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

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

If you want to read our latest newsletter, it is posted at http://www.weleyanjourneyman.com

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)

Thinking Towards Sunday; 12 October 2014

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

Liturgy for the Service to Honor Firemen, Law Enforcement Officers and Emergency Medical Services Personnel

Welcome

Opening Prayer:

Loving and Gracious God, Supreme Protector and the Source of our hope, strength and courage!

Our society needs men and women of integrity, courage, common sense, common decency and un-common courage for protection and help in all times and places.

You call and inspire the best of the best in our society to accept life protecting others. You call them to serve as Fire Fighters, Police -men and -women and Emergency Medical Services Personnel. They play an indispensable role in building and protecting our nation and holding together our society.

May all people of good will show their thanks and support to the police, fire fighters and emergency medical services personnel who protect us from dangers as they put themselves in harms way to protect others who they may not even know.

We thank God for calling them to God’s service and ask to grant them courage when they are afraid, wisdom when they must make split-second decisions, strength when they are weary, and compassion in their work.

When the alarm sounds, help them to faithfully serve you as they help friends and strangers.

We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

From the Sacred Scriptures:

NIV2010 Luke 10:30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

A Short Reflection Pastor Asher

The Good Samaritan as a State Trooper

The Good Samaritan as a Fireman

The Good Samaritan as an EMT

Remembering Those Who Lost Their Lives.

As names are called, the bell will sound once for each name

Closing Prayer

Loving and Gracious God, Supreme Protector and the Source of our hope, strength and courage!

We pray for the firefighters, law enforcement officers and emergency medical services personnel of our nation. Thank you for their courage, dedication and commitment in serving the people of our country. We thank you for their bravery and willingness to risk their own lives in the service of others.

We pray that you protect them from harm or injury and give them wisdom when making split second decisions. Encourage and strengthen them mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Help them to overcome the stress and hardships that come with their chosen profession.

We pray that you bless their homes and families. Give them peace, comfort, courage and stamina to cope with the sacrifices that are required of their loved ones.

We pray for our nation to envelop these servants with respect and support.

May God bless America! May God bless its law enforcement, fire fighters and emergency medical services personnel.

In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

FYI

The Patron Saint of Firefighters – St. Florian

Florian was born about 250 CE in the ancient Roman city of Aelium Cetiumin in present-day Sankt Pölten, Austria. He joined the Roman army and advanced in the ranks, rising to commander of the imperial army in the Roman province of Noricum. In addition to his military duties, he was also responsible for organizing firefighting brigades. Florian organized and trained an elite group of soldiers whose sole duty was to fight fires. Because of his dedication and accomplishments in the field of fire fighting, St. Florian is the patron saint of the firefighters.

The Patron Saint of Police and Law Enforcement

In Abrahamic tradition, Archangel Michael is the Supreme Enemy of Satan and the fallen angels. Because Saint Michael came to symbolize the victory of good over evil, he is the Patron Saint of Police and Law Enforcement.

The Patron Saint of Emergency Medical Services

John of God was born 8 March 1495 in Portugal. In his early life he was a soldier; in his later years he dedicated his life to taking care of the sick. In 1535, he founded his first hospital at Granada in Spain, where he tended to the sick and afflicted. His followers later formed the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God, a worldwide Catholic religious institute dedicated to the care of the poor sick and those suffering from mental disorders. Because of St. John of God’s dedication and devotion to taking care of the sick in times of extreme peril and danger he is the Patron Saint of the Emergency Medical Services personnel.

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; 5 October 2014; Luke 4:14-22

Scriptures for this Sunday: Luke 4:14-22

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV2010/CEB

Hymns:

UMH 695 – O Lord, May Church and Home Combine

UMH 657 – This Is the Day

UMH 261 – Lord of the Dance

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Today’s Scripture reading is titled, “Jesus Rejected at Nazareth.” We read the first portion of the reading, and at the end of the reading people in the synagogue were happy with what they heard Jesus preach. We heard things like, “We knew this kid when he was in diapers… He did well… He will go far… Joseph and Mary must be so proud…” But we know the rest of the story. We know that in this story people who spoke well of Jesus would ultimately try to stone him and throw him off of a cliff to a certain death.

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So how do we get from “All spoke well of him” (Luke 4:22) to “All the people in the synagogue were furious…” (Luke 4:28) and tried to “throw him off the cliff” (Luke 4:29).

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We know that Jesus came to his hometown after being tempted for forty days by the Devil, fairly early in his ministry. In Luke 4:14-15 we hear:

14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

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One Saturday morning, Jesus came to the synagogue where he grew up, and was invited to preach. He found the scroll of Isaiah and read what we know today as Isaiah 61:1-2, and used that Scripture as a basis for his sermon. We do not know what Jesus said in this sermon, Luke did not record it. We do know that everybody liked that sermon; “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked” (Luke 4: 22).

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Then everyone went for a nosh to eat, or maybe a week went by and Jesus was again in front of the congregation. We do not know what Jesus said in that second sermon either. We know, however, that someone asked him to demonstrate what he had been doing around Galilee.

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In Luke 4:23 we hear,

23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”

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And then Luke records that Jesus expanded on his message.

24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

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The way I understand what happened is that Jesus challenged his synagogue to expand their thinking, to see him for who he was, not for who they wanted him to be.

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Today we will continue with the sermon series about commitment. Our personal commitment to God is what keeps us connected to each other. God is the common denominator in our relationship to each other. Our commitment to God is what translates into action: our common Christian mission, evangelism and outreach. Our commitment to God is what translates into what we believe to be right, true and beautiful. Our commitment to God translates into how we work together with our neighbors. Our commitment to God translates into our willingness to step out and try something that we’ve never done before. Our understanding of and our commitment to God translates into our interactions with the world around us, i.e. making disciples, volunteering, voting, recycling, what we do and do not do.

Our commitment to God is what challenges us to seek new ways to be in ministry, because God is always doing something new. What we consider to be routine and common knowledge today is yesteryear’s source of frustration and discernment. History teaches us that God is bigger than our routines and habits.

That is why, as we try to figure out what our church will become in the future and how we will continue making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world, I would like to take time today to talk about what discernment is and what it is not. Today I want to talk about times when our habits and routines prevent us from recognizing God’s creative presence all around us.

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Jesus’ contemporaries had their routines and habits. Jesus came demonstrating that God is bigger than their routines, habits and conventions. Jesus came demonstrating that routines, habits and conventions can prevent us from recognizing God’s presence and work around us. We know the illustration that Jesus used: God did not send Elijah to a widow in Israel; God sent Elijah to a land far away. Although there were many people with leprosy in Elisha’s time, God healed a foreigner – Naaman, a general of the enemy’s army – not a fellow Israelite.

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We say things like “When God gives you lemons, make lemonade.” This kind of thinking asserts that we need to do “something” and that something is “lemonade.” This kind of thinking tries to stuff God into what we know and are comfortable with. What if God wants us to make lemon squares, or lemon merengue pie, or use lemons for something other than lemonade? Because we precondition ourselves to make lemonade it is difficult for us to recognize God when God is making something other than lemonade.

{Illustration: Church history and tradition is the story of countless generations of Christians discerning what God was doing in the world. It is our turn.}

{Transition to the Holy Communion}

Thinking Towards Sunday; 5 October 2014

Most of our lives are guided by daily routine and habits. Unfortunately when we are navigating our lives following our daily routine and habits, we develop an aversion to recognizing the times when our routine does not work any longer. Our ability to make important decisions and effect changes atrophies and we end up in a place where we recognize a need for something to be done, but we do not know how to go about doing it. We stoically continue with our lives, doing the best we can. We say, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

It is hard to break old habits and established daily routine. It is even more difficult to imagine what can fill the void when those old habits and established routines are changed. It is difficult to imagine what life can be.

The Affirmation of Faith UMH883 states that God “has created and is [still] creating” the Universe. God is always doing something new. What we consider to be routine today is yesteryear’s source of frustration and discernment. God is bigger than our routines and habits.

Jesus’ contemporaries had their routines and habits. Jesus came demonstrating that God is bigger that their routines, habits and conventions. Jesus came demonstrating that  routines, habits and conventions can prevent us from recognizing God’s presence and work around us.

Prayer:

Loving and gracious God!
Open my heart and help me to recognize your presence in the world around me. Make me an instrument of your love and grace and use me in the process of creation in your world. AMEN.

Thinking Towards Sunday; 5 October 2014

Scriptures for this Sunday: Luke 4:14-22

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV2010/CEB

Hymns:

UMH 695 – O Lord, May Church and Home Combine

UMH 657 – This Is the Day

UMH 261 – Lord of the Dance

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message;28 September 2014; John 15:1-11

Scriptures for this Sunday: John 15:1-11

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV2010 & CEB

Hymns for this Sunday:

UMH 108 – God Hath Spoken by the Prophets (Use melody UMH 707)

UMH 314 – In the Garden  (verse 1)

UMH 452 – My Faith Looks Up to Thee

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“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Actually this is incorrect. When life gives you lemons, all you can make is lemon juice, some pulp, and maybe some lemon zest. To make lemonade you will also need sugar or honey, clean water, a pot to mix everything in, a stirring spoon and a source of heat (electric, natural gas, propane, firewood, stove).

Last week I shared with you a couple of my personal experiences of God. An obvious question to ask was, “How did you know that what you experienced was from God and not something that you wished for and your mind was playing tricks on you? How did you discern that it was from God?”

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Today we will continue with the sermon series about commitment. Our personal commitment to God is what keeps us connected to each other. God is the common denominator in our relationship to each other. Our commitment to God is what translates into action: our common Christian mission, evangelism and outreach. Our commitment to God is what translates into what we believe to be right, true and beautiful. Our commitment to God translates into how we work together with our neighbors. Our commitment to God translates into our willingness to step out and try something that we’ve never done before. Our understanding of and our commitment to God translates into our interactions with the world around us, i.e. making disciples, volunteering, voting, recycling, what we do and do not do.

Before we work together, before we step out on faith, before we make disciples, volunteer, vote, recycle and do whatever it is we do based on our commitment to God, there is a period of time when we are purposeful in our prayer and listening to God. We call it a period of discernment.

That is why, as we try to figure out what our church will become in the future and how we will continue making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world, I would like to take time today to talk about what discernment is and what it is not. Today I want to talk about times when we feel a nudge in a certain direction, and the process of figuring out whether this nudge comes from God or from our own egos and desires. Today I want to talk about the process of discernment that all of us go through at one time or another.

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1 Corinthians 12:9-10 New Living Translation

9 The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. 10 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said.

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{Illustration: Brimstone Hill}

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The obvious question is, how did I know that what I felt was from God and not something that I subconsciously decided would be a cool thing to do?

In my experience, when God communicates with me, it is like getting a bunch of lemons.

  • Using God’s instructions I can make lemon juice, some pulp and some lemon zest.

  • I can also get some sugar, some water, a big pot, some sweeteners, a heat source and a stirring spoon and make lemonade.

  • I can make lemon squares or lemon cake.

  • Or I can get some paprika, ground pepper, rock salt, and Old Bay, mix it with yellow mustard, lemon juice, lemon pulp, lemon zest and make a marinade for roasted chicken or baked ham.

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In my experience, I never received instructions that told me specifics like, “Here is a lemon. Make juice, make pulp and make zest.” In other words, when I feel the Holy Spirit nudging me, what I am being nudged towards is usually a bit more challenging. It takes a period of trial and error and CONFIRMATION from the Holy Spirit to discern exactly what I am being nudged towards.

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That period of discernment is a period of prayer, listening to God and figuring out what it is exactly that the Holy Spirit wants me to do. {Example: Some people also add fasting to this list, I have never felt a call to fast.}

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To discern exactly what the Holy Spirit was telling me to do on Brimstone Hill, I started with the Thanksgiving service. Bishop Tilghman and I had planned this service earlier, and the message was to be about what Thanksgiving means to me as a first generation immigrant to the United States. As I was writing this sermon AFTER my Brimstone Hill experience, it touched some of my personal and emotional wounds, and until the last moment that I stepped to the pulpit of The Potter’s House Ministries I was not sure that I had the courage or stamina to preach that sermon; it was too close to my soul. That message took a lot to write and even more to deliver.

Confirmation from the Holy Spirit came in the response from the congregation. {Illustration}

When we receive instructions from the Holy Spirit, here is what I think are some of the common aspects of communication from God.

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1) When we follow the Holy Spirit’s instructions, our resulting actions always glorify God (not elevate our status or boost our egos).

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2) When we follow the Holy Spirit’s instructions, we are always challenged to step out on faith.

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3) When we follow the Holy Spirit’s instructions, we receive confirmation from others. Those confirmations [in my experience] are “ah-ha” moments, or “I did not think about it from that point of view” moments.

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4) When we follow the Holy Spirit’s instructions, we are rarely given everything that we need. Some of the stuff is provided along the way. {We get lemons, and then we get some sugar, some H2O, etc.} Those additional items that we need are not necessarily provided on our timing, but are provided when we ready to effectively use them to the glory of God.

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5) When we follow the Holy Spirit’s instructions we are challenged to become the best version of what God created us to be. It is always easy to fall back to something that we know and to find an easy way out. The challenge is to allow the example of Jesus, the guiding of the Holy Spirit and the presence of God into our hearts and souls, and put our egos aside.

{Illustration: We see example of that in Acts 10 – the story where Peter is sent to Cornelius.}

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As a church, God gave us to each other. As a church we are challenged to make disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world; we are challenged to till the soil and to tend to this corner of the Garden of God’s Creation; we are challenged to make this world a better place.

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In today’s metaphor, we are a bunch of lemons. As the world turns and as time flows, the Church of Jesus is constantly discerning how to reach beyond its walls. We are given ingredients that make the “lemonade” that God needs at the time and at the place. We are challenged to reach beyond the walls of this building, to be instruments in God’s hands and help each other and our neighbors to become the best of what God created us to be.

That is one of the reasons for why we take care of our physical facilities. {Illustration}

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What is the difference between God calling us to action and wishful thinking on our part? Thinking Towards Sunday; 28 September 2014

NIV2010 John 15: 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

~~ Jesus

How do we discern the difference between God communicating with us and wishful thinking on our part? Countless generations of Christians have struggled with this question.

All of us have a tendency to justify our wishes. Simply speaking, a wish is a combination of hope and an intent. We wish for something when there is a problem or a situation that we want to resolve. A wish seeks guidance, direction, knowledge, and assistance. Wishes are like requests. Very often we direct our wishes to God because we tend to think of God as a vending machine that grants wishes when we press just the “right” buttons or say the “right” words.

There is a difference between God calling us to action and our wishful thinking. If and when we want something, it is tempting to think that God wishes the same thing for us. That is a process of justifying our thinking.

The litmus test that differentiates between wishful thinking and the Holy Spirit challenging us to be the best version of what God created us to be is the answer to a simple question: who will our actions glorify? When the actions we want to take will result in elevation of our status, that it is probably wishful thinking on our part. On the other hand, God’s communication shines the light on God’s Creation and results in us being a blessing to others.

Prayer:

Loving and gracious God!

I pray that the mind of Christ (Phil 2:5) be in me, guide me daily, and help me to discern wishful thinking on my part from your guidance on my life.

Amen.

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