From the Pastor’s Desk, 7/25/22

Ice-covered streets and sidewalks are rare sights indeed in Southern California. But one winter morning it was cold enough outside to freeze water that had seeped out of a lawn irrigator. A rogue patch of ice formed on a stretch of pavement. It was perhaps the only piece of black ice ever recorded in the history of Claremont, California!

   A dear friend on her way to work, rushing along a familiar and pleasant path, discovered the slippery patch too late with her heel. She went down swiftly and all the way. Lying on her rump, the contents of her purse, her iPhone and work documents scattered around her, she had to laugh.

   Was it divine judgment or comedy that visited her? Or perhaps was that unexpected pause in her morning a sign of grace?

   –by Michael Bever in The Art of Pausing: Meditations for the Overworked and Overwhelmed

   More than likely, something that happened to you unexpectedly, catching you off guard, stirs you to express an emotion. You may cry or laugh or growl or shout or let slip an expletive. Reactions in these cases are most frequently immediate and expressed without thought. However, after a quick assessment that you are in one piece physically, the opportunity avails itself to ponder the same questions presented by Bever. Was this a judgment or a grace?

Continue reading “From the Pastor’s Desk, 7/25/22”

From the Pastor’s Desk, 7/4/22

 I’m writing this column on Independence Day. I know, I’m supposed to have the day off, but since I have no specific plans for the day, I decided to get some work done. Plus, celebrating this year has less appeal than in previous years. Sure, I’m fully aware that this day is set aside as a national holiday to celebrate this country’s independence. It seems, though, that celebrating has moved in a direction more toward prideful exceptionalism. The waving of flags, the playing of patriotic songs, the chanting of U-S-A, and the fetish over fireworks seems to have sights set on this nation being better than any other.

  My intent with these comments is not to stir up anger and argument or diminish anyone’s love of country. Rather, I hope I can offer an opportunity to seriously reflect on what it means to celebrate this special day.

   In my view, celebration is not a prideful act but instead a humble one. In humility, we remember the efforts put forth to give birth to a new nation. In humility, we consider the opportunities before us to help make this nation one where people can secure independence from oppression, live in absence of fear of being rejected, and enjoy being able to express our views and thoughts without concern of facing or passing judgment. Humble celebration is more of a somber act, not throwing fists in the air but standing quietly in awe at the impact independence has placed and continues to place on us.

   This evening, sans any weather conditions to the contrary, I’ll take in the fireworks display presented by the City of Canton. By taking part as a viewer, I’m engaging in this year’s 4th of July celebration. I do so in the spirit of the preceding paragraph. I’m grateful that I live in a country that provides opportunities to move freely, to share opinions, to have choice in religious expression, and to accept responsibility for respecting and caring for others. I’ll remember as I watch the exploding sparkles that the light of this country is not to outshine any other, but to join with others to make this world a place where all can live in harmony and be assured of justice for all.      

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From the Pastor’s Deks, 6/6/22

 I’ve developed a habit (obsession, perhaps) of watching YouTube videos to learn home improvement and repair tricks of the trade, woodworking techniques, and general DIY hacks. Generally, these videos make everything seem so easy to do. To install drywall, place it on the wall, drive a few screws, and all is good. Cutting out for outlets, carrying a full sheet of drywall, and being sure that the right edges are together add complexity to the installation process. Installing a retaining wall seems simple enough but rarely do videos say anything about the sore muscles and aching back after lifting and setting in place all of the landscaping stones, not to mention all the prep work of removing sod and digging a trench and packing bags of paver base and leveling sand.

   I’m not complaining. I’m truly grateful for the videos I watch and the techniques shared from which I learn. The reality is that there is more complexity involved than is revealed in the videos. And this becomes quickly apparent when diving into a project.

Continue reading “From the Pastor’s Deks, 6/6/22”

From the Pastor’s Desk, 5/23/22

When in doubt, throw it out,” is a familiar mantra that comes to mind when we are looking at a container of food in the fridge of which we are uncertain of the date when it first arrived there. Another familiar mantra is “turn around, don’t drown” when coming face to face with areas that are flooded which under normal circumstances are easily traversed. The emphasis is safety. Be careful. If danger is present, remove it or move away from it.

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From the Pastor’s Deks, 5/9/22

   I’m nearly finished reading Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John & the Praying Imagination by Eugene H. Peterson. I consider the book to be one of the best I’ve read on understanding the book of Revelation. Peterson views the Revelation not as some futuristic world event yet to happen with fantasy-type events, but more so as a commentary by John on the present reality of the time. With this view, we have the opportunity to understand the book as a relevant commentary on our present-day challenges. I recommend Reversed Thunder as a helpful commentary on a difficult book to grasp, and as a helpful to considering our response to present day challenges.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 5/2/22

Exile is the experience of powerlessness, in extremis. Everything is determined by another. We are removed from where we want to be and whom we want to be with. We are isolated from place and persons. We are victims. The worst punishment possible in ancient Israel was banishment. To be separated from family and country, from community worship and family faith—that was the cruelest decree. The severest judgment that the nation experienced was exile to Babylonia. A person created for personal relationships of love cannot live adequately without them. Exile dehumanizes. It sentences us to death by bread alone. “On the island called Patmos” Rome showed St. John who was in charge. Every lonely hour on the barren rock was proof that Rome determined St. John’s destiny, that Rome’s word was the final word on his life, that Rome’s decree set the limits within which he was permitted to exist. St. John was alone, powerless, and bereft. –from Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination, Eugene H. Peterson (Harper Collins, 1988) pages 88-89

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 4/18/22

After my mother’s death, my sisters and I (and spouses) sifted through mom’s possessions, which included some of Dad’s things, too. One item of interest in particular we found was a clothes hamper stuffed full of scraps of material. The material was useless in our eyes but, we assume, valuable to Mom. Why? Well, Mom loved to sew and, we speculate, she may have used the scrap material to piece together a quilt top had she retained her ability to do so sans dementia.

Scraps of material are useless unless or until fused together to produce a beautiful piece of quilted artwork. Fragments then become a masterpiece, a thing of beauty.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 4/11/22

I’ve been thinking lately about the ways in which our worship services are developed and presented. A beauty of this process is that it involves a number of people to make it happen, and some of these folks are not known to us personally while others are quite well known. For instance, we have been utilizing the SHINE curriculum produced by Brethren Press and other associated communions as a guide for developing worship services. The writers of and contributors to this material are generally not known to us personally. Occasionally, we may know some of those who help to publish the material. But the number of people involved in bringing the material from ideas to the printed page to making it available for us are numerous, and mostly unfamiliar to us.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 3/21/22

From the Pastor’s desk—

   The following quote by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks gave me reason to pause and reflect: “People resist change, and can become angry and hostile when faced with the need for it.”

   I’m aware that proposed and/or implemented changes can arouse anger. Having read various books and articles on the subject of change, anger often stems from loss in the midst of change. Change means something different may or will happen which in turn has the potential to eliminate a comfortable feeling or practice of the past. This loss may be necessary for a system or organization to not only survive but also to thrive. However, loss is usually not wanted and can move into anger.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 3/14/22

From the Pastor’s desk—

I enjoy watching YouTube videos about woodworking. It’s a great way to learn about tips and tricks of the trade.

A recent video I watched offered a few tips to beginners. The tip I found really profound is this (paraphrased): Strive for improvement, not perfection. The presenter of the video shared that striving for perfection nearly cost him the opportunity to continue in the woodworking enterprise. He claimed that his personality is such that he wants to do everything as perfectly as possible. And in woodworking, perfection is not always, perhaps never, achievable. He had to move past this personality trait to grasp a new reality of continually improving.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 1/31/22

Robert Burns was widely regarded as Scotland’s national poet. However, his poetry is known beyond those boundaries. One of his poems, To a Mouse, gives us a line that is frequently quoted, although paraphrased to a degree. The line is: “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men gang aft agley.” The paraphrase is: the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. Burns wrote the poem after disturbing the nest of a mouse. He realized that the mouse had diligently planned for making a dwelling place. After destroying the nest, Burns’ poem is an attempt to apologize to the mouse.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 1/24/22

 The Christian Century magazine always includes an art selection inside the back cover of each issue. In the latest issue, the selection is a work entitled Praise by Martin Wenham, and includes a verse from Daniel 3 (The Catholic Bible) which reads, “Let the earth bless the Lord, yea, let it praise him and magnify him forever.” Psalm 148 includes similar language: “Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord…”

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 1/10/22

    When attending Annual Conference (pre-pandemic), Tammy participates in the blood drive, if possible. Frequently, a tee-shirt is given away as a gift for participating, and Tammy usually gets a size that fits me. So, I am the beneficiary of her benevolence. Those who receive her blood are too.

   The tee-shirts, of course, are imprinted with advertising for the local blood-drive organization and include a catchy phrase to alert others about the benefit of giving blood. One particular tee-shirt received has imprinted on the front in big bold letters, OUT FOR BLOOD, with the word “blood” in red. On the back, in small print, inconspicuously, is the name of the blood drive organization.

   I went to the post office one day wearing this tee-shirt. As I stood at the counter being waited on by the usually friendly employee, I noticed her demeanor being somewhat different than usual. I think I caught her momentarily glance at my tee-shirt. That is when her usual outgoing personality changed. She didn’t smile much and spoke only to ask a question or state her usual pitch about the survey at the bottom of the receipt. Otherwise, she was reserved and seemingly disturbed.

   Thinking about how unusual the encounter at the counter was, it dawned on me that maybe the message emblazoned in my tee-shirt was the problem. Without proper context, OUT FOR BLOOD can have weird connotations. Did the post office employee think I was some kind of enraged goof ball waiting  to pick a fight if someone looked at me cross-eyed or said something I didn’t like? Was she concerned that I would go off on some crazy tangent if she inadvertently did something to cross me? Maybe she was simply having a rotten day and I’m blowing out of proportion the whole scenario, but, I have never worn that tee-shirt publicly since.

   Words matter, even those displayed on a tee-shirt. If the words we choose are heard or observed out of context, then the good meaning we intended may have consequential outcomes. It is important to choose wisely.

   Abraham Lincoln was a prolific letter writer. A number of the letters he wrote were never sent. Lincoln let the letters simmer in a desk drawer, and after giving careful thought about their content, he ultimately realized it would be best if the recipients did not receive his remarks.

   Recently, Tammy and I were engaged in a conversation in which I could have responded very quickly to one of her comments, which reviewing in hindsight, would have escalated the conversation to an argumentative pitch. I walked away for a few moments and gathered my wits to respond more calmly and with a greater degree of diplomacy. The conversation developed much more amicably at that point. I’d love to tell you that this is always my response but, quite frankly, I all too often reply quickly and curtly with some of the aforementioned consequential outcomes. Thankfully, once in my life, I thought before I spoke.

   Words matter. When and how we say or display them matters. To think before speaking or wearing a tee-shirt, matters.

Recap: Worship, Jan. 9, 2022                                  

   The scripture text around which the worship service centered was 2 Samuel 12:1-15, the story of the prophet Nathan confronting King David about his unacceptable actions involving Uriah and Bathsheba.  

The service emphasized the importance of caring for those who are vulnerable and elevating their dignity. Those in powerful positions have a tendency to think of their own well-being at the expense of those unable to exert power. Nathan’s efforts are a reminder that the powerful need to understand the consequences of their actions for the good of all.

   Songs and videos used in the service may be accessed using the following links:

Prelude in C Major (Bach) – J.S. Bach – Prelude in C Major – YouTube (Intended to use this in the service but inadvertently skipped past it.)

Lord, Speak to Me – Lord Speak to Me, That I May Speak – OUMC Choir – YouTube

Disney Princess Advice – The Wisest Disney Princess Advice! | Disney Princess – YouTube

Beauty for Brokenness – Beauty for Brokenness (God of the Poor) – YouTube

Worship Services January 2022

   The Leadership Team recently engaged in conversation regarding continuing to meet in-person for Sunday worship services in view of heightened pandemic concerns. Consensus reached was to continue in-person services noting the importance of following helpful pandemic protocols such as wearing masks, practicing social distancing, sanitizing, and washing hands. Also, if you are not feeling well or have been in contact with anyone with COVID, please refrain from attending in-person, and if you have the capability, connect via Zoom. We are continuing to provide the Zoom option with all in-person worship gatherings. The Zoom link is included here (also above in the opening article) for January through March services. If in-person services need to be canceled due to inclement winter weather or state mandated pandemic protocols, information about such changes will share using the prayer chain and other means as needed.

   January through February worship services will follow themes from the SHINE curriculum. SHINE curriculum is produced by Brethren Press. Biblical stories encountered during worship include Nathan confronting David, Esther saving her people, proclaiming jubilee, a son returns home, Zacchaues making amends, and more. We will spend two Sunday’s on each theme.

Topic: Worship Services January – March 2022

Time: Jan. through Mar. 2022 each Sunday 09:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 12/21/21

  The secret is not to make your music louder, but to make the world quieter. –a quote from The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

   Tammy and I enjoy watching The Voice, a prime-time reality show where amateur or semi-professional singers compete to be named The Voice winner. Contestants are coached by one of a panel of four coaches. The coaches are in competition, as well, striving to coach one of the contestants to the winning

Continue reading “From the Pastor’s Desk, 12/21/21”

From the Pastor’s Desk, 12/6/21

A WORSHIP SERVICE

FEATURING

ANGELS AND SHEPHERDS

December 12, 2021

In what ways is joy expressed and experienced in the Christmas story?

   Can the angels and shepherds in the story give us clues?

      How do we find this joy to carry with us on our journeys of life?

During the worship service, anticipate…

·       …joyful music and diverse images of Christmas.

·       …the addition of more décor to the simple Christmas atmosphere in the church sanctuary.

Continue reading “From the Pastor’s Desk, 12/6/21”

From the Pastor’s Desk, 11/29/21

A WORSHIP SERVICE

FEATURING

ANIMALS OF CHRISTMAS

December 5, 2021

Animals, as well as symbols, can inspire our anticipation of the Christmas miracle.

   Have you ever imagined what the animals experienced that first Christmas?

      Some of our familiar Christmas songs mention our furry and wooly friends. Surely this inclusion of animals is important.

During the worship service, anticipate…

·       …imaginatively learning the insights of animals.

·       …adding more Christmas attire to the sanctuary, whetting our appetite for the experience of Christmas moments.

Continue reading “From the Pastor’s Desk, 11/29/21”

From the Pastor’s Desk, 11/15/21

grat·i·tude

/ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od/

noun

  1. the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

“she expressed her gratitude to the committee for their support”

   Ten days from now we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day. President Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation in 1863 declaring the final Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving. For 36 years prior, Sarah Josepha Hale, a prolific writer and noted magazine author, as well as author of the nursery rhyme “Mary had a little lamb…”, had published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to government officials campaigning for a national holiday of Thanksgiving. Hale earned the nickname “Mother of Thanksgiving.”

Continue reading “From the Pastor’s Desk, 11/15/21”

From the Pastor’s Desk, 11/1/21

   Worship is often thought of in terms of people gathering in a particular space to share together in singing, praying, sharing, reading scripture, and hearing a sermon or similar exposition of the scriptures. Over the past 20 months or so, our congregation has experienced worship beyond the usually understood terms. The ZOOM platform has given us the opportunity to understand that worship can happen with participants engaging from their own personal space. Yes, participants are gathered but in a different way than has always been the custom. Additionally, new ways of worshiping together have been introduced, opening the door for greater participation from everyone. These newer methods also expand our ability to encounter God and/or God’s imprint in all corners of life and experiences. Stories, music, art, poetry, images and so much more point the way to the presence of God in places and ways that inspire and amaze us anew.

Continue reading “From the Pastor’s Desk, 11/1/21”

From the Pastor’s Desk, 10/18/21

From the Pastor’s desk—

   Books come into my library and life in a variety of ways, one of which is as a gift from someone culling their personal library. I’m presently reading “The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages” written by Joan Chittister, O.S.B., a gift from the library of another that I have added to my collection. The writing is divided into daily readings in which Chittister shares a small portion of “The Rule of Benedict” upon which she then writes a brief commentary. Following are a couple of excerpts that I’ve found helpful and enlightening.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 9/27/21

John 7:53 – 8:11

   The scripture reference above is the story of the woman brought to Jesus and accused of adultery. Those who accused the woman were intent on stoning her. They were seemingly confident Jesus would agree with them. Jesus surprises them. He says, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” The stone throwers slowly dispersed indicating that they, too, had unresolved sin in their lives. How could a sinner condemn and use capital punishment against another sinner? When all had left Jesus asks the woman where her accusers were, and who now condemned her. She sees that her accusers are gone, and she replies that no one condemns her. Jesus says that he does not condemn her either. Then, Jesus makes a pronouncement that has always puzzled me. He says to the woman, “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

Continue reading “From the Pastor’s Desk, 9/27/21”

From the Pastor’s Desk, 9/20/21

   A bottle of Elmer’s carpenter’s wood glue ended up on my work station table here at home. It isn’t just any wood glue, it is MAX. The label states that it (1) bonds stronger than wood, (2) resists heat, mold, and mildew, (3) is sandable and paintable, and (4) cleans up easily with water (i.e., before it dries, of course). It’s great to have this glue around when needing to bond a frame together or repair a broken piece of furniture. The label indicates that once pieces of wood are glued together the glue-er can have confidence that the bonded parts will remain together without concern of separation or naturally caused damage, that options are still available to improve upon the glued-up parts, and that any clean up from the bonding process is relatively easy.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, 8/9/21

   My expert knowledge about myself is that I am not an expert. I do the best I can with the abilities and skills I have at many different things but if I encounter a task that is beyond my capabilities I submit to the experts. For example, if I am approached to provide counseling I immediately state that I lack those credentials and will help find an expert who is trained appropriately. For my new business, if I am asked to complete a project requiring expert electrical or plumbing skills I quickly defer to the experts with licenses in that particular field of work. I know my limitations and trust the experts who are trained and experienced.

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From the Pastor’s Desk – “Big Things in Small Packages” (7/12/21)

BIG THINGS IN SMALL PACKAGES

   Some significant gifts come in small packages. A diamond ring is encased in an exceedingly small box. Two $100 bills are enclosed in a congratulatory card. A $500 gift card is found in a tiny envelope. A concise, informative, erudite concept emerges from a 52-page book. It is the latter that captured my attention this week.

   Vernard Eller, a past-professor of religion at the University of LaVerne in California and author of over twenty books, has become one of my favorite authors of things related to religion and the church. Eller thinks outside the box and adds imaginative perspective. Even though his writings are several decades old, they remain relevant to the present age, in my humble view.

   The book alluded to in the opening paragraph of this article, written by Eller, is entitled Proclaim Good Tidings: Evangelism for the Faith Community. The e-word, evangelism, frequently elicits anxiety and fear primarily because it is associated with telling (speaking) the good news of Jesus Christ in a manner that will entice people to come along, to join the company of Jesus followers. Moreover, evangelism invokes images, maybe nightmares, of well-defined programming wherein “evangelists” are trained with tools to convert non-believers to the way of Jesus, to Christianity. Anxiety and fear kicks in when those of a more timid nature are concerned about speaking to strangers. What if difficult questions are asked or the good news is rejected? OH MY! Those more outgoing have less trepidation about visiting with others, but…OH MY!…there isn’t enough time to squeeze in a training program!

   Eller, consequently, eases these evangelism burdens. Instead of boxing evangelism into a programmatic monster to be tamed, he develops a portrait of evangelism as a community effort of radiating the essence of the Jesus way. In other words, the body of Christ, the church, or the community of Jesus followers, simply needs to let their manner of living serve as their witness. This manner of living “speaks” volumes, not always in words, but unquestionably with actions. Eller calls this “evangelism through body language.”

   A paragraph from Eller’s 52-page gem provides a nice summary of his thesis. He writes: “The calling of the church is that it function (sic) as ‘the body of Christ.’ Thus, within the body, the members are to operate, not for their own enjoyment or enhancement, but to the end that the body as a whole is built up. When the group is functioning so, its body language is such that a chance observer can read it and be moved to fall down and worship, crying, ‘God is certainly among you!’ And what is going on here is nothing more nor less than evangelism.”

   Eller also helps us to understand that evangelism is not a one-person enterprise. Sharing the good news of Jesus and the Jesus way is most effective when it is done together, in partnership, as the whole. It isn’t a programmatic enterprise, either. It is, at the most basic level, a way of being, acting, and living, revealing evidence of the Spirit of God moving within and acting upon our individual and collective lives.

   So, if the e-word puts you into a state of panic, take heart. Simply be who you are shaped and informed to be in the Jesus way, joining with the company and gifts of others. The rest, in a manner of speaking, will take care of itself.         

CCOB to Offer Services Online: Message from Pastor Kevin Kessler

I continue to hope and pray that you are safe and well. If at any time you need to visit or you have thoughts and concerns you need to share, please contact me by phone (cell: 309-224-4828), text (same number), or email (cantoncob@gmail.com).

Because we are social beings, having the ability to continue meeting together on Sunday is important The online platform Zoom provides us with a means of connecting electronically. It isn’t the same as being present with each other in the same location, but it is a platform that allows us to be present with each other by video/audio or audio from the safety of our own homes.

Therefore, for the next 2 Sundays, March 22 and 29, we have the opportunity to connect with each other using Zoom at our regular meeting time of 9:30am. If you have access to a computer, microphone, and camera (fairly standard laptop) you can easily access the Zoom connection. Even if you do not have this equipment, you can still join in by phone. Using the phone does not provide video but at least offers connection by voice (you can share and you can hear others who are sharing). A few directions will follow.

Continue reading “CCOB to Offer Services Online: Message from Pastor Kevin Kessler”

From the Pastor’s Desk, June 2018

The following post was taken from the CCOB Newsletter, Volume 2018, Issue #6. 

We must loathe lukewarm people. This message is found throughout scripture. Those who are violent are better off, even if initially they do evil. We cannot expect anything from souls who are slumbering; from those who do good – or think they do good – by abstaining from evil. A heart that is on fire, even if it bewilders us at times, is equipped to serve. God freely chooses his saints from among the great sinners, but never from among those who are lukewarm – from those who do not risk anything.

Continue reading “From the Pastor’s Desk, June 2018”

From the Pastor’s Desk: April-May 2018

The following post was taken from The April-May edition of The Canton Chronicle, Volume 2018, Issue #4. 

In our backyard are two crabapple trees. One has pink blooms and the other white. Usually I would contend that the one with pink blooms exudes more beauty. But this year was different. The one with white blooms was gorgeous to the point of being nearly radiant. Interestingly, though, the radiance was short-lived. On about Monday or Tuesday the blooms were at peak. By Saturday not a bloom was left on the tree. Beauty is fleeting.

Continue reading “From the Pastor’s Desk: April-May 2018”

DE Ponderings: May 2018

The following post was taken from The Reflector, a publication of the IL/WI Church of the Brethren Newsletter May 2018: Volume 15/Issue 4. 

Neal F. Fisher, president emeritus of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, offers these thoughts in an article in The Christian Century:

What morality, we might ask, does one culture or social group create that another with equal authority could not revoke? On what basis should my personal perceptions make a universal claim? The issue here is not to challenge universal moral claims. The point, rather, is that many of those who make universal claims disavow any reasonable basis for explaining how that claim can be made,” 

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From the Pastor’s Desk: March 2018

I have an appreciation for the classics in literature. I like the author Thomas Hardy. I’ve slogged through War and Peace and can’t tell you much about the giant novel except there are too many characters of which to keep track. Les Miserable offers great lessons about grace. I had to read The Scarlet Letter twice, the second time very slowly, to understand the full magnitude of a wonderfully written and emotionally entwining work of art. And I’m presently enjoying Daniel DeFoe’s Robinson Crusoe.

Continue reading “From the Pastor’s Desk: March 2018”

From the Pastor’s Desk, February 2018

The following article was taken from the Canton Chronicle Vol. 2018 #2 issue written by Pastor Kevin Kessler and edited by Martha Harr

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:25-32 NRSV)

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DE Ponderings, January 2018

The following article was taken from Volume 15 Issue 1 of  ¨The Reflector¨ a publication of the IL/WI District Church of the Brethren.

Last week I caught up on a few chores at home that I´ve been neglecting, one of which was cleaning an old stereo system. The components of the system were all separate, so I carefully removed each one from the stereo cabinet. When cleaning the 5-disc CD player, I tilted it in such a manner that 2 CDs slid out the front. I finished cleaning, replaced the components in the cabinet, turned on the CD player, opened the drawer, and found 3 more CDs. After removing them I pushed the button to close the drawer. All was not well. The drawer did not close completely; it remained about a third of the way open. I could not get the drawer to close no matter what I tried.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, January 2018

¨It is a mistake to sharpen our minds by narrowing them. It is a mistake to look to the Bible to close a discussion; the Bible seeks to open one…. The Bible is no oracle to be consulted for specific advice on specific problems; rather, it is a wellspring of wisdom about the ambiguity, inevitability, and insolubility of the human situation…. The Bible makes us comfortable with struggle but uneasy in success…. [The Bible is a signpost, not a hitching post].¨ –William Sloane Coffin, The Courage to Love (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982), 7-8

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Illinois and Wisconsin District Conference Proclaims Good News

This article was taken from the Church of the Brethren Newsline on November 17, 2017. It was written by the District Executive minister and Canton Church of the Brethren Pastor Kevin Kessler.  

The Illinois and Wisconsin District Conference on Nov. 3-4 was held at York Center Church of the Brethren in Lombard, Ill., on the theme, “Don’t Be Afraid, I Bring You Good News” based on Luke 2:10. The conference was capably led by moderator Allegra Hess, a member of the York Center congregation.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, October 2017

Taken from the The Canton COB Chronicle Volume 2017, #7

A few days ago, I left the office around 11:00am, drove home, picked up Tammy, and went to CEFCU. We went inside, took care of our business, and then came back to the car to move on to a couple other errands. As normal, I inserted the key in the car’s ignition switch, turned it to start the car, and just as it sounded like the car would start, everything stopped. The lights on the dash went out. Turning the key to start produced absolutely no sound. And when I tried to turn the key to off and remove it, I could not do so. We all have many “firsts” in our lives; this was a “first” for me. I’ve experienced turning the key to start and nothing happens. But I’ve never been unable to remove the key from the ignition.

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DE Ponderings, September 2017

Taken from September 2017 edition of “The Reflector” (a publication of the IL/WI Church of the Brethren District Newsletter)

I have an appreciation for the writings of Vernard Eller, one time professor of Religion at the University of LaVerne, primarily because his views are cutting edge and sometimes cutting. I never knew him personally, but I gather from his books that he was a person comfortable in his own skin even if what he said or wrote stirred thoughts and emotions in others.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, August 2017

This article was taken from “The Canton Chronicle” September 2017, Volume 2017: Issue #6.

Tammy and I recently made our first trek on the new walking/bicycle trail that extends from Lakeland Park to Wallace Park. I’m not sure why we waited so long to check it out. It’s a peaceful place to walk while enjoying the beauty of nature.

Continue reading “From the Pastor’s Desk, August 2017”

DE Ponderings, August 2017

Article taken from “The Reflector”  a publication of the IL/WI District of the Church of the Brethren August 2017 Volume 14, Issue 7.

I enjoy reading, especially a novel in which the author delves into a variety of subjects relevant to our human condition. George Saunders does this spectacularly in Lincoln and the Bardo. He is also, in my view, a master at character development. These two literary accomplishments alone put the book high on my list of good reads. However, one particular scene in Saunders’ novel sheds brilliant light on a matter that has been coursing through my mind most recently, which can be articulated best with a question: In all of our human diversity, what will open the door for us to exist in harmony while still holding on to and utilizing our unique identities?

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From the Pastor´s Desk, July 2017

On Wednesday, July 26, we will begin a study on Judaism. I have been fascinated with all I’ve learned in preparing to lead this study. What I found most interesting, though, is how the Jewish tradition approaches scripture. The Jewish emphasis is not about searching the scriptures to find ancient answers that speak to life matters for all time. Rather, the focus is more on asking questions about the text in understanding its relevancy for a particular time, or more to the point, for the present time, and to learn how the Divine becomes evident through the text.

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DE Ponderings, July 2017

The following article is taken from the IL/WI District Church of the Brethren newsletter  ¨The Reflector¨ July 2017, Volume 14, Issue 6.  If you´d like to subscribe to the Reflector, please leave a message in our contact box and we will have one sent directly to your inbox. 

Approximately one month ago, I served as the moderator for a public forum on the State Budget Impasse, which was held in the community of Canton. The forum focused on educating persons within our county about the adverse effects the state budget impasse was imposing on school districts, nursing homes, community colleges, and other social agencies, all of which depend on state funding for operational needs. Persons no longer receiving services from these agencies or who were likely to no longer be served as a result of the impasse stood to lose the most. For those of us who put the forum together, the impasse posed not so much a political matter but more so a justice issue.

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From the Pastor´s Desk, June 2017

The following post is taken from the Canton Chronicle, Vol 2017 #4. 

Edward Bernays may not be a familiar name. Yet his philosophy permeates our lives, our culture. In this way we know him.

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DE Ponderings, May 2017

The following article is taken from the IL/WI District Church of the Brethren newsletter  ¨The Reflector¨ May 2017, Volume 14, Issue 4.  If you´d like to subscribe to the Reflector, please leave a message in our contact box and we will have one sent directly to your inbox. 

Late night show host Jimmy Kimmel opened his program Monday May 1, with an emotional monologue about the birth of his son which occurred just a few days before. Shortly after the birth, a nurse noticed that the baby’s color was purple (Kimmel´s words). A doctor was summoned and upon further testing it was discovered the baby had been born with a heart defect. Efforts began immediately to call in a specialist who within hours performed surgery that saved the little boy´s life as well as helping him avoid complications later on in life. Kimmel expressed thanks to all those instrumental in providing such great care for his newborn son. He also spoke with emotion about other children in the Children’s Hospital where his son’s surgery was performed.  He noted that his son and these other children had the opportunity for a future because of medical knowledge and care, and also because of medical insurance. He wondered what it would be like for children in need of such significant medical treatment without the availability of insurance. It was a plea for the insurance benefits available to all to continue. It was a plea for justice, for life, a voice for the most vulnerable–children and those unable to afford high-cost medical treatment.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, May 2017

Taken from the The Canton Chronicle 2017, Vol. #3.

I recall visiting the Senate chamber in the Illinois State Capitol and being quite amazed. I had expected when the session opened that the senators would be in their seats being quite attentive to the business-at-hand. What I witnessed was a chamber with many empty seats, senators and staff frantically moving around, and several mini conversations happening here and there while business was being conducted. I may be exaggerating to a degree but not much.

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Poverty Forum Summary Report Part 1 of 5

Throughout the week, we will post portions of our summary report from the forum on poverty. This first post highlights remarks made by our panelists speaking to the factors that contribute towards poverty in Fulton County.

Introductory Remarks

Pastor Kevin Kessler – Moderator

  1. ¨Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.¨ -Nelson Mandela
  2. The US Census Bureau indicates that over a 3 year period, 1/3rd of all US residents slip below the poverty line at least once for 2 months or more.
  3. We are all affected by poverty in some way and it is in the interest of all that we come together to work out solutions for eliminating poverty for the wellbeing of everyone

Defining the Problem

Question 1 – What are the major factors contributing to poverty in Fulton County?

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From the Pastor’s Desk, March 2017

Taken from the The Canton Chronicle 2017, Vol. #2

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. 3When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. 4 Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,[a] stand up and walk.” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 All the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. –Acts 3:1-10 (NRSV)

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DE Ponderings, February 2017

Taken from the February 2017 edition of the IL/WI Reflector

I am concerned with the level of priority our national leaders are giving to protecting our country. Know that I value safety but the present protectionist ethos seems to give substantial importance to retaining what we have come to believe is rightfully ours. In my humble view, this attitude portrays a sense of selfishness, and, subsequently, leads to greater division within the global human community. Recent protests around the globe in response to certain political maneuvers seem to support my hypothesis. I’ll readily admit that I’m basing my conclusions on observations rather than fully researched and scientifically calculated information. Nevertheless, my concern remains.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, January 2017

Taken from the CCOB Canton Chronicler, Vol. 2017 #1

Another section of this newsletter will contain information about the Dignity emphasis in which we are engaged, including objectives from the 5 passion groups. So, I’ll refrain from touching on those details in this space. However, I will express my delight and excitement about the momentum being gained through our ongoing conversations and work.

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DE Ponderings, January 2017

Taken from the IL/WI District Newsletter, January 2017

Stanley Hauerwas in War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity states: “…the church does not have an alternative to war. The church is the alternative to war. When Christians no longer see the reality of the church as an alternative to the world’s reality, we abandon the world to war.”

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From the Pastor’s Desk, December 2016

‘Tis the season for bright lights, decorations, holiday music, parties, programs, office dinners, family gatherings, sending cards (along with those ubiquitous family letters), taking photographs, shopping, eating out, attending religious services, and being abundantly cheerful. (The last three words of the preceding sentence brings the needle scratching across the vinyl disk, the turntable coming to a screeeeeccchhhing halt, and a deathly stillness overpowering the mellow holiday tunes previously playing.) ‘Tis the season we hope for abundant cheerfulness, but the reality is, dare I say, frequently the opposite.

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DE Ponderings, November 2016

From the IL/WI District November Newsletter

A Ted talk I recently watched states that we often begin divergent dialogue with each other at the wrong place. We frequently begin with political correctness. Political correctness requires us to be careful what we say, to be forthright but smoothing off the edges of sharpness. If we speak in politically correct ways, then we cause less harm to the other whose views are distinctly different. However, being politically correct may leave room for misinterpretation. Those in dialogue then begin to speak past one another, unsure of what the other has said. What is intended as unharmful can be misinterpreted as disrespect.

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From the Pastor’s Desk, November 2016

While I continue to read, my reading time has been significantly reduced this year. Maybe that has something to do with moving and spending more time wielding a paint brush. Now that painting is finished, or nearly finished, books will regain their seat of importance. My non-substantive rambling aside, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about books that I have read this year that I found entertaining, educational, and enriching in the manner of expanding my mind.

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