Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. We Congregationalists have a special connection to this holiday because the Pilgrims who landed in Plymouth in 1620, were Congregationalists too. It was a difficult start for those stalwart men and women. They surely would not have survived without help. By early 1621, the Pilgrims had built only some crude huts along with a common house for shelter. However, neighboring Natives had begun to build relationships with the Pilgrims. Squanto, a member of the Patuxet tribe, had been kidnapped and taken to England nearly a decade before, was willing to serve as an interpreter between the Pilgrims and local tribes. The soil in Plymouth was much different than it was in England, and the settlers were having trouble growing food. Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to fertilize the soil with dried fish remains and it produced a stellar corn crop.

Massasoit, the chief of the nearby Wampanoags, signed a treaty of alliance with the Pilgrims that summer. In exchange for assistance with defense against the feared Narragansett tribe, Massasoit supplemented the food supply of the Pilgrims for the first few years. This treaty actually lasted longer than any other treaty ever signed with Native Americans.

Half of the Pilgrims died that first winter, but, in the fall of 1621, partly because of the help of Squanto and the Wampanoag, there was a bountiful harvest. Governor William Bradford recorded it this way.

Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling; that so we might, after a more special manner, rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labours. They four, in one day, killed as much fowl as, with a little help besides, served the Company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our Arms; many of the Indians coming amongst us. And amongst the rest, their greatest King, Massasoyt, with some ninety men; whom, for three days, we entertained and feasted. And they went out, and killed five deer: which they brought to the Plantation; and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain, and others.

The Pilgrims feasted and celebrated, remembering the source of their bounty. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1). Yes, Squanto was a blessing as were Massasoit and the Wampanoag, but none of these things would have come to be if not for the creator of the universe.

Most of us will gather together tomorrow with family and friends and, like the first Congregationalists and Native Americans, enjoy a great feast! There will be turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, squash, turnip, other assorted vegetables, and then the pies. Pumpkin of course, but, perhaps also apple, pecan, custard, sweet potato, chocolate cream, and maybe even a lemon meringue. We will eat ourselves silly until we can eat no more. The truth is today, Thanksgiving is mostly about food, family, and don’t forget football, and that’s fine. I pray however, it is also about thanks. I know, before the meal begins, many families will go around the table and ask everyone to share something for which they are thankful. I love that. I also hope that we recognize who is truly responsible for the blessings. Jesus, Himself, told us, “My purpose is to give [you] a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10). Do not forget to thank the Lord. He is the founder of your feast. The source of your bounty. He loves you and always desires to bless you. Remember to “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1) and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Give Thanks

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. We Congregationalists have a special connection to this holiday because the Pilgrims who landed in Plymouth in 1620, were Congregationalists too. It was a difficult start for those stalwart men and women. They surely would not have survived without help. By early 1621, the Pilgrims had built only some crude huts along with a common house for shelter. However, neighboring Natives had begun to build relationships with the Pilgrims. Squanto, a member of the Patuxet tribe, had been kidnapped and taken to England nearly a decade before, was willing to serve as an interpreter between the Pilgrims and local tribes. The soil in Plymouth was much different than it was in England, and the settlers were having trouble growing food. Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to fertilize the soil with dried fish remains and it produced a stellar corn crop.

Massasoit, the chief of the nearby Wampanoags, signed a treaty of alliance with the Pilgrims that summer. In exchange for assistance with defense against the feared Narragansett tribe, Massasoit supplemented the food supply of the Pilgrims for the first few years. This treaty actually lasted longer than any other treaty ever signed with Native Americans.

Half of the Pilgrims died that first winter, but, in the fall of 1621, partly because of the help of Squanto and the Wampanoag, there was a bountiful harvest. Governor William Bradford recorded it this way. 

Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling; that so we might, after a more special manner, rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labours. They four, in one day, killed as much fowl as, with a little help besides, served the Company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our Arms; many of the Indians coming amongst us. And amongst the rest, their greatest King, Massasoyt, with some ninety men; whom, for three days, we entertained and feasted. And they went out, and killed five deer: which they brought to the Plantation; and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain, and others.

The Pilgrims feasted and celebrated, remembering the source of their bounty. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1) Yes, Squanto was a blessing as were Massasoit and the Wampanoag, but none of these things would have come to be if not for the creator of the universe.

Most of us will gather together tomorrow with family and friends and, like the first Congregationalists and Native Americans, enjoy a great feast! There will be turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, squash, turnip, other assorted vegetables, and then the pies. Pumpkin of course, but, perhaps also apple, pecan, custard, sweet potato, chocolate cream, and maybe even a lemon meringue. We will eat ourselves silly until we can eat no more. The truth is today, Thanksgiving is mostly about food, family, and don’t forget football, and that’s fine. I pray however, it is also about thanks. I know, before the meal begins, many families will go around the table and ask everyone to share something for with they are thankful. I love that. I also hope that we recognize who is truly responsible for the blessings. Jesus, Himself, told us, “My purpose is to give [you] a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10). Do not forget to thank the Lord. He is the founder of your feast. The source of your bounty. He loves you and always desires to bless you. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

This is the Day

It is hard to believe it is already November 17. There are only thirty-eight days until Christmas, forty-seven until we usher in a new year – 2022. Every time I mention this someone replies, “Yeah, time does fly.” It certainly didn’t on Christmas Eve, when you were young, in your bed sleeping wide awake, just waiting for the sun to rise. It didn’t when you were a teenager in the middle of taking a test or when you were forced to visit a relative you really didn’t want to visit. It’s like watching soccer on television. “Is this ever going to end?” It didn’t when you were pregnant. The first few months were kind of sweet, but by about month six or seven it’s more like, “Get this thing out of me!” Am I right, ladies?

On other occasions time really does appear to fly by. Renée and I just celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary. Forty years! We have three adult sons 37, 35, and 33 years old. We also now have a beautiful new six-month old grandson, Nova Michael Söderberg. It is tough to fathom but I am just two years shy of sixty years old. When did that happen? It feels like yesterday I was playing drums in my band in nightclubs from Boston to Portland, Maine. Now, retirement is only ten years away. Retirement, really? In four years, I will be eligible for Medicare. Whaaatt? Yes. At times, it seems as if life does race by at light speed.

I believe it is important though to not be preoccupied or distracted by the past or the future. Brooding over prior mistakes only plants seeds of discouragement. Panic about what is to come plants seeds of anxiety. Someone once said, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow’s a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it’s called the present.” Sure, some days I find it hard to grasp that I have been a pastor for twenty-five years now, married for forty-five, and have three grown sons and a grandson. Does any of this information, however, directly affect whatever it is I have to do today? Not really. Every morning God gives us a new opportunity. A new chance. A fresh start. A clean slate. It does not matter how many days have passed. We have today, and what we do with today should be our main focus. As the psalmist wrote, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

Whatever you feel as if you did not do, you can do it today. There is a popular Chinese saying that says, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” Whatever you think you want to do tomorrow, do it today. This is the day. As the Roman poet Horace once wrote, “Carpe diem!” “Seize the day!” It is a gift from God. He blessed you with it. Bless Him by using it well. Love someone. Help someone. Serve someone. Rejoice and be glad. 

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

A Tote Bag

This past Sunday, November 07, was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. We teamed up with the House of Good Hope/Hartford House of Prayer for a special prayer service at 6:00 pm. No matter how many times I read about it, I am still stunned to think that there are believers, in the 21st century, all over the world who cannot practice their Christian faith without fear. If they are found out, they are persecuted by family, friends, the government. They are often unable to get jobs or housing. All because they believe in Jesus. I just cannot get my head around that. Please keep them in your daily prayers.

It reminds me, again, of how blessed we are to live in the United States of America. This truly is the land of the free. We can worship, pray, evangelize, and proclaim Christ without fear here. Sure, we will often be ridiculed or mocked. That should be expected though. Jesus said, “Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you” (John 15:20). However, He also told us, “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers” (Matthew 5:11)

Nonetheless, we are blessed beyond measure to live here. In so many ways. Not only can we express our faith, but we have shelter, food, and luxury here. We enjoy cable TV, internet, cell phones, laptops, tablets, hospitals and walk-in clinics, transportation (cars or buses). In fact, we are worried about the supply chain. There are dozens of ships outside US ports just waiting to unload all the new stuff we want to buy. We are worried that we will not be able to get all that we want by Christmas. Having traveled to Turkey when I was in seminary and as a missionary to Haiti several times now, I can assure you, there are so many places in the world where this is not the case. People there still live in houses put together with pieces of corrugated metal roofing and scraps of wood. There is no indoor running water, plumbing, or electricity. And healthcare? We complain here it is too expensive. In Haiti, it is practically non-existent. There are only twenty-five doctors and eleven nurses per 100,000 people in Haiti.

Yes, we are blessed. We really are, and Jesus mentions that too. He says, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return” (Luke 12:48). Why mention this today? I was reminded as I scraped frost off my car Saturday morning that the cold weather is coming fast, and there are people in our communities who do not have proper, regular shelter. You see them. Some hold cardboard signs at traffic lights. Some sit on benches in parks. We have been given much, my friends, and we need to respond in kind. As you shop for gifts for your family and friends, I want to encourage you to pick up some nice warm gloves, hats, mittens, scarves, and socks. Fill up a tote bag (we want to be environmentally friendly) with these items and keep it in your car. Then when you see someone asking for money, offer them something warm. The cold is coming. I know, not all of them are legitimate, but I am not saying give money. Offer them some socks or gloves and continue to refill your tote bag. After all, I know we will all be making repeated trips to Walmart, Kohl’s, or Target. It is the season. Truth is, it is always the season to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.    

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Do Not Apologize

So, it is November. We turn the clocks back an hour this weekend. The weatherman said on the radio yesterday morning that the temperature should drop ten degrees in the next thirty days. November begins with an average of 51 degrees. December starts at 40 degrees. The leaves are falling quickly. I still have not turned the heat at my house, but I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out. Renée’s nose does get pretty cold. The other thing the start of November is for me is the day I start playing Christmas music! Lot’s of people don’t understand that. Trust me. I am not rushing the season. It’s the exact opposite. I am trying to enjoy the season. 

You see, prior to going into the ministry, I worked for the Post Office, and every year, as soon as Halloween was over, my life became miserable. The crowds grew day by day, and before the advent (pardon the pun) of Fed Ex, and Amazon, we were the only game in town if you wanted to mail someone you love a Christmas gift. From the moment I opened my window until when I was able to close, it was busy. It would not stop until Christmas Eve about 4:00 pm. By that time people had given up on getting their package to its destination before Christmas. Sure, the workday flew by, as each day passed, my customers became more and more irritable, and by the time I got home I was completely exhausted.

As a result, I began to not enjoy the season. Even resent it a little. It was stressful and tiring. One year, I decided, you know what? I am not going to let the joy of my Christmas season be stolen from me. I’ll simply start earlier. Since that day, thirty years ago now, I began playing Christmas beginning November 01. I do love Thanksgiving, and as a congregationalist, I am all about the Pilgrims. They were the first Congregationalists to land in the New World in 1620. However, there is not a lot of Thanksgiving music. There’s the hymn “We Gather Together” (which I love) but that’s about it. And it is one day. We all eat until we have to unbutton our pants and then go watch football. Christmas is a season. We look forward with great anticipation to celebrating with friends and family. Visiting. Exchanging gifts. Enjoying Christmas cookies, breads, and other assorted traditional foods. Watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” together as a family.

Most importantly, we count down the days until He comes! No, not the fat man in the red suit, but our Lord Jesus. We can’t wait to celebrate with the angel as he proclaims (and Linus repeats) “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12).

So, today, I lit my Balsam and Cedar Yankee Candle and am currently listening to “What Child is This?” Do not let anyone or anything steal your joy at this time of year either. Is there really such a thing as too much celebration of the coming of our salvation? We just recently read in the book of Esther that King Xerxes threw a party that lasted six months! Just because. So, go ahead. Play your Christmas music. Drink egg nog. Have some fruitcake. You do not have to apologize to anyone! We have good reason to rejoice! “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us…And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.