Sunday, December 30, 2012

Whatcha Doin'?

First Sunday after Christmas
Colossians 3:12-17

• Ten days of winter vacation, what to do.
Phineas and Ferb, Disney TV show about two brothers about ten years old who seek to make the most of their summer vacation. Phineas is the ringleader. Intelligent, creative, inventive,  friendly. Near the beginning of each episode some interesting problem is brought up, and the lightbulb goes on and Phineas says “Ferb, I know what we’re gonna do today.” And they embark on some fantastic adventure.
At some point in the episode, Isabella, a neighbor who has a schoolgirl crush on Phineas, comes up and says “Hi, Phineas, watcha doin?”

• Christmas behind, New Year’s ahead… Watcha doin?

I have a FB friend, doesn’t like NY resolutions that people just make for show
She posted: “I do try to be more like Christ every day. & I challenge you to live more like Christ every day. Can you handle that?”
My response: measure how.

• Christmas Eve I talked about pride and fear, and how Jesus delivers us through his incarnation and being Immanuel, God with us.

  & in this section of Colossians, Paul reminds Christians who are living in fear, under persecution, under fear of the church falling apart, under fear… You’re Baptized! God did not give a spirit of fear or timidity but of power, love, and self-discipline (2Tim1:7) You’re Baptized! You belong to God! God is with you! And That’s Powerful!

  Your baptism connects you to the life and death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ!

• Christmas behind, New year’s ahead… Whatcha doin?

• Read Col 3:12-17… Put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience. Put on love. Be forgiving. Be governed by the peace of Christ. Be thankful. Be a person of praise. Read it every day (there’s a habit you can track! How might you make these suggestions, these commandments, part of your every day?). Continually celebrate the birth of Christ, Immanuel God is with us, and continually seek him. Make him part of your daily habit as much as you make getting dressed a part of your daily habit. And see if it doesn’t make your life adventurous. So that when Isabella asks you “whatcha doin?” you can say “gang, I know what we’re gonna do today.” Christ the Savior is born, he lives in me. Glory to God.

• 163 As With Gladness Men of Old

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Humble Manger

Christmas Eve

• Advent is waiting for the coming of God, the fulfillment of God’s plan.

• What am I waiting for? The end of spam mail. For real. Oh the problems we have, right?

• I've been thinking about the troubles of the world, and how does Christmas, how does Jesus & faith in Jesus address them.

Two biggies: pride and fear. 
Pride being Mine is better, I am worthy of your attention, my priority is me, I am the most trustworthy in my life, I don’t trust you or government or God, I trust me.  Perhaps an exaggeration but you can’t remove from pride that pride has “I” in the middle.

Two biggies: pride and fear. 
Fear being someone may try to take what I have, or I may somehow lose what I have. Loss of freedom, safety, security.  Fear that we are alone.

Fear and pride are partners, and they separate us from others and from God.

What’s Christmas have to do with this?

Jesus came in an ultimate example of humility, and came that we might not fear, and that we might not be alone. He came humbly, perhaps to ward off pride, perhaps to teach us to do the same, perhaps to say to us “I know. I’m there with you.”

Others came to steal and destroy, Jesus says in John 10, but I came that they might have life to the full. Life free from fear, free from pride, full of the goodness of God.

• photo caption (Rev. Adam Hamilton shared a photo of a rural domestic cave that he thinks is similar to what Jesus was likely born in. I used that picture in worship along with Rev. Hamilton's caption: )
As you likely know, the tradition is that Jesus was born in a cave which served as a stable for the animals. This was, and continues to be a common practice in the area around Bethlehem The cave was located underneath a house (not an inn - the word in Luke's gospel often translated inn is better translated as "guest room"). The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is built atop a cave said to be the site of Jesus' birth. 

While hiking in the Judean wilderness this past February, I came across this home near Bethlehem. It is undoubtedly larger than the home where Jesus was born, but it gives you a sense of the humble conditions of his birth. Note the cave in the foreground where the animals are still kept to this day. This is the kind of place I imagine Mary gave birth to Jesus. Sorry it is a bit out of focus - I had to blow the pic up and crop it as it was shot from a mile away. 

• Therefore examine your own pride, and fear, and humility. Make room in your heart for Jesus, & every living being. Yourself included. And participate in God’s lighting of the world.

• Pray: We love you, there is room in our hearts for you. Thank you. Keep speaking.

• Adult Choir Cantata: God Speaking

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Thread

Fourth Sunday of Advent 

At the beginning of Advent, as we lit the Advent candles, it was shared in a dramatic dialogue that the British Navy used to weave a red thread into their ropes so that their ropes could be easily identified as belonging to the British Navy.
Today we read through a Festival of Lessons and Carols, touching on nine scripture lessons from Genesis through the Gospels, seeing the thread of God's promise of salvation woven throughout the witness.
I also shared the story of the "Footprints in the Sand"
• Advent is waiting for the coming of God, the fulfillment of God’s plan.
• Thread. Footprints in the sand. Today’s scriptures have looked at some of those footprints.
Now I encourage you as you stand there on the beach looking at the footprints with Jesus to look the other direction… the direction of things to come.
In one sense, we know that Jesus will be walking with us as he has the whole time.
And in another sense we walk expectantly, anticipating his arrival, trusting his words after the resurrection Go ahead and we will see him there just as he told us.
So hold these different things in your head: Jesus in the past and in the future, his birth and his resurrection, our present darkness and his coming light. Jesus is the light of the world. He is coming, he is there before us, and we bear his light here and now.

• Good Christian Men, Rejoice 151

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Light in the Darkness

Third Sunday of Advent *
Zechariah 1:67-79
• Advent is waiting for the coming of God, the fulfillment of God’s plan. Lotta people wondering where is God, hoping for God’s return
• There have always been acts of evil. And until Jesus comes again, there will always be acts of evil. Perhaps the frequency or intensity of those acts will increase before his return, I can’t say. But there are a few things I can say.
• A friend cried out on Friday “So we can't go to the mall or send our kids to school wtf?”
My response: “No. You CAN go to the mall. You CAN send your kids to school. You NEVER had a guarantee of safety, and you CANNOT live in fear.”
• And we find in scriptures that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), and that there are three things that endure: faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13). We find that when God sends his angels among us they always bring the words Do not fear.
• And we find that it was not into a world of love and light that God sent his son… it was into a world of darkness into which God sent his light. He did not remove the darkness, he did not take it away, he brings light into the darkness, and asks that we be bearers of that light.
• Thy kingdom come, Lord.

• Children’s presentation**

* This message was shared on 12/16/12, two days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre
** Our children presented a musical called "O Little Christmas Town" 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Partners in Grace

Second Sunday of Advent
Philippians 1:3-11
• Advent is waiting for the coming of God, the fulfillment of God’s plan.
• I thank God every time I mention you in my prayers. (v3). My prayers of you are full of joy. My hope is your continued growth towards completion, perfection, shalom, wholeness as God would have you be.
What would that wholeness look like? (wait for it)
I think today it would look like security. Safety. Economic and social. To know that not only *I* would know peace and prosperity, but that my children & grandchildren would know peace & prosperity. That and maybe world w/o war, disease, poverty.
Can you imagine that? Is there anything you can do to work towards that? Could you do it if you had a partner? If that partner were God?
Sounds like The Promised Land. Sounds like God’s anticipated reign.
Economic aspect to promised land, to God’s reign.
• I have a friend who is depressed, has pretty much given up, in good part because of the political and economic situation of the nation. What to tell him? Do what you can do. Even if what you can do is write letters from your house. Eagerly but not anxiously await The Coming. And work regardless of what YOU may achieve – the Israelites who left Egypt wandered in the wilderness for their children…
• Teach your children what’s important, by word and action.
Some factors in are in your control, (do what you can)  Others are not.
          And don’t stop at adversity
          Hello, Mary, Hello, Joseph. Years of scrutiny, behind-the-back whispers…
          Hello, Paul.  Prison, multiple beatings.
• Don’t stop @ adversity but worship. Do what you can, and don’t fret @ the rest. God is amazing, and God will bring the world to God’s completion.

• Closing song, Amazing Love (Christmas version)

Sunday, December 2, 2012


First Sunday of Advent (year C)Jeremiah 33:14-16
• Advent is waiting. We know Christmas is going to get here, and we know that God keeps God’s promises, and how we wait is up to us. There is Bad waiting and good waiting. Anxious waiting and calm. Frenzied and productive.
• You can stress about decorations and shopping and cram so much in that by the time Christmas gets here you’re ready for it to end. Or you observe Advent with candle lighting and devotions, and put up the tree just before Christmas. You COULD choose to worship on Christmas Day, and give gifts on January 6th, Epiphany, when we remember the gifts of the magi, but that might be a little more countercultural than you bargained for.
• live today today, tomorrow tomorrow. End of world on 21st (Mayan calendar) Live it up, make ‘em good, they say.  Says I, would it be any different if you knew you had 21,000 days? If you’re living in God, it doesn't matter how many days you have "left". The end of my days is the beginning of the rest of my life, and the living of my days is doing the work of the one that sent me.
• God tells us he’s coming, he’s going to fulfill his promise, he’s going to raise up a righteous leader who will bring salvation and safety, and while we look forward to the fulfillment, we wait on God with patient hope and faithfulness, and without anxiety or frenzy.
• Story of the boy who wanted to meet God (google Twinkies in the park with God).  He prepared in a good way, with some simple food for the journey (we’re going to have some simple food for the journey pretty soon, provided by God) In unexpected way, with nourishment for the journey and with an unfrenzied heart.
• Use these 23 days, these 4 Sundays of Advent to prepare for the fulfillment of the promise by reading the promise, partaking in the food for the journey, and reflecting on the beauty of God.

• Choral Anthem: Beautiful Star of Bethlehem
Followed by celebration of Holy Communion

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christ the King Sunday

Christ the King Sunday

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. – Revelation 1:8

• Today we remember the Christian calendar, the liturgical year, in scripture and song. Each season or holiday has a liturgical color (although many of the holidays are “white or gold”).

No sermon today, but a verse, reflection, and hymn representing each season of the Christian year.

Advent. Purple or blue. 
The Christian year begins with the anticipation of the arrival of God’s Messiah, the fulfillment of the promise. We often sing Christmas carols, although some say we should wait until Christmas to sing the Christmas carols, and sing songs of anticipation before Christmas. We light the Advent candles to mark our waiting. Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas (12/25). 
Today's Advent Scripture reading: Luke 1:26-33, the Annunciation  
Today's Advent hymn: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Christmas. White or gold. 
The birth of Jesus Christ. God’s promised light comes to earth. Christmas is a 12-day season, going from December 25th to January 6th.
Today's Christmas Scripture reading: Luke 2:1-7 the Birth of Jesus  
Today's Christmas hymn: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Epiphany. White or gold. 
Celebrated in the Eastern churches as Christ coming to the world. In the Western churches (that’s us) it’s when we ‘remember’ the “wise men” who traveled far to worship the King. God revealed His light to all nations. January 6th is the day of Epiphany, and the season of Epiphany lasts until Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Often about five weeks.
Today's Epiphany Scripture reading: Isaiah 60:1-6  
Today's Epiphany hymn: Once In Royal David's City

Lent. Purple. 
The 40-day (minus Sundays) season of preparation for Easter. Often marked by repentance, prayer, fasting or self-denial, Lent (which means “spring”) is also a time of Christian instruction. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (46 days before Easter) and goes through Holy Week, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter.
Today's Lent Scripture reading: Mark 8:31-38 
Today's Lent hymn: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

We have an additional reading and hymn for Holy Week
Today's Holy Week Scripture reading: Mark 14:26-42
Today's Holy Week hymn: Beneath the Cross of Jesus

Easter. White or gold. 
The celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, his victory over sin and death. Though the date of Easter changes, it is always the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs after the vernal equinox (March 21). The season of Easter lasts fifty days, including Ascension Day (forty days after Easter) and ending at Pentecost (fifty days after Easter).
Today's Easter Scripture reading: Matthew 28:1-10  
Today's Easter hymn: Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Pentecost. Red (for the day) and green (for the season). 
Pentecost was a Jewish harvest festival (50 days after Passover), and is now celebrated by Christians as the birth of the Church, the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost marks the beginning of “ordinary time,” the season that spans from the end of the Easter season until Advent. In “ordinary time” (aka “Kingdomtide”) the actions of the early church are remembered.
Today's Pentecost Scripture reading: Acts 2:1-6
Today's Pentecost hymn: The Comforter Has Come

Christ the King. White or gold. 
The “New Year’s Eve” of the liturgical calendar, Christ the King Sunday celebrates, well, Jesus Christ the King of Kings. Thus the Christian year begins, revolves around, and ends in celebration of God’s gift to the world in Jesus Christ.
Today's Christ the King Scripture reading: Revelation 1:4-8 
Today's Christ the King hymn: Crown Him with Many Crowns

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Do Not Be Deceived

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Veterans Sunday
Mark 13:1-8

• Wars and rumors of wars, the beginning of the end.
Nobody knows but the Father (that’s later on, verse 32)

• Do not be deceived. (verse 5)
Two great deceptions: There is no God, or God cares not for you.
(another great deception: no judgment)

• Truths: God Is Real, God loves you, and there will be judgment.
It will come some time, and it will be big.
You can worry, or you can take on faith that Jesus Loves You.

• Ruthie, 103, who would always sing to me the thing she loved best: "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know" (JLMTIK)

• JLMTIK is great, and demands that we reciprocate: 
        in STUDY (read, engage, discuss. Just start)
        in OBEDIENCE (read, keep my commands, ask text, ask others, ask God)
        in ACTION (love others. Isaiah 58, Matthew 25, Micah 6:8)

• From today’s scripture: All we know is temporary (and that causes fear). The temple is not the stones, don’t ascribe to the stones God’s might. Ascribe that to GOD! God says cling to me, not to anything/everything else.
Jesus is Lord

• Psalm 62:11-12 One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.

• closing song: Though the Mountains May Fall

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Living In Community

Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
First Sunday after national election
Baptism today of 10-month-old Kyle
Selections from John 17

• Two weeks ago I ran the Hershey Half Marathon with 4,000 other runners, but I ran alone. No complaints, but there’s something better about running with somebody… experience coulda been fuller.

        Jesus coulda lived perfect life in solitude, but he had work to do among people. Intentional interaction was vitally important.

• This prayer of Jesus (in John 17)… Jesus earnestly eagerly desperately desires to be with us, as individuals and as community. It's easy to say “Jesus loves you, Jesus loves me” but different to think on Jesus desperately wants unity… wants us to be with him, wants us to be one with each other.

• In many ways painful awareness of divided nation, seems like it gets a little hotter every election, and I’m not just talking about climate change.

• Perhaps we don’t feel there’s a lot we can do on national level. But we can do things locally.

• Three things from Jesus’ prayer:
1. Humility (Jesus looked up, he is also aware of who he is in relation to the Father, he is not arrogant). 
2. Jesus works. (17:4 I have finished the work you gave me to do, and that glorifies you.) 
3. Jesus prays. Specifically for unity.

• If we seek unity…
1. humility. Know who we are, who we aren’t, and who God is. 
2. work.  Want unity, work with someone. Intentionally interact with someone who is not likeminded (recall Matt 5 don’t just love the lovable). Remember to be humble.
3. pray. Pray with, pray specifically for unity, success. Is it possible with God, amen?

• At the end of the day, it’s better (& glorifying to God) if folks get along, intentionally working together. And we can work towards that. And Jesus is awesome God all over the world, over people of all differences.

• closing song: He Reigns

Sunday, November 4, 2012

You Are Not Far from the Kingdom of God

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
All-Saints Sunday
Mark 12:28-34 and Philippians 1:20-27

• Looking at both scripture readings, we've got two things going on here… Jesus talking, and Paul talking @ LIVING…    

BOTH are important, and both having in common discipleship: how you live makes a difference

Says Jesus: you are near to Kingdom of God through how you love God in this life, how you love others. 

Paul acknowledges there is unpleasantness about this life, and sometimes the hope of glory makes this life feel downright unbearable, but that reward will come anyway and there is fruitful work to be done still.  Earthly life is temporary & worthwhile.

• Be willing to forsake life for the word, which comes from faith.

• Many of us have loved ones who have died AND we cling to faith that righteousness takes crown.

• BUT THOUGH ETERNAL LIFE will be AMAZING  Do good by continuing to continue on earth and be fruitful. & mature & righteous. In faithful living we are near to the keeper of our loved ones, and near to the kingdom of God. By grace of God we hope to attain that blessed communion.

We are not far from the kingdom of God.

We remember… and we look forward to seeing again in the kingdom:
12/1/11 "Smitty" (76)
12/18/11 “Betz” (82)
12/22/11 Grace  (84)
12/28/11 Allen (97)
2/15/12 Gordon (68)
4/10/12 SaraAnn  (75)
6/16/12 Ben (67)
6/27/12 Kay (75)

 (Prayer in unison after the reading of the names)
We bless your holy name, O God, for all your servants who, having finished their course, now rest from their labors. Give us grace to follow the example of their steadfastness and faithfulness, to your honor and glory; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

• Celebration of Holy Communion

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Is It Enough?

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost
Hebrews 7:23-28, Mark 10:46-52

• Yesterday Campbelltown UMC had our annual congregational Charge Conference, with District Superintendent Gary Nicholson. He spoke on our UM heritage… the unlikely match of the evangelical church and Mennonite church, combined with out-of-ashes Methodist church… Spoke of the five vows of membership (prayers, presence, gifts, service, witness) and our “call to action” as we as a congregation strive to live out our mission (reach out, make disciples) in measurable ways, including worship attendance, professions of faith, small groups, and missions involvement. Challenge for every member to have personal ministry (service within the church) and personal mission (service beyond the church).

• God has a goal for humankind, a goal of righteousness, a goal that the earthly kingdom would perfectly resemble the heavenly kingdom, that God’s children would perfectly live up to God’s mark. We fail, of course, all fail and all fall short of the glory of God, every human in history except one, Jesus, who lived blameless faultless human life, who measured up to God’s expectations… who offers himself as the gate to the heavenly kingdom.
God’s goal for us is heavenly. The means is out of our hands… the means is Jesus, nothing reliant upon us…

• how do we KNOW? How do we know God’s goal for us, how do we know the means of Jesus? Through witness of scripture. Part of our doctrinal heritage is the belief that All things necessary for salvation are contained in scripture… there is nothing necessary for salvation that is not in scripture…

• And that connects to today’s text from Hebrews (“Jesus can completely save those who are approaching God through him, because he always lives to speak with God for them. 26 It’s appropriate for us to have this kind of high priest: holy, innocent, incorrupt, separate from sinners, and raised high above the heavens. 27 He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices every day like the other high priests, first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people. He did this once for all when he offered himself. “ (Hebrews 7:25-27) : Christ is perfectly sufficient for salvation, perfectly and uniquely able to cover our lives with his one perfect life… Christ is enough… which is a nice thing to know… but a better and harder thing to live and believe…

• … but which carries with it there is nothing in life can overrule Jesus… There is nothing in life is greater than Jesus. Not a storm, a flood, or a power outage, not infidelity or drugs, not divorce, not the loss of job or home or love, not any cancer, not the death of a child, a loved one, … none of these can remove you from God because Christ is sufficient, perfectly sufficient, perfectly sufficient and willing and able to cover you if you’ll let him.

• So what do you do? Approach Jesus with faith, as Bartimaeus (Mark 10). Did you notice in the reading from Mark that the blind man could “see” what the crowd didn’t? Even before Jesus restored his sight, Bartimaeus could see that Jesus was The One, the Son of David, the anointed one of God… He acknowledged his Lordship. In spite of his lack of sight, he saw who Jesus was.
Do you? And without regard for what others may think, Bartimaeus put himself in Jesus’ presence, called out to Jesus. Made known his request. Found Jesus both able and wanting to heal. Go and do likewise. See Jesus. Acknowledge Lordship.

• Know Jesus. Study, love, participate.
Prayer for faith and humility, submission
Who are we? We are ones God has decided to redeem…

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Who Can Be Saved?

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Heb 4:12-16, Mark 10:17-31

"This is a monkey trap. The hollowed-out coconut is filled with some cooked rice through this small hole, chained to the stake which is driven firmly into the ground.
Look at this hole. It's just big enough so that the monkey's hand to go in, but too small for his fist filled with rice to come out.
The monkey reaches in, grabs the rice and is suddenly trapped. Because his greed won't allow him to let go of the rice and extricate his hand, the monkey remains trapped, a victim of his greed, until he is captured.
The monkey cannot see that freedom without the rice is more valuable than capture with it.

• Story of monkey trap. Truthfully I think it’s more of a story than a practice, but it’s a story with power nevertheless. Our desire to have something results in our demise, even though the only thing keeping us trapped is our desire itself. The wealthy have many things, cares, possessions, perhaps responsibilities, so many things that we hang on to, grasp tightly, that we end up trapped (closed hand v. open hand). Jesus is right to say that It will be very hard for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom (Mark 10:23).

• We spoke in Men’s Bible Study yesterday about Jesus’ saying, Those who love their lives will lose them, and those who hate their lives in this world will keep them forever (John 12:25). And how there must have been something compelling about Jesus that people DID give up things to follow him

• Who can be saved? (reminder, not saved by anything we do but by act of God. Receive (open hands)) Who can be saved? Whoever hears/receives the good news of Jesus Christ communicated in a meaningful / compelling way. That’s our job, that’s our ministry, that’s our purpose.

• Talked in recent weeks about what is your purpose for being here, what is OUR purpose for being the Methodist Church in Ctown, reminding of our mission to reach out to all people with the love of Christ and to make growing, living disciples of Jesus Christ. That may be OUR purpose, but where mission and action really take flight is where individuals have personal missions and ministries.

                Yesterday a group from CUMC went to a warehouse in Mt Joy to volunteer for the Global Aid Network GAIN. Relief, development, mobilization. Packaged school kits. Processed donated clothing. Made gospel bracelets (story of putting on next person, also of feeding first). Foodpacks and seedpacks.

                Story of A., a teacher who is leaving her teaching job (and her husband leaving his job in architecture) to work fulltime with GAIN.

                Who can be saved? Whoever hears/receives the good news of Jesus Christ communicated in a meaningful / compelling way.  Cannot be saved with closed hand. Cannot participate in kingdom with closed hand.

• This weekend I learned the heartbreaking story of Amanda, a young Canadian teenager who took her own life this past week when she reached bottom in response to bullying she’d received for the last year or two. I wrote online that I cared, that anybody who reads my words, please know that I care. My wife rightfully pointed out that folks like Amanda who are depressed don’t believe my expression of care, and it makes me think Well I want to find a way to communicate it to them (think about it, God found a way to communicate with people in our darkness, and Jesus is that way, if we will let go and take hold of him… choose life, and be an agent of life.

• closing song I Am Free

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Taste of God

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
World Communion Sunday
Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12 

• A favorite bible verse of mine is John 10:10, where Jesus says that where some folks come as thieves in the night, to steal and destroy, he came so that people might have life to the full, life abundant. That you might know you’re alive. One way of celebrating life is to go to the edge of it, hence skydiving or mountainclimbing or scubadiving or exploring, or spelunking.

 Couple weeks ago my 9-year-old daughter and I visited Indian Echo Caverns for the first time. A kind of thrill and awe. Perhaps best b/c tour guide who was experienced and able to educate us about history and features, and enhance with story and with lights out. For me the best thrill was listening to my daughter’s breathing as the lights went out.

• Reading from Hebrews, Jesus is that experienced guide who educated and enhanced. Though higher than the angels he entered into humanity to live human life as God intended, to educate… and in doing so, to enhance our lives both as we know them and as they are to come, to offer salvation. He did that which we could not do (live fully and completely in harmony with God) in order that he might earn for us that which we could never earn – salvation. He tasted suffering and death though he didn’t have to, so that we wouldn’t have to bear the full consequences of suffering and death.

• We would do well to be like Christ, educating and enhancing the lives of others… A brief word on today’s passage from Mark, which has Jesus speaking against divorce and also blessing children… in both episodes looking out for the vulnerable, providing protection for those that need it, women and children (children of course, and women who did not enjoy the freedoms we do today… a woman who was divorced might well have no means of support, therefore, says Jesus, when a man divorces a woman, putting shame and burden upon her, he too is shamed and burdened.

          Prioritize your lives on behalf of the vulnerable.

          Like Jesus did and does for us in his incarnation and sacrifice.

• And we get a taste of who God is, as one who invigorates life and looks out for the vulnerable.

• We join with many (including our women and children who are on different retreats this weekend) to remember, to commit, to celebrate.

• Into communion liturgy

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Can I Get A "Yes"?

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Commitment Sunday
James 5:7-12

• James, a general epistle, a primer on the practical aspects of Christian living. This is what you do. This is what you do while waiting faithfully and patiently for the coming of the Lord. In the meanwhile live well, being giving and forgiving, being a model for others.
Last week you were given three take home commitment cards to fill out and return, one regarding your financial commitment to the church, one your service commitment, and one asking for extra support for our air-conditioning fund.
Looking for yesses today.

• Fall 1919 young man named George Simmers, at the Lebanon Salem United Brethren asked Pastor Miller about starting a new church. Rev. Miller said yes, and they looked around and the Spirit led them to Ctown. A suitable location in the schoolhouse was found, and in January 1920 Rev. Longenecker of the Palmyra 2nd UB said yes and preached.

• 8 months later 14 members banded together and chartered the congregation, under the leadership of Rev. Rhoads. A little flock became a little church, but as people poured their lives into the church it grew.

• Remarkably it faltered not though it was a teen in the Great Depression, but it continued to be a center of faith in Ctown as people continued to dedicate their lives to Christ through this body the church. People said yes to God and yes to the church over the decades and through the contributions of the faithful, the church’s property and buildings grew.
The denomination grew as UB joined with Evangelical Association to become the EUB, which later merged with the Methodist church to become The UMC.

• May find odd this passage from James that offers “never make solemn pledge” and continues Let your yes be yes, your no be no. Make your word and stick to it. Wait faithfully and patiently for the coming of the Lord. In the meanwhile live well, being giving and forgiving, being a model for others. (repeat our vision to reach out to all people with the love of Christ and to make living growing disciples of Jesus Christ)

• Obviously we’re here today because of the saints before us and their commitments, and one of the things I want to say today is Honor them, support them, carry on their work and their vision. Join hands with George Simmers and Rev. Longenecker through Rev. Truitt. We have commitment to heritage & family as well as to building.

• Not only that, but commitment to community & denomination, and of course commitment to God.

• Your “yes” provides meals and fellowship with folks in Hburg w/o steady resources.  Ronald McDonald House meals for families at HMC.
Your “yes” provides mosquito nets to thousands of children in Africa.
Your “yes” provides food and school materials (and school itself!) in Liberia
Your “yes” responds to hurricanes and floods and other natural disasters.
Independent missionaries around the globe where ppl we know are feeding teaching preaching and people are coming to know Jesus. Join hands.
Our Yes is to this local body, yes, and to the world.
The UMC to make disciples of JC for the transformation of the world.

• Into offering / commitments

Sunday, September 23, 2012

On the Journey

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
James 3-4, Mark 9:30-37

• This past week I hosted my friend Ang for a few days on her journey moving from MA to AK… She had many helpers pack her up, other helpers along the way, and more at her destination. Her cargo is herself, her cats, her belongings, and she has a distinct goal.

• (take out scripture, both – do you bring a Bible?) Jesus and disciples on a journey, heading toward Jerusalem for Passover. Earlier in chapter Jesus told the disciples to pick up their cross…

• We are heading into a season, planning, preparation, time to get ready to commit & renew. (season of commitment, and annual review)

• Jesus is reiterating It’s not about you (what were you arguing about along the way?).

  It’s about rightsizing of yourself. I want to say downsizing of ego and personal ambition but I know that can be abused and twisted, you can’t commit to the church to the neglect of family, so I say rightsizing. Integration of self with mission.

  It’s about the helpless, Jesus says. Take for example these children. They require energy expenditure, they are not selfsustaining or particularly useful. When you welcome them, when you take on responsibility for more than your own skin, when you make a priority of the helpless, you’re doing the work of the kingdom, the work of my Father, you’re welcoming me.

  And you’re not alone… you’re following me, doing what I’m doing, what I’ve been doing as I give of myself, as I align my actions with the will of my Father and for the good of the community.

• We are a voluntary community, with common goal (reach out with love, make disciples)      and with needs to make community run… needs include caregivers and sound techs, trustees and committee servant and chairs alike… needs include financial commitment to cover our needs and mission and ministry

  Voluntary community with goal and needs and wants as well (i.e. air-conditioning) which comes after needs.

  Voluntary community with commitment to JC, to UMC, to world, to town.

• Ang’s car… room in the car for servants, already have a driver JC.

• Take home commitments, bring back next week.

• Closing song If We Are the Body

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Cross to Bear

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Mark 8:27-38

• Visited Dan (nephew of member, 22 yo… hand crushed in construction accident...) Amputation of first two fingers of left hand. Heavy. But there was “that guy” in the waiting room, no arms or legs. I wonder what it’s like to be that guy that everybody compares to? That’s just his cross to bear, I guess.

• His cross to bear. Her cross to bear. How is that phrase used?

  Wrongly, I’d say. Google: First thing to come up: “unpleasant situation you must accept because you can’t change it.” Can’t grow fingers or arms or legs back, just have to learn to deal with it. Second thing: non-transferrable. Dan can’t give his burden to somebody else.

  Unpleasant, unavoidable, unchangeable.

  One out of three is correct: unpleasant. But there is something entirely voluntary about the cross that cannot be dismissed. Jesus didn’t deserve the cross, and he wasn’t forced to carry it (c’mon, he was GOD) he CHOSE to carry it, and he coulda chosen to put it down. The cross was, for Jesus, a choice, not an accident that happened to him.

  A choice based on his love for God and for humanity,

  A choice that demonstrated his loyalty

  A choice which demonstrated his priorities, who or what was Lord in his life. He didn’t choose comfort or convenience over the cross

 and when leading his disciples he didn’t have ’em sign a contract or anything, he said anyone who wants to follow me, this is how you do it.

• Kierkegaard (19th century Danish philosopher/theologian) said you can tell Christians by their lives more than by their words. You can tell Christians because they sacrifice, they live for Christ not themselves.

• Denying self, picking up cross, following Christ, involves demonstrating who earns your loyalty, who or what is Lord in your life, who receives priority in your use of resources – time, finances, talents. Perhaps it means sacrificing a hobby or a leisure activity so that you can devote that time to church service (inconvenient, but necessary) or being there as a resource for the working poor, or serving food at a homeless shelter. Perhaps it means using vacation time instead of paying to go on vacation paying to go on a short term mission trip. Perhaps it means instead of a favorite restaurant every week or instead of tickets to that pro football game, moving towards a tithe, or if you’re already there, adopting a child through Compassion international. Optional demonstration of Lordship. Maybe it means giving up an activity or behavior that separates you from God or others.

  Denying self, picking up cross, is not about shouldering an inconvenience (the cross wasn’t “inconvenient” but about commitment and sacrifice. Beyond teaching SS (though important) into lifestyle that points toward X, and prepares, should calling arise…

For some, like Youcef Nadarkhani, a young pastor in Iran, it means being imprisoned for 3 years on death row for preaching the gospel (CNN reported yesterday that Pastor Youcef was released from prison).

• Adam Hamilton, author and founding pastor of UMChurch of Resurrection outside Kansas City MO, largest UMChurch in nation, spoke to our AnnConf last year about his church’s response to problem with KC schools. UMCRessurrection mostly in wealthy suburb, higher paying and desirable jobs. Nobody wanted the jobs in the KCSD for poorer conditions and pay, etc. Teachers gave up their jobs to work in the city. That’s picking up cross.

  Christ calls us to voluntarily follow him, to submit the whole of ourselves to his lordship. To do as he did.

• Read from Philippians 2

• Directly into Communion

Sunday, September 2, 2012

What Makes a Christian?

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
James 1:17-27 and Mark 7 selections

• aside: I like talking about Jesus. I don’t like talking about sin. Last week I talked to youth about porn. Churchgoers not immune. If you’re in it, stop. I can give you confidential help with secret sins. Jesus frees.

• What makes a biker? I have jacket, gloves, helmet, teeshirts, even a hat. I have license, I have bike. I have experience (time and miles). I chat with other bikers, I read bike books, I take bike classes.

  What makes a biker? Stuff, study, action, attitude.

  Also, I’m a biker b/c MY actions, not b/c my birth, not b/c my parents.

  Not all biker images are good, and I have to “retrain” society about its stereotypes. I do so by being me, letting my spirit shine through.

• What do “they” think about Christians? Judgmental, closeminded, hate gays, hypocrites (what is hypocrite? Two faced, does not do as says).

• Tertullian (early church father, 150-200 years after Jesus) before his conversion:               
“See how the Christians love one another”… Christians are made, not born.

• Intentional interactions. Praying, loving, incarnation (being the embodiment)

• Study, ingest, do. (started with saying what I like talking about…) what people remember from this part of James is Doers not Hearers only. How about the last part? True religion is in action, in how we CARE for others

• Evangelism workshop November 3. Jesus wants life & wholeness. (that part is nice) Jesus wants disciples, followers, workers (oh yeah).

If you were on trial for being Christian, would you be found guilty?

May your actions, your lifestyle, your words, your attitudes reflect Christ. NOT so that you may receive attention for piety or works but so that Christ may be illumined.

• Hymn 444 I’ll go where you want me to go