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

Schedule and Location of the Holy Week Services

  • On Thursday, April 2, 2015 @ 7 pm we will gather in the sanctuary of First UMC for Maundy Thursday service. Special thanx to members of CUMC and FUMC who agreed to take leading parts in the service.

  • On Friday, April 3, 2015 @ noon there will be Cross Walk in the open chapel of FUMC.

  • On Friday, April 3, 2015 @ 7 pm we will gather in the sanctuary of Potter’s House Ministries for the Service of Seven Last Words. Please make an effort to be there; it is a meaningful service and you will be blessed.

  • On Sunday, April 5, 2015 @ 6:15 am we will gather at Wilmer Park Pavilion for the Sunrise Service. Last Sunday there was a confusion about the timing of the service and I apologize for that confusion. The service will be at 6:15 AM with Bishop Tilghman preaching.

  • Immediately after the Sunrise service we will gather in the fellowship hall of First UMC for breakfast. Everybody is invited.

  • On Sunday, April 5, 2015 @ 8:45 am there will be Easter Sunday Service at Worton UMC. We will celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Communion.

  • On Sunday, April 5, 2015 @ 10 am there will be Easter Sunday Service at Christ UMC. We will welcome two new members into the community and we will also celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Communion.

!!!! IMPORTANT:

Since I made a mistake about the timing of the Sunrise service, I apologize. Please contact your friends and neighbors to make sure that everyone is on board about the timing of the Sunrise service. It is on Sunday, April 5, 2015 at 6:15 am in the Wilmer Park Pavilion.

Working Towards Sunday; Easter Sunday 2015

Scripture this Sunday will be John 20:1-18

You can read John’s account of the Resurrection here: {NIV & ESV)

Hymns this Sunday:

UMH 303 –  The Day of Resurrection

UMH 314 – In the Garden

UMH 304 – Easter People, Raise Your Voices

 

Easter Reading interleaved with Lyrics to “In the Garden”

Voice 1:  NIV2010 John 20: 1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

Voice 2: NIV2010 John 20: 11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

I come to the garden alone
while the dew is still on the roses,
and the voice I hear falling on my ear,
the Son of God discloses.

Refrain:

And he walks with me, and he talks with me,
and he tells me I am his own;
and the joy we share as we tarry there,
none other has ever known.

Voice 1: NIV2010 John 20: 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

He speaks, and the sound of his voice
is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
and the melody that he gave to me
within my heart is ringing.

Refrain:

And he walks with me, and he talks with me,
and he tells me I am his own;
and the joy we share as we tarry there,
none other has ever known

Voice 2: NIV2010 John 20: 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

I’d stay in the garden with him
though the night around me be falling,
but he bids me go; thru the voice of woe
his voice to me is calling.

Refrain:

And he walks with me, and he talks with me,
and he tells me I am his own;
and the joy we share as we tarry there,
none other has ever know

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Palm Sunday 2015

Scriptures describing Jesus’ Triumphal Entry are: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19

You can read these Scriptures here:  NIV / ESV

I am leaning towards using the reading from Matthew.

This is Sermon # 3in the Series.

You can read Sermon # 1 in the series at this link: (Sermon # 1: Church, Community, Culture}

You can read Sermon # 2 in the series at this link: {Sermon # 2: Church, Community, Culture}

Today we will continue the conversation about church, how church relates to the community in which it lives and how the church community relates to the larger culture around it.

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In prior weeks we looked at how Jesus called his first Disciples, and how unique each of the Disciples was. We saw that although they each had different ambitions, interests, and strengths, they were of one accord. We saw that they were inspired by the common vision and worked towards a common mission. We saw that each of them had different skills, ambitions and interests, and how together they worked to complement each other’s efforts.

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Last week we saw that outreach and mission implies a certain level of risk. In order to reach BEYOND the walls of the church building, in order to bring others to Jesus, someone has to be willing to take calculated risks and step out on faith and actually interact with people who do not share their beliefs. We saw that Peter was able and willing to do that.

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It goes without saying that we cannot bring enemies to Jesus; the people whom we consider to be at odds with ourselves would not listen to our stories or follow us to Jesus. In order to bring someone to Jesus we need to be able to interact with them and consider them to be on the same level as ourselves; we need to treat them with respect. Jesus himself talked about that in the Gospel of John 10:5 where he taught that sheep only follow the shepherd whose voice they know; do people outside these walls know our voice? What is the message that the community around us hears and sees from us?

John 10: 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

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Today is Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the seven day period that we refer to as Holy Week. During this time we remember the events that transpired during the last week of Jesus’ earthly life, before his death and resurrection.

Today’s reading shows an interesting interconnection between the church, the community in which the church lives and the culture that surrounds the community. So let’s unpack it.

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Accounts of Jesus’ Triumphant entry into Jerusalem are found in Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, and John 12:12-19.

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As Jesus approached Jerusalem, he sent two church leaders (two of his Disciples) into town with a missional assignment: go rent a “limo” so we can ride into town in style. Only instead of a stretch limo that only a select few could afford, Jesus asked for a beat up Volkswagen bug with 230,000 miles on it that most people could afford. You see, Jesus was one of us and he wanted to make a point that he was one of us.

To make that point, Jesus asked two of his disciples to go into town and to bring him a modest donkey, not an ostentatious war horse. We see that in Matthew 21:1-3, Mark 11:1-3, and Luke 19:28-36. It is one example of how church interacts with the community.

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There was already a differentiation between the church and the community. What eventually became the church at Pentecost were the people who traveled with Jesus. That was the group of people who gathered together regularly, who heard Jesus teach and preach, who shared their lives with each other, who struggled with difficult questions of faith.

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Around that group of people there was a larger entity – a community. The most famous members of this community are Mary, Martha and Lazarus. They were not part of the inner circle of Jesus that traveled everywhere with him. But whenever the opportunity presented itself, they spent time with Jesus and with the Disciples (as a matter of fact we know that every time that Jesus was in the vicinity of Jerusalem, Mary, Martha and Lazarus opened their house to Jesus and the Disciples). I think that the donkey that Jesus rode into town came from the community that surrounded the first church. {Illustration and expanded explanation}

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Church growth comes from the community around the church. We know that the church interacted with the community as Jesus was entering Jerusalem. In Luke 19:37-40 we read, “When he [Jesus] came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he [Jesus] replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

What is our witness to God’s presence in our community? Are we sharing the good news of what God has done among us, and what we hope God will do in the future, what are we praying for? That is what was happening as Jesus entered the city.

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Excitement is contagious. In this story we also see the popular culture interacting with the community. Some who might have heard something about some rabbi from Galilee were there out of curiosity, some were there because there was a parade going on and who among us does not like to watch a parade or a show? Undoubtedly some of them learned something about Jesus and later on became part of the community and then eventually a part of the Church. We see the evidence of this in Matthew 21:10-11 where we read, “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

So what’s in it for us? What’s the “so what” in all of this?

{Illustration}

In the events of Palm Sunday we see the connection and interaction between the church, the community in which it lives, and the popular culture.

Next week (April 5) is Easter.

Holy Thursday Service at First UMC on April 2 @ 7pm.

Good Friday Service at Potter’s House on April 3, @ 7pm. Bishop Tilghman, Pastor Asher and Pastor Tonya will participate in the “Last Seven Words” Service.

Sunrise Easter Service @ Wilmer Park @ 6:15am. Breakfast at FUMC immediately following service. Bishop Tilghman will preach.

The week after that (April 12) we will have a joint service with our sisters and brothers from across the street. The service will be held at First UMC.

Looking Forward to Holy Week

Holy Week is the week immediately preceding Easter Sunday.  During this time, many Christian communities remember and meditate on the suffering and death of Jesus (the Passion of the Christ) by fasting, praying, holding various observances and special worship services.

Special services during Holy Week call us to remember that the Easter Story consists not only of the jubilant celebrations of Palm and Easter Sundays, but also includes the agony, suffering, humiliation, and death of Jesus on the Cross. Special services during Holy Week challenge us to remember that the promise of renewal and hope in the Resurrection are set against the backdrop of suffering and death. The special services during Holy Week help us to understand that Resurrection without Suffering would be meaningless, and that the Grace and Love that we freely receive from God has a heavy price paid by Jesus.

As we travel through the shadows and darkness of Holy Week, as we struggle with the implications of our sinful nature and its consequences, we come to grow in our understanding of God’s Love and Grace for us and build our hope of renewal and eternal life in the redemptive suffering of Jesus.

While thinking about the events of Holy Week, my hope is that we will be reminded that our new beginnings come from old endings. I also hope that many of us will be able to better understand our own lives and faith journeys.

The services during Holy Week are a powerful proclamation of the transformative power of Jesus and God’s presence in our lives. Following is a list of our Holy Week Services. Please join us.

  • Holy Thursday Service at First UMC on April 2 @ 7pm.

  • Good Friday Service at Potter’s House on April 3, @ 7pm. Bishop Tilghman, Pastor Asher and Pastor Tonya will participate in the “Last Seven Words” Service.

  • Sunrise Easter Service @ Wilmer Park @ 6:15am. Breakfast at FUMC immediately following service. Bishop Tilghman will preach.

  • Easter Service at Worton UMC at 8:45 followed by worship at Christ UMC at 10am.

From the Desk Of Pastor Asher… Reflection of the Last Page of the Bulletin

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the seven day period that we refer to as “Holy Week.” On Palm Sunday we have a choice to remember Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem or recall His suffering for the redemption of our sins. The theological word for Jesus’ suffering during the last week of his life is the “Passion of the Christ.” Hence, the official name for this Sunday is Palm / Passion Sunday.

When I think of the events of the last week in the life and ministry of Jesus, I am awed by his empathy, understanding, love and compassion for every one of us. Terrible things happened to Jesus during the last days of his life. He was humiliated, mistreated, suffered extreme emotional and physical abuse and ultimately died on the Cross. What makes this terrible week “holy” is that God understood our human condition, and Jesus loves each one of us so much that he was willing to sacrifice himself for us.

Our Christian identity is rooted in the events of the Holy Week. Our continual spiritual transformation and growth in closeness with God is rooted in the events of the Holy Week. That is why it is so important for us to understand what happened during that week 2,000 years ago and why.

I found that every time I think about and meditate on what happened in the Upper Room, or in the Garden of Gethsemane, or before Pontius Pilate or on the mount of Crucifixion and imagine myself being there, I discover new insights about myself and my identity in Christ. To give an example, I wonder what was going through Jesus’ mind as he heard the crowd crying out for his crucifixion? What happened to nudge Pilot’s wife to ask her husband to spare Jesus’ life?

I have no doubt in my mind that God wants all of us to live gracious, productive, and abundant lives. All of us are created with a space in our heart and soul that only God can fill, if we are willing take the risk to let God in. Holy Week is a time to remember how Jesus entered into Jerusalem, His actions to redeem us, and to contemplate the fact that with the events of the First Easter, Jesus not only redeemed our past but also entered into our future. Are you ready to give your life and heart to God this Easter Season?

Thinking Towards Sunday; Palm Sunday 2015

Scriptures describing Jesus’ Triumphal Entry are: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19

You can read these Scriptures here:  NIV / ESV

I am leaning towards using the reading from Matthew.

An open letter to our Church Families of Christ and Worton United Methodist Churches

After much prayer, discernment and deliberation Bishop Peggy Johnson and the cabinet of the Peninsula-Delaware conference of the United Methodist Church are sending me to another missional appointment, and I have accepted this call. Effective July 1, 2015 I am sent to serve the congregation of Kingswood United Methodist church located in the Brookside area of Newark, DE.

As Debbie and I prepare for this transition, we are filled with excitement, joy, sadness, anticipation and a bit of trembling.

We are filled with excitement because in the last four years we saw God move in Christ United Methodist Church in tangible and wonderful ways. The church community is filled with energy and anticipation, striving to discern God’s Will for our congregation, diligently working as a team in order to serve God by serving the world in which we live. It has been four wonderful and exhilarating years.

We are excited for Worton United Methodist Church because we see a lot of potential and focus on ministry and outreach. You are Christ-centered, and strive to live out the Great Commission. Although your congregation is small, you make a huge difference in the community around you.

We are filled with joy because you have allowed Debbie and I to become your partners in ministry. I give glory and honor to God for your love, partnership and support. It was a privilege to be your pastor; you have allowed Debbie and I to share your journeys while we were together and you took an active interest in our lives; you prayed with us and for us, we wrestled with tough questions of faith and together we celebrated milestones and accomplishments in all of our lives.

We are sad and grieving because Debbie’s and my lives have interconnected with yours, and we became friends. You opened your hearts, minds, and doors to Debbie and I; you welcomed us into your church families and we will always be grateful for that. All of you have become a part of our thoughts, prayers and daily lives. When I was preparing for ordination, one of my mentors told me “grief is the price of love.” You loved us and we grieve the prospect of being separated from all of you.

We are filled with anticipation because we recognize how much has happened since Debbie and I became part of your journey. We expect to hear great things about both churches (Christ UMC and Worton UMC).

We are trembling because we recognize what an awesome responsibility it is to serve our God, and that with this move we will have to face new and different challenges, develop and nurture new relationships and rebuild our lives in a new context. While all these are joyful and exciting, they are also prone to induce anxiety. Preparing for this pastoral transition fills us with a sense of excitement, because we feel the presence and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in this transition. We look forward to learning the history and traditions of Kingswood UMC and the Brookside area of Newark, DE, to getting involved in the life of the church and the community and making new friends there.

In conclusion I want to add that I envision and anticipate hearing great things about you, and I know that you will continue to thrive and grow under the leadership of your next pastor. They are fortunate to be joining such a caring, welcoming, mission oriented, and God-inspired community.

I love you and I thank God for the honor and the privilege of living among you and serving you as your Pastor!

As we prepare for this transition, Debbie and I covet your prayers. In addition we ask you to pray for your incoming pastor, our Bishop Peggy Johnson, the current and incoming District Superintendents of the conference – (in alphabetical order) Rev. Dr. Shirlyn Brown, Rev. Fred Duncan, Rev. Dr. Vicki Gordy-Stith, Pastor Gary Moore, Pastor Derrick Porter, and Rev. Dr. Kyung-Hee Sa, as well as all the pastors and congregations who are going through pastoral transition at this time.

I want to close with the words of Paul found in Second Corinthians 13:11 because these words seem to express my feelings at this moment,

Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words:

  • Be joyful.

  • Grow to maturity.

  • Encourage each other.

  • Live in harmony and peace.

Then the God of love and peace will be with you (NLT, punctuation added, aft).

Philos

Asher and Debbie

Approximate Notes For Sunday’s Message; John 10:5, Acts 1:42-46

Scripture Reading for this Sunday: John 10:1-10; Acts 1:42-47

You can read it here: NIV and ESV

Hymns for Sunday:

UMH 600 – Wonderful Words of Life

UMH 63 – “Blessed Be the Name”

UMH 569 – We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations

This is Sermon # 2 in the Series.

You can read Sermon # 1 in the series at this link: (Sermon # 1: Church, Community, Culture}

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Today we will continue the conversation about church, how church relates to the community in which it lives and how the church community relates to the larger culture around it.

Last week we looked at how Jesus called his first Disciples, and how unique each of the Disciples was. We saw that they each had different ambitions, interests, and strengths.

We also saw in Acts 1:6-11 that the Disciples were of one accord and we talked about what it means to be of one accord. In music, every chord has many notes. To be of one accord, every disciple had to sing a different note. They maintained their own individual and unique identities, they were excited by the common VISION that Jesus left with them and they were working towards a common MISSION – making disciples for Jesus, for the transformation of the world. Just like it takes many notes to make one melody, it takes many unique personalities to fulfill God’s mission here on earth.

To be of one accord the Disciples sang many “notes” working towards a common mission of making a beautiful “piece of music.” They may have had different understandings of God, God’s Grace and Love, and what was happening around them AND nevertheless they were willing to become a community and work towards the common vision. Today we call a community like that a congregation or a church.

So let us see what was happening in the new community. Remember, we are in the season before the Pentecost, so technically it is not a church yet, but we already see how the followers of Jesus were working towards a common vision and organizing themselves around a common mission. I am looking at Acts 1:15-26 and I will skip a few verses as I read it.

Acts 1: 15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He [Judas] was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”

21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

The Book of Acts then continues with the story of how the Church started and the next stage in that story is the Day of Pentecost. We will read that Scripture on the Day of Pentecost. But I want to go into the Scripture where Peter addresses the crowd explaining what the ministry of Jesus means to them and to all of us (Acts 2:14-41).

Acts 2: 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

And then we read the sermon that Peter preached to the crowd with Scripture references and explanations. The sermon that Peter preached was well thought out and well argumented. The reading from Acts 2:14-41 concludes…

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

Last week we saw that Peter was a risk taker. {Illustration}

In last week’s message I contrasted Peter’s personality with the personalities of James and John. {Illustration}

I am NOT making a point that Peter’s personality was better than that of James and John. I am NOT making a point that Peter was better suited for evangelism than James and John. His personality was just different, and we need all kinds. Someone needs to be an administrator, someone needs to be the voice of reason, and James and John were up to that task while Peter was not.

The point that I AM making is that in order to reach BEYOND the walls of the church building, in order to bring others to Jesus, someone has to be willing to take calculated risks and step out on faith and actually interact with people who do not share their beliefs. And Peter was able and willing to do that.

We see an example of this in the Scriptures. Peter healed a beggar in the Temple (“Silver and Gold I have not but I give you what I have: Jesus” – Acts 3:1-26). Peter went to the house of Cornelius (acts 10: 24-48), Peter was the one who received instructions to give up kosher laws (Acts 10:9-16). All these required Peter to take risks and step out on faith. Notice that the author of Acts does not say anything about James and John doing anything remotely similar.

Again the point that I am making is NOT that Peter’s actions were more important than those of James and John; the point that I am making is that in order to reach out and bring someone to Jesus we need to be willing to take risks.

It also goes without saying that we cannot bring enemies to Jesus; the people whom we consider to be at odds with would not follow us. In order to bring someone to Jesus we need to be able to interact with them and consider them to be on the same level as ourselves; we need to treat them with respect.

Jesus himself talked about that in the Gospel of John 10:5. Jesus was teaching that sheep only follow the shepherd whose voice they know.

John 10: 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

Silver and gold we do not have, but we have Jesus. Are we sharing Jesus? (Acts 3:1-26)

When we reach out, trying to bring our neighbors to Jesus, inviting our neighbors to worship with us, it is imperative that they know who we are, that they see us as friends, as a community that cares. Only then will they be willing to hear our stories of what God has done in our lives and in our community.

{Illustration}

In today’s reading we heard that as the result of the outreach – and in HUGE part due to Peter’s willingness to take calculated risks – the new community was “enjoying the favor of all the people” and that “the Lord added to their number daily.”

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Stump the Pastor: Explanation of Lenten Traditions.

CLICK ME FOR PDF DOCUMENT

This time of year I am often asked questions about Lent. Lent is a season that has its own vocabulary, customs, and traditions that may seem strange, especially to those who may have never experienced it before; I remember my confusion while observing Lent for the first few times. With this special edition of the Chestertown Lamplighter I am making an attempt to explain the history behind the traditions and to share my understanding of the Christian Season of Lent.

This document is in PDF format and is stored at this link: CLICK ME – PDF Document

 

If you (the reader) would like more explanations or clarifications, please email me

Stump the Pastor: Why Do We Give Things Up for Lent

Recently I was asked about the custom of giving things up for lent. Giving things up for Lent is rooted in Jesus’ words, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23) The idea behind giving up something for Lent is to challenge ourselves to think about and to relate to the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.

A few years back, when I was a new convert to Christianity, I thought of “giving up something for Lent” as silly and superficial. My giving up Hershey kisses for forty days leading to Easter did not seem proportionate to Jesus’ sacrifice for humanity on the Cross. Just because Jesus’ struggle with the Devil in the desert did not seem on par to my fighting off cravings for Wawa coffee or Red Robin burgers. Besides I knew that if I gave up chocolate for Lent, I would end up consuming my share of it on Easter Day in the form of several large hollow bunnies and then go to Red Robin and order one of everything on the menu to satisfy my pent-up cravings. I did not see the point…

All that changed two years ago. Growing up in the Old Country I was raised knowing how to deal with shortages of everything from basic necessities like food and water to luxury items like a spare sweater. To this day I cannot bring myself to leave food on the plate no matter how full I feel or how much I dislike it. I cannot go by the men’s department without buying something from the 80% off rack.

That is why two years ago for Lent I challenged myself to stop buying anything for myself except the basic necessities. In case I needed something, I made a rule that I would not pick anything up in the store without thinking and waiting for at least 24 hours. While it was trivial, I found it difficult. That practice required planning and discipline. If I liked a shirt or a pair of slacks in Kohl’s I had to wait till the next day, find the time to drive to the store and hope that the items were still 80% off and available. If I wanted a blizzard from DQ or a cup of specialty coffee from Wawa, I had to plan my schedule the next day to satisfy my cravings. By the way, I also did not allow myself any substitutions (no trips to the Freeze for ice cream or Royal Farms for their specialty coffees instead).

After that Lenten season I discovered that this practice changed me. It taught me to think about what brings me joy and what I consider to be satisfactory. It challenged me to think about the reasons behind my purchasing things that I do not need (like another shirt or a pair of slacks) or that are not good for me (like sweet treats full of high fructose corn syrup).

That exercise helped me to get in touch with Jesus’ humanness and my own humanity. That exercise helped me to recognize my own brokenness and my need for God’s Grace. That exercise helped me to acknowledge all the ways that I have turned away from God and to make a conscientious effort of focusing my mind and soul on God’s presence in the world around me. The lessons that I learned during that Lent two years ago are still with me.

In conclusion I want to add that in recent years many Christians began taking on extra practices for Lent instead of giving something up. Whether you like to give something up or do something extra, the goal is the same: to have this process help you see God more clearly, love God more dearly and follow God more nearly.

Working Towards Sunday

Scripture Reading for this Sunday: John 10:1-10; Acts 1:42-47

You can read it here: NIV and ESV

Hymns for Sunday:

UMH 600 – Wonderful Words of Life

UMH 63 – “Blessed Be the Name”

UMH 569 – We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations

Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; 15 March 2015; Eph 1:22-23, 2:10, 12-22

Scriptures for this Sunday: Eph 1:22-23, 2:10, 2:12-22

You can read these Scriptures here:  NIV  /  ESV

Hymns for Sunday:

UMH 152 – I Sing the Almighty Power Of God

UMH 733 – We’re Marching to Zion

This is a first sermon in a series

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Today I want to start a conversation about church, how church relates to the community in which it lives and how the church community relates to the larger culture around it.

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To start this conversation, I would like to look at the way Jesus built the first church and how it all started. Scriptures found in Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 2:13-17, Luke 5: 1-11 and John 1:35-51 tell us various accounts of Jesus calling his first Disciples and the way I understand what Jesus was doing was building his first church. Notice that these Scriptures say nothing about brick and mortar. Jesus did not call buildings, Jesus called people.

There are thousands of sermons, reflections, books and blog posts about Jesus calling the Disciples. Today’s message is not about that call; today’s message is about the Church. While the church was established at Pentecost (after Jesus’ ministry, crucifixion, death, and resurrection), the basis of the process that lead to establishing the Christian Church is rooted in the people that we know as the First Disciples.

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We know that every Disciple was unique and had different strengths and weaknesses. Peter was impressionable and excitable. When he saw an opportunity, he would take it without considering the consequences. That is why Peter is the only human being who walked on water. That is also why Peter was told by Jesus, “Get behind me Satan” (Matthew 16:23, Mark 8:31); Peter’s emotional reaction to Jesus’ teaching that he came to die on the Cross was undermining God’s vision and Jesus’ mission.

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We know that James and John (the sons of Zebedee) were career men. They wanted to advance personally, they wanted to enjoy the benefits of their labors and they probably did not take risks they did not have to take. We know that they wanted to be in a position of authority and privilege when the Kingdom of God becomes a reality (Matthew 20:20-28).Today their 401K would be maximized, they would have the right insurance products for every occasion, they would wear sensible clothes and their children would attend sensible schools majoring in accounting, or engineering, not some fluffy subject like theology.

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We know that Simon Zealot was the revolutionary in the bunch. He was opinionated and was willing to fight for his beliefs. Thomas was a sceptic, Philip and Andrew liked to travel (According to tradition, Philip spread the Gospel to Africa and Andrew went as far north as Armenia, Georgia and Kiev.)

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The point that I am trying to make is that every disciple whom Jesus called was different and unique. Somewhere along the way they went to “seminary” and developed a relationship with Jesus and with each other. They were the first with whom Jesus shared God’s vision for the world and they were excited about that VISION and made it their MISSION to work towards making it a reality. “I’ve come so that you have an abundant life” (John 10:10); that is what the “abundant life” looks and feels like.

After Jesus was taken up to Heaven (Acts 1:6-11) we learn that all the Disciples were “of one accord.”

ESV Acts 1: 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord (“They all joined together constantly” – NIV2010 / “These all continued with one accord” – KJV) were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

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“They were all of one accord….” When we say that, we have a mental image of all the disciples agreeing to every minute detail, finishing each other’s sentences, singing cloyingly sentimental hymns and giving each other hugs all day long…. Or something like that… That could not be further from the truth.

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{Accord Illustration from the personal practice of ministry}

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Ideally, that is what the Church Universal (big C) and a church community (small c) is: sisters and brothers in Christ, each with their unique personal story and history, their unique preferences, likes and dislikes all excited about God’s Presence and putting their energies in one accord with each other towards a common mission.

I want to finish today’s message by re-reading a portion of today’s Scripture:

Ephesians 2: 13 in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. … His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

19 you arefellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

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From the Desk of Pastor Asher

Longing for renewal… Hopes for the future… All of us have such longings and hopes because we are created in the image of passionate God and such aspirations are integral parts of what it means to be a human and a child of God.

Our challenge as sisters and brothers in Christ is to help each other on our individual journeys to a closer relationship with God. Paul implied that when he wrote, “Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5, KJV). The way I understand this line from the Letter to the Philippians is, “God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart.” Having the “mind of Christ” in each of our hearts leads to common vision and mission in our church community. So what does it mean to be united?

Being united in something means that a group of people (or a community) made a decision to come together with other persons to form something greater than the sum of individual participants. To give a most obvious example, being “In Christ” (2 Cor 5:17, Rom 12:5, Col 2:7) gives all of us a sense of being part of something larger than ourselves. It gives us a sense of being connected with our neighbors and with God’s Creation in which we live.

Unity is often built around a common goal or a vision: a harmony of values that creates a shared identity. A community united by shared values and goals will move mountains because it will focus its efforts towards a common goal.

Unity is about understanding and moving beyond our prejudices and the things that divide us. Unity is about seeing our commonality while celebrating our differences.

Unity is the first step to developing a vision of what our church community can become and how we can serve God by serving our neighbors in Kent County, MD. Being on a look out and aware of possibilities will eventually lead us to doing things we once only dreamed of and prayed about like feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, welcoming the stranger in our midst, visiting the sick.

My hope and prayer for our church community is that we will be faithful in making efforts to cultivate the spirit of unity and, as a result, will become a catalyst of reconciliation and an example of service in our immediate area.

“Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5, KJV)

Thinking Towards Sunday; Sunday, March 15, 2015

Scriptures for this Sunday: Eph 1:22-23, 2:10, 2:12-22

You can read these Scriptures here:  NIV  /  ESV

Hymns for Sunday:

UMH 152 – I Sing the Almighty Power Of God

UMH 733 – We’re Marching to Zion

Joint Communication from Pastor Tonya McClain and Pastor Asher Tunik, to the communities of First United Methodist Church, Christ United Methodist Church and Worton United Methodist Church.

As previously communicated, today (March 9, 2015) there was a meeting held at Christ United Methodist Church with Pastor Gary Moore, our District Superintendent.   The following were in attendance at this meeting:

  • Pastor Tonya

  • Pastor Asher

  • SPPRC members from both churches

  • Chairs of Finance from both churches

  • Treasurers from both churches

  • Members of the committee working on the path forward to bring both church bodies together in mission. 

It is Bishop Johnson’s desire to create a circuit between Christ and First United Methodist Churches, to be served by one residential full time pastor, beginning July 1, 2015.  Meeting attendees overwhelmingly supported Bishop Johnson’s desire for a single pastor to serve both churches.  

This means that effective July 1, 2015, there will be a new pastor serving both churches as a circuit, and Pastor Tonya and Pastor Asher will be reappointed elsewhere in the Peninsula-Delaware Conference.

This decision also affects Worton United Methodist Church, which is currently served by Pastor Asher.  Earlier today Pastor Gary Moore met with the SPPRC, Chair of Finance and Treasurer from Worton UMC, and communicated that there will also be a new appointment to Worton UMC effective July 1st

Signed


Pastor Tonya McClain and Pastor Asher Tunik

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