Reflections on A Charlie Brown Christmas

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 43

December 14, 2020

Reflections on A Charlie Brown Christmas

A while ago I was asked what my favorite Christmas movie was. My answer is simple. I have two. My favorite is “The Nativity Story” from 2006 and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” from 1965. I love the Nativity Story because it is a very realistic, and historical view of Jesus birth. I love “A Charlie Brown Christmas” because it shows how we as imperfect people, in an imperfect world, find the joy of Christmas through focusing on “the true meaning of Christmas,” the love of God reflected in Christ’s birth.

Charlie Brown, of course, is a lovable loser. He never does anything right. He is constantly bullied by Lucy. Nothing ever seems to go right for him. Now, at Christmas, he can’t quite find himself to be in a joyful mood. Everyone else is happy, but he is not. Reluctantly he agrees to participate in all of the “programming.” He is appointed to direct the Christmas play. Of course, as is the case of Charlie Brown’s life, this doesn’t go very well either. He is in a worse mood than ever.

Linus, forever the prophetic voice, gives Charlie Brown sage advice. He tells Charlie Brown that he has to focus on the “true meaning of Christmas.” That is, of course, God’s love for us in the birth of Christ in a manger. Linus reads this to Charlie Brown from Luke’s gospel. When Charlie Brown is able to hear Luke’s gospel he is then able to celebrate Christmas and join in the singing of “Hark The Herald Angels Sing.” It is a community celebration where everyone’s importance is affirmed.

Our world, like that of Charlie Brown, is not perfect. There are times when we are bullied and feel like a loser. Sometimes the celebrations around us make us feel worse about ourselves because we don’t feel festive. Job loses make us doubt our self-worth. Now we worry about disease and some of us mourn the loss of loved ones. We feel inadequate and out of control.

And yet, if we focus on the story of God’s love, instead of the cares of this world, we will be ready to rejoice. I invite you to read the Christmas story again. Or, better yet, come to church in person, or online, and hear it again surrounded by your neighbors. What does Christmas mean? It means that God loves you enough to be born in a manger to share life with you. Share it with him and you too with feel like rejoicing this Christmas.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Christmas

#ChristmasMovies                                                   #CharlieBrown

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book:https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 42

December 7, 2020

An Advent Tragedy

On Saturday a beloved and historic church was ruined from a fire. The church, Middle Collegiate Church in New York City has been a Christian presence in New York City since its founding in 1628 and has been in continuous Christian service since then. The congregation built a new building and moved to its current location, in the East Village of New York City in 1891.

The fire began in an abandoned building that was next to, and attached to the church building. The fire quickly spread. Fires do spread quickly through shared walls. The fire department ultimately called in six alarms to fight the fire and to protect other buildings in the area. Unfortunately, the fire too rapidly to save the church building.

I am not a member of this congregation but I have had the pleasure of worshiping there on several occasions. It is a very spirited place with lively and worship that accepts all kinds of people from many walks of life. The pastor, ministerial staff, and members are true credits to God’s kingdom. The building was also beautiful and the destruction of this historic and elegant building makes me sad. I don’t believe that any new construction will rival the beauty of the one that was destroyed.

And yet, the church continues. The church is not a building. The church is a gathering of Christ’s people and this will continue. Rev. Dr. Jacqueline J. Lewis, who is the pastor of the church, assured viewers on the local television news that worship will continue online. This has been the method of worship since the beginning of the corona plague. She further assured viewers that the programs of the congregation would continue despite the loss of the building.

This is a sad day for this congregation as well as for all of us who loved and respected their work. Now it is simply time to pray for this congregation that God will lead it, and its leadership toward a bright and faithful future.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #MiddleCollegiateChurch

#ChurchFire                                                              #RevDrJacquelineLewis

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book:https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

God’s Ripples of Mission

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 41

November 30, 2020

God’s Ripples of Mission

From the beginning of the Corona plague until mid-October, we held our worship service only on-line. We held a re-opening on October 15. How this happened was that in September a number of church members requested this. These members were tired of worshiping on a computer screen. We posted the re-opening date on our church sign and without knowing it, opened a path to a whole new mission.

Anna, an immigrant to our area from Honduras, works in our area and saw our sign announcing our in-person worship. She came to join us for worship and then became part of our Wednesday’s Women (prayer) Warriors. During a meeting of this group, she shared her concerns about the twin hurricanes, Eta and Iota, that battered her homeland. She came here to seek better opportunities, much like many of our parents and grandparents did. Yet, she still has many families and friends in Honduras that she worries about. Many people that she knows in her hometown lost everything.

Quickly the Wednesday’s Women decided that they wanted to organize a mission to help Anna’s friends and relatives. In concert with our mission chairwoman, they devised a way to collect and ship donated relief items. Of course, our members responded and we received large amounts of donations to help relieve the Honduran suffering.

This evening is the time that we will be packing the donations and getting them ready for shipment. That will be, possibly, only the first of a number of donated shipments.

Can you see God’s hand in this? Members got discontented, the consistory responded, a woman sees our announcement, she joins us, Christian women are moved to help, and faithful Christians respond. I am sure that God had a hand in this. Now dozens of people will be blessed because of this chain of events. We cannot underestimate the little things that God can use. God is wonderfully at work in the world. May we always be so willing to respond to these opportunities.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Honduras

#HurricaneVictims                                                    #Missions

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Dozens blessed from throw-aways

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 40

November 23, 2020

Dozens blessed from throw-aways

Not so long ago I received a phone call from a woman in the church. She works at MPS Enterprises, a marketing company. Frequently this company has food products for their use. What to do when the company no longer has a use for these foods? Well, this woman asked me if I knew anyone who might be able to use Turkey Breasts and Hams that might her company could no longer use. The food would either be used by someone or it would have to be disposed of. Do I know anyone who can use food? I certainly do.

Pam has an office at St. Matthew’s Lutheran church in Hoboken. This congregation hosted a feeding program for the homeless in their town. Since Corona, the feeding room has been closed. Instead of indoor feeding these homeless people are given bagged lunches for their daily food. The pastor there was sending out an urgent request for people to donate lunches.

In Boonton, the First Reformed Church of Boonton runs a food pantry. They get a great amount of canned goods and bread but are often lacking in fresh meats. I asked the pastor there if the pantry could use some meats. Of course, she was interested.

I carved the meats. Pam made a box load of sandwiches for Hoboken where dozens of homeless were fed. The remainder of the meats were packaged in zip lock bags and sent to Boonton where dozens of families received fresh meat. Such sandwiches and meat packs would not be meaningful to those of us with good incomes and comfortable lives but they can literally mean life or death to economically vulnerable people All of this came from one woman who could not stand to see good meat thrown away, MPS Enterprises, and a few people doing a few hours of work.

A few people with a few hours can make a world of difference to those who need our help the most. Let us celebrate this good work and find new ways to bless those who need our blessing.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #MPSEnterprises

#StMatthewsLutheran                                             #FirstReformedChurchBoonton

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

A Christian Village at its best

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 39

November 16, 2020

A Christian Village at its best

I received an email recently from Family Promise. This is the group that, among other things, coordinates feeding of homeless as well as economically insecure people in our area. Several times a year our congregation cooks, transports and serves food to these needy people. We have been doing this for decades. This email was a bit tentative, asking if we were still willing and able to do the serving at this time. Apparently many groups who do this have not been doing it because of Corona. Of course, I know our faithful people and confidently told the folks from Family Promise that we would be there.

Procedures because of the virus have changed. We no longer can serve people in the shelter. Those who lived there have been housed in hotels. Others who live on their own but in the past have come for dinner now come to get take-out dinners. In short, we now prepared food for take-outs instead of people eating in. Yet our faithful folks did what they always do; rise to the occasion. This blog is a shout-out to these people.

Deacon Judy did the shopping along with her son, JR.

Deacons Dave and Barbara came to do the cooking.

Elder Marilyn baked and packaged 100 bags of cookies. She has been doing the cookies as long as anyone can remember.

Deacon Barbara made another 50 bags of homemade cookies.

Deacon Judy and her husband, Norman, packaged the rolls along with butter packets.

Of course, Lillian prepared and packaged all of equipment that we would need. She also has been doing this for years.

A shining star this year was Michael. Michael loves doing this work and wishes that we did it more often. To make sure that he could do it, he took a week’s vacation off from work. He did the reheating of the food, mixed the salad, transported the food and helped me serve the food into the take-out containers.

Our efforts fed almost 150 hungry people. Well done, Christian Village of Clinton Avenue Reformed Church. You did well.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #FamilyPromise

#Missions

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book:https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 38

November 9, 2020

Another Covid-19 Lose

During the early Corona Virus surge I learned of two Reformed Church mentors who died of Corona. This week I learned of another Reformed Church Christian gentleman who died of this virus. He was Dr. Gordon Van Wylen who was the  president of Hope College during my years there. His death was not really a shock to anyone, he was 100 years old. Yet hearing of his death stirred up many wonderful memories of him.

I was quite a troubled person when I began Hope. I was still finding my identity and hadn’t quite surrendered my life to Jesus. When I met president Van Wylen I saw a role model for what I, and all of us students could strive to imitate. He had the ability to be dignified and profession, and yet humble and engaging with students.

I recall my first winter during my freshman year of Hope College walking through the center of campus. We called it the “Pine Grove.” A group of students were having a snowball fight which was not unusual in western Michigan. Dr. Van Wylen was leaving the administration building to cross the Pine Grove to his campus home. Rather than be put off by the snowball fight, he joined in. I was impressed with his throwing accuracy! As students we loved how he related to us.

It was a yearly custom at Hope to hold “mid-night breakfasts” during finals weeks. The faculty and administration served them at mid-night each evening during the week to accommodate late night studiers. During my first experience with this I was served hash browns by Dr. Van Wylen. I thanked him and he looked me straight in the eye before telling me, “the only thanks I want is for you to do well on your exams.” I really felt that he cared for me personally.

In later years I worked banquets for our campus food service. For this job I was the organizer and waiter for a number of coffee hours, lunches and dinners at his grand home. At the end of each event when I was cleaning up and preparing to take dirty dishes to the cafeteria for washing he never failed to come in the kitchen and thank me for my work. One time, when I was apologetic for upsetting a goblet of water, he looked at me and told me, “don’t think about it. There are many more important things than a spilled beverage.”

He was a wonderful role model. I wish that I had grown to be the man that he was. Perhaps I can come closer in the decades to come. God blessed the world with the life of Dr. Van Wylen. The world is a little bit less without him. Thousands of us are better people from knowing him and now that he is gone I thank God that he was part of my life if only for four years.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #HopeCollege

#DrGordonVanWylen

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book:https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Election Day Rant

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 37

November 2, 2020

Election Day Rant

Tomorrow is election day and this is my annual blog rant about voting and elections. It bothers me that many people do not vote. Voting is one of the greatest rights that we have. Why don’t all of us take advantage of it? It took a long time for many people to gain this right to vote.

When our nation was first founded only white men who owned land. No matter what race one was, it had been required that one own land to vote. Now that this requirement is not necessary, would it not behoove non-landowners to celebrate this by voting?

It took a major war for black men to gain the right to vote. It is estimated that 618,000 men died in the Civil War in order to gain voting rights for black men. Later, to overcome discriminatory laws, it took a major civil rights movement with many victims of violence, including murders to get this right. It is sad that more black men don’t vote.

Women’s suffrage also took the work of thousands of marchers and demonstrators. They too were often victims of violence. Finally, it happened. Women  got the right to vote. Statistically women still are the majority of voters, yet not even close to all of them vote. After the violence and imprisonments that came to make women voting possible, don’t women disrespect these pioneering women by not voting?

Every election year I think of my friend Linda, an immigrant from Haiti. She told me of voting in her home country where one voted with a soldier pointing a gun to the voters head in order to make sure that the vote is cast for the “proper” candidate. She loves secret ballots and gets angry that more people in the United States don’t vote.

For the sake of all of the people who marched, were imprisoned, and were victims of violence, please vote. That is the best way that we can thank, and show respect for those who won for us the right to vote.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Voting

#Elections

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 37

October 26, 2020

In Appreciation…

Recently a church member took one of her frequent trips to the Amish country near Lancaster, PA. I asked her to bring me back a chicken pot pie. I love chicken pot pie and have a special affection for those from the Amish country. She brought me one back, but refused to allow me to reimburse her. She told me that this was “pastor appreciation month” and that this was a gift. I enjoyed the pie, and it felt good to receive a token of appreciation.

It is always nice to feel appreciated. I wonder why I don’t express appreciation more to those around me. I’m not ungrateful for the things people do for me but there are times when I get busy enough with life that I forget to show appreciation to them. It is a failing that I have at times. I get used to the good service that I receive and overlook showing true appreciation. Perhaps this is a growing spiritual edge for me; to be more appreciative of those around me and the fine services they perform for myself and others.

While we are showing appreciation. Perhaps we should show more appreciation for God. It is, after all,  God that gives us our very lives and has made us who we are with all the gifts and talents that we have. Yes, we have worked hard for what we have received and yet it is God who has set up our potential. Have we shown appreciation to God.

How does one show appreciation to God. Shall we buy God a Lancaster chicken pot pie? How about sending God a greeting card? Shall we buy God a dozen roses? What would show proper appreciation to God for all that we have received? Perhaps we should show appreciation by doing what Jesus, God on earth in human form, told us to do. He told us to obey the ten commandments and to share what we have with those who have less. Do we appreciate what God has done for us? Let us show some appreciation by doing these things.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Gratitude

#Caringforothers

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

A Feline Grief Circle

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 36

October 19, 2020

A Feline Grief Circle

About nine years ago we adopted two cats. They were sisters. We got them from a local group that fosters abused and neglected and it was a young woman in our congregation who initially fostered them and made them comfortable with people. They were timid when they first came to be with us. One took months to really socialize. Any loud noise would startle them. Clearly they had endured abuse as tiny kittens.

One at a time two other cats came to join us. These two were boys. They had different life experiences than the girl cats. They mixed well with people and were much more social. Eventually one of the girls, joined in the revelry but the other stayed to herself, usually under the bed. She would be friendly enough when she saw me, but never interacted in the same way as the others. Three cats interacted. One stayed to herself.

This changed just a few days ago. The non-social cat, named Calvin even though she was a girl, looked ill and had a weak meow, not that she ever meowed much. I didn’t think much of it. I’ve seen ill cats before and they always get over it in a day or two. The following day I knew that it was serious. Each day all four cats would greet me when I arrived home. On this particular evening only three greeted me and they seemed subdued. I was worried about Calvin and began to search for her. The other three followed me, keeping subdued but accompanying me. They seemed to know more than I did.

I found her under the bed, where she usually stayed, but this evening she was dead. The other three cats sat quietly as I retrieved her body and prepared for her final disposal. The cats, usually rowdy, sat in a line, somber, somehow looking like it was a sacred moment for them. Even though she never interacted much with them, her death was a moment of grief for them. I wonder if we humans need to learn something from these felines.

We live in a world where too often malnourished people die and others overeat. Many folks in our world hold other cheaply and kill for crime, or seemingly, no reason at all. “Honor killings” occur in other parts of the world which seem dishonorable to me. Wars ravage the world, sometimes for honorable reasons and sometimes not, but leaving dead humans regardless.

My cats seemed to honor life by the way they respected death. I hope that we humans learn to do so also.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Death

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

The Lesser of Evils or Putting God To The Test

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 35

October 12, 2020

The Lesser of Evils or Putting God To The Test

“Did you get your flu shot?” This is a question that gets asks by friends every year about this time. My answer has always been “no.” I am a bit superstitious about flu shots. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s I knew three people who developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Each of them nearly died and each of them suffered from this syndrome ten days after receiving the flu shot. When I made this connection, many people told me that this was a coincidence. I didn’t believe that about a three for three relationship. Now literature on the flu shots confirm that there is a small chance of getting Guillain-Barre from the flu shot. My observation years ago was correct.

Now we live in the age of the Corona Virus. Some folks I know say that this, coupled with the flu season will really make for a deadly combination. Other folks are saying that this year the flu season will be minimal since we are all wearing masks and that flu is transmitted through the mouth in a similar way that Corona is. Which is true? I don’t know.

I do know that the healthier we are, the better we can protect ourselves from Corona. Overall health is one of the best defenses against this illness and one of the ways that we can keep a Corona infection from becoming fatal. In this time of Corona, I wondered if it was worth the small risk of Guillain-Barre if I get a broader protection against Covid-19. This year it seems like the lesser of evils this year.

All of our lives we walk a careful balance between trusting God but not putting him to the test by doing foolish things. It is not always easy to make the proper and prudent decisions but we do things, thoughtfully, trusting God, with sober consideration.

Yes, this year I got a flu shot. It was the first of my life. Our town was giving free flu shots, funded by the state, and distributed in a local park by personnel supplied by our town health department. It was my pleasure to see Pat August, our town nurse while I was there. Will this be a guarantee against flu? No, but it is prudent. Will it guarantee that I won’t get Corona? No, but it is prudent to keep my health strong. Will it give me Guillain-Barre? I hope not but in this time of Corona it seems like it is worth taking this small chance.

We live in a fallen world. Often we are forced to choose the lesser of evils. Let us make our choices well, be prudent, and never put God to the test.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Guillain-BarreSyndrome

#FluVaccine                                                              #PatriciaAugust

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/