Monday, November 12, 2018

Thankful for our Veterans

The Second World War Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Field of Stars in the Freedom Wall. We are thankful for our veterans, whom we acknowledged in worship yesterday, and for those who serve today in our armed forces.

Arabic speaking Swiss church

The Rev. Anna Shammas shares the story of how an invitation to worship led to the formation of the Arabic-Speaking United Methodist Church in Aarau, Switzerland. Photo by Annette Spence, UMNS.
By Annette Spence
Sept. 10, 2018 | AARAU, Switzerland (UMNS)

Anna Shammas was homesick and lonely on a subway in Switzerland in 2002. As a migrant from Aleppo, Syria, she was wary when another passenger began to draw pictures and talk to her 2-year-old daughter.
When the Swiss woman learned that Shammas was a Christian, she invited her to worship, drawing a map to the United Methodist church in Aarau. 

“I didn’t want to go in a false way,” Shammas says, explaining her fear of the local people who might reject her as an immigrant. Yet the invitation to worship intrigued her at a time when she was “without a friend, without language skills, without security, and most of all without God.” ...
Shammas says she was initially afraid, but her first visit to the United Methodist church in Aarau was life-changing. “I felt it was my home,” Shammas says. Even though she was not yet fluent in Swiss German (one of the nation's four official languages), church members “looked to me with love, with eyes of love. Indescribable was this experience.”
Shammas and her husband wanted to be at church every Sunday, but jobs were hard to get for migrants and they could not afford more than one bus ticket at once. So the couple decided to take turns attending church, each without the other.
Her faith flourished through the church, Shammas says. In Syria, Christianity was “my heritage, not a friendship with God.” In the Aarau church, she learned that “[God] can talk to me and he can change the situation. He does, every moment in my life. I want to hear his voice, to live together with God.”

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Sorry: Repairing Relationships with God (2018-1021)

20-21 Oct 2018, Christ Mountain Top
Praying the Psalm, Psalm 130
Children, John 13.1-15
Message, 2 Corinthians 5.14-21

Review: First week
      Initiative to apologize
      Initiative to start a difficult conversation, even when not at fault
Last week, repairing relationships with those we love
1.     Don’t count individual offenses and generalize a pattern from them.
2.     Give each other space in our comfort zone before pushing a difficult conversation.
3.     Remember your first love. Repent and do the things you did at first.
Today, with God
      Sin (our focus)
      Stuff (honorable mention)

The first thing to notice is that, just as Jesus urges us to “first go and reconcile,” even so Jesus does the same thing. He practices what he preaches.
      Washing the disciples’ feet
      “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
      “You are clean.”
Jesus declares Peter clean even BEFORE his denial that evening, three times, that he even KNOWS Jesus.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Permaculture in Malawi

View of healthy soy beans growing at Madisi Farm in Malawai. Photo by Joseph Kaipa for UMNS.
By Francis Nkhoma
Sept. 12, 2018 | MADISI, Malawi (UMNS)

Five years ago, The United Methodist Church in Malawi, with support from the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, purchased 25 acres of land about 2 miles from the Madisi church. In 2013 and 2014, a variety of crops were introduced, and a farmhouse, an office and stables were built. People learned methods of planting different vegetables, growing seasonal crops and raising livestock for income generation.

In 2015, the Madisi farm hired a special consultant, Luwayo Bizwik. As Bizwik showed villagers how to plant a variety of crops, others came to learn. That year and the next brought a bountiful harvest, healthy livestock and beautiful gardens. Villagers who once suffered from malnutrition began recovering, thanks in part to the vegetables from their gardens.

The farm has trained four village leaders and six health groups.

Who Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

Message by our District Superintendent, Larry Leland, at church conference.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Sorry: Repairing Relationships with Those We Love

13-14 Oct 2018, Christ Mountain Top
Praying the Psalm, Psalm 103.1-18
Children, Genesis 3.1-13
Message, John 21.1-25

      Initiative to apologize
      Initiative to start a difficult conversation, even when not at fault
      Today, repairing relationships with those we love

Let’s set up this story a little.
      In John’s gospel, Peter’s call story is abbreviated. He is introduced to Jesus by his brother, Andrew, and Jesus gives him the name “Peter” as opposed to Simon (1.42). He has one line of dialogue in the ministry of Jesus, in which he speaks up for all the disciples to declare their loyalty to Jesus when much of the crowd forsakes him (6.68). Then, Peter shows up in the night of the last supper and in the resurrection stories. He refuses to have Jesus wash his feet, only to relent. He affirms his loyalty, that he will lay down his life for Jesus, and Jesus tells him that this very night he will deny Jesus three times. The mob shows up to arrest Jesus and Peter lays his life on the line, drawing his sword and cutting off the ear of a guy named Malchus. Peter is doing exactly what he says he will do, and Jesus tells him to stop, to put his sword away. Jesus submits to the arrest, the disciples scatter, but Peter follows at a distance and ends up in the courtyard as the bizarre “trial” begins. Sure enough, Peter denies knowing Jesus three times that evening. Now that Christ is risen and appeared to Mary, now that Peter has seen the empty tomb but not yet met with Jesus, he is at a loss. What do you do next? He has denied even knowing the man he loves as friend and lord. And he hasn’t even had the opportunity to apologize.
      What does Peter do? He can’t take refuge in a relationship that is broken, both by what Peter has done and by Jesus’ death – even though there’s some unresolved mystery around what happened on Easter.
      What does Peter do? He takes refuge in his competency, in what he does well – fishing. He takes refuge in his work. Nothing wrong with that. Many of us do it. The great thing is that Jesus finds him there and Peter is only too glad to see him.

Shame and Blame (Children at the Altar, 2018-1014)

Sunday, November 4, 2018

HIV/AIDS partnership in the Philippines

Public health official Adolfo "Trio" Paras III leads a class on AIDS prevention at Wesleyan Third Millennium United Methodist Church in Cabanatuan City, Philippines. Photo by Gladys Mangiduyos, UMNS.
By Gladys MangiduyosAug. 13, 2018 | CABANATUAN CITY, Philippines (UMNS)

In the Philippines, where recent figures show an HIV rate growth of 25 percent, United Methodist leaders are hoping to make a difference with a new partnership with the Cabanatuan City Health Office.
Together, they want to create a sustainable program and services for people living with HIV and AIDS and their caregivers.
Recently, 25 people attended a symposium on HIV and AIDS education, prevention, care and treatment held at the Wesleyan Third Millennium United Methodist Church, Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija. Organized by John Wesley Academy and Critical Thinking Center, the event launched the first established partnership with the Cabanatuan City Health Office on HIV education.
Dr.  Arminda A. Adecer, a United Methodist physician, leads the city health office medical team. “HIV is here in Nueva Ecija,” she said, “with the highest number in Cabanatuan City. Education is key and (the) most vital defense in order to protect the people and prevent disease.” 
Nueva Ecija, a large province at the center of Luzon island, is home to three United Methodist annual conferences: Middle Philippines (Cabanatuan City), South Nueva Ecija Philippines and Central Luzon Philippines.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Turkey Dinner!

The annual Turkey Dinner is Saturday November 3. Takeout begins at 2 pm. Dine-in begins at 4 pm. Price is $10 per adult, $5 for children 5-10 years old, FREE for younger children. Still opportunities to help at the event.

Kite Festival (3 of 3)

New Swahili-speaking congregation in Michigan

African Women's Choir
South Wyoming is home to one of The Michigan Conference’s newest congregations. Meet Pastor Banza Mukalay leader of Restoration Community Church UMC. They want people to “leave this place blessed forever!”
KAY DEMOSSContent Editor, Michigan Conference
... Soon after arrival in Grand Rapids, Pastor Mukalay had 50 persons worshipping in his basement. The Rev. Marcia Elders, then pastor of South Wyoming United Methodist Church, invited Pastor Mukalay to move his flock to their building. Another year passed and there were 100 in worship. When South Wyoming became a campus of Cornerstone Church, hospitality continued for the Restoration Community. Today there are 200 in the Swahili-language service on Sunday afternoon.
One challenge to his ministry is finances. “A tithe is a problem for many in our congregation,” Mukalay says. But that does not dim his passion for God’s work. He is employed by a construction company in Grand Rapids. When Banza shared his desire to be a pastor and to work in refugee resettlement, the company agreed to pay him three days to work for them and two days to work for the church. He feels very blessed.
Many in the congregation, like their pastor, came to Grand Rapids from refugee settlements in Rwanda, Burundi, and Sudan. “The church is made up of different people,” the pastor explains. “Most are not United Methodists at this time. Some are not Christian.” But the Spirit is moving in their midst. Pastor Mukalay has helped develop strong lay leadership. Restoration Community Church has programs for youth, men and women. He says, “These leaders are my pillars. I can fail but these people help me to be strong.”...
Apol introduced Monike, a mother of seven, who was one of the original Congolese families to come to the area and South Wyoming UMC. He recalls, “They came through the door with a note from their pastor back home. It said, ‘Please take care of my people.’” He continued with a broad smile, “Think of the thousands of miles between Congo and South Wyoming! The United Methodist connection is huge!”   
In addition to serving as a spiritual leader, Mukalay also cares for the material needs of the people. He has been personally involved in refugee resettlement for six years. Clothes, shoes, bedding, housewares, furniture are all things he procures and shares. “It’s in my heart to help people,” he says. “People come here after years of living in the forest in Africa and are expected to be self-sufficient,” he explains. “God helped me and taught me how to express myself so now I help them look for jobs, practice the language, and learn to drive.” It is estimated that there are over 2,000 Congolese living in Grand Rapids....

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Nursery coordinator

JP with Michelle, our new nursery coordinator. And they are twins!

Sorry: Repairing Relationships through Reconciliation (2018-1007)

6-7 Oct 2018, Christ Mountain Top
Praying the Psalm, Psalm 32 (as confession/pardon)
Children, 1 Samuel 25
Message, Matthew 5.21-26
Mission Moment, World Communion 2018 video

Remember that old game? I hated it. There was no real strategy. The only point to it was to land on someone else’s piece, say “sorry” and send them home. The more you do it, the madder everyone else gets. Great family fun.
      “You’re not sorry. Quit saying you’re sorry.”

Story of drop kick to brawl: Was I wrong? Was I sorry?
Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.
1 Peter 3:9 ESV

Have you ever been the one to make a bad situation worse?
Have you ever been the one to make a remark that cut a friend or loved one to the core?
Have you ever assumed that someone was trying to hurt you, only to discover that you completely misunderstood the situation?
Have you ever walked on eggshells around someone because you are not sure how to interpret the awkward responses they are giving?
Has someone ever assumed something of you that was inaccurate, in a way that created a barrier between you?

No Outsiders

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

I Want to Say I'm Sorry

Church opens modern hospital in Nigeria

The newly commissioned Jalingo United Methodist Hospital in Jalingo, Nigeria, is one of the best-equipped private hospitals in the region. The 30-bed facility, which opened to the public last month, is expected to treat more than 10,000 people annually. Photo by Sharon Adamu Bambuka, UMNS.
The newly commissioned Jalingo United Methodist Hospital in Jalingo, Nigeria, is one of the best-equipped private hospitals in the region. The 30-bed facility, which opened to the public last month, is expected to treat more than 10,000 people annually. Photo by Sharon Adamu Bambuka, UMNS.
By Sharon Adamu BambukaAug. 7, 2018 | JALINGO, Nigeria (UMNS)

The Nigeria Episcopal Area has opened one of the best-equipped private hospitals in the region. Unveiled last month, Jalingo United Methodist Hospital, a 30-bed facility, is expected to treat more than 10,000 people annually.

General outpatient, surgical, nursing, administrative and pharmaceutical units are stocked with the latest equipment. The hospital has an expanded range of services that includes an operating room, high-quality medical equipment and health care, as well as public space.

Bishop John Wesley Yohanna expressed hope that the new facility would encourage patients to seek care in Nigeria rather than traveling abroad for medical attention.

Dr. Ayuba A. Gagare, chairman of the United Methodist Rural Health Programme, said the hospital will provide urgent care for patients of all ages. He praised the church for alleviating the suffering of the people by bringing services closer to them.

Kite Festival (2 of 3)

Monday, October 29, 2018

Ric & Carol

Ric and Carol after he preached on a Sunday.

Transformation: Turn this cold stone into fire, 2018-0930

Transformation #4 –
      Turn this Cold Stone into Fire,
      A New Perspective on Human Spirituality
29-30 Sept 2018, Christ Mountain Top
Praying the Psalm, Song of Solomon 2:10-13, 8:6-7
Children, Matthew 3:11-12
Message, 1 Kings 18:21-39

Annie Dillard tells the story of a night she spent camping, reading, and writing in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  She was sitting at a picnic table at the campsite, writing to the light of a candle.  A moth, drawn by the flame, approached and landed upright in the melted wax around the wick of the candle.  The wings, legs, antennae, mouth blazed and disappeared, leaving the body behind.  She wrote this: “And then this moth-essence, this spectacular skeleton, began to act as a wick.  She kept burning ... a saffron-yellow flame that robed her to the ground like any immolating monk.  The moth’s head was fire.  She burned for two hours, until I blew her out” (Holy the Firm, 1977, p 17).

Today’s transformational metaphor: FIRE!

How many of you have worn clothing sporting the name and logo of your favorite team?  How many of you wear clothing that advertises the maker of the clothes?  Advertisers call this “branding” – and, yes, it is as much about them owning us as us owning their products.  How does it feel to be branded by corporate America – Coca-Cola, Nike, Hilfiger, Levi, McDonald’s?
      Branding goes back to the days of open-range cattle – branded with the symbol of their owner, branded with a hot iron like those great Western movies (or like the sadistic bad guys in our modern thrillers).
      Isaiah has a vision of the glory of God.  The floor shakes and the room fills with smoke, the train of God’s robe fills the temple, the lightning-serpent-angel creatures call out to one another . . . and Isaiah cries, “Woe to me!  I am falling apart!  I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the king, the Lord of glory.”  And one of the creatures uses tongs to take a coal from the altar, sets it on his lips and declares, “See, your sin is atoned for and your guilt is taken away.”  Branded.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Camping with the Scouts

Transformation: Breathless Body to Alive (2018-0923)

Transformation #3 –
      Turn this Breathless Body to Alive,
      A New Perspective on Human Life

22-23 Sept 2018, Christ Mountain Top
Praying the Psalm, Psalm 104:24-35
Children, Mark 5:35-43
Message, 2 Kings 4:8-37

I remember watching a documentary film about a Bible translator and missionary among one of the tribes on the island of New Guinea.  The people among whom she lived believed that the human soul was physically located in the throat.  If a person was sick and became incapable of speaking, they were considered dead – and they were buried and mourned.  It is a horrible thing to imagine.

We all have a way in which we visualize the location of the soul, whether physically or metaphorically – perhaps in the heart, perhaps in the mind.  For the ancient Hebrews, soul and body were inseparable.  (It was Plato who first spoke about an immortal soul and a mortal body; Christian theology of resurrection follows Hebrew understanding rather than the Platonic, and imagines our essential humanity as embodied souls rather than as body-less souls.)  For the ancient Hebrews, it was the soul that gave the body life, and it began with the gift of God to the very first human.  When God made the first man, the story goes, he bent over a lifeless clay sculpture and breathed into it, “and the man became a living soul”.

“Turn this breathless body to alive”.  It is interesting to see the connections between the Hebrew understanding of the soul and that of this one people in New Guinea.  Those people had to learn some new things when modern antibiotics were introduced, but the ancient Hebrews were medically accurate (by 21st century standards) to say that a body long without breath was no longer living.
      If you’ve ever encountered your deepest fear, like the dementors from the Harry Potter stories, and had the life sucked right out of you by some bad news, by a death or diagnosis, by a partner choosing to leave, by a sudden job loss, you are reminded how important the breath is to life.
      If you’ve ever had “the wind knocked out of you” by a blow or a fall, or, “the wind knocked out of your sails”, the sails of your dreams and ambitions, you are reminded how important the breath is to life.
      If you’ve ever taken CPR classes, like Elisha placed your mouth on the mouth of another, you are reminded how important the breath is to life.
      If you’ve ever sat with a dying loved one and watched them exhale for the last time, you are reminded how important the breath is to life.
      “Turn this breathless body to alive”.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Group dinner

The grief group reunion dinner at King's.

Kite Festival (1 of 3)

Thanks to the team who did all the preparation for this event, which we hosted for the first time this year. And thanks to the folks at St. Martin's who made it possible and started this annual event.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


Weighing in for Pounding the Pastor. We received 800 pounds of food and $500 dollars for the Mountain Top Food Bank! Our biggest food drive yet!

Transformation: Holy Water into Wine 2018-0916

Transformation #2 –
      Turn this Holy Water into Wine,
      A New Perspective on Human Potential
15-16 Sept 2018, Christ Mountain Top
Praying the Psalm, Psalm 42
Children, John 3.5
Message, John 2.1-11

[Kathleen Norris] has a wonderful small book, from a lecture series on women’s spirituality, titled The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and “Women’s Work”.  Quotidian is one of those big words with a simple meaning: ordinary.  Her theme is how ordinary things can shape a powerful spirituality, and she begins by telling the story of the first time she went to mass as an adult, a guest for a wedding and noticed that after the communion service the priest was cleaning up: [“Look”], she said to her boyfriend (now husband), “the priest is doing the dishes!”  She describes the priest as “a daft housewife, overdressed for the kitchen”.  And this glimpse of the ordinary, the “quotidian”, became for her the window through which she could observe, understand, and finally touch glorious mystery.

[Title] Review & intro