A TIME TO SOW
I am ready for Spring and so is the world around me. The trees are full of blossoms and they seem to be bursting with buds. By the time this newsletter reaches your hands we will be in the full season of Spring. Farmers and gardeners will have tilled to soil for another growing season.
Growing things certainly is a satisfying task. One of the parts of farm life that I miss the most is planting
season. By mid-April, we had started planting corn and were usually finished by mid-May. After the seeds were in the ground it was a matter of keeping an eye on the weeds, praying for sufficient rains, and watching the corn grow. Sharon and I also had a garden; however, most of its care was given by Sharon. We planted what most people plant in a home garden; onions, lettuce, carrots, peas, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, and so on. Nothing is more satisfying than going out to the garden, picking fresh vegetables, and preparing a delicious meal.
The month of May will usher in the season of planting. On Sunday, May 22, we will hold our traditional service
of "The Blessing of The Fields.” It is so fitting, in our modern world, that we remain connected religiously with the seasons of planting and harvesting. It would be so easy, in this world where family farms are diminishing and corporate farms are the norm, where suburbia is swallowing our rural landscape, to loose the connection that we as a people have to the land. More and more, our planting and harvesting takes place when we go to the grocery store and buy what it is we need. As the suburban world encroaches upon us, this will be a scenario common to the majority of residents of our area.
Many times, Jesus would use agrarian images as methods of teaching those who would listen. The parable of the "sower" clearly describes the perils of a farmer who is trying to establish a crop. It is also a story about how vulnerable the word of God is when it is trying to become established in the hearts of those who hear. Those who listened to Jesus understood the importance of a productive fig tree, a well cared for vineyard, and the necessity to separate chaff from grain. Jesus used these images as a way to connect with those who listened. These images served as the vehicle for his word.
Besides being useful as a means of telling the story, images of planting and harvesting also illustrate a
fundamental understanding of God's creation. This world we live in is alive. God created it that way. God created humanity and the earth to exist in harmony, with one interacting with the other to produce good things. And in the midst of the interaction, there is the hand of God.
As we go about our planting this spring, let us all remember the sacredness of what we are about. We are carrying out a practice that has gone on for literally thousands of years. Let us all find time in our busy schedules to thank and praise God for our fertile soil and the bounty that it will produce. Let us also take time to see, and touch, and smell the beauty that spring brings.
Come Drink From the Well!
One of the things I have to do is drink more water. Most doctors and dieticians tell me that I should be drinking at least eight, eight ounces glasses of water a day. If you have ever tried to do it, you know that this is a lot of water. To make consuming this much water a little easier, we usually by those 2 1/2 gallon containers of spring water from the store and put it in the refrigerator so that it is always available and always cold.
Perhaps it is only physiological but the spring water we buy always taste better then the tap water in our
house. A bias I have toward spring water may be due to my memories of drinking water from the spring house when I was a boy. My dad owned a farm that was several miles from where we lived. When my brothers and I would go there to work, digging thistles or cutting brush, there was never a need to bring water to drink. We could always go to the spring house and be refreshed with the clearest, coldest water in the world.
I am sure many of you can resonate with what I am saying. The fact of the matter is, being refreshed by the waters of a spring is nothing new. It is a concept that is as old as time itself. That is why the imagery of Jesus as "living water" is such a powerful image in the New Testament.
No where is this image more powerful than the story of Jesus and his encounter with a Samaritan woman at
Jacob's well. (John 4:1-42) This woman was not only a social and religious outcast, but also a person of questionable moral character. However, because of her encounter with Jesus she was able to drink from the well of "living water." And the most amazing thing is, not only was her life changed, but because of her testimony, "many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him." (v. 4:39)
Just as water was a source of life to people in one of the most arid regions of the world, Jesus was and continues to be a source of life to a thirsty soul. During this season of Easter I urge you to come to the spring
house and drink deep from the waters of the well. My prayer for you is that you will experience the life giving
and life changing powers of the "living waters" of Jesus Christ.
A Bus for Vakpo Fu
It is with great joy I share with you the good news from Vakpo Todzi, Ghana. This is one of the many villages we visited on our trip in August. The church members shared with us the need for a daycare center in the village where mothers could leave their children while they went to the fields to work. Tom Lloyd and I shared the need with you, and you responded. The St. Luke’s Daycare is finished, and it is filled with children. Please visit our St. Luke’s webpage to see a full pictorial report of the school because a picture is worth a thousand words.
A sister congregation to Vakpo Todzi is Vakpo Fu. Fu is a remote village in a very rural area. Like Todzi, they are farmers growing pineapple. Their challenge is with educating their children from the village and the surrounding area. The children find it very difficult to get to school in a timely fashion. There is no services offered to them for travel. Very few people in the area own a car. It was suggested that the church could buy bicycles for them but that would be a logistical nightmare.
The solution I suggested was to buy a van or a bus to transport these children. The congregation is in full support of the idea. The St. Luke’s Mission Committee has embraced the idea of raising funds for the bus. They have set a goal of at least $10,000 to go toward the bus. The Ghana account has about $5000 earmarked for the bus. The Missions Committee will be promoting this projects in the months to come with various fundraising ideas. I hope you wholeheartedly support this very special project.
If you have any questions, let me know. We are also looking for other church communities or civic organizations who might be interested in hearing about our work in Ghana and the opportunity to support this mission project.
I saw an interesting program on Television the other evening. Actually, I tuned in about the middle. It was a PBS presentation on sheep farming in Europe. The focus of the program was the triadic relationship that exist between the sheep, the shepherd and the shepherd's dog.
An interesting point that was made was that the sheep dog, who's ancestors lived in the wild as natural predators of the sheep, has been bred and trained to co-exist with sheep in a harmonious relationship. What makes this relationship possible is the presence of the shepherd who assures the proper training of the dog which insures the safety of the sheep.
As I sat and watched this program, I could not help but think of the scripture passage found in John 10:3a-4. "He calls his sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice."
A primary image of our Christian faith is that of Jesus as the "Shepherd." Indeed, as sheep of his pasture, many times, Jesus stands between us and those things in the world we perceive as the enemy. Jesus intervenes on behalf of the sheep to insure a harmonious relationship.
For instance, I recall a story shared with me by a colleague. At the time this incident took place, my friend was a pastor of an inner city church in Boston. It seems that one of his parishioners, a young teen was gun down by another teen in some sort of street violence. As the day of the funeral approached, rumors began to fly about how friends and family members of the slain teen were going to retaliate against the family of the accused killer.
As the church filled with nervous and anxious mourners, my friend searched his soul and heart for words to ease the tension among the gathered body. His only restitution was to surrender the situation to the Shepherd.
As the service was about to begin, a brother of the fallen teen approach the pastor and requested the opportunity to speak before the service began. Unsure as to what he might say, my friend granted the request, and prayerfully waited for the youth to speak.
What the youth had to say was very short and simple. "One death in our community is enough. I call on all my family members and friends to let go of the anger within them and let my brother rest in peace." What he did next shocked, then brought to tears the gathered body. The brother of the slain youth, walked over to the youth accused of taking his brothers life and embraced him.
"Jesus is the good shepherds, he calls his sheep out and they know his voice. And the lion will lie down with the lamb and the wolf and the lamb will feed together."
What a wonderful Shepherd we have! My prayer for you this new year is that you will continue to know the voice of the Good Shepherd and you will head his call to gather as his flock.
God's Blessings, Pastor Pat
Thoughts for a New Year
"The turn of the year seems to offer an opportunity to start over, to become more like what we want to be. This desire springs from a deep human need. Those who reflect on their lives usually see that they fall short of their own ideals and of God's way, and they yearn for something better." (The Upper Room, Jan.-Feb.;1998)
I came across these words while browsing through a devotional guide that I use on occasion. I found these words to be very profound. The turn of the year has become a time in our lives that we reflect on "who we are" and "what we want to be." Many times, the "who we are" is a person who needs some positive changes in their lives. The "who we are" is over-weight, physically inactive, works too much, does not have enough free time, lacks direction in his\her life and so on.
On the other hand, the "what we want to be" person is a person on the opposite end of the spectrum. The "what we want to be" person is a person who maintains an ideal weight, has a body like Mr.\Ms. America, has a great career and achieves the proper balance between work, play, and family time.
In our desire to become "what we want to be" many times we set our goals too high, quickly become frustrated, and soon give up on trying to become "what we want to be" and settle for "the way we are."
I would like to propose to you an alternative way of reflecting on your life as you begin this new year. As you reflect, instead of beginning with those things you would like to change, lift up those areas that are positive in your life and bring you great joy. Perhaps you are engaged in some type of volunteer work. You may be active in some ministry at this church or another. Perhaps your occupation affords you the opportunity to help others. Maybe it was a simple act of kindness you were involved in over the Christmas season.
Hopefully, during this new year, you will find positive aspects of your life that you do not want to change but celebrate. As the New Year begins it is important to remember that God is behind all that we do for the good of others and ourselves. May you continue to be about the good work of the Lord until we are united in Christ as the Kingdom of God on earth.
The Baby Jesus
There is no doubt in my mind that the Christmas season is a wonderful time of the year. From a religious
standpoint, it is probably the most festive time of the church year. Our church sanctuary is dressed in its finest attire with garlands and wreaths and ribbons and bows and accented with beautifully adorned trees that stand proudly in the front of the church. Each Sunday during Advent we ceremoniously await the coming of our Lord by lighting the Advent Candle. Our church choir and Sunday school are busy working on special music and presentations to enhance our worship experience together. All of this splendor and excitement come to a climax during the final week of Advent when we will gather on Christmas Eve for a special services. And why do we do all of this? We do it to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Christ child, the Son of God, Immanuel.
Have you given much thought to the concept of a baby’s being the mode in which the very presence of God would be manifested in this world? Think about it: a baby – a helpless, powerless, weak, vulnerable, defenseless baby. I love babies; I always have. I am glad that I was born into a family with lots of children who wanted to have lots of children. There was never a lack of babies in our family, babies that needed to be held and cuddled and rocked to sleep. Holidays were always special because of babies. The conversations centered around them were always the same: "Look how much he/she has grown!” “Is he/she walking yet?” “He's going to be as big as his father!"
The Savior of this world was once a baby – a helpless, powerless, weak, vulnerable, defenseless baby; a baby who fed at the breast of his dear mother; a baby who needed to be cuddled and rocked to sleep; a baby whose diaper needed to be changed; a baby who got sick, who cried, who cooed, who made other people like me smile when they looked into his beautiful eyes. This was our Jesus.
I guess it is good for us to remember at times what all the celebration is about. What we are celebrating is
the birth of a baby – not a king, not a mighty warrior, not a ruler or a person of great wealth and power, but a baby, a baby who would grow up like any other child, a baby who would become the Savior of the world.
During this season of anticipation and celebration I hope you and your family will take the time to really worship the birth of the baby. And in doing so may you see and understand the simplistic nature of the beginnings of the one we call the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Lords, and the King of Kings. I encourage you to join with us in worship each and every Sunday during the season of Advent and in the celebration of Holy Communion on Sunday, November 28th and on Christmas Eve at 7:00PM.
Come out and join us as we remember once again the birth of the baby, Jesus!
Daycare Center for the village of Vakpo Todzi
Vakpo Todzi Evangelical Presbyterian Church is a small rural church in the Volta Region of Ghana. Most of the residents who live in Todzi are farmers and their main crop in pineapple. During harvest season, everyone in the village is needed to pick the pineapple. It is not uncommon for mothers with their child wrapped securely on their backs to go to the fields to work. To relive this burden for both the mother and the child the church is building a daycare center so the mothers can leave their children in a safe and healthy environment. Upon their return from Ghana, Pastor Pat and Tom Lloyd presented the construction of the daycare center as a project St. Luke’s could support. The challenge was accepted and to day we have sent over $3000 toward this project.
The Word As Light
Walking around in the dark can be precarious at best, especially in our house, barefooted. Jasper has chew toys that have the texture of barbed wire. Stepping on one, with bare feet, makes me say things that my mother would not be proud of. I was in Ghana when the power went out one evening which happens frequently. I decide to do something I tell the groups never to do, never go out after dark alone or without a flashlight. But the choir singing at the Dela Cathedral was too tempting and so I ventured off, by myself, in the dark, without a flashlight. I did not get 10 feet from the Kekeli Hotel until I fell into a drainage ditch.
In Psalm 119:105 the writer reminds us that the Word of God is a lamp for my feet, and a light on my path. The Psalmist not talking about a dog’s chew toy or a drainage ditch. The Psalmist is talking about all the thing in life that can cause us to stumble and fall as we try to walk a righteous path. Things like, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath As I look at the list, and I think about my life, I am deeply grateful for a loving God, who sent his only Son into the world. Personally, it is never a good idea to walk barefooted amidst the “chew toys” of temptation. It is never a good idea to assume you know where all the “drainage ditches” of sin are along life’s highway. It is always, always better to take the one who has defined himself as “The Light of the World” to show us the way!!
Our Work Begins
Hopefully by now you are all aware of the Leadership Retreat in Moyer Hall on Saturday, September 11. Originally, I had planned that this retreat be for the current Elders and members of the Council. After discussing it with the Council I am inviting all members of our church family. If you have not picked up a copy of The Post Quarantine Church please do so prior to the 11th. They are available in the church office.
The purpose of the retreat is to explore what kind of church we are going to be coming out of the pandemic. There is no doubt that there will be changes in store. As a church, we want to plan proactively as we explore the possibilities. Much of the work that you will be doing will be extremely helpful to our Assessment Team and to the search committee as they seek out a settled pastor.
The start time for the retreat is 9 AM. We will be finished no later than 3 PM. Lunch will be provided.
This retreat is very important. I hope to see you on Saturday, September 11 as we do the work of being a strong and healthy Body of Christ.
After three years of waiting, I will return to Ghana. Many of you have heard stories about my experiences in
Ghana over the past 30 years. On this trip, there are three people who have been to Ghana before. They are
Norman and Mary Southerly, members of Mill Creek Church of The Brethren in Port Republic, Virginia. Mill
Creek is the church of my childhood and youth. This will be their 9th trip. Joining the Southerly’s will be their
pastor, Rev. Glenn Bollinger and his wife Debbie. The Bollinger’s have been on mission trips before, the
latest was Haiti. They have traveled to Israel as well. This is their first trip to Ghana.
Jenn Hoffman from St. Paul’s UCC, Fleetwood has been once before. Jenn is our IT guru having set up a
computer lab in the town of Kpando in 2018. Joining Jenn is her 15-year-old son, Jacob. This will be his first
Clark Fredrick is the third member at St. Paul’s who will be going to Ghana for the first time. Clark is a
seasoned traveler as a result of his job at Deka.
Rev. Ed Rawls is taking his first trip. Ed was my pastor when Sharon and I were still on the farm. Ed was
instrumental in guiding me as I began my journey to ordained ministry. Ed is the senior pastor at First
Congregational UCC in Stratford, CT.
Rounding out our travelers are our own members, Tom Lloyd and Nancy Leneweaver. International travel is
not new to Tom. This will be his first trip to Ghana. Nancy will be traveling to Ghana for the first time.
I share this information with you because the 11 of us will bring with us our own expectations. Mary,
Norman, and Jenn know what to expect. Regardless of past experience all 11 of us will be blessed because of
our visit. There is no way I can give you a clear understanding of Ghana unless you have been there.
I ask you to pray for us daily. I will keep you updated as to our activities on the St. Luke’s Facebook page. I
leave you in the familiar and capable hands of the Rev. Ann Few. We look forward to telling you our stories
upon our return!