THIS WEEK (Thirty-One)+ of pandemic restrictions
MON Oct 12 Nonfiction book discussion group, 7:30 PM via Zoom (details below)
WED Oct 16 —Prayer Soup supper, 5:30 PM @ parsonage
–Chiming choir practice, 7:00 PM
SUN Oct 18 –Meeting for Worship-Sharing, 10:00 AM, both in person at the meetinghouse and online via Zoom video conferencing by computer or phone
–Community Food Pantry Sunday
–Missions & Social Concerns Committee, 4:30 PM via Zoom
MON Oct 19 Fiction book discussion group, 6:30 PM via Zoom
BULLETIN BOARD for OCTOBER 11, 2020
THE NONFICTION BOOK GROUP plans to discuss How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi in an online meeting at 7:30 PM on Monday October 12. All are welcome to participate, whether or not you’ve yet read the book. Please let the church office know if you’d like to get the Zoom invitation.
CHIMING CHOIR PRACTICES begin this Wednesday October 14 at 7:00 PM in the church basement parlor. Health precautions (masks, distancing, etc.) will be observed. If you’d like to play the choir chimes, please contact Brian Lilly or the church office. Everyone’s welcome!
PANDEMIC GATHERING: Out of concern for Friends’ health and safety, combined in-person and online Meetings for Worship-Sharing (utilizing Zoom video/phone conferencing) will be held at 10:00 AM each Sunday in October. If a spike of COVID-19 cases occurs in Winchester, M&O may at that time instruct returning to online-only Sunday services. Those gathering in the meetinghouse are expected to arrive no earlier than 9:30 AM, and to honor hand sanitizing, facemask wearing, and physical distancing to help prevent COVID infection. If you feel unwell or are experiencing any COVID symptoms (fever, persistent cough, shortness of breath, recent loss of taste or smell), please participate online or by phone. To connect by telephone, dial 1-301-715-8592, then key in the meeting ID (249 900 7533) and meeting password (162473).
THE FICTION BOOK GROUP is now reading The Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It is a story set on Britain’s Gurnsey Island when occupied by German troops during World War II. Discussion will held by Zoom on Monday October 19 at 6:30 PM.
UNITED SOCIETY OF FRIENDS WOMEN does not plan to meet during October. If ladies would like to help clear the basement entry room by sorting and packing up rummage to store for next spring’s sale, please contact Pam Ferguson to coordinate times and tasks.
ONGOING THANKS to the many faithful Friends who have continued to contribute tithes and offerings to support the Meeting’s ministries and fixed expenses during the many recent weeks of pandemic restrictions.
Winchester Friends Church 765-584-8276
124 E. Washington St. Winchester, IN 47394www.winchesterfriendschurch.org
Signs & Symptoms
Each day Pam and I have gone to the food pantry to work during the past few months, we have watched cars line up at the north garage door of the hospital-owned house next door. When directed, the car at the head of the line pulls into the garage and parks. Medical workers wearing scrubs and full protective equipment then move to the car windows, fill out paperwork, and then use nasal swabs to collect samples from the car’s occupants for COVID-19 testing. When that’s finished, the car leaves through the garage’s south door, the next car in line pulls in, and the process starts again. When this testing first got underway, only a few cars showed up each morning, and after their occupants were tested, the medical workers closed the doors and returned to the hospital. We eventually learned that those tests were prescribed and required for patients scheduled for medical procedures at the hospital. The point was to prevent an infected but asymptomatic patient from carrying the virus into the facility.
About a month ago, traffic through that garage next door increased significantly and lasted through the afternoon. We were told that the morning shift was still the same, but in the afternoons, the county health department was using a federal grant to conduct free COVID-19 testing for anyone who was experiencing symptoms and wanted to find out if they had been infected by the coronavirus. Everyone has probably memorized those symptoms by now, but they bear repeating anyway – fever and chills, dry cough, shortness of breath, sudden loss of sense of smell and/or taste, respiratory congestion, runny nose, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, and sometimes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Traffic was rather heavy for the first several days of this free testing, but more recently it has leveled out.
One of the significant difficulties about the COVID-19 virus is that the symptoms of its presence can be completely absent or deceptively mild in a carrier, then devastating in someone whom that carrier infects. A similar problem is that COVID-19’s symptoms are nearly the same as those of many of the allergies, respiratory infections, and digestive system illnesses people commonly experience at this time of year. Early detection, medical support, and isolation are essential for reducing both COVID’s harm and its spread, so it makes sense that people experiencing some of the symptoms get tested. If allowed to progress unchecked, COVID infection can quickly become a medical emergency of insufficient oxygen supply to vital organs marked by difficulty breathing, chest pain, blue lips, mental confusion, and difficulty staying awake. From that combination of symptoms, every paramedic knows that the patient is in crisis and needs immediate intervention and advanced care.
That last sentence sounds somewhat similar to Jesus’ words to his disciples at the Last Supper, as recorded in John 13:35 — “by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” Unfortunately, many people have learned that verse (probably because of the wonderful, popular song that is based on it) but have never given much thought to its context in John 13. Taken by itself in English, verse 35 could reasonably be interpreted to mean “everyone, or at least all males, will know you are Jesus’ disciple if you are a good and nice person.” First, given Jesus’ inclusion of women in everything he said and did, we should these days understand “all men” to mean all humankind. Second, Jesus’ statement just before verse 35 provides essential context for understanding “love one another.” In verse 34, he qualifies “love one another” with “as I have loved you.” The Greek word translated as “love” in these verses is agape, the divine, holistic, sacrificial love of God that goes far beyond “good and nice.” It is the love which led Jesus the very next day to sacrifice his physical life to make possible their eternal life.
John provides even more context for “as I have loved you” earlier in John 13. As the group gathered in “an upper room” for their Passover meal, Jesus took the initiative to pick up a basin and a towel and began washing his disciples’ dusty feet. In that culture and time, that task normally would have fallen to a servant brought in for that purpose, or to a member of the group considered the least accomplished or important – but certainly not to the Teacher. As with many other cultural customs, Jesus turned the treatment of people based on class and status upside down, and he made that a part of “as I have loved you.” When Peter objected, Jesus gently but firmly rebuked him, and he told the whole group that he had purposefully washed their feet to set an example for the way their lives must be lived (13:15). In John’s account, Jesus next identified Judas as the one who would betray him, and he sent him away, further illustrating that loving “as he had loved them” included accountability, not just being nice and pretending that sin was of no consequence. It was then that Jesus told the remaining eleven he was giving them a new command to love each other in the same way he loved them. They were to love others not only as an emotion felt towards dear friends and constant companions, but also sacrificially, in humble servanthood, and in consistency with Truth even when it uncomfortably contradicted custom, culture, or convenience.
In literature developed by Friend Richard Foster and distributed as part of the global Renovare (to renew) ministry he started in 1988, Foster makes the point that fully obeying Jesus’ new command to love as he loved requires that we fully know Jesus in all his roles. Renovare summarizes those roles as our Savior, Teacher, Lord, and Friend. Knowing and loving Christ in all those capacities produces in his followers a variety of observable traits of divine love, the “symptoms” by which all people will know they are his disciples, “infected” by his presence.
Savior When I meet someone for the first time, one of the first clues for me that they walk with Christ is a sense of spiritual humility. It’s not the groveling “such a worm as I” humility referred to in the old gospel song, but rather the blessed poverty of spirit Jesus taught in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3). It is the humility that knows that no matter how good I might get or how much good I might do in life, I still need a savior. It admits that without the grace of consistent disciplined submission, I would revert to pride, self-rule, and denial that I need God for anything. It is the loving humility that enabled Jesus to wash his disciples’ feet and motivates us to put the needs of others ahead of our own (Romans 12:10, Philippians 2:4, I Corinthians 10:24, I John 3:10). It is the humility that acknowledges that only the God who is Truth can forgive my violations of Truth.
It is as Savior that Christ can transform my character. Without his redeeming grace, the product of my self-directed life sounds suspiciously like at least parts of Paul’s description in Galatians 5: 19-21: impurity, idolatry, discord, jealousy, anger, selfish ambition, etc. When I humbly surrender and let Christ be in charge, those traits are transformed into love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those symptoms of the Spirit’s presence aren’t very difficult to spot.
Teacher Another of the observable traits in people identifiable by their love as Christ’s disciples is devotion to learning as much about him and from him as possible (John 14:26), a devotion to deepening both their understanding of Truth and their commitment to live by it. Part of their love is love for life as a gift from God, and they are curious about it and seek always to grow in their capacity to live it as its Giver intended. Their devotion to Christ as Teacher means they are students of scripture and practitioners of listening prayer, both alone and with fellowships of other followers of Christ who can add to their understanding from their experience (and who will benefit when we share ours with them). They are people who quickly understand Peter’s words in II Peter 1:5-8 that if we are ever to be able to love as Jesus did, we must be devoted to embracing faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and brotherly kindness in increasing measure all the time. The Kingdom journey is ever dynamic, never static.
Lord People who are readily identifiable by their love are people who are not bouncing around like a pinball in life nor drifting along aimlessly with no sense of direction or purpose. Their humility before God and devotion to spiritual growth produces in them the kind of trust in the Lord that allows him to be in charge. In accepting God’s plan and guidance, they find that it always includes opportunities to love others as Christ has loved us, no matter the place or the circumstances. They also realize that although the leading may come in small segments, the Spirit will provide enough clarity for each day’s work, so unloving frustration and impatience towards others become unnecessary and regressive. Jesus’ promise to those first disciples in that upper room (John 16:13) still assures them that the Spirit of truth given at Pentecost will accompany and guide them every moment of their life, so long as obedience to the One who is Lord is their highest priority. That obedience will always be expressed as agape.
Friend The love that is readily identified in Jesus’ disciples is evidenced also by a dual sense in them of awe and reverence for the God of all creation, and the familial ease with which Jesus taught his disciples to pray, addressing God as Abba, the intimate expression in Aramaic that translates as “daddy.” The Christians I can usually identify fairly quickly seem to understand both ends of that spectrum, revering in awe the Creator of everything that is, yet at the same time assured of their invitation by grace into genuine, interactive friendship with the Creator’s living Spirit. They never lose the reverence, but they also are glad to speak unashamedly (and lovingly, and not confrontationally) with any who will listen about Christ who has given them life, and who is as present and real a friend to them as the person to whom they’re speaking – an eternal Friend who also is their Savior, Teacher, and Lord.
As Jesus said to his first disciples, we are commanded to love others as he has loved us, and to do it so well that it will become the hallmark of those who bear his name. The only way we’ll ever be able to obey that command is to spend our lives working consistently to grow in our knowledge of Christ as our Savior, Teacher, Lord, and Friend. Is that the way your neighbors know you are his disciple? If not, there’s no time like today to begin.
–Ron Ferguson, 11 October ‘20
Queries for Reflection and Worship-Sharing
1) What are the ways you know you are dealing with a follower of Christ when you meet someone for the first time? Are there ways you’re pretty sure that a new acquaintance is not a follower of Christ?
2) Why did Jesus call his instruction in John 13:34 a new command? What was new about it?
3) Last May when we considered spiritual lessons from COVID “tracking and tracing,” Al Groth commented that “we need to infect the world with Christ.” One of the queries that day was “If you were arrested and charged with being a Christian, would there be enough evidence available to convict you?” It seems relevant to ask that query again. In that scenario, what evidence would you like the investigators to find?
4) What might 21st century foot washing look like as an expression of the love Jesus demonstrated that evening?
124 E Washington St Winchester IN 47394 765-584-8276