Friday, January 31, 2014

New Church at the University

They came by horse, wagon and train – early missionaries set out west to bring a sense of the familiar to the prairie – planting churches and creating universities to foster their ideals.

Nearly 130 years later, that same pioneer spirit still thrives – just with a modern twist.

Brandon Vetter, campus pastor for Dakota Wesleyan University, announced Thursday that a church has been planted on the 129-year-old United Methodist campus. The weekly Fusion services, held on campus on Sundays in cooperation with the First United Methodist Church (FUMC) and The Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church, will become its own entity, separate from both university and the FUMC. This development is largely due to Vetter’s spiritual leadership on campus and his innovative approach to reaching out to the community, according to DWU President Amy Novak.

Dakota Wesleyan University’s campus ministry, knowingly or not, created a paradigm shift when the university – affiliated with the United Methodist Church and The Dakotas Conference – recommitted to the innovative spirit of the early Methodists by founding a new church community on the university campus.

“When I think of the early Methodist circuit riders who founded Dakota Wesleyan University with nothing but faith to guide and sustain them ... Read the full article!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Boring: The Good Life (2)

2014/01/19 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Prayer, Psalm 87
Children, 2 Kings 5.1-19
Message, Matthew 5.13-16

Dick Woodward’s conversion
      Brother’s response: “Now you can’t have any fun!”
      Discipleship is BORING!

Salt and light – neither are boring
      Complaints by folks who have to go salt-free/low-salt
      The stereotypical cave man: I made fire
      Could boring – at least when it comes to the gospel – be sin?

Grammatical analysis of the text:
1.   “You” (plural)
      “it takes a village”
      Our shared witness, many gifts

2.   “are” – not “ought to be” or “have” (Bonhoeffer, 131-132; Bruner, 188)
      A statement of fact, the identity of the disciple community
“Now they must be what they really are” (Bonhoeffer, 132)
            No covering with a basket, no losing our savor

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Bible App for Kids!

I am using the (YouVersion) app to read through the Bible this year.  They also have a kids version of the Bible app to get our youngest ones into the Scripture.  Check it out!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Good News on the United Methodist Church

At the Bishop's Retreat for Our Clergy Family this week, in Willow Street PA, we heard Bishop Jeremiah Park tell some of the great stories of our church:

Together, we raised over $60 million for Imagine No Malaria.

In recent time, we have planted over 600 new churches in the USA and planted over 700 new churches elsewhere in the world.

In Vietnam, there are now over 260 United Methodist churches, and we project 1000 more in a decade. Over 1400 church planters have been trained globally!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Church Anointing and Christian Unity

The Rev. Anne Robertson, a United Methodist minister, anointed Cardinal O’Malley during an ecumenical service in Sudbury.
Photo by George Martell/Pilot New Media.
Check out the complete article by Lisa Wangsness, published in The Boston Globe!
Near the end of an ecumenical service at Sudbury United Methodist Church Sunday, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston, dipped his thumb into a glass bowl of consecrated water and made the sign of the cross on the forehead of the Rev. Anne Robertson, a United Methodist minister who was about to offer the same gesture to the overflow crowd in the church hall.

And then O’Malley asked Robertson to do the same for him.
She stood before this prince of the Roman Catholic Church, a prelate who is considered the closest American adviser to the pope, who has declared that the church can never allow women to be priests.
She traced a cross on his forehead and said the ritual words, a reaffirmation of baptism from the United Methodist hymnal: “Remember your baptism and be thankful.”
Robertson said she was so moved that she could hardly speak for hours afterward.
“I’ve been in so many places where I’ve been excluded in so many ways because I’m a woman in ministry,” she said in a phone interview this week. “It wasn’t a sacrament, and I’m sure Cardinal O’Malley would express the same beliefs as Pope Francis, that they don’t believe the ordination of women is appropriate. He wasn’t saying any of that.
“He was saying what the whole service was about, that if you go back to our baptism, we are all Christians. And in that moment with him, we were one.”

Monday, January 20, 2014


Check out our January-February newsletter online. (In the online version, not all formatting is visible, but it can be downloaded.) Anyone interested in going green can inform Suzanne or Pastor JP and receive it by email.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Unhappy: The Good Life (1)

2014/01/12 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Prayer, Psalm 42
Children, Genesis 12.1-4
Message, Matthew 5.1-12

      Preaching the good news of the kingdom
      Curing every disease and sickness
            Including demon possession

Expectations raised: the GOOD LIFE
Disciples and Crowd
      Blessing & invitation

Calligraphy and needlepoint
      Innoculated against the revolution

Greek for blessing, makarios, lexicons:
      Friberg – in non-religious context, lucky or fortunate
      Liddell-Scott – Plato, syn, “rich and better educated”

How would you define the “good life”? 
What makes a person a “lucky dog”?
      Reputation – looks even taller in person
      Mary Chapin Carpenter: “I feel lucky”
            Dwight Yoakam’s in the corner, trying to catch my eye
            Lyle Lovett’s right beside me with his hand upon my thigh
            The moral of this story, it’s simple but it’s true
            Hey the stars might lie but the numbers never do
            I’m feeling lucky tonight
      Exceptional: The Secret of My Success: “We’re not like other men”
      Wealth, sex, power – perennial human desires, in some combo

Jesus shares his version of the “good life”, and it looks nothing like what we would expect and nothing like what the crowd would expect.  He probably even surprised the disciples when he told them who they were.  They’re blessed … and they’re the poor, the mourning, the meek.  Had they signed up for this?  Did the crowd really want to get in on the act and participate in discipleship as well?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Annual Report 2013

Check out our 2013 Annual Report, now available online. It includes financial updates, growth indicators, goals and challenges for 2014, ways to give, and the 2014 budget-at-a-glance.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Christianity and World Religions

The adult Sunday School class will begin study of this Adam Hamilton book-video-discussion series on Sunday Jan 19.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Covenant Service

Part of our tradition for each new year:

Adapted from The United Methodist Book of Worship
and The United Methodist Hymnal

Commit yourselves to Christ.
Give yourselves to him, that you may belong to him.
Christ has many services to be done.
Some are more easy and honorable,
            others are more difficult and disgraceful.
Some are suitable to our inclinations and interests,
            others are contrary to both.                                                                                                                                                                       
In some we may please Christ and please ourselves.
But then there are other works where we
cannot please Christ,
            cannot love Christ,
            except by denying ourselves.

Let us, therefore, go to Christ, and pray:

I am no longer mine, but yours.
Put me to what you will,
            rank me with whom you will.
Put me to doing,
            put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for you
            or laid aside for you,
exalted for you
            or brought low for you.
Let me be full,
            let me be empty,
let me have all things,
            let me have nothing.
I freely and with a willing heart
            give it all to your pleasure and disposal.

Christ will be the Savior of his servants.
Christ will have no servants except by consent;
Christ will not accept anything except full consent
            to all he requires.
Christ will be all in all,
or he will be nothing.

God requires that you shall put away all your idols.

From the bottom of my heart,
I renounce them all,
covenanting with you that no known sin
shall be allowed in my life.

Through Christ, God offers to be your God again.

Before all heaven and earth,
            I choose you as my Lord and my God.
I take you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
for my portion,
            and vow to give up myself, body and soul,
as your child,
            to follow you in love and faithfulness
all the days of my life.

Historical Note:
The Covenant Service goes back to the writing of Richard Alleine, a Puritan, whose work was included by John Wesley (the father figure of the Methodist movement) in his reference collection, A Christian Library.  Wesley adapted it for use in worship in 1755 and used the covenant service as he visited the Methodist Societies across the British Isles.  He wrote in his journal that it was regularly “an occasion for a variety of spiritual experiences” including “a sense of pardon,” “full salvation,” and “a fresh manifestation of [God’s] graces.”  While the language is updated and abridged, it remains a series of dramatic and demanding prayers offering total devotion to God in Christ.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Servants of the Mystery

2014/01/05 Christ Church, Mountain Top, Epiphany
      Covenant Prayer, Holy Communion
Prayer, Psalm 72
Children, Matthew 2.1-12
Message, Isaiah 7.10-16

Announcing a pregnancy -- Baby brain
      Paul’s brain: Jesus
      Paul’s trigger word: “Gentiles”
In Greek, 2 very long run-on sentences!
      Verses 2-6
      Verses 7-12
Abolished the dividing wall of hostility
Made both groups into one (2.14-15)
      The Berlin Wall
      Race in America
      Gentile & Jew forming a new community!
      Wise Men

The Dynamics of Hostility (2) & Grace (3, indented):

Scarcity : Surplus
      Scarcity of resources – musical chairs
      “There can be only one”
      Winners & losers
      Fellow heirs of “the riches of his grace” (1.7, 1.18, 2.7)
            Connected to Jesus
      The more who share, the more it grows (mission)
      Inclusion for Jesus’ sake

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Blast from the Past: Charles Tindley

Check out the story of the "prince of preachers" in Philadelphia, a Methodist district superintendent, hymn writer, and African-American leader in the late 1800's and early 1900's. I visited the church he served, now known as the Tindley Temple, in 1992.

Rev. Dr. Charles Albert Tindley (July 7, 1851 – July 26, 1933) was an American Methodist minister and gospel music composer.
Often referred to as "The Prince of Preachers", he educated himself, became a minister and founded one of the largest Methodist congregations serving the African-American community on the East Coast of the United States.
Tindley's father was a slave, but his mother was free. Tindley himself was thus considered to be free, but even so he grew up among slaves. After theCivil War, he moved to Philadelphia, where he found employment as a hod carrier (brick carrier). He and his wife Daisy attended the Bainbridge St. Methodist Episcopal Church. Charles later became the sexton, a job with no salary. [1]
Never able to go to school, Tindley learned independently and by asking people to tutor him. He enlisted the help of a Philadelphia synagogue on North Broad St. to learn Hebrew and learned Greek by taking a correspondence course through the Boston Theological School.* [2] Without any degree, Tindley was qualified for ordination in the Methodist Episcopal Church by examination, with high ranking scores. He was ordained as a Deacon in the Delaware Conference in 1887 and as an elder in 1889. As was the practice of the ME church, Tindley was assigned by his bishop to serve as an itinerant pastor staying a relatively short time at each charge: 1885 to Cape May, New Jersey, 1887 to South Wilmington, Delaware, 1889 to Odessa, Delaware. 1891 to Pocomoke, Maryland, 1894 to Fairmount, Maryland, and 1897 to Wilimington Delaware at Ezion Methodist Church. In 1900 he became the Presiding Elder of the Wilmington District. [3]
Tindley Temple
Tindley then became the pastor of the same church at which he had been a janitor. Under his leadership, the church grew rapidly from the 130 members it had when he arrived. In 1906 the congregation moved from Bainbridge St. to Broad and Fitzwater Sts. and was renamed East Calvary Methodist Episcopal Church. The property was purchased from the Westminster Presbyterian church and seated 900, though it was soon filled to overflowing. The congregation over time grew to a multiracial congregation of 10,000.
Read the full article!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Give Me a Sign: The Gospel of Isaiah (4)

Prayer, Luke 1.46b-55
Children, Matthew 1.18-25
Message, Isaiah 7.10-16
Blessing, Romans 1.1-7

Geopolitical context:
      JudahJerusalem – Ahaz

      IsraelSamaria – Pekah
      Syria/Aram – Damascus – Rezin

      Fear, alliance with Assyria
      Greater danger

Two futures:
      Near-term, end of the hostile kingdoms, rise of Assyria as a regional power
      Long-term, applied to Jesus by Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 1.18-25)

Two children & two themes:
      Shear-jashub = a remnant shall return (7.3)
      Immanuel = God with us (7.14)

“Give me a sign”, Bruce Almighty
      We crave signs in our times of fear

      Bruce: Totally overlooking the signs in front of him
      Joseph: “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife” (Mt 1.20)
      Ahaz: “I will not put the LORD to the test” (7.12)

      WestJet Christmas miracle (see YouTube)
In the bloopers video: Warm socks … I tell you, you are going to wish you asked for a big screen TV
      To Ahaz: “as deep as Sheol or high as heaven” (7.11)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Christmas Eve Luminaries

Hundreds of lamps in the snow lining the property, circling the trees. Thanks so much for the beauty (and the hard work in the cold!) and the reminder of the Scripture from John 1:4-5: "In him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it."

Monday, January 6, 2014

Christmas Eve Music

And so much more! Thanks to all who prepared and performed their musical gifts as part of our Christmas Eve celebration. And thanks to Jack who coordinated it all!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Holy Way: The Gospel of Isaiah (3)

Isaiah 35.1-10
(No video at this time)

We come today to another salvation song of the prophet.  As we have said in our earlier weeks, each of these salvation songs is matched to a judgment proclamation.  We have a cue in this text itself: “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you” (Isaiah 35:4).  Indeed, the chapter prior to our section, this vengeance is described in terrifying detail.  The language used is that of “doom”, the ancient “devotion to destruction” in which every person, every creature, and every piece of property was to be destroyed in an act of obedience (Brueggemann, 269).  And, the “doom” was a universal doom:
The LORD is enraged against all the nations.  The stench of their corpses shall rise.  All the hosts of heaven shall rot away (34:2-4).

We struggle today with language like this, struggle to connect it to the understanding of “gospel”, of “good news”, that “God so loved the world”.  For the prophet, there was no difficulty connecting this with a salvation song, no trouble recognizing that the LORD’s vengeance means not only destruction of the world that was, but destruction of a world that is inherently broken, riddled with sin, and must be set right.  Our salvation can only come when the world itself is set right. 
      No surprise that Isaiah’s salvation songs are also full of creation language.  Last week we saw a new shoot coming from a stump and a lion lying down with a lamb.  Today, the creation language is one of transformation from desert to garden, from drought to fertility.  And between layers of creation transformation we see a transformation of God’s new or renewed community.

Walter Brueggemann says that each of these layers has a “before” and “after”, a story or image of transformation.  For creation, he speaks of a movement from “drought” to “fertility”, for the human community a movement from “disability” to strength (275-277).

Christmas Eve

Entering the mystery of the incarnation - that God becomes human, a vulnerable child who will submit even to death; that we who had "no room" for our Lord still find that the Lord has made room for us; that in making room for Jesus we find ourselves making room for one another. . . .