The Block Island Times
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Clergy Corner: A word from our spiritual leaders this holiday season

Dec 25, 2012

God has a Christmas present waiting for you!

Christmas is a reminder that God sent his son, Jesus, to come to the earth in the form of a man and die on a cross in order to pay the penalty required by God’s justice for all of the sins that have been committed by mankind. Heaven is now open!

God has a present waiting for you to receive right now, which will allow you to experience His presence while you live, and assure you of your eternal destiny to heaven when you die.

Do you want this free gift?

If you do, then confess this prayer. God I am a sinner, who desires this gift from you. I believe in your son, Jesus Christ, who is: God come in the flesh, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on a cross to pay the penalty for sin along with providing forgiveness for them, rose again from the dead after three days never to die again, and ascended into heaven.

I believe in this Jesus, now please send me this free gift, this gift being the Holy Spirit, who you will send to reside in me. Thank you.

James Rondinone

Block Island Christian Fellowship

A kingdom of peace

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play…

Boy, do I hear them from my perch in the parsonage just below the speakers! We’re glad to have the carillon restored and heard over much of the island. And I think the bells are playing more “loud and strong” because they are under a newly shingled roof and just-installed solar-electric panels. The church house hums happily as we approach the celebration of Jesus’ birth. And yet the shadow of violence and conflict hangs over the holiday.

There is no peace on earth, I said,

For hate is strong

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

A Baptist statement of faith dating from 1925 says “The true remedy for the war spirit is the gospel of our Lord. The supreme need of the world is the acceptance of His teachings in all the affairs of men and nations, and the practical application of His law of love.” This is what Harbor Church stands for during the Christmas season and in every season. Jesus’ commands to love both neighbors and enemies, hand in hand with loving God, are the basis of our life together as a church and the need of places of conflict from Syria to Capitol Hill and Newtown, Conn.

We might well sing “There is no peace on Block Island, I said,” and someone just told me, “I’ll have to go off island to find Christmas.” It need not be so. We need not agree about everything to treat one another with respect and good will. Our prayer for the island is that love will triumph — as the gospel tells us it ultimately will.

Longfellow wrote his poem (now turned carol) in the dark middle of the Civil War, 150 years ago. In verses we no longer sing he wrote about cannons thundering in the South and the continent rent as if by an earthquake. Even so, he heard something above the thunder:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.

The promise is still sure that Christ is bringing a kingdom of peace. The angels, like the bells, will not be silenced, and hearts once hardened will be turned toward God and neighbor.

Rev. Steve Hollaway

Harbor Church

Faith is the beginning

The Church ends one liturgical year and begins the next on the highest note, actually with the conclusion declaring: Jesus Christ, King of the Universe!

What kind of king? What kind of kingdom? As in everything Jesus says and does, He turns the concept on its head. It is most certainly not a kingdom of kings, emperors, dictators, presidents or governors; not a reign of gold, silver, palaces and armies; not a realm of subjects and masters, slaves and free, the haves and the haves not. Jesus’s kingdom is the people of God, you and me, the citizenry of earth and heaven. The kingdom of Jesus Christ is the people of Faith so solid that they believe in Jesus at his word and follow Him in imitation of his words and actions in the way He spoke and acted. The Kingdom of Jesus Christ is the People of Jesus Christ establishing a law of justice, love, peace and service for all people in actual acts of respect, forgiveness and caring. The Kingdom of Jesus Christ is Jesus Christ living and acting through each of us.

This way of living starts with a solid Faith that states: I believe solely on the word of Jesus. I believe He is King of kings and Lord of lords. I believe He was born a man, lived and died as a man, taught a way of living that the human being is capable of living and saved my soul and society from self destruction. I believe Jesus is good on His promises.

But Faith is not the end of the story. It is the beginning. So to speak, it gets us through the door. We must then trust Jesus enough to express His thoughts and expressions, react to the needs of others in His way of accepting all simply on the principle that they need help and forgiveness, not because they deserve it, but simply because they need them. The Kingdom of Jesus is a Kingdom of Love. And love turns living life on its head!

The King did it our way: born of a woman, matured to adulthood, struggled, suffered and died trying to do good and entered eternity as a faithful Servant of the Father. He accomplished His destiny as a human being. Thus the Christmas meaning is that we accomplish our destiny best as human beings living and serving in the person of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Rev Joseph Protano, Pastor

St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church

Maimonides was a Moorish Spain philosopher, theologian and physician, who has great respect from Muslim, Christian and Jewish thinkers. When an early Al-Qaeda-type uprising occurred, he left Spain for Egypt. Egypt (Mitzraim) remained hospitable for the rest of his life. Among his other accomplishments, it is reported since he wrote in Arabic, he translated his own works into Hebrew and Latin. While he did much authoring, he is famously known for his rating tzedakah (doing right in the sight of the ruler of all).

Muslims, Druids, Anasazi, Jews and Christians have winter solstice orientations in their religious structures and services. These traditions also include giving gifts, both to strangers and family. Psychological research now finds that the mental reward of disinterested philanthropy is quite high in humans.

As a philosopher, as well as a physician, Maimonides, who was prescient, recognized the relationship of tzedakah to improving the human spirit. His lowest rating is for people, like his father, Maimon, who stand up before the Congregation and give a pittance of large wealth. His highest rating is for the person who quietly helps a poor person to help himself or herself. This includes a micro loan to start a small business, at no interest — or giving a farmer, who has lost his only cow, a new one. A modern example of this is Heifer International, which provides a heifer and a bull, or a hen and rooster, to a poor rural family. When there are animal descendants, at least one must be given to another poor family.

The recent trip of one percent of Block Island’s total year-round population to Haiti would be highly rated by Maimonides. (This would be the equivalent of 80,000 from New York City). The people had to go to a hot, dangerous place, to volunteer hard labor for total strangers. The participants say although it was hot and hard, their work building houses was very rewarding.

Former President Jimmy Carter, who is a leader and laborer in the Haiti Project, probably gets great spiritual reward from his efforts. The Project is run by the Carter Center, Habitat for Humanity and Haven (an Irish organization).

As we give gifts this year, we should think about the wisdom of Maimonides. We should think how gifts either to children or for those downtrodden can provide long-term good. Even though he had done bad things as a robber baron, Andrew Carnegie’s motto still has meaning: “To do real and permanent good.”

Shalom Aleikem, Salaam Alekem, Pax Vobiscum, Peace be with you.

Cantor Elliot Taubman

Congregation Sons and Daughters of Ruth

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