Monday, June 30, 2014

Flooding in the Balkans

Intense rainfall in Orasje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, last month caused massive flooding.
When three months’ worth of rain fell in a matter of days in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, it caused rivers to swell and burst their banks, and the floodwaters swept away bridges, roads and homes. At least 65 people died in the disaster last month. 

Between the heavy rains and flooding and the landslides these produced, hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes. Many others remain trapped in towns and villages that are cut off from main roads. They lack clean drinking water, food, medicine and electric power.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is working with implementing partners International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) and Global Medic to provide survivors in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina with emergency relief.

With funds from UMCOR, IOCC will focus on small but heavily impacted communities in Serbia. One of these, Krupanj (pop. 5,000), was almost completely submerged when four local rivers overflowed their banks and then provoked dozens of landslides. IOCC will clean and disinfect 200 homes, repair 100 homes and community buildings, and distribute health and hygiene kits to 250 families. 

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, where 1.5 million people have been affected by the disaster and 950,000 were forced to flee, UMCOR will work with Global Medic to distribute 450,000 water-purification tablets, install six institutional water-purification units, and provide 160 families with kitchen replacement materials to help “restore some sense of normalcy to their day-to-day.”

Check out more on this story and others from the June 4 UMCOR hotline.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Vacation Bible School (3)

Thanks to Sheri and Carrie, the fabulous Bible School team, and to all the kids and adults who shared in the great week! Check out the entire album!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Painted Pastor

Flaming soccer ball reproduced on the left side of my face. Thanks to the fabulous artist and to everyone who celebrated our annual Carnival.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Carnival Capers, 2

Thanks again to the wonderful team!

MegaFaith (2): Table Scraps

Message begins at the 6:30 mark. Prior segment is another Bible story (audio only).

2014/06/22 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Prayer, Psalm 87 (born in Zion)
Children, Luke 10.25-37 (Good Samaritan)
Message, Matthew 15.21-28

Saving Private Ryan:
      Captain Miller to Private Ryan, “Make it count”
      Cemetery scene,
“I hope, at least in your eyes, that it was enough, that I earned what all of you had done for me…. Tell me I have led a good life; tell me I’m a good man”

The problem in the text: Racism
      Nice racism: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”
      Rude racism: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (“dog” = Gentile; “throw” = generally with violent force or simply without care)

Our prejudice and bigotry:
      Sexism also possible in the text, but not explicitly spoken
            (part of the behavior of the disciples)
      Assumptions; categories (simpler but we miss the person)
      Fear and even hatred
            Immigrants are here to take our jobs & marry our kids
                  Yet, are immigrants’ kids
            Gay men must be interested in me
                  Yet, quite okay with hetero women being attracted
                  Simply irresistible?
      Even those who advocate acceptance can be close-minded

Why would Jesus talk like this?
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3.28)
This one was born in Zion (Psalm 87)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ebola Outbreak in Sierra Leone

Our annual conference, the Susquehanna Conference of The United Methodist Church, has a special partnership with the church in Sierra Leone.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Chain of Command: MegaFaith (1)

2014/06/15 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Prayer, Psalm 18.1-20
Children, Genesis 15.1-6
Message, Matthew 8.5-13

Series intro: “MegaFaith”, from Matthew
      2x – Jesus comments on how much
      2x – how little (the disciples)
One case (next week), Greek term “mega”. This week, the term is a different one, still one that highlights the unique nature of this man’s faith:
      “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Mt 8.10)

Dad: model for manhood
      Military, “yessir”
My boys:
      Let’s vote
      Now that I’m 18 …

American concern for the individual
      Privilege (I know my rights – litigious society)
      Self-sufficiency (bootstraps)
We quit jobs because we don’t want to be told what to do
We grumble about unreasonable teachers or professors
We exit relationships because the other is too demanding
We hop from one community organization to another complaining about the folks at the last one who didn’t give us the freedom we wanted
(And, I am not endorsing remaining in an abusive situation)

And we all head to “have it your way”, the king

Enter the career officer, the military man with his distinctive haircut, squared shoulders, and upright posture. When we see that in a man, there is something we admire – service to country, honor, a barely concealed raw physical power.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Bishop Park's Opening Address to Annual Conference

“For Such A Time As This”
Scripture Readings:
Old Testament: Esther 4:14-17
Psalm 100
Epistle: Romans 15: 5-7, 13
Gospel: John 13:34-35
12 June 2014

I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, the Redeemer, the Prince of Peace, Healer of our brokenness, and Hope of the world!

As I stand before you here for the second year, my heart is overflowing with joy and thanksgiving for the exceptional opportunity of serving God and God’s people called United Methodists of the Susquehanna Conference. God has been faithful and God’s people have been gracious.

Lisa and I would like to express our heart-felt appreciation for your warming hospitality, that we were privileged to receive, when we visited places throughout the conference. We love Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna Conference! We continue to enjoy living in your midst. Indeed, we’ve found a home here in the Harrisburg Area. Thanks be to God for you!

The story of Esther is so intriguing. It’s a story with multiple plots, memorable lines, fascinating characters, intense suspense, powerful moments, dramatic reversals, unlikely conclusion, and best of all, a happy ending!

To me, the most pivotal and watershed moment in the story is Mordecai’s plea on behalf of God’s time and Esther’s decision in response: He says to Esther: “Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14b) In other words, “Esther, this is God’s time for you to act for the sake of the future of God’s people. This is the time and you are the one.”

Fully knowing what it means to go to the king without prior permission, Esther replies, “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16b)
In other words, “I am here for this moment.” Even though it well could cost her life, Esther claims that it is the time to approach the king and she is the one.

Ecclesiastes says that there’s a time for everything.
Jesus once said, “My time has not yet come.” (John 2:4)
He also said at another time, “Father, the time has come.” (John 17:1)
Indeed, there’s God’s time for God’s purpose.

What time is it for our church?

New members and baptisms

Justin and Christina, with Lucas (presented by Cris) and Kyle and Susanne, with Ben (presented by Mark) - new members and newly baptized on Sunday 8 June!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Children's Choir

June 8, 2014, in worship. Thanks to Michele for another great year of children's music!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sunday, June 15, 2014


2014/06/08 Christ Church, Mountain Top; Pentecost
Prayer, Psalm 104.24-35
Children, Numbers 11.24-30
Message, Acts 2.1-21

1987, my prayers, Spain
      You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you
            and you shall be my witnesses (Acts 1.8)
      What was important was not my speaking or his hearing,
            but “God’s deeds of power”
      Have you experienced the power of the Spirit?
      Have you experienced the blessing of sharing “God’s deeds of power”?

Pentecost story told using the images of prior stories, intentional echoes
      Sinai (Covenant of the Torah) (Stott, 62) – wind, fire, voice
      New Covenant (Stott, 62):
            “I will write my law upon your hearts”
            “I will put my Spirit within you”
      New Covenant’s invitation – universal
            Joel quoted: “I will pour out my Spirit on ALL flesh” (2.17)
                  Sons and daughters
                  Old and young
                  Slaves and free
      New Covenant’s promise – salvation
            Joel: “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Annual Conference - Ordination

A remarkable gift to see things come full circle! The ordination service is an annual highlight of conference and will be held this afternoon beginning at 1:30 pm.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Annual Conference

Annual Conference begins tomorrow! Pray for our leaders as we gather - both pastors and lay persons. From Christ Church, pray for Pastor JP, Mark, Jane, and Heather.

Ark graduation, 2

Fancy moves! Congrats! (30 May)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Recovery in the Philippines

In April, Francesco Paganini (right), UMCOR’s International Disaster Response executive, takes questions from Tanuan community members in a barangay (community) open meeting.
In April, Francesco Paganini (right), UMCOR’s International Disaster Response executive, takes questions from Tanuan community members in a barangay (community) open meeting.
By David Tereshchuk
May 6, 2014—Typhoon Haiyan mercilessly battered the Philippines in November 2013, leaving thousands of people dead, hundreds of thousands homeless, and a once verdant landscape drained of color and growth. Six months later, as the land turns green again, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is working with survivors to cultivate hope and rebuild homes and lives.
UMCOR was among the first agencies to respond with emergency aid to survivors. Then, in detailed consultation with survivors, UMCOR began to focus recovery efforts on reconstruction. It would build fresh homes on the very sites—whenever possible and safe—where survivors had lived before their houses were destroyed or severely damaged by the storm.
Calogcog, a devastated community of the town of Tanauan in hard-hit Leyte Province, emerged as the heart of an innovative UMCOR project. Instead of erecting increasingly sturdy forms of transitional housing for survivors, the project will build permanent new homes at once, a less conventional procedure.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Confirmation Class 2014

Preparing to make their vows (top), at the breakfast for confirmands, parents, and mentors. Thanks to Gary, Les, Dave, and Tim for the meal!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Children's Ark graduation, 1

Friday 30 May. Congrats to all the young people and families - and thanks to Maureen and the staff!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Friday, June 6, 2014

Good News about Marriage

From "Everything We Think We Know About Marriage and Divorce Is Wrong" by Shaunti Feldhahn on the Catalyst site.

In 2006 I was a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist writing a routine piece about marriage and divorce. I wanted to accurately cite the numbers, but my senior researcher and I were soon really confused by contradictory statistics about what the divorce rate actually was. In the end, a question we originally expected to answer in two minutes, took eight years of investigation to unravel. I felt a bit like Indiana Jones as we waded into the deep jungle of complex statistical projections and feuding demographers in search of great treasure: the truth that surely had to be in there somewhere.

Along the way, we kept unearthing encouraging facts not just about the divorce rate but about marriage overall. Facts we felt urgently needed to come to light, to bring balance to the national conversation and encourage individual marriages! Yes, we also saw plenty of very real concerns. And we quickly found that this field is so complicated, there is often no way to nail down one “right” answer. But we can get a lot closer.

Here are just a few examples of the truths we cover in The Good News About Marriage.

Perhaps most surprising, half of all marriages are not ending in divorce. According to the Census Bureau, 72% of those who have ever been married, are still married to their first spouse! And the 28% who aren’t, includes everyone who was married for many years, until a spouse died. No-one knows what the average first-marriage divorce rate actually is, but based on the rate of widowhood and other factors, we can estimate it is probably closer to 20-25%. For all marriages (including second marriages, and so on), it is in the 31-35% range, depending on the study.

Check out the full article.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

All About Jesus

2014/06/01 Christ Church, Mountain Top; Ascension, Confirmation, Communion
Message, Acts 1.1-11

Journey of discipleship
      Confirmation class with Tim & Kim
            Weekly class
            Faith Walk – synagogue, Episcopal
            Worship at Wesley Village
            Retreat at Kirby House
      The twelve with Jesus
            Teaching: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”
                  (Mt 4.17)
            Healing – manifestation of the kingdom
            Death & Resurrection – fulfillment
            Forty days of appearances – “Will you restore the kingdom?”

Even now, all our questions are not answered.
      Jesus’ disciples: “Is this the time when you will restore the kingdom?”
      Intellectual, from doubt or reason
      Experience, why or how long

Even now, we wait for something more.
      Jesus’ disciples: Not fully satisfied with resurrection, still more
      High school graduation, college
      Confirmation is not the END of a faith journey, but a new beginning
      “As you received Christ Jesus as Lord, so continue …” (Col 2.6)
      “Wait until you have received the gift”

Even now, we desire Jesus.
      Jesus’ disciples: Gazing into heaven … why should they go without?
            Luke: “wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Ac 1.1)
      Our experience of Jesus’ absence
            Communion: “proclaim his death … until”
      Our experience of Jesus’ presence
            Confirmands: largely from the people in this room
            Also in mission – all Jesus BEGAN to do and teach (NIV)

                  “You will be my witnesses”

Confirmation Stories, 2

Welcome our nine young people who made their vows on Sunday.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Living Room Sessions

The Living Room Sessions band debuts, Sunday 18 May in our 10:45 worship service. Thanks to all the musicians who have prayed and practiced for this day. Let us know if you want to be part of this new ministry.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Confirmation Stories

The 2014 Confirmation Class, in their own words. Thanks again to Kim and Tim for their leadership throughout the past year.

Youth Ministry in Kazakhstan

Khozhamuratov Kanat

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Ushtobe, and in all Kazakhstan” (Acts 1:8).
“Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal.6:2).

As early as in autumn of 2013 God put me on heart the idea to „carry the burdens“ of our brother, pastor Alexander Mikhailov, and to give testimonies about our faith in Pavlodar UMC, the place of his ministry. I started to pray and ask God: “how can I fulfil this plan?” God has answered through the mouth of Bishop Eduard Khegay that there is a way to help. Once the details of the project were discussed with the parish, we started to pray and prepare the ministry in Pavlodar. God, on his side, helped us to create a team of youth leaders. In March, during the spring school holidays we set off. The trip and the common goal made us even more united.
In Pavlodar we were warmly welcomed by pastor Alexander Mikhailov. We stood overnight in a dorm and started our mission. During the Sunday service we all joined in praising our Triune God. After the worship we talked and visited the members of the community and stood awake till late. Next day we had another service and then spent the time with the people from the dormitory.