Pastor’s Blog

Pastoral Pondering – 6-21-2016


Good morning everyone!  How is it with your soul today?  I pray that question lingers with you for a while and you consider it in prayer. I also pray that you find God is moving in you and through you as we seek justice in the world and seek to live in love with God and neighbor. Remember, Jesus taught that ALL of the law could be summed up in those two simple rules of living, love God and love your neighbor.

I was reading my devotional today and these words popped up in the reading:  “You have worth because of what God does, not because of what you do.

WOW, have you given that any thought recently?  So often we focus on what we can do to “help” God minister to the people in our communities. But, that is not how God wants us to see things. We need to realize God provides for our needs and gives us the nourishment we seek if we allow ourselves to delve into the Word and sip from the bowl of God’s fullness. Let us come to know our worth by what God is doing in us, through us, and in spite of us.

In 2 Peter we read:  Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.” 

Have you had your spiritual milk today?  What is keeping you from taking a drink from God’s goodness? Perhaps spend a little less of your day with Facebook or Twitter. Maybe take the time you would spend in front of the television and open God’’s word and sip from the milk that will help you grow in the full experience of salvation. We could all stand a little more bone density in our spiritual bodies!

God bless you as we journey together!

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Pastoral Pondering – 5-25-2016


Good day everyone! How is God using you in ministry today?  I pray you are making a positive impact upon the kingdom of God wherever you are today. It is more about how you are using what you are doing today for God than God showing you something to do

Take some time to consider the following excerpt from today’s devotional thought from Richard Rohr. I know it will make you think about how we are doing ministry wherever we are today.

Study, Jesus’ instructions to the twelve disciples, when he sent them into society in a very vulnerable way (no shoes or wallet, like sheep among wolves). How did we miss this? Note that it was not an intellectual message as much as it was an “urban plunge,” a high-risk experience where something new and good could happen. It was designed to change the disciples much more than it was meant for them to change others! (See Matthew 10:1-33 or Luke 10:1-24.) Today we call it a reverse mission, where we ourselves are changed and helped by those whom we think we are serving.

When read in light of classic initiation patterns, Jesus’ intentions are very clear. He wanted his disciples–then and now–to experience the value of vulnerability. Jesus invites us to a life without baggage so we can learn how to accept others and their culture. Instead, we carry along our own country’s assumptions masquerading as “the good news.” He did not teach us to hang up a shingle to get people to attend our services. He taught us exactly the opposite: We should stay in their homes and eat their food! This is a very strong anti-institutional model.

So, the question we each need to consider today is how are we experiencing the value of vulnerability. How is God asking you to take a plunge into the mission field around you? I reprint a portion of the passage from the gospel of Luke here for you to consider. I do so because sometimes we get caught up in how the ministry is going to benefit us and how our churches are going to grow by filling up the pews. God has so much more for us to do that has nothing to do with filling pews or attendance statistics for the local church. We need to extend the kingdom of God and look for ways to demonstrate the power and authority of God over all things.

Luke 10:17-20  The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

He [Jesus] replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

God bless you as we journey together and serve God making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

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Pastoral Pondering 5-10-2016


Good morning everyone!  This is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it!

It is a special day today. Today, delegates from the United Methodist church begin our 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon. There will be people from all over the world in Portland who will have many different views on where they believe the United Methodist church will head in this next quadrennium. There are some issues that are very controversial and some that many will probably consider not too difficult to resolve. I asked you to join me and pray for the delegates of our Annual Conference. I would ask that you pray today for all of the Bishops who will lead the delegates through this session of General Conference. Pray especially for our Bishop, Thomas Bickerton, who has the needs of our general church on his heart and mind.

In order to pray for the needs of the church we need to be contemplative. I was reading through my devotionals this morning and one in particular was helpful. It is my daily devotional from Richard Rohr, titled Watching the river. This is a small part of that devotional.

Thomas Keating teaches a beautifully simple exercise to use in contemplation. Imagine yourself sitting on the bank of a river. Observe each of your thoughts coming along as if they’re saying, “Think me, think me.” Watch your feelings come by saying, “Feel me, feel me.” Acknowledge that you’re having the feeling; acknowledge that you’re having the thought. Don’t hate it, don’t judge it, don’t critique it, don’t, in any way, move against it. Simply name it: “resentment toward so and so,” “a thought about such and such.” Admit that you’re having it, then place it on a boat and let it go down the river. The river is your stream of consciousness.

You may be wondering what’s the point of such contemplation. The point is that if God wants to get at you–and my assumption is that God always does–if God wants to get through your barriers and blockages, God has the best chance of doing so through contemplative practice, quite simply because you and your limited mind are finally out of the way!

Why not begin a practice of consciously “watching” our thoughts and name them so they can lose power over us. We need to get out of the way so God can get through. As our general conference gathers it is my prayer they will be contemplative and God will come through in the discussions they engage and the decisions they make.

Praise God for breaking through to all of us as we continue on the journey together!

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Pastoral Pondering – 5-3-2016


Good morning everyone!  I pray today is another day where you are looking for ways to serve God and extend God’s kingdom in tangible ways. I know God is speaking to each of us and we need to attend our ear to hear the words God is speaking today.

As I have mentioned before I am recently back from a trip to England and since coming back I have begun a fervent season of prayer for the delegates and alternates selected by our annual conference to attend our General Conference in Portland, Oregon. The General Conference sessions begin on May 10th and there will be much debate and a need for theological and spiritual discernment on the part of our delegates. Now, many of you on this list are not part of the United Methodist Church and may be asking yourselves why should you care.  The reason I believe you should care is the direction we in the Untied Methodist Church take could more than likely be an indicator of where the church in general is heading as we press forward in this next quadrennium. As the church (all who call themselves believers in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord) we need to be listening to the voice of God. Read the following words from Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 7:23 “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you.”

What I am asking is that you join me in this season of prayer for the delegates and alternates of our annual conference specifically but all of the over 830 delegates that will gather in Portland that they will listen for the voice of God speaking to them through the rhetoric and the perhaps heated debate that could happen. Let there be a peace filled discussion of the future of the church related to all of the discussion. Also, I ask that you make your prayers personal. I am listing our delegate names below. Please take time every day to mention their names specifically as I will be.

We need to be the church and this means we need to be praying and supporting one another in these days. We need to be a spirit of hope and the promise of peace, joy, and reconciliation in the world today. I am not only praying for these delegates but for all of you too.

God bless you all as we venture out into the world to give those we meet Christ!

 

Delegates

Gregory, Sharon J.

Park, Eric Stephen

Denardo, Nancy L.

Zilhaver, Robert Frank

Hoffman, Richard Christian

Dunn, Alyce Weaver

Morelli, Paul Michael

Wagner, Amy R.

Miller, Diane M.

Stahlman, Vicki Jean

Seth, John William

Meekins, William Bright

 

Reserves

Blystone, Donald Carlyle;

McPherson, Seth Ryan;

Whitehead, Tina Anne;

Chung, Sung Shik;

Geer, Faith Weston;

Cox, Gregory David;

Ward, Peggy Denise;

Bain, Randall William;

Schwanke, Kayla June;

Gottschalk, Stephanie Ruth;

Merrick, Tracy Reynolds

 

If you want more information about the 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church check out this link:

http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/every-united-methodist-can-be-part-of-general-conference-2016?utm_source=email-JM013&utm_term=&utm_content=newsletter&utm_campaign=UMC-Announcements-UMCorgContent

 

or go to:

 

http://GC2016.UMC.org

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Pastoral Pondering – 4-29-2016


Good morning everyone! I pray you are well and God is blessing you on your spiritual journey.  Today, I want to reflect on a moment from my recent trip to England. It was a great opportunity to bring the history lessons of Methodism to life and allowed me opportunities that I will ever be grateful for.  One particular moment that really stands out for me was when we went to Bristol and got to spend time in Wesley’s New Room. The New Room was built in 1739 by Wesley for societies that were beginning to gather in Bristol. John Wesley donate the clock pictured below to the church. It is a reminder that time

is precious. It also reminds us that we need to be mindful of being on time and keeping ourselves on schedule. Being a disciple of Christ means using the time we have been given to spread scriptural holiness across the land.

I had the honor of being called upon by my Bishop to offer a prayer as we worshiped together at the New Room. As I stood to pray I paused in silence mostly to gather my thoughts. As I stood there in the silence I could hear the ticking of the clock. As the clock ticked God overwhelmed me with the words to offer in prayer. It was a God moment and I was blessed to have that opportunity to stand in the place where John and Charles Wesley and others before me offered prayers, sermons, and the Sacraments. It was an overwhelming moment and it ministered to me in a special way.

I offer this to you today to ask you to consider how God is calling on you to offer a moment that will make a difference not just for others but for you too. God wants to share with all of us in those special moments of time the opportunities for discipleship. We need to take every moment as an opportunity to share Christ with someone. John Wesley said it best when he offered: “The best thing of all is God is with us.”

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Pastoral Pondering 4-1-2016


Good morning church!  I pray that as we begin another month you are not foolin’ (bad April fool’s reference) around but working seriously on your faith relationships. i had quite a different experience yesterday than I have ever had. I went to prison!  No, I was not arrested but rather the new clergy group I am working with went to the Allegheny County jail on Second Avenue in Pittsburgh. We met up with people in the clergy office and got some interesting information about the re-entry program for inmates to prepare them to enter back into the communities where they came from. We also learned about the HOPE rehabilitative pre-release program. As part of our day we went into POD 2C and met with a group of inmates who are part of the HOPE rehabilitative program. These men from the youngest to the oldest were interesting to talk to. They know why they are there and have hope that they will be able to turn their lives around, get some vital training that will help them integrate back into the world they came out of and have been incarcerated into, and return to the world. It was a great learning opportunity. I heard messages of hope from men who need to know they have just as much sacred worth as the victims of the crimes that they committed.

Jesus did not say that we should only love the people who are easy to love. He did not teach us that we should abandon those who have done us wrong. In fact, Jesus says, turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) and to go the second mile (Matthew 5:41) when approached by those who might try to take advantage of our faith. We are called to be people of peace and justice in a world that is going the wrong way in many ways. I see too many people feeding the fire of hatred and injustice.

Social media is the worse place I see examples of people being wronged. We think since we have this media outlet we can post whatever we want to say without any repercussion. We need to be looking for ways to love all people. Jesus said when we do something to someone we have done it to him. Remember the lesson of the sheep and the goats?

Matthew 25:32-40 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. ’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you? ’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.

We need to be the people of peace and justice in a world that needs to help those who are living in brokenness find a way to hope and be a positive influence to others. We need to do what one inmate said to us, reach out with arms open wide to welcome them back into the world when they have made the effort to change who they were. We need to provide an opportunity for people to prove themselves instead of treating them like lepers. We need to work together to change the rhetoric and prove we are a people of Godly love.

Jesus said love those who hate you (Luke 6:27-28) and offer the hand of fellowship. I know this is not easy. I know it may not be popular. But then, we are not called to be popular but rather examples of God’s love.

Be blessed and a blessing to others today and continue the journey! If you have stopped on the journey it is not too late to get going again! If you need help let me know. We can work together to get you back on track!

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Listen – Pastoral Pondering 3-11-16


Good afternoon everyone!  I pray you are all enjoying the peace of the Lord in your daily walk with God. Once again I am sharing with you this portion of a devotional from the Henri Nouwen Society.  Let the following words speak to your heart and come to understand what kind of listener you are.  I say this because there are different kinds of listening. I think this is very relevant in this time of social media and electronic devices.  We spend so much time on tablets, cell phones, and laptops that finding time to actually isolate ourselves from these and focusing on the conversation in front of us can be a challenge. If you find yourself not agreeing with this take notice sometime when you are in a restaurant and see how many people are talking to each other while texting someone or checking they FaceBook updates.

Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you.

 

While you are waiting to hear from God take the time to practice the spiritual hospitality of listening. Our relationships with each other and our relationship with God will be stronger, deeper, and more full of meaning if we just listen.

God bless you as we journey together.

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Pastoral Pondering 3-10-2016


Good afternoon everyone! I pray you are experiencing the loving presence of God in this Lenten season. I pray the Holy Spirit is exposing God’s desire for each of you as you live out God’s call upon your life each day. As a matter of fact, in this morning’s devotional from the Henri Houwen Society comes the following statement. Give this some consideration today and lift up your call before God asking for wisdom to serve as led by the Holy Spirit.

We are not called to save the world, solve all problems, and help all people. But we each have our own unique call, in our families, in our work, in our world. We have to keep asking God to help us see clearly what our call is and to give us the strength to live out that call with trust.

When we take the time to consider how God uses us in our lives, we can make a difference one person at a time and the kingdom of God grows in our midst.

God bless you today as we journey together in the Spirit.

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