Monday, September 28, 2015

Young Methodists, Environmentalism, and New Churches

Mark Oppenheimer
New York Times

MINNEAPOLIS — Growing up in nearby Eden Prairie, Minn., Tyler Sit felt called to be a minister. But he was not sure what kind.

“I was a cradle Methodist,” said Mr. Sit, 26, who is half-Chinese, half-European and all-Minnesotan: sweet, smiley and Protestant. “I went to church camp, did Sunday school, was youth-group leader, was in the choir, sat on worship committees.”

So Mr. Sit went searching. “I spent a lot of time with Buddhists in Zen circles, studied in India, did a mindfulness retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh,” Mr. Sit said, in a conversation that began in the May Day CafĂ© and wandered several blocks to his apartment. Then, in May 2014, visiting the TaizĂ© Christian spiritual community in France, he decided to return to his roots.

“I realized that Christianity has within itself a deep internal religion, and also a deep ethic of social justice,” Mr. Sit said. “I don’t need to outsource to Buddhism.”

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Mission Impossible #2: Confrontations (2015-0920)

Call to Worship, Psalm 2
Children, Joshua 5.13-15
Message, Mark 5.1-20

Binding two related themes
      Impossible things that we must face in family life, professional life
      Impossible call of Jesus to follow & serve
Last week: Departures

Confrontation in Mark’s gospel
      With religious authorities
      With political power (Rome)
Jesus’ message: The time … the kingdom … the good news
      Ancient kingdoms don’t coexist with one another
      Like immortals in the Highlander series or presidential candidates:
            “There can be only one”
Psalm 2:2  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed

Mark 3:26-27  And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

      Joshua and the commander of the Lord’s army, Joshua 5.13-15

The man possessed … Symbolic interpretation
      Symbols of uncleanness – tombs, pigs, unclean spirit
      Symbols of chaos – sea, stampede
      Symbols of Roman power – “Legion”, boar’s head
Sociological interpretation of possession
      Absorbing the conflict, confrontation, stress of larger community
      Oppressed societies, abusive families
      Not looking for trouble
      Confronting the trouble that finds him

Your mission … should you choose to accept it

Friday, September 25, 2015

Youth Center in Alabama

In Hobson City, Alabama, the Sable Learning Center, a program of Community Enabler Developer, Inc., (CED), helps redirect the lives of children and youth who live in economically disadvantaged areas by helping them work through issues of anger, bullying, depression, or suicide. 

The program builds self-awareness, boosts self-esteem and offers youth emotional support in a conducive learning environment. Here, they can confront and process these often difficult issues, while also participating in the program’s life skills, reading, math and computer training classes. The program also provides nutritious meals and snacks and assists youth with school fees and supplies. 

A Global Ministries grant to CED will benefit participants of the Sable Learning Center by providing the youth with school supplies and nutritious food and also support the program activities in the bullying and suicide prevention curriculum. 

The Learning Center is open year round and offers classes in music expression; art and drama; spiritual development through the learning of Bible principles; nutrition and exercise, and parental support. 

Check out the full issue of the Global Ministries e-newsletter.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

ActionChurch: Ruth's Place

Looking forward to the Oct 4 Walk for Ruth's Place and continuing our partnership.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Welcoming the Stranger: Refugees in Europe

General Secretary Thomas Kemper draws from Mathew 25:35b, as he shares how the church, humanitarian organizations, and the government are responding to the migration crisis in Europe.
The arrival in Europe of massive numbers of Middle Eastern refugees is causing crises for humanitarian organizations and churches as well as for governments. At such a time, scripture draws us to Matthew 25:35b: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” Jesus said in a sermon about the behavior he expects of those whose lives reflect the grace and love of God.

The thousands of displaced persons pouring out of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and various parts of Africa into Europe put a tremendous strain on regional and global economics, political and social systems, and human compassion. Christians know our responsibility: Welcome the stranger, and that can be a tough mandate, difficult and risky, demanding of sober realism, and also full of potential for new insights and understandings about human and cultural relations.

United Methodists are wondering and asking the General Board of Global Ministries about how The United Methodist Church in Europe and at the international level is responding to the migration crisis. The information below is an attempt to respond to the most-common questions and concerns.

Scope of the Crisis

The thousands of people entering Europe include war refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants seeking better ways of life. Nation states treat each of these groups differently. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 14) and various United Nations protocols on refugees put responsibility on nations to accept and assist persons seeking asylum when facing death or loss of freedom at home. Host countries are expected to recognize the right of asylum, allow safe entry and/or passage, and provide long-term needs for work, education, legal aid, and documents for travel. The church and other humanitarian organizations try to serve all who stand in need.

Read the full report, including stories of the church in action.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Monday, September 21, 2015



Thanks to Beverly and Christina, and to all the parent volunteers who serve with them!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Global Mission Fellow in Bethlehem

The Global Mission Fellows of The United Methodist Church are young persons offering their lives and sharing Jesus all over the world for two years of service.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Global United Methodist Leader coming to Mountain Top!

Gere Reist will be with us on Sunday October 4 to speak in all three of our worship services, and share with the confirmation, youth, and adult classes during Sunday School. Please be here to greet him and learn about our global connection!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Mission Impossible #1: Departures

2015/09/13 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Call to Worship, Psalm 116
Children, Genesis 12.1-9

Message, Mark 1.14-20

Binding two related themes
      Impossible things that we must face in family life, professional life
      Impossible call of Jesus to follow & serve

One of the most difficult classes of things to face, one of the great impossibilities: Departures
      Our children growing up and leaving home (“failure to launch”)
Greeting card: “Parenting … when messing up your own life just isn’t enough”
      Leaving behind the “devil you know” for the devil you don’t know
            Escaping abusive relationships for the devil of being alone
      Abandoning a cherished hope, self-perception, or dream

Departures force us out into an exposed position, loosed of everything that makes us comfortable, set free from what we have understood as “home”. Departures make us deeply insecure, for good reason (not just paranoid ones).
      And, that is exactly how Jesus calls each of us.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sunday School

Kicking off classes for all ages on Sunday September 13 at 9:30 am.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Open Table launch

Open Table kicking off on Sunday evening Sept 13. Thanks to everyone on the team who made it possible!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Contrasting Strictness?

Some people consider the commandments of the Old Testament stricter than those of the New, but they are deceived by such a shortsighted interpretation. In the former, theft, not miserliness, is punished; wrongful taking of property is punished in the latter by fourfold restitution. In this place the rich man is not censured for having taken away someone else’s property but for not having sufficiently given away his own. (Gregory the Great, ACCS OT III, 169)

Really appreciated this insight, given the way we tend to view the testaments as contrasting.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Obsessive (Denim Faith #5, 2015-0906)

2015/09/06 Christ Church, Mountain Top (Commune, Labor Day)
Series: Denim Faith: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Lunch Pail Crowd, and Leviticus
Children, Mark 10.17-27 (rich man, eye of the needle, impossible)
Message, Leviticus 4.27-31, 5.1-6, 20.7-8, others; Galatians 3.1-18
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band song, “Life’s Railway to Heaven”

            “Step on a crack …”
            Baseball players and their dirty socks
            Lock the door, unplug the curling iron
            Hand washing
      Related behaviors
            Blame – scapegoat (Geico ad), peanut butter factory
                  “If something goes wrong, you find a scapegoat.
                  That’s what you do”
                        “Claim the blame”
            Stunted relationships
                  Misplaced desire, unsatisfied
                  Walls raised to protect us from pain, unconnected

Jesse & Caleb and the toy box
      All of us have some obsessive stuff going on!
      Including Leviticus …
High performance people – Larry Bird

Friday, September 11, 2015

Ground Zero

Remembering, with gratitude, and praying for the "peace of Christ" which "passes all understanding". From a 2005 visit to Ground Zero.

Pounding the Pastor

Pastor JP weighs in at the 10:45 service as we begin our fall food collection for the Mountain Top Area Food Bank. Our goal is to collect at least four times JP's weight (186 pounds) in food donations. For those giving cash, $1 = 1 pound. Our final day is October 4.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Temporary Learning Centers in Nepal

A young boy in Kathmandu, Nepal.
In the aftermath of the April earthquake in Nepal, estimates show that nearly 1 million children ages 3 to 18 are unable to return to school. 

About 587 of the 608 school buildings in the district of Dhading, for example, were badly damaged, as were 26 schools in the villages of Pida and Mahadevsthan. 

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), understands that without a stable environment for learning, children cannot regain a sense of normalcy and stability. UMCOR is partnering with United Mission to Nepal (UMN) to build 10 temporary learning centers. Children will study here until their schools are rehabilitated, a process that could take months, if not years. 

The temporary learning centers will accommodate 1,740 children and ensure a structured setting, where children who have experienced the trauma of the earthquake can focus, learn, and grow. The learning centers also will keep the children active and help them avoid developmental and behavioral problems, which can happen in post-disaster situations. 

Gifts to International Disaster Response, Advance #982450, make it possible for UMCOR to respond to emergency situations like that of the Nepal earthquake.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Dominican Republic team from our region

RickHerring1The medical clinic was the unexpected highlight of the trip and was supported primarily from donations of medical supplies to Mission Central in Mechanicsburg. “We wanted to provide medical assistance to the Cristobal people that were in need. Our team had two nurses, including my daughter Christina. We asked if Mission Central had items in their warehouse that could be used for such a project”, said Rick. The answer was an overwhelming YES! Jean Norris, a nurse volunteer at Mission Central and Ray Harden, Mission Central Warehouse Operations Manager, gathered bandages, gauze, creams, syringes, sponges, cotton balls and even some small medical equipment for us to use in Cristobal, DR.

Read the full story.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

John Wesley's sisters

A look at the family life of the founding figure of Methodism, John Wesley, in an article by B.J. Funk:

Susanna’s children were covered daily in religious devotion, discipline, and academia. She and her husband placed a tremendous emphasis on piety and the importance of a virtuous life. However, she had a difficult time showing her affections to her daughters, and even to John. She knew God had a calling on him, and thought that any tenderness toward him might get in the way of his being put solidly on the path that God had chosen for him. Admirable as that is, her coldness hindered him with women all of his life. He was never able to settle comfortably in a lasting relationship with a female. 

So, I jumped into this book, published in 1988, wanting to know more about this particular topic. Being an avid reader of anything Wesleyan, I had never seen a book that concentrated solely on the daughters’ search for love. 

Read the whole article.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Special Needs Youth in Zambia

Some of the special needs youth at the Bwafwano Care Project in Zambia. In Zambia, children and youth with disabilities are stigmatized—even in their own homes. Caregivers and parents often hide children who have disabilities for fear of what others will think or say. What’s more, some of these youth are at risk for sexual abuse, early pregnancy, and HIV infections. And, most have no access to a good education. 

Through generous UMC #GivingTuesday donations made last year to the Bwafwano Care Project (BCP), Advance #3021211 in Zambia, special needs children and youth, including those with hearing impediments, received education support and life survival skills training that are helping them become more self-reliant. In addition, nutritional support was provided to undernourished children and adults living with HIV and AIDS. 

“We bought a cooker, a fridge, computers, and assorted training materials,” said Minerva M. Phiri, director of BCP, who quickly put to use the Giving Tuesday donations.

The UMC donations supported literacy classes for out-of-school youths with special needs, and a specially-designed six-month life skills training that is empowering and protecting its youth from further harm.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Land & Liberty (Denim Faith #4)

2015/08/30 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Series: Denim Faith: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Lunch Pail Crowd, and Leviticus
Call to Worship, Psalm 146
Children, Mark 4.30-32 (kids, parable of the mustard seed)
Message, Leviticus 25, particularly 25.1-28, 47-55
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band song, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Vol II, “And So It Goes” (John Denver)

Largely unknown and unappreciated passage in the “deathtrap” for through-the-Bible readers, yet a significant theme in the rest of the Scriptures is developed here for the first time. Isaiah 61, “year of the LORD’s favor” “proclaim liberty” … taken up by Jesus in Luke 4.

Sabbath year (7th) and the Jubilee year (49th or 50th)
      The Sabbath of Sabbaths
      Remember the Sabbath, keep it holy (4th command)
      The Top Ten begin with “I am the LORD”

Economic reset – once a generation, everyone is given the ability to make a living. In an agricultural society, you provide for yourself as a free person if you have land.
      Land reverts to its original ownership family, who return to their land
      Slaves are given their freedom and return to their family

Was this every actually lived? Not really, but it was well known. When the Babylonians were about to attack Jerusalem, in a fit of desperation, the king set all the slaves free. But he changed his mind, put them all back in slavery, and got chewed out by the prophet Jeremiah (34.14; Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume I: Leviticus. 1171.)
      Under the leadership of Nehemiah, a governor of Palestine during the returns from exile, Jews set free all other Jews whom they had taken as slaves (Nehemiah 5.5).
      First Maccabees reports a city that could not endure a siege because it was in the Sabbath year, when no crops were sown (Kaiser, 1170). Archaeologists have found sales contracts that explicitly state that the sale is in perpetuity and not subject to the Jubilee provisions (Joel Shuman, conversation).
      “Worldly treasures will all pass away” (“And So It Goes”). Yet, rather than embracing the truly subversive and counter cultural call of God, with its concrete economic and ethical implications, Israel bowed down to “Mammon”, the demon-god of wealth and security. Of course, they are not alone in doing so. Anyone else willing to be honest?
      “Proclaim liberty throughout the land” (Leviticus 25.10). Inscription on the Liberty Bell (Kaiser, 1172). It is the American myth that we are the “land of opportunity”, that any person who works hard can make her own fortune. And every election cycle we repeat the old debate about limits to capitalism – whether or not they actually protect and promote opportunity for all. In our nation, we have many persons trapped in the cycles of poverty, without land or home to call their own, simply trying to stave off eviction or foreclosure. And, we have many others who pose as middle class but are enslaved by debt. Both parties appeal to the hard working people of our nation for their vote, but as a nation we continue to fail to “proclaim liberty throughout the land”, at least if that is to be assessed by the promise of Jubilee.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Jared Boxes - VBS Mission Project

This year’s project was to create “Jared boxes”. The first box was created by a mom whose son, Jared, had to sit for long hours while he waited for his medical treatments. She thought that the activity box would help occupy other children who were dealing with long-term illnesses. A Jared box is a shoe-sized box or container filled with small activity books, playdough, and toys (safe for small children).