For All These Blessings – Thanks! – November 2014

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) Part of the work of preparing for our annual Church Charge Conference – (November 17 at Bourne UMC, potluck at 5:30, meeting at 6:30 – please be part of this annual meeting gathering if at all possible) – is to reflect on the year that has just passed, and take stock of where we are on the journey with Jesus. First, let us always give thanks to our gracious and generous God, for all the blessings we have enjoyed over the year that’s now past, and for all the help from God we continue to receive each and every day… Thanks also to God for this Parish of Cataumet and Bourne United Methodist Churches, yoked together in the love of God and in the service of Jesus and his kingdom. As Ecclesiastes (4:9-10) says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other, but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help.” Together, as one parish in two places, we share the costs and burdens of ministry, to the advantage of all. Together, we share in the blessings of ministry, in far greater measure than either of us could alone. All this is by God’s design, who made us to be one community of faith working through love (John 17, 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12). In Jesus’ day the phrase ‘take up the yoke of Torah’ was a metaphor for uniting oneself to biblical teaching – which of course brings great responsibility – and an even greater measure of peace, joy, and rest. Jesus, the embodied Word of God, brings the very deepest peace and rest. (Assuming we are weary…and willing to receive help from one who is gentle and humble of heart.) Often when I lack rest it’s because I’m really not coming to Jesus for rest; I’m trying to do rest on my own terms. Which inevitably brings yet more anxiety… Till somehow God reminds me – often speaking through my wife or daughter, saying, “Remember to listen well – and pray always.” And when I do, I am often led in the direction of wondering – How would whatever I am fretting about – how (for example) would the task of writing about this whole past year and all the prospects for the year ahead appear – if I could see only with the gentle and humble eyes of Jesus? When I look with just my own eyes I start off seeing this past year has had its share of disappointments and challenges. Attendance in worship has been downward, at least more often than upward. Much of this is due to deaths and parishioners moving to assisted living or nursing homes. Some of it is due to other factors. We continue to be challenged by our demographics and by wider cultural changes that are somewhat beyond our control....

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