April 2018 Blog

“When the city came into view, Jesus wept over it. “If you had only recognized
this day, and everything that was good for you! But now it’s too late.
In the days ahead your enemies are going to bring up their heavy artillery
and surround you, pressing in from every side. They’ll smash you and your
babies on the pavement. Not one stone will be left intact. All this because
you didn’t recognize and welcome God’s personal visit.” Luke 19:41-44
For me, this has always been a striking image; Jesus praying
for people who mislead themselves into settling for less
than the relationship that God provides, and even move
to destroy the promises God has offered to us. It seems
clear: we break God’s heart. We allow our small outlook
on creation and God to totally limit who we are. Through
this scripture I found myself asking, what is God praying for
today for me, for us, and for our world? In its lines, I hear
God’s heart breaking, as the heart of Jesus is breaking. In response, God
doesn’t just sit back passively; Jesus moves forward to reclaim and transform
our lives, our world, and creation itself. In fact, his whole life and presence
was God’s assertive decisive action to show and share love with us
(read I John). The witness of the Gospels is empowering in the deepest
ways.
How could Jesus have done this for us? It’s because he loves us. Now the
question is, what motivates us? Is it fear of failure? Loss of control? Is it a
hope for a legacy, a form of glory or popularity? Are we looking for power,
or maybe our view of success? Throughout the journey of life, during the
many important and small decisions of life, disciples strive to constantly examine
the leadership we journey in, examining also what motivates us and
the people, fellowship, and community around us. Some are motivated by
fear and threats. God motivates though love.
I believe that faithful Christians, who seek to mature in faith and love the
way Christ taught, will be motivated mostly by the impact our lives will have
on God, who is, out of love, vulnerable towards us. God has revealed to us
through Jesus, what the impact of our sins have on him and the world
through the example of the cross. He also leads us to see how our good
things and the love we share have positive impacts on his heart, and the
lives of people. The witness doesn’t stop with the Cross, it is made complete
through the Resurrection of Jesus, and how his grace, having an impact on
our lives and the ways we live, is stronger than our sins and failings. We are
empowered, blessed to be a blessing.

Christians, especially in our country, often want to maintain control, and define ourselves by our selves. I recently
read an article in which the author said we live in a time when “Defying the facts has become a
badge of tribal allegiance.” People seem unashamed of believing what they want to believe, no matter its
implications, as a sign of being loyal to their social circles. Certain propositions are pronounced “not so much
as an assertion of the truth, as a pledge of allegiance to our political tribe.”
I think this dynamic is also what Jesus was praying about for Jerusalem. Many people wanted to stay stuck in
their tribal outlook, a misguided patriotism, limited world view, and not mature and grow in faith as God had
been trying to lead them through the ages. We can lift up transformation in the midst of all of that tragedy; we
can learn the lesson the bible, and all the ancestors in faith have shared with us, and grow from it. It starts with
allowing God to give us our identity, as baptism testifies to. And then moving to practicing resurrection, living
with the new life and possibilities that God seeks to provide. We know there is pain and there are consequences
when we don’t. What really motivates us is being open to God’s love and the impact the personal relationship
with him can have on us (however much at times we may feel uncomfortable).
Holy week is upon us. I pray we once again hear the Good News, and allow God to lead us. May we come to
understand his heart more deeply, recognizing and celebrating God’s personal visits, and be motivated more
by His heart, than by fear or threats. What a great gift it is that God loves us so. Please join us and invite others
too. – Tim

March 2018 Blog

“Show me how you work, God, school me in your ways!” Psalm 25:4 The Psalmist understands that learning is a life-long process; we need God’s help, always. Such understanding is at the heart of many of our practices as Christians, and also as members of our fellowship together. We all have a lot to learn from God and one another; it takes a lifetime. The season of preparation for Easter is a time to emphasize the listening and personal reflection we need to be faithful to “being schooled” by God.

At this time of year, we also remember the baptism of Jesus, and God’s proclamation of his identity, “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.” In a recent Sunday message, Matthew Davis shared the story of Zacchaeus, and how the visit of Jesus to his home, made all the difference in the world to Zacchaeus; it transformed his life. It transformed him because Jesus brought this same understanding to Zacchaeus: that we are all beloved by God. Seeing ourselves in God’s light, and knowing that we too are his beloved, transforms the things we say and do, the ways we live life, and the ways we choose not to.

We see so much tragedy in our world, and can feel overwhelmed in how to respond to it. Our first step every time we set out to respond, is to accept God’s love; then we also need to see all other people as God’s beloved too, and make sure we share this Good News with them in a deep commitment to living our faith and discipleship. I don’t think I am likely to meet a young adult as troubled as the young men who in recent years have created these great tragedies of mass shootings and death. But we never know. By lifting up the love of Christ, being His love to others, we will help prevent the darkness that works to overcome our world; God’s love is stronger; God’s grace is more persistent and the joy is we all have abilities to share it.

While the huge tragedies of mass shootings may seem far away from us, we know there are other forms of trouble, difficulty, pain, and darkness our youth and adults face today. By faithfully working to strengthen our ministries, from youth to Caring Hands & Hearts, we lift up the Light of Christ that will overcome the darkness. I pray we all will continue in our faithfulness in sharing our relationships in Christ with others. May God Bless and empower our faithfulness to Him and sharing the Good News this season of Lent. May we understand how vital it is for us to continue to be “schooled in God’s ways” now and always. Blessings – Tim

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.
Confirmation
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.