Article: A Little Help…

I read an article this past week that touched my heart. I want to share a portion with you…

Ayda Zugay isn’t someone who normally likes to save things.

The walls of her Boston home are bare. She keeps a small bag packed with essential items in case she ever needs to leave quickly. 

But for more than two decades, she’s held onto an envelope that she hopes will help her unravel a mystery.

Zugay says she was a nearly 12-year-old refugee fleeing the former Yugoslavia with her older sister when a stranger handed them the envelope on a flight to the United States in 1999. 

The woman who gave them the envelope on the plane made them promise not to open it until they got off the plane.

Ayda and her sister  were later shocked to discover dangly earrings and a $100 bill inside. 

A note scribbled on the outside of the envelope is signed with only a first name — Tracy. And for almost a decade, Ayda says she’s been trying to find her.

Ayda, has been on the search for “Tracy” ever since, so that she may thank her for that gift of encouragement and to share what she has done with her life since arriving in the United States.

She’s 34 now and would love to talk with Tracy in English — to tell her how she works with nonprofits, cofounded a consulting company and represents Massachusetts as a delegate in the Refugee Congress.

I was moved by this story for several reasons. It exemplifies: Love, Care, Compassion, Service and Generosity. These are all words that CLC used to describe who we are and what we do. 

That gift transformed Ayda’s life. It helped her and her sister when her life was turned upside down.

We may never be able to give a gift like that, but there are daily opportunities to show love, care and compassion. The world is in a lot of hurt right now and we as the children of God are called to bring healing wherever and whenever we can.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:10

God bless you,
Pr. Ben

Article: I Believe

If you didn’t hear, Easter was last week.

The core truth of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus who is God in the flesh. 

Some people don’t believe that, and that’s ok. 

However, if you are a Christian, that is non-negotiable. I’ll be honest with you, its not really possible to call yourself a Christian and not believe that Jesus rose from the dead. I know that sounds harsh, but it is not a judgment. 

To be a Christian is more than following the ancient Israelite rabbi named Jesus. One can admire the teachings of Jesus and not be a Christian! 

We believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

If he didn’t, what do we have? The answer is nothing. 

There would be no eternal life, and this life would be all we have.

We may be forgiven by his death on the cross (atonement) but to what end if this life is it?

Saint Paul dealt with people in the church who didn’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus and he wrote this…

If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 1Corinthians 15:14

That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? 

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus is not a fable or fairy tale. It is a true story. 

Saint Paul went on in this same section of scripture and wrote this, too…

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all of humanity. 1Corinthians 15:19

We as Christians don’t just subscribe to a philosophy or a way of life, we follow the risen Lord! And one day we will follow Jesus straight to heaven.

As for me, I believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

God bless you,

Pr. Ben

Article: Perfect Fit

In 1959, Thomas Hoving, of New York’s Metropolitan Museum, purchased an ornate ivory cross from a Yugoslavian art collector for the museum. However, the cross wasn’t from Yugoslavia, it was from England and it was old. The cross is dated to c. 1150 AD. 

This altar cross contains ninety-two figures and ninety-eight inscriptions. The detailed iconography on this cross is unrivaled in Christian art.

It has often been suggested that the cross comes from the English abbey at Bury Saint Edmunds in Suffolk. 

Upon closer inspection, there are five tiny holes on the cross that suggest there was more to this unbelievable piece of religious art. There was speculation that a carving of Jesus hung on the cross, creating an luxurious crucifix.

Ten years later, in 1969, that a Swiss art historian by the name of Florens Deuchler, discovered that the 7 1/2-inch figure of Christ in the Oslo Museum fit perfectly into the five holes drilled for it on the Metropolitan Museum’s cross. Although the Christ figure had been damaged over the years, it was a perfect fit.

As we enter into Holy Week, remember that Jesus was perfect fit for his cross. Of all the people who have lived, only Jesus had the power die and then rise from his grave. Only Jesus is God in the flesh and could give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Only the divine blood of Jesus could cover the brokenness of our deeds (Romans 3:25). 

Only Jesus could fix what people ruined at the beginning of human history (Genesis 3:6).

See, only Jesus is a perfect for the cross.

I encourage you to spend time this week pondering the greatest gift given to humanity: a second chance. 

Join us on Palm Sunday as we celebrate Jesus as one who will save us.

Join us on Thursday as we celebrate the gift of Communion and connection given in upper room with the disciples before Jesus’ arrest.

Join us on Good Friday as we remember the gruesome death of Jesus on that cross for our benefit.

And join us for the celebration of Easter that reminds us that death and separation does not get the final word! Love always speaks last.

God bless you as we journey through Holy Week together,

Pr. Ben

Article: Peace

Columnist Deborah Mathis wrote about the time when she was at Union Station in Washington D.C. on a particularly busy day. 

The first thing she remembers about that experience was the noisy hubbub of sounds. The public address announcer calling out arrivals and departures. Scores of pagers, walkie-talkies, and cell phones cried out for someone’s attention.

You could hear horns honking, machines clinking out change, and babies crying. A security guard yelled at a man who was about to enter a forbidden area. Three women stood up from their bench in order to argue with each other more loudly.

And a man in front of her was nervously pacing in a tight circle.

But then she heard someone singing:

“What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear;
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.”

Slowly a change came over the noisy crowd. The voice continued:

“O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.”

The quarreling women stopped their talking and quietly took their seats. People who’d been tense and hurried; seemed to slow and relax – and they strained to hear the voice singing the remaining verses that old hymn.

And Ms. Mathis realized she was singing along. So were the three women who had been bickering. And few others as well.

The man in front of her, who had been behaving nervously quietly said: “Nice, huh? I don’t even believe in Jesus, but that’s nice.”

I can’t help but think about the line in that wonderful hymn: O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear.

Anxieties can run high when life is challenging.  Even in this moment as we see the pain and suffering in Ukraine, it weighs on us. Then add in stresses and worries of our own including making ends meet while trying to fill the gas tank as well as the people we are praying for who are struggling. That is a lot of anxiety and an absence of peace.

Last year Bruce Ewing reminded the congregation to: Stop, Breath and Listen. When life is unmanageable to the point of tears it is time stop what we are doing. Take a deep breath and listen for the voice of God.

One of the best ways to hear from God is to pray first.

So… let us pray,

Gracious God,

You know the stress and anxiety we feel because of international strife, national unrest and struggles in our own lives. We come to you in prayer because you told us you would always hear us when we call out. Give us your peace. Give us a larger portion of your Spirit and give us the strength to face the challenges that are set before us in this season of turmoil. In the strong and powerful name of Jesus we pray, amen.

God bless you,
Pr. Ben