Saturday, April 30, 2016

Mercy for the Condemned: In the Night My Hope Lives On (#3, 2016-0417)

(Note: Video did not work that Sunday.)
Call to Worship, Psalm 32
Children, Luke 15.1-7
Message, John 8.2-11
Song, “In the Night”, vv 5-6, 7-8

Song: In the Night (Andrew Peterson), including lyrics below
Like the son who thought he'd gone beyond forgiveness,
Too ashamed to lift his head--but if he could lift his head
He would see his father running from a distance
In the night my hope lives on

And I can see the crowd of men retreating
As he stands between the woman and their stones
And if mercy in his holy heart is beating
Then in the night my hope lives on

Well, I remember how they scorned the son of Mary
He was gentle as a lamb, gentle as a lamb
He was beaten, he was crucified, and buried
And in the night, my hope was gone

But the rulers of this earth could not control Him
No they did not take his life--he laid it down
And all the chains of death could never hope to hold him
So in the night my hope lives on

We could talk about
·       How hypocritical and judgmental religious people can be
·       The hatred and mistreatment of women, particularly in view of the fact that the law of Moses said that not only should you kill a woman caught in adultery – but the man as well
·       The unique way that Jesus cared for both the accused woman –and her accusers. He didn’t stare them down, he just bent over and kept doodling in the dirt.
·       Specific qualifications often attached to this story, that Jesus is neither abolishing capital punishment in general nor softening prohibitions against marital infidelity
·       The interesting textual history of this particular “floating” story that also appears in some ancient copies of Luke’s gospel and is missing in the earliest copies of John’s
·       The many theories about what Jesus was writing, including a fun one by Frederick Bruner (Gospel of John, 505-6): He was buying time as he formulated his response. Yesterday, at opening day, girls drawing and writing in the dugout dirt …
But no. Today, I want to talk about one particular feature of condemnation in the experience of the condemned – Shame.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Life for the Dying: In the Night My Hope Lives On (#4, 2016-0424)


Call to Worship, Psalm 100
Children, John 10.1-18
Message, Revelation 5.1-14, with John 10
Song, “In the Night”, vv 3-4, 7-8

Song: In the Night (Andrew Peterson), including lyrics below
I see the slave that toils beneath the yoke unyielding
And I can hear the captive groan, hear the captive groan
For some hand to stay the whip his foe is wielding
Still in the night my hope lives on

I see the armies of the enemy approaching
And the people driven, trembling, to the shore
But a doorway through the waters now is opening
So in the night my hope lives on
      Oh in the night …

Well, I remember how they scorned the son of Mary
He was gentle as a lamb, gentle as a lamb
He was beaten, he was crucified, and buried
And in the night, my hope was gone

But the rulers of this earth could not control Him
No they did not take his life--he laid it down
And all the chains of death could never hope to hold him
So in the night my hope lives on

My need to hear and preach this
      Crave the story and hope of resurrection
      And my inability to do so – lack understanding, face death
Death is such a present reality
      All of us are dying
      Life is a terminal disease
I am grieving

Monday, April 25, 2016

World Malaria Day

Brussels: Mission and Fear

People gather at a memorial in Brussels for those killed and injured in Tuesday's terrorist attacks. Photo by Miguel Discart, Wikimedia Commons
By Linda Bloom
March 23, 2016 | NEW YORK (UMNS)
For one young adult serving as a United Methodist mission volunteer in Brussels, the deadly terrorist attacks on the city’s airport and subway system has led to a new description of his ministry: “missioning with fear.”
Nicodemus “Nick” T. Doe, a Global Mission Fellow from Liberia assigned to the Churches Commission on Migrants in Europe, noted that even though Christians believe “God is our protector” and that he is with us to the end, the March 22 tragedy in Brussels brought fear and sorrow.
“The situation is cooling down,” he wrote in an email to United Methodist News Service, “but I’m still ‘missioning with fear,’ fear with how one can move from one place to another without terror.
“My heart is filled with fear, but also with hope and courage that God can and will help prevent such horrible acts from happening again in Brussels and the country at large, including other parts of the world.”
The subway bombing was at a Metro station near the commission’s office where he works, Doe said. Other faith-based, nongovernmental organizations also have offices at the Ecumenical Center.
“My prayers and thoughts are with the immediately victims and their family for God’s comfort and peace and his mercy for both the victims and perpetrators of the attacks,” Doe added.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Nyadire satellite clinics

Patients wait in the sheltered outpatients bay at Nyahuku Clinic. Improvements at the satellite clinic of the United Methodist Nyadire Mission Hospital will help meet the demands of the 14 villages in the area. Photo by Eveline Chikwanah, UMNS
By Eveline Chikwanah
April 12, 2016 | NYAHUKU, Zimbabwe (UMNS)
A group of young men huddle under a tree near the school entrance, each intent on the mobile phone in their hands.  Some are typing messages; others are speaking on the phone.
Welcome to Nyahuku. In the remote community in northeastern Zimbabwe, elephants are frequently seen, and wandering off the dusty road could be fatal because land mines from the country’s liberation war still litter the mountainous terrain. About 240 kilometers (149 miles) from the capital city of Harare, The United Methodist Church is providing quality medical care to a community so rural that the only access to the country’s mobile phone network can be found under a single tree.
“The United Methodist Church does not only preach the word of God, we want to ensure the community has access to modern health facilities,” said the Rev. Elias Mutasa, Mutoko-Mudzi district superintendent.
With assistance from The Nyadire Connection, a non-profit organization founded by a group of United Methodists in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the church is expanding and upgrading the buildings at Nyahuku Clinic. The improvements at the satellite clinic of the United Methodist Nyadire Mission will help meet the demands of the 14 villages in the area.
The connection has already upgraded the Chikwizo Clinic and plans to improve four other clinics operated by the mission hospital, for a total of six clinic rennovations. 
Desmond Pawandiwa, nurse-in-charge of Nyahuku Clinic, said malaria, sore eyes due to allergies related to dust and pollen, and diarrhea were the most prevalent illnesses treated at the clinic.
“There is poor sanitation and people drink water from the river, a source which they share with domestic livestock, resulting in a high number of people suffering from diarrhea,” said Pawandiwa.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Abundant Health: Our Promise to Children


Serving Jesus by Serving Others

On March 13, Conference Youth teamed up with Mission Central for a day of service and volunteering at Mission Central and at various HUBs.   One of the youth, Morgan Robinette, from the State College District, wrote the following of their day:

On Sunday, March 13, 2016, over 150 youth and adults came together at five different locations throughout the Conference to serve in mission.  The Young People’s Ministry Council partnered with Mission Central and four HUBs; Altoona, Covenant Helping Hands, Shoemaker and Gethsemane, to offer an afternoon of hands on service for youth groups in the Conference.  There was definitely an atmosphere of enthusiasm in all five locations, as dozens of young people formed connections and friendships, as they served alongside one another.  Each location offered a variety of ways for the youth to be in service, including packing UMCOR health and school kits, assembling home relocation supplies and even some painting.  In between projects, the youth also participated in games and activities, which offered some newer perspectives on the act of serving others.
The youth of the YPMC lead a time of devotion and reflection, encouraging attendees to consider the challenge found in James 2:16-17, “What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.”  The youth shared personal experiences of both meeting another’s needs, as well as having their needs met during a time of trial.  Different ways for young people to serve in everyday life were also discussed and before leaving, the youth were presented with a challenge to make any place a mission field.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

You Can't Stop Resurrection

Thanks to Joel Shuman for stepping in at the last minute and preaching for us on April 3, the day after my father-in-law died. Appreciate that kind of flexibility and the gift of his message.

Acts 5:27-32
John 20:19-32

When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour, so that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’


The bad news is that I did not learn I was preaching this morning until yesterday afternoon around 5:00. The good news is that I had spent time over the second half of last week reading and commenting, as I often do, on the sermon of a far better preacher than I am, from whom I am going to borrow shamelessly this morning. God bless her sweet little heart, as they might say down where she lives.

During the just-completed Lenten season, we spent a good deal of time in the Gospel according to Saint Luke, where, as you may have noticed, the gospel of the kingdom tends to be disruptive. Beginning with the Angel Gabriel’s annunciation of the incarnation to the girl Mary and the revolutionary battle cry of a song she sung out in response and concluding with the arrest, execution, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the proclamation that the kingdom of God has broken into history and is even now among us turns all manner of things over onto their heads, from people’s lives to their ideas about what is possible to the social, economic, and even the political order. The gospel of the kingdom of God and the one who proclaimed and embodied it leave virtually nothing in Creation unaffected. It—he—transforms us, which is, in spite of the fact that it can be oh so discomfiting, a very good thing.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

"Bashert" (Destiny) and Doubt

This is my first time writing a God Moment.  I was raised in a Jewish household among very culturally Jewish people.  My father, the child of Holocaust survivors, was born in Israel and immigrated to this country in 1960.  My mother’s family had been in this country for several generations and had been critical to the construction of several important synagogues in Brooklyn, New York.  For most Americans, my family would be broadly painted as Jewish.  Yet for us, we were a mixed family.  On one side, I have a grandmother who was enslaved, beaten and tortured as a young child during the Holocaust, while on the other side I have a grandmother who was one of the first women to attend Stern Business School at NYU.
The differences are most apparent in how the two sides of the family speak and how they refer to God.  My immigrant family speaks eight languages; the eighth being English.  My American-born family speaks English primarily and can understand bits and pieces of other languages.  This contrast alludes to a greater counterintuitive vein which sustains either group.  My father’s family, the survivors of one of the worst genocides in human history, whose survival is nothing less than a feat of chance and luck, do not believe in God and are at the same time vehemently atheistic and Zionist.  My mother’s family observed the Sabbath, kept a kosher household, and regularly attended synagogue.
This contradiction in faiths, within a culturally ancient brand, laid the foundation for an existence of questioning everything both Jewish and religious.  A caveat to this line of thinking is that in Judaism, questioning the very existence of god is considered a form of prayer. The debate and Socratic dialogue between oneself and their conscience is encouraged. Thus, from the perspective of my religious family, denying the existence of God in many ways was a means of connecting to their own Creator.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sunday message and worship, 2016-0410


Children at the Altar, Anthem, and Message (with song)

ReThink Easter: In the Night My Hope Lives On 
      #2, Victory for the Fearful
2016/04/10 Christ Church, Mountain Top, Easter 3
Call to Worship, Psalm 46
Children, Genesis 32
Message, 2 Kings 6.8-23
Song, “In the Night”, vv 1-2, 7-8

Song: In the Night (Andrew Peterson), including lyrics below
I am weary with the pain of Jacob's wrestling
In the darkness with the Fear, in the darkness with the Fear
But he met the morning wounded with a blessing
So in the night my hope lives on

When Elisha woke surrounded by the forces
Of the enemies of God, the enemies of God
He saw the hills aflame with angels on their horses
So in the night my hope lives on

Well, I remember how they scorned the son of Mary
He was gentle as a lamb, gentle as a lamb
He was beaten, he was crucified, and buried
And in the night, my hope was gone

But the rulers of this earth could not control Him
No they did not take his life--he laid it down
And all the chains of death could never hope to hold him
So in the night my hope lives on