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First News of Dickinson and Belfield - December

"Mixed Messages"

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,

Pastor Kathleen


 

First News of Dickinson and Belfield - November

Pastor's Letter  

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.

 

Pastor Kathleen

 

Copyright © 2006 M. Kathleen Chesnut


 

First News of Dickinson and Belfield - September 2009

""Do Not Be Afraid"

Change is often difficult to face.We don’t want it.We want to do things the way that we have always done it.The day would not go well if we did not put our right shoe on first.Without that first cup of coffee drunk in that certain way, we lose our inspiration for the day.We refuse to do things differently.

But the world around us is changing dramatically.Our knowledge doubles every 7-9 years.At a Rotary meeting, I heard the new president of an educational institution say we will experience 10,000 years of technological change in the next century.The steel sword was high technology for 1,000 years; the CD is already in the way out.

Our psychological and our spiritual life is changing rapidly as well.The way we construct our world, called our paradigm, is shifting just as dramatically.

And so we are afraid.The health care debate as seen on TV is fascinating.One side is afraid of what the other side wants.Instead of any useful debate, we have “DON’T LET THEM DO THIS.”If we have 10 million new patients in our health care system YOU WILL NOT GET THE CARE YOU NEED (because there won’t be enough doctors, etc.)“They” will kill all our elders (and some day you will be one of them).Fear rules.That doesn’t mean that these concerns are groundless, but fear refuses to allow us to move forward and fix this problem of health care that will blow up in our faces if we ignore it.It will not go away, nor will our fear of what the other side wants.

Fear causes us to do things we would not otherwise do.We love our system (church, country) and we will do anything to “save” it.So we act to stop the forward movement – and sometimes accidently destroy the system (church, country).We kill that which we are trying to save.

We forget we are not the ones called to save, Christ is.When we are down and out, this is extremely reassuring.If we find ourselves in the driver’s seat, it is awfully hard to move over and let someone else drive.Then he gets to chose where we are going.But isn’t the destination chosen by Jesus Christ much better than the one we would chose if fear makes is close our eyes while we are driving?

We forget that Jesus is asleep in the boat with us.It is okay to close your eyes in the boat.Yes, it is going through a fierce storm and almost ready to capsize, but Christ will wake up and still the storm and we WILL make it safely to the other side.If we trust Jesus Christ more than we trust our fear.

We need to hold the hand of Jesus Christ, take a deep breath, and move forward.And then we will find ourselves in a world better and brighter than we could ever have imagined.

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Pastor Kathleen


First News of Dickinson and Belfield -August 2009

"God Works . . .for Good"

The second Wednesday in July, I received a call from Jim Hope cancelling the Church Council meeting due to the impending storm.I thought he was being a wimp, but he was really being VERY wise instead.An hour and a half later, a tornado damaged over 400 buildings in Dickinson; a church as well as many people’s homes was destroyed.

I often speak of the changes in theology from the Old Testament to the New Testament.But there is one that I have yet to share with you.The Old Testament states in many places that good happens to good people and bad happens to bad people.This is why the friends of Job tell him that he must have done SOMETHING very bad to lose everything the way he did.But in the Prologue to Job we are told that Job is one of the most upright people there was.The Book of Job was written to argue with this theology.

The New Testament goes one step farther – again.It accepts that bad things happen to good people; after all, the best person there ever was ended up crucified.But in Romans 8, it tells us “in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”Bad things happen, but God can turn those into good.

God was NOT punishing that church or the people whose homes were damaged.Freedom is built into the nature of the universe and bad things just happen.

The church was having an activity at the time the tornado arrived.No one was injured.With all of the damage done to our town, no one was killed.To me, this seems as if we were blessed.

We were blessed with the over 500 volunteers who signed up to clean up the debris (and more volunteers who did not sign up).We were blessed with the strangers who just showed up in people’s yards to help them clean up.We were blessed with the Adventist Disaster Response Team, which set up in the mall to accept and distribute donations.We were blessed with the businesses that contributed what was needed, including Columbia and Kmart.We were blessed by the Stark County Chapter of the Red Cross volunteers who contributed over 1800 hours of volunteer time and which served 4,874 meals to those who needed them.

We were blessed and continue to be blessed by the fund raising efforts to aid those who lost part of their lives through tornado damage.Many of the walls that have built up over the years in this town have fallen down or been taken apart, much as was the Berlin wall.

Dickinson needs to continue to come together, to forgive the past injuries and insults that have caused our divisions.People will need our help for quite sometime.The damage done by the tornado does not disappear once the debris is cleaned up.We need to continue to work together, to function as the Body of Christ, to spend our time building up each other – and not rebuilding those walls that have come down.May a new spirit of cooperation come out of our disaster.

Pastor Kathleen


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