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; Litany of Consecration and Commissioning of the New Boiler; Eph 4:7-8, 11-16

Ephesians 4:7-8, 11-16 NIV2010

7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

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I think of today’s Scripture as Paul’s instructions for “How to be a member of a Christian community.” Similar instructions are found throughout his letters, especially in Ephesians 4:7-8, 11-32 (the reading that we heard today), Romans 12:4-13 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-14.

God is the common denominator in what keeps us together. Our commitment to God is what translates into action: our common Christian values, mission, evangelism and outreach. Our commitment to God is what translates into what we believe to be right, true and beautiful. Our understanding of and our commitment to God translates into our interactions with the world around us, i.e. making disciples, volunteering, voting, recycling, what we do and do not do.

As you know, we had to replace the boiler in this church building. The Trustees worked really hard, and as a result we gather today to worship in a balmy, warm sanctuary.

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The tradition of consecrating buildings and objects to God’s service goes deep into our Christian history. In the Hebrew scriptures, a whole chapter (1 Kings 8) is dedicated to King Solomon’s dedication of the newly constructed Temple. The prayer of consecration that Solomon prayed is found in 1 Kings 8:22-53. You can also find a reference to this event in 2 Chronicles 7:1-22. Following this tradition and legacy, today we will consecrate the new boiler to God’s service.

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To us, this sanctuary and this building is a holy place. What makes this place holy to us is memories and meaning. This is where we recognize God’s presence and grace in our lives. This is where we gather for prayer, worship and the Sacrament of the Holy Communion. This building remembers the voices of our loved ones; this sanctuary is where many of you were baptized and married; this community is the community that witnessed your accomplishments and stood by you in your set-backs.

If we sit quietly it is almost as if we can hear the sound of God’s breathing meeting our human imagination. The sound of this organ and the sounds of our voices are part of the tapestry of prayer and worship that happened before us, is happening now and hopefully will continue to happen for years to come.

When I saw the new boiler for the first time, I saw a symbol of hope and faith that our community will continue making disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world in the future. By installing this boiler, we make a statement that we will be around for the next 20 years – the life-expectancy of this unit. The work that went into installing this boiler represents the efforts, dedication and commitment of this community to God. It represents our hope and our faith in the future of our community.

Litany of Dedication and Commissioning  of the New Boiler.

L: Loving and Gracious God!

With gratitude and joy we remember the men and women who served you and gathered for worship in this church building in the past. They prayed, studied Scriptures, worshiped, worked and fellowshipped together. Through it all they grew in grace and wisdom. Many of them are a part of the Church Triumphant, some of them are still on this side of eternity. For all of their efforts and for everything that they mean to us we give you glory, honor and gratitude.

P: Today we pray for ourselves and for those Christians who will follow us and gather to pray, to study Scriptures, to worship, to work and to fellowship together in the future. We pray that the use of this building will help them to serve you, to further your kingdom, to make disciples and to be your church in the world that you created and gifted to humankind. May the warmth generated by the new boiler be a blessing to this community and remind us of your faithful presence in our life.

L: We thank you for the men and women who worked tirelessly to raise money to pay for the boiler, who worked tirelessly and diligently to make decisions and work out the logistics of installation, and who installed this new system.

P: May all their efforts be “pleasing in your eyes” (Ps 19:14) and like a “pleasing aroma” (Gen 8:21, Exo 29: 18, 25, 41) in your nostrils.

L: In the name of the Father who understood and forgave us, in the name of the Son who redeemed us on the Cross and in the name of the Holy Spirit who molds and guides our lives we dedicate the new boiler to God’s service and glory.

P: The community of Kingswood United Methodist Church accepts this boiler as a sacred trust and will care for it and use it reverently as we strive to make disciples for Jesus Christ, to spread the gospel and to further God’s Kingdom.

ALL: AMEN

Thinking Towards Sunday; January 15, 2017

Thanx to our faithful and dedicated trustees, WE HAVE HEAT IN THE CHURCH BUILDING!!!!!!!!

On January 15 we will gather for worship and we will dedicate the new boiler to God’s Service!

Scriptures for this Sunday are: Ephesians 4:7-8, 11-16. You can read these Scriptures here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

To the Family of Kingswood UMC–URGENT!!!!; No Heat in the church; Worship Services on 1/1/2017 canceled.

Good Evening! Today is Friday, December 30, 2016 and I am posting this at approximately  6:30 pm

The purpose of this e-note is to bring everybody up to date on the situation with heat at Kingswood United Methodist Church, and to let everyone know there will be NO worship services on Sunday, January 1, 2017 due to a lack of heat in the building.

Our trustees informed me that there is no heat due to a hole in the boiler steam chamber; the boiler can’t build-up steam to heat the church.  Because of this, the Worship Committee had to make the difficult decision to cancel this week’s service. 

The life expectancy of a boiler like ours is about 20 years and that’s the age of our boiler. Our  Trustees have a contractor working on a replacement. At this time we don’t know how much it will cost or when the work will be completed.  We will keep you informed.

I also sent this information via e-mail. Is you are aware of anyone that does not have email and does not use internet please call them and let them know so they are aware of the situation.

If you would like to view the sermon notes on the web, they are posted on our church’s blog: {CLICK ME 4 SERMON NOTES}

If you would like to view the online version of the Trumpet, it is posted on our church’s blog as well: {CLICK ME 4 Z TRUMPET}. Printed copy of the Trumpet is available at the church

Approximate Notes for New Year’s Message; January 1, 2017

Scriptures for Sunday, January 1, 2017: Ecclesiastes 3:1-13; Philippians 2:5-11

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

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Time marches on. All of the accomplishments, triumphs, frustrations, and errors of 2016 are in the past. 2016 is history, it is a part of who we are both individually and as a community and it is a done deal. We cannot change anything about 2016 anymore.

Today is January 1, 2017; the first day of the new year. Happy New Year! 2017 is a new journal with clean pages; it is yet to be written.

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I do not think that God is either temporal or spatial.

{Illustration}

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God who created the universe, God who is neither temporal or spatial, has given us the gift of time and created a place for us once called the Garden of Eden, where things happen in time and in cycles. Spring is followed by summer, summer followed by fall, fall is followed by winter and winter is followed by spring. There is certain rhythm and cyclicality to our lives. That rhythm and cyclicality make time God’s gift to all of us.

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Allow me to explain. Time is a gift from God because, ideally, experience comes with time, and experience is a teacher and a mentor. When we know what we want to accomplish, time is a patient teacher that presents us teachable moments and invitations. Every season of the year teaches us certain lessons and challenges us to find different answers and solutions.

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{Illustration}

Why am I telling you this story? Because New Year is the fodder for blogs, magazine articles, TV shows, and way too many tweets;

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I think that a new commandment should be “Tweet unto Others…” New Year is the time for the annual ritual of New Year’s resolutions, and New Year’s resolutions are rooted in the impossible and unattainable desire of immediate and significant personal life change without serious investment of emotions and energy.

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  • Few smokers can quit because of a single moment of resolve,

  • Even fewer overweight people have become slim and healthy because of one dramatic moment of commitment,

  • I do not know anyone who was deeply in debt and was able to change their financial habits because of a New Year’s resolution,

  • I have never met a happily married couple who told me that a New Year’s resolution turned their marriage from misery to joy in an instant.

{Illustration}

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Meaningful changes in life take commitment, perseverance and reflection. Meaningful changes in life take time and patience. The calendar New Year naturally lends itself to taking stock of where we are on our life’s journeys. Although we cannot direct the Holy Spirit of our God, it is within our abilities to “trim the sails and adjust the rudder.” Paul described this as, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

Today I want to suggest a few question for all of us to think about as relates to our lives and our community of Kingswood:

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1. When did the Holy Spirit tug on your soul in 2016 and how did you respond?

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2. What is the main theme that defined 2016 for you? What is the second main theme that defined 2016 for you? What did you learn?

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3. What are the highlights in your life in 2016? What did you accomplish?

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4. How did you grow and change spiritually, relationally, emotionally, financially, physically, recreationally in 2016?

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5. What are you inspired to work on that is meaningful for 2017 and beyond? What are your hopes? How do you envision the future? What do you think will happen to this world in 60 or 100 years?

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6. How are you going to make the world a better place for future generations?

Time is a gift from God because ideally time is meant to be a teacher and a mentor. When we are with God, when we listen to God, when we are consciously aware of God’s presence with us, that is when time becomes gift.

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In verses Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 we hear:

“12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.”

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Nehemiah echoes that when he said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

{Transition to the Sacrament of the Holy Communion}

Thinking Towards Sunday; January 1, 2017

Scriptures for Sunday, January 1, 2017: Ecclesiastes 3:1-13; Philippians 2:5-11

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

Christmas Eve @ Kingswood UMC

XmasEveKingswood

Our church is located at:

300 Marrows Road,

Newark,  DE   19713

Approximate Notes for Christmas Eve Message; December 24, 2016

Scripture Readings for Christmas Eve are Isaiah 9:2-7;Luke 2:1, 3-20; Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 2:19

You can read them here: {NIV2010 and ESV}

We are the keepers of The Story! We are the bearers of the Good News and Hope of Salvation, tasked to proclaim God’s promise of peace to the ends of the earth. The promise given to Abraham and Sarah that became the reality, that was born 2000 years ago in the sleepy and insignificant town of Bethlehem.

Just like the Shepherds and the Wise Men that we heard about in today’s readings, each one of our life stories is unique and different. And each one of our life journeys has brought us here to this manger, to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus 2000 years ago.

The story that the shepherds told to their grandchildren and to us is very different from the story that the Magi recorded in their journals for posterity.

Prior to moving to Delaware, my wife and I lived in relatively unspoiled Cecil County and Kent County where we were used to seeing lots of stars. On a clear night there are thousands of them, tiny specks of light, suspended there in deep space by our Creator, faithfully sending their light towards us. They look so tiny to the naked eye; no bigger than the tip of a pin or needle.

Looking at one such speck of light, the magi were able to discern that something wonderful had happened in the distant land of Judea.

Compare that to what happened to the shepherds. They were sitting in a field when an angel appeared to them, scared them half to death (Luke 2:10, “Do not be afraid…”), told them that they were going to be OK, told them what was happening, after which they saw a “great company of the heavenly host.” (Matt 2:13). I wonder what a “great company of the heavenly host” looked like? I wonder what they sounded like?

So today I want to ask you: are you a shepherd or a magi? What is your story?

Based on information from a star suspended far-far away in space, a star that looked like a speck of light the size of the tip of a pin, the Magi left their comfortable lives behind and embarked on a long, arduous journey to discover for themselves what had happened. They did not even know their final destination, they thought that it would be in Jerusalem. I wonder how many of their friends, colleagues and acquaintances thought they were wackos because they were leaving the comforts of their homes and steady employment to take a journey through treacherous and dangerous terrain. That journey would take many months, maybe even a couple of years, to complete.

Our imagination makes that star larger than the other stars so that the Magi could follow it easily and effortlessly, but if we think of it, if that star was so large, why didn’t anyone else see it or follow it? That star had to be just a tiny speck of light. It would have been so easy for the Magi to dismiss that star as some sort of anomaly for future generations of scientists to explore and explain.

The shepherds, on the other hand, were told exactly what was happening and they were given a “AAA triptik” or a “GPS device” with detailed instructions on how to get to their destination. The shepherds had no choice but to follow the “great company of the Heavenly host” (Luke 2:13) to the manger. Their journey probably took minutes, an hour at the most.

So today I want to ask you: are you a shepherd or a magi? What is your story?

I know that I am a “Magi.” Some of you know my story, I was raised as an atheist. My journey started as I was driving my car one morning listening to the radio, when I experienced the presence of God. It would have been so easy for me to dismiss that experience and that presence. I was tempted to think that it was anxiety about my life situation, combined with anxiety about the GMATs that I was going to take that morning, combined with all the shots of stuff that I should not have been drinking in the local bar the day before the GMATs. There was pressure to sweep that experience under the rug and forget about it from my family, friends, and colleagues. I understand the Magi when they could not just let go of that little light and stay home. Just like the Magi of the Christmas story I could not let go of that experience of God and here I am, 30 some odd years later, at a manger.

We also have many “Shepherds” here. When I talk to our church secretary, Ms. Deb P., she tells me that she was brought to this church since she was knee high to a grasshopper. She heard this choir all of her life and she was given a clear path by her mom and dad on how to build her relationship with God and how to invite God to be part of every aspect of her life. Sunday school and a supportive church family have been a part of her life since the day she was born.

So today I want to ask you: are you a shepherd or a magi? What is your story?

Of course these two stories are on the opposite sides of the spectrum. We also have “shepherds” that lost their way and became “magi,” we have “magi” that found the journey too frustrating and gave up hope, and we also have multiple permutations of these stories that are as varied and as unique as each one of us.

We all come to God by different roads. For some of us it is an arduous journey, filled with dangerous turns and terrifying moments –anxiety, frustration, fear, sickness, addiction, loss… For some of us it is as easy as a stroll from point A to point B.

But by the grace of God, regardless of our past, or the journeys that we’ve been on or are on at present, all of us are invited and all of us have a place at the manger where we are free to worship God, answer God’s call and accept God’s gift of eternal life. Our relationship with God fills our lives with meaning and helps us to deal with whatever obstacles we encounter on our individual journeys.

As a beacon of light, this church community been here since 1954 reflecting and projecting the light that originates with the Holy Spirit helping its members to grow in their relationship with God. Are you drawn to that light?

The shepherds went out telling everybody about what they saw. The magi left quietly and probably wrote their story down in a book somewhere. All of us tell our stories in a different way.

So today I want to ask you: are you a shepherd or a magi? What is your story and how do you share it with others?

How do you tell the story? Will you tell the others about that light and what that light has done in your life? Will you invite others to join us on Sunday in January and in February and in the other 10 months?

Whether your story is that of a “shepherd” or a “magi” or anywhere in-between, tonight all of us are at the manger, remembering that silent night, when hope, peace, joy and love was born in the person of Jesus.

{Note: The idea for this sermon came from Dunkle-Mackey Preaching seminar taught on September 20, 2010. This seminar was sponsored by the Peninsula-Delaware conference of the United Methodist church and was taught by Professor Troeger. It was also inspired by the Nativity presentation done by the Sunday school children at Mt. Pleasant United Methodist church, Colora, MD on December 19, 2010}

Wishing you and yours a Blessed Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas!

We hope that you can join us for one of our worship services Celebrating the Birth Of Christ:

  • Saturday, December 24 @ 7 pm – Candlelight Service.

  • Saturday, December 24 after the Candlelight Service over, we will celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Communion

  • Sunday, December 25 @ 9:30 am – Christmas Day Service

  • Sunday, December 25 @ 11 am – Informal (Non-liturgical) celebration of the Sacrament of the Holy Communion

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As we remember the First Advent of our Lord and Savior and eagerly anticipate his Second Coming sometime in the future, may we be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the Wise Men,  the hope and faith of Simeon and Anna, and the peace and stillness of the Silent Night on which Jesus was born.

May you have a Blessed Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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

Scripture for this Sunday: Matthew 11:2-11

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

 

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Last week we saw John baptizing in the wilderness. “Prepare the way of the Lord! Make God’s paths straight,” he called anybody who would listen.

Today, we find John in a different place. He is locked up in Herod’s prison. I have no doubt that he was tormented by doubts and thoughts. That is what prisons do to people; we are challenged to confront the dark corners of our souls.

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When we are helpless we question our beliefs. That is why John the Baptist sent one of his followers to see Jesus. “Are you the one?” he asked. What he was really asking was, “Have I spent my life in vain?” and “Could you get me out of here? [I need divine rescue…]”

Today’s reading is seriously harshing my yuletide buzz. We are in the third week of Advent, and I want to think about Christmas carols, holiday parties, lemon cookies, peanut butter M&M’s, and jolly crowds in Christiana Mall bursting with energy and excitement.

So John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask Jesus a direct question, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for someone else?” (Matthew 11:3 paraphrase). It is not an open ended question; John wanted a “yes” or a “no” answer.

John’s question should not really surprise us. John was sent to announce the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven and to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. John expected the world to change. And instead, some months later, he finds himself in a dark prison cell and seemingly nothing has changed. John understood Jesus to be the culmination of God’s promises to Israel; and yet it was hard for him to see beyond his current situation. It was hard for him to see how God was fulfilling those promises. I am pretty sure that John was disappointed, frustrated, and scared.

As I said earlier, John the Baptist does not do anything to elevate my yuletide cheer. Especially when I realize that all of us are still waiting for Jesus’ promises of triumphant return, peace on earth and goodwill to all.

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All of us can relate to John. All of us have regrets and disappointments. All of us have known loss and pain in our lives, our lives are not perfect. When we only focus on pleasantries during this season of “yuletide cheer” and hide everything else under the rug pretending that it is not there, we fail to take seriously the gift of life given to us by our God. That is why the Christmas Carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem has a line “the HOPES and FEARS of all the years are met in him tonight.”

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Jesus’ answer was, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

That was not what John wanted to hear.

The answer that Jesus sent back to him fell short of John’s hopes. The people Jesus talked about (the lame, the deaf, the poor, the ill, and the dead) were the people who were moved and shaken by every whim of the rich and powerful elite. These people weren’t going to change things; and, what was important to John at the time, they were not going to bust John out of prison. They were barely able to take care of themselves let alone help John.

Being locked up in Herod’s prison, John had no control over his life. I doubt very much that he enjoyed his predicament.

We do not like to think about that. We don’t like to think of John being out of control because we don’t like being out of control in our lives. We fear loss of control.

Some of us hide our fears behind our worldly possessions and careers. Others hide our fears behind our failings and infirmities. And then all of a sudden we hear the word “cancer,” or “downsizing,” or “financial crisis” in the context of our lives and we realize that we ourselves are just as fragile and vulnerable as anyone else.

I think that this is what John realized when he received Jesus’ answer. That is what we prepare ourselves for during this season of Advent, as Jesus – “God With Us” – gathers us around that poor child born in a stable, to empower us to deal with whatever our lives send our way.

Earlier I said that John the Baptist is harshing my yuletide buzz. While John and his doubts are unpleasant to think about, the truth is that all of us live between Christ’s first coming at Bethlehem and his second Triumphant Return.

We too live in times when we are sometimes disappointed by ourselves, by others, the world, and even God. There are times in our lives where we are so paralyzed by what is going on around us that we can only muster the simplest of all prayers, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.”

But the good news is that in those moments we know that whatever our misgivings, whatever our disappointments, God is with us, God comes to us disguised as our life, eager to join us in our weakness, to hold onto us in our insecurity, and to comfort us in our fears. We know that Jesus came to uplift the weak and vulnerable, and to humble the strong and the proud. Jesus came for us as we are, while we are still sinners.

I understand John pacing around his prison cell, wondering and worrying whether Jesus is really the one. I understand how John felt when he heard, “Jesus told me to go back and to report to you that the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Jesus also said to tell you, ‘Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’”

I am pretty sure that John understood that…

What I wonder is whether we really understand what Jesus meant?

May You Have a Blessed Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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As we remember the First Advent of our Lord and Savior and eagerly anticipate his Second Coming sometime in the future, may we be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the Wise Men,  the hope and faith of Simeon and Anna, and the peace and stillness of the Silent Night on which Jesus was born.

May you have a Blessed Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Remembering Pearl Harbor; Remembering the "date which will live in infamy"–a Theological Reflection

Luke 13: 1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

December 7th, 2016 will mark 75th anniversary of Attack on Pearl Harbor. While our nation was born on July 4, 1776, I think that December 7th, 1941, was a pivotal day to our identity as a nation.

As a result of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered into the Second World War. Entering that war completely transformed our country. By the end of the Second World War, the United States of America emerged not only as a military but also as an industrial super-power. I am talking about urbanization, industrialization and culture shifts that followed events of the Second World War that started with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the “Date which will live in infamy.”

After the end of the Second World War, in the 1950s and early 1960s, all churches were full because the nation just lived through the Great Depression and a world war. Our world came to the brink of destruction and our parents and grandparents saw a real possibility of our collective demise. Resulting Cold War only strengthened these sentiments (think of the Cuban Missile Crisis).

Church communities were places where hope was found, where grief, anxiety, struggle, pain and fear could be handed over to something bigger than ourselves. Churches were the places that asserted that there was something more powerful than huge armies goose-stepping over international borders, than governments who declared wars and then sent millions of men (husbands and sons) to war. Churches were the places that asserted that there was something more powerful than the threat of oppression and extinction.

Today, almost sixty years later since 1950s and 1960s, our churches are empty. Lessons of the Pearl Harbor are largely forgotten (I am sorry to say). Last week I talked to two young people, students in a local high school, who did not know who fought in the Second World War and who won the war.

I think that the 75th anniversary of the “Date which will live in Infamy” challenges us to go back to our Christian roots.

  • Our church community must become safe space where people are welcome to come to with their doubts as they search for meaning in their lives.

  • We must become community that recognizes that every member is different and may have their opinions but as sisters and brothers united by the Blood of Jesus we have many more things in common than things and ideas that divide us, seed conflict and violence between us and our neighbors.

  • We must become communities that bring hope and encouragement to our members (“encourage one another and build each other up” Thes 5:11) and to our neighbors.

  • We must become communities that challenge our members against spending our resources mindlessly and wasting our time senselessly.

God always called us to be all these things. God always called us to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world.

I invite every member of the community of Kingswood United Methodist Church to take this opportunity, to keep December 7, 2016 Holy (to make it a Holy Day) by pausing for prayer,

  • for the lives that were lost on December 7, 1941,

  • for the changes, destruction, and reconstruction that happened since then,

  • for our community,

  • for our nation,

  • for the world that we live in today, and

  • for the future that is yet to come.

“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” – said Jesus as recorded in Luke 13:2-3.

May God Bless our community and May God Bless our Country to be like a City on a Hill that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14)!

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}

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