Weekly Bulletin

 June 13, 2021 Reflection for Sunday Morning Worship Sharing below-
 
THIS WEEK (Sixty-Six)+ of pandemic alterations

WEDNESDAY June 16  
 –Intercession Salad supper, 5:30 PM @ parsonage
–Welcome Class Bible study, 7:00 PM by Zoom

THURSDAY June 17       
–Clerks & Officers meeting, 7:00 PM by Zoom and in person at the parsonage

SUNDAY June 20    
Father’s Day Meeting for Worship-Sharing, 10:00 AM, both in person at the meetinghouse and online via Zoom
–Community Food Pantry Sunday

MONDAY June 21   
–Stewardship & Finance Committee, 10:00 AM at church (and by Zoom if desired)
              –-Fiction Book Discussion Group DELAYED until July 19, Monday at 7:30 PM by Zoom
 
BULLETIN BOARD for JUNE 13, 2021
 
READ THROUGH THE BIBLE IN 2021:  This week’s chapters are Song of Solomon 1-8 and I Kings 5-19.  The full year’s daily schedule is available on the southwest parlor table or by request from the church office.
 
WELCOME CLASS BIBLE STUDY:  The Welcome Class will cover Lesson 2 (“Grounded in Grace and Love”) based on Ephesians 2 and 3 in the Illuminate quarterly this coming Wednesday June 16 at 7:00 PM by Zoom.  Let the church office know if you need the Zoom link.
 
BEST SPECIAL PROJECTS 2021-2022:   A Clerks & Officers group will meet at 7:00 PM on Thursday June 17 to prepare a list of ministries “beyond ourselves” to receive Best Trust funds for making God’s love visible and tangible in the new church year July 2021-June 2022.  If you have a leading regarding a ministry to be considered, please speak with clerk Marsha Kritsch or the church office in advance of June 17.
 
JUNE’S TRUSTEES and MISSIONS & SOCIAL CONCERNS committee meetings will be postponed until June 27 due to Father’s Day next Sunday.
The STEWARDSHIP & FINANCE COMMITTEE will meet on Monday June 21 at 10:00 AM at the church (and by Zoom if desired) to review part of the church’s investments.
 
FICTION BOOK DISCUSSION GROUP RESCHEDULED:  Discussion of The Midnight Library by Matt Haig was to take place by Zoom on Monday June 21, but many in the group have been unable yet to access a copy to read.  After consulting readers, the decision has been made to reschedule the discussion Zoom meeting for 6:30 PM on Monday July 19.  If you would like to borrow a copy of the book, please see Pam Ferguson.
 
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 for food, fuel, or some other essential, and a reminder of God’s love.  Speak with Ron Ferguson to obtain one. 
 
ON THE SOUTHWEST PARLOR TABLE are updated address lists for Winchester Friends participants, and the list of the church’s officers and committees for 2021-2022 as approved at June’s Monthly Meeting.
 
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).
 
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Winchester Friends Church        winchesterfriends@juno.com
124 E Washington     Winchester IN 47394     765-584-8276
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 June 13, 2021 Reflection for Sunday Morning Worship Sharing on Zoom and in the Meetinghouse-

I have seen the burden God has laid on humankind.  He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of people; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and do good while they live…. Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:  Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of humankind.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 3:10-12 and 12:13,14
 
Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men (and women).        Jesus, to fishermen disciples  Mark 1:17
 
Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.          Colossians 3:17
 
What Do You Want to Do When You Grow Up?
 
Soon after Pam and I arrived in Winchester in 1998, we were asked by the local hospital to serve with a small group of Christian volunteers who went into the county’s five school systems to teach a five-session, nonreligious, abstinence-based sex education course to junior high and high school science and health classes.  HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases were a major concern in this area, and we had just returned from six years of work in Uganda where HIV/AIDS was endemic and was killing large numbers of young people.  It seemed like a good way to share what we had learned and to sustain our concern for vulnerable kids.  We drove to Indianapolis for a few long days of training, and then for the next several years, the Ministry & Oversight allowed us to go into area schools to teach the Creating Positive Relationships course to sixth graders.
 
One of the objectives of the course was to help the students learn to think about the “big picture” of their lives as they made daily decisions.  They needed to develop the ability to resist the temptation of immediate gratification which, in terms of immature sexual behavior, could result in serious illness or teenage parenthood — both of which usually sabotaged education and career goals.  We would ask the kids to tell the class what kind of career they were aiming for, and then to think about what impact a sexually transmitted illness or teenage parenthood would have on those plans.  Having been gone from the US for ten of the previous thirteen years, Pam and I were regularly dismayed by the kids’ responses.  There were usually two or three who wanted to become teachers, engineers, nurses or doctors, or other professionals.  In class after class, however, a large percentage of the students said they planned to be a touring rock musician, a professional athlete, a NASCAR driver, a model, or some other sort of celebrity.  Their thoughts about their future had been shaped almost entirely by television, internet, and other media.  There seemingly was no realistic awareness of the tiny number of people who actually make it to fame and fortune in those entertainment fields.  It always felt like a set-up for lifelong disappointment and disillusionment for those kids.
 
Philosophers, and classes that teach their work, usually raise some basic “big picture” questions about the human experience.  Where did we come from?  Why are we here?  What is the meaning of life?  Why does it all matter?  Where do we go from here?  Universities often combine philosophy and religion courses into one department because philosophers consider religion to be one way that humans have always attempted to answer those questions.  The past week’s Through the Bible readings took us through more of the Old Testament’s “wisdom literature,” including the twelve chapters of the Book of Ecclesiastes.  Reference books say that Ecclesiastes is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for “the Teacher or Preacher” who calls people to live for God.  In New Testament theology, the Greek term ecclesia means “the Church, the called out ones.”  Ecclesiastes seems an appropriate name for the Teacher who began his treatise by calling upon people “to be happy and do good” while alive (3:12) and concluded it by calling readers into fellowships who “fear God and obey his commandments” as the whole duty of humankind (12:13).  Assuming that we accept the conclusion of most scholars that King Solomon is the author of Ecclesiastes, it provides an interesting contrast and “bookend” to his earlier work in Proverbs.  There, he details his observations on the principles, predictabilities, and ironies of everyday human existence in the created world, and lessons to be learned from those observations.  In Ecclesiastes, Solomon the philosopher late in his life questions where those lessons fit into the “bigger picture,” and why they matter. 
 
“What a Heavy Burden God has laid upon people!” (1:13)  This perplexing observation in the opening chapter of Ecclesiastes provides insight into Solomon’s frame of mind as he looked back over his life.  What is that heavy burden?  Solomon didn’t say it in these words, but he recognized that by creating human beings in his own image, God had given all people not just the ability to experience and survive physical life, but also the capacity to find spiritual meaning and purpose in the process.  The “burden” part of that is that it doesn’t happen automatically, and there is strong spiritual opposition to our ever getting there.  It requires our effort, our searching, our engagement, our self-discipline.  It requires patience to await God’s timing.  It requires willingness to live by faith in God’s eternal goodness, to live with unanswered questions and unresolved mysteries.  To find spiritual meaning and purpose in life, we must choose to live in ways consistent with the Creator’s intentions in the face of constant temptation to choose our own desires instead.  If you learn much about Solomon’s life, you will realize that he wrote from personal experience.
“Everything is Meaningless” (1:2)    Halley’s Bible Handbook makes the bold statement that this phrase is the theme of the entire Book.  Solomon begins by stating his observation that time, the continual rising and setting of the sun, the blowing and flowing “to and fro” of wind and rivers, and the living and dying of people and their replacement with new ones is nothing more than repetitive sameness.  He considered all his work to gain knowledge and wisdom and concluded that on its own, it was nothing more than “a chasing after the wind” (sort of like the dog that one day realized that even if he ever caught the car he was chasing, he had no idea what to do with it).  In Chapter 2, Solomon described his experiences with pleasure, laughter, drunkenness, and folly, and reported that none of them gave his life meaning.  He accomplished great construction projects, attained wealth and power, and indulged every appetite for entertainment, but still found that it all failed to satisfy the hunger for spiritual meaning which God had put into his heart.  The chapter ends with Solomon reflecting on his considerable efforts to gain wisdom and to leave for posterity his written records of what he had learned.  The realization that he could not control the proper future use of his writings or his hard-won kingdom (4:13-16) seemed spiritually meaningless and frustrating to him as well.
 
God’s Meaningful Gifts     Ecclesiastes 3 begins with the most-recognized passage in the Book, the set of verses describing “a time for everything under heaven” which were the basis for Pete Seeger’s famous song “Turn, Turn, Turn” in the late 1950s.  It is important to note that the list is descriptive of what usually happens in human lives, not prescriptive of what must take place.  Solomon then repeats his observation of the burden God has placed on people (3:10), the capacity to find spiritual meaning in life, and expands on that in 3:11 – “He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of people; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  The capacity to meaningfully know God; the ability to acknowledge and appreciate beauty; and the capacity to imagine and hope and make spiritual choices about eternity beyond earthly existence are gifts given uniquely to the human race.  Those gifts provide the framework of our Creator’s intentions for meaningful, purposeful earthly lives.  Although there are numerous studies showing that nonhuman primates and other animals are capable of amazing intelligence and emotional engagement, I know of no evidence suggesting that those capabilities come anywhere near what Solomon described in 3:10,11.  (Really smart dogs still chase cars they can’t drive.)
 
The Conclusion of the Matter      The middle chapters of Ecclesiastes mostly contain numerous observations and musings about life, similar to those in Proverbs.  Chapter 5 does offer useful advice for worshipful living – “guard your steps” in God’s presence (which is everywhere), do more listening than talking in prayer, be quick to fulfill the commitments you’ve made to the Lord, and “stand in awe of God” (5:1-7).  That counsel resonates with Solomon’s closing words of the Book – “Revere God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of humankind.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (12:13,14).  In a nutshell, those statements give Solomon’s take on where his extensive spiritual learnings fit into the “bigger picture” of eternity, and why those principles have mattered to all who have lived on earth ever since.   
               Solomon’s insights are consistent with many of those expressed by Jesus during his three years of teaching ministry.  Jesus too spoke of the folly of ignoring spiritual richness while greedily accumulating earthly wealth in his parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21) who tore down his barns to build bigger ones, only to die and have someone else get his property.  Jesus pointedly asked a crowd of listeners in Mark 8:36 what good it was if they gained the whole world but forfeited their souls.  In telling the parable in Luke 16:19-31 of the rich man who ended up suffering in Hades and Lazarus the poor beggar who trusted God and went to Paradise, Jesus like Solomon was emphasizing the importance of living earthly lives knowing that eternity really matters.
 
We are living through a time in our increasingly secular, self-focused culture when far more people make decisions about their living by consulting what’s trending on social media or TV, not by consulting the Spirit of the living God about what matters eternally.  My mom used to tell us she would rather live the disciplined, abundant life Jesus called us to, then learn after death that there really was no eternal life, than to live a selfish, meaningless life and then learn after death that the Christian message was absolutely true.  I can’t help thinking that the apostle Paul got a glimpse of 2021 AD when he wrote to the Ephesian church that we should “no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by.… every wind of teaching and…. the craftiness of people’s deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.  From him, the whole Body…. grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:14-16).  That is the meaningful, purposeful life to which every one of us is called.  Jesus was right — the life he created us to live is far less of a burden than the one his enemy tries to deceive us into choosing.  His offer in Matthew 11:29,30 is still viable today – “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  I’ve found it true, and I highly recommend it.
 
–Ron Ferguson    13 June 2021
 
 
Queries for Worship-Sharing and Reflection
 
1)  What is your favorite saying or teaching of Jesus that describes the purpose and meaning for life you gain from him?
2)  What teaching or observation of Solomon’s in Ecclesiastes spoke most profoundly to you as you studied his writing?
3)  How has the bearing of spiritual burdens through difficult circumstances given new spiritual meaning to your life?
4)  What is one unanswered spiritual question or unresolved spiritual mystery you hope to receive the answer for one day?
5)  What symptoms of spiritually meaningless, purposeless living do you see in the culture or world around us at present?
6)  Is “He makes everything beautiful in its time” the same as “All our guests make us happy, some when arriving, others when departing”?
     (Pam said I should leave this in here.)
 
 
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Winchester Friends Church           765-584-8276
124 E. Washington St.      Winchester, IN  47394
www.winchesterfriendschurch.org
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