Thursday, September 30, 2010


From my readings . . .

The beauty of the present world . . . has something about it of a chalice, beautiful in itself but more hauntingly beautiful in what we know it's meant to be filled with.
N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, p 222

Things shall not remain as they are.
Ezekiel 21:26

Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
Jesus, Matthew 24:28

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

House of Heaven

Neat story by Paul Nixon on a Chinese United Methodist Church in Brooklyn, first paragraph below:

I visited China yesterday - in Brooklyn. A five-year old United Methodist congregation called Tian Fu (House of Heaven) is on track to receive around 700 adult converts to Christianity this year - possibly placing them in the lead amongst all mainline congregations in America. In fact, they had just baptized and confirmed a class of 99 persons the week before I attended. I study such places, especially when they are yet largely undiscovered by others. Mainline church leaders sometimes write off places such as Tian Fu because of ethnic differences or because they assume (wrongly in this case) that the theology is fundamentalist. I went to Tian Fu primarily to worship, but also to learn. I plan to go back. Here is what I learned from them in my first three-hour Taste of Heaven:

South Africa

Rachel Keller, from Mechanicsburg in our own Susquehanna Conference, is a mission intern in South Africa. Check out her blog or the New World Outlook (mission magazine) article on the General Board of Global Ministries website.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


The Ghana team is back.  A few photos by Beth of the school and finished latrine.

A Thousand Tongues (Wesley Hymns #1)

Acts 26
2 Kings 7 (kids)
Psalm 40.1-11 (call to worship)

A few weeks ago I was listening to a lecture by church historian Diana Butler-Bass (2009 audio, Christianity21, JoPa Productions). She referred to a television interview of Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek, who had just received a Pulitzer for a biography of Andrew Jackson. The interviewer, Joe Scarborough, asked, “Why don’t you write about something relevant [as opposed to history]?” Meacham’s response: “History is to a country what memory is to an individual.”

Butler-Bass reminded her listeners of the pain of memory loss or caring for family members with memory loss. She, borrowing Meacham, declared, “History is to a church what memory is to an individual.” And she went on to say that history brings wholeness (the wholeness of a clear and honest memory) and that people who study history are more open to change, because they really have seen it all before. In God’s economy, memory doesn’t tie us to the past but to the future, to promise.

Each fall, we’ve been doing a series I’ve called ROOTS. We’ve looked at the movements of grace in Wesleyan theology, at the stories of Jesus at a place called Bethany, and – this year – at several hymns by Charles Wesley. It’s an effort to keep us rooted in a history and tradition that is older than us, older than our memories and our grandparents’ memories.

Charles Wesley and his brother John were the two founding figures of the Methodist movement. John was the organizer and the best known preacher, but Charles wrote some 9,000 hymns! The 51 Charles Wesley hymns in our hymnal, more than any other author, are only a small portion of his gift to the church.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Directions for Singing

John Wesley's directions, printed originally in the 1761 Select Hymns and now included in our hymnal.  Our message themes are drawn from a series of four hymns by John's brother Charles Wesley, author of 9,000 hymns!

I. Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.

II. Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.

III. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.

IV. Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

V. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

VI. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before not stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

VII. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such has the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


To the happy couple . . . Sunday September 12.

Why Bible Reading + Listening = Awesome

Why Bible Reading + Listening = Awesome
For all of you with smart phones or facebook . . . an FREE app combining Bible audio and text!

Jesus the Holy One (4): Calling All Sinners

Luke 5:27-39
I get a bit stuck reading this passage. The story about Levi meeting Jesus and throwing a party is straightforward enough. The Pharisees dispute Jesus and his disciples eating with sinners, and Jesus responds with the image of a physician who cares for the sick, not the healthy. The Pharisees dispute Jesus’ disciples lack of fasting, and Jesus responds with the image of a bridegroom and a wedding feast. I’m officiating at a wedding this afternoon and there is going to be a feast at which no one will be fasting. So far, in every wedding I have officiated, there has always been a feast and no one fasts.

I get all of this, at least on the level of understanding the basic progression of the text. But then Luke tosses out these two parables and a proverb about new and old garments, new and old wineskins, and new and old wine.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Picking hymns for Sunday and came across this one by Charles Wesley, to a familiar tune:

O Thou who this mysterious bread
didst in Emmaus break,
return, herewith our souls to feed,
and to thy followers speak.

Unseal the volume of thy grace,
apply the gospel word;
open our eyes to see thy face,
our hearts to know the Lord.

Of thee communing still, we mourn
till thou the veil remove;
talk with us, and our hearts shall burn
with flames of fervent love.

Enkindle now the heavenly zeal,
and make thy mercy known,
and give our pardoned souls to feel
that God and love are one.

Safe Access update (4)

The Felty Avenue sidewalk . . . and more concrete is being poured today!  Special thanks to the Craft Guild for their support of this particular portion of the project!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Jesus the Holy One (3): Through the Roof

Luke 5:17-26

Interpretation difficulties:
1. “Their faith”: Whose? Is the faith of the friends sufficient for the healing and forgiveness of the paralyzed man? This introduces a whole set of questions about salvation and faith that the text itself never addresses and seems entirely unaware of. The simple reading is that the faith Jesus notices is the faith of all of them – the friends and the man. And, the faith is not necessarily tied to a clear conviction about who Jesus is as Savior, but a strong sense – a faith – that Jesus can and will do something to help (Fitzmyer).

2. What do sin and illness have to do with each other? Last week, we mentioned the multiple dimensions of the healing of the man with leprosy – the social dimension and the medical dimension – two dimensions we separate today but which were indistinguishable in the ancient world. Likewise, there was, in Jesus’ time, a common assumption that illness and troubles were directly related to personal sin. Some examples in the Gospels:
"Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (Jn 9.2)
“Those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them- do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?” (Lk 13.4)

Nevertheless, there are extended sections of the Hebrew Scripture (our Old Testament) that explicitly deconstruct the idea that sin and illness or trouble have a cause and effect relationship. But we’ve heard enough folks talk about karma and “what goes around comes around” to know that we still think in similar terms today. “What did I do to deserve this?” Often enough, the answer is, “Absolutely nothing.”

The story . . .  Imagine the disappointment: Stories of Jesus’ healing power have been told and retold. You and your friends cook up a plan to meet the healer and nothing will stop you. Your friends cut through a roof and lower you into the room, to the feet of Jesus. And all he says is, “Your sins are forgiven.” What?!