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United Church of Christ
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285 West National Drive
Newark, Ohio 43055
(740) 323-2407


Pastor's message

2019 June message

Dear members and friends of St. John’s:

A man meets a friend and says, I won a thousand dollars in a contest." The friend replies, "That's good." "No, I spent it on a skiing trip to Switzerland and broke a leg." "That's bad." "No, while I was in the hospital I fell in love with an attractive nurse and married her." "That's good." "No, it turned out that she didn't like the United States and insisted that we had to live in Europe." "That's bad." "No, we set up a home in Paris and I got a job with an export firm." "That's good." "No, the firm went bankrupt and we were soon reduced to poverty." "That's bad." "No, under those difficult circumstances I examined my goals and values and discovered that I was living for the wrong reasons." "That's good."

The dialogue goes on and on. What we discover is that the good and the bad grow side by side and that there are lessons to be learned from both of these.

Recently, I won a contest from an out-of-town car dealership. That was good. When I went to claim my prize, a big screen TV, I found that what seemed to be too good to be true, really was. That’s bad.

But, I did get a brand new two dollar bill, enough for two vanilla cones at the McDonald’s drive through - that’s good. However, in my disappointment and frustration, I left without using the restroom - that’s bad. I found one just in time - that’s good. But, in my rush to park the car, I scratched the front bumper of my new Toyota Corolla - that’s bad.

When I called the repair shop, I found that the bumper could be easily replaced - that’s good. And then, I saw my dear friend and brother in Christ, Max. We had both driven halfway to have lunch. That was better than good!

My mother loved to do contests, especially the Publisher’s Clearing House. Being the private person she was, it made me wonder what would have happened if she had actually won and a camera crew showed up at the door.

Mom always thought about the good she could do for others with that prize money. But, she never got her hopes up. Win or lose, she was always happy to send me to the mailbox with a stack of stamped entries.

This got me to thinking about what scripture says about prizes, so I looked up and reflected on these verses:

”Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 3:13-14

“Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.” -1 Corinthians 9:24

“Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” - James 1:12

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” - Philippians 4:13

Scripture is saying is that it matters less whether you win or lose and matters more how you run the race. Whether you and I see things as good or bad depends on what we value and the kinds of goals we set for ourselves.

When I went to get the prize that I didn’t win and I didn’t really want in the first place, it reminded me of the best prize that anyone can claim - our connections to God and each other, sharing God’s love as friends in Christ, and doing good things.

In Christ’s love,

Rev. Mark

Rev. Mark Katrick