Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mercy in Matthew (1): Inclusion & Permission

2014/08/24 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Children, 2 Samuel 24.1-17
Message, Matthew 9.9-13, 12.1-8

Mercy in Matthew
      This week, twin stories, Jesus quotes the same passage from Hosea
      Next, identical twin stories of healed blind men, both calling for mercy
Repetition for emphasis

This week’s stories, in common:
      Jesus, or disciples, violate holiness taboo
      Pharisees offended & confront
      Jesus responds with teaching & quote (a theme verse for Jesus?)
Hosea 6.6 – “For I desire steadfast love (mercy) and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings”
      Jesus says the Pharisees do not understand

Variations on the theme:
Inclusion versus Exclusion
            Who is in? versus Who is out?
Permission versus Prohibition
            What can I do? versus What can’t I do?
Religious people everywhere & in all times favor the last questions
      Exclusion & Prohibition – language of judgment, not mercy
            “Who’s out?” – has a place, but not the first place
            “Thou shalt not” – has a place, but not the first place
      No wonder David, in the darkness of his sin, declares,
I am in great distress; let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into human hands (2 Samuel 24.14).
Ancient rulers – throne, or other public seat, was a “judgment seat”
      Pilate, condemning Jesus to death, John 19.13
      But YHWH, “mercy seat”, the ark of the covenant, Exodus 25.17
      “Let me not fall into human hands” (2Sa 24.14)
      “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’” (Mt 9.13)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Peace of Christ (3): You Are Forgiven

Call to Worship, Psalm 32
Children, Luke 7.36-50
Message, 1 John 1.5 – 2.2

1st week: “Peace be with you.” Giving up our identity as victim, one whose innocence was stolen, or even as perpetrator. Love is the path to innocence.

2nd week: Reconciliation among unequals, particularly with the dynamics of power and violence: Tyler Perry on forgiveness, from GLS 2014
Bill Hybels: One of the best things I have ever read about forgiveness came from a theologian named Tyler Perry: “It takes an enormous amount of energy to get through abuse or betrayal, and it also takes the same amount of energy to forgive. You can’t just flip a switch.”
TP: In order to forgive my father, it took a very long time. I was connected to my anger, it was my fuel. Once I forgave him, the fuel didn’t work anymore. You give up the hope of that past ever being any different, but it is the most freeing thing you can do for yourself. Most of the time, the person you have not forgiven is living their life and probably has no idea what you are struggling with. They do not deserve to have that power over you, and you do not deserve to live that way.

Today, the internal dimension of reconciliation.
James 4:1 – Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you?
[My history with this verse]

Friday, August 22, 2014

Glen Summit Chapel

Summer worship service at Glen Summit Chapel - a beautiful afternoon.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Peacemaking in Ferguson

Photo courtesy of the Rev. Matt Miofsky.
The Rev. F. Willis Johnson (left), pastor of Wellspring Church, a United Methodist congregation in Ferguson, Mo., and the Rev. Matt Miofsky, lead pastor of The Gathering, a multi-site United Methodist congregation in the St. Louis area, stand together near the site where Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Mo.
Since Aug. 9, the Rev. F. Willis Johnson has devoted his entire ministry to fostering peaceful — and meaningful — responses to the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager and the violent tumult that followed in Ferguson, Mo.
The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown led to four days of clashes between police in military-grade riot gear and angry crowds.
The United Methodist pastor led prayer vigils, helped with cleanup, met with community leaders and comforted protesters. Other United Methodist leaders answered his call to help a community in pain.
Read the full article, with additional pictures.

Monday, August 18, 2014


The men gathered for a cookout at Tim's. Lots of fun with the United Methodist Men!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Food and Fellowship

Food and Fellowship on the Lawn (from July 6). Thanks to all the groups that have sponsored this summer's series of fun gatherings between worship services.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Peace of Christ (2): Reconciliation among Unequals

The Peace of Christ (2)
2014/08/10 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Call to Worship, Psalm 139
Children, Genesis 37 (Joseph and his brothers)
Message, Matthew 5.38-48 (love enemies)

Last week, as we introduced our theme, we talked about Jesus greeting the disciples who abandoned him with the words, “Peace be with you.” We discussed the “ministry of reconciliation” that is given to Jesus-followers, something that goes against the grain of “settling scores”, “keeping a record of wrongs” and “don’t get mad, get even”. We said that, in order to retain our innocence, we must not only abhor violence. We must also abandon our identity as victim. And the path to innocence is love. “Love your enemies.”
      Reconciliation is difficult work, and it is gospel work. “Hear the good news: Christ died for us while we were still sinners.” It is difficult enough when we are reconciling as equals – colleagues in the workplace, neighbors on the street, classmates at school, siblings in a family. But it is even more difficult when we are not equal. Biblically, we are all equal as God’s children – created in the image of God, bought with the precious blood of Christ. In social practice, however, the dynamics of power structure much of our interaction: management-labor, parent-child, teacher-student. And, when the dynamics of power are mixed with violence in word or action, the harm is huge.
      That’s our focus this week – reconciliation of unequals, when power or violence are part of the picture. Next week we’ll conclude by examining reconciliation within ourselves.

Scouts on Parade

Our Scouts in the 4th of July parade!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bishop's Partners in Mission

For more information on this exciting opportunity, please contact the church office at 570.474.6060.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Parade, 2

More from Fun on the Fourth - it was a cool summer morning on the Mountain!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Youth Mission Trip

Our youth mission trip in July - five young people and two adults gave themselves over a full week in the Pittsburgh area.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Peace of Christ (1)

2014/08/03 Christ Church, Mountain Top, Holy Communion
Children, Luke 24.33-53 
Message, 2 Corinthians 5.14-21 

“Peace be with you” Jesus says in this resurrection appearance to his disciples (Luke 24.36). Now, he could simply be addressing their fear – how many here would feel comfortable speaking with a recently dead person? Theologically, however, he is also addressing their sin, the sin that lies between them, the sin that has created a breach, a gulf, a distance, in their relationship. These men turned their backs on Jesus, denied knowing him, disappeared into the night at the point of Jesus’ greatest personal need.

We ignore this dimension of the story because we are so fixed on an image of Jesus as a nice person, a good person. He is both nice and good. He has also proven himself adept at the exercise of power, effective at channeling his anger with great force. Now, he’s back from the dead and – if this was a horror flick – he’d have a score to settle with his old crew. Instead: “Peace be with you.”

So, it’s not a horror flick, and I am not suggesting that the disciples were horrified to see Jesus. They knew he loved them, no matter what they had done. At the same time, they were so glad to know that they did not have to deal with that huge elephant: We let you down, we abandoned you, we failed. We can’t look ourselves in the mirror. How shall we ever look you in the eye? “Peace be with you.” “Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed” (Luke 24.47). So, they were able to move all the more quickly to joy.


From "Fun on the Fourth", our front lawn as the parade passed by.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Water in Palestine

Equitable distribution of water is a key issue in West Bank and Gaza
“The Palestinian people thirst for water justice.” So claims a recently issued statement by a fact-finding group that this month visited Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza to better understand the critical issues of water and sanitation in Palestine.
Comprised of ten members of the international reference group of the Ecumenical Water Network (EWN), a network of churches and Christian organizations promoting people's access to water around the world, the group spent nearly ten days in the area, interacting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, non-governmental organizations, and church leaders.
The network is a global initiative of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
The EWN programme executive Dinesh Suna said, “The trip was an eye-opener for me. Never had I seen this glaring a level of disparity over water.”
“The problem is not scarcity as such,” he said. “Though an arid area, Israel and Palestine both receive enough precipitation. Ramallah gets more rain per year than London! But an average Palestinian there gets only 70 litres water per day, while the average Londoner gets around 150 litres per day, and the average Israeli over 300 litres per day.”

Friday, August 1, 2014

Faithful in Exile (4): Wading In

Note: We had some technical difficulties with the tripod, so there will be more shakiness than typical.

2014/07/27 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Prayer, Psalm 46
Children, Luke 5.1-11
Message, Ezekiel 47.1-12

Around 15 years ago, a prayer day story: Water rising in the Susquehanna
      Power, danger:
            “It was a river that I could not cross” (47.5)

And, it all starts with a small trickle
      (47.2, otherwise translated “flowing” or “coming out”)
      Threshold, facing east, southern side of threshold
      South of altar and out the east gate
            Permanently sealed because it is the LORD’s entrance, 44.1
            Water flows out the southern edge of the gate
Small trickle, Hebrew mepakkim
      Hebrew’s version of “glug” – from pak, for bottle

River vision in Biblical story (sources for Ezek, Ezek as source for)
      Eden – 4 rivers that water the earth, Gn 2
      Zion as the mountain of God, e.g., Psalm 46.4, “river whose streams make glad the city of God”, God ruling over the world
      Revelation, including multiple trees of life, with a different fruit each month, and leaves that offer healing to the nations (Rev 22.1-2)

And, it all starts with a small trickle