Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Thanks to all who serve. Some pics from the WW2 Memorial in DC.


Acts 2.1-21 with Romans 8.22-27 and Ezekiel 37.1-14
Audio file
Prepared notes below

The gift of tongues and the gift of hearingPentecost, often focused on the extraordinary gift of speaking in other languages, the gift of "tongues". But there is another miracle in the story, and the main miracle – from the perspective of the people in town on that day – was that they HEARD "each of us, in our own native language" (Acts 2.8). They HEARD "them speaking about God’s deeds of power" (2.11). When you study Communication 101, Intro to Speech, you learn that for communication to actually take place, there needs to be both speaker and hearer.

Today, I want us to focus on this gift of the Spirit – the gift of hearing. And, to clarify, this is not about the physical act of hearing. Sometimes we protest, when someone repeats themselves, "I heard you". That protest is the surest sign that we were not actually listening, not "hearing" with attention.

The work of interpretation"What does this mean?" (2.12, see also 1 Corinthians 12.10)
Interpretation: how we allow the word to ENTER us

How we prevent entry:
Discount – "They are filled with new wine" (2.13)
Use of sarcasm, "explain away" ... means less than (discount) or means nothing Literalism – "I’m not running, I’m jogging"
Eugene Peterson – how kids avoid obedience (Q Sessions 2012, "Practices") Familiarity "Breeds contempt"

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Wedding Bells!

Congrats to Michael & Sarah on their big day!

Study Retreat

Spent May 13-17 on my spring study retreat. This is an overcast morning pic from the week of study, prayer, and message planning.


20 May 2013
Acts 1:1-11, Luke 24:44-53
Audio file

7 "P’s" of the Story
PROOFS (Ac 1.3) – of his resurrection, SCRIPTURE! (Lk 24.44-47)
what he does not do: public ministry (healing/teaching)

PROMISE (Ac 1.4, Lk 24.49) – the Holy Spirit

PRESENCE – not Jesus, but the Spirit

PLUNGING (Ac 1.5) – baptized with the Holy Spirit
Greek: "dunk, plunge, immerse"
diving into a pool and meeting your reflection ... Annie Dillard

POWER (Ac 1.8, Lk 24.49) –
what about the kingdom? (Ac 1.6)
He was teaching about the kingdom, but they did not quite get it
Not what you expect, not the power you expect!
power not to rule the world, but witness in the world

Now My Eye Sees You (The Book of Job and Human Suffering #5)

13 May 2012
Job 42:1-6
Audio file

Job introduced, debate, retributive justice
now that the argument is over, whose fault the suffering is
now that Job has issued a summons, gone to court against God

...the LORD speaks out of the whirlwind:
there is an order/justice in the world, though not perfect
it is WILD, not domesticated, not under (our) control
it is permeated with GRACE (rain where no one lives)

This week, we close out Job, what I have called "the gospel of Job", with a look at Job’s response to God (2nd speech), a response that includes quotes of Yahweh speeches (proving that Job was listening!).

Quote #1: "Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?"
speaking above my paygrade ... speaking "things too wonderful for me"
Not that his pain was wonderful

But that the way God orders the world is higher his pain:

the succession of questions on the Creation, the procession of creatures wild, is too wonderful

like traditional cultures that use totems as guides into deeper truth, the procession of creatures has taken Job on a journey beyond himself to marvel at the mystery and wonder of the larger world

Quote #2: "Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me"
Yes, there is assertiveness in the tone of God’s speech, even confrontation. But there is also invitation – invitation into a relationship with God that goes far beyond just hearing about God, a relationship that is interactive, a relationship in which our speech generates a response from God, in which God’s speech calls forth our reaction.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


The Spring Fling - as usual, a great success! Thanks to Josie and her crew!


Check out the fence, recently installed by the Bethany Christian Learning Center for a playground! The cross was relocated along Ogontz Street.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Out of the Whirlwind (The Book of Job and Human Suffering #4)

05 May 2012, Job 38-41, selection
Audio file

We have been working through Job, and I have found myself over the past couple weeks thinking, but not saying, "the gospel of Job". Technically, in biblical literature the "gospels" are the four New Testament books that tell the Jesus story. In a broader sense, sharing the "gospel" is sharing God’s good news in Jesus Christ. The book of Job is focused on human suffering, so it may not seem like an appropriate connection to speak of the "gospel of Job", the "good news". But it is Scripture, and all Scripture testifies to Jesus Christ. And, though its subject is human suffering, though it deals in ambiguity and frustration and pain, though it includes significant debate on the cause and justice of suffering, it has a powerful, life-affirming, God-honoring focus.

We need to summarize the story once more. It opens with Job, a man who fears God and shuns evil, a man who is extraordinarily "blessed". Then Job loses everything – all his wealth, all ten children, and his health. His friends show up and mourn silently. When conversation starts, after a full week of mourning, they take the conventional position: God doesn’t allow evil to fall upon the good, so Job must have done evil. They start out politely, but end up accusing him aggressively, even claiming that his children died because of their sin. Job, on the other hand, though he grew up on the conventional wisdom, concludes that God has done wrong. Job concludes with a remarkable final statement, rejecting the arbitration of his friends, asserting his innocence, and summoning God to court (31.35):

Here is my signature!
Let the Almighty answer me!
O that I had the indictment written by my adversary!

In today’s reading, God shows up. God responds to the subpoena! God replies to a man in pain. But we did skip a section of the book. After Job’s final defense, which we looked at last week, comes an additional set of speeches by a young man, Elihu the Buzite. We know nothing else about his background. He is not named earlier or later in the story. In his introductory remarks, he tells us that he’ll burst if he doesn’t speak, and he speaks like someone about to burst. He chews out Job’s friends, he tells Job that he wants to justify him (33.32), he says that Job is rebellious (34.37), he talks about the justice of God, and he describes a coming storm (37.9-f): the whirlwind, the ice, the clouds, the lightening. "Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind" (38.1):

Who is this that darkens counsel
by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you,
and you shall declare to me (38.2-3).

Road to Recovery

"Lord, send us the people nobody else wants."

That was the bold prayer that set Grace Church, now a multi-site United Methodist congregation in Southwest Florida, on course for a future defined by outreach to "the least of these."

When Jorge Acevedo became pastor of Grace in 1996, the church was in a five-year decline. At its height, the church had reached 1,000 in attendance. By the time Jorge arrived, attendance had dropped by nearly 75 percent. The church was deep in debt, had unpaid bills, and was under scrutiny from the IRS for back payroll taxes.

Worse, from Jorge's perspective, the church's neighborhood had changed, but the church had not. Growth and health would come only with a commitment to outreach.

Grace Church's neighbors were indeed "the people nobody else wants"—addicts, prostitutes, and alcoholics. Outreach to the church's neighbors required a commitment to recovery ministry. Today Grace Church operates one of the largest recovery ministries in America, with more than 800 people involved each week.

"For many pastors," Jorge explains, "their ministry passions come out of their own pain; and that's true for me." Jorge had experienced the pain that addiction brings, and he had witnessed it in the lives of his parents, sister, and brothers. "As a pastor, I see the wreckage in peoples' lives, and I know churches typically aren't safe places to talk about this stuff."

Check out the full article.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dance and Breakfast

Thanks to Lindsey for sharing her gift of dance in both worship services this past Sunday, and to our breakfast crew that provided a fantastic meal during our Sunday School hour.  A great time of worship and fellowship!

Grounds Crew

Thanks to the team who showed up last Saturday to remove several overgrown shrubs and one old stump! The grounds look much better, and the fence installation for a new children's play area is beginning today!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

If: Job Defends His Integrity (The Book of Job and Human Suffering #3)

Audio file.
Scripture, selected text from Job.
Job 29-31

Let’s set the stage for today with a little review:

Job is a man who "fears God and shuns evil" and who is among the greatest men in the east. In one day, he loses his extensive fortune and his 10 children. Then, he loses his health and is tortured with sores, head to toe. His three friends arrive and after 7 days of silent support, they begin a dialogue about why this has happened to Job. Do you ever wonder why bad things happen to good people? The conventional wisdom in Job’s time was that bad things did NOT happen to good people, that "retributive justice" demanded that good things happen to good people and bad things to bad people. So, Job’s friends concluded that Job must have done bad – really bad. ‘Fess up and get on with your life. Job, however, concludes that God has messed up.

Today, we hear selections from Job’s concluding argument, a lengthy speech in three parts. The first part I’ll call "then". It is focused on Job’s past, on a remembered ideal of greatness and honor. The second part I’ll call "now". It is focused on Job’s suffering and dishonor. The third part is "if", focused on Job’s innocence and future hope. Commentator David Clines characterizes these portions of the speech as "nostalgic", "bitter", and "aggressive" (vol 18A, 1011). Today’s reading will include selections from the first two parts and the entire body of the third part of Job’s speech.


The text is remarkable. The first part, "then", with its extensive first-person story-telling, "I walked", "I was in my prime", "I delivered the poor", is very unique in the Old Testament Scripture. The second part, "now", includes an amazing direct address to God as adversary. The third part, "if", has a series of oaths, including curses, that are both bring the speech to a powerful climax and provide a unique example of legal debate that, in Job’s case, rejects the arbitration of Job’s friends and issues a summons to God. Let’s walk through the speech together.

Miserable Comforters (Job and Human Suffering #2)

04/22/2012, Job 3, Job 4-27
Text of the selected reading in five voices
Audio failed to record (sorry!)

Last week, we heard the beginning of Job’s story. A man who fears God and shuns evil, one who is among the greatest men in the East, suddenly is afflicted by every sort of calamity we can imagine. His fortune – in animals and servants – is destroyed in a day. His 10 children die in a tornado. Then, his health deteriorates overnight and he is wracked with constant pain.

That was the prologue. In this week’s reading, selections from the next major section of Job, Job and his friends are in conversation, and it isn’t going well. Gone are the prologue’s conversations between God and the Satan. In fact, though God still has a big role in the story, the Satan entirely disappears from the text. Gone is the patient Job (James 5.11) who declares, "Should we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the evil?" (Job 2.10). Instead, he curses the day of his birth and goes on to declare "God has wronged me" (19.6). Gone is Job’s wife, who recognized his integrity and advised him to "curse God and die". Job doesn’t do that – literally – but he certainly takes to the offensive and makes his protest known. And, gone are Job’s compassionate friends, weeping and mourning with him, in silence for "seven days and seven nights" (2.13). Now his friends take Job on as a project, someone they can and must help. And they help they offer is to prosecute him, to accuse him, to serve as his adversaries over 24 chapters of beautiful poetry, in one argument after another.

Last week, as we introduced Job and examined the prologue, we mentioned the theory of "retributive justice". It is the idea that evil things happen to evil people and good things to good people. If we do lots of evil, lots of evil will happen to us. What God provides, by way of justice, is both reflective of and proportional to our actions. Whether it is the conventional wisdom of the time, or the karma of today, we struggle in those moments when there seems to be no correlation between what is happening to us and what we have done. We struggle when we have no one to blame, no one to blame but God.

This theory is the principle upon which the argument between Job and his friends turns. They both take it as a given. The friends logic is: Evil things are happening to Job, therefore Job has done evil things. Job’s logic is: Evil things are happening to me, while I have my integrity, therefore God has done me wrong.


Kyle, one of our BCLC teachers, received the White Rose Award for exceptional teaching in Early Childhood and School Age Education. This recognition is given to only seven teachers out of hundreds in the south-central PA region, and is based on staff nominations and a review from the Office of Child Development. Kyle and Becky also received Outstanding Early Childhood Professional Awards based on parent recommendations. Congrats to Kyle and Becky, and to our entire outstanding BCLC team!