From our Ossipee deck, in late afternoon, I look down through the trees - tall graceful maples, stalwart pines, and the tamaracks for which our summer house is named - to the blue lake beyond.
A northerly breeze is blowing and out in mid-lake a few speed boats do what they do - go fast, leaving a wake of white behind. Beyond them, behind the eastern shore of Ossipee, stand the Freedom Hills, a long range running north to south, with the late light of Sunday afternoon upon them.
There are voices down on the beach, the growing children of a family that gathers every summer from across the country and around the world. For two weeks they run and splash, and renew the ties that bind them as a family. It's a gift their grandma gives them. "I don't do Christmas," she says. "I don't do birthdays. I give them Ossipee," she says. Three houses she rents, so her growing "grands" can know each other, love each other, eat Grandma's sandwiches at noon, and then all gather in another house for common dinner. It's an exercise in community. Making memories. Forging deep ties for a lifetime.
Church is about common life, too. Today at "First Congregational" we had a replay of Vacation Bible School, called "Roar." "Life is Wild" was the theme, so roar! Sing. Laugh. Dance.
The background was Africa. Lions. Elephants. Zebras appearing in the background. While on video screens children - in Africa - sang and danced to action hymns that declared "When life is sad, God is good. When you hurt, God is good. When everything's good, God is good."
One hundred fifty children had spent the week together, led in Bible stories by 50 volunteers. Kids brought neighbor friends who didn't know church or God, and they had a love-filled, singing, Jesus-crowned week together.
They came to know, for sure, that God sent Jesus to befriend them, love them, lead them, gave His life for them. It was electric. It was transforming. We were given time to pray a prayer of asking Jesus to come in and renew our lives, too.
And in the midst, a direct, persuasive sermon was given by our young Associate Minister, on temptation. On the Biblical story of the Tempter, a fallen angel, who studies us, knows our will, our way, and plots to defeat us in the game of life by luring us to fall away from our place in the Kingdom crowd, to being deserters, to going over to the dark side - by doing the dark things, whether sex, or selfishness, or pride, or cruelty. But giving up the Kingdom life that Jesus brought, where Kingdom people shine the light that comes from heaven.
The basis was a line from the Lord's Prayer, "protect us from the evil one." It was the truth of life, spelled out for us, clearly, unwaveringly, honestly.
My Molly offered "that was the best sermon on evil I have ever heard." So clear for 9-year-olds - and for 90-year-olds. There is a warfare in this world, and we are visited by the King of Love. And we have the choice - to follow Him, or not.
We were reminded that today was Summer Baptism Day, when people young and old would declare their faith and go through the washing of the water of Baptism as the sign of the New Life they have chosen.
I must say, "It was real church." People daring to declare themselves on heaven's side. And receiving encouragement from the family of faith to be true, and walk straight, clinging to Jesus who came to call us all into the Kingdom of Love - as the path to real life.
I must say, that sitting here this summer Sunday, in my forest home, feasting on the picture of green hills, and blue lake, and the trees about me mottled with the light of the setting sun, it reminds me how it all fits: God's world, so beautiful, His Kingdom here, of which we can all be a part - what privilege. What restoring encouragement. What truth to take into my heart as I set out on a new week of life, leading to another Sunday when Molly and I will be privileged to be bearers of that truth of life to the gathered handful of a little congregation in the mountain town of Wonalancet. Bless you all, this week, and every week.
And remember, church is very good, for all of us.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES