Monday, February 28, 2011

Will of God (6): Jesus' Last Will and Testament

Psalm 19 (call to worship)
Matthew 21:28-31 (children)
Luke 22:21-54
Luke 23:33-46

Prayer of Ignatius of Loyola, UMH #570
Teach us, good Lord,
to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labor and not to ask for any reward,
except that of knowing that we do your will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I know that I need to do something – but I don’t want to do it. I’m not talking about preparing my records for income tax season. I’m not talking about things I just don’t like doing, but about things that I really don’t want to do, things that I dread. Making apologies is okay, but I really don’t like to reveal a total failure, whether mine or someone else’s. Sometimes I’m frustrated with someone and I don’t want to approach them, I’m not ready to repair the relationship because I just want to be mad. Or, conversely, I want to approach them and give them an uppercut to the jaw. Sometimes I feel forced into an awkward situation, I don’t see a good way out, and I’d rather ignore it than solve it. I know what I should do, but I don’t want to do it. Know what I mean?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Update from Egypt

Excerpts from the director of the Bible Society of Egypt, Ramez Atallah (full letter):

On the "night of rampage," January 29th, when many businesses, shopping malls, vehicles and police stations were vandalized and destroyed, a bunch of hooligans approached the Bible House in the middle of the night. Our security guard had fled and the Muslim neighbors guarding their homes told us that they were preparing to protect our beautiful building when suddenly, for no apparent reason, the gang stopped in their tracks and returned from whence they had come! The neighbors were convinced that this was divine protection of the Bible Society and told us so! We were sleeping at the time, but undoubtedly some of you, in different time zones were praying for us!
. . .
Just today, some grandparents came into one of our bookshops and bought CDs and coloring books for their grandchildren. They said, "Now is the time for our children to connect with the Word of God, to find real security. We must build their trust in the Lord, and not in a certain regime or political solution."

HIV in Myanmar: "I am not useless"

By Mette Hartmeyer and Sidney Traynha

YANGON, Myanmar, February 23, 2011—In a country where the challenges for the poor can seem unfathomably complex, one of the brightest spots can be found in the vision of an unlikely leader: Naw Shé Wah. As a widow and single mother in Myanmar, she beat the odds of her circumstances and now works to improve the lives of women living with HIV and AIDS.

“The virus came to me and I cannot run away. We have to face it,” exclaims Naw Shé Wah with a certainty about her mission and message in life. “Most people think that positive people are useless persons. As for me, I do not believe that I am useless. I try as much as I can to support other positive people.”

After her husband passed away, her husband’s parents immediately blamed her. “I lost all of my property. I lost my job. And I had to look after both of my children,” she shares. It was at that time that she decided to commit herself to working with women “until the end of my life.”

Read the full article and other stories from The United Methodist Commission on Relief. Our church in mission!

Team Training Camp

Our rescheduled team training camp was last Saturday. After training on the meaning of discipleship, our ministry teams had a chance to plan and organize together.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Souper Bowl of Caring Report

We collected 276 items (306 pounds) - a family meal for 100 plus families - during our Souper Bowl of Caring campaign, collected in honor of our favorite of the final four playoff teams. The Green Bay Packers won out over the Steelers in our own Bethany Bowl, though it was close. There's always next year, Steelers fans! Our food items, and the financial gifts collected, go to our food pantry partner, the W.E.L.L. Nationwide, Souper Bowl of Caring financial gifts totaled over $8.4 million! And we are part of that!

Hearing from God

"You can't hear God speak to someone else, you can hear him only if you are being addressed."

Ludwig Wittgenstein, cited in Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading by Eugene Peterson.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Will of God (5): Evil

Psalm 5
Genesis 3
Romans 12:1-2, 9-21

A history lesson: In the late second century, a lawyer in North Africa named Tertullian was converted to Christianity. For him, it was a radical break with his past self. His comment: “Christians are made, not born” (Apologies, xviii, cited in Wikipedia). While there was this radical change in his life, he did not cease to be skilled in argument. Public opinion at that time ran very much against Christianity, not simply as seditious and possibly illegal, but to inflated rumor and slander. Christians were accused of, among other things, orgies and human sacrifice. Tertullian was largely effective at changing minds and telling the truth about what Christians did. He is also the one who remarked, regarding the persecutions of his time, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

He also published a series of books Against Marcion, a dualistic teaching and an early heresy. Marcion found the violence of the Old Testament to reflect a god that he could not worship, so he rejected the entire Old Testament and accepted only a small portion of Luke’s gospel along with the writings of Paul. One of the allegations Marcion made against God, as he read the stories of the Old Testament, was that a God who is good, a God who knows the future, a God who is powerful to prevent evil nevertheless permitted human beings to sin. If so, Marcion argued, then God was not good, not knowledgeable of the future, and not powerful against evil. This argument cuts to the question before us today, the question of the Will of God and Evil. So, having heard the story from Genesis, let’s hear the remarks of Tertullian the lawyer. And, fair warning, Tertullian is milking the moment and the metaphor:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tertullian against Marcion, on evil

Enjoy the metaphor of this passionate lawyer advocating for the Christian faith. This was written around the year 208.

Now then, ye dogs, whom the apostle puts outside, and who yelp at the God of truth, let us come to your various questions. These are the bones of contention, which you are perpetually gnawing! If God is good, and prescient of the future, and able to avert evil, why did He permit man, the very image and likeness of Himself, and, by the origin of his soul, His own substance too, to be deceived by the devil, and fall from obedience of the law into death? For if He had been good, and so unwilling that such a catastrophe should happen, and prescient, so as not to be ignorant of what was to come to pass, and powerful enough to hinder its occurrence, that issue would never have come about . . . . Since, however, it has occurred, the contrary proposition is most certainly true, that God must be deemed neither good, nor prescient, nor powerful (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3, Tertullian I,II,III, Against Marcion, book II, chapt V, p 300; 1995 reprint edition of Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA).

For further remarks of Tertullian, resolving this question, check out Sunday's message notes.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Will of God (4): Pleasure

Genesis 2:15-25
Song of Songs 8:4-14
1 Timothy 4:1-5

The will of God and pleasure. One of our folks, who has been through premarital preparation with me, said, “I bet it will be on the Song of Solomon”. And, lo and behold, it is one of the texts for the day. For those of you who haven’t read it, the Song of Songs is an erotic love poem, possibly the oldest of ancient literature. The section we read for the service today does not include the graphically erotic elements. It is an affirmation that God designed sexual love, that God is pleased by sexual love, and that God knows best how it should be celebrated. And, it has also been read as a guide to prayer.

Sex is certainly designed by God for our pleasure, among other things, though that is not its primary purpose. But so much of our sex talk in the church has been about prohibition, not remotely about pleasure. There is certainly prohibition in the biblical text, even in “God’s Top Ten List”, the Ten Commandments: “thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20.14).

And, sex is not the only pleasure in life. The other main pleasure is food – comfort food, soul food (There is a spirituality of food!). If you missed last week’s breakfast, you missed quite a spread. I spoke with Pastor Kevin Polite of the Salvar El Alma ministry this week and he said that his message this Sunday would be titled “Mmm Good!” and that he would start with our breakfast spread and move to the biblical text, “Taste and see that the LORD is good!” (Psalm 34.8).

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ribbon Cutting

Cutting the ribbon at one of our lifts, after our Open House celebrating what God has done as we made our building wheelchair accessible. Left to Right: Rev. Kevin Polite of Salvar El Alma (a bilingual ministry which will begin worshiping in our building on Sunday afternoons); Bob Druck (trustee); David Snyder (council chair); Bob Lehman (trustee); Rev. JP Bohanan (pastor of Bethany UMC); Eric Orr (Center for Independent Living, our consulting partner in the project). Thanks to all who were a part of this story, and to all who have given and continue to give to fund it!

We are Brothers!

Pastor JP Bohanan with Pastor Kevin Polite of the Salvar El Alma ministry, a bilingual ministry that will begin worshiping at Bethany on Sunday afternoons. We made introductions at our Open House celebration, demonstrated bilingual interpretation, and prayed blessing prayers for each other's ministries.  I also shared the story of "We are Brethren" (one of our stained glass windows, adapted from Wikipedia):

In 1767, Otterbein was present at a worship service in Long’s Barn near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Martin Boehm, a Mennonite who had been born in Lancaster, preached, and after the service Otterbein came forward and greeted Boehm with words that became famous in United Brethren tradition: "Wir sind Brűuder" (We are brothers). From that day forward they had a close working relationship. Norwood comments that "They were an interesting pair: Otterbein the stately university-trained minister and Boehm the Mennonite farmer with a full beard."  (The United Brethren merged with the Evangelicals in the 1940s, and then with the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1968 to form The United Methodist Church.)

The 23 Jan council announcement follows the jump.

Open House

Scenes from our Open House worship celebration . . . including the kids demonstrating the "armor of God", the praise team, and the bells.