BEYOND THE GREEN DOORS
The newsletter of the Peterborough United Methodist Church
43 Concord Street, Peterborough, NH
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CHURCH FAMILY CELEBRATIONS
UPDATE FROM REV CARD
I have just posted the entire Grand Sweep guide for next week on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/kathleene.card/posts/10227706943085934). If you want a copy in Word–private message me or Melissa or send an email.
JOB 42; PSALMS 100–101 Week 26, Day 1 (June 27)
All is at last made right. First, Job is made right, for contrary to our usual conceits, our world—large or small—will not come right until we are right. Even if everything around us were perfect, we would not accept or enjoy its perfection as long as our own souls were out of joint. So we must begin with Job, as he confesses a new level of faith:
“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.”
And with that seeing comes repentance (42:5-6).
Job’s friends are made right too. Probably much to their embarrassment they learn that Job has loved God all along and that they will need his prayers if they are to be restored. (It’s interesting that Elihu is not reprimanded with the others.) Then Job’s siblings come around, and a host of other friends; one wonders where they’ve been all this time! At any rate, they show him sympathy and bring him gifts.
And then Job’s wealth is restored as a kind of symbol of heaven. Everything has been made right; and whatever the sufferings along the way, all is now well. One thing we know for sure: Though he wavered (and with reason!), Job kept the faith. He came out as well as God had predicted he would.
PRAYER: I don’t want Job’s troubles, but give me a measure of his faith; in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Do you interpret this closing summary of Job’s life literally or figuratively? Why?
ECCLESIASTES 1–3 Week 26, Day 2 (June 28)
Ecclesiastes can easily be seen as the work of someone who has had too much. He’s spoiled. In that respect, he may be a good object lesson for much of the middle and upper-middle class of our Western world. But he is also experiencing the kind of struggle any human being can encounter when a person begins to wonder about the purpose and meaning of life.
The writer has done us a favor in recording his sometimes gloomy thinking, but as we read each day we need to remember that we’re following a soul through his groping and we should wait for the conclusion.
His theme is like an orchestral motif that emerges repeatedly: All of life is a vanity, a waste. He tells us what he has tried, beginning with that cherished goal, wisdom. But it didn’t satisfy; it was “a chasing after wind” (1:14). Then, pleasure, including wine and folly, perhaps in the style of people whom we describe today as “living in the fast lane.” Then he concentrated on the affluent life: houses, gardens, pools, slaves, gold, culture (singers), and sexual indulgence. He had more than all who were before him in Jerusalem, but it was “vanity.”
So he struggles with some preliminary conclusions. Wisdom, he decides, is better than folly; yet no one will remember the wise or the foolish. And if one accumulates riches, they will go to those who haven’t worked; so perhaps a person should just live for today (2:24). Then he takes the pragmatic position, which is perhaps the best-known portion of this book: “For everything there is a season,” good and bad (3:1-8).
PRAYER: Keep me sensitive to the fullness of life in you. Amen.
List the ways the writer tried to find meaning in life.
ECCLESIASTES 4–6 Week 26, Day 3 (June 29)
Among other things, Ecclesiastes shows how important is the hope of life beyond the grave. This writer had no such hope, and therefore he was particularly despairing at some of the disillusionments of life as he observed and experienced it. In many ways, from his vantage point, he was right. He is grieved that “solitary individuals” toil and have no one with whom to share their gains (4:8), and he sees that people who love money and wealth won’t be satisfied when they get what they seek (5:10). He is especially troubled for those who work hard yet do not enjoy life’s good things, for “do not all go to one place?” (6:6).
So he keeps identifying short-term objectives. “Two are better than one. . . . For if they fall, one will lift up the other” (4:9-10). A threefold cord (what sociologists would call a triad) is even better, if you can make it work (4:12). And there’s hope for “a poor but wise youth,” because he may someday replace a foolish king (4:13).
And he has advice for us too, mostly of a pragmatic kind. Approach the house of God cautiously, minding your tongue (5:1-2); and if you make a vow, be sure by all means to fulfill it, otherwise it would be better if you hadn’t made it (5:4-5). He is cynical about the oppression of the poor. He acknowledges that it is a bad thing, but he doesn’t think much will be done about it—largely because of an ineffective and indifferent bureaucracy (5:8-9). Sound familiar?
PRAYER: Yes, Lord, I see many reasons to be cynical about life. But I still hope in you, and I still believe in goodness; in Christ. Amen. For all his cynicism and disillusionment, the writer holds to some basic integrities.
List several that stand out in these chapters.
ECCLESIASTES 7–9 Week 26, Day 4 (June 30)
This is a cynical, disillusioned man, no doubt about it. So much so that he feels the day of death is better than the day of birth, and that it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting, and that sorrow is better than laughter (7:1-3).
He has come to these conclusions because he has seen so many of life’s inequities. He is troubled (as are most of us) that he has seen “righteous people who perish in their righteousness, and . . . wicked people who prolong their life in their evildoing” (7:15). He recalls a “poor wise man” who “by his wisdom delivered the city,” yet no one remembered him; his wisdom was despised (9:15-16). Because of such instances he concludes that “the same fate comes to all, to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil” (9:2). He doesn’t think very well of the human race; “the hearts of all are full of evil” (9:3).
Yet he keeps grasping for some verities that will give meaning to life rather than vanity, and occasionally he finds some. With all his disappointment in the mistreatment of the wise, he still praises wisdom; it “makes one’s face shine” (8:1). And he believes that God notices the difference and that eventually “it will be well with those who fear God” and that it “will not be well with the wicked” (8:12-13). So he keeps searching. Honor this often unhappy and cynical man for this, that he keeps searching. In the seeking, there is hope.
PRAYER: Hardly a day goes by, O Lord, without my seeing some injustice; help me, nevertheless, to believe in what is right; in Christ. Amen.
Try to summarize, in a brief paragraph, the philosophy the writer gives in Ecclesiastes 9.
ECCLESIASTES 10–12 Week 26, Day 5 (July 1)
After all of his struggle and confusion, this cynical man comes at last to an appeal for faith. But it isn’t easy. A person with his kind of inquiring, speculative mind is likely to travel a circuitous route before coming to faith. During that journey he leaves us with a variety of good counsel. We agree when he warns that “a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor” (10:1), for we’ve seen it happen. He’s right, too, in warning that the curse we entertain even in our thoughts or the privacy of our bedroom will somehow reach the wrong person (10:20). And we gladly concur that bread sent out upon the waters will be returned after many days (11:1).
But especially, we’re glad to see him conclude, “Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come” (12:1). Does this counsel reflect something that was missing in his own life so that he traveled long and far before finding what he most needed? Perhaps. One feels a return of his sense of despair as he speaks of old age and the sorrow of learning the lesson too late (12:2-8).
So the end of the matter, he says, is to “fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone” (12:13). And although he doesn’t have an eternal view of life, he nevertheless believes deeply in the justice of God; “God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing” (12:14). Better, then, do right!
PRAYER: Thank you, Father, for giving me an early start in the pathway of faith. Help me influence someone else who is young. Amen.
What are the writer’s conclusions about the meaning and purpose of life?
SONG OF SOLOMON 4–6 Week 26, Day 7 (July 3)
When I go to a symphony, I can listen with a program guide that will explain the movement of the music and its significance, or I can simply sit back and enjoy the sensation without trying overly hard to intellectualize it. I recommend something of a middle ground in reading this book. Many modern Bibles have broken down the passages to indicate who is speaking at a given moment; these aids can be helpful, but they don’t all agree, and they don’t necessarily increase our enjoyment or perception. The material is best read slowly and thoughtfully, but not too analytically. There are times when we should turn off our critical sensibilities, and this may be one of them.
Every culture has its own language of love because we have to find our figures of speech in the images that are significant to our time and place. Here was a people who found beauty in the world of nature in ways rather beyond us. We may be amused when the man says that the hair of his beloved is “like a flock of goats, / moving down the slopes of Gilead” (4:1), but it was a vivid, lovely scene to him; and we stumble still more when he describes her neck as “like the tower of David, / built in courses” (4:4). But we understand what he means when he says, “You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you” (4:7). That spells love in any language, any time. And that’s how he felt.
PRAYER: Help me, I pray, to see the beauty in other cultures and other times, that my life may be deeper and wider; in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Rewrite a portion of Song of Solomon 4 using figures of speech that might be appropriate to your time and way of life.
Here are some personal doubts I want to present to God daily for examination and healing:
How the Drama Develops JOB 42; ECCLESIASTES 1—SONG OF SOLOMON 6
The Hebrew Scriptures present a God of action, and they give us our picture of God, not by way of a philosophical outline, but in story upon story of God’s deeds. But then we come upon these documents of wisdom and worship, and we realize action is not enough. There must be time for reflection, for processing what we have experienced, for pausing to give thanks and to pray. And yes, when we come to the Song of Solomon, we are reminded we need to take time to love.
Ecclesiastes seems, at first, to be an unlikely candidate for the holy Scriptures. Its first expression, after identifying the author, is a cry of futility: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). If life is a good gift of God, and if this is a day the Lord has made, how dare this philosopher say it is all wind and frustration? This book seems, almost by intention, to contradict the biblical mood of faith and hope.
How interesting, then, that this book is read in Jewish synagogues on Succoth, the Festival of Tabernacles, a time when Jews are commanded to rejoice! It seems that the philosophy behind this usage is that one will celebrate earth’s abundance more intelligently if one introduces a note of skepticism into the celebration—a skepticism that, in a sense, asks, “Is that all there is?”
Above all, Ecclesiastes is notable for showing us a person who is struggling fiercely with the meaning and purpose of life. The writer has tasted life at impressive levels of presumed success and achievement and has accumulated resources enough to impress a Wall Street banker. But now he wonders about the value and purpose of it all. It is all, he says, “vanity and a chasing after wind” (2:11).
What this ancient writer says in such bold type is spoken more cautiously by every person at one time or another. And interestingly enough, we are more likely to echo Ecclesiastes just after reaching some cherished goal than while working toward it. Even the most faithful are likely at some time or another to wonder if “it’s worth it all,” even when they aren’t sure how to define “worth” or “all.”
And the doubts that pester us as individuals seem at times to engage whole groups of people. Sometimes Ecclesiastes seems to have the mood of the Broadway playwrights, and more recently of the movie-makers. Students of literature suggest that such a mood captured a whole generation of the best novelists and poets just before World War II, and again following President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
If the writer of Ecclesiastes had remained in such a mood, it would, of course, have paralyzed him. This kind of questioning cuts the nerve of action. After all, why act when it is to no end? So we find ourselves taking a great breath of relief and hope when the writer begins finding his way out of his weary disillusionment. He begins doing so by offering counsel to the young, a little like the person who says to a son or daughter, “I don’t want you to make the mistakes I have made.” Then he comes to “the end of the matter.” And the end is with God. We should fear God and keep God’s commandments. There we will find our whole duty. And if one wonders whether there is meaning in it all—yes, because God is bringing every deed to judgment.
Seeing Life Through Scripture
What is the place of doubt in our lives? The writer of Ecclesiastes is a premier doubter, yet his philosophical wanderings are recorded for us in Scripture. Does this mean doubt has a place in the life of a believer, or is this book included just to let us know doubt is not a profitable way of life?
Often it is said that doubt is the growing edge of faith and that one can’t expect to get a truly substantial faith without first wrestling with tough questions. Well and good. But all of us know some persons who spend their lives doubting, and at last to no visible advantage. And most of us will say that doubt is a poor place to build any relatively permanent residence. G. K. Chesterton said that the purpose of an open mind is to close it. So too the value of doubt is to lead us to faith.
So what, then, are the proper boundaries of doubt? And is there something wrong with the warm-hearted soul who seems never to doubt? Is doubt part of our growing up, both emotionally and spiritually, and ought we somewhere to get over it? Is the perpetual doubter a case of arrested spiritual development? If so, and if our doubts last too long, how do we move from doubt to the grand ground of growing faith?
The Sum of It All
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Kalas, J. Ellsworth. The Grand Sweep – Large Print (pp. 296-297). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.
For the next week and one half I will be limiting my use of Social Media for two reasons: One is for renewal and reflection time; and the other (probably more important) is for time with family.
However, I will still be reading through the Bible–I just will not be doing it on Facebook. I encourage you to keep up with the reading, too. We will resume our morning Facebook devotional bible studies with those who want to participate on Facebook on July 4 at 7am.
In the meantime, if you have any insights you want to share with the group, send them to me and I will share them.
On July 4, 2021 we will pick up at Song of Solomon 7-8; Psalm 103.
Blessings and Grace,
Rev. Kathleene Card
We continue to review the corona virus status in our area and to adjust our worship service accordingly. There are very few cases of Covid in our area and so we’ve reduced the restrictions at our church. You’ll notice that the tape has been removed from the sanctuary and fellowship hall. Fellowship after worship will be encouraged in either the fellowship hall or on the front lawn – your choice. Congregational singing is encouraged!
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact Laura Constantine. See you in church!
Expenses: $ 10822
NEWS FROM THE TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE
On June 22, the Technology Committee presented to the special Church Conference the proposal for updating the church sound system, internet connection and installation of display screens. During the meeting there was extensive discussion on the proposal’s value for our church ministries, after which there was strong support and the project was accepted by a vote of the conference.
The Trustees will cover the cost of the system using special, unrestricted funds donated by past and present church members.
The next step will be to finalize the agreement with the contractor and electrician. Due to availability of the equipment it will be a few weeks before installation can begin but we hope to have the upgrades completed by homecoming in September.
GREETINGS FROM THE MISSIONS COMMITTEE
(see PDF link above for photos)
Thanks for all the food donations. Here are some thank-you notes from area food pantries.
Our church also supports the New Life Home. Here is their latest newsletter.
Our church also supports Shelter from the Storm (SFTS). Here is a chance to help, by joining the TD Bank Affinity Program. It doesn’t cost anything and helps to support SFTS. Details are included in the following flyer.
In the past some of our children participated in mission trips with All Saints church in conjunction with Common Cathedral in Boston. Their latest newsletter is here.
Finally, our sponsored child in India, Arun, sends his regards. Here is a picture from Arun.
Thank you for supporting our missions!
Everyone is invited to contribute to the newsletter! Send in your photos, thank yous, birthdays, events, testimonials, poems, letters, printable artwork, prayer submissions…
Please submit all materials for the next newsletter (August) to our editors by the LAST TUESDAY July 27. This is the newsletter that will be released August 1 and cover until Sunday September 5.
Send to Melissa French at 603-924-4294 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject “Newsletter submission.” Thanks!
Want to subscribe? You can email or call the office (above) to get a print copy of the newsletter, or visit http://bit.ly/subscribepumc to get it in your email.
PETERBOROUGH UMC COMMUNICATIONS
In addition to “Beyond the Green Doors,” Peterborough UMC offers the following ways you can keep in touch.
We are on the web: https://www.PeterboroughUMC.org
We are on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pumcnh/
This newsletter was compiled by Melissa French. Any concerns with content can be addressed with Reverend Card.