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.”

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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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Who Holds the Future? – 9/8/21

What are you anxious about, and what helps you through anxious moments?

What experiences of resurrection have you experienced during anxious moments?

What joys you are experiencing in these uncertain days?

Worry, tomorrow, and who holds the future were related themes that provided the focus for the worship service August 8 shared via Zoom.

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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.         

Science Fiction & Faith, Exploring Ray Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man” ; 3/28/21

Kevin is producing the service this Sunday which will consider the subject of desire. Using a chapter entitled The Man, from Ray Bradbury’s book The Illustrated Man, along with thoughts from Irish poet John O’Donohue, the opportunity will be offered to explore desire’s divergent paths.  

What is your response to science fiction? One angle is considering the genre to be purely fantasy and entertainment without any substance. Another angle is learning that we are using today what was considered fiction or fantasy only several years ago. So is it fantasy or prophecy? How does science fiction continue to provide formation for our lives? How does this genre engage our imaginations to focus and re-focus our energies to enter life experiences to adopt and adapt new ways to encourage better human co-existence? In what ways do we find theological perspective (God; the Divine) in science fiction? These and other questions will be explored during our worship services in March. As this journey unfolds over the next several weeks, be encouraged to find theology imprinted within the science fiction genre. May we all be inspired by the nuggets of wisdom we’ll mine together.

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Dreaming, 2/21/21

This month, the Canton Church of the Brethren will be recognizing the contributions of African Americans and their central role in U.S. History. Please enjoy the following audio recording from our service from Sunday, 2/21/21.

THEME: Dreaming

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS: What dreams do you have for humanity to exist peaceably and justly? If these dreams are realized, what do you envision this reality looking like? What can we do to ensure a more just and equitable co-existence?

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Sunday Morning Meditation at the CCOB, 5/17/2020

THE CCOB MORNING OF COLLECTIVE MEDITATION

Sunday, May 17, 2020, 9:30 a.m.

ANGELS AMONG US

READING 1:

In the New Testament we learn that at each significant moment of Christ’s life on Earth, angels showed up. Whether they were in the air or on the land, these guardians relayed prophecy, celebrated moments of joy, provided protection, and delivered messages of hope.

The angel Gabriel not only told Mary she would bear a son, but what the boy would be called, who he was to become, and how his future was already established (Luke 1:30-33).

Angels rejoiced and sang Glorias from the heavens when the baby was born (Luke 2:13-14).

An angel told Joseph he could finally take his son home because Herod and those who wanted to kill the baby were dead (Matthew 2:19-20).

After Jesus endured the Devil’s temptations in the wilderness, the angels came and ministered to him (Matthew 4:11).

An angel sat with Jesus as he prayed in the Garden at Gethsemane (Luke 22:43).

When Jesus was betrayed, he exclaimed that he could have twelve legions of angels to sustain him if he only asked God for help (Matthew 26:53).

An angel rolled back the stone of the tomb of Jesus and another announced his resurrection (Matthew 28: 2, 5-6).

Jesus ascended into Heaven with angels watching nearby (Acts 1:10).

And someday Jesus will send out angels with trumpets to gather his elect from the four winds – from one end of heaven to the other (Matthew 24:31).

Whether we believe in the actual physical embodiment of angels or not, the significance of angels in our lives can be very real.

In his inaugural address, President Abraham Lincoln, with a Civil War brewing all around him, spoke of angels. He stated,

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again

touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

As we now face a pandemic which has disrupted our lives in every way imaginable, we must continue to believe in angels…we must BE angels… deliverers of joy, of protection, of hope.

For as we learn in Hebrews: Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (1:14).

And as we are reminded, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (13:2)

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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.

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How Dare You, 3/1/20

Sermon Title: How Dare You

Speaker: Pastor Kevin Kessler

Scripture: Romans 8:22-23, Isaiah 57:16-21, Genesis 2:15

Date: Sunday, March 1, 2020

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In Suffering, Comfort, 10/27/19

Sermon Title: In Suffering, Comfort

Speaker: Pastor Kevin Kessler

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Date: Sunday, October 27, 2019

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The Fellowship of Place, 9/15/19

Sermon Title: The Fellowship of Place

Speaker: Pastor Kevin Kessler

Scripture: Psalm 108

Date: Sunday, September 15, 2019

Sermon Resources –

  1. Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson (Eerdmans, 2005)
  2. As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson (Waterbrook, 2017)
  3. Iona Abbey Worship Book, (Wildgoose Publications, 2001

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Proclaim Christ, Reclaim Passion – 7/14/19

Speaker: Pastor Kevin Kessler

Sermon Title: Proclaim Christ, Reclaim Passion

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:12-21

Date: Sunday, July 14, 2019

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Why Solitude? – To Renew Self-Awareness, 6/23/19

Sermon Title: Why Solitude: To Renew Self-Awareness

Speaker: Pastor Kevin Kessler

Date: Sunday, June 23, 2019

Scripture; Mark 6:30-34

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Why Solitude: To Be Filled – 6/16/19

Speaker: Pastor Kevin Kessler

Sermon Title: Why Solitude: To Be Filled

Date: Sunday, June 16, 2019

Scripture: Luke 6: 12-16

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??? – 2/3/19

How do you understand God speaking to you and inviting you into action in this text from Luke 4?

How will you respond?

Speaker: Pastor Kevin Kessler

Sermon Title: ???

Scripture: Luke 4:21-30

Date: Sunday, February 3, 2019

 

 

Formation, Not Information – 1/27/19

Speaker: Pastor Kevin Kessler

Sermon Title: Formation, Not Information

Scripture: Romans 12:1-2

Date: Sunday, January 27, 2019

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Bigger Than the Box, 1/6/19

Sermon Title: Bigger Than the Box

Speaker: Pastor Kevin Kessler

Date: January 6, 2019

Scripture: Proverbs 2: 1-15

Today is Epiphany Sunday, the time of the church year when we celebrate the story of the those who traveled great distances seeking the Christ child. The child was nearly 2 years old when the seekers arrived. Whatever had sparked the curiosity of these seekers caused them to continue pursuing a goal. Something mysterious, something of wonder was out of their reach, something that compelled them to continue on until they were able to experience first-hand what they sought.

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Two Cents Worth, 11/11/18

The poor should not be expected to be burdened with more responsibility than they can handle. Those who can bear the burden with greater ease would do well to exhibit the level of responsibility they expect others to carry out.

Sermon: Two Cents Worth

Scripture Text: Mark 12: 38-44

Speaker: Pastor Kevin Kessler

Date: Sunday November 11, 2018

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The Wine We Choose, 8/19/18

Sermon Title: The Wine We Choose

Scripture: Proverbs 9:1-6; Ephesians 5:15-20

Speaker: Pastor Kevin Kessler

Date: Sunday August 19, 2018

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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.

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Educational Bee Summit Workshop to be Held at Canton Church of the Brethren, June 20

Bee Workshop

As part of its year-long focus on dignity and the environment, the Canton Church of the Brethren is offering a Bee Summit/Workshop by local beekeeper Greg Mathis on Wednesday, June 20 at 5:30 p.m. at the church located at 269 E. Chestnut in Canton.  The event is free and open to anyone interested in learning more about bees, bees impact on our world, or the art of beekeeping.

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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.

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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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Creation with Coffee, 4/8/18

This “Ponder Play” entitled “Creation with Coffee” was performed at the Canton Church of the Brethren on April 8, 2018.  It was written by Carol Davis and performed by Martha Harr, Robin Henry and Kevin Kessler. This play was the first of a 3 part performance as part of our congregation’s yearlong emphasis on the environment.