Giving thanks for freedom! by PASTOR DICK RILEY Rockford United Methodist Church Once upon a time, a man found the barn where Satan kept all his seeds of sin stored. In bag after bag, seeds were stored that were destined to grow in the hearts of people everywhere. There were seeds of envy and greed, seeds of hatred and lust, and seeds of bitterness and idolatry. In row after row, the man found all the different seeds of sin, and then, suddenly, Satan himself entered the barn. The man looked at Satan and then looked at the many bags of seed—the seeds of sin. “So, what do you think of my bags of seed?” Satan asked. “Tell me,” the man asked. “Will these terrible seeds—will they grow anywhere?” Reluctantly, Satan frowned and admitted that there was one place in which his seeds of sin would not grow. “And where is that?” asked the man. “My seeds of sin,” said Satan, “will never grow in the heart of a grateful person.” This coming week, we will celebrate our nation’s 236th birthday! What a blessing! What a gift! What a time to celebrate all of the freedoms that we enjoy in this great land of ours! And what a wonderful time to pause and, with grateful hearts, thank the Lord our God, worshiping Him in the church of your choice, and, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, “giving Him thanks and praise” (I Thess. 5). Have a great and grateful Fourth of July week!
God’s grace evident in a stranger by REV. LAURIE TENHAVE-CHAPMAN First Congregational Church, Rockford “Whad’ya think?” I asked my husband after we read an article in the paper. It gave a brief bio on a couple of exchange students who still needed host families to make their dream of studying in America come true. We had both talked about serving as a host family before, but weren’t actively looking at the time. Somehow I had been drawn to read the article in which young people from far away vulnerably described their gifts and their hopes. One jumped off the page at me and, as my husband read about her, seemed like the right fit to him, too. We called the number listed to make a preliminary inquiry. We checked with each of our kids to see how they felt about opening our home to a stranger. They each gave their blessing and we had signed on the dotted line within two weeks of casually perusing that newspaper! Somehow we knew that this decision was not simply our own, but that God was at work. We made the necessary preparations and welcomed her at the airport last August. What a wonderful year it has been! How can you grow to love a complete stranger who moves into your home? The starting point is prayer: channeling God’s love to this new family member. Being open-minded and flexible are critical qualities when sharing space with a newcomer. Expecting to learn from them even as they learn from you will bring untold gifts your way. Berenice has broadened the world of my children. We have been reminded that we are pretty much the same around the world. We are all God’s children! The State Department underwrites the Foreign Exchange Student Program as they believe this is one of the great ways to bring peace to our world. This national priority shows great insight! The Hebrew people are reminded in Deuteronomy 10:19, “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Jesus praised the righteous believers by saying, “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” We have learned that in a beautiful way this year in our own family. We will mourn […]
Gifts by REV. DAVID MEYERS Holy Spirit Episcopal Church As spring has unfolded around us, the church has walked the Great Fifty Days of the Easter Season, gave a passing nod to Ascension Day, and now, as of last Sunday, has entered the season of Pentecost. The Day of Pentecost is remembered as the time in which the Holy Spirit came upon the gathered Apostles with great wind and fire. The outpouring of the Spirit gave them greater understanding, inspired preaching, and gifts they never knew they had in bringing the Good News to the world. The Mystery of the Holy Spirit is the indwelling Presence of God in our lives and in our world. The Spirit sustains all things, encourages all goodness, is in all, is over all, and is doing more in us than we can ask and imagine. Just like the Apostles, the Spirit continues to enter each person with all-consuming love that is manifested in gifts and skills. The Bible refers to seven spiritual gifts, but there are as many gifts as there are people. Each person is endowed with spiritual gifts at baptism. As Thomas Merton wrote, “We get a name in baptism. That is because the depths of our soul are stamped, by that holy sacrament, with a supernatural identification, which will eternally tell us who we were meant to be. Our baptism, which drowns us in the death of Christ, summons upon us all the sufferings of our life: their mission is to help us work out the pattern of our identity received in the sacrament.” It becomes, then, the mission of all of us to not only discover ourselves but live into our gifts. For some, gifts are easy to recognize. For others, the search is more elusive. Sometimes we know our own gifts. Oftentimes, however, gifts must be identified and named by others. This is the value of the worshiping community. When gathering in the name of Christ, we enter a fellowship in which gifts are honored, nurtured, respected, and celebrated. Realizing all are different, may hold different beliefs, may even entertain opposing viewpoints, the inclusive church becomes stronger. The Christian community creates a marvelous tapestry that can overcome the world in furthering the Kingdom of […]
An Effective Healthcare Option by NINA BROWN Member, Third Church of Christ, Scientist Healthcare is a subject described by multiple opinions, but it is a personal choice. Today there are many healthcare options available. I grew up in a family where spiritual healing through prayer was consistently, effectively and lovingly practiced. It had proven to be the most effective healing method in my parents’ lives before my sister and I were born. Here is one example, from among many experienced by my family, of effective spiritual healing through prayer: My sister and I often rode our bikes through the subdivision with our friends. One Saturday morning Erika was in hurry to go on a ride with her friends and she left her shoes in the house. A few minutes after she went out, Dad and I heard a very loud scream followed by a crash. Dad knew it was my sister, so he raced out to the street and scooped her up in his arms and moved her bike out of the street. She had gotten her foot tangled in the spokes and it looked pretty bad. Dad cleaned the wound and wrapped it with cloth as he spoke to her of God’s tender love for her. Dad prayed for her and continued to reassure her of God’s goodness and love. In less than an hour my sister was running up the stairs to head back outside and the cloth fell off, revealing her foot with no sign of injury. Dad helped her put her shoes on and she headed out to play. This showed me the practical and immediate effectiveness of spiritual healing through prayer and is an example of why I am grateful that this system of healing was available for our family’s use. Even today I find this system of spiritual healing effective in my life. I enjoy reading the Bible to find inspiration and examples of spiritual healing where people turned to God in prayer and found immediate help. Jesus healed many people and taught that the healings he did his followers could do also. This healing of my sister’s foot showed me this was true and agrees with another book I study, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” […]
One Truth or Many ‘Versions of Truth’ by PASTOR MARK W. LOVE St. Peter’s Lutheran Church As people who live with so much information and so much informed information provided by commentators and interpreters of anything and everything of our world, we are also a people left to decide whose version, interpretation and commentary of the facts are the truth. Our society today denies that there is one truth by which all things can be judged—there are only interpretations of it. While this can be a hassle, many people like it because it allows them to pick and choose those “versions of truth” that permit them to have what they want. In short: “Getting or keeping what I want or think is right will determine what is ‘truth’ for me.” Variations of truth and the acceptance of them are both born of selfishness. We only have to go to Adam and Eve to see this one real truth. There was God’s truth and Satan’s “version of truth”—selfishness led them to accept the “version of truth,” which is NO truth at all, that gave them what they wanted. Another important reason why we like to be able to pick and choose “versions of truth” is that the real and unyielding truth makes demands of us and it will always cost us something. Just as a person will adopt a certain “version of truth” to obtain something, this same person will also adopt the same or another “version of truth” to retain something. Consider the people who say, “It is such a big problem and I’m just one person, there is nothing I can do.” This “version of truth” allows them to obtain an excuse for their lack of participation, and it also allows them to retain their time, energy and money for their own use. The unbeliever uses the “version of truth” that says “religion is all a matter of interpretation, there is no way to know the truth.” This “version of truth” provides the individual with a reason not to listen or study the Word of God, and it has also allowed him or her to retain his or her ungodly life. In His high priestly prayer, Jesus asked God the Father to “sanctify them […]