Thursday, April 30, 2020

Thank you to our Concord Hospital Workers


The Concord Hospital Chaplain recently invited Concord clergy to write to staff members providing encouragement for this challenging time of pandemic. Here is what I wrote:



Dear Concord Hospital Staff member,

Please know that your community deeply appreciates your work in our midst during this pandemic.

We acknowledge your sacrifice.

We are grateful for your knowledge and skill.

We pray for your safety and emotional well-being.

Over the years I have raised my son, we have seen a lot of movies. During some of that time I was in seminary on my way to becoming an ordained pastor. I was often deeply engrossed in learning and understanding more about the Divine, but when I was with my son at the movies, I found opportunity to apply all that heady religious stuff to our everyday lives. Often as we drove home or stopped for ice cream along the way, I would ask him, "Who was the Christ-figure in that movie?" We understood that character to be the one who was always concerned with others, more than her or his self. It was the one who would seek peace in the midst of turmoil; the one who was willing to sacrifice for the common good. It was the Lorax, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking, Percy Talbott in Spitfire Grill, or any one of a dozen other characters.

Today, in real life, in real time, it is you.Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney+ Series Original Logline Revealed | What's ...

You are concerned with the welfare of others.

You are the one seeking peace in the midst of turmoil.

You are the one willing to sacrifice for the common good.

Thank you.

God bless you.

Rev. Cheryl L. Meachen, Pastor
Wesley United Methodist Church
Concord NH



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Saturday, April 18, 2020

New Normal




Heirloom Black Krim Tomato Seeds – NDG Botanicals

Grace and peace, dear one.

We don't know what church and society will look like once this COVID-19 pandemic is over but we can be assured that God will be with us. Talking with my friend Rev. Steve Murray from The Rock Church recently, he mentioned that we do the church a disservice if we think that this crisis has simply pressed the pause button on our ministry, from which we can soon press play and continue along as though nothing had happened. Life will be radically different. Ministry will be different and we must adapt to survive. Other articles I've read have talked about the possibilities that exist in the blank slate that we'll have before us.

I invite you to vision with me what sort of church we want to be going forward. What things might have been winding down that we can let go of? What new things have energy and vision around them? What needs exist in our community that we have the gifts to meet?

This doesn't have to be a time of anxiety, worrying about what's next. It can be a time of wonder, curiosity and excitement about what resurrection brings. Paul writes,

1 Corinthians 15:38 MSG You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don't look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different.

It can also be a time of strengthening our faith, drawing nearer to God and acknowledging our own belovedness. John writes,

1 John 3:1-3 KJV
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

Let's trust in God together, knowing that as Christ has been revealed in resurrection, and continues to be revealed each day to us, that marvelous things are ahead for Wesley. Let's wonder aloud and vision together for a future full of Easter hope!
Growing Tomatoes: From Planting to Harvest | The Old Farmer's Almanac
Blessings,

Rev. Cheryl L. Meachen

Find daily inspiration from Pastor Cheryl at Beloved Connection.

Friday, April 17, 2020

The Blessing of Thomas by Maren Tirabassi

The Blessing of Thomas (...or how to prove that online worship has some resurrection verification)

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29b)

Blessed are the ones, says Thomas,
to those who listen to him 
this eastertide, 
who don’t need a sanctuary to worship God.

Blessed are those who don’t need a choir
to hear holy music,
and who don’t need to sit in a pew
to open their hearts in prayer,
and who don’t need a stained glass window,
or a preacher or even bread and cup
to find the good news.

Blessed are those who really touch 
even with gloves on,
who really smile with a mask,
who can be kind on Facetime or Zoom,
who follow a livestream to find Jesus alive.

But also blessed is the Thomas 
in every one of us
who acknowledges our longing 
to hold someone’s real warm hand
not just the story of a hand
that reaches out to someone else,

and who wants to feel 
not Jesus long-ago bleeding side
(we congratulate ourselves about that)
but at least to feel side by side 
with other Christians
in order to be side by side with Christ.

Blessed is the Thomas in all of us
who lives with doubts and hopes,

and learns to let go of all expectations
when waiting to meet God.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Back to Normal

Judy King shares today's message:

I received this from a friend...so true.

For days I have heard people saying

“I just can’t wait for things to be back to normal.” I remember even saying that a few times myself. But as I’ve thought about our current situation I have realized how much I don’t want things to go back to the way they were. 

Here are a few of my thoughts.....

1. I pray that the next time a friend grabs me and pulls me in for a hug, I actually take the time to appreciate the gift of their embrace.


2. I pray that when school resumes and people are dropping kids off, they take the time to thank the staff for the amazing gift that they give to our community.

3. I pray that the next time I’m sitting in a crowded restaurant I take the time to look around at the smiling faces, loud voices and thank God for the gift of community.

4. I pray that the next time I’m standing in church listening to the voices of praise and worship that I take a moment to thank God for the gift of fellowship.

5. I pray that the next time I see a person or situation that needs prayer, I hope I pray as passionately and fervently as I have these past few weeks.

6. I pray that when I am at the grocery store that I take a moment to thank God that He provides us with the necessities of life and the amazing people who work so hard to keep us supplied.

7. I pray that I never again take for granted the ability to hop in the car and visit a friend, go to the mall, go to a gathering, etc.

So, truth is, I don’t want things to return to the way they once were. I pray that we take the lessons and challenges of the past few weeks and create a new normal. My goal is to pray more, love harder, and truly appreciate the daily abundance of blessings that were so easily overlooked just a mere few weeks ago.




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Thursday, April 9, 2020

A Prayer for Maundy Thursday

A Prayer for Maundy Thursday: (Jemma Allen is a priest of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia)

“God,  There is no altar to strip, no fair linen to fold: yet so much of what is familiar has been stripped away in these days of shelter in place, of quarantine, of lockdown.

We cannot wash one another’s feet, remembering Christ’s act of humble service:
but we will wash our hands in love for our neighbours, staying at home, breaking the chain of transmission; and we will pray for all those who serve others in health care, in supermarkets, in delivery, in supply chains, those who are fighting on the front lines.

We cannot gather at the Lord’s table, sharing bread and wine to remember: so we will pray for all who have no table at which to eat,
for all who have memories they cannot bear to remember, for all whose capacity to remember is robbed by dementia.

Gracious God, in these days coming as we seek to remember and be transformed pour out your Love upon us, that same Love that raised Christ from the dead. Amen.”

A Holy Week Reflection from a friend

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Keep Me Safe

Psalm 16

O God, keep me safe— you are my refuge! 

I said to YHWH, “You are my God; there is nothing good for me apart from you.” 

The holy people of my land are wonderful! My greatest pleasure is to be with them. But those who rush after other gods will bring many troubles upon themselves. I will not take part in their sacrifices; I won’t even speak the names of their gods. 

You, YHWH, are all that I have, you are my food and drink. 

My life is safe in your hands. 

Within the boundaries you set for me there are nothing but pleasant places! 

What a delightful inheritance I have! 

I praise YHWH, who guides me; even at night my heart teaches me. 

I’m always aware of your presence; you are right by my side, and nothing can shake me. 

My heart is happy and my tongue sings for joy; I feel completely safe with you, because you won’t abandon me to the Grave; you won’t let your loved one see decay. 

You show me the path to Life; your presence fills me with joy, and by your side I find enduring pleasure.


Priests for Equality. The Inclusive Bible (Kindle Locations 23676-23690). Sheed & Ward. Kindle Edition.

February 17, 2020 - Bible verse of the day - Psalm 16:1 ...

The Psalmist shares a word of comfort in this song of praise, 

Keep me safe! 

My life is safe in your hands! 

I feel completely safe with you!

What images of safety resonate with you?
  • Your childhood home full of memories, smells, sights?
  • Your parent, grandparent, spouse, partner, child with open arms and inviting shoulder?
  • Your bed, safe and warm?
  • Something else?
What qualities of God invite us to take refuge in God's loving care?
  • Strength
  • Love
  • Creator and Sustainer
  • Something else
The Psalm itself offers some clues about the nature of safety in God:
  • We are never apart from God
  • God is the source of our food and drink
  • God provides boundaries
  • God bestows a delightful inheritance
  • God guides us and resides in our hearts to teach us
  • God is present, right beside us
  • God will not abandon us
In the midst of our complicated lives, 
  in the midst of uncertainty,
    in the throes of fear and a sense of powerlessness

Let us pray 
  to the One who is there for us,
    to the One who teaches us,
      to the One who guides us,
        to the One who will bear us up on eagles' wings
          to the One who created us, sustains us and nurtures us

With gratitude
  and joy
    and delight
      and wonder
        and pleasure
          and confident expectancy

That you, O Lord,
  will keep us

    safe.

Pastor Cheryl




Join us Sundays at 10:30 on YouTube to praise God together by clicking this link.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Pandemic

Judy King has shared this poem.

Pandemic
by Lynn Ungar

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?

Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.

Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)

Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love—
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Of Tacos and Sanity While Staying Home


These are extraordinary times.

We are not ourselves.

What is happening around us -- to us -- in spite of us is astonishing.

And we react.

We are human, so we respond to our circumstances with emotion.

Lots of emotion.

Sometimes our emotion is an effort to look on the bright side.

Sometimes we cannot help but feel despair.

Sometimes we smile in spite of what is roiling deep within us.

Sometimes it all comes spilling out in confusion or tears or anger.

"It's okay if you fall apart sometimes.

Tacos fall apart, and we still love them."

God loves you and so do I.

Pastor Cheryl



Join us Sundays at 10:30 on YouTube to praise God together by clicking this link.




Palm Sunday


(Picture: Palm tree with dates, Mount of Olives, 2020)

In the Gospels, Jesus' followers cut palm branches for his way into Jerusalem. In the Bible, palm branches are associated with the celebration of the Festival of Booths or Sukkot (Lev. 23:40).

But the Festival of Booths is a fall festival, after the palm dates are harvested. The story of Palm Sunday takes place in the spring, at the Passover. To cut branches from the palm tree in the spring means that the tree will die. When the tree dies, there will be no dates to harvest for eating or for market later.

And so the palm tree becomes a symbol of Crucifixion, of life cut short too early. The palm becomes a symbol of sacrifice through its association with the death of Jesus.

The power of the palm tree as a symbol of martyrdom extends into Islam. After last year's New Zealand mosque murders, Imam Mustafa of the Islamic Society of Greater Concord remarked during his Friday sermon: "They may strike us, but like the palm tree, we bend but we do not break. They may strike us and we do not break even though we give up our best fruits."

Remember the symbol of palm: in times of loss and sacrifice, we bend but we do not break. Even though we lose some of our best fruits, we bend but do not break. And this power of this symbol is found in the Cross of Christ whose grace is sufficient and whose power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

Yours in faith,
Rev. Jason Wells, Executive Director
NH Council of Churches

Reproduced with permission.

Revelation

What Is the Book of Revelation About? – David Jeremiah Blog




Some have asked about details from Revelation to try to understand if that the apocalyptic prophecy of plagues signifying the end of the world is what is going on now.

My first response is found in Genesis 9 where God promises never again to destroy the earth. Throughout the Bible, God is portrayed as the loving Parent, the One who creates, sustains and nurtures us. That loving nature of God is not predisposed to destroy the Beloved Creation which includes both us and the earth.

Revelation is the last book to be accepted into the biblical canon and in some sects, was not accepted at all. It is metaphor. In last week's sermon I talked a little about signs and symbols pointing to some deeper meaning. The Book of Revelation is full of imagery--full of signs and symbols that are meant to convince the seven churches being written to that they need to change their ways. In addition to those elements of a letter written to the seven churches, The Book of Revelation has elements of an apocalyptic prophecy for those societies. I do not read it as a prophecy of the end of the world, although many do. Remember that over the 2000+ years since the Book of Revelation was written, there have been many plagues, many earthquakes, many hurricanes that people have experienced, and it has not been the end of the world.

It is fear that would have us believe the Covid-19 pandemic signifies the end of the world. Jesus tells us repeatedly, "Do not fear." "Do not be afraid." "Fear not, little flock." Jesus does this to still our anxious, fearful hearts--to bring us comfort in the midst of our suffering. Jesus tells us that he is "with us" on many occasions and that home and heaven are within us. I believe, with all my heart, that Jesus came to this earth in humility and love as the Son of God to show God's grace and forgiveness; that Jesus sent the Comforter/Advocate/Holy Spirit to be present with us now and in the time to come and that the second coming is here as the Holy Spirit acting and moving within each of us as we live the gospel, share God's love, grace and forgiveness with others.

One of my favorite hymns (whose author is listed only as P.M.) sings,

Pilgrim on earth, home and heaven are within thee,
Heir of the ages and child of the day.
Cared for, watched over, beloved and protected,
Walk thou with courage each step of the way.

Truthful and steadfast though trials betide thee,
Ever one thing do thou ask of thy Lord,
Grace to go forward, wherever He guide thee,
Gladly obeying the call of His word.

Healed is thy hardness, His love hath dissolved it,
Full is the promise, the blessing how kind;
So shall His tenderness teach thee compassion,
So all the merciful, mercy shall find.

Another word of comfort that we find in scripture comes from a letter of Paul to the church at Corinth:

No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. 
God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, 
but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. 
1 Corinthians 10:13

The events that have befallen us may seem overwhelming but we can be assured that we can turn to our church family to love and support one another. We can turn to God in prayer to find comfort and guidance.

God does indeed provide the way. 
Jesus does indeed walk alongside. 
The Holy Spirit does indeed comfort us, motivate us and compel us to be the hands and feet, hearts and mind of love in this world, even at such a time as this.

Pastor Cheryl

Join us Sundays at 10:30 on YouTube to praise God together by clicking this link.




Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Worshiping God

Isaiah 25:1




What does it take to worship God?

Do you need a pew? A hymnal?

We've been plunged into a new paradigm during this Covid-19 crisis. It is a time when we are crafting new ways to meet together and new ways to keep in touch. We are finding new ways to shop and new scenes at the supermarket with shelves emptied of toilet paper and beans. In a time when we need each other and God more than ever, we are prevented from gathering at the sacred sanctuary that we call church, a place where we are drawn each Sunday to pray together, sing together, listen to God's word and refresh our spirits.

Pin on Bible verse of the day

We've been blessed by our wonderful staff who've been preparing virtual worship each week but are now faced with a Bishop's order that asks us not to gather our worship team to produce the program in the sanctuary, even using safe practices. We believe that we will be able to produce a vital worship experience by recording separate components. In fact, the sound may even be better.

What does it take to worship God?

It takes a grateful heart. Even when we've forgotten the words. Even when we don't know the tune, God receives our grateful praise. We praise God by expressing our gratitude for all that we've been given, for creation, for life, for joy, for the opportunity to express the love that has so generously been bestowed upon us, for the opportunity to imagine new ways to be in service to one another and to our community as the church in this place.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 - Bible verse of the day - DailyVerses.net

Join us Sundays at 10:30 on YouTube to praise God together by clicking this link.

Pastor Cheryl

Expectant, Joyful

In the Christian tradition, we know that patience is a spiritual gift and that times of waiting are often followed by deep blessings. At Wes...