The Koheleth Syndrome

This Sunday we’re going to hear from two very different voices in the Bible. The first voice is from a man called “Koheleth” (Hebrew for “the Preacher”) who wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes. Folks of my generation (and older) may remember the song “Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There is a Season)” in which the late Pete Seeger put the words of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 to music: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up” and so on.

The focus on Sunday will be on Chapter 1, in which Koheleth writes, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanities of vanities! All is vanity! What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun? . . .What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. . .I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun, all is vanity and a chasing after the wind.”

Oh, my! What a downer, we might say. Apparently there was some debate among the rabbis when they were putting together the canon of the Hebrew Bible as to whether Koheleth’s voice should be included. Ultimately, his voice is heard, and in fact the whole book of Ecclesiastes is read during the Jewish festival of Sukkoth, or the Feast of Tabernacles, an especially joyous time. Koheleth’s voice is read to add a serious note to the festivities. Presbyterian minister and author Frederick Buechner summarizes Koheleth’s message this way: “There is nothing new under the sun, Koheleth says, with the result that everything that there is under the sun is both old, and as you might imagine in all that heat, it stinks.”

Over against Koheleth we will hear the voice of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, the 5th chapter, where he heals a woman who has suffered a terrible physical condition over the course of many years, finding no relief in doctors or other helpers. In the midst of a chaotic crowd pressing in on Jesus, who is on his way to respond to another request for help, she touches his cloak—and is healed, with Jesus saying “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease. ” She can live once again in wholeness.

Jill Duffield, editor of the Presbyterian Outlook points out that out of chaos and confusion, there can be newness and healing as she reflects on the church murders in Charleston SC, and the powerful voices of forgiveness that have been raised. Little did Jill know and little would Koheleth suspect that by the end of the week, many states, corporations, and institutions would take the step of removing the Confederate flag, due to its association with past terror and racism. Yes Koheleth, there is much that does not change, but as Jesus said in Revelation, “Behold, I make all things new.”


Delayed Service – February 21 2015

Dear BPC Members and Friends,

We are going to try and have worship tomorrow–with one change: in consultation with several of the Trustees, we decided to have a “delayed opening” and move our worship service to 11:30 a.m. The hope is that temperatures will continue to rise during the morning hours and perhaps leave us with “just rain” to contend with. Having said that, our members and friends come from all directions, and conditions may vary from location to location, so we know that driving may not be advisable depending on those conditions, and your safety must come first.

Worship will be the only activity on the church schedule. The Adult Class and Church School have been cancelled for the morning. In addition, the Newcomer’s Brunch scheduled for after worship has been cancelled and it will be re-scheduled to another date.

You can help spread the word by calling your church friends and letting them know of the schedule change. The change will also be posted on the BPC Facebook page and on the BPC website, and the answering machine at the church will also reflect the change in schedule.

The trustees I spoke with this afternoon all said, and I agree with them, that “it just hasn’t felt right” to not have worship for two weeks in a row, and our church community needs to be together. The weather forecast I just watched on Channel 5 indicates that temperatures should indeed rise as the morning goes on, and north of Boston will receive less rain than locations south of Boston.

Be safe, and may God’s blessings be with you all,


Church cancelled (again!) on 2/14/2015

Dear BPC members and friends,

Worship and Church School are cancelled for this Sunday, Feb. 15. due to blizzard/winter storm warnings which have been issued for Saturday afternoon through late Sunday morning. In consultation with several of the Trustees, we agreed that in light of the dangerous winds and accumulation of up to one more foot of snow that have been predicted, safety concerns lead to only one conclusion, and that is to cancel church activities. We do hope that we will be able to have our Ash Wednesday service at 7:30 on the 18th, but we are truly in a “one day at a time” situation. Stay tuned for further word on that.

We can all express our gratitude to the Trustees who have cleaned off major portions of the flat roof at the church, along with addressing a leak created by an ice dam situation. Everything appears to be under control.

Please be in prayer for those working on clearing the roads, first responders who will be fulfilling their duties, medical personnel, utility workers and all others who will be working on our behalf. Pray also for the most vulnerable among us, including low wage workers who will not be paid for missing work, folks who live in substandard housing with little heat, and homeless men, women and children who will be seeking sanctuary from this life threatening weather.

Finally, take some time to check in with your fellow church members who may need a hand.

Watch for another email tomorrow, which will include the sermon I would have preached for Transfiguration Sunday, one of my favorite scripture stories. Most of all, stay safe and warm.

The Peace of the Lord be with you,

Mike O’Brien

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Church cancelled due to snow Feb 8, 2015

The latest weather forecast for the Burlington area is predicting that there will be about 4″ of snow on the ground by 10:30 am and possibly 5 by the time we would be leaving. Currently, the parking lot is covered in ice. It will be snow covered ice by morning. Considering all these conditions, we have decided that for everyone’s safety, it would be best to cancel tomorrow morning’s worship service. If you have any questions, feel free to call Pastor Mike at 774-454-9555.