- This Week’s Sermon from Rev. Frank and Mary Hoffman
- CVA Member David Frye Relates a True Christmas Story
- Reflections on This Week’s Lectionary: Titus 2:11-14
1. This Week’s Sermon from Rev. Frank and Mary Hoffman
The Peace That Surpasses All Understanding
2. CVA Member David Frye Relates a True Christmas Story
A long time ago I rescued a puppy who had been hit by a car. He grew
into a beautiful dog, not only in appearance, but also in character. He
taught me that animals share many qualities with humans. They have the
same emotions, great memories, and deserve to be treated with respect.
Because of him I set out on a journey of change that included aspiring
to be a vegetarian, becoming active in pet rescue and adoption, and
providing the opportunity for dogs to be of service by going to nursing
homes and other places where people can experience their love and
A few years ago I learned that the local animal shelter had
discovered a case of distemper and would be euthanizing all the dogs
there at the time. My family and I took all the ones we could and
provided a foster home for them until we could find them permanent
homes. One of them, however, had an idea of her own.
We named her Heidi, and she was quite a mess when we got her. She was
not happy about any human being present in her world. She was also
afraid of every sound and anything that moved. She lived in my
daughter's office for months, fearing almost everyone else who came
near, including me. Even taking her outside to do her business was a
huge ordeal. Frequently she would become frightened and flatten herself
to the ground while straining at the leash to get back to safety.
Then, through an unpredictable series of events, she adopted me as
her human. She went from being a recluse to sharing space with me and 2
other dogs. She began going to work and back home with us every day,
even though previously she had not been a good traveler. She gradually
accepted more and more humans into her world, and became part of our
office and home families. However, she never lost her fear of strangers.
I still wonder about the abuse she must have endured before she found
A Christmas or two ago an old friend of my late Dad's came by to see
me. Heidi immediately showed her distrust by bristling and barking. Then
she retreated to a hallway where she could run if needed, and just
watched as we talked. The man was talking about some things they used to
do and all the fun they had before my Dad passed away. Suddenly, he was
overcome with emotion, and started to sob as he realized that almost
everyone that had ever cared about him was gone. Then, just as suddenly,
Heidi came from behind me, walked right up to him, and stood straight up
on her hind legs with her front legs extended. She gently placed her
paws on his chest, and then laid her head against him with her eyes
turned up looking into his face. Her look spoke what was in her heart:
"I want to comfort you."
Immediately, he was comforted! I watched with amazement as a big
smile came over his face and he began to hug her. My shelter dog had
just given this man the perfect Christmas present. Her compassion had
overcome her fear, and in doing so she had given him comfort and joy.
I have no remembrance of what it cost to give Heidi a home, but I
will never forget the priceless moment that she gave peace to a hurting
human at Christmas.
3. Reflections on This Week’s Lectionary: Titus 2:11-14
This passage reads:
For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men,
training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live
sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed
hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus
Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to
purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
One thing I find remarkable about this passage is its focus on “this
world,” where the goal of people should be “zealous for good deeds.”
This perspective is consistent with Jesus’ prayer for God’s realm “on
earth as in heaven,” and it militates against the focus among many
contemporary Christians on the afterlife.
The process by which Jesus redeemed us from all iniquity is a subject
of considerable discussion and debate among Christian scholars,
theologians, and lay believers. What I think is important is that nearly
all Christians would agree that we are redeemed, which facilitates the
path toward righteousness and “good deeds.” Once relieved of the burdens
of our sinfulness, we can focus on assisting others. Otherwise, we tend
to focus on gaining our own redemption, which generates at least two
problems. First, this focus distracts us recognizing the suffering and
needs of other individuals and impairs our calling to serve God through
good deeds. Second, it encourages us to blame others for our
shortcomings – an essential element of scapegoating. A manifestation of
this scapegoating can be a tendency to blame other individuals for their
difficulties, which discourages us from helping those in need.
Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.