Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

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

Thinking Towards Sunday; December 11, 2016

Scripture for this Sunday: Matthew 11:2-11

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV and ESV}

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; 2nd Sunday of Advent; Isaiah 11:1-11; Matthew 3:1-12

Scriptures for this Sunday: Isaiah 11:1-10

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}



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Today is the second Sunday of the Advent Season.

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When we think about God’s presence in our lives, we tend to think in terms of a divine rescue operation.

{Illustration.}

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I am not a historian, but what little I know about our world’s history argues against a divine rescue operation.

  • I do not know of any time when the meek actually inherited the earth.

  • I do not know of any time in history when the wealthy and powerful voluntarily gave up their power and privilege for the greater good.

  • I only witnessed a handful of miracles where seriously sick patients got better by prayer alone; most times healing comes when prayer is combined with a visit to a doctor’s office.

Because of that I think that the season of Advent is about the partnership of God with humans.

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  • Jesus’ first Advent invites us to be catalysts for the changes we wish to see.

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  • Jesus’ second Advent gives us the hope and patience to wait (the light at the end of the tunnel).

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  • Jesus’ personal Advent in our hearts gives us the perseverance and courage to be the best versions of what God has created us to be.

That brings us to John the Baptist.

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After reading Bible passages pertaining to his ministry, it seems like John the Baptist’s claim to fame might be telling people off. But telling people off IS NOT what defined his ministry John was sent…; John was sent to bring the message of hope and God’s presence and involvement in our lives.

Matthew and Luke give us a glimpse of this “claim-to-fame” when they quote his saying to his congregation, “You brood of vipers…” How would we like it if a traveling evangelist addressed our congregation as a “clutch of snakes?”


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NIV2010 Matthew 3: 1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”

4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

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John the Baptist was an austere dude; his messages were stern, harsh, and full of hail and brimstone. Making people feel mushy, gushy, warm and fuzzy was NOT his gig. He was not a slave to fashion either. He wore a tunic of camel hair, ate locusts [grasshoppers] and, if I had to guess, did not spend much time on personal hygiene – he probably stunk to high heaven.

I don’t know too many people who like being told off by anyone, much less by someone who looks and sounds deranged.

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I just told you what an unpleasant experience it was to hear John the Baptist preach. Yet all the Gospels, and even the contemporary Judean historian Josephus, confirm that people from all walks of life came to hear him.

  • Pharisees and Sadducees – Matthew 3:7 and John 1:24,

  • People from Jerusalem and Judea and the whole region of Jordan – Matthew 3:5,

  • Tax Collectors – Luke 3:12,

  • Soldiers – Luke 3:14

  • Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, Chapter 5, Paragraph 2:

“…John, that was called the Baptist: for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness. Now when [many] others came in crowds about him, for they were very greatly moved [or pleased] by hearing his words … .”

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With all of that, people came to hear John the Baptist because he gave them hope by challenging them to make changes. John challenged them to a change of heart, mind, and actions; John also demonstrated that these positive changes were possible.

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NIV Luke 3:10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

11 John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”

12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” 13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely– be content with your pay.”

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The truth is that even if all the people who came to hear John the Baptist decided to make changes in their lives – to start sharing, stop taking bribes, stop extorting and making false accusations – these changes would not resolve all the problems that Judea was facing.

BUT it would be a good start. John’s call to repent – to change one’s heart, mind and actions – was a promise that positive changes are possible and are on the way.

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John’s call for change, John’s call “to prepare the way of the Lord,” was a reminder and an assurance that God is with us and among us, evoking, guiding, correcting, and welcoming every day of life with new possibilities.

John’s call “to prepare the way of the Lord” reminds us that with God all things are possible because God is actively involved in our lives.

{Illustration of the inn keeper}

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The truth is that each one of us is an “innkeeper.” John’s ministry challenges us to prepare the way of the Lord and we do that by making sure that there is time and room for Jesus in our lives.

Individually we can encourage each other and our neighbors; in other words, “build each other up” (Thes 5:11).

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As a community we can be a place where hope is found, where grief, anxiety, struggle, pain and fear can be handed over to something bigger than ourselves. We can honestly proclaim that there is somebody more powerful among us, that his name is Jesus and that he is stronger than the forces of destruction brooding over the planet Earth today. Jesus can and will help us to turn from sin every time that we are ready to repent. Jesus can and will guide our doctors to heal our bodies, minds and souls when we get sick. Jesus can help us to find meaning in our lives.

It is up to all of us to make sure that there is room for Jesus in our hearts, and in our community.

Is there room for Jesus in your inn?

{Celebrating the Sacrament of the Holy Communion}

Something to Think About

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.”

~~ Sigrid Undset (5/20/1882 – 7/10/1949); Nobel Prize Laureate for Literature (1928) and Lay Dominican

Thinking Towards Sunday; 2nd Sunday of Advent; December 4, 2016

Scriptures for this Sunday: Isaiah 11:1-10

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; 1st Sunday of Advent; November 27, 2016

Scriptures for this Sunday: Isaiah 2:1-5; Matt 24:36-44

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and NRSV}

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Last Sunday was Christ the King Sunday. We talked about practical ways that we make Jesus the King of our lives.

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I think that we make Jesus the King of our lives when we practice these four disciplines:

  1. belonging to something that is inherently bigger than ourselves,

  2. discerning our purpose and role in what’s happening around us,

  3. being consciously aware of the narrative of our life, and

  4. thinking long-term: Transcendence.

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Today is the first Sunday of Advent. The church is decorated with imagery from the Christmas story and we want to hear about baby Jesus and the three wise men and the mean innkeeper and how cute baby Jesus looked laying there in a manger.

Today’s Scripture says nothing about that. The reason for that is because the Season of Advent is not only about Jesus’ first coming, it is also about Jesus’ triumphant return sometime in the future.

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Today’s Scripture, if we think about it, is depressing. Jesus warns us about being too sure of our own righteousness.

NIV2010 Matthew 24: 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

These words of Jesus are simple, harsh and scary in their simplicity. They are saying, “Watch out or you will miss the boat…” Today’s readings say nothing about the cute baby in a manger. There is nothing in today’s readings about Christmas cheer, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, or dreams of a white, snowy Christmas.

The words of Jesus challenge us to take a good and honest look inside ourselves. Are you willing to consider the possibility that your neighbor whom you think to be “a sinner” could end up on “the ark” (Matthew 24:38) with you or without you?

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In his letter to Romans, Paul wrote,

Romans 13: 11 … understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

So what’s in it for us?

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God is always coming into our world to bring renewal and regeneration. God is always coming into every moment of every day of our earthly lives. “God comes to us disguised as our life” (Father Richard Rohr, contemporary theologian).

God enters every moment and every situation of our lives with a vision, with a notion, with hope and with an idea of what that moment can be. These possibilities are God’s grace.

We have free will and a choice as to how we respond to God’s Grace. That choice is simple: do we let more or less of God’s grace into the world that God entrusted into our care.

The season of Advent is about the creative presence of God in our world, the possibilities that God brings into our lives and how that presence and those possibilities compare with the established routine of our lives. Advent is a season to think about our invitation to be instruments of God’s grace in this world, and our role in ushering in the time when the proverbial swords will be beaten into plowshares (Isaiah 5:5). It is about Kingship of Jesus over our hearts, minds, and lives.

We live in one of the bleakest periods of human history… As a whole, the human race has never been less sure about the meaning of our lives or our importance in the universe…. Geo-political news is dreadful; socio-economic news is not much better. The environmental news is getting worse every day; scientists are telling us that rising sea levels will play havoc with our weather, agriculture and manufacturing capabilities. Global warming releases so much methane from the melting permafrost regions that our bio-sphere will not be able to sustain life in its present form pretty soon. This is scary stuff and there are limits to what we as individuals can do about it.


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But we are not helpless! We can be instruments of change in the world. The Hebrew Scriptures, the Early Christian Writings and the Gospels talk about the coming final judgment through the lens of how well we treat one another, our neighbors, the Earth entrusted into our care and what we do with the blessings that God bestowed upon us.

We can contrast all the news and dire predictions with the story of Advent. The story of Advent reminds us that God is physically with us and among us. The story of Advent is the story of Jesus coming back to bring final healing to our problem riddled world.


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The story of Jesus is never told just because Jesus was a cool guy or because it is a cool story. The story of Jesus is told and retold with the hope that it will bring a change in us. The story of Jesus is not just about what God did 2000 years ago but also what God is doing in the world today. Advent is the story of Jesus and what can happen when we let God into our lives.

The story of Advent is not something that happens to us as we passively go about living our daily lives. The story of Advent is a story in which we are invited to act as active participants. The story of Advent invites us to be God’s partners in hope as we witness to God’s presence in our world.

Happy Thanksgiving!

In my mind, Thanksgiving is a lot like Holy Communion. Now I want to make it clear: I am NOT equating the two. Holy Communion is a sacrament; Thanksgiving is a secular holiday. But there are things about Thanksgiving that do remind me of Holy Communion.

When we celebrate the sacrament of the Holy Communion, we come to the Table and we reflect on what it means to be a Christian and what it means to be saved and what it means to have a personal Savior, mentor, leader, and teacher in the person of Jesus.

At Thanksgiving we also come to the table; different table but a table none the less.  At that table we share a meal and we reflect on what it means to be an American and what it means to be free. And the way I understand Thanksgiving, there is ONE gigantic table, with countless people sitting at it and sharing a meal together: men and women, children and adults, healthy and frail, poor and rich, black and white, yellow and red. An investment banker from New York is seated next to a truck stop waitress from Montana. An Iowa farmer exchanges stories with a New England fisherman. A bearded professor from Harvard passes the gravy to a bearded auto mechanic from the sticks of Nebraska. A young soldier from Kentucky laughs at a joke an old lady from California tells him. And this gigantic table stretches far into the distance, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, from the Canadian border to the southern border with Mexico. People from all states and all regions of our great country have found their seats and enjoy their meal at the same time. At this table, the barriers that we built to separate us are removed. Our whole nation sits down for a single meal. This dinner is shared in the homes of the wealthy, middle class and the poor. It takes place in soup kitchens and in suburban restaurants and diners; it happens with stuffy formality and with casual folksiness.

On this one Thursday afternoon each year, we all put our differences aside and we come together to celebrate God’s blessings in our lives. On this one Thursday afternoon we all share in conversation with each other, and on this one Thursday afternoon we are truly what our founding fathers envisioned – One Nation Under GOD.

May God Bless our fellowship and may God Bless America.

Thanksgiving Prayer

Loving and Gracious God!

When I have food, help me to remember the hungry; When I have work, help me to remember the jobless; When I have warm home and a pillow to sleep on, help me to remember those who have no home at all.

When I am without pain, help me to remember those who suffer.

In my remembering, awaken my compassion and destroy my complacency; make me concerned enough to help those who cry out for what I take for granted not only in word but also in action.

Amen.

~~ Author unknown

 

Thinking Towards Sunday; 27 November 2016; 1st Sunday of Advent

Scriptures for this Sunday: Isaiah 2:1-5; Matt 24:36-44

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and NRSV}

Ecumenical Thanksgiving Worship Service Planned at Kingswood United Methodist Church

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

On Tuesday, November 22 @ 7 pm there will be an ecumenical Thanksgiving worship service @ Kingswood United Methodist Church; 300 Marrows Road, Newark, DE 19713.

Pastor Randy Otto from St. Andrews Presbyterian church will bring the message.

Hope to see many of you at the service. Please spread the word.

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; November 12, 2016; Christ the King Sunday

Scripture for this coming Sunday: Luke 23:33-43

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

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Today is Christ the King Sunday; the last Sunday of the Church calendar year.

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Next week is the first week of the season of Advent which marks the First Sunday of the new Church Year.

Next week we will start preparing ourselves to celebrate the First Advent of Jesus 2000 years ago, as we wait for his Second Coming (Second Advent) sometime in the future.

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Walmart, JCPenney, Kohls, COSTCO and BJ’s are already in the Christmas mode and our minds are not that far behind. Today’s Scripture reading with all of its gravity and somberness seems to be out of place during this time leading to the festivities.

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The Season of Advent, Christmas Day and the Season of Christmas that follows (the Twelve Days of Christmas) are about Jesus as a baby. Cute, helpless, and cuddly. That Jesus does not threaten our sensibilities and does not challenge us to anything beyond feeling happy as we bestow gifts on our family and friends.

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Jesus of the Advent Season, Christmas Day and Christmas Season is very different from Jesus that we saw today. The same human person; a different stage of his life’s journey. The same part of our Triune God; a different task in the process of our redemption.

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The truth is that Jesus did not come to make us happy. Jesus did not come so that we may share in the yuletide cheer and decorate our homes. Jesus came to challenge us to live abundant lives (John 10:10). I think that “abundant” is about meaning as opposed to happiness.

The “meaning of life” is one of those concepts that everyone insists is vital to our well-being. I am convinced that finding meaning in life is different from finding happiness.

{Illustration}

Jesus came so that we could live abundant [my interpretation meaningful] lives. Today I would like to share with you the lessons that I learned from Jesus about living a meaningful life.

1. Jesus taught belonging.

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When Jesus called his disciples, he did not promise to make them happy. In Luke 9:57-58 we hear, “As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Jesus promised something different. In Matthew 4:18-19 we hear, “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

Jesus did not promise his disciples comfortable lives. Jesus built a community of his Disciples and followers, and in all his teachings he was building them up by encouraging them to step out on faith and try different things. It all started with teaching and preaching (Sermon on the Mount), building trust (calming the storm, healings and miracles that Disciples witnessed), and it continued with Jesus sending them out two-by-two in Matthew 10 and then eventually giving them the Great Commission in Matthew 28.

As a group belonging to Jesus, the Disciples were encouraged to grow emotionally and to think about their actions and how they affect others. They were challenged spiritually. They were also taught and challenged to share their newly found knowledge with others.

{Illustration of belonging.}

2. Jesus taught how to figure out our purpose in life

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There is a story of President Kennedy visiting NASA in 1962. He needed to use the facilities and there was a janitor cleaning the room. The President asked what the janitor was doing. The reply was, “Helping to put a man on the moon.”

Purpose is not what we do, but why we do something. Purpose motivates us and challenges us to think about what needs to be done to reach our goals.

Purpose is also about making a difference in the lives of others. Purpose is about making a contribution to the world.

Jesus taught his disciples how to contribute to the world. Jesus taught his disciples how to bring hope to others; how to challenge others.

{Illustration}

3. Jesus taught how to reimagine our lives, how to write our story individually  and as a church.

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What is the direction of your life? When I say, “Write your story,” it is not about publishing a memoir of your life. “Write your story” is about listening to God and recognizing the ways in which God is moving in your life, and what God is doing through your life. It is about reimagining your life.

When Jesus was talking with Nicodemus in John 3, he said, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“Write your story” is about recognizing the presence of God in the world around you, discerning what God is doing, and adjusting our sails and our rudder so that our sails are filled with God’s power and energy. Because when we are with God, all things are possible.

4. Jesus taught transcendence.

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Mama said there’ll be days like this, There’ll be days like this, my mama said.”

Who among us has not had “a day like this.” We have a tendency to focus heavily on just a few things at a time: career, relationship, graduating from college, getting ready for retirement.

Unfortunately we are not in total control of our lives. “Days like this” happen and can be crushing emotionally and spiritually. On “those days,” we know in our heads that there are many possibilities, opportunities and a whole big world overflowing with potential, but in our hearts we feel crushed and hopeless.

Transcendence is about recognizing how big the world is. In the sitcom “Give me a Break!” American actress Nell Carter (1948-2003) has a saying, “Eat a Dove bar, go to Florida, get over it…”

Transcendence is about “getting over it…” without sweeping it under the rug. It is about diminishing the sense of our own importance, abandoning conceit, and recognizing that the world does not rotate around us. It is about stepping outside of ourselves to connect with and to focus on others.

{Illustration}

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I think that we make Jesus the King of our lives when we practice these four disciplines: (1) belonging to something that is inherently bigger than ourselves, (2) discerning our purpose and role in what’s happening around us, (3) being consciously aware of the narrative of our life, and (4) recognizing that although we are important to God, God also loves our neighbors. There is a whole world outside of us.

Thinking towards Sunday; Christ the King Sunday; November 20, 2016

Scripture for this coming Sunday: Luke 23:33-43

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; November 13, 2016; Stewardship Sunday @ Kingswood United Methodist Church

Scripture for this Sunday: Ephesians 3:1-10

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

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We are coming out of most divisive presidential campaign in most of our memories. All of us are affected by what happened on Election Day. Whether your candidate won or lost, whether you are screaming “yippee” or contemplating a move to Canada, on the whole our county at present behaves divided, polarized, uncivil, distrustful, bi-partisan, angry, and frustrated.

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We’ve been in this place before. In 1 Corinthians 11 verse 18 Paul wrote, “18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you…”

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The truth is that I cannot say anything or do anything that will magically make it all better and to heal all the hurts. I will not stand before you claiming that God’s peace is in the land when so many of our neighbors, sisters and brothers are in pain (Ezekiel 13:10-11).

NIV2010 Ezekiel 13: 10 Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, 11 therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall.

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With all that, I can honestly say that as a church that serves the Resurrected Jesus Christ, it is important to remember that Jesus did not call us to be Republicans or Democrats. Likewise, we are not called to make Republicans any more than we are called to make Democrats. We ARE called to be united in the love of God (1 Cor 13:13, Mark 12:31) and to make disciples and followers for Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20) for the transformation of the world. We follow and learn from the Resurrected Savior who sent His Holy Spirit to help us to bridge the divisiveness, polarization, incivility, distrustfulness, and bi-partisanship that our country has been thrown into during this election cycle.

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Whether you like President-Elect Trump or not, this controversial and bitterly divisive presidential campaign is over and it is time to start looking forward. It is time to put our differences aside and come together for mutual spiritual support and prayer for the future of our nation and our communities. As a church we will continue to offer prayers for the offices of the President and Vice-President of the United States of America, other world leaders and our local elected officials.

Mrs. Clinton will not come to our community and teach lessons in ethics to our young, and President-Elect Trump will not join our community and teach our young how to respect each other. These tasks will fall on our shoulders. The President-Elect will move into the White House with all due pomp and circumstance; Mrs. Clinton will take her jet to their house in the posh suburbs of New York. Both candidates were wealthy before the election; both candidates will still be wealthy long after the election dust settles. Both presidential candidates are so far removed from our economic circumstances that they have no idea of what most people have to do in order to make ends meet. We, on the other hand, have to live and coexist in our local communities. We knew each other long before the election cycle started and we will have to find a way to live together now that this election cycle is over.

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My hope and prayer is that we find a way to respectfully and thoughtfully put our differences aside and come back together as a community of sisters and brothers who put their trust not in politicians but in the Love and Grace of Jesus.

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To paraphrase Pauls’ sentiment in Galatians 3:28, my hope and prayer for the community of our church, Kingswood United Methodist Church, is that we will continue to be the church where “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, [NEITHER BLUE NOR RED,] nor is there male and female, …” for we are ALL God’s children serving God by serving the world in which we live.

Today is nothing like yesterday. Our lives are very different from what they were even 25 years ago. Tomorrow will not be like today, and certainly will be nothing like yesterday. Time is marching on, things change.

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Since today is Stewardship Sunday, I will say a few things about Christian Stewardship in our community and the world that we are entrusted with. We tend to truncate what stewardship is by equating it with money.

In Ephesians 3:10 we heard, “[God’s] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known … .” Stewardship is a part of the process, one of the ways to grow in our faith and in our personal relationship with God.

Stewardship is about our courage to adapt to changing times, while keeping the core of who we are rooted in God. One of the facets of stewardship in the context of the church is fundraising to keep the community going so there is a place where people can learn about Jesus and grow in their faith in 60 or even 100 years in this corner of Brookside.

Stewardship is about open hearts, open minds and open doors on one hand and respect and collaboration on the other. Fundraising does not build anyone’s personal relationship with our Risen Savior; stewardship does. We are stewards of our lives, the place that we call home [planet earth, this neighborhood, our country], the Gospel, each other’s well-being.

Veterans Day Service planned for November 11, 2016

Veterans Day is an official United States public holiday, observed annually on November 11, that honors veterans of our armed forces.

To honor our veterans and those who serve our country in uniform there will be an ecumenical service at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church located at 200 Marrows Road, Newark, DE at 7 pm.

Pastor Randy Otto of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church will lead the service, Pastor Asher of Kingswood United Methodist Church will bring the message.

All are welcome.

Please spread the word!

Thinking Towards Sunday; Sunday, November 13, 2016

Scripture for this Sunday: Ephesians 3:1-10

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

An Open Letter to the Community of Kingswood United Methodist Church; November 5, 2016

Divided. Polarized. Uncivil. Distrustful. Bi-partisan. Angry. Frustrated.

All I have to do is read the news on my computer screen and these are the words that come to mind describing the social and political climate in the United States as November 8, 2016 approaches, and with it, the presidential elections and elections of other leaders. Every so often my phone rings with yet another politician wanting to tell me why he or she is the best thing to happen to me since the invention of indoor plumbing.

Tomorrow, Sunday, November 6, 2016, the community of Kingswood United Methodist Church, as well as many other churches in our connection and communion, will celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Communion.

The Sacrament of the Holy Communion was established by Jesus himself (Luke 22:14-20, Matthew 26:26-29, and Mark 14:22-25; see also 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The contemporary liturgy of the service reminds us that we strive to be “one with Christ [and] one with each other” (A Service of Word and Table II, UMH 14).

Celebrating the Sacrament of the Holy Communion reminds us who we are and whose we are. The Sacrament of the Holy Communion asserts that Jesus did not call us to be a Republican or a Democrat. We are not called to make Republicans any more than we are called to make Democrats; we are called to be united in the love of God and to make disciples and followers for Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20) for the transformation of the world. The Sacrament of the Holy Communion is Jesus’ answer to the divisiveness, polarization, incivility, distrustfulness, and bi-partisanship that our country has been thrown into during this election cycle.

Celebrating the Sacrament of the Holy Communion asserts that our beloved country may be divided by a painful, divisive and abusive campaign, but as followers of Jesus we are a community that strives to come together, join our hearts in worship, and our souls in joint mission. We remember that Jesus did not die on the cross to redeem Republicans or Democrats any more than people of different races or ethnicities, for “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

As one of the most controversial and bitterly divisive presidential campaigns in our shared memory comes to a close, it is time to start looking forward. It is time to put our differences aside and come together for mutual spiritual support and prayer for the future of our nation. Regardless of who is elected as our President and for other leadership offices, we will continue to offer prayers for the offices of the President and Vice-President of the United States of America, other world leaders and our local elected officials.

We need to do this because Mrs. Clinton will not come to our community and teach lessons in ethics to our young, and Mr. Trump will not join our community and teach our young how to respect each other. These tasks will fall on our shoulders. The winner of the election will move into the White House with all due pomp and circumstance, and the loser will take their jet to their luxurious house somewhere. Long after the election is over, both candidates will still be wealthy. Both presidential candidates are so far removed from our economic circumstances, that they have no idea of what we have to do in order to make ends meet. We, on the other hand, have to live and coexist in our local communities. We knew each other long before the election cycle started and we will have to find a way to live together after this election cycle is over.

My hope and prayer is that we find a way to respectfully and thoughtfully put our differences aside and come back together as a community of sisters and brothers who put their trust not in politicians but in the Love and Grace of Jesus. To paraphrase Pauls’ sentiment in Galatians 3:28, my hope and prayer for the community of our church, Kingswood United Methodist Church, is that we will continue to be the church where “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, [NEITHER BLUE NOR RED,] nor is there male and female, …” for we are ALL God’s children serving God by serving the world in which we live.

Soli Deo Gloria – To God be the Glory!

Asher.

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; November 6, 2016; Luke 20:27-38

Scriptures for this Sunday: Luke  20:27-38

You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

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We are preparing for stewardship Sunday.

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{Illustration}

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In 32 AD (give or take a few months and years), Judea was in the midst of turmoil that would lead to profound changes in the world. I am talking about the emergence of a new understanding that would become the foundation of our relationship with God. Jesus, so divine and so human, brought this understanding to the people two thousand years ago and it still reverberates thorough our lives today.

The people of Judea faced a problem. How should they respond to Jesus? He obviously touched a chord with people’s suffering; he understood the needs, hopes and fears of people from all walks of life. At the same time, his teachings were challenging the established order and centuries of traditions.

I can change a few names and a few nouns in the previous paragraph and it will describe the pre-election situation in 2016 USAmerica. How should we respond to the possibility of the first woman president? How should we respond to the possibility of the Donald Trump being our president with his promise to change the status quo in Washington?

Some people embraced Jesus’ teachings because these teachings resonated with their lives; others were reluctant to accept Jesus because he challenged their way of life and everything that they considered to be right, true and beautiful. Although I do not compare either Hillary Rodham Clinton or Donald Trump to Jesus, our country is in a similar deliberation and debate as we prepare to elect our next president on Tuesday.

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Just like today in USAmerica, in Judea of 2000 years ago there were groups of people who were apprehensive about Jesus’ teachings. Each group had different vision, views and opinions about what their common future should be. Their lives were driven by tension between what they learned in the past, what they were learning on their life journeys, and what they hoped their future would be …

One of the groups resisting the teachings of Jesus were Sadducees. The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection (Luke 20:27); the concept of final judgment, the very idea of being held accountable for the way we live our lives, scared them and challenged their worldview.

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When we are apprehensive about something, we have to make a choice whether:

1. We want to understand what we are afraid of, possibly learn something new, and make adjustments in our lives,

2. We want to fight whatever we are scared of, or

3. We want to run away.

Maybe the Sadducees that came to Jesus wanted to understand him better. It is also possible (and more probable) that they wanted to put up a fight and best him in a debate. It may have been a little of both, we cannot know for sure what was driving them. One thing is for certain: they did not choose to run away.

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That is why Jesus reframed the question that the Sadducees asked,

NIV2010 Luke 20: 36 they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. … 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

The Sadducees could not imagine that God might have something different in mind when it comes to eternity; they tried to fit God into what they believed and were comfortable with.

Jesus, on the other hand, made a point that it is much more important to demonstrate our connection with God in the way we live our lives than by splitting theological hairs about imaginary “what if” scenarios. Jesus encouraged his listeners to concentrate on the gift of life that was given to them in the present, and what an awesome opportunity it is to be a bearer of God’s love and grace in the world. Jesus made the point that the Law was given to reflect the love of God for his children, but somehow God’s children had managed to retain the laws and regulations and lose the love.

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In 1 Timothy, chapter 1, Paul wrote to his student, “3 As I urged you …, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.”

{Illustration of five “solas” of Luther: Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Cristo, Sola Deo Gloria}

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We are entrusted with stewardship of every aspect of our faith that is built on the foundation of Scriptures, Traditions of our church, God given reason, and our personal Experiences of God. Part of that stewardship is the stewardship of this community that is based on witness, prayer, presence, and tithe.

That stewardship is our chance to demonstrate our love for God, appreciation what God is doing in our lives and around our lives, and to demonstrate our willingness to be tools in God’s hands.

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It is that simple. Notice I did not say that it is easy, I said that it is simple. Simple and easy are two different things.

To give us strength for the journey, Jesus invites us to share a sacred meal with Him.

{Transition to the Sacrament of the Holy Communion.}

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