Weekly Bulletin

 August 29, 2021 Reflection for Sunday Morning Worship Sharing below-
                             THIS WEEK (Seventy-Seven)+ of pandemic alterations
MONDAY August 30       
–Book Discussion Group, 7:30 PM by Zoom

WEDNESDAY September 1     
–Intercession Salad supper, 5:30 PM @ parsonage
–Welcome Class Bible study by Zoom, 7:00 PM

SUNDAY September 5         
–Meeting for Worship-Sharing, 10:00 AM, both in person at the meetinghouse and online via Zoom
MONDAY September 6        
Labor Day — church office closed

  –Monthly Meeting for Business, 7:00 PM via Zoom
 —No Sunday School Zoom meetings
COMPASSION GARDEN produce is available today in the church library, or in the church office this week, in exchange for Friends’ donations to help low-income families in developing countries through Heifer International.
THE BOOK DISCUSSION GROUP will share their learnings from The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown at 7:30 PM (Eastern) tomorrow (Monday) August 30 by Zoom.  Contact Pam Ferguson to request the Zoom link
READ THROUGH THE BIBLE IN 2021:  This week’s chapters are I Chronicles 27-29 and II Chronicles 1-19.  The year’s daily schedule is available on the southwest parlor table or by request from the church office.
THE WELCOME CLASS BIBLE STUDY will meet this Wednesday September 1 at 7:00 PM by Zoom.  They will focus on Illuminate Lesson 13 “Wisdom and Prayer,” based on Colossians 4.  Everyone is welcome — please let the church office know if you’d like to receive the Zoom link.
NEW ILLUMINATE QUARTERLIES for September-November are on the southwest parlor table today.  Pick up one and plan to join the Welcome Class to study Joshua, Judges, and Ruth — “A Call to Faithfulness,” — starting Sept. 15.
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.
PANDEMIC GATHERING:  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 until further notice.  To connect by telephone, dial 1-301-715-8592, then key in the meeting ID (249 900 7533) and meeting password  (162473).
Winchester Friends Church        winchesterfriends@juno.com
124 E Washington     Winchester IN 47394     765-584-8276

 August 29, 2021 Reflection for Sunday Morning Worship Sharing on Zoom and in the Meetinghouse

Is not the Lord your God with you?  And has he not granted you rest on every side? ….Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God.  Begin to build the sanctuary of the Lord God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the Lord.    
King David to soon-to-be-king Solomon and Israel’s leaders,  I Chronicles 22:18,19
As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by people but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…. You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.        I Peter 2:4,5,9
 A New Start
A local Friend asked me this week if I could write a permission slip for him to skip the books of Chronicles in the Through the Bible in a Year list we’re following in 2021 (as if I had any such authority!).  I told him I’d write one for him if he’d write one for me.  I’m pretty sure that I share his distaste for the first nine chapters of long genealogical lists of unpronounceable names, and for the often bloody descriptions of how Israel’s kings gained and then tried to hold onto power (I Chron. 11,12).  I find myself asking, “What value could there be in spending my time reading these lists of names?” – but then I recall that in 2000, a Christian writer noticed two verses in that long list (I Chronicles 4:9,10) about Jabez, a descendant of Jacob’s son Judah, who asked God to give him a good life.  That writer saw in those two verses a simple, marketable formula for a theology of prosperity.  Knowing his audience really well, he wrote a small book about Jabez that quickly became a bestseller and morphed into an entire industry that has made millions selling books and videos, diaries, calendars, coffee mugs, t-shirts, follow-up books, and all sorts of other items.  He found value in reading those lists of names, even if I don’t.
Apart from prosperity, there are good reasons to maintain, know, and have available all sorts of historical records.  Not long after that book about Jabez became so popular, Pam and I and a few other Friends attended a lecture at Ball State featuring David Gergen, the former editor of US News & World Report and an advisor to several presidents from both political parties.  In that talk, Gergen spoke at some length about the importance for leaders to know history.  He cited Richard Nixon’s knowledge of a centuries-old domestic conflict in China as being key to understanding and solving a looming international crisis at the end of the 20th century.  His comment was that leaders’ ability to foresee and plan for future challenges will not exceed the depth of their knowledge of the past.  Understanding our own history and that of others can enable us to move past unhelpful assumptions, habits, and biases.  In our spiritual lives, knowing what we’ve come from can challenge us both to carry on a faithful living witness, and to choose to correct an unfaithful one.  It is instructive to note that the Quakers have long been known for their historical records (births, memberships, marriages, deaths), meeting minutes, and journals recorded for those very same purposes.
Perspective and Purpose    After getting partway into I Chronicles, Through the Bible readers often find themselves thinking, “I’m fairly sure I already read this.”  That is because the books of Chronicles retell the same basic story told in the books of Samuel and Kings.  There are subtle differences in those two accounts of the Israelites’ history, but many readers breeze through them and don’t really think about them.  The differences are mainly matters of perspective and purpose.  The books of Samuel and Kings were written (570 BC?) for the Hebrews who had been taken into exile by the Assyrians and Babylonians, written primarily to help them not to forget the sinfulness that had led to their captivity.  The Chronicles were written later (470 BC?) to exiles returned from Babylon or still there, most likely by the priestly scribe Ezra, to remind them of God’s promise to enable them to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and its temple, and to prepare for the arrival of God’s promised Deliverer, the Messiah. 
The Septuagint (the Old Testament translated by 70 scholars from Hebrew into Greek around 150 BC) titled Chronicles with a word meaning “the things omitted.”  Some students point to a few things Ezra added to Chronicles that are not found in Samuel or Kings, but most pay more attention to details in the earlier books that are left out of the Chronicles.  In general, the Chronicles tend to idealize both David and Solomon, leaving out most references to their times of sinfulness, and to the struggles and opposition they faced in Judah when trying to gain the throne and when trying to govern.  The only sin of David that is detailed is his prideful unauthorized census of his military strength (I Chron. 21), apparently so that the location of Solomon’s temple built later can be explained.  Nothing is written about Solomon’s lapse into idolatry in his old age, and there are few mentions of Judah’s evil kings.
I remember being a freshman in high school and walking by a swinging rack of big glassed-in frames with photos of recent senior classes beside trophy cases highlighting their achievements.  I played wide receiver on the freshman football team, and one of my heroes was the varsity wide receiver.  I remember looking at photos of him making incredible catches and hoping I could one day do the same.  It was much later that I learned that he wasn’t the perfect person I imagined, but the coach wasn’t about to include all that in the trophy display.  Ezra edited and shaped the history recorded in the books of Samuel and Kings to tell the story in Chronicles in a way that would give hope to a new generation of Israelites making a new start in Jerusalem.  He wrote to affirmatively address their questions – “Is God still concerned about us?  Do God’s promises and his covenant with King David still apply to us?”  He emphasized that obeying that covenant, more than just making buildings, was essential to a brighter future for them.
When the COVID-19 pandemic is finally suppressed enough to allow daily life to return to a semblance of normal, many organizations – including churches – will in some ways need to “make a new start” like the Israelites had to do, even though they’ve continued functioning during the crisis.  And like the Israelites headed back from Babylon to Jerusalem, no one knows for sure what that will look like or what changes will be prudent.  As I read I Chronicles this week with that thought in mind, I tried to listen for tips from its author for making such a new start well.  I offer these four.
Accurately Handle the Word of Truth     As the genealogies end, I Chronicles 10 tells of the deaths of King Saul and his sons in a battle against the Philistines.  10:3 states that Saul was wounded by a Philistine archer.  Rather than be captured and tortured, he ordered his armor-bearer to end his life with his sword.  The soldier was too afraid to do it, so Saul fell on his own sword and died.  The author summarized that event in 10:13,14 by stating that Saul was unfaithful to God…. “so the Lord put him to death” and made David king.  The author was trying to make his point that sin has profound consequences whereas David’s obedience to God brought blessing, but the casual reader can certainly get a skewed understanding of God’s justice and mercy by not studying the whole story.  In I Chronicles 15, after the first attempt to return the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem ended with the death of Uzzah (for touching the ark to steady it when the oxen stumbled), David determined to complete that task.  He instructed that only the Levites could handle the ark and confessed that on the first attempt, “we did not inquire of God about how to do it in the prescribed way” (15:13).  That story in II Samuel 6 records no such admission by David, so I’m glad Ezra included it here.  Great care is called for nowadays in these matters, because so many people believe that they too are entitled to pick and choose which instructions in scripture apply to them and which can be ignored and discarded.  A spiritual new start surely means a renewed humility before Truth, a renewed commitment to inquire of God about how we are to live.
Commitment Thicker than Blood     In I Chronicles 12:1,2, we are told that after David was banned from King Saul’s presence and ultimately was hunted as a fugitive, he fled to the territory of the Philistines for refuge and was joined there by King Saul’s own relatives who evidently saw Saul’s evil intentions and came to David’s defense against him.  I am reminded by that of Jesus’ word to his disciples (Matt. 19:29) that “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or parents or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit  eternal life.”  He taught that same essential truth in Matthew 10:37-39 on a different occasion.  It is common these days to hear public figures say they are leaving a job “to spend more time with my family” when everyone knows that’s not the real reason.  A spiritual new start would mean an end to using family as an excuse to avoid real discipleship and spiritual community, and instead would work diligently to strengthen and deepen families through sincere shared spiritual life.
Sacrifice Means Sacrificial     I Chronicles 21 tells how King David pridefully ordered his general Joab to count his military assets.  Joab objected because he knew there was no threat to Israel, but David insisted.  Almost immediately, David came under conviction and knew he had sinned.  He admitted his sin to God and was given options of penance – three years of famine, three months of enemy attacks, or three days of plague.  He chose the latter, and thousands of Israelites died.  David pleaded with God to stop the dying, and he was instructed to purchase a threshing floor from a rich man named Araunah as a site to build an altar for sacrifice that would stop the plague.  Araunah told David he could have for free the site, the oxen to sacrifice, and the wood to burn the offering.  David’s reply was profound:  “I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice an offering that costs me nothing” (21:24).  That was the lesson Jesus taught in Luke 21 when a widow put her last two coins in the offering, and he said she had given more than the wealthiest  people there.  A spiritual new start in our time would almost certainly necessitate rethinking what it means to love and serve the Lord with agapethe sacrificial love demonstrated by Jesus on the cross. 
Teach and Equip the Kids     David wanted to build a great temple to house the ark of the covenant in Jerusalem (at the site of Araunah’s threshing floor), but he was told by God that he could not do so because he had spilled so much blood in his violent life leading Israel’s army.  Instead, that privilege would be reserved for David’s son Solomon, the next king.  David did the next best thing, spending a lot of time and effort and resource to procure and stockpile the materials Solomon would need to build the temple.  In I Chronicles 22, he explained the whole situation to Solomon and charged him with completing the project.  He also instructed the leaders of Israel to assist Solomon in any way he needed them, closing that challenge with the words from I Chronicles 22:18,19  at the top of this essay.  For me, it is a visual image of the ministry of Joseph and Mary to the youthful Jesus (Luke 2:40,52), training him by both example and instruction to enable him to grow “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and people,” and stockpiling the spiritual resources and experiences he would need to complete his mission for God.  A new spiritual start in our time would surely need to include a renewed commitment by parents and faith communities alike to “bring up children in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4), seemingly a rare quality these days.
There really is more of value in I Chronicles than just the prayer of Jabez.  Ezra’s help for preparing the Israelites to start anew in Jerusalem might just be spiritually useful to us in emerging from a pandemic in 2021 or 2022.  I commend it to you.
–Ron Ferguson   29 August 2021
Queries for Worship-Sharing and Reflection
1)  What spiritual or cultural “new starts” do you long to see happen when this pandemic finally ends?
2)  How has knowing your family’s history / genealogy taught you about the benefits of faithfulness to God?  Or the opposite?
3)  Why did David need to refuse Araunah’s offer of a free threshing floor, sacrificial ox, and firewood?
4)  Ezra “shaped” his retelling of Israel’s troubled history to emphasize God’s faithfulness and to convey hope to the Hebrews
      making a new start in Jerusalem.  How could we tell the story of 2020-2021 to accomplish those same purposes now?
Winchester Friends Church           765-584-8276
124 E. Washington St.      Winchester, IN  47394