Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving from a Mission Partner

From First Fruits Farms, which grows fruit and vegetables for food pantries from Baltimore to York ... and where our youth spent one day harvesting this summer:

Dear Friends, We completed the 2009 harvest on November 14. Over the course of this growing season, we learned a great deal about farming, about the wonderful generosity of all you volunteers, and about God's immeasurable goodness. It was an ambitious planting, prompted by the call on our hearts to do step out in faith in an even bigger way, in response to an ever-growing need to feed the hungry in our midst. And the blessing of the Lord was upon us -- in this one growing season, with the help of many hundreds of volunteers, we harvested and delivered over 872,000 lbs. of fresh food to soup kitchens, homeless shelters and food banks. Thank you!!!!! What a joy it is to serve alongside you.

We saw many more rainy harvest days than ever before, but you all persevered, and God taught us patience. We faced unprecedented challenges, and God reminded us to trust in Him. We wondered if we would have the strength, and God brought us many new faces, who stepped up in significant ways to partner with us, and help get it all accomplished. We considered the possibility of expanding into year-round supply of vegetables, and we dedicated 8 acres of green beans to be canned. The result was an unbelievably beautiful Fall harvest of beans that was picked and taken to Hanover foods on the last possible day of the season --- as a result we are able to supply canned beans to the hungry all winter long. Praise be to God! We are humbled by and grateful to all who offered their prayerful and financial support of this ministry. This “ministry in the dirt” is all about community and we thank God for all of you who took part this growing season. It is a reflection of His glory that we all come together to serve the least among us.

Our prayer is that the people we serve in the homeless shelters, soup kitchens and food banks somehow know that God loves them and knows their need and it is through His power and goodness that the delicious fresh fruits and vegetables were brought to nourish them. Our prayer is that you all enjoy a Thanksgiving of peace and abundant blessing. We hope to see you next Spring!!

With love and gratitude, Carol (and everyone at First Fruits Farm)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Learning Center Sunday

This Sunday, our Learning Center students joined us and shared their music during our 11:15 service. Thanks to Wanda, BCLC director, and the staff for a fantastic time! Pics also include children's church this Sunday. Thanks to Bob for taking the pics.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

So You Are a King?

John 18:33-38 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" 34 Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" 35 Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" 36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." 37 Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." 38 Pilate asked him, "What is truth?"

This conversation between Pilate and Jesus is full of humor – that is, if you step back a moment from the situation itself. In the story, Pilate is examining Jesus, looking for a way to get off the hook, to let Jesus off the hook, to avoid execution. But Jesus doesn’t get it, or doesn’t cooperate, or Pilate really wasn’t working that hard, or he felt himself under pressure, or he wondered if Jesus really might be a threat to Caesar . . . or, something. Because he ends up handing Jesus over to be crucified and publishes the charge: "King of the Jews", even though the religious establishment, which was clamoring for Jesus’ execution, insisted that Jesus only "claimed" to be King of the Jews, and even though Jesus didn’t really speak of being "king of the Jews".

So, the situation aside, there’s some humor here.

There’s the humor of two parallel conversations. You know what I mean – you take turns speaking, but you aren’t speaking about the same thing. Or, if you are talking about the same thing, the logic, the thoughts don’t necessarily connect.
   1: What happened to all the eggs? That was my breakfast!
   2: The dishes in the dishwasher are clean.
   1: I guess I’ll have cereal again. I could swear there was a dozen yesterday.
   2: We’ve got a party at work today.
   1: And we’re out of corn flakes! I wonder if there’s anything for lunch!
   2: You can take a deviled egg. There’s some in the fridge.
   1: A deviled egg? So that’s what happened to the eggs!
   2: I told you we’re having a party!

And, there’s the humor of the "snarkiness" of the conversation, which I exaggerate:
   P: Are you the King of the Jews?
   JC: Who told you that?
   P: They’re not my people! No skin off my back! What did you do to get yourself into this mess?
   JC: If my kingdom was of this world, my followers would be going to war to prevent this.
   P: So you ARE a king!
   JC: I didn’t say that. That’s what you said! I’m just speaking the truth.
   P: What truth?
So, for Thanksgiving, I’m thankful that the Bible is chock full of great story material.

For all the humor, however, this short selection is remarkably dense. What’s up with the "king" and "kingdom" talk? While Matthew, Mark, and Luke give us lots of "kingdom" language, John gives us very little, only 18 verses, and the focus is different. And, what’s this talk of "the world", as in, "my kingdom is not of"? John actually uses the Greek word "cosmos", rather than another term that more properly refers to the "earth" or any of the words that refer to people in general.
Jesus’ kingdom is not only "not of this earth" but "not of this universe". No wonder the spirituality of John’s gospel is so cosmic!

In this meeting of Pilate and Jesus, there are two conversations because there are two kingdoms. There are two kingdoms because there are two stories.

Think of a two-story house. Upstairs you find the bedrooms and the showers. You might be invited over to watch the ballgame, have a cookout, enjoy dinner. But that is not the same as being invited upstairs. Sometimes, before folks come over, we remind our kids: "No one goes upstairs without OUR permission." Come on, if we didn’t make the bed today, we don’t have to let anyone see it.

In Jesus’ mind, in John’s gospel, we live in a two-story universe. On one story is what John calls the "cosmos", usually translated the "world", and the other story is simply "above". It is a common feature of biblical apocalyptic, and the John writings are full of apocalyptic imagination.
At one point, Jesus declares, "You are from below, I am from above; you are from this cosmos, I am not from this cosmos" (John 8.23). Two-story universe! And our expression "the man upstairs" fits it to a "T".

Except that "the man upstairs" doesn’t bother to come down, or to invite us up. Yet, Jesus is "sent into the world" (10.36, 17.18). Jesus "comes into the world" (11.27, 12.46). "God so loved the world that he gave [Jesus]" (3.16) And, Jesus invites us to join his kingdom: "No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above" (3.3).

There are two conversations, two stories, two kingdoms. Once, at least once, folks were confused about the two kingdoms. They wanted Jesus to be king of one of their kingdoms, the kind of king who eliminates and condemns their enemies, which isn’t much of a problem if we share the same enemies. They wanted to force him to become king (6.15), but he withdrew just in time. Jesus will not become king by force, but by faith. That’s why he tells Pilate, "If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over" (18.36). But Pilate immediately concludes, "You’re a king then!" thinking that Jesus is a king like all the other kings "from below", rather than recognizing what Jesus is saying in that parallel conversation – that he is a king "from above". Jesus will not become king by force, but by faith. And his kingdom will not be defended by force but received by faith.

Just a few days before this conversation with Pilate, Jesus had entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey and welcomed by the pilgrimage crowd as King (12.13,15). But the image of a king on a donkey is drawn right from the prophet Zechariah, and it is not what we expect from the kingdoms of this world. "Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, HUMBLE and riding on a donkey .... He will cut off the chariot ... and the war-horse ... and the battle bow ... and he shall command peace to the nations (Zechariah 9.9-10).

His kingdom is from above, and it doesn’t work by the rules or logic of the kingdoms of this cosmos. Nevertheless, he comes to save the cosmos (John 3.17). In fact, Jesus declares, "I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the cosmos, but to save the cosmos" (12.47). "The man upstairs" doesn’t come downstairs to this story with a superior air, with a judgmental attitude. His judgment is directed against the evil ingrained in the cosmos and the one he calls the "prince of this world" (12:31, 16.11, 17.15).

For us, he doesn’t bring lightning bolts and thunder. He brings an invitation. You know that off-limits second story? You’re invited. You know that kingdom of peace and justice? It’s yours to receive. You know that crazy disconnected conversation? Once we get our stories straight, we won’t have that trouble with the King of kings.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Girl Scouts & Thanksgiving

One of our Girl Scout troops has joined us in preparing Thanksgiving Baskets for area families. Thanks to these gals, their leaders, and their families for sharing this mission!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tasting . . .

A quote from Jonathan Edwards, preacher of the Great Awakening (1700s), in The Prodigal God (p. 108, by Timothy Keller) . . . reflecting on the words of the psalm: "Taste and see that the LORD is good."

The difference between believing that God is gracious and tasting that God is gracious is as different as having a rational belief that honey is sweet and having the actual sense of its sweetness.


Fun at Rocky Ridge for the Youth and the New Beginnings group! Thanks to Gary for the pics.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Caleb


Reading a wonderful book, The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Timothy Keller ... we'll be using it for our Lenten study. It is a meditation and study of the story we call "The Prodigal Son". Here is a hymn verse from John Newton, author of "Amazing Grace", along with some reflection by Keller:

Our pleasure and our duty,
though opposite before,
since we have seen his beauty
are joined to part no more.

In a few short words Newton outlines our dilemma. The choice before us seems to be to either turn from God and pursue the desires of our hearts, like the younger brother, or repress desire and do our moral duty, like the older brother. But the sacrificial, costly love of Jesus on the cross changes all that.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

In the news . . . the Fling

Melissa Nann Burke's article in the York Daily Record begins:

The aroma of chicken corn soup drifted into the parking lot from a door leading to the kitchen of Bethany United Methodist Church in Spring Garden Township.

Inside, soup simmered in heavy-gauge stock pots. Through the galley door, two dozen gray-haired church members hunched in folding chairs over their projects, assembling pies, peeling potatoes or picking meat off chicken carcasses.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day Luncheon

Thanks to Khris & crew and to my dad for speaking! Wonderful meal and time together.

Medal Men

Thanks to Bob and Palmer for bringing or wearing your medals for our Veterans Day Sunday (Nov 8).


On All Saints (Nov 1), we welcomed back Rev. Ed Yarnell to share stories - coal ash from the railroads, questioning the call, dealing with judgmental religion, becoming an artist, live nativity. His gentle heart, tender spirit, and love are the center of his leadership. It was a blessing to share an interview with him over the Sunday School hour. (His painting of Bethany's first "church" building, a wooden structure, is on the altar table.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Message - Two Cents Worth

Mark 12:38-44 38 As he taught, he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation." 41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."

In 1998, art collector and historian William Arnett was working on a history of African-American vernacular art when he saw a photograph of this quilt, by Annie Mae Young draped over a woodpile. He was so impressed that he determined to find it and finally showed up unannounced at her home in Gee’s Bend, Alabama with his son Matt. She had burned some quilts the week before – cotton smoke drives off mosquitos – and wasn’t sure if she still had it or not. She found it the next day and offered it to Arnett for free. He insisted on paying her a few thousand dollars for that one and several others. And, he took them to an art museum in Houston, convinced them to exhibit these quilts, and formed the nonprofit Tinwood Alliance to help the women market their quilts, now selling for more than $20000 each.

This island community lost their ferry during the Civil Rights movement. The sheriff reputedly explained, "We didn’t close the ferry because they were black. We closed it because they forgot they were black." The community’s dominant realities were church, debt and hard work, hunting possum in the winter, scratching out a few crops in the growing season, and making quilts with worn out clothes and scraps from the sewing factories. Arlonzia Pettway, 83 years old, says, "I came through a hard life. Maybe we weren’t bought and sold, but we were still slaves until 20, 30 years ago. The white man would go to everybody’s field and say, ‘Why you not at work?’ What do you think a slave is?" (Wallach).

"Watch out for the teachers of the law. . . . They devour widow’s homes and for a show make lengthy prayers" (Mark 12:38-40).

In this section of Mark, we have, back to back, a condemnation of religiously defrauding widows and a widow whose generosity overwhelms us. But it is right for us to start with the first story, because it exposes for us all the worst things that religion can be. There is no need to go through the whole list . . . we don’t have enough time for all the evil things that have been rationalized with Scripture. But we have this phrase: "They devour widow’s homes and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely." We’re not that far from the public scandals of religious leaders who enriched themselves at the expense of widows on fixed incomes. We remember the rage, the indignation, we felt. We remember with horror the way the sacrificial gifts of so many were dishonored by a few.

It is nice to know that Jesus shares our outrage. Jesus is outraged when religious leaders dishonor gifts given to God. Jesus is outraged when people are taught, expected, demanded to give in a way that impoverishes them or forces them into debt. (In fact, the main categories of money-management instruction in the Bible are to get OUT of debt and to give.) Jesus is outraged when people are urged to give with the false promise that they will only receive more in return from God. Sure, we have the story of the widow at Zarephath and her unending supply of oil and flour. But the widow in this story gives everything and receives no such solace. When we give, the only thing we know for sure is that we’ll have less money. God is gracious and does surprise us – I’ve certainly been surprised from time to time with the way God has supplied – but giving to God comes with no guarantee of money in return.

When Martin Luther King, Jr. came to town, he said, "I came over here to Gee’s Bend to tell you, You are somebody." But it wasn’t until William Arnett, who got labeled early on as "the crazy white man . . . paying good money for raggedy old quilts" ... it wasn’t until William Arnett showed up that these women discovered their gift, their wealth. Now, they think of themselves as Artists. 46-year-old Louisiana Bendolph designs her quilts on paper, but her 11 year old granddaughter uses a computer. She says, "We think of inheriting as land or something, not things that people teach you. We came from cotton fields, we came through hard times, and we look back and see what all these people before us have done. They brought us here, and to say thank you is not enough."

Her great-grandmother, Mary Lee Bendolph, picked some pecans to make candy for the kids. She sat down to soak her feet and smiled. "I’m famous. And look how old I am. I enjoy it" (Wallach).

Do you think the widow in Mark’s story had any idea she’d become so famous? Maybe someday she and Mary Lee will get to make pecan candy and soak their feet together.

Two lepta, two coins worth much less than our pennies, two cents worth. But worth so much more. One thing for sure: They don’t burn any more quilts to keep mosquitos away! There’s no such thing as a "raggedy old quilt". "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on" (Mark 12:43-44).

Some reflections from these stories:
When the Apostle Paul complained to God about his physical infirmity, God’s response to him, in his specific situation, was a reminder of a universal truth: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Paul goes on to comment, about Jesus, that "he was crucified in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9 and 13:4). Whether or not it is ever noticed, there is a great power present in the women of Gee’s Bend, in the widow at the temple treasury, and in our own weakness.

Every one of us has a gift; don’t minimize your own. As Martin Luther King said, "You are somebody." I can say it until I’m blue in the face, but that gift is not usually discovered because of a preacher. It takes a guide, someone willing to pay good money for raggedy quilts, someone who helps us discover that we are an Artist. "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:4). It is our goal here at Bethany to help individual people uncover their gifts. It’s not a simple process and every story is different. But there is nothing like living out your destiny, becoming all that you were designed to be, discovering your gift. Talk to me if you are interested in knowing more.

Get out of debt. Debt is not just the biggest obstacle to generosity. It is also the biggest obstacle to becoming all we can be, to discovering our gifts. Being out of debt gives us incredible freedom. And, if you need some insight in this area, let me know and we can help.

The mathematics of giving. Sometimes we measure gifts by their actual amount: $1million goes much further than Two Cents. But it is obvious that God’s economy works a bit differently than that, so some other measure must be applied. We turn to the tithe, the 10% giving benchmark that shows up throughout the Bible. It is proportional to income and can apply effectively to many people. But, if we’re making the money of a top tier pro athlete, that 90% share goes a lot further than 90% of minimum wage. Jesus says that the widow gave more than ALL the others – not just the rich who were throwing their money around in public. Why? Because everyone else gave out of their abundance, their extra. The widow woman, on the other hand, dipped into her need, her poverty, to give everything, "all she had to live on". Measuring such a gift has less to do with the proportion of income and more to do with the difference between surplus and need.

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Works cited:
Wallach, Amei. 2006, October. "Fabric of Their Lives". Smithsonian, 37:7, 66-75.