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

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Worship Scripture Commentary - Sunday, June 2

Sunday, June 2 – Music Sunday

II Chronicles 5:11-14

In our Old Testament reading, King Solomon of Israel has the Ark of the Covenant placed in the Temple in Jerusalem. To celebrate the occasion, several singers and instrumentalists offered music in praise of the Lord.

Verse 13 - The music played at this special dedication of the Ark of the Covenant is similar to the psalms that were used when David brought the Ark into Jerusalem.
(I Chronicles 16:34)

Music is an important part of worship. How does music help you worship and praise the Lord?

Revelation 22:1-5

Book of Revelation – Written by John (not sure which John this might be) on the island of Patmos because he was in exile for his faith. He is encouraging the churches in Asia Minor to continue to hold fast in their faith. He is letting them know what is happening in heaven in the present moment. All the saints are worshipping and praising God!

The author of Revelation is also pointing to the future when heaven and earth will be made new. This is the ultimate glorious hope of the Christian faith.

This book has been widely misinterpreted as a book that is prophesying about events that will happen in the 20th and 21st century as if the historical context of the author’s time of writing was unimportant. We need to understand the historical context in which the author was writing (such as the church was facing persecutions by the mighty Roman Empire) and then ask the question, “what do these passages of scriptures mean for us today?)

We also tend to use a concrete understandings of the symbols and images found in this book of the Bible when many of these are metaphors to help describe the presence of evil in our world and the significant ways God is overcoming (and will overcome!) evil.

Key verse (Verse 5) – “The one who sat on the throne said, “Look, I am making all things new.” Where do you see the Lord making all things new in our community and world?  When you see how God is at work in making things new, is your response to worship and praise the Lord?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Crestview Nursing Home Honors First UMC & Second Saturday Outreach

[Above Picture: A First UMC Second Saturday Outreach volunteer helps a Crestview Nursing Home staff member with the ever popular Saturday morning bingo game. Playing bingo helps the residents with their cognitive skills and provides fun fellowship. The games can also become competitive!]
Chair volleyball, bingo, blankets, fruit & cookies deliveries...these are the many ways that our church has been involved at Crestview Nursing Home through Second Saturday Outreach. Our church was recently recognized by Crestview Nursing Home for the many ways that we help at their facility.

One of our church members who is part of this outreach said, "I'm proud of all the volunteers and our church. Congratulations!"

Second Saturday is a ministry outreach that meets on the second Saturday of each month in the morning beginning at 8:30 am at our Crossroads facility, 2095 W. Fair Avenue. From there, several members of our church go out to to serve in our community in a variety of ways such as cleaning up the parks, painting park benches, serving breakfast at Foundation Dinner, making blankets to give to community agencies, splitting wood to give to people who need heat during the cold season, offering free car washes, and volunteering at Crestview just to name a few.

Join us for our Second Saturday outreach. There's something for everyone to do!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Prayer

Today, we remember and give thanks for those who have served in the military and are no longer with us. We thank them for their brave service to our country.

Prayer for Heroic Service: Memorial Day (Book of Common Prayer)

O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Sunday Worship Preview - June 9

Sunday, June 9 - (7:30, 9:00, & 10:30 Services) & Wednesday, June 12 (6:30 pm Casual Service @ Crossroads, 2095 Fair Avenue)

Sermon - "You Give a Little Love"

Features - 3rd Sunday After Pentecost & Children's Sing & Praise

Scripture - I Kings 17:8-16 & Luke 7:11-17

Theme - Our scripture readings for this day focus on the plight and vulnerability of widows as well as single mothers with children. Both Elijah and Jesus offer God's love to widows and this leads to hope and new life. How might we offer God's love to people in our community who may be in despair and pain?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dave's Deep Thoughts - The Non-V Streak

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.
My life has been filled with streaks,
but only one really matters.
Here's to the others that don't......
I have always been fascinated with streaks.
Many of them involve sports teams.
Cal Ripken's consecutive 2,632 games played.
Joe Dimaggio's 56 game hitting streak.
Cal-Tech ending a 26 year losing streak in basketball.
The Orioles opening the 1988 baseball season with 21 consecutive losses.
The Pittsburgh Pirates 20 consecutive losing seasons,
the longest among ALL sports franchises.
Some streaks are testaments to greatness,
others to ineptness.
But there are other streaks that testify
to fortitude, resilience, and sometimes......good luck.
27 years, 2 months, and 5 days.
That's my streak.
Of what, you may ask?
I will somehow try to explain this without using the dreaded V-word....
27 years , 2 months, and 5 days
that I went without ever losing my cookies.
It is known around these parts, as the non-V streak
That's right.
27 years, 2 months, and 5 days of care free oral-fresh living.
27 years, 2 months, and 5 days of living without that awful moment
when you know something is going to happen momentarily
that will cause even those who love you the most.,
to run for cover.
Many have asked how I even know the length of this streak.
Very good question.
The last time I had a less-than-stellar oral hygiene day
was Valentines Day of my senior year in college.
Save the chocolates and kisses for another day......
this college senior was not in the mood that dark and ominous Valentines Day.
Since that fateful day
roller coaster rides have had no effect over my digestive system.
Mexican restaurants and their chimichangas
have all fallen helpless victim to my voracious appetite.
Flus have come and gone with their fevers and aches,
but they held no power over my tummy.
I have taken medications that were sworn to have strong side effects of nausea,
but my belly refuted them.
There was the appendicitis episode in year 24
and then the mother of all storms.....
the trip to a Chinese restaurant that eventually resulted
in a 2 month go-round with a parasite.
But the streak endured.
If there were ticker tape parades in honor of tough tummies,
I would have been the grand marshall.
If the population-at-large had had my stomach,
Pepto Bismol would have been out of business years ago.
Cal Ripken might have become known as the iron man for his streak,
but I was the Iron Stomach.
That was,
until the 27th year, 2nd month, and 6th day.
It was beautiful spring day.......
the sun was shining brightly,
birds were singing,
butterflies were dancing,
and bees were dancing from flower to flower.
I awoke.
My tummy hurt.
My tummy felt funny.
This was a feeling I had not felt in a long time.
I said to myself,
"This cannot be.
That baked potato with melted butter from last night
will not be the end of this."
I was to drive an hour north to meet a friend for breakfast.
I must admit, as I was trying to will myself back to abdominal fortitude,
I had my doubts.
The yucky feeling would not go away.
And so I took a measure of insurance.
As I left my house, I grabbed an empty plastic bag.
As I drove up the highway,
I tried to will myself back to metabolic mastery.
Then the moment of reckoning came.
As I came over a hill, I saw the ultimate challenge
to 27 years, 2 months, and 5 days of digestive mastery.....
It was the cattle shutes.
One-half mile of road construction
with north and south bound traffic narrowed down to one lane each way
through very narrow arteries.
I panicked.
"What if I lose it in the cattle shutes?
There is no place to pull over."
The adrenaline rush was my achilles heel.
I pulled over a quarter mile before the shutes,
and there at mile marker 37,
the streak ended.
As I stood along the highway
holding my plastic bag of shame,
I came to realize that all streaks must come to an end,
otherwise, they are not streaks.
But there is one streak in my life
that I know will go on to eternity.
That streak as of today measures
38 years, 2 months and 3 days.
That is when I surrendered my life to Christ,
and gained access to a life with Him forever.
I will admit that those 38 years, 2 months, and 3 days
have had their testings,
just as much or even more than the other streak.
But the streak lives on,
because God is faithful,
and no temptation, no disease,,
no circumstance, no cattle shute can change the road on which I now travel.
I wish that you can claim such a streak in your life.
If it hasn't begun,
may it begin soon and may it lead you to similar
amazing life with the God who created you and loves you beyond measure.
If you already claim such a streak,
continue to give all the credit for it to God,
for He is the one who is forever faithful.
And it is He who will lead you to the throne room.
Life is filled with streaks,
but in the end, there is only one streak that really matters,
and it doesn't matter if the streak is one day or 70 years.
What matters is that the Lord stirs within you to begin the streak,
and He carries you on that streak through the rest of your life and beyond.
May it be so with you.
As for me,
my new non-V streak lives on,
just keep me away from baked potatoes please.
I'll let God take care of the rest.
"I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the course,
I have kept the faith."
2 Timothy 4:7

May 26 (Trinity Sunday) Lectionary Commentary

May 26 Sermon – “Unsolved Mysteries”

Romans 5:1-5

Some people think that there’s no point in believing or having a relationship with God. This is mainly due to their perception of who God is. The Apostle Paul wants us to know that God is about relationships and reconciliation. V. 1 says that the result of the gospel is that we have peace with God!

The first four chapters of Romans show how our minds have been twisted because of sin. Sin can keep us from being open to a loving God who wants to be in a relationship with us and give us peace.

V. 2 is Temple language where we can approach God and live in grace and be part of God’s kingdom of love. This is what it means to be fully human.

VV. 3-5 – This is why we can celebrate, even when we suffer. Suffering leads to patience, character, and hope. This is not an overnight process. It’s a life long journey.

John 16:12-15

Jesus is preparing the disciples for the time when he would be leaving them. Jesus will be put to death but will also be resurrected. All of this will lead to the Holy Spirit being sent to the disciples.

Focus verse for this Sunday’s sermon – v. 12. Jesus tells us that there are some things that we just aren’t ready to understand.

Our Director of Christian Education says that it’s often very difficult for us to have an open mind to a new understanding of the scriptures. The tendency is to stick with what we already think is true. We need to remember Jesus’ words that it’s OK to not try to understand everything right away.

Thoughts on these scriptures:

1. On this Trinity Sunday, each scripture passage has references to God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. What questions do you have about the Trinity? How can John 16:12 help us to not get overwhelmed at the mystery of the Trinity?

2. The Trinity became a doctrine of the church after the New Testament was compiled. A lot of people dismiss the Trinity because it doesn’t make sense logically. And yet, the New Testament again and again affirms the belief that there is one God and clearly indicates that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are associated with the Godhead. For example, we are to offer our worship to Jesus and the Spirit which is something you only do for God.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Prayer for Oklahoma & How to Help

Our church will be receiving a special offering this Sunday (May 26) for Oklahoma relief efforts through UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief.)  Checks can be made payable to "First UMC" with "Oklahoma" on the memo. UMCOR envelopes will be included in the pews for your convenience.

Donations go directly to relief efforts thanks to local churches paying their annual apportionments and the One Great Hour of Sharing offering that we receive each year in March. This is why being a connectional church is making a difference in our world. It allows the United Methodist Church to offer God's healing presence quickly and efficiently to communities who are in need.

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.

- United Methodist Book of Worship

Friday, May 17, 2013

Sunday Worship Preview - June 2

Sunday, June 2 - (7:30, 9:00, & 10:30 Services) & Wednesday, June 5  (6:30 pm Casual Service @ Crossroads, 2095 Fair Avenue)

Features - Music Sunday; Holy Communion; & 2nd Sunday After Pentecost

Scripture - Psalm 100; II Chronicles 5:11-14; & Revelation 22:1-5

Theme -  Our annual Music Sunday will feature our music ministry teams. Together, we will praise the Lord through the gift of music.

Sunday Worship Preview - May 19

Sunday, May 19 - (7:30, 9:00, & 10:30 Services) & Wednesday, May 22  (6:30 pm Casual Service @ Crossroads, 2095 Fair Avenue)

Sermon - "Pass It On"

Features - Pentecost, Confirmation Sunday, & Holy Baptism

Scripture - Acts 2:1-21 & John 20:19-23

Theme - Pentecost is the 50th and final day of the Easter Season. When the Holy Spirit came upon the early church that day, they began to share their faith in Jesus Christ with others. On this confirmation Sunday when several of our young people are joining the church, we are all reminded to receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Our faith is too important to keep to ourselves. We need to pass it on!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lancaster First UMC Receives Community Service Award

The ADAMH Board (Alcohol, Drug Addiction, & Mental Health) of Fairfield County recently announced that Lancaster First UMC is the 2013 recipient of the "Friend of ADAMH" award. Our church will be presented the award at a May 28 dinner and program sponsored by the board.

The award states, "We appreciate the remarkable way in which the church champions the needs of persons with mental health and addiction disorders and has supported the work of the ADAMH Board. We are excited to recognize its achievements in a public forum. Thank you so much for your service to our community. We want you to know that the Lancaster First United Methodist Church was voted for unanimously as the best candidate for this award by the ADAMH Board Community Relations Committee and Staff of the ADAMH Board."


Rhonda Meyers, MA, MSW, LISW
Executive Director

Dave's Deep Thoughts - Parties Can Happen Anytime & Anywhere!

Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.

Life is a party,
and sometimes that party can show up in the strangest of places.
Each spring our church sponsors a graduation banquet
for the graduating high school seniors.
One of my duties annually,
is to deliver the balloons from a local store
to the church.
I drove my capped pickup truck
to pick up the nine balloon trees needed for the banquet.
Now each balloon tree had five balloons,
so I needed to cram 45 large helium balloons into the back of my truck.
It wasn't until I arrived at the store that I realized I had a problem,
a BIG problem.
During the last year,
one of the plastic windows in the truck cap
had popped out while I was driving.
I was never able to find it and have been
unable to locate a replacement window.
It didn't dawn on me until
the balloons were being brought to the truck,
that I was about to insert 45 balloons
into a not-so-enclosed space.
The missing window measured 1 foot by two feet,
large enough for helium balloons to find their escape,
especially once I began to drive.
The only thing I had in the truck in which to block the window was duct tape,
so I taped over the window opening.
Duct tape has been my salvation in many a tight spot in my life,
but salvation was not to be found in the back of my truck this day..
If I had paid attention in high school physics class,
I would have learned that the flow of air over a vehicle
once it reaches 35 miles per hour,
is enough to create an air foil
strong enough to suction small children,
let alone, helium balloons, out of a duct taped portal.
I was only two blocks from the store
when the first blue & gold balloon tree
decided to makes its break for freedom.
the balloon treeshad an anchor,
so once it escaped from the truck,
it found a resting place on the double line
in the center of the road.
I know that cats have nine lives,
but evidently balloon trees have at least ten....
that would be the ten vehicles (including one 16 wheeler)
that came within inches of deflating its joy.
After the balloon tree had met Jesus for the 10th time in the middle of the road,
I was finally able to capture it.
But I was two miles from my destination,
with no more duct tape, and little hope.
A resident from a nearby home, who had been observing my dilemma,
(with some amusement)
offered a broken plastic lawn chair from her trash
to help block the window.
I thanked her profusely,
as if she had given me a priceless diamond.
For 1.5 miles, the broken plastic lawn chair
seemed to be doing a great job of being a prison guard,
that is until I reached a road construction crew.
This did not seem to be a threat to the safe transfer of 9 balloon trees
as I needed to slow down even more.
What I did not account for, were the bumps in the road
created by the road construction site,
which were severe enough to dislodge the broken plastic lawn chair
from its place as prison guard.
Three balloon trees decided it was time for a jailbreak.
A red and white balloon tree landed on recently poured asphalt.
A blue and gold balloon tree (different than the first escapee)
landed in front of a truck.
The third, a green and yellow balloon tree, tried the most daring escape,
but the anchor brought it into the welcome arms of the crew flagman.
I can't be sure,
but I can be fairly that never before in the history of Department of Transportation roadcrews,
that any roadcrew has ever been greeted onsite with balloon trees.
Oddly enough, most of them thought it was funny.
And even more oddly, not one of the balloons lost their lives
even though within inches of hot asphalt and major construction equipment.
Not so oddly enough,
none of the eight vehicles waiting to get through the worksite were so amused.
Celebrations can pop up anywhere,
sometimes in the strangest of places
My local DOT crew was greeted with a spontaneous party.
The balloons brought laughter to a normally mundane workday.
Tony Campola, a well known sociologist and Christian speaker,
once told of a time when he was in Hawaii,
and because of jet lag,
he found himself at 2pm in a 24 hour diner.
It was there,
he crossed paths was a local prostitute
who let it be known, that the next day was her birthday.
Tony seized the unexpected opportunity
and planned a surprise birthday party the next evening for the prostitute,
complete with balloons, cake & gifts.
The owner of the diner asked Tony
what type of church he went to.
Tony said,
"I attend a church that would throw birthday parties
for prostitutes at 2pm in the morning"
The owner of the diner said,
"There's no church like that. If there was, I'd join it.
I'd join a church like that!" *
The DOT roadcrew was impressed that our church
would go to extravagant means to honor our high school graduates.
Those who serve the King,
know that serving Him can place one in the strangest of situations.
It is in those situations where we can choose to wonder why we are there,
or be in wonder at the importance of the opportunity.
How many Kingdom parties do we miss
because we are too busy, too distracted, or too disinterested?
The next time you find yourself in an unexpected Kingdom party,
seize the moment to celebrate what the Lord of the party is doing.
And don't be afraid if it seems a little crazy.
After all, the host of the party knows all about doing crazy and
extraordinary things for those whom He loves.
And He asks the same of those who serve Him.

Just don't make the mistake of not attending.

I'll see you there,
and I'll bring the balloons!
"And Jesus said, 'God's Kingdom is like a king who threw a wedding banquet
for His son. He sent out servants to call in all the invited guests. And they wouldn't come!' "
Matthew 22:2

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My New Day Job - Race Car Driver

Lectionary Bible Commentary - May 19 (Pentecost Sunday)

Sunday, May 19 (Pentecost Sunday)

Acts 2:1-21

The Book of Acts is the 2nd part of a two-part volume by St. Luke.

Luke is good at telling us about significant times in how God is at work in the world. See Luke 2:6 & 9:51 & Acts 2:1.  “When the day of Pentecost had come…”

Pentecost fulfills Jesus’ promise in Acts 1:8.

The gospel (good news of Christ) for the whole world and for all languages is a central theme of the Book of Acts.  It begins at Pentecost with the Holy Spirit reaching Jewish people of many nations and will eventually extend to the Gentile world.

v. 19 – This is the way the ancient language described the ending one era leading into a new era.

Thought: Pentecost and the sending of the Holy Spirit upon the church was the beginning of a new era for the church to continue to share the good news of Jesus Christ after he ascended to his throne in heaven. How important is the Holy Spirit in your life? Do you sense the strength of the Spirit prompting you to extend the gospel beyond any boundaries?

John 20:19-23

Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to the disciples. The Holy Spirit will help the disciples to continue the ministry of Jesus in the world.  It’s a commission! (v. 21)

Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit upon the disciples reminds us of the creation story  in Genesis.  The words wind, breath, and spirit are the same in both Hebrew and Greek.

The Spirit is connected with God’s peace (20:21).

Forgiving and retaining are pronounced in God’s name. Forgiving is offering God’s healing love to the world and retaining sins is warning the world of how serious sin is.

Pentecost Questions:

1. How can the church remember to depend on the Holy Spirit for mission and ministry?
2. Think of a time when you sought to serve in Jesus’ name without depending on the Holy Spirit at work in your life. What was that like?
3. Focusing on the Holy Spirit leads us to a discussion of the mystery of the Trinity, God known as three persons and yet as one Being. This is why the church calendar includes Trinity Sunday on the Sunday after Pentecost.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sunday Worship Preview - May 26

Sunday, May 26 - (7:30, 9:00, & 10:30 Services) & Wednesday, May 29 (6:30 pm Casual Service @ Crossroads, 2095 Fair Avenue)

Sermon - "Unsolved Mysteries"

Features - Trinity Sunday; Memorial Day Sunday; Peace with Justice Special Offering; & Graduate Recognition

Scripture - Romans 5:1-5 & John 16:12-15

Theme - The Trinity is one of those mystifying doctrines of the Christian faith. How can God be one and yet known in three persons? In addition to the Trinity, there are many other mysteries in life for which we seek answers. As we try to understand these unsolved mysteries, Jesus reminds us that we can't bear it all at once. What we can do is to continue to follow Jesus one day at a time.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Dave's Deep Thoughts - The Mothers' Day Before Mothers' Day

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.
It is said that absence can make the heart grow fonder,
but can it do much more?
It has been almost a year
since my family gave Mom back to the Lord.
The year has been filled with daily moments
of sensing her absence from us.
While I can't speak for my siblings,
I can honestly say that my
heart contains more joy than sadness.
Anyone who has watched a loved one
battle with dementia will understand.
It is a cruel disease that steals and robs.
And so I can say,
I have joy,
joy that Mom now has her mind back fully....
joy that she is with Dad, the love of her life.
I must be honest in acknowledging
that Mother's Day and her upcoming death anniversary won't be easy.
It is a part of grieving.
But throughout the years,
I considered that I have always had a 2nd Mother's Day.....
That is, the weekend before Mother's Day,
usually on Friday.
Over the years, it became the day
that Mom and I would spend together,
having lunch,
going to the nursery, choosing flowers,
and coming home to plant them around my home,
and taking plenty of time, just to talk.
Mom loved going to the local nursery
and seeing their vast array of flowers.
She would joke that I would be
purchasing all the red & yellow flowers
in support of my alma mater.
(she wasn't far from the truth)
Inevitably, she would bring me a flower
festooned in blue & gold
(the color's of my school's arch rivals)
Tongue in cheek, she would comment
on how lovely the flower would look in my yard.
In response,
I would grab another tray of red & yellow zenias
commenting that they would look MUCH better.
My Mom loved to work in her flower gardens.
And so she would give me tips on how to best plant the flowers.
No need for expensive fertilizers.
She would send me to the barnyard to shovel the manure.
"Nothing like rich manure to help the flowers grow"
she would say, except as a lifelong farm girl,
she didn't use the word manure.
The last couple of years.
as the dementia robbed Mom of mind and bodily strength,
she would help me for only a few minutes,
then she would sit and watch.
The disease though, could not take the sparkle out of her eyes
as she admired newly planted flowers.
"Don't forget to water them"
she would say, still able to offer motherly advice.
This last Friday was "my Mother's Day."
The ladies at the nursery offered their condolences.
I bought as many red & yellow flowers as I could afford.
I laughed as I boycotted the horrible looking blue & yellow flowers.
I walked down to the barnyard and shoveled the %#^!
And yes, I remembered to water each and every flower.
Though she wasn't there,
she couldn't have been any closer.
Absence can make the heart grow fonder.
It can also remind you of how much you have been given,
and thus remind you of how much you have to give to those who follow.
I know without a doubt that one day we will be reunited.
But until that day,
I will live surrounded by the love
that my Mom and Dad gave to each of us,
and I choose to offer that love to others.
And in doing so,
I find deep wells of joy.
For those who still have your moms,
may you savor each moment you have with them.
To those who have had difficult relationships with moms,
may you find a road to compassion and forgiveness.
To those who have given moms back to God,
may you be flooded with a joy that only comes
from the love in a mother's heart.
Happy Mother's Day!
Just keep your blue & yellow flowers to yourself, thank you.
You did it: You changed my wild lament
into whirling dance;
You ripped off my black mourning band,
and decked me with wildflowers.
I'm about to burst with song;
I can't keep quiet about You.
God, my God, I can't thank you enough.
Psalm 30:11-12
(The Message Version)

Lectionary Bible Commentary - Sunday, May 12

Sermon (Ascension Sunday, May 12) – “Real Power”

Ephesians 1:15-23

Most likely, the Apostle Paul wrote this letter while in prison. In the earliest manuscripts, the word, “Ephesus” does not appear.

This letter is Paul’s breathtaking view of the good news of Jesus Christ.

Power is a central theme in this passage since Ephesus was a Roman city that prided itself in the power of the Roman Empire. Paul wants the Christians in and around Ephesus to know of real power which can be found in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.

We often forget about the power of the good news of Jesus Christ and Paul doesn’t want us to forget! This power will transform the whole world!

V. 17 – Paul says that to know this power, we need a fresh gift of wisdom and it can be available to us now. (V. 19.)

Paul speaks of Christ being over all rulers and authorities. This reminds us of Psalm 8 because all authorities have been placed under his feet.

Luke 24:44-53

This is an Ascension Sunday scripture! Christ ascended to his throne in heaven to rule over all creation.

V. 47 - This scripture reminds us that the only way for the world to move forward and experience peace is through repentance and forgiveness. This has been made possible through the resurrection of Jesus.

Luke’s Gospel concludes with the disciples worshipping in the Temple (following the ascension of Jesus) and this is also how his Gospel began with worship in the Temple! (Luke 1 – Zechariah) For Luke, worship is at the heart of the Christian life.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sermon by Rev. Cheryl Foulk (May 5) - "Facing the Future"

We can get news 24 hours a day- world events, or happenings with our friends. We don't have to wait for  a certain “news hour “; we get get updates and breaking news continually. We also can access our worries and our concerns throughout the day and night!  Sometimes I wake up around 2am and I think about things. Perhaps you do too. 

When people are asked what concerns them, they will mention:

Money/financial security     Health/ healthcare    Getting older        

Work stress/job security        Debt       Violence/unrest           Family members/friends 

I think about the known and the unknown.  I wonder what the next month or the next year will bring. I wonder what will happen that I am totally not expecting.

Edward Grinnen is the editor in chief of Guideposts Publications and lives in New York. He writes about the day Sept 10, 2001.  The day before the date of  9-11.  He describes Sept 10 as a perfect late summer day.  Life went on in NYC as normal- he and a friend ate lunch together to celebrate her birthday, and without trepidation he made plane reservations for the next week.  But then life changed on 9-11.  He reflects “Since then nothing has been quite the same. But on that Sept.10- on any day of  my life, really- I could not possibly have known what the future held, I am not given that knowledge. That's what stays with me about this day ... the complete uncertainty of tomorrow. Yet I am given knowledge far greater than the ability to see the future. I know...that whatever unlooked- for events the next day  may bring, God is with me, today, tomorrow and forever.”

“God is with me”  is not a flimsy cliche but is at the center of Jesus' teaching.

Our Gospel passage from John recounts the meal that Jesus shared  with his disciples on the evening  that he is arrested.  That meal  we will be remembering later as we share in communion. As part of the evening Jesus told his disciples the disheartening news that he will be leaving them. Their future is uncertain. And so he offers words of  encouragement that they could use as a guide when they are on their own. The evening progresses, and the tensions in the room increase.  One disciple Judas is leaving to go betray his teacher and friend, Jesus, and another disciple Peter , even though he proclaims his loyalty, will soon  deny that he even knows Jesus.   At this dinner where there is division,  and mistrust and fear, Jesus talks to them about peace. 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. “

Their world is coming apart and Jesus tells them not to be afraid.  How is this possible? How can they not be  troubled ?

Jesus wants them to see what their lives  could be like at the other end of  “what if.” 

Even when life is turned upside down, they can know the presence and the power and the peace of Jesus. Amazingly, peace can coexist with trouble and heartache.

What is this elusive peace?  When I say that I just want “some peace and quiet”  I probably mean I  want some down time with no distractions. No interruptions. That is one definition of peace.

We also speak of peace as being the absence of something:  no commotion, fighting, disagreements, no conflict.

Peace stands on its' own as a gift from God, as a view of the future with eyes of trust.  It is the prospect that somehow we can  keep our footing even when the path is rough.  It is a  peace that will answer  our fears about the darkness ahead, and assure us that we are not alone. The presence of this peace  enables us to live faithfully in everyday life.

In another community where we lived, I visited an older couple who had a variety of struggles with their health and in maintaining their home. They were a very congenial  pair and  enjoyed sharing funny stories about themselves.  Their home was inviting  and  brightly decorated.  In their living room was a painting ,that in contrast ,was composed of drab colors of grey and blues.  It didn't seem to fit with everything else.

The picture was of a stormy sea pounding against a block wall .Black rain clouds filled the top of the canvas.  In an alcove of the stone wall, a small bird slept safe and dry in her nest ,snuggled safely in the rocks.  I got a different impression of the painting when the lady that I visited explained to me that  this picture was her favorite!  She said that the painting gave her such a sense of peace. It captured for her  God's abiding presence regardless of the circumstances.

This promised peace of God does not take away the difficulties of life.  This peace clarifies that our sorrows cannot be the final word on who we are and on the possibilities of what may lie ahead.

Rick and Tracy Lischer went through the devastating experience of the death of their son Adam when he was 33 years old.   Adam was an  attorney, and he and his wife were expecting their first child. For three months  after his diagnosis, Adam and his wife and his parents fought against the disease with all they had. Treatment was not successful and so quickly he was gone. It has been 8 years now since Adam's death. His father who is a Lutheran pastor, has written a testimony  (Stations  of the Heart) that is a reflection on what it meant to take that journey with their son. Adam spent those last weeks of his life in caring for  and being with  his family, in reading Scripture and in prayer, in  worship,in preparing gifts for his unborn daughter. Adam was asked what he wanted most from God.  His reply was “healing “ and that his two large dogs could visit him! 

He was asked again ,”If his first desire  could not be ,what did he want second? “ His request was for peace for himself and his young wife. I believe that he  was given that peace. God's presence  was obvious in Adam's choices, his outlook,  and his faith  that not only carried him through his suffering, but also carried his parents.

Dr. Gregory Jantz  has worked with people about overcoming anxiety and worries concerning the future.  I think these questions that he poses are helpful: “  If the worst you can imagine were to happen, what would that mean? How would your life go on? What would you do? What would your life be like? You need to know there is life at the other end of your fears, even your greatest ones. You need to know you have resources and help available even if the worst thing were to happen.” p. 125

His statement reminds me that there is support and we are not alone as we face the future. The instructions that Jesus shared with his disciples so long ago still speak to us when our dreams are not realized and our lives are sharply altered.

Jesus has given us  one another and has given us his Spirit to be our advocate ,our comforter, the bringer of peace.  The Holy Spirit has been described as being like a prompter in a play whispering lines to our hearts in case we forget.    

Let us hold on to the precious gift of peace especially during our 2 am worry sessions. Let us ask for and cherish this peace which gives us strength and perspective to face tomorrow.

“Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.                 
II Thessalonians3:16

Books cited:
Overcoming Anxiety, Worry and Fear: Practical Ways to Find Peace  by Gregory Jantz
Stations of the Heart:  Parting with a Son  by Richard Lischer