Weekly Bulletin

Reflection for Sunday February 4, 2024 Worship Sharing – Below

–USFW meeting, 7:00 PM by Zoom

 —Prayer Soup supper, 5:30 PM @ parsonage

–Monthly Meeting for Business, 7:00 PM by Zoom
–No Sunday School Zoom meetings


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

— Meeting for Worship-Sharing, 10:00 AM, both in person at the meetinghouse and online via 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.
FEBRUARY’S MONTHLY MEETING FOR BUSINESS will meet this Wednesday February 7 at 7:00 PM by Zoom.  All Friends are urged to attend to hear reports on the church’s ministries and to help discern God’s leading for any resource decisions which must be made.
READ THROUGH THE BIBLE IN 2024:  This week’s chapters are Exodus 28-40 and Leviticus 1-10.  The year’s daily reading schedule is on the parlor table.
THE WELCOME CLASS BIBLE STUDY will meet next on Wednesday February 14 at 7:00 PM by Zoom to study Lesson 13 (“Seeking Deep Love,” drawn from Song of Songs 3 and 4) in the Illuminate quarterly.  All are welcome — request a quarterly and/or the Zoom link from the church office.
THE BOOK DISCUSSION GROUP is now reading various novels by Louise Penny. Three are available for loan from the church, and the local library also has several of her books.  The group will meet by Zoom on Tuesday February 27 at 7:30 PM to discuss what they’ve read.  All are welcome to participate — check the southwest parlor table or speak with Pam Ferguson for help locating a copy of one of Penny’s books.
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 February 4, 2024 Worship Sharing
In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.        Psalm 118:5
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourningand a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.          Isaiah 61:1-3
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.     Matthew 5:4
Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.   
II Corinthians 4:16,17
Blessed are Those Who Mourn….
When I was younger, I was often intrigued by the number of senior citizens in the churches of which we were a part who would tell us they subscribed to the local newspaper primarily to be able to read the obituary section in each edition.  Some of them would joke that “I do it to make sure I wasn’t in there.”  Now that I’m told I am one of those senior citizens, I guess I understand them a bit better.  Many of the people whose deaths were reported in those obituary columns were their peers, acquaintances of their generation.  The routine of scouring those obituaries and remembering those people was an act of mourning the loss of something valuable – friends, neighbors, life itself.
When Pam and I arrived in southern Sudan in 1985 to work in a United Nations refugee project, we were housed in a compound that had been built for a European road construction company on the outskirts of a small city.  That city had no electrical grid, no water or sewer system, no phone system, and (obviously) no newspaper.  We soon learned, however, that there was a communications network in place to alert residents that someone had died.  In such a remote place with little medical care available, lots of tropical illnesses, and a rebel insurgency underway, death was a frequent visitor.  Between our house and the city center was a half-mile wide shallow valley filled with family clusters of small grass-roofed, mud-walled huts.  When a death occurred in one of those families, that evening a bonfire would be lit, some big drums would be pounded on, and women and girls would ululate – vocalizing a high-pitched warbling wail that carried all through that valley – seemingly for hours.  It was a cultural act of mourning, of expressing the grief and sorrow that accompanies loss.  On many evenings there, we sat around a campfire in our yard watching the glow of the bonfires across the valley and listening to the drumming and ululating.  It was a good reminder to us of why we were there, to stand with people in their sorrow and struggle, and to work for the peace and human wholeness that could prevent needless suffering and premature death. 
In a spiritual sense, we too were mourning, even though we did not know the person who had died.  It was spiritual mourning that had motivated us in the first place to leave home and family to spend those years there.  As we learned about the world and the great big picture of life, we had become convinced of the truth of the biblical principle Jesus taught about shepherds and sheep in John 10.  He emphasized that the shepherd’s focus was on protecting and providing abundant life for his sheep, while his enemy the thief sought only to “steal, kill, and destroy.”  When Paul explained the Gospel to the church at Rome, he wrote (5:12-15) that it was due to that thief that sin had entered the human race via Adam, and death as the result of sin, but the redeeming grace of the Shepherd was offered to forgive sin and restore life.  We were learning that the work of Christ’s enemy, the thief – all the damage and harm and sorrow caused by selfish rejection of the Shepherd – was something to be deeply mourned.  We were learning to allow our hearts to be broken by the things that break the heart of God.  In the midst of that mourning, the Spirit led us to people and circumstances which taught us that genuine, redemptive mourning of sin’s damage initiates the release of Christ’s promised blessing, of comfort in the form of forgiveness, transformation, and opportunities to repair or prevent such harm.  We were learning the upside-down meaning of the second Beatitude. 
The Kingdom Journey’s Second Step        In Clarence Jordan’s Sermon on the Mount image of a Beatitudes “stairway to spiritual life,” the journey begins when a person heeds the Spirit’s invitation to turn around (repent) and face the Light of the world instead of avoiding him.  In that light of eternal Truth, people can see themselves as their Creator sees them. True seekers then will take the first step up that stairway by acknowledging their spiritual poverty, their inability to save themselves and their need for God’s rescue.  Taking that first step closer to the Light illuminates even more clearly the harm done by failure to resist Christ’s enemy and sinful selfishness.  It shows the damage done to a person’s soul, their outward life, their relationships with others, and to the world around them.  Upon seeing that harm, the wisest and most appropriate response one can make is to take the second step towards spiritual life and the kingdom of heaven — the step of redemptive mourning. 
Blessed are Those Who Mourn        Many scholars of the Sermon on the Mount stress the point that while grief and sorrow are human feelings or emotions, mourning is an action.  When in the light of Truth we realize that we have defied the love, guidance, and intentions of our Creator who only desires to give us the most abundant life possible, it should fill us with sorrow.  When we have falsely presumed that we are smarter than God, that we know better than the Lord does what will satisfy and fulfill us, and then our choice ends up harming us or others, it often rightly produces tears of grief.  The spiritual mourning of Jesus’ Beatitude, however, goes beyond mere emotions.  Redemptive mourning requires a clear-eyed honest assessment of what disobeys or dishonors God, and what corrective action must be taken to stop causing him sorrow.  The blessedness of spiritual mourning derives from the fact that it is the Holy Spirit’s presence, conviction, and grace which lets us know that we have gotten off track, and which also helps us find our way back.  Paul told the Corinth church that worldly sorrow doesn’t do that, but godly mourning brings repentance and salvation and leaves no regret (II Cor. 7:10).  Without spiritual mourning in such situations, we’re on our own.
They Will be Comforted      When King David was caught in his adultery with Bathsheba and his conspiracy to have her husband killed, his genuine mourning over his sin enabled him to write in Psalm 51:11-12,17, “Do not cast me from your presence, or take your Holy Spirit from me; Restore to me the joy of your salvation…; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  In our personal relationship with the Lord, his comfort for our mourning comes first in the form of forgiveness for whatever has harmed our fellowship with him.  For Peter in John 21:15ff, after he had falsely denied Jesus three times, comfort took the form of both the Lord’s forgiveness and his restoration of Peter to his calling to a life of sacrificial ministry in establishing the Church.  In these and many other cases throughout scripture, it is clear that God always longs to pardon people who have strayed from him, to restore them to friendship with himself, and to give them meaningful work in revealing his kingdom.  All he needs is their cry for his help, and their sincere mourning. 
Mourning as Daily Prophetic Witness and Ministry      It has long been my conviction that Jesus intends this kind of spiritual mourning to be part of our daily discipleship, not just a step in our initial acceptance of Christ.  When we have begun living in poverty of spirit, always aware of our need for God, and as we move closer each day to his searching, guiding Light, we will certainly see plenty of things wrong in the world, many things to be unhappy about.  It seems that most people just see them and complain, hoping, I suppose, that someone else will correct them.  Rather than just griping about such problems, Christ’s disciples are called and equipped for mourning them redemptively as a prophetic witness. 
             In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that spiritual mourners are called to refrain from glorifying the things the world glorifies and from living by the world’s values and standards of success.  He wrote that in Christ’s Light, disciples must be visionaries who see “that despite all the jolliness on board, the ship is starting to sink.”  Bonhoeffer points to Jesus praying in Gethsemane (on the night before his death when he told his disciples in Mark 14:34 that his “soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”) as our example of mourning for the spiritual needs of others. 
             Writing in Following the Call, Nicholas Walterstorff states that disciples who have embraced Christ’s Light and glimpsed the beauty of life lived in it must surely mourn that that experience is not true or shared by all humankind as God desires and intends.  He echoes Bonhoeffer that Jesus’ followers must be “aching visionaries,” mourners who see sadly that God’s lifegiving desires and intentions are not a reality everywhere, all the time.  Such disciples welcome the Lord’s equipping and empowering for ministry to correct that shortfall .
             Also in Following the Call, Frederica Mathewes-Green writes that our mourning “is not only for ourselves, but for all people and all the Creation” that has been damaged by sin’s destructive fight against the Creator.  Spiritual mourning means that we groan along with all the Creation (Romans 8:22) for God’s healing mercy.  In this time of climate crisis, disappearing species, destructive storms, and other disasters, spiritual mourners are dearly needed.
Jesus is the Standard      Jesus practiced what he preached.  As God in human flesh, he surely must have had at least an inkling of what the future held and what God could do to set things right in response to the destructive activity of his enemy.  Still, Jesus went to the grave of his friend Lazarus and wept (John 11:35), then turned his mourning into action and raised Lazarus back to life.  Jesus wept over Jerusalem as he approached the city on Palm Sunday, pointing out its failures to observe the signs and heed the prophets’ warnings.  A few days later, he prayed in agonized sorrow in Gethsemane over the lostness of humankind that had refused his message and his loving offer of redemption. That mourning turned to effective action as well – a few hours later he lovingly sacrificed his life to give all his rejecters a new chance at eternal life.  His example is the one we are to follow.   Pam’s and my mourning over what we learned about Sudan ended up prompting us to go there to express Christ’s love by standing with people who were suffering in sorrow, and by working for peace and human wholeness.  Looking at the world around us in 2024, it’s my contention that we all are called and needed for ministry much like that, right here at home.  Something of great value is being lost.   Faithfully mourning sin’s damage in a redemptive spirit still has the capacity to release Christ’s promise of comfort in the form of forgiveness, transformation, and meaningful lives of purpose and ministry.  Let’s all take him up on that promise.
–Ron Ferguson, 4 February 2024
 Queries for Worship-Sharing and Reflection
1)  When you look at the world around you in Christ’s Light nowadays, what things cause you to spiritually mourn?

2)  What are some redemptive actions you/we have taken, or could take, regarding the things that cause us to mourn?

3)  In your experience, in what ways can spiritual mourning be a blessed experience, beyond the pain of sorrow and grief?

4)  How can we be certain that we are mourning the things that actually break the heart of God?