Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Statement by Bishop Peggy A. Johnson on the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri

I bid you grace and peace from Jesus Christ, our Lord and Prince of Peace. 

I write to ask that all members of our conference join in observing a time of prayer, as we reflect on the announcement made by the Grand Jury of whether or not Police Officer Darren Wilson should be prosecuted for the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9.

Please pray with yearning in your hearts that justice, compassion, restraint and a vigilant commitment to non-violence and peace-making will prevail in our cities during this troubled time. May God be in our midst working the Spirit’s intention of unity, wholeness and justice for all.

Bishop Peggy A. Johnson
Philadelphia Episcopal Area
The United Methodist Church

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; 23 November 2014; Christ the King Sunday; Ephesians 1:15-23

Lectionary Readings are: Ezekiel 34:11-6, 20-24; Psalm 100; Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 25:31-46

You can read them here: NIV2010 // CEB

Hymns:

UMH 154 – All Hail the Power of Jesus Name

UMH 171 – There is Something About That Name

UMH 327 – Crown Him With Many Crowns

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Today is a special Sunday in the life of the Church. It is the Last Sunday of the Church Calendar Cycle. Next week we will celebrate the First Sunday of Advent and we will begin a new church year cycle. Today is referred to as “Christ the King” Sunday. Its name is based on various scriptures where Jesus is referred to as King and as the Messiah, the Redeemer of the Universe.


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Scriptural References to Christ as King:

John 18:36- 37: Jesus is referred to as a King by Pontius Pilate

1 Timothy 1:17: Jesus is referred to as King Eternal (benediction)

John 1:49; Matthew 27:42; Mark 15:32: Jesus is acknowledged as a King of Israel by his Disciples in John. In Matthew and Mark Jesus is mocked while on the cross using “King of Israel” as a derogatory term.

Matthew 2:2; Matthew 27:11: Jesus is referred to as the King of the Jews by the Magi and by the Romans during the trial

1 Tim 6:15; Rev. 19:16: Jesus is referred to as the King of Kings

Revelation 15:3; Revelation 1:5: Jesus is referred to as King of the Ages and Ruler of the Kings of the Earth.

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St. Cyril of Alexandria (376 – 444) wrote that “Christ has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but His by essence and by nature.”

As the last Sunday of the Christian Year, today lends itself to reflection on our journeys in the past year (both individually and as a community) and to evaluation of how we made a positive difference in God’s Creation. It is an opportunity to reflect on what we have learned, on the world that we live in, how God has been present in our lives, what God is doing in God’s world and what we can do to serve God in the future.

The easiest thing for me to do today would be to deliver an inspiring message about mission and outreach, the importance of tithing, to thank everyone for their faithfulness to this church and for sitting in the pews every Sunday, to make everyone feel warm and fuzzy, and then give the benediction and everyone would go home happy.

But if I were to do that I would be doing all of us, including myself, a huge disservice. It would be a disservice because we live in complicated times and because our lives are filled with choices and difficult decisions.

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The traditional Lectionary reading for this Sunday is the parable of the Sheep and the Goats found in Matthew 25:31-46. This reading from Matthew echoes Ezekiel 34 where God promises to seek God’s followers and then to make a judgment or a decision about each of us based on how we live our lives.

It is a parable that likens the final judgment to a shepherd who separates his flock into two groups. Those on the right will be allowed to enter Eternal Life; those on the left will not.

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The parable begins with a shepherd dividing his herd, separating the sheep from the goats. Jesus asserted that there will be a great division on the final day. Those on the right hand will be allowed entrance into the kingdom, while those on the left will be denied it. And the great surprise is that those who thought they were religious turn out to be not as good as they thought, and those who thought they failed were told they did a better job than they thought.

Whether we like it or not, judgment is a fact of our lives. That is true whether we are talking about the histories of nations or the events of our own personal lives. If we break the law, society will judge us. If we live immorally — drink too much, live a lifestyle of constant stress and tension — then our bodies will judge us. Every decision that we make has implications. We simply cannot escape judgment in life.

The story of the sheep and the goats gives us a rare glimpse of what the final judgment will be like. This parable is scary for those of us who see the world in terms of absolutes like “right” and “wrong” and struggle to see the shades of gray in between.

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Did you notice that both the sheep and the goats were a part of the same herd? They were not all that different from us, the community of this church.

Did you notice that in the parable that Jesus taught, both the sheep and the goats encountered God in the past? Did you notice that both groups were surprised to learn that they had met God in the past? They knew who God was and had strong faith. They were not all that different from all of us.

“Christ the King” Sunday challenges us to reflect on our journeys (both individually and as a community) and to evaluate how we have made a positive difference in God’s Creation in the past year.

Christ the King Sunday asks of us a question, “Are we closer to God today than we were a year ago? Do we see God clearer than we were a year ago? Do we love God dearer than we were a year ago? Do we follow God nearer than we were a year ago?” (Prayer of Richard of Chicheser).

Christ the King Sunday asks of us a question, “How will our past inspire and inform our future as we strive to be the best versions of what God created us to be?”

Today is a day to reflect on what we have learned, on the world that we live in, how God has been present in our lives, what God is doing in God’s world and what we can do to serve God in the future. Paul described what he hoped the outcome of such reflection would be in Ephesians 1:17-19:

17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him [God] better [“to see thee more clearly, to love thee more dearly, to follow you more nearly” – Richard of Chichester]. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the HOPE to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

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From Pastor’s Desk; 21 November 2014

Dag Hammarskjöld (1905 – 1961), the late United Nations Secretary General and a Nobel Prize Laureate wrote, “For all that has been — thanks! For all that will be — yes!”

Because I am a first generation immigrant to USAmerica, for me Thanksgiving is the most important secular holiday. I think of Thanksgiving not only as a holiday (an opportunity to have a day off and to attend a party) but as a Holy Day (a day set aside to acknowledge God’s presence in the world around me and to turn my “eyes upon Jesus” [UMH 349]).

In the Gospel according to Luke, there is a story of Jesus healing ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19). Ten lepers came to Jesus asking to be healed. These men were rejected by the society – Luke even tells us that when they approached Jesus, they had to stay some distance away from him. They had to do that because the Jewish law stipulated that lepers may not even come near healthy people; they were outcasts. Jesus reached out to them and healed them.

Gratitude is an important part of our relationship with God because God reaches out to us no matter what our state in life might be: strong or weak, good or sinful, God comes to us and offers us his love and an opportunity to live an abundant life. And the only response we can truly give in return is our thanks.

Ten were granted their request, but only one returned; Jesus noticed that. But while ten were cured of leprosy, only the one who came back to say “thank you” was truly healed. “Stand up and go,” Jesus tells him, “your faith has saved you.” The nine ungrateful ones may have had their bodies cured, but the thankful one found healing in body AND soul. His thankfulness did not only restore his health, it made him whole.

That is the most remarkable thing about gratitude. The more we give thanks for the blessings we receive, the more abundantly the blessings come. The more we return to God and thank him for his many gifts, the more the gifts come; like the grateful leper, we discover that as our gratitude increases, God’s generosity increases even more. Gratitude is one of the most important keys to unlocking the fullness of life.

As we are getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving’2014, let us remember the story of the grateful leper in the gospel, and make his story our own. As we thank God for his many gifts, let us be prepared to demonstrate that we will put all the blessing that come our way (past, present and future) to honor Jesus and to further the Kingdom of Heaven.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Stump the Pastor: Can a Lay Person Preside Over the Sacrament of the Holy Communion?

The Sacraments are religious ceremonies or acts of the Christian Church that are regarded as an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual divine grace and presence. Sacraments center the followers of Jesus and focus us on the presence of the Holy all around us, ushering and strengthening our relationship with God. In the Methodist church we celebrate two sacraments: Baptism and the Holy Communion.

Jesus himself established these sacraments. The Baptism was established when Jesus himself was baptized. The Sacrament of the Holy Communion was established during the Last Supper.

The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church states (Here is the link):

¶340.2 Responsibilities and Duties of Elders and Licensed Pastors

Sacrament:

a) To administer the sacraments of baptism and the Supper of the Lord according to Christ’s ordinance.

(1) To prepare the parents and sponsors before baptizing infants or children, and instruct them concerning the significance of baptism and their responsibilities for the Christian training of the baptized child.

(2) To encourage reaffirmation of the baptismal covenant and renewal of baptismal vows at different stages of life.

(3) To encourage people baptized in infancy or early childhood to make their profession of faith, after instruction, so that they might become professing members of the church.

(4) To explain the meaning of the Lord’s Supper and to encourage regular participation as a means of grace to grow in faith and holiness.

(5) To select and train deacons and lay members to serve the consecrated communion elements.

b) To encourage the private and congregational use of the other means of grace.

It is responsibility of the Ordained Elder or Licensed Pastor under appointment in the local church:

  1. “To administer the sacraments of baptism and the Supper of the Lord according to Christ’s ordinance.”

  2. “To explain the meaning of the Lord’s Supper and to encourage regular participation as a means of grace to grow in faith and holiness,” and

  3. “Select and train deacons and lay members to serve the consecrated communion elements.”

There are no provisions in the Book of Discipline allowing the Administration of the Sacrament by laity. Lay assistance in the distribution of the consecrated elements, under the direction and Administration of the Elder or appointed Licensed Pastor, is both authorized and encouraged, but laity may not preside. By publishing “This Holy Mystery” in 2004, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church made it clear that in the United Methodist Church presiding at Holy Communion is the duty and function of the Ordained Elder or appointed Licensed Pastor. Laity, while they certainly are encouraged to assist at the table in the distribution of the elements, and while they may even be authorized to carry the consecrated elements to shut-ins and those in hospitals and nursing homes, may not themselves preside at the table or administer the Sacrament in the absence or even the presence of a duly ordained or appointed individual [see page 31 of the booklet].

When we take vows of membership in the local United Methodist Church, one of the promises that we make is that as members of Christ’s Universal Church, we will “continue to serve God and be loyal to Jesus through the United Methodist Church, and do all in [our] power to strengthen its ministries.” The Book of Discipline is what guides us and unites us in how we organize ourselves as followers of Jesus so that we can serve God by serving the world in which we live, and “how we do church.” When we take vows of membership in a local United Methodist church, we agree to follow the common ground rules that all Methodist Churches in the world follow and to abide by a certain code of conduct.

That being understood, there are certain situations when members of the laity may want to share the Sacrament of the Holy Communion. It may happen during a Bible study or at a fellowship meal shared by a small group. Personally I encourage that; we should remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us as often as we can. In those situations, an elder can consecrate the elements that can be later shared in a small group without the elder present.

Thinking Towards Christ the King Sunday

Lectionary Readings are: Ezekiel 34:11-6, 20-24; Psalm 100; Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 25:31-46

You can read them here:  NIV2010 // CEB

Hymns:

UMH 154 – All Hail the Power of Jesus Name

UMH 171 – There is Something About That Name

UMH 327 – Crown Him With Many Crowns

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; 26 October 2014; Commitment Sunday; Membership Sunday; Micah 6:8

This Week’s Scriptures: Micah 6:8

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV2010 / CEB

Hymns:

UMH 577 – God of Grace and God of Glory

UMH 384 – Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

Glory To His Name by Elisha Hoffman and John Stockton (Music score is available from old hymnals)

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In the last few weeks we talked about what commitment to God is and how our commitment to God manifests itself in the way we live our lives.

Today is the last sermon in this series.

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When we started this series we looked at the lives of Lazarus, Rahab, Joseph the Patriarch, the Four Lepers, Jonah, and Zacchaeus. We saw an example of commitment to God in their lives. We also talked about the resuscitation of Lazarus. Simplistically speaking we saw that when Jesus resuscitated Lazarus from the grave, Jesus did it because he knew Lazarus and because he trusted that Lazarus would not waste the gift of life. It does not mean that when some of our prayers do not get answered, that God does not trust in us. We live in a fallen world; disappointment, unrealistic expectations, death and suffering are the product of us living in a fallen world.

We saw in the lives of Rahab, Joseph the Patriarch, the Four Lepers, Jonah and Zacchaeus that commitment to God is about discernment and seeking understanding of what God is doing in the world around us. We saw that commitment to God is about figuring out what God is doing, and what God is doing is always inherently bigger than ourselves.

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Albert Einstein said once that “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Commitment to God – among other things – is about watching for and embracing new paradigm shifts; commitment to God is about embracing God-thinking. Our commitment to God begins and ends with recognizing that we need God in our lives; that we live in a broken world and that we cannot solve problems on our own; and we definitely cannot solve our problems without changing the way we think and interact with God’s Creation.

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That brought us to a discussion of how we restrict our thinking and limit our possibilities. God is always doing something new; when we limit ourselves only to what we already know and are comfortable with, we are running the risk of being left behind. The illustration that I used was, “when God gives you lemons, make lemonade.” We tunnel our vision into only one possibility – “make lemonade.” What if God wants us to make lemon preserves, or lemon merengue pie, or lemon cookies, or lemon bars?

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Our commitment to God is rooted in embracing paradigm shifts and allowing God to mold and shape us in his own image as the world changes. When we lose that understanding and begin to resist changing with the times, we run the risk of being left behind because God is always doing something new. What God is doing often gets reflected in popular culture.

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We live in a world that is constantly changing, that needs to be understood and re-interpreted by every generation and in light of what God is doing, and in light of how we – the human race – are messing up the world. Feeling God’s “heart beat next to mine” is about our search for God’s Grace and guidance to right the wrongs.

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That is why God organized us into communities that we call “churches” and that is why God gave us centers of operations that we call “church buildings.” Church buildings are tools in the arsenal of church communities that can be used to reach out to our neighbors, for mission and outreach projects, and as a gathering place to recharge our spiritual batteries.

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I think of church buildings as Lilly pads – interconnected by roots (Scripture, Traditions, Reason, Experience as well as history and relationship with Jesus), providing a place for all kinds of people from all walks of life to recharge and refocus as we navigate our lives.

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Commitment or Pledge Sundays are about making sure that our “Lilly pad” is in good working order and is conducive to making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world. Events like “Stop Hunger Now” are about mission and outreach; for demonstrating how we, the people who call themselves the followers of Jesus, are tools in God’s hands. When new members make the decision to join our community, it is about their recognition and confidence that we feel God’s heartbeat next to ours.

Commitment to God is in our understanding that we need God in our lives, and that that our neighbors need God as well. God expects us to bring the Gospel to them. “Preach the Gospel always; use words when necessary” (St. Francis of Assisi). Remember the Gospel reading about sheep and the goats? In that reading, both sheep and goats knew their shepherd; both the righteous and sinners had an idea of who Jesus was and had a relationship with the Holy. The difference between the two was that in one group faith lived PRIMARILY in their hearts with empathy and compassion. The second group had faith that lived PRIMARILY in their heads – faith stopped with the rules.

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Our commitment to God is in living our lives in such a way that God knows that we will not waste what he has given us.

Our commitment to God is in taking God more seriously than ourselves.

Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of an evangelism and outreach project. Our neighbors, however, do want and crave an encounter with the living God and genuine faith. The world is packed with men and women who need, want, and crave to hear about wonderful things that the Holy Spirit is doing (Psalm 42:2, Psalm 143) and the Holy Spirit moves mightily in our community. Most people want to be a part of something meaningful and something bigger than themselves. There is no better place to find all that than in a community of faith that takes God more seriously than we take ourselves (Micah 6:8, MSG).

Our neighbors may not read the Bible, but they observe our lives. Each of us may be the only Bible that someone will ever read. Each one of us may be the only ambassador for Jesus that someone will ever see in their life.

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{Receiving new members.}

Stop Hunger Now Event Planned! Please spread the word!

On Saturday, October 25, 2014, Christ United Methodist Church will host a Stop Hunger Now event. Please spread the word!

Christ United Methodist Church is located at 401 High Street, Chestertown, MD  21620.

Timeline of events on Saturday:

  • 8 am – to make sure that the event goes as planned, at 8 am on Saturday, October 25, 2014 we will need a few volunteers to help set up the fellowship hall.

  • 9 – 9:30 am – we will start packing meals between 9 and 9:30 am.

  • Light lunch will be served after all the meals are packed and group photos are taken. At this time we estimate that we will be done by 11:30.

Those of you who took part in this event last year know how much fun it is and the feeling of accomplishment that you will experience knowing that your efforts will bless a hungry family.

Stop Hunger Now is an international hunger relief non-profit organization that coordinates the packaging and distribution of food and other life-saving aid to people in developing nations. Founded in 1998, it has mobilized over 450,000 volunteers to send more than 150,000,000 meals to 65 countries. To learn more about Stop Hunger Now organization please visit http://www.stophungernow.org/ or learn about them from Wikipedia On-Line encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Hunger_Now.

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The photo above was taken on November 2, 2013 at Stop Hunger Now event in Christ United Methodist Church last year. We hope to see you this Saturday.

Philos

Asher

Thinking Towards Sunday; 26 October 2014

This Week’s Scriptures: Micah 6:8; Matthew 25:31-46

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV2010 / CEB

Hymns:

UMH 577 – God of Grace and God of Glory

UMH 384 – Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

Glory To His Name by Elisha Hoffman and John Stockton (Music score is available from old hymnals)

Approximate Notes for Homecoming / Heritage Sunday @ Bethel UMC in North East, Maryland; 19 October 2014

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1 Corinthians 3:6-9 NIV 2010

6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

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Homecoming services are great occasions to celebrate the history and tradition of individual communities, to take stock of where the church is at present and to daydream about reaching for new horizons. Homecoming services are at least in part about communities reinventing and reinvigorating themselves.

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Our popular culture is packed with personalities that continually reinvent themselves. Think about Bill Gates; he went from being a visionary, entrepreneur and process designer to being a philanthropist. Think about Madonna; she went from being a pop-star with a certain slant to being a philanthropist in the African country of Malawi. Think of Michael Strahan who retired after a 15 year career as a football player and now is ½ of the Kelly and Michael show. The fabric of who we are as a country is conducive to and  is packed with  men and women that continually reinvent themselves.

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Imagine my reaction when on Thursday morning (10/9/2014) I learned that Tommy Chong is on Dancing with the Stars. I am talking about Tommy Chong of the Cheech and Chong comedic duo, who became poster children for the drug culture of the 60’s.

Richard “Cheech” Marin and Thomas “Tommy” Chong are a comedic duo and shrewd businessmen. Their business is SHOW BUSINESS. They are famous for comedy that caters to the hippie and drug culture movements of the sixties. If I had to guess, neither of them is a drug user; that is just a niche that they used in the past to make money. For the benefit of full disclosure: personally I frown upon the use of drugs, alcohol and other substances that alter one’s mood and/or personality.

Although I personally would not adopt such a business model, both Cheech and Chong had successful careers, and now that drug education and the dangers of drug use are widely known and accepted, both of them have worked very hard to reinvent themselves and to find a new niche. And that brings me back to something that I discovered a couple of years ago.

If you google “youtube cheech and chong 90 calorie brownies” you will find an internet commercial made by Cheech and Chong advertising FiberOne 90 calorie brownies.

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If you are wondering whether I really said what I said, the answer is YES, I said it! Cheech and Chong are advertising “Magic Brownies,” FiberOne 90 calorie brownies, each of which deliver 33% of your daily fiber requirements and keeps you regular.

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I have eaten quite a few of those myself ( hey as I get older my needs change just like everyone else’s) and I can attest that these brownies, to quote their commercial, “Cardboard no. Delicious yes!” The punch line of the commercial is, “Now that we are getting older, we need a NEW kind of magic from our brownies.”

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Levity aside, this commercial acknowledges that at different times we have different needs. God is active in the world that we live in; God is doing something. That means that the world is renewed every day, the world is changing every day and our community has to adapt and adjust in order to be effective representatives of God’s love and grace in Cecil County, Maryland and beyond. As the world turns, we constantly need to find NEW ways to engage the culture and the surrounding community, we need to rethink how we do church, and find NEW ways to live out our faith and devotion to God. Allow me to explain.

Every generation builds on the accomplishments of previous generations. We are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. Because of their dedication, perseverance and faith, we inherited our Christian identity and our traditions. We are a community today because they were willing to do what had to be done in order to transmit the wonderful message of God’s love and grace to us.

We have a message to tell to the nations; the message of God’s love and grace; the message of God’s involvement in God’s world and in our lives. Each one of us is God’s love letter to the world.

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That is the same message that Christians have been transmitting from generation to generation for the last 2000 years. That message does not change; what changes is how we live out that message with our whole lives and with every fiber of our beings.

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Every generation writes and sings new and different songs; every generation redefines mission, outreach and evangelism; every generation is trusted with the stewardship of what makes us who we are: followers of Jesus, sisters and brothers touched by God’s Grace, washed by the blood of Jesus and  transformed by the Holy Spirit.

With every new generation, our community must be focused, purposeful, and diligent to find NEW ways to tell the story and to discover what it means to be a follower of Jesus at the time and in the place in which we live.

Some of our ancestors planted seeds of faith, some watered the soil and nurtured seedlings, and Bethel United Methodist Church stands here today by the Grace of God and because of their faithfulness and dedication. We did not become the Light of the World and the Salt of the Earth (Matthew 5:13-16) by some cosmic accident. We became all that through God’s Grace and by their efforts. Now it is our turn to plant seeds of faith, to water them and provide an environment where others can reclaim or discover their Light and their Salt.

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Homecomings are important milestones in the life of the church. Homecomings help us to recognize how our past informs our present and inspires our future.

The Prophet Micah said it best when he said,

Micah 6:8 (The Message):

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women.

It’s quite simple:
Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.

When we do that – when we are fair and just, when we are compassionate, when we take God more seriously than ourselves (Micah 6:8) – our neighbors have a chance to see our witness and to hear our stories, to see the fruits of our relationship with God and to recognize the joy of knowing God. That is how churches give their testimony and give hope to those around them. That is how churches serve God by serving the world in which we live, and by making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

The easiest way to make disciples for Jesus is to live lives that reflect Jesus’ presence in our hearts and share it with our neighbors. Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of an evangelism and outreach project. Our neighbors, however, do want and crave an encounter with the living God and genuine faith. The world is packed with men and women who need, want, and crave to hear about wonderful things that the Holy Spirit is doing (Psalm 42:2, Psalm 143) and the Holy Spirit moves mightily in our churches. Most people want to be a part of something meaningful and something bigger than themselves. There is no better place to find all that than in a community of faith that is “about God’s business” (Luke 2:49). My hope and prayer for our community is that our lives reflect genuine faith and the presence of the Living God.

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Organizations do not change; people change and they make changes in the organizations that they are a part of. Those who came before us took God seriously (Micah 6:8); those who came before us changed what they had to, accepted what they had to and adapted where they had to in order to make sure that the song of God’s love, grace and presence in the town of North East, MD did not stop. The melody has changed through the years, the instruments we use have changed, but the message is still the same. It is our turn to write and sing new songs, to learn a new dance, to make the changes that we need to make so that the story of Jesus continues to be shared in the future by the people called Methodists.


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“… we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building” project (1 Corinthians 3:9).

May God bless our efforts and May God bless the community of Bethel United Methodist Church!

From Pastor Asher’s Desk; A Reflection for the Lamplighter.

NIV2010 Luke 22: 24 A dispute also arose among them [the Disciples] as to which of them was considered to be greatest.

Have you ever heard, or been a part of, a conversation where two or more persons are trying to outdo each other with what they have or what they accomplished in the past? Sometimes such conversations happen as a means of keeping the dialogue and discussion going; sometimes it is just bravado and bragging. Even the Disciples were not immune to such bravado and arguments. More often than not, such conversations take place because each party wants to come out on top of the story telling “contest” in order to feel good about themselves.

I am not trying to diminish the importance of feeling good about ourselves and about our accomplishments, nor am I implying that good self-image and self-esteem are trivial or unimportant. That being understood, I want to frame our “let-me-tell-you-why-what-I-have-is-better-than-what-you-have” conversations with a reading from Galatians 5:6b,13-15.

NIV2010 Galatians 5: 6b The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.


13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh [or opposing the guidance of the Holy Spirit, aft]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Life is not a race, it is a journey. When we feel the urge to boast (please note that I did not write “YOU feel the urge”; I am in the same boat, aft), let us remember that it is much more productive to spend our time loving and being of service to one another than posturing and acting self-important. God is offering us an abundant life here on earth through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as well as the opportunity to spend eternity with God through our faith in and relationship with Jesus. As followers of Jesus we are called to express our faith “through love” (Galatians 5:6) for our neighbors.

We do not need to keep score because we have a much better alternative; we have a mandate to be tools in God’s hands and be agents of God’s Creative presence in the world in which we live. We are free to be God’s hands and feet so that the world might know God’s amazing love and hopefully become a better place because we are a part of it.

The presence of Jesus and the power of who Jesus is to you is easily observed in the way you live your life. What is the “faith expression” (Galatians 5:6b) and the testimony of your life? Our friends and neighbors who don’t know God, know us. You may be the only Bible that some will ever read and the only ambassador for Jesus some will ever see. Your neighbors, friends, and other Christians read you and observe your life.

The easiest way to make disciples for Jesus is to live lives that reflect Jesus’ presence in our hearts and share it with our neighbors. Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of an evangelism and outreach project. Most people, however, want and crave an encounter with the living God and genuine faith. My hope and prayer for our community is that our lives reflect genuine faith and the presence of the Living God.

Philos

Asher

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Weekly Reflection from Pastor Asher

Every season of the annual cycle is beautiful and reflects God’s creative and renewing presence in our world. Although I love and enjoy all seasons of the year and I have a special partiality for autumn. Growing up, autumn meant cooler temperatures, harvest of grapes, pomegranates, figs, and walnuts as well as mountains covered in brilliant colors. You could not miss or ignore autumn.

Living in the North-Eastern part of the United States of America it is impossible to miss the beauty of fall colors or to be unaware of the bounty of the harvest. It is not an accident that the USAmerican holiday of Thanksgiving is celebrated in the middle of Autumn.

Autumn is also the season when nature is getting ready to rest during the season of Winter before renewing itself during the season of Spring. It is not an accident that Easter, the time when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and the renewing nature of our God, comes in the Spring. The truth is that without Autumn or Winter, there would be no Spring.

As the nature around us reflects majesty and glory of the Lord in changing leaves and the bounty of the harvest, I hope that all of us will take the time to enjoy the beauty and majesty of the season.

Prayer:

Loving, Gracious, and Creative God of the ordinary and extraordinary, give me a discerning eye to see the extraordinary in the ordinary things of daily life! Amen.

An e-note from Christ United Methodist Church Council Chair to the community and friends of the church

Our roast beef dinner last night was a wonderful success any way you want to look at it.

First, and certainly foremost, was the obvious sense of joy that our members and friends gain from working and giving together. Thanks to everyone who gave their time and effort to make this a special day. It was especially heartwarming to see how many people stayed until the end to help with cleanup . I do not have exact figures but it appears that we served about 70 more meals than last year! To me, how much profit we generated is secondary to  how we use whatever we receive. I’m happy to say that a portion of this year’s receipts will be directed towards Stop Hunger Now mission and outreach.

Again, my sincere thanks to everyone. We couldn’t do it without each of you.

Tom B.

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; 12 October 2012; Romans 10:5-17

Scriptures this week: Romans 10:5-17

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV2010 / CEB

Hymns:

At 8:45 am service @ Worton

UMH 496 – Sweet Hour of Prayer

UMH 176 – Majesty, Worship His Majesty

UMH 474 – Precious Lord, Take My Hand

At 10 am service @ CUMC

UMH 383 – This is a Day of New Beginnings

UMH 177 – He Is Lord

UMH 525 – We Will Understand it Better By and By

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“…faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ!” Paul wrote these words to the church in Rome. In the 12th century, St. Francis of Assisi said something like, “Preach the Gospel always, use words when necessary.” Today I want to start by reading from the Book of Ezekiel.

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Ezekiel 34:2-6 NIV2010

2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.

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As we hear these words, we can feel God’s frustration with the religious leaders (the shepherd of Israel) as well as God’s concern for the lost. Later in the same chapter, Ezekiel prophesied that God will send a new leader like David to seek the strays, a leader who will understand the least and the last, and the leader who will dedicate his life to bringing back the lost.

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Jesus’ ministry and teachings are infused with the passion described by Ezekiel in these verses. Although he – Jesus – never directly quotes this passage, Matthew noted that Jesus had compassion for the people because “they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36, Mark 6:34) [Hamilton, 53].

When the Pharisees were grumbling that Jesus hung out with sinners, Jesus said, “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave ninety-nine in the wilderness and goes after the one that is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4) [Hamilton 53].

In John 10:11 Jesus taught, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

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We live in a world filled with the last, the lost and the least. Not a week goes by when I do not get two or three calls asking for assistance with rent or utilities. The ugly truth is that we cannot help everyone. The ugly truth is that the problems that we are faced with are bigger than our congregation. But that does not mean that we cannot do something. There are things that we can change.

God is moving in powerful and mysterious ways in Kent County, MD.   —   {Illustration}    — I think that God is preparing to introduce systemic changes into the world around us. I think that God is raising dedicated followers who are willing to be his hands and feet in this corner of God’s Creation.

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Preaching the Love of God, the Grace of Jesus and the Renewing Presence of the Holy Spirit is not about communicating information into someone’s mind; the Good News is about imparting the Love of God into their soul. God is encountered in our attitudes, actions, and reactions much more clearly than through the words we are saying or what we write on our blogs.

The reason I constantly quote St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel always; use words when necessary” is because St. Francis knew that words are powerful. St. Francis also understood that the content of our hearts and souls carries a much more powerful testimony to God than anything that we say. Our friends and neighbors who don’t know God, know us. You may be the only Bible that someone will ever read and the only ambassador for Jesus some will ever see. Your friends and neighbors read you and observe your life. Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of an evangelism and outreach project. Most people, however, want and crave an encounter with the living God and genuine faith.

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How we take care of our physical facilities, what we do in our worship and how we interact with each other and with our neighbors sends a strong message to anyone who walks through these doors. There is not a single church in our conference that would not say that they want families with children. By contrast, very few churches produce a children’s bulletin or have a children’s sermon. Very few churches tolerate children in the sanctuary when children fuss and cry like all children do. Very few churches have a Children’s Corner section in their newsletter.

What we do and do not do sends a message. That message is louder than anything else that can be said verbally. The way our church looks and feels when someone walks in is an indicator of our relationship with God. When passersby see our church from the outside, when visitors see our church from the inside, when outsiders see us interact with each other, do they see that we in fact have a strong and vibrant relationship with God and with each other, that we are alive in our faith, and that we care?

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In Romans 10:17 Paul wrote, “…faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” What do our friends and neighbors hear when they observe us?

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“Preach the Gospel always, use words when necessary.” (Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi)

Works Cited

Hamilton, Adam. Making Sense of the Bible: Rediscovering the Power of Scripture Today. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2014.

 

Roast Beef Dinner @ Christ United Methodist Church

The church community of Christ United Methodist Church will host a Roast Beef Diner tomorrow (Friday, October 10, 2014).

Huge thanks to everyone that has signed up to help with the roast beef dinner. Please come when you can and we’ll put you to work. There are lots of jobs available. If you’ve always wanted to serve mashed potatoes and gravy, here’s your chance!

Cakes and pies can be delivered all day but preferably by noon so they can be sliced in time.

Please invite a neighbor or the cashier that helps you in Acme!  This year a portion of the proceeds will be used for missions including Stop Hunger Now.

For more information please call the Church Office or send me an e-mail!

Hope to see you all tomorrow!

Thinking Towards Sunday; 12 October 2014

What power do words really hold? According to research 55% of communication is non-verbal, 38% is in the tone and only 7% is communicated by the actual words.

The words, “Preach the Gospel: use words if necessary” are attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, a monk who lived at the end of the 12th century. Obviously there is something about St. Francis’ comment that resonates through the centuries because we still quote him today, more than 800 years after his death.

Preaching the Love of God, the Grace of Jesus and the Renewing Presence of the Holy Spirit is not about communicating information into someone’s mind; the Good News is about imparting the Love of God into their soul. God is encountered in our attitudes, actions, and reactions much more clearly than through the words we are saying or what we write on our blogs.

St. Francis of Assisi knew that words are powerful; he also understood that the content of our hearts and souls carries a much more powerful testimony to God than anything that we say. Our friends and neighbors who don’t know God, know us. You may be the only Bible that someone will ever read and the only ambassador for Jesus some will ever see. Your friends and neighbors read you and observe your life. Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of an evangelism and outreach project. Most people, however, want and crave an encounter with the living God and genuine faith.

Does God fill every nook and cranny of your soul and every fiber of your being? How does the presence of God inform and direct your life? Does the Love of God, the Grace of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit shine through your actions?

In Romans 10:17 Paul wrote, “…faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” What do your friends and neighbors hear when they observe you?

“Preach the Gospel always, use words when necessary.” (Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi)

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