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April 2017

                                         The Long Walk
“Jesus, now well on the way up to Jerusalem, took the Twelve off to the side of the road and said, ‘Listen to me carefully. We are on our way up to Jerusalem. When we get there, the Son of Man will be betrayed to the religious leaders and scholars. They will sentence him to death. They will then hand him over to the Romans for mockery and torture and crucifixion. On the third day he will be raised up alive.’” 
                             Matthew 20:17-19 (The Message)

We are a couple of weeks away from Easter and hopefully all of us have been walking with Jesus during Lent.  Deep down, all of us know that we should be walking with Jesus everyday of our lives but sometimes we don’t.

Just as Jesus was on what we can imagine was the longest walk of his life, we too have probably been on long walks ourselves.  You remember, the walk we must take even though we are dreading it; the kind of walk our brain says, “No” but our heart says, “Yes.”  It is the kind of walk where we force ourselves to put one foot in front of the other, even if it is a very slow and hard process.

Why is it so hard?  Because we probably know what lies ahead for us, our fear of the unknown.  As a kid, it could have been a walk to the principal’s office because of something you did wrong, afraid of what your punishment might be.

As an adult, it could be a walk to the boss’s office to tell them of a big mistake you have made.  Or it could be the same walk knowing your company is laying off people and your boss wants to see you.

Some of us have taken that long walk after a loved one has died unexpectedly, not knowing where to go or who to call first or what to even to say.

In the midst of our anxiety and angst, no matter what it is we are facing, we must do our best to remember that God is walking with us.

I can only imagine what Jesus was going through emotionally during his walk to Jerusalem.  I believe he was able to tell his disciples what was going to happen with a calm about him but his insides churning; sort of like the duck on the surface of the pond - smooth sailing above water while the feet are paddling ferociously below.

It is easy for us to say, well, Jesus is God and knew what the end result was going to be after his long walk ended.  No big deal.  But it is a big deal - Jesus was human and had human doubts and anxieties.  Remember his behavior in the garden the night of his arrest?  Talk about tense.

And I believe the pain he endured after his arrest and during his crucifixion was real. 

In the end, Jesus trusted God no matter what was going to happen.  So must we.

Happy Easter!  
Rick


March 2017

                               It’s All About Community

“A friend loves at all times, and kinsfolk are born to share adversity.”
Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)


As we prepare for the Lenten Season, I thought I would share a few thoughts on how we can become more involved in our neighborhood.

I briefly talked in worship a couple of weeks ago about our small green space on Second Street.  I think it would be a great idea to plant a couple of raised garden beds in that space.  Bob Dunfee pointed out to me that that area is on the north side of the building so sunshine could be an issue.  It does get afternoon summer sun so we’ll see.

The idea is to grow vegetables we can use for our hot meals and also possibly share with our neighbors.  Any suggestions, let me know.  We should designate a “lead gardener” to help supervise watering and such.  If you’d like to help out or “lead,” let me know.

I also thought about placing a “Blessing Box” outside the church over by the proposed garden area.  I learned about the idea on the NBC national evening news on February 8.  In fact, Berea has one near the pubic library.  The idea is that non-perishable food items are placed there for public use.  People take what they need and other people can donate what they are able to.  It’s another way to help our neighbors.  Let me know what you think.

I also have asked our synod to host a one day Mobile Health Fair in July, around picnic time.  The staff consists of six trained young adults.  The fair is FREE and for people in our community.   It provides basic health screenings and referrals and basic health education for participants.  One example, they check cholesterol levels.

The Synod of the Covenant pays for the health fair.  Last year there were 38 Mobile Health Fairs in Michigan and Ohio.  The staff did 1,442 screenings and made 138 medical referrals.  This is just another way to help provide some necessary assistance for our neighbors.

Our friend Dave Norris, who lives at the Valor Home, is looking for some extra work.  He is a true handyman.  His number is 440-452-1221.  I highly recommend him.  Let’s help a vet!

Lots to think about and lots to pray about.

Blessings, 
Rick

P.S. Summer worship at High Meadows: June 25, July 23, and August 27!!   


February 2017                                
                                  We Must Be Like Children
                           “Romper, bomper, stomper boo…”
               Miss Barbara, Host of Romper Room on Cleveland

Growing up outside of Chicago, Romper Room was my favorite tv show.  It was a syndicated show throughout the United States with each city having their own version of “Miss Barbara.” 
   
When I saw the names of the hosts of the Chicago production online, none of them were familiar to me.  For some reason, I remember Miss Barbara, the host in Cleveland, although by the time I moved to the here I was too old for Romper Room, although my younger brothers were into it by then.
   
Two of the characters on the show were “Do Bee” and “Don’t Bee.”  They were people dressed up as bees (no, John Belushi was not one of them) and their job was to help Miss Barbara educate the viewers on how to behave (Do Bee) and not behave (Don’t Bee).
   
For whatever reason, I just thought of these characters after we heard about the calling of the first disciples by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (4:12-23) this past Sunday (January 22) during worship.  Because to be a follower of Jesus is to be called to do things in order to help further the kingdom of God here on earth.
   
Jesus tells us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40). 
   
To follow Jesus is to “do this and do that” (feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the poor, shelter the homeless, seek justice etc.).  We talked on Sunday about how hard it is when we are trying to figure out what we can do to impact those around us during our daily life in the name of Christ.  As a church, it seems to be easier answering these “to do’ commands than on our own.
   
I suggested that instead of trying to figure out what to do as individuals, we should just “be” - try our best to be in Christ.  By being in Christ, our lives will change.  By change I mean everything we say and do will become more Christ-like.  When we become more like Christ people around us will notice.
   
As we “be” like Christ, the doing part will just evolve.  What Jesus wants us to do will just come to us and we will know how to respond.  I thought this was important to hear again.  It is so easy for us to get overwhelmed by our world that we can easily ask ourselves, “What’s the point?”
   
The point is to be like Christ no matter how tough things might get.

Blessings,
Rick


   
January 2017
                                         Going Green in ‘17


             “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
                                                 Genesis 1:1


I don’t know about you but I whenever I was given a gift by someone, I was always told to take care it.  A gift was something to be thankful for and respect to the giver was expected.  A gift was to be taken care of, even if it’s purpose was to used.
   
From the first verse from the first chapter in The Bible, we are told that the earth and the heavens were a gift to humankind and all the other creatures that inhabit it.  It only makes sense that we should be thankful for this gift.  And it only makes sense that we should take care of it.
   
We have a president-elect and many of his preferred cabinet appointees who don’t believe in global warming.  There is talk about deregulating many of the environmental initiatives that were put into place by many previous administrations. 
   
We must not be afraid to speak out against issues that will harm our environment.  If our environment is harmed, so are our lives, especially the lives of the poor around the world.  All of us must become better caretakers of our environment.
   
What can we do as a church?  How can we lessen our carbon footprint, so to speak?  In 2016, we replaced all of our incandescent bulbs with more energy efficient LED lightbulbs.
   
Our church recently received $2,000 in grant money from our presbytery.  The purpose for this money is to help us really “go green” in 2017.  We are going to use this money to begin the transition of purchasing more environmentally-friendly, biodegradable products to use for our Hot Meals Program.
   
We have used styrofoam plates, bowls, cups, to-go containers, and other products forever.  Do you know that styrofoam does not decompose in the environment under normal circumstances. Much like plastic, styrofoam is made from a polystyrene-based petroleum product that is not biodegradable. Plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose, and styrofoam takes much longer because it is a stronger form of plastic.  Ughhhhh!!!!
  
This is just a start.  We should also recycle old bulletins and other paper items.
   
We have members who help us recycle cans and cardboard but the more volunteers the better.  We checked with the city and in order to do this as a church, we would have to pay a monthly fee to have recycled items picked up curbside.  We would also have to pay for another big recycle bin with our waste removal haulers, if we went with that option.
   
Maybe we should do a better job of closing the sanctuary doors, including the ones upstairs, during the week. I have noticed when I spend the night with the homeless that our stairwells get pretty cold on cold nights, even though they all have radiators in them.  Do you have any other suggestions?
   
Most of us do many of these things in our own homes.  Last year I started composting.  It’s time to think globally as a congregation and become more green. 
   
God has charged us with taking care of the world and the environment we have been given.  It’s time for us to take this type of stewardship more seriously.
   
Blessings and Happy New Year!! 
Rick    

                          
December 2016
                                We MUST Answer God’s Call


     “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.”
                                           Luke 1:38

Every Advent Sunday during worship, we light Advent candles.  The candles represent the yearnings of all of God’s people for hope, peace, joy, and love.  With the negative attitudinal undercurrent that has permeated our country the past few years and reinforced by our recent election season, these Advent wishes take on a newer sense of urgency.
   
We should look at Mary’s words printed above and take them to heart.  We have all been called to be the Lord’s servants but I’m not sure how many of us (myself included) take that responsibility as sincerely as Mary.  How many of us have boldly proclaimed, “I am the Lord’s servant” to another person or even out loud for that matter?
   
Although the second part of her quote is a direct response to the Angel Gabriel’s news that Mary would give birth to the Christ child, I believe her response should also be our response to God as we continue our journey here on earth.  God created each one of us for a purpose and that purpose was to care for our neighbor and the stranger (see Matthew 25:31-45). 
   
Jesus didn’t come to earth in order to build walls and divide people.  He came to break down the barriers dividing the people of earth.  He understood that his mission would take time and meet much resistance from the establishment but it was something that needed to be done.
   
If my message has a bit of a political undercurrent, I apologize.  It has been suggested to leave politics out of church.  I once believed that.  I even used politics as an excuse for walking away from the church back in the early 80’s.
   
Since my return to church, going to seminary, and doing my best to study God’s Word, I think Jesus is one of the most political people to ever walk the earth.  His birth, his life, his ministry, his death, and his resurrection were all game changers.  Jesus was about as anti-establishment as anyone who lived.  And there was a reason for it.  And that reason still exists today.
   
This Advent Season, let all of us pray about and reflect upon how our voice(s) can be heard.  How can we proclaim Christ’s message of love above the fear and disrespectful speech that fills our airways and newspapers?  How can we brighten the beacon of light that we try so hard to shine on everyone our church comes in contact with?  Our work is cut out for us; but Jesus is with us.
   
This is a season of hope, peace, joy, and love.  Merry Christmas!!

Blessings,   
Rick



November 2016
                           Sitting on the Dock in Detroit Harbor


I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay…Watchin' the tide roll away, ooo…I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay…Wastin' time
                                       Otis Redding

Just because I am on vacation doesn’t mean you are not in my thoughts.  Thank you for allowing Mary and I to take our annual fall pilgrimage to Washington Island, WI.  It’s been a rigorous rehab after knee replacement surgery and being able to get away was great.
   
Every time I sit on my friends harbor dock (or porch), I think of the popular Otis Redding song from 1968.  The harbor is a good place for me to reflect and contemplate life and things.  Here are a couple of things I thought about while in Wisconsin:
   
Winter is fast approaching and so is our shared mission with St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and First United Methodist Church concerning the homeless population in Elyria.  The Basic Shelter will run from December-April.  Time to begin preparations.  We are responsible for the weeks of December 18-24, January 15-21, February 19-25, March 19-25, and April 16-22 and 23-29.  Yes, we will be open on Christmas Eve if needed.  How ironic that there were no rooms at the inns of Elyria for the homeless until last year.
   
I would like to make the church library more family friendly.  How many of you take books out of our library?  A show of hands.  That’s what I thought.  I talked with Lila Rae (our resident librarian) about it and she is not opposed to downsizing the library.  We can keep some books, donate most to the Elyria Public Library, and you could take what books you would like.  Many of them our outdated.  Maybe we could put a changing table in there, children’s books, some newer toys and playthings, etc.  We could still use the room for a Sunday school classroom when needed.  We could get rid of that monstrosity of a TV and stand and hang a flat screen on the wall with a DVD player.
   
What are your ideas about the house next door (if and when we get it)?  How can we use it to help better our neighborhood?  Please let me know.  Lots of possibilities to narrow down.
   
Finally, I turn 65 in December.  I thought a lot about retirement during my rehab and vacation.  Unless anything unforeseen happens, I plan to retire when I turn 70.  We will share one final Advent Season in 2021 before I go.
   
We still have lots of work to do.  What do we hope to do in the next five years?  Where do you see us as one chapter closes and another begins?
   
Blessings,
Rick    










 
   
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