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

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Approximate notes for Sunday’s Message; Sunday, July 22, 2018; Membership Sunday at Kingswood UMC

On Sunday, July 22, we will welcome eight ( 8 ) new members into our church family.

NIV2010 1 Corinthians 12: 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many

NIV2010 Ephesians 4: 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. …

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.

May God add God’s Blessing

to Reading, Hearing,

Understanding and Living of God’s Word

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Today is an important day in the life of our church. Today we welcome several new members into our midst.

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I love the Church.

In our popular culture it has become commonplace to point a finger of righteous indignation at everything that is wrong with the Church. Every organization has problems and the Church Universal (as well as individual church communities) is not an exception. The reality and the truth is that we are not as big of a failure as our critics would have you think. We are sinners just like everyone else, and sometimes we fail and sometimes we stand with our heads held high. We have been short-sighted, arrogant and selfish over the years. We have also been the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

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There is much that is right with the Church because the Church is chosen by God to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. God calls the Church to be a community for each other and for our neighbors, and to help everyone find their way to God and be the best of what God created us to be. God established the Church (big C) and organized us into local communities so that each local church could be a hospital for the broken: when we break down or experience a rough period of our lives, we have a place to go to where everybody knows our name and is willing to hold our hand.

{Illustration}

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Christians contribute a lot to our society. To give a few examples:

  • Christians give more to charitable causes than our secular counterparts.

  • Christians run countless soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, and rescue missions.

  • Christians operate orphanages, staff clinics, dig wells, raise crops, teach children, and fight AIDS and other diseases around the globe.

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I love the people of the Church and the mission of the Church. I cannot imagine my life without the Church.

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Being a church community is about serving God by serving the world in which we live. Being a church community is about serving God by demonstrating our faith through our actions, and being a family of God and friends to each other. Being a church means being a community that helps us to stay in love with God and be the best version of what God created us to be.

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Being a church is about sharing our lives’ journeys with compassion in the context of a community, while nurturing hope in the world around us. Being a church community means being consciously aware of how our lives are different because our individual identities are rooted in a relationship with Jesus. Being a church is about remembering our stories, and sharing our stories and experiences of God’s grace and love.

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While we can always do more, and while we sometimes turn a blind eye to the needs around us (we are not perfect), as a group we do more for our neighbors than any other group on the face of this planet. We do it because we are committed to God, and because we want to live out that commitment and that devotion to God in tangible and concrete ways.

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Today we welcome new members into our family. They bring fresh eyes and perspectives.  They have new needs and new ideas, and by their presence compel us to try new things. New members challenge us to build new connections, and these connections encourage growth.

As we welcome new members today, we welcome an opportunity to grow, not only in numbers, but in depth and meaning. We thank each of the new members for the gifts they bring to our community.

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We all believe that Church and membership in local church communities brings meaning, purpose, and direction to our lives. Otherwise we would not be here. At one time or another, all of us gathered here made the choice to be part of a chain of tradition that goes back for millennia, all the way to Creation. That understanding and that fervor is what compels us to evangelism, to make that tradition available and accessible to our neighbors.

May God bless the community of Kingswood United Methodist Church to be a blessing to all of us and to our neighbors.

{Receiving New Members}

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Word of the day: onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia:

the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named (e.g. cuckoo, sizzle); the use of onomatopoeia for rhetorical effect.

Approx. notes for Sunday’s Message; Mark 6:14-29

Scripture for this Sunday is Mark 6:14-29

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

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Today’s reading is depressing. People around Judea and Galilee are coming up with all sorts of theories for how Jesus is able to do the miracles and healings that he has done. Rumors are flying all over the place, and then Herod killed John the Baptist out of sheer machismo, just to prove that he could.

I even wonder, why does Mark tell this story? What is the significance of today’s reading to the Christians who lived around 70 CE (the time when the Gospel of Mark was written down, edited and redacted)? Besides, the Gospel of Mark is so concise and to the point, why do we get such intricate details of Herod’s marital situation and birthday party?

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Mark wrote the Gospel story for people who were scared and persecuted. Jerusalem had either just fallen or was about to fall. Judaism, as a way of life, was facing a real threat of extinction (remember the followers of Jesus at that time still did not separate themselves from Judaism). I am certain that people in Mark’s community were scared. Because Romans and theological Jews did not really understand their Christian neighbors, they were saying all kinds of horrific things about Christians; things like Christians are cannibals, they eat human flesh, drink human blood, and randomly drown new converts. These rumors instigated horrible things done to the followers of Jesus, including the community that Mark knew and loved.

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Any religious community faces the danger of thinking that when we are on God’s team everything will be great. The reality is that when we are with God all things are possible; it does not mean that everything will be great. It does not mean that you will be healthy, wealthy, and wise. It does not mean that God will heal every disease and conquer every foe, but he will be there to help you through.

Today’s reading gives us an illustration of this. John the Baptist was on God’s team. Yet we heard that he became a victim of a scheming, immature young woman, who knew how to manipulate her narcissistic step-father. Because of Herod’s narcissism and Salome’s scheming, John was beheaded, and his head paraded throughout the banquet.

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What Herod did was not all that different from the Watergate scandal involving former president Richard Nixon. Although he did not kill anyone, President Nixon, just like Herod, was so blinded by personal ambition that he was willing to sacrifice his principles for political gain. Herod’s entanglement in lies parallels the story of Don Draper from Mad Men; both men were mired in a life of deception; both men were scared that their real self would be exposed.

It is easy to see parallels between the lives of John the Baptist and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. or Oscar Romero: they were spiritual leaders willing to tell truth to power, and as a result paid the ultimate price for their bravery.

I am not a huge fan of Game of Thrones, but there is a character of Cersei Lannister who does brutal things in the name of love for her children. What Cersei does is not all that different from Herodias who wanted to protect herself and her children from John’s claims, even if they were true. Speaking of which, what length would you go to protect and to advance your family?

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Sometimes we have to look beyond the passage of the day to find the Good News. There is Good News in today’s reading. The Good News is that it is not the end of the story…. there is more…. today’s reading may give us a glimpse of some terrible things that happen in the world, but it is not the whole story. Jesus came to live among us to show us that there is something more to life beyond the heartache and intrigue and tragedy of Herod, and Don Draper, Richard Nixon, and Cersei Lannister and ourselves.

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Jesus came to make possible for us more than just survival, more than just resilience and persistence, more even than just temporal success. Jesus came to help us to imagine that there is more to this life than we can perceive (John 10:10). Jesus came to offer us not just more life, but abundant life. Jesus came so that there could be a better ending to our stories and the story of the world, better than we can imagine or construct on our own. We are the cloud of witnesses that the next generation will stand on.

And if you think that you have nothing in common with the Jews and Christians in 70 CE to whom the Gospel of Mark was written, because your Temple has not just been destroyed, I will say think again.

Do you know anyone whose marriage or long‑term relationship is ending? Do you know someone who has lost a loved one recently? Do you know anyone who lost their job? Do you know anybody who has a terrible relationship with their child, perhaps even scared that their children and grandchildren will never speak to them again? Do you know anyone whose friend has betrayed them? Do you know anyone who has screwed up their life? Do you know anyone who fell off the wagon… again?

Today’s reading reminds us that Jesus came so that there would be a real possibility of another ending. And I do not know about you, but for me it is not only Good News, it is the awesomest news I can imagine.

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Today’s Scripture gives us a brutally honest description of human nature, good intentions gone bad, fearless candor rewarded with imprisonment, the triumph of the powerful over the powerless, big egos being manipulated without even knowing that it is happening. But as honest as Mark wants to be about the story OF the world, he wants even more to testify to the story of God’s great love FOR the world.

While today’s reading is a downer, it also points to the raw realness of our lives. Every one of us can fall victim to the very worst in other people, that much is true. We can also fall victim to the very worst in ourselves.

God challenges us to transcend the pettiness, the hypocrisy, the self-deception, and to strive to imagine how we can get through our destroyed “temples” and broken dreams. And through it all, God is with us.

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NIV2010 Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

Thinking Towards Sunday; July 15, 2018

Scripture for this Sunday is Mark 6:14-29

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

In Memoriam: Ray E. Durham

Ray Avatar

 

Rest in Peace.

Died July 8, 2018

Semper Fidelis

In Memoriam: Sam (Uncle Sam) Azimov

UncleSam

Sam Azimov

August 3, 1939 – July 5, 2018

BrokenRibbon

Thinking Towards Sunday; Sunday, July 8, 2018

Scripture this Sunday: Mark 6:1-13; 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

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

Link to Transcript from the Modern Family Season 8 Episode 3 {Read Me}

Approx. Notes for Sunday’s Message; Independence Day 2018

NIV2010 Mark 5: 21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ “

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her,

Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

May God add God’s Blessing
to Reading, Hearing,
Understanding and Living of God’s Word

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The beginning of July is a celebratory time in the United States of America. On the 4th of July we remember and celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence that happened on July 2, 1776. The thirteen (13) colonies rebelled against the rule of England and against imposing taxes without any representation in the British parliament. For the colonists this was a time of making hard decisions. For the colonists this was a time for making choices that challenged the status quo. For the colonists this was a time to think outside the box.

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The textbook answer as to why the American Revolution happened is:

  • The cultural and economic differences between the Colonists and the British reached critical mass.

  • Unequal Mercantile Laws meant colonists had to pay much more for the same products that the British could get fairly cheaply.

  • Taxes were oppressive from the Colonists’ point of view because they were forced to fund and house British troops, who viewed them with contempt and, by and large, did not want to be stationed in the colonies (The Massacre of 1770 and the Boston Tea Party).

This list describes some of the socio-economic and political reasons for why the revolution happened, and why the thirteen colonies declared their independence from England.

This list can be found in any American history textbook, it is parochial in nature and it does not come close to explaining why the Revolution, Declaration of Independence and Revolutionary War took place.

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I do not think that the cultural and socio-economic differences between the colonists and their British cousins were the deciding factor when they took up arms and chose to fight for independence. Nobody would willingly put themselves in harm’s way because of unfair mercantile laws. Nobody in their right minds would insert themselves into the horrors of war, the gut wrenching smell of burned flesh and buildings, and the smell of rotting flesh on battlefields. Nobody in their right mind would willingly live in camps, suffer constant flea and bug bites, experience hunger, cold winters, and hot summers.

Only in text books do revolutions happen because of unfair mercantile laws. In real life revolutions happen when people see their friends, neighbors and loved ones humiliated and treated as second class citizens, and are powerless to do anything about it.

Revolutions happen when ordinary men and women go to bed and do not know whether their loved ones will be there in the morning because they could be arrested, and their lives destroyed on a whim in the next couple of hours.

Revolutions happen when ordinary people are faced with the real possibility of losing everyone and everything that they love and believe to be right, true and beatiful, simply because they are stripped of their rights and have no say in what happens to them.

Revolutions happen when these conditions become a reality of life and people lose hope and have nothing else to lose. Revolutions do not happen because some intellectuals decide to make few changes. Revolutions do not happen because of “Thomas Jeffersons,” or “Benjamin Franklins,” or “George Washingtons.” {We need leaders like “Thomas Jeffersons,” or “Benjamin Franklins,” or “George Washingtons” but initial stages of revolutions have nothing to do with the leaders, and a lot to do with common people like you and I}

I will never forget that day. It was the day when I, and approximately 60 other men and women from the former Soviet Union came to the United States. We flew from Rome, Italy to Newark, NJ.

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What I learned as I was assimilating into this culture and building a new life in this country is that most of us have a hard time recognizing opportunities and bringing them to life. It took me years to learn that. In the process, the Statue of Liberty became a symbol of freedom, a symbol of opportunity.

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Today’s Scripture gives us a glimpse of what we need to do to realize opportunities and to accomplish things.

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The woman with the discharge of blood had to find the courage to put herself into a place where she could touch the cloak of Jesus. For 18 long years she had to believe that she was more than her disease, and although she was excluded from society, that she was still a child of God worthy of love.

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Jairus, the leader of the Synagogue, had to overcome his own hubris[1]. To us, reaching for Jesus is a no-brainer; we have 2000 years of history in our hindsight. Jairus was the leader of the synagogue, the equivalent of the mayor of the town. To Jairus, Jesus and the Disciples had to look like the “Big Hat, No Cattle” bunch as they entered the village. Jairus had to overcome his hubris and suppress his pride to come to Jesus begging for his daughter’s life, instead of summoning Jesus to his office. It is not easy. In today’s reading we heard that there were others in Jairus’ household who openly laughed and jeered at Jesus.

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On Wednesday, our country will celebrate Independence Day. Today’s reading fits the occasion because it describes the process of immigration that I went through. The truth is that it is easy to wave a flag in the air and call yourself a patriot. It is easy to put a bumper sticker on your car. It is easy to put your hand over your heart and pledge allegiance to the flag. Those are outward manifestations of our feelings towards our country.

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America is more than just a catchphrase on a bumper sticker. Being an American is more than enjoying an Independence Day Parade. Being an American is about liberty. Being an American is about freedom. Being an American is not just a political slogan, it is a way of life. Being an American is about personal responsibility. Being an American is about coming together under the guidance of God, recognizing what is not working, and then suppressing our hubris as we consider different ideas on how to fix the problem. Being an American is also about remembering that our ancestors came to these shores because they were outcasts somewhere else; nobody gives up the life they know and immigrates because things are honky-dory at home.

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That is why there is a poem at the feet of the Statue of Independence, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” {Illustration} 

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As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day 2018, our nation is divided. But I have no doubt that we will get through this. Our nation has done it before and we will do it again. We will find a way to have a respectful dialogue again. When push comes to shove, we know how to come together, work together, how to put our minds and souls together to solve problems. It is in our DNA.

This Independence Day I want to encourage all of us to take the time to thank God for the freedom we have in this country. I also want to encourage you to step back and consider that you have the freedom to reach for Jesus just like the woman in today’s Scripture. You also have the freedom to overcome the hubris that separates you from Jesus; nobody will think less of you if you do.

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NIV2010 Galatians 5: 1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

NIV2010 Galatians 5: 13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

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May God bless each and every one of us, and May God bless the United States of America!

Celebration of the Sacrament of the Holy Communion

[1] Hubris: Excessive pride combined with excessive self-confidence.

Thinking Towards Sunday; June 1, 2018

Scripture for this Sunday: Mark 5:21-43

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

In Memoriam: Charles L. Stewart

CharlesAvatar

Charles L. Stewart

August 28, 1937 – June 19, 2018

{Link to Charles’ Obituary on Spicer-Mulikin website}

Approx. Notes for Sunday’s Message; Mark 4:35-41

Scripture for this Sunday: Mark 4:35-41

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

 

NIV2010 Mark 4 35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

May God add God’s Blessing
to Reading, Hearing,
Understanding and Living of God’s Word

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Am I the only one to experience a crisis or two in my life?

The crises of life are often compared to stormy seas. Nobody likes crises. Crises terrify us. Crises threaten our stability and security. When facing a crisis, we do not know whether we can survive it. And we don’t know how long a crisis will last.

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It is fair to say that the darkness of the events of September 11, 2001 was a crisis in the life of our country, and in all our individual lives. The events of that day seem to showcase mankind at its worst.

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When U.S. airspace was closed on September 11, nearly 7,000 passengers and crew members bound for places like Miami, Dallas, and New York suddenly found themselves landing unexpectedly in the tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland, Canada.

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Thirty-eight (38) jumbo jets filled with passengers and crew found themselves on Gander’s doorstep in the middle of nowhere, with nowhere to go and nowhere to stay.

But those passengers soon found out that, instead of being trapped, they were welcomed and embraced. They were treated with compassion, as well as afforded understanding, dignity and respect.

The community of the remote town of Gander demonstrated what mankind can be at its best.

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The town of Gander had only 500 motel rooms. The town of Gander did not have infrastructure (electric power, water lines, sewer capacity, road capacity, food supplies, general provisions) to house all the passengers and crew.

The citizens of Gander came through admirably. In a matter of hours the town of 9,000 mobilized a volunteer army to assist the “plane people,” as they were called them, bringing food, medicine, and clothing to makeshift shelters in local schools and legion halls.

Striking bus drivers returned to work to provide transportation. Ordinary people opened their homes to thousands of strangers.

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Mayor Elliott said, “When [the passengers] left, they left with a new sense of hope, they left with a new sense of pride and they went away saying there are still good people left in our world.”

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Today’s Scripture makes a point that although Jesus can calm storms, he is far more interested in calming us when we face these storms.

The storms of life do not worry Jesus too much. He is by our side during them. For us, the storms of life remind us of our vulnerability. Faced with a crisis all we can do is put our best foot forward and deal with them the best we can.

Much of our lives is focused on demonstrating what we can do rather than what we are called to do. Doing what we know and can do well is comfortable and routine. Crises break that routine and take us out of our comfort zone and challenge us to focus on God’s presence around us.

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The people of Gander looked at all those jets lined up at the airport and knew that they had never faced anything like this before. They just wanted to help. God does not call us to live out our abilities; God calls us to live out our faith.

The people of Gander did not know how to handle the crisis. The passengers that were dumped into Canada did not know how to handle the crisis. Yet everybody got together, helped each other and demonstrated the best that humanity can offer.

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God does not call us to live out our abilities; God calls us to live out our faith. The life of Paul as a whole is a great demonstration of that, but today I want to use one example that illustrates what I am trying to say in the most poignant way.

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NIV2010 Acts 27: 27 On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. 28 They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep. 29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.

33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board. 38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.

39 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. 40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. 41 But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.

42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.

28: 1 Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.

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Can you imagine how scary it was for Paul to be on that ship? He was not a sailor or a fisherman. Yet he encouraged others to keep a cool head and take care of their immediate needs, so they would have the strength to survive, “33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves.”

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Are you enduring a storm today?

Are you feeling vulnerable by the fact that you cannot control your life circumstances?

If you answered yes, there is no better day then today to turn your hearts to the Lord and ask him to calm your fears and anxieties, regardless of what keeps you up at night. If you find that you need help in calming the storm within, our chancel rail is open as we sing the closing hymn.

Thinking towards Sunday; Sunday, June 24

Scripture for this Sunday: Mark 4:35-41

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

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Father’s Day 2018

Scriptures for this Sunday are Deuteronomy 6:1-9.

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

This Sunday we will celebrate our fathers, and contributions that our father and father figures makes to the society.

Happy Father’s Day!

NIV2010 Deuteronomy 6: These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

May God add God’s Blessing
to Reading, Hearing,
Understanding and Living of God’s Word

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Shrek: I can’t believe I’m going to be a father. How did this happen?

Puss: Senor! Allow me to explain. When a man has certain feelings for a woman… a powerful urge sweeps over him.

Shrek: I know how it happened. I just can’t believe it.

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Happy Father’s Day! Being a father and a dad is emotionally and physically taxing. Being a father and a dad is complicated.

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I think that being a dad is about creating a path, a vision for the next generation, passing that vision and the love of God onto them and letting them run with it.

We are making these paths with our own footprints. Every family is unique, and every family lays out these unique paths for their children based on their own interactions with God.

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Amazon has an answer to everything and parenting is no exception. Amazon sells books about raising an eco-friendly child, a gluten-free child, and even a disease-proof child. There are guides to teaching children a second language, financial skills, and how to spark their interest in sciences. There is pretty much a guide on how to raise every kind of child.

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The authors who wrote these books mean well. But taken together, these books point to a trend in our society: a trend of anxiety about rearing future generations. I think that as a society we are paralyzed by much anguish and confusion when it comes to raising children. Humans have successfully raised children for thousands of years, long before Amazon was selling books by the gross. So, what causes this anxiety?

Roles of fathers and mothers have changed in the last 100 years. The roles of our children have changed as well.

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There has been a major shift in the way we live our lives. Until recently, children worked. They worked on our farms, in the factories, mills, mines, and stables. Kids were economic assets.

Child labor was not ethical, but it was reciprocal and shared. Parents provided food, clothing, protection, shelter, and moral guidance to their children, and children in return helped their families’ economic standing and survival.

Sometime between 1890 and 1930, as a society we recognized that children have rights, and we put an end to this arrangement.

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Child labor was banned, we focused on education instead, and school became a child’s new work. That is a good thing! This path paid out great dividends. We have people in this congregation with transplanted organs and artificial joints. There are human footprints on the moon, and soon there will be human footprints on Mars. We have little devices that allow us to communicate in real time with anyone anywhere on earth. We can safely fly across the country in less than 6 hours, a trip that used to take months. None of that would be possible without education.

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When children stopped working, the economics of parenting changed. I know it sounds harsh, but in the words of Viviana Zelizer[1], children became “economically worthless but emotionally priceless.”

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Today sending kids to school is no longer enough. Today, extracurricular activities are a child’s second job, which in turn keeps moms and dads extra busy. Someone must drive the little tyke to soccer practice and music lessons, not to mention that homework needs to be supervised and checked. // (Illustration}

Today, the middle class pours a lot of time, energy and resources into their kids, even though the middle class has less and less of those things to give due to the socio-economic cycle that our country is currently in.

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Earlier I said that being a dad is complicated. I said that being a dad is about creating a path, a vision for the next generation, passing that vision along with the love of God onto them, and letting them run with it.

None of us have a crystal ball. We do not know what the future holds. That means that we do not know what portion of our wisdom is going to be useful to our children.

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The prophet Joel said it this way, “1:2 Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your ancestors? 3 Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.”

{Illustration}

The point I am trying to make is that because we do not have a crystal ball, as a society we strive to prepare our children for every possible kind of future, hoping that just one of our efforts will pay off. We teach our kids chess, thinking maybe they will need analytical skills. We sign them up for team sports, thinking maybe they will need collaborative skills when they are accepted into Harvard Business School. We try to teach them to be financially savvy and science-minded and eco-friendly and gluten-free.

As a result, fatherhood is not for the faint of heart. Today fathers spend more time with their kids than their fathers ever spent with them. They work more paid hours, on average, and the fathers that I know genuinely want to be good, involved dads.

Like I said earlier, it is complicated. And when we are with God, all things are possible.

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Our legacy is what we will pass on to future generations. The good news of the Gospel, a relationship with Jesus, the ability to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit, is not something that is automatically absorbed by breathing the air around us. This faith must be passed on and encouraged. 

The most important thing that fathers can do for their children and for future generations is to demonstrate our faith by our lifestyle and practice, by consistency between what we teach and do, and how we live out each day in the world and at home, while working, shopping, in school, at play, on vacation, in the restaurant, wherever we find ourselves. Faith is important is because when we are with God, all things are possible.

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In verses 6 through 9 of today’s reading we heard, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

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  • Be consistent and honest in your own relationship with God.

  • Be consistent and honest in your love.

  • Be Consistent in Discipline.

  • Broaden Their Cultural Horizons.

  • Serve Others Together.

  • Help Them Learn to Stay with Hard Things – nothing worthwhile is easy.

  • Celebrate Right Behavior.

  • Share Your Personal Stories.

[1] Viviana A. Rotman Zelizer is a sociologist and the Lloyd Cotsen ’50 Professor of Sociology at Princeton University. She is a prominent economic sociologist who focuses on the attribution of cultural and moral meaning to the economy. A constant theme in her work is economic valuation of the sacred, as found in such contexts as life insurance settlements and economic transactions between sexual intimates. In 2006 she was elected to the PEN American Center and in 2007 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Thinking Towards Sunday; June 17, 2018; Father’s Day in the United States of America

Scriptures for this Sunday are Deuteronomy 6:1-9.

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

Approximate notes for Sunday’s Message; Mark 3:20-35

Scriptures for this Sunday are:  Mark 3:20-35

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

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{Link to the commercial on YouTube}

Apple had a commercial in 1997. The tag line for the commercial was “Think different.” In the commercial they showed a collage of photographs and film footage of people who have invented and inspired, created and sacrificed to improve the world, to make a difference. They showed Bob Dylan, Amelia Earhart, John Lennon, Frank Lloyd Wright, Maria Callas, Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King Jr., Jim Henson, Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, Mahatma Gandhi, Jerry Seinfeld, and Thomas Edison, among others. In the background the viewers heard this poem:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.

They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them,
glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.

While some may see them
as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough
to think they can change the world,
are the ones who do.

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NIV2010 Mark 3: 20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

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The Contemporary English Version says, “When Jesus’ family heard what he was doing, they thought he was crazy and went to get him under control.”

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There is a saying that those who dance seem crazy to those who cannot hear the music. What Jesus set out to do seemed crazy to those who were invested in the status quo.

It only stands to reason that Jesus’ followers, those who make a choice to be his disciples, are called and challenged to be just as crazy as Jesus.

First, I want to say that I do not want it to seem that I am judging the Holy Mother and the rest of the family. They had a reason to be concerned. Just listen to some of the ideas that Jesus taught:

  • “Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).

  • “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matthew 23:11).

  • Those the world called worthless and inferior, Jesus called blessed.

  • Blessed are the poor and the poor in spirit.

  • Blessed are the merciful, the compassionate.

  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst that God’s righteous justice might prevail.

  • Blessed are those who work for peace.

  • Blessed are you when you are persecuted just for trying to love and do what is good.

  • Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who despitefully use you.

  • Jesus even prayed for those who killed him, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.”

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We live at a time when we need Christians that are as crazy as Jesus. We need Christians that are crazy enough to love like Jesus, to give like Jesus, to forgive like Jesus, to be assertive like Jesus, to be patient like Jesus, to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God — like Jesus.

We need Christians who are crazy enough to dare to change the world from the nightmare it often is into something that resembles the dream that God has for it.

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Jesus calls us to “craziness.” The life of Mary Magdalene illustrates such craziness.

Think back to the crucifixion of Jesus. Crucifixion was the Roman Empire’s way to brutally execute those who dared to commit crimes against the state. It was public torture. It was designed to send a message that civil and political disobedience would not be tolerated. For any supporter or follower of the person being crucified, it was dangerous to be at the site of the execution. The rational and sensible thing to do was to go into hiding or even exile.

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Peter, Andrew, James (the son of Zebedee), John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James (the son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot were not at the Cross. Out of all the men and women who followed Jesus, only Mary Magdalene was at the foot of the Cross.

{There were others, but she was the only one from among the followers of Jesus}

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Being a follower of Jesus means striving to change the world from the nightmare it often is into the dream that God intends for all of us; it means striving to be the best version of what we were created to be. And sometimes that means marching to the beat of a different drummer. Sometimes that means caring when we don’t want to care, or standing up when others sit down. Sometimes it means speaking up when others shut up. Sometimes it means keeping your mouth shut when everybody wants to yell.

Sane, sanitized, gentrified, and domesticated Christianity is killing us. It worked in the 1950s and 1960s, but it no longer works. We need crazy Christians who dare to “Think Different.”

We need some crazy Christians today:

  • Christians who are willing not only to be involved in but also engaged in outreach.

  • Christians crazy enough to believe that the love of God is greater than all the powers of evil and death.

  • Christians crazy enough to believe that children don’t have to go to bed hungry or to be separated from their parents.

  • Christians crazy enough to believe that there is a way to lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside; that, “there’s plenty good room in my Father’s kingdom” (old gospel song), because every human being has been created in the image of God, and we are all equally children of God and meant to be treated as such.

In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

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Jesus does not call us to overthrow our religious, cultural, or societal norms. But Jesus consistently unsettled and redirected the values of his time, and challenges us to do the same in our time.

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We need crazy Christians who recognize that the old values are NOT necessarily flawed simply because they are old or established. But we need crazy Christians who recognize God’s presence in the world, manifested through Jesus’ teachings and the Holy Spirit’s actions. We need crazy Christians who recognize that God repeatedly and consistently upends conventional assumptions about what is “real” and what is “normal.” God upends these values not to change them for change’s sake, but so we might reconsider just how they can be authentic manifestations of who God is and how God can be known in the time and place that we live.

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Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels.
The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.

They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them,
glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do
is ignore them.

Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
While some may see them
as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough
to think they can change the world,
are the ones who do.

image

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