Pastor’s Letter Dec. 29, 2021

A picture of a hand with a paintbrush bringing color to a map of the world.

Merry Christmas, Beloved,

I pray you are staying warm and safe in this ever changing world. Yes, in this world which seems to have changed into a winter wonderland overnight and back again into a late cold fall almost as fast. A world with but one constant – God. Strangely enough, our ever-changing world is and has been our reality for so long that it does not even seem to have an impact on us anymore. We have gotten used to the changes happening and the struggle to maintain some semblance of normalcy. Spending so much energy on trying to do everything in a traditional way while existing in a very abnormal world. 

I am sure we have all seen this happen in our classrooms, places of work, while celebrating Christmas. I know that I have. I recognized the oddness at the mall only days before Christmas where the joy of the season was almost sucked out of the air as people quietly shopped for last minute stocking stuffers. And Beloved this reality is quite understandable. We are all tired of the pandemic and the struggle to enjoy a normal life amongst an ever-changing world. 

But perhaps, there is another answer. Perhaps this point in our history – in our world – in our life is a time to not expend energy in a struggle to maintain “normal.” But perhaps, now is the time to Live into something new. Create the world of love that Christ came to reveal to us and build a new creation which reveals that love to the world. Perhaps now is the time for us to be the change for everyone to witness. Spend our time by building a life together with ALL people through the love of God, instead of holding up the walls of some ancient traditions which are falling to the ground around us. 

This point is not to say that traditions are not important. They are. They guide and teach us in amazing ways. But we were not alive when these traditions were created and the scope of human knowledge is multiplying exponentially; so perhaps, we can try out something new – build a new tradition here or there – sing a new song and witness if the creations we build together reveal a hint of God’s Love like the Love that was revealed on that first Christmas so long ago. 

I know it sounds scary, Beloved, even overwhelming at times as all change can be. But all my fears and concerns over a changing world vanish the moment I remember we are not alone – we are together – walking in God’s Love which is the only constant in the world. So, let us take a moment to breathe deep and build something new in our life. Live into the change of today instead of wasting energy maintaining structures which do not reveal God’s Love for ALL.

I pray you enjoy some fruit you never tried before or that next Zoom call which seemed daunting over the last few months. I hope you move away from holding onto what is lost – change your heart – and build a better future, together. 

May You witness the many blessings of God’s Love being revealed this week and every day of the year to come.

Your Pastor, Brian

As always please call (207-350-9561) if you need anything or simply want to talk. Next week, My pastoral care hours are Mon. 8-4, Tues. 12-5, Wed. 8-4, Thurs. 10-2 to provide some time for visiting. However, if I am at the church please come in. Many blessings and Love to you all.

Pastor’s Letter Dec. 22, 2021

Image of a heart with the text, "THE LOVE CHALLENGE" underneath.

Good morning, Beloved,

I pray you are each having a Merry Christmas. What a “Merry” Christmas means to each of us though is very different as people celebrate this beautiful day in so many ways. However, one thing Christmas always seems to be is a time of giving and sharing of ourselves. Sharing of our time and joy as we celebrate the gift of love that God gave to us two thousand years ago when Jesus was born into our world. So, for my letter this week, I would like to offer a new way to share ourselves through a Love Challenge. This challenge though, comes with a surprise. 

Love Challenge Two: Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve this year, there will be twenty different Bible quotes about Love given randomly to everyone who comes to a Christmas Eve service. If you do not feel comfortable attending, do not worry, you can still participate. Simply, ask Pastor Brian for a card to get started. Over the next month or so, share your quote with other people in the community and ask to see theirs. Talk about the passages or simply find out which one each of you like best. Then sign the back of each other’s card along with your quote’s chapter and verse. This way everyone remembers which ones they have found amongst the 20 possibilities. Mind you, we can do this challenge by phone as well just write down the other person’s name and Bible quote after talking to them. The idea is to share some of the Bible quotes on love while finding new ways to share with one another. I know introverts may find this challenge more difficult; so, if this is you, I would offer the alternative: you may call, text, or email me (Pastor Brian) and I will be happy to share a quote with you each time you do. The first person to find all 20 quotes or the person with the most on February 13th will win the challenge. Yes, there is a surprise and it includes more than learning about the Bible and more than learning about one another, though these are the real prizes we will all receive throughout this Challenge. I hope you enjoy and participate in our Love Challenge number Two.

Beloved, I do hope you consider participating in this Challenge; but more so, I hope you enjoy Christmas. For, too often the worries of the world hold us back from the joy which Christmas reminds us of every year. We get stuck on the right gifts, the perfect traditions, the shopping, lights, and cooking, let alone all the added worries we have had recently with Covid. And the simple truth is that Christmas is a time for Joy where we are invited to celebrate the Love God has for all of us. The Love which came to earth in the form of a baby. The Love which saves us all no matter who we are. This joy is the gift of Christmas which I pray you all welcome into your lives as we celebrate this Christmas – together.

Merry Christmas Beloved

your Pastor, Brian

As always please call (207-350-9561) if you need anything or simply want to talk. Next week, My pastoral care hours are Tues. 12-5, Wed. 8-4, Thurs. 10-2 to provide some time for visiting. However, if I am at the church please come in. Many blessings and Love to you all.

Pastor’s Letter Dec. 8, 2021

Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.”

  • Romans 2:29
An image of white ball like Christmas lights set against a dark background.

Hello Beloved,

I pray you are warm and safe as we prepare for our first snowstorm of the year. Moreso, I pray all the decorations you wish to hang outside are hung and ready to warm your spirit in this time of Advent, for the snow is coming. I thought about this prayer today as I went into the sanctuary and witnessed all the beautiful decorations wonderfully hung this week. How beautiful our home is at this time of year, especially. Again I must say thank you to Sue, Mary, Simone and Gary for all of your joyful work and ministry. But still, as I looked at the beautiful decorations I wondered how each of you are doing in the busy season of Advent. Is it stressful or worrisome preparing your home for Christmas? Are the decorations you love one thing too many or were you able to put them up and enjoy all their beauty? I hope for the latter of course. 

I hope for the latter as it is one way – a traditional way – we celebrate the coming of Christ and Christmas. It is one of the ways I grew up enjoying the season. In fact, I believe many of my friends throughout my life have also enjoyed this tradition of Christmas lights, even those who are pagan, atheists, or Jewish. Yes, these beloved people who I know may not believe in Christ; but yet, I have seen their homes flooded with Christmas Lights, filled with goodness, and brimming with all the Joy that these lights bring. How grateful I am for each of these souls as they live spiritually, if not literally, in Christ throughout the season.

Mind you, I will never say telling of your faith is not important but as the Apostle points out the mark of your faith is one upon your heart – a spiritual observance – and not the literal declaration to everyone through an outward mark on the body. So perhaps, the worry many Christians have during this time of year is premature. The worries that we are living in a post – Christian world;  that people are not engaging in church; or that the morals, ethics, and the goodness of God is gone. Yes, perhaps these concerns are premature; for, we see the spiritual mark of Hope – Love – and Joy on so many people during this time. We tear up at old movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “A Christmas Story.”  Even our hearts ring out in Christian Joy as we sing Christmas Carols which are completely unrelated to Christ like “Rudolf, the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Beloved, the point is this: Christ is amongst us. The Joy we witness and feel throughout life is the spiritual mark of being Christian – the very declaration of our faith to God. So, fear not for there are Christians in spirit all around us waiting to be welcomed home.

May your week be a blessing of the Spirit as we sing out in Joyful noise

Your Pastor, Brian

As always please call (207-350-9561) if you need anything or simply want to talk. Next week, My pastoral care hours are Mon. 8-12, Tues. 12-5, Wed. 8-4, Thurs. 10-2 to provide some time for visiting. However, if I am at the church please come in . Many blessings and Love to you all.

Salvation of a Child

Presented to the First Congregational Church in Salem December 24, 2020

Each year, many Christians share a worship service much like ours on Christmas Eve, the service of lessons and carols. During this blessed time, we share the story of Jesus’ birth through the reading of scripture and the joyous sharing of song. For me, this service is like a beautifully wrapped gift that we can only open together. Perhaps that is why I found it so important to share this present with you; even though we had the opportunity to do something innovative with worship this year because we could not sing or gather due to the pandemic. Yet for some reason, this traditional service of our lessons and carols seemed right – seemed like it needed to be shared – seemed like the perfect present for our community this year. 

From the story itself which is worth repeating year after year to the many musical gifts of our fellowship shared this day. From the sharing of scripture, prayer, and liturgy by so many voices to the decorations of our beautiful sanctuary provided by so many hands. Yes, this service – this blessed gift of Christmas – is a present because it reveals all of the beautiful ways, we are in fellowship together and so much more. 

Now mind you this service is not like the traditional Christmas gift of a yummy fruit cake from Grammy which also has the added benefit of holding down paper in hurricane force winds or the wonderful present from Aunt Lou that helped you secure first place in the ugly sweater contest this year. No, this sharing of our Christmas story is a gift of our community which I pray you each enjoyed for it tells of another present – one which you already possess, even though the wrapping paper is still upon it. This story tells of a present which is already ours, even though Christmas morning is not yet here. This story of the child’s birth and the way we are sharing the story is the blessed gift of our salvation even though our Christ has not returned – yet. 

As we start to unwrap our present though, would you pray with me?

Gracious God – recreate our lives this night and set our hearts alight with the blessed teachings of our Christ, Your Son. Reveal in us, O God, the present of Your salvation through the eyes of the child who sees all people as one. May the words from my lips and our joyous hearts ever resound in praise and be a blessing to You.

Now beloved, this gift of salvation has so many facets that if I were to share them all right now it would be Easter before we could finally explain the whole present – So instead, let us just talk about one part of salvation – the salvation of a child – the present that Jesus brought us when he showed us the Way to salvation through the eyes of a child. 

And even though I am sure you have all prepared your hearts for the coming light of Christ over the advent season and are all squarely on the nice list – not the naughty list of God’s faithful servant, St. Nick. I wonder – I wonder: are there times when you forget – when you slide onto the naughty list by hurting someone’s feelings? Was there a time when you received a gift and reflected on it as a paperweight instead of being grateful that Grammy made it for you – is there ever a time when you do not walk in Jesus’ footsteps as a child – innocent and loving of ALL people. No – well then, this message is not for you. 

For the rest of us there are times we all slip up and do not walk as Jesus did – are ungrateful or hurt one another. Generally, by accident and sometimes because it seems impossible for us to do otherwise while remaining faithful disciples. Because God did make us as disciples who are called to live a just and kind life – yet, sometimes these areas do not always seem to match – sometimes when we are just to one person, we are not always kind to another. Sometimes kindness to yourself may not seem to be just for a neighbor. We do our best and that is all that God truly asks of us – do your best to be kind, just, and walk like Jesus. See the world as Jesus does. Live as a child in the light of hope – love – joy – and peace of God. Let the scripture guide you in your discernment of how to always be a disciple of Christ. Still, we slip up and fail at times and I wonder if that is because we forget the story of the baby who came into the world with salvation for ALL people.

For, beloved, that is one of the miracles of Christmas – the message from The Letter of Paul to Titus. The message shared with us when the author explains the gift of salvation – the present of Christ Jesus’ life for all of Creation is that “salvation is for all (people).” This Good News, beloved, is the core of our Christmas story which invites us to be like that babe in a manger – innocent – welcoming and loving of all people. Grateful for the gift of the manger and unaware of its ugliness. See the world as our Christ does in the manger that night so long ago – simply loving all people without judgement. Sadly, when we forget this beautiful lesson of salvation through the eyes of a child, we start to slip up – are ungrateful – fail to walk as Jesus walked.

Still, the Good News beloved also reminds us how to correct ourselves and continue to follow Christ. It is why we recall Jesus’ teachings each year on Christmas Eve. It is so we do not forget. The author of this letter explains the Good News of scripture is there for us so, we will be trained to be disciples who are “zealous for good deeds.” So, we will remember that Jesus came for all people – all people are important, and all voices are a gift to be heard.

Perhaps this good news is why our worship of lessons and carols is so important – why the service itself shares the Good News of salvation for all people – why this present is so important this year when we are so far away from one another. Because this service does reveal the Good News of salvation, beloved, when we share it together with all people. When we seek out different authors of scripture who share the story of Jesus’ birth and bring them to life once again through the people of this community who shared their voices with us tonight. When we seek out the multitude of composers who add their words and music to tell this story of Jesus while we bring to life the gift of salvation through the voices of our community in song – flute – organ – piano and guitar. When we seek out liturgists to share their prayers or the words which call us into worship together. What a blessing – what a blessing this Good News is beloved that we cannot only hear that Christ came to save us all; but through this blessed worship service we can witness the Good News that salvation is for all people and all people are important to experience the salvation which Christ brings. 

Now beloved, this Good News of Christmas is your present – a light of Christ which will help guide each of us through the darkness until Christ returns. The Good News is of Jesus’ teachings to remind us; voices to reveal salvation through our fellowship and the blessed voices of all people throughout Creation. This gift of the Good News, beloved, is yours – has been yours – and will always be yours whenever you witness the world as a child who came to save all people no matter who they are, where they are on life’s journey, or where they are in the world. May your eyes always witness one another as our Christ child did when he came loving all people on Christmas Day. In God’s eternal Love for us all, we pray. Amen