Friday, July 31, 2015

Why? And other unanswered questions ... (3): Then, Now, If

2015/07/26 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Call to Worship, Job 28, selections
Children, John 6.1-21
Message, Job 29-31, selections

            Job, “fears God and shuns evil”
            Day 1
            Day 2
            Job’s friends, 7 days

            Why do bad things happen to good people?
                        They just don’t!
                        Job’s friends’ conclusion – there’s something wrong with you
                        Job’s conclusion
                        The gift of Job’s words for our prayers

Today’s text:
                        David Clines: “nostalgic”, “bitter”, “aggressive” (vol 18A, 1011)

            Then – first persons story-telling (unique)
                        I walked
                        I was in my prime
                        I delivered the poor
            Now – direct address to God (prayer!) as adversary
            If – a series of oaths, curses included
                        Rejects arbitration by the friends
                        Indicts God on charges, summoning God to court

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Methodism in Cuba

Cuban Methodist history, their church growth and U.S. church partnerships are considered in light of recent thawing of political barriers between the U.S. and Cuban governments.At the arrival of Communism in 1959, Cuba had 120 Methodist church buildings and some 70 Methodist pastors serving 5,000 members. Most pastors and many members left Cuba as Castro’s forces prevailed. These departures took place in a series of waves, extending into the 1980s. The Castro government’s initial constitution defined the country as atheistic, and by 1962, all 53 Methodist missionaries previously serving in Cuba had left. The 1968 United Methodist General Conference recognized the autonomy of the Methodist Church in Cuba, which was then electing its own bishop. 

Today, the Methodist Church in Cuba has more than 42,000 members and a worshiping community of 65,000—a remarkably large number for a Protestant denomination in a country with a Roman Catholic culture (by tradition) and a Communist government. 

Read the full article!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fresh Floors

Ken and Carol are in the midst of cleaning, stripping, mopping, and waxing the tile floors in the church. The top pic is of Ken mopping up after stripping. The bottom pic is a finished floor. It looks great!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Food and Fellowship

This past Sunday, our youth sponsored "Food and Fellowship" on the lawn - a great opportunity to connect informally with one another.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Vulnerable Confession

I recently finished, after many years of occasional progress, Saint Augustine's Confessions, his spiritual autobiography written as a prayer. In reviewing my notes and marks in the book, one prayer stood out afresh for its vulnerability and honesty:

Lord, before whose eyes the abyss of man's conscience lies naked, what thing within me could be hidden from you, even if I would not confess it to you? I would be hiding you from myself, not myself from you (10.2.2).

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Why? And other unanswered questions ... (2): Miserable Comforters & Innovative Hope

2015/07/19 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Children, 2 Samuel 7.1-14
Message, Job 2-27, selections

Review, plot:
      Fear God, shun evil … great man
      Fortune, children, health
      Backstage: God and the Satan, unknown to Job
This week: conversation between Job and his friends, not going well

      The Satan
      Patient Job (James 5.11)
            Should we receive the good at the hand of God and not the evil?
            Now: Curse on day of his birth … protest, then prosecute
      Job’s wife
      Job’s compassionate friends (7 days and nights in silence)
            Now: Job is their “project” … and they prosecute, so helpfully

Review, retributive justice:
      A fairness that underlies the world
      Correlation between what we do and what happens to us
      Both Job and friends take it as a given
            Friends: therefore, Job has done evil
            Job: therefore, God has done me wrong

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Vision of Mission Central


By Bishop Neil Irons, retired. Check out the Mission Central website.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.(Isaiah 43:19 NIV)
I believe Mission Central began in the mind of God. However, it entered my mind as a possibility when the decision was made to move the Conference Offices to a new location in Mechanicsburg.
I wanted the good people in our churches to view the new building as a center for the mission God has assigned to us. But how?
Then I remembered! Recently I had been in Houston, Texas planning for a gathering of all the members of the Methodist/Wesleyan family in North America. While there, the pastor of Houston First Church had taken me to a place just outside the city to see something amazing.
I found myself looking at a large warehouse. Inside I was introduced to the man, an ex-convict, who started it. While in prison he watched church services from First UMC, Houston, on television. He eventually contacted the pastor and asked if he could attend First UMC after his release. The pastor assured him that he would be welcome, but feared he would never hear from the man again.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Making Education Possible - UMC #GivingTuesday

Secondary education is possible for students in Belize, thanks to UMC #GivingTuesday donations last year that went toward school construction.

Students outside Belmopan Methodist High School in Belize where more classrooms are being built on the second floor of the existing building. 

By Judith Santiago

Located on the eastern coast of Central America, Belize is a nation rich in culture and Mayan ruins. But, in regards to education, only 45 percent of youth attend school beyond the primary level. A lack of secondary education is a concern for Lisa Williams, who serves as a volunteer coordinator for the Belize/Honduras District of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and Americas.

She states, “There was a time when Belize had a very high literacy rate as compared to surrounding countries. When Belize became an independent nation in 1981 there was a lack of priority in the new government in regards to secondary school. The country grew and the building of new schools did not keep up, in particular the schools for secondary education.”

But, thanks to last year’s UMC #Giving Tuesday donations made through The Advance to the Belmopan Methodist High School, Advance #3021922, a new high school providing secondary education will soon be completed in Belmopan, the capital city of Belize. The construction of the school will impact approximately 380 children, 20 teachers, including community vendors who market their food items near the school.

Read the full story!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Why? And other unanswered questions...(1): Betrayal of God

2015/07/12 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Call to Worship, Job 3, selections
Children, 2 Samuel 6.1-19
Message, Job 1.1-5, 2.1-10

Let’s start with some ANSWERED questions first!
      Why ask “Why?” As human beings we are designed to ask, “Why?” I have often heard pious folks, when facing some big sufferings, remark, “Well, we shouldn’t ask ‘Why?’” They are hoping that I, as their pastor, will invite them to ask questions and place that in the context of prayer and connection with God, and I do. But the logic of the remark is problematic: Is God is threatened by our puny questions? Are we such a challenge to God that God prefers us to be silent? Is asking the question a lack of faith? In the section before us today, Job himself does not question, though, by the end of the book, he raises every possible question. Even in this text, however, the book itself raises the questions for us. If we are to read it on face value, the reason Job suffers is because God and “the Satan” have a bet going and Job is the test case. For me, at least, that is a very unsatisfactory explanation.
      Why preach Job? It is such a downer! It is not! … To elaborate further, a story. “I don’t want to go in there with those happy people.” She was mad at God, mad at church people for being happy, mad at her family for being church people that day. At that moment, for her, her pain and suffering was the only story worth telling. We are not a place for plastic people. Here at Christ Church, we talk about growing in a spirituality that is “giving, faithful, and real.” There’s a little thing that I like to call “real life,” and it involves suffering. With apologies to Pharrell Williams, making it through real life successfully is not about being happy, if we are to understand “happy” as a plastic emotion. It is about resilience and discovering a joy beneath and through the pain. By the end of the book, Job has discovered a dignity and glory in being human that goes far beyond the circumstances of life, a blessing that is much more than the pain free and wealthy life he has when the story begins.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Mobile technology and clinics in the Congo

Medic mobile visits village
In remote villages in Africa, it’s not uncommon for the nearest health clinic to be a day’s travel away. It’s also not uncommon for villagers to make the long journey only to find out that a doctor isn’t there that day or that needed medication isn’t in stock.

United Methodist Communications is funding a project in Kamina, Democratic Republic of Congo, to improve better communications between clinics and villagers through mobile phone and texting technology.
The Rev. Betty Kazadi Musau, a United Methodist clergywoman from the Democratic Republic of Congo and a public health care worker, was an early adopter of ICT4D. Musau said that during a February 2014 cholera outbreak last February, messages sent through Frontline SMS — a free text-messaging system that does not depend on Internet connection — stopped unnecessary deaths. She simply sent texts reminding people to boil their water before drinking and to wash their hands frequently.
“A woman told me (that) messages to the villages to wash their hands before breast-feeding and before handling food worked to save lives,” Musau said.
Musau received a grant from United Methodist Communications for the Kamina project, to show how text messaging and mobile health technology (mHealth) could be utilized in the developing world. Partnering with Medic Mobile, UMCom and the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, Musau designed the project in Kamina connecting clinics and villagers via mobile messaging.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Confirmation 2015

Collection of highlight pics and testimony video from our 2014-2015 Confirmation Class. Thanks to Tim and Kim for their leadership.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Youth Mission Team

In Gibsonia, PA for a week of light construction, yard work, and person-to-person service in the name of Jesus. Roll up your sleeves and get dirty for God!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Blind and Lame

Sorry ... no video this time!

2015/07/05 Christ Church, Mountain Top, July 4, Holy Communion
Call to Worship, Psalm 48
Children, 2 Samuel 5.1-10
Message, 2 Corinthians 12.2-10

Greatness of USA:
            Including “free speech”, ability to critique (a rare thing elsewhere)
Critique of our nation:
            Accustomed to it when it comes to politics
                        An active week in both national and state politics
            Yet, even the most cynical still observe July 4th
            Perhaps not like Robin’s fortune cookie:
“A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works”
            Not accustomed to critique from the center of Christian conviction
                        Tend to align with one party or another, not with the kingdom
            Today’s Scriptures
                        Origin narrative of greatness at the establishment of kingdom
                        Seed for critique hidden in that story

Origin narratives
            Conquering Jerusalem through the water shaft – like a movie!
            “The blind and the lame whom David hates”

            Like the critique of “Methodists”?
But: Therefore it is said, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house”

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Mission in Zimbabwe

Kariba is an isolated district in northern Zimbabwe. Low rainfall, limited access to seeds and other resources, and the encroachment of wildlife are all contributing to reduced crop production and greater food insecurity for residents of Kariba.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is helping to address this situation, while also supporting the livelihoods of community members through a cash-for-work project.

Supplementing a World Food Program emergency food-security project, UMCOR will help establish a fish pond and market in one Kariba municipality, and seven community nutrition centers across four municipalities, which will improve the communities’ daily diet and improve livelihoods.

Apart from this work, there also will be the construction and rehabilitation of small earth dams to help boost crop production through irrigation and the creation of a water network system that will support the gardens at the community nutrition centers.

About 2,630 beneficiaries will be identified to participate in this cash-for-work training program; 50 percent of whom will be women.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Birthday USA!

Wisdom for changing times from Thomas Jefferson, and selections from the Declaration of Independence ... from the Jefferson Memorial in DC. (I learned to play kickball at a Thomas Jefferson Elementary School.)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Vacation Bible School Program 2015

Songs by each of the classes, and then the whole group. A great week of Bible school!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Vacation Bible School Slide Show

Thanks to the fabulous staff - both adults and youth - for giving a week of your time and preparation, And, thanks to the entire church for your prayerful support.

View and download any of the individual photos!