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.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020


In the bottom pic, three siblings perform a piano trio on the same piano! From Jennifer Poncavage's Christmas recital.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Christmas Caroling 2

Kim led our team caroling in one of the Mountain Top neighborhoods. One of our Girl Scout troops joined in!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Into the Word

I encourage you to download the FREE Bible app “YouVersion,” also available online at or In 2020, I will be reading through the Bible using the “Bible in One Year 2020 with Nicky Gumbel.” (I won’t be reading the daily devotional, just the Scripture passages.) If you want to read along with me, I encourage you to download and use the app yourself. It is surprising how quickly you can complete the daily readings required to finish the Bible in one year. Friends have used the audio feature to listen to the Scripture on their commute to work. I can finish the daily reading in the time it takes me to get ready for bed … on the toilet, flossing, brushing. So, I challenge you to join in. Some reflections from my personal reading in December are below.

“Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” (Zechariah 8.4-6). I love this vision of return and renewal, one that describes the joy of a truly intergenerational community. It is one of the things I treasure about Christ Church – the presence of old and young together.

“Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1.4-6). Every time I read this expression in the Revelation, I am reminded that God does not live or speak in my typical survey of time from past to present to future. God is always present. God is, first of all, the one “who is,” and only after that, the one “who was, and who is to come.” Living today in the presence of God is my first and highest calling.

A Celebration of Christ

Blue Christmas

The prayer table at the 2019 Blue Christmas service.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Joseph's Bad News

Joy in God's Purpose

The Rev. Young Seon Kim with Nifuate teachers. All Nifuate teachers are in their 20s and 30s. Photo: Courtesy Young Seon Kim
By Young Seon Kim
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to God’s purpose.
- Romans 8:28 (NRSV)

Merry Christmas to you!
God’s love and plan to give us Christmas always amazes me. I love Christmas so much. But Joseph and Mary must have been disappointed when God messed up their wedding plans.
God had the different plan for them – to save lost sheep in the world. Did they like that plan? Did they even understand it? Yet, amazingly, they didn’t focus on their feelings and situation, but on God. In faith they chose to trust God and go with God’s plan. Their decision brought Christmas to the world, and we’re still celebrating today!
Not so long ago, the United Methodist Church of Tanzania had no churchwide spiritual training for youth and young adults. I was charged with developing Next Generation Ministries across the country, but I did not know where to start. It is a big country. It took much prayer and careful listening. Then, by God’s grace, I was inspired to write a book for discipleship training, called “Nifuate” (Swahili for “follow me”).
In March 2016, I started the first Nifuate Discipleship Training with 20 young adult leaders. Today, I praise God for 40 committed Nifuate teachers who train others in their districts and make a difference in many lives. Give glory to God!
To reach all young people in every district, I set up the Nifuate program, which has been a great success. Young people gathered together once a month in 10 districts from July 2018 to May 2019. District superintendents and local pastors preached God’s word. Those who were trained by me became Nifuate Bible teachers. They taught younger youth about basic Christian life. Then they submitted their monthly reports to me and the Nifuate coordinator, Emmanuel Pius.
Total attendance was 2,014 young people!