Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Nothing Left: The Elijah Cycle (1)

2016/05/29 Christ Church, Mountain Top (Memorial Day weekend)
Call to Worship, Psalm 30
Children, 1 Kings 17.1-7
Message, 1 Kings 17.8-24

Richness of the story in itself, e.g.
      Elijah’s audacious request of the widow
      Her unknown reasoning for complying
            What the hell?
            We’re going to die anyway
It is the LORD God of Israel who has withheld the rain, this is my chance to LIVE
“I have commanded a widow to feed you” – Did she know in advance? (Ephrem the Syrian, ACCS OT V, 104)

Echoes of Moses:
Battle with the gods of Egypt (Leithart, 127), as plagues/Moses
Baal the sky god, sender of the rain
“When there is drought, it is presumed that death … has been victorious and that Baal is dead” (Seow, 126)

Echoes in later Scripture:
Amos 8:11-12  The time is surely coming, says the Lord GOD, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.  12 They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it.
“Famine of hearing the word of the LORD” enacted by Elijah leaving Israel for brook Cherith (Leithart, 126).

Friday, May 27, 2016

Congo Evangelist and Dissident Released

Vano Kalembe Kiboko, a United Methodist lay evangelist, prays in civilian prison in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He led hundreds of people to Christ while in prison himself. UMNS photo courtesy of the Rev. Kiboko I. Kiboko.
By Heather Hahn
May 9, 2016 | PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS)

A political dissident who led a prison revival is now free in his native Democratic Republic of Congo after 16 months behind bars — the past four in a military prison.
Vano Kalembe Kiboko — a United Methodist lay evangelist, businessman and former congressman in Congo — was detained on what the watchdog group Human Rights Watch called “trumped-up charges.”
That all changed May 5, when authorities released Kiboko.  
For his sister — the Rev. J. Kabamba Kiboko, a member of the Texas Conference who also serves on the Judicial Council, The United Methodist Church’s top court — his 492 days in prison made her feel like both of them were in a deep pit.
“I felt trapped, but I was in prayer, and that’s where he and I were together, strong together,” she told United Methodist News Service. “I felt when he was low and I could feel it when God was comforting him. God was comforting me, too.”

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Giving Circle, message and worship

Full worship service in video, including youth on piano, children at the altar, and message by Pastor JP.

2016/05/22 Christ Church, Mountain Top
Call to Worship, Psalm 8
Children, Matthew 14 (feeding of 5000)
Message, John 16.12-15

Holy Trinity
      Father, Son, Holy Spirit
      One God, eternally existent in three co-equal persons
      Sending (noticed last week)
            Of the Son, of the Spirit
Last week, Pentecost, from this same context (John 14)
      Spirit of God as a personal gift to the people of God
      Anticipating Trinity Sunday
This week, Trinity
      The larger giving cycle, one half of which Jesus describes here
      Father > Son > Spirit > Church
            What is God’s is OURS!
James 1:17  Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights

Great Schism of 1054 & Trinitarian theology
      Filioque controversy
      “from the Father and the Son” – Catholic, West
      “from the Father through the Son” – Orthodox, East
      This text, and context, mostly supports the Eastern view
Tomato, tomato?
      Divisions in the UMC today
      General Conference
            29 missionaries from 11 countries to 16 countries
            5 new bishops in Africa, beginning 2020
            Provisional annual conference in Southeast Asia & Mongolia

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Letter from the Council of Bishops

To the people of The United Methodist Church:
The Council of Bishops brings you greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has called us to be servant leaders of the church. In 1812, Bishop Francis Asbury, Bishop William McKendree and General Conference Secretary Daniel Hitt sent the first letter to churches following General Conference. This letter seeks to revive that tradition. Many bishops will also be communicating individually with their own areas.
Hundreds of lay and clergy delegates from around the world gathered in Portland, Oregon, along with bishops and pastors, church members and staff, volunteers and visitors, to engage in Christian conferencing, to make decisions for our church’s future, to affirm our global connection, to worship and to celebrate God’s faithfulness.
We celebrated the success of our Imagine No Malaria initiative, which seeks to raise $75 million in the fight against malaria, a disease that takes the life of a child in Africa every two minutes. We celebrated our ecumenical partnerships as we move in to full Communion with the Uniting Church in Sweden and toward full Communion with the Moravian church. We celebrated our heritage: the 250th anniversary of our oldest church, John Street United Methodist Church, the 200th anniversary of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the 150th anniversary of United Methodist Women, the 25th anniversary of Africa University and others.
We continued in our acts of repentance with a presentation from the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes about the Methodist involvement in the 1864 Sand Creek massacre. We shared in the consecration of deaconesses and home missioners and the commissioning of missionaries. We moved toward a global Book of Discipline and global Social Principles. We voted to add five new bishops in Africa after 2020, and approved a church wide study on our ecclesiology.
The Episcopal address set the tone for the event, focusing on humility and lifting up our accomplishments. We heard from our laity an invitation to members to be more involved in making disciples and getting involved in ministries to bring the love of Christ to others. We heard our young people say they “are engaged in Christ’s journey with energy and love.” We also heard them say clearly that they do not want a divided church and urged us to "be in unity even if we do not have unanimity." They give us hope for our future.
The body had difficult and challenging work before it as we acknowledged our differences over human sexuality. Amidst those differences, the delegates affirmed they want their bishops to lead and we found ourselves with an opportunity for a holy moment. We spoke candidly about what divides us and what our church might look like in the future if we dared to consider new possibilities. We offered a way forward, postponing decisions about sexuality matters and committing to having a different kind of global conversation that allows all voices to be heard.
Our differences do not keep us from being the body of Christ. They do not keep us from doing good in the world. They do not keep us from making a difference – and so we set forth bold new goals: to make a million new disciples of Jesus Christ; to engage 3 million new people to make a difference in the world; to transform 400 communities for vital abundant living; to reach a million children with lifesaving health interventions; and to double the number of vital congregations.
Most importantly, we affirmed our commitment to stay united. We proved that we are more than debates and divisions, more than rules and resolutions. We stood together as the body of Christ. As we reflect on our time in Portland, our prayer is for unity in the church for the advancement of our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
As John Wesley reminded us, “Best of all, God is with us.”
Signed on behalf of the Council of Bishops,
Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the Council

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Uprooted Syrians

Aise is 7 years-old. Her parents struggled for years during the civil war in Syria. All of her family members have to work to cover the rent, and other life expenses. Food packages from UMCOR are helping to bring relief to uprooted families. Photo: IBC

Aise is 7 years-old. Her parents struggled for years during the civil war in Syria. All of her family members have to work to cover the rent, and other life expenses. Food packages from UMCOR are helping to bring relief to uprooted families. Photo: IBC
By David Tereshchuk*
April 12, 2016—As the complex conflict in Syria surpasses its fifth full year, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is continuing its aid for Syrians forced to flee their strife-torn homes.
UMCOR, through its partners, is extending assistance to those displaced within Syria and those who have fled to neighboring countries and beyond.
In a district north of Damascus, the Syrian capital, UMCOR is working with a trusted regional partner, International Blue Crescent (IBC), to supply some 1,000 displaced families with urgently needed food packages.
“Many of these internally displaced persons [IDPs] have been made homeless multiple times, but due to repeated shifts in the fighting, they often are much more difficult to reach and support,” noted Laurie Felder, executive secretary for UMCOR International Disaster Response.
In March, the Syrian conflict marked its fifth anniversary. A ceasefire brokered earlier this year and that went into effect on February 27 continues to hold, allowing space for increased humanitarian assistance. But, as the United Nations noted, “intermittent fighting, shifting conflict lines and persisting deprivation have continued to displace people across the country.”
UMCOR is partnering with the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) to help uprooted Syrians on the outskirts of Damascus find housing and pay the rent. Because of the conflict, housing is scarce and livelihoods remain in upheaval. This partnership offers protection to a vulnerable population, while also respecting and acknowledging their human dignity.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Gift of the Spirit (2016-0515)

2016/05/15 Christ Church, Mountain Top, Pentecost
Call to Worship, Psalm 104.24-35
Children, Acts 2.1-21
Message, John 14.8-27

Pentecost: My focus on mission, church growth, and powerful “manifestations” of the Spirit
      3000 added to their number
      # baptized (110)
      # new members (165)
      Christ Church, new members 2429 (historically)
John 14:12  Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
      Youth, last week, Ascension theme
      Practical dimensions of that theme
            Ruth’s Place
            Broken hearts & families

This passage is focused elsewhere:
      The Spirit as Gift, as a personal gift to the people of God

Monday, May 16, 2016

Young People Speak at General Conference

Chelsea Spyres of the Peninsula-Deleware Conference helps deliver the young people's address during the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

 Peter Cibuabua of the Central Congo Conference helps deliver the young people's address during the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS
These two young people were nurtured, live and serve half a world apart; yet, they professed a common message, “Be like Jesus and build relationships and love before anything else.”

Spyres grew up in Delaware and now serves as a missionary in Detroit. She explained that she began attending her home congregation at a young age with her grandmother, Nana. Church camp and mission work followed during her teen years. Spyres spoke of her appreciation for the nurture she continues to receive from her home congregation in Newark, Delaware. “That family of faith allowed me to see how powerful the body of Christ can be, when the church is looking outwardly more than inwardly,” she said.

What she learned from them about “the power of relationships” carried her to commissioning as a Global Mission Fellow (US2) in 2014. She credits her service at NOAH Project in downtown Detroit for showing her how powerful love really is. “Every day I get a glimpse of the Kin-dom here on earth through a bagged lunch and stories shared.”

Chibuabua is from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. His faith story began in a Muslim household.

“But it happened that I began studying in one of the United Methodist schools in my home village,” he said. His decision to start attending a United Methodist church made him “like a stranger in my own house.” Eventually, he was baptized and confirmed. Like Spryes, Chibuabua notes, “I loved the preaching about love and grace.”

Today Chibuabua is the evangelism chairperson and president of the young people’s ministry in his conference, showing others “when we have love, we can live above and beyond any situation with a neighbor.” Teaching English, speaking on the Methodist Radio and cleaning the church “are still my favorite work in life,” he noted.

Read the rest of the story.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Youth Sunday, Scripture and Dialogue

Gypsy Moth update, from the expert

From our own environmental scientist, Mike Case:

Regarding the gypsy moth egg cases, it is good that you could remove some. Remember that many cases are cryptic (underneath things, in trunk crevasses, etc.) The caterpillars are now emerging as 2 mm long instars, climbing to the tops of trees on the nearby Nescopeck ridge and dispersing on 20 cm silk threads on the wind. The babies are all over our farm now, blown in from Nescopeck Mt. ridge. In about 5 days, they will start feeding. So, if you have any favorite small trees on your property, now is the time to buy some BT (Bacillus thurengensis) concentrate and spray when you are sure it is not going to rain for a couple of days. The BT spores are ingested by the caterpillars as they eat the leaves. The BT (which is organic approved) will kill the caterpillars within 24 hours.

There is nothing you can do to protect the canopy of larger trees. However, the caterpillars when large will migrate down (or up) the trunk some. So, a band of some sticky tape (like Duct Tape) or sticky roll of material that you can buy at Agway or a garden store might help a little bit. Realistically, there is a tremendous reproductive potential in the number of egg cases and dispersal conditions this year. The only thing that might collapse the population now is a 32 F night with some rain or cold snow.

Probably in about 5-10 days people are really going to start to notice the impacts of the defoliation and start calling the local TV stations. They will do some investigation and maybe talk to a few scientists like me only to discover the inadequacies and crazy expense to landowners of the PA aerial spraying program. The practical and scientific reality is that PA forestry resources are a contiguous, integrated system which are important to the whole state. Piecemeal treatments of selected blocks of land for landowners who can afford the cost of aerial spraying do not address the issue of long-distance aerial dispersal of the caterpillar larvae early in the game. Luzerne County opted out of the spray program 2 years ago. Now, Keri Skevarla, one of my former students and head of the county spray program, is trying to catch them up.

So, pray for 32 F and a light snow!  

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Protecting patients at Mary Johnston Hospital, the Philippines

Last May, when 72 people died in a factory fire in the Philippines, the world grieved. This was just one event in a series of natural and man-made disasters that the Philippines has experienced in the past. So, disaster preparedness has become a national concern and priority. 

The Health System Strengthening program of Global Health is working to eliminate one potential fire hazard and threat that currently exists at Mary Johnston Hospital, a 120-bed United Methodist teaching hospital located in the Tondo area in the city of Manila. 

The hospital, built 110 years ago, is not equipped with the proper fire safety measures in compliance with new government requirements and regulations. And, due to the close proximity of the hospital to residential buildings, a potential fire could not only threaten the hospital but its patients, staff, neighboring homes, and an entire community of nearly 26,000 residents who rely on the hospital’s vital health services. 

In response, Global Health is partnering with Mary Johnston Hospital to provide the necessary funding to ensure this United Methodist hospital has what it needs to protect its patients and community. 

The funding will support the installation of a hospital-wide automatic sprinkler system, as well as an access ramp that will extend from the ground floor to the third floor, providing a pathway in emergency situations for non-ambulatory patients. 

Your gifts to Global Health, Advance #3021770 makes projects like this possible, protecting the lives of vulnerable populations and their basic access to healthcare.

The rest of the story...

Friday, May 6, 2016

Victory for the Hopeful

2016/05/01 Christ Church, Mountain Top, Easter 5
Call to Worship, Psalm 98 (only for Sunday night)
Children, Matthew 16.13-27
Message, Revelation 19.1-21 (11-21)
Song, “In the Night”, entire song

We react against some of these images, especially the gory “repellant realism” of the war language (Metzger, 92). We take it too literally, that is, we take it literally in a way that figurative language never intended. We write it off as inconsistent with the love of God (the wedding language in the first half of the chapter). We push it off to a future that is disconnected from us, either by creating a false distance by pinning down and objectifying the dates and details of 666, the identity of the antichrist, and Armageddon; by focusing the apocalyptic language on flesh and blood enemies or social issues of our time; or by consigning it to a future that will never arrive. (After all, it hasn’t happened yet.)
      A side note here. The Scriptures make clear that we are at war. “Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10.3-5). “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6.12-13). “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning” (Luke 10.18).
      If our understanding of the salvation war we see in John’s vision does not include spiritual forces, including our pride, our wayward thoughts, and Satan, then it lacks the robust and complete picture that John offers.