"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57
Monday, December 29, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
Somehow, the local York, PA newspaper found about this little piece of trivia and recently did a story on what it's like to be an SC pastor in a PSU church. You'll find the short video interview on the right side of the link above.
Enjoy the video.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Sermon - "A Sign of the Times"
Friday, December 19, 2008
- The writing style of this book feels less like a letter and more like a summary of proper ethical conduct for Christians within the church.
- The author presupposes that the Christians are living in an alien world filled with immorality (reminds me of the Book of Revelation in this regard.)
- The primary audience appears to be Jewish people who have become Christian and who live outside of Palestine.
- There is an emphasis on the second coming of Jesus Christ.
- Tradition claims that the author, James, is the brother of Jesus. Because of the sophisticated Greek style of this book and the late acceptance of this book into the biblical canon, some bible scholars think it may have been someone else.
One of the problems in trying to figure out who wrote the Book of James is because James was such a popular name in the 1st century as well as within the New Testament itself. The reason for this is because the English name of James is a variant of the name Jacob from the Old Testament, the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. People would have been very proud to name their sons after this Old Testament hero in the faith.
And now to complicate things...which is why it's good to be part of a bible study to sort out some of these unanswered questions! For all we know, there might be only two people with the name of James in the New Testament or as many as eight different people. Here are the eight references:
- James the Greater (One of the 12 disciples)
- James the Less (One of the 12 disciples)
- James the Just (Listed in the Book of Acts & Brother of Jesus)
- James the Writer (the author of the Book of James)
- James the Son of Cleopas (Luke 24:10 & John 19:25 - Is this referring to someone other than the mother of Jesus?)
- James the Kinsman of Jude the Apostle (Luke 6:16)
- James the Brother of Jude the Writer (from the Book of Jude)
It's interesting that in our last bible study topic on the book, "The Blue Parakeet: How to Study the Bible" by Scot McKnight, the author sees a connection between Mary, the mother of James/Jesus (her focus on God's concern for the poor: see the Magnificat & the focus on taking care of the poor in the Book of James.) Did Mary teach James when he was a child about taking care of the poor and then he focuses on the poor this in his letter?
Finally, I mentioned that the Revised Common Lectionary which is a three year cycle of readings for each Sunday includes six different passages from the Book of James. We are presenting in the middle of the three year cycle which has five of the six James readings. The other James reading appears in the first year of the cycle.
Next summary on the Book of James: January 8 (when our bible study resumes after the holidays.) And of course, the fun part of this bible study series will be to sort out the whole "faith" (Apostle Paul) vs. "works" (James) debate.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Sermon - "When Hope Is Not Enough"
Friday, December 12, 2008
This final session was basically a summary of our past sessions regarding the themes in this book which is that we are to see the Bible as a grand narrative (Story) which includes several smaller stories within the story. The key to interpreting the bible is to wisely and prayerfully decide the cultural context of each biblical passage and determine what truths are meant to carry over into our present day and age. The author argues that what we tend to do is take short-cuts in drawing conclusions regarding a particular text in scripture.
One example of this is the whole issue of whether or not women should teach/preach. In the United Methodist Church, my hunch is that most people in our denomination see this as a non-issue since women have been ordained in the Methodist church since 1956, however, based on some things I hear from female clergy colleagues, we still have a ways to go!
Our bible study group must be farther along than most bible study groups because we ended up having an honest and insightful discussion on the controversial topic of homosexuality by applying what we learned from the "Blue Parakeet" book. We shared opinions which represented a variety of perspectives on this issue.
Just to make sure that the readers of this book do not forget that the bible is a grand narrative (Story,) the author points to Stephen, the first martyr of the early church, who tells the story of God, (Acts 7) beginning in the Old Testament the whole way through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We are to be like Stephen and remember to not take any particular part of the bible out of context but always locate a passage of scripture in the larger grand narrative.
For anyone who is interested, our next bible study topic will be on the Book of James beginning next Thursday at 10 A.M. at the church.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
If you weren't able to walk through the 25 minute exhibit, this brief video will give you an idea of what it was like. http://www.wvexperience.org/video_trailer.asp
As I think about yesterday's 2nd Sunday of Advent scripture readings which include the cries of the prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist, I think of how our church can join other United Methodist Churches in offering our prayers, gifts, and love to families and children who are hurting this day because of the terrible disease of AIDS.
"...the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'" - Mark 1:3
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Features - 3rd Sunday of Advent; Commissioning of Confirmation Mentors; Children's Musical (11 A.M.); Holy Baptism (11 A.M.); & Coins for Missions Sunday (Coins placed in the offering will help support St. Paul UMC Outreach Center in Dayton, FISH Food Pantry, the Caring Place Meal Ministry in Xenia, & IHN which provides temporary housing for families in need)
Scriptures - Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 & John 1:6-8, 19-28
Theme - John the Baptist testifies to the light of Christ. He humbly points people to Jesus by fulfilling the words of the prophet, 'I am the voice of the one crying in the wilderness.' God has sent people into our lives who give testimony to the light of Christ. These people give testimony by serving as leaders in the church, sharing their faith, and offering their gifts. We can thank God for their testimony.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity, let us remember to join St. Nicholas in offering our gifts to people in need.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
- I was able to prepare a future sermon and worship service. I'm always in a good mood when I get most of the planning done. Thanks be to God!
- A parishioner calls me to let me know that she was offered a job after being let go from a previous job. While the salary isn't as high as the previous job, the health insurance is much better. Plus, there's room for advancement. Thanks be to God!
The last Trustees meeting of the year was held at the church tonight and we were able to offer our appreciation to three board members who have faithfully served their term and serve their church well. Plus, someone brought pizza to the meeting and I had missed dinner. Thanks be to God!
For much of the day, a beautiful light snow fell to the ground reminding me of how special this time of year really is. Thanks be to God!My day started with scripture readings from "The Daily Office" and one of the readings from Isaiah 1 summed up the hope that we find in this season of anticipation and expectation:
26 And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city ofrighteousness, the faithful city. 27 Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness.May this Advent season be filled with the hope and anticipation of the coming fulfillment of God's promises!
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Sermon - "An Upside Down Christmas"
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Nearly 33 million people live with HIV.
Last year alone, more than 2.5 million people were infected.
6,000 people die every day because of AIDS.
. . . another person dies every 15 seconds.
Source: AIDS Epidemic Update, UNAIDS, December 2006
Two-thirds of all people living with HIV are in Africa.
Two-thirds of all new HIV infections are in Africa.
Three-quarters of all AIDS-related deaths are in Africa... in a place that's home to just over one-tenth of the world's population.
Source: AIDS Epidemic Update, UNAIDS, December 2007
Approximately 2.5 million children worldwide have HIV.
Right now, there are more than 15 million children who have lost one or both parents because of AIDS.
Every day, another 6,000 children are orphaned due to AIDS.
. . . and most of these children live in Africa.
Sources: AIDS Epidemic Update, UNAIDS, December 2006; Africa's Orphaned and Vulnerable Generations, UNICEF, August 2006; UNAIDS, 2002.
By 2010, more than 20 million children will be orphaned due to AIDS.
By 2020, AIDS could kill up to 12 percent of Africa's workforce - as many as 58 million people.
. . . this crisis will not go away by itself.
Sources: UNICEF, August 2006; International Labour Organization, November 2006
770,000 children in Africa received values-based HIV-prevention training in 2006 alone.
615,000 orphaned and vulnerable children received care and assistance.
11,000 church leaders were mobilized to respond to the AIDS crisis.
. . . World Vision has been on the front lines of the AIDS crisis in Africa since 1990.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Sermon - "A Blue Christmas"
Friday, November 21, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Here are the highlights from today's discussion covering unit #2, "What Do I Do with the Bible?"
Chapter 6 - We were reminded how the Bible contains a "grand narrative" or a larger story as the author of the book puts it. We need to always remember this big picture whenever we read the bible to help us discern how to interpret the bible.
Psalm 119 uses a lot of personal pronouns such as "I delight in your decrees..." "I will walk about in freedom..." showing us that the bible invites us to be in a relationship with God through the words in this ancient book.
When we read a particular book in the Bible, we need to keep in mind the other books as well. r example, the Book of Deuteronomy has a theology of obedience and blessings whereas the Book of Job shows that obedience doesn't always lead to blessings. We need to keep the tensions of various theologies in mind when reading the Bible.
Chapter 7 - To read the bible effectively, we need to be good listeners when we read the bible. Love and listening are connected.
Chapter 8 - The bible is meant to help us live out our faith. It's not just about information but about helping us to live transformed lives to in turn, bring transformation to the world through God's Holy Spirit.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
Chapter 3 - McKnight gives a summary of the three major sections of the Bible to help us read it as a grand narrative:
Beginning (Genesis 1-11)
Middle (Genesis 12 through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus)
End (Matthew 25, Romans 8, & Revelation 21-22)The problem is that we often take short-cuts in reading the bible as a grand narrative. Here are the short-cuts:
1. We see the bible as morsels of law (the Bible becomes a giant encyclopedia)
2. We see the bible as morsels of blessings and promises. (see the many verse a day calendars. What verses are on those daily calendars? Positive and cheery verses. But what about the verses of judgment and God's wrath? We conveniently screen those out!
3. We see the bible as an inkblot. We project our images of Jesus/God into the Bible. ie - if I'm a Republican I tend to fashion Jesus into a "conservative" Jesus.
4. We see the bible as a great big puzzle. The thinking is that once we complete the puzzle, we don't need to read it anymore. Big mistake!
5. We see the bible from the perspective of Maestros. If the Apostle Paul is our favorite biblical author, we make him the dominating perspective for the rest of the bible.
Chapter 4 - Since the Bible is a grand narrative, we always need to be aware of the context of a particular passage of scripture. The 7 important words of biblical interpretation is, "that was then and this is now." Since the bible was written several centuries ago, we need to be aware of the historical time period in which it was written.
The bible is filled with "wiki" stories. Like wikipedia in which people keep adding information to a topic on the internet, the bible is an adding on of stories to the grand narrative. I know that wikipedia has the problem of incorrect information being added and that's where this illustration breaks down. The point is that the biblical authors added their stories to the Story in order to tell God's story of salvation history.
Chapter 5 - The bible can be broken down into these parts of the plot:
Creating Eikons (the word for humans as God's image bearers) - Genesis 1-2
Cracked Eikons - Genesis 3-11
Covenant Community - Genesis 12 - end of OT
Christ, the Perfect Eikon - Matthew - Revelation 20
Consummation - Revelation 21-22
The problem today is that people are so concerned and worked up over the creationism vs. evolution debate, that we miss the whole point of the creation story in Genesis 1 & 2 in which God created humans to be image bearers and good stewards of God's good creation.
Next Thursday - We focus on chapters 6 through 8.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Features - 26th Sunday After Pentecost; Veterans’ Sunday (Veterans will be recognized at all 3 worship services. A band will play for the 11:00 service); & Coins for Missions Sunday (Coins placed in the offering will help support St. Paul UMC Outreach Center in Dayton, FISH Food Pantry, the Caring Place Meal Ministry in Xenia, & IHN which provides temporary housing for families in need)
Saturday, November 1, 2008
As we prepare for tomorrow's annual Church Conference meeting in which we will review our membership roll, the encouraging news is that in 2008, we have already received 15 new members (this doesn't count the new members joining on November 16.) But since we have experienced several deaths this year, we presently have a net loss of membership.
Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Almighty God, gracious Father, pour out your Holy Spirit upon your faithful people. Keep them steadfast in your Word, protect and comfort them in all temptations, defend them against all their enemies, and bestow on the Church your saving peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord,who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
For this first week, (first two chapters) here are the highlights of our conversation:
Like it or not, all of us "pick and choose" when interpreting verses/passages in the bible. Even folks of the fundamentalist variety who take the bible very literally pick and choose. Examples include Matthew 10:7,8 - why are many of us preaching about the kingdom (verse 7) but few of us are showing the signs of the kingdom through healing (verse 8.) Another example: Why do folks who point out that the practice of homosexual relations is sinful with such verses as Leviticus 20:13a not also apply the punishment for such activity (the 2nd half of that verse.) While we say, "thank God that people don't apply the 2nd half of that verse," the point is that we pick and choose.
- The point of this first chapter isn't that it's right or wrong to pick and choose. The point is that we can't escape from doing it!
- The 2nd chapter explains the author's use of the blue parakeet as a metaphor for his book. A blue parakeet is its own bird. That is, when a blue parakeet is around other types of birds, it does not adapt to their habits and flight patterns. Sometimes other birds try to get the blue parakeet to adapt to their ways, but it will stand its ground (its sky?) McKnight says that the bible is like the blue parakeet. Even though we try to fit the bible into our way of thinking and worldview or what we think it should say, it holds its own ground. We need to let the bible be the bible. And the first step in letting the bible be the bible is to admit that all of us pick and choose
- Often times we get Tradition (capital "T") confused with traditionalism in studying the bible. Tradition (capital "T") is how the church over the centuries has interpreted scriptural passages whereas traditionalism is how we so often take one strand of interpretation and without any critical thinking, allow that particular interpretation of a passage of scripture to be the final authority. In summary, Tradition is vital for the appropriate interpretation of scripture. Traditionalism is the wrong way to go!
- Looking ahead to next week's bible study (chapters 3 - 5) the proper way to interpret scripture is in remembering these three words:
More on this next week!
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Features - All Saints Sunday & Holy Communion
Friday, October 24, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
- Works closely with the organization, "Opportunity International" which provides loans to people living in the poorest nations of the world. Since banks in the third world countries typically only do business with only 5% of the population, this organization provides loans to people who are in desperate need. Interestingly enough, 98% of the loans are paid back in full.
- Regarding peace in the Middle East, he is working hard to include the leading religious officials of several different faith traditions representing these countries to be officially part of the peace process. In the past, it's been primarily the political leaders who come to the table. But in this area of the world where tensions are due to religious differences, it only makes sense to include the major religious leaders. I believe he said that he's traveled to the Middle East 9 or 10 times this past year. He's returning in November.
In addition to sharing what he has been doing since serving as a US Ambassador, Tony Hall also shared what he believes to be the important issues facing our country today:
- The National & Global Hunger crisis. Only 1/2 of 1% of our nation's budget is in the form of foreign aid, but he publicly affirms President Bush's because he has done more for the poor who are overseas than any other US president.
- The health care crisis needs to be addressed. It's wrong that 40 million Americans are uninsured.
- He has been part of a weekly prayer and scripture gathering with members of congress (both Democrat & Republican) every Wednesday at 4 P.M.
- He said that he has been motivated to help end global hunger because there are almost 2,500 verses in the Bible which are about caring for the hungry and those who are poor.
There wasn't a lot of time for Q & A, but I asked Tony Hall this question: "In your experience in working to help end global poverty, what are some positive signs you are seeing in the area of third world debt reduction and elimination?"
His answer: "Eliminating third world debt is making a huge difference in these countries, particularly in countries like Ghana and Mozambique. Our world needs to live out the biblical principle of the 'Year of Jubilee' where debts are forgiven and countries can use this money to provide education and food for their people."
It was an honor to be part of this meeting and to be part of the dialogue.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Features - 24th Sunday After Pentecost; Celebration of “Prayers, Presence, Gifts, & Service: A Forty Day Journey;” & Reformation Sunday
Friday, October 17, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
I have come through this letter explain my gratitude and acknowledge receiving 900$ from you, which is directed to my studies at Africa University . Because of the love shown to me, I wanted to thank all the churches that participated in raising this money. For me it is a great benediction to have this money, really this will make a difference in all my life. Because, It will keep reminding me of God's working through his people. It is true that when we receive from God, he also except us to be faithful servants.
I thank the Churches for having this spirit of sharing, because the Bible says "when you do this to the least of these people, you do it to me." "Jesus-Christ"
I realized God's love when I received this money for my studies. This transfer God's love that reaches my life. You are doing it through your hands to touch all my Love; this is an extension of God's love, reaching somebody who is really in need through your sharing of the resources. Moreover, for all my lovely congregations, I have received your love with great joy, the only thing is that this gift reminds me to work faithfully to God and continues to love him forever. Thank you very much for accepting to respond to the Divine duty. May God assist you and bless you all. In the name of the father, the son and the Holy Spirit Amen!!!
Rev Eric Kalamba Bondapa
Third year Student
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Features - 23rd Sunday After Pentecost
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Most of us already knew that we were a nation living on the edge, feeding off greed and the insatiable appetite of always wanting more toys, but how many of us knew that we were this close to collapse? Even with all of the safeguards surrounding the proposed bailout, we have been painfully reminded of the cost of being part of a culture which promotes the philosophy that enough is never really enough.
Many of our area churches are participating in stewardship campaigns this fall to prepare for 2009. Part of our stewardship campaign includes reflecting on what it means to be faithful with the financial resources God has given us. Obviously, the secular agenda’s approach to handling money (unbridled capitalism) when left unchecked, offers instant gratification, but in the end, will lead us down a dead-end street (the street formerly known as Wall Street.).
Enter the biblical view of stewardship and God’s call for each person to recognize that all good gifts come from God: a roof over our heads, food for the table, skills and abilities, the air we breathe, good health, loving relationships, a caring and nurturing community of faith, and the list goes on and on. When we remember this basic truth that all good gifts come from God, our attitudes and approach to money take on a whole new meaning.
Not only do we become more grateful for what we already have, we begin to see ourselves as extensions of God’s grace on behalf of a world in great need. Our lifestyles begin to reflect the giving nature of God, and we grow in what it means to practice extravagant generosity through the sharing of our financial gifts with those who are hurting.
Recently, our community participated in an annual two-mile Hunger Walk, CROP Walk, in which 25% of all funds collected remain right here with our Greene county FISH food pantry. The remaining money will go to support world-wide hunger relief efforts. Our food pantries are in need of additional financial and volunteer help, especially after the recent wind storm that left thousands of people without power.
As I made the stroll down the Xenia bike path and through the canopy of changing leaves on that warm autumn day, it was obvious that God’s many gifts were streaming down upon us from every direction. Pure gifts. Pure grace. So yeah…I know how much $700 billion dollars is and it’s nothing compared to the immeasurable love of God.
That’s something Wall Street can’t teach us.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Features - 22nd Sunday After Pentecost & Coins for Missions (Coins placed in the offering will help support St. Paul UMC Outreach Center in Dayton, FISH Food Pantry, the Caring Place Meal Ministry in Xenia, & IHN which provides temporary housing for families in need.)
Theme - This is the fourth sermon of a six-part sermon series on “Prayers, Presence, Gifts, and Service: A Forty Day Journey.” On this fourth Sunday of our forty day journey together, we will reflect on the fourth week of readings which focus on offering our financial gifts to the work of Jesus Christ and the church.