February 2018 Blog

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” Matthew 6:10 is an extremely well-known, well memorized passage of scripture. It is important that we really take into our hearts what this means for us all. It must be more than just part of a well-known prayer we all say; we must not just go through the motions. What does it really mean to you to say we are inviting God to help us work to bring God’s kingdom here on earth?
What vision does God caste in your heart when you envision heaven here on earth? How do we work together to make it happen? The key is working together; instead of every person trying to be a star, getting our own way, we focus on Christ in which community is essential. As good leaders have reminded us, “Scripture knows nothing of the solitary Christian.” We are not and do not feel complete until we fulfill the most important command, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27; Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30-31).
As we move through the year ahead, we will be working to create a heav-en on earth in building and strengthening our fellowship together. We want to invite and welcome people into our friendships in Christ. Two important efforts in ministry are a great joy for us to do: Confirmation for our youth this spring, and plans for Vacation Bible School, most likely near the end of the summer.
We want our youth to know the great blessing of living a life for Christ from the heart. Some of the dynamics we will focus on understanding are the Sacraments of Baptism and Communion and what they mean and why they are important. We’ll also look at who Jesus is. It is important we help them understand our beliefs as United Methodists and what makes the UMC unique, including some of our history and how we became who we are.
It is also vital that we cover the organization of the church and how we all can feel at home in taking part and leading as we sense God calling us to. We also want them to know what the role of the pastor is, including the re-quirements for education and what are important qualifications; what is the authority of the pastor and why. We want to help our kids have ownership to the process of ordination, especially as Matthew works his way through it. I also have asked confirmation groups in the past to complete at least two projects: compose their own statement of faith sharing what they believe about God and Jesus Christ; and conduct an interview of someone in the church who they respect, but who is not related to them.
Ideally, I am also hopeful we can take them on a field trip, perhaps to the Chinese Christian Church, in Philadelphia, and/or Old St. George’s UMC where our historical archives are kept. We also would like to have them experience one of our Spanish speaking UM church in Lancaster or Lebanon, and/or understand the Anchor Breakfast in Lancaster. While I don’t think they cannot help serve because of age requirements, it would be important that they can understand the im-portance of this ministry.
Membership is a decision to accept and live fully in God’s Covenant every day, through devotions, scripture, prayer, and friendships. Our children and youth have a unique ability to teach us about our faith, and help us stretch and grow in new ways. Please keep our fellowship and efforts in your pray-ers, and may we be blessed in how we practice our faith together and relate with each other in Christ.

January 2018

“If God so loved the world, we also ought to love one another.” I John 4:11 RSV
A great Christian scholar and effective pastor wrote, “The word love, as it is used in the biblical texts, has two obvious qualities. John the master teacher on love…taught that (real) love has its origins in God (we love because he first loved us I John 4:11) And love is in relationships with other persons (“If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”)
Love is not a word that describes my feelings.
Love is not a technique, by which I fulfill my needs.
Love is not an ideal, abstract and pure, on which I (only) meditate or discourse (talk).
Love is an active (growing, maturing relationship) correspondence with or in response to God in
relation to person.” (from Traveling Light) Love is more than just a word that describes our feelings; is not focused on ourselves, sacrifices for others, sees the larger picture; and love takes form in reality; we show and share it, as Christ taught us.
Love doesn’t really exist in isolation; love leads to sharing, stretching, and growing. I think of many people I have known who believe, love is a verb. Love requires a decision and decisions from us to choose how we will relate with other people. It inspires us to remain assertive and engaged. As Christians, we choose to relate compassionately as God has related with us. It is embodied in the ways we actively listen and seek to understand one another and in how we share life and compas-sion in friendships.
Christ came to us in a form of love found in the vulnerability of a child. God made it easier for us to approach and accept him; God reached out and continues to reach out to us. “The word became flesh, and moved into the neighborhood.” John 1:14
That same author from above, encourages us to understand that as people of faith, we are histori-cal people who remember how God has been at work in the lives of people down through the ag-es. God worked and works in the lives of real people. God does things. “God wasn’t (just) a blurred glow of sentiment; God wasn’t (just) an abstract thought or concept. God was, (is and will be) per-sonal in history: creating, directing, saving, blessing. God entered (and enters) the affairs (the lives and hearts) of women and men, and when he does, he judge and saved, called to account and blessed. Most of all God loved (and loves).” (from Leap Over a Wall)
In January, the focus of our worship and meditations on Sunday will be around the understanding of what love is. I pray you will join us, as Matthew and I focus on this important dynamic of our faith. God is personal (from Leap Over a Wall): God is at work in our lives. “God’s eye is on those who re-spect him, the ones who are looking for his love.” (Psalm 33:18) God is not blurred sentiment, or an abstract concept….“God is personal in our lives and history – creating, directing, saving, blessing. God enters the affairs of men and women, and when he does, he judges and saves, calls into
account and blessed. Most of all God loves.” In the coming year, may we all grow in the ways we love as God taught and teaches us in Jesus Christ. – Tim

December 2017

Prepare the way of the Lord!
Isaiah 40:3, Malachai 3:1, & Matthew 3:3 lift up the proclamation for Advent.
Isaiah reads, “A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the Lord [YHWH] in the wilderness; make smooth in the de-sert a highway for our God.” Malachai 3:1 proclaims “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord [adonai], whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord [YHWH] of hosts.”
God makes a covenant, makes promises to us, and keeps them. It was such an incredible gift that it took cen-turies to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ to the world. It took the faithful preparations and responses of those entrusted with his gift of life to bring it to fruition. So, we ask ourselves as we pray, what is our faithfulness like? What is at the heart of our willingness to wait and prepare?
Secular Preparations
On one local radio station, they started playing Christmas music at Halloween! I’m glad it’s not the station I’m drawn to listen to very often, and a personal confession is, I don’t like a lot of secular Christmas songs; I want the ones that lift up our faith and God’s grace. We need God at the center of our lives. This Advent season we will look at the faithfulness of the people who were entrusted with the life of Jesus, and how we can now be faithful in our responses in very real ways today. Please join us and invite family and friends to join us too. A couple that I’ve grown to know in the last year, asked me if it would be ok if they joined us on Christmas Eve for our service. Halleluiah! I thought. Then, through their question, I was reminded of how I understand that many people today are intimidated to come into our church (any church), even fearful of our fellowship. We want to do all we can to help them feel at home, and see we all have a place in fellowship together.
Hospitality – Wednesday Bible Study & Sunday School Class –
During Advent we will be offering our Wednesday Bible study with a focus once again on preparing our hearts for hospitality. It is a great time of year to welcome old and new friends into our lives, especially as we prepare for receiving Christ into our hearts in new ways. I will also offer time during Sunday School in the “spare room” next to the All Stars’ room.
Consecration Sundays & Stewardship –
Thanksgiving and our Consecration Sundays begin a time of celebration of the gifts God has entrusted to us. Our commitments build trust in ways that help us to strengthen and expand God’s vision in our hearts, and take real action together. Thank you to all who have made a commitment; we’ve seen some real progress in narrowing our deficit. I remember what a young adult with a growing family shared with me this year: he felt as though his faith has really grown, once he understood and started coming to church feeling blessed to be able to share, instead of always asking himself what he would “get out of it.” God’s grace is an essential, pow-erful force in our lives.
Time & Talent –
Our thanks also to everyone who has taken part and made a Time & Talent commitment for 2018. Forms are available in the Narthex/Lobby, in front of the mailboxes. We have had good participation this year, and hope that those who have not yet made their commitment will do so in the next couple of weeks. Through our commitments together, we build trust and begin to see what is possible. Matthew shared a great message on the Parable of the Talents that is shared in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25:14-30. He shared examples from his own life of how we are often surprised by the unexpected abilities in other people. We often approach people with preconceived ideas of what other people are capable of. God has a way of transforming us in creativity to see new possibilities.
Many people try to subtly and not so subtly force expectations on others: Like someone who buys and gives tools as a gift to someone who is never likely to use them. Our faith leads to real commitment and sharing, even when we feel we don’t have much to give. On Time & Talent Sunday, Matthew and Lisa Miller shared a duet. During the message, Matthew lifted it up as an example for all of us in that we may feel we are not gift-ed enough to make a difference or want to share some of our gifts; he feels like his musical talents are a 1 compared to Lisa’s 10 in music. In Christ, we are led to share and take part, and not hide our talents. Focus on giving to God, not popularity. As Jesus taught in Matthew 25, it is the relationship of trust that God offers us that is the key. Trusting in God’s generosity and grace, leads us to stretch in the ways that we share, even when we don’t feel so talented or wealthy.
We look forward to growing in our hearts and faith this season, and throughout our lives and the year ahead. God’s blessings, Tim