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

Father’s Day: Call to Worship and an Opening Prayer

{Hope that helps Smile let me know if you need to produce a bulletin graphic or I can e-mail you one that I used }

CALL TO WORSHIP

L: In a day when so many men are absent from their families, we cherish the love of our fathers and father-figures and their impact on our lives.

P: Thank God for fathers and father-figures who love and encourage their children and participate in the life of their family.

L: Thank God for men who cherish their families, patiently and lovingly nurture their children, build their character and inspire them to be the best version of what God created them to be.

P: On this day set aside to remember what it means to have a father or be a father, we recognize the importance of fathers in our communities. We pledge as a congregation to love and nurture the fathers and father-figures among us, and encourage them to manifest the love of God in all that they do.

 

OPENING PRAYER

(In Unison): Loving God, you who are our father and our mother, we thank you for showing us how important it is to follow your example as we grow in faith. Teach us to be obedient to your will, respecting you as children should. Thank you for your grace and mercy in spite of our disobedience. Strengthen us to stand up against the challenges of this world, honoring your name and trusting your grace. In the Name of your Son, we pray. Amen.

Thinking Towards Sunday

Scripture for June 18, 2017, Father’s Day is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It is found in Luke 15:11-32. You can read it here {Click Me}

Secondary Scripture that I might use: Luke 18:9-14. You can read it here: {Click Me}

 

In either case we will celebrate the role of Fathers in our lives.

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; June 11, 2017; Presence of the Holy in the World Around Us

Last week we celebrated our graduates. Because of that we did not spend much time talking about the Pentecost and about the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit.

On June 11, 2017, we will talk about the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the world around us.

Scriptures for this Sunday: Acts 2:1-6; Matt 28:16-20

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

Hymns:

# 117:  O God, Our Help in Ages Past

# 95: Doxology (sang after the offering received)

# 57: O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing

# 261: Lord of the Dance

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Darci Lynne Farmer is a 12-year-old from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma who recently appeared on America Got Talent. She has a ventriloquism act; when she was 10, she saw a ventriloquist in her church and the way she puts it, “something clicked and I said, ‘I want to do that.’” That “something that clicked” – and I believe it was God – helped Darci Lynne to “find her voice and to come out of her shell.”

After her performance, Howie Mandell said, “I believe you will go far. You just changed your life, young lady.” Symon Cowell, another judge, said, “I will not remember the act that was on stage before you in an hour. I will remember you in a week, a month, and a year.”

{You can see a segment from America Got Talent featuring Darci Lynne Farmer hereCLICK ME

here is the http link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paIYpech9pY

//}

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Today we heard how the Holy Spirit of our God – God’s presence with us – came down at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-6). We know that this was the event that drastically and fundamentally changed and transformed the lives of those who were gathered around the place where it happened. As a result, unexpected things began to happen and the course of history was changed by those who recognized the Holy Spirit and welcomed the transformation. When the believers encountered the Holy Spirit, they did not know what was going to happen next. What the Church became in the future depended on what they were going to do next.

At this time we do not know what will happen to Darci Lynne Farmer, who I mentioned earlier. I hope and pray that her talent and her art will be a blessing to all who see her perform.

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The truth is that the experience of God in our lives tends to be unpredictable, challenging, changing, and transforming in nature. For Darci Lynne it was seeing a ventriloquist in her church. She performs a lot and I am sure that she practices a lot; in addition to talent it takes discipline and perseverance to be that good.

My personal experience supports that. When I experienced God for the first time, my life was radically transformed. It did not happen overnight; for me it took a long time. I discovered that salvation is not for wimps. The Holy Spirit brings change! Some of that change is welcome, some not, but change means a disruption of routine and habit; change stretches us and challenges us to do things that we are not comfortable with. I learned that being a Christian is not about things we should or shouldn’t do; I learned that being a Christian is not just about being nice. I learned that being a Christian is not about being “special” – some of our sisters and brothers use words like “elect” or “predestined.” I am – and so is everyone of you – a sinner saved by God’s Grace.

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In the Great Commission, Matthew 28:16-20, there is a sentence, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (verse 20b).

To me that sentence means that being a believer and a follower of Jesus is about seeing the beauty of Creation in all things and taking part in it by living, loving, and being. It is about embracing our history, our personal past, our joys as well as our pain and suffering and transforming all of that into a new vision and eventually a new life.

Biblical narratives are full of stories that testify that we can trust the Spirit to be at work around us, and our experiences validate that.

The Holy Spirit blessed Darci Lynne Farmer with a talent, and I hope that she uses it to glorify God and to be a blessing to her neighbors. We have people in these pews who are passionate about teaching. We have people in these pews who are passionate about engineering. We have people who are passionate about animals. This is not an all-exhaustive list, but the point that I am making is that we see the Holy Spirit of Our God moving among us, blessing us to be a blessing.

{Illustration: Chapel Street Players Theater}

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That brings me to the next point. We all have a story of how God touched and blessed us. We all have a testimony of how God changes our lives, how God continues to help us to find our voice and to come out of our shells. Those moments change the direction and trajectory of our lives. We remember those moments weeks later, months later, and even years later.

All of us have experienced “pentecost” times in our lives. We experience “pentecost” in our lives when we recognize that our Living God IS the God of renewal. If we want to discover new horizons or to accomplish something that we have never done before, if we want to open new doors and explore new paths, we need to try different things. Our personal “pentecost” is that moment of realization that there are new doors and opportunities waiting for us, and by God’s Grace we have the ability to reinvent ourselves and when we are with God all things are possible.

God is still active in the Creation and God is active in our lives. What the Church will become in the future and what Kingswood United Methodist Church will become in the future depends to a large extent on what we will do, how we interact with the Holy Spirit and how we discern what God is doing in the world around us, and how our stories and testimonies project God’s presence in this community.

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Thinking Towards Sunday; June 11, 2017

Last week we celebrated our graduates. Because of that we did not spend much time talking about the Pentecost and about the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit.

On June 11, 2017, we will talk about the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the world around us.

Scriptures for this Sunday: Acts 2:1-6; Matt 28:16-20

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

Following is a link for a possible sermon illustration:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paIYpech9pY

Hymns:

# 117:  O God, Our Help in Ages Past

# 95: Doxology (sang after the offering received)

# 261: Lord of the Dance

# 57: O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Sermon; Graduation (High School’ 2017)

Scriptures for this Sunday: Ephesians 2:4-10; Philippians 1:3-11
You can read these Scriptures here:
{Click Me}
Hymns for this Sunday (Celebrating our Graduates / Holy Communion):

  • UMH 383 This Is The Day of New Beginnings

  • UMH 399 Take My Life and Let it Be

  • UMH 451 Be Thou My Vision

We will celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Communion

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To all of our graduates: Congratulations!

You have worked hard to get here. You have completed a set of academic requirements and you have taken tests to demonstrate your knowledge and skills. Your graduation celebrates a destination point in your life’s journey.

This graduation is a short season in your life that celebrates your hard work, your perseverance and your achievements. Savor this time; may it inspire and empower you for what comes next.

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There are moments in life when we stand at the crossroads between the ending of what has been and the beginning of what is yet to come. {Illustration: Connect to Pentecost} You are at such a juncture in your lives, and it is one of many that you will face on your life’s journey. What you will become in the future depends to a large degree on what you do next. Your graduation is a process of something new being brought into existence. That “something new” is you and what you will become.

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Your graduation is a new beginning in your exciting but not trouble-free journey. Have faith in God, have faith in yourselves, have faith in your abilities; don’t be afraid to think and you will be OK.

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Never stop learning, because life should be a never-ending quest for self-improvement. Our society is realizing that we cannot run and manage ourselves on data and computers alone. We need to develop skills that transform data into information, which in turn help us to act and react to changes in the world. More than ever, our society today needs people who know how to be compassionate and how to relate. More than ever, our society needs people with skills that are not only cognitive and technical but also emotional and relational. Be diligent in developing your emotional and relational skills. A sign of education is the ability to consider different points of view without espousing them as your own.

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In Philippians 1:9-11 Paul writes, And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

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You are inheriting a complex world. Lots of things that your grandparents’ generation took for granted, your parents’ generation was unsure of because the rate of change in our society is rapid and it is increasing every day. It is nothing new; the world has always been changing. What is new, however, is the rate of that change. To give you an example, just fifty years ago someone was considered to be illiterate if he or she could not read and write.

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In our society today, the ability to read and write is assumed. In our society today, the illiterate are not those who cannot read or write, the illiterate are now those who do not know how to learn, unlearn and relearn new skills, who do not know how to reinvent themselves with changing circumstances.

Your generation will have to deal with tens of millions of jobs replaced by automation like self-driving cars and trucks, self-piloting transport ships, fully automated eateries and stores. That is just the tip of the iceberg, we cannot even imagine what the big changes will be. What you will call “work” in 10 or 15 years will be very different from what your grandparents or my generation called “work.” You need to be able to adapt.

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In the Gospel of John chapter 3 we learn about Nicodemus. Nicodemus came to Jesus under the cover of darkness and what he was concerned about was that Jesus’ teachings were turning his world upside down. Jesus’ teachings challenged what Nicodemus believed to be right, true and beautiful. Jesus taught that we need to allow the Holy Spirit into our lives (“you must be born again, you must be born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:6-7), whereas all that Nicodemus knew up to that point was how to perform rituals. In the end we know that Nicodemus was able to learn what Jesus was teaching him. Nicodemus was with Joseph of Arimathea when they claimed Jesus’ body (John 19:39). Nicodemus was able to change his life based on the new understanding. Be proactive and open to letting God into your lives. Allow yourself to be born-again as your circumstances change.

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{Illustration}

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That brings me to the next point. So far your experience has taught you that knowledge is having the “right” answer to the question in front of you; that is how you passed all your tests and exams. Today I want to suggest to you that knowledge is a platform, a taking off point to develop your intelligence. Intelligence is about facing a problem and asking the right questions, questions that will help you to find a solution. Be diligent about developing that kind of intelligence.

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So far your experience has taught you that education comes from books and college degrees. Today I want to suggest to you that books and college degrees are only pathways to open your minds and encourage you to learn. Your formal education gave you a glimpse of tools available to you to help you learn and to think. Embrace new experiences, learn from different ideas whether you agree with them or not, travel often, expose yourselves to new ideas, learn from all people and be open to positive influences from our exciting world. Strive to enrich your mind, expand your thinking and elevate your language. These are some of the ways that God guides you.

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You were raised and educated in the era of instant messaging, instant coffee and instant stars from reality TV. All that “instant” stuff makes it difficult for many of us to be patient and to remember the benefits of long-term thinking. One of the things that you will need to develop in your lives is the ability to think strategically, to focus on what is important, and concentrate your energy on accomplishing your goals.

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In Ephesians 2:10 Paul writes, “… we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works …”

In conclusion I want to share a couple of final points that I picked up in the course of my life’s journey.

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  • Earlier I encouraged you to build knowledge and to develop your intelligences. I stand by that. I also want to suggest that perseverance and resilience is far more important than knowledge or intelligences in accomplishing your long term goals. It is also important to know when to say “when.” Some goals may prove to be irrelevant or not achievable.

  • There is no substitute for hard work, but we should not only work hard, we should work smart! Doing the same thing repeatedly and hoping for different results is the definition of insanity. Don’t be insane.

  • Meaning is rarely found within ourselves. Success is rarely complete or satisfying when we do things just for ourselves or for our family. I want to encourage you to think about this and do something for others, be part of something that is inherently bigger than yourself. Do not allow others to turn your idealism into cynicism — every one of us can and should strive to change the world for the better!

  • I am not saying that money is unimportant or irrelevant. But I also want you to know that money, power and fame are NOT a true measure of success. The most influential person in Western culture is Jesus. Jesus was not an earthly king, or industrial tycoon or a movie celebrity; while living his earthly life among us, Jesus was a carpenter. Yet, His life affected all of ours.

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Every generation has its defining stories. To give a few examples:

  • Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon less than 50 years ago (1969).

  • The American Civil Rights struggle (roughly 1955 – 1968) officially ended racial segregation and inequality in our country.

  • The Hoover Dam was built during the Great Depression between 1931 and 1936.

  • Suffragists won the right for women to vote when the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 19, 1920.

These accomplishments represent years of struggle, debate, and a sense of purpose for all those involved. These achievements defined their respective generations and became a part of our national DNA. They gave our country a sense of accomplishment and pride and proved that we can do great things.

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Now it is your turn to do great things. No one knew how to land a man on a moon, or how to achieve equality, or to build a dam as large as the Hoover Dam when they started. Ideas do not come out fully defined and formed. You hone your ideas by being diligent and by making the necessary adjustments along the way. You just have to start.

I know that I have dumped a lot of information on you today and I realize that it is hard for you to process everything that we talked about today. That is why I printed copies of this message for each of you; I hope that each of you will take it and read it every few years. I pray that it will help you to evaluate where you are on your life’s journey.

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I hope and pray that you find the courage to live your lives in such a way that you are a blessing to your neighbors and to the future generations.

Thinking Towards Sunday; June 4, 2017; Honoring our Graduates; Pentecost

Scriptures for this Sunday: Ephesians 2:4-10; Philippians 1:3-11

You can read these Scriptures here: {Click Me}

Hymns for this Sunday (Celebrating our Graduates / Holy Communion):

  • UMH 383 This Is The Day of New Beginnings

  • UMH 399 Take My Life and Let it Be

  • UMH 451 Be Thou My Vision

We will celebrate the Sacrament of the Holy Communion

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Sermon; Memorial Day 2017

Deuteronomy 10: 12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

Deuteronomy 10: 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. 20 Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.

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Memorial Day is upon us. For most men and women in our country. Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer. It is a time for an awesome old-fashioned parade down Main Street in Small Town, USA. It is frustratingly slow traffic on the way to the beach. It is a time to prepare the backyard pool, warm up the grill, and invite family and friends over for a good old-fashioned BBQ. For younger folks, school is almost over for the summer. Seniors will soon be graduating. Maybe they would rather spend Memorial Day partying by the beach.

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For me, Memorial Day is still about family and friends, but it is also about us, and by “us” I mean the USA.

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As a naturalized citizen of the United States of America, I am frustrated by the way we celebrate Memorial Day. It seems to have lost its meaning. For the most part what we do and how we celebrate this day has lost the connection with the intent and purpose of the holiday, which is about remembering and honoring those who lost their lives on the field of battle.

I think that collectively we understand Memorial Day in terms of “communal fun,” whereas it was intended to be set aside, to be kept holy, as a Holy Day of communal remembrance. I understand and appreciate the opportunities this day brings to all of us to get together with our friends and family to enjoy each other’s company, but these gatherings, picnics, and parties are secondary to recognizing the sacrifice and heroism of those who have gone before us, paving the way for liberty and freedom (including religious). That is why standing together in prayer and remembrance should take precedence to anything else as we observe Memorial Day.

As I grow older, I cannot help but learn new things, and glean new understandings from my experiences.

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Memorial Day reminds me that our blessings are the result of the actions of countless veterans and citizens who placed duty, honor, and commitment ahead of apathy, pride, and security. They chose to enter into unfriendly and uncompromising environments and, despite risks, persevered to the end. The rewards of their efforts have gone on to shape our country – past, present, and future.

Jesus told his apostles that He was going ahead of them to prepare a place (John 14:2). In many respects, that is what many of our veterans have done. They have helped prepare and secure a way of life for us that is beyond comprehension and envied by most of the world today. Christ paved the way through His Passion and Death; the ultimate price for our salvation. Those who heeded his words, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13), are a testimony to this very form of sacrifice. Our Creator who knows us better than we know ourselves has inspired numerous men and women throughout our nation’s history to answer the call to serve.

They were called to commit their minds, hearts, and every fiber of their beings to endure harsh surroundings and challenging ordeals. Their gift of service gave way to the legacy that we enjoy today.

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In 23 BC, a few years before Jesus was born, Latin philosopher Horace wrote, “Carpe diem.” It translates as “Seize the Day!”

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By contrast, Jesus came teaching that everything we do, we do with the understanding that we are building a better future for tomorrow. The memory of soldiers who gave their lives cries out for us to Seize Tomorrow, to use the gift of today, to build our tomorrows.

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On Memorial Day 2009, President Obama said of those who died in service to our country, “They, and we, are the legacies of an unbroken chain of proud men and women who served their country with honor, who waged war so that we might know peace, who braved hardship so that we might know opportunity, who paid the ultimate price so that we might know freedom.”

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On Memorial Day 1982 President Ronald Reagan said of those who died in service to our country: “Our first obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough: The United States and the freedom for which it stands, the freedom for which they died, must endure and prosper. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. It has a cost; it imposes a burden. And just as they whom we commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we—in a less final, less heroic way—be willing to give of ourselves.”

So, this Memorial Day, enjoy the pool. Enjoy the beach trip. Celebrate the fact that the school year is almost over and summer is right around the corner. Fire up that grill and have a BBQ. But, in all that take the time to remember the sons and daughter of our Nation, who for decades and decades, chose to offer their lives as a measure of their devotion to their country and to you. Don’t forget their sacrifice. Pray for the families left behind.

As we get ready to observe and to celebrate Memorial Day, I want to challenge you to live today and honor the sacrifices of our fallen soldiers by preparing to Seize Tomorrow!

May God bless all of us!

May God bless our community!

May God Bless our Country!

May you have a blessed and meaningful Memorial Day Weekend!

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; May 14, 2017, Mother’s Day

Scriptures for this Sunday: Matthew 15:21-28. You can read this Scripture here: {Click ME}

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day is celebrated in approximately 40 countries around the world. The majority of these countries celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May.

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In the United States, Mother’s Day was established in 1908. A lady by the name of Anna Jarvis (May 1, 1864 – November 24, 1948) is widely attributed as the person who dreamt and worked to establish the holiday. In 1912 she trademarked the phrases “Second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day”, and created the Mother’s Day International Association. She specifically noted that “Mother’s” should “be a singular possessive, for each family to honor its own mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world.”

{Illustration}

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Because of that, Mother’s Day is a bittersweet day for me. For me it is a celebration of the life of the woman who brought me into this world, and a reminder of the life that was taken from it.

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I share all of this with you today because it shaped my understanding of what Mother’s Day is. It is NOT about Hallmark cards, sentimental drivel and feel good sentences. Mother’s Day is about our understanding of life and our ability to deal with life in a productive and responsible manner. Mother’s Day is about the role that our mothers play in our ability to deal with life.

We have to face the joys and the problems that invariably arise in our lives. What helps us to celebrate the joys, what helps us to deal with the problems, what helps us to live our “abundant lives” (John 10:10), is our understanding of ourselves and our place in God’s Universe.

That understanding of ourselves and our place in the Universe is rooted in our relationship with God, and is transmitted from generation to generation by our mothers.

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God is active in our world! God is doing something! God’s presence and actions cause the world to be in a state of constant change. As our world changes, we need to constantly figure out solutions to new problems.

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Ideally, God is using mothers to plant seeds in the minds of the young generations. These seeds will sprout as seedlings of love, care and innovation. God also uses mothers all over the world to nurture these seedlings, and these seedlings will mold and shape the future. Mothers all over the world have a tremendous impact on this world; I am talking about our past, our present and our future.

Look at the examples from the life of our Lord. I wonder how many of the parables used by Jesus he first heard from Mary? I wonder if Mary prepared chicken soup for the teenager Jesus when he had a cold? We know that Mary encouraged Jesus to kick-off his ministry at the wedding at Cana in Galilee.

Let us look at the example of Paul. Countless mother-figures helped Paul in his ministry and shaped his ministry along the way. There is Lydia, there is Priscilla, there is Phoebe. In 2 Timothy 1:5 Paul wrote:

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NIV 2 Timothy 1:5 I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

In Romans 16:13 Paul wrote:

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NIV Romans 16:13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.

Lois and Eunice helped to shape Paul… Rufus’ mother was “like a mother” to Paul. All of these ladies “mom’d” Paul.

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Just like Mary nurtured the earthly life of our Lord, just like Lois and Eunice nurtured Paul, countless moms, aunts, step-moms, grand-moms, Sunday School teachers and countless other nurturing women help children to shape their understanding of life and nurture the ability to deal with life in a productive and responsible manner. Just like Mary nurtured young Jesus, countless moms, aunts, step-moms, grand-moms, and other nurturing women plant seeds of greatness in the minds of children all over the world.

Children are not born with an instruction manual. Some ladies are blessed with nurturing in their DNA; some never received the memo. Some ladies have mothering down pat; some continue to learn by trial and error. None of us are perfect or have it all together.

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Today is set aside to honor, to remember, and to give thanks for our moms and all the ladies who nurtured us, who helped us to become who and what we are today. We are grateful to God because they received the gift of life from God, and passed it on to us. We thank our moms for the sacrifices they made in carrying us and giving us birth. We thank our moms for the sacrifices they made rearing us. We thank our moms for the seeds of humanness that they nurtured in our souls.

We thank God for the women who raised us, who were our mothers in childhood. Whether it was birth moms, adopted moms, older sisters, aunts, grandmothers, stepmothers or someone else, these ladies held us and fed us, cared for us and kissed away our pain. Their love for us reflects the love of God for the creation.

May our lives reflect the love of God projected by our mothers.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Thinking Towards Sunday; Mothers’ Day 2017; May 14, 2017

Scriptures for this Sunday: Matthew 15:21-28. You can read this Scripture here: {Click ME}

For our music coordinator: We will sing special hymns written specifically for Mothers’ Day. I will make sure that you have a printout of the liturgy by tomorrow with hymn lyrics and melodies. Selah. Winking smile

Call to Worship

Loving and Gracious God!
You have created this world with love and care.
You set in motion processes that nourish our planet, give us resources for sustenance, survival, and fulfilling lives. You fill our souls with joy and gladness.

Nurturing God! We thank you for your love for us from the beginning of time.
You formed us and knew us when we were in our mother’s wombs, you knit us together lovingly, your devotion to us has not failed, your care is with us every day of our lives.

You gave us the gift of life that began with you and was nourished first by our biological mothers and other women who mothered us on our lives’ journeys.
As we honor their influence on our lives, we recognize the extent of their efforts, and we give you thanks for all that they are and what they mean to us.

 

Opening Prayer

Nurturing and Loving God! We saw our first glimpse of your love for us in the love of our mothers.

Today our country celebrates Mother’s Day. We thank you for the mothers who carried us in their wombs, nourishing, protecting, and bringing us into the world. We thank you for the women who did not give birth to us, yet loved and nurtured us just the same.

With gratitude we remember their words of encouragement when we have felt unsure or afraid; we thank you for their kindness, comfort and gentleness when the world has treated us harshly; we thank you for the protection they offered us at times of danger; we thank you for the times when they corrected us and helped us to regain our footing, rather than letting us continue down wrong paths.

May our actions reflect their involvement, nurture and presence in our lives.

In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Approximate Notes for this Sunday; Acts 2:42-47

Scripture for May 7 is Acts 2:42-47

You can read this Scripture here {NIV2010 and ESV}

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A few years ago, American neuroscientist Antonio Damasio made a groundbreaking discovery. He studied people with damage in the part of the brain where emotions are generated. All these men and women seemed normal, except for their ability to experience emotions. All of them had something odd in common: they could not make even simplest decisions. Each of his patients/subjects could describe what they should be doing in logical terms, they could list pros and cons for every decision. Even in the cases where decisions should have been easy to make from the logical perspective, these men and women found it very difficult, if not impossible, to make them. Can you imagine going through life without being able to decide what you will have for lunch or what shirt you will put on in the morning. With well-defined rational decision paths, these men and women faced tremendous difficulties making simplest decisions.

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These experiments demonstrated that emotions, not logic, drive every one of our decisions. Even when we believe that we are making a logical decision, the process of choosing is based on emotions.

So what’s in it for us at Kingswood United Methodist Church?

I just said some words that could be easily verified by Uncle Google, that sound like jiber-jaber, and the emotional side of everyone in this congregation wants to take a nap.

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The passage we read this morning describes the Christian community as it began, and I love that passage! They were doing theology, they were living together, they were eating together, they were praying together; this is the kind of community that every pastor I know would give their right arm for.

I wonder what reason the newcomers in today’s reading gave for why they decided to follow Jesus. What would they say if we were to ask them, “Why did Jesus have to die?” What would they say if we were to ask them what the Resurrection meant for them?

I also wonder what their first gut reaction was when they heard the Apostles preaching. I wonder what it felt like to experience the fellowship with Jesus’ followers. What did it feel like as they began learning about Jesus and growing in their new faith?

Based on what I know about that period of time, I am willing to guess they heard the Disciples’ preaching in the Temple Courts by chance because they were devout Jews and they happened to be there  in the right place at the right time. The reason they came back is because that encounter gave them a glimpse of the Living God. They experienced the presence of our living God in their own lives and they became convinced that, in the words of Paul, “…neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate [them] from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

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As products of the scientific age of discovery, when we encounter nominal Christians, or even unbelievers, we give them facts about the Messiah. Jesus walked this earth. By his incarnation, life, suffering, execution and resurrection Jesus gave birth to the Church, delivered us from slavery to sin and death and made with us a new covenant of faith. Those are the facts.

We also tell them how we live out our faith and devotion to Jesus in our daily lives, and how much work Kingswood UMC does in the community. We tell them about Hope Dining Room and the Food Closet. Great accomplishments.

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Unfortunately, when a visitor comes to our doors, they are not looking for the facts. Our visitors may even be putting on a façade to hide their woundedness, while the real reason they walked through our doors is because they are looking for salve to apply to their wounds.

The Church is supposed to be the answer to our woundedness; church is a spiritual clinic where we gather to heal our emotions and our souls. I will venture to say that most of us are here today because at some time in our lives we saw Jesus while we were emotionally wounded, and that encounter happened among other Christians. The reason people make a decision to come back for a second time is because something stirred in their soul when they were with us; they saw our living God among us.

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That is why churches were packed in the 1950s. As a nation, and as a part of this world, World War II brought us to the edge of the abyss and extinction. Those were emotional times. Most everyone knew a family that had lost a child, most everyone knew a young woman or a young man who lost a husband or a significant other in the war. There were GIs who came home, who had been forced to take the lives of others in the war. Everyone was emotionally wounded in some way. People got together and helped each other to heal these wounds. That is why churches were packed; God was a part of this healing process.

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Today’s Scripture is set at a time shortly after the people of Jerusalem demanded the death of their Messiah, and then they saw the redemption of Creation in the Resurrection of Jesus. Those were emotional times. People were emotionally wounded by these events and by their role in these events. As a result, it was easy for them to see God in the aftermath of Crucifixion and Resurrection.

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As I stand before you, we are divided as a nation. As I stand before you, our United Methodist Church is arguing about who belongs and who doesn’t. As I stand before you, we are all wounded and it is easy to see the presence of the Holy Spirit moving among us. We are also isolated from our neighbors. We look different from the community around us, we talk differently from the community around us. Our challenge is to find a common language, our challenge is to offer a place for all to heal their emotional wounds, our challenge is to be the best of what God created us to be.

Do you know what the healing touch of Jesus feels like? Does Jesus live in your heart?

{Transition to the Sacrament of the Holy Communion}

E-Note from Pastor Asher to the Community of Kingswood United Methodist Church

AFP/Getty 548732535Many among us may not be aware that the first Thursday in May is a Holy Day set aside as a Worldwide Day of Prayer for Christians around the globe. Communal prayer has always been central to Christian identity. In our Tuesday Bible Study we practice a form of it when we hold hands and every person in the room takes a turn to pray.

The World Day of Prayer and the National Day of Prayer are both rooted in the Scripture found in 1 Timothy 2:1-4, that reads:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (NIV2010).

Our prayers are one of the ways to be in conversation with God. Our prayers are one of the ways for us to listen to God, and allow God to mold and shape us (Isaiah 64:8). Our prayers help us to open our hearts and minds, and to accept what God wishes to give us in answer to our prayers. Our prayers are a constant reminder to honor, glorify and praise God even at times when we may not feel like it and would rather be focused on something else.

On this World Day of Prayer, when Christians in our Nation are called to bow their heads in conversation with God, I would like to leave you with a simple question: “What is it that you are looking for from the Lord in your prayers?”

My prayer is for all of us, may God bless us, keep us and encourage us to be the best version of what we are created to be.

I pray for our country, may God bless the United States of America, and may it be like a city on a hill that is a blessing to the world around us (Matt 5:14).

Happy Star Wars Day!

May the 4th be with you!

Approximate Notes for Sunday’s Message; Acts 2:14,36-41; Sunday, April 30, 2017

Scripture for April 30 is Acts 2:14a, 36-41

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

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All of us know the fairy tale of the Frog Prince. It was popularized for the first time by Brothers Grimm and is traditionally the first story in their collection. What most of us do not realize is that the story has roots in the Vikings’ tradition; if I had to guess, the original story is probably 12 to 15 centuries old.

The way the contemporary version of the story goes, a spoiled princess is persuaded to befriend the Frog Prince whom she met after dropping a gold ball into the swamp that the Frog Prince called home. In the conniving exchange, the slimy frog returns the golden ball to the princess but not until after she kissed him. That kiss magically transformed the frog into a handsome prince and, just like in any other fairy tale, there was a lavish wedding with delicious carrot cake, a beautiful dress with a long train, and they lived happily ever after.

The reason this folk tale has survived for 1500 years is because it resonates with our human experience. All of us have had to “kiss a frog” in the past, to face our fears and doubts, only to be pleasantly surprised by the results.

The “frog” that I am talking about represents the fallacy of our own prejudices and preconceived notions. As a result of facing our preconceived notions and prejudices we grow and we change.

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Let’s unpack that. Today we heard the scripture where Peter addressed the worshipers, either on the day of Pentecost – the day when the Holy Spirit descended upon all of God’s Creation like a mighty wind, or shortly after.

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We know that Jesus appeared to the Disciples behind closed doors a few times in that period of fifty days between Easter and Pentecost, we heard that reading last week.

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Also, at some point during these fifty days, Peter made a decision that he had enough with uncertainty and instability. He decided to go back to his old life as a fisherman. That story is found in John 21.

In verses 1 – 7 we hear,

NIV2010 John 21: 1 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 ‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

5 He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’

‘No,’ they answered.

6 He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’”

{Illustration}

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I think this is what happened to Peter. He decided to get practical and he gave up.

We know that Peter denied Jesus three times on the night between Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Peter denied knowing Jesus because he was unsure of and devastated by what was happening, scared for his life, his spirit was crushed and he was terrified.

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That is why Resurrected Jesus came to the shores of the Sea of Galilee to talk to Peter that morning. What followed was an exchange between Jesus and Peter, where Jesus asked Peter three times, “Peter, do you love me?” Jesus did not lay guilt trips nor accusations. Jesus asked Peter a simple question, “Peter, do you love me?”

And Peter had to “kiss the frog.” I am talking about “the frog” that lived in his heart and mind; Peter had to own up to his own emotions of guilt and shame about his denial, and come face to face with his weakness, his impetuousness, and his brokenness as a fallen human being. Peter had to own up to giving up his dreams and his calling.

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When tragedy and loss happen in our lives, we face a choice. Our first option is that we can give into the void and emptiness that fill our hearts and souls, constrict our ability to think and act, suck the air out of our lungs, and drain us of our desire to live. Our second option is to try to find meaning. Notice I did not say that the second option is to try to explain why the tragedy and loss occurred. I said that the second option is to seek the meaning of what happened.

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Hope, vision, spiritual and emotional growth follows meaning, not explanations.

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On that shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus helped Peter come to terms with and find meaning in what happened. It was a way for Jesus to reassure Peter that life goes on and Peter had a part in it.

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Today we saw Peter recognize what the wind and fire at Pentecost was all about, and he addressed the crowd without fear or hesitation. Today we saw Peter acknowledge Jesus without any hesitation.

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Listen to what Peter told the people, “you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” – that is Hope.

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“The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” – that is vision of a new church and a new life.

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We find meaning in our lives only when we are prepared to face God face to face and are prepared to face our own fallenness. That is what the period between Easter and Pentecost was for the Disciples. By finding the meaning, they found the way to reinvent themselves and carry Jesus into every corner of the Earth.

When was the last time that you realized you had let your dreams and hopes slip away? When was the last time that you had “to kiss the frog” inside you and ask yourself “what was I afraid of?”

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In Memory of Cpl. Stephen J. Ballard; a letter to the community of Kingswood United Methodist Church

On Wednesday, April 26, 2017, police officer Stephen J. Ballard, 32, was fatally shot in Bear, DE after approaching a vehicle in the parking lot of a local convenience store. We do not know what caught his attention or raised his suspicions. All we know is that his life was cut short in its prime, that one suspect has been caught, and as I write this, there is a standoff between police and a second suspect.

Because of my office as a pastor, I am privileged to spend time with people, to hear their stories, and to share in their celebrations as well as in their grief.

As our community comes to terms with the shooting of Cpl. Ballard, I am mindful of the impact the death of a law enforcement officer has on both their family and the community. His life – full of potential, promise, hope and courage – was taken suddenly, leaving an empty space filled with disbelief, anger, and pain.

Most law enforcement officers who die in the line of duty leave behind families and children. Long after all of us have moved on, the family, the spouse of the slain officer and their children continue to live and deal with the memories of loss and brokenness resulting from the shooting. Please pray for the extended family, wife, and children of the slain officer.

I hope that all of us in the community of Kingswood United Methodist Church will take time to reflect on and to acknowledge the dedication of those who protect us (our policemen, our firemen, and our EMTs,) and to honor them with our prayers and actions. Let us acknowledge their very special calling with appreciation and respect.

May the memory of our fallen policemen live on in our hearts.

May God bless and protect those who are called to work in public safety (our policemen, our firemen, and our EMTs).

Philos

Asher

Thinking Towards Sunday; April 30 and May 7

Scripture for April 30 is Acts 2:14a, 36-41

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

Scripture for May 7 is Acts 2:42-47

You can read this Scripture here {NIV2010 and ESV}

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