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


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Superstorm Sandy Relief Special Offering & Prayer

 
Our church will have special offering envelopes available in each pew this Sunday for donations to help with storm relief efforts.  The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is the disaster response team of the United Methodist Church. All proceeds go directly to relief efforts. Checks may be made payable to "First UMC" with "hurricane relief" on the memo.
 
In Time of Natural Disaster Prayer

O God, you divided the waters of chaos at creation. In Christ you stilled storms, raised the dead, and vanquished demonic powers. Tame the earthquake, wind, and fire, and all the forces that defy control or shock us by their fury. Keep us from calling disaster your justice. Help us, in good times and in distress, to trust your mercy and yield to your power, this day and for ever. Amen.
 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sermon (November 4) "Can You See It?"


     I invite you to look at the drawing on the screen. 
 
     What was the first thing you saw in the drawing?  How many of you first saw a vase?  How many of you first saw two people staring at each other? 
     Let’s put another picture on the screen and tell me what you see? 
    
     How many of you see an elderly woman?  How many of you see a young woman?  When our family looked at this picture together, it took me several minutes before I was able to see the young woman.
     For those of you who want more time to look at these pictures, I’ll have them posted on my Nikos blog later today. The address for my blog is provided in your sermon outline.
     Sometimes, it’s a challenge to see a particular picture when in reality there is more than one picture for us to see.
     Our scripture reading from the book of Revelation invites us to see things in a new way.  The word “see” or a variation of that word is used four times in just six verses.
     The disciple, John in describing his heavenly vision begins by saying that he saw a new heaven and a new earth.
     He then tells us that he saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven.
     A loud voice focuses on the importance of seeing by saying, See, the home of God is among mortals.”
     And Jesus, the one who is seated on the throne says, See, I am making all things new.”
     The Book of Revelation is appropriately named.  It is a revelation of God’s final victory when heaven and earth will be made new.  The word “Revelation” comes from the word, “reveal.”  John is revealing a new world that is made possible through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  John is helping us to look at the world in a new way. 
     John asks us, “Can you see it?  It’s a place where God will dwell with us forever.  It’s a place where there will be no more tears.  Picture a place where there is no more mourning, crying or pain. This is the picture that John wants us to see, a world that is redeemed by God.
     John wrote this letter of Revelation to the seven churches that were located in Asia Minor. Faced with persecution and despair, these churches needed this picture of hope.
     And so do we even right here in Lancaster, Ohio where we see so much poverty all around us.  Our church does incredible work in our community as we provide meals three days a week and assist people in finding the resources they need, but we are still left with a picture of so many who are struggling to get by.
     This has been my picture for a long time until one day last spring when the pastor at First Presbyterian Church, just down the block and I had lunch together.  He asked me how I felt about the problem of poverty in our community.  I told him what I just shared with you.  I said that our churches do a lot of good, but it seems like something more can be done to get at the root of the problem.  He nodded his head in agreement.  This is the picture of our community that we know all too well.
     But then he offered a different picture, a picture that included hope and real transformation.  With great excitement, he shared with me about a program that many communities across the country are using with great success called “Sharing Hope.”  It’s a program to help everyone better understand the culture of poverty so that across socio-economic lines, people can work together to help end the root causes of poverty.
     This summer, some people in our community, including Brenda Shamblin who is part of our congregation, visited this program in action in Springfield, Ohio.  Our visit on that summer day included a community dinner and a small group discussion on ways of helping a community overcome poverty.
     One of the staff members of this program shares an incredible story in his journey out of poverty.  His name is Carlos Guajardo.  Born into generational poverty, he was taught to steal at the age of four by his father who was abusive to his mother.  After Carlos and his mother left his father, he recalls staying in homeless shelters and strangers’ homes. 
     He would often go hungry because they just didn’t have any means of support.    At six, he was taken into foster care and became very isolated because of his feelings of abandonment.  He didn’t like social workers since they took him away from his mother.  He viewed college students as stuck-up people. For thirteen years, Carlos was a drug addict because in his words, it took the pain away both internally and externally.  Many times he slept in his car at night and sometimes he didn’t have his own car.  He had no idea of the horrible path he was following.
     His life turned around through the “Bridges Out of Poverty” program there in Springfield.  The program helped Carlos to see a different picture.  It was a picture of measurable goals, how to build relationships, and new attitudes to help him overcome poverty. 
     What makes “Sharing Hope” unique from other programs is that it’s not about people doing for the poor or doing anything to the poor, but it’s about the community doing something with the poor.  This is the new and exciting picture that is beginning to take shape in our Lancaster community.  I invite us to pray about this new possibility that can make a big difference in our community and I hope that as this program takes shape that many of us will be ready and willing to build relationships with the poor and together, help end poverty.
     When John shared his revelation, his picture of new heavens and a new earth with those seven churches, I have to believe that it had a huge impact on them.  I have to think that this different picture of hope is what helped them to not give up and to stay faithful as God’s people. 
     After all, isn’t that what saints are?  People who don’t know the meaning of the word, “quit.”  People who just won’t give up because they believe in a God who won’t give up.
     And so today, I thank God for all of our saints represented by these candles.  Because of them, we can see a new picture, a picture that is filled with the hope of Jesus Christ.  Can you see it?
     I have one more picture to show you.  Before we put it up on the screen, here’s what I want  you to do.  I want you to stare at the center of the picture for 45 seconds.  Don’t look away during that time.  Stare at the center of the picture you’re about to see for 45 seconds.  I’ll tell you when 45 seconds are over.  After you’re done staring at the picture, I want you to immediately stare at something near you, and a new picture will take shape in your mind.
    This is the picture that will enable us to bring transformation to our community and world. 
     Here’s the picture on the screen.  Stare at the middle of this picture for 45 seconds.  I’ll tell you when 45 seconds is over and what to do next.  Ready, go!


     OK, now look away from the screen and stare at something else near you. Give this a few seconds… 
     Can you see it?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Worship Preview - November 11



Sunday, November 11 - (9:00 & 10:30 Services) & Wednesday, November 14  (6:30 P.M. Casual Service @ Crossroads, 2095 Fair Avenue)

Sermon - "No Small Sacrifice"

Features - Veterans' Sunday & Recognition of Veterans

Scripture - Hebrews 9:24-28 & Mark 12:38-44

Theme - On Veterans' Day, we give thanks to God for those who have gone before us and who have sacrificed their lives for the sake of our country.  Our scripture from Hebrews speaks of the importance of Jesus' sacrifice when he died on the cross for the sake of the world.  We too, are called to live sacrificial lives for the sake of others.

Lancaster Area Shared Youth Ministry Begins!


The Lancaster area United Methodist Churches held their first shared youth gathering event tonight at Shalom UMC.  We shared a dinner, played games, talked about some future shared youth ministry ideas and concluded with prayer and a fun benediction.

Our next event will be a youth live Christmas nativity on the lawn of Shalom UMC along Rt. 33 in December so that people who drive by will see the good news of the birth of Christ. First UMC will be hosting a lock-in event on New Year's Eve. In the top picture, Rev. Craig Arnold is sharing some ideas for shared youth ministry.  The picture below was our closing prayer time. 

Having our United Methodist Churches share in ministry is one of our six vision focuses for 2013.  We're already off to a great start!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pre-Sunday (Oct. 28) Worship Reflections - Blind Bartimeaus


Our Youth Director, Sandra Yerian recently participated an assignment through her Certified Lay Ministry training led by our West Ohio Conference. In this assignment, the class was asked to write about the Bartimeaus scripture reading which we will be hearing about this Sunday (October 28) in worship.

Specifically, her assignment was to imagine that you are Bartimaeus- write a letter home explaining why you are not on your spot on the side of road any longer.  A big thanks to Sandra for sharing her reflections with us!

Dear brother,

How shocked you must have been coming to the road to get me at the end of the days work, only to find me missing. Did you worry? Perhaps you though I'd been run over by a cart, and discarded. Maybe you feared I'd finally annoyed the wrong Roman, and was now locked up, or being put to death . Were you relieved brother? I know what a burden it must have been to have to care for me. How embarrassing that your brother has no value or purpose other than begging.
Was anyone still on the road when you came?? No? Then you are about to hear a most extraordinary thing!

I sat as always listening to the world pass me by, a few coins fell in my lap, but mostly dust rained down on me. I was thirsty. I was so discouraged and ashamed- I don't think there was even enough money thrown my way to pay for my bread. I began to think of perhaps stumbling into the roadway when I next felt the rumble of Roman horses approach. Perhaps I could die under their hooves, and no longer bear the stigma of blind beggar, burden.

I felt however a different rumble. Footsteps pounding the road excitedly. Many, many sets of feet. Then voices; first an excited murmur, then distinguishable snippets:
“Jesus”
“Healer”
“friend of sinner”
“merciful”
“Messiah”


As the crowd grew near, the excitement grew! This was the Jesus I've heard about- travelling this road- about to pass ME.

I knew in that crowd he would never see a blind beggar on the side of the road, but suddenly I knew without doubt- my being was filled with certainty and hope- here came my savior- the promised one!
It was like he was coming to save ME.


Without thinking I shouted “ Son of David, have mercy on me” I felt anxiety ripple through the crowd around me. Someone slapped me: “SHHHhh fool! keep quiet.” But I couldn't stop, all my hope was now resting in him. “Jesus” I shouted all the more “have mercy on me”

Then , I felt the ground grow still. He stopped! all the voices were silent.
“Bartemaeus” he asked “what do you want me to do for you?” I was stunned. Surely he knew. I felt the crowd shift anxiously.  I didn't hesitate. “Teacher, let me see again”  I held my breath. Expectancy, curiosity hung in the air. I felt a few begin to walk again. Oh no.. Jesus…dont leave me… But He hadn't moved at all. “Come here.”


My heart nearly exploded in my chest! I lept up, bouncing off the others as I stumbled towards him.
His Presence enveloped me. “Go, your faith has healed you”. in a flash, the darkness fell from my eyes, and I beheld the beautiful, penetrating gaze of the Messiah!


What joy filled my heart! I must follow, I cannot bear to leave his side, greedily I feed my soul in his presence. I watch as he heals others, listen as he teaches, and shout out what he did for me every chance I get!

I do not know where we are going- he tries to explain, but I am simple and don't understand, I just know I must continue on this journey with Him. Be well Brother. Praise be to God.

Thank You Staff/Parish Relations Committee!

Our Staff/Parish Relations Committee provided a staff appreciation lunch for us this week.  We are blessed.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dave's Deep Thoughts - Hannah Walks On Water!


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.
 
Miracles happen all around us.
I just didn't expect one in my backyard.
 
I am a great believer that if we have eyes to see,
we can see the miraculous work of the Divine One all around us.
 
Geese flying in impeccable symmetry
speak of the One who has ordered this world into perfect precision.
 
The delivery of a new born baby,
reminds of how amazingly the gift of life is passed from one to another.
 
A unique and exquisite sunset to end the day
proclaims that the Creator is still creating.
 
Miracles happen in many forms and places,
always catching our breath and catching us by surprise.
 
Hannah is a 46 pound yellow Labrador.
In the two months since she came to live in the home,
she has grown from 25 pounds to 48 pounds.
 
Although she is beginning to look like more like a dog than a pup,
she still has plenty of puppy in her.
 
And like her Biblical namesake,
she is filled with passion and beauty.
 
There is nothing that she doesn't become passionate about,
that is when she sees it......
pine cones, sticks, insects, seat cushions,
anything within sight becomes something worthy of passionate exploration.
 
That's why the swimming pool in the back yard was a concern.
Labs are after all, water dogs.
They seek water out like a sojourner in the desert.
 
Two accidental spills into the water during her first days in her new home,
caused Hannah to be very intimidated by the pool.
 
So much so, that she would intentionally steer clear of the pool edge.
It seemed the pool was not a source of intrigue anymore for the beautiful and passionate Hannah.
 
That was, until I covered the pool for the winter.
 
While doing some lawn work last week,
I heard a wimper.
When I turned around,
there was Hannah frozen in fear,
standing on the pool cover.She had traversed six feet from the pool edge
and now realized she couldn't get back to the deck.
Hannah was literally walking on water.
But she was beginning to doubt.
 
I remember how Jesus walked on water,
and how Peter followed suit,
that is until he took his eyes off the Master,
 
Hannah must have been paying attention during Bible Story time
as she now became Peter crying out for her Master.
 
This Master, not being the Lord of the universe,
had no idea what to do.
Hannah was too far into the pool to reach by hand.
Her 48 pounds was just enough weight to slowly begin pulling the pool cover
and the water bag anchors toward the pool center.
 
Hannah was slowly beginning to sink
and quickly beginning to panic.
Hannah was now on the Titanic
and the ship was most certainly going down.
 
The long handle pool brush might have worked to reach her
and nudge her to the edge
but there wasn't time to retrieve it from the garage.
 
And so this Master did what any master would do.......
go into rescue mode.
 
One week prior,
as I was closing the pool,
I thought that was the last time I would be in the pool until next year.
Seven days earlier, the water was a balmy 52 degrees.
She hadn't gotten any warmer since then.
 
Now this master has been known to do a polar bear plunge or two in his lifetime,
just usually with a bit more mental and physical preparation.
But in a moment of crisis,
there is little time to think.
 
With the grace of God
to remind me to first take my cell phone out of my pocket,
I shredded my outer garments,
pulled the closest water bag anchor off the cover,
and hopped into the Arctic Seas of my backyard.
 
One might be tempted to sing Titanic songs in such a situation,
but one finds quickly finds that one cannot sing,
because one cannot breathe.
 
But one can reach and extend one's arms
to grab the paws of a frightened pet.
 
I drew Hannah towards me
and hoisted her in the air.
Let me say that in the moment of hoisting,
I discovered that a wet dog weighs considerably more than a dry dog.
 
Wet dog Hannah reached the deck and quickly scampered away
from the black hole of the backyard pool.
 
Master quickly followed suit.
 
Nothing follows up the miracle of a dog walking on 52 degree water
better than some warm towels and cocoa.
 
Once Hanna and Master were healed of hypothermia (another miracle),
Master went out to restore the pool cover to its original state.
 
After a few minutes,
Hannah came out to the deck to reflect...........
reflect on what a good master she has........
reflect on how her life could have been taken from her that day.........
reflect why her prize toy was laying in the middle of the pool cover........
 
None of us know when a miracle will come into our lives,
that is the nature of miracles.
 
What we do know, if we know the Master,
is that He is more than capable
of miraculously intervening in our lives.
 
Sometimes it is through the activity of a stranger,
sometimes it is through a brother or sister in the faith,
sometimes it is in the sequence of unexplainable events.
 
Maybe we can't count on miracles happening ever day.
But what every believer can count on,
is that in the moment of need,
even if that need is surrounded by doubt and fear,
the Master is there to reach out His hand,
and bring us to a safe place.
 
With eyes that communicate in that special language that only a dog can,
Hannah implored Master to retrieve her toy.
 
And with a voice that only an exhausted Master can summon,
Master said,
Let's go get the long handle pool brush
and see what miracle can happen next.
 
But seeing the wind, Peter became afraid,
and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!"
And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand, and took hold of him,
and said to Him
"O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
And when they got into the boat, the wind stopped.
 
Matthew 14: 30-32

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bell Monument Has Arrived!

The beautiful bell monument is now in front of our refurbished church bell.  It describes the history of the bell and the connection with our bicentennial anniversary year.  Stop by to take a look.  It looks great!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sermon (October 28) - "Following Jesus on the Way"


     Something that stands out to me from the Gospel of Mark scripture reading this morning is in how Jesus related to people who had very different understandings of who he was.  People brought their preconceived notions of who they thought Jesus was and who they thought he should be.
     Our elections have a similar feel as voters seek to understand the candidates, their agenda, and where they want to lead our country.   People were doing something similar with Jesus.  They were looking at what he was saying and doing and trying to understand all of this in the context of their own preconceived notions of who they believed Jesus to be.
     James and John thought they knew who Jesus was.  They thought that he was going to be the new King who would set up an earthly kingdom and they wanted to be the top two people in his cabinet.  A lot of Jesus’ followers probably viewed Jesus as the political and military hero that their own Jewish people had been praying for over the past several centuries.   
     When the other disciples heard about what James and John were asking, they got really angry with them.  They were probably angry that they didn’t think to ask Jesus for those top spots first. 
     Even though Jesus has been trying to help the disciples see that his rule would be different from the earthly type of military rule they were hoping for, they still didn’t get it.  Have you ever noticed that once you get something in your head, it’s hard to readjust and think differently?           This was the problem with many of Jesus’ followers.  It’s a problem that we often have in figuring out who Jesus is.
     Phillip Yancey is a Christian author who has written many excellent books.  In his book, “Soul Survivor” he shares how he grew up in the Deep South.  He was raised in a church that claimed to be biblical, but in reality, this church was very racist and narrow minded.  Their concept of God was according to Phillip Yancey, more like an abusive parent; rigid, legalistic, angry, and wanting to punish people.
     As Phillip was growing up, he became very frustrated with this understanding of God.  He thought that if this was who God really was, then he didn’t want to have anything to do with Christianity.  Thankfully, he loved to read and he started reading books by Christian authors who offered a very different view of God and Jesus.  The more books Phillip read, the more he learned that God is very different than what he learned about in his childhood church.  Jesus wasn’t the narrow minded and legalistic person he was brought up to believe.  Jesus is a loving Savior who offers grace and mercy to all people.
     Discovering who Jesus is takes time and discipline.  It’s a life-long process.  Sometimes, we have dramatic moments where things become really clear.  Some of us can point to a time at church camp where Jesus became very real to us.   Or maybe it was another event in which we experienced a life changing conversion.
     John Wesley who started the Methodist Church is known for his heart warming experience when he went to a prayer meeting one night in London England and out of the blue he felt his heart strangely warmed.  Even though he had been serving as a Priest in the Anglican Church for several years, it wasn’t until that moment that he felt an assurance that his sins were forgiven.  He had been missing this important part of his faith, but once he had it, his life would never be the same.
     I was in college when I had an experience where I realized just how much God really loves me.  With tears in my eyes, I got on my knees and prayed.  Those were tears of joy because I realized in that moment, that I would never be alone anymore.  I knew that Jesus would be present with me through whatever situation would come my way.  I’ll never ever forget that watershed moment in my life.  It was incredible.
     But in addition to these dramatic moments is the steady day to day and moment by moment growth in discovering who Jesus is and what it means to be one of his followers.  In church language, we call this day to day spiritual growth, sanctification.  And this process of sanctification lasts all of our lives.
     Have you ever noticed how the twelve disciples, Jesus’ inner circle, would often not get what Jesus was trying to teach them?  If you look one chapter earlier from our Gospel reading, Jesus had explained to the disciples how he would be betrayed, be killed, and three days, rise again.  I love what Mark says in the very next verse.  “But they did not understand what he was saying and they were afraid to ask him.”
     Truth be told, I don’t know that any of us would have done any better than the disciples.  I don’t think that we would have understood who Jesus was any better.  As I said earlier, once something is in your head, it’s not easy to introduce a new understanding and a fresh perspective.
     The disciples were half right.  Jesus did come to establish a kingdom, but not the kind of kingdom they were all thinking.  This kingdom would not be one of force, military might, or coercion.  This kingdom would be one of nonviolence, peace, and humility.  The kind of kingdom Jesus was establishing was counter-intuitive to his disciples and to us as well.  It’s no wonder that James and John have already started politicking for positions of power.  Instead of embracing what they are hearing and seeing about Jesus, they are trying to force Jesus into their preexisting worldview.
     But it’s not like everybody is totally clueless of who Jesus is.  Just after James and John are pulling a power play over the rest of the disciples, we run into a man by the name of Bartimaeus.  He’s a blind beggar.  During the time of Jesus, someone like Bartimaeus would have been invisible in society.  There was just no place for blind beggars. And we might be annoyed at all of the political survey calls we’ve been getting at all hours of the days, but at least somebody wants to hear our opinion.  Nobody cared about this blind beggar.  He was invisible. 
     And yet, Bartimaeus interrupts the scene and offers a political statement by crying out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  This blind beggar has heard enough about Jesus to know that he just might be the one who will change the country and restore Israel to prominence.  You don’t use the title “Son of David” unless you’re talking about a political platform that will lead to the end of Roman occupation over the Jewish people.  Bartimaeus didn’t have a vote, but by the way he called out to him, Jesus was his candidate.
     But Jesus didn’t react the same way to Bartimaeus as he did to James and John.  After calling Jesus’ name a second time, Jesus calls for Bartimaeus to come to him.  And when Jesus asks Bartimaeus what he wants him to do, Bartimaeus asks to be able to see again.  And Jesus heals him.
     Now, as incredible as this story about a man regaining his sight is, I think there’s an even greater meaning to this story.  Notice, that when Bartimaeus calls out Jesus the second time, he doesn’t use the political title of “Son of David” which he did the first time.  This time, Bartimaeus refers to Jesus as Teacher.  And after Jesus heals him, Mark is careful to point out that he followed Jesus on the way.
     This isn’t just a story about someone getting healed.  This is a story about someone becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.  This is a story that is in sharp contrast to James, John, and the other disciples who still didn’t understand who Jesus was and what it means to follow him.  But this blind beggar, Bartimaeus gets it.  He calls Jesus a teacher because he knows he has more to learn and he’s willing to follow him.
     I like to think of myself as a disciple, a follower of Jesus.  I like to think of myself as somebody who is willing to allow Jesus to teach me his ways.  I want to be more like Bartimaeus who saw that he had so much more to learn by following Jesus.
     Several years ago, I had moved to Toledo to serve a church in the city.  My District Superintendent had all of the new pastors in the city gather on a Saturday morning to walk through the more dangerous and impoverished parts of the city.  He wanted us to get to know the people and the area of where many of our churches were located.
     As we walked on the sidewalks of broken glass and litter with boarded up houses on both sides of the street, our District Superintendent abruptly stopped.  A man in that neighborhood was holding a shovel high in the air to use as a weapon on another man over an argument they were having.  It was a pretty tense situation.  Our group just stood there as we watched the situation enfold.
     To our surprise, our District Superintendent very slowly and gently approached the two men who were having the argument and he calmly asked the man to slowly put the shovel down.  He said, “You don’t want to do this.  I’m here to help.  Let’s put the shovel down and talk this through.” 
     We didn’t know how this man would react but eventually he put the shovel down.  Our District Superintendent told them that we were people from different churches and that we were there to help.
     As I think about that incident, I still ask myself, “If you would have been leading the group that day, what would you have done?”  I don’t know the answer to that question but I do know someone who was willing to follow Jesus on the way in that moment.
     I think of another disciple named Glen who doesn’t have a church home but visited the prayer room at our Crossroads facility last spring.  Glen, an older man who is developmentally disabled, joined me and some other church members in a time of prayer that evening.  After a half hour of sharing joys and concerns and praying, we were about to conclude our time together when Glen asked us if we were going to sing.
     He suggested, “Jesus Loves Me” which we sang with great joy.  We also sang “Amazing Grace.”  Our new friend made our prayer time special that night!  As we were leaving the prayer room, we were wiping tears from our eyes because we had experienced God’s presence in such a beautiful way thanks to one of Jesus’ disciples who encouraged our worship gathering that night to follow Jesus on the way.
     You can probably think of some Bartimaeus’s in your life who have shown you what it means to follow Jesus.  Too often, I’m more like James and John and I try to fit Jesus into my worldview and understanding of who he should be.
     This week, may we be more like Bartimaeus.  Let’s see Jesus as our teacher and let’s be willing to follow him on the way.

Sunday Worship Preview - November 4


Sunday, November 4 - (9:00 & 10:30 Services) & Wednesday, November 7  (6:30 P.M. Casual Service @ Crossroads, 2095 Fair Avenue)

Sermon - "Can You See It?"

Features - All Saints' Sunday/Naming of Members Who Have Died this Past Year, Holy Communion & Daylight Savings Time Ends

Scripture - Revelation 21:1-6a & John 11:32-44

Theme - In writing the letter of Revelation, John provides a picture of a future in which all of creation is renewed and redeemed.  It's this picture of hope that has encouraged the saints of God to persevere and live out their faith.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ohio Conference UMC Bicentennial Video

Our church has been celebrating our bicentennial year (2012) beginning this past spring when our congregation was officially founded through October when the Ohio Conference was formed. It had been known as the Western Conference.

This six minute video shares the history of the formation of the Ohio Conference.

Lancaster First UMC Bicentennial - 1911 Sanctuary Photo

As we celebrate our church's bicentennial anniversary today, here's a photo of our church sanctuary back in 1911, 101 years ago!  I love old photographs.

Check back later in the day for a couple of bicentennial videos that we will be showing during worship and at our lunch program today.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sunday Worship Preview - October 28


Sunday, October 28 - (9:00 & 10:30 Services) & Wednesday, October 31 (6:30 P.M. Casual Service @ Crossroads, 2095 Fair Avenue)

Features - Season After Pentecost & Introduction of Confirmation Class

Sermon - "Following Jesus on the Way"

Scripture - Mark 10:35-45

Theme - In putting two stories back to back, the gospel writer, Mark is making a contrast between two views of who people believed Jesus to be. The first story involves James & John who had very political/militaristic views of Jesus. The story of Bartimaeus offers us a better view of who Jesus us and what it means for us to follow him on the way.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lancaster First UMC Bicentennial Year Reflections


 
Dear Friends,


Throughout our bicentennial year, I’m reminded of something that a former bishop said about church anniversaries. He said that even though it’s our birthday, we are the gift! He’s right. Whenever we gather for worship or celebrate milestone events like a bicentennial, we are reminded of our sacred calling to offer the gift of God’s love to the people around us.

When layperson Ed Teal left Baltimore, Maryland, to start a home in this area of Ohio, he brought the gift of his faith and started a Methodist class meeting. When Circuit Rider preachers Peter Cartwright and James B. Finley rode through this area, they brought their gift of evangelism. When ten lay people made the decision to become an official Methodist church in 1812, they offered their gifts of commitment, organization and leadership.

During our bicentennial year, we have been celebrating the many gifts of those who have gone before us. Their examples inspire us to continue to offer the gift of God’s love in our community and world.

Our bicentennial has been a wonderful year-long birthday party! I am so thankful for our bicentennial committee and all of their planning in making this a special year of celebration. We dedicated our newly refurbished church bell, hosted a Sunday morning Founders’ Day, experienced a 19th century Methodist tent revival, hosted an Art Walk exhibit featuring our beautiful stained glass windows, invited the community to an old fashioned ice cream social, commissioned a bicentennial anthem, and this Sunday, we will honor over 230 people who have been members of the church for fifty or more years.

So, happy birthday, First UMC! It’s been a milestone year! Continue to celebrate! Be thankful for our rich history! Rejoice!

And always remember: it may be our birthday, but we are the gift.

In Joy & Gratitude,

Rev. Robert V. McDowell, Senior Pastor
[Join us for worship on October 21 at the church for our Homecoming Sunday & a 12:15 pm covered-dish meal & brief program at our beautiful Crossroads facility, 2095 W. Fair Ave.]

Dave's Deep Thoughts - Going to the Dentist on Your Birthday

 
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.
 
Birthday agenda:
 
Cake, lots of it.....check
Cards from family & friends.....check
Happy birthday sung in a variety of public settings......check
Dinner out on the town..........check
Presents.............let's hope!
Trip to the dentist...........say what???
 
I like birthdays, especially my own.
 
This one isn't a "big" one with a zero at the end,
but it is a speed limit birthday,
higher than a work zone
but not quite highway driving.......
 
I know there are many
who like to ignore birthdays.
For many, it is just a reminder of our mortality
and the mirror reminds us that things have changed.
 
But all of us are mortal,
and those of us who know our Creator & Savior
are headed onto immortality.
 
And from day one,
we have all been in a process of change.
It didn't begin at age 30.
 
Nope,
I like my birthday.
I see it as a reminder
that I am loved by God, friends, and family.
I matter.
My life has purpose and intention
(for those who doubt, try Psalm 139....)
 
But a visit to the dentist???
It's not exactly birthday party material.
 
Especially this dentist. Dr. Driller.
I'm sure he is a decent human being.
I'm sure he pays his taxes
and feeds his children.
 
Maybe it starts with
his rooting for the rival football team.
There's not much you can do to retaliate
when he is throwing barbs at your team
and you have a minimum of 4 of his fingers in your mouth.
 
And so, instead of Happy Birthday
What I got was
I'll bet that last second loss really hurt......
now rinse please.
 
How many offensive lineman are injured this week?
Two? Three?
 
I suppose I could have bit him,
but with a digging pick in his hand,
I think he would have had the last laugh.
 
After about ten insults thrown at
the best team in the history of the universe,
he changed subjects.
 
Oh my,
that doesn't look good, he said
 
I thought he was still talking about the team offense
but then I realized he meant my teeth.
 
What's wrong??????
I tried to say,
but with cotton balls in my mouth,
it came out sounding like
Charlie Brown's teacher voice.
 
These fillings don't look good.
How old are they ?
 
Now I hadn't had fillings
since I was a child.
Instead of trying to speak the answer in garbled syllables,
I began to flash my fingers in groups of ten.
 
Oh dear,
they're ancient!
 
Ancient?
If there is one word you don't care to hear on your birthday,
it just might be ancient.
 
Man, they are old!
 
Okay, enough!
If anyone was going to be able
to rob me of my birthday joy,
Dr Driller seemed to be succeeding.
 
We're going to have to replace several of them.
 
Okay, can I have my cake now?
I thought as Dr Driller continued to prod and poke.
 
Wow, these have been in here so long
that they are going to cause some problems!
 
I waited for him to tell me it was all a joke
and for all the dental assistants
to storm into the room singing Happy Birthday.
 
But there was no singing to be had in exam room #3,
just some floss and some cinnamon flavored toothpaste.
and the thought of more dates with Dr. Driller.
 
And so I crawled out of the chair,
and slinked to the receptionist
to schedule three more visits to see Dr Driller
and to pay the bill.
(no dental insurance, final kick in the pants on my special day)
 
Each birthday
and the 364 days that follow it,
are gifts that we receive from God
There is no guarantee
that each morning.
our spirits will be returned to us.
 
And so each morning when I awaken,
I thank God for the gift of a new day.
It might be a day filled with sunshine and things that make me smile,
or it might be a day filled with challenges & frustrations,
or a day with the mix of the two.
 
But it is a day to treasure none-the-less,
because once it is gone,
I'll never have it back.
And that makes it the best gift I could ever have.
 
As I headed toward the door,
Dr Driller came through and said,
Oh, Happy Birthday,
Now let's get to work on those linebackers......
 
Happy birthday to me and happy day to all!
 
This is the day which the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
Psalm 118:24