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 the Sunday’s Message; 5 July 2015; Weekend closest to the United States of America Independence Day

Scriptures for this Sunday: Galatians 5:1, 13-18; Isaiah 61:1-7

You can read these Scriptures here:  NIV2010 and ESV

Hymns for this Sunday:

UMH 133 – Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

UMH 171 – Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

UMH 696 – America, the Beautiful

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On July 4th, we remember and celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Independence, however, was not achieved on July 4, 1776. Independence was won seven years later when the emissaries of the Colonies and representatives of King George III signed the treaty ending American Revolutionary War on September 3, 1783.

King George III did not grant freedom to the colonies in July 1776 by any stretch of the imagination. Freedom was won as a result of seven years of gory battles and skirmishes, sacrifice, hunger and frostbite, and atrocities committed on both sides of the battle lines.

What we celebrate on July 4th is the drive, grit, determination, innovative spirit and sheer will to survive that our forefathers and foremothers put forth to win independence and our freedom.

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Some of us are physical descendants of men and women who won this independence. All of us are physical descendants of men and women who came to this country for a chance at a better life, for a chance to reinvent themselves, and for a chance to start a new leaf in their life’s story.

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The Statue of Liberty became a symbol of the gut-wrenching monumental triumph that previous generations of citizens of this country have accomplished. It also became a symbol of recognition of USAmerican ingenuity, grit, drive and determination by the rest of the world.

{The Statue of Liberty was designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor, and built by Gustave Eiffel (the same engineer that built the Eiffel Tower). It was dedicated on October 28, 1886. It was a gift to the United States from the people of France.}

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I remember the day when I first saw the Statue of Liberty.

{{ Illustration — Tourist Attraction – – > Precious Symbol }}

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When God created us, we were not created to grovel in the grime of our sins. We were created to be tools of love and grace in God’s hands, to serve God by serving the world in which we live. That is what all of us have inherited from God.

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From our ancestors we also inherited the drive, determination, grit and spirit of innovation that not only won independence, but also made this country great.

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All of us have a double portion of the spirit that Isaiah was talking about in verse 7. One part came from God when we were created to be the best version of what we can be. The second part came from our DNA, from our ancestors who demonstrated the drive, determination, grit, and sheer will to survive. That is the “double portion” of the spirit that will rebuild the space program and will figure out how to train engineers, and scientists, and doctors, how to mend spiritual wounds, and to rebuild what is broken.

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As citizens of the USAmerica, the Statue of Liberty came to symbolize to us everything that is right, true and beautiful with our nation. Although there are issues that our country has to deal with, I am convinced “that there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America” (William J. Clinton, the 42nd President of the USA).

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As Christians, we have a symbol of spiritual freedom. The Cross of Jesus is the symbol of our hope and redemption. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1).

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{{ Cherokee Legend – – Two Wolves }}

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Jesus lived and taught among us, and Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts and souls so that we have the liberty and freedom to choose which wolf we are going to feed.

As I stand before you today we all know that as a denomination we have to deal with some tough issues. As I stand before you today we all know that most United Methodist churches, including ours, have problems. I am also convinced that there is nothing wrong with the C/church that cannot be fixed with what is right with the C/church {paraphrase of quote by William J. Clinton – Applies to both Church Universal and individual churches}.

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In order to help us to keep on, Jesus gave us the Sacrament of the Holy Communion.

We partake of the Sacrament not because it is a tradition or because it is a habit or because everybody else does it. The Sacrament reminds us that we are connected to God, that we are created in God’s image. We partake because the Sacrament infuses our lives with meaning and helps us to be the best versions of what God created us to be.

We wish you Blessed and Safe Fourth of July!

clip_image002The Independence Day that our nation celebrates on the Fourth of July is a day filled with significance and meaning for all the citizens of the United States of America. In reality, however, for some that holiday has become just a “feel good” holiday, an extra day off work.

I don’t know how that happened; I only know that it did. Many of us will go to the beach or to picnics with friends and family where most of us will eat and drink (quite often to an excess), put up with bug bites, excessive heat and sunburn and then enjoy fireworks in the evening. The Declaration of Independence, history and traditions of the holiday, the freedoms that we enjoy, or what it means to be a patriot and a citizen of the United States of America rarely comes up at picnics or at the beach.

As I look around, currently I see two versions of patriotism. The first version deals with protecting our country from powers that might otherwise harm us. On a simplistic level these are foreign powers threatening our shores and borders with aggression. These powers may be sovereign nations, terrorist cells or organizations, or drug cartels that view our country in terms of market share and battle for influence and control. We need to be able to protect ourselves against these forces.

The second version of patriotism that I see and hear around me deals with all of us coming together as a nation for the common good. That might mean contributing to a bake sale in the local church or civic organization, raising money for the local school, taking an active part in issues that affect our nation (the latest debate concerning the confederate flag comes to mind), volunteering in a local homeless shelter or in Hope Dining Room in the basement of our church building. It also means that all of us need to do our share so that our nation and our individual communities have enough resources to meet their needs, protect its citizens and ensure freedoms that we have learned to take for granted.

The first version of patriotism places the burden of its understanding on the government and armed forces. The second version of patriotism recognizes our responsibilities to each other as citizens of this nation and as each other’s friends and neighbors. Both understandings require collaboration, tolerance, flexibility, adaptability, common vision and willingness to negotiate and to listen to each other. In other words, it requires love that is a sum of “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Unfortunately, in many cases these two very different understandings of what it means to be a patriot clash with each other. The reality is that we need both. We need to maintain our sovereignty as a nation and the ability to protect our citizens, our infrastructure and our lands. We also need a vision and a set of common goals that unite us into one nation. We cannot hide from hard truths that we face as a nation; it is our responsibility to name these hard truths and to own up to them. Jesus taught, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Only when we are able to define and verbalize our common problems, will we be able to face them and find workable solutions. Willam J. Clinton, the 42nd president of our great country said, “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”

Today, all of us are proud to be citizens of the USA because throughout our common history our ancestors had the courage to face hard truths and were willing to stand for and do what was right. It is our turn to bear the standard, to dream of a future and work toward making it a reality.

As Independence Day 2015 approaches, I want to leave you with a couple of questions to reflect upon, “What are you doing to reach out to our neighbors whose views you may not necessarily share and to facilitate dialogue that will result in better understanding and cooperation? What are you doing to help our community of Kingswood United Methodist Church develop a vision for the future where all can feel free to express their opinions, safe in doing so and where all will be treated with love, justice and respect?”

May God Bless America to be a blessing to all of God’s Creation!

May God Bless Kingswood United Methodist Church to be a continual blessing to our neighbors!

Philos

Asher

A note to introduce myself to the community of Kingswood United Methodist Church

To the Congregation of Kingswood United Methodist Church,

The purpose of this post is to introduce myself to the community of Kingswood United Methodist Church. 

Effective July 1, 2015 I am sent by Bishop Johnson and the Cabinet of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference to serve the community of Kingswood United Methodist Church.  I look forward to meeting all of you, learning your stories, and sharing our faith. I look forward to the shared part of our ministry and lives’ journeys.

You would probably like to know a little about me.  I was born and raised as an atheist in the former Soviet Union. Ethnically I am Jewish. My family and I immigrated to the United States almost 35 years ago.

I realized that God exists one day in September 1985 while driving on I-295 near West Deptford, NJ. For me it was a great surprise, and this realization shook everything that I believed to be right, true and beautiful.

In 1989 I had a blind date with my future wife, Debbie; we will be celebrating 25 years of marriage later this year.

I received my call to ministry while in a Disciple Bible Study in October‑November 1997. I was sent to serve my first appointment as a student pastor in 2003. Since that time I completed my theological education in Lancaster Theological Seminary, took two units of Clinical Pastoral Education from Christiana Care and have done several special projects (chaplaincy, mission trips, outreach, etc).

I love Jesus. With all of his life Jesus showed that God did not create us to grovel in the grime of our sins. Jesus lived and taught among us; Jesus has shown us that we are capable being the best version of what God created us to be (John 10:10). Throughout His ministry here on Earth and through the promptings of the Holy Spirit, Jesus encourages us to do that.

I love the Church and especially the United Methodist Church. While all of us are imperfect and every church community has a unique personality, as the Church Universal we are the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood and sent out by the Holy Spirit to be tools of love and reconciliation in God’s world.

I am grateful and eager for the opportunity that God has blessed me with to share in ministry with all of you.  I know that the congregation of Kingswood United Methodist Church has a strong identity and tradition in mission, outreach and involvement in the community in which it lives. I realize what a great responsibility it is to be a pastor of such a vibrant community.

I have no doubt in my mind that God is active in the world in which we live and I know that when we are with God all things are possible. I look forward to working with all of you as we discern God’s will for our church family, and the ways in which we can continue to serve God by serving the world in which we live. 

My contact information is available from the Kingswood UMC church office.

Philos

Asher

Thinking Towards Sunday; 5 July 2015

Scriptures for this Sunday: Galatians 5:1, 13-18; Isaiah 61:1-7

You can read these Scriptures here:  NIV2010 and ESV

Hymns for this Sunday:

UMH 133 – Leaning on the Everlasting Arms

UMH 171 – Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

UMH 696 – America, the Beautiful

BG

A thank you e-note from Pastor Asher and Debbie to our Church Family at Christ and Worton UMC

A thank you  e-note from Pastor Asher and Debbie.

To our Church Family at Christ & Worton UMC,

Debbie and I want to thank you for the outpouring of love and affection that you lavished on us last Sunday. We will never forget your generosity of spirit and we will put the parting gifts to good use during the transition.

For a little while our lives’ journeys were connected; all of you have touched our lives and we have touched yours. As we leave, we are leaving a huge part of our heart and soul with our church family and we take with us a lot of memories. We ask for your continual thoughts and prayers and we will pray and think about you as well.

Stay in love with Jesus. You are making a difference in the community around you by living out your faith and devotion to God by serving the world in which you live. Stay faithful and you will move mountains. We expect great things from both Worton and Christ UMCs.

Philos

Asher and Debbie

Approximate Notes for the Last Message for Christ United Methodist Church; June 28, 2015

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This Week’s Scriptures

John 11: 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

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This is the last Sunday that my wife and I will join this community for worship. For the last four years and four months, Christ United Methodist church has been an important part of our lives. As with all journeys, this part of our lives must now come to an end.

As I stand here before you today, I know that I am leaving a huge part of my heart with the community of Christ United Methodist Church.

Last week I was struggling with what to say in today’s message. How do I say what needs to be said as you and I — the community of Christ United Methodist Church – face this transition in our lives? How do I summarize all the thoughts, emotions, hope and sadness as Debbie and I leave this community that we have served and the people that we have come to care about?

The truth is starting afresh does not always feel entirely happy and that endings and conclusions do not always hurt. While goodbyes and farewells have a certain element of sadness, every end is the beginning of something new. Letting go brings peace and allows us to face the future.

God put those who came before us “to work … and take care of” (Gen 2:15) this garden that today we call Christ United Methodist Church, and God put all of us here today to continue this mission and to carry on that tradition. Going forward our task is to explore new horizons in ministry, to continually reinvent ourselves as a community and to seek new ways to serve God by being God’s partners in ministry and mission!

Each community is different. Each community has its strengths and each community has its own gifts for ministry. Each community bears different fruit of the Spirit.

Let us talk about the strengths of this community:

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  • Relationship with God. “Living God” is not just a phrase to this community. We’ve seen Jesus show up time after time in our midst; we know how it feels to be in God’s presence and we know how to draw strength from God’s presence. The joy of the Lord is your strength (Neh 6:8). Do you take joy in God’s presence? Does God take joy in yours?

  • Vision. You heard me right. This community has a vision. You worked hard to develop it and I am proud of you. This vision comes out in the form of ideas for mission and outreach. Consider each other’s ideas; be diligent about working together and figuring out how to put these ideas into practice. Most importantly and I cannot stress this enough, {1} stay in love with Jesus, and {2} be flexible, adaptable and patient with each other.

    As I get ready to leave, I want to encourage you to get together a few times to boil your vision down, and verbalize it so that you can write it down on a back of a small envelope. Read it every time you get together for a meeting, covered dish supper, or to worship. Memorize it, unite behind it, get energized by that vision and you will move mountains. Hint: Your vision should not be longer than 20-25 words, and should not be based on the ideas of someone who is not in your pews.

  • Unity, liberty and charity. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, is often quoted as saying “In essential, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

This community is united in the essentials of our faith; I see you being respectful of each other’s opinions, and we know a thing or two about charity. That unity, liberty and charity helps us to keep first things first and bear plentiful fruit (Matt 7:18) of the Spirit as we serve God and the world in which we live. I hope that this will never change.

As I think about what has happened in our church family in the last few years, the story of Lazarus comes to mind.

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{Illustration: Overview of how today’s Scripture applies to developing a new vision for our church family}

I have spent so much time talking about vision, and before leaving I would like to share my vision for both CUMC and FUMC.

{Illustration}

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At this time it makes a lot of sense for the two communities to share expenses. My hope is that both CUMC and FUMC will be diligent in their outreach, mission and community involvement and that in a few years you will not need to share expenses because you will be able to stand on your own two feet. Here at CUMC we have a great foundation and I have no doubt in my mind that you can get there. You have the vision, you have capacity and you can develop the outreach and put forth the effort. I watched you do that. – See the “Go Write a Song” sermon from June 7, 2015 preached during joint service at FUMC.

When that day comes, I hope that both churches realize that although you no longer need each other and can continue on your separate paths, your mutual relationship has grown and you can be so much more productive being in ministry as a UNITED community. That way you will not have to be yoked, you will want to be yoked. That is my hope and prayer for our two communities of Christ and First United Methodist Churches.

{//Illustration}

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In conclusion, my wife and I want to thank you for accepting us and loving us and for all we have learned from you. I will miss working the Tea Party Festival, Stop Hunger Now events, and joint services with Potter House ministries. No matter where I get a roast beef sandwich in the future it will never be as good as one that CUMC makes, and you also make the best lamb kabobs. We will miss you, and we will always cherish our memories of you and our time together.

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We accepted your love, and you accepted ours, and now we trust that our time together and our parting are in God’s will. We trust that God calls us to a different mission and we trust that God calls you as well. It is time for all of us to step out on faith and trust that someday it will all become clear. We trust that it is time for you to stop turning to me for pastoral leadership, and to welcome your new pastor into your midst. Pray for Pastor David, pray for his wife Jeannette, and continue to serve God here on earth, as you will eventually serve God in Heaven. Be God’s voice, be God’s hands, may God be your conscience as God lives in your hearts.

Thank you for being part of our lives and allowing us to be a part of yours.

 

Litany of Farewell

Leader: Family of Christ United Methodist Church, time does not stand still. The life of our church family is fluid, ever changing with new lives, new visions, new possibilities and new ministries. These changes bring with them opportunities and challenges.

It is important for our church family to recognize and to celebrate these endings and beginnings. Today we say farewell to Pastor Asher and Debbie who shared our journey for the last few years, and now it is time for them to move to a new appointment and a different church family.

All:

Loving and Gracious God! You have blessed and sustained us for many years and have given us life together in the Christian family of this congregation. We are asking you to bless the community of Christ United Methodist Church and guide us as we reflect upon and celebrate our history, and as we hope and dream about the future. Help us prepare for the next stage in this congregation’s life. Give us courage and vision; help us to stay flexible, adaptable and patient as we face the challenges of ministry. Most importantly, strengthen us in our Christian vocation as we serve God by serving the world in which we live and make disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world.

Asher: As my wife and I stand before you we thank you for the love, kindness and support that you have shown us. We thank you for welcoming us into your church family. We thank you for the grace and forgiveness that you have extended us when we made mistakes or did not meet your expectations. We thank you for your prayers in our times of need. We thank you for your love, kindness and support. We will cherish our memories and apply what we have learned from you in future ministry. We celebrate with you all the things that this church family accomplished in the last four years and we are excited about what you can and will accomplish in the future.

Leader: Next week we will receive Pastor David Ryan and his wife into our family. Our Bishop and the Cabinet of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference of the United Methodist Church discerned that his vision, passion for ministry and vocational skills are well matched with the goals of our congregation (Ephesians 4:11). Let us all pray for Pastor David.

ALL:

Loving and gracious God! We uplift Pastor David and his wife in prayer. As we start this new stage of our lives, we pray that you bless Pastor David and his ministry. We also thank God for God’s guidance on the pastoral appointment process. May our efforts and ministry, outreach and evangelism be like a pleasant aroma in God’s presence, because God’s joy translates into our strength (Neh 6:8).

In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

Approximate Notes for the Last Message for Worton UMC; June 28, 2015

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NIV2010 Luke 13: 18 Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”

20 Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

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Who among us has not wondered what Heaven is like? Who among us has not tried to imagine what it would feel like to be in Heaven?

Art is a lie that tells us something about the truth. I recall a couple of episodes from The Simpsons where Homer goes to Heaven. In one episode everything is made of chocolate and we see Homer wandering around taking bites out of buildings, cars, dogs and trees, gorging on chocolate and every bite that he takes heals itself immediately. In another episode, Homer is wandering around Heaven that is made out of gold, stuffing his pockets with dirt, pebbles and dog droppings which he plans to put to good use when he gets back to our world. These are metaphors that illustrate our understanding that Heaven is so beautiful and so precious that it is like the tastiest food we can think of, or the most precious physical possession that we can imagine.

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However, this is not what Jesus taught. The parable of the Mustard Seed is found in Matthew 13:31-32, Mark 4:30-32 and Luke 13:18-19. We’ve heard this parable countless times, and because we are so familiar with it we miss most of its meaning. Let us listen again to the parable of the Mustard Seed from Luke 13.

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NIV2010 Luke 13: 18 Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”

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In Ancient Israel mustard was not cultivated because there was no way to harvest and preserve the greens, mustard oil is extremely hot and it does not taste good and there is no evidence that mustard was used as a condiment by Jews, Greeks or Romans. In Ancient Israel mustard was a weed, very much like dandelions are today in North America.

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Jesus did not compare the Kingdom of God to something magnificent, majestic, and beautiful and of great monetary worth like the Cedars of Lebanon. Jesus did not compare the Kingdom of God to magnificent temples and palaces in Rome or in Jerusalem. Instead Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to a weed, something that you and I would try to kill with herbicide if it were to take over our front lawn.

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Mustard plants interconnect and grow together providing a thick canopy with places where small animals could burrow and hide; mustard plants support each other as their branches interconnect; mustard plants produce seeds in abundance in order to reseed themselves and to spread wherever they can and whenever an opportunity presents itself.

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Once mustard plants took over a hill or a field, all kinds of life would take refuge there. There were small animals (mice, hedgehogs, fox, cats) hiding underneath. There were small birds perching and nesting on branches. There were butterflies fluttering around and bees buzzing around. Hawks would fly above looking for prey. Areas where mustard shrubs grew were teeming with activity and with life.

Mustard plants looked for opportunities to grow. Mustard plants fought for survival and for the living space. Once they found new areas to take over, they “attracted” birds and small animals. Once taken over by mustard, fields and hills became epicenters of life.

{Illustration}

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The truth is that it is hard to control direction of our lives, to make the best decisions that we can, to be the best version of the person that we are created to be. The truth is that life has a mind of its own, and most of the time we cannot really choose the circumstances of our lives. Things just happen. Good things, bad things, none of us make it through life without pain and loss, sorrow and disappointments. To add insult to injury, life just happens – more often than not we do not even get an opportunity to prevent something before it takes place.

That is why, as a church we are called to be interconnected with and support each other as mustard plants did. That way we can help each other to grasp on to life with all of its abundance and complexity, helping each other to enjoy and find meaning in each breath and each moment.

As a church we are called to attract and to invite our neighbors to join us and find a place to “perch” in our midst and help them to find abundance and meaning in their lives.

To do that, we need to figure out a way to attract our neighbors to join us.

We need to try new things; build on what works, let go of what does not.

{Illustration from the personal practice of ministry}

Litany of Farewell

Leader:

Family of Worton United Methodist Church, time does not stand still. The life of our church family is ever changing with new possibilities and new ministries. These changes bring with them opportunities and challenges.

It is important for our church family to recognize and to celebrate these endings and beginnings. Today we say farewell, and now it is time for all of us to write a new chapter in our journey with God.

All: Loving and Gracious God! You have blessed and sustained us for many years and have given us life together in the Christian family of this congregation. We are asking you to bless the community of Worton United Methodist Church and guide us as we reflect upon and celebrate our history, and as we hope and dream about the future. Help us prepare for the next stage in this congregation’s life. Give us courage and vision; help us to stay flexible, adaptable and patient as we face the challenges of ministry. Most importantly, strengthen us in our Christian vocation as we serve God by serving the world in which we live and make disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world.

Asher:

As my wife and I stand before you we thank you for the love, kindness and support that you have shown us. We thank you for welcoming us into your church family. We thank you for the grace and forgiveness that you have extended us when we made mistakes or did not meet your expectations. We thank you for your prayers in our times of need. We thank you for your love, kindness and support. We will cherish our memories and apply what we have learned from you in future ministry. We celebrate with you the legacy of the family of Worton United Methodist Church and we are excited about what you can and will accomplish in the future.

Leader:

Next week this church family will receive Pastor David Kelly as your pastor. Our Bishop and the Cabinet of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference of the United Methodist Church discerned that his vision, passion for ministry and vocational skills are well matched with the goals of this congregation (Ephesians 4:11). Let us all pray for Pastor David Kelly.

ALL: Loving and gracious God! We uplift Pastor David Kelly and his wife in prayer. As we start this new stage of our lives, we pray that you bless Pastor David Kelly and his ministry. We also thank God for God’s guidance on the pastoral appointment process. May our efforts and ministry, outreach and evangelism be like a pleasant aroma or a joyful noise in God’s presence, because God’s joy translates into our strength (Neh 6:8).

In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

From the Desk of Pastor Asher; Working Towards Sunday; 28 June 2015;

AVATAR

A Note for Congregations of Worton and Christ United Methodist Churches

June 28, 2015 will be the last Sunday that I have the privilege to be your pastor. I give glory to God and I thank God for this privilege and for the relationships that Debbie and I have developed with all of you. Here are few random thoughts that I would like to share in my last pastoral reflection for the communities of Worton and Christ United Methodist Churches.

A long time ago I realized that everybody yearns to be on “top of the mountain” because we expect that we will be happy there. I also realized that “mountaintop” experiences are fleeting, and that happiness is obtained during the journey that takes us there, as we travel through the valleys and deal with the challenges of the journey. Have faith, enjoy the journey… Support and uplift each other in deeds and prayers.

Humans can’t read minds, and no one can know your secret thoughts. I pray that we all have the courage and wisdom to express our thoughts and hopes in a respectful and constructive manner. When we verbalize our hopes and dreams, they become real and attainable. That is when we gain a deeper understanding of who we are in relationship to God and to each other, and that truth sets us free for the journey towards the “top of the next mountain.”

There is a song with lyrics that say, “I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky…” I hope that your church family will become a place where everyone feels free to dream, to spread their wings, and feel encouraged to soar.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone, whether individually or as a community. Stay in love with the Lord, nurture your relationships with each other, gather together often and invite your neighbors to join you. I hope that you will celebrate many achievements and milestones in the future.

A long time ago, when I received my first appointment to serve a local church as a student pastor, Rev. John Mitchell told me, “There is no better way to spend one’s life than to serve the Lord.” This is true for all of us, laity and clergy. Stay in love with Jesus, be diligent about discerning the guidance of the Holy Spirit and continue serving God by serving the world in which you live.

Philos

Asher

Thinking Towards Sunday; 28 June 2015; My Last Sunday as a Pastor of Christ and Worton United Methodist Churches

Scriptures for this Sunday:

  • Christ UMC: John 11:38-44 

  • Worton UMC: Luke 13:18-21

You can read these Scriptures here: {CLICK ME}

Hymns for this Sunday:

UMH 451 – Be Thou My Vision

UMH 261 – Lord of the Dance

Approximate Notes For Father’s Day Message; June 21, 2015; Galatians 4:1-6

Scriptures for this Sunday are: Galatians 4:1-6

You can read these Scriptures here: {Click ME}

Hymns for Sunday:

UMH 111 – How Can We Name a Love

UMH 384 – Love Divine, All Loves Excelling


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It is impossible to watch TV without observing the portrayal of the modern-day husband and father acting as lazy, incompetent and irresponsible.

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We know that this is not an all-representative portrayal of fatherhood because all we have to do is look around this sanctuary to see examples of husbands and fathers that are industrious, competent, devoted to their wives and children, and dependable.

The uncomplimentary portrayal of dads is not new in our culture. Fathers and husbands are portrayed on TV as deranged (“Malcolm in the Middle,” “Simpsons”), troubled (“The Sopranos”), incompetent (“Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Roseanne”), dimwitted (“Family Guy,” “Married With Children”), absent (“Grace Under Fire”), and irresponsible (“Yes, Dear”). There are few instances where the father has a job, works hard to provide for his family, is devoted to his wife and spends time with his children (“Tool Time,” Phil Dunphy in “Modern Family”), and these fathers are portrayed as constantly creating messes that mom has to rescue them from.

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Dads were not always portrayed like that. There was a time when dads were portrayed as having flaws, but they were close to what was then thought to be a normative representation of a family (“The Donna Reed Show,” “The Cosby Show,” “Family Ties,” “Growing Pains,” “Full House,” “7th Heaven”).

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I think that something happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The TV Dad became the butt of jokes. What is even more dangerous, the TV Dad became irrelevant. The message became “the mother does the parenting and dad is dispensable.”

By now you probably thinking, “Geez, (1) this is depressing, and (2) this dude is watching way too much TV.” Well maybe you are right, but I also think that art is a lie that tells us something about the truth (Pablo Picasso). In the late 1980s and early 1990s there was a shift in our society where fathers in the media became portrayed as doltish and irrelevant. The message became that males are not needed to rear children, and that dad is a superfluous doofus.

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We learn by seeing and observing; we practice what we know to be right, true and beautiful (Brandeis University). Negative portrayals of men (fathers and husbands) on TV create an environment where boys do not know how to be responsible fathers and husbands and how to assume those roles in society. These portrayals also set certain expectations for girls who watch this programming. We are programming the future of our country. Future generation of boys will have difficulties respecting and understanding women; we are also raising a future generation of women who are bound to say, “We don’t really need men as a part of family.” In a way we already see that in our society. {Explain}.

So what can be done?

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Speaking at the National Geographic Society on February 1, 2015 First Lady Michelle Obama addressed writers, content creators and other industry leaders on the power and influence of the media and she said, “Every day, through the movies and TV shows and ads you all create, you have the power to shape our understanding of the world around us. You challenge our most strongly held beliefs. You influence our opinions on current events. …So the fact is, in many ways, you all are in a unique position to help us address some of the most challenging issues that we face as a nation” (Cronk).

Disintegration of the structure of our society is a serious issue. We did not get to this point overnight (it took us almost 20 years to get here), and we will not fix these problems overnight either. It will take time.

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Recently we started seeing shifts in portrayals of fathers and families on TV. Although Al Bundy (“Married with Children”) and Jay Pritchett (“Modern Family”) are portrayed by the same actor, there is a huge difference in how these two dads participate in the lives of their families. The movie “Bella” (2006”) and “Jersey Girl” (“2004”) depict men who took responsibility and are present with their children.

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And there is something that we can do. The church is called to serve God by serving the world in which we live; our mission is to make disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world. We all know many fathers who are loving, caring, participating, wise and central to the lives of their families. As a church we have an image of fatherhood that is responsible, creative, involved and caring. It is up to us to project this image; it is up to us to make our understanding of fatherhood a part of a dialogue, to model this behavior to those around us. To quote the First Lady, Michelle Obama, as a church we are in a unique position, and we have an opportunity to be the catalyst of change ….

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Paul taught the men of Galatia, “Because you are [God’s] sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son [Jesus] into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father” (Gal 4:6) That Spirit is there to counteract our fallenness.

{Illustration}

Fallenness: Anger / Envy / Sorrow / Regret / Arrogance / Self Pity /Guilt / Resentment / Inferiority / Lies / False Pride / Superiority / Ego

Spirit of God: LOVE = Joy + Peace + Hope + Serenity + Humility + Kindness + Benevolence + Empathy + Generosity + Truth + Compassion + Faith

{//Illustration}

There is an old Cherokee legend about a grandfather telling his grandson about two wolves constantly fighting inside each of us. The story ends with the kid asking, “Which wolf will win?” and grandfather replying, “The one you feed.”

{Illustration}

We all know many fathers who are loving, caring, involved in the lives of their children, devoted to their wives, essential to the wellbeing of their families.

Our challenge as a church is to go out and demonstrate a different way of being a family. Our challenge is to demonstrate the presence of the Holy Spirit in our community and how God is working among us to bring healing and restoration to the world around us.

Works Cited

Brandeis University. Monkey See, Monkey Do? Novel Study Sheds Light On Imitation Learning. 20 March 2007. Web Page. 14 June 2015. <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070320095836.htm&gt;.

Cronk, Terri Moon. “First Lady Depicts Veterans’ Lives to TV, Movie Industry Members.” 30 01 2015. DoD News. Web Page; http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=128084. 15 06 2015.

From the Desk of Pastor Asher; Thinking Towards Sunday

It’s difficult for me to write about Fathers’ Day because I did not have a chance to spend any meaningful time with my earthly father; I have no point of reference. That, however, does not preclude me from recognizing the importance that fathers and father-figures (teachers, mentors, coaches) play in our lives, and in preparing the future generations to face the challenges of life.

The truth is that not all of us are blessed with nurturing earthly fathers. That, however, does not limit the fact that as Christians we also know our Heavenly Father whose love knows no bounds, who stands ready to forgive us and to correct us when we misbehave, and who welcomes us back to our spiritual homes (our church communities) when we make a choice to come back. Today, as we honor our earthly fathers of this and past generations, let us give glory and honor to our Heavenly Father for his presence and involvement in our lives.

One of the most poignant and well known stories of fatherhood in the Bible is the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-22). This parable tells a story of a loving father waiting for the return of his strong-willed, disrespectful and disobedient child with the patience and longing of a saint. The Father’s response to the prodigal’s reckless and immature behavior catches us off guard with its generosity, compassion and understanding. Not only did the father in the parable offers his love to his Prodigal Son, he also offers it to his other son who feels slighted, hurt and sulks at the reception that his brother received. This parable gives us a glimpse of fatherhood as a reflection of God’s generosity and understanding.

Fatherhood is not for wimps. I thank God for all the men who are loving husbands and responsible fathers to their families. I also pray for men who have not taken their fatherhood as seriously as they should.

Happy Father’s Day!

Thinking Towards Sunday; 21 June 2015; USAmerican Father’s Day

Scriptures for this Sunday are: Galatians 4:1-6

You can read these Scriptures here: {Click ME}

Hymns for Sunday:

UMH 111 – How Can We Name a Love

UMH 384 – Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

Very Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; June 14, 2015

Scriptures for Sunday: John 17:20-26

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV and ESV

Hymns:

UMH 451 – Be Thou My Vision (CUMC)

UMH 145 – Morning Has Broken (WUMC)

UMH 577 – God of Grace and God of Glory verse 1 (WUMC mid-service)

UMH 593  — Here I Am, Lord (CUMC)

UMH 369 – Blessed Assurance (WUMC)



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{ Illustration }

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Today’s Scripture is a portion of Jesus’ prayer for us as recoded by John. Last sentence in that prayer is, “I have made God known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love God has for me may be in my followers and that I myself may be in them” (John 17:26 paraphrase). Because God’s love for us is so powerful and intense, it is often easier to passively ignore it than to strive to respond to it.

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We often talk about the “cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1), Christians on whose legacy we build our lives, our faith and our relationship with God. I am talking about Christians who give us an example of what it means to follow Jesus. I am talking about men and women whose faith and devotion to God has been evident in their prayers, their worship, their tithes, their service and their witness to what God is doing in their community inside and outside the walls of a church building.

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A church family is called to be productive by making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world. To do that, we start with prayer, {} we nurture our relationship with God and with each other as we worship and tithe, {} we step out on faith with our service {} and by our witness to what God is doing in our community inside and outside the walls of a church building. It is that simple. Notice I did not say it is “that easy,” because what we are called to do is simple but it is not easy.

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All of us have a tendency to confuse being busy with being productive. We also have difficulty differentiating between what is popular and what is effective.

It is difficult to find a balance between being effective and being popular. Any leader knows that he or she will have to make unpopular decisions in order to be effective. On the other hand, without developing some sort of “popularity,” being “effective” is an unattainable dream.

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God’s love for us is so powerful and intense that it is often easier to passively ignore it than to strive to respond to it. A church building packed full of passive Christians looks impressive. On the other hand, a sanctuary filled with a few dozen dedicated, spiritually grounded disciples with a clear vision and understanding of their mission may look empty. Each of these churches will have a different impact on the world in which they live.

It is much easier to lead a community that is passive than empowering others to be in ministry. I think that this is the major reason why so many churches have to deal with numeric decline these days. Making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world starts with you and I staying in love with Jesus; that is the passive part. It is dependent on all of us (clergy and laity) to be passionately engaged with God and with each other in order to have an effective ministry in the communities outside our church buildings; that is the empowering part.

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Traditionally we tend to think of pastoral leaders in terms of shepherds. I am not very comfortable with this metaphor because no matter how effective a shepherd is, it is impossible for a sheep to become a shepherd.

I think a much better metaphor to apply to our pastors would be that of a coach or a mentor. An effective mentor trains his disciples to lead and to help others. I am a pastor today because somebody took time in the past to recognize my spiritual gifts, to “eradicate my ignorance” and naiveté, and to nurture me in the process of transformation from an engineer to a pastor.

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All that would not be possible without God’s grace. The way I understand God’s Grace is that God sends God’s Holy Spirit to fill every nook and cranny of our soul. God and Holy Spirit are the same; each of us is a soul with an earthly body that cannot be separated during our earthly lives. To each of us our souls are what the Holy Spirit is to God. God also made sure that we are prepared to treat the gift of God’s Grace responsibly (Matthew 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces”). God and Jesus are the same; By sending Jesus, God made sure that we are prepared and able to recognize and to respond to the Holy Spirit’s guiding on our lives’ journeys (UMH 364, verse 1).

Our lives are journeys of growing in God’s Grace. Our journeys have many stages. During each stage we have opportunities to learn about God and we also have opportunities to be vessels of God’s grace, to be God’s hands and feet in God’s world.

Thinking Towards Sunday; June 14, 2015

All of us have a tendency to confuse being busy with being productive. We also have difficulty differentiating between what is popular and what is effective.

A church family is called to be productive by making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world. We are also called to find a balance between being effective and being popular. Any leader knows that he or she will have to make unpopular decisions in order to be effective. On the other hand, without developing some sort of “popularity,” being “effective” is an unattainable dream.

A sanctuary full of passive Christians looks impressive. On the other hand, a sanctuary filled with a couple dozen dedicated, spiritually grounded disciples with a clear vision and understanding of their mission may look empty. Each of these churches will have a different impact on the world in which they live.

It is much easier to lead a community that is passive than empowering others to be in ministry. I think that this is the major reason why so many churches have to deal with numeric decline. Making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world is dependent on all of us (clergy and laity) to be passionately engaged with God and with each other in order to have an effective ministry in the communities around our church buildings.

Traditionally we tend to think of pastoral leaders in terms of shepherds. I am not very comfortable with this metaphor because no matter how effective a shepherd is, it is impossible for a sheep to become a shepherd.

I think a much better metaphor to apply to our pastors would be that of a coach or a mentor. An effective mentor trains his disciples to lead and to help others. I am a pastor today because somebody took time in the past to recognize my spiritual gifts and to nurture me in the process of transformation from an engineer to a pastor.

Very Approximate Notes for the Sermon that was delivered at First UMC on June 7, 2015

Scriptures for this Sunday: 1 Peter 3:15-22;1 Samuel 16:7

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV and ESV

{Illustration}

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I’d like to build the world a home

And furnish it with love

Grow apple trees and honey bees and

snow-white turtle doves.

I’d like to teach the world to sing

In perfect harmony

I’d like to hold it in my arms and

keep it company.

Catchy jingle… It sounds happy and the words are inspiring. When I hear it, I want to sing along. I cannot listen to this song without a smile.

This song was used in the Coca Cola “Hilltop” commercial from the 1970s.

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{Illustration – What Made it Work?}

{Illustration – Rewrite? Write a new song}

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{Illustration. Our church has struggles.}

1) Our Struggles are not based on a dark secret

2) As a Church, as a body of Christ, we have struggles

3) As individual churches we have struggles

I know that we will get through these struggles. I know that we will figure out the answers to our problems because we’ve done it in the past. The Church has always faced problems. The reason the Church has survived for the last 2000 years is because there were always problems that we had to figure out and that made us work together, and working together made us stronger. “When two or three gather together, I am with them…” (Matthew 18:20).

We are looking at two churches coming to work together and we are asking for God’s blessing on that endeavor.

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We are standing at the threshold of something new. We are about to write a new song. Today I want to ask you, what will your song be? Will we just change a few words in a song that is already written?

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I’d like to sing the world a song

of perfect Love and Grace

How faith can bring abundant life

and meaning to our days.

Will we just change a few words in the Coca Cola song? Will we write a new melody? Will we completely rewrite the words and make something new? We don’t know. We have to go through the next period of our lives and at the end there will be a song because we cannot go through this process without coming face to face with God… So what will our next song be? Time will tell….

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Go write a song and may God bless your journey… Notice, I did not say “we will write a song”; I said “go write a song.” Pastor Tonya and I have worked to prepare the field and to bring you to this point. In few days Pastor Tonya will go south to St. Michaels, I will go north to Newark and you will start a new stage of your journey with Pastor David.

{Illustration: You are ready, you may not know all the answers yet, but you are prepared and ready to figure out those answers …}

{Transition to the Sacrament of the Holy Communion}

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