From the Financial Officer
- Undesignated Monthly Offering Received during October 2022 (need $7,667)
- Designated Offerings Received during October 2022
- $350.00 was donated to the Food Pantry
- $40.00 was donated to the Happy Hearts Hopeful Future fund (goes directly toward the mortgage principle)
- Mortgage balance as of October 31, 2022
- 2022 Year to Date Undesignated Giving is behind $12,357.00
Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. – Hellen Keller
Please check the kiosk for volunteer opportunities at church – sign-up if you are called to serve our Lord, Jesus Christ. Read about church and community happenings on the kiosk.
Do you know of a community event that others may like to know about as well? Please get the information to the office so items can get on the kiosk for our church community to see.
Message from November 22md – Thanksgiving Worship by Pastor Pokora
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
No Thanksgiving celebration would be complete without retelling the story of our Pilgrim forebearers who arrived to settle this country on November 11th, 1620.
Pilgrim history begins with the English reformation and changes made in the Church of England by Henry VIII. Many people, at that time, felt the new church retained far too many practices of the Roman Catholic Church. They hoped to return to a simpler and less structured form of worship once used by the Apostolic community. After a while, however, they demanded the formation of new, separate church congregations. They were called separatists.
Unfortunately, the Separatist Christian community was not allowed to follow its beliefs. The people were harassed, fined, and even sent to jail for their religious practices. Eventually, the decision was made to flee persecution and live in the Netherlands, where they could practice their faith without interference from government or church officials.
Life in the Netherlands proved hard for English Christians. Their new life required much long and demanding work. They finally decided to move again; this time intended to leave Europe altogether and establish a farming community in the northern part of the Virginia colony in America. On September 6, 1620, 102 English separatists embarked on the ship Mayflower from Southampton, England for the new world.
The Mayflower with its cargo of English passengers arrived in New England on November 11,1620 after a 66 day voyage at sea. Unfortunately, winter weather arrived early that year, making further travel to Virginia difficult and dangerous. On December 16th, 1620, the colonist disembarked from their ship in Plymouth Harbor and began building a new community. Unfortunately, many colonists fell ill that winter, suffering from scurvy and pneumonia. Sometimes as many as two or three people a day died. Only 52 of the 102 survived the first winter in Plymouth. Everyone suffered enormously.
The following spring, surviving settlers forged an agreement to live in peace with the Wampanoag Indians living near this settlement. Together the colonist and Indians gathered for a three day harvest celebration in the fall of 1621. Ninety Wampanoag Indians joined the 52 English settlers for that celebration. That was the first Thanksgiving meal in America.
These English colonists eventually became known as Pilgrims. “A pilgrim is a person who travels a long journey with a religious or moral purpose to a foreign land. Governor William Bradford may have been the first individual to identify the group as Pilgrims. He described his compatriots this way: “They knew they were pilgrims, and looked not much on these things, but lifted their eyes to the heavens, their dearest country; and that quieted their spirits”
In the aftermath of the American Revolutionary War, President George Washington first proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving. Possibly more famously, Abraham: Lincoln also declared a day of Thanksgiving in the midst of the civil war, following the Battle of Gettysburg, which was arguably a turning point in a conflict of memorable brutality and death.
Someone once said, “context is everything.” Today I suggest context is everything to our understanding of Thanksgiving. The picture of the first Thanksgiving, some four hundred years ago, blurs the context and distorts our understanding of that seminal event. What I mean is the paintings of the First Thanksgiving show tall, healthy and brawny Indians and Pilgrims gathered in a colorful setting at a great feast. Those pictures do no justice to the circumstances the pilgrims endured. Only as we grasp their suffering does the meaning of Thanksgiving rise to the surface and become truth.
On Thanksgiving Day, we sit to eat our meal in the context of a land of plenty. We take for granted our homes, our wealth our families and possessions We may sound like the Pharisee in a parable Jesus told. Remember how the pharisee and the tax collector went up to the temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people, thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” On the other hand, the publican prayed “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Sometimes our attitude toward Thanksgiving may echo that parable. We rest at our tables, thanking God we are not like other countries that suffer want and always seem plagued by conflict, disease, and misery.
This evening our Gospel tells the familiar story of ten lepers who approach Jesus, asking mercy for themselves. Jesus has compassion on them. He tells them to go and show themselves to the priest to certify their cleansing. As they leave, one leper, a Samaritan, discovers he has been healed and returns thanks to Jesus. Jesus asks, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? He says to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
The attitude of the Samaritan leper on bended knee, offering thanks to God, stands in sharp contrast to the Pharisee in the temple who thanks God he is not like other sinners. Thankfulness flows from context. The Samaritan lived as an outcast and now has been restored to health and wholeness. The same might be said of the pilgrims. They endured unimaginable suffering. Their thanksgiving derives from their survival of life threatening conditions.
A lesson may be drawn from this story. Context shapes our understanding of Thanksgiving. The thanksgiving of the leper arises from his illness. The pilgrims’ thanksgiving reflects their suffering in this new land. A Christian sense of thanksgiving follows from the aftermath of events in our lives, revealing our dependence upon the grace of God. Too often the thanksgiving offered by some people sounds uncomfortably similar to the motto of Malcolm Forbes, who famously said: “He who dies with the most toys wins.” That saying is rooted in materialism. Thanksgiving devolves to little more than bragging rights about material things.
Let Thanksgiving be rooted in spiritual reality. We recognize our dependence upon the mercy and grace of God.
Thanksgiving follows from humility, from the realization all we have is a gracious gift. Thanksgiving begins and ends with a deep faith in the goodness and love of God. May your Thanksgiving spirit rise from the context your humility and a strong faith in God’s grace. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in in Christ Jesus.
Message from November 27th – First Sunday of Advent – by Pastor Pokora
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
Happy New Year!
The First Sunday in Advent marks the beginning of the liturgical year. The liturgical year leads us through the story of Jesus’ life and teachings. The story commences with Advent and guides us through the major gospel themes found in Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.
Unfortunately, in American culture the First Sunday in Advent and its message often get lost in the Thanksgiving holiday and associated Black Friday shopping spree. If you think about it, three seasons arrive simultaneously this time of year. The holiday or shopping season gets underway after Halloween and extends through post-Christmas sales. The Christmas season runs a parallel course with Advent. Some churches, for example, sing Christmas carols in November, but have nothing to say the preparatory themes of Advent.
Finally, we approach the Advent season with its unique character, particularly evident in our three lessons for this Sunday. Here the words of Isaiah, son of Amos, set the stage for Advent with a vision of peace and reconciliation in this world. Isaiah proclaims the house of God will be established on a high mountain and nations shall gather there to be taught God’s ways. God judges the nations and arbitrates their disputes. We hear these memorable words: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” What a beautiful vision of hope Isaiah lays before us.
Over the holidays I followed the news with interest. North Korea once again threatened our nation as did Iran. Russia promised to put missiles on its border with Poland and build new and more destructive weapons. The threat of violence is never far from us. Many of us recall the threat of violence well into our childhood. I remember as a child in grade school attending the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. One exhibit in the grandstands I recall in particular. This display demonstrated how to build a nuclear bomb shelter in your backyard. All through the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, the threat of nuclear war hung over our nation. War is never far from us.
Imagine what it must have been like for Isaiah and the people who lived in Jerusalem with the constant threat of war and a great army would besieging their city. A city was only as good as its walls and the soldiers who mounted its battle mounts. An attack could mean massacre and slavery. It is appalling to think people of Syria presently live under these conditions. Isaiah hopes that nations will no longer lift up sword against nation- a dream yet to be realized.
The Apostle Paul takes the message of hope one step further. He believes salvation is nearer than we think. He goes so far as to say: “The night is gone and the day draws near.” He calls upon us to lay aside the works of darkness and live honorably. He concludes by setting this Advent theme: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” These words run wholly counter to the holiday season with its message of shopper sales and material indulgence.
Much of Paul’s message to the Roman church, and to other churches to whom he also wrote, encouraged people to live, behave, and act in response to God’s gracious gift to them, and the world. To Paul we ought to live your life as if we will meet God face to face anytime. We live life confident that God’s kingdom has begun. We live our life knowing the relationship we have with God are more important than anything in life. If live life that way, then your behavior ought to reflect what we believe.
We don’t act morally to win God’s approval. Paul never says that our action wins us salvation. Instead, our life is about faith, faith in God’s actions, faith in God’s love, and faith in God’s promise of steadfast relationship with us! But faith is not just believing. Faith is also about doing, acting, and working in God’s kingdom here and now. We do the work of Christ in the place where we are, responding to God’s gift of love, knowing we can do nothing to earn forgiveness of sin and salvation.
The Gospel, for this Sunday in Advent draws Isaiah’s vision of peace and Paul’s call to live, in anticipation of his coming again, into a message of readiness and preparation. Jesus says regarding his second coming that “About that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” And he concludes, “Therefore you must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
We are to be ready for the coming of Christ through the act of repentance. We acknowledge before God we need His grace through Christ. We are symbolically drowning in the waters of Baptism and raised to a new life. We are ready by daily repentance. Repentance is the act of turning away from sin to live a new life in Christ. And when the second coming arrives, God will see us our new selves, cleansed by the blood of Christ.
Let me illustrate my point this way. Ian Macpherson tells a story about a little girl on a train to London shortly after the Second World War. She had been evacuated from the city during air raids and had not seen her mother for a long time. She was excited to meet her mother on arrival at the station. A fellow passenger teased asked. “What if she does not recognize you? It is so long since she saw you and she may have forgotten what you look like.” At first the child was shocked her mother might not recognize her. But soon she was all smiles again as she announced, “It will be all right. Mummy made the dress I am wearing. If she does not know me by myself, she’ll know me by my dress. “God knows us by the white clothes of repentance we wear when we repent in preparation to receive him.
Repentance does not just happen once but is a daily activity we do to be ready for his appearance. We prepare ourselves daily for Christ’s coming. C.S. Lewis once said: “A Christian is not one who never goes wrong, but one who is enabled to repent and begin over again after each stumble—because of the inner working of Christ.”
May you enter the Advent season committed to preparing yourself for the coming of Christ through repentance and acts of charity for others. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.