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A Message from Duncan- November 07, 2023

A Message from Duncan- November 07, 2023

Thou Shalt Not Be A Misery Guts


The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

 It’s one of my favorite Bible passages.  Nehemiah 8:11-12: “Thou shalt not be a misery guts.  Thou shalt rejoice, even though thou might not feel like it.”

OK, I kind of took liberties with the translation from the Hebrew.  The real version (NRSV) sounds more biblical, but it says pretty much the same thing.  This day is holy to the Lord your God.  Do not mourn or weep.  Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks and send some to those who have nothing prepared.  This day is holy to our Lord.  Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

For those of us who were brought up to believe that obeying God will always lead to pain and self-denial, sadness and boredom, Nehemiah 8 grins in our faces and sings a cheery wake-up call.  “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks … Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  God orders his people to have fun, do no work, and enjoy pleasant things.  Thou shalt not be a misery guts.

According to Richard Foster, it requires discipline if you’re going to celebrate.  Think about it.  If you’re having a hard day, singing joyfully about the love of God is not something that comes easily.  If you’re experiencing a time of worry or distress, giving thanks for the good things in life is not simple.  If your personality type leads you to focus on whatever’s bad and whatever’s wrong, then celebrating God’s love (even ‘enjoying choice food and sweet drinks’), is a tough call.  It takes mental discipline to celebrate.

As I write (it’s Tuesday morning, November 7th) there are just 12 days to go until Celebration Sunday.  That is the day when St John’s invites you to come to church and offer your 2024 pledge card (unless you have already done so.  If you have – thanks very much!  We so appreciate you!)

Yes, giving is an act of celebration.  Sometimes it takes a huge amount of courage, and a whole lot of sacrifice.  It requires the discipline of a steely heart and determined mind.  But it is also a celebration.

Imagine the Old Testament people of God celebrating their harvest and, as part of that, offering to God the first fruits of the produce.  This was a joyful event.  It was true celebration and thanksgiving.  And it involved giving.

So far, we have received around 70 pledge cards.  This is a good start.  But it is 100 fewer than the total number of pledges we received for 2023, and a good 130 short of our goal for 2024.  We are not disheartened by this.  We know that many households have not rushed into making their pledge.  In fact, that’s what we encouraged – take time over the autumn, think, pray, listen to sermons, read the great testimonies from church members in the weekly newsletter, watch the short videos on YouTube in which those folks talk about the meaning of stewardship to them, personally.  Then, on November 19th come, rejoicing, to offer your pledge to God and St John’s.

Gelind and I haven’t returned our pledge card yet.  We’re bringing ours to church on Celebration Sunday – the 19th.  Please do the same.  And bear in mind: we especially need new pledgers.  So if you have never done so, please prayerfully consider entering the fullness of celebration and making that pledge.  Thank you.