Monday, March 31, 2014

Cheerful heart ... good medicine

Gerry and Nancy laughing - we were exchanging jokes - after the worship service at Wesley Village. Great job by our young people!

Proverbs 17:22  A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Small groups - Prodigal God



Pics from two of our current Prodigal God small groups. Thanks to our hosts and leaders for a wonderful series and a great time of connecting with each other.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Clean Water in Cameroon - One Great Hour of Sharing

Some members of the Bongeh community in Cameroon that are benefitting from established water points.
Thanks to funding provided by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to the Bongeh Women Common Initiative Group in Cameroon, West Africa, more than 25,000 people will have clean drinking water.

Njilah (Nseh Bongeh Boyar), a remote rural community, is home to mostly subsistence farmers, who rely on small agricultural farm holdings. The community has never had potable water. Existing water sources have been contaminated by animals, and natural springs have dried up because of a lack of care. Villagers face health hazards, even death.

UMCOR has been working with the Bongeh Women Common Initiative Group, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to upholding the rights of Cameroonian women and children, to address these issues and ensure access to and safe supply of clean, potable water. 

UMCOR funding is extending the project to provide a large water storage tank and support water conservation education, environmental awareness, construction of three spring sources, and the purchase of necessary materials and equipment.


Our annual One Great Hour of Sharing offering (tomorrow, March 30) supports the administration and infrastructure of the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Check out a recent UMCOR hotline and subscribe to their updates!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Wesley Village worship



Thanks to the Confirmation class, to Tim and Kim for their leadership of the Confirmation ministry, and to the supportive adults who were there!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Snow removal


Thanks again to Ike and Ken for clearing out the lower lot and the piles to open our handicap accessible spaces.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Big Brother: Prodigal God (3)

2014/03/23 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Prayer, Psalm 63
Children, John 4
Message, Luke 15.25-32

Most of the time, when we look at this story, the story traditionally known as “The Parable of the Prodigal Son”, we concentrate on the account of the younger brother.  He disgraces his father and family, squanders his inheritance in riotous living, and returns home to an incredible and unexpected welcome.  One old preacher described those wild days in the far country with the phrase, “he rambled, he scrambled, he gambled”.  It is easy to label that as sinful, and it is clear that his welcome home is an act of grace.  But if we stop there, we miss out on two things: the cost of that grace (next week) and the other character in the story, the “big brother”.
“Big brother”?  The phrase conjures up images of control and conformity – the perfect terms for the life and spirituality of the older brother!  Like the little brother, he is “lost”.  No, he hasn’t “acted out”.  No, he hasn’t sown any “wild oats”.  Yes, he’s really, really good.  No, he’s not much fun to be around.  Instead of sin keeping him from the father and from God, it is his righteousness that becomes the barrier.

Most of the time when we read this story, our focus is on the younger brother.  It is a beautiful and sentimental story that, in the mouth of a lesser story teller than Jesus, would end with the catch phrase: “And they all lived happily ever after.”
      We all know that real life isn’t quite as clean cut, easy, or understandable.  Life is good, and there’s always “something.”  Big brother is plainly unhappy at the welcome of the father, just as the scribes and Pharisees are unhappy at Jesus’ welcome of the tax collectors and sinners.  And, he has every right to be!  What the father is doing in the story is unheard of!  In an honor-shame society, when you have dishonored the family you are banished, if not dead.  “We are dead to you.”  Even the possibility of taking him back as a hired hand would be a huge stretch after the younger brother had basically wished his father dead: “Give me my share of the inheritance – now.”
      We like the “happily ever after” ending, but it simply does not fit with the story.  The father welcomes back the younger son – something reckless and extravagant, certainly not a gesture that could be described with our small-minded virtue of “being nice”.  No, this is over-the-top.  And, it has a huge impact on big brother, who looks at his inheritance and imagines it diminishing by the father’s extravagance.  No wonder he wants nothing to do with the party.  He doesn’t want to be in the same family with “this son of yours” (Luke 15.30).

Dish pit


Thanks to the guys for the great spaghetti dinner on 15 March - and the joyful clean-up!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

India


One of many opportunities to share in mission, both in our own nation and around the world!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Confirmation Class at Wesley Village




The class led worship on 16 March at Wesley Village! They did a fantastic job.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lost Boys: Prodigal God (2)

2014/03/16 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Prayer, Psalm 27
Children, John 3.1-17
Message, Luke 15.11-32

Last week, we began our investigation of the story we know as “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” by examining the audience to the story and the two stories that immediately precede it.  This week, we’ll investigate the first act in the story, the interaction between the younger son and the father.  I encourage you to go deeper – reading the book, The Prodigal God, by Timothy Keller, whose resources contribute to this message series, and being part of one of our small groups.

I title this message “Lost Boys” because the story is about two sons, not one, and both are lost.  I also use this title to allude to the J. M. Barrie play and novel Peter Pan.  Pan and his lost boys, who never grow up, who refuse to deal with time, do battle with Captain Hook, who is obsessed with status and, in his own unique way, running away from time, banishing all clocks and watches from his presence.  Their behavior is different, they are sworn enemies, but they share the same life-defining issue: time.  In Jesus’ story here in Luke 15, the father has two boys.  Their behavior is different, their lifestyle choices are miles apart, but they share the same issue: the father’s wealth.  And both are lost.

In the prophet Isaiah, we find descriptions of both forms of lostness (Isaiah 57:10-13).  The lostness of the younger son:
You grew weary from your many wanderings, but you did not say, "It is useless." You found your desire rekindled, and so you did not weaken.
Our desires lead us on “many wanderings” ... exactly where the “pursuit of happiness” can take us.  We’ll only find ourselves at home when we are found by God.  The lostness of the older son:
I will concede your righteousness and your works, but they will not help you.  13 When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you!
How are righteousness and idols connected?  In a self-sufficient spirituality, a spirituality in which we “earn” our way, we are our own Savior, we are our own idol.  But an invitation to the kingdom feast is a gift, not a reward.  And you are born into God’s family by a work of the Spirit, you don’t gain leverage over God by good works.

Luke 15:11-12  "There was a man who had two sons.  12 The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.' So he divided his property between them.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

One Great Hour of Sharing


We will be receiving our 2014 One Great Hour of Sharing offering on Sunday 30 March. Please plan ahead and give generously. Video from the United Methodist Church General Board of Global Ministries on http://vimeo.com/84701192 and available to download.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Women in Ministry and Leadership

By Bishop Rosemarie Wenner (Check out the full story!)
“Why do we need special ministries for women? Aren’t they well integrated? We even have a female bishop!”
I hear those comments in my Episcopal area.  Some women say: “I am emancipated. I am done with gender questions!” In response to those statements I often tell my story. The United Methodist congregation where I learned to follow Christ was a tiny one where it was difficult to hide my gifts even though I was shy. I developed leadership skills in scouting ministries and was encouraged to preach for the first time when I was 17. Discerning what to study at university, I realized that I would love to learn more about God, Jesus, the Bible and the world.
Could it be that I was called to study theology in order to become a pastor? I struggled with that question.
All the pastors I knew were men. The first woman who had been a candidate for the ordained ministry in our conference happened to be a friend of mine. She encouraged me to follow God’s call at each stage in my journey. After seminary, I was the first woman in every one of my appointments. Several worshippers in my congregations had never before heard a sermon from a female preacher. For most of them that was just a new thing. They tested me, and I passed the exam. Some struggled with questions of Biblical interpretation, especially 1 Corinthians 14:34: “Women should be silent in churches.” So I shared my faith story and led Bible studies.
See the full story, part of a blog of women's stories for Women's History Month.
Bishop Rosemarie Wenner is president of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church. She studied theology at The United Methodist Theological Seminary in Reutlingen (Germany) and was ordained as an elder in 1981. She was appointed a District Superintendent in 1996 and has been a bishop since 2005, the first woman elected in the UMC outside the United States. She leads 60,000 church members in the Germany Central Conference.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Going once, going twice . . .


The bidding got a little heated! Final pics from the "Fat Sunday" Dessert Auction.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ukraine-Russia

Bishop Eduard Khegay, serving the Eurasia Episcopal Area (including Russia and the Ukraine), writes the following after meeting with leaders of The United Methodist Church in Kiev, Ukraine:

My prayer is for Ukraine, for peace and unity. During our meeting of pastors and leaders of United Methodist Church in Ukraine this week we lifted up our prayers for the people and the country, for peace and unity. Brothers and sisters shared their worries and concerns for the country’s future. Many could not come from the east to Zakarpatie where we have had our meeting. As I was preaching in our churches in Zakarpatie, my heart was filled with grace and faith, when brothers and sisters with tears in their eyes lifted up their prayers to God for their country. In this politically conflicting time, the church continues to share the gospel way – the way of active ministry to people, preaching of hope and faith, proclamation of God’s power and providence in the history of humankind. According to testimonies of brothers and sisters from different cities, Christian churches never prayed so fervently for their country and for their people as in this difficult time. Also, people were never so open for the gospel and for prayer as in this time. I thank God for United Methodist churches in Ukraine, who bring hope and reconciliation to people in this difficult time, encourage people and serve those in need. Let us all stand in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, for all people and country. My prayer is for Ukraine. 

Check out the website of the Eurasia church.

Welcome to all God's children


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dessert Auction - all smiles!


Thanks again to Gerri and her team, and to all who made soups and desserts for the great event!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Church Camp


Find out about the 2014 church camps of the Susquehanna Conference - and remember to support our scholarship fund for our young campers (the log cabin in the narthex, or direct a gift through the church office).

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lost and Found: Prodigal God (1)

2014/03/09 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Prayer, Psalm 14
Children, 2 Samuel 14 (especially 14.14)
Message, Luke 15.1-10

Luke 15
      3 stories, first two set up the 3rd
      Audience
      Lostness
      Joy
Go deeper – book, group

Dad’s stories: Bad Bart, Nice Ned, Sweet Sue, Naughty Nell
      Audience appearing in the stories

Verse 1 introduces the first group in Jesus’ audience: the “tax collectors and sinners”.  I don’t know anyone who is fond of paying taxes, but in the ancient world, tax collection was a job accompanied by spite, intimidation, deceit, and corruption – and, on top of that, it was done for the occupying power.  And, who are “sinners”?  We can get all biblical and quote the line “all have sinned” (Romans 3.23).  But this word was used as an expression for those whose reputation preceded them, for those who were known to be good at being bad.  We are told that these folks are “gathering around” or “coming near” Jesus.  The verb, in another form, means “join end to end”.  I imagine not just a handful or even a cluster of “tax collectors and sinners” but a crowd, pressed together, joined together shoulder to shoulder like so many dominoes – all of those trains connected to Jesus.

In verse 2, we meet the second group in Jesus’ audience: Pharisees and scribes.  These folks are “good people” – they are religious, obedient, upstanding citizens, pillars of the community.  And complaint ripples, muttering flows through their part of the crowd: “This guy accepts sinners – and eats with them!”  They see the world in good and evil.  How can Jesus be good if he fellowships with evil people?  As for us Pharisees and scribes, we have “no need of repentance” (15.7).  That’s beneath us, and these tax collectors and sinners are beneath us.

Obviously, the tax collectors and sinners aren’t beneath Jesus.  He replies to the muttering of the “good Jewish people” or “good Christian people”, but indirectly in story form.  These stories were not designed to make us feel good but to press the buttons of the righteous folks, to challenge their assumptions.  Even today, when we look at the details of these stories, they challenge us and our assumptions about sin and salvation, about being lost and being found, about God and the human race.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cherubs

The Cherubs perform on a recent Sunday. Thanks to Michele for her leadership!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Bishop is coming!


Bishop Park comes to our district to meet with our lay people this coming Sunday, March 16, at the Lightstreet Church in Bloomsburg. Make your reservations with Suzanne in the church office!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Family Game Night


Family game night a couple weeks back, courtesy of Joanne and the Youth. Lots of fun!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Let Them Eat Cake!



Thanks to Gerri and the Fellowship team for a wonderful soup dinner and dessert auction last Sunday!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Housing the Homeless

Check out this 60 Minutes story, which features a United Methodist making a difference for our homeless neighbors!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bells!

The Bell Choir shares their gift on a recent Sunday. Thanks to Jack for his leadership!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Good to Be Here

2014/03/02 Transfiguration, Eucharist
Children, Exodus 24.12-18
Message, Matthew 17.1-9

“It’s good to be here”
      Like a day on the beach or an hour in the tub … soaking it in

Robin and the Amy Grant song, “Mountain Top”
I’d love to live on a mountain top
Fellowshipping with the Lord
I’d love to stand on a mountain top
Cause I love to feel my spirit soar

But I’ve got to come down from that mountain top
To the people in the valley below
Or they’ll never know that they can go
To the mountain of the Lord

Jesus had someone to heal, a father’s son
      same in Mk and Lk
We too have a mission

“It’s good to be here” – On Mission, Tents
      Let’s camp out, “tents”
      But only for the “dignitaries”, for the “glory”
      Language from the Moses story … but Jesus is not Moses
      Tabernacle as center for worship: “Build it and they will come”
            Or tent as a “mobile home”: wherever you are, I will come
                  (John 1.14)
Not about the building, but the mission
      Capital campaign note
Mission is not about property but about people
Even doing dishes is about people

Chinese Pastors Studying at Wesley Seminary

“This is important for both Wesley Theological Seminary and for the Christian church in China,” says the Rev. Dr. Kyunglim Shin Lee, Wesley’s vice president of international relations. “This semester provides rigorous theological preparation for the visiting students, while offering the opportunity for Wesley’s students and faculty to learn about Christianity in China. We have much to learn from these visiting students.”
The Beijing Christian Council, which is the official sanctioning body of Protestant churches in Beijing, selected these students to study in the United States. “It is an unusual decision for the BCC to send five top pastors to us for such a long time because there is such a significant lack of pastors throughout China,” says Wesley President David McAllister-Wilson. “The absence of these pastors will be felt greatly in their home churches.”
Estimates of Christians in China range from the official government figure of 14 million to 130 million as reported by Christian charities working in the country. China’s population in 2012 was more than 1.35 billion people. Christianity is growing faster in China than in any other region of the world. With this expedited growth, the church has struggled to train and provide leaders.
Check out the full article at Wesley Seminary.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Salt & Pepper

The dessert table for one of our Salt & Pepper Club social gatherings! Thanks to Gerri for coordinating.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Youth Mission report dinner



Folks gather for pictures, video, spaghetti, dessert, and stories from the summer 2013 youth mission trip (16 Feb).

Monday, March 3, 2014

United Methodists in Eurasia

By Elliott Wright*

KAUNAS, Lithuania — The Rev. Eduard Khegay, a pastor, teacher, and church executive, was elected on Oct. 19 as the new bishop of the Eurasia Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church, effective at the start of 2013. He succeeds Bishop Hans Växby, who is retiring, in the post based in Moscow, Russia.
Khegay, 42, was picked on the first ballot during the quadrennial meeting on Oct. 17-20 of the Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conference of the denomination. He received 43 of the 62 valid votes cast. Born in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, he will be the first United Methodist bishop from the former Soviet Union.
Khegay says that his “mission is to inspire people to become Christ-like and [to] develop into full God-given potential to serve God and people.”
The new bishop has been the pastor of the Raduga United Methodist Church in Moscow and assistant to Växby since 2005. He has also held a wide range of positions within the Russian United Methodist Church over the past dozen years. He has continued an affiliation with mission and educational ministries in that area.
Methodism had existed in in the St. Petersburg area and in Siberia prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917. Suppressed there and in Soviet-dependent states for decades, it reemerged when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Read the full article!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Audit Team

We are thankful for our audit team, under Jerry's leadership, as they review all church accounts each year. It is an important part of our accountability, integrity, and transparency in leadership.