Weekly Bulletin

Reflection for Sunday March 17, 2024 Worship Sharing – Below
MONDAY March 18     

Basket-weaving class, 1:30 PM @ Welcome classroom

TUESDAY March 19      

First day of spring


 —Prayer Soup supper, 5:30 PM @ meetinghouse
–Welcome Class Bible study, 7:00 PM by Zoom

THURSDAY March 21   

–Vocal choir practice, 6:30 PM in choir room
–Chiming choir practice, 7:15 PM in basement parlor

SUNDAY March 24  
    Palm Sunday Meeting for Worship-Sharing, 10:00 AM, both in person, at the meetinghouse and online via Zoom
MONDAY March 25   
 Ministry & Oversight meeting, 7:00 PM by Zoom

TODAY IS COMMUNITY FOOD PANTRY SUNDAY at Winchester Friends, when everyone is encouraged to donate a staple food item (or drop a dollar or two into the Quaker Oats tin on the southwest parlor table) to help area residents having difficulty affording adequate nutrition for their families.

THE TRUSTEES’ MARCH MEETING will be held this afternoon at 3:30 PM by Zoom (or in person at the parsonage).

THE MISSIONS & SOCIAL CONCERNS COMMITTEE also will meet this afternoon at 4:30 PM by Zoom.
AN OFFERING PLATE to receive contributions for Winchester Friends’ ministries is located on the table at the sanctuary parlor entrance.  Thank you for your faithful support of the Lord’s work through our church.
THE WELCOME CLASS BIBLE STUDY will meet this Wednesday March 20 at 7:00 PM by Zoom to study Lesson 4 (“In the World, but Not of the World,” drawn from James 4) in the Illuminate quarterly.  All are welcome — request a quarterly and/or the Zoom link from the church office.
READ THROUGH THE BIBLE IN 2024:  This week’s chapters are  Joshua 22-24 and Judges 1-21.  The year’s daily reading schedule is on the parlor table.
A COMMUNITY GOOD FRIDAY SERVICE sponsored by the Ministerial Association will be held on March 29 at 7:00 PM at Randolph Friends Church (6531 N 300 W).  Friends are invited to attend.  The 12 Noon service was scheduled to be held at the Freedom Life Church that was destroyed by Thursday’s tornado, and no alternate plans are available yet. 
FRUIT OF THE VINE daily devotional booklet copies for April, May, and June arrived on March 18 and are now available on the southwest parlor table.
THE BOOK DISCUSSION GROUP is now reading The First Ladies (by Heather Terrell and Victoria Christopher Murray) about Eleanor Roosevelt, for discussion in April.  Copies are available for loan on the southwest parlor table.
PILL BOTTLE COLLECTION:  The Missions & Social Concerns Committee is collecting plastic pill containers for Matthew 25 Ministries, an Ohio agency serving overseas medical missions.  Pick up an information/instruction sheet from the west parlor table, and place donated bottles in the collection basket.
PENNIES FROM HEAVEN $10 bills are available to Friends willing to carry them until led by the Spirit to share it with someone needing a bit of help and a reminder of God’s love.  See Ron Ferguson to obtain one.
Winchester Friends Church           765-584-8276
124 E. Washington St.      Winchester, IN  47394
                                                Reflection for Sunday March 17, 2024 Worship Sharing
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry…. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.           Psalm 34:15,17,18
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.       Matthew 5:10
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you…. If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.        I Peter 4:12-14,16
Blessed are Those Who are Persecuted for Righteousness….
In another “accident of the calendar,” our consideration of the eighth Beatitude has fallen on St. Patrick’s Day.  Sometime around AD 400, a raiding party of Celtic pirates from Ireland landed on the northwest coast of Britain and attacked the estate of a wealthy local government official of a Romano-British city there.  They stole what they could carry away, and they also kidnapped Patrick, the sixteen year-old son of that official.  He was taken back to Ireland and was enslaved as a shepherd and laborer for the next six years.  Patrick later wrote that although his grandfather was a priest and his father a church deacon, his family was not actively religious and he himself was not a believer in Christ in his youth.  For most of his six years in captivity, Patrick was made to tend flocks of sheep in remote, desolate places.  Lonely and often afraid, he found solace in using the time to recall what he had been taught in childhood about Christianity, and to pray.  That led to his spiritual awakening and to his becoming a devout follower of Christ.   
After six years as a slave, Patrick wrote that while praying at age 22, he sensed a voice telling him to prepare to return home to Britain.  Soon, he discerned a leading to flee from his “owner” and make his way to a port city 200 miles away where he would find a ship that would transport him back to Britain.  Patrick escaped and made that trek to Ireland’s eastern coast.  He found the ship and succeeded in persuading a reluctant captain to take him aboard.  After a three-day sail, they landed on Roman Britain’s west coast.  A group of the passengers packed up what supplies they could carry and hiked inland for a month through what Patrick in his writings called “wilderness.”  The group ran out of food and began to despair that they would perish without reaching civilization.  Patrick urged them to put their faith in God, and he prayed with them for the group to be rescued.  Shortly thereafter, they encountered a herd of wild boar and were able to kill, roast, and consume some of them to renew their energy and continue their journey.  For the rest of the trip, Patrick was held in high esteem by his fellow travelers.  After several more adventures, he finally reached his family’s home. 
Called to Ministry      Patrick wrote that while back at home, he experienced another vivid spiritual leading when an angel told him in a dream that he was to return to Ireland as a missionary.  Knowing that he needed more education in the scriptures if he was to fulfill that calling, he made his way to France and studied for several years with priests there.  About fifteen years after his escape from Ireland, Patrick was ordained to the priesthood and began preparing to go back there to minister to the few Christians who were there and to evangelize the polytheistic Celts.  There are records which indicate that he encountered opposition to his plans from some fellow-Christians, perhaps over fundraising to support the mission, but he went ahead with it anyway.  When Patrick finally made his way back to Ireland, the Irish where he first landed quickly let it be known he was not welcome there, forcing him to sail to another port farther north.  Locals there soon became inhospitable as well, causing Patrick to travel overland to the western part of the island before finally settling. 
             His writings indicate that he got right to work.  Patrick preached and led converts to Christ, “baptizing thousands.”  As the Christian community grew, he ordained priests to lead congregations and consecrated nuns to help them, often despite opposition from their families.  He evangelized even the sons of local kings who resisted his work as a challenge to their authority.  When those kings and other officials tried to buy Patrick’s favor with money, he chose not to accept it, to make clear his loyalty to Christ alone.  His teaching and writings were at times met with insult and ridicule.  He reported that some of his converts were taken and held as slaves by pagan kings.  On multiple occasions, Patrick was arrested, beaten, robbed, and threatened with execution. 
Saint Patrick      Despite that strong opposition, Patrick persisted and is credited with “introducing Christianity to Ireland.”  Part of his success in that is attributed to the six years he spent there in his youth as a slave, during which he learned the culture, idiosyncrasies, fears, and superstitions of the people.  Knowing those things enabled him to tailor his message and work to address them with Christ’s Truth.  Part of his genius was his incorporation of Irish culture and symbols into Christian worship and practice without trying to eradicate them, but also without allowing them to alter or supplant the message of the Gospel.  Over the years, Patrick became recognized as “the father of Irish Christianity,” but he was never canonized as a saint by the Church because that formal process did not exist until hundreds of years later.  Nevertheless, he has for centuries been considered a saint “by popular acclamation.” 
Blessed are those Persecuted for Righteousness        Reading about St. Patrick sounds very similar to the apostle Paul’s description of the hardships he encountered in his life of ministry (II Corinthians 4:8,9 and 11:21-28) – imprisonment, beatings, shipwreck, robbery, hunger, and betrayal by false Christians.  In my view, both of those men are lived examples of the truth of the eighth Beatitude.  When many people read the words of Matthew 5:10, their first reaction is “that can’t be right — no one enjoys being mistreated, especially for doing something good.”  The blessedness of this Beatitude, however, comes not in sensory enjoyment, but in the joy of knowing God’s presence and help when obediently expressing his sacrificial love in a way that provokes opposition from his eternal enemy.  Just like the previous Beatitudes, this one rests and builds upon the Truth and spiritual depth gained by climbing all the previous steps into the spiritual life of God’s kingdom.
             In my non-theological, non-academic way of expressing the big picture, God created a world in which righteousness was the norm and standard.  The angel Lucifer and his followers rebelled against that and got expelled from God’s presence for their failed attempt to overthrow him (Isaiah 14:12; Luke 10:18).  They have continued working at that ever since.  Because Satan now has no access to God, he does the next best thing to hurt the Lord – he attacks human beings, created in God’s image and loved so much that Jesus died for them.  He seeks to separate people from God and goads them into participating in his persecution of those who live for God.
Light Offends Darkness    So wrote Methodist professor Gene Davenport in Following the Call.  He points out that Christians’ calling is to carry mercy into mercilessness, purity into duplicity, and peacemaking into violence.  We must know in advance that those ministries will provoke a hostile, angry response from Christ’s enemy and people who are invested in the ways of this world.  Darkness seeks to destroy light, not just ridicule it.  We must not be surprised that spiritual faithfulness makes us vulnerable to persecution from this world’s “powers.”  Committed discipleship threatens the world’s ideology, values, social structures, and “systems.”  Shortly before his assassination while preaching in El Salvador, Archbishop Oscar Romero said that “the Church will suffer for speaking Truth, for denouncing and uprooting sin.  Discipleship has costs.”  Even in dark times, Jesus’ followers still can by faith rejoice in the blessedness that Light’s promised life and deliverance are already breaking in.
It’s a Way, Not a Competition       Clarence Jordan in Sermon on the Mount points out that Jesus’ disciples don’t go out trying to get persecuted, or more persecuted than the next guy.  It’s just that, to people who are loyal above all else to themselves and to the world’s ways, Christian discipleship appears to be subversive and dangerous, and that evokes strong opposition.  Jesus often warned the disciples of the difficulty of following him, but he constantly prepared them to resist sin’s opposition, and he promised he would always accompany them by his Spirit to help them.  In Jordan’s assessment, the intensity of the persecution Christians receive is not determined by the low level of morality of the persecutors, but by the high standard and “intensity of the Christian community’s witness.”  He summarizes his thoughts with two questions:  “Do we get off so easy in our time because our light is so dim that the persecutors don’t notice it?  What are we Christians doing at present that is worth persecuting?” 
It’s About Jesus, Not About Me       In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (who received the ultimate persecution of being executed for opposing Hitler) stressed that living the Beatitudes life shames the worldly without even trying to do so.  Merely seeing a reminder of how God created life to be lived, in contrast to their personal reality, can evoke insults, slander, anger, and violence from them.  Bonhoeffer saw that their hostility was actually (but unknowingly) directed at Jesus.  It just got expressed toward his followers.  Bonhoeffer urged his friends to remember that just as Jesus took the penalty of their sin upon himself, we are now privileged to bear people’s reproach and disdain meant for Christ when he is seen in our witness, character, and living.  That is how the disciples responded in Acts 5:41 after being insulted and flogged for speaking about Jesus – they “left the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”
On a trip to Ethiopia in 1987, Pam and I got to have dinner with a few Ethiopian Mennonites who were quietly working to keep their church viable during the regime of an oppressive military government.  They all had jobs and families, but it was clear that their Christian discipleship was central to their lives.  A number of their members had been imprisoned in recent years for the crime of gathering for worship in a group larger than a handful.  Some of those we met were actively caring for the families of some of those imprisoned brothers and sisters.  They were able to meet only in private homes in very small groups.  We were deeply moved and impressed by their courage and the quiet joy they conveyed despite their harsh daily reality.  We were even more impressed when they told us that their church had never been as strong before the repressive government came in as it was at that moment, during that regime.  They sounded a bit like those disciples in Acts 5.  They were living the Beatitudes life and were experiencing its promised blessedness, despite the risks they were required to take. Their witness and lives were a testimony to us that Jesus’ words were just as true in the 20th century as they were in the 1st.  We all now have the opportunity to show others that they are still true in 2024.  The way to begin is to take the first steps in the Beatitudes stairway to the spiritual life, and keep on climbing.  Let’s do that.  Let’s be Friends.
–Ron Ferguson, 17 March 2024
Queries for Worship-Sharing and Reflection
1)  What about the life of St. Patrick do you find most encouraging or inspiring?

2)  Why do you think the Ethiopian church was stronger under a repressive government than under political freedom?

3)  Describe a time when you experienced, or saw someone else experience, mistreatment due to spiritual witness.

4)  How would you answer Clarence Jordan’s two queries at the end of the “It’s a Way.…” paragraph above?