Thanks to all who helped make this a special service with their preparations and attendance!
Sunday Coffee Hour
Haiti is in crisis. There are zero elected officials in Haiti and no possibility to hold elections. The gang situation, risk of kidnapping, and insecurity has closed much of the capital of Port-au-Prince, including schools, but the crisis is affecting the entire country. There are 857 yearly kidnappings in Haiti, which is a country of 11.5 million people. In comparison, there are 650 yearly kidnappings in Mexico, which has a population of 130 million. That’s 20 less kidnappings in a place whose population is over 11x the size of Haiti! Imagine if you were risking your life to go to Cronigs and the idea of taking the boat off island was impossible. You would also be risking your life, or at least risking kidnapping, if you tried to leave the house for work. Keep in mind there is no regular electricity and the internet is spotty at best, so there’s no working from home either. How many of us would be fine without a job? The inflation rate in Haiti is 53%, so even if you are retired, if you are on a fixed income, it is likely not going to make ends meet. Imagine the financial stress on top of the risk of physical harm to your family as most Haitians have lost access to their work, markets, and health and nutrition services. Many have been forced to flee with little or no warning as gangs come to their house carrying out unspeakable violence and burning entire neighborhoods.
The police are outmanned, outgunned, and unable to respond as they are here in the US. There is no 911 to call or to rely on in Haiti. There are 9,000 National Police officers for the population of 11.5 million people in Haiti. In comparison, there are 36,000 police officers for the 8.9 million people in NYC. 78 police officers have been killed in Haiti in just the first quarter of 2023 and in that same time in the US with a population of 334 million people, 12 US police officers have killed.
Food is not moving around the country, and it is very expensive when it is available. It is not only an issue in cities, but in rural areas as well. According to the UN, a record 4.7 million people are currently facing acute hunger, including 1.8 million people in Emergency phase and, for the first time ever in Haiti, 19,000 people are in Catastrophe phase, the worst phase. In the rural areas, harvest losses due to below average rainfall and the lasting effects of the 2021 earthquake, are among the other devastating factors, beyond the political and economic crisis. There are 562 Haitians dying daily due to hunger.
In the past, members of this church and the Island community have supported the installation of a solar-powered drinking water project in Lilavois on the campus of
College Filles de Marie Reine Immaculée, so the residents of Lilavois are some of the fortunate few who have access to safe drinking water if they are within walking distance of the campus. Fuel has been stopped by gangs or is so expensive when available that the places that use generators to sell drinking water are closed. This has led to a sharp rise in Cholera.
There are plenty of complaints about the healthcare system in the US, but what would it be like if 85% of the healthcare facilities are reporting staff shortages and 100% of these facilities report difficulty maintaining key supplies like gloves, gauze, and bandages. Since the beginning of 2022, 30 doctors have been kidnapped. it is not hard to imagine why there is a shortage of doctors. Doctors are kidnapping targets who are forcibly required to assist injured gang members. When there is a possibility to leave the country, most do.
Priests, nuns, and ministers are also targets for kidnapping with gangs even coming into church services to kidnap their victims. The clergy are seen as more well-to-do than most others in Haiti; and international religious orders are known to have connections to money outside the country that may be able to pay the high ransoms that are demanded. You may remember our prayer requests as my brother-in-law was negotiating the release of his best friend, also a Salesian priest, just a few months ago.
So the struggle for daily living and a sense of normalcy are hard to come by. Any chance to go to school is a gift, especially on a campus where you can feel removed from the constant stress of living in these conditions.
School is not free in Haiti. Students must pay tuition, buy uniforms, and purchase school supplies. This means that not everyone can go to school. Not only is the cost of attending school a barrier for some people in Haiti, but there are many people, including children, who are forced by circumstance into domestic service that does not allow them access to school.
Knowing the importance of education and wanting to serve the most vulnerable in her community, Sr. Cadet, who was visiting last Sunday, created a program to offer education to those in the community who have never been able to go to school, especially children in forced domestic service known as Restavek. Restaveks are domestic slaves. They are often young girls who have been turned
out from their families by poverty. These children are not treated well and they certainly do not have the financial means to pay for regular school, never mind that’s when they are most likely to be working. Young boys are turned out of their homes as well. Rather than risk the entire family starving, they are left to manage on their own as young as 5 yrs old. You can imagine there is no shortage of young men to feed the pipeline of gang recruitment. Only the very luckiest of these boys are taken into a program like the one my brother-in-law runs in Cité Soleil, one of the most notorious slums in Port-au-Prince.
The regular students at the College Marie Reine Immaculée where Sr. Cadet serves as the principal, pay tuition, some of whom are sponsored through Haitian Outreach, the program that invited Sr. Cadet and Sr. Marlene to the US to celebrate their 25th anniversary. This tuition money from the traditional school pays for the campus and buildings, the desks, and the administration of the school, etc. School is held from 8am until 2pm, with younger students being dismissed earlier and only the high school staying until 2pm. Sr. Cadet, as principal of the school, knew that most of the classrooms are empty in the afternoons and this is the space that welcomes students who cannot otherwise afford to go to school or who have to work during traditional school hours. All she has to do is find funding for the teachers!
As part of our missions work, the Chilmark Community Church supports this afternoon program in Lilavois, Haiti that allows people who otherwise would have no means of attending school to learn in the afternoons. By sponsoring the teachers of the afternoon school, we are sponsoring an entire classroom of students.
Sr. Cadet knows that going to school provides some of the only hope for a bit of normalcy or perhaps a better life. Lilavois is in a suburb of Port-au-Prince and the school we sponsor wasn’t able to start this school year until November 28th, but they must close often due to risk of violence. The week before Easter vacation, the school closed two of the five days because of dangerous gang activity in the area that threatened travel to the school for teachers and students. Our support and encouragement for the students and teachers is very appreciated.
Sometimes places like Haiti can feel very far away. It is important for me to connect you in a personal way to the people in Haiti that we support. So you will
notice that our church not only sponsors the afternoon school program in Lilavois, but we frequently ask for prayers for Haiti and her people during the turmoil and crisis of this challenging time, and sometimes for individuals we know who are having a particularly difficult time.
After Sr. Cadet returns, on May 21, there is a group of students having their first communion. Mother’s Day in Haiti is two weeks after ours on May 28th. The reality of trying to carve out a life in a country where there are now 200 Individual armed groups operating continues.
Both Rolino and I will be very happy to talk to anyone wanting to know more about the situation in Haiti or wanting to help in a specific way. We can connect you to groups who facilitate student school sponsorships; Rolino’s brother works with street boys to offer a life outside of gang involvement and reconciliation with the family that put them in the street; and we know of Haitians who qualify to come to the US, but who need a sponsor to fill out a form online so they can come for 2 years through a program started for Ukraine and expanded to Haiti.
April 16 Lay Led Service
Remarks by Marie Wise
Based on John 20:19-31
Last week we celebrated Easter or the resurrec<on of Christ. We heard that Mary Magdalene was the first witness of our risen savior. She was not looking for that though. She had gone to the tomb to tend to Jesus’ dead body. Mary was alarmed when she found the door open, and his body gone. She ran back to tell the disciples and they all came running. They too saw the empty tomb and the burial shroud folded neatly on the ledge. John tells us that they did not stay long and returned to their homes. Mary, on the other hand, stayed. She took another look inside. She saw angels. She cried to them, asking where they had taken Jesus’ body so she could get it.
Then she heard a voice behind her. Perhaps she was looking out from the tomb into the bright light of day and could see only the silhoueNe of the man she thought was the gardener. But, when the man spoke, calling her by name, the way he had a thousand <mes before, she knew immediately that it was Jesus. Then she went straight back to tell the disciples she had seen him.
I cannot imagine what the disciples’ first reac<on was to Mary’s news but they did not have to wait long for proof of her words. That very evening as all but one gathered together, Jesus paid them a visit. He showed them his hands and his side and they were overjoyed to see him. He then forgave them and bestowed them with the Holy Spirit.
The one disciple that was not in aNendance was Didymus, also known as Thomas. There is no explana<on for why he was not there. Perhaps he was off grieving in his own way. Can you imagine the exci<ng conversa<on they had when the other disciples finally caught up with him and told him they saw Jesus?
“Didymus, where were you? Oh my God, you missed him! He was here!” “Missed who?
“Jesus! He was here!”
“Aw, cut it out, guys. That’s not funny.”
“No, it’s true! He showed us his wounds. Nail holes and all!”
“Yeah, right. I’ll believe when I see it. I’ll believe it when I can put my finger
in the nail holes.”
Ten men witnessed Jesus’ resurrected self but Thomas did not believe them. He wanted proof! He said to them,” Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” (Jn 21:25)
I had to stop right there because I was star<ng to have ques<ons. How long had Thomas been with Jesus that he couldn’t believe? What did he see in that length of <me? Was he really the only doubter?
First of all, when Jesus returned from the wilderness ader his forty days of tempta<on, he began to assemble the disciples. Thomas was one of the first chosen, this means that Thomas was with Jesus for at least two years.
In the first year, when he was popular, Thomas would have witnessed Jesus performing all sorts of miracles; calming the sea, cas<ng out demons, healing the sick and infirmed, and even raising the dead.
In the second year, Jesus’ popularity began to wane. Thomas con<nued to witness the power of Christ as he con<nued to heal people, walk on water, and feed the mul<tudes.
Besides all of that, Jesus has warned the disciple on at least three occasions that “the Son of Man was going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They would kill him, and on the third day he would be raised to life.” (Mt 17:22-23)
So, Thomas saw all this and heard all this but s<ll had trouble with the validity of the resurrec<on. He wanted prof. He had to see for himself and touch the wounds to really believe that Jesus Christ did what he said he would do. It wasn’t enough for ten other people to tell him what they saw.
Now, Thoms’ faith has been called into ques<on. He’s acquired the nickname, Doub<ng Thomas. But did he deserve it? Was he the only one to doubt Christ?
Do you remember Peter? He also demanded proof when Jesus came walking on water. He called to Jesus, “If it is you, tell me to come to you.” Jesus called him and Peter began to walk on water. Then he began to sink when he turned his aNen<on to the wind and waves around him. Again, he called to Jesus to save him, and he did. But Jesus rebuked him saying, “You of liNle faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt 14:22-23)
Then there was Philip. When Jesus was telling the disciples how to get to the Father, it was Philip who said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus rebuked Philip also saying, “Don’t you know me ader all this <me?” (Jn 14:8-9)
These are but two examples of others doubt so, you can see Thomas was not the only one. He just became the one we remember most. Fortunately, his doubt did not last long because a week ader the other disciples saw Jesus, Thomas too was a witness to the resurrected Christ. Jesus showed him the wounds and told him to touch them. Jesus knew what Thomas needed.
So, who is Thomas. What made him so special? He is flee<ngly men<oned in the books of MaNhew, Mark, and Luke. It is not un<l we get to the gospel of John, where he is men<oned twice, that he becomes a more important figure.
Like several of the first chosen disciples, he was most likely an ordinary fisherman; just and everyday kind of guy.
He had immense loyalty to Jesus. When Jesus wanted to go to Jerusalem to raise Lazarus from the dead, it was Thomas who reminded him that the Jews wanted to stone him. Jesus s<ll wanted to go, and Thomas said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us all go and die with him.” (Jn 11:16)
And just maybe, Thomas wasn’t doub<ng the Lord when he said he’d need to touch the nail holes. Maybe he was doub<ng the words of the disciples.
One author I came across claims that Thomas was speaking honestly when he requested proof that Jesus had risen. He states that “sincere faith does not prohibit sincere inves<ga<on.” I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” It is at these <mes we must ask ques<ons and get to the truth of the maNer.
Jesus, on the other hand, already knew what Thomas needed before he even arrived. He offered the proof, telling Thomas to put his finger in the wounds. He knew what Thomas needed to believe and he provided the evidence. “Jesus loving
met Thomas at the exact point of his need and guided him back to faith.” (GotQues<ons.org)
We cannot see Jesus as Thomas did but that does not maNer. Jesu said, “Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (Jn 20:29) This message applies to all of us.
Friends, have you ever been doubmul? Have you ever ques<oned the reality of it all? Ques<oned Jesus or God himself or what he can do for you? It is alright. I certainly have had my doubts at <mes. Some<mes I’ve started my prayers with, “Lord if you can….” (You can fill in the blank here.) There should be no “Ifs” in my prayers because the Lord can!
Can we rid ourselves of doubt? Of course, we can through prayer, Bible study and faith. Will doubt return? Yes, it probably will but we can beat it with Jesus’ help because he knows what we need.
In the end, Thomas was loyal and faithful to Jesus. There are no more men<ons of him doub<ng. He took the word of God to Parthia which we call India where he was eventually martyred for his faith.
Let us pray.
You have set before us the example of Thomas. You have shown us that though we some<mes have doubt, you s<ll love us and will guide us back to faith. You have told us that though we have not seen you and s<ll believe in you that we are blessed. We are blessed because believing without seeing is the very defini<on of faith. Lord, we thank you for your love and the guidance you have provided
through your word. We pray to be ever faithful in our belief, our words, and our ac<ons un<l wee meet you face to face.
In your name, Jesus, we pray. Amen
L. Marie Wise
Chilmark Community Church 4/16/2023
Beautiful service..music by Phil Dietterich, organist and Violet Southwick, cellist.
pizza Night March 21
Lay member’s lesson for Jan 15 reading. Marie Wise touched our minds and hearts.
Dear Lord, I pray that the words I am about to give are the words you want your people to hear. I believe that each time I got confused about the message, you brought me back to the path. Please bless all attended here and may the find the message useful to their own ministries. Amen
When asked to speak today, I was given a couple of choices epiphany or baptism. I immediately was drawn to baptism.
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.
14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
I have been baptized twice in my lifetime, once as an infant in the Catholic church and later as an adult in a small Baptist church in Indiana. I have no recollection of the first baptism, but I do remember the second. As I came up out of the water there was a rush of lightness. Not a glowing light but weightlessness. It was like a burden had been lifted. I felt clean, exhilarated, energized. Like an adrenaline rush. Perhaps the Holy Spirit feels like adrenaline.
Even though I have been baptized, I have always had questions about baptism, so this was the perfect opportunity to find some answers. I wanted to know how this ritual started. Why did John the Baptist choose this ritual? Why did Jesus need to be baptized? So, I dove into my Bible and though the event is recorded in all four of the gospels, the answers to my questions were not obvious. I had to find more resources. As I studied my notes became a jumble of puzzle pieces begging to be put into sensible order. All I can say is thank God for the internet, a couple of online rabbis, and one of my former pastors, Scott Distler, for direction and focus.
To answer the first question, how did it all start should perhaps be combined with the second question, why John chose this method of purification. John and Jesus were Jews. They would have been familiar with “tevilah, immersion of the entire body for the purpose of removing ritual impurity.” (Adler) This ritual has been practiced for over two millennia so, I think it makes sense that those gathered on the banks of the Jordan River were familiar with the ritual. They wanted their impurities or sins to be cleansed. The only other way to atone for sin, at that time, was to make a living sacrifice of an animal; perhaps a lamb if you were fortunate or doves if you were poor. The Torah, our Old Testament, has quite specific instructions on cleansing with water in Leviticus 11. In Numbers 19 verse 9, specific water is to be used by the Israelite community for cleansing, for the purification from sin. It had to be living. In other words, it had to move or flow like a river. Today, Jews still go to a place called the mikveh to ritually cleanse themselves.
Now, at that time, John was called out of the wilderness, the Desert of Judea, which surrounds an oasis along the Jordan River to a place called Bethabara (Bethany). He was busy preaching repentance to prepare people for the kingdom of heaven when he heard a voice telling him to “Prepare the way for the Lord.” (Matthew 3:1-3)
At the same time, Jesus made his way from Nazareth, which is in Galilee to Bethabara (Bethany), which is about 85 miles away. (Matthew 3:13) There the cousins greeted each other. I do not know how long it had been since they saw each other, but I can imagine hugs, slaps on the back, kisses on the cheeks and huge smiles until Jesus tells John that he has come to be baptized.
John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”
Then John consented. (Matthew 3:14-15)
What happened next was amazing! Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all saw it. They all heard it. They all recorded it.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was
opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a
voice from heaven said, “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
(Matthew 3: 16-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22)
God approved and he let everyone know it. It was like when your kid hits a home run and you excitedly tell the guy next to you, “Hey, that’s MY kid!” Jesus hit a homerun that day and his father was delighted. He let everyone know Jesus was his son and he was proud of him. This was even prophesized Isaiah 42:1.
Behold, here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight. I will
put my spirit upon him and he will bring justice to the nations.
This brings me to my last question. Why? Why did Jesus, the son of God have to be baptized? He did not have to. Baptism was for the repentance of sin. Jesus had no sin. But three reasons come to mind.
First, Jesus needed to relate to and set an example for people. He needed to show that he was like any other man. He also needed to be identified. Jesus was not the only one baptized that day. Along with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, there were crowds of people coming to be baptized. (Luke 3:7) They all saw what happened, but it was John who understood.
There is a quote I came across during my education studies, “I hear, and I forget. I see and I remember. I do, and I understand.” John heard God telling him to prepare the way for Jesus, and he heard God’s voice that day. He saw the dove, a symbol of sacrifice as he performed the ritual. He understood. John later says,
I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have
known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, “The man
on whom you see the spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy
Spirit.” I have seen and testify that this is the Son of God. (John 1:32-34)
Next, Jesus’ baptism served as his inauguration ceremony. An inauguration is a beginning, and this marks the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It is immediately after this that Jesus enters the wilderness for forty days and nights where he is tempted in many ways. When he emerges, he heads straight back to Bethabara and begins to assemble his team, perform miracles, and tell people how to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Finally, Jesus’ baptism served as a representation of his birth, his death, and his resurrection. This was important because after Jesus’ resurrection he returned, for a short time, to his ministry.
When Jesus taught people about eternal life and salvation before His death, He included
teachings found in the Law of Moses (Matt. 19:16-22). However, after His death, He
included the teachings of the new covenant, which involves water baptism “for the
forgiveness of sins” (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21). Jesus could not
have preached this baptism until after His death, since it corresponds with His death,
burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:1-7). (Lance Mosher)
Think about it, on that day, the signs were all there, Jesus was proclaimed the son of God, the one who would sacrifice himself for all people. God said so in a voice that everyone could hear. The dove that came down would show that it was for all people not only the ones that could afford it. And he was baptized in “living water” so that he could give living water or salvation to others.
Baptism was important to Jesus’ ministry. It was so important that after his resurrection he came to the disciples and told them to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. (Matt 28:19) We are part of the “all nations”. Imagine that! Jesus was thinking of us even before we set foot on this earth. Baptism was not only important for Jesus’ identification but, it is also important for ours. It cannot take away our sins. I believe only Christ Jesus can do that. But it can identify us as believers and fill us with a Holy Spirit. It can help us to become disciples in our own way and can help us when we are tempted just like it did for Jesus.
Will not being baptized keep you out of Heaven? I don’t think so and here is why. Awhile ago, in 1980, my Grampa Wise was in and out of the hospital many times. I worked there so, every day, at the end of my shift, I’d pop up to see him. You see, I didn’t know him very well since I pretty much grew up in Massachusetts and he lived in Indiana. So, by my daily visits I was able to get to know him a little better.
On his last visit to the hospital, I noticed something had changed. Up until that point, he’d be in pretty good spirits. Now he wasn’t so, I asked why he was so depressed. He said, “Depressed? I’m not depressed. I’m scared.” When I asked what he was scared of he told me he was going to die. That startled me for a moment, but something moved in me. I immediately responded with, “You don’t need to be afraid.” He wanted to know why not, and it was as if the gate was open. I was able to explain to him how Jesus loved him and would keep him if he only believed. I believed the Holy Spirit was helping me then.
He told me that as a little boy his mom took him to revival meetings, and he wanted to let Jesus into his heart way back then but was afraid because there were so many people and he thought he would get lost in the crowd. All those years ago, a seed had been planted.
It was a precious thing when we prayed together, and Grampa said he did believe and that he wanted to live with Jesus. After that his fear was gone. He looked forward to his death. He only wanted one more thing and that was to be baptized. I tried to arrange it, but we ran out of time.
But here is the amazing thing. Shortly before he left us, Gramma was sitting by his bed while he dozed off and on. At some point she looked over and she saw him reaching towards the window by his bed. When she asked him what he was doing, he told her he couldn’t quite reach it. “Reach what?” “That hand. It’s reaching for me, but I can’t reach it.” She saw nothing but we both agreed that he had a sign from Heaven that he was indeed welcome. He passed away a day or two later at the age of 80.
In conclusion, I believe Jesus wants us to be baptized. Through baptism we are recognized as believers and the Holy Spirit can come to us and help us become better disciples of Christ.
Christmas Eve 2022
Quiet Christmas/Longest Night
Cheerful friends and family of musicians after the service.
2022 Christmas “Flea Market”
Thanks to all the helpers (cooks, florists and shop keepers): Judy, Cathy, Billie, Ann, Emily, Marie, Pam, Brian, Tessa and Charlotte.