Good Morning to you, Church!
It’s snowing and blowing out my window right now, and icy underneath. All around, it’s a good day to stay inside if you can!
The news for this week is short and sweet:
Rev. Shaun will be preaching and leading worship this Sunday.
I’m very grateful for the words of hope and life that Rev. Shaun will bring to us this week, in particular. Her willingness to preach and lead worship allowed me to try the next step on my health journey. On Tuesday, Sue Waters drove me to Burlington to have something called Platelet-Rich Plasma injections (PRP) done in my back. The treatment uses your own blood cells to target healing in certain parts of the body. For me, the hope is that it will tighten up the loose ligaments and joints in my back that cause me such pain. It will take 1-3 months to know if it’s going to help, but I feel very hopeful that this could be a game changer for me. In the meantime, however, I am sore and moving very slowly this week. (Any prayers you might have for me in the coming weeks are appreciated!)
Cynthia Coleman has asked me to remind us all a few more times about per capita. Our payment to Presbytery this year is $1,674– which is $31x 54 people. If you are a member of the church, would you consider covering the $31 meant to include you?
Native and Invasive Species
Bob Pickard and Renee Stauffer are working on an exciting project for us that will take place in June. They are inviting a local DEC representative to come and show us a documentary about the effects of invasive plant species on the local environment and the importance of cultivating native species. The Sunday after the documentary, the DEC individual will then give a guided tour of the church grounds and point out where we have both invasive and native species. The hope is that we might be able to dig up the invasive ones and plant natives in their place.
We plan to open these events up to the greater community and invite local children and youth to participate in the re-planting.
War and Violence, Near and Far
Dear Hearts, it’s been a week marked by shock, fear, and grief for many of us. Last Friday night Beth Howell, a senior at Crane, was shot and killed by a Massena man just beyond the borders of the school’s campus. It’s left our heads spinning with confusion, anger, fear, and sorrow– especially for those who consider ourselves part of the SUNY Potsdam community. Then, if that weren’t enough, Vladimir Putin has invaded Ukraine, setting the world on edge for what we wonder about in fear-filled whispers at the dinner table as the possibility for a third world war.
Do you find yourself wondering, “Why is there such violence in the world? And why do we hurt each other so?” If these are the cries of your heart this week, you are not alone. But the truth of the matter is, God has created us with the capacities for both compassion and violence. And these capacities are part of what makes us human. We have the power to tear each other down and build each other up, in both small and big ways.
When faced with such harm in the world though, it’s easy to become disillusioned by hopelessness and helplessness, isn’t it? If you’re like me, you found yourself feeling helpless to do anything in the face of this war, which is quite terrifying. This leads us to wonder, “How do we fight against violence and terror that is so much bigger than we are?!” What do we do when the forces of evil are so great?
Friends, when we find ourselves starting to get hemmed in by the powers of harm, Jesus teaches us to fight back by using our powers of compassion and love. He teaches us to notice where in the world we can make a difference, and then to act in ways that bring about the realm of God. You don’t personally have the capacity to fight against Putin’s forces in Ukraine, and it’s not your individual right to persecute Michael Snow, but you have arms and legs, and a heart and a brain that can bring about God’s justice and love right where you are.
The way to overcome fear, that sense of helplessness, and the violence that surrounds us all is to find our place in the world and then flesh out God’s goodness in that place.
So what can you do this week to spread the force and power of love, justice, and compassion in the world? What will you do this week to overcome evil with good? (I’m serious about that question. This is not a rhetorical exercise.)
One thing I’m doing this week is to reach out to the director of counseling at SUNY Potsdam to find out how our church might be able to support the campus in the coming weeks. I will also continue in my efforts to foster justice and equity for Black and Brown people in America. I will hug my kids and visit with my elderly neighbors. I will pray for Potsdam, the Howell family, Michael Snow, Ukraine, Russia, and even Putin himself. And I will do what I need to do to take care of my own body, mind, and soul– including asking for help when I need it. (Taking care of yourself is a huge part of how we fight against violence in the world.)
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he says,
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering…Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you….~Excerpts from Romans 12, The Message Version
In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be….
If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face….
Don’t hit back…. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.“
Friends, what will you do this week to spread the force and power of love, justice, and compassion in the world?
Fighting Evil By Doing Good,