Saturday, April 30, 2016

Music and Memory

By Kara Witherow, Editor

There’s something about music that can instantly change a mood or transport a person to another place and time, rekindling memories long forgotten. 

There’s also evidence that music helps people suffering from dementia. As theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Music . . . in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” 

Rufus Jones, a resident of Blair House Senior Living Community, a senior living facility in Macon, is a former musician who played with the likes of Otis Redding, James Brown, and others of that era. He cried when recently given an iPod shuffle filled with soul and rhythm and blues music.

A patient in Blair House’s Memory Care Unit, Jones received the iPod as part of Centenary United Methodist Church’s Music and Memory Project, a ministry that provided the music players and 20 songs free of charge to each of the unit’s 40 residents.

“He truly came alive when he heard it,” said Caroline Nickel, one of the Music and Memory Program’s founders. “He smiled, cried, and chatted about his days as a musician. He was very happy.”

For the rest of the story ...

Sierra Leone Initiative - Partnership, Church Growth, Ebola, More

We were blessed to hear from Phileas and Daisy, from the Sierra Leone, and Pam - local chair of the Sierra Leone Initiative. So glad they could be with us, telling stories of the church growing and of the response to the Ebola outbreak.

Mercy for the Condemned: In the Night My Hope Lives On (#3, 2016-0417)

(Note: Video did not work that Sunday.)
Call to Worship, Psalm 32
Children, Luke 15.1-7
Message, John 8.2-11
Song, “In the Night”, vv 5-6, 7-8

Song: In the Night (Andrew Peterson), including lyrics below
Like the son who thought he'd gone beyond forgiveness,
Too ashamed to lift his head--but if he could lift his head
He would see his father running from a distance
In the night my hope lives on

And I can see the crowd of men retreating
As he stands between the woman and their stones
And if mercy in his holy heart is beating
Then in the night my hope lives on

Well, I remember how they scorned the son of Mary
He was gentle as a lamb, gentle as a lamb
He was beaten, he was crucified, and buried
And in the night, my hope was gone

But the rulers of this earth could not control Him
No they did not take his life--he laid it down
And all the chains of death could never hope to hold him
So in the night my hope lives on

We could talk about
·       How hypocritical and judgmental religious people can be
·       The hatred and mistreatment of women, particularly in view of the fact that the law of Moses said that not only should you kill a woman caught in adultery – but the man as well
·       The unique way that Jesus cared for both the accused woman –and her accusers. He didn’t stare them down, he just bent over and kept doodling in the dirt.
·       Specific qualifications often attached to this story, that Jesus is neither abolishing capital punishment in general nor softening prohibitions against marital infidelity
·       The interesting textual history of this particular “floating” story that also appears in some ancient copies of Luke’s gospel and is missing in the earliest copies of John’s
·       The many theories about what Jesus was writing, including a fun one by Frederick Bruner (Gospel of John, 505-6): He was buying time as he formulated his response. Yesterday, at opening day, girls drawing and writing in the dugout dirt …
But no. Today, I want to talk about one particular feature of condemnation in the experience of the condemned – Shame.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Life for the Dying: In the Night My Hope Lives On (#4, 2016-0424)

Call to Worship, Psalm 100
Children, John 10.1-18
Message, Revelation 5.1-14, with John 10
Song, “In the Night”, vv 3-4, 7-8

Song: In the Night (Andrew Peterson), including lyrics below
I see the slave that toils beneath the yoke unyielding
And I can hear the captive groan, hear the captive groan
For some hand to stay the whip his foe is wielding
Still in the night my hope lives on

I see the armies of the enemy approaching
And the people driven, trembling, to the shore
But a doorway through the waters now is opening
So in the night my hope lives on
      Oh in the night …

Well, I remember how they scorned the son of Mary
He was gentle as a lamb, gentle as a lamb
He was beaten, he was crucified, and buried
And in the night, my hope was gone

But the rulers of this earth could not control Him
No they did not take his life--he laid it down
And all the chains of death could never hope to hold him
So in the night my hope lives on

My need to hear and preach this
      Crave the story and hope of resurrection
      And my inability to do so – lack understanding, face death
Death is such a present reality
      All of us are dying
      Life is a terminal disease
I am grieving

Monday, April 25, 2016

World Malaria Day

Brussels: Mission and Fear

People gather at a memorial in Brussels for those killed and injured in Tuesday's terrorist attacks. Photo by Miguel Discart, Wikimedia Commons
By Linda Bloom
March 23, 2016 | NEW YORK (UMNS)
For one young adult serving as a United Methodist mission volunteer in Brussels, the deadly terrorist attacks on the city’s airport and subway system has led to a new description of his ministry: “missioning with fear.”
Nicodemus “Nick” T. Doe, a Global Mission Fellow from Liberia assigned to the Churches Commission on Migrants in Europe, noted that even though Christians believe “God is our protector” and that he is with us to the end, the March 22 tragedy in Brussels brought fear and sorrow.
“The situation is cooling down,” he wrote in an email to United Methodist News Service, “but I’m still ‘missioning with fear,’ fear with how one can move from one place to another without terror.
“My heart is filled with fear, but also with hope and courage that God can and will help prevent such horrible acts from happening again in Brussels and the country at large, including other parts of the world.”
The subway bombing was at a Metro station near the commission’s office where he works, Doe said. Other faith-based, nongovernmental organizations also have offices at the Ecumenical Center.
“My prayers and thoughts are with the immediately victims and their family for God’s comfort and peace and his mercy for both the victims and perpetrators of the attacks,” Doe added.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Nyadire satellite clinics

Patients wait in the sheltered outpatients bay at Nyahuku Clinic. Improvements at the satellite clinic of the United Methodist Nyadire Mission Hospital will help meet the demands of the 14 villages in the area. Photo by Eveline Chikwanah, UMNS
By Eveline Chikwanah
April 12, 2016 | NYAHUKU, Zimbabwe (UMNS)
A group of young men huddle under a tree near the school entrance, each intent on the mobile phone in their hands.  Some are typing messages; others are speaking on the phone.
Welcome to Nyahuku. In the remote community in northeastern Zimbabwe, elephants are frequently seen, and wandering off the dusty road could be fatal because land mines from the country’s liberation war still litter the mountainous terrain. About 240 kilometers (149 miles) from the capital city of Harare, The United Methodist Church is providing quality medical care to a community so rural that the only access to the country’s mobile phone network can be found under a single tree.
“The United Methodist Church does not only preach the word of God, we want to ensure the community has access to modern health facilities,” said the Rev. Elias Mutasa, Mutoko-Mudzi district superintendent.
With assistance from The Nyadire Connection, a non-profit organization founded by a group of United Methodists in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the church is expanding and upgrading the buildings at Nyahuku Clinic. The improvements at the satellite clinic of the United Methodist Nyadire Mission will help meet the demands of the 14 villages in the area.
The connection has already upgraded the Chikwizo Clinic and plans to improve four other clinics operated by the mission hospital, for a total of six clinic rennovations. 
Desmond Pawandiwa, nurse-in-charge of Nyahuku Clinic, said malaria, sore eyes due to allergies related to dust and pollen, and diarrhea were the most prevalent illnesses treated at the clinic.
“There is poor sanitation and people drink water from the river, a source which they share with domestic livestock, resulting in a high number of people suffering from diarrhea,” said Pawandiwa.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Abundant Health: Our Promise to Children

Serving Jesus by Serving Others

On March 13, Conference Youth teamed up with Mission Central for a day of service and volunteering at Mission Central and at various HUBs.   One of the youth, Morgan Robinette, from the State College District, wrote the following of their day:

On Sunday, March 13, 2016, over 150 youth and adults came together at five different locations throughout the Conference to serve in mission.  The Young People’s Ministry Council partnered with Mission Central and four HUBs; Altoona, Covenant Helping Hands, Shoemaker and Gethsemane, to offer an afternoon of hands on service for youth groups in the Conference.  There was definitely an atmosphere of enthusiasm in all five locations, as dozens of young people formed connections and friendships, as they served alongside one another.  Each location offered a variety of ways for the youth to be in service, including packing UMCOR health and school kits, assembling home relocation supplies and even some painting.  In between projects, the youth also participated in games and activities, which offered some newer perspectives on the act of serving others.
The youth of the YPMC lead a time of devotion and reflection, encouraging attendees to consider the challenge found in James 2:16-17, “What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.”  The youth shared personal experiences of both meeting another’s needs, as well as having their needs met during a time of trial.  Different ways for young people to serve in everyday life were also discussed and before leaving, the youth were presented with a challenge to make any place a mission field.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

You Can't Stop Resurrection

Thanks to Joel Shuman for stepping in at the last minute and preaching for us on April 3, the day after my father-in-law died. Appreciate that kind of flexibility and the gift of his message.

Acts 5:27-32
John 20:19-32

When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour, so that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’

The bad news is that I did not learn I was preaching this morning until yesterday afternoon around 5:00. The good news is that I had spent time over the second half of last week reading and commenting, as I often do, on the sermon of a far better preacher than I am, from whom I am going to borrow shamelessly this morning. God bless her sweet little heart, as they might say down where she lives.

During the just-completed Lenten season, we spent a good deal of time in the Gospel according to Saint Luke, where, as you may have noticed, the gospel of the kingdom tends to be disruptive. Beginning with the Angel Gabriel’s annunciation of the incarnation to the girl Mary and the revolutionary battle cry of a song she sung out in response and concluding with the arrest, execution, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the proclamation that the kingdom of God has broken into history and is even now among us turns all manner of things over onto their heads, from people’s lives to their ideas about what is possible to the social, economic, and even the political order. The gospel of the kingdom of God and the one who proclaimed and embodied it leave virtually nothing in Creation unaffected. It—he—transforms us, which is, in spite of the fact that it can be oh so discomfiting, a very good thing.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

"Bashert" (Destiny) and Doubt

This is my first time writing a God Moment.  I was raised in a Jewish household among very culturally Jewish people.  My father, the child of Holocaust survivors, was born in Israel and immigrated to this country in 1960.  My mother’s family had been in this country for several generations and had been critical to the construction of several important synagogues in Brooklyn, New York.  For most Americans, my family would be broadly painted as Jewish.  Yet for us, we were a mixed family.  On one side, I have a grandmother who was enslaved, beaten and tortured as a young child during the Holocaust, while on the other side I have a grandmother who was one of the first women to attend Stern Business School at NYU.
The differences are most apparent in how the two sides of the family speak and how they refer to God.  My immigrant family speaks eight languages; the eighth being English.  My American-born family speaks English primarily and can understand bits and pieces of other languages.  This contrast alludes to a greater counterintuitive vein which sustains either group.  My father’s family, the survivors of one of the worst genocides in human history, whose survival is nothing less than a feat of chance and luck, do not believe in God and are at the same time vehemently atheistic and Zionist.  My mother’s family observed the Sabbath, kept a kosher household, and regularly attended synagogue.
This contradiction in faiths, within a culturally ancient brand, laid the foundation for an existence of questioning everything both Jewish and religious.  A caveat to this line of thinking is that in Judaism, questioning the very existence of god is considered a form of prayer. The debate and Socratic dialogue between oneself and their conscience is encouraged. Thus, from the perspective of my religious family, denying the existence of God in many ways was a means of connecting to their own Creator.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Sunday message and worship, 2016-0410

Children at the Altar, Anthem, and Message (with song)

ReThink Easter: In the Night My Hope Lives On 
      #2, Victory for the Fearful
2016/04/10 Christ Church, Mountain Top, Easter 3
Call to Worship, Psalm 46
Children, Genesis 32
Message, 2 Kings 6.8-23
Song, “In the Night”, vv 1-2, 7-8

Song: In the Night (Andrew Peterson), including lyrics below
I am weary with the pain of Jacob's wrestling
In the darkness with the Fear, in the darkness with the Fear
But he met the morning wounded with a blessing
So in the night my hope lives on

When Elisha woke surrounded by the forces
Of the enemies of God, the enemies of God
He saw the hills aflame with angels on their horses
So in the night my hope lives on

Well, I remember how they scorned the son of Mary
He was gentle as a lamb, gentle as a lamb
He was beaten, he was crucified, and buried
And in the night, my hope was gone

But the rulers of this earth could not control Him
No they did not take his life--he laid it down
And all the chains of death could never hope to hold him
So in the night my hope lives on

Friday, April 15, 2016

Pope Francis greets Methodist leaders

Dear brothers and sisters,
I offer warm greetings to you in this Easter season, as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord who enlightens the whole world. We come together united in the faith that Jesus is Lord and that God has raised him from the dead. This baptismal faith makes us truly brothers and sisters. I greet also the bodies that you represent: the World Methodist Council, the Methodist Council of Europe and the Methodist Church in Britain.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

United Methodist Church sheltering farmers and protesters in the Philippines

More than 100 people joined the vigil in front of the Central United Methodist Church on April 3, to pray for farmers and Lumads who were asking for rice and protesting treatment from the government.
By Gladys Mangiduyos and Kathy L. Gilbert
April 4, 2016 | MANILA, Philippines (UMNS)
A United Methodist Church compound is giving sanctuary to 4,000 farmers and indigenous people after a protest for food relief turned deadly on April 1.
Three protesters were killed and more than 100 injured when security forces fired on the crowd blocking a major highway. Protesters poured into the Spottswood Methodist Mission Center for refuge and the compound is now surrounded by police. Police conducted a search of those at the Spottswood Methodist Mission Center on April 2 but no guns were found.
Manila Area United Methodist Bishop Rodolfo A. Juan condemned the search and threats to Davao Episcopal Area Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco in an April 6 statement.
Juan said Francisco is "being threatened and harrassed for harboring 'illegal protesters.' " He called on United Methodists everywhere to support the farmers and uphold them in prayer. 
Juan led a candlelight ceremony on April 3 to pray for the farmers and Lumads, an indigenous people of the Philippines. More than 100 people joined the vigil in front of the Central United Methodist Church.

10 Fascinating Facts about John Wesley

History is more than facts and figures. It is full of real people with real stories. Connecting with those people and stories helps us understand our lives and discern God’s direction for our future. That is why it is important constantly to connect our teaching back to the important people in our history. To help you do that, we have gathered some interesting, and maybe even surprising, facts about John Wesley to help you connect United Methodist history to your next lesson.

1. John Wesley wrote one of the all-time bestselling medical texts.

Wesley was deeply convicted that God is concerned about our earthly life as well as our heavenly one. To that end, he wrote a medical text for the everyday person titled Primitive Physick. Check out Global Ministries’ summary or read the full version. The book detailed the current knowledge about home remedies and went through 32 editions, making it one of the most widely read books in England....

2. John Wesley coined the term “agree to disagree.”

Over the years, Wesley had serious theological differences with another popular pastor named George Whitefield. Though they both argued passionately, Wesley reflected on these differences in a memorial sermon for Whitefield by saying:  “There are many doctrines of a less essential nature. ... In these, we may think and let think; we may 'agree to disagree.' But, meantime, let us hold fast the essentials. …” This appears to be the first recorded use of the term. It was a hallmark of Wesley’s way of holding to his convictions while remaining in connection with those with whom he disagreed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Development in South Sudan

Since 2006, UMCOR has addressed the needs of conflict-affected communities and vulnerable groups in South Sudanthrough the provision of basic services and sustainable livelihood opportunities.

Now, a new UMCOR project, Yei’s Voice, will engage and empower local communities in Lasu Payam, Yei River County, to participate in the planning and development of their own community needs. Through this pilot project, UMCOR will facilitate technical knowledge to help communities identify and meet their needs. Areas of focus might include sustainable agriculture and food security; economic recovery and livelihoods; water, sanitation, and hygiene; education; or disaster risk reduction.

Read more.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

North of the Arctic Circle, a thriving church

Hammerfest, Norway, is home to the world’s northernmost United Methodist ministry. Photo by Karl Anders Ellingsen
By Johanna Lundereng and Karl Anders Ellingsen
March 15, 2016 | HAMMERFEST, Norway (UMNS)
The Rev. Per Bradley is exactly where he wants to be — “back home” in Hammerfest, Norway, serving the world’s northernmost United Methodist ministry.
Bradley is just a stone’s throw from the North Cape where he spent his early childhood. Despite being far north of the Arctic Circle, the harbor remains ice free because of the Gulf Stream. Hammerfest is home to some 10,000 people.
Six years ago, as Bradley signed up for a work placement for his seminary parish studies, he applied to join the ministry in Hammerfest. Bradley was excited about the possibilities.
“The work placement, gave me a taste for more of the ministry — and they expressed a desire for me to come back to them. Pastor Leif Anders Hansen was about to end his service at the same time as I was starting mine, so we both got what we wanted,” Bradley said.
Hammerfest proved a good fit for Bradley. The church’s former pastor mentored the newcomer, while giving him complete responsibility.
Per and his wife, Hanne Bradley, arrived in Hammerfest to a warm reception from both the congregation and the city. “Many … stepped up and helped us settle here,” Bradley said.
Today Hammerfest is a church on the move.
Initially, Bradley said, “I sensed the ministry was in the middle of a generational shift.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Crown Him Lord This Easter Day

ReThink Easter: In the Night My Hope Lives On

Some problems with the video, but most of it can be heard.

ReThink Easter: In the Night My Hope Lives On 
2016/03/27 Christ Church, Mountain Top, Easter, Lord’s Table
Call to Worship, Psalm 118, selections
Children, John 20.1-18
Message, Luke 24.13-49

Resurrection is TOUGH material!
      For some, Resurrection belongs to the same conceptual category as an egg-laying bunny or a calcium-crazed pixie.
      For others, Resurrection conjures up memories of wishful thinking, overly happy people who are ignorant of reality and who rabidly squash dissenting views of their distorted magical world.

The fact is that resurrection was given to people who did not expect it, were not looking for it, and did not – at first – believe what they experienced: “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe” (Luke 24.25). Later in the story, “In their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering” (24.41).
      The fact is that resurrection was given to people in their darkest night. Luke’s version of the Easter Sunday morning story has angels asking the women, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (24.5). Simple answer: Because we aren’t looking for a living person, but a dead person. We are here to grieve. Little did they know ….

Wednesday, my first run in a very long time
      Occasional surprise of the 25-year-old hotshot
      Comeback player of the year, down but not out
      Story that hints at Resurrection
We love stories that hint at Resurrection because we crave Resurrection itself.
      Crave it like the Looney Toons craved a drink from “Michael [Jordan]’s Secret Stuff” in the Space Jam movie. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Touching Africa

I am a volunteer with the American Foundation for Children with AIDS, based out of Harrisburg, PA.  In addition to sending life-saving medicine, we also send 4 or 5 cargo containers full of medical supplies and equipment to our partner clinics in Africa each year.
Mission Central is one of our biggest suppliers of medical supplies.  I make the trip to Mission Central in Mechanicsburg about once a month to pick up hospital beds, adult diapers, sterile operating drapes, crutches, canes, wheel chairs, potty-seats and orthopedic supplies.  Ray Harden and Jean Norris know what AFCA needs and these items are held for us until the time when I can come to pick them up.  These two people are our ‘eyes and ears on the inside’ for AFCA.
Last summer, a doctor’s office closed down and all of the supplies ended up at Mission Central.  There must have been over 150 boxes of supplies.  I received a call that these items were up for grabs so I arrived at Mission Central the very next day, gathering the things most useful to AFCA.  What makes this situation so special is this came at a time when AFCA was desperate for supplies and we were thinking about postponing the next container.  However, due to Mission Central’s flood of supplies, we were able to send that container right on schedule.  As always, God’s timing is perfect!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Bearing Witness in Pakistan

Insar Gohar and his wife, Uzma Insar, greet directors and staff of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries in New York in April 2014. Photo by Cassandra Heller, Global Ministries
By Linda Bloom
March 10, 2016 | NEW YORK (UMNS)
Like most Christians in Pakistan, Insar Gohar can trace his family’s faith commitment back at least four or five generations.
But that heritage — spread by missionaries during British rule in the second half of the 19th century — also sets them apart in the eyes of Pakistan’s majority Muslim population, he says.
“Because Christianity came in Pakistan through the colonizers, even today the Muslims of Pakistan associate Christianity as a western religion,” Gohar told United Methodist News Service, adding that Pakistan’s Christians often are considered westerners themselves. “This is why sometimes we also face discrimination and sometimes persecution.”
Gohar, 43, who is in the first year of a three-year master of divinity program at United Methodist Claremont School of Theology in southern California, has been the youth officer for the Diocese of Peshawar, Church of Pakistan.
Since evangelism and religious conversion is difficult and even dangerous, few have publicly joined their ranks since the partition of Pakistan and India in 1947, Gohar noted. The Church of Pakistan was formed in 1970 when four denominations — Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran and Scottish Presbyterian — united to give cohesion to a very small religious minority in Pakistan.
Although interfaith dialogue does not have a long history in Pakistan, the Diocese of Peshawar has been involved with “Faith Friends,” a group that includes Hindus, Muslims and Christians. While such initiatives are not strong enough to stop religious intolerance, “They’re trying to do that,” he explained.

Twin bombs after Sunday worship

The church remains a target, however, and no one knows that better than Gohar, who lost two children and his mother when the All Saints Church in Peshawar, which dated from the 19th century, was bombed in September 2013. His wife, Uzma Insar, was badly injured.
“Even in the history of Pakistan, this was the most horrible attack on Christians,” he said.