Saturday, November 30, 2013

Story Telling as Worship and Witness

2013/11/27 Mountain Top Community Thanksgiving @ Cornerstone
Message, Deuteronomy 26.1-11 and Mark 5.1-20
Personal Intro & thanks to Tom and Stephanie, to God for bringing us here

So many things we could talk about today:
            wholistic understanding of person & healing – exorcism & healing
            political statement – Legion, boar
            generosity – first fruit, tithe ... in the context of the generosity of God
But the focus today is on Story Telling as Worship & Witness

Worship: A Larger Story
            Church - Eucharistic feast, Holy Communion – on the night ...
            Israel - feast of firstfruits, and other feasts – matched with story
                        “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor” (Deuteronomy 26.5)

Our ancestors, family story:
            Wilson the orphan and coal miner, standing at his son’s baptism
                        because of Wilson, the family “came into the land” of college ed
            Sandbank the smuggler and pirate?
                        because of him, the family “came into the land” of the USA, NYC
The family story, like most, also includes alcoholism, secrecy, abuse, mental illness.  There are many ways in which the telling of the story is not pretty.  And, there are many ways in which the telling of the story is absolutely glorious.  It’s human, through and through, and touched by God.

And what of our “wandering Aramean”, our faith ancestor Abraham?  When Abe and his wife Sarah are in Egypt, Pharoah takes an interest in Sarah, so Abe says, “No, she’s not my wife, just my sister”.  When he and Sarah struggle with infertility, he sleeps with one of the servants to produce an heir.  (This is what you call “biblical marriage”!)  It’s not pretty, and it is absolutely glorious.  It is completely human and touched by God.  If you think you’re life, your family history, is crazy messed up, full of potholes, flaws, and bold sin ... join the club.  You’ll fit in just fine with Abraham.  You’ll fit in just fine with the grace of God in our Lord Jesus Christ.

When we gather and tell these stories, we don’t ignore the warts.  We don’t hide the uncomfortable details.  Our focus, however, is on our God.  This is story telling as WORSHIP.  The story is not the story
            of human evil, but the story of divine grace. 
            of our failure, but our forgiveness. 
In worship, we learn to take our stories and fit them into God’s larger one.

Witness: Understanding by Remembering
            Children learning to tell stories, alter them, play with them
                        Jesse: Labyrinth and Minotaur
            PTSD, practice of telling the story gives us power over it, like the manipulation of a dream – remember/dismember
            Philemon 6, NIV, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ” – the way to understanding is sharing, retelling, remembering
            The man from Gerasa wants to join Jesus’ disciple band, proclaims himself a follower of Jesus.  Jesus offers an unexpected discipleship path: “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you” (Mark 5.19)

My story:
            lost in Laos, my “angel”
            far from God (God not far from me)

Practicing our Story-Telling

Friday, November 29, 2013

Choir - the Men's Section

From a recent practice session ... we hold down the back row and (at least at that moment) outnumbered the ladies!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Consecration Sunday

Thanks to Rev. Salsgiver for sharing the message on our Consecration Sunday!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Philippine Relief Effort Update

In an update this morning, it was reported to the Connectional Table that an UMCOR convoy has reached the disaster area in the Philippines and is working locally with local volunteers, buying supplies locally, which is more efficient than shipping from elsewhere. UMCOR had reached $982,000.00 in online giving for Philippine relief. Money is beginning to flow from local church offerings and that money is not included in the online figure. In addition, a large donation has been given from the Germany Central Conference.
UMCOM is helping with communications in the Philippines, including setting up local emergency radio stations which will direct people to resources. December 3 has been set as United Methodist Giving Day during which gifts will be matched up to one half million dollars. 
Rev. Gere Reist


The Sunshine Circle at work and play ... every Tuesday morning!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

First Snow

A beautiful pic by Suzanne from the mailbox on Tuesday 12 November, our first snow of the year.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Discipleship means joy!

And if we answer the call to discipleship, where will it lead us? … Only Jesus Christ, who bids us follow him, knows the journey’s end.  But we do know that it will be a road of boundless mercy.  Discipleship means joy.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred for his faith in a WWII concentration camp, in the introduction to his book The Cost of Discipleship

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Children's Home

From the Fall 2013 Susquehanna LINK, page 7, a story on how our United Methodist Home for Children in Mechanicsburg has changed one life, the life of Michael Ross. This is one example of how we are better together! Our Shares of Ministry make a tangible difference in our world:

My day started out as usual. I got out of bed after hitting the snooze button one too many times. I got myself dressed, ate a quick breakfast that I prepared myself, grabbed my bookbag, and went off to school. At nine-years-old this was normal. I was doing this on my own, things that a nine-year-old should not be doing by himself without any adult supervision or direction. But in my neighborhood in York, that was common. Most kids my age were doing things on their own without adults around.

While walking to school, I wanted a snack to eat during recess, between kickball games. So I stopped with three dollars my pocket and picked up some snacks. But I took too long in the store, because three dollars at that time was a lot of money for a kid in a candy store. So I got to school a little late.

It was shortly before 10 a.m. that morning when the buzzer rang in my classroom calling me to the principal’s office. I thought, "Hmm, the principal wants to see me because I was late, again, with no paperwork explaining why. "No problem," I thought. I’d been there before, and I’d soon be back in class. But then a second buzzer message came which said, "Bring your belongings." Behind me I heard my class, "Oooooooo!"

I didn’t know what to think. When I got to the principal’s office, the principal, the guidance counselor, and two Children and Youth Services employees were waiting to greet me. CYS workers were no strangers to my family. They were in my house at least twice a week, because my family had been deemed problematic. So when I saw them, I thought, "This isn’t going to be quick," because when they came around it was never a quick meeting.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ghana report by Robin

Robin's story of her service in Apam, Ghana is coming up on Sunday 24 November. She served with Building Solid Foundations.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Turkey Dinner, 3

A fantastic dinner on Nov 2! And, thanks to the Friendship and Sunshine Circles for the craft and candy sale in the waiting area.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Dishonest Wealth & Eternal Homes: Long Term Investment (2)

Luke 16.1-12

George Whitefield and Benjamin Franklin
            fund raising for an orphanage in Georgia
            copper, silver, gold
            never bring money to a Whitefield event again

Consecration Sunday?
            A time to twist arms to get people to do what they don’t want to do?
                        Pray now, decide this week, be ready to celebrate on Sunday
            All about money?
                        No, all about people, all about souls

Luke closes this parable with a proverb, a verse that immediately follows today’s reading:
Luke 16:13  No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Luke uses this proverb to sum up the choices we must make.  Wealth is not simply a material thing.  It is also a spiritual thing.  For many of us, it is a god, an idol, competing for affection, loyalty, and service with the God of the universe, our Lord Jesus Christ.  The reality is that Jesus rules, that Jesus owns everything, that all we are and have is his gift.  If we fully embrace this reality, then wealth has no power over us.  And, its only value is how it connects us with God and with those in need.
            And that’s what we see in the story of the dishonest manager.  It is a unique story, a bit problematic and frustrating, but pay attention to the manager’s plan and to the final line of the parable itself:

Luke 16:4  I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.
Luke 16:9 I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

The only value to wealth is how it connects us with God and with those in need.

Now, let’s take a few moments to talk about the difficulties in the story.  The biggest problem is that the master – and, by implication, the story teller Jesus – commends the shrewd and dishonest manager for his quick thinking.  Please note that this does not mean that the master, or Jesus, commends dishonesty, incompetence, or negligence in management.  In fact, the master seems never to have gotten a course in how to hire and fire staff.  He is the one who gives the dishonest manager a window of time to determine the terms of his own termination, rather than marching him out there and then, taking his keys, removing his name from the accounts and the company database.

Instead, the commendation of the dishonest manager is focused on two insights that can powerfully transform our lives.  The first is that the value of wealth lies in connecting us to God and to those in need.  The second is that it is not ours.  It belongs to someone else.
            The manager had lost sight of the last fact.  He viewed his master’s money as a way to enrich himself, as a way to expand his own ownership stake.  In his greed, he forgot that none of it belonged to him.  But once he realized that none of it belonged to him, he didn’t need to worry about losing some of it, about reducing the debt owed to the master.  He wasn’t going to feel the pinch, because it belongs to someone else.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Consecration Sunday!

I look forward to Consecration Sunday each year.  Every year, I hear stories of persons who have made this an opportunity to take new steps in discipleship: deepen their prayer life, get out of debt, grow toward tithing, step out in serving.  I hope that you give prayerful consideration to your spiritual growth by reflecting upon and considering what God is calling you to give in support of the mission and ministry of Christ Church, and, through our United Methodist connection, the Church globally.

We are excited to welcome back our District Superintendent, Rev. Dr. Tom Salsgiver, to Christ Church on Sunday 17 November for our Consecration Sunday worship services and Celebration luncheon.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ghana story coming soon!

Be in worship on Sunday 24 November as Robin shares her story!

Our Neglected Age

An article by Rachel Marie Stone in QIdeas:

My friend John was 92 years old, suffering from multiple kinds of cancer as well as a wound from World War II that had earned him the Purple Heart but had never healed. And he was going blind.

He had been remarkably spry into his late 80s, but had declined rapidly over the past few years. For a while, friends and neighbors had looked in on him at home, bringing food and coffee, chatting about the news, watching some of the football game. A woman was hired to help, staying with him for much of the day and tucking him in at night.

But then she had to leave. And, though he’d sworn he’d only leave his home in a body bag, he’d joined the ranks of the 1.5 million Americans living in nursing homes. As many do, he quickly declined. He hated the food. The coffee was weak and never seemed to be hot enough. He refused to leave his room.

So every Saturday night, I cooked something he loved—steak, usually cooked rare, and some kind of chocolate dessert—and brought it to him on china dishes along with a cup of good black coffee. His appetite, even for good food, was poor, put to the end he nearly always drank the coffee. He would clutch the warm cup in hands as dry and withered as the branches of an old tree, and release a barely audible but unmistakable sigh of satisfaction.
Read the entire article.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan

"God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1)

Dear United Methodists of the Susquehanna Conference:

Grace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, Healer of our Brokenness, and Hope of the World!

On Friday, November 8th, Super Typhoon Haiyan crashed into the Philippines. It was probably the most powerful typhoon ever recorded. While it is still much too soon to know the complete effect of the storm, it is feared that over ten thousands lives have been lost and hundreds of thousands of people are displaced and in dire need of relief. The cost to rebuild the devastated area will be astronomical. In the midst of the immediacy of the natural disaster, our beloved connectional church stepped forward to respond immediately. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has already been mobilized to be present. The initial response of UMCOR is to distribute food and water and offer other urgent care for humanitarian needs. Then other appropriate responses will follow as time unfolds. At present, perhaps the most efficient way that the people of the Susquehanna Annual Conference can initially respond is through our financial gifts. We have been supported by the general church in the past when we were in need, and now we can respond again on behalf of God's people.

You and your congregation can make a gift to your local church in support of the victims of Typhoon Haiyan through UMCOR. Please be sure to indicate on the memo line of your check that the gift is in support of International Disaster Response Advance 982450. Your church treasurer will then send a composite check from your local church to the Susquehanna Annual Conference in order that your local church is credited with your gift. You can also give directly through the UMCOR website. Your church can also be credited with your gift using the UMCOR website. You can go to and click on the "Typhoon Haiyan Emergency - Donate Now" box.

I solicit your prayers for the people of the Philippines. Please continue to pray for them and for the relief efforts. Despite the gravity of the situation, such moments remind me why I am glad that I am part of a global, connectional church that has the structure and the ability to respond immediately. Truly, God has blessed us as a people that we might be a blessing to others for such a time as this.

With You in Christ's Ministry,

Jeremiah J. Park, Resident Bishop

King of the Mountain

Hail to the King! Found these pics from our Oct 6 chili cookoff. Four finalists were TIED in the vote count and Gordy was picked out of the hat as the 2013 champ.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ghana Report - coming soon!

Robin will be sharing her Ghana story on Sunday 24 November in worship!

Golden Anniversary Saints

Congrats to these and other Golden Anniversary saints recognized last Sunday, with 50 to 74 years of membership here at Christ Church! Our confirmation class presented certificates and folks also got hugs from our younger children!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Consecration of Service

Thanks to Ric for sharing his story!

Turkey Dinner, 2

Thanks again to Donna and team, and to all the youth and confirmation class for serving - 668 meals served!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Rich Toward God: Long Term Investment (1)

2013 Nov 3, Christ Church, All Saints, Holy Communion
Luke 12.13-21

Axiom: You get what you measure.
Corollary: You might as well measure what you want to get.

But we aren’t always good at knowing what we want to get.  So, well intentioned leaders make boneheaded decisions.  The coach wants to protect a lead by keeping the other team from scoring, but becomes so conservative that his team can’t keep possession.  Society wants “proficient” children, so we create a test to measure that and teach to the test.  Because we get what we measure ... only we forgot to actually measure what we want to get.  Business wants to “right size”, but ends up eliminating their most profitable people ... because they are measuring the wrong things.  In the language of Luke’s gospel: Foolishness.

Warren Buffet, the “Oracle of Omaha”, says, “I try to buy stock in businesses that are so wonderful that an idiot can run them.  Because, sooner or later, one will.”

Most of the time, the general scorecard for success is clear.  You win the game by scoring more than your opponent.  You succeed in school by getting A’s.  You get into college, or, “the right college”, you get a job and you make money.  We’ve got a market economy, and we use market valuations (such as net worth, or “net income projected over time” [Reeb, 34]) to define a life, to determine success.  And, the one with the most toys wins.  The measuring is easy, but what if we are measuring the wrong things?

Ruth's Place Walk for the Homeless

Thanks to our team for braving the cold, and to all who have brought gifts for our collection, concluding this coming Sunday!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

All Saints

This past Sunday, we observed All Saints, lighting candles for those who joined the Church Triumphant over the past year, celebrating Holy Communion, and recognizing our Golden Anniversary saints (membership of 50 years plus).

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Monday, November 4, 2013

Trunk or Treat, 3

Congrats to the Haunted Jail for the "best dressed" car in this year's Trunk or Treat! (Last Sunday Oct 27)

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Caught Louise/Luigi at Smith Health Care after the annual Halloween Party ... and recognize her 74 years of faithful membership this All Saints Sunday!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Consecration of Presence

Thanks to Paul for offering his personal reflection and story!

Hurricane Sandy ... one year later

New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy hit.
One year ago today, Hurricane Sandy lashed the East Coast.  The "superstorm" killed 285-people, and destroyed nearly 72,000 homes and businesses.  Second only to Hurricane Katrina, Sandy was one of the most expensive storms in U.S. history.
Pastor Tom Stark helps unload supplies from the truck.
Mission Central jumped into action, teaming up with abc27 News for "Operation Sandy Relief."  And you responded!  You donated 50,000 pounds of winter jackets, warm socks, baby formula, diapers, children's toys and batteries.  You also gave more than $40,000 in cash.  All of that money went directly to help purchase new appliances for those affected by the storm.
But one year later, the clean-up process continues.  Pastor Tom Stark is the director of the Mission Central HUB at Good Shepherd United Methodist in Northfield, New Jersey.  He told us "while the tourism districts have been rejuvenated, and keeping the economy strong, we still have thousands of people who are not back in their homes.  Whether they are able to return remains a big question.  Our work at the HUBS at Mission Central have transitioned from disaster relief kits, to joining forces with corporations like Home Depot, Sears, and Lowe's, to help in the rebuilding process."
Read the full story!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Steadfast Love: Perfect Love for Imperfect People (3)

Thanks to Joel for closing out this series of messages from the prophet Hosea 11:1-11.

Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the scriptures are read and your Word proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today.

Listen again to the words of the Psalmist, who looks forward to the time when: “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet / righteousness and peace will kiss each other. / Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, / and righteousness will look down from the sky.” These words join with those of the eleventh chapter of Hosea in reminding us this morning of one of the biblical story’s most persistent themes: The love of God for his creation is steadfast. It is immeasurable, unconditional, and altogether trustworthy. No matter what we have thought, said, or done, the God whose story is told in scripture, the God of Israel, Jesus, and the church, stands forever ready to welcome us; to receive, forgive, and ultimately to transform us. In the end, when all is said and done and when history reaches its completion, God’s creation will be redeemed. There will be no more turning away from God; there will be no more idolatry; and there will be no more selfish exploitation or injustice. For in that day, “steadfast love and faithfulness will meet.”

This is not exactly news to those of us who have gathered here these past weeks, listening to the words of the prophet Hosea. For the singular message of Hosea is that ultimately, even as his people break his heart, God’s love remains steadfast. Over and over again the prophet proclaims this, as he goes from warning to lament to assurance; there is no force in heaven or on earth stronger than the love of God. In our text for this morning the prophet uses a new metaphor to make this point: God is no longer depicted as the faithful husband of a promiscuous wife; rather, he is a longsuffering parent whose love for his wayward child persists in spite of that waywardness.

The eleventh chapter begins with this fond reminiscence: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Hovering in the background of Hosea’s words is the story of the Exodus, God’s deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt to freedom in the land of promise. When the descendants of Abraham called out from their bondage to the God of their ancestors, the story tells us, God remembered the promises he had made to their ancestor, promises to bless his descendants and to make them a blessing to the peoples of the earth. And so God freed them from slavery and began the slow, patient work that Hosea describes as teaching them to walk. God began making them into a holy people, a people set apart to demonstrate to the world the extent of God’s love, a people whose character was to mirror and manifest God’s character, a people whose common life, built on the foundation of what we now call the Ten Commandments, was ordered toward making it possible for them to attain true happiness – that is, to flourish – as individuals and as a community.

That foundation begins, as we were reminded last week, with this reminder and exhortation: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.” True and ultimate happiness is impossible unless life is oriented toward and ordered by the One who makes it (happiness) possible. Saint Augustine put it well when he said (to God), “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Human desire is bottomless. Unless and until it is directed towards God, it consumes. In calling Abraham and his descendants, in revealing himself to them and giving them a law through which they might learn properly to love him, each other, and the rest of creation, God was freeing them from the bondage of relentless, restless, self-centered desire.

And yet, says God through the prophet, “the more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.” Set free from bondage and given the perfect freedom of fellowship with their creator and his creation, Israel instead chose, time and again, to reenter bondage by worshipping the cruel and capricious Canaanite gods, the Baals. As has been the habit of the human race from the beginning, when given the choice of entering into God’s embrace or turning away from that embrace, Israel turned away, alienating themselves from God, and suffering, finally, the consequence of that alienation, the destruction of their promised homeland and their being scattered away from it.

But still, in the midst of all this disobedience, God remained – and still remains – faithful. “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I give you over, O Israel?” God’s love is steadfast, and God keeps his word. Just so, God promises to re-gather his people from their diaspora, to restore them to the land, and to make them once again a light to the nations of the world. “They shall go after the Lord, who roars like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west.” God’s love is moving history toward its completion, and that completion, we are reminded, includes – indeed it centers on – the restoration of God’s people. “They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the Lord.”

This is good news indeed, this reminder of God’s faithful, steadfast love, this reminder that God’s ultimate intention for all of his creatures is their salvation. It is at the core of the gospel Jesus proclaimed when he called upon people to “repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” And yet, I wonder if we Christians have followed Israel in forgetting this, or whether we have heard it so often that we have long since begun to take it for granted. I wonder whether we, whom God has called by name, have like Israel turned away from God and toward idols of our own or others’ making. I wonder whether our worship remains devoted to the one true God, the only one with the power to save, the only one with the power truly to bless.

This concern may seem to many of you misplaced and even anachronistic. Where, you ask, are these idols you are so worried about? Where are these Baals, these carved statues, these golden calves? Where are the temple prostitutes and the human sacrifices? And the easy answer to those questions is that they no longer exist and are no longer temptations for God’s people. It has, I admit, been a while since I’ve seen a golden calf, and in Mountain Top, at least, temple prostitutes are nowhere in sight. At first glance, at least, all seems well with God’s people where idolatry is concerned.

But the matter of discerning the faithfulness of our worship may not be quite as simple as it first appears, for worship is a complicated business. Certainly it is something that we do for more than an hour on Sunday morning. The word “to worship” comes from an Anglo-Saxon word that means, simply, “to ascribe worth” or “to find worthy,” which means the true object of our worship is whatever we regard as most important, whatever we find worthy of our time, our energies, and our resources. And this suggests, quite simply, that who or what we really worship is revealed, ultimately, by the way we live our lives. My friend Philip Kenneson puts it this way when he says; “Every human life is an embodied argument about what things are worth doing, who or what is worthy of attention, who or what is worthy of allegiance and sacrifice, and what projects or endeavors are worthy of human energies. In short, every human life is ‘bent’ toward something. Every human life is an act of worship.”
The philosopher Wittgenstein once said, “If you want to know if a man is religious, don’t ask him; watch him.” What would someone carefully watching us say that our lives were bent toward – not just on Sunday mornings, but for the rest of the week, as well? What god or gods would they say we worshipped? Would they identify us as worshippers of the God of Israel, Jesus, and the church, or would they say that our lives were bent toward something else altogether? The Baals of the Canaanites still exist, appearing freshly reincarnate to each generation of every society. In our time and place they are many; people and products clamoring for our attention; corporations, governments, political parties, and other institutions, demanding our absolute allegiance; and what Jesus called Mammon – money and power – seducing us into bowing down to them. All of them ask of us things that are properly reserved for God alone. All promise us a happiness that they can never deliver. All have in mind simply to use us up for their own aggrandizement, to consume us, and in many cases ultimately to destroy us. And all the while, the triune God, whose nature is to love, whose character is to remain faithful, whose work in history is sovereign, and whose desire for us is our true happiness, waits patiently, wooing us, gently calling us to repent – that is, to turn – away from our idols, and toward him.
God offers this to us as a pure and perfect gift. God offers to transform us into a holy people, a people whose life together declares to the world the goodness and the steadfast love of God. For God, who is altogether righteous, seeks from us what he has sought from the beginning, a people who will worship him alone, a people of whom it can be said that “Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.” May we continually respond to his invitation, with joy and thanksgiving. Thanks be to God.