A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sunday Worship Preview

Sunday, August 3 (8:30 A.M. and 11:00 A.M. Traditional and 9:45 A.M. Contemporary)

Features - 12th Sunday After Pentecost; The Sacrament of Holy Communion; & Reception of the New Associate Pastor, Rev. Rick Tettau

Scripture - Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 & Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Sermon Title - “The Perfect Pastor”

Theme - The story of Isaac searching for a wife is more than a story about boy meets girl. It’s a story within a story of how God is seeking to reclaim, redeem, and rescue the world through the covenant that was made with Abraham earlier in the Book of Genesis. This delightful story helps us to reflect on how God uses many different people to help accomplish a vital mission and ministry. There are no perfect pastors or perfect lay people – only faithful people who work toward the same purpose in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Tribute to William Wilberforce - July 30th

Today is the death anniversary of a Christian who ranks in my top 10 category of most committed Christians who have ever lived - William Wilberforce, 19th Century England.

A member of British Parliament, he courageously spent 18 years in working to abolish the English slave trade. Just 4 days before his death, a bill to abolish all slavery in British territories finally passed. A year later in 1833, 800,000 slaves were set free.

United Methodists have a connection with this incredible man of faith not just because of Wilberforce's work toward social justice but also because John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, also greatly admired him. Wesley's last letter before he died was sent to Wilberforce encouraging him to not give up in his uphill battle to defeat the terrible evil of slavery.

I am so proud to live near Wilberforce University which reminds me again and again of what it means to pray, "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven."

Prayer - Let your continual mercy, O Lord, enkindle in your Church the never-failing gift of love, that, following the example of your servant William Wilberforce, we may have grace to defend the children of the poor, and maintain the cause of those who have no helper; for the sake of him who gave his life for us, your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Update on Africa University Student, Eric Bondapa

Eric Bondapa, a student studying to become a United Methodist pastor at Africa University in Zimbabwe, Africa was to come to Xenia, Ohio in June and July and serve a pastoral internship with our church and the Common Cup shared ministry. Regretfully, our own US Embassy denied Eric a visa to come to our country because they believed he was a defection risk. I still wonder how they would have denied him a visa especially since there was sufficient documentation to show that this was a legitimate school internship through a reputable world-wide denomination (the United Methodist Church.)

Jane Wise, who was working with our church to coordinate an internship schedule for Eric, just sent me an update on how Eric is doing. Even though he was prevented from fulfilling his internship with us in the States, he was recently able to complete an internship in his home area of Africa. I'm pleased to announce that on Friday, July 25, Eric was ordained. If you are looking for a joy to express to God with thanksgiving today, this definitely qualifies as one!

Even though Eric is now ordained, he still needs to finish his course work at Africa University with the hope that he will graduate next June.

We weren't given the opportunity to meet Eric face to face and share in ministry with him, but I still feel as though I have a new brother in Christ. I give thanks to God for revealing to me this living example of what it means to persevere in ministry for the sake of the gospel.

Eric - thank you for being an inspiration to all of us and congratulations on your ordination!

Your Unmet but Grateful Brother in Christ,

Monday, July 28, 2008

Delayed Easter Sermon Ending

Sometimes sermons don't end until well after the Sunday they have been preached. In this case, the conclusion of my Easter sermon, "In Search of an Ending" from Sunday, March 23 appears in this post. The main point of the sermon was that the Easter celebration doesn't end with the empty tomb, but continues on through our faithfulness in living out our Easter faith in our communities and world. My focus was on the Easter account from the Gospel of Mark and how this gospel offers an abrupt ending to the Easter story leaving us wondering, "well, what happened next????"

Here's the original (cliff hanger) ending of the sermon which left a lot of my parishioners asking, "Well, did she or didn't she???" (Note: I dedicated this sermon to the glory of God in memory of Ginger Schmaus, my former church secretary.)

March 23 Sermon Ending:
"This past October, I received a call that a close staff member from my previous church had died unexpectedly. When I served that church, our children were in grade school at the time, and if I would be out visiting someone or be away from the church for some reason…this was before cell phones were popular…she would take it upon herself to cover for me.
I can’t tell you the number of times Ginger picked up our kids at school when they were sick or gave me a ride to the car dealer when my car needed to be fixed. She was part of our family.

When I got home later that day, I called her husband, Don to offer my deepest sympathy, and to my surprise, Ginger’s son-in-law answered the phone. I had gotten to know him pretty well when I was at the church and I told him how sorry I was to hear of the news of Ginger’s sudden death.

And I said to him, “You know Ryan. What’s really strange about all of this is that Ginger had called me down here in Xenia just two weeks ago. In fact, the reason she called, was to ask me to pray for you and for Jenny that the artificial insemination would be successful. I know how much the two of you have been wanting to have a baby.”

And then I said, “She told me that day on the phone that she was calling everybody she knew to pray that Jenny would be able to conceive.” So I asked him, “Do you have any news? Did it work?”

And he said…

Well…now that I think about it…this is a great place to end the sermon.

Since it's been about four months since that Easter sermon and everyone has been so patient, here's the final ending part of the sermon:


(Just got a picture in the mail of Abby Alexis, 7lbs., 4 oz., 20 inches, born May 27)

The Easter celebration never ends...Alleluia!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Nikos Web Blog is Born!

Welcome to Nikos (biblical Greek word for "victory.") This takes me back to my Associate Pastor youth ministry days when I designed a monthly newsletter specifically for the youth of my church with this title. I chose "nikos" because of the cool tie in with the Nike shoe brand. I say this as I wear non-Nike running shoes during this posting!

Anyway, my hope with this new blog is to have a means to communicate with my congregation of Faith Community United Methodist in Xenia, Ohio and to see where it goes from there. I will be posting on Christian books, ministry and discipleship topics, as well as other areas as they surface.

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57