Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Centurion's Faith

From the NFL to Hospital Chaplain

The Rev. Caesar Rentie, who once played offensive tackle for the Chicago Bears, now serves as vice president for pastoral services at Methodist Health System in Dallas. He’s also an associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Mansfield, Texas.  Photo by Carter Rose, for First Mansfield United Methodist.
By Sam Hodges
Oct. 24, 2017 | DALLAS (UMNS)
When football season arrives, the Rev. Caesar Rentie gets restless.
He remembers working himself into top shape so he could knock other large men around as an offensive tackle, including for the Chicago Bears.
“It’s always in my blood,” Rentie said of football.
These days, he does very different work, serving as vice president for pastoral services at Dallas-based Methodist Health System and associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Mansfield, Texas.
While there are a few former NFL players in ministry, Rentie knows of no others in hospital chaplaincy. If this weren’t distinction enough, he’s also a CODA — a child of deaf adults.
Football gave Rentie a college education and helped move him out of poverty. Growing up with deaf parents taught him to read body language closely.
That’s a plus for a chaplain.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thank You Father (Children's Choir)

Lessons from Gettysburg 2, Christ the King (2017-1126)

25-26 Nov 2017, Christ Mountain Top, Christ the King
Call to Worship, Psalm 95, p 814-815, Sung Response 2
Children, Joshua 5.13-15
Message, 1 Corinthians 15.20-28

Last week as we looked at lessons from Gettysburg, I focused on stories, primarily from the chaplains, that offer practical examples of living a spiritual life, the discipleship that we characterize here as the Life of Worship, the Community of Friends, and the Purpose of Mission. Last week was Commitment Sunday, a perfect day to focus on those lessons.
      This week is Christ the King Sunday. It falls every year on the final Sunday before Advent. But, because it either precedes or follows the Thanksgiving holiday, we generally ignore its basic themes in favor of messages on thankful living. Two weeks ago, we talked about the themes “Thanks” and “Giving” from Matthew 6, two themes Jesus lifts up to free us from our anxieties around stuff, two themes that help us practically “seek first the kingdom of God.” Thankful living is important, but it is not the kingdom of God itself.

The kingdom, in the language of 1 Corinthians, has a goal, an end in history. It is not simply that Jesus rules, that Jesus is in charge, that Jesus triumphs over every enemy, including death. All of that is good news, but it is not the goal. The goal is that God might be all in all. That is an expansive vision of the goal of history, a vision that unites everything and everyone, a vision in which God fills and fulfills all, a vision in which the perfect unity of the Holy Trinity is extended and made perfect in the wholeness of our broken world, our fractured societies, our damaged selves.
      In such a vision, for us to say that God is our God does not mean that we have a unique and exclusive claim to God, in the way that I have a unique and exclusive claim to my car. It means that God has a unique and exclusive claim to us. We do not have a claim upon God: that is to say, God is just as much the God of our enemies as God is ours, whether or not our enemies acknowledge God.
      We routinely divide the world up into categories of “friend” or “foe.” This is exactly what Joshua is doing when he encounters the angel of the LORD. But the LORD pulled the rug right out from under his feet: “Neither. I am here as commander of the LORD’s army.” It is dangerous for us to speak about having God on our side. God’s kingdom is much larger than even our most expansive visions and dreams. Once we are sure God is on our side we are not open to the possibility that we could be wrong.
      The stresses of the Civil War divided our nation, “friend” or “foe.” They also divided churches. The Methodist Episcopal Church (one of our ancestor denominations) had already seen our African-American brothers and sisters leave to form separate churches. In the run-up to the war, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was born. The Baptists split, therefore, the Southern Baptists. Many chaplains volunteered because they believed in the purpose of the war, Southern clergy who were supportive of slavery, Northern clergy who were abolitionists. Then, they end up visiting soldiers in the field hospitals who fought for the enemy. Older animosities, between Catholic and Protestant, persisted. Units were identified by their language and national heritage: The Flying Dutchmen, the Irish Brigade. Friend or foe, one of us or an “other.”
      Today, I want to talk about two ways we can find ourselves divided from one another – on matters of personality and on matters of conviction. Then, I want to talk about conflict and humility.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Lessons from Gettysburg 1 (Commitment Day, 2017-1119)

18-19 Nov 2017, Christ Mountain Top, Commitment Sunday
Call to Worship, Psalm 100
Children, Matthew 8.5-13
Message, 2 Chronicles 20.1-9, 13-18, 20-23
Mission Moment, Crystal-Sheila-Sheri testimony

For the hymn:
The tune for this hymn began in camp meetings and then got some new marching lyrics for the Union: “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave.” Julia Ward Howe was inspired to write new lines to the tune, which also spread through the Union Army and are still sung today. Howe was a successful and published author whose husband aspired to success as a novelist. Jealous of her success, he beat her and forbade her from writing. This hymn is not only a Union marching song and a church hymn. It is also the triumph of a battered woman, a reminder that the violence and evils we face take many different forms, many of them far too close to home.

For the posterboard testimonies:
Father William Corby describes the march north to Gettysburg, 16-18 miles a day, sometimes beginning before dawn and finishing around 11 pm. He remarked that “many … [were] dropping dead from sunstroke” (Brinsfield, 35). Then, he wrote about what he was thankful for!
Late in the evening the marching of a tired army is a sight. Even those mounted officers frequently dismount and walk to avoid falling from the horses. Many, many times I had to do so. How men live through this is a mystery. But a kind Providence pressed many of us onward and preserved us, and for this…few of us render the thanks which God has a right to expect (Brinsfield, 37).
We all have a story to tell, if we pay attention to it, that is all about God’s grace. As Joan plays, persons will come forward with posterboard testimonies, some holding the testimony they have written and some holding the testimony of someone else. Read them, rejoice, and consider how God has touched your life as well.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

God Rocks!

Pastor Robin Riley was walking his dog down the streets of Wheatland, Wyoming when he noticed out of the corner of his eye a small rock propped up against the light post. He went over and picked up the painted rock that greeted him as a colorful ladybug. He turned it over and found a written note on the back: “You rock!” it read and below that, “Wheatland Rocks” along with a date.

He took the rock back to work and talked about it with the secretary, Mandy Miller, who then told him about the new Facebook craze with kids in the region. Her son found a rock that was painted in Casper.

In Casper, people have posted pictures of rocks and the stories of how they connected with other participants. Their Facebook group boasts 7,000 members. The Wheatland page was created after one family saw a Guernsey friend’s Facebook page that had pictures of painting and hiding rocks for others to find and re-hide. “Rockin Wheatland” now has over 1,000 members. 

As Pastor Riley and his secretary were talking about the idea, they decided to participate and created “God Rocks” on the church Facebook page. They launched it with an afternoon of rock painting at church as part of the coming fall “Roundup Sunday” activities. They saw it as a great way to spread goodwill and the message of God’s grace to those in the town of 3,000.

The rest of the story.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Midwife's Story: Healthy Childbirths in Nicaragua

My name is Dominga Granado. I’m 51 years old and have been a traditional midwife for 29 years in Paraiso, Kukra River in Nicaragua. My work as a midwife allows me to give basic care to a mother before and after birth. I visit families to counsel them on safe pregnancy and childbirth. If there are complications, I refer them to a health center. If an emergency occurs, I organize the community to evacuate a pregnant woman to the health center.
I work with AMC and recently attended a six-day training at the government’s Ministry of Health center in San Francisco la Aurora. The government and AMC often work together, but through this Abundant Health initiative, they have developed a firm partnership. Together, they are helping to better equip local health clinics.
Working together
At first, I was nervous. I didn’t know how the health workers would receive me. As health professionals, would they welcome me? Would they accept my traditional practices?
I’m glad to say that my confidence and knowledge about pregnancy and childbirth grew with the support of the Ministry of Health workers. I shared my traditional work experiences, and they shared their scientific practices. We learned the value of each other’s work and realized that together we can better serve the women in our communities.
As a midwife, I learned that we lack vital information in our traditional methods. Some of these practices in our community can be harmful to the mother and baby, and this needs to change. However, there are also many positive aspects of our traditional practices, and midwives have done much to support the health of our community.

Youth Halloween Party (2)

Monday, November 20, 2017

All (2): Freedom

11-12 Nov 2017, Christ Mountain Top
Call to Worship, Psalm 126
Children, Matthew 19.16-30
Message, Matthew 6.18-34
Mission Moment, Gary Shupp testimony

Me and my blood test – prying my fingers open
Proverbs 30:15  The leech has two daughters; "Give, give," they cry.
      Bondage to fear, anxiety
      Living defensively

Last week, first half of the chapter:
      Spirituality is not about performance – praying, fasting, giving
            “to be noticed” = Greek, theater
            “hypocrite” = Greek, actor
      Spirituality is not about manipulation or control
            “they have been paid in full”
      Spirituality is about devotion to God
            Because God is devoted to us

This week, second half of the chapter, specifically addressing connections between wealth and anxiety, a very interesting nexus. There are four parts, which Frederick Bruner describes as
            The two treasures
            The two eyes
            The two lords
            The two anxieties (Bruner, 319)

This freedom in our seasonal themes: Thanks, Giving.

Sunday School Bells: Jesus Loves Me

Friday, November 17, 2017

Norway to Liberia: Let there be Light

Children sing during a celebration marking the gift of solar power, funded by the United Methodist Church in Norway, to the Bishop Judith Craig Children Village in Liberia.
By Julu Swen
Nov. 9, 2017 | MONROVIA, Liberia (UMNS)
The Bishop Judith Craig Children’s Village is now washed with light from more than $35,000 worth of solar-powered electricity donated by The United Methodist Church in Norway.
The lights enabled by the electricity will enhance the lives of the children, students and the surrounding community of Juazon, home to the village.
“With this electricity, our lives will be improved, including the security of our facilities,” said the Rev. Robert N. Sieh, director of the children’s village.
... “The village and the people of the village is all that the children have, and it is not the will of God that anyone should be poor,” Skjorshammer said, challenging the church to open the doors of opportunity for the children to step through.

Confirmation Class to Philly

St George's Church, with a communion chalice given by John Wesley (founder of Methodism) and historical reenactors. Liberty Bell. Great time. Thanks to Kim for organizing!

Youth Halloween Party (1)

Lots of fun!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Giving Thanks (Turkey Dinner Edition)

We here at Christ Church have something special going on. When the yellow sheets go out looking for help for our Annual Turkey Dinner, I’ve learned not to get nervous in the numbers early on, because come the first Saturday in November, the total response is unbelievable.
               Although there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes in preparation, Saturday morning starts very early. The first thing I do is go into the dining area—it’s beautiful—all set-up and ready to go. Every year I have the same feeling—a feeling of awe—goosebumps on my arms—how wonderful. I then say a prayer of Thankfulness for all the people who have helped so far, and all who have signed-up for this day. I ask our Lord to be with us that we provide a good meal, friendly service, hospitality to all who attend, and that we don’t run out of anything.
               Each area takes on its own life: Ticket Sales, Beverage Room, Relish Area, Pie Room, Sanctuary, Dining Room, and of course the “Kitchen”. All of these working areas put together make for a successful Turkey Dinner.
               At the end of the day, I am prayerfully thankful for each and every one of you for giving of yourself to do God’s work.
               With God’s blessings, we really do have something special going on.
Your sister in Christ,

Donna Strittmatter

Friends Can Make It Happen

So excited for our partnership with Angela and Friends Can Make It Happen - distributing shoes to the homeless!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

AGT winner and her home United Methodist Church

Ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer credits God for blessing her with the talent that won her $1 million on the television show “America’s Got Talent.”
The 13-year-old and her family are still adjusting to the changes that have resulted from her first-place finish on the show. They are members of OKC-Church of the Servant.
Darci’s parents are Clarke and Misty Farmer, and she has three brothers, Nick, Dalton, and Nate.
Mom Misty said she has advised her daughter to “trust that God’s going to take care of you.”
Darci said she plans to give some of her prize money to the church for mission work. OKC-Servant is “a big family, so supportive. I got everybody here to vote for me.”
Chuck Weatherford, who is director of music ministries at OKC-Servant, quipped that Darci is “the most famous Methodist I know.”
The good publicity from her win “is good for the Methodist church,” he said.
Mother and daughter sing together at the church on Mother’s Day. Weatherford said, “They always bring the house down.”
The rest of the story.

Family Benefit (4)

Golden Anniversary Saints

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Multi-Cultural Congregation in Mechanicsburg

A new multi-cultural congregation is emerging in our midst. Wesley United Methodist Church in Mechanicsburg has Korean, English, and combined worship services. It’s Wesley’s way of creating community with its Korean brothers and sisters.

The services came into existence through the leadership direction of Rev. Ho Kang, pastor of Wesley UMC. Kang started his appointment at Wesley in July 2016. A group of Korean worshippers followed Kang when he was appointed to Wesley, and they are all interested in becoming members.

Wesley holds separate weekly worship services in English at 9:30 a.m. and Korean at 11 a.m., and a joint Korean/English service on the first Sunday of each month at 10 a.m., followed by a luncheon. The fellowship time after the joint service is the opportunity to eat food together and share the fellowship of love. “It is like a festival,” said Kang.

On May 7, 2017, Harrisburg District Superintendent Rev. Barry Robison was invited to preach at the monthly combined Korean/English service. His sermon title was Starting Over. “He [Robison] told us Wesley is being presented with an opportunity to be born again, or born anew,” said Kang. “We have the chance to start over in the way we fulfill our purpose to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Everything is a new beginning.”

“Though different in language, culture, and race, it was a gracious worship service that enabled the congregation to know that they are all one in Christ Jesus. The congregation was impressed by the sermon of the superintendent.”

Pastors responding at Sutherland Springs

Mourners participate in a candlelight vigil for the victims of a fatal shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A man dressed in black tactical-style gear and armed with an assault rifle opened fire inside the church in the small South Texas community on Sunday, killing and wounding many. The dead ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old. AP Photo by Darren Abate.
By Sam Hodges
Nov. 6, 2017 | UMNS
As All Saints Day worship wrapped up at Floresville United Methodist Church, the Rev. Peter Aguilar got word of a mass shooting.
It had happened at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, in the same rural Texas county as his church.
“I know the sheriff, so I called him and said, ‘Do you need me?’” Aguilar recalled in a phone interview. “He said, ‘Yeah.’”
By 12:15 p.m., Aguilar had made the 10-mile drive and arrived at the scene, the first local pastor to counsel survivors, first responders and others.
“They had already roped off the church, but there were shell casings all over and a body on the front lawn. It was carnage,” Aguilar said.

Fly Like an Eagle

Congrats to Brayden!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Member Intro

The member introduction gathering - 9 persons plan to make their vows on Nov 12!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

All: Pulling Strings (2017-1105)

5 Nov 2017, Christ Mountain Top All Saints
Call to Worship, Setting the Table
Children, Luke 17.11-19
Message, Matthew 6.1-18

The Scripture we selected today is focused on the practice of our spirituality in its most basic form – in generosity and in prayer. The passage continues with a focus on the deceitfulness of wealth and the trap of anxiety.  Most of the time when we think about money, we think about it as solely a worldly thing, as having nothing to do with our spirituality.  But Jesus teaches on money, teaches on prayer, and then goes back to wealth and generosity.
      Here at Christ Church, in our membership vows, we ask each person, “Do you commit yourself to consistent growth in a spirituality characterized as giving, faithful, and real?”  Wealth is a spiritual thing. But most of the time, we persist in putting wealth in a box with “real life”, with career, paying the bills (or not) – and living as if everything in this box has nothing to do with prayerfulness or spirituality.
      Jesus talked about work, business, and money more than he talked about heaven.  Jesus is concerned that all of our lives become fully devoted to God.  We hear this, but mostly ignore it, because it seems so impractical.

So, let’s take this passage for starters.  And, let’s look at one of the themes that Jesus teaches about wealth.  He teaches us – and it should be obvious – that the exchange of wealth often comes with strings attached.  Did anyone ever offer you a gift, but it really wasn’t free?  They wanted something from you, something in exchange.
      The old Latin expression quid pro quo describes this kind of exchange, meaning literally, “this for that”.  I give you this.  You give me that.  A Non Sequitur comic (July 24, 2004, by Wiley Miller) showed a giant squid and a chef sitting at a booth in a seafood restaurant.  The squid says, “So it’s a deal then .... I’ll provide the ink for your menus and you’ll take calamari off it.”  The title: “Squid pro quo”.
      I heard a friend comment that politicians should be forced to wear their endorsements just like NASCAR drivers.  Why?  Because we all assume that the obscene amounts of money in politics comes with certain strings attached. 
      Proverbs 22:7 – “The borrower is the slave of the lender.”  Talk about a string – the borrower responds like a puppet on a string, the borrower feels like a person at the end of his rope.  Ever been there?
      Jesus teaches us that the exchange of wealth often comes with strings attached.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Bishop Park on the epidemic of violence

Issue: #17169                     November 7, 2017

Bishop's Letter Header

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

"Fear of death can no more stop us from our pressing here below.
For our Lord empowered us to triumph over every foe,
Alleluia! Alleluia! On to victory now we go."
"Every day to us is Easter, with its resurrection song,
When in trouble move the faster to our God who rights the wrong,
Alleluia! Alleluia! See the power of heavenly throngs."
("Easter People, Raise Your Voices" by William James)

Dear Friends in Christ,

Grace to you in Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, Healer of our Brokenness, and Hope of the World.

The news was heart wrenching. Lamentably, it wasn't anything new. It took a matter of a few seconds; and when it was over, twenty-six innocent people were killed, including a 17-month-old child. About a week before that it was New York City, and the victims were bikers and pedestrians enjoying a spring-like day. This time, it was Sunday morning at a Southern Baptist Church in a small town not unlike the towns in Pennsylvania. Once again, we were left distraught and heartbroken. If a church service isn't safe, then where are we safe from acts of terror or individual retributions? There are no right words to say to relieve the pain and the frustration from the families, friends, and communities of the innocent victims.

Family Benefit (3)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Family Benefit (2)

School Project for Roma Children in Macedonia

Twenty-two Roma children from Ohrid are participating in a unique school project of The United Methodist Church in Macedonia. In Europe, Aug. 2, 2017, was dedicated to the memory of thousands of Roma lost their lives in concentration camps during WWII, but the ethnic group still faces discrimination. Photo courtesy of Christina Cekov.
By Christina Cekov and Urs Schweizer
Sept. 28, 2017 | UMNS
Twenty-two Roma children from Ohrid, Macedonia, are participating in a unique school project of The United Methodist Church in Macedonia.
It is unique because the classes, split into three age groups, take place from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. During summer vacation, the project becomes a “summer school,” with four hours of classes daily from Monday to Friday.
The project is also unique because while the children who participate are usually ages 6 to 14, ways are explored to integrate an older child, as well, if this is considered to be a necessity. Not all Macedonian children attend a public school — which means that the importance of this school project for the future of the Roma children is even bigger.
In Europe, Aug. 2 was dedicated to the commemoration of the Roma Holocaust. During World War II, thousands of Roma lost their lives in concentration camps. Against the background of this terrible past, the Conference of European Churches called for a commitment for reconciliation and justice.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

My Story: Sue, Chelsey, Glen

Stories of support in one of our small groups, the Covenant Group, and of connection with Christ Church!