Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

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

Thinking Towards Sunday; September 24, 2017

Scriptures for this Sunday are: Genesis 25:27-34

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

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Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Genesis 22:1-14

Scriptures for this Sunday is Genesis 22:1-14.

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

 

 

{Extra illustration: http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/careersandeducation/in-amish-country-the-future-is-calling/ar-AArY5sn?li=BBnb7Kz – Amish start using cell phones and computers – “We can’t live like we did 50 years ago because so much has changed,” she said. “You can’t expect us to stay the same way. We love our way of life, but a bit of change is good.”}

 

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Today’s reading starts with these six words, “Some time later God tested Abraham.”

We think of Abraham as someone to imitate in our own lives and interactions with God. But we forget that Abraham was not born an example of faith and obedience, he BECAME all that over time because of how real his relationship with God was. That is why today I want to unpack these words, “Some time later God tested Abraham.”

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Up to this point in Genesis, Abraham lived a “somewhat” unusual life. He sent his wife twice into the harems of two different rulers to protect himself from harm. Only by God’s grace did he get away with that (and received a lot of riches to boot). He exhibited a callous attitude towards his oldest son Ishmael and towards Ishmael’s mother, Hagar. On the other hand, Abraham rescued Lot when he was taken into captivity in Genesis 14. Abraham also retrieved Lot and his family from Sodom and Gomorrah before God destroyed those cities in Genesis 19.

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Today’s Scripture reading is well known. It has captivated the imaginations of generations of believers. It has a special significance in both Jewish and Christian traditions. Unfortunately, this text also presents some problems, because it seemingly opens a door to objectifying children and using them to accomplish their parents’ goals without any consideration for the child’s physical or emotional well-being. That is a topic of a different sermon.

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Most of us think that Isaac was just a baby when the events in today’s reading took place, but the Bible does not support that. On their way up the mountain, Isaac and Abraham converse, and Isaac is strong enough to carry firewood from which Abraham would construct a pyre for the sacrifice. I think that Isaac must have been at least 13 years of age when today’s reading took place.

From archeology, we know that ancient Canaanites practiced human sacrifice in the times of Patriarchs.

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That may have been why, when God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Abraham responded with obedience. Notice I did not say that Abraham liked it; all I said was that Abraham obeyed. Readers know that it was a test; Abraham did not. It had to be an agonizing decision for Abraham to gather Isaac, and set out for the Mount Moriah. It had to be frightening for Isaac to be bound and laid out on a pyre.

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But just as Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac, God stopped Abraham. God knew that Abraham was willing to surrender all. God also wanted to teach Abraham a lesson and that lesson is, “there is another way.”

It is almost as if God was saying, “Abraham, we don’t do that. Abraham, we are different.”

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Let’s talk about Isaac for a second. I think that the events on top of Mount Moriah emotionally scarred Isaac for the rest of his life. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops in men and women who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. Men and women who have PTSD may feel scared and stressed even when they are not in danger.

I think that is what happened with Isaac and I think that is why he strived to live such an uneventful and quiet life.

Many of us may have experienced PTSD at one time or another, and not even realized it.

  • Do you know anyone who has been in an accident and was scared to drive for few weeks afterwards?

  • Do you know anyone who was mugged, and was afraid to leave their house?

  • Do you know someone who was hurt in a relationship (divorce, break-up) and was never able to trust anyone again and to develop a relationship?

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Isaac allowed life to happen to him. We see very little initiative from him in the narrative of Genesis, and he was easily manipulated by his wife Rebekah.

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Because of his fears, he never learned to live. There is a song that goes like, “It’s the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance. It is the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance. It is the one who won’t be taken who cannot seem to give. And the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live.”

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Today I want to ask you, what are the areas of your personal lives where you are too scared to dance, or to dream, or to take a chance?

Likewise I want to ask you, what are the areas of our church where you are too scared to dance, or to dream, or to take a chance?

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Renewal comes when we surrender. Surrender does not mean that we allow ourselves to be treated like doormats. It does, however, mean that we acknowledge that there are times when we don’t know how to feel, or what to do, or how to act. We acknowledge to God and to ourselves that we spend all of our energies without accomplishing the results that we want. And because we are so intent on continuing what we are doing, we do not open ourselves to God, and we do not notice what God is doing around us.

Am I the only one to notice that it was in their surrender that Isaac and Abraham noticed a ram caught in the thicket.

I see that kind of surrender in 12 step programs. These programs realize that all of us have good days and bad days. These programs realize that we may backslide. And these programs also teach that when we surrender and admit that we are hopeless, it is then and only then, that we start seeing different solutions to our problems.

When was the last time that you had a bad day? When was the last time that you were so focused on something that you missed God standing next to you? When was the last time that you surrendered to God? What do you need to surrender today?

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All of us have good days and bad days. Our lives are complicated. Some areas of our lives do not make us happy. Is there an aspect of your life that troubles you? Give it to God and let’s see what God will do with it; what kind of ideas or help will God send into your life?

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Thinking Towards Sunday; September 17, 2017

Scriptures for this Sunday is Genesis 22:1-14.

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

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Sunday, September 10, 2017

Scriptures for this Sunday: Genesis 16: 1-15

You can read these Scriptures here: {Click Me}

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I want to tell you a story of two half-brothers, both of whom have a legitimate claim to their father’s inheritance as the first-born, their mothers despising each other with passion and claiming that THEIR marriage to the kids’ father was the binding one, and the father of the boys caught in the middle thinking, “I am too old for this. Why can’t we just get along?”

If I were to tell you such a story, it is totally reasonable for you to think that I watched too many episodes of Jerry Springer.

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But, that situation comes right out of the book of Genesis, and what I described is the story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael as related in Genesis 16:1-15 and Genesis 21:8-21. No wonder that Abraham was “distressed” and “concerned” (Gen 21:11) over all of that.

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From Genesis 12 we know that Abram claimed that Sarai was his sister, and that there was a time when Pharaoh took her into his harem to make sure Abram would not attack him. Sarai was treated well, and Abram was showered with gifts, “He [the Pharaoh] treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels” (Gen 12:16). It is a complicated story from Abraham’s and Sarah’s life, and it is a story for a different sermon.

The point I am trying to make today is that Abram and Sarai acquired a slave girl during their time in Egypt (she was probably a baby at the time), who grew into a woman that we know as Hagar.

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Hagar, an Egyptian slave girl, was about as inconsequential as you can get. Abram and Sarai never even called her by name. To them, she was simply, “that slave girl” (Gen 16:2, 5, 6, 21:10). The only reason we know her name today is because of the respect that God showed her by using her name when they talked.

In the beginning of today’s story, we hear that Hagar was singled out by Sarai because of Sarai’s impatience, trying to force God’s hand into giving her children. Sarai chose Hagar to be her surrogate. 40,000 years ago in the Mediterranean basin and Fertile Crescent this was a common practice. Sarai wanted to force Hagar to get pregnant and then take her child away from her; she was a means to accomplish her masters’ wishes.

In due time, Hagar becomes pregnant with Abram’s child (Gen 16:4), and the Bible tells us she “began to despise her mistress” (Gen 16:4).

Given Hagar’s story, I can understand how it happened. We see it in our lives all the times. When someone has a large windfall of money (like the lottery), often they end up broke within a year because they have no idea how to handle their newfound wealth. Just like that, Hagar did not know how to handle her new position and status. As you can imagine, that did not endear her to Sarai.

Things got so bad that Hagar ran away (Genesis 16:6). That is when an angel of the Lord came to her in the desert.

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A young, unmarried woman, running away from a cruel and abusive mistress, was visited by an angel and given a promise by God, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, … I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count” (Gen 16:8,10).

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These details are significant because

  • Hagar was the first woman in the Bible visited by an angel of God.

  • Hagar was the first woman in the Bible given the promise of descendants.

  • Hagar is the first woman in the Bible to see and to have a conversation with God.

The Bible does not report Sarai and Abram calling Hagar by her name. But the angel of the Lord knew her name and was respectful of her. That experience left Hagar convinced that God saw and understood her, even though she was just property to her masters.

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Hagar’s story does not end there. In Genesis 21, after the birth of Isaac, Sarah convinced Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away. In Genesis 21:17-21 we learn about the second time God revealed God-self to Hagar.

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NIV2010 Genesis 21: 17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”

19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

20 God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. 21 While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.

The story of Hagar is important because it asserts that the God of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac is also the God of Hagar and Ishmael.

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We are surrounded by modern-day “Hagars.” They are all around us: men and women whose livelihood depends on taking care of others, and whose names we do not even know. Factory workers, waiters and waitresses, hotel maids, custodians, men and women who make sure that our phones are working and that there is bread, peanut butter, and toothpaste on the shelves in Shop Rite. How many of us really know the name of our garbage man? We only see them because they serve a purpose for us. And when they’re out of our sight, they’re out of our mind.

Paul used Hagar’s story in Galatians (4:21-5:1) when he used her and Sarai’s difference in social status to illustrate our spiritual enslavement to what we know, instead of relying on our faith.

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NIV2010 Galatians 4: 22 it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.

24 These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. …

28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise.

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.

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Thinking Towards Sunday; September 10, 2017

Scriptures for this Sunday: Genesis 16: 1-15

You can read these Scriptures here: {Click Me}

 

Call to Worship

By faith, Abraham left everything that he knew and followed God’s guidance to a land and life unknown to him.

May this faith calm our fears and doubts, inspire us to actions, and guide us towards the Cross.

By faith, Hagar broke the bonds of spiritual slavery (Gal 4:21-5:1), and raised her son according to God’s grace and promise.

May this faith inspire us to honor our history and envision a future, as we ask you to renew and regenerate our community, so that we can continue to make disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence and conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).

Faith is relationship and a way of life: caring about each other, casting out demons of self-doubt and despair.

This is our faith: living lives that matter.

Living with uncertainty, acting with confidence, on a journey of life guided by the Holy Spirit, sustained by the love and grace of God and taking us towards the Cross of Jesus.

 

Opening Prayer

Loving and Gracious God!

By the guidance of your Holy Spirit and the power of our relationship with Jesus, we ask you to inspire our actions. We pray asking that our thoughts and vision begin with you and through you be brought to completion.

Amen.

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Sunday, September 3, 2017; Labor Day Weekend

Scriptures for this Sunday: Colossians 3:23-25; Ecclesiastes 3:9-13, 9:10

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

Since it is the first Sunday of the month, we will celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Communion

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The beginning of September has a very special meaning to anyone who was born and raised in Europe. September 1 is the day that schools reopen after the summer break. I have a picture of me taken on September 1, 1967 (50 years ago) when I went to school for the first time.

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Back then, when I was seven, “work” meant learning, studying, and getting good grades. Today, the word “work” means something totally different. And it means something totally different in each stage of our lives.

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Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13: 11-12, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

What happened between September 1967 and now, September 2017, is my whole life so far. I’ve learned a few things, dreamed a few dreams, set many goals and worked to accomplish them, and through it all I’ve learned about God, I’ve learned about my neighbors, and, just like everyone else,  have had some accomplishments and disappointments under my belt.

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Labor Day stirs emotions in me because it is symbolic of that journey in my life and in our life as a nation. I think of Labor Day as a special day set aside to thank those who have contributed to our country’s prosperity, accomplishments, and way of life. Labor Day is about remembering and thanking those whose ingenuity, grit, moral fiber and strength of character created the country that all of us know and love today.

All of us have a strange relationship with what we call “work” in modern life. On one hand, most of us derive a huge part of our identity from “what we do”; on the other hand, we make retirement a lifetime goal.

I am NOT trying to diminish the importance of the freedoms, limitations, anxieties and joys that retirement brings with it. There are opportunities to spend more time doing things we love, time to spend with family and friends; retirement can be good for heart and soul.

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The point that I am trying to make, however, is that there is a fundamental and experiential value to work, to being creative, whether for pay or as a volunteer. In our culture, it has become normative to define our self-worth by our accomplishments and those are largely tied into what we do for a living.

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It is my belief that when we engage in productive work, we have an opportunity to glorify God, to serve the common good, and we further the kingdom of God. What we call “work” is what God uses to create and to continue building our world for God’s glory.

When we engage in productive work, we reflect God’s creative nature. In Genesis 1:1 we hear, “In the beginning, God created….” God is a worker; work is a part of God’s character and nature.

In Genesis 2:15 we hear, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” God entrusted you and I with taking care of God’s Creation. I think of it as the first job description. To reflect God’s presence in our lives, we can make plans, work to make these plans a reality, and to make choices and decisions. Through work we cultivate, develop, and protect God’s Creation. What we call “work” is an important dimension of building relationships among ourselves and with God.

God did not create work to be a chore. God gave the first humans work before the Fall, as a means of fulfillment. Ecclesiastes verses 3:12-13 assert that, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toilthis is the gift of God.”

NIV2010 Colossians 3: 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters … It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

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The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few,” said Jesus in Luke 10:2. There are lots of dreams and hopes out there, and we can help make those dreams and hopes a reality. As a church, we are called to make Disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. One of the ways to do that is to help each other and our neighbors to be the best version of what God calls us to be. Another way we do that is by being beacons of the Good News, reminding each other and our neighbors that “the Kingdom of God has come near” (Luke 10:11) and that the kingdom of God is within our community and within our hearts (Luke 17:21).

As we celebrate Labor Day, let us take time to thank those who labored and continue to labor to make our country great.

May God Bless all of us and May God Bless America!

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Thinking Towards Sunday; September 3, 2017; Labor Day in the United States of America

Scriptures for this Sunday: Colossians 3:23-25; Ecclesiastes 3:9-13, 9:10

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

 

Note for yesterday’s message:

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; August 27, 2017

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Scriptures for this Sunday: Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-19

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

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Today I want to continue talking about worship… Worship is about sharing the intimacy and awesomeness of God’s presence among us as we praise and fellowship with each other.

Last week we read from the Book of Acts and from the writings of Justin Martyr, describing worship in the early years of Christianity.

We saw in the writings of Paul that we are created for worship.

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Ephesians 1: 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

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We touched briefly on styles of worship and I shared with you that I am convinced that style is a matter of preference, because worship is not about just singing songs and getting a good feeling in your heart. Worship is seeing God for who God really is: encourager, creative energy, love, grace, power, Presence of the Holy, sovereign of every corner of Creation, and compassionate essence of beauty. Worship is about giving God what is right, not what is left. It is about giving God the best of your time, your talents, your thoughts, your words, and your deeds.

Who we are today as individuals and as a church was inspired in worship 50 or 60 years ago.

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Today I want to look at worship from a different perspective. And to arrive at that perspective, I want to ask you a question, “How would you define love?”

I know a clinical psychologist who asserts that love is just a chemical reaction in our brains. From a physiological perspective, we can break love down to brain chemistry and electrical impulses in our brains.

But I also know that love is a force of nature. No matter how much we want to, we cannot command, demand, or take away love any more than we can command the moon and the stars and the wind and the rain to come and go according to our whims and desires. We may have some limited ability to change the weather, but we do so at the risk of upsetting an ecological balance we don’t fully understand.

I know that love is bigger than you and I. We can yearn for love, but we cannot dictate how, when, and where love will show up. We can choose to surrender ourselves to love, or not, but in the end love will strike like an unpredictable and all-consuming lightning bolt. Love does not come with conditions, stipulations, addenda, or codes. Like the stars in the Universe, love is independent of our fears and desires.

Did you notice that every place that I inserted the word “love,” we can replace it with “God” and the sentence will still make sense?

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Worship is sorta, kinda like that illustration of love. When we worship, something happens in our bodies. I can only speak for myself, but when I am in worship, my metabolism goes through the roof and there is a lot of adrenaline going through my body. One of my colleagues, he retired two years ago, could not sleep on the night leading up to worship because of adrenaline. His wife had to drive him to church because she did not trust him to be behind the wheel of the car without any sleep.

But I also know that worship is so much more than a chemical reaction. Worship is a purifying and liberating energy that focuses us on God, and reminds us that no matter what’s behind us, we have hope and possibilities for the future. Worship is the energy that fills our souls with the Holy Spirit of our God and our sails with the wind that propels us forward and helps us to keep on going.

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Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is quoted with saying that, “When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.” That transformation from yesterdays into tomorrow comes through worship, it comes through communion with God and with the realization that when we are with God, all things are possible.

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We cannot force worship. Just because we are in the sanctuary, it does not mean that we are in worship. I can sit in a garage for a whole year and that will not make me into a Honda. Worship comes from within, and it is up to us to welcome worship into our lives. That is why it is so difficult to experience God and to engage in worship when we are scared, or frustrated, or when we want to be in control and in charge. Worship is about asking God to direct our lives, and that means surrendering control and having faith that God will not take us in the wrong direction.

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Today I want to ask you, when was the last time that you truly experienced God? When was the last time that you invited worship to transform you? When was the last time that you invited God into your heart? When was the last time that you were so filled with the Holy Spirit that you went and told everybody?

Thinking Towards Sunday; August 27, 2017

Scriptures for this Sunday: Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-19

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

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; John 4:21-24; Romans 12:1-2

Scripture this Sunday will be: John 4:21-24; Romans 12:1-2

You can read this Scriptures here: {Click Me}

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Today I want to talk about worship… I especially want to look at what worship is and is not, and the reasons that we come to worship.

Worship is about sharing the intimacy and awesomeness of God’s presence among us as we praise and fellowship with each other.

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The Book of Acts was written in the late 80s or early 90s (CE). In Chapter 2 we hear:

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

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Sometimes between 125 CE and 165 CE, Justin Martyr (100- 165 CE) described the Sunday worship with these words.

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On the day called Sunday there is a gathering together in the same place of all who live in a given city or rural district. The memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits. Then when the reader ceases, the president in a discourse admonishes and urges the imitation of these good things. Next we all rise together and send up prayers.

When we cease from our prayer, bread is presented and wine and water. The president in the same manner sends up prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people sing out their assent, saying the “Amen.” A distribution and participation of the elements for which thanks have been given is made to each person, and to those who are not present they are sent by the deacons.

Those who have means and are willing, each according to his own choice, gives what he wills, and what is collected is deposited with the president. He provides for the orphans and widows, those who are in need on account of sickness or some other cause, those who are in bonds, strangers who are sojourning, and in a word he becomes the protector of all who are in need.

We all make our assembly in common on Sunday, since it is the first day, on which God changed the darkness and matter and made the world, and Jesus Christ our Savior arose from the dead on the same day. For they crucified him on the day before Saturn’s day, and on the day after (which is the day of the Sun) he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught these things, which we have offered for your consideration.

{See: https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/how-we-christians-worship/}

As I read descriptions from Acts 2 and from Justin Martyr I can almost hear the early followers of Jesus in worship, I feel how real God was to them, and I marvel at that intimacy, freedom, and conviction that they felt in their relationship with God.

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Worship (as we – the followers of Jesus – understand it) is a matter of the heart. It is something that we feel. Worship can be invoked through the liturgy and ritual, and ideally it culminates in an expression of devotion, love, adoration, admiration, fascination, wonder, and celebration. Worship happens in your heart and soul when you praise God for who God is and thank God for what God has done (John 4:24).

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There is nothing difficult about worship. Humans were made and built for worship by God.

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Ephesians 1: 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

Every human being worships something (food, sports, arts, music, comfort, control, power, achievement, work, money, inter-human relationships, etc). God calls us to worship God.

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What happens when we worship?

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Worship is about lifting our eyes and realizing that the presence of God is everywhere. Worship focuses us on God, and helps us to recognize our idols (whatever they may be: food, sports, arts, music, comfort, etc.). All of this helps us to realize that worship is an interactive experience.

Every pastor realizes that their participation in the worship is different than that of the people in the pews, and I am not an exception. All of us are an integral part of the worship service. The point that I am trying to make is that God is watching both sides of the chancel rail.

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Worship is also about us taking an inventory of what’s going on in our lives and what it does to our souls.

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As believers, our identity is rooted in God. Worship puts our lives in the context of who God is. It is about hearing and feeling the small voice of God and recognizing that there is mercy, grace, and forgiveness that equals every sin.

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But worship doesn’t end there. Worship is about a personal response to God’s presence in our lives. From that point of view, worship experiences are interactive.

In our Sunday worship we recite prayers, sing songs, have an offering, share in sacraments, share in the ministry of the word (fancy word for a sermon), and also share in fellowship. Other communities use gifts of tongues and prefer a more charismatic approach to Sunday worship. Then there are communities that like to sing 7‑11 songs (7 words repeated 11 times); we sometimes call it contemporary style.

Style of worship is a matter of preference, because worship is not about just singing songs and getting a good feeling in your heart. Worship is seeing God for who God really is: encourager, creative energy, love, grace, power, Presence of the Holy, sovereign of every corner of Creation, and compassionate essence of beauty. Response to worship is about giving God what is right, not what is left. It is about giving God the best of your time, your talents, your thoughts, your words, and your deeds.

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Just like our human lives go through seasons, so do the lives of churches. The community of Kingswood has done a lot of great work in Brookside: Hope dining room, Laundry for the Lord, food pantry, supplies for the middle school, just to name a few. All of these outreach ministries were inspired in worship. Now as we are living through this season of our lives, our pews are not as full as we want them to be, and we need to spend some energy asking God how God would have us proceed to bring people to Christ and help them continue to grow. And of course we do that hoping God will bless us with new ministries and new ways of making disciples.

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“Authentic worship is not about satisfying specific generational likes and fixations on individual want. Authentic worship is about finite beings entering into the presence of the Infinite, it is about created beings encountering their Creator-Redeemer, and it is about a corporate community of professing believers who participate in expressing their feelings and celebrating the triune God in both Spirit/spirit and truth regularly.”

~~ Attributed to Herbert H. Bateman (8/7/1928 – 9/11/2000)

Thinking Towards Sunday

Scripture this Sunday will be: John 4:21-24; Romans 12:1-2

You can read this Scriptures here:  {Click Me}

Call to Worship

O come, let us sing to the Lord;
Let us make a joyful noise
to the rock of our salvation!

Let us come into God’s
presence with thanksgiving;
Let us make a joyful noise
with songs and praise!

O come, let us worship and bow down
let us kneel before the Lord,
our Maker!

For the Lord is our God,
we are the people of
God’s pasture.

Opening Prayer

Loving and Gracious God!
We come together in worship and ask that the words that we exchange, and the thoughts that we think, be pleasing and acceptable in your sight, O Lord!
Through your presence in our lives we celebrate your power at work. Enlighten us, that we may see the abundant life to which Jesus calls us. Use us to build a realm of eternal peace as we share this Earth.
Amen.

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; August 13, 2017; Luke 5:1-3

Scriptures for this Sunday: Luke 5:1-3

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

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Many of you know that I spent last week at Camp Pecometh. My job was to teach photography to bunch of 14 and 15-year old kids.

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For many Methodists and non-Methodists alike, Camp Pecometh is a “thin” place. It’s a place on the Chester River where many young people experience God face to face.

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Today’s reading is about a crowd of Galileans experiencing Jesus on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus found himself on the shore, overwhelmed by crowds. In response, he climbed into a boat and asked Peter to pull out a bit. Once the boat was away from shore, “he sat down and taught the people from the boat.” The Gospels of Mark and Matthew also report times when Jesus preached from a boat {Mark 4:1-2; Matthew 13:1-2}.

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From what I understand, there is a place in Galilee (today’s Northern Israel) that is known as the Bay of Parables, where today’s Gospel reading most likely took place.

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Near the shoreline there is a naturally occurring amphitheater, where people would have been able to sit comfortably, and the acoustics of the site would make it easier for large crowds to hear every word spoken by Jesus.

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There is a similar location in Camp Pecometh, a chapel on the shore of the Chester River.

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Two years ago I was sitting in that chapel waiting for the sunset. As I sat and waited, I saw a slow motor boat chugging by (it was not very loud). The distance between me that that boat was at least 500 feet.

I heard their dialogue:

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– Look at him…

There is always at least one idiot sitting in that chapel.

– Yea… There is always one…

Let’s moon him.

– Don’t do that. He might have a camera.

And soon they were gone.

All levity aside, that was an awesome illustration of how sound travels over water. My hearing is not perfect, but I could easily hear the two men talking as if they were standing right next to me.

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That is why Jesus got into the boat that day. Everybody in the crowd could hear him much better from the boat, as opposed to him standing on the shore.

The reason I tell you all this is because sometimes we just don’t get the stories from the Bible at first reading. Some of what we may not understand often turns out to have a real-life explanation that only comes to life through the historical context of the story, and through personal experience. 

Camp Pecometh was started in 1946; I think that this season (summer 2017) was the 39th summer camping season.

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I view my time at Camp Pecometh as a mission trip.

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Mission trips are about three things:

    • Learning about God,

    • Learning about each other,

    • Getting something done; bringing something to completion.

Mission work forces us to view the world from different points of view and to come to terms with the fact that we live in a diverse Creation. Mission work experiences become the spring that informs my ministry. A lot of my understanding of God was shaped in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Cuba, Kentucky and Camp Pecometh. I think that this is the way God wired me: I need be out of my daily routine and somewhat uncomfortable to hear God better.

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For me photography is also a way to see and worship God.

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When I look through the viewfinder of my camera

  • I see God’s handiwork,

  • I learn about the world that God created, and I develop new understandings of Creation, and

  • I give praise to God.

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My understanding of Mission and Photography is somewhat similar. I guess that is how I ended up teaching a photography camp.

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Every time that I am at Camp Pecometh I see God at work. I see God in the lives and dedication of staff. I listen to their stories and I hear how God is molding and shaping them for future ministry and service. The staff of Camp Pecometh is also aware of God’s presence in the camp, and they are there because they want to be there. Most of them could make more money on the outside, but at camp they feel a connection with God, and that connection is why they put up with bug bites, oppressive heat, long hours, uncomfortable bunk beds and the other realities of being a counselor.

{Illustrations: Stories from the Camp}

Camp Pecometh as a thin place; a place where the human and Divine touch, connect, and interact.

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At Camp Pecometh there is a tradition that on Thursday Evening there is a special worship service called the Galilean Service. In many respects, this service is the high point of the week-long camp. At the end of this service that takes place at the chapel, everybody (campers, staff, SLC, group leaders) light a candle and send it down the river. It is a sight to see, all this light in the darkness of night representing the Light of Jesus in our lives. Over last 39 years, that is a lot of light that was ignited in Camp Pecometh, it is a lot of young men and women learning about God, falling in love with God, getting excited and carrying that light and energy into the world to make a real difference.

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That chapel on the banks of Chester river is Pecometh’s version of Galilee’s “Bay of Parables.” For 39 years kids from this area and from all over the world have come to hear Jesus.

Poem by Nazim Hickmet        (15 January 1902 – 3 June 1963)

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

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Thinking Towards Sunday; August 13, 2017

Scriptures for this Sunday: Luke 5:1-3

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

 

Call To Worship 8/13/2017

Where forgiveness is needed,
forgive our sins, as we forgive others.

Where grace is yearned for,
may we know grace upon grace, and show the same to one another.

Where mercy is required,
may Christ’s mercy flow through us, that others may find mercy in us.

Where unity is threatened,
may your Spirit strengthen us to be people of unity and love.

Opening Prayer 8/13/2017

Loving and Gracious God!

We gather to offer you praise and thanksgiving for your unfailing love and faithfulness, shown in the example of your Son, Jesus Christ.

Grant us grace to worship you in spirit and in truth. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our eyes to recognize you here among us. Give us courage to step out in faith to meet you, and confidence to follow where you lead.

For you are our God, and we are your people, called by your name.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message August 6, 2017; John 6:1-14

Scriptures for this Sunday: John 6:1-14

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

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Updates on Kingswood’s Access Ramp:

The Ramp WILL BE available to use on Sunday, August 6, 2017

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Our life choices are signs that indicate the way we think of our lives and the way we interact with others. Our life choices give us glimpses into the realness of God in our lives and in our willingness to trust God and others to supply our deepest needs when we need help.

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In the story that John tells us, Jesus taught people in a remote area. Jesus went out there, trying to get away from everyone, because he and the Disciples had just learned that John the Baptist lost his life. They needed time to grieve and to come to terms with what had happened to John. John was Jesus’ cousin; John was also a mentor to many of the Disciples before they started following Jesus.

People followed Jesus to that area, hoping to hear him teach, hoping to find the hope and new life that Jesus brought to everything that he did. We know that “man does not live by bread alone,” but we also know that without sustenance and facilities we will not get far.

After listening and learning all day, the people who followed Jesus needed food and water; people needed basic facilities.

The Disciples, on the other hand, were anxious, scared, angry and tired. The Disciples needed rest. The last thing that they wanted to deal with was a crowd of hungry men and women. It is hard to give hope when your own vessel is empty. That is why they did the same thing that every red-blooded man or woman would do in their place: they passed the buck: “Jesus we have nothing to give them; send them away.”

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For the Disciples it was a moment of emotional scarcity; for Jesus it was a teachable moment. For Jesus it was an opportunity to demonstrate how the Disciples could let God work through them. Jesus took that opportunity to demonstrate how the Disciples could help, not only by feeding everybody, but also by helping the people to develop the means to feed themselves.

The truth is that most everybody on that mountain had at least some food and water with them. 2000 years ago, before 7-Elevens and WAWA were invented, people did not venture too far from their village without at least some food and water.

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And out of all the people gathered on that mountain, only one person, a vulnerable child, was willing to share all he had so that others might eat. Jesus used this boy to teach a lesson. On that mountain people learned that by combining their resources, they could accomplish much more than by acting alone. They learned that there is a certain synergy when two or three, or twenty, or sixty, or 5000, or 12,000 gather together.

There are only two explanations as to how the miracle of feeding the multitudes happened:

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  • This boy’s gift was inspirational to those who witnessed it. That small gift challenged others and awakened their trust in God’s ability to supply their needs. It inspired them to share their food with their neighbors. They shared their food to demonstrate their faith and devotion to God.

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  • Using his divine powers, Jesus multiplied the small gift of loaves and fishes into enough food to feed everybody. While this interpretation stretches our imagination in 2017, let us not discount the mysterious power of God.

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The truth is that neither explanation offers a complete answer. Something happened in the hearts of those who witnessed the kid presenting his food to Jesus. People allowed their hearts to be touched; people allowed their hearts to be opened to God’s possibilities. And when their hearts were opened, when people recognized what it truly meant to have Jesus in their midst, that is when a miracle happened.

All of us have a deep-seated piety and religiosity within our souls. I am talking about things that make us feel righteous and superior. I am talking about a practice that asks very little of us and does not demand a real commitment to change. I am talking about the things that make us feel adamant about one or another moral issue; especially when that issue asks nothing of us, but demands a lot from others.

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We are the ones who make the Kingdom of Heaven real by the choices we make and the actions that we take here on Earth. But such transformations do not happen without Jesus touching our very soul. Only you have a key to let Jesus into your heart. And only you can make a choice whether you want to let Jesus into your heart; everyone of us must make that choice and that decision every day.

{Illustration}

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My question for you today is, are you willing to give Jesus your loaves and fishes or would you rather hold on to what you have? Are you willing to consider new possibilities for your life? Are you willing to consider new possibilities for the life of your church? Is Jesus more at home in your heart today than He was a year ago?

{Illustration}

Celebration of the Sacrament of the Holy Communion

Kingswood’s Ramp Update

Ramp is usable!!!! We will be able to use it this coming Sunday, 8/6/2017

There is still some landscaping work to be done in the next few weeks. I will keep you posted.

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View from side door (by pastor’s office)

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View from the middle landing towards Marrows Rd

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