Monday, November 29, 2010

As the Prophet Foretold (1): Fighters to Farmers

11/28/2010 Bethany, Advent 1A
Psalm 122 (call to worship)
Matthew 24:36-44 (children)
Isaiah 2:1-5 (message)
Romans 13:11-14 (benediction)

Our theme this year for Advent is “As the Prophet Foretold”, from the traditional readings in Isaiah. Before we go on, we need to address what Advent is, and what prophecy is (in the biblical tradition). First, prophecy. Walter Brueggemann, one of the premier biblical scholars today, says that we need to read Isaiah with a “bi-focal vision” (1998, Isaiah 1-39, 12) on the “near history” and the “far history”. For Brueggemann, that refers to the “near history” of judgment on Jerusalem and the “far history” of anticipated restoration. Chapter 1 of Isaiah is full of judgment. These opening verses of chapter 2 look to restoration, before diving back into judgment. The main character in this history is NOT Israel, but God. God brings judgment and God restores.

Jacques Ellul, one of my favorite theologians, describes the vocation of the church as prophet: “to understand and dominate the present from the point of view of the future, as an historian understands and dominates the past from the point of view of the present” (The Presence of the Kingdom). When Isaiah says, “Come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!” (2:5), Isaiah is inviting God’s people to live in light of God’s future. The faithlessness of Jerusalem in the text is tied to repeated compromises made in the present, compromises that make no sense at all in view of God’s future, though they look pretty here and now.

Second, Advent. The word itself is rooted in Latin for “arrival” or “coming”. The parallel Greek term, in the New Testament, is “parousia”, and this term has a bit broader meaning – not only “coming” but “presence” (as opposed to “absence”). In the non-Christian culture of the New Testament era, “parousia” had two main uses. First, for the “mysterious presence of a god ... particularly ... in healing”. Second, “when a king or emperor visits a colony” (N. T. Wright, 2008, Surprised by Hope, 128-129).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Field of Grace

Please be in prayer for this sister ministry in our Susquehanna Conference (region) - a new church starting in the Wilkes-Barre/Kingston area.  Their public worship launch is Christmas Eve!  Check out their website.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010


The Bells playing at Normandie Ridge this past Sunday afternoon. The Bells and the Choir presented the program for their weekly Sunday afternoon worship service.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New Members

Nancy, presented by Marie, in front of the congregation, joining Oct 20
Sue, presented by Nancy, with Pastor JP after joining on Nov 14


Homecoming, All Saints

From November 7, recognition of members of 50 years or more.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Learning Center Sunday

From October 31 (Halloween!), the Bethany Christian Learning Center program in Sunday worship. Thanks to Wanda and her staff for a great program, and for a great school!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Excellent Grace

11/14/2010 Bethany
Psalm 112
Mark 12:41-44 (children)
2 Corinthians 8:1-12, 9:6-15

Visiting a gypsy congregation in Spain, the offering ... separate baskets for men and women, served by male/female usher corps, counted up front, prayer concluded with something like “we thank you for $15 given by the men and $19 given by the women!”

Here at Bethany, we talk about a spirituality that is giving, faithful, and real. Today, we look at one of the most amazing biblical texts specifically related to giving.

Paul’s funding appeal to the Corinthians is described as “the first fund-raising letters in western history to request the voluntary contribution of funds from one community to aid another” (Lodge 1991, 59). It’s a remarkable piece of writing, both for what is included and for what is never mentioned. Nowhere do we see graphic description of the famine in Jerusalem or stories of impoverished and malnourished children. Nowhere do we see Paul appeal to his own personal authority (“because I said so”) or to the biblical tradition of the tithe. (He may have viewed this as extra giving, but we have no clarity on that in the text.) Instead, he tells them, “each one should give as decided in the heart – not begrudgingly or under pressure – for ‘God loves a cheerful giver’” (9.7). In Eugene Peterson’s The Message, the phrase for “begrudgingly or under pressure” is “sob stories and arm twisting”. There is none of that here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Thanks Veterans. (And don't forget your invitation to the church's dinner.)

Last Sunday's Beetle Bailey was a great tribute.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Communities of Shalom

Communities of Shalom began in the aftermath of the Los Angeles riots of 1992 as a way for urban, small town and rural congregations to learn practical ways for engaging a whole community in becoming more peaceful, whole and prosperous.

Several United Methodist congregations are leading an effort to start a Shalom site in York County with the same intentions, said the Rev. Judy M. Bupp, who is coordinating the initiative.

A few congregations and residents in the York and Delta areas have committed to the project already. All denominations and faith traditions are invited and encouraged to join, Bupp said.

"The Shalom communities are interested in not necessarily creating something new but in collaborating with existing programs and ministries," said Bupp, who is lead pastor of Grace and St. Paul United Methodist churches in York.

See the complete article by Melissa Nan Burke in the York Daily Record.

Harvest and Homecoming

11/07/2010 Bethany, Homecoming, All Saints, Holy Communion, Vets

Psalm 126

The psalm writer begins with a memory. It is one of those events that you never forget, a life-changing moment to which you anchor your trust. Things were going badly for Israel, for “Zion”. We don’t have the details – was it an economic collapse, a food shortage, a military failure? In some translations, this return is phrased as a return from exile or captivity. Most scholars now prefer the more general translation “restored the fortunes” rather than a reference to exile. What we do know about this restoration is that God “restored their fortunes” in a dramatic and powerful way. It was so amazing that they had to laugh. It was so powerful that they shouted and hollered out with joy. It was so dramatic that even other nations were telling the story: “The LORD has done great things for them!”

We love comeback stories, restoration stories. There’s usually an element of hard work involved. And, there’s often a surprising moment, something unexpected, that accelerates the comeback. In the late 90's, Hush Puppies shoes made a surprising comeback. It started with some surprising events – Harry Connick Jr. wore a pair on The Tonight Show and Tom Hanks wore them for Forrest Gump. And, the company was prepared with new colors, some updates to the old fashion, and were able to ride the wave. “Restore our fortunes”.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bacteria and Impact

Catching up (finally) on an article I've wanted to read for a while: "Slime City" in the July-Aug 2009 issue of Discover. (The magazine subscription is not mine, so I haven't had it on the list for over a year, just for a year or so.)  Bacteria have a "quorum sensing" process that turns on some of their special abilities (whether toxic to the human body or beneficial to a squid, as below) ALL AT ONCE when they realize that there are enough of them around to make impact. How many people does it take to change a light bulb? Or, how many does it take to create light? Excerpts from the article, below:

[Geneticist Michael] Silverman talked about how bacteria make light inside the inch-long luminescent squid that live in the shallow waters off the Hawaiian coast. . . .  Infant squid cannot glow until they excrete a mucuslike net to entrap the ubiquitous luminescent bacteria floating in the water. The squid draw captured bacteria into their "light pouches," where the bacteria are bathed in nutrients -- a diet richer than what they can find outside in the sea. In return, the bacteria . . . produce a dim blue-green light that is directed downward through small reflective organs in the squid to shine on the water below. When the squid swim at the ocean surface at night, hunting for shrimp, they are invisible to predators below because they look like moonlight on the water. . . . 

Autoinducers (chemical signaling molecules . . .) control the switch that turns the light genes off and on. Each bacterium secretes a bit of this light-evoking substance into the environment. When a crowd of bacteria and their autoinducers become dense enough, the lights in all the bacteria switch on at once. "This counting of heads is called quorum sensing" . . . .