Words from the Pastor
Blessing the Dust
A Blessing for Ash Wednesday
By Jan L. Richardson
All those days you felt like dust, like dirt,
as if all you had to do was turn your face
toward the wind and be scattered
to the four corners
or swept away by the smallest breath
Did you not know what the Holy One
can do with dust?
This is the day we freely say
we are scorched.
This is the hour we are marked
by what has made it through the burning.
This is the moment we ask for the blessing
that lives within the ancient ashes,
that makes its home inside the soil of
this sacred earth.
So let us be marked not for sorrow.
And let us be marked not for shame.
Let us be marked not for false humility
or for thinking we are less
than we are
but for claiming what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world is made,
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. The ashes remind us both of our mortality--"from dust you have come and to dust you shall return"--and of our need to constantly be in an attitude of repentance reflecting the ancient practice of covering oneself in sackcloth and ashes. As mortal and fragile human beings, we recognize our finitude and ultimately, our dependence always on the God who has given us life. During this Lenten season it is my hope that we will be able to "claim what God can do within the dust, within the dirt, within the stuff of which the world is made." We may be finite and frail but God is able to do great things in and through our frailty. May you experience a blessed Lenten journey begun in dust and concluded in the assurances of an empty tomb.
Worship Ahead in February
2/18 The First Sunday in Lent
Scripture: Genesis 9:8-17; Mark 1:9-15
Theme: Wandering in the Wilderness of Lent.
Just as Jesus felt compelled to go into the wilderness following his baptism ("driven by the Spirit"), so too we are compelled to enter into the season of Lent in order to experience the spiritual benefits that this season has to offer. What spiritual practices might you adopt during this time in order to more fully experience God's presence in your life? Announcements Calendar for the Week of February 11
Ash Wednesday Service to be Held at the Arlington Street UMC
This year we will join our sister church, the Arlington Street UMC for our Ash Wednesday Service, which they will host. The service will be held on Wednesday, February 14th at 7:00pm and will include music by a joint choir and preaching by Pastor Rich. The disposition of ashes will be available for all who would like to receive them.
Ashes Available Wednesday Morning
In addition to the ashes available at the Wednesday evening service, ashes will be provided between 7:30am and 10:00am in the chapel. If you come before 8:00am, please use the front door; after 8:00am please use the rear door.
A Conversation with Corey
It started one morning at Café Agape with a general conversation about why people become homeless. Corey explained that it can happen to anybody for multiple reasons—loss of employment, addiction, mental illness, physical handicaps, poor judgement, and no support from family or friends. Once on the street, you expend most of your energy on surviving and don't have the energy to look for a job.
Craig chimed in, "And nobody wants to hire you if you look like you crawled out of a dumpster."
So what do you do? You can either search for help or give up entirely and find a way to escape your physical and mental pain—usually with something addictive.
Then Corey began a more personal conversation and told me his story of homelessness. His mother was fourteen when she became pregnant with him and his father was sixteen. He and his mother are very close, yet he hasn't seen her lately, because, he said, "I'm tired of breaking her heart."
Because Corey has ADHD, he needs a job that is physically active. He loves doing auto body work, especially painting cars. For two years he worked at TK Auto Body in Milford until they closed. Then he worked at Maaco for a year. He has worked in factories, but it was in a factory that he cracked his 4th and 5th lumbar, which put him out of commission for a while. His doctor prescribed Percocet for a year, and when she suddenly stopped renewing the prescription, he was in trouble. He had become addicted to Percocet and the cheapest replacement was heroin.
"Shooting heroin is like playing Russian Roulette," Corey said. "Every time you push in the needle, you don't know what it's going to do to you. The fifth time I almost died did it for me. It made me realize the lunacy of it all."
Corey went to Harbor Homes. After going cold turkey for a week, they gave him Vivitrol, which decreases the brain's cravings for opioids. That was eight months ago and now Corey is clean.
"So what's next?" I asked him.
In spite of lingering pain from his back injury and arthritis that is getting worse, Corey has been working with Donna at the Nashua Soup Kitchen to look for a job.
And I suggested he give his mother a call.
-submitted by Mary Marchese
Food Pantry Update
It has been nine months since our food pantry joined forces with the Nashua Soup Kitchen (NSK) and during that time, Charlie Flagler has made a visible difference. Most Monday mornings he arrives early to a scene of debris and jumbled cardboard boxes around the dumpsters. When he leaves several hours later, the area is orderly and swept clean.
Sometimes Charlie has help from one or two young men doing community service, but often it's just Charlie alone making the very noticeable improvement.
Charlie is one of seven stalwart volunteers from MSUMC who faithfully serve at the NSK at least once a week. Most show up twice a week. Their impact may not be as visible as Charlie's, but the blue-aproned Methodists are being noticed, not just by management at the NSK, but by very grateful clients who appreciate our welcoming and positive attitudes.
In addition, our Third Sunday Food Pantry is attracting a following. On January 21, twelve MSUMC volunteers served 54 clients and this was in spite of competition from the Patriots' AFC championship game!
Thanks to all who participate and keep this ministry alive! Everyone is welcome to join us and find out for yourselves that you will benefit as much, if not more, than the people you serve.
TP and Tuna Drive Next Sunday, February 18
The Nashua Soup Kitchen has rolled through the toilet paper that we collected back in September. We collected 408 rolls, but the NSK has asked if we could have another TP challenge. Tuna has also been an item that has been lacking at the NSK this month, so if you can bring TP or tuna and put it in the blue bin by the door in the vestry, it will soon be in circulation. Patrons at the NSK can receive a bag of toiletries each month, and that bag includes a roll of toilet paper.
-submitted by Phyllis Appler