Monday, June 28, 2010

New Member

Lauren (with husband, Nick) joined Sunday in the 9:00 service. She was presented by Sharon. Congrats!

Jeremiah (4): Bear Market Real Estate

Jeremiah 32 - The passage begins by introducing “the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD” but it gets sidetracked into the context of the particular word. So, before we dive into the word, we’ll also take some time to talk about the context. As we mentioned last week, Judah, the southern kingdom and all that remained of Israel and Judah, was conquered and exiled twice, about 11 years apart. The first time, in 598, the educated and the leaders were taken, and everyone else was left behind to pay taxes. But they decided they could be independent, proposed to pay Egypt to help them, and ended up in worse shape. It didn’t take long for Egypt to discover that Babylon had already taken everything of value. Now, the Babylonians are at the gate, the city is under siege and is about to fall.

While this is making the headlines, the prophet Jeremiah is experiencing his own personal version of siege – he is under arrest in the palace court of the guard. It is while under arrest that the king, Zedekiah, comes to Jeremiah. Zedekiah quotes Jeremiah and asks him why he is saying such seditious things. We never hear a reply . . . though if the king could quote Jeremiah’s sermons he might have listened to the part that answered his question (Brueggemann, 301).

All of this is prologue, introductory material and context for one of the strangest and boldest business transactions ever recorded. Jeremiah’s cousin Hanamel wants quick cash, wants Jeremiah to buy his field and keep it in the family. It’s about 3 miles from Jerusalem (Peterson, 174) and it is probably crawling with Babylonian soldiers, but it would make a nice summer house if you ever get out of the palace guard. Jeremiah has made it clear that Judah is going to fall, that economic life will cease. Why buy? Then again, Jeremiah has also proclaimed God’s promise of restoration. Why buy? Eugene Peterson says, “There is more here than Babylonians at the gate; there is God in your midst” (173). Walter Brueggemann writes, “There is indeed ‘life after Babylon.’ The prophet has put his money where his mouth is” (302).

The late John Templeton, a legendary investor: When war began in Europe in 1939, he borrowed money to buy 100 shares each in 104 companies selling at one dollar per share or less, including 34 companies that were in bankruptcy. Only four turned out to be worthless, and he turned large profits on the others. (“Life Story - The John Templeton Foundation”)

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Congrats to the happy couple!

Safe Access update (2)

Pics of the second shaft, mostly framed, with steel beams to support the second floor pad. Still to pour concrete, finish the electric, and have the framing inspection . . . then walls and lifts!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Jeremiah (3): Build in Exile

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14

In this section of Jeremiah, Jerusalem has already fallen to Babylon for the first time (there was subsequent rebellion, conquest, and additional exile). In exile, just as in Jerusalem, prophets are proclaiming what people want to hear, but not what God has declared. Prophets are telling the exiles that Babylon is soon to fall, that they shouldn’t unpack and settle down but instead be ready to head home asap.

In Jeremiah’s time, idol worship was common. Nevertheless, there remained many, like Jeremiah, whose love for the LORD was faithful. In exile, their big (worship) question was expressed in Psalm 137: “How can we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?” That is, when our worship has been linked to temple, city, royalty, and land . . . how can we continue? Even before the temple, before settlement in the land of promise, worship revolved around the tabernacle, God’s mobile home in the wilderness. Now, however, there is no focal point for worship. What shall we do?

Beyond the question of continuing worship was the question of pain. We’re in exile, we deserved something for our sin . . . but, this? It’s not like Babylon is holy or anything. And one of the prayers of God’s people was a prayer for vengeance, also in Psalm 137: “O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us! 9 Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!”

So, whether you were devout or not, hearing a prophet say, “Thus says the LORD” and promise vengeance and a homecoming . . . those were welcome words. Who wouldn’t want to hear that?

In exile, we find ourselves where we don’t want to be, surrounded by people we don’t want to be with (Eugene Peterson, Run with the Horses, 153). Ever been there? Find yourself there now? The easy path is wishful thinking – memories or dreams of a better place with better people. The easy path is ambivalent or adversarial, lazy or oppositional. We don’t feel like worship, don’t feel like devotion, don’t feel like discipline or discipleship. Instead, we fantasize about the ability to impose our will on the situation – if only I were in charge, if only I didn’t have to work with these morons, if only I didn’t have to deal with this stress. We accomplish nothing, we become nothing.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Honored grads on Sunday with a gift of daily readings of Scripture and writings/stories from the "Desert Fathers", the founders of monasticism in the church.

Safe Access update

The shaft for one of the two lifts is framed - from the basement to the rear of the chapel. Thanks for your gifts to the Safe Access Campaign.

Susquehanna Conference

Last Saturday, churches from the former Central Pennsylvania Conference and the former Wyoming Conference (in the Wyoming Valley of northeast PA) of The United Methodist Church gathered at Williamsport's Community Art Center to birth the new Susquehanna Conference. It was a wonderful Saturday, highlighted by the ordination service . . . during which I've always cried . . . . "Take authority to preach the Word, administer the Holy Sacraments, and order the church." This pic, and many others, are available in two on-line photo albums: Album1 and Album2.

Jeremiah (2): Captain Underpants

Jeremiah 13:1-11

This story has an appeal that is uniquely powerful for young males, elementary school up through middle school or junior high – those kids who most love body sounds and revolting odors and general grossness. It is one of the things that made the Captain Underpants series of novels such a huge success. There is nothing quite like Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets (by Dav Pilkey). And, wouldn’t you know it, right here in Jeremiah the prophet we discover his secret identity. Jeremiah is “Captain Underpants”. That “linen loincloth”? That’s ancient world “Fruit of the Loom” or “Hanes”, whichever you prefer.

In Jeremiah’s case, the audience isn’t a room full of 5th grade boys and it’s purpose isn’t humor. It is pretty serious stuff, especially when you consider that everything is going wrong in Jeremiah’s world. Judah is, to use the vocabulary of Captain Underpants, circling the drain, swinging back and forth from alliance with Egypt to alliance with Babylon, running far afield after foreign gods, and breaking the heart of the LORD God of Israel.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Learning Center Graduation

A wonderful Sunday morning, with strawberry shortcake, a picnic, and kickball in the rain. Thanks to all who made it possible - the list is far too long - and to the wonderful families, kids, and staff of the Bethany Christian Learning Center.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Chincoteague & Assateague

From Robin and my time in Chincoteague and Assateague ... the Assateague Island lighthouse, a horseshoe crabbing boat, the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel, being reintroduced on Assateauge Island, and the wild horses.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day

Thanks to Bob and Khris for coordinating this observance in worship on Sunday. And thanks to all who served and gave their all.