Thursday, April 29, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
I'm all for tolerance and respect for not pushing anyone's religion on anyone, but are we really this hyper-sensitive?
Check out this article about a public school superintendent in the state of Washington who recently banned students from an instrumental performance of Ave Maria at a graduation ceremony. The US Supreme Court has decided to not intervene.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Sermon - "Big Questions - Why Do Bad Things Happen?"
Features - 5th Sunday of Easter & Holy Communion
Scripture - Job 1:13-22; Romans 3:10-26; & John 16:31-33
Theme - Today is the final part of a four part sermon series on “Big Questions.” On this Sunday, our focus is on the important question, “Why Do Bad Things Happen?”
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Here at Lancaster First UMC, I am privileged to be part of two weekly bible study groups that study the scriptures for the upcoming Sunday.
Here are some of the questions/insights from the two groups:
• II Timothy is considered “Paul’s last will and testament” for Timothy. Paul encourages a timid yet gifted pastor to live out his calling. I Timothy defines a faithful congregation. II Timothy defines a faithful pastor.
• The bible is a complex book and can be frustrating to read. But we also see how it can bring new life. Reason it brings life is that it is inspired or “God-breathed.” See v. 16. Translated as “inspired” because of a Latin word.
• Three problems with using the word “inspired” with today’s meaning: 1) Many things can “inspire” us like a good play or movie. This word has a much deeper meaning! 2) Inspired might lead us to believe that the biblical authors were merely dictating machines of conveying God’s words. 3) Inspired denotes a particular theological understanding of the Christian faith.
• V. 15 – scripture can make us wise and have us think differently as it helps us to know through stories, poetry, proverbs, symbolism, and history, that through God’s rescuing love for the world in the person of Jesus Christ, we are part of God’s salvation story.
• V. 16 shows us how this is done. Teaching, rebuking, training, and transforming.
• V. 17 the goal of all of this is to help us be fully human in living out our true identity in Jesus Christ, reflecting God’s image.
• One of my favorite passages of scripture because it combines a retelling of the scriptural story and concludes with a reference to the Sacrament of Holy Communion combining Word & Sacrament.
• Has been used by people who are going through a difficult time.
• Who is the couple on the road? Cleopas and his companion. Maybe referring to John 19:25 and the married couple, Mary and Clopas. Couples have used this story to help them through marital difficulties.
• The stranger might have caused fear with the couple since the authorities might be looking for Jesus’ disciples.
• The couple is down because they believe that Jesus’ ministry had failed because of his death on the cross.
• The stranger (Jesus) tells the story of the Old Testament to the couple to help them see that in order to rescue Israel from their suffering, God would have to suffer on their behalf.
• Why didn’t the couple recognize that the stranger was Jesus? Jesus’ resurrected body. But also because they didn’t understand the full story of where the scriptures were pointing and how Jesus fit into that story.
• This passages reminds us that in order to study and understand the scriptures, we need Jesus by our side. Only then will our hearts burn within us (v. 32.)
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I haven't read anything about Crystal's faith or her religious background, but when she sings anything that remotely resembles gospel music or a song with a religious theme, she brings to the table what contestant judge Simon Cowell calls, "a believability."
Enjoy Crystal's performance from last night's show. Wow!
Monday, April 19, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Sermon - "Big Questions - Is the Bible Reliable?"
Features - 4th Sunday of Easter; Latvia/Lithuania Guests Welcome; & the Company of Praise Choir (9:45 & 11:00)
Scripture - II Timothy 3:10-17 & Luke 24:13-27
Theme - Today is the 3rd part of a four part sermon series on “Big Questions.” On this Sunday, our focus is on the important question, “Is the Bible Reliable?” What criteria do people use to make this statement? What does the evidence suggest? Join us on this Sunday to find out why the Apostle Paul claimed, “All scripture is inspired by God.”
Saturday, April 17, 2010
- Of course a plane flying symbolizing the Wright brothers and the phrase, "Beautiful birthplace of aviation."
- The 1803 reminder to show that we've been a state for a long time.
- A farm showing that we are a rural state.
- A city skyline showing that we also have cities.
- Trees showing that we have woods.
Is the bridge supposed to symbolize that our urban and rural life are somehow connected or is it trying to convey that we have more bridges than the average state? Or is there another reason for the bridge?
It appears to me that the designers of the new plate are promoting the diversity of our state rather than one particular symbol. For me, it's a little too busy, the phrase at the top is way too small to read, and it feels all to general for me. I would much rather go with one idea and make it look really nice, like the Wright brothers/invention theme. Or maybe go back to the theme of Ohio being "the heart of it all" since our state is located where the heart would be on the human body and which promotes our Midwestern values.
If license plates can try to do too much, so can the church. Many churches run the danger of trying to be all things for all people. I know this is a little tricky since God calls us to minister to the needs of our community and the people we are reaching, but on the other hand, I don't think that God wants us to stretch ourselves so thin, that we aren't offering quality ministry that will honor God and bring God's transforming love to the people we are serving.
If you would design a logo that captures the essence/uniqueness of your church, what image(s) would you include?
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.
Life can be quite a ride.
Sometimes, too much of a ride.
Last week, I had the rare chance to get away.
It was the perfect opportunity to travel out of state
to visit my brother and to make plans
for an upcoming church trip.
There was only one hitch.....
The day I was leaving was the day
a construction crew was scheduled to arrive at my home.
They were excavating to pour a foundation
for a new addition being added to my home.
As I thought it through,
I decided that if I met with the crew leader
and went over the blueprints at the start of the day,
everything would be fine.
After all, I was only a cell call away.
And so I left for my destination
on a beautiful spring day.
That was till mile marker 147.........
The cell phone rang.
It was the crew leader.
I hate to tell you this,
but we hit the water line from your pump to the house.
I was 2.5 hours away from home.
I had always wanted a fountain in my front yard,
but this was not what I had envisioned.
I told him where the breaker was to turn off the pump
with the expectation that he would call me back.
mile marker 165
It is said that no news is good news.
In this case....not so much
mile marker 174
The crew leader calls back.
It looks fixable.
He is headed out to a local store to get plumbing supplies.
mile marker 285
The crew leader calls back.
The water line is repaired.
it appears that when the water line was hit,
the jarring motion caused some pipes
in the crawl space of the house to spring leaks.
Water is now pouring out of those pipes underneath the house......
and it is late afternoon.
The team needs to leave.
Water is gushing everywhere.
I tell him to turn the breaker off and have a nice day. Arrgghhh!
mile marker 292
I call a friend who has plumbing skills.
He's willing to go out and see if can fix the leaks.
mile marker 110 (I am in a new state)
My friend calls me.
The problem is solved.
Everything is fine.
mile marker 150
I hear a rumble
I pull over to the shoulder of the road.
When I get out to examine,
it is what I think it is....
a flat tire.
I notice a police car pulling up behind me.
I assume he is there to help me.
He is there to give me a citation for speeding.
It seems that within the last few miles
the speed limit has lowered from 65 to 55,
and I didn't see it.
I admit to the officer that I had not seen the sign.
He glances at my car and admits,
that he has never issued a citation for speeding
to someone who has a flat tire.
He chooses to leave me with a warning
He does not offer to help me with the tire.
I consider it a fair trade off.
The next time I leave on a trip,
I think I'll stay home instead.
The next time I leave on a trip,
I'll do what I should do,
whether or not I am home or away.
it is still a beautiful spring day.
I arrive at my destination only 30 minutes later than intended.
My water problems are fixed.
I am able to change tires and arrive safely,
and I experience the compassion of a stranger
when I could have been ticketed.
Life is a road trip.
We don't know how many mile markers we will pass,
or how many states we will pass through.
What we do know is that we don't travel it alone.
And when we encounter bumps in the road,
God is there to smooth out the road....eventually.
Now enjoy your ride.
Look at the birds of the air.
They do not sow,
neither do they reap, nor gather into barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not worth much more than they?
- Matthew 6:26
Gospels of Thomas & Peter
Codices found at Nag Hammadi
Thomas is queen of non-canonical Gospels.
Egerton Papyrus 2
Secret Gospel of Mark
Gospel of Peter
Gospel of Mary
The Jesus Seminar - Authenticity of sayings of Jesus. Used different beads. 82% of sayings of Jesus are doubtful according to seminar.
Criticism of JS - Too much reliance on apocryphal Gospels.
Thomas - 114 sayings of Jesus.
Peter - Portion of gospel (passion and resurrection.)
Thomas - 3 Greek fragments - Date range - 220-280 CE
Nag Hammadi - 340 CE
Written with mostly Greek letters.
Thomas legend - John's Gospel Supporters (And their dating for these sources) - Crosson, Pagels
Stephen Patterson - 70s
April DeConick - As early as 30-50 & later in stages.
Elaine Pagels - 90s (A lot of scholars agree with date.) A Thomas vs. John community.
Focus on Stephen Patterson.
What's the best explanation? Thomas is a 2nd century source, not 1st century!
1. Coherence with Syrian traditions - 100-150 CE 2. Acquaintance with much of the NT
3. Acquaintance with the Diatessaron etc. (Harmony of the Gospels)
4. Lateness of references to Thomas.
5. No evidence of significant evolution of the text of Thomas.
6. Lack of historical-cultural verisimilitude
Coherence with late Syrian traditions - 2nd and 3rd centuries
Anti-materialism - 2nd century (parable changed to focus on money)
Celibacy (sex is bad) - Syrian focus!
Thomas knows more than 1/2 of NT!
Presence of post-Markan editing in Thomas.
Thomas and Taitian - 1st and 2nd person language.
References to Thomas are late - 220 CE. Gospels are a lot earlier by church fathers.
How can Thomas be under radar for 150 years? And no evidence of evolution of Thomas.
Thomas is poor fit with 1st century Palestine.
If all we had was the Gospel of Thomas would we know that Jesus was a Jew? - Larry Hurtado, 2009
Afternoon Lecture - Gospel of Peter Found in 9th Century
Begins with Pilate washing hands.
End of 2nd century - Fragments
Supporters - Crossan & Dewey
Ignorance of Jewish customs
Ignorance of 1st cent. Palestine
Influenced by Matthean redaction
Surreal and anti-Semitic material
Jesus & Witness of Outsiders
Paul refers to them.
Papius - refers to 80s and 90s
2nd century ms fragments of Gospels - John
4 dozen predate 300 Greek NT
Most of NT comes before the Council of Nicea in 325.
5,800 Greek NT mss; 2.6 million pages of text.
I John 5:7-8 (Bart Ehrmann misleads by citing this passage as one of the discrepancies.)
Roman Writers - Tacitus
Annals (110-120 CE) - Christus
Suetonius (110-120 CE) Life of Emperor Claudius - Chrestus
Pliny Jr. (110 CE) to Trajan - Chrestus & Christians.
Celsus in True Doctrine (150 CE) - Refers to Jesus
Lucian - (160 CE) -
The Syria Mara bar Serapion -
Josephus (95 CE) - Outlines life of Jesus. Refers to Jesus' messianism. The Rabbis -
Robert E. Van Vorst - Best book on topic.
The Jesus Cup (Jesus is written on front of cup) - (1st century) This could be the earliest artifact that has an inscription of Jesus on it, but the dating is still a question mark, even though archaeologists are giving it a 1st century dating during this early stage.
Panel Discussion - Scholars offered summary comments on Dr. Craig Evans' book, "Fabricating Jesus." One of the scholars included Dr. David Barr, professor of Religion at Wright State University who considers himself a secular historian but who offered complimentary words regarding Dr. Evans.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Sermon - "Big Questions - How Can I Forgive?"
Features -3rd Sunday of Easter; Special Music by the Lancaster-Fairfield Youth Choir; & Welcoming of Special Guests from Lithuania
Scripture - Psalm 30:1-5, 11-12; Colossians 3:12-15; & Luke 6:32-38
Theme -Today, we are in the second part of a four-part sermon series on “Big Questions.” For this Sunday, we focus on the question, “How Can I Forgive?” This question was submitted by our congregation as one of the top questions that people have about their faith. Since forgiveness is at the heart of the Christian faith, we'll be able to hear what the scriptures say about this very important question.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Here are some of the questions/insights from the two groups:
• The Jerusalem Jewish leaders wanted to know what this Jesus movement was all about. (Jesus faced that question as well! – Luke 20:1-7: Is this movement from God or was it self-initiated?)
Question – How do you know if something is from God or not?
• Chief Priests believed that Jesus’ movement was not from God! Big challenging verse – v. 30. We don’t like to be told that we caused Jesus’ death!
• Peter – v. 30 connects Jesus with their own Jewish heritage. Forgiveness was through the Temple and disciples were saying it was now through Jesus! This is what got Jesus crucified in the first place!
• Sermon Series – Is God Real? To answer that question, we need to have an open mind about which God we’re talking about. Modern day notions of God are often not the biblical picture of who God is.
• Shocking verse – v. 23 – “If you forgive the sins of any, they will be forgiven.” Jesus thinks the disciples can do it! God is going to forgive sins THROUGH them.
• The giving of the Holy Spirit – v. 22 – What is the Holy Spirit? Purpose of Holy Spirit is to enable the disciples to do what Jesus had been doing.
• Analogies – composer writing music and musicians play it! Clockmaker makes the clock but we’ll have to wind it up, etc. (We are to implement what was accomplished by Jesus through his death and resurrection.)
• John’s Garden Tomb and Creation Story tell the story of the resurrection –
Genesis 3:8 – Adam & Eve heard God looking for them in the garden at the time of the evening breeze. On the first day of new creation (Easter Sunday) we have the “spirit” or “breath” looking for the disciples.
• Gen. 2:7 – God breathed life into Adam & new life being breathed into disciples which will in turn bring new life to the world.
• With this spirit, the disciples are to announce forgiveness through Jesus. “Retain sins” refers to warn the world about the dangers and consequences of sin. Even post Easter, the world is a broken place!
• Doubting Thomas – First person in the Gospel to address Jesus as God. v. 28.
• Is God real? Jesus seems to be part of two world (heaven & earth) because of his resurrected body. Thomas had doubted earlier as well – 11:16 (let’s go to Jerusalem and die with him!) and 14:5 ("We don't understand what you’re telling us, Jesus!")
• Thomas wasn’t there on Easter Sunday when the other disciples were there. Thomas needs some evidence.
"President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a major nuclear arms control agreement that reduces the nuclear stockpiles of both nations."
For Peace Among Nations
Almighty God our heavenly Father, guide the nations of the world into the way of justice and truth, and establish among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that they may become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Monday, April 5, 2010
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
In the name and spirit of the Risen Christ, and on behalf of the West Ohio Conference, I greet you in this glorious Easter season.
Easter defines Christianity. Paul writes clearly and boldly to the church in Corinth: "And if Christ wasn't raised, then all you are doing is wandering around in the dark, as lost as ever." (I Corinthians 15:17, The Message) If Christ is not risen, then our faith is worthless. But since Christ is risen, our world is redefined. The empty tomb is the geographic center of creation. The risen Christ is the focal point of history. The dark night is over. We are an Easter People!
Every Christian and every church should approach Easter and the entire Easter season as a sustained, explosive carnival of hope and joy. The author Frederica Mathewes-Green once received this letter from a Jewish friend at Christmas:
The big celebration in Christianity should be Easter. No Easter, no Christianity. So all the focus on Christmas, at least to me, seems misdirected. Why Christians don't whoop it up more at Easter is a mystery to me now. How inspirational! How joyful! That is the time to toast each other, lay on gifts, attend worship services, pack in the rich food. Something really substantial and holy to remember.
(from Easter Changes Everything)
Dear West Ohio United Methodists, let the carnival of hope and joy begin. Celebrate Easter. Celebrate boldly, and loudly, and passionately. The resurrection of Christ is everything. Without it, humanity is lost forever, death wins, darkness prevails, and we are without hope.
And so I pray:
God of power and majesty, you have raised Jesus Christ and delivered him and us from death's destruction. Throughout this Easter season, continue to:
Threaten your people with resurrection,
Awaken them to new possibilities,
Kindle in them the fire of your love,
Grant them victories over sin and evil in their lives,
Open to them the gate of everlasting life,
Beckon them to proclaim the marvelous mystery of death and resurrection,
Renew their hope and joy, and
Claim them as your Easter People.
For all praise is yours, now and throughout eternity. Amen.
Bishop Bruce Ough
West Ohio Conference
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Sermon - "Big Questions - Is God Real?"
Features -2nd Sunday of Easter & Holy Communion in Pews
Scripture -Acts 5:27-32 & John 20:19-31
Theme -Today, we begin a four-part sermon series on “Big Questions.” For this first Sunday, we focus on the question, “Is God Real?” We will be exploring why some people do not believe that God exists and others do. For the remainder of this series, we will look at the questions, “How Can I Forgive?” “Is the Bible Reliable?” and “Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen?”
Friday, April 2, 2010
Thursday, April 1, 2010
I had Tom for both the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John. For the first class of the Gospel of Mark, Tom shared with us the Gospel of Mark by memory. It took him two hours to do this, if I remember correctly. He told us ahead of time, that he would probably make a few mistakes along the way, which he did, but he reminded us that storytellers in the 1st century had the same problem. But it's no big deal. You just keep going.
Through Tom's classes, I learned that how you express yourself when you read scripture reveals a lot about your theology and your interpretation of that particular passage.
So, here's Tom sharing the resurrection account from Mark's Gospel. Enjoy!