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

Approximate notes for Sunday’s Message; Luke 1:46b-55; 4th Sunday in Advent

Scriptures for this Sunday: Luke 1:46b – 55

Hymns:

UMH 198 – My Soul Gives Glory to My God

UMH 214 – Savior of the Nations, Come (Use melody UMH 355)

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If you wanted to change the world, who would you choose to champion your cause?

Would you choose someone famous; a movie star, an athlete or a great performer, a celebrity, a news anchor?

Would you choose someone influential; an artist, a politician or a lawyer, someone who excels as an academic?

It is not what God did. When the time was right, God started the process in the obscure town of Nazareth, in the obscure province of Galilee, by approaching a naïve young woman named Mary who was engaged to a peasant and a carpenter.

Mary was not what we would call a shoe-in for the task of changing the world.

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Today’s Gospel reading records Mary’s experience and understanding of how God interacts with the faithful like you and I (these verses are often referred to as “Magnificat”). God “has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant” when choosing an earthly mother for the Messiah, rather than selecting a woman of prominence (1:48 NRSV). The Lord “has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts,” rather than honoring them (1:51). God “has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (1:52-53). In her song, Mary asserts that God’s values are countercultural; her personal experience of God confirms that understanding. Her song parallels the grind and struggles of daily life with the resilience of hope rooted in faith.

The Magnificat challenges us to think about what it means to wait for God in a broken world and in a time when God’s promise of redemption is met by the despair of the poor and the hungry, the greed of those who exploit others, the rage of those who commit violence, the instability of a globally intertwined economy, and the atrocities of multiple armed conflicts.

Mary’s song resonates with me. That is why today I want to share what her words mean to me personally.

Mary’s song challenges me because I tend to be all the things that she asserts God brought down. While I am not a prince, I like to be in a position of authority and influence. While I do not think of myself as prideful, humility does not come easily. While I do not consider myself rich, because of my background and travels I am well aware that we are blessed to live in one of the wealthiest countries on Earth. The Magnificat challenges me to think about what the Advent (the Incarnation 2000 years ago and the Second Coming sometimes in the future) means for all of us in a world filled with struggles and difficult choices. Mary’s song of faith and praise is a beacon of hope and a call to action for those seeking to honor God in the midst of the suffering and conflicts of daily life.

Because of all that, Mary’s song is unnerving and unsettling to me. It challenges me to think and to reflect on my values and goals. Mary’s song reminds us that we are called to serve God by serving others as an extension of God’s love and mercy towards us. Mary’s song challenges us to be the best versions of what God created each of us to be.

I also think that Mary’s song gives us a glimpse of her personal experience of God. While the Season of Advent is about Jesus coming to live among us 2000 years ago, as well as preparing ourselves for his triumphant return sometime in the future, Mary’s song points to a different “advent” of sorts: an event of allowing God to enter into our very souls to take control of our lives. How many of us gathered here can claim such an event as our own?

In the final days before Christmas, it is easy to get caught up in the busyness of the season. The Magnificat is about what we believe to be right, true and beautiful and how our lives reflect that faith. The Magnificat is about how we allow God to pilot our lives and use us as tools in his hands.

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Today I want to leave you with a question, “How does your soul magnify the Lord this Advent and, soon to be, Christmas season?”

In Memoriam: Lewis McDonald

It is with deep sadness that I post this to let the Community of Christ United Methodist Church and our neighbors in Chestertown to know that Lewis McDonald passed away from cancer last Thursday. A memorial service will be held for him on December 28, 2014 at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Bel Air, MD. Receiving will be at 1:30 pm, services at 3:00 pm and reception at 4:00 pm.

Our sympathies to Patsy, their children, friends and extended family.

Approximate Notes for the “Blue Christmas” Service reflection; December 19, 2014 @ 3 pm at Worton UMC

For the description of the “Blue Christmas” service along with some other details please click here: {CLICK ME}

We are in the holiday season and this time of the year tends to evoke memories. For most of us, most of the time, the memories are happy ones. Unfortunately the holiday season also reminds us of sad things like the loss of loved ones, friction and conflict within the family, and difficult life circumstances. We would not be human, if we did not have at least some sad memories.

Such sadness is in discord with the festive mood, bright decorations, celebrations, and sounds of Christmas carols that are so prevalent during this time of the year. It is not unusual for some of us to feel down or unsettled in the month of December.  It is not unusual for some of us to feel down or unsettled during this time of the year because we remember our Christmases past, we remember the times that we spent with the loved ones that we miss now and these memories make us sad….

The festive mood of the Christmas Season is rooted in the understanding that the very first Christmas was filled with limitless happiness and joy. It is based on our reading the first few chapters of the Gospels according to Luke and to Matthew and focusing on only one half of the story. Unfortunately there is a WHOLE other side to what we think is the familiar story of Christmas.

Most people living in the western culture know the stories of angels singing to the shepherds about peace on earth (Luke 2:8-20) and Wise Men from the East bringing gifts for the “newborn king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).

A far less popular story from the Christmas narrative is the story of King Herod ordering to kill all the male children younger than two years of age around Bethlehem (that story is found in Matthew 2:13-18). The first Christmas was also the time of mothers weeping and mourning for their lost sons, mothers whose pain was real, raw and deep (Matthew 2:17-18, Jeremiah 31:15).

Another story that we gloss over at Christmas is the story of Joseph’s anger and frustration when he found out that his fiancé was pregnant and he had nothing to do with it (Matthew 2:19). We do not think about his feelings of betrayal, his emotional pain and his courage to follow the Angel’s instructions and marry his betrothed in spite of these emotions (Matthew 2:18-25).

Another story that we gloss over at Christmas is the story of Joseph and Mary forced to go to Bethlehem to register for the census and how difficult it must have been for Mary to travel by foot in the last days of pregnancy (Luke 2:1-6).

The point that I am trying to make is that from the very beginning the birth of Jesus was surrounded by very human emotions of not only joy but also pain, not only elation but also sorrow. There were not only sounds of laughter and joy but also tears of fear and anxiety around the birth of our Savior.

When we assert that Christmas is the “most wonderful time of the year” and insist that all must be sweet, bright, hopeful, and cheerful, we deny the reality that we live in a complicated and nuanced world. The presence of sadness and sorrow does not mean that the Christmas season cannot be truly happy. It means that happiness and joy cannot be separated or isolated from the harsh realities of life.

Today I want to suggest that the pursuit of happiness is about having faith that there is meaning in life and meaning cannot be removed from the realities of life. Meaningful lives include laughter and tears, anxiety and joy, and happy, as well as, sad memories.

The Christmas Season is about feeling the real joy of the holidays without separating it from sadness or anxieties. The Christmas Season is about recognizing that Jesus came to bring hope, joy, peace, and love to the world filled with injustice and pain.

The true story of Christmas is a story of the glorious mix of joy and fear, laughter and anxiety that brings meaning to all of our lives. Our memories are what make us into who we are. May the Holy Spirit of our Lord give us courage to recognize meaning in our lives and through meaning, to experience joy and happiness. That way we can experience what the psalmist described in verses 11-12 of Psalm 30:

CEB Psalm 30: 11 You changed my mourning into dancing.
      
You took off my funeral clothes
       
and dressed me up in joy
 
12 so that my whole being
      
might sing praises to you and never stop.
     
Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

Service of “Blue Christmas.” Helping Hurting People Cope with the Holidays

clip_image002In The United States of America, the period of time between the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day is culturally known as the Christmas Holiday season. This period of time can be a painful time for many of us and our neighbors. It may be the first Christmas without a loved one who has recently died. With economic conditions in our country it may be a difficult time because a family may be dealing with the loss of a job, isolation from former coworkers, feelings of being rejected, a loss of steady income and anxiety about what the future holds for them.

The constant refrains on radio and television about the happiness of the season or about getting together with family and friends reminds many people of what they have lost, who and what they are missing and the brokenness in their lives. Although we are bombarded with invitations for joy and merriment during this time of the year, when people have experienced some significant loss or have another reason for sadness, they often feel isolated and cannot bring themselves to be cheerful. That leads to feelings of anger and guilt because their emotions are out of sync with the mood and the tone of the popular culture around them; what is happening inside of us does not ring true and genuine with the joy we are expected to feel and experience around us.

A service of “Blue Christmas” provides the space and time to acknowledge our human feelings, to meet others who experience similar emotions, and to encourage one another to find ways to cope and to reinvent ourselves in the days ahead of us. It will be a quiet service of reflection, hope and joy. It will be a service where we can express our discontent to God, and make room for the emotional peace we need to find and feel this season.

All are invited to join us for a Blue Christmas Service, Friday, December 19, 2014, at 3 pm, at Worton United Methodist Church located at 10756 Worton Road, Worton, MD 21678. If you have any questions, please call Pastor Asher at his office number in Christ United Methodist Church in Chestertown, MD.

“My Soul Magnifies the Lord…”; From the Desk of Pastor Asher; Thinking About the Season of Advent

My soul magnifies the Lord…” (The Holy Mother in Luke 1:46b, ESV).

The Gospel of Luke 1:46b-55 records Mary’s song of praise (these verses are also known as The Magnificat). It is a glimpse into Mary’s experience and understanding of how God interacts with the faithful like you and I. God “has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant” when choosing an earthly mother for the Messiah, rather than selecting a woman of prominence (1:48 NRSV). The Lord “has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts,” rather than honoring them (1:51). God “has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (1:52-53). Mary asserts that God’s values are countercultural; her personal experience of God confirms that understanding. Her song parallels the grind and struggles of daily life with the resilience of hope rooted in faith.

The Magnificat challenges us to think what it means to wait for God in a broken world and in a time when God’s promise of redemption is met by the despair of the poor and the hungry, the greed of those who exploit others, and the rage of those who commit violence.

Mary’s song challenges me because I tend to be all the things that she asserts God brought down. While I am not a prince, I like to be in a position of authority and influence. While I do not think of myself as prideful, humility does not come easily. While I do not consider myself rich, because of my background and travels I am well aware that we are blessed to live in one of the wealthiest countries on Earth. The Magnificat challenges me to think about what the Advent (the Incarnation 2000 years ago and the Second Coming sometimes in the future) means for all of us in a world filled with struggles and difficult choices. Mary’s song of faith and praise is a beacon of hope and a call to action for those seeking to honor God in the midst of suffering and conflicts of daily life.

Because of all that, Mary’s song is unnerving and unsettling to me. It challenges me to think and to reflect on my values and goals. Mary’s song reminds us that we are called to serve God by serving others as an extension of God’s love and mercy towards us. Mary’s song challenges us to be the best versions of what God created each of us to be.

In the final days before Christmas, it is easy to get caught up in the busyness of the season. The Magnificat is about what we believe to be right, true and beautiful and how our lives reflect that faith.

How does your soul magnifies the Lord this Advent and, soon to be, Christmas season?

Working Towards Sunday; December 21, 2014; 4th Sunday of Advent

Scriptures for this Sunday: Luke 1:46b – 55

Hymns:

UMH 198 – My Soul Gives Glory to My God

UMH 214 – Savior of the Nations, Come (Use melody UMH 355)

The Old Rugged Cross on US-Voice

Here is a link that John H. talked about during the worship service.

Craig Wayne Boyd “The Old Rugged Cross” – The Voice US Season 7 Live Semifinals
http://youtu.be/kojXUbRsEfw

Especially listen to one of the judges’ remarks after the song is done (around 3:14 – 3:16 on the clip)!

Approximate notes for Sunday’s Message; John 1:6-8; 3rd Sunday in Advent

Scriptures for this Sunday: John 1:6-8, 19-28 // 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV and ESV

{ Chrismon Service

   If anyone wants a Chrismon Service Liturgy, pls contact me and I will get you a printout
}

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There is a story of a man who fell into a pit. The walls were so steep that he could not get out. “A doctor passed by and the men shouted, “Hello!!! Can you help me?” The doctor wrote a prescription, threw it down into the hole and moved on.

Then a pastor came along and the man cried out again, “Pastor, I’m down in this hole; can you help me to get out?” The pastor said a prayer, and moved on.

Then a friend walked by, and the man cried out again, “Hey, Joe! it’s me down in the pit. Can you help me to get out?” So the friend jumped down into the hole. Our man said, “Are you crazy? Why did you jump in? Now both of us are stuck down here.” His friend then replied, “Yep, you are right! Both of us are here now but I have been down here before and I know how to get out.”

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In the Gospel of John, chapter 1 verse 7 we hear, “[John the Baptist] came as a witness to testify concerning … [the] light, so that through him all might believe” (NIV2010). In Chapter 8 of the Gospel of John, Jesus himself made a claim that he is “the light of the world” (verse 12).

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Light is not always a welcome phenomenon because light illuminates things. Light can expose imperfections, messes and piles of stuff; light can expose “skeletons in our closets.” While such illumination could be healing and freeing, it also could expose things that we do not want to expose. One of the ways to make any room inviting is to dim the lights so that all the mess, dust, dirty dishes and carpet stains are not visible and our imaginations fill in the details where the light no longer shines. I think that most personal growth in our lives happens in the tension between learning when and how to clean up after mistakes (how to get out of the pit) and figuring out which areas of our lives could be dimmed because only God can fix those.

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Advent is the time the Church sets aside for all of us to think about what Jesus’ coming into our world means to us, and in response, to start preparing ourselves for his second coming, his second Advent. The Season of Advent is a period of time that reminds us that one day, all that you and I think, say, reflect on, believe and do will meet the light of God. All truth will be known and all will be revealed.

While it is scary to know that all our imperfections will be revealed one day, it is also comforting. It is scary because all of us have unmet obligations, broken promises, and unresolved conflicts in our lives that need tending to; all of us have “skeletons in our closet.” It is scary because it may mean that we will discover ourselves in the pit.

It is comforting because we also know that Jesus has been in the pit. Jesus came to live among us, to experience our emotions, to share our lives, and to give us an example of what our abundant lives (John 10:10) can be like. It is comforting because Jesus has been here in our pit and Jesus can help us to get out. It is comforting because the LIGHT shines more brightly against a backdrop of darkness and it is in the “pits of our lives” where we feel the darkest and where we are most aware of our need for God’s Grace, Love and Presence in our lives.

The Advent season is the time to recognize that in some areas of our lives we are in a pit. The Advent season is the time to turn up the dimmer switch on our lives and make the necessary course corrections so that we can help each other get out of those pits.

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In 2nd Corinthians chapter 1 Paul wrote, “3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (emphasis added, AFT).”

During the Chrismon service, every Christ Monogram that we use is based on a symbol or a saying from Jesus’ life. Today’s Scripture reading tells us that John the Baptist came as a witness to testify concerning the LIGHT of Jesus, so that all might believe (John 1:7). What we do not have, however, is a Chrismon of Light. Truthfully I do not even know how we would make one. But there is a Chrismon of Light in this sanctuary. As a matter of fact there are multiple Chrismons of Light in this sanctuary and these Chrismons are you, every one of you. You are God’s light to the world (Matthew 5:14).

As this service comes to a close, I want to leave you with a couple of questions, “Are you a witness to the LIGHT of Jesus? Do you have the courage to shine the light on your life as we are preparing ourselves for the coming of the Messiah?”

From the Desk of Pastor Asher; Thinking About the Season of Advent

NIV2010 John 1: 6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning … [the] light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

John the Baptist came to “testify to the light” (John 1:7). Before we say, “That’s AWESOME!,” let us remember that light is not always a welcome thing because light illuminate things; light can illuminate messes and piles of dirt. One of the reasons that dimmer switches are so popular is because they make it easy to hide dust, debris, dirty dishes, make stains disappear, and give rooms an aura of mystery as our imagination fills in where the light no longer shines.

When we allow God into our lives, things that hold us back are illuminated and can become painfully obvious. The Holy Spirit helps us to overcome the things that hold us back, and empowers us to move forward.

Every time that we celebrate the Holy Communion we affirm the mystery of our faith that Christ came to live among us during his first Advent 2000 years ago, died, rose on Easter Sunday, that his Holy Spirit is among us today, and some day in the future he will come again during his second Advent. It means that one day, all that you and I think, say, reflect on, believe and do will meet the light of God. All truth will be known and all will be revealed.

Knowing that God is coming back, all of us need some tidying up. All of us have unmet obligations, broken promises, and unresolved conflicts in our lives that need tending to; sometimes we refer to these as “skeletons in our closet.” The Advent season is the time of preparation during which we are urged to turn up the dimmer switch on our lives and make necessary course corrections before it is too late.

Thinking Towards Sunday; 14 December 2014; 3rd Sunday of Advent

Scriptures for this Sunday: John 1:6-8, 19-28 // 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV and ESV

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; 2nd Sunday of Advent; Mark 1:1-8

Scripture Reading for Sunday: Mark 1:1-8

You can read it here: NIV and ESV

Hymns for this Sunday

UMH 383 – This Is a Day of New Beginnings

UMH 140 – Great Is Thy Faithfulness (verse 3)

UMH 108 – God Hath Spoken by the Prophets (use melody 400)

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For some strange reason there are no Christmas cards depicting John the Baptist… At least I have never seen one…

Second Sunday of Advent Season is traditionally dedicated to John the Baptist. John the Baptist is described as a gruff, austere, and harsh individual. We read about him in Matthew 3, Matthew 4:12-17, Mark 1: 1-11 and Luke 3.

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Mark describes John the Baptist as someone who lived in the wilderness. John wore a cloak made from camel hair with a leather belt around his waist. His diet consisted mainly of locusts and honey (Mark 1:6, Matthew 3:4). John is also described as someone who did not put up with idiocy; Matthew writes, “7 But when he [John the Baptist] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (NIV2010).

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When John the Baptist was asked what people should do to repent, he gave them practical and sound advice. Check out Luke 3:7-14:

· “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same” (Luke 3:11).

· “Don’t collect any more than you are required to” (addressed to the tax collectors and bureaucrats, Luke 3:13)

· “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay” (Addressed to the soldiers / policemen, Luke 3:14).

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I wonder what would John the Baptist’s message would be today? I wonder how many of us would have the courage to spend time with him and to hear what he has to say. I wonder whether we would dismiss him as a crazed man if we were to meet him today.

John the Baptist did not sugarcoat anything. The longer I live, the more I realize WHY there is very little demand for Christmas cards calling the recipients a “brood of vipers” and wishing them the “wrath to come” a.k.a. to burn in hell. {}{}{}{}

The sad truth is that John the Baptist was right.

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The true meaning of the Season of Advent has been lost in our society and culture. By and large, we have been tricked by chocolate-filled Advent calendars and cheerful Holiday Parties that gloss over the very real evil that makes Jesus’ First Advent and his anticipated Second Advent so very necessary.

We forgot that the season of Advent is not a holiday party. Advent is not about ringing bells or glossing over the difficult realities of our lives. Advent is not about our best world, it is about our worst world. In many cases, holiday parties, feasts, banquets, and the pageants distance us from the realities that we do not want, or are even scared, to face.

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John the Evangelist opens his account of Jesus’ life by writing, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … Through him all things were made…. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5)

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When we make this season one giant holiday party be-speckled with shopping, we do the LIGHT (John 1:5) a disservice because we sweep the darkness out of sight instead of recognizing its presence. Jesus entered a world plagued not only by the darkness of individual pain and sin, but also by the darkness of systemic oppression. Jesus’ people, the Hebrews, were a subjugated people living as exiles in their own land; among other things, they were silenced, targets of militant brutality, and exploitatively taxed. They were a people so beaten down by society that only a remnant continued to believe that the Messianic prophecies would one day come to pass. For many, the darkness of long-standing oppression had extinguished any hope for liberation and freedom.

It was into this “worst world” that the LIGHT of the world, that Jesus was born 2000 years ago, liberating the people from the terror of darkness. So it is in the midst of our worst world that we too, can most clearly see the LIGHT, because LIGHT SHINES MORE BRIGHTLY AGAINST A BACKDROP OF DARKNESS (John 1:5).

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Advent season is an invitation to recognize our fears and to give them to Jesus in the hopes that the Holy Spirit of God will make us better men and women as we deal with the realities of our lives. Advent is about us coming to the realization that we need God in our lives. Advent is about preparing ourselves for God to come into our lives and us being open to God’s guidance. The season of Advent is about us coming to the realization that it is the Holy Spirit of God that makes us better persons, not our chocolate filled holiday parties and shopping trips.

The Sacrament of the Holy Communion

This message was inspired and influenced by the original reflection by Christena Cleveland. A colleague of mine posted this reflection on my timeline on facebook. The original reflection writen by Christena Cleveland can be read @ http://www.christena cleveland.com/2014/11/adventdarkness/

From Pastor Asher’s Desk; Thinking About the Season of Advent

Disclaimer: The following reflection was adapted from the original reflection by Christena Cleveland. A colleague of mine posted her reflection on my timeline on facebook. I only made few minor modifications to adapt this reflection. The original can be read @ http://www.christena cleveland.com/2014/11/adventdarkness/

“… the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Genesis 1:2 NIV2010)

The true meaning of the Season of Advent has been lost in our society and culture. By and large, we have been tricked by chocolate-filled Advent calendars and blissful Christmas pageants that gloss over the very real evil that makes Jesus’ First Advent and his anticipated Second Advent so very necessary, so very loving, and so very heroic.

Advent is not a holiday party. Advent is not about ringing bells or glossing over the difficult realities of our lives. Advent is not about our best world, it is about our worst world. In many cases, holiday parties, indulgences of the season, and the pageants help us to distance ourselves from the realities that we do not want, or even scared, to face.

But we do the LIGHT a disservice when we underestimate the darkness. Jesus entered a world plagued not only by the darkness of individual pain and sin, but also by the darkness of systemic oppression. Jesus’ people, the Hebrews, were a subjugated people living as exiles in their own land; among other things, they were silenced, targets of militant brutality, and exploitatively taxed. They were a people so beaten down by society that only a small remnant was idealistic and brave enough to continue to believe that the Messianic prophecies would one day come to pass. For many, the darkness of long-standing oppression had extinguished any hope of freedom and liberation.

It was into this “worst world” that the Light-In-Which-We-See-Light (John 1:1-5) was born, liberating the people from the terror of oppression and hopelessness. So it is in the midst of our worst world that we too, can most clearly see the LIGHT, because light shines more brightly against a backdrop of darkness.

Advent is an invitation to plunge into the deep, dark waters of our worst world, with faith that when we re-surface for air we will encounter the hopeful, hovering Spirit of God. For when we dive into the worst depths of our world, we reach a critical point at which our chocolate filled holiday parties and pageants no longer satisfy our longing for hope; and we are liberated by this realization (John 8:32). Indeed, the light of true hope is found in the midst of darkness.

So, this Advent season, let us continue to seek the LIGHT. Let us continue to long for the coming Messiah; a longing that began when the earth was still formless and empty and continues to this day.

“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3 NIV2010)

~~ based on reflection by Christena Cleveland (http://www.christena cleveland.com/2014/11/adventdarkness/)

Disclaimer: The above reflection was adapted from the original reflection by Christena Cleveland. A colleague of mine posted this reflection on my timeline on facebook. I only made few minor modifications to adapt it. The original can be read @ http://www.christena cleveland.com/2014/11/adventdarkness/

Thinking Towards Sunday; 2nd Sunday of Advent; December 7, 2014

Scripture Reading for Sunday: Mark 1:1-8

You can read it here: NIV and ESV

Hymns for this Sunday

UMH 383 – This Is a Day of New Beginnings

UMH 140 – Great Is Thy Faithfulness (verse 3)

UMH 108 – God Hath Spoken by the Prophets (use melody 400)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Psalm 100 – His Steadfast Love Endures Forever

A Psalm for giving thanks.

ESV 100: 1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

It was wonderful to see so many people at the last night’s ecumenical Thanksgiving worship service. It was a blessing to worship God with our sisters and brothers from so many different churches.

Bishop Tilghman’s sermon was awesome and was a reminder of everything that we have to be thankful for, and it was so uplifting to hear the voices of the combined choir.

Tomorrow as we sit down to our Thanksgiving Dinners let us remember each other in our thoughts and prayers. God brought all of us together as one community and gave us a joint mission to Make Disciples for Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World. Let us rejoice and be thankful in our shared mission and invitation to serve God.

Philos

Asher

From Pastor Asher’s Desk; Preparing for the Season of Advent

There is a tradition in some countries of Central America that takes place during the season of Advent that is referred to as Las Posadas. The Spanish word “posada” translates into English as “lodging” or “inn” or “accommodations.” The festival of Las Posadas is traditionally observed for nine days beginning December 16 and ending December 24. The object of the tradition is to recreate Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem.

The celebration consists of a nightly procession with candles. Every night there are individuals selected to represent Mary and Joseph. Each procession makes its way to a different home where Joseph’s dialogue with an inn-keeper asking for shelter is reenacted. The “inn-keeper” (usually the patriarch or the matriarch of the family where the Las Posadas procession stops that night) keeps insisting that there is no room at the inn and asks the Holy Family to stop bothering his family and leave them alone. He or she eventually agrees to host Mary and Joseph in the stables. After the re-enactment, the doors of the house are opened and everyone comes inside.

Inside the house there usually is an informal prayer service with scriptures reading, recitation of prayers and singing of hymns.

November 30, 2014 is the First Sunday of the Advent Season. As we are preparing for Christmas, in the midst of all the hustle and bustle, frenzied shopping, and the usual noise and pressures of the holiday season, what would your response be if Jesus showed up at your door and inconvenienced you during this holiday season by asking you to do something? What does it mean to you that God made a choice to come to this planet and to reach out to you personally and to invite you to be in a relationship with God through the person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

What will you say when Jesus shows up at your door step?

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