Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Eve

Scenes from Christmas Eve - caroling at Victor's Italian Restaurant, fellowship at the Grantley fire house, our "living nativity", and the Bethany Bells. It was a beautiful night, with Holy Communion and Candlelight, and a wonderful time of celebrating the mystery and joy of the Incarnation - God made flesh in Jesus Christ.

Christmas Baskets

31 more meals were given out - turkeys, milk, eggs, celery, bread, cranberry sauce, green beans -- the works -- to local families through a partnership with the United Way. Thanks to Josie and her team!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas from York Habitat for Humanity

Well this holiday season is definitely one of the best ones that York Habitat has seen in several years!

We received the Clinton estate settlement check for over $66,600 combined with the RAYAC sponsorship check of $25,000 all in one day made it a very joyous day!

But the blessings continued with Veterans Build grants coming in with over $16,000 in Nov. and Dec. There is even more joyous news with the fact that the appeal is over $8,000 ahead of last year at this time with the donations flowing in daily. Plus we just mailed another 800 appeal letters in hopes of reaching even more supporters.

On the family side of things, the past two weeks saw three families racing to reach 50% of their sweat equity hours in hopes of being assigned their home; three more families completed their Good Faith hours and yet another family finished all of their hours. That's FIVE families who reached milestones just before the holidays. Wow!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Kids Praise debut

Our Kids Praise group debuted this past Sunday in both worship services. They were great! Thanks to Laura and Marsha for getting this started!

Advent Luncheon

At the last luncheon, Jerry sang and played for us - and we had another round of great food! Thanks to all!

Audi A8 TV Commercial - "Baseball"

Used this humorous video to illustrate the "recognition problem" of John 1.1-28.

Jesus' Family Album (4): The Beginning

John 1:1-28
Audi ad (video), “Baseball” (unrecognized greatness)

My dad, in the CIA, disguises ... (story). Small things, low-tech things, were the easiest way to conceal your identity, to make yourself unrecognizable. Here in John’s gospel, Jesus has a recognition problem. “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not recognize him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him” (John 1.10-11). John tells us that everyone, Gentile – “the world” – and Jew – “his own” – did not recognize Jesus. Was he undercover? But, as Maverick said, in the movie, “Everyone has a tell.” Was this a “Where’s Waldo?” visual puzzle? Or, is it plain as day, like the food we can’t find in the fridge, like the Audi Baseball ad, but we’re missing it?

One would think that for Jesus to go from being fully God, and God alone, to also being fully human . . . one would think that some “tell” would remain, that something would be held in reserve, that Jesus would pull out his “ID” and say “ta-da” and we would all ohh and ahh with reverence and amazement. But, no, he is so ordinary, so unremarkable, so normal.

So, while Jesus has a recognition problem, maybe that is the whole idea. Not in the sense of a disguise, but that Jesus, “the Word”, the Idea, the Message of God became fully and totally flesh. And there was no compromise. Jesus retained no superpowers. Surely, he healed, but there were other healers, and he taught his disciples to heal. He became fully human, and subjected himself even to death. Even now, as the Resurrected Lord, he remains in human flesh. That is radical and total “incarnation”, an old word that means to “become flesh”.

The Congo

Our United Methodist Board of Church and Society provided training in justice, advocacy, and faith in the Congo for our Christian brothers and sisters.  Check out the complete story!

More than 100 people attended the General Board of Church and Society’s restorative justice seminar in Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Katanga Episcopal Area last year. The seminar, supported by the Human Relations Day Offering, was developed to empower United Methodists in the Congo to be advocates for justice.

At the outset, participants agreed that the training should motivate them to share information with their community, train people on the church’s mission in society and increase the church’s impact on their community.

Seminar topics ranged from rape and sex abuse in the DRC, child soldier issues and working with them, HIV/AIDS, and home-based care and other restorative justice issues. Participants also learned about the structure of the United Methodist Church, the Social Principles, alcohol and drug prevention, and dealing with health and wholeness issues.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Kids Praise

Our newest music ensemble - our children - preparing to sing this Sunday! They practice twice a month during the Sunday School hour, and they will sing in both services this week.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Celebrate the Children

The kids from our Bethany Christian Learning Center sang for this past Monday's Advent luncheon. Thanks to all the families who came for the show, and thanks to Wanda and our great BCLC staff. One more luncheon to go, next Monday at noon!

Newsletter meditation

Mother Mary’s song in Luke 1:46-55, the Magnificat, is an amazing gospel proclamation. It praises God’s saving power and describes that power at work on behalf of the poor, the oppressed, the hungry, the humble – and at the expense of the rich, the powerful, the wealthy, the arrogant.

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor
on the lowliness of his servant.
. . . .
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud
in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful
from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
. . . .
The Greek word for “lowliness”, above, is one of the words used to translate the Hebrew term “ani” and “anawim” (plural), a word for the lowly, humble, oppressed, poor, miserable. And, Mary is drawing upon this powerful theme in the Hebrew Scripture of God bringing salvation for the lowly, delivering the oppressed, giving judgment for the poor, and seeing – using an intensive form of repeating the verb – our distress.
“I have indeed seen the misery of my people” (Exodus 3.7).
“You deliver a humble people” (Psalm 18.27).
“I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me” (Psalm 40.17).
“Maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute” (Psalm 82.3).
“But this is the one to whom I will look, to the humble and contrite in spirit” (Isaiah 66.2).
We experience misery and pain – that’s being human. And we experience the joy of salvation, the gift of God’s presence and comfort, the surprising reversal of fortunes. That’s grace. But we must not put Mary’s song on the purely spiritual level. These themes in Scripture are for concrete experiences of abject poverty and total destitution, and are most often found tied to Israel’s historical experiences of slavery in Egypt and exile in Babylon. It was in that moment of total loss that Israel’s faithful discovered that they were loved and cared for in the worst of circumstances, that they were, like Mary, “favored” (Luke 1.28, 30).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jesus' Family Album (3): Mother Mary and Uncle Zechariah

Luke 1:46-55 (call to worship)

Isaiah 61:1-4 (kids)
Luke 1-2, selections (message focus)

We’ve been looking at Jesus’ family album, through the origin stories in each of the four gospels. The first week of Advent, we looked at Matthew and found a portrait of Father Joseph. The second week, we looked at Mark’s gospel and found a portrait of Cousin John, all grown up. Today, we look at Luke’s gospel, together with Matthew the only gospels to record any story of Jesus before his baptism as an adult. Unlike Matthew, Luke focuses not on Joseph but on Mother Mary. And, Luke includes the family connection with John by introducing John’s parents as well.

Did your family ever have two moms pregnant at the same time? In our family, Robin was pregnant with Caleb (our second) at the same time that her sister Marcy was pregnant with Tony (their first). Tony was born a month before Caleb. A generation before, Robin’s grandmother had her third child, Mark, one of those late life surprises, only one year before Robin’s sister was born, two years before Robin.

In cases like that, comparing notes on first words, crawling, walking, potty training, teething, and – eventually – driving, is just what you do, particularly in the family and even with other parents whose children are close to yours in age.

Luke flips back and forth between Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of Cousin John, and Mary, mother of our Lord. In their case, there is a six month delay between parallel events.

The angel Gabriel announces the birth of a son to Zechariah. Six months later, Gabriel announces the birth of a son to Mary. Mary visits with Elizabeth, living in the Judean hill country, staying for three months, and leaves for home in Galilee before John is born. John is born, Zechariah – his tongue finally loosened – sings praise to God, and the child grows. Jesus is born, the angels sing praise, and the child grows. The parallels in structure, and even in the language of the original Greek text, are striking. (See program insert of chart from Fitzmyer, 313-314.)

There is parallelism between John and Jesus, but not equality. Though both are agents of salvation, and both sent from God, Jesus is after John (conceived 6 months later) and is greater than John. John is “great before the Lord”, Jesus is “Great”. Zechariah and Elizabeth are “righteous”, Mary is “favored”. (See Fitzmyer, 315.) Zechariah is “troubled” (1.12), Mary is “deeply troubled” (1.29), an intensive form of the word (Brown, 288).

By this parallelism without equality, Luke tells us that John is prophet, Jesus is Savior and Son of God. The parallelism also introduces differences between the parents, particularly between Zechariah and Mary, and some implications for the life of faith.

Christmas Dinner


Wonderful food, great fellowship and fun! Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas! (More pics later.)

Raise the Roof!

Thanks to AllType Roofing for the excellent - and quick - work! And to the foresight of those who gave to the church through their estate so that we could fund an emergency project like this.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Meaning of Shabbat

From a Jewish worship and prayer book:

"The meaning of Shabbat is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on Shabbat we try to become attuned to holiness in time.  It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world."

Practice - with joy - the Sabbath!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dance then

Sarah and her sisters, Holly and Faith, shared their gifts during our second Advent luncheon (Mondays at noon). Thanks for your beautiful gift!


Lindsey shared her gift of dance in both services this past Sunday. Emily and Danna had a little fun after the service!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Audi A7 TV Commercial - Spring Cleaning

Played this wonderful video during the Sunday message as an example of "Prepare the way", one of the themes of Advent and a focus of the preaching of Jesus' cousin John.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Jesus' Family Album (2): Cousin John

Isaiah 40:1-11 (kids)

Mark 1:1-8 (message focus)
This Advent, we are looking at the opening of each of the four gospels and leafing through Jesus’ “family album”. Last week, we looked at Matthew’s gospel and Father Joseph. This week, we open to Mark and Cousin John – probably a couple times removed; all we know for certain is that their mothers are related. In the next two weeks, we’ll look at Luke and John.

The opening verse of Mark’s gospel is a title (Taylor, 152; Boring, 47): “The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”. It is the beginning of something, not the end. That is, there is more of the story to come. It is the beginning of the gospel, a term used throughout the Scripture for the good news of a king’s victory, for the good news of deliverance for God’s people.

Picture a sports bar in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on the night the Packers won the Super Bowl. When they sealed the victory, it was “good news” and the crowd cheered. It was the gospel of the Green Bay Packers. For Packer fans, they hope it is only the “beginning” of that gospel, that the current undefeated run will continue.

Picture Libya when they heard that Gaddafi was dead. Cheers, flag waving, guns fired in the air. It was the gospel of a new Libya. And, it is only beginning, hopefully continuing not with a new dictator but with development and deliverance for all the people of that land. Do you see how important “gospel” is in this bad-news-world? We crave this sort of news, and when we get it, there is nothing but praise.

Gospel: Good news of deliverance and victory – through Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

But each true gospel story begins with preparation. Behind the scenes, anonymous labor. Or, public disapproval and extreme pain. The Arab spring traces its beginning to Tunisia, particularly to a young street vendor who doused himself in gasoline and lit himself on fire in protest before the local government building. The Packers victories come at a much more modest personal cost, but one that requires extensive planning, long term commitment, and practice, practice, practice. Allen Iverson: Eat your words.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


The angel Alandro, stationed in Bermuda, stopped by our first Advent Luncheon to share his fascination with kings. Luncheons are Mondays at noon.

Hanging of the Greens

A wonderful worship experience last Sunday evening, featuring the meaning and story behind various symbols of the season. That's Michael and Sara under the mistletoe and JoAnn and Brooke placing the creche. Thanks to Ruth for coordinating everything!

Jesus' Family Album: Father Joseph

Isaiah 64:1-9 (call to worship)

Mark 13:24-37 (kids)
Matthew 1:18-25 (message focus)

A few weeks ago, I was on fall study retreat. We – me, Jim, Steve, and our dog Spooky – were at Steve’s farmhouse, a home that has been in the family for generations. He found the old photos of his parents, grandparents, and great grandparents in the attic and put them up in the dining room. It’s a mini-portrait gallery that tells the family story, that reveals a little bit about who Steve is.

The opening of each of the four gospels is a little like that family album. We have portraits of Jesus’ family; we get a sense of who he is by who he comes from. Matthew and Luke have extended openings, a series of stories that takes place before Jesus grows up and begins his active ministry. Matthew focuses on Joseph; Luke focuses on Mary. Mark and John leap right into Jesus as adult. Mark dives into the story of Jesus’ cousin John, who baptizes Jesus. John (the gospel) also refers to cousin John, but opens the gospel by zooming out to get a perspective on Jesus in the world from the beginning.

Today, we look at Matthew’s gospel and Father Joseph. Interestingly, there is almost nothing about the pregnancy and birth. All we have are a couple lines:
“His mother Mary was found to be with child” (1.18)
“She had borne a son” (1.25)
The next story, the story of the visiting Wise Men or Magi or “three kings” appears to have taken place when Jesus is a young toddler (2.16, “two years old and younger”), rather than a newborn. And, in that story, the parent on whom Matthew focuses is Joseph.

This particular passage has puzzled readers with its language around marriage and divorce, so we need to take a few moments to clarify that. English lacks the appropriate language for the ancient Jewish customs, and New Testament Greek does as well, for that matter. “When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together” (1.18) and “He planned to dismiss/divorce her quietly” (1.19).

Decoration Day

Last Saturday, a great team turned out to "deck the halls". Thanks to all, especially Bob and Marc for coming in early with the trees!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

The United Methodist Women, coordinated by Kitchen Ministry director Josie, prepared 31 Thanksgiving baskets, including turkeys, for local families including several of our own Bethany families. Blessings to all!


Eight young people were confirmed and/or baptized this past Sunday! Thanks to all the mentors, and to Sharon, our Youth Ministries Director! Check out the full photo album!

First pic (9:00 Traditions worship): Caleb, with mentor Casey; Brooke with Linda; Brad with Gary; Derek with Danny; Zach with Jim; Sharon.

Second pic (11:15 Celebrations worship): mentor Crist with Austin, Shanelle with Danna, Brittany with Sharon, Pastor JP

Third and fourth pics: Baptism of Shanelle and Austin

Fifth pic: "Derek, remember your baptism and be thankful. The Holy Spirit work within you that, being born of water and the Spirit, you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ."

The young people then served Holy Communion and baptismal remembrance to the church.

All in All

1 Kings 18:21 (children)
Ephesians 1:15-23 (message)
Confirmation and Baptism of young people

Message in notation form only

Structure of English translation/Greek:

Prayer, part 1, Thanks (1.15-16)
Thanks for
your faith in Jesus
your love for the saints
Prayer, part 2, Request (1.17-19)
Pray that God
give you spirit of wisdom & revelation = eyes of heart enlightened
so that you may know
the hope to which he has called you (1.12, 1.18, 4.1, 4.4)
the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints (1.11, 1.14, 1.18)
the greatness of his power-power-power-power (4 synonyms)

Mission recognition

The United Methodist Women recognized JoAnn for her years of service as church secretary and honored her with a mission gift in her name! Congrats JoAnn!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Confirmation Banquet at Victor's

We had our final confirmation group study, on Spiritual Leadership, today, followed by a banquet for confirmands and mentors at Victor's, the location where we worshiped from 1905-1925. Thanks to Sharon, our youth ministries director, for making arrangements, to all the mentors who have given so much to these young people, and to these young people who are offering so much to our congregation and community! And thanks to the folks at Victor's for a fabulous meal, great service, and making the whole process easy. Check out the calamari in banana pepper cream sauce when you go!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Haiti report

We were privileged to have Jodi, Barb, and Nancy from the Haiti Partnership with us this past Sunday. Great to hear the story, and an exciting ministry to connect with!