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The church service ended at the Lutheran Church in New Sweden, Maine as everyone “passed the peace.” It was the first Sunday after Easter, and the 50 people in attendance headed to the fellowship hour to have some coffee. Some of the people complained that the coffee was bitter, but people usually complain about church coffee, so they didn’t think much about it until some people began to get violently ill. By the end of the day, 16 people were hospitalized and one of them would die by the next morning. Police discovered that arsenic had been dumped into the 30-cup coffee maker, making this the nation’s worst case of mass arsenic poisoning. The next shock was that a well-respected member of the church, 53-year-old Danny Bondeson, a potato farmer, was found dead at home from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He left a note implicating himself in the poisoning. The investigation is now expanding to other members of the Bondeson family, whom police suspect may have been involved in the poisonings.


The story behind the story at this point seems to be that there was a disagreement in the church about a communion table. For years the church had a communion table that was against the wall, and the blessing of the bread and wine was done while facing the wall. The Bondeson family had donated a new altar so that the bread and wine could be done while facing the congregation. But traditions die hard, and the board seemed unwilling to replace the old altar, even though a new one had been donated, because they did not want to offend some of those who wanted the bread and wine blessed while facing the wall like it had always been done. Speculation is that not only Bondeson, but other members of his extended family, had become as bitter as the church coffee and decided to teach some people a lesson.


Was the Bondeson family giving for the glory of God or for their own glory? There is a lot of poison going around because people get their eyes off of Christ and onto the wrong things. The Bible says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:1-3). We often have very wrong ideas about money and giving.

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