125th Anniversary Devotionals

125th Anniversary Devotional Book

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This is the concluding post from the 125th anniversary devotional. Thanks to all who have made these last 12.5 weeks of this year meaningful as we’ve celebrated 125 years of church @ First Presbyterian, Barre…

Here’s a closing thought….and devotions from the last two days of 2014…

Closing Thought for Reflection:
When the song of the angels is stilled
When the star in the sky is gone
When the kings and princes are home
When the shepherds are back with their flocks
The work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost
to heal the broken
to feed the hungry
to rebuild the nations
to bring peace among the people
to make music in the heart.

Wednesday, December 31st
Gospel Reading John 8
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
Gina Hilton VanOsdall remembers the Christmas pageant when Shaun Cheever brought forward baby Sierra, who played the baby Jesus that year. She remembers that there was a great focus at that point in the pageant with a sense of wonder in the children who gathered around to see an especially alive baby Sierra/Jesus. (Thanks be to God for Sierra’s too short life!) Regarding pageants, Claire Lissor particularly remembers the angel wings, the manger scenes and especially the little ones who played lambs.

Tuesday, December 30th
1 I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, forever; 
with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations. 
2I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; 
your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens. 3You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, 
I have sworn to my servant David: 4 ‘I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.’” 5Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones. 6For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD, 7a God feared in the council of the holy ones, great and awesome above all that are around him? 
8O LORD God of hosts, who is as mighty as you, O LORD? Your faithfulness surrounds you. 9You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.”
Annie Dillard writes, “There is no less holiness at this time-as you are reading this-than there was the day the Red Sea parted…There is no whit less might in heaven or on earth than there was the day Jesus said, ‘Maid, arise’ to a centurion’s daughter, or the day Peter walked on water, or the night Mohammed flew to heaven on a horse…In any instant you may avail yourself of the power to love your enemies; to accept failure, slander, or the grief of loss; or to endure torture… ‘Each and every day the Divine Voice issues from Sinai,’ says the Talmud. Of eternal fulfillment, Paul Tillich said, ‘If it is not seen in the present, it cannot be seen at all.’”
Question for Reflection:
How might you pay attention to, listen for the voice of God in your life this day? How might you, upon further reflection, notice God’s voice to you over the course of the last month or the last year?

Monday, December 29th

Gospel Reading John 7:37-52

37On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” 39Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 40When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, “This is really the prophet.” 41Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But some asked, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? 42Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” 43So there was a division in the crowd because of him.


The messiah (or the anointed one) is the one for whom people of the Jewish faith had waited for centuries. They awaited one who would set them free and bring peace to the land. Even during Jesus time, people questioned whether or not Jesus was the One.

Question for Reflection:

Have you understood Jesus to be the anointed, the One, the Set Aside, the Long Expected. Has your understanding of who Jesus is shaped your life of faith? If so, how?

Saturday, December 27th

Gospel Reading John 13:20-35

20“Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” 31When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”


Wendell Berry, in his book Given Poems, writes,

Whatever happens,
Those who have learned
To love one another
Have made their way
To the lasting world
And will not leave,
Whatever happens.

Questions for Reflection

A tangible manifestation of the birth of Jesus Christ is that we have a greater capacity for love in our world. Jesus said, “If you have love for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.” Having given us the command to love one another, how might Jesus’ birth into our world increase our capacity to love in concrete ways? How might you demonstrate Christ’s love over the course of your day today?

Sunday, December 28th

Gospel Reading Matthew 1:18-25

18Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23  “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” 24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.


God comes down in the form of this long-awaited child named Jesus. Jesus is full of both grace and truth, a grace and a truth that will unfold before and around people of faith across many generations. Among other names, Jesus is known as The One Who Comes. Paula D’Arcy writes, “God comes to you disguised as your life.”

Question for Reflection:

How might we see God disguised as our very life?

Wednesday, December 24th

Gospel Reading Luke 1:67-80

67Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: 68“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. 69He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, 70as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. 72Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, 73the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us 74that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. 78By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, 79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” 80The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.


Today’s scripture lesson recounts the story of the birth of John the Baptist, precursor and relative to Jesus. John made God’s presence known in down to earth ways as he proclaimed God’s kingdom in the familiar Judean wilderness. As people remember the church’s gatherings to celebrate Christmas, JoAnn Gibson, Jennifer Milne, and Virginia Milne (amongst many others) fondly remember Katherine Paterson’s Christmas stories. For dozens of years, Katherine has written a Christmas story a year to bring the realities of Christ’s birth to life in our day and age.

Questions for Reflection:

Think of a memorable experience of celebrating Christ’s birth, in a church, in your home, or elsewhere. Who was involved and what was memorable or inspiring? What insight into God’s live with us did you receive?

Thursday, December 25th

Gospel Reading John 3:31-36

31The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. 33Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. 34He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. 36Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.


Today we celebrate the day of Christ’s birth and the first of twelve days of Christmas. On this first day of Christmas, hear these words of Martin Luther, “The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.”

Questions for Reflection:

What would it look like for you to experience the mystery of the incarnate God today? How can God’s sinking into flesh change the way you live your life today?

Friday, December 26th

Scripture Lesson : Colossians 1

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell


Archbishop Jose Gomez, on the New Evangelization, writes, “In the mystery of his becoming man, Christ showed us what humanity was meant to become. He showed us the transcendent dignity and destiny of each human person as a child of God.”

Question for Reflection

In considering Jose Gomez’ quote, how would it be to consider others as holding not simply dignity but transcendent dignity? Would you see yourself differently if you were to recognize yourself as destined to be a child of God, part of the body of Christ whose birth we celebrate.

Tuesday, December 23rd

Gospel Reading Luke 1:57-66

57Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” 61They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” 62Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. 64Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 66All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.


Richard Rohr writes, “God’s mercy is greater than we could ever imagine. The incarnation is something we still have not fully wrapped our minds around and it has been 2,000 years since God first took on flesh. God is serious about redemption. Since Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden, no one had ever imagined that God would leave heaven and enter into this world as an infant. The glory of God is not just about how God is different from us. The glory of God can clearly be seen in this radical act of God becoming human. The story of redemption is not about what humans must do to be saved, it is about the amazing things God has done to save humanity.”

Question for Reflection:

God is the One who comes among us to challenge, comfort, redeem, change and save us. As Christians, part of our preparing for Christmas must include preparing for all these engagements on God’s behalf. What things do we need to set aside, today, to prepare for the ways God will come among us?

Sunday, December 21st

Gospel Reading Luke 1:26-38

26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.


JoAnn Gibson remembers Abe Little singing “O Holy Night” with the choir singing the chorus. At the end of the service real candles were passed out and everyone sang “Silent Night”. She also remembers one time when she and Chuck took the kids on a snowy, sleeting night. When they came out of the church, they couldn’t get the car key in the door. They had to go back into the church, get a candle and warm up the key hole. From then on their children wouldn’t let them lock the car during a Christmas Eve Service.

Question for Reflection:

What music is particularly meaningful to you at Christmas? Can you remember an amusing family incident from the past?

Monday, December 22nd

Gospel Reading Luke 1:39-48a (48b-56)

39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

46And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47       and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48  for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49  for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50  His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51  He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52  He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53  he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54  He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55  according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

56And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.


Richard Rohr writes, “Mary is a woman who is profoundly self-possessed.  She can hold her power comfortably because she knows it is from Beyond.  She can also give it away.  Power, dignity, and blessedness are hers to hold, offer back, and proudly acclaim in her great Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).  This woman knows her boundaries, her ground, and her gift.  Her dignity is not earned or attained. It is.”

Question for Reflection:

How have you understood Mary’s song? What words or phrases stand out? How might you hold power and dignity in balance in your own life?

Friday, December 19th

Gospel Reading John 5:30-34

30“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. 33You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. 34Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved.


Ralph Milton writes,There are two kinds of truth. The truth we try and prove – and

fail. And the truth we try and live. We fail on that too, but God succeeds for us. That’s something we know, but can never prove. Nor should we even try.

Question for Reflection:

If we come to know the truth in living our lives, what steps will you take today that will put you on the path of truth? How can you make the pursuit or the living of truth not just some ideal but a reality in your life today?

Thursday, December 18th

Gospel Reading John 3:16-21

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”


Sally Koch reflects on what has been, for her family, the true meaning of Christmas,

“When our children were young, we tried to instill the true meaning of the Advent and Christmas seasons.  Tom designed and made a hanging Advent wreath, suspended by violet ribbons.  Each night during Advent, we would read a short scripture and light a candle before dinner.  Christmas Eve was a special dinner before church, then a family gathering after church with Tom’s family.

Christmas morning was breakfast with my parents, then presents, then a Christmas dinner with whatever family was here.  We were all pretty tired by nighttime.  The next day, many houses sported sorry Christmas trees that had been cast away, as if folks couldn’t wait for Christmas to be over.

In the Koch household, Christmas was still in full swing.  Each night at dinner for twelve days, we again had devotions, and each child received a small token gift.  When the twelve days were done, it was time to take down the tree, but I was always reluctant.  Even now I miss the Christmas lights after the tree comes down.

It’s been a long time since we were together for our Advent and Christmas dinners, but Christine and Donald still have fond memories of our Christmas tradition.”

Saturday, December 20th

Gospel Reading Luke 1:5-25

5In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years. 8Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” 19The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.” 21Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23When his time of service was ended, he went to his home. 24After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25“This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”


The visit of the angel and this story of the birth of John serves as the beginning of both John and Jesus’ story. Angels’ words help shape and make both of their birth narratives.

Question for Reflection:

How has the work of the angels changed the course of our religious roots? Do you notice the ongoing work of the angels among us today? If so, how would you describe such work?

Wednesday, December 17th

Gospel Reading Mark 1:1-8

1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3     the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,'”
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”


Luke’s gospel recounts a story that links John and Jesus as relatives. They are, for sure, part of the same spiritual family, people paving a way for the Kingdom Highway. John knows that, with Christ’s coming, there will be a shift in the way that the Spirit is loose among us. John’s voice, appropriately, comes from the margins and speaks to all who have ears to hear.

Questions for Reflection:

How might you make time and space, during the rhythms of this time of year, to listen for an alternate voice speaking a prophetic word of peace to you? Would you schedule in such listening or would you stumble upon it?

Tuesday, December 16th

Gospel Reading Luke 22:54-69

54Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. 55When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. 56Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.” 57But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” 59Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” 60But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. 61The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.”


Brennan Manning writes, “In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.”


Questions for reflection:

What dark night of your life have you (could you) offer to the community so that there might be more light for others…or more strength in their own darkness?

Monday, December 15th

Gospel Reading Luke 22:39-53

39He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. 40When he reached the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” 41Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” 43Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. 44In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. 45When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, 46and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.”


A lesson from the Garden of Gethsemane is about staying awake and alert in the spiritual life. A Sanskrit proverb speaks to staying alert in this way,
“Look to this day, for it is life, the very life of life.

In its brief course shall lie all

The realities and verities of existence,

The bliss of growth, the splendor of action,

The glory of power – – for yesterday is but a dream,

And tomorrow is only a vision, but today, well lived,

Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness

And tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this day.”


Question for reflection:

How might we be alert to God’s presence as we prepare for Christ’s birth?

Sunday, December 14th

Scripture: Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God.

It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him, bless his name.

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever,

and his faithfulness to all generations.



During this advent season, the church has had a long-standing tradition of going caroling to people in their homes. Many people, both singers and those who welcome the singers, recount being both inspired and moved by the singing of familiar songs. Jennifer Milne remembers, one time, driving the Bonamicos in their mini van to Myrtle McCloud’s mother’s house. The driveway was slippery. When they left Jennifer came close to hitting the telephone pole at the end of the driveway.


Questions for reflection:

What memories do you have of music during the Christmas season? How has music shaped your experience of the birth of Christ among us?

Saturday, December 13th

Gospel Reading Matthew 11

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”


Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger writes, “Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.…

It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.”


Questions for reflection:

What healing memories of the Christmas season do you have? What painful memories of this time of year do you have? What would it look like for you to trust God to hold you and care for you, memories and all, during this season?

Friday, December 12th

Gospel Reading Luke 22

14When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 25But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. 27For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?


Carole Mayhall writes, “Daily I live with [one] fear–a healthy fear if there is such a thing. [It is] that I will miss something God has for me in this life. And it is mind-expanding to contemplate all that He wants me to have. I don’t want to be robbed of even one of God’s riches by not taking time to let Him invade my life. By not listening to what He is telling me.”


Questions for reflection:

What will it take for you to make room, during this season and amidst the hurry, to hear what God is telling you?

Thursday, December 11th

Isaiah 53 

Surely he has borne our infirmities
 and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
 and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.


When asked about her memories of the church, Myrtle McLeod responded this way, “The first memory that stands out to me was of being involved in weddings in the church. I remember many weddings and how the mothers would spend nights at church the week before the wedding making sure that everything was set up just right. I remember the choir director being involved and also remember participating with many friends from church including Priscilla and quite a few others. I, also, remember my grandfather going down to the church from our house on Tremont every Sunday morning at 4:00 a.m. to put fuel into the stove. He would go down early and we’d catch up with him. When we would arrive for service, the church would be nice toasty warm. And, I remember that, in Sunday school, we memorized the whole of Isaiah 53. I remember it being a lot of work and also inspiring!”

Wednesday, December 10th

Gospel Reading John 7:53-8:11

53Then each of them went home, 1while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”


Brennan Manning and Donald Gray write, “The life of Jesus suggests that to be like Abba (the Loving Father) or Amma (the Loving Mother) is to show compassion.” “Jesus reveals in an exceptionally human life what it is to live a divine life, a compassionate life.”


Questions for reflection:

How can we increase our capacity to show c

Tuesday, December 9th

Gospel Reading Luke 21:29-38

29Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

37Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called. 38And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple.


Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “To make bread or love, to dig in the earth, to feed an animal or cook for a stranger—these activities require no extensive commentary, no lucid theology. All they require is someone willing to bend, reach, chop, stir. Most of these tasks are so full of pleasure that there is no need to complicate things by calling them holy. And yet these are the same activities that change lives, sometimes all at once and sometimes more slowly, the way dripping water changes stone. In a world where faith is often construed as a way of thinking, bodily practices remind the willing that faith is a way of life.” Perhaps part of our being alert to Christ’s coming can take the shape of very regular, everyday activities?


Question for reflection:

Can you see the everyday activities of your life, your preparations for Christmas (or just living life in general) as sacred places and acts in the world?

Monday, December 8th

Gospel Reading Matthew 4

 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.


Priscilla Marck writes, “The feast of Saint Andrew invites us to ponder his response to Christ’s call: ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men. At once they left their nets…’. With his brother Peter, Andrew immediately left his fishing nets to catch souls for the Kingdom. Are we hesitating to respond to Christ this Advent because we are waiting for just the right moment, those perfect circumstances that will allow us to be just as quick as Andrew? Sadly, we may discover that while we were waiting for that illusive moment, we failed to be attentive to the here and now invitations of everyday life, missing opportunities to respond with the generosity of a true follower of Christ.”


Questions for reflection:

How will you know, this Advent season, when is the right time to respond to Christ? How might you be called to love God and neighbor?

Sunday, December 7th

Gospel Reading: Luke 21:5-19

5When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6“As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”

7They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.

9“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” 10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

12“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.



Today’s scripture lesson is a teaching about end times, and is a specific style of writing in the Bible. This writing style is often misinterpreted and misused by people for their own gain. We read these passages as a preparation for Christmas, in part, because Jesus’ coming is directed toward the establishment of a new world order. The teachings are not so much to predict actual events as to encourage us to think of God’s presence, God’s timing, and God’s working in our lives, all of which are demanding.


Questions for reflection:

What insights about the spiritual life have you gleaned from “end times” passages like these? How have these clouded or clarified your understanding of God’s desires for our world or your life?

Saturday, December 6th

Psalm 1

Happy are those
 who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
 and on his law they meditate day and night.

They are like trees
 planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.

The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
 nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Reflection…on the topic of church as spiritual community….

Mike Witham, one of our church members, recounts the following story when asked about his connection to our church, “I remember bringing my friend’s daughter to church a few years ago and all of a sudden, the old saying came to mind, ‘Don’t just bring your children to church. Go to church with them.’ I heeded the wisdom of the saying and have been coming to church ever since.

I had been homeless for the last year and a half and when I came into the church, I realized that I had a feeling of being at home. I had not had that feeling of being ‘at home’ for a long time.

I love to come to church and especially appreciate passing the peace. That experience is so powerful for me. We walk around and greet one another and I really experience peace. I am a walker and like to walk around town and ponder. While I walk, my mind often wanders to Psalm 1. That psalm is one that I memorized when I was a young person and I say phrases from it every day of my life.”

Friday, December 5th

Gospel Reading: Luke 20:41-21:4

41Then he said to them, “How can they say that the Messiah is David’s son? 42For David himself says in the book of Psalms, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 43until I make your enemies your footstool.”‘ 44David thus calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?”

45In the hearing of all the people he said to the disciples, 46“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets. 47They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” 1He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; 2he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; 4for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”


The coming of the messiah will be a demanding matter, about that there is no doubt. This child who will be born in a simple place, to lead a simple life, will demand all from all of us. Jesus will call us to have a pure heart. Jesus will clarify our motives. Jesus will both condemn what is unjust while lifting up (and supporting) what is just, good, and true.

Questions for reflection

How might we make decisions today that God would, that Jesus would, deem just, good and true while avoiding things that are unjust? What practice might you utilize to determine acts of justice acts of injustice? (Listening to your conscience? Taking 5 breaths before making a decision? Offering a prayer for God’s guidance before doing this, doing that?)

Thursday, December 4th

Gospel Reading: Luke 20:27-40

27Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30then the second 31and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32Finally the woman also died. 33In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” 34Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.” 39Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” 40For they no longer dared to ask him another question.



Even as we prepare for the advent, the coming to life of Jesus, we also look to matters of life after death. Jesus’ teaching here can serve to remind of us of the full cycle of the wheel of life. Jesus is convinced of the resurrection…which is both already at play and will come to a more full fruition in his own life after death.

Questions for reflection

As you prepare for the Coming of Chris and for the Christmas season, what “raised to life” people find a place in your heart and mind? How will you honor their presence in your life during this season?

Wednesday, December 3

Gospel Reading: Luke 20:19-26

19When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people. 20So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor. 21So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. 22Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 23But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, 24“Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?” They said, “The emperor’s.” 25He said to them, “Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 26And they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent.



Jesus’ teachings often had a two-fold result: they upset the religious establishment AND they led people to a new, a deeper insight into the spiritual life. Specifically, in this passage, Jesus’ teaching helped his followers to put into practice the teaching “for everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.” Know the time for this, know the time for that…and you will live.

Questions for reflection

Watch for things in your life today with an eye toward, “What time is it?” What will it look like to offer a prayer to God for wisdom in discerning when is the right time?

125th Anniversary Devotional Booklet

First Presbyterian Church of Barre is a place where God works to make disciples of Jesus. Here we experience Christian community as we walk our spiritual journey with others. As disciples, we are strengthened by God’s Spirit to live out God’s love in word and deed.

This month will conclude the church’s celebration of being 125 years old.

During November, we had the chance to celebrate our history through song, story, worship, and remembrance. 675 cranes were created in memory and honor of people past and present who have been the body of Christ here. If you have not had the chance to see the paper cranes, names on the wings, you have to stop by and see them, remember and celebrate the lives of SO MANY SAINTS!

During December, we will gather in worship, to remember things that have supported and strengthened the spiritual lives of people and to call to heart and mind Christmas memories of people from within our congregation.

As has been the case in months past, you will find a daily reflection with a scripture, a reflection, and a question (or questions) for reflection. With a few exceptions, the scriptures for this month’s devotional are the daily lectionary readings (prescribed for this season) that will guide our hearts in preparation for Christmas, Christ’s coming. Our hope and prayer is for this devotional to inspire your own life, lead you closer to the God who came down in Jesus Christ, and increase your ties to God’s church.

As we begin this season of Advent (the weeks leading up to Christmas), may we experience the God Who Comes, and comes into our very lives, right here and now!

Carl Hilton VanOsdall

In the Pastor’s Study

First Presbyterian Church of Barre

December 2014


On behalf of the Devotional Committee ~ Janet Fuhrmeister, Diane Nichols-Fleming and Carl Hilton VanOsdall


A special thanks to Winnie McCormick who has served as our editor and who has done a number of interviews for December’s devotional booklet.

Monday, December 1

Gospel Reading: Luke 20:1-8

1One day, as he was teaching the people in the temple and telling the good news, the chief priests and the scribes came with the elders 2and said to him, “Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?” 3He answered them, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: 4Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” 5They discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ 6But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” 7So they answered that they did not know where it came from. 8Then Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”



We start this month’s devotions with a reflection from long-time church member, Doris Grant. Doris remembers many things about the life of the church. One of the first things that comes to mind is a prayer practice. Doris remembers how the Burlington Free Press used to run a daily prayer in their paper. She and her husband Albert would always read the daily prayer from the paper. One prayer stood out to Doris, one she and Albert had cut out of the paper, and one that they had committed to memory. Doris had recently found the clipping and knew that she still had the prayer committed to memory. With the prompting of the first three words of the prayer, Doris prays the prayer from her heart,

“God loves you when your dreams are bright…and when your hopes are dim….as long as you are humble and you place your faith in Him…He will protect and help your soul…Wherever you may be…In joy and glory of success…or deepest tragedy…God always watches over you…As He allowed your birth …to carry on creation, and…to populate the earth …Sometimes your life may seem quite strange…and hard to understand…But always somewhere, in some way…There is His guiding hand…And as you thank God humbly and …You try to be sincere…There will be nothing in this life…You ever have to fear.”



Questions for reflection:

What prayer or meaningful meditation do you have committed to memory? What were the circumstances of your learning the prayer? How has God used it to support your soul throughout the years?

Sunday, November 30

Matthew “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[a] consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


After his firsthand observation of her arduous work among the filthy, diseased, and suffering of Calcutta, a television commentator told her, “I wouldn’t do what you’re doing for all the money in the world.” Her simple reply was, “I wouldn’t either.”


Questions for reflection:

What specific things can you do during this season of the year to avoid storing up treasures in heaven but instead find and enjoy God’s treasures?

What might Mother Theresa’s motivation be? Can you imagine finding that same motivation and detachment from thinking of doing what we do based on compensation for doing it?

Closing Thought

We have committed the Golden Rule to memory. Now let us commit it to life. ~ Thomas Merton

Saturday, November 29

Mark 8: 34 “He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’”


Peter Reinhart, in Bread Upon the Waters, writes, “The fastest way to know God is to serve the God in someone else.”


Questions for reflection:

Why do you think Peter Reinhart admonishes that a quick way to serve God is to serve our neighbor? Has this advice ever proved true? If so, how?

Friday, November 28

Mark 10 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.


Richard Foster, in Celebration of Discipline, makes a distinction between choosing to serve and choosing to be a servant. When we choose to serve, we are still in charge. We decide whom we will serve and when we will serve. And if we are in charge we will worry about anyone’s stepping on us. When we choose to be a servant, we give up the right to be in charge. There is a great freedom in this. If we voluntarily choose to be taken advantage of, then we cannot be manipulated. When we choose to be a servant we surrender the right to decide who and when we will serve. We become available and vulnerable.


Question for Reflection:

What do you make of Foster’s distinction between serving and being a servant? Have you had experiences in your life where being a servant has helped you to overcome some of the obstacles of serving?

Thursday, November 27

Spotlight on Mission

Twice in the last ten years a group from the First Presbyterian Church of Barre has gone to New Orleans on a mission trip to help those in New Orleans recovery from Hurricane Katrina. The following are excerpts from a write up about the second mission trip to New Orleans:

The more things change, the more they stay the same. This saying reflects the sentiment of many people living in New Orleans where change comes in small steps to the point of nearly staying the same. As demolition efforts continue and reconstruction efforts get underway in a more concerted way, people living in New Orleans continue to wrestle with the slow progress. During our recent trip to New Orleans, people frequently asked us with great anticipation, “Do y’all see progress from where we were one year ago? What looks different? What looks the same?” They longed for an outsider’s perspective that was for them drowned by the waters of  Hurricane Katrina.

Eighteen months after the storm, New Orleans does look different. Many houses have been rehabilitated; many others completely demolished, leaving empty lots scattered throughout town. Square miles around town remain veritable ghost towns. A group of seven people from the First Presbyterian Church of Barre went to New Orleans this spring to maintain relationships and work. We kept up relationships with friends from the Lakeview Presbyterian Church and others in the Presbytery of Southern Louisiana. Our work consisted in maintaining contact with these brothers and sisters in the church WHO NEED US (AND WHOM WE NEED). Our work was also laboring alongside homeowners like Rhonda, Karen and Timothy as they continue the year long process of sorting through what has been lost and looking forward to what will become of their homes and lives in the future.

This year, our group of seven worked on cleaning out two homes and did finishing cleaning work at Lakeview Presbyterian’s Day School as they look forward to getting the school up and going again in the near future.

The group of seven that went expresses gratitude for the church’s support, in prayer and finances, of the mission work. The group, also, anticipates continuing relationships that sustain both our sister church in New Orleans and us in Vermont.

One member of our group commented, “The most rewarding thing of the whole trip was to walk into a home that we had gutted last year and see it completely redone. That made the whole trip worth it!” Such is the case with homes and families, one by one, restoration by restoration. In the work and the reconstruction, signs of new life abound. God is indeed good.


Question for reflection:

How might God be calling us, now, to love and serve our neighbors?

Wednesday, November 26

Psalm 70 Be pleased, O God, to deliver me.  O Lord, make haste to help me!



Anne Frank, who lived during the time of the holocaust in the second World War said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Now is the time. Now is the opportune moment. Now is the chance we have to live our life. Similar to the encouragement and invitation of Anne Frank, the Psalmist, in psalm 70, urges God to make haste to help and to be quick to bring justice and kindness.

Question for reflection:

What keeps you from waiting to take a step toward our world’s improvement?

Tuesday, November 25

James 2 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.


One of the great joys of the First Presbyterian Church of Barre’s mission and outreach work has been our collaboration with area churches to manifest Christ’s love in our community. A coalition of area churches and organizations has been working together to address matters of poverty, homelessness and hunger. A group meets once a month to discuss, plan, collaborate and take action on all these matters. We are the Barre Interfaith Group with representatives from the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Hedding United Methodist Church, Enough Ministries, the Good Samaritan Haven, Church of the Good Shepherd, Episcopal, Barre Congregational, First Baptist Church, the First Church of Barre, Universalist, and First Presbyterian Church. Our motto, a spin off from James, is “Faith Made Actionable.”

Questions for reflections:

How does working together further the mission and ministry of Christ’s church? What experiences have you had, working with people from other churches, that has helped you to broaden and deepen your understanding of Christ’s church?

(Don’t forget, ecumenical worship service tonight at St. Monica’s Roman Catholic Church, 7 p.m.) Monday, November 24

Luke 14 He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid.  But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.  And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”



Ruth Smeltzer wrote, “You have not lived a perfect day unless you’ve done something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”


Questions for reflection:

What might you do today for someone who will never be able to repay you? How do you need to be prepared for this sort of openness to others?

Sunday, November 23

2 Corinthians 5  So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God


In his book Where God Happens, Rowan Williams writes, “We love with God when and only when we are the conduit for God’s reconciling presence with the person next to us.”


Question for reflection:

Is there a person “next to you” to whom God is calling you to be reconciled today?

Saturday, November 22

Deuteronomy 15 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’


The encounter with God does not come to people in order that they may henceforth attend to God but in order that they may prove its meaning in action in the world. All revelation is a calling and a mission. ~Thomas Merton

Cistercian monk, Thomas Merton, is convinced that the revelation that God gives to us is ALL about calling and mission. That’s our task! Reading Merton more comprehensively, he is not inviting or allowing room for neglecting our relationship to God or attention to God. However, he is urging us to pay attention to the needs of others, especially the needy and the poor in the land, our land.

Question for reflection:

What do you make of Merton’s assertion? How would your daily life look different if you were to try out the teaching, “all revelation is a calling and a mission?”

Friday, November 21

Romans 15 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.



Marian Wright Edelman said, “Service is the rent we pay to be living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time.”

Question for reflection:

Regarding Romans 15, can you think of a time that, in your spiritual life, you have felt weak? Strong? How have those feelings impacted your relationship with others?

How is your rental payment going?

Thursday, November 20

Luke 3 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”.


Doris Powell, author of Stewards in the Household of God: a Resource for Holistic Year-Round Stewardship, offers a short reflect on possessions to help us in our discernment process.

Jesus, looking at him loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  Mark 10:21

Jesus’ challenge to the rich ruler to give up all possessions has always been terrifying – because I’m rich.  Not Warren Buffett rich, or Oprah Winfrey rich, but rich enough.  I have an education, a job, a house, a mostly reliable car, food…enough.  More than enough.

So, years ago when this was the Bible passage read in church, I worried about what our minister might say.  After pointing out that Jesus would not be likely to ask the same thing of everyone, he went on to suggest an approach to faithfully deal with possessions.

Step 1:  Go through your possessions, identify your excess, and give it away. “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”  – Luke 3:11

Step 2:  Learn to distinguish “needs” from “wants” lest you reacquire an excess.

Step 3:  For those possessions you’ve kept, find ways to share them.  (There’s joy in that adventure!)

It takes discipline to live a simpler lifestyle.  I certainly have lapses, but the rewards are great.  And I was finally freed to see what I had overlooked while fixated on my fear… the amazing invitation:  “then come, follow me.”

I found these words challenging. How about you?  Can we follow Jesus  deeper and deeper into the mystery of what it means to bless and be blessed? What do you think?  (Thanks to Rev. David Vanderlinde-Abernathy for sharing this.)

Wednesday, November 19

Matthew 22 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”



John Kuykendall, president of Davidson College, wrote, “Don’t survive; serve. Realize that we live between the apes and the angels, with our feet on the ground and our heads in the clouds…the human creature, which has learned to fly through the sky more swiftly than the fastest bird…still has, in every generation, to learn to walk on earth as human.”


Questions for reflection:

What has serving your fellow human being taught you? How is service a necessary part of the human condition?

Tuesday, November 18

Mark 10 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book The Cost of Discipleship, writes, “If there is not an element of asceticism in our lives, if we give free rein to the desires of the flesh…we shall find it hard to train ourselves for the service of Christ.” He had learned, through the contours of his life, that we an authentic spiritual life necessarily contains an element of a non-indulgent life. There must be times when we say “no,” to something in order to be able to say “yes” to God and neighbor. Asceticism sets the stage for a life of service, partly because practicing restraint makes room in our life for us to look at others and attend to their needs. As the psychiatrist, Karl Menninger, answered when asked, “What should someone do who feels on the verge of a nervous breakdown?” “Lock your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need and do something for him.”


Questions of reflection

When have you taken on some spiritual practice of discipline that involved giving something up, saying “no” to something? Did you gain any particular insight into God, into yourself, from that practice?

Monday, November 17

Romans 12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.


Young people have “offered their bodies as a living sacrifice” on numerous occasions in the recent history of the church. The youth have been on mission trips to places like Pennsylvania, New York, Atlanta, San Antonio and Boston, while also serving at home. One participant, Jackson Donovan, wrote this reflection following his experience on a mission trip:

This past week has been the best week I’ve had this year, it was truly a full experience, whether it was waking upon time, getting a full breakfast, or just staying hydrated.  Everything was a learning experience. I looked for God/Jesus this week in many different places.  I looked for him the food bank, he wasn’t there,…looked for him in the S.A.M.M., he wasn’t there, I even tried looking in our own church…but he never showed up, not even for one game of ping pong.  Then on Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 at the Mission Road development center I saw him.  I didn’t find him through words or actions though.  I felt him through a stare.  I was with the lowest functioning group in a classroom and really only one or two of them could speak. All the others were as silent as the wind.  One of them was named Michael and he couldn’t speak, but he had a helmet on his head and always looked confused and lost.  That was…until the end of the day.  I was ready to leave and I was wiped out!  I had no energy and was a little frustrated.  Then as I left, Michael grabbed my hand and I looked at him.  His eyes looked right into mine and it looked like he knew what he was doing for the first time all day.  It was a powerful sensation, almost like his eyes spoke every word that he couldn’t speak aloud.  This sounds crazy but what was even crazier was that I understood him.  He without question, said “THANK YOU JACK!”  I heard God and Jesus’ voice but didn’t say anything back.  This boy Michael looked away and the sensation was gone.  I was no longer tired or frustrated. I was refreshed. I saw God!

Question for reflection:

When have you experienced God in an unexpected place? In an expected place? How might that experience enlighten the life of another person in your life?

Sunday, November 16

Matthew 24

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. “


From Thomas Merton, Cistercian monk…when asked, while working in the field, “What would you do if you knew that you were to die tomorrow?” Merton answered, “I would keep on hoeing.” Merton reminds us of the importance of living our life with the understanding that any day, any moment could be our last…and living our life to do what matters most to us, and to God.


Questions for reflection:

If you knew that you were to die tomorrow, what would you do…right now?

Saturday, November 15

Philippians 2 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of humans.



Lessons from the Hoe…today and tomorrow…

Bernard of Clairvaux once wrote, “Learn the lesson that, if you are to do the work of a prophet, what you need is not a scepter but a hoe.”

The life of one seeking to follow in Jesus’s way is not that of power or might, rather that of humility and service. This is not to say that the calling of the Christian avoids claiming power as needed. However, the Christian way resists the temptation to think too much of oneself. When we make conscious choices to decide as Jesus would decide (“What would Jesus do?”), we make decision to grab the hoe before the scepter. This can be challenging given the church’s long-standing history of relating to the State. Nonetheless, Jesus hand guides us to the hoe, the plow and the shovel first.


Question for reflection:

What do you think Bernard means when he says that a prophet’s work calls for a hoe, not a scepter?

Friday , November 14


2 Corinthians but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”



St. Bonaventure once wrote, “The world makes choices in one way, Christ in another, choosing to employ our weakness rather than our strengths, and our failures far more than our successes.”


Question for reflection:

What would it look like for you today to allow Christ to use your failure? How would it FEEL to allow Christ to use your weakness? Are you willing and able to take the risk?

Thursday, November 13


Galatians 5 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”


Marianne Williamson wrote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’ Actually, who are we not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. We are born to manifest the glory of God within us. It’s not just in some of us – it is in everyone. And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

When we hear the admonition to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we often think about the call to love and serve neighbor. However, the admonition before the admonition is to love oneself. Love of self does not mean self-indulgence. It does not mean a focus on self to the exclusion of loving others. Yet, our beginning point is to know and love ourselves. Then, we are able to love others.


Questions for reflection:

How are you doing at loving yourself these days? Who encourages you to love yourself in order that you might love others? If there’s no quick answer to that question, whom might you seek out as a source of encouragement?

Wednesday, November 12

Proverbs 19 Those who keep the commandment will live; those who are heedless of their ways will die. Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,
and will be repaid in full.



The writer of Proverbs gives succinct insight into the life of faith. Acts of service do not emerge out of a vacuum. They materialize from a deeper well that Proverbs defines as “the commandments.” When we are faithful to the commands of God, we find life and…like water flows from a spring…so, too, do acts of goodness flow from our lives.


Questions for reflection:

What is one experience you have had in worship that has led to your feeling a greater connection with people around you? How might your involvement in worship further connections between people and people…and between people and God?

Tuesday, November 11

Spotlight on Mission

Roxanne Casadonte shared, “The trip to South Africa with 13 other ladies from the New England Presbytery was a revelation.  I can honestly say that I feel this trip expanded me spiritually, culturally and emotionally.  As Janet and I mentioned in our presentation prior to going – we basically didn’t know what to expect.  We knew we would be moving around to different groups, we knew we would be hearing about life in South Africa and that we would probably be pretty active…..that was just the tip of the iceberg.  I don’t think we stopped moving from the minute we boarded the plane for Johannesburg until we arrived home 20 days later after 24+ hour journey. 


Our brothers and sisters in Presbyterian churches in South Africa treated us like long lost family members returning home.  Our first greeting by a Pastor at St. George was “Welcome, you are home”.  This celebration of “home” included meals, singing, dancing and demonstrations of love in focusing on our comfort, our happiness, and making us feel welcome.  There is nothing “frozen” about the chosen in South Africa.  The warmth of their love and worship of God would melt a glacier. 


I think the most memorable experience for me was the “naming ceremony” that I experienced at St. Phillips with our friend Pastor Sicelo Sam and congregation.  Over 50 people came dressed in Xhosa ceremonial outfits (including face paint and beautiful hats).  I was surrounded by people dancing and singing and celebrating my joining them as a “sister” in their church.  I was placed on a mat and elders from the church came and shared their wisdom. First – Always respect your elders.  Listen to them, they have vast experience and knowledge. Second – When you come into the family circle, don’t work at separating the family to find your place, join in and become part of the family and be “united”. My traditional Xhosa name given is “much loved”. And I will feel that love for the rest of my life. ~ Roxanne Casadonte

Monday, November 10

Spotlight on Mission

During this past summer of 2014, two members of our congregation joined a delegation of women from New England to build bridges with friends and partners in South Africa. Today(the 10th) and tomorrow (the 11th), we hear from Janet Fuhrmeister and Roxanne Casadonte about their experiences in South Africa. Let’s listen for how their experiences of building bridges have become mission, ministry and service!


Janet Fuhrmeister shared, “With the support of the church, members were able to meet many of the needs in the community – rapidly!  A house was lost on Christmas Eve and while at the hospital, the owner met a Presbyterian woman.  The house was replaced by Christmas Day.  The church has helped mothers find imprisoned sons.  A sponsor at one is making it possible for a very bright child to receive a better education than he would have in his home village.


I was a part of many different types of church services.  One was similar to what you would find here in the states.  Most had fascinating music with amazing voices and an almost tribal beat – drums, metal cups beaten with sticks, foot stomps and the occasional whistle.  And an absolute feeling of total devotion to God.


Things for which I was not prepared were the walls around all houses and buildings topped with razor wire or electric fence.  I hadn’t realized that there was a 60% unemployment rate.  One church in a fairly nice neighborhood is broken into monthly.  My second host family had one of their two cars stolen the morning before we got there and did not let us know until the last day so that we would not feel insecure.  It all appears to be taken as daily life.  That’s the way it is.


One heart breaking experience was a visit to the North Ducat School, ages Kindergarten through about 8th grade.  There are 400 students and 6 teachers.  The youngest kids have metal shipping containers for classrooms, but then most of the homes in the community are metal shipping containers.  Despite this, the kids had the most angelic smiles on their faces.”


I would have liked to have done more hands-on work while I was there.  We were hustled from project to project with little time to help at any of them, other than soup kitchens. ~ Janet Fuhrmeister

Sunday, November 9


Matthew 20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”


We find, at least, two lessons in this parable of Jesus’. First, God longs to use us as instruments. God depends upon people like us for the labor and the harvest of the kingdom. And second, God uses Divine Discretion, based upon grace, to grant us reward.


Questions for reflection:

Can you think of a time when you experienced an unexpected grace? What was that grace like?

Saturday, November 8

Matthew 17 For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”


Among the many things that Mother Theresa said, we find this quote, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” In the same vein, we hear these words from Margaret Mead, American anthropologist, “Never doubt a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Jesus teaches us that when we have faith made into action, the smallest of efforts can bear great fruit. Now, honestly, when we plant small seeds, we do not always see large fruit. In fact, sometimes, we don’t see any fruit from our efforts at all. Yet, can we trust in being commissioned to plant seeds with the trust that God will water them and cause fruit to be borne in its due season?


Questions for reflection:

When have you witnessed a small act, or a small group, making a difference in our world? Is a small act satisfying to you? Why or why not? How might we increase our faith and trust that God is at work in small things around us?

Friday, November 7

Mark 6 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.”



After a season of activity, a period of rest seems appropriate. That’s what the disciples were looking for, isn’t it? Just a break, a chance to recoup. Sometimes, rest comes. Other times, the disciples get answers like this one from Jesus, “You give them something to eat.” Desmond Tutu once said, about hunger, “When people were hungry, Jesus didn’t say, “Now is that political, or social?” He said, “I feed you.” Because the good news to a hungry person is bread.”


Questions for reflection:

Is there at time in your life when someone shared bread with you when you were hungry? How did that bread become good news to you? When have you shared good news with another by sharing bread? Is God calling you to sharing bread today?

Thursday, November 6

Psalm 145

The eyes of all look to you,

And you give them their food in due season.

You open your hands,

Satisfying the desire of every living thing.

Spotlight on Mission

The First Presbyterian Church of Barre has been involved in feeding ministries for a number of years now. Dozens of people have been involved, one of which is Kay Oles. Here is an interview with her about her work…

How did you decide to get involved with the community breakfasts?

My friend Jill Bruce had mentioned the breakfasts to me. I went to church one Sunday and the sermon was about how it is easy to write a check but it takes more to give the gift of time. I heard the invitation to give back for my good fortune…besides writing a check. I am impressed by all that this church as a small church does for the community, all the connection to the community that we have, and I am grateful to be part of it.”

What keeps you returning to the work of community meals? Knowing that I’m meeting a need and it makes me feel good. I am finding peace here that I experienced growing in the Catholic Church. I stopped attending the Catholic Church and my involvement in feeding work at the Presbyterian Church has helped me to get back on the right path of things to accomplish.

What inspires you? It has been a long time since I’ve been connected to the church. I feel like I want to be in the church and the service makes me want to be part of the church. I have learned that this is a church that really helps people. I feel fortunate to be in a position to help out, being retired, and able to give back. It has helped me on my spiritual journey. I always say, “My church is nature and I love nature and my spiritual journey is learning how to care for life. I consider myself a seasonal Presbyterian (when it comes to Sunday worship) but I’m here every Wednesday serving.”


Questions for reflection:

Are there ways that you have been connected to the church’s mission and ministry? What experiences that you have had resonate with Kay’s? How are your experiences similar? How are they different?

Wednesday, November 5

Acts 20:  Paul speaks, I coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothing. You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions.  In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”


Part of what has become known as “The Prayer of St. Francis” says,

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

St. Francis takes Paul’s words about Jesus one step further. Not only is it more blessed to give than to receive but IN GIVING, WE RECEIVE. The beauty of service is that it is, most clearly, a two-way street. When we serve, we often experience that we ourselves are served. Such is the nature of caring, of love, of compassion. When we allow ourselves to be used as instruments in God’s hand, we realize that God moves through and from us while also moving toward and in us.


Questions for reflection:

Think of a time when you thought to yourself, “I’m serving here.” What about that specific experience allowed you to value both your serving as well as your being served by another?

Tuesday, November 4
1 Peter 4  Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.” Rooted in his Christian faith, Dr. King both knew and preached that we rely on God’s Spirit to give us the support and the “advocacy” we need to serve. In the book of John, Jesus reminds his disciples that the Holy Spirit will come in the form of the “Advocate.” In God’s Spirit and with God’s Spirit, we have an advocate who strengthens us for lives of service. We do not go it alone!

Questions for reflection:

Can you think of a time that you have served your neighbor and felt a sense of support from a power greater than you own? How would you describe the feeling of strength, support, stamina? If you can put the strength into words, might you share your story with someone in your life today?

Monday, November 3

John 13 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.



Carl Geories, minister for decades in the Presbyterian Churches of Mission at the Eastward in Maine commented, “Presbyterian Women are the backbone of mission.” He knew from his persistent work at making the world a better place that women’s mission and ministries have long been the backbone of the Presbyterian Church’s mission. The Elwood Club (and it’s transformation into the Elwood Presbyterian Women), in addition to being a social group, undertook regular mission projects reaching across our country and around the world. Thanks be to God for the mission and ministry of the women of the Presbyterian Church, for their insight, dedication and ministry.

Questions for reflection

What memories do you have of the mission and ministries of the Presbyterian women at the First Presbyterian Church?

Sunday, November 2

Matthew 25: 34-40 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?  And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’


St. Benedict, in cultivating the community that was to become the Benedictine monastic order held this founding principle, “To reject the world is to reject other people. To reject other people is to reject Christ himself…All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ.” Sticking close to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 25, Benedict reminded people that welcoming strangers as Christ was not some idea for consideration. Such welcoming is, effectively, Christian law. See people as Christ, particularly the least of these. See in them the Christ, see in them the force of life, see in them the spark of the Divine. And, as you relate to people around you, know that you are treading on holy ground.

Question for reflection:

Think of a time when you related to another person as if you were relating to Christ. Describe the feeling, the way of thinking? How does relating to another person as Christ shift (or not shift) the way you relate to them?

November 1, 2014

Living lives of mission and service…such has been the calling of people of the First Presbyterian Church of Barre. Among Jesus’ first actions in his ministry is the calling to would-be disciples, “Come and follow me!” We hear that same voice inviting us to lives of learning and service.

November first marks the beginning of our second month of sharing in devotions as a congregation. Marking the 125th anniversary of the church, we are spending time together reading, reflecting, and praying our way through scriptures and meditations that can shape us to be the people of God.

During October, we focused on the role of fellowship in the creation of the church as the people of God. Fellowship, while not flawless, supports us to become the people that God longs for us to be. And, as we become those people, our natural outward flow is toward mission and service. The inward breath is renewal in fellowship, the outward breath living out our lives in faithful service.

In these pages, you will find scriptures, quotations, sayings and reflections that we pray and hope will create time for reflection and inspiration for service. Let’s allow the questions in the daily readings to be invitations from God for concrete action each day of November. May we meet God in these pages in the month of November! Let us remember, in the words of Emil Bruner, “The church exists by mission as a fire exists by burning.”

Carl Hilton VanOsdall

In the Pastor’s Study

First Presbyterian Church of Barre

November 1, 2014


On behalf of the Devotional Committee ~ Janet Fuhrmeister, Diane Nichols-Fleming and Carl Hilton VanOsdall

Saturday, November 1

Philippians 2: 1-5  If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.




Kathleen Norris, in her book Amazing Grace, writes of the teachings of St. Benedict (d. 543) . Benedict taught, “Only people who are at home and at home with themselves can offer hospitality.”


Questions for reflection:

How have you witnessed other people placing themselves at God’s disposal in the fellowship of the First Presbyterian Church? Who, specifically, comes to mind?

Friday, October 31

1 Corinthians 12: 14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose…but God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Question for Reflection:

What sort of community do you sense God has in store for the First Presbyterian Church in the coming days and years? How might God be calling you, this day, to be engaged in the community and fellowship of our congregation?

Thursday, October 30

Mark 8: 34 “He called the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”


Theologian James Cone writes, “If Jesus is Lord of the church, then the church is his servant. It is that congregation of people whose identity as the people of God arises from the definition of servanthood that is derived from Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection . . . The servanthood of the church is defined by the cross of Jesus, and nothing else . . . Being a servant of Jesus involves more than meeting together every Sunday for worship and other liturgical gatherings. It involves more than serving as an officer or even a pastor of a church. Servant includes a political component that thrusts a local congregation into society, where it must take sides with the poor.”


Questions for reflection:

James Cone makes the case that an integral part of Christian fellowship is taking up the cause of the poor as a mark of a true Christian. How has the church and how have you been part of “taking sides” with the poor?


1 Peter 4:9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.



Saint Maximos the Confessor (580–662) once said, “Blessed is the one who can love all people equally . . . always thinking good of everyone.” This teaching follows many of Jesus’ teachings about loving neighbor. How quickly we can slip from a stance of overall satisfaction to general disgruntlement. And as we slip down that slope, we can find ourselves in quite a pickle. As we hold onto resentments, wrongs done to us, many things about which we can be “justifiable” grumbling and grumpy…we miss out on the freedom, liberation and new life to which God invites us. When we can love all, think good of all, we find both blessing and happiness (and, of course, those of whom we think good find freedom and love, too).

Question for reflection:

What ways have you been able to use the church community as a kind of testing ground for “thinking good of everyone” or demonstrating hospitality without grumbling? What is it like, for you, to think good of everyone? What is it like to demonstrate hospitality without grumbling?

Tuesday, October 28


Colossians 3:13 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, bear with one another…and clothe yourselves with love.


Henri Nouwen once wrote, “Community is like a large mosaic. Each little piece seems so insignificant. One piece is bright red, another cold blue or dull green, another warm purple, another sharp yellow, another shining gold. Some look precious, others ordinary. Some look valuable, others worthless. Some look gaudy, others delicate. As individual stones, we can do little with them except compare them and judge their beauty and value. When, however, all these little stones are brought together in one big mosaic portraying the face of Christ, who would ever question the importance of any one of them? If one of them, even the least spectacular one, is missing, the face is incomplete. Together in the one mosaic, each little stone is indispensable and makes a unique contribution to the glory of God. That’s community, a fellowship of little people who together make God visible in the world.”


Questions for reflection:

Is there a missing piece (or pieces) to the mosaic that is our church? Might God be encouraging you to reach out to someone “missing” from our community right now that God might be nudging you and saying, “pay them a visit?”

Monday, October 27

Romans 12:5 – “We are one body in Christ and individually we are members of one another.”


John Mbiti, an African theologian, once said, “I am because we are; and since we are, I am.”


Questions for reflection:

What experiences have you had that verify or call into question the truth of this statement?

Sunday, October 26

Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not to your own interest but to the interests of others.


Millard Fuller, president of Habitat for Humanity, wrote these words, “For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people’s love and concern for each other.



Questions for reflection:

What would increase our church’s capacity for a greater concern for one anther? Can you pray for that increase today?

Saturday, October 25

Hebrews 13 Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.


Joanna Adams tells of a favorite story from the Hasidic Jewish tradition, “A rabbi was asked one day by a student, “How can one tell when the new day has come?”

The rabbi reversed the question, “You tell me how you can know.”

The student guessed, “Is it when the rooster crows to signal a new dawn?”

“No,” the rabbi responded.

“Is it then perhaps when one can discern the silhouette of a tree against the sky?”

“No,” he was told. “The surest way to know when the night is over and when a new day has come is when you can look into the face of a stranger, the one who is so different from you, and recognize him as your brother. See her as your sister. Until that day comes, it will always be night.”

Question for reflection:

Can you think of one experience in which, after so doing, you realized that you had “entertained angels without knowing it?” What was that experience like? If it has, how has your ability to “know you’re entertaining angels” increased?

Friday, October 24

Hebrews 10:2425 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.



A tradition that, as much as any others, defines the First Presbyterian Church of Barre is the Scottish Tea and Bazaar. Thousands of hours have been poured into the Scottish Tea and Bazaar as a way making manifest God’s love and Christ’s hospitality. Pam Cyr reflects on the Tea in this way:

“Memories of the Scottish Tea and Bazaar are not all of the day itself, but all the gatherings in preparation. There were the apron sewing bees, wreath making, dried flower arrangements and other craft work bees and now scone making. The biggest work bee of all was making the mealie puddings. Young and old, all able bodies were needed for making mealie puddings! During all these work bees there has always been a lot of good conversation, laughter and a time to get to know each other better.

On Scottish Tea and Bazaar day fellowship expands to the wider community. Three, sometimes four generations of our family have enjoyed getting together for the tea. The tea is always good and the bazaar amazing, but what’s relished the most is the fellowship and Christian love present through it all.

Question for reflection:

What memories do you have of the Scottish Tea or other all-church fellowship and hospitality activities.

Thursday, October 23

1 Corinthians. 1:9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.


When I think of gatherings of the Christian community, I often think that it is not by accident that the specific people gathered are together at any given point in time. “It’s not by accident that we are here today,” could serve as an every Sunday call to worship or an opening prayer for any church gathering. God will work to bring and make meaning of our times together and we have a profound need, one for another, in the Christian community.


Questions for reflection:

When have you experienced God calling you to some gathering or some work? What has that sense of calling felt like? What words or images would you use to describe such and experience?

Wednesday, October 22

Psalm 133 How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!

It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life forevermore.



People living together in unity has long been both a goal and a reality of the Christian community.

  1. Vermon McGee once wrote, “There is a brotherhood within the body of believers, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the common denominator. Friendship and fellowship are the legal tender among believers.”

The Psalmist calls us to live together in unity. People often mistake uniformity for unity. The call to unity DOES NOT mean the call to be all alike. The call to Christian community is a call to be together (unity) not in spite of but in celebration of differences. We need one another and one another’s various gifts to be Christ’s body. Living together, worshipping together, meeting together, serving together in unity…amidst differences…that is what makes content God’s heart, and ours.


Question of reflection:

Think of an experience when you experienced unity amidst difference? What did you learn about God’s heart for breadth of expression in creation? How did you learn more about God or yourself by being “united” with others in fellowship?

Tuesday, October 21

Acts 2:42 and they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.


Some of the hallmarks of the early church are learning, spending time together, eating together and praying. These four activities have served as pillars giving structure and strength to the First Presbyterian Church for 125 years.


Questions for reflection:

Can you think of a handful of experiences in which you shared in these four experiences? How has God used these experiences to structure, shape and strengthen our church’s purpose?

Monday, October 20

Romans 12 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;  love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.


In this passage, Paul speaks of many marks or attributes of followers of Jesus. Of the many marks, we might focus on “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” George Eliot once said, “Surely it is not true blessedness to be free from sorrow while there is sorrow in the world; sorrow is then part of love, and love does not seek to throw it off.”

Question for reflection:

Think of one time when you were able to rejoice with a person rejoicing or weep with a person weeping. What do you remember about the experience of laughing or weeping? How might weeping or laughing in this way bring joy to God’s heart?

Sunday, October 19

1 John 1 “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”


The writer of the letters of John knew of Jesus the Christ in many ways: by what had been heard, seen, and felt concerning God’s word made alive. The experience of Christ is one that we do not only know about by seeing. It is not something that we solely hear about. Nor is our encounter with Jesus to be something uniquely physical. Rather, our experience of Jesus is to come in many ways, shapes, and forms. Perhaps John is working to speak to a life of faith that is all encompassing. God in Christ does not only want part of our hearing, sight, our touch. Instead, God wants all of us, all of who we are. We can know Christ by many of our faculties with a corollary to this being that Christian fellowship is not singular but rather about fellowship, about community.


Questions for reflection:

Worship can be a matter of not just one of our faculties but many. How have you experienced worship as more than just a matter or heart…or just a matter of the mind…but, rather, have been impacted by many different experiences (or ways of knowing) God?

Saturday, October 18

Luke 24:13-15 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.  While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.



This story recounts an event that transpired on the very night that the disciples discovered his resurrection. Perhaps it was not by accident that Jesus came among the disciples as they were engaged in discussion with one another. Various groups in the church, from the Adult Study to in home groups to mid week Bible studies have experienced the way that the Living Christ comes among individuals as they engage and open their minds in interaction and discussion.


Question for reflection:

Remember a time when you have heard the voice of God speaking in a group or through a particular participant in the discussion? What was said that you heard as God’s voice?

Friday, October 17

1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.


One of the marks of the Presbyterian Church is that of connectivity. Did you know that the First Presbyterian Church of Barre is, effectively, a sister church to worshipping Presbyterian communities in Barnet, Burlington, East Craftsbury, Graniteville, the Ryegates, and West Topsham? Moreover, there are many retired Presbyterian ministers within Vermont and we share a connection, via the Presbytery of Northern New England with all of them. We are diverse congregations yet our common mission of making God’s love known unites us like a magnet pulling us together across the state. By some work of God’s Spirit, we are both unique and connected.


Question for reflection:

Think of a time that you have had connections with Christian people beyond our local congregation. What insights into being one, being together did you glean?

Thursday, October 16

1 Corinthians. 1:9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.


“The fellowship of his son” denotes a certain, important characteristic about life in Christ. Especially following Jesus’ death, the resurrected Christ is none other than fellowship. Christ among us is Christ IN THE PEOPLE OF GOD. For 125 years, worshipping in weekly services totaling (at least) six thousand five hundred times, the people of God have bound themselves to each other and to God in worship. Then, that worship has made (at least) two provisions: for fellowship and for equipment for service. Coming together has strengthened connections and capacity for service.


Questions for reflection:

What is one experience you have had in worship that has led to your feeling a greater connection with people around you? How might your involvement in worship further connections between people and people…and between people and God?

Wednesday, October 15

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.


In Barbara Brown Taylor’s most recent book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, she writes, “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.”


The biblical call is often to be children of the light, to walk in the light. Walking in the light and being light is crucial to our existence as God’s children. In a straightforward way of thinking, scripture’s call is (almost) always to light. However, we can explore things a bit further as we recognize lessons learned in the darkness. When we stumble in the dark, we often find treasures that would otherwise go unseen. Living the spiritual life is about walking in both light and darkness.


Questions for reflection:

How have you learned about God by seeking and walking in the light?

How have you learned about God by seeking and walking in the darkness?

Tuesday, October 14

1 John 1:3 We declare to you that which we have seen and heard. We proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.


In First John, we hear many teachings on love in the Christian community, the church. John reminds us that when we love (in selfless ways), we increase our connection to neighbor. Who doesn’t feel the warmth, acceptance and sense of being valued when in the presence of one who loves? Moreover, when we love, we find connection with God. Elsewhere, John says, “Those who abide in love abide in God and God abides in them.” Abiding is not a passing investment. Abiding is a persistent and consistent way of living in love and, therefore, living in God.


Questions for reflection:

Can you think of a time when you felt a part of God’s life as a result of your being inspired to love? What are a few characteristics of that experience?

Monday, October 13

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”


Until it’s conclusion in the late 1990s, a group of a dozen or so adults got together for fellowship, community and learning in the form of a group called The Adult Fellowship. John Quinlan reflects on the meeting of the adult fellowship group in this way,

The Adult Fellowship Club was a large group of adults that met at the church once a month for dinner and a program. We had committees that took turns making and serving the meals and providing the programs. We often had speakers, but had “fun nights” and played entertaining games. One night we gave Chuck and JoAnn Gibson a wedding shower and another time we had a poolside cookout at the Quinlan’s. John Bryan entertained us with his banjo and John Quinlan with his guitar. The club was a time of good fellowship and sharing together.

Sunday, October 12

John 17:23  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.


Henri Nouwen once wrote,

“This internalizing of openness to God and concern for neighbors is what it means to be a Christian, rather than simply act like one. That the church can produce this kind of person is a persuasive recommendation for the church. Within the fellowship of the church, we help one another become such Christians. Here we can become comrades of our better selves. We support one another in our highest resolves. An entire searching congregation turns our attention to the liberation of unrealized possibilities as we respond to the upward call of God. Even one other person or a small subgroup within the church can sustain our determination to spend more time at devotions and to act differently in society.”


Questions for reflection:

In your experience, has seeking to be one with others (bound together as the church) helped or hindered your ability to demonstrate love in the world? What are examples of decisions to love that made a difference in your life? In the church?

Saturday, October 11

Philemon 2:1-2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.


While there are many differences among the people of God, we are called to Love. Harvey and Lois Seifert once wrote, “There are certain personal attitudes and feelings that contribute to creative relationships with others. They include, for one thing, warm acceptance and understanding instead of rejection or hostility. Even when we disagree with or regret the action of another, we can emphasize, “I still love you,” instead of “You really were a fool.” We can help others feel that we are still on their side when it comes to appreciating and encouraging them as persons.


Questions for reflection:

How can seeking to love instead of hate (or getting stuck in frustration) further the work of the Christian community? Have you seen signs of such a love in recent interactions with people in your life?

Friday, October 10

Colossians 2:2 I want that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ.


We often hear of a community of believers as a tapestry, many people and their gifts woven together to become the fabric of the church, the body of Christ living here and now in the world.


Questions for reflection:

When you think of your participation in the local church (or the universal body of Christ), what important threads to you see? How have you been woven into the fabric of God’s family? How have you (and can you) allow yourself to be used for God’s work today?

Thursday, Oct. 9th

Thursday, October 9

Ephesians 5    Be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Berthold Auerbach once wrote, “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”


Questions for reflection:

Think of a time, in your worship life in church when you were moved by the singing or hearing of music. How did music wash away the dust of life from your soul?

Wed, Oct 8th

Wednesday, October 8

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.


Former member of both the church and choir, Abe Lyttle, reflected on his life at church in an interview with Winnie McCormick. Hear his reflections on how he walked in love (and humor and joy) through his engagement at church.

Abe Lyttle was born in 1915 in Ware, Massachusetts. His family moved to Gilbertville and then when he was 9 years old to Springfield. He was raised a Presbyterian and attended a small church. His father was Clerk of Session. In those days only men were elders. During his time in the choir Abe directed the choir for 5 or 6 years. There were other choir directors he remembers. Evelyn Towle was the director when the choir put on an opera at the Masonic Temple. Norma Puricelli was in it. He thinks the opera was called “The Grasshopper.” Another time the choir sang at Christmas at the East Montpelier Center Church. The church had no electricity and the choir members had to use flashlights when they sang. T. Murdock Hale was the minister at the time. When Rev. Hale went to leave church he found his rubbers frozen to the floor!

Abe remembers having a lot of fun in those days. “We didn’t spend money,” he recalls, “We didn’t have it.”   Abe also remembers the prayer breakfast held at church every Wednesday morning at 7:00 AM. The average attendance each week was about 20 people. “Ken & Lily Tucker made sticky buns. Boy, were they good!” Ruth Frigon also used to come, as well as people from Graniteville.

One Good Friday while getting the Prayer Breakfast ready, the heater exploded at about 6:00 AM. “It sounded like a 5 inch cannon going off.” Abe was standing by the kitchen sink. Rudolf Jackman was thrown against the kitchen shelf. Unfazed, they cleaned up.” People came at 6:15 and at 7:00 we had the service. Afterwards, Rudy drove his own car up to the hospital to get checked. Rudy used to preach once and awhile at the breakfast, too.” Since Abe & Ellen were unable to be in church, our church choir went and sang with the Lyttle’s in their home. Choir members miss Abe’s presence.

Tuesday, October 7

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.



Kentucky poet, Wendell Berry wrote,

“Whatever happens,
Those who have learned
To love one another
Have made their way
To the lasting world
And will not leave,
Whatever happens.”


Questions for reflection:

As the great call to fellowship of Christians is to love one anther with “brotherly/sisterly affection.” What is one experience that you have had in the church (or in life in general) when you experienced a love that helped you to “make your way to the lasting world?” How might you give thanks to God for the experience?

First Presbyterian Church of Barre is a place where God works to make disciples of Jesus. Here we experience Christian community as we walk our spiritual journey with others. As disciples, we are strengthened by God’s Spirit to live out God’s love in word and deed.

October 1, 2014

This year marks one and a quarter centuries of life for the First Presbyterian Church of Barre. Back in 1889, God moved in people’s lives in a particular way, prompting them to search for Christian fellowship, to look for a way to practice Christian mission, and to yearn for a deepening of their spiritual life. Those Christians banded together to form the First Presbyterian Church of Barre. Church leaders from Boston, MA and Ryegate, VT helped facilitate the formation of a Christian community in Barre that would become the First Presbyterian Church of Barre, established in 1889. The rest is history. God is with us. The future lies before us.

With October 2014’s beginning, we find ourselves twelve and a half (12.5) weeks from the end of the year in which we are celebrating the church’s 125th anniversary. (By moving the decimal point one place, 12.5 weeks reflects the 125 years of FPC’s history!) As a way of marking this anniversary, church leaders are inviting church members and friends to set aside a time each day for reflection and prayer. Through the pages of this small devotional booklet, you will find scriptures, quotations, stories and questions for reflection. At this 125th anniversary point in our church’s life, let us gather our hearts and minds together for both APPRECIATION of what has gone before as well as EXPECTATION of what lies ahead of us.

Among other things, the church has been a place where God has moved in the following ways: by creating fellowship, by practicing mission, and by deepening the spiritual life. During the months of October, November and December, we will have the chance to share a devotional life focusing on fellowship (October), mission (November), and the spiritual life (December).

Let us both celebrate and engage in our life together, one day, one month at a time. Dig into these pages, and l find the devotions for October, with November and December’s devotionals to follow.
Grace to you,

Janet Fuhrmeister, Carl Hilton VanOsdall, and Diane Nichols-Fleming,
The Devotional Planning Group

Sunday, October 5
1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

A core facet to the Christian life is that we are willing and able not only to serve one another but place our very lives as the disposal of people around us. Other passages in scripture call followers of Jesus a priesthood of believers and many refer to Christians as ministers of reconciliation.

Questions for reflection:
How have you witnessed other people placing themselves at God’s disposal in the fellowship of the First Presbyterian Church? Who, specifically, comes to mind?

Monday, October 6
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux once said, “We find rest in those we love, and we provide a resting place in ourselves for those who love us.”

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