily reminders of God’s presence, hopeful sunrises and peaceful sunsets, walks near the water to calm the soul, spring bursting forth in ways that are bright and breathtaking. Thankfully, those daily reminders are with us.

But what has accompanied the Coronavirus is truly a crisis. Life has been disrupted. We have been separated from one another. Loneliness and depression are real by-products of this extended time of isolation. And the numbers are staggering of those who are sick and those who have died. That question that was so welcome as we would sing with our youth group at the end of days filled with God’s goodness and grace becomes a more difficult question in the midst of a crisis. “Have you seen Jesus?”

Have you seen Jesus? In the midst of life’s many crises, have you seen Jesus? Apparently, the answer to that question is yes. Your testimonies of how Jesus has been with you when the bottom falls out are not only amazing, they are inspiring. You, all of you, have helped this one pastor learn that when God said he would never leave us nor forsake us, he meant it. You have helped this one pastor learn that when Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” he meant it. You have helped this one pastor learn that when the waves of life threaten to capsize the boat, Jesus is there to calm the storm, saying “Do not be afraid. Take heart, It is I.” You have helped this one pastor learn that when you were slumped over in a heap of heartache, weeping buckets of tears that seemed to have no end, Jesus was there, alive, risen from the dead, calling your name, and holding your hand as you found the strength to walk through that garden of grief.

So, it would not surprise me at all to hear you say that in this most recent crisis, this Coronavirus Crisis, that you have seen Jesus. Thanks to your inspiring example of faith in the midst of these troubled times, you have helped this one pastor to see Jesus even during this Coronavirus Crisis. You have helped me see Jesus even in a time of great sadness and loss. Surprisingly, even in this time of great sadness and loss, there have been some wonderful and joyful appearances of Jesus. Our children have seen Jesus. Knowing that our children have seen Jesus during the Coronavirus Crisis has lifted my spirit. Seeing pictures of our children as they see Jesus has brought the biggest smile to my face and the warmest and fuzziest feeling to my heart.

Have you seen Jesus with our children? The prelude that was posted with our bulletin yesterday had pictures of our children with what is called “Flat Jesus.” Flat Jesus is just a cut-out picture of Jesus. But this flat Jesus was captured in the sweetest frames with the sweetest faces of the sweetest kids you could ever want to know. Have you seen Jesus? I hope you have seen Jesus during this Coronavirus Crisis. And I want to offer again today a chance to see Jesus…with our children. Click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaCcktfc5tM&feature=youtu.be to see the prelude. See Jesus. See Jesus with his children. Maybe it will serve to remind you that you are a child of God, that we are all children of God, and that Jesus loves the little children…all of us…all of God’s little children.

I would not do justice to, “Have you seen Jesus” if I did not include the final two verses of the song. Those final two verses go a long way to helping us see the full picture of our precious Lord Jesus.”

• Have you ever looked at the cross, with a man hanging in pain, and the look of love in his eyes? Then I say, my friend, you’ve seen Jesus my Lord

• Have you ever stood in the family with the Lord there in your midst, seen the face of Christ on each other? Then I say, my friend, you’ve seen Jesus my Lord.

I’ve seen Jesus in the cross and I’ve seen Jesus in you, my brothers and sisters in faith. I hope and pray that you also have seen Jesus. (Have you seen Jesus my Lord, by John Fischer)

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 65

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 65, May 17, 2020
“Buried treasures”

What kid has not dreamed of finding buried treasure? A secret map…mysterious clues…cloak and dagger…hidden intrigue…clever disguises…melted snow. Melted snow? Ever since I slapped on an eyepatch and joined Long John Silver in the search for Treasure Island, I have been enamored with buried treasure. When I finally did discover buried treasure, it was not through secret maps, mysterious clues, cloak and dagger, hidden intrigue, or clever disguises. I found the buried treasure through melted snow.

Our move to Rhode Island in February of 2015 coincided with a rash of snowstorms that blanketed the ground several feet deep. And then it kept snowing. Through February, through March, even into April. We loved it! This was our first experience with snow. Our streets were covered in snow. Our driveway was covered in snow. Our beaches were covered in snow. And our yard was covered in snow. For two California kids, the snow was a welcome treat. Four months of White Christmas!

The winter of 2015 was long, lasting well into what should have been spring. When the snow finally melted, we were presented with a wonderful blessing. We realized there was a nice big yard in front of our house. Bullseye, who thus far had not found the cold and snowy weather in New England much to her liking was reborn as a frisky pup, bounding out to play, chasing birds and rabbits, and soaking in the sun as she lay on the warm pavement of our driveway. After the snow melted and the grass and beddings were finally visible, I was outside watching Bullseye frolic in the yard. It was then I noticed a treasure that was in our front yard. We had not been able to see the treasure because for the first several months it was covered in snow. The melted snow revealed that the previous owners had placed a stone at the base of one of the trees in our yard. On the stone were written these words:

GROW OLD ALONG WITH ME

THE BEST IS YET TO BE

I still get excited about putting a patch over my eye and hunting for treasure with Long John Silver. I still love the idea of secret maps and mysterious clues, cloak and dagger and hidden intrigue, and I’m always up for throwing on a disguise. But in the spring of 2015, we unexpectedly found buried treasure through the melting of the snow. Now in the spring of 2020, I am starting to find some buried treasures through something as strange as a virus that has caused us all to hunker down at home.

Just last Sunday, Nancy Fortin set up her weekly video chat with the kids from church. Nancy invites all the kids every Sunday morning at 10:30 to go online. We spend about 30 minutes listening to a story from the bible. We hear how the kids are doing. Best of all we see their smiling faces. Our time closes with a prayer together. Last Sunday Nancy sent me on a treasure hunt. Last Sunday was Mother’s Day. Nancy remembered I had used a story in church several years ago that is a perfect Mother’s Day story. The cover of the book is a drawing of a boy who has destroyed a bathroom, pulling out yards of toilet paper and leaving it spread all over the floor. The boy sits on the floor of that bathroom as happy as can be, his face flush with the most beautiful and innocent smile. The cover of a destroyed bathroom belies the tender tale that awaits when you open and read, “Love You Forever.” Nancy asked if I could find my copy of that precious little children’s book.

Immediately, I was off on a treasure hunt, all because of this crazy Coronavirus Crisis. I found the book. I found the treasure. Last Sunday, on Mother’s Day, Nancy read the story to the kids who gathered with her on a Zoom call. Nancy’s voice broke as she came to end of the story. That little bathroom destroying toddler grows to be a pretty decent adult. The man, now a father himself, comes back and holds his aging mother in his arms. The story swells with emotion as at each stage of the relationship between the mother and her son, there are these heartwarming words: “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like for you always, as long as you’re living, my baby you’ll be.”

The Coronavirus Crisis is many things, most of them terrible, most of them the cause of great stress and distress. While not downplaying the damage of this devastating crisis, I wonder if it has not also been a treasure hunt. I have heard from many that they have done some extensive housecleaning during the long stay at home. Whenever we clean house, we find buried treasures, keepsakes that mark precious moments or photos sending us back to days long ago and happy times spent with loved ones. Yesterday, on an absolutely perfect New England spring day, we rediscovered a treasure known as the East Bay Bike Path. We walked from Barrington almost to Bristol under a canopy of trees with the warm sun brightly reflecting on the waters, serenaded by birds and refreshed by the breeze. The Coronavirus Crisis has given us time to find the buried treasure of rediscovered and renewed friendships, relationships that have reconnected after 10, 20, 30, even 40 years. Along with all the difficulties and loss associated with this long time of isolation, I hope these days spent at home have also been a treasure hunt. It has certainly been a chance for me to discover some very special treasures. Even now, sitting on my desk as I write these words, no longer buried away but instead occupying a place that is front and center so I can see it every time I sit down, on my desk is a treasure, a book with a title that says so much about how I feel for you, our dear friends. “Love you forever.”

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 64

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 64, May 16, 2020
“A Super Supper”

Greetings on what promises to be a gorgeous New England Saturday. The Eberlys have had an early morning run down by the water, the surfers are already paddling to their places among the waves, the clouds are clearing, and all systems are go for great day. Today is the perfect day for a church supper. Bummer! Even though all systems are go for having a great day, we do not have the official go-ahead to gather together. No problem. I am inviting you to a “virtual” church supper. I am inviting you right now to join me at a church supper, a virtual church supper.

I love church suppers. We come together. We talk. We laugh. We line up. We fill our plates. We sit side by side. We break bread. We celebrate being a community of faith. I love church suppers, and I miss church suppers. Won’t you join me for a church supper on this beautiful Saturday in May.

Where will we find the food for this “virtual” church supper. Well, since this virtual supper is a church supper, I thought we might use our imagination and create our menu from the bible. It turns out the bible is not a bad place to turn when you are planning a church supper. Go figure! I mean, the bible begins in a garden. Walk through the biblical Garden of Eden and you can forage for the leafiest lettuce, the most remarkable radishes, the crispiest cucumbers, and tomatoes that are terrific. What better way to start our virtual church supper than with salad from the Garden?

• The salad would be followed with soup. I heard this guy named Jacob makes a mean lentil soup.

• The bread would be abundant at our church supper. We have leavened and unleavened bread, manna from heaven, and big barley loaves to boot.

• King David would make a guest appearance at our church supper. There is a wonderful story in II Samuel chapter 6, when the Ark of the Covenant has been rescued from the Philistines and returned to Jerusalem. It is that story where David dances before the Lord with all his heart. To celebrate that great moment in the life of Israel, David the King provides a treat for all the people. King David “gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd.” That sounds yummy. David, welcome to our church supper. Thanks for bringing us all a cake of dates and a cake of raisins.

• When you show up for a church supper served up from the pages of the bible, you better bring an appetite of biblical proportions. Go big or go home! You know there will be goat, lamb, beef, and fish to feed five thousand.

• Not a meat eater? Not to worry! This fellow named Daniel, along with his buddies Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they have a table of vegetable set aside just for you, and their steady vegetarian diet has not diminished their vim or vigor one bit.

• Isaiah the prophet will come by during the dinner with a beverage cart, inviting everyone who is thirsty to come, come to the waters, come for wine, come for milk…and don’t even worry about paying for it. It’s all been provided by our gracious host, our God in heaven.

What do you think of this “virtual” church supper? You feast at this table and you are guaranteed to have your hunger satisfied and your thirst quenched. But for all the wonderful produce you can harvest from the Garden of Eden, for all the bread you can literally pick up from the desert floor, for all the baskets of fish left from those miraculous waterfront picnics, and for all the feasts with fattened calves, the one section of a biblical church supper that seems lacking is dessert. Yes, Samson has his honey and David his cakes of raisins and dates, but there is no mention in the bible of brownies, no chocolate chip cookies, no apple pie (Adam and Eve sort of made that off-limits), and for all the spiritual imagery in the Good Book there is not one mention of an Angel Food Cake or a Devil’s Food Cake. Where is the dessert?

It seems that in terms of dessert, our real-life church suppers might actually “take the cake” so to speak. When we have finished our feast, when we have pushed aside the chicken bones and the last bits of a Waldorf Salad, when only a crust of bread remains uneaten, we know at any church supper worth its weight, the best is yet to come. We still have dessert to look forward to. How can the bible not have dessert?

During our Coronavirus Crisis, a friend sent me a little story that might be familiar to you. The story has to do with desserts and church suppers. It is a story that reminds us that even though the bible might not feature much in the way of a literal dessert, the treat that we all look forward to at the end of our lives is downright delicious. Our little church supper draws to a close with these words:

There was a woman who was a faithful churchgoer. She had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. She invited her pastor to come visit so she could go over her last wishes with him, things like the hymns she wanted sung and the scriptures she wanted read, even the dress she wanted to wear when she was placed in the casket. Her plans were so exact she told her pastor she wanted to be buried with her favorite bible in her left hand. And in her right hand she wanted a fork. Well, the pastor listened to all her instructions, and he was okay with everything she had planned, right down to the bible in her left hand. But the fork? When she said she wanted a fork in her right hand the pastor was speechless, until she explained. “You see, Pastor, in all my years of attending church suppers, I remember that when the dishes were being cleared from the table, someone would inevitably lean over to me and say, “Keep you fork.” I loved hearing someone say, “Keep your fork”, because I knew something better was coming, something like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something very wonderful was coming. Pastor, when I am buried and people see me in the casket, I want people to see me with a fork in my hand. And if they ask you, “Why does she have a fork in her hand?” I want you to tell them, “Keep your fork, the best is yet to come.” Thanks for joining me for this “virtual” church supper. I hope you enjoyed our brief repast. Even though our “virtual” church supper is coming to an end, I want you to hold on to something. I want you to take something with you. I think you know what it is, don’t you? I want you to hold on to your fork. I want you to keep your fork because there is no question and there is no doubt, that the best is yet to come.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 63

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 63, May 15, 2020
“LOW EXPECTATIONS”

One of the unintended consequences of the Coronavirus is that it has lowered our expectations. Before things shut down, a place like Facebook would feature photos of people traveling the world, eating out at nice restaurants, attending plays on Broadway, getting caught up in the noise of the crowd at a ballpark, or singing along at a concert with a celebrity performer. Before the Coronavirus shut things down, there were studies that showed seeing others engaged in such awesome activities was having a negative effect on people. They were dissatisfied with their own lives. Seeing how others were living raised expectations, and for many, they felt like their life did not match those high expectations.

And then the Coronavirus hit. Things shut down. We were all in the same boat, stuck at home with little or nothing to do. The smallest thing became the biggest deal. There’s a Disney singalong. Oh my goodness. We can’t miss that! The mail should be arriving sometime in the next four hours…so we watch intently out the window and listen for the putt putt sound of the mail truck. It’s Friday. We get our milk delivery today. Our faces are pressed to the glass as we wait expectantly for the arrival of our friendly Munroe Dairy driver.

High expectations have gone out the window. The smallest things get us excited. Why? Because we have low expectations. One of my favorite posts during this Coronavirus Crisis was when our friend Trish posted, “Now I understand why Laura Ingalls would get so excited when she would get to go into town with Pa.”

Low expectations are not a bad thing. High expectations set us up for failure. Low expectations set us up to be surprised. I read a story a few years ago about low expectations. The story was a beautiful reflection on life. A man wrote a thank you note to his mom. He wrote it late in his life. In fact, he wrote his mother the thank you note thirty years after she died. I understand that. It can take a long time to appreciate fully and to thank properly the folks who have played such a significant role in our lives.

Well, thirty years after his mother died, this man wrote his mother a thank you note. In the note he remembered a day from sixty years before, when he was just a child. In that thank you note to his mother, a note he wrote to her even though she had been deceased thirty years, he told her how he vividly remembered the day when his dad brought home a watermelon. They took the watermelon, put it in the river, and let the cold waters chill the melon through and through. Then they cracked it open and ate it all. He wrote, “How simple and memorable a good day can be when expectations are low.”

I stopped reading. I closed that book. For the longest time I pondered what an incredible gift it is to have low expectations. When our expectations are low, just about everything that comes our way comes as a gift, a surprise, even a blessing. If what the studies say is true about Facebook and social networking, we are becoming trained to have high expectations. Those high expectations come with a cost. Things such as a watermelon, chilled in a stream, eaten together with mom and dad and a hungry little brother, can be cast aside and downplayed because they are not big, impressive, or expensive. This man knew better. He wrote a thank you note about it. Some sixty years after the fact, he wrote a thank you note. Such are the blessings of low expectations.

I am not alone in appreciating the value of low expectations. I read the story about the watermelon in the summer of 2013. After I read the story, I posted a reflection about low expectations on Facebook of all places. That post drew 24 comments. It seems people do realize the significance of little things. For many, that image of a family sharing a cold watermelon reminded them of childhood experiences when low expectations yielded precious memories like a dad bringing home fresh donuts on a Saturday morning or making root beer floats as a family, or as in the case of our friend Trish, getting as excited as Laura Ingalls to make a trip into town.

But those memories of low expectations tell another story. It isn’t just the watermelon…or the root beer…or the donuts. What makes those times so memorable is they are shared with a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister, or a friend. One of the comments that day on Facebook was from a high school friend whom I have not seen since our graduation in June of 1979. Connecting the surprises that accompany low expectations to the loved ones with whom those memories are shared brought forth a bittersweet response from my high school classmate. He wrote, “I lost a really good friend this spring and it still hurts.” He is not alone. The man who wrote about low expectations in a letter to his mom confesses in that letter how even after 30 years he still desperately misses his mother. Who would have thought reflecting on low expectations would yield such tender touches. Some memories of the blessings that surprised me when my expectations were low are now the high-water marks of my life. Those memories bring both joy and tears. Let me finish with one final response I received when I posted about low expectations. A dear friend from Sacramento wrote: “As you get older, you begin to appreciate the little things. When my grandmother was in her 80’s she told me, ‘I don’t get less busy. Things just take a little longer. I stop to listen to the birds sing and notice the new flowers blooming.’” May our expectations never be so high that we miss the birds singing, the flowers blooming, the waves crashing, the stars shining, and the juice from a watermelon dripping down our face as we enjoy it in the company of family and friends. The Coronavirus has taken much from us all. But if it has given us back an appreciation for low expectations, at least I’m thankful for that.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 62

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 62, May 14, 2020
“Declaration of In(ter)dependence”

The Declaration of Independence is filled with soaring language that stirs the soul. “When in the course of human events…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…we therefore declare that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.”

It can be argued that much of the force behind the movement toward freedom that marked our beginnings as the United States of America came from the stories in the bible, including the epic deliverance found in Exodus. God’s decisive move toward freedom is captured in the memorable phrase, “Let my people go!” (Exodus 5:2) A symbol of the freedom sought by our ancestors is the Liberty Bell, which was once placed in the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House (now renamed Independence Hall), and is now located in the Liberty Bell Center in Independence National Historical Park. Inscribed on the Liberty Bell is a phrase directly from the bible, “Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.” (Leviticus 25:10)

The Exodus is undoubtedly a celebration of being set free from the cruel bonds of slavery. The Israelites danced and shook the tambourine when they had their first taste of freedom. But the Exodus is more than a story of independence. At its heart, the Exodus is a story of dependence, of being dependent on the God who delivered Israel from their bondage. That dependence is displayed fully in the Commandments that guided and shaped their life together as a community, spelling out in detail how to live in right relationship with God. Not only are the people dependent on God, but their life together as the people of God requires that they be dependent on one another, or in a phase that is meant to help us understand the importance of our relationships with one another, they are interdependent.

The interdependence of God’s people is found in numerous ways as their lives are forged together in the forty years of wilderness wanderings.

• Their first battle hinges on Moses holding his arms high in the sky. When exhaustion sets in and his arms droop, the troops on the battlefield falter. But Moses was not alone. Aaron and Hur stood by his side and supported his arms. The arms of Moses remained uplifted until the victory was secure.

• Moses again faces exhaustion, this time from the overwhelming burden of judging the cases the people bring to him. His father-in-law Jethro gives wise counsel. “Don’t do it all yourself.” Judges are appointed, the demanding work is spread among many, and a crisis is averted.

• The manna in the wilderness is a dramatic miracle, and yet it is also a subtle display of the interdependence of the people. No one gathered too much. No one gathered too little. Everyone had enough. Those who wanted to be independent, those who selfishly hoarded the manna, those who gathered too much with the intention of hiding it for the next day, they were disappointed by the discovery that the manna didn’t keep. It rotted right before their eyes. God wants all his children to have enough. In a world where many of God’s children hunger, we must never forget we are interdependent.

Leviticus is the book that gives us the verse inscribed on the Liberty Bell. Leviticus also presents a chapter that focuses on our interdependence, Leviticus 19.

• The interdependence that comes to us in Leviticus 19 is an interdependence that takes root in our family relationships, calling for us to respect our mothers and fathers. (19:3)

• The interdependence that comes to us in Leviticus 19 is an interdependence that sets limits on our own needs so that we can meet the needs of others. “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field…leave some for the poor and the alien.” (19:9-10)

• The interdependence that comes to us in Leviticus 19 is an interdependence that places high values on the personal integrity that serves to undergird the life of the community. “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive others.” (19:11)

• The interdependence that comes to us in Leviticus 19 is an interdependence that will not allow justice to be perverted or slander to be spread. (19:15,16)

• The interdependence that comes to us in Leviticus 19 is an interdependence that embraces the stranger and the alien. “The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt.” (19:34)

• The interdependence that comes to us in Leviticus 19 is an interdependence that leads to the most fundamental affirmation of the need we have to care for and nurture our relationships with our fellow human beings. It is in Leviticus 19:18b that we find for the first time the commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The Coronavirus Crisis has taken many things from us. We cannot deny that. But deep in my heart, I do believe that this current crisis has been a great reminder that we are not independent. We are interdependent. We need each other. Because we need each other the way we treat each other, the way we treat each other and work with each other and look out for each other and the way we love each other as we move from our isolation back into a life as a community, the way we love each other will be the key to getting our life back together. Let me put it in personal terms. Here is my Declaration of Interdependence. “I need you. I miss you. I am better with you. I am less without you. I am so ready to get back together as a community, to work, to serve, to live, and to love with you, with you all. We are interdependent. We are the Body of Christ. Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.”

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 61

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 61, May 13, 2020
“A Reverence for Life”

He might have been considered a silly man. You might see him walking carefully on a path, guarding each step to avoid stepping on bugs and plants. You might see him bending down to move a worm from the road, setting the worm on soft ground so that it could live. You might see him using a small hook to rescue an insect from drowning. He was aware that others often thought him ridiculous. He might have been considered a silly man.

But this man held a deep reverence for life. This reverence for life led him, a man who was a famous theologian, pastor, concert organist and medical doctor, to go to a poor African village hospital and spend most of his life as a missionary. He might have been considered a silly man. Instead, what might have been considered foolishness was recognized as profound greatness when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. His name was Dr. Albert Schweitzer. Dr. Schweitzer tried to treat all life with reverence, even in its smallest forms. He wrote:

“Do not go after spectacular displays of love—it is likely that in your whole life you won’t experience them—but, rather, build from the bottom up. Do the insignificant and the hidden things that are much more difficult than the acknowledgedly grand gesture. Then you will do the grand gesture as it ought to be done and is done in the spirit of Jesus: unconsciously.”[1]

“A Reverence for Life” is the title of a book written by Dr. Schweitzer. In it he tells of his concern for the smallest of insects and plants. In it he tells of his concern for the greatest of human problems, medical, social, emotional, and physical suffering. It is a humbling book in that it is so easy to race through life without reverence. While the book is humbling, it is also very inspiring. As humans we have the potential to live with a reverence for life, to be aware of the beauty and wonder of all God’s creation. Dr. Schweitzer was dedicated to causes that truly impacted the world, and for this he was rightfully recognized. While addressing great causes, his book also includes a story that involves just a simple encounter between two human beings. I love knowing that a great man like Dr. Albert Schweitzer was able to see just how important an encounter between two people can be. Maybe the great things in life begin with recognizing that the person next to us is of incredible value, of incredible worth, and because of that, the person next to us is worthy of our kindness and our concern. That is what it means to have a reverence for life. Here is the simple story that impacted a great man like Dr. Albert Schweitzer.

“A Parisian trolley conductor was asked by a passenger of his car why he looked so sad. To that this response: ‘You are the first person with heart whom I have encountered today. The whole day long I have discharged my service and not been able to master the pain. I have a child dying at home. You are the first who has seen that I am sad and who has said a comforting word to me. For the others I was not a person, but only a man who had a service to perform.’”[2]

That story touches my heart. That story also worries me. The man was wearing a sad look. His pain was written all over his face, and yet only one person noticed. For the foreseeable future, we are going to be wearing masks. If it was easy to miss a man’s pain when his face was visible to all, how will we be able to recognize the pain people experience when we all wear masks?

Maybe Dr. Schweitzer’s attention to insects, bugs, and plants offer some clues on how to notice things like sadness and pain in a world where all wear masks. Walk slowly. Tread softly. Look carefully. Listen intently. Notice the small things. And pay attention. At all times, pay attention. Behind every mask is a person. Behind every mask is a child of God. Behind every mask is someone God created. Behind every mask is someone loved by God. Behind every mask is a chance to show a reverence for life. Now more than ever, may our reverence for life be evident to all through acts of kindness, concern, compassion, and care.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 60

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 60, May 12, 2020
“Disembark”

States are beginning to reopen after the time of social distancing. For many of us who have not been in the essential lines of service, and we are extremely grateful for and owe a huge debt of gratitude to the ones on the front lines of the pandemic, but for many of us who have not been in essential services it has been a time of “hunkering” down. I have thought more than once that there are similarities in our experience of “sheltering in place” and Noah, his family, and the many animals who all shared safe space on the Ark. The Ark was a place of shelter. The Ark protected the inhabitants from the devastation taking place outside as the floods raged. And as much as the Ark was a place of safety, shelter, and protection, at some point they couldn’t wait to get off the Ark! Can I get an Amen! We’re all ready to get off the Ark and get back to living.

To embark is to get on a boat or a ship, and the related word disembark is to remove from on board a vessel; to put to shore; to land; or to debark. I have had no luck finding the genesis for the words embark and disembark in the biblical story of Noah and the flood, but embark and disembark sure seem to have a lot to do with that long journey of Noah on the Ark. As we begin the process of disembarking from our various “arks” where we have been sheltering in place, there are some important lessons from Genesis we can take with us as we “disembark.”

• It could always be worse. We are somewhere near day 60 of our “embarkment”. It is pretty common knowledge that the rains during the time of Noah lasted forty days and forty nights. Before we grouse and complain that we have had to be in our “arks” for sixty days, remember that it was not the ceasing of the rain that led to their release from the Ark. The forty days of rain left behind a flood that lasted 150 days, and it then took many more months for the earth to dry sufficiently for Noah and his clan to leave the Ark. They actually embarked on the seventeenth day of the second month of Noah’s six hundredth year and they did not disembark until the twenty-seventh day of the second month of Noah’s six hundred and first year. Compared to one year and ten days, our sixty days fall far short of what Noah and his clan endured. It could always be worse.

But the true lesson of the Ark is not that it could always be worse. The true lesson Noah and the Ark teaches us is that it can be better. As Noah and his clan prepare to disembark, there are some symbols that accompany their disembarking that are powerful symbols of a life that can be better.

• The dove is a symbol of peace. The dove is released by Noah to fly out and find if the land has dried up enough to disembark. The first trip the dove could find nowhere to land and returned to the Ark. On the second trip the dove finds a bit of dry land, evidenced by the branch of a tree with which the dove returns. The third trip the dove does not return. The world is now safe and the dove sets about building a new life.

• A primary reason the dove is considered a symbol of peace has to do with the branch the dove returns with on the second trip. The branch is from an olive tree. Have you ever heard the term, “Extending an olive branch”? The world pre-flood was a place that was profoundly broken. That world caused God pain. The dove and the olive branch are symbols of peace and reconciliation. There is a new beginning. There is a new world. There is a new opportunity to live in a right way. Ultimately, we will learn from the bible that the right way to live is to be in a right relationship with God and with our fellow human beings. Will an “olive branch” be something we take with us as we disembark? Is there a relationship that is fractured, a trust that has been broken, words or actions that need forgiving? Might we recognize this as a time in which God is extending an olive branch, offering a chance for each one of us to renew our relationship with the One who is our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.

• Added to the dove and the olive branch, far and away the most memorable symbol of the story of Noah and the Ark is the rainbow. The rainbow is a sign that we live not under God’s curse but under God’s covenant. “Never again will I curse the ground because of human beings…and never again will I destroy all living creatures…As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:21, 22) Having made these wonderful promises of life, God says, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making…I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” (Genesis 9:12)

Noah and his clan must have been itching to disembark. After being cooped up for over a year they were ready for some freedom, to break loose of the boundaries that had confined them. But an incredible opportunity is missed if we do not think carefully about how we disembark. The rainbow fills the whole sky with bright and beautiful colors, colors made even more beautiful because they are different colors. Rightly so, the rainbow is a sign of inclusion.

As we disembark…
• May the dove remind us of peace, and the call Jesus gave all his followers to be ones who make peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

• May the olive branch remind us of our call to be ones who work for reconciliation in our world, practicing forgiveness and holding fast to our Lord Jesus Christ, who has torn down every dividing wall of hostility that stands between people.

• May the rainbow remind us that God’s blessing is for the whole world, for all people…may the rainbow remind us that God’s kingdom has a place for all people, as the first chapter in Genesis greets us with the good news that we are all created in the image of God…and may the rainbow remind us all of God’s love for this world, of God’s love for all the people of this world. “For God so loved the world he gave his only Son…” (John 3:16)As the call comes for us to disembark, to reenter this world, may we find ourselves filled with wonder and awe, filled with a great sense of responsibility, and filled with a great sense of joy that God has once again entrusted us with a new beginning. O Lord help us to use this new beginning as an opportunity to spread your light and your love into a world desperately seeking to find healing and hope.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 59

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 59, May 11, 2020
“Well done”

Words are very interesting in the English language. They can be extremely difficult as you are learning the language, but once you have obtained a certain degree of understanding the English language can become playful, even fun. Think of our words and how flexible and varied they are. I’m especially thinking of words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have completely separate meanings.
We have words like where, wear, and ware
There, they’re, and their
Eye aye and here hear,
Hi high and bye by
Know no and ho hoe
We have bought and bot, not to be outdone by not, knot and naught.
For a person who enjoys words I think God knew what he was doing when he brought me to the Dunn’s Corners Community Church, Presbyterian. Just last week I was able to play with the spacing of Dunn’s Corners Tone and by simply removing a space come up with something new, “Dunn’s Cornerstone.” This wasn’t the first time I have had fun with our church name. For those of you who do not take such pleasure in these play on words, I regret to inform you I’m not even half “Dunn” with wordplays.

I love ice cream. When summer comes, I love ice cream cones. When summer comes and the weather warms, when tourists flock to our seaside community, the ice cream stores open up on seemingly every corner, every beach, and everyone’s favorite Sunflower Farm. Our Vespers group enjoys being together for our Wednesday service. In the summer, we finish by 7 pm, which leaves us plenty of time for some Presbyterian Fellowship, which almost always involves food. I suggested several years ago that during the summer we form a group to go out for ice cream after our Vespers services. A good name helps when you form a group, so I suggested we call ourselves the Dunn’s Coners. The name stuck!

As we began the New Year as a church in 2019, I wrote a newsletter article making a play on the phrase, “Been there, done that.” Usually that means I’ve done something once, why do it again. A simple twist on that tired phrase has brought quite a bit of life to our church social life. Now we ask, “Been there? Dunn that?” It has become an invitation to hike the Cliff Walk in Newport, walk the trail through Wakefield to the Narragansett Beach, a chance to gather for snacks and a game night at church, and to attend musicals at Theater by the Sea. Even though the Coronavirus cancelled our trip to Sturbridge Village, we will get there someday!

Friends, I’m not “Dunn” with having fun. A few weeks ago, we sent you an email alerting you that it was Administrative Professionals Day. I asked you to send an email to Luba, our wonderful friend who serves us all so well in our church office. But when we sent out the email, we removed Luba’s name, so she had no idea of our little plan. I got to church before her that Wednesday morning. I checked the church email and saw a whole page of emails she had received. When Luba walked in, I made up some problem I was having with email and told her she had to check the church email immediately. I put on my best “This is an emergency” face and voice. She was momentarily flustered and got right on checking the email. She looked at me to ask for more information and I had to duck behind my office door because I could not hide my laughter. When the screen came up, she was stunned…surprised…and needless to say, extremely happy and grateful. You all responded in a way that brought great joy to someone who does so much for us. When I told Julie about it later a new phrase came to mind. “Well Dunn!” Well Dunn you Dunn’s Corners friends.

I can already tell I’m going to use that new phrase often. Here in the midst of the Coronavirus Crisis, a parable of Jesus comes to mind. Workers are given talents to use. One receives a measure of five, another a measure of two, and finally a person receives a single talent. The amount is not the key aspect of the parable. What each person does with their talent, now that is the key aspect of the parable. The one with five returns five more, the one with two returns two more. The one with one…well, read the parable in Matthew 25. The one with one does not use his talent wisely or productively. But to those who do use their talents wisely, productively, and yes, faithfully, they hear these words from Jesus, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We have not all been given the same measure of talents during this Coronavirus Crisis. Some have been on the frontlines in hospitals, nursing homes, grocery stores, emergency services, and other essential lines or work. Others of us have been given the job of staying home and not spreading the virus. It doesn’t matter. Those who are on the front lines are doing amazing work. Those who are staying home are sewing masks, praying, writing, calling, reaching out, sending food, and spreading God’s love in a multitude of ways. You have even taken time to write a word of thanks to our good friend Luba who has faithfully been handling the office duties even during the crisis. It gives me great pleasure to share with you my new favorite Dunn’s Corners phrase: “Well Dunn, good and faithful servants.” And thank you. Thank you so much for your kind and caring hearts.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 58

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 58, May 10, 2020
“A mother’s comfort”

“The Best Loved Poems of the American People” is a tattered volume of poetry that has traveled with me from California to Texas and now sits in a place of prominence on my bookshelf in Rhode Island. I rescued this tattered treasure from a Presbyterian Women’s Rummage Sale in Fair Oaks, California. These sweet and sentimental poems have brought me great inspiration, encouragement, and comfort. On a Mother’s Day when we are all missing so much, this touching poem, filled with memories of a mother’s love, warms my heart with tender remembrances. I hope it is helpful for you.

“Rock me to sleep” By Elizabeth Akers

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,
Make me a child again just for tonight!
Mother, come back from the echoless shore,
Take me again to your heart as of yore;
Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care,
Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair;
Over my slumbers your loving watch keep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Backward, flow backward, O tide of the years!
I am so weary of toil and of tears,—
Toil without recompense, tears all in vain,—
Take them, and give me my childhood again!
I have grown weary of dust and decay,—
Weary of flinging my soul-wealth away;
Weary of sowing for others to reap;—
Rock me to sleep, mother — rock me to sleep!

Tired of the hollow, the base, the untrue,
Mother, O mother, my heart calls for you!
Many a summer the grass has grown green,
Blossomed and faded, our faces between:
Yet, with strong yearning and passionate pain,
Long I tonight for your presence again.
Come from the silence so long and so deep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Over my heart, in the days that are flown,
No love like mother-love ever has shone;
No other worship abides and endures,—
Faithful, unselfish, and patient like yours:
None like a mother can charm away pain
From the sick soul and the world-weary brain.
Slumber’s soft calms o’er my heavy lids creep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Come, let your brown hair, just lighted with gold,
Fall on your shoulders again as of old;
Let it drop over my forehead tonight,
Shading my faint eyes away from the light;
For with its sunny-edged shadows once more
Haply will throng the sweet visions of yore;
Lovingly, softly, its bright billows sweep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

Mother, dear mother, the years have been long
Since I last listened your lullaby song:
Sing, then, and unto my soul it shall seem
Womanhood’s years have been only a dream.
Clasped to your heart in a loving embrace,
With your light lashes just sweeping my face,
Never hereafter to wake or to weep;—
Rock me to sleep, mother, — rock me to sleep!

On this Mother’s Day, in a bible filled with so many images of God as our Father in heaven, it is a nice balance, and such a nice blessing to note that in the sad, lonely, dark and difficult days of the exile, one of the enduring images of God’s steadfast love is given to us by the prophet Isaiah. “As a mother comforts her children, so I will comfort you.” Isaiah 66:13

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 57

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 57, May 9, 2020
“Overshadowed”

The bible is filled with drama, with miraculous events, and with amazing signs and wonders. This is all good news. And yet if we are not careful, the drama, the miraculous events, and the amazing signs and wonders can overshadow the revelation of God that accompanies these astounding divine interventions.

• Moses was tending the sheep out in the desert…With a stunning flash a bush in that dry desert burst into flames…flames that did not consume the bush. It’s a miracle! Moses is drawn to the miracle. The miracle gets Moses’ attention…and ours. But don’t let the miracle of the burning bush overshadow the revelation of God, who says to Moses, “I have seen the misery of my people. I have heard their cries. I am concerned about their suffering. I have come down to help.”
• Standing on the mountain, full of fear, chased by the wicked Queen Jezebel, waiting for God to appear, the prophet Elijah witnessed a miracle…a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the very rocks surrounding him. After the wind there was more drama…an earthquake. After the earthquake there was even more drama…a fire. The wind, the earthquake, the fire…those dramatic events threaten to overshadow the revelation of God. On that day the revelation of God came in a whisper, in a still small voice.
• You do not get more dramatic than the Sunday school favorite, the story of the Fiery Furnace. Our heroes Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are thrown into the blazing flames of fire. It is tempting to remember only the outcome of that dramatic event as not a hair on their heads was singed. But do not let their remarkable rescue cause you to forget the words of faith they shared as they entered the fire. “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand.” Do not let the flames overshadow the faith of these men of God, their faith that was in the living God.
• Jesus healed a man who had leprosy. Jesus healed the man immediately. The leprosy left the man. Amazingly and miraculously the man was made clean, all of which understandably might overshadow the words that tell us Jesus was filled with compassion when he saw the leper, the words of Jesus telling the leper he was willing to make the man clean, and words that tell us Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man everyone else called unclean.
• How can a handful of fish and a few small loaves feed crowds of four to five thousand? It is a miracle. Knowing full well the hunger that can swell up inside us when we have been too long without food, the multiplication in this miracle most definitely causes the motivation of the miracle to be overshadowed. What was the motivation? Jesus had compassion on the crowd.
• Standing in the shadow of the cross, watching our dear Savior die, the sound of a hammer pounding the nails, the reality of those nails piercing his flesh, the voices of his enemies taunting him and the guards teasing him, the sight of that crown of thorns thrust mockingly upon his head, standing in the shadow of the cross, the cruel suffering Jesus endures threatens to overshadow the meaning and purpose of his death. Or maybe in the case of the cross, none of the cruelty, none of the agony, none of the rejection, none of the taunting, and none of the teasing can overshadow the great miracle, the greatest miracle, the most amazing sign and wonder in all of the bible. In the case of the cross, there is not one single thing that can overshadow the miracle that we witness on that Friday we now call Good. “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Nothing can overshadow the words Jesus spoke when Nicodemus came to Jesus in the shadows of the night. “For God so loved the world he gave his only Begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Filled with amazing stories like Joshua and Jonah, astounding stories of the Red Sea parting and the storms on the Sea of Galilee being stilled, miraculous stories of water turning to wine and bread coming down from heaven, may these marvels and miracles never overshadow the wonderful truth of God’s everlasting and eternal love that we discover when we stand in the shadow of the cross. May nothing in all creation overshadow the steadfast love of our Lord, the steadfast love of the Lord that never ceases. May nothing overshadow that love, especially not this cruel Coronavirus. In the shadow of the cross, dear friends, that is where stand. In the shadow of the cross, that is where we find our hope.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 56

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 56, May 8, 2020
“Our tone”

Sitting on the desk in my home office is a commemorative coffee mug. The mug is from our church. The coffee mug has a peaceful picture of our church, the front of the church with the big cross that is displayed so prominently. Beginning my morning by looking at that coffee mug with such a peaceful picture sets the tone for my day.

I wonder if a church has a tone. We refer to a tone of voice, whether it is happy tone, a kind tone, a harsh tone, maybe a sarcastic tone. Does a church have a tone? I think a church does have a tone, and I am happy to tell you I like the tone of our church.

Recently Alex Houston said he had some friends who were struggling with the Coronavirus, including the wife, a nurse, who has tested positive. The husband reached out to Alex. Apparently, Alex makes an awesome corn chowder, and the husband was hoping as they faced this difficult time that Alex would make some of his corn chowder. When you face a crisis comfort food comes in handy. If you know Alex, you know he got right on it. He pulled out his recipe book that he uses to make his delicious corn chowder. It is a Cookbook put out by our church sometime in the 90’s with the title, “Recipes from the Plate.” He found the recipe for the Corn Chowder and he noticed the recipe had been submitted by Betsy Jewell. Along with making the chowder for his friends, Alex asked if I might find a way to let Betsy know her recipe was still bringing not only delicious soup to people, but also stirring some delightful memories. Guess what? As I read that email from Alex, I really liked the tone of his note.

Wednesday I wrote a letter to Betsy telling of what Alex had done. I drove over to the Royal, the Nursing Home where Betsy lives. I dropped a letter off for her at the front door. Without even knowing she did it, Betsy was one of the first friends who set the tone for me at Dunn’s Corners. Unfortunately, soon after we moved to Westerly Betsy had some setbacks and had to be moved to a nursing home. I showed up to visit her. When the attendant at the front desk asked who I came to visit, and I told her Betsy Jewell, she practically broke down in tears. She said, “We all know Betsy. She used to come here all the time, visiting anyone who was sick or lonely. Betsy is the most amazing person.” Does a church have a tone? I think so. I think a person like Betsy Jewell sets the tone, thinking of others, visiting, caring, and showing kindness.

Driving to the Royal Nursing Home I thought of Peg Wolstencroft. Peg is now at the Royal. Peg and Sam Wolstencroft were founding members at Dunn’s Corners. Peg helped set the tone. Before her health took a turn for the worse, Peg would drop by church on Tuesday afternoons. On Tuesdays Peg would have lunch at the Senior Center, and at the lunch they would always give her a cake to take home. Well, the cake never made it home. Peggy knew the youth group met on Tuesday nights, so every Tuesday afternoon she would drop off her cake for the teens. Peggy set a sweet tone at the church, and I mean that in more ways than one.

Barbara Green is also at the Royal. A few months after arriving at Dunn’s Corners Dutch and Barbara asked me to come visit them at their home. I arrived at their home and Barbara greeted me with a big smile. She said Dutch had the car warmed up and wanted to take us all out to lunch. I climbed in and Dutch took me to the middle of nowhere. Literally…there is this darling café somewhere on the way towards Providence that is called “The Middle of Nowhere” café. We had the best lunch. The smiling faces and warm welcome of Dutch and Barbara helped set the tone for our church, and it is a happy and friendly tone.

Florence Madison used to live at the Royal before she died last fall. Among the many remembrances Florence would share about Dunn’s Corners, one stands out. Florence was deeply touched by Dutch’s dad, Ed Green, whose store at Dunn’s Corners was a fixture for many years. At some point on almost every visit Florence would think back on Ed Green and his store and say, “Ed Green carried a lot of people through difficult times.” I guess Ed Green extended credit. I’m pretty sure he did even more than that. Whatever Ed Green did, it set a tone that our dear friend Florence never forgot. So here I start my day looking at my coffee mug with the picture of the cross on the front of our church, and I’m asking myself, “What is the tone for our church?” Then a pleasant thought comes to mind. What is Dunn’s Corners tone? That cross holds the key to the answer for what our tone is as a church. What is Dunn’s Corners tone? Let me spell that question just a little differently. I’m going to remove the space between Corners and tone. “What is Dunn’s Cornerstone?”
“The stone the builders rejected has become the Cornerstone.” Psalm 118:22
Jesus is our Cornerstone, and his life of love sets the tone that lives in each one of our hearts.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne

STAYING CONNECTED IN A TIME OF ISOLATION, Day 55

Practicing our faith through the times of the Coronavirus

Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.

Day 55, May 7, 2020
“Prayer”

Today is the National Day of Prayer. Wikipedia gives this as background for the National Day of Prayer; “The National Day of Prayer is an annual day of observance held on the first Thursday of May, designated by the United States Congress, when people are asked ‘to turn to God in prayer and meditation.’” What is prayer? Among the numerous definitions, most which are very theologically grounded, I happen to like one that on first hearing sounds sort of silly. After email grew in popularity, someone was quick to borrow on email to label prayer as “Knee mail.” I like that.

On our National Day of Prayer, I hope you will take some time to send God a “Knee mail.” The bible has 367 occurrences of the word pray, while prayer appears 154 times. The patriarchs prayed for basic things. Abraham’s servant prayed he would find just the right wife for Abraham’s son Isaac, Isaac prayed that his wife Rebekah would be able to bear a child, and Jacob prayed for reconciliation when he faced his brother Esau after their bitter breakup.

Psalms is known as the book of prayer, and the sheer number of references validates that central place for the psalms, with prayer being mentioned 29 times and pray another 34. Prayer in the Psalms can be as peaceful as the green pastures and still waters of Psalm 23 and as dramatic as the gripping prayer that comes right before the 23rd Psalm, a prayer Jesus prayed on the cross, in his moment of greatest need. Psalm 22 begins with his heartfelt cry, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” Prayer can be praise. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Prayer can be lament. “How long, O Lord, how long?” Prayer can be with hands lifted up or with heads bowed down.

Prayer can be long, as we are told sometimes Jesus would spend the whole night in prayer. And prayer can be brief and succinct, as when Peter began to sink when the waves of doubt caused his faith to fade. Peter’s prayer, so brief and succinct as he began to sink was this. “Lord, save me!” You can make prayer even briefer and more succinct by simply saying to God, “Help!”

There is a rather long history about the invention of email. Bill Gates appeared on the Today show sometime in the early 90’s and made an announcement that there was this dramatic new invention that would transform the way we communicate. It is funny to watch that old interview and see everyone’s jaw drop as he announced email. What a revolutionary concept. It turns out email had been around since the early 70s, but it did not burst forth in use by the masses until the 90s, even providing the title for a sweet romantic movie, “You’ve Got Mail.”

I don’t know who coined the phrase, “Knee mail” as a play on the word email, but I think you could make a case for linking the original popularity of “Knee mail” to the Apostle Paul. We know Paul used letters to his great advantage in sharing the gospel. His letters were most likely written on papyrus and references are made to “parchments”. Whatever he used it took time to write out the letters, time for the letters to travel from one place to the next, whether by foot or by boat, and time to be read and passed around, to say nothing of the time it would take for a reply to be written and sent back. Sending and receiving mail was a slow process, to say the least.

Can you imagine how revolutionary it must have been when this firebrand Apostle would show up in places like Athens, Ephesus, Berea, and Corinth, places very familiar with papyrus and parchments, and proclaim to all these people who had never heard of having a personal relationship with God Almighty, the creator of the heavens and the earth, that there was this marvelous and amazing form of communication called, “Knee mail.” Paul had the great honor and privilege of telling new believers they could pray to God, directly, through Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit. You just take your requests directly God, and God immediately receives your “Knee mail.” God hears your prayers.

God hears our prayers. Friends, in these difficult days, please remember God hears our prayers. God receives our “Knee mails.” On this National Day of Prayer, I hope you will take some time to send God a “Knee mail.” I am thinking of “Knee mail” because when Paul offers his beautiful and soaring prayer about God’s love at the end of Ephesians 3, he begins by telling us it is a “Knee mail.” Paul writes, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-20) When we send a “Knee mail”, Paul wants us to remember that God is strong and mighty and able, able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. And Paul wants us to remember, Paul wants us to grasp how wide and long and high and deep God’s love is for us, the love that comes to us in Jesus Christ. Remembering God’s power, and remembering God’s love, I hope you will take some time today to send God a “Knee mail.” Like any good parent, our God likes to hear from his children.

With the love of Christ,
Wayne