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

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Way to Go Youth! 30 Hour Fast

Our youth group just completed a 30 hour fast at the church. They practiced the spiritual discipline of fasting (giving up meals) so that they could draw closer to Jesus Christ and also raise money through World Vision to feed hungry children in our world.

Get this - our 23 youth who participated ended up raising $737 which will supply a full day of meals for 737 children. Several churches across the country also participated in this fast to benefit the hungry.

I had a meeting at the church this morning and could hear our youth who were participating in the fast playing the game, "Underground Church" which Pastor Rick taught them a while back. It's been a big hit with our youth and helped our youth to have fun during their fasting.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Holy Week Reflections - Palm Sunday

My weekly Thursday morning bible study (10 A.M. in church parlor) is focusing on the days of Holy Week for our Lenten study this year. This week, our focus was on Passion/Palm Sunday.

We're using the book, "Christians at the Cross" by Anglican Bishop and New Testament bible scholar, N.T. Wright. The book consists of a series of sermons that Bishop Wright preached at Church of the Ascension, located in Easington Colliery, north east England, overlooking the North Sea. The reason he preached a a series of sermons for Holy Week in this particular location in 2007 is due to the tremendous economic hardships facing this former coal mining community which shut down in 1993. This is also a community which continues to carry the heavy grief of a terrible mine explosion which happened in that community in 1951 (81 miners and 2 rescue workers died.)

The events of Holy Week which led Jesus to the cross is a way to help whole communities facing economic and societal problems like Easington Colliery to work through immeasurable pain and grief and point us forward to a new beginning and a new way of living through the hope and promise of Jesus' resurrection.

During this Lenten focus, members of my bible study will be naming the pain and struggles of our community and surrounding area by printing these on pieces of paper which will then be brought to the cross at our Good Friday service for God to bring about healing and a new way of moving into the future with hope.

For our Palm Sunday focus this week, in his sermon, Bishop Wright compared the events of Holy Week to singing parts. Here is how he breaks down the musical parts and ties them into Holy Week:
  • The bass part - This is the story line of the Old Testament which Jesus carried with him throughout his ministry and particularly during the events of Holy Week. The bass part which provides a foundation for a song is the OT story of how God created the world, called it good, and because sin entered the world, God has been on a rescue mission by forming a covenant with Abraham and eventually with the people of Israel to put the world back to where it was always meant to be.

  • The tenor part - This is being aware of the story line of the brokenness of our present world and community.

  • The alto part - This is being aware of our own personal story line of brokenness, disappointment, heartache, and grief.

Next week, we will focus on Monday of Holy Week.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dave's Deep Thoughts

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.

I think I will sue my mother.
Let's call it child abuse.

Many see her as this kind, loving woman.
But I now know better.

Yesterday was Fastnacht Day.
For those of you not of German heritage,
it means night before the fast.
The day just prior to the beginning of Lent

A time to enjoy some final tasty treats
before the 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter.

The memories of childhood began to flood back.

As a child,
this seemingly sensible, caring woman
would bring home these doughy pastries called fastnachts,
on the day before Ash Wednesday.
She would then place them on the kitchen table.
Then she would crouch and watch,
like a cat waiting for the mice to take the bait.

We just thought fastnachts were just funny looking donuts.
Little did we know that they were the kiss of death.

As I came to work this past Monday,
I was overwhelmed immediately by the smell of grease.

As I entered the building,
I realized that someone was making fastnachts
in anticipation of Fat Tuesday.
The stench was overwhelming.

You know a kitchen has become a haz mat site
when the bakers are wearing face masks
in order to breathe though the haze of grease.

You know grandma's fruitcake
has been trumped,
when you see a potato based dough ball
being dumped into boiling lard.

I went on the internet and did a little research on these bad boys.
The numbers horrified me.

For each one of those fastnachts that slips down your throat,
add 1215 calories.
For those of you who shriek at the sight of a gravy boat,
tack on 33.5 grams of fat.
For those watching sodium intake,
ring up 883 mg of sodium as you feel your blood vessels constrict.
And for you south beach carb watchers,
meet your worst nightmare
as you calculate in 185 grams of carbs in just a few bites.
Do not pass go.....do not collect $200.......just go directly to the fat farm.
It ain't called Fat Tuesday for nothing.

You could eat 2 of your favorite fast food biggie burgers with all the toppings
as an equivalent march to death.
And remember fettuccine alfredo, the heart attack on a plate????
You might as well call it Lean Cuisine compared to these death balls.

Eve could have had twenty of those forbidden apples before she began to approach the calorie count of one fastnacht.

To work off the effects of this sugary pill of dough,
try bicycling at 12 mph for 178 minutes,
or maybe you have 166 spare minutes to walk at 4 mph,
or just take a 2.5 hour lunch break and
substitute it with 146 minutes of swimming at 50 yards a minute.

Back to my mother.
This is the mother who thought I should spend winter afternoons
on the couch eating snacks and watching movies,
because she thought that skiing
might be too dangerous a hobby.

This is the mother
who thought I might catch a cold because my winter jacket wasn't heavy enough,
after I had slept the night before in an UNHEATED bedroom.

Call me crazy,
but this woman who could easily pass for "Mother of the Year"
has it out for me, as she says with a motherly smile,
"Have another fastnacht"

There are things in life that just look good,
that smell good,
that just taste so good.
Food is among them, but there are many other things that tempt us.

And sometimes, they seem to come from the safest sources.
Eve thought so,
and often, so do we
if we are not listening to the Father
who truly wishes the best for us.

The next time my mom comes around with a plate of those fastnachts,
I think I'll just say, "Thanks but no thanks"
and go climb Mount Everest instead.

"For I know the plans that I have for you,
declares the Lord, plans for your welfare
and not for calamity,
to give you a future and a hope. "

- Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday which begins the Season of Lent, a period of 40 days, not counting Sundays, which is designed to draw us closer to Jesus Christ and prepare us for Holy Week and the final days of Jesus' life before his glorious resurrection.

Here are some Lenten opportunities at Faith Community to guide us through this season:

For the Sundays in Lent (March 1, 8, 15, 22, & 29) our church will be focusing on “The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.” Each family in our church will be invited to read a Lenten devotional book covering this theme. These daily readings will begin on Sunday, March 1. The books will be available to pick up at the Ash Wednesday service and Sunday, March 1 & 8 before and after services.

  • Ash Wednesday Service, February 25, 7:00 P.M. Service with Imposition of Ashes

  • Lenten 10:00 A.M. Thursday Morning Bible Study, Thursday, February 26 to Thursday, April 16 led by Pastor Robert in Church Parlor (Topic: “Christians at the Cross.”)

  • Palm Sunday, April 5, Morning Worship, (8:30, 9:45, & 11:00)

  • Maundy Thursday, April 9, 7:00 P.M. Service with Holy Communion

  • Good Friday Service, April 10, 12:00 P.M. (This will take the place of the Community Good Friday Prayer Walk which has been canceled this year.)

  • Easter Vigil Worship Service, Saturday, April 11, 7:00 P.M. (Confirmands Join the Church)

  • Easter Worship Celebrations, Sunday Morning, April 12, (8:30, 9:45, & 11:00)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Finally, U2's new album is ready to debut!

I posted about U2's new album several months ago hoping for a November, 2008 release, but there was a delay and it will be available for sale beginning March 3.

How U2 connects with me is I followed them while in High School/college and then kept on following them. Drawing on Christian themes and remaining a secular band (although rough around the edges for some Christian tastes) these Irish guys seem to know how to sing/play to our deepest longings. Early in their career, they had a song, "40" based on Psalm 40. I remember how this song introduced me to this wonderful Psalm.

I believe one of Cedarville University's professors has contributed articles on U2's music and the Christian faith. Those who have been to their concerts (they're considered one of the best live bands out there) have said that it was like they were in worship instead of at a rock concert. Now how does a band pull that off in front of 60,000 fans?

Not that they need extra publicity from me since BBC will have a big interview with them and they'll be performing every night next week on David Letterman, but I can't wait to hear these new songs. It's hard to believe that they will be turning 50 in a year or so.

So here's a sneak preview of U2 performing "Breathe" from their new album. Kind of crazy lyrics, but listen for Christian words like "grace," which is one of Bono's favorite words to use. This song rocks live! Watch...

Sunday Morning Road Trip - Union UMC

Cindy Liming, a member of Faith Community, is in the process of visiting all 15 Common Cup churches on Sunday mornings so she can become better acquainted with her fellow Common Cup brothers and sisters in Christ.

I asked Cindy to send me a brief summary of each of her visits as a way of highlighting how Christ is at work in each of our Common Cup Churches. Here are her reflections from her recent trip to Union UMC:

"This morning I visited Union United Methodist church. This is a pretty, little country church where the regular members stretch out their hand to welcome a stranger with a smile and a greeting. The fellowship did not go unnoticed, everyone seems truly glad to see each other. I met a couple of good friends that I didn't know attended there."

I might add here that Union UMC has a unique distinction of our fifteen Green County and northern Clinton County Common Cup churches. It's the oldest. Here's a brief historical sketch of this church. More information can be found on our Common Cup website.

"In 1807, after meeting for several years, the church was officially established. In 1810, a new name was given to the congregation, when it became known as the Union Methodist Society. Most historians agree that the church received its name because of the "union" of several families who lived in the vicinity and worshiped together.

After the church was officially established, a tract of land was procured and a log structure was erected on the site. The main building was approximately three feet square with a gable roof and clapboard shingles with a chimney built of sticks and mud. With the addition of a puncheon floor, the building served as church, school and meeting house. Crude benches were constructed, and the outer walls chinked and daubed with mud.

A 16 by 16 foot log cabin was erected for the teacher, John Findlay, who was a grad­uate of Princeton University. He began his classes in the Union Seminary on Jan. 1, 1810. Apparently this was the first organized school in the county, and according to tradi­tion, only the second Methodist Sunday School established in Ohio."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Worship Preview - March 1

Sunday, March 1 (8:30 A.M. and 11:00 A.M. Traditional and 9:45 A.M. Contemporary)

Sermon - “Welcome to the Kingdom”

Features - 1st Sunday in Lent & Holy Communion

Scriptures - Genesis 18:1-8 & Matthew 25:34-40

Theme - This is the 1st part of a five-part sermon series on our Lenten theme, “The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.” On this Sunday, our focus will be on the spiritual practice of radical hospitality. The bible has a lot to teach us about what it means to welcome all people into God’s kingdom.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Methodists Serving in the Trenches

Today, I was with our confirmands visiting two of our district's United Methodist mission sites, St. Paul's Outreach and Oasis, both located in Dayton, Ohio.

We first visited St. Paul's and had breakfast with people, many of whom, probably slept in abandoned city buildings last night without heat or water but at least out of the elements. We took a tour of the facility which provides Saturday breakfasts, Tuesday lunches, a food pantry, and ministries to impoverished families who live in the surrounding neighborhood.

The picture is Pastor Beth from St. Paul's Outreach Center and she is showing us their food pantry.

From there, we visited Oasis, a ministry that reaches out to women who are involved in the sex industry. United Methodists are providing home cooked meals and taking them into the clubs to give to the women as a way of showing God's unconditional love for them. As relationships are formed and trust levels increase through these acts of radical hospitality, the women are more open to receive support and help from the Oasis ministry which is located not far from several of these sex industry clubs.

I always encourage our confirmands to spread the word that a portion of the money we place in the offering each Sunday goes to support these risk-taking ministries among many others as well.

Check out the brief video interview to hear from our confirmands and adult mentors on what they thought of our mission site visit today.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

From Brazil to the USA

Congratulations Gerald! Today, one of our Common Cup church members, Gerald, husband of Pastor Sandy Linger Santos (Jamestown UMC & Union UMC) was sworn in as a US citizen at the Dayton Courthouse.

Church members from Gerald and Sandy's churches along with the Common Cup clergy were on hand to witness this momentous and joyous occasion. To round out the Common Cup connection, Federal Judge Rose, member of Faith Community UM, presided over the swearing in ceremony.

It was a day to be proud of being a citizen of the USA and part of the wonderful Common Cup shared ministry of Xenia area United Methodist churches working together to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Check out the short video interview I had with Gerald in the courtroom immediately before the interview.

Dave's Deep Thoughts

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.

A rose for Valentines Day

It's a tradition of mine,
given to a mom who has been widowed for several years.

Just a simple way to let her know
that she is loved and cherished.

When I walk into her home,
I expect to see the rose on display
in a highly visible location.

I should know better.

the rose can be found on a table
in a closed off room.

A room closed off
from the rest of the house
in an effort to conserve heat........

a room that she rarely enters.

Mom, why don't you bring the rose
out into the living space
so that you can enjoy it?

I am not sure why I still ask questions
to which I already know the answers.

But I do.

Oh, it will last longer if it stays in the cool.

While I have long understood botanically,
the rose's aversion
to warm temperatures,
I have greater difficulty
understanding the purpose
of a beautiful rose not seen.

But that is my mom.

She is a packer.

No, not the football type.
The storing, put away type of packer

Even in this season of life,
where Alzheimers is her constant companion,
somethings do not change.

She was, and still is a packer.

She puts things away.
She doesn't live for the moment,
but prepares for the future.

Roses are placed in seclusion for longevity.
New dresses are placed in the closet for a minimum of six months before the first wearing.
Restaurant gift certificates are placed on the shelf for a later season.

Perhaps it is something from her childhood,
growing up in rather austere conditions on a farm.....

but she believes in putting away,
saving up for a rainy day.

She would spend her summers
canning and freezing every type of vegetable and fruit imaginable,
so that there would be food on the table during the snows of winter.

She would save every penny possible from paychecks,
so that college tuition for four children would be available in its time.

She would store old devotionals
so that they could be re-read in the quiet of later years.

She is a packer.

And so when she receives a rose on Valentines,
she doesn't need to see it to know that she is loved and cherished.
Knowing that it resides in the other room is enough for her.

My mom is a packer.
But she is also a woman of great faith.
She knows that what is visible is not the final answer.
She knows that what is unseen
is even more important than what is seen.

Things like, faith, hope, and love
which are measured in eternity.

When the day comes that she sees what is unseen,
I doubt that she will be very much surprised,
for she has known that it was there all the time.

That is how it is with those who are packers.

Don't hoard treasure down here
where it gets eaten by moth
and corroded by rust -worse! - stolen by burglars.
Stockpile treasure in heaven where it is safe
from moth and rust and burglars.
It's obvious isn't it?
The place where your treasure is,
is the place you will most want to be,
and end up being.
Matthew 6:19-21 (The Message translation)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Wesleyan Institute Coming to Faith Community

The General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church, in partnership with the West Ohio Conference, the Miami Valley District, and the Common Cup Shared Ministries, is holding a laity and clergy seminar on the theme, "Making Disciples of Jesus Christ the United Methodist Way" April 23 to 25 at Xenia: Faith Community United Methodist, 100 Country Club Drive, Xenia, OH.

Highlighting the Thursday evening through Saturday noon seminar are some of the top Methodist/Wesleyan theology scholars in the country including Dr. Phil Chilcote and Dr. Daniel Flores.

Who should attend this seminar? Anyone who wants to learn how to become a more fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ and how to more faithfully live out the mission of the church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Pastor Rick and I have already registered and we are hoping to see a lot of Faith Community and Common Cup folks participate in this event as well.

Register soon! After March 15, the cost of the seminar will jump from $79 to $125.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday Worship Preview - February 22

Sunday, February 22 (8:30 A.M. and 11:00 A.M. Traditional and 9:45 A.M. Contemporary)

Sermon - “There’s Something Different about You”

Features - Transfiguration Sunday & Vacation Bible School Special Offering

Scriptures - II Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; II Corinthians 4:3-6; & Mark 9:2-9

Theme - The transfiguration of Jesus was an event that startled the disciples and certainly left a significant impression on them of what it meant to be his disciples. On this day, we join the disciples in allowing this mountain top experience to change our lives to such a degree that people will say to us, “There’s something different about you.” The question is how will your life be different once you get to the bottom of the mountain?

Friday, February 13, 2009

"Three Simple Rules" - Rule #1 Highlights

My weekly Thursday morning bible study began a new study on the book, "Three Simple Rules" by retired United Methodist Bishop, Reuben Job. This is one of the smallest books on the market, but packed with three life transforming rules that can literally change your life.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, summarized Christian practice by encouraging those early 18th century Methodists to live out these three simple rules.

The three simple rules are:

Do no harm.
Do good.
Love God.

I told our group how our District Superintendent used these three simple rules to share with someone who had sat next to him on a plane flight and who was open to some practical advice on how she should proceed to deal with some problems and issues she was facing in her life. In less than a minute, he briefly encouraged her to live out these three simple rules, rules which he seeks to follow in his own life.

The first simple rule is "Do no harm." Here are some brief highlights of this rule from our study yesterday:

This rule, while simple, is difficult to live out because of three reasons:

1. It demands a lot of self-discipline on our part.

2. We tend to bind ourselves to a particular ideology/theology, rather than to Jesus Christ, alone.

3. We're afraid of the consequences if we live out this rule. When we refuse to live according to the ways of the world, this will have an impact on who we are inside and out!

Our group talked about ways that we inflict harm on others - gossip, speaking disparagingly about others, manipulating the facts, and diminishing those who disagree with us.

The author of the book, Reuben Job, was one of the keynote speakers at last year's West Ohio Annual Conference gathering at Lakeside, Ohio. This is a man of deep wisdom, spiritual maturity, and substantial Christian conviction.

I probably paid him one of the deepest compliments when I told my group yesterday that he reminds me of the Apostle John. Tradition tells us that John, one of Jesus' disciples was the only disciple to live to an old age. He was so respected and revered for his Christian character that when christians/churches were behaving badly, he would appear in front of the assembly, and because he was in a weakened state, would offer these barely audible words in a raspy voice, "Beloved, let us love one another" and then he would sit down! That's all it took. And people began to behave in a more Christlike way in the way they treated each other.

Next week, because the Season of Lent is around the corner, we're going to need to focus on the remaining two simple rules together.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hanging around Young Adult Methodists

Last night, I met with a young adult couple during our Wednesday Common Cup program. They will be getting married later this year. Like many young adults I encounter, they are open to growing in their faith and they offer important perspectives about faith and life.

One of the ways that our church is opening itself up to hearing from our young adults is by having one of our own young adult members, Adam Leopard, (Asbury College) come to serve as a student ministry intern in partnership with us this summer. Adam has a passion for graphic designs, youth ministry, media, and discipleship formation.

Several of our young adults are students in colleges where they are active in campus ministries and growing in their faith. They are learning what it means to be involved in intentional faith-sharing small groups and several of them are being trained to become leaders of ministry groups.

Because young adults are such an important part of our congregation, I want to dedicate articles on this web blog to what our young adults can teach us and to hear what the United Methodist Church is doing to reach out to our young adults.

I've asked some of our young adults to participate in an e-mail forum with me on a weekly basis. If you are a young adult and want to be part of this e-mail discussion group, send your e-mail address to PastorRobert@fcum.org.

One of the ways that young adults are visible in our congregation is through our Sunday morning contemporary worship service. Almost all of the praise team members are young adults. I've been to a number of contemporary worship services in difference churches and many of their praise teams are middle-age with only a few young adults. I'm proud that our church has such a visible ministry of young adults. This is just one example.

Last night, the young adult couple I was with shared that one of their favorite scriptures is Ephesians 4:14-21 (great passage by the way!) which was written by the Apostle Paul. As I think about the importance of hearing from our young adults, I am reminded how the Apostle Paul stayed in touch with young adults like Timothy and how they grew together as disciples of Jesus Christ.

And so, to all our young adults out there...know that the church cares about you and wants to learn from you in what it means to be growing disciples of Jesus Christ. You have a lot to offer 40 plus year olds like myself!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dave's Deep Thoughts

The following is a weekly devotional from my brother, Pastor Dave McDowell, Music Minister, Stewartstown UMC, Stewartstown, PA:

I met both Dans while on a recent trip.

I had never been to this city before
but I was enjoying the feel of
this growing city.

Restaurants of many cuisines,
the performing arts abound,
sporting events dot the calendar.

The first Dan that I met is in the banking industry.
Like many young people
who populate this city.

he is single, well educated,

Over the last several years,
this metropolis has become a hub of the banking industry.
It is what drew Dan to the area.

Things were good when Dan moved here.
He was in his late 20's when the economy was booming,
His future looked bright and promising.
And then things changed,
Almost overnight.
The economy stepped into one of the biggest recessions in years.
Now in his early 40's,
Dan's sense of hope has been replaced with fear and apprehension.

He awakes each morning wondering if he will have a job at the end of the day,
He hears the rumors,
the quiet talk in office cubicles....
words like downsizing and layoffs dot the conversations.

10 years ago,
his biggest concern was
how to invest his money,
and which restaurant to choose for a Friday night date.

Now his thoughts have migrated,.....
how will he make it if his job is eliminated.
What about his mortgage?
Car payments, utilities,
health care,


Each restless night seems to evoke another financial concern
Life has far more questions than answers these days.

Dan came here expecting an adventure.
He just didn't expect the adventure to be this scary.

I met the other Dan in the same city.

He is slightly older than the first Dan.
At least it appears that way.
Homelessness has a way of aging a person.

He came to this city because it was in a warmer climate.
It makes sleeping outside at night a bit easier.

He has concerns as well.
He wonders if his home will be taken by others,
It's a small space that he claimed several months ago,
under the overpass of the highway.
Squatter rights only go so far when you don't have a mailing address.

Dan has more than one home.
On nights when the wind blows the rain eastward,
he moves to his other home
so that he can better attempt to remain dry.

This Dan is single as well,
and well educated
with a degree in language skills
He speaks three languages

He too, expected that life would be a challenge and adventure.
He just didn't anticipate this type of adventure.

That's what happens when you lose a job,
and you have no family that can help you make it through the hard times.

Like the other Dan, Dan thinks about his health care and the other essentials of life.
Will he get in line early enough to be seen by the volunteer medical staff at the mission?
Will he receive a bus token that will allow him to get across town to a job interview?
Will he be lucky enough to be among those who can take a shower that day?
Will the meal that he is given be something that he actually likes?

If you would place the two Dans side by side,
chances are you would see two very different people.
And if you were so inclined, you would likely treat them very differently

But if you had the time to listen to them,
to hear their stories,
you would know that they are practically the same person.

My dear friends, don't let public opinion
influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith.
If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit,
and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him,
and you say to the man in the suit,
"Sit here Sir, this is the best seat in the house!'
and either ignore the street person say,
"Better sit here in the back row,"
haven't you segregated God's children
and proved that you are judges who can't be trusted?
Listen dear friends. Isn't it clear by now that God operates quite differently?
You do well when you complete the royal rule of the Scriptures:
"Love others as you love yourself."

James 2: 1-4, 8

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday Worship Preview - February 15

Sunday, February 15 (8:30 A.M. and 11:00 A.M. Traditional and 9:45 A.M. Contemporary)

Sermon - “Run in Such a Way”
Features - Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Receiving of New Members/Holy Baptism (11 A.M.,) & Boy Scout Sunday

Scriptures - I Corinthians 9:24-27 & Mark 1:40-45

Theme - We’ve watched the Olympics and the Indy 500, but what does it mean for us to be in a spiritual race? What kind of training will we need? How will we stay focused? What’s the prize? The Apostle Paul addresses these questions in our epistle reading on this Sunday. On your mark. Get set. Go!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Dave's Deep Thoughts

This is the first day of a weekly publishing of "Dave's Deep Thoughts." Who is Dave, you might ask? Dave happens to be my older and wiser brother. See past article on USC pastor in a PSU church.

My brother publishes a weekly correspondence with the college students of his United Methodist congregation and always provides a very creative devotional thought, usually based on a recent incident or experience in his life.

When I called him yesterday to get permission to publish his weekly devotional on my web blog, I also asked him what to call it. He said something like, "Reflections from Dave" or something lame like that. So, in a matter of 5 minutes before I need to leave for a meeting at the church, I have come up with this catchy title which you will see every week when I post his devotional. The title??? Drum roll, please....

Dave's Deep Thoughts

Enjoy my brother's first devotional on Nikos. Read on...

There is a legion of people that adore them.
There are also those who despise them.

And then, there are those, like me,
who are disappointed in them.

I really expected more.
Far more.

Some would wonder what more could I expect
out of a team that had just won the Super Bowl?

Consider this...

An organization that is now
having to build new shelves to accommodate
all the world championship hardware that it possesses.....

An organization that has had only
three coaches during the last 40 years.......

An organization that has developed
a legion of fans unprecedented in the country.

An organization that
continues to win year after year,
despite losing key players
to the free agent market.

Very disappointing........

I turned the television on
to watch the the victory parade
through the downtown of the city.

Thousands and thousands of people
crammed into every nook and cranny along the streets,
welcoming their conquering warriors home,
cheering every speech,
every gesture from the team's players.

An entire city
coming together as one
to celebrate their triumph.

And then it happened.
The doors of disappointment opened wide,
and the players marched on in.

It started with one player.
A second stringer. who receives
little playing time.

you see,
he began to........


he began to..........


he began to...........


Or should I say,
attempt to sing

It's a simple cheer,
sung by all the fans
at important moments
during each game,
at each pep rally,
at each tailgate.

It consists of 8 notes,
and only three different pitches.

It begins with a minor third.
A minor third!
It's the interval that children
usually first learn to sing
because it is a natural interval
for young ears to understand.

From there,
it goes down a major second,
and then finally up a perfect fourth

In musical theory,
(or to all Sound of Music enthusiasts)
it would be sung to these syllables.........

Do Do Do Do Do Do

It is the simplest of melodies,
so that anyone can sing it.

But not this cornerback.
Not even close.

He tried to get the crowd to join in with him,
but he was so off pitch,
they didn't know how to help him.

So his teammates attempted to come to his aid.

Each one more unsuccessful than the previous.
Finally there were eight players
all trying to sing this cheer,
each in their own key,
each one woefully off the mark.

I sat there utterly aghast at what I was hearing.

There is a word for it in music theory.
It is called cacophony,
it means harsh or discordant sound.

And oh, how harsh it was.

I have seen these players storm back
and grasp victory from the jaws of defeat.

I have seen these players
capture the attention of the nation and even the world.

And yet there they were.
unable to sing their way out of a paper bag............

I fully plan to write the coach
and advise that he schedule singing classes
sometime in between tackling drills and scrimmages next year.

It is said that he who sings,
prays twice.

If that is true,
then these world champions
don't have a prayer.

Forget the 6 Super Bowl titles.
These would be the guys getting laughed off the stage
in the first round of American Idol.

Having a song is important.
It is vital.
I have seen people who work their way,
even triumph over many obstacles in their lives,
and yet they seem to have no song.

In the Old Testament,
the Lord instructed singers to be at the front of the army before each battle

In the New Testament,
they sang songs and hymns before the last supper,

If you find yourself
fighting your battles
and you have little or no song.........

call a timeout,
get to a songfest.
Learn how to sing your song.

You just might be surprised at the results.

"Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another
in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs,
singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.
Ephesians 5: 18b-19

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sunday Morning Road Trip - Old Town UMC

Cindy Liming, a member of Faith Community, is in the process of visiting all 15 Common Cup churches on Sunday mornings so she can become better acquainted with her fellow Common Cup brothers and sisters in Christ.

I asked Cindy to send me a brief summary of each of her visits as a way of highlighting how Christ is at work in each of our Common Cup Churches. Here are her reflections from her recent trip to Old Town UMC:
"This morning I had the privilege to visit Oldtown United Methodist Church. What a joy my visit turned out to be. As I opened the front door, I heard many voices chattering away and when I opened the doors to the sanctuary I saw why- everyone inside was visiting with each other as if they were all at a family reunion. I met Pastor Hemming and several others and was welcomed as only a family can welcome a visitor.

I knew a few of the members because of Common Cup and Marietta Koloszi took care of making sure I met other members as well. We sang some familiar hymns and members contributed to the service with news or updates about absent members. We prayed together and took Communion at the rail.

The Gospel reading was from Mark about how a man possessed by an evil spirit was the one who recognized Jesus. Pastor explained that the devil feared Christ and knew why he was among us. I didn't realize that the possessed man was the only one who knew this until Pastor Hemming talked about it. Of course, Jesus freed the man from the demonic possession and then Pastor segued into how we should let our faith be known through the way we live our lives. I am bad at paraphrasing things others have already said better, but that is the nutshell as I understood his words.

Once again, I am so happy to say the Spirit of the Lord is alive and well within the walls of one of our Common Cup Churches and I will be happy to visit Oldtown again."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sunday Worship Preview - February 8

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

Sermon - "Love for a Lifetime"

Features - 5th Sunday After the Epiphany & 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)

Scriptures - Isaiah 40:21-31; I Corinthians 9:16-23; & Mark 1:29-39

Theme - The is the final part of a four-part sermon series on "Love for a Lifetime." We conclude our sermon series by looking at the disciple Peter's love for his wife. In the midst of a busy ministry with Jesus, he immediately stops to care for his wife's mother. His example of sacrificial love for his wife inspires us to care for the needs of our spouses and our families.