Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Members

Kay, Tasia, and Gail joined on Sunday February 14 in the 11:15 service, and 5 more persons are planning to join on February 28! (Check out the piece Tasia wrote for this month's newsletter.)

Prodigal God

Our Thursday night dinner discussion group for Lent is a study of the story known as "The Prodigal Son". It's a great time together!

Snow Much Fun!

From last week - special snow elves showed up to clear an extra path and open up a couple parking spaces! Then, on Ash Wednesday, Jim Bob attacked the treacherous icicles. Thanks!

Monday, February 22, 2010

News: Flying Blind

[From our upcoming church newsletter]

Our Praise Team took a "retreat" day with music, games, and reflection. We meditated on Isaiah 6:1-8, then examined it as a worship experience. One question was raised about the seraphs, who cover their faces with two wings, their feet with two wings, and fly with two wings: Do they fly blind? Not having seen a seraph myself, I have no authoritative answer, though the Scripture includes the theme of "walking by faith, not by sight". The very next day, I read Isaiah 50:10-11.

Who among you fears the LORD
and obeys the voice of his servant,
who walks in darkness and has no light,
yet trusts in the name of the LORD
and relies upon his God?

But all of you are kindlers of fire,
lighters of firebrands.
Walk in the flame of your fire,
and among the brands that you have kindled!

This is what you shall have from my hand:
you shall lie down in torment.

Often in the life of faith, we are faced with the choice between trust – before we have evidence – and walking by our own light. It is a scary thing for a guy like me to be LED. But the end of the journey is more than worth it!

Prodigal God (1): Lost and Found

Luke 15:1-10 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." 3 So he told them this parable: 4 "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8 "Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.' 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

Luke 15:1-10 (message)
Psalm 14
Matthew 6:1-6, children

Dad’s stories: Bad Bart, Nice Ned, Sweet Sue, Naughty Nell . . . and we children always appeared in the stories. . . . In the same way, in the three stories Jesus tells in Luke 15, his audience shows up in the stories. Today, we’re going to set the stage by paying attention to his audience. Then, we’re going to look at the first two of the three stories Jesus tells, the story of the lost sheep and the lost coin. Jesus uses those stories to set up the third, more elaborate story, of the lost sons. I encourage you to go deeper with this Scripture with the Thursday night Lenten dinner & discussion group and with reading the book, The Prodigal God, by Timothy Keller, whose resources contribute to this message series.

Verse 1 introduces the first group in Jesus’ audience: the "tax collectors and sinners". I don’t know anyone who is fond of paying taxes, but in the ancient world, tax collection was a job accompanied by spite, intimidation, deceit, and corruption – and, on top of that, it was done for the occupying power. And, who are "sinners"? We can get all biblical and quote the line "all have sinned" (Romans 3.23). But this word was used as an expression for those whose reputation preceded them, for those who were known to be good at being bad. We are told that these folks are "gathering around" or "coming near" Jesus. The verb, in another form, means "join end to end". I imagine not just a handful or even a cluster of "tax collectors and sinners" but a crowd, pressed together, joined together shoulder to shoulder like so many dominoes – all of those trains connected to Jesus.

In verse 2, we meet the second group in Jesus’ audience: Pharisees and scribes. These folks are "good people" – they are religious, obedient, upstanding citizens, pillars of the community. And complaint ripples, muttering flows through their part of the crowd: "This guy accepts sinners – and eats with them!" They see the world in good and evil. How can Jesus be good if he fellowships with evil people? As for us Pharisees and scribes, we have "no need of repentance" (15.7). That’s beneath us, and these tax collectors and sinners are beneath us.

Obviously, the tax collectors and sinners aren’t beneath Jesus. He replies to their muttering, but indirectly in story form. These stories were not designed to make us feel good but to press the buttons of the righteous folks, to challenge their assumptions. Even today, when we look at the details of these stories, they challenge us and our assumptions about sin and salvation, about being lost and being found, about God and the human race.

Lost in Laos: At 4 years old, tried to catch up to Dad when he went on a run. Thought my life was over (Greek term for "lost" here is also for "perish" or "destroy".) I was foolish; I thought I could run as fast as my father. Yes, I was preschool, so maybe it doesn’t count against me. Either way, I was lost. One of the wonderful things about this series of stories is that they provide us a multi-dimensional picture of lostness. In the words of Tim Keller, "the sheep is lost through foolishness, the coin through thoughtlessness, and the son through willfulness." Take, for example, abusive anger and violence. Is it genetic? brain chemistry? inborn, like the sheep? Or, is it environmental, a consequence of poor parenting or some other childhood trauma? Like the coin, did something that we cannot control happen to us? Or, are we just selfish and prideful, like the lost son? Well . . . yeah.

Keller writes, "Sin is deeply complex. It is inborn in you, it is magnified by sinful treatment, and it is deepened and shaped by your own choices". (Notes for pastors, session 2).

Searching for Casey’s lost keys ... Things that are lost don’t find themselves. They need to be found. You know the old line: "Admit it, honey, we’re lost." The sheep doesn’t find its way home. The coin doesn’t leap into the hand of its owner. And, the son doesn’t come in to the feast without the father’s invitation. "Admit it, honey, we’re lost."

Religion is all about the human search for God. And, most of us think that if we search hard enough, if we live right enough, if we believe firmly enough, we’ll find God. But that’s not what Jesus says in these stories. The biblical story is that we are LOST, and that God comes to us first. When the LORD met Moses at the burning bush, the LORD declared, "I have heard the cries of my people and I have come down to deliver them" (Exodus 3.7-8). The beginning of John’s gospel declares, "The Word (the Saving Message/Saving Messenger) became flesh and lived among us" (John 1.14). Elsewhere, John writes, "We love because God first loved us" (1 John 4.19).

In the first story, the shepherd goes looking for the sheep. In the second story, the woman searches high and low for her coin, probably a piece of her jewelry, her only status symbol. And, Jesus describes himself elsewhere in Luke’s gospel account as the "Son of Man" who "came to seek out and to save the lost" (Luke 19.10).

Because the Pharisees and scribes "have no need of repentance", they just see themselves as superior to sinners. According to Jesus, "there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who have no need of repentance". The writer to the Hebrews tells us that it was for this joy of finding us, "for the joy set before him" that Jesus "endured the cross, scorning its shame" (Hebrews 12.2).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

El es mi Rey Tambien (Nidia Jaar)

The singer is one of the leaders in the First Spanish UMC of York - wonderful person, full of faith, teacher of voice and piano.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Celebrating Ministry

From our Sunday celebration of ministry teams . . . thanks to our staff members for pulling their teams together, and to all of you for making it happen!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Lent at Bethany

Ash Wednesday – THIS Wednesday – kicks off Lent, a season of preparation, self-examination, and study to make us ready for “Holy Week” and the great drama of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

We’ll observe Ash Wednesday at 7:00 pm with a reflective service: Holy Communion, the “imposition of ashes” (made with the palms from the prior year’s Palm Sunday), and Scripture from the Book of Job.

On Thursday night, we begin our series of Lenten Dinners and Studies, at 6:00 pm. Dinner is FREE (donations accepted) and childcare is available (after the meal – call ahead to register). Our study this year is based on Tim Keller’s marvelous book The Prodigal God, and it will be connected with Sunday messages on the same themes. It is an exploration of the story we know as “the Prodigal Son”. The book is excellent, and Tim Keller is a master teacher. For more information and the video “trailer”, check out the site:

The books are available for $15 (25% off cover price). They are not required, but I highly recommend it!

Youth Visiting

Sharon, our Youth Ministry Director, and Cuvin, our Congregational Care Ministry Director, have collaborated and our young people are getting to know some of our homebound folks. A pic was sent in by Rodger & Sylvia, the thankful hosts of a recent visit.

Road to Recovery 4

Road to Recovery (4): Community
02/14/2010 Bethany
Nehemiah 3:1-32 (message)
1 Corinthians 3:6-23
Children: Jesus sending two by two (teams)
one body, many parts

Road to Recovery: Israel returning from exile ... and in today’s reading the project is to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

Isaiah 49:17, "Your builders outdo your destroyers, and those who laid you waste go away from you."


READ Nehemiah 3:1-32, 4:6

Today we read the roster, the directory (get your church directory today), of persons who worked on the construction project, beginning at the Sheep Gate and ending where it started. Nehemiah gets commitments for every section of the wall and sets it up so that friendly competition will drive it forward. Two different trade guilds work side by side – goldsmiths and perfumers – and I’m sure they end every day by comparing their work with their neighbors. The two half-districts of the town of Keilah work side by side, and over dinner the related clans boast about who will finish first. Several towns are named, some of them by half-districts, Jericho, Tekoa, Gibeon, Mizpah, Zanoah, Beth-haccherem, Beth-zur, Keilah, and Jerusalem. A walled city enhances regional security and stimulates the regional economy, so Nehemiah has all the Jewish settlements pitching in.

Everyone is included on this team’s roster, and everyone gets to play. Craftsmen and merchants, men and women, priests and laity, rich and poor, city folk and country folk, soldiers and civilians. Every segment of Jewish society in the return from exile is represented. There is division of labor: Some are skilled in working with stone and others are "burden bearers". And, when security becomes a bigger issue, some stand guard and others hold weapons for the workers. So today, every one of us has something powerful and significant to contribute to the work of the kingdom of God.

For the common good – the wall of Jerusalem – he forms them into a fresh community. That’s why, incidentally, he was so concerned about banking reforms: for the poor to be exploited is bad for the common good and for the fresh community necessary to accomplish the task before them.

He creates teams rather than committees: A group of people as committed to each other as they are to the task. And when they all bring their gifts to the table, some exciting things begin to happen.

Last night, District Band festival (Caleb played)
– roster
– each musician brought a part of the sound

Witness of the community, community as evangelist
ReImagining Evangelism, Rick Richardson
Juergen Moltmann, A Broad Place
the witness of the Scottish community at the POW camp

Stories of our newest members – it is the community!
"There is something special here"

Vow of the membership covenant (particular to Bethany):
Do you commit yourself to discipleship in the connected spheres of worship, community and mission?
Do you commit yourself to the practice of reconciliation to guard the unity of this congregation?

But, lest we forget that we’re dealing with people here, it’s not picture perfect. When listing the first of two sections rebuilt by the people of Tekoa, Nehemiah reports, "Their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord" (3:5).

Ever met someone who thought that they were too good to do the dirty work? Ever been that someone? On gender roles in households, it’s been said: "I’ve heard men complain of doing women’s work and women complain of doing men’s work, but I’ve never heard the work complain about who did it." Nehemiah was never allergic to work, and he doesn’t appreciate seeing that rationalized in others. He knows that hard work is the path to success.

It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that we are somehow above that work that we despise. We like having reasons to think that we are important, and an exemption from work sounds like a good one to me! But Jesus said, "Whoever wants to be great among you must become your servant . . . . For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:43-45).

We are called not just to learn from Nehemiah’s example. We are called to be followers of, apprentices to, disciples of Jesus. We are called to the power and grace of a team. We are called to put the common good above our own comfort or convenience. We are called to a life of serving, not to a life of being served.

To serve rather than be served is to devote ourselves to God’s best for those around us. Often enough, it requires getting "down and dirty", something the nobles from Tekoa were unwilling to do. Always, it requires love. Mother Theresa of Calcutta, the most famous recent example of serving and love, wrote, "Works of love are always a means of becoming closer to God" (Meditations from A Simple Path, excerpts collected by Lucinda Vardey, 1996, p 73, New York: Ballantine).

A prayer of Mother Theresa (p 28):
[Difficult word: "calumniated" – slander, libel, defame]
Deliver me, O Jesus,
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the desire of being popular,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being suspected.
[Deliver me, O Jesus.]

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yes, Virginia, there's . . . SNOW

For the Virginia contingent of my clan . . . speaking of being hip-deep in it.

Thanks from Mission Central

Mission Central is a United Methodist staging warehouse for literally hundreds of local and global ministries of all kinds. A recent update from Jean Norris, one of their volunteers:

I was privileged to be able to work at Mission Central last week amidst the preparations for reaching out to Haiti following the earthquake. Within the week after the earthquake, UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) asked Mission Central to send the Health Kits we had ready - 20,026 were sent with a pallet of toothpaste, and a pallet of school kits. Now with the generous outpouring of so many , we are re-stocking and waiting for the next UMCOR call to ship supplies that are needed.

I have been immensely impressed this past week with our connectional system. What a blessing to be working together across the Northeast Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Haiti. Let me tell you just about Friday, Feb. 5th. As we faced a major winter storm in the forecast, these supplies, among others came in to Mission Central:
- 2 Mission Central HUBs delivered kits
- a BIG truck from the West Virginia Conference of the UM Church was unloaded with more than 8,000 kits from across their conference with equal money to purchase toothpaste and transport the kits
- another truck arrived from New Jersey with many kits
- a mother along with her 2 small children brought in some kits they had put together
-3 1/2 pallets of medical supplies arrived from New York
....and these are just the things I was aware of that day knowing that a lot more arrived that I did not know about.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sunday Breakfast

From our breakfast on Sunday Jan 31. Thanks to the crew!


One more baptism on Jan 10: Brittany. No pic of the day, but a pic of her singing "O Holy Night" on Christmas Eve (at the pulpit).

Suffering and God

Reading some more in Jurgen Moltmann's autobiography, and he recounts his conversion experience through the hospitality he experienced in a POW camp in Scotland (WW2) and reading the Bible, this section from Psalm 39:

I am dumb and must eat up my suffering within myself.
My life is as nothing before thee. . . .

That was an echo from my own soul, and it called that soul to God. . . . Then I read Mark's Gospel as a whole and came to the story of the passion; when I heard Jesus' death cry, 'My God, why have you forsaken me?' I felt growing within me the conviction: this is someone who understands you completely, who is with you in your cry to God and has felt the same forsakenness you are living in now. I began to understand the assailed, forsaken Christ because I knew that he understood me.

A Broad Place, 2008, p 30

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snow notice!

Bethany's Sunday services are canceled for tomorrow, February 7. Our Team Day and Ministry Team Celebration will be moved to the following week, Feb 14.

Stay safe, drink hot cocoa, enjoy the big game. And, it is liturgically appropriate to sing “O When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Thanks from Haiti

From the President of the Methodist Church in Haiti:

Jan. 28, 2010
On behalf of the Methodist Church in Haiti and the Haitian people, we thank you. Thank you all for your outpouring of love, support and Christian brotherhood in our great hour of need. Haiti has suffered a great tragedy, and to rebuild, recover and strengthen, it will take us all.You have kept us in your prayers and we are grateful. You have sent donations through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). We thank you for your generosity. You have expressed your selfless interest in volunteering your time to come to Haiti to help with the recovery effort and we look forward to welcoming you.In the coming days and weeks, the Methodist Church in Haiti will complete an assessment of the damage and communities impacted by the earthquake, and will prioritize areas for relief and rehabilitation in partnership with UMCOR. Teams of United Methodist Volunteers in Mission will be integral in the long-term recovery of the church and communities in Haiti, and opportunities will soon be available to come and help in meaningful ways.

In the short-term, the immediate needs of providing emergency aid of food, water, shelter and medical care are being addressed by UMCOR and a host of national and international relief organizations and technical specialists. Soon, the work of clearing debris in preparation for rebuilding will be done by teams of locals in cash-for-work programs led by these same aid groups and local community groups, including the Methodist Church in Haiti. The participation of international volunteers is welcome after this initial emergency phase is complete, at which time the Methodist Church in Haiti will work closely with UMCOR and UMVIM to identify rehabilitation projects which match the needs prioritized in the country.

With great appreciation for the outpouring of support and offers to come in person to help volunteer in Haiti as quickly as possible, the Methodist Church in Haiti, in partnership with UMCOR, requests that volunteer teams consider delaying their arrival into Haiti in light of the following:
 The Methodist Church in Haiti and UMCOR are still undertaking assessments and evaluations in the 6 circuits most impacted by the earthquake, to determine the extent of the damage in church communities and beyond. Suitable projects and assignmentsfor volunteer teams wishing to contribute to the recovery effort will not be identified until this process is complete.
 The Methodist Guest House is currently being assessed for structural integrity, and will undergo some rehabilitation and reconstruction of the security wall before being brought to full capacity and security to host teams of volunteers.
 Commercial flights into Haiti are currently suspended and all travel into Haiti must be done via the neighboring Dominican Republic. Once in Haiti, transportation and logistics are further complicated due to the influx of international aid groups and the reality of debris and closed roads.
 The emergency relief and debris removal phase may last at least another one or two months, depending on the severity of the impact to the communities. Volunteers wishing to work on the programs identified as priority by the Methodist Church in Haiti and UMCOR can begin to schedule trips for late March and April, once this initial emergency response and recovery phase is completed.
 Volunteer teams with pre-existing travel plans to Haiti are urged to reconsider the timing and nature of their trip, in order to allow for re-assessment and prioritization of earthquake recovery programs.

Please continue to communicate with us your interest in volunteering for the recovery effort, and we will connect you with recovery projects and rehabilitation programs as soon as possible. We thank you again for standing by us in this time of great need, and look forward to working in Christian partnership to build a better Haiti.

Rev. Gesner Paul
President, Eglise M├ęthodiste d'Haiti

Monday, February 1, 2010


From Shane Claiborne, writer and activist:
If we lose a generation in the church, that loss won't be because we failed to entertain them, but because we failed to dare them — to take the words of Jesus seriously and to do something about the things that are wrong in the world. (Thanks to Chris E. for sending the quote along.)

From Psalm 60:2, The Book of Common Prayer
You have shaken the earth and split it open;
repair the cracks in it, for it totters.