From the Backcountry ...

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Pastor’s Weekly Update

January 25, 2018

From the Backcountry …

“The Lord answered me and set me free.” Psalm 118:5

It’s Rabbie Burns Night!!  People around the world will come together this evening to eat haggis (pudding made of sheep hearts, livers and lungs – cooked in the animal’s stomach) served with neeps, (yellow turnips), tatties (potatoes) and washed down with a dram (glass of Scotch whisky.)  Yum!!  Why all the fuss?  It’s the birthday of Robert Burns, Scotland’s own ploughman poet. 

Son of a poor 18th century tenant farmer, Rabbie would learn to read, write and become a pioneer of a new milieu of romantic verse – far removed from the flowery, distant poetry of the Enlightenment.  Like Jesus, his stories capture the voices and experiences of everyday farmers, laborers and artisans.  His style will eventually influence Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, John Steinbeck and even Bob Dylan!!    He speaks of a world where emotion and beauty invariably triumph over cool reason and logic.

Robert Burns engages his Scottish readers in their own words and language, drawing on their proud history and struggle for autonomy.  As you Outlander fans already know, this period is heavily influenced by the Jacobite uprising of Bonnie Prince Charlie.  Across the pond, we’re fighting our own War of Independence … followed by the French struggle for liberty, equality and fraternity.  Burns is very much the champion of justice for the “common man.”  And yet, he remains a keen observer of everything around him.  One day, as he’s ploughing a field, he disturbs a mouse nest and immediately becomes overcome with remorse. There is nothing he can do.  The damage is done. That night he composes his endearing poem, “To A Mouse” that contains one of the most famous lines ever written.  He wants to reassure the homeless mouse that he shares her plight. “Sometimes,” he pens, “the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.”   Truer words have yet to be spoken.   Cheers, Rabbie!!

Sunday, January 28   Morning Worship and Lord’s Prayer

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 111;  Mark 1:21-28

Text:  “And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”  Mark 1:24

Sermon:  “Heckle and Hide”

Tease:    We follow Jesus to a local synagogue where his first public sermon is rudely disrupted by a heckler.  “What have you to do with us?” the man shouts.  “Are you here to destroy our way of doing things?”   We’re told that the man is possessed by an “unclean” spirit – a term that is used extensively in scripture and can refer to anything from mental illness to institutional tyranny.  I find it interesting (and by no means coincidental) that our Lord’s first public confrontation with society’s “darker” side takes place in a house of worship.  As He says in another version of this incident, “Physician … you must first heal yourself!”

Potluck Luncheon and Congregational Meeting

Following worship we gather for our Annual Meeting.  Please bring some cold cuts,  a covered dish, a salad, or some dessert to share.  Beverages will be provided.  

WARNING:  If members are thinking of bringing haggis to Sunday’s potluck, please be advised that the US Food and Drug Administration banned the import of haggis in 1971. 

 See you Sunday,


Road Rules:  “The farther the outward journey takes you, the deeper the inner journey must be.”  Henry Nouwen