First News of Dickinson and Belfield - October 2006
The leaves outside are just starting to turn color, telling us that change is upon us. As April stands for that time of renewal leading into the fullness of spring, so too, does October stand for transition and renewal.
We learn from life that nothing stays the same, not even the tallest mountain can stand firm without being worn down by the winds of time. The seedling that was planted in the spring falls to the cold frost that confronts it in October. Nor is there really any end-of-the-line; the seedling leaves behind seeds of its own that will burst into life next spring (this is quite good - except of course for dandelion seeds . . . ). With transition there is always a moving away and a moving towards.Moving from an old, comfortable way of being towards . . . often, the unknown.
The faith we have built up throughout our lives allows us to focus on the growth, allows us to expect that growth.
But then everything repeats. Spring comes again, new flowers, new hopes and ideas bloom as well.The Dickinson Sunday School is restarting.Belfield is welcoming growth. The cycle spirals up as the church yearns to embody Christ more fully. Each generation is challenged to love more fully and extensively than the one before. The phrase "we've never done that before" should be welcomed and encouraged, rather than becoming a sign to stop.
But we, as people, can choose to stop it. We are not forced to embrace the new life of Easter, to welcome that taste of the resurrection into our lives with which God wishes to gift us. Renewal can be blighted. Transition can be to death rather than new life.
The paradox of human freedom is that we can say "no" to God's will for our lives. And we can say "yes" more strongly than ever before. The question is God's; the answer is ours.
This one answer that we give determines how our life will go. Fortunately, it is not a once and for all choice. The cycle of the church year reminds us of that - as each year we travel from birth to death and into joy and new life. An answer of "no, not yet" can change into a resounding "YES."
At each moment of transition and renewal in our lives as individuals and as Christ's church, we are called to choose. To chose "yes" or "no."God does not coerce the choice. But God does celebrate every "yes" - just as the return of that one lost lamb is celebrated by the entire population of heaven.
The joy of new life is awaiting us all this and every time of transition and renewal. How we choose is up to us.
May we choose life together.
First News of Dickinson and Belfield - November 2006
As I sit here, the tree crews are taking down the old, diseased trees that occupy 4th Street West here in Dickinson. These trees have sheltered people for years, but have finally come to an end of their lives, an end to their service to God's world. For such trees, I am deeply thankful.
Trees meant much to me as a child.I would wander through the state forest behind out house, being careful NOT to get stuck in the swamp (although I did lose one boot in it once). Trees were great to climb, and look down on the world around me. There was even a tree from which I would fly a kite. But - trees die, more seeds get planted, and life continues on according to the plan of God.
November is the month in which we celebrate the harvest. Not as many people live on the land as they once did - but all people participate in harvest activities. Gardening, raising children, completing a difficult task that brings fulfillment - all these are harvest activities.
The Bible is filled with harvest metaphors and stories that still ring true to our modern ears. We plant seeds of all kinds - not just the kind that grow in the garden or field.S eeds of love, seeds of truth, seeds of faith. We plant them in our own hearts and in the hearts of other people.
Throughout the centuries, All Saints Day celebrated those who have gone on before us who have planted such seeds.I t is time to take a moment and reflect on those who have planted such seeds in our hearts. It is time to reflect on what our own harvest might look like, where have we planted the seed of love?
It is important to remember that we are not alone in the care of such seeds and seedlings.God is involved. God sent the rain that grew the trees of my childhood, that grew those trees on 4th Street West. That grew the seedlings in our own hearts.
That is why we celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November. We honor the creator of the harvest with gratitude for all that has blessed our lives.
Copyright © 2006 M. Kathleen Chesnut
First News of Dickinson and Belfield - December 2006
Writing this month's letter is an interesting task.I need to somehow mix Advent and Christmas, and then, with no January Newsletter, I need to throw in New Year's resolutions.What do New Year's resolutions have to do with a little baby?
Let's see - Advent is preparing for the presence of Christ among us.Christ among us - just what IS that?A baby comes into the world, bringing with it a sense of newness and the wonder of potential unimagined.Just who will this child become?What wonders will this baby create?Who will its smile touch and transform their day?And when that child is the Christ - how much greater is the sense of newness and wonder.This is why we respond with the burst of generosity called Christmas shopping.We need to share, we need to give, when we think about the wondrous gift we have been given.But we need to remember the source of that generosity.
When we read the Advent texts, we see something different.We see Isaiah's vision of a new heaven and a new earth, of the swords beaten into plowshares - creating life rather than death.We hear Jesus speaking of his coming again to be with us.The child was born, lived with us; the child died and rose again - but this vision is yet to come.The advent texts have a tone of judgment. They ask us what have we done to bring Isaiah's vision into being.Have we embraced that Child as Gift?Or have we just said "What a cute baby.. . ."
These Advent texts speak to us - about us.We who have "walked in darkness have seen a great light."Advent reminds us that we have seen the light of Christ's love.Advent asks us what have we done about it.Have we repented (turned back towards God) and moved into the light, or just looked at the amazing display and walked off in another direction?The light of Christ was NOT sent to us just to entertain us.We are called to do something with that marvelous gift.
I read scripture at Dickinson's community memorial service hosted by hospice yesterday and was impressed with Father Austin Vetter's sermon.He spoke of grief as a time of darkness, a darkness through which we must travel, but a darkness in which we do not have to stay. The light of Christ shines in the darkness, even the deepest darkness, and it cannot be overcome. Nothing can overcome the light of Christ's love for us.
So, what do New Year's resolutions have to do with a little baby?If that little baby is the Christ Child - quite a bit.That little baby came to give us the gift of the resurrection, a gift we receive a taste of here and now as we allow Christ's love into our hearts.A taste that broadens as we share that love with others.
New Year's resolution?That becomes easy.If you walk in darkness, embrace the light and that darkness WILL diminish.That sense of newness and wonder that was born with the Christ Child will enter your heart once again.If the light of Christ's love already shines brightly in your heart, allow it to grow.Allow your Christmas shopping burst of generosity to take root, to live in your heart the whole year.Allow your heart to widen so that you, too, will cause someone's day to brighten and help their darkness to lift. And if we all share the light with others, those swords WILL be used to grow corn, sooner rather than later.
May the light of Christ be with you,
Please note: there will be a NOT-THE-PASTOR'S LETTER in January.
Oh, Merry Christmas!
2006 - to September
Copyright © 2006 M. Kathleen Chesnut
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