Monday, February 24, 2020

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Presentation on the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation

Thanks for staying for this presentation and for keeping Christ Church and the entire United Methodist Church in your prayers. At the front end, I warn you: I brought a fire hose and I hope you can drink from it. To help you, we have handouts with all the slides and with a chart of several plans that are before General Conference. (Distribute). And, I am always available for conversation around these questions.

On January 3rd, the office of the Council of Bishops released a proposal for the separation of The United Methodist Church. Immediately, major news outlets released stories about The United Methodist Church splitting up. Now, this is only a proposal, but the stresses in the denomination are real and significant. And these stresses are almost entirely focused on the single question of how we welcome and include our LGBTQ siblings (that is, our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters) in our life and ministry together, particularly on whether we will permit same-sex marriage and, by extension, clergy to be in same-sex marriages.

My first reaction to this is grief. I grieve the possibility that persons and colleagues who are personally dear to me could – in the very near future – be in separate church organizations from me. We disagree on this question. We are best friends. At this time, we are pastors together in The United Methodist Church. But very soon, we could be in separate organizations. I grieve for another reason: Jesus prayed “that they may all be one, just as you and I, Father, are one.” There is “one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all,” there is only one Church, no matter the distinctions and denominations we have set up. In the great and final day of the Lord those brand names won’t mean anything. As Paul writes, “The only thing that counts is faith working through love.” So, for me to see The United Methodist Church, with all our shared history, with all our personal connections, with all our amazing mission partnerships, to see that split up and diminished means that we have not been able to answer Jesus’ prayer “that they may all be one.” At the same time, on a practical level, if we can’t live together in one household, perhaps we can be good neighbors.

John Wesley said, “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may.”

Friday, February 21, 2020

Girl Scouts at Christ Church (2)

Another great Girl Scout troop. Thanks to their leaders and everyone else who contributes to help these young ladies thrive.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

A Vision Adjustment

Thanks to Dave for sharing the message while I was away at my parents!

Scripture Lesson - 2nd Samuel 7:1-17
A gray-haired woman in a white jacket carefully positioned the optometer in front of my eyes.  "Concentrate on the bottom line" she said. "Can you read it?"
"T..F..P..V..O.. or is that a C..."
"Which is clearer?" She asked.  The lenses snapped into place and the image changed slightly.
"That's fine," she said. "We'll make the glasses."
Eye exams... we have all had them.  Adjustments to vision...minor corrections to make things clearer. Bifocals when our arms get too short.  Trifocals when the music on the piano or the computer screen isn't quite in focus with either correction.
King David got a vision correction in our lesson today. With the help of Nathan the prophet, he got a clearer picture of himself and God.
As we reckon time it was about 1000 years before the birth of Christ.  Israel was a rag-tag tribe of nomadic shepherds and farmers.  They were in the "Promise Land", but besieged by enemies on all sides. 
King Saul had build an army to protect the rapidly growing population, but had limited success against his aggressive neighbors.
David was an uneducated keeper of the flock.  Today with his background he might be an attendant at a car wash.  Perhaps he would be the guy who washes the wheels before the car goes through the machine.  He had no formal education, no military background, no chance at a career.
On those long, boring afternoons in the hot sun of Palestine he would amuse himself by composing songs, and throwing rocks at mice.  He probably had some encounters with wild animals who saw his sheep as easy prey.  He got to be quite good at  throwing rocks, but most parents would see little future for someone who was really good at throwing rocks.
I can still hear my grandmother's voice saying, "You kids put those rocks down before you put somebody's eye out."
We all know the story of David killing Goliath with his sling shot and a rock.  Since my name is David I was always fascinated by the story of this boy hero.
It was not one of my Grandmother's favorites.

Boy Scouts at Christ Church

From raft races to hiking to Christmas caroling at Mountain Top Senior Care, we've got a fantastic group of young men, families, and leaders.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Fresh Expressions of Church ... at a tattoo parlor, dog park, hair salon, inline skating, and more

Burritos and Bibles gathering at Moe's Southwest

By Eileen Spiegler | FLUMC

As he was growing up, Wildwood UMC Pastor Michael Beck came to a crossroads.
An alcoholic and addict, jailed for dealing drugs, “my life was in shambles,” Beck said. When his grandparents, who had adopted him as a child, took him to St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Ocala, he saw the possibility for another kind of life.
“They were positive, loving people who gave me a family and community,” said Beck, who remembers the pastor mentoring him, helping him find the path to recovery, and telling him that he was destined to be a religious leader. “I cried out to Christ, and he came.”
Beck was brought to the church but knew, especially among people who were at risk or outside traditional society, that was increasingly rare.
“People aren’t coming to church anymore, but they want a church,” he said. “I knew I was going to have to go to them.”
His first posting as pastor was in the tiny town of Lochloosa, south of Gainesville. The church had a congregation of 12, so Beck’s blended family of eight children with his wife and co-pastor, Jill, doubled its size.
There, at the local diner, he started his first Fresh Expressions group, though he didn’t yet know to call it that. He just knew this was the place to connect with people.
“We asked what they needed and created a service for them, around their needs. It was its own church, and we connected to the existing church,” Beck said.
He built on the FE model that had been such a success in Lochloosa, creating a group for people in alcohol and drug recovery along with a gathering at a tattoo parlor.
“When we heard about FE, we realized this is what we’d been doing,” Beck said. “It gave us whole language process and the missing pieces to connect everything.”
Wildwood Associate Pastor Nicole Larrabee leads the tattoo parlor FE at Fat Kats Artistry, which began when they noticed many people in the recovery group had tattoos.
“It was like the spirit led to where it was going to be received,” Larrabee said.
To Brittany LeClair, who attends the group, it becomes more than a tattoo parlor.
“It’s God in the world,” she said. “We’re together, sharing communion, singing Amazing Grace.”
It has opened avenues that had previously not existed.
“It’s the opportunity to be with people who are never going to walk into our church on a Sunday morning,” Beck said. “We’ve seen incredible things – tattoo artists accepting Christ, taking communion for the first time, bringing us their prayer requests.
“All of the ingredients of church are here. We’re tethered to an existing congregation, and we’re studying scripture; people are talking about things they’re wrestling with and how the Lord is bringing them through. It’s a full expression of the church of Jesus.”
If a few Fresh Expressions are good, more is better.
Wildwood now has more than a dozen groups, including yoga therapy, Burritos and Bibles at Moe’s Southwest Grill, Church 3.1 exercise group, and Paws of Praise dog park....

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

When Did We? (Being With #4)

No video this week. Sorry!

1-2 Feb 2020, Christ Mountain Top
Scout Sunday, the Lord’s Table
Praying the Scripture, Psalm 34, pp 769-770
Children, Genesis 18.1-15 (OT Trinity, simple hospitality)
Message, Matthew 25.31-46 (sheep and goats)
Mission Moment, Scouts

Years ago, the regional shelter for homeless men was mobile. Guys would stay at a church for a week and during the day be bussed out to work or elsewhere. At that time, Debbie Evanko was our church administrator, and one of the weeks when the men were here they had a snow day. The guys couldn’t get out of the building during the day, and school was closed. So Debbie’s ten-year old son Jimmy came to work with her. They ordered pizza for the men that day and Jimmy came in and asked if he could eat with them. “The pizza was ordered for the men, not for you.” “But they asked me.” Jimmy and the men ate together and hung out for the day. On the way home, he said to Debbie, “You know mom, they’re just like us. Only … they have time for me.” These homeless men gave Jimmy a gift, and he gave them a gift.

Let us take seriously the cause of the poor
as though it were our own –
indeed as what it really is, the cause of Jesus Christ,
who on the final judgment day will call to salvation
those who treated the poor with faith in him:
“Whatever you did to one of these poor ones –
the neglected, blind, lame, deaf, mute –
you did to me.”
Archbishop Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love: The Pastoral Wisdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero, translated and compiled by James R. Brockman, S.J., San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988, p 196.

Monday, February 3, 2020

War-displaced families in East Congo

Mamy Liata, with crutch, and her family are among the war-displaced people in Eastern Congo who are receiving humanitarian assistance from The United Methodist Church. Photo courtesy of UMCOR Disaster Management Office, East Congo.
Mamy Liata, with crutch, and her family are among the war-displaced people in Eastern Congo who are receiving humanitarian assistance from The United Methodist Church. Photo courtesy of UMCOR Disaster Management Office, East Congo.
By Chadrack Tambwe Londe
Jan. 8, 2020 | LUBUTU, Congo (UM News)
Humanitarian assistance from The United Methodist Church has reached more than 5,500 war-displaced people in Eastern Congo.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief provided a $100,000 grant to support more than 700 families who fled to the territory of Lubutu, a United Methodist district of the Oriental and Equator Conference. The disaster management office in Eastern Congo distributed more than 200,000 pounds of food to 5,760 people.
Coordinator of UMCOR's disaster management office in Eastern Congo, Jean Tshomba, said each household of eight people received 110 pounds of rice, 110 pounds of maize flour, 10 liters of vegetable oil, 33 pounds of beans and 5 pounds of cooking salt.
Conflict between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo and militia in the localities of Lowa and Kuwait and surrounding villages forced more than 18,000 people to flee toward Lubutu in the Maniema province between February and June of 2019.
Tshomba said many fled after their villages were burned.
“They fled the war and abandoned everything. (Now) they live in Lubutu with host families,” he said.
Mamy Liata, a widow and mother of five children, was among those who received relief supplies. Her husband was killed in the war and she was shot in her left leg, which had to be amputated. She was forced to flee with her family and abandon everything.
“I say thank you very much for the food we just had. I was living in great difficulty with my children. … It is now difficult for me to look for food for myself and my children. We live thanks to the help of people who are volunteers,” Liata said.
“I’ve been in a lot of pain since my husband died. I live by the grace of God. Please do not stop at this level. Please help us next time. Please do not forget us in your prayers, too,” she said.
Samuel Mayele Papy, who leads an association formed by those who have been displaced in Lubutu, said the food from The United Methodist Church will help him to take care of his family while waiting for the harvest of a field he has cultivated.
“In the meantime, I will be able to eat without much difficulty, as has been the case since we arrived here in Lubutu. We say a big thank you to The United Methodist Church for thinking (of us) during this very difficult time,” he said.

Where Is the Home? (Being With #3)

25-26 Jan 2020, Christ Mountain Top
Praying the Scripture, Isaiah 66, selections (inserted)
Children, Matthew 12.46-50 (My Brother and Sister and Mother)
Message, Revelation 21.1-8 (dwelling place of God is with humanity)
Mission Moment,

Years ago, I went through an exhaustive and exhausting personal and professional assessment for serving as a church planter in our region of The United Methodist Church. Jim Griffith, who was conducting the screening process, sat down across from me and Robin and looked at my standard personality inventories: “Well, we’ve got an ax murderer here.” Those were his first words.
       As I talked about my long-term dream to start a church, he stopped me and asked, “Why haven’t you done it already?” Being more vulnerable and exposed than usual, and being pushed into extensive self-reflection, I said something I had not prepared or anticipated. “Because I did not have a home.”
       We’ve all got “stuff” to work through, and I’ve got my share. Adopted siblings who had been victims of abuse and who when puberty hit … well, enough about that. It was hard on them, it was hard on me, it was hard on our whole family. I insulated myself with Scripture and hymn and prayer and fasting. I left for college, my parents rented out my room, and I never came back except to visit over holidays. Then, when I became a United Methodist, my parents were sure I had lost the true faith and my salvation with it. Fortunately, I’ve worked through most of that stuff, except the ax murderer part, and I’m as normal as can be.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Where? (Being With #2)

18-19 Jan 2020, Christ Mountain Top
Praying the Scripture, Psalm 25.11-22 (inserted)
Children, Genesis 3.1-13 (Adam and Eve, “Where are you?”)
Message, Genesis 4.1-12 (Cain and Abel, “Where is your brother?”)
Mission Moment, Human Relations Sunday

Joke: Where’s God? (the two bad boys)

We began this message series last week focused on the question of John to Jesus at his baptism: “Do you come to me?” The answer in the story was a decisive Yes. Jesus comes to John, Jesus submits himself to baptism, Jesus unites himself with outsider sinners in need of grace, Jesus determines to be with us. Jesus has “friends in low places” and that means you and me.
       Today, in our second “Being With” message, we also encounter questions. Two questions, both asked by the LORD. The first is asked of the man and the woman in the garden: “Where are you?” The second is asked of Cain: “Where is your brother?”

Samuel Wells’ book The Nazareth Manifesto is subtitled Being With God. His focus throughout the text is on this preposition “with,” on the centrality of reconciliation to the gospel and discipleship and the biblical story. He lifts up these two questions to Adam and Eve and to Cain as questions that name the conflict that exists, between us and God and between us and others. All reconciliation takes place in conflict. So conflict is not just a moment for “exasperation” and “impatience” because, on the one hand, those in conflict with me are so ridiculous, so perverse, so under-developed (compared with me), and, on the other hand, the conflict itself is a waste of precious time and resources. No, indeed, conflict is not a moment for exasperation and impatience. It is instead an opportunity for true reconciliation, not the papering over of difference, it is the opportunity to generate something good out of struggle, an opportunity we lose when we short-circuit the process (56-58). Instead of backing off from conflict, or using a nuclear option to destroy everything, the gospel calls us to engage conflict creatively because reconciliation is the center of the gospel. Every conflict is an opportunity for gospel work. So, as exasperated and impatient as we become with this protracted conflict in The United Methodist Church, let us pray that we receive the holy gift available in conflict.
       But we don’t all live in the world of that particular conflict the way I do. So, let’s take a moment to get a couple personal conflicts clear in our own lives. Do you have a conflict with God? A long-running argument? A disappointment over unanswered prayer? A bitterness over personal pain? A sin you refuse to forsake? God comes to you and asks, “Where are you?”
       Do you have a conflict with someone else? A boss whose cutting remarks seem to be just the way they do business? A spouse or partner whose stress gets in the way of important conversation? A child who is convinced that you are totally ignorant? A neighbor who complains constantly about your leaves in their yard? That estranged family member who no longer communicates with you? God comes to you and asks, “Where is your brother?”

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Do You Come to Me?

11-12 Jan 2020, Christ Mountain Top, Baptism of the Lord
Praying the Scripture, Psalm 29
Children, Acts 10.34-43 (God does not have favorites, welcomes ALL)
Message, Matthew 3.13-17 (Jesus baptism)
Mission Moment, food pantry

Adventures with words in the text:
“Fitting” or “proper”:
·       Clothes mom bought for me that were too small
·       Not fitting to ask a woman her age, or her weight
·       No shirt, no shoes, no service
“Prevent”: with the sense of being obstinate
·       Stiff arm
·       Arm bar

John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (3.14, NRSV)
       Scholars suggest that this line is included because the primitive church was not sure what to make of Jesus being baptized and baptized by John.
       What to make of Jesus being baptized: Baptism was only for heathen Gentiles who were in the process of becoming Jews, not for Jews who were already “clean” – so Jesus identifies with the need for radical conversion, with the reality that none of us are so well off that we don’t need grace, AND with the Gentile and the unclean.
       What to make of Jesus being baptized by John: In a hierarchical view of the world, the greater person baptizes the lesser, the holier person baptizes the person who wants to become holy. That’s quite a burden to put on us pastors, so let’s not go there. But, come on, Jesus! You really should be the one doing the baptizing! This is “out of order!”

But this line in the text does not just reveal the concern of the primitive church that Jesus is baptized and baptized by John. This reveals God’s passion to identify fully with us, to be completely with us, to fulfill the righteousness of Jesus – by being with us.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Sunshine Circle

The ladies gather most Tuesday mornings in the quilting room. Some marvelous creations can be seen there!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Thanks for the New Sign

Thanks again to Dalton and the folks he recruited to help him with the installation of the brand new sign!

Monday, January 20, 2020

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Epiphany - darkness to light

Dramatizing the Epiphany text of Isaiah the prophet - thick darkness covers the peoples but your light shall rise!

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Swaddling the Christ Child

A total of 86 hand towels received to use in Care Kits through Mission Central! THANK YOU!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

You Gentiles!

4-5 Jan 2020, Christ Mountain Top, Epiphany, Lord’s Table
Praying the Scripture, Psalm 72, selections (6:00 pm only)
Children, Isaiah 60.1-6 (darkness covers, your light has come – use large sheet and phone flashlight)
Message, Ephesians 3.1-12 (Gentiles!!)

Outsider, new in town: picked last for kickball at recess

Rules are made ... [to be broken].  But it is only the rule breakers who tell you that.  Rules are made because we need to protect ourselves.  Some examples.  Zoe and the boundary of the yard.  Insisting that our children wear helmets when bicycling.  The rule protects us, and it does so by establishing a border, a boundary, across which you must not pass.

In first century Jewish life, the Torah, the law/rule/way, functioned in just such a protective capacity.  The world was becoming more and more interconnected in politics and commerce, immigration and emigration reshaped the demographics of neighborhoods and towns, and the people of Israel were being freshly exposed to religious influences that did not fit with the story and promise of the God of Israel.  This protective feature of the Law is positive and important, but it can, and often does, lead to an insularity, a smallness, an exclusiveness.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Mountain Top Community Food Bank

We are so happy to partner with the Food Bank and are in the midst of our Souper Bowl food drive. Below is excerpted from their annual letter and update.

The Food Bank for 2019 served an average of 70-80 families/individuals a month. We gave out 490 boxes of food between July 1st and December 28th, plus an extra bag they can take from the table. We also order many food items from CEO Weinberg Food Bank in Pittston.

At Thanksgiving, in conjunction with volunteers supporting the annual Feed-A-Friend Campaign, 107 dinner baskets were distributed in addition to the usual monthly allotment. The Food Bank provided names of children upon request from Mountain Top Welcome Club. They provided them with Christmas gifts. For Christmas, we also gave hams to each family.

We would like to extend heartfelt thanks to the volunteers for food collected and all montetary gifts from personal people and organizations, and strong supporters like the United Way, Rotary Club Mountain Top, Mountain Top Welcome Club, American Legion, and Kiwanis. Thanks to St. Jude's, St. Paul's, Christ Methodist, Presbyterian Church, St. Martin's in the Fields. Without the support of these churches and monetary gifts it would be impossible for the Food Bank to complete its Christian mission.

God bless you all.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Confirmation Tree

Some of the lessons learned in the Confirmation Class, as posted on their classroom "Tree".

Friday, January 10, 2020

Jesus, not ashamed to associate with me

29 Dec 2019, Christ Mountain Top
Praying the Scripture, Isaiah 63.7-9
Children, Matthew 2.13-23 (escape to Egypt, the mad king)
Message, Hebrews 2.10-18

Joy to the world: he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found. This passage continues to unfold that theme in its own unique way. But first, a story that encapsulates the presence of curse in some of our most important relationships:

       Boys to the mall as teenagers: Ashamed to associate with me.

Now, back to the passage before us:

The pastor who writes the letter to the Hebrews writes it as a sermon, a sermon focused on the person and work of Jesus, in the plan of God from eternity to eternity, introduced here in this passage in multiple roles:
·       Pioneer of salvation, the one who blazes the trail for us to follow
·       Champion who delivers from death, through death, and fear of death
·       High priest who ministers for us, making atonement for us
And, for each of these roles, each of which deserves sustained focus and is repeated in various ways in the letter, one particular thing is required, one specific prerequisite applies equally to all three roles: Jesus must suffer.