Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

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

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Journey towards Stewardship Sunday

This Sunday our church community will start preparing for the Stewardship Campaign.

Scriptures for this Sunday: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

You can read these Scriptures here {NIV and ESV}


Today we will start a journey towards Stewardship Sunday.


I know that when pastors start talking about “stewardship,” many people start thinking about good excuses to skip church for a week or two. We do that because traditionally stewardship campaigns tend to make us feel dehumanized; nobody wants to be the target of a stewardship campaign or to be treated as a “giving unit.”


Some of us think of stewardship as an obligation. It is neither right nor wrong; it is a way (or a method) to understand what stewardship is and to relate to God.


I want to suggest a different way of looking at it. I think that stewardship flows from the heart, and is a tangible manifestation of your love for God, and gratitude and recognition of what God has done in your life.

The truth is that stewardship is about our – yours and my – closeness with God. Stewardship is about our eagerness to follow Jesus.


Stewardship is about putting our money and our resources where our faith is, in witness, presence, prayer and tithe. Stewardship is about our willingness to allow the Holy Spirit of our God to mold us and shape us. Many disagreements in and between churches, many financial shortfalls and building problems, are symptoms of the lack of understanding about what stewardship means in all aspects of our lives. One of the aspects of stewardship (one of many) has to do with giving, because in order for the church to function and make disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world, we need a center of operation: a church sanctuary, Sunday school rooms, office, fellowship hall, rest rooms etc.


{Illustration from Larry W. from Christ UMC in Chestertown}



We too live in a world that is changing. Leggett’s was dealing with issues related to the oil embargo. Our issues today are different. As a society, we are becoming more and more distrustful of organizations and more trusting of social interactions. As a society we shop more and more on AMAZON™ and less and less in Walmart. More and more people get news via Facebook: we watch a segment on CNN or on Huffington Post and then exchange ideas and thoughts on what we have just learned with our friends. Self-driving cars are becoming a reality: Olli 12 passenger self-driving buses will go into service in Miami and Las Vegas in January. We can watch TV, build a substantial library, and learn things using a cell phone.

In our context as a church, stewardship is about asking ourselves questions such as:


In this new reality, what can we do as a church to reach our neighbors and demonstrate to them how God is transforming and renewing us every day?


How we can adapt and adjust with the changing times so that we are still able to deliver the message of God’s love to generations that are more comfortable with non-personal interactions via social networks, and who prefer to learn on-line instead of in a classroom?


To seek these answers, we need a center of operation – church facilities where we can gather for worship, witness to our faith, pray and uplift each other and reach out beyond the walls of our church building. In order to maintain this center of operation, this building, we need financial resources.


The point that I am trying to make is that stewardship is closely related to our commitment to God. I think of commitment as a sum of devotion, dedication, loyalty to a cause or to a relationship that gives us energy and strength to keep on keeping on. I think of commitment as an attitude that keeps us working towards a goal or in support of something that is bigger than ourselves.

Stewardship is about creating an environment where we all can grow in our own commitment to God so that we are inspired to go and make disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world.


In 2 Corinthians 9:6 we heard, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

What you and I “reap,” the energy that comes to us from God that helps us to keep going, is directly proportional to the stewardship (what we give back to God) in our lives and in our community.

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In 2 Corinthians 9:13-14 we heard, “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.”



Will, Larry. Interview. Asher Tunik. 21 10 2016. Phone Conversation/ Interviewee’s Personal Recollection & Personal Experience.

Thinking Towards Sunday; October 23, 2016

This Sunday our church community will start preparing for the Stewardship Campaign.

Scriptures for this Sunday: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

You can read these Scriptures here {NIV and ESV}

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; 2 Timothy 1:6-14; World Communion Sunday

Scriptures for this Sunday: 2 Timothy 1:6-14

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


Today is World Communion Sunday.

World Communion Sunday is a celebration observed by many Christian denominations. It always takes place on the first Sunday of October, and its celebration promotes Christian unity and ecumenical (inter‑denominational) cooperation.

Pastors tend to get much more excited about World Communion Sunday than laity. I remember watching my pastors, bouncing off the walls of the sanctuary with excitement. I remember wondering what it was that they knew that I did not understand, and how World Communion Sunday was different from any other Sunday of the year when our congregation celebrated the Sacrament of the Holy Communion.

Now I am in their shoes, and those are pretty large shoes to fill. Today I want to attempt to explain why I am excited about today. Our Tuesday Bible study gave me a great metaphor to explain what makes me excited about World Communion Sunday and how I understand it.


Every Tuesday a few of us gather around the table in the meeting room to study the Bible, to fellowship, and to help each other to grow in our relationship with God. At present we are in the middle of a Bible study that looks at images of the Holy in the visual arts.


Pablo Picasso said that “Art is a lie that tells us something about the Truth.” With that in mind our Bible study is looking at recent movies with the intent of figuring out how our modern parables, or stories that we tell ourselves, connect us to God. These stories are windows into what we believe to be right, true and beautiful


The movie that we just finished looking at is called The Hundred-Foot Journey. It was released in August 2014 and it is a story of a family fleeing religious persecution in their native India and finally finding a home in a small village in France. It is an awesome movie and if you have not seen it, it is well worth 2 hours of your time.

The major thread in the plot of the movie (one of many) is a story of a young man, Hassan, who has a natural talent for cooking; he is a chef in the family restaurant. He has a passion for cooking, and he is not afraid to experiment with different foods, flavors, textures, and spices.

In 2011 there was a study done comparing North American and Western European cuisines with East Asian cuisines. That study discovered that Western European cuisine (the way we prepare our food) tends to include ingredients with similar flavor molecules together in one recipe. By contrast East Asian (Chinese, Indian) cuisines do the opposite: East Asian cuisine use spices and ingredients that have very different flavor molecules. That means that the ingredients in most recipes traditionally associated with Western cuisine overlap and deepen each other’s flavors, while those in Asian recipes tend to bristle against one another with distinctive flavors (Satran).

In East Asian Cuisine, for flavors to work together, a recipe has to cook or marinade for a long time giving spices time to release their flavor and complement each other. Learning how to do that takes a long time and Hassan had an aptitude, an interest, and determination to work to become good at it.


Without giving away the plot of the movie, Hassan found a way to infuse the classical western spice palate of France with the Indian spice palate. Because he was able to do that, Hassan became a sensation in the culinary world of France when he was able to successfully modify traditional French dishes and infuse them with new flavors. We also see him modify traditional Indian dishes with western ingredients.


The Hundred Foot Journey is a movie that tells us a story of something new emerging from the foundation of two classical culinary schools. Both French and Indian recipes were transformed; in the process many people enjoyed the transformation because they liked the new resulting flavors.


For me, World Communion Sunday is a reminder that each of us is a different “spice” in the kitchen and in the process of God’s Creation. World Communion Sunday asserts that although we have different backgrounds, different talents and different abilities, we influence each other and that influence can help us to become the best version of what God created us to be. The words “melting pot” come to mind…

The Church is always emerging and changing with the times. The Church is always relying on you and me, (people of various backgrounds, viewpoints, talents, and abilities) to come together, to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us (or in the language of today’s illustration to “cook” or “marinade” together) so that we find new ways to serve as tools in God’s hands, serving God by serving the world in which we live.


World Communion Sunday is about acknowledging that the labels that we apply to ourselves (Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, Baptist, White, Black, Latinos, etc.) are man-made. We are all God’s children, all loved by God and created to complement each other’s efforts and presence. There is a saying, “I may forget what someone said, but I will never forget how they made me feel.” World Communion Sunday is about finding ways to inspire and encourage each other.


In today’s Scripture reading we heard, “7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord …” (2 Tim 1:7-8). Today is about finding the power, courage, love, openness and discipline to find ways to connect, to bridge divisions, and to break down walls of separation.

That understanding is what makes me really excited about today, World Communion Sunday.

{Celebrating the Sacrament of the Holy Communion}


Satran, Joe. “Western-Asian Flavor Differences Revealed By New Study.” 15 12 2011. Huffington Post. accessed 28 09 2016 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/15/western-asian-flavor_n_1152211.html. 28 09 2016.

Thinking Towards Sunday; October 2, 2016; World Communion Sunday

Scriptures for this Sunday: 2 Timothy 1:6-14

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

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; 25-September-2016; Luke 16:19-31

Scripture for this Sunday is 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31

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


In the song Eleanor Rigby, the Beatles asked a question, “Look at all the lonely people, …Where do they all come from [and] where do they all belong?”


That song paints a picture of a woman named Eleanor Rigby who picks up the rice in the church after a wedding. Is she a cleaning lady? Does she pick up the rice and scraps to survive? We don’t know.

And then we learn that Eleanor Rigby died in the church, she was buried (“along with her name”) and no one cared enough to come to the funeral.

I have no doubt that this Eleanor Rigby that the Beatles wrote about was based on a real person. There was a time in her life when she dreamt about meeting her Prince Charming, when she was in love, when she went to work every day, enjoyed parties, celebrated birthdays, spent time with friends. We don’t know whether she was ever married, whether she had children; maybe they all perished in a war. The point I am trying to make is that Eleanor Rigby was worthy of attention, worthy of love, worthy of extra care from the rest of society and especially from those who were doing well for themselves. And yet, she died in the church, she was buried (“along with her name”) and no one cared enough to come to her funeral.

We live with preconceived notions. We each have our own likes, dislikes, habits and rituals, and most of us do not spend much time thinking about it. We even have a name for that combination of likes, dislikes, habits and rituals: we call it “NORMAL.”


The parable of the Rich Man (a.k.a. Dives; Dives means “Rich” in Latin; we don’t know his real name) and Lazarus is a story a two persons whose fortunes changed, and whose ideas of “NORMAL” were challenged. Although Jesus does not use the word “chasm” until after Dives and Lazarus were dead, during their lives they were separated by a chasm of likes, dislikes, habits and rituals. They were separated by a chasm of what was considered to be “NORMAL” in their day and age.

I think of Eleanor Rigby from the Beatles’ song as a modern day Lazarus.


I used to think that Dives was kind of like Ebenezer Scrooge before he “saw the light.” When I looked closely at today’s Gospel reading, I was surprised to discover that Dives is not at all described as being miserly, stingy, gloomy or morose.


Luke tells us nothing about this man’s attitude towards money; it is quite possible that he was generous, supporting all kinds of charities throughout his lifetime.

Luke tells us nothing about this man’s attitude towards life. We have no idea whether he was religious and we do not know any of his thoughts or emotions towards the poor while he enjoyed the blessings of life surrounded by his family and friends in his nice home.

Sometimes what is NOT said is as important as what IS said. By NOT telling us anything about this man’s attitude towards money or life, Luke makes the point that this story is not about our need to be generous, our need to depend on God, our need to be grateful to God for every blessing in our lives, or our emotions of sadness or guilt about having nice things. Though all these things are all important, this parable is not about any of that.

The point that Jesus makes has to do with the fact that we live in a world ravaged by poverty, sickness, and vulnerability (based on age, sex, race, ethnic identity, religious beliefs, and social status).


The point that Jesus makes is that we tend to run away from or turn a blind eye to the suffering of others because suffering scares us and challenges our own ideas of normalcy.

Ah look at all the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
Where do they all belong?”

Although today’s sermon is not a candidate for the “Pastor Asher’s Feel Good Sermons” Hall of Fame there is Good News in today’s parable.


The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus sheds a light on our abilities and how we translate them into our actions. Dives failed to recognize the chasm between himself and Lazarus until it was too late. And even then he did not do anything to repair that chasm. In Luke 16:23-31 Dives asks Abraham to send Lazarus to fetch some water and then to send Lazarus on an errand to warn his brothers and their families. We don’t see even a hint of remorse or understanding in Dives’ plea to Abraham. All he cares about is his own comfort and what happens to his extended family.

That extended family could be us: you and I. You and I are Dives’ sisters and brothers.

None of us are powerful enough to broker peace in a time of war. None of us are wealthy enough to end world hunger. We are not capable of ending homelessness. We cannot prevent earthquakes and we cannot stop hurricanes. As individuals we are helpless against tyranny. But we do have abilities and these abilities can translate into actions.

There are “Lazaruses” all around us. Some are hungry because they have nothing to eat; although we cannot fix all the problems of hunger and homelessness, we can work to rebuild this church community so our rich tradition of mission and outreach can continue long after we are dead and buried.

There are “Lazaruses” all around us. Some are spiritually hungry; they are frustrated, scared and feel disenfranchised by the society that all of us live in. They know who Jesus is, we can share with them the difference that our relationship with Jesus makes in our lives.

Those are just some of the “Lazaruses” that we can help. We can offer them a sympathetic ear that is willing to listen and a place where they can belong. We can offer to them the opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves, something that will infuse their lives with meaning and a sense of purpose, something that will give them hope.


In Exodus 34 we learned that after spending one-on-one time with God, Moses’ face was glowing.


I saw a similar glow on some of your faces during the silent auction. That glow came from experiencing and feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst, and we have that to offer and we are capable of doing that.

So far we have had three round-robin dinners. I observed something interesting at every one of these dinners. I could not find an English word to describe it but there is a Spanish word that describes what I observed: “Sobremesa.” Sobremesa roughly translates as “after dinner conversation,” but if you really want to know what it means, find a Latino/Latina person and ask them to explain it to you. It is so much more than just an after dinner conversation. I saw that same glow on your faces during the three sobremesas that I was a part of.

Not every Bible Study on Tuesday results in this glow on our faces, and not every Bible Study is emotion rich, but we have had a couple of afternoons when I saw that same glow around the table in the Bible Study room.

The glow that I am talking about comes from experiencing God’s presence.

Evangelism and outreach is about being intentional about having events where we ourselves can experience God’s presence, as well as inviting our neighbors in and offering them a place to experience that glow and that feeling for themselves. We invite others to demonstrate how our lives are changed and transformed by our relationship with Jesus; we do that to offer a safe place for our neighbors to experience the same renewal and transformation.

We don’t know what our church will look like in five, ten, twenty and sixty years from now, but we do have a lot of influence towards what it will be like. This church may become a pile of rubble or it may still be a vibrant community of Christian sisters and brothers serving God by serving the world around us.

In Memoriam: Carol Stiffler


In Memoriam

Carol Stiffler


We live in the hearts of those we leave behind.

Every human life is a story told by God

Thinking Towards Sunday; September 28, 2016

Scripture for this Sunday is 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31

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

Approximate notes for Sunday’s Message; September 18, 2016; Luke 16:1-13

Scripture for this Sunday is Luke 16:1-13

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


Bishop Peter Weaver who led Peninsula-Delaware Conference from 1996 to 2004 was fond of telling this story. I’ve heard it several times at Bishop’s Days Apart and at the Annual Conference.

{Illustration: Bishop Weaver’s Story}


The church was turned around because six ladies relied on their strengths (they knew how to make cookies and they knew how to do it well), and they also were willing to think outside the box and use the resources available to them in effective and productive ways. I think that these six ladies asked themselves a question, “What can we do that has a chance of bearing tangible results?”


The parable we have heard today … {Illustration}

There is little artwork available to illustrate this parable. By contrast, the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the Parable of the Prodigal Son will have dozens (plural) high-definition illustrations available.


The parable of the Shrewd Manager that we heard today is a story of a man who asked himself the same question, “What can I do in my present circumstances that will bear tangible results?”

This parable does not do anything to dispel the dishonesty of the manager or to ridicule the master. Instead the parable turns on the steward’s shrewd response to the urgency of the situation and invites us to reflect and to recognize that likewise we are in the middle of a crisis that demands thinking outside of the box for the disaster to be avoided.

We can learn a great deal from this parable. This parable is about the value of the community. This parable illustrates to us what can happen when we strive to find workable solutions to the problems we face as a community.


Just like the Shrewd Manager, all of us can be accused of squandering our master’s wealth. I am not talking about a pen or a pencil from your workplace that found its way to your desk at home. How many of us squander our gifts, talents and resources by refusing to use them to the glory of God; have you ever refused to do something in the church knowing full-well that you are doing it because it would inconvenience you? Have you ever skipped church because you wanted to go to a football game or some other secular [completely church un-related] event?

How many of us squander God’s love given to us in fellowship with each other when we make a decision to skip church and miss an opportunity to spend time with each other?

How many of us have squandered God’s gifts to us by refusing to tithe, spending our money on toys instead; flat screen TVs, computers, cars, etc. By the way, the Bible DOES NOT say it’s wrong to have toys, but it does say that we must honor God with the first ten percent of what God has given to us.

In today’s parable, the Rich Man heard some gossip about the Shrewd Manager; Luke does not tell us whether the rumors were true or not. Just like the Rich Man, all of us occasionally get engrossed in delicious gossip that fuels our imaginations and we run with it.

Do you know anyone who is in debt up to his or her eyeballs? Would that person be happy if someone said to them, “don’t worry, be happy, your debts are cut in half?” There are days when I’d love someone to come to me and say, “Hey, have a hug, here is a large Tobleron[1], and to sweeten the deal, here is $6,000,000. Go pig out!” That is what happened to the Farmers in today’s reading. They were elated; they probably saw the Shrewd Manager as a “Robin Hood” type.

We can see ourselves in every character in today’s parable. There is a little bit of the manager in us, there is a little bit of the rich man, and there is a little bit of the farmers.

Today’s parable describes a small universe that was out of balance and found healing. Today’s parable has many parallels with our lives, because our lives and our universe also need healing.

Our universe is out of balance as well.


As a Church (big “C”) we are torn by conflict and disagreements. We argue amongst ourselves about human sexuality instead of spending our energy making disciples. We argue whether Global Warming is real instead of acknowledging that the climate is changing for whatever reason, and we need to find new crops to grow if we want to survive as a human race.


Jesus’ recommendation? It is right there in verse nine. Luke 16:9 “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Focus on relationships, focus on each other, spend time with each other, help each other as much as you can, spend time learning about God together, laugh together, break bread together.

None of us are wealthy enough or powerful enough to resolve all the problems plaguing our country at this time. We cannot fix the economy, we cannot fix the plight of those who lost their jobs, we cannot provide medical insurance for those who don’t have it, and all of us are struggling under the weight of the national debt. That is scary and depressing stuff, AND it is not the whole story.

The other side of that story, our HOPE and our Good News lies in the fact that we are not helpless. We can fix some problems in our community. If we want our young people to have good jobs in the future, we need to make sure that they get a good education; as parents and grandparents we can take MORE than a superficial interest in that area. We can keep each other accountable and help each other to work towards being debt free.

Today’s Gospel reading gives us a glimpse of what we can do if we make a conscious decision to work together and recognize our strengths and weaknesses.


NIV Luke 16:10Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

Our question is: what are we doing with what is entrusted in our care today? When it is all said and done, what is the legacy that we are going to leave behind? The six ladies of Chester made a decision to make cookies. What are our “cookies?” Notice the {“} quotes.


NIV 1 Timothy 2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men [and women] to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

[1] Toblerone is a brand of Swiss chocolate.

Thinking Towards Sunday, September 18, 2016

Scripture for this Sunday is Luke 16:1-13

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

Approximate notes for Sunday’s Message; September 11, 2016; Romans 14:5-12

Our Scripture this Sunday will be Romans 14:5-12

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV2010 and ESV}


Where were you on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 when you heard the news?

It was a few minutes before 9 am. I walked into the office and saw someone running towards me, cell phone in hand. She said, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center. Can you do some magic and get to the CNN website?”

I went into the computer closet, logged into the router and reconfigured it so that everyone could get to the internet. It was 2001, practically the stone age; we didn’t have streaming news yet. The latest news story that we read on the CNN website was that a small plane had crashed into one of the towers.

A few minutes later, as we were frantically pressing the refresh buttons on our browsers, a new report came in saying a second plane hit the other tower.

I remember thinking that maybe the first plane was not as “small” as we were hoping. Something just didn’t seem right.

Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. News came in bits and pieces: The Pentagon, another plane going down in Pennsylvania, air traffic grounded indefinitely. I remember feeling numb and worried at the same time, calling my wife and then trying to contact my extended family in New York and in Pennsylvania.

I did not see the videos of the buildings collapsing until I got home that afternoon. I did not really know how to feel. The emotions at the prayer service that evening ranged from that of shock and fear to anger and grief.

In the next few days as the news poured in, we saw images of courage and selflessness. There were stories of ordinary people who sacrificed everything to save lives. There were accounts of fire fighters, police officers and rescue workers who were able to conquer their own fears, and were climbing into the burning buildings trying to save lives.

Those of us who were alive on that day will never forget it.


Today, fifteen years later, there is another question to ask, “How has your perspective and understanding of the world changed? How is it different than it was fifteen years ago as a result of living with the memories of that day?”

How are YOU different?

What have we learned in the last fifteen years?

How have the events of that day shaped our community?


The meaning of any event is determined by the outcomes, by how this event changes us.

In tragic moments it may be tempting to discard the notion that life has any meaning, to give in to despair, and build a wall around ourselves; we minimize the chance of getting hurt that way. On the other hand, events like these can challenge us to draw closer to God, to explore the breadth and the depth of life’s meaning, and to cherish every moment with friends and loved ones.

The way we respond is a witness to God and we have a choice to make. We can witness to emptiness and despair or we can witness to hope, resurrection, resilience of the human spirit, and the presence of God in our lives.

It has been fifteen years since the events of 9/11 took place. It is important to know where we are emotionally and spiritually as a result of the changes that have happened since that day. Are we more fearful and suspicious? Do we want to isolate ourselves from people who are different from us and whom we perceive as a threat? Have we given in to hateful rhetoric, become less tolerant, more inclined to violence? Do we feel robbed of hope and find it difficult to accept God’s unconditional love? If so, that would make the events of 9/11 a victory for despair, emptiness, and death. That would mean that the terrorists won.

On the other hand, maybe the aftermath of 9/11 caused us to seek a deeper understanding of what it means to live in a global community; to rethink the meaning of what it means to be free, to be a child of God and a follower of Jesus, to be empowered with responsibility and rights of citizenship. Were you challenged to rethink how you connect to your family, your community, your neighbors?

Did our response to the aftermath of 9/11 become a triumph of our community’s resilience, and an affirmation that although the thread of our individual lives is fragile, the fabric of life in Christ is eternal?


The truth is that the Church that Jesus established has been here before. I am NOT trying to minimize the gravity and pain of what happened on 9/11, but I want to remind all of us that following Jesus’ death on the Cross, his followers lived through a period of anguish trying to understand and make sense of what had just happened. Out of the depth of their despair they were able to discern that Jesus’ death was not evidence of the victory of death, despair, and violence; rather, in his resurrection they experienced a new life and a renewed relationship with God.

Our Christian story affirms that hope is more persistent than despair, that love is more powerful than hate, that life is victorious over death. For the last 2,000 years, countless generations of Christians of different persuasions embodied that hope that is at the core of being a follower of Christ:

  • life is worth living, even when there are times of extraordinary loss;

  • people are worth loving, even when they can be taken from us so unexpectedly; and

  • God is worth trusting, even when we cannot wrap our heads around what we see in front of us.


That is why Paul wrote, One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. … 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14: 5-8).


In the same epistle to Romans (chapter 8:35-39), Paul also wrote, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Shall hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


I started this message by asking you a question, “Where were you on 9/11?” I want to finish this message by asking you a different question, “Where are you today? How has the journey of the last fifteen years changed you and brought you closer to God?”


In the Epistle to Philippians (chapter 2), Paul wrote, 12 Therefore, my dear friends, … work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”



Thinking Towards Sunday; September 11, 2016

Our Scripture this Sunday will be Romans 14:5-12

You can read this Scripture here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Luke 14:25-33

Scripture for this Sunday: Luke 14:25-33

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


Who among us has not crammed at one time or another: cleaning the house before company arrives, studying for exams the night before, packing for vacation 20 minutes before it’s time to leave for the airport, ironing a pair slacks as our spouse says, “vámonos, we are going to be late,” working on a report that was due yesterday…

I remember especially vividly when I was cramming for the spelling bee the night before.


Dentalcram – vigorous brushing of one’s teeth prior to a visit to their dentist.


In today’s Gospel reading we heard Jesus say, “…whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

A picture is worth a thousand words and to illustrate that sentence, “…whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple,” I would like to show you some images.















In today’s Gospel reading we learned that Jesus preached a sermon, and the gist, the essence of that sermon was “Be prepared! Think things through! If you do something, think of the consequences…” The sermon that Jesus preached that day was about overextending ourselves.

There are some words and phrases that we use in our daily conversations that sound so familiar, so intuitive, and so right. More often than not, that familiarity robs otherwise meaningful statements of their initial intent, and makes them into platitudes. The language of cross-bearing is one of those phrases.


The sermon that Jesus preached that day, the sermon that became today’s Gospel reading, was preached not to his disciples or those that had already made a commitment to follow Jesus. In verse 25 we hear, “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said…”

The sermon that introduces the concept of bearing one’s cross was originally preached to those who were curious, those who came to hear Jesus the way we would go to a concert or an appearance by a celebrity.

Jesus was warning the curious to make sure that they understood the consequences of following him before they made a commitment. Being Jesus’ follower is about being adaptable, flexible and patient with the changing time, and Jesus knew that times were about to drastically change with his crucifixion. The language of cross-bearing is about building a personal relationship with Jesus. It is about learning to think differently with every new stage of life, in response to the way that God interacts with us differently at each of those stages.

The language of cross-bearing and the illustrations that Jesus used have nothing to do with chronic illnesses, painful chronic conditions, trying family relationships or stoic perseverance facing unsurmountable odds. It does have a lot to do with how we live our lives.

I wish I could say that our lives will be a bed of roses and everything will go exactly the way we want it to. But that would be a lie. We can count on frustrations being a part of our lives because we live in a fallen world.

Frustrations do not have to be of epic proportions: every morning someone burns their toast, somebody else loses a sock, and someone spills a huge mug of coffee on their brand new carpet. Our cross-bearing is in the way we deal with those frustrations, because in learning to deal with little things, we learn to rely on God in all things – big or small.

And when we invest ourselves, our time, our efforts and our energy in building a relationship with Jesus, when we are truly following Jesus, all things are possible.

(Illustration: Possible does not equal Easy).

And that is what the sermon that Jesus preached that day long ago was about.


Ann Landers paraphrased this quote from Jesus the best when she said, “It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.”

Just like our parents help us to become great human beings with an unlimited potential, God is working in us teaching us to be the best version of what we were created to be. Cross-bearing has a lot to do with that.


Here are some questions to ponder:

  • What did you learn from Jesus last week?

  • What is God teaching you in this period of your life?

  • What kind of questions are you asking God? What are you hoping to learn?

One of the ways to bear the cross of Jesus is to be excited for what God is doing in the world around us and to be a tool in God’s hands. Who did you help to build up? Who did you encourage? When people spend time with you, how does it leave them feel? Are you on fire for Jesus?

I want to leave you with this short poem (it is also printed in the front of the bulletin):

If my heart is not on fire,
And your heart is not on fire,
If we are not filled with the Spirit,
Who will then disperse the dark?

Celebrating the Sacrament of the Holy Communion

Thinking Towards Sunday; September 4, 2016

Scripture for this Sunday: Luke 14:25-33

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

Approximate notes for the Sunday’s Message; Sunday, August 28, 2016

Scripture for this Sunday is Luke 14:1, 7-14

You can read this pericope here: {NIV2010 and ESV}


Do you want to be respected?

Do you want to be liked and have a lot of friends?

When you go out to an event (dinner, movies, baseball game) do you want the best seat in the house?


It is our human condition to want to be liked. It is part of our human nature to want the best for ourselves. At sporting events we want the best seats with the best view; those seats usually carry the highest price. They also carry the greatest bragging potential – it impresses people when we tell them that WE HAVE THOSE SEATS. We also like the best parking spots. Just watch people at the store. The best parking spots are the ones closest to the front door. Nobody wants the parking spaces out in the far end of the lot.

In Mark 10 we read that James and John (two of Jesus’ disciples) tried to get a “best seat” as well… “Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right and one on Your left … You see Jesus, WE WANT THE BEST SEATS in the kingdom, places of prestige and power…”

That is the natural response – all of us want the best…

Many of us have had a quiet chuckle as we observed people at banquets or office parties, weddings and even funerals trying to sit next to people they consider their social equals. We chuckle under our breath when we hear someone complaining that he or she was assigned a seat that we consider “bad” at some social function.

We laugh because we recognize that people can be so insecure that they actually measure their self-worth and self-esteem by where they plant their behind for an hour or two. We laugh until we realize that at times every one of us is just as insecure; and then we thank God that we have enough common sense to try to hide our insecurity or at least smooth it over.


Today’s parable was given to Pharisees. Pharisees were what we would call today “church-going people.” They spent a lot of time in their “church” – synagogue. Pharisees were NOT what we would call the “upper class.” Just like most of us here they were the “lower to middle class.” They did not inherit their wealth, they earned it through hard work and they were proud of that fact. They were also proud of their moral status in society at the time; they knew the scriptures inside and out, their children were well educated and they were mission oriented. They knew there were people who did not know who God is, and they went after those gentiles with gusto and perseverance. They also took care of those in need. All-in-all, the Pharisees were not the villains that many Christians imagine them to be. But on that day 2000 years ago, as Jesus was observing some of the Pharisees maneuvering to get as close to the head of the table as they could, Jesus plainly saw the poison of pride in their lives.

Because of their education, Pharisees would recognize today’s parable as a reflection on the text from Proverbs 25:6-7:

6 Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among great men; 7 it is better for him to say to you, “Come up here,” than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman…”

By giving us today’s parable, Jesus reminds us that honor and respect is not gained by seizing prominence; honor and respect must be earned by each of us and given by others.

Today’s parable is about hubris and humility. Hubris is easy to spot and all of us can spot it from a mile away. Humility, on the other hand, is a tough quality to describe. The moment we think that we’ve got humility, it is gone.

Humility has nothing to do with self-deprecation; humility has nothing to do with thinking that each one of us is a worthless wimp.

Humility is about an honest evaluation of who we are as individuals; who we are as the Bible describes us, as God sees us and as the Holy Spirit guides us. On one hand each one of us is a sinner who deserves eternal separation from God; on the other hand, God valued each one of us so much that He shed God’s own essence to pay for our sins so that we would have a chance and a place to spend eternity with Him.

Humility is found in the tension and the balance between these two realities.

Jesus came to seek the lost… When we think of Jesus coming to seek and save “the lost,” we disdainfully envision drug addicts, prostitutes, convicts, and the like.  But on a closer look, who could possibly be more lost than one who assumes, by virtue of his or her own righteousness, his or her own education, perhaps his or her own lifestyle, that he doesn’t need to be found?

Humility reminds us that it is us who need to be found. Humility reminds us that it is us who could be lost, humility reminds us that it is we, each one of us, who are standing in the need of prayer. Humility reminds us that it is us, each one of us, who needs God’s grace and love.

Paul writes in Romans 7 about what a wretched creature he is; a man who cannot refrain from sin. He says that he does not do the good things that he wants to do, but instead he does things that make him despise himself… What a picture of an internal struggle, a battle in the soul of a man torn by conflicting values!

But the story that Paul tells us does not stop there… In the very next chapter Paul writes about how we are deeply loved as children of God – heirs of God with Christ. Paul understood the balance and Paul lived in that balance. He wrote, “I know that nothing good lives in me…those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” (Romans 7:18; 8:14) Another way to look at it is to remember Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) To echo that Paul wrote “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13 NIV)

That balance and that tension – THAT HUMILITY – keeps you and me from being an emotional wreck who never attempts anything great for God.

The Christian writer A.W. Tozer wrote: “The humble man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of inferiority. He may be as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that in God’s eyes he is more precious and important than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is the motto of the humble man.”

Kingswood United Methodist Church will host a block party on Saturday, September 10, 2016

Kingswood United Methodist Church will host a block party on Saturday, September 10, 2016.

Date: Saturday, September 10, 2016

Time: 11-2

Location: 300 Marrows Rd Newark, De 19713

At the Block party a Hot Lunch and Bake Table will provide food while a local praise band will be performing. There will also be a Silent Auction. A variety of items will be auctioned off including local restaurant gift cards, and products from local businesses. All funds raised will go to support our ministries here in the Brookside and Newark area. By supporting us, you are supporting the Hope Dining Room and the Kingswood Food Closet to name a few of our missions. Free events include fingerprinting kits, a K-9 demonstration, the Mounted Police, face painting and a cake walk. Come out and have a good time! Proceeds Benefit: Kingswood United Methodist Church. For more information, contact our church office at 302-738-4478

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