Zwingli’s Branch . . . June/July 2019
Oh, what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day! Oh my, my, my! I just came from the top of the pine tree behind aside of the church! I love it up there. I can see all of Martinsburg and beyond! It is so beautiful with grass and trees all nice and green contrasting with the fields that checkerboard the surrounding area in various stages of growing new crops! Oh, when I sit up there, I can just feel God’s presence so vividly!
I hear others talking about that too. That when they take a walk in the woods or sit on the beach or climb up the mountain, they feel so much closer to God. That is good, I think. I, Zwingli know that that is how I feel at the top of the tree!
But what I don’t understand is why some people feel they don’t need church or to come to church. They say that they can worship anywhere and, yes they can! But being involved in a church is much more than just worship. We can praise God everywhere and anywhere and I hope you do, but church is where we are fed His word; where we are shown how His word and our lives intersect and how we should live in the world. Church is where we fellowship with one another and is the center or hub of the ministry we do in the community and the world.
Jesus often went up on the mountain or down to the lake or off by himself for a short time, but he always came back to where the people were. Our faith is not one of isolation but a faith of unity with one another. It is hard to love one another if we are not together. It is hard to be the hands and feet of Jesus if we are always off by ourselves and don’t interact with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Jesus shows us how to balance our time alone and our time with others. One isn’t more important than the other, but both are needed for us to follow the way of Christ.
I, Zwingli hope to see you at the top of the tree sometime, the view is breathtaking, but I also hope to see you on Sunday Mornings, at the Community Meal or Food Pantry and all the places Jesus calls us to be.
Zwingli’s Branch . . . April/May 2019
Spring has Spring! Spring has Sprung! I love it when I see the flowers popping up out of the ground and blossoms on the trees! The Spring air smell s fresh and new! The birds are chippering away as they build their new nests and get ready to give birth to a new generation along with other of nature’s creatures! There is new life everywhere! Even I, Zwingli, am getting ready to welcome great new nieces and nephews as they are born. What fun it will be to watch them grow!! Ahhhhhh! But that is not the only thing that makes this little ole’ squirrel giggle in delight! Oh no! I enjoy these earthly signs of new life, but even more, I delight in the heavenly signs of new life!
The best news of Spring is that it is a reminder to us that Christ is Risen! We have been given new life also! Each day, each moment of our lives, we are given the opportunity to choose new life! When we get stuck – have you ever gotten stuck? – me Zwingli has. Sometimes I get bogged down in my thoughts and in my heart and I don’t want to be bothered by anyone or anything. Nothing interests me and if things don’t get done, well, who cares?! Do you know what I mean? Have you ever felt that way? It not only happens to people but collectively as a church also. We take things for granted, we allow things to fall to the wayside – our missions wane and we settle for whatever, and many times we could care less.
When that happens to me, God gives me a nudge, or well, sometimes it feels like a big kick! God doesn’t let me wallow, He doesn’t let me or you, or the church just wither away from the joys of life and only dwell on what is wrong. God picks us up out of the muck and mire and sets us straight! That is what Christ has done for us! We are no longer left to wither and die, to be apathetic and listless. And the good news is, He won’t let you stay that way either! He un-stucks us!
God raised Jesus from the grave and he can and will raise us too! God breathes new life into us, and when we breathe His breath in, His Spirit move us! We find ourselves caring more. Caring about ourselves, our surroundings and others. That is what I love about Spring – it is like God does a “Spring Cleaning” of our lives, of our souls and even the soul of the church!
Let us take deep breaths! Let us allow God’s Spirit to refresh us, un-stuck us and move us into action, just like He did the disciples!! Let’s let our Light Shine and be the Love the world needs so desperately! Let us show our love for God by lifting each other up, helping those in need and giving our time and our talents for God’s purposes. Let us get busy creating a safe and holy space for all God’s Children.!
Wow! Me, Zwingli, isn’t going to lie around like a bump on a log anymore! Let’s get “UN-STUCK”” Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed and so am I!
“I’m FRREEEEEEEEE!” Zwingli!
Zwingli’s Branch . . . February/March 2019
Brrrrrrr! Hope you all have been keeping warm! It was -17 wind chill this morning! So glad I, Zwingli has a warm place to call home!!! Zwingli is truly blessed.
I made some phone calls to family and friends and checked on them to make sure they were ok in this frigid weather and thankfully, they were. But I know there are many who are not and we have more winter to go!
Zwingli is very concerned – If things continue in our country with the shutdown, many are going to be affected, maybe even you! Food stamps, housing allowances and other basic necessities for people in need won’t be available. And then there are all those who have been furloughed or are working without pay for the Federal government. Plus, these cold temperatures are depleting many people’s heat source rapidly! March could be a time when more and more people will need help since government programs won’t be available and this weather is straining the budget of those on limited income.
Our food pantry is going to see more in need. The Ministerium’s People In Need fund is going to be busy with requests for oil and help with electric bills. My heart hurts that so many are in need, especially older folk and young children who might have to go without as much food or keep the thermostat really low to make what fuel they have last as long as possible. One home was keeping their heat at 55.
Zwingli knows not all can help, even some of us might be struggling too. But let us do what we can. These cold winter days are a good time to clean out our cupboards of foods we don’t need or use and donate them to the food pantry. Or if able, buy a few extra so your neighbor can have a hot meal. Make a big pot of soup and share it with a neighbor or family in the area.
Also, if you want to donate to the People in Need Fund, just write a check out to the Martinsburg Ministerium and earmark it PIN. The food pantry will take monetary donations as well. You can turn it in with your offering and Pastor Mary will see that it gets where it needs to go.
As Believers, this is what I, Zwingli, thinks we are to do. When we invite Christ into our hearts, we take on His Ways and let go of the worldly way of living. So let us give as we are able, help when and where we are able. Let us be the hands and feet of Christ. Even more so, let us be His heart. Let us spill his love out of our hearts and change the world around us. Stay warm everyone! Stay safe. Most of all pray. Pray for our country, our government and for all those in need. Now, let’s get those cupboards cleaned out! Oh my, Zwingli thinks he has more chestnuts than he can eat! Some of those can go in the box!
Think Spring, but enjoy the beauty of the snow while it is here!
Somedays, my mind is mush! Nothing makes sense in my little squirrel brain. My comprehension is nil and my mind goes blank. Evasive questions swirl in my mind but no answers are to be had, perhaps because the questions aren’t even clear. There seems to be so much noise in the world today that sometimes I feel like I am squirrel taffy and being pulled in different directions! Who do I believe? How am I to be?
I tried something Pastor Mary does at times and randomly opened my Bible. My eyes fell on a passage in Mark Chapter 8. It is Entitled “Beware of the Leaven of the Pharisees and Herod” It begins at verse 13 but my eyes landed on the red letters –(red always catches my eye!) highlighting words Jesus spoke beginning at verse 17 and this is what they say:
“Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up? They said to Him, “Twelve”. “Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up? And they said. “Seven” So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?”
How is it you do not understand? Well, people, there are days, Zwingli doesn’t understand – what about you? There are days when I, Zwingli, reason with myself but don’t get anywhere!. My answers are trite and empty. I have such a squirrely little brain!
As I sat with these words of Jesus, I Zwingli thought – Are those days, like today, when nothing makes sense and there are no answers to my questions, because I have allowed the “Leaven” of the world take over my mind and heart causing a spiritual deafness and blindness? Am I allowing the darkness of this world to shadow my hope and trust in Christ and his teachings? Are the fears of the world interfering with my understanding of your promises? Voices of “Take care of you first and be wary of those who are different – they are out to get you”, bounce against your words of “Love your neighbor, care for the poor and ill, welcome the stranger.” Even God’s own words are used to discredit the words of Christ? “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” But then Jesus gleaned grain on the Sabbath and also healed on the Sabbath. So what do we make of that?
Well, in my squirrely brain, or perhaps in my heart, I Zwingli figure that Christ wins out. That it is what He taught that I should take as truth. Not that I am dismissing the teaching of the Old Testament, but isn’t that one of the reasons God sent His son; to show us how to live as the children of God? Jesus came to fulfill the law and make it possible for us to be forgiven and made right with God. So, from now on, I Zwingli will listen to the voices, but then ask myself – “What would Jesus do?” Am I to think of those less fortunate for whatever reason and dismiss them or does Jesus call me to reach out and help? Am I to think that some people aren’t worth loving or does Jesus call me to love as He loves me? I guess that is the answer to my squirrely questions that come up when differing voices are being spoken – listen to the words of Jesus and do as He would do.
Ok! My little brain hurts from all that thinking!! I Zwingli and now going to go and do something to help others. I heard the food pantry needs help, I think I will scamper over there!
See you all on Sunday!
Zwingli – who lives in this world but is not of this world.
Whewwwww! So glad we found a new home for Ms Skunk and some of her family. I don’t know what led her to take up residence in our window well. Perhaps she was chased out by weather or humans and this seemed the only safe place for her and her little ones. But truth be known, she was not really protected by the elements nor from predators. I was really worried about them. I wasn’t even sure they were getting adequate nourishment or water to drink in this hot weather. I am glad the Game Warden was able to help, although not all the babies made it 🙁
You know, that happens to all of us, animals and humans alike. Sometimes we have to leave our homes and have no place to live. Sometimes it is because a force of nature has come along, like fire or flooding or tornado’s and hurricanes. Sometimes because of war, famine or loss of income. When this happens it is so sad. Some people are lucky and can move in with family until they can find somewhere to go, but many end-up like Ms. Skunk and her family. They just make do wherever they can and some don’t make it at all.
Here in our country, we do not like to think that there are people who have no place to live. We try to justify their conditions by blaming them, saying it is their own fault. I, Zwingli thinks that that is not the case most of the time. Situations happen and people fall through the cracks of the system and end up living in cars, alley ways, even in the sewers or on the streets and some die because they have no food or shelter.
I am so glad that we, here at St. John’s made an effort to find Ms. Skunk and her family a place to live. I am also happy that we have a donation box for the Disaster Fund, which helps people that are displaced by natural causes. And, we give to missions that help people too, like the food pantry, Dragon backpacks or like when we collected shoes and purses and made personal care packages and layettes. All these things help people who are in the same situation as Mrs. Skunk and her family was. Doesn’t it make you feel good that others have a better life because of what we, here at St. John’s do and give, along with our conference and national church.
For me, Zwingli, seeing Ms. Skunk struggling to provide decent shelter and food for her family, made me realize how fortunate I am to have a home here with all of you. I am safe and warm and well fed – in body and spirit. There are too many that are not.
So, I was thinking, what more could we be doing to help people who are struggling? What kind of things might benefit them the most? Perhaps we could pray on this. If you think of an idea, run it by Pastor Mary. Nothing is to great or small when you feel hopeless. I, Zwingli think, that by living this kind of ministry, we are following what Jesus said we should do, “love your neighbor as yourself. It must have been very important to Jesus, he said it many times – you can find these words in Mark 12:31; Matthew 5:43; 19:19; 22:39 and in Luke 10:27. Yes, very important words for us indeed!
Let us continue to find ways to love our neighbor! Oh, look, my neighbor came to take me for coffee! How kind of her!
Your neighbor, Zwingli!
Wow! We have had some really cold weather over the past month! Snow and ice and freezing rain and temperatures so cold, I was afraid to go out! I want to thank all of you who put out bird seed and other food. Winters can be tough on some, food hard to acquire. Some aren’t as fortunate as I am to live indoors. Really makes me realize how blessed I am!
But now, Easter has come and we are reminded of how much God loves us. He sacrificed his son for us. I cannot imagine! It causes me to think about how much I give up for others. If God could give up his son to live an earthly life and die a horrible earthly death, so that we could have eternal life, so we could experience God’s grace in our lives, surely out of my love and gratitude for God, I, Zwingli could give of myself so others could get a glimpse of what God would do for them!
I love the story in the beginning of John Chapter 21 where the disciples are hiding out, not knowing what to do, so they go and do old familiar things – they go fishing. But Jesus doesn’t leave them in that state for too long. He appears before them and reminds them that they are to fish for people. That they need to cast their nets and gather people and teach them about God’s love and about the teachings of Jesus.
Did you know that once you believe in Christ, you become a disciple and you too have a purpose? As a disciple, as you develop a relationship with Christ, you are to be a reflection of Christ. A role model of what it looks like to be transformed by his love and grace. That means that we have to put ourselves on the back burner and put others ahead of us, trusting, as Jesus did, that God will provide all we need to accomplish our ministry.
It is not easy to integrate that mind set for and into our lives. The worldly ways are powerful and are constantly telling us that we need to put ourselves first, but that is not the way of Christ! Jesus constantly reminds us to trust in God; to lean not on our own understanding but to seek his will for every situation in our lives.
I, Zwingli, have struggled with this but as time goes on, I find myself leaning more and more on God. Watching each of you on your faith journey has helped strengthen mine. I think that is God’s plan! For us to help each other, lift each other up and be a shining example for others.
Well, I have rambled enough and the weather outside isn’t frightful anymore, so I am going out to meet some of my friends! Christ is Risen! God is good!
Lent is here already! And Easter is in March! And Pentecost is in mid May! Oh My! Can you believe it! But— I guess I am getting ahead of myself.
First we have to walk through Lent. I think it is good that Lent comes during the cold season of Winter, because, we spend more time indoors and perhaps have more time for introspection and reflection.
My picture in this newsletter tells you what I will be doing. Lent is a time to prepare my heart and to do that I first have to confess. Confession is hard. I think I am a pretty cool squirrel, but I am not perfect. I know you are surprised, but I am not. I sometimes have ill feelings towards my squirrel friends and towards some humans. I tend to hold grudges and I go through periods of time when my prayer life and my Bible Study suffer. All this I must confess and ask Jesus to forgive me and help me forgive and forget and to put me back on the right path.
It is only by doing that, that I can appreciate all that Jesus went through. Jesus did not sin, like I do. But he took on my sin and died for me, so that I can be forgiven. This is a hard concept to understand. That is why I need to keep my mind sharp and to talk with others about these things. On my own, I tend to come up with even stranger concepts, then the unconditional love of God!
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent. I hope you gather for the service, confess your sins, receive the ashes, drink of the new wine of Christ and enter into a season of prayer.
This is my prayer: “To those I may have wronged, I ask forgiveness. To those I helped, I wish I had done more. To those I neglected to help, I asked for understanding. To those who have helped me, I sincerely thank you very much.” I hope it will be yours.
Looking forward to the other side of Lent – Easter, when we, with hearts clean and clear, can celebrate the Risen Lord.
From Death to Life through the Blood of Christ,
Zwingli’s Branch . . .
Ahhhh! Nothing like a warm mug of hot chocolate on cold day! I was thinking, as I was here sipping my hot chocolate, that as much as I complain about cold dreary winter days, I kind of enjoy just sitting for a change! It seems I am always running here and there and having to do this and that, especially during the holidays, that it is good just “to be!”
What do you ponder on, when you finally slow down enough and give your mind the gift of pondering? As I was sitting here, I was watching the birds. They are interesting to watch! Do you notice how they fly in tandem? They swoop and swirl, land and take off with such precision sometimes. How and why do they do that? Well, that is what got me thinking on the how’s and why’s of the things we do here at St. John’s.
Why do we feed people every month? Why do we open the doors on Hallowed Eve? Why do we invite preschoolers and have a party for them? Why do we collect food for the Food Pantry? Why? What do we gain from doing those things? It seems that it is just a lot of work – – and for what? I don’t see people coming in our doors and sitting in our pews. I haven’t heard that the church bank account started rising? Perhaps these are things that are unnecessary? After all, it would give us more time to sit and contemplate and sip hot chocolate, wouldn’t it?
Then I remembered something Jesus said in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 14:12-14:
“When you put on a dinner,” he said, “don’t invite friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors! For they will return the invitation. 13 Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 Then at the resurrection of the godly, God will reward you for inviting those who can’t repay you.”
So, that is it!– we don’t do it for ourselves, for our personal or monetary gain, we do these things because Christ calls us to reach out and touch people’s lives, to build a relationship with them. To show compassion, to bring joy, and to show them how much God loves them. To share the Good News that Christ came to bring.
Hmmm, this hot chocolate is really good! Sorry! As I am thinking about this, I do get something out of doing these things! I get what I give! When I participate in these ministries, I receive joy and blessings myself!
Boy, am I glad I had this time just to relax and remember why I do the things I do! How blessed am I!
Well, I pray that this winter brings you opportunities to rest and of course, enjoy a warm cup of hot chocolate – perhaps you could invite someone to have a cup with you!
Winter Blessings, Zwinglie!