Monday Ministerial Musings: Sabbath Rest

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 26

July 29, 2019

Sabbath Rest

Scripture tells us after God created, he rested. Now I don’t pretend to know why god would need to rest. Certainly Jesus, in human form needed rest, but why would God, outside of human form, possibly need to rest? It defies my sense of the nature of God to believe that God required a rest. Perhaps he did not need one  but rested as an example to humans. Humans, God knew needed rest, showed us by example, and decreed that we all need to take sabbath rest.

Often ministers are tempted to ignore this edict. They assume that if we work a little harder or a little better, our churches shall really thrive, new converts will be added daily, and more people will begin to tithe. We can talk ourselves into believing that it is all up to us and our exaggerated work ethic. There are times when we are tempted to skip our sabbath. It is sad when elders let us do this. Sometimes they ignore our overwork. Other times they praise us for over-working and/or sabbath breaking. This, of course, leads to tired clergy who don’t function at their best. Sabbath is good for us.

My Sabbath has come. Soon I will be leaving on vacation to my cabin. I will be away through Labor Day and will not be blogging during this time. I thank all of you who have been reading my blogs and especially those of you who have commented on them and dialogued with me about them. Not all the comments have been kind and supportive. Some have even been a little rude. Nevertheless, reading my blogs, and commenting, takes time and effort. I consider it a compliment when a person takes such time. Thank you.   

Please look for  my writings again after Labor Day. Until then, have a blessed summer!                                                                                                                                                                                        

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                             #ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                                                     #Creation

#SabbathRest                                                                       #ClergyBurnOut

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: 

In His Presence: Active or Passive?

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 25

July 22, 2019

In His Presence: Active or Passive?

Our lectionary this past Sunday was the very familiar story of Mary and Martha entertaining Jesus. Mary sits at Jesus feet learning from him while Martha does the busy work of entertaining. She certainly has the opportunity to sit with Jesus, but she chooses the role of hospitality, not sitting with him. For Martha, not sitting with Jesus was a choice.

Have you ever been in the presence of someone you were not able to interact with? I had this experience this past week. Most of my life I have had an itch to be an actor. For my sixtieth birthday, as a present to myself, I registered with an agent in New York City. This past week I had my first opportunity to be an “extra.” I was filmed for an episode of an HBO series. I was filmed just six feet away from James Franco. I so wanted to engage him in conversation. Yet, I was unable to. The rules of being an extra is that you don’t engage with the stars. I was six feet from James but could not converse with him!

Besides Martha, I wonder how many people were around Jesus but were not able and/or willing to engage with him. How many people were around Jesus but did not have the courage to speak to him? How many were told that Jesus was “bad” and were not willing to find out for themselves? How many wanted to speak with him but felt that they were not “good enough” to engage. 

We who are disciples of Jesus are always in his presence. Do we actively engage with him or do we take the relationship for granted and ignore the full benefits of it? Jesus is always with us. Are we actively engaged with Jesus or are we passive with our friend? What is the point of being passive? Jesus is with us. Let us actively engage we will be blessed.

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                             #ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                                                     #Mary&Martha

#JamesFranco                                                                      #Extra

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: 

Christian Lessons from the USA World Cup Soccer Team

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 24

July 15, 2019

Christian Lessons from the USA World Cup Soccer Team

I don’t usually watch soccer, but I was inspired enough by the USA team winning, to find a rerun of the game on TV and enjoyed it. I also saw media clips of the welcoming parade for the women as well as the controversial speech made by the co-captain of the team, Megan Rapinoe. She celebrated the unity of the team, despite differences in ethnic origins, backgrounds, and sexual orientation. She claimed that it was this unity of purpose that gave our team the victory. I wonder if the Church of Jesus might learn some lessons from Megan’s speech in New York City.

The goal of the disciples of Jesus is to make more disciples, to teach the world what Jesus taught them. They are to call people to justice and righteousness. Too often, we in the church get distracted from this goal. We spend more time wondering “who should be on the team” than keeping that goal before us.

We debate whether those whose worship style is different from ours are really our brothers and sisters. We wonder if we can work with someone who is sexually oriented differently than we are. We spend hours debating the righteousness of others and deciding with whom we can work with and with whom we will not. 

Each of the ladies of this soccer team all began as a little girl who took the first courageous step by kicking their first soccer ball, and persistently kicked that ball, keeping their goal in mind, and not judging their other teammates based on anything but sharing the same goal. Can you imagine if we imitated this team?

If we acted like that team then Christians of all backgrounds, orientations, and appearances would be out making disciples, insisting on justice for all, and caring for those in need. We would minister to others without a thought. Perhaps our goal might be reached and every knee will be bowing and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. It sounds like a fine goal to me. Let us learn from Megan and the other team members. We must be goal oriented and our goal must be to fulfill Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations. The silly things that divide us just get in the way of that goal.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                             #ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                                                      #World Cup

#GoalOrientation                                                                  #TeamWork

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: 

Monday Ministerial Musings: Coin Counters

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 23

July 8, 2019

Coin Counters

Years ago, before banks had coin counters, I collected coins in a jar. When the jar filled up I would roll the coins to bring to the bank. I would sit with stacks of coins in front of me, counting and rolling. My daughters accused me of looking like “Scrooge Mc Duck” the character from the animated version of “A Christmas Carol.” It was a good learning tool. I used it to help my daughter’s with their math and currency skills. It was rather good learning.

All this changed when banks got coin counters. I got lazy and began to take my coin jar to the bank. I was surprised one day to discover that the coin counter was gone. I have heard two explanations for this. The first is that these machines were “skimming” money. The second is that these were not cost effective for banks. This doesn’t explain why Supermarkets still have them.

Now I am back to coin rolling. As my jar fills up, I roll the coins, write my account number on each roll and take them to the bank. Recently I was surprised to learn that at my local TD Bank, these rolls are opened and the coins are dumped into a common bag. The bagged, un-rolled coins are then sent out to be counted by a machine in another location.

Does this make any sense to you? It doesn’t to me. To me it seems to be a redundant waste of time to roll coins only to have them un-rolled. Or is it? If we use the task well it is a good math/currency lesson for our children. If we choose not to roll, there are plenty of supermarkets that gladly supply us with coin counters.  Some things in life make no sense, yet we do them because systems and organizations require them. There are some silly things that we simply have to put up with.

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                            #ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                                                    #CoinRolls

#TimeWasted                                                                      #UselessDeeds

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: 

Four Lessons From The Story of Naaman
The Faithful and The Unfaithful

Gehazi was the servant of Elisha. He had seen Elisha do incredible deeds in the name of the Lord.

He has witnessed the miracle of oil when Elisha blessed a poor widow. He witnessed the miracle that his master worked in granting a child to an older woman who had shown him hospitality, long after she had given up hope of a child. Later, when the son died, Gehazi was instructed by Elisha to revive him by placing Elisha’s staff on the boy. Gehazi failed and it was only Elisha’s intervention that brought the boy back to life.

After seeing the power of Elisha, Gehazi was given another job. He was to greet Naaman at the door of Elisha’s house and give this powerful warrior the message that Elisha had sent.

To be cured of leprosy, Naaman must dip himself in the Jordan River seven times.

I wonder what Gehazi was feeling. Was he fearful? Did he worry that Naaman would be angry at the message and blame the messenger? Did Gehazi hate this enemy General who had caused so much harm to the people of Israel? Was he secretly hopeful that Naaman would leave Elisha’s presence without finding a cure? Was Gehazi hoping that Elisha would do his patriotic duty and strike Naaman dead, as such a ruthless warrior deserved?

Gehazi’s worst fears were not realized. He was not harmed by Naaman, but neither was he pleased with Elisha’s treatment of this General of Aram.

Naaman reluctantly accepted the advice of his servants, and did what Elisha had told him to do. He dipped himself in the Jordan seven times and received the healing that he sought.

When Elisha refused to accept the material compensation that Naaman offered, Gehazi was not happy. This enemy of Israel got off way too easy.

Don’t you feel a bit of sympathy for Gehazi? Why would Elisha give grace to a self-proclaimed enemy of Israel? Why give healing to one who makes border raids into Israel, takes captives, and demands tribute? Why would Elisha take no compensation? The gifts from Naaman could have been used to bless those who have been harmed by Naaman’s raids. Some of that heavy tribute could have been recovered. Am I the only person for whom that sounds like a good idea? Doesn’t that seem like justice to you?

Would Elisha last long in one of our pulpits? Can you imagine one of our ministers showing grace to an enemy of the church? Even more, how long would a minister last if he/she turned down a large financial donation? Do you want your minister saying “no” to a substantial gift to the church?

Gehazi sought justice on his own. He invented a lie and pursued Naaman who was returning to his own country. The lie he told was that Elisha needed some of the wealth offered by Naaman. The general gratefully turned it over. Gehazi took it home and hid it in Elisha’s garage.

Knowing the power and insight of Elisha, how did Gehazi ever think he could get away with such a deception?

Elisha confronted his servant. Gehazi tried to lie his way out of his deceit. But there was no deceiving Elisha. The leprosy taken from Naaman would rest on Gehazi! It was a harsh punishment, apparently without any grace whatsoever.

So it is with all of us who wish to be servants of God, who want to claim to be servants of God. Much is expected from us. Let those of us who are disciples of Jesus be warned. Let those who have ears to hear, listen.

This is the fourth and final part of a series on Elisha and Naaman. The earlier parts are found on the three previous consecutive Sundays here on The Twelve.

Mark Ennis

Mark Ennis

Mark William Ennis had his first book, “The Circle of Seven: When His Servants Are Weak,” recently published by Deep River Books. An ordained minister of the Reformed Church in America for 35 years, Mark served as a chaplain at the opening of the National 911 Memorial Museum in New York City, ministering to survivors, first responders and their families.  

God Didn’t Do It My Way

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 22

July 1, 2019

God Didn’t Do It My Way

There are countless lessons on prayer in our Bible. One of my favorites was King Hezekiah being told that he was going to die. Quickly he prays for healing and is granted fifteen more years of a healthy life.

Jesus in Luke’s gospel tells the story of the persistent prayers told by a widow seeking justice and how God will hear us if we pray continually. In John’s gospel he tells us that we can ask anything in his name and it will be given us.

Armed with these lessons on prayer, I have been praying for a young mother with cancer. Our whole congregation has been praying 24/7 for her.  In May I used this blog to request further prayers for her. I received many promises that constant and persistent prayers would be said for her. I was pleased with this prayer response and was faithfully waiting for the healing miracle that we were confident in seeing.

God did not answer these prayers my way. Maria’s health continued to decline. More that a week ago she was moved into hospice care. She died several days later. Our prayers to cure her were not answered in any way that I, or her family desired.  Instead, her husband is now widowed and her young son is missing his mother. Her family, her friends, our congregation and I, are all dealing with a mixture of sorrow, grief, and a bit of anger. Why didn’t God answer our prayers? Were the lessons on prayers lies or exaggerations?

God is God. There are times that he answers prayers in his own way, and not in ways that are clear to us. Now I am relying on another scripture. I have been binge reading Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord.”

Dispite my anger and sorrow, I still love Jesus and trust that something good will come from this loss. I may or may not ever see the good that comes from this, yet I am forced to trust it and hope that he will give me the gift of seeing what good will come from this. Even in despair, I must trust the Lord.

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                            #ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                                                    #Miracles

#Prayers                                                                                 #Cures

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: 

The Circle of Seven

Going Somewhere or Going Nowhere

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 21

June 24, 2019

Going Somewhere or Going Nowhere

My daughter is moving. Her last call ended and she has not yet received a new one. In the meantime, she  will be moving in with my wife and I. As much as is possible, family members have been driving to her place to help her pack boxes. She is going somewhere but in the long-run we don’t know where.

I wasted two hours of my life waiting in traffic on Friday going nowhere. Usually this trip takes about one hour, not two. An accident, miles ahead on the New Jersey turnpike kept me from moving. I knew where I wanted to go, and why I wanted to go there but despite my best efforts, I was not going anywhere.

This day was, for me, a symbol of God’s callings to us. There are times when we, like the disciples, are called to go somewhere with Jesus. There are also times when God is calling us to stay right where we are. Not everyone who heard Jesus followed him. Some stayed home, reflected on his words and were faithful to him despite their lack of travel.

This week’s lectionary records the story of a man who is filled with demons, so many that he refers to himself as “Legion.” This crazy man lives naked among the tombs, has the strength to break chains, and terrorizes all those around. Jesus heals him and the man wishes to travel with Jesus. Instead, Jesus gives him the task of staying in his home village and testifying to what God has done for him.

Are we called to testify for Jesus in our home towns or become “roadies” and follow Jesus around as part of our testimony? Is God calling us to go somewhere or go nowhere? Such questions are often not easily answered. It takes some spiritual discernment. Yet, whether we are called to go or stay, we are still required to give testimony to the great things that God has done for us. May we do it and do it well! We must be His witnesses.

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                             #ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                                                     #Exorcism

#Disciples                                                                              #Testimony

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: 

The Circle of Seven