Monday, December 31, 2018

Shake It Up! Breaking News

15-16 Dec 2018, Christ Mountain Top, Advent 3
Praying the Psalm, Isaiah 12.2-6 (entirely sung)
Children/Advent Wreath, Zephaniah 3.14-20, celebration dance
Message, Luke 3.7-18
Blessing, Philippians 4.4-7
Mission Moment, Mission Central partner, American Foundation for Children with AIDS

Hi Ho! Kermit the Frog here with a late breaking news story.
If only …

Instead, a lot of bad news
      Wars and disasters
      Bomb threats and mass shootings
      Kids lost in a coal mine
      School quality
      Corruption and scandal
      Tariffs and plant closings
And, on the personal front
      Marriage and family issues
      Friends who lost jobs
      Critical illness

Thursday, December 27, 2018

One church, on the border of two nations

The Revs. Joel Hortiales (center, in blue blazer) and David Farley (to Hortiales' right) join parishioners of the Border Church in Tijuana, Mexico, as they lift their arms skyward beneath the fence that marks the border with the U.S.
For 14 miles, the tall, metal wall winds around streets, through neighborhoods, and along sidewalks and dirt paths before it dissects the sandy beach and ends at the Pacific Ocean.
The tiny, square holes in the mesh fence are just big enough for people to touch each other’s pinky fingers. So, in honor and recognition of the limits the wall places on families, the passing of the peace is touching together pinky fingers.
Since June 2012, Fanestil has served the sacrament weekly at El Faro: The Border Church/ La Iglesia Fronteriza. Navarrete took over the ministry on the Mexico side about five years ago.
“To my knowledge, ours is the only Christian community in the world where the faithful gather weekly to celebrate Communion while standing in two nations,” Fanestil said.

Shake It Up! Clear the Path (2018-1209)

8-9 Dec 2018, Christ Mountain Top, Advent 2
Praying the Psalm, NONE – invitation, confession, pardon
Children/Advent Wreath, Malachi 3.1-4, cleaning up
Message, Luke 3.1-6
Blessing, Philippians 1.3-11
Mission Moment,

We all know what it is like to get home in a snow storm by following the plow truck. And we all know how frustrating it is to get plowed in – the end of our driveway, the space around the mailbox, or those towns where the only parking is parallel parking on the street and you suddenly have a five-foot pile of heavy snow and ice blocking the door to your vehicle.

Sometimes in this season, we’re buried hip deep – or deeper – in the to do list of the season. Last weekend I was sick. The weekend before, mom was in the hospital. Next weekend we host the caroling after-party … and the tree isn’t even up yet. And with the way Zoe removed the decorations from the wreath out front of the house, we’ve got some education to do. Speaking of education, I still have a major presentation to give on Wednesday for my doctoral degree, so please pray for me. I’m buried up to here in stuff to do. And I need someone to show up with a plow to clear the path.

Luke 3:4-6  Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.  5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;  6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Christmas Conference

The Christmas Conference founded the church that would be led by Francis Asbury. Image public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Image public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
At the founding conference of The Methodist Episcopal Church, Francis Asbury was ordained and elected bishop in the new denomination.
A Feature by Joe Iovino
For many of us Christmas morning means lounging in our pajamas, eating delicious food and slowly opening gifts. For those who started the Methodist church in America, their Christmas Eve in 1784 was the first of ten days of serious church business. In the end, their gift to us was the formation of a new denomination that would change history.

The decision to meet

When Thomas Coke bumped into Francis Asbury after a worship service at Barratt’s Chapel in Frederica, Delaware, he shared important news. John Wesley had sent him to ordain Asbury and appoint him superintendent of a new, Methodist church in the United States.
This had been a long time in coming. Church of England priests serving in America returned to England during the American Revolutionary War, leaving no one to administer the sacraments to the Methodists. Lay preachers kept the societies going with meetings and love feasts, but they needed ordained clergy.
When the Church of England continued to refuse Wesley’s requests to ordain some of his Methodist preachers and send them across the Atlantic, he took matters into his own hands. Wesley ordained two Methodist lay preachers to serve in the U.S., and appointed Coke a general superintendent.
After worship at Barratt’s Chapel on that November Sunday, Asbury and Coke decided to call a special conference for all the Methodist preachers in the United States. They would meet at Lovely Lane Chapel beginning December 24, 1784, to found and organize a new church. The 10 days they spent together would later become known as the Christmas Conference.

Christmas Eve 2018

Celebrate a Candle-Light Christmas Eve with us!
7:00 pm Family Service
10:30 pm Concert Prelude
11:00 pm Reflections Service

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving

Shake It Up! Light the Way (2018-1202, message)

1-2 Dec 2018, Christ Mountain Top, Advent 1
Praying the Psalm, NONE – invitation, confession, pardon
Children/Advent Wreath, Jeremiah 33.14-16, signs
Message, Luke 21.25-36
Blessing, 1 Thessalonians 3.9-13

      The news – politics, disaster, war, violence
      The season – simply having TIME
      Close to home –
            suicide of a young person or parenting in general
            waiting for a medical diagnosis or treatment
            job loss
            uncertainty of college applications or romantic desire
      wild rabbits surfing on sheep (2017 news)
      Jesse’s ring tone, from a video game, “Chaos”

Today’s texts highlight chaos in the world, chaos that is preliminary to God’s arrival:
      Heaven and earth pass away
      Distress from the sea
      Signs in the sky
      Fainting with fear
      A day that springs on us like a trap
And all of it preliminary to the arrival of the Son of Man. That arrival is what we call “Advent” and that is what we focus on in this season – not the past, first, Advent but the coming Advent.

Mission Central, FDNY, Hurricane Christmas Relief

A couple of weeks ago, the NYC Firefighters stopped at Mission Central on their way to Florida. We gave them 4 truckloads of supplies worth over $32,000. This was our 13th year of assisting them at Christmas, and this year, we were also helping with disaster relief efforts in Florida.
We just received these pictures of the devastation, some of the work that went into organizing the donations and finally, the end result…people who have been through a terrible disaster, many having lost everything, now able to smile and rejoice at Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Being Grateful

Thanks to Kim for sharing the message on Sunday Nov 25.

Being grateful, having gratitude is priceless.
Having an attitude of gratitude is free and will improve your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual self. And when we extend our gratitude toward others – it also can improve their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual selves
What a Beautiful Priceless gift God has given us.  I know we just had thanksgiving, A perfect reminder to be thankful and have gratitude. So lets not save it only for this time of Year. How can we learn – How can we create a habit to be thankful and have a heart of gratitude daily?
Studies have shown that a 25% increase in happiness occurs with an attitude of gratitude. University of California Psychology Professor, .and leading scientific expert on gratitude, Dr. Robert Emmons wrote in his book “Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude can make you Happier”,( 2017) that  “Gratitude is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people’s lives. His studies  have shown that people who regularly practice gratitude- meaning- taking the time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness and even have stronger immune systems. All that just for being Thankful!!! 

We Give Thanks

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Rejoice, Give Thanks, and Sing

Five Things You May Not Know about Christmas

United Methodists know Christmas, but maybe not these things. Photo via
A Feature by Joe Iovino*
We know the stories in the Bible, attend Advent and Christmas Eve worship each year, listen to tons of Christmas carols, and have seen just about every Christmas movie and special. We United Methodists know a lot about Christmas, but like most things there is always more to learn. Here are a few lesser-known tidbits.

John Wesley never published a Christmas sermon

If you search for Christmas sermons by John Wesley, you won’t find any. He never published one.
One reason may be that when the Puritans rose to power in mid-1600s England, Christmas fell out of favor. Authorities passed laws attempting to prohibit the celebration of Christmas. On Christmas Eve, some towns even sent criers to call out, “No Christmas! No Christmas!”
It wasn’t until the mid-1800s, that Christmas had a resurgence in England. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were of German background, and popularized the Christmas tree tradition in England. The popularity of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol published in 1843 may also account for the holiday’s resurgence.
John Wesley’s Methodist movement began in England during those 200 years of Christmas suppression. As a result, there is no evidence they celebrated Christmas other than with a special worship service.

Three Simple Rules: Attend Upon the Ordinances of God (2018-1118)

17-18 Nov 2018, Christ Mountain Top, with discipleship responses
Praying the Psalm, NONE – prayer of St Augustine
Children, Matthew 25.1-13, 10 virgins
Message, Mark 4.1-26 (parable of the soils – pay attention to what you hear)
Mission Moment,

These simple rules are what John Wesley described as a way to build a “form of godliness” while seeking its power (2 Timothy 3.5). The United Societies were
a company of men having the form and seeking the power of godliness

      Context of community
First rule, “Do no harm.” Key word: NO
Second rule, “Do all the good you can.” Key word: ALL
Third rule, “Attend upon the ordinances of God.”
      Key word: ATTEND

Rueben Job rephrases, “Stay in love with God.”
      True, but not (in my opinion) adequate to express the rule

Thirdly: By attending upon all the ordinances of God; such
The public worship of God.
The ministry of the Word, either read or expounded.
The Supper of the Lord.
Family and private prayer.
Searching the Scriptures.
Fasting or abstinence.

Wesley’s rule places a premium on practices. Practices are things we do intentionally and repeatedly. We practice dance. We practice soccer. We practice clarinet. We practice washing dishes. We practice walking the dog. The more you do it, the better you get at it. The more you do it, the more the act of doing it forms and changes you. By practice, you become a dancer or soccer player or clarinetist or dish washer or dog walker.
      Yes, these practices that Wesley outlines help us become lovers of God. Stay in love with God. John Wesley understood, however, that we become lovers of God as we practice worship, the Lord’s table, prayer, reading and reflecting on Scripture. So, his focus is on the practices.
      It is too easy today for us to hear “Stay in love with God” and think about a relationship with God in the same kinds of terms as romance. Falling in love might be like getting caught in a rainstorm, but staying in love is much more like turning on the shower. Not quite as spectacular – if we are only looking at the actions – but pretty impressive when you practice them for a lifetime. Those practices of the greeting and departure kiss, holding hands, and eating together, when practiced with one person over a lifetime, are among the most powerful things we can do. Those are ways that we “attend” to each other, ways we pay attention to each other, ways we are present with each other.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Sierra Leone Initiative

Dusty Knisley (left) of Calvary United Methodist Church in Dillsburg, Pa., shares her family story and photos with the Rev. Daisy Gbloh from Sierra Leone. Knisley hosted a team from the Sierra Leone Conference at her home. Photo by Phileas Jusu, UMNS.
Dusty Knisley (left) of Calvary United Methodist Church in Dillsburg, Pa., shares her family story and photos with the Rev. Daisy Gbloh from Sierra Leone. Knisley hosted a team from the Sierra Leone Conference at her home. Photo by Phileas Jusu, UMNS.
By Phileas Jusu
Nov. 13, 2018 | MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (UMNS)

The Sierra Leone Initiative — a partnership begun 12 years ago between the Susquehanna and the Sierra Leone annual conferences — continues to build relationships and open new mission opportunities. 

Through the initiative, a Susquehanna “covenant church” works with a Sierra Leone “partner church.” Covenant churches commit to providing five or 10 years of salary support for full-time pastors in Sierra Leone at three levels: $1,200, $1,500 or $1,800 per year. 

The initiative also builds and develops direct relationships between the congregations through prayers, letters, phone calls and text messages.

U.S. covenant churches provide resources for community needs in Sierra Leone, a nation that has experienced a succession of tragedies — war, Ebolanatural disasters— in recent years. Dilapidated churches and parsonages are rehabilitated or replaced by new buildings, enlivening United Methodist presence. School buildings are repaired or replaced. 

In remote communities, the partnership furnishes safe drinking water through drilling boreholes funded by covenant churches. This reduces waterborne diseases. Scholarships, provision of toilets and improved health care are other results of the initiative.

Sierra Leone Bishop John K. Yambasu said, “The general membership of the Sierra Leone Conference remains thankful to God Almighty and deeply grateful to the Susquehanna Conference for journeying with us … in touching souls through the many life-changing ministries we have shared together.” 

The rest of the story ...

Mission Central & American Foundation for Children with AIDS

One of the partner ministries of Mission Central. 100% of this year's Christmas Eve offering will support the work of Mission Central and, by extension, partners like AFCA.

Give Thanks

Friday, November 30, 2018

Second United Methodist school in Hungary

The Schola Europa, a high school in Budapest, Hungary, became a United Methodist school in September 2018. Photo by Ãœllas Tankler, courtesy of Central and Southern Europe Conference.
The Schola Europa, a high school in Budapest, Hungary, became a United Methodist school in September 2018. Photo by Üllas Tankler, courtesy of Central and Southern Europe Conference.

By Urs SchweizerSept. 28, 2018 | UMNS

After successfully leading a secondary school in Budapest for five years, The United Methodist Church in Hungary has taken leadership of a second school.
“During the five years since the first school has been received, we have gained positive experiences. The years spent with our Forrai school encourage us to start the cooperation with Schola Europa,ʺ said the Rev. László Khaled, superintendent of The United Methodist Church in Hungary.
He said there have been many meaningful encounters of students, teachers and people of The United Methodist Church in Hungary – both at school programs and in the local church. Khaled added that the greatest need of the students is “to feel accepted and loved and it touches them if they experience all this in a Methodist congregation.ʺ

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Three Simple Rules: Do All the Good You Can

10-11 Nov 2018, Christ Mountain Top
Praying the Psalm, Psalm 82
Children, Luke 10.25-37
Message, Micah 6.1-8
Mission Moment,

These simple rules are what John Wesley described as a way to build a “form of godliness” while seeking its power (2 Timothy 3.5). The United Societies were
a company of men having the form and seeking the power of godliness
FORM (pic, sidewalk, me and Zoe)

      Context of community
First rule, “Do no harm.”
NO: Actually a critical word to learn:  
      Stay focused on our personal or corporate mission
      Define who we are and clarify our boundaries
      Group at Roberta’s – breaking her vase of glass flowers

The powerful word in this rule is ALL.
      All the time, all the people, all the ways, ALL the good

Friedman’s Fables, rope, bridge, “My life is in your hands”
G. – the Christian thing to do is not to judge but to do good
      Do not forget the “no”
      We are to do GOOD, not necessarily solve people’s problems

Discern the good. It is not always what the other person defines as good! Compassion, interest, treating someone as a person to be loved not a problem to be solved.
      Bill Easum, story of homebound woman and potted plants