Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 15

April 12, 2021

My NY Mets Sabbatical and Return

I took a sabbatical from the Mets last year. I only watched two games and felt completely un-excited. I even completely skipped watching any of the World Series. I’m not quite sure why but I have a few ideas.

Maybe it was the beginning of the Corona-19 crisis. We all got a little preoccupied with that and how to stay alive and still maintain the most normal life that was possible for us.

Perhaps it was grief. Early on in our plague two of my mentors died of Covid-19, and my sister died of a sudden heart attack. Perhaps in my grief, I was not ready to enjoy the game. I think that my sister’s death especially took away my baseball joy. She was the biggest Met fan in the world. After she died I knew that we would never talk about the Mets again.

Another possibility was the delay in the season. In my mind, the first baseball games are to start with crisp, spring air. Last year the season was delayed until July, and then we didn’t get to hear fans cheer, boo, and rebuke the players and umpires.

Now I am back and enjoying baseball once more. My Mets sabbatical is over and I am, again, loving baseball games. I’m back and it almost feels as though I never left watching games. Sometimes we just need a break from things to enjoy how good they are when we return.

During this pandemic, and our improvement of on-line worship, I am noticing that folks who have been apart from the church are re-engaging online. For whatever reason, some folks felt the need to distance but are now returning. I am thrilled to see them back. Welcome home! It doesn’t matter why you felt the need to leave it is good to see you re-engaging. I hope that you will again feel the peace and joy of worship that you once knew. I pray that your return will be a blessing to you. If there is any way that I can make your return a blessing, please let me know. It is a thrill to have your Church sabbatical at and end and to see you back once more.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                   

#BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                  

#NYMets

#ChurchDistancing                                                 

#ChurchReturn

#Sabbatical                                                              

#WelcomeHome

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

If you were Pontius Pilate what would you have done?

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 14

April 5, 2021

If you were Pontius Pilate what would you have done?

I was raised to hate Pontius Pilate. For me, Good Friday was a day to trash-talk pilate and condemn his action. If you did not grow up with Bible stories, he is the Roman Governor, appointed by Caesar, who condemned Jesus to be crucified. I was taught that he was the worst human in history. When I grew up and studied the politics of the time of Jesus I began to wonder if this was completely true. Would any of us have done the same thing given the same circumstances?

Pilate was Governor of Judea, the southern part of Israel. Under his reign there had been two Jewish riots. He knew that riots cost the lives of many people. On Good Friday, Pilate was facing a riot, instigated by the temple elite, if he did not sentence Jesus to die. How many people would have died in those riots. Perhaps Pilate reasoned that to kill one person would save hundreds or even thousands. Would we do the same thing?

We fight wars under the assumption that more people would die without a war to end abuse and murder. Had someone killed Hitler in 1938, perhaps thirty million people would not have died in World War II. We dropped two atomic bombs on Japan under the assumption that killing two hundred thousand people would save one million lives who would have died in the invasion of Japan.

Police officers fire upon active shooters under the assumption that killing the shooter will save numerous lives. Wouldn’t any one of us seek to kill an assailant to rescue our loved ones from potential death?

This action of Pilate is not all that unique. He chose to kill one for the sake of saving others. Something others do, and we frequently endorse this. Good Friday isn’t about condemning Pilate. It is about thanking Jesus for volunteering for his death. Perhaps if we had been in Pilate’s circumstance we might have done just what he did.

I hope that we contemplate this during this Holy Season.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Christ-like

#Lent                                                                          #HolyWeek

#Perfection                                                                #Self-improvement

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

Perfection! Not!

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 13

March 29, 2021

Perfection! Not!

What is your credit rating? Is it good? Is it great? A gentleman I knew in New York State told me once that he thought credit checks should be made on all ministerial candidates. According to him, a credit score was the best indicator of emotional and spiritual health. Since he told me this, I have been striving to maintain a good credit score. I’ve done well but never was able to reach 850, the top score. No matter how I try I can’t get to that number. This month my score topped out at 849. So close but not perfect. I was a bit annoyed that I hadn’t quite reached my goal.

This quest reminds me of other aspects of my life as well. I was a B and C student, unlike my sister who received all A’s. I asked why I should strive so hard for A’s if I never got them. A mentor told me that the only way we do the best we can is to strive for something even higher. It is striving for A’s that got me B’s. Can you imagine how low my grades would be if I wasn’t trying for A’s?

One of the things I struggle with in our modern media is that there seems to be few attempts at showing people at their best. Through our language and coarse behavior, we seem to be striving for the lowest common denominator. Do we as individuals strive to be our best or are we settling for bad behavior and manners instead of trying to elevate ourselves to something better?

Holy Week has now begun and Lent is ending. Every season, but especially in Lent, Christians strive to become more Christ-like. We never get there, so why should we strive? We are  not that great a Christian now but could you imagine how bad we would be if we wasn’t trying so hard? Striving to be better people isn’t a bad thing. Is it?

No, I will never reach perfection but that doesn’t mean that I will stop trying. It is the striving for better that makes us as good as we are. Are you striving to be more Christ-like? How can you improve if you do not try? Let us all work to help one another imitate Christ more. We won’t be perfect but we shall certainly be better people for this quest.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Christ-like

#Lent                                                                          #HolyWeek

#Perfection                                                                #Self-improvement

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

Food Bags on Hotel Doors

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 12

March 22, 2021

Food Bags on Hotel Doors

Most of us have stayed in hotels from time to time. Usually on vacations. Yes, the room get crowded but on vacation who stays in the room for any length of time? There are places to go and things to see. Who wants to spend a lot of time in the hotel room. Pretty much they all look alike.

I do remember a few vacation days in hotel rooms when it was too rainy to do very much. The girls were bored. There is only so much television that you can watch. Those days seemed to last forever.

Can you imagine a small hotel room being your home? How about the home for a family? Recently a group of us from church supplied the meal for Family Promise in Hackensack. Our congregation has participated in this mission for decades. When I first arrived more than fourteen years ago, I was told that this was an important mission of the church and it was required that the pastor participate. Meals were served in the Bergen County Shelter. I always felt good after feeding hungry people. It gave us all a warm feeling. Now, because of Covid-19, meals are no longer served in the shelter. They are packaged and delivered to the homeless, now housed in area hotels.

I was part of a team that delivered these meals. We went room to room in two different hotels placing food bags on doorknobs, knocking on doors and yelling, “dinner.” A number of residents came out and graciously thanked us. At one room, we left four dinners. It was explained to me that a whole family was living in that room. My heart sank with that news. It is one thing to be single and homeless and another to be homeless with a family. I have been fortunate enough never to have had such an experience.

When I went home I didn’t feel quite so good about my endeavors at feeding the homeless. I was haunted by the fact that I returned to my warm and comfortable home while a family with children lived in a single room. Suddenly my efforts did not seem so significant. It is good that this experience happened in Lent. It reminds me that no matter how hard I try, I am still not righteous. I live in relative luxury while other still live on the edge of survival.

I guess on my Lenten journey toward being Christ-like I still have quite a way to go.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #FamilyPromise

#Hunger                                                                     #Homeless

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

A Jewish, Franciscan, Calvinist Conspiracy

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 11

March 15, 2021

A Jewish, Franciscan, Calvinist Conspiracy

The conspiracy happened right under our noses but most of us did not see it until it was almost over. Now I am revealing the truth of this well-conceived and well-performed scheme.

It began a few years ago as Barbara Blumberg, who is Jewish, became an active participant in soliciting donations for needy people in the area. The law firm where Barbara works had participated in these donation collections before but Barbara expanded it by her aggressive solicitation. Eventually, she began her own collection by bargain shopping at stores following each holiday. She brings bargain hunting to a new level, often taking advantage of 90% off sales.

Soon Barbara needed new places to donate to. Through the Bergen County Volunteer Center she became connected with the Franciscan Community Development Center of Fairview. Thus, a woman born into a Jewish family was partnering with members of an old and established Catholic order. But the conspiracy was not yet completed. Barbara ran out of room in her apartment and requested space in our physical plant. This space we were happy to grant. And thus, the final part of the conspiracy was completed.

This year for Easter Barbara assembled 160 Easter Baskets (bags). The Franciscans arrived to pick up one hundred of them. Where did the remainder go? They went to the Teaneck Food Bank and the Passaic County CASA for Children. In addition to these bags, 80 pair of children’s Easter socks and twenty stuffed animals were also distributed.

And so, the conspiracy was successful in blessing neighbors during this holy time. This was done, of course by the work and money of Barbara and her group conspirators. What a wonderful ecumenical work this was. May God continue to bless this mission.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #FrancisanCommunityDevelopment

#Chairty                                                                     #Generosity

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

The Pope Visits Iraqi

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 10

March 8, 2021

The Pope Visits Iraqi

I was surprised and amazed to hear last week that Pope Francis was visiting Iraqi. I never thought that such a visit could ever possibly happen. I can only hope that his presence in the nation as well as his meetings with Muslim leaders will be catalysts to a Christian population in Iraqi that will be thriving once more.

Thriving? Yes, thriving. Although a minority religion, there has been a thriving Christian population in Iraqi since the first century! Before our nation went to war with Iraqi, a number of Reformed Church Middle Eastern missionaries lobbied our government, and asked the Reformed Church in America, to lobby against military action. These missionaries felt that an invasion of Iraqi would be detrimental to the Christian population there. This prediction has proven to be quite accurate.

According to a report from “The Telegraph,” a gentleman named Saadallah Rassam, is the last Christian resident in the old City of Mosul. This town once had 50,000 Christians. Most of these Christians fled at the time after the war as Saddam Hussein’s grip on the country slipped and Islamic militants took control. As bad as Saddam was, he kept some of these militant groups under control and the Christian population was relatively safe with these groups under control.

Now the Iraqi state army is in control and the power of the militant groups has waned. What is left is a greatly diminished Christian population and many ancient churches destroyed through warfare. In the case of old Mosul, there is one Christian remaining and no standing churches. How tragic that the Christian population was “collateral damage” to our invasion of Iraqi.

Now, with the visit of Pope Francis, there is hope for proper treatment for Iraqi Christians. Even prior to his trip there has been a joint effort by Muslim and Christian groups to rebuild many of Iraqi’s ancient churches. Let us pray that the work of Pope Francis will led to the rejuvenation of a Christian presence in that nation. Currently it is practically vacant for the first time since the first century. Perhaps this can now change.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #PopeFrancis

#Iraqi                                                                          #ChristianIraqis

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

2021 Blog Number 9

March 1, 2021

Trauma in Boonton

My daughter, Rev. Leah Ennis participated in a memorial “drop-in” vigil in Boonton, the town where she pastors the First Reformed Church of Boonton. The whole town is in grief because of a tragedy that the town suffered. I hope that everyone reading this will be praying for a grief-stricken family as well as the town of Boonton.

Something horrible happened in that small town. A mother and her two sons went to the local park to feed ducks. Area residents report that this was common for the three of them. These three came there to relax. They were struggling with life as the husband and father of the family struggles with stage four cancer and the park is a pleasant place to relax, feed the ducks, and forget their troubles.

During this last trip, which proved fatal, the older boy, just 11 years old, slipped into the water. His mother jumped in to rescue the boy. Not long afterward, other visitors found the six-year-old boy wandering by himself. The police were called and the bodies of the mother and older brother were found in the water, diseased.

Now a family, and all of Boonton is in mourning because of this senseless tragedy. A family has now been stricken with cancer and with two sudden deaths. I can’t imagine the trauma that this little six-year-old is suffering.

I ask that you keep the Syed family in your prayers. Especially pray for the unnamed six-year-old boy who witnessed all of this. Your prayers are also needed for the first responders. One of the rescuers is known to Rev. Leah. He and the other members of the crew are very upset. Trauma does tend to spread. Please keep them all in your prayers that they may heal.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Tragedy

#Grief                                                                         #FirstReformedChurchBoonton

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

2021 Blog Number 8

February 22, 2021

Don’t Touch That Piano!

One of the most beautiful things I ever saw as a child was a grand piano that my Aunt Rena had. It was a grand piano, not a baby grand but a grand piano. She had the right house for it. It was a big beautiful house in the wealthy town of Westfield, NJ. I so wanted to hit those keys but I was forbidden. Whenever I tried I got a finger in my face and was told in a stern, loud voice, “don’t touch that piano.” The sin was that no one touched that piano. It belonged to my late uncle who, I was told, was a rather accomplished pianist. I never met him but he sure had a wonderful piano. It sat in Aunt Rena’s large living room untouched. It was a shrine and would have been better off in a museum.

At church I loved hearing the music of pianos. These were upright pianos and a bit battered. They certainly did not have the charm of Aunt Rena’s grand piano. I went to hit a key on one of those and got the same reaction. “Don’t touch that piano,” I was told with a finger in my face. “No one touches pianos unless they know how to play.” It was years later that I began to wonder how one learns to play if one can’t touch a piano without knowing how to play.

When I first met my wife’s family I was intrigued and joy-filled by their after-dinner tradition. They gathered around their piano and sang hymns together. It seem to be a perfect way to give thanks for the wonderful meals that my mother-in-law was so good at cooking. I realized how joyful piano music could be. I also was startled by the contrast that at their house I could touch the piano and was even encouraged to while growing up I was forbidden.

Years passed and now I live in a house with a piano that my wife plays. My two grandsons like to “bang on the keys” as well. I’m doing things differently than my family. I don’t forbid them from touching the piano. I encourage them. I want them to know the joy of creating music. I think it is a sin to forbid a person from exploring the making of music.

Just as a side note, in this time of Corona with more time at home I decided it was time to go back in time and begin to hit those piano keys. Pam picked out a key of C tune that I practice with. I pretty good at it, although it is only with one hand. Soon I’ll be proficient at “Eternal Father Strong to Save.”

I encourage everyone to make music. It is a great way to praise God. You will never hear me say, “don’t touch that piano.” I think that saying such words is a great sin. Touch that piano, play that piano, and praise God while you do it.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Music

#Pianos                                                                      #PraiseGod

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

Why Me?

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 7

February 15, 2021

Why Me?

Two horrible tragedies were featured in our local news this week. Both involved 11-year-old-children. It is always sad to see children sick or injured. I have seen enough such cases during the six years that I was a volunteer chaplain at a regional medical center. In a fallen world, illness happens. The two tragedies I am referring to are not, however, illness. They were both tragic accidents and sting me whenever I think of them.

The first little child was a boy who  was sledding at a local park and hit a tree. The newspaper reports that he is in critical condition at a local hospital. I can’t imagine the anxiety and pain that his family and friends are going through.

The second case took place in my hometown of Jersey City. A fire broke out in a home. The mother escaped with her 11-year-old daughter. When the daughter realized that her 8-month-old brother was still inside, she ran back it and  tried to rescue him. Both the 8-month-old as well as the 11-year died in the fire. The mother escaped the blaze. I can’t imagine the pain of losing children or the “survivors guilt” she must be feeling.

Sometimes we ask ourselves “why me?” when we are struck with a tragedy. My question is the opposite. Why did a little boy have a head injury and I escaped the same fate? When I was eleven, I did many dare-devil activities on a sled each and every winter and yet I suffered no injuries.

I have never had a house fire and I have not lost children from such a tragedy. I have escaped these things. Why me? Why did I escape such tragedies when others did not?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. But it is a reminder to most of us how good our lives are and how we have been protected in life, often from our own foolishness. “Why have I had it so good?” ought to be our daily question. “Why am I so blessed? Why me?”

Let each day of our lives be a day of gratitude for all that has not happened to us.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #ChildInjuries

#ChildDeath                                                              #HouseFires

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

Mixed Messages

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 6

February 8, 2021

Mixed Messages

I had a yen for Wanton soup a few weeks ago. I get craves once in a while and the only way to stop the crave is to give in and eat whatever it is that I am craving. I went to my favorite Chinese restaurant and found out that it was closed on Mondays. Not to be deterred I arrived at my second favorite. It also did not have business hours on Monday. I was getting desperate and when to the third Chinese place in town. I saw a big sign that proclaimed, “we are open.” I was excited when I walk up and pulled on the locked door. It too was closed on Monday despite the “we are open sign.” Next to the “we are open sign” was a sign that said, “we are closed Monday.” I was annoyed at the mixed message of being open but being closed, both messages given at the same time.

Are there times when we as disciples of Christ or even the church itself sends mixed messages? If we claim that we are care for the poor and the hungry, as Jesus commanded and yet do nothing, are we sending out mixed messages?

If we claim that we put God above all else and put anything be it country, family, clubs, sports or pleasure activities ahead of obeying God are we giving a mixed message?

At times we might claim that we are ready to preach Christ to all the world but we are too frightened to witness to a friend, is our message consistent?

If we claim that we desire justice, but are not offended when people are treated unfairly, is our Christian message really dependable?

Unlike the Chinese restaurant, I hope our message steady. If not, perhaps we need to be in full confession during Lent which is upcoming. If we are sending mixed messages, let us correct this. If we are faithful and consistent, let us continue to be so.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Faithfulness

#Steadfast                                                                 #Consistent

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