Saturday, September 29, 2012

Switzerland (The Last Bison)

The Last Bison- Switzerland (HD) from The Last Bison on Vimeo.
Really cool video and great music. And, I have met some of the musicians, through my parents' church in Chesapeake, Virginia.

Friday, September 28, 2012

MRI headed to Honduras

An update from Mission Central, the story of an MRI donated and sent to a hospital in Honduras, along with technical training and a new community health initiative! Mission Central is one of our mission partners and a ministry of the Susquehanna Conference of The United Methodist Church.  For more information, check out their website, read the full story, or like them on Facebook.

I wanted to share with you some updates I have received over the week regarding the MRI journey. Additionally, I hope to update you periodically with information from Honduras as it is made available in the coming months.
On Friday, September 14, 2012, at 2:00 P.M. volunteers and guests gathered for a brief blessings ceremony. Carmen Morales offered a blessing in her first language of Spanish. Rev. Ruth Ward lead the group in a responsive blessing and anointed the trailer with oil and sought God's blessing of the machinery, the transporters, and the people of Hospital Escuela in Honduras.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

God who stretched the spangled heavens

Below, a hymn lyric, by Catherine C. Arnott, found in Grandma's music. I heard and sung it for the first time this summer at annual conference and then discovered the lyric in her stuff.

God, who stretched the spangled heavens
Infinite in time an dplace,
Flung the suns in burning radiance
Through the silent fields of space,
We, Thy children, in Thy likeness,
Share inventive powers with Thee--
Great Creator, still creating,
Teach us what we yet may be.

We have conquered worlds undreamed of
Since the childhood of our race,
Known the ecstasy of winging
Through uncharted realms of space,
Probed the secrets of the atom,
Yielding unimagined power--
Facing us with life's destruction
Or our most triumphant hour.

As Thy new horizons beckon,
Father, give us strength to be
Children of creative purpose,
Serving man and honoring Thee,
'Til our dreams are rich with meaning--
Each endeavor Thy design--
Great Creator, lead us onward
'Til our work is one with Thine.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Audio Bible: Let the one with ears hear

If you ever use earphones when you jog, mow, vacuum, swim, weed, wash dishes.  If you ever listen without earphones . . . try listening to the Scripture!  This morning on my jog, I listened through Matthew 8-13, dramatized in multiple voices, with musical background.  And, these audio resources for downloading or streaming are FREE.  Check out or YouVersion Bible App for computer or mobile use.  I use and enjoy both, in a car, in the rain, on a boat, on a train.  Our Sunday messages are also available for streaming or download. Message Audio available, and here.  Check out our Resource page for more good stuff!

In my listening this morning, I was struck by the centurion telling Jesus, "I am a man under authority".  It was his way of putting himself under Jesus' authority as well.  And, a crystal clear expression of making Jesus our Lord.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Acceptance and Forgiveness

Christian Pakistani immigrant Julie Aftab becomes a U.S. citizen 10 years after an attack that almost took her faith and her life.

Julie Aftab watched through her one good eye as a man made his way through the crowd of more than 3,000 to stand in front of her. Nadir Hemani was a stranger to her, but he took her hand in both of his and looked intently into her face. He had an urgent, personal request. Would Aftab, a Christian, please forgive the Muslim men who brutalized her 10 years ago, leaving her with horrific scars and forcing her to flee her home in Pakistan for refuge in the United States?

Check out the entire article, a wonderful story.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Leisure Group at Lunch

This past Monday. Wonderful lunch and fellowship.

New floor

In the education wing, in the Young Toddler Room, recent storms caused flooding and destroyed the old carpet. Thanks to Rick and Kyle for removing the old carpet; to Dick and Quincy for bleaching the surface, spackling the wall at the baseboard, and painting to match; to Wanda and the BCLC staff for coordination and inconvenience in the meantime. Pics of the installation of the new hard floor and the room after the equipment and furniture were moved back in.

Saving Grace (3): The Witness of the Spirit

Audio available, and here.Romans 8.1-17; 1 John 5.6-13

I have enjoyed and been challenged by our fall ROOTS series for this year. As in past years, we’ve dived into the roots of our tradition, particularly our United Methodist tradition, to recapture the heart of our faith in the words, language, and theological themes of another time. We’ve been looking at some of John Wesley’s "standard sermons", given to his preachers to define the basics of our faith and the peculiar gifts of the Methodist movement. And, our focus has been on salvation and sin, grace and faith.

Today, we come to a theme with which some may be familiar, but under a different name: "the assurance of salvation". John Wesley called this gift "the witness of the Spirit", a witness that was joined with the "witness of our own spirit" that, in Wesley’s words declares

that I am a child of God; that Jesus Christ hath loved me, and given himself for me; that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God (W2, II, 2 quoting W1, I, 7).

If you have ever doubted your own faith, doubted God’s saving work in your life, then you know how important such an assurance can be, you know how vital it is to have "the witness of the Spirit". It is such an important gift that Wesley devoted 3 messages of his 53 to this theme. And, he viewed it as a special theological gift recovered by the Methodist movement on behalf of the whole church:

It more nearly concerns the Methodists, so called, clearly to understand, explain, and defend this doctrine; because it is one grand part of the testimony which God has given them to bear to all mankind. It is by this peculiar blessing upon them in searching the Scriptures, confirmed by the experience of his children, that this great evangelical truth has been recovered, which had been for many years well nigh lost and forgotten (W2, I, 4).

Monday, September 17, 2012

Before and After

Yes, it is the same corner of the same old basement storage room. Thanks again to all who helped out on the Labor Day weekend work day, and the follow through beyond that! Thanks particularly to Dick and Quincy who supervised and did the finishing.

Saving Grace (2): The Almost Christian

Audio available, and here.
Acts 26 (especially 26.28); Matthew 22.34-40; 1 John 5.15

Each fall, we begin the season with an exploration of our roots in the Christian tradition, especially in our United Methodist tradition. This year, we’re dusting off some treasures of the church – John Wesley’s "standard sermons", particularly those on the themes of salvation, sin, grace, and faith. Last week, we looked at the very first of the 53 sermons, "Salvation by Faith". This week, we look at the second one, "The Almost Christian", preached on July 25, 1741 at Oxford University. His text was one line from Acts 26.28, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian".

Paul had been sharing his story before Governor Felix and King Agrippa and his wife Bernice, defending himself against some of the accusations that had been brought against him and, even more, inviting his audience to follow Jesus with him. Paul knew that Agrippa had studied the Hebrew Scriptures and had some level of belief in the writings of the prophets. So he was challenging Agrippa to take the next step, attempting to close the deal. "I know that you believe", Paul says. "Almost you persuade me".

Have you ever been almost persuaded of something? Getting on that ride at the amusement park? Signing up at the fitness club? Buying a car? You are right at the edge and maybe one little push will put you over. So, Paul comes back with, "I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me this day might become such as I am – except for these chains".

When we are at the point of decision, we are generally aware of it. But for those who are brought up in the church, we may miss that point of decision entirely. We grow up believing in God, there never was a time that we did not believe. That is a wonderful experience. It wasn’t mine, however, so I remember when I first began to seek God as a child. I remember making a clear decision, being "persuaded" in the words of Agrippa, at several points in my faith journey.

One of the things John Wesley attempts to do in this message is bring us to a point of decision. So much of faith is process, journey, development. Yet, we still need concrete moments of decision. In Wesley’s time, as well as ours, there were many "almost Christians", or people who otherwise thought of themselves as followers of Jesus, who were not yet what Wesley described as "altogether a Christian".

There is plenty of overlap with last week’s message – the themes of salvation, grace, faith, and sin are all connected. Last week, I said that salvation is 100% God and 0% me. When it comes to what theologians called "merits" (think of the Harry Potter house points system of merits and demerits), when it comes to what theologians call "merits", our salvation is exclusively due to the merits of Jesus Christ. That does not mean that we have no part in our own salvation, that we are simply passive. As much as saving grace is 100% on the merits of Jesus Christ, saving faith – becoming "altogether a Christian" – requires you and me being 100% surrendered to God.

Because there is an "obedience that comes by faith" (Romans 1.5, 16.26), and if this obedience does not come, there is no faith (1 John 5.4-5, James 2.17). Because there is a transformation that comes by love, and if that transformation does not come, there is no love (Galatians 5.6, Matthew 22.34-40).

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Play yard dedication

Thanks to the Learning Center for installing the play yard, a great addition to our space and a gift to the community.

Saving Grace (1): Salvation by Faith

Audio available, and here

Ephesians 2.1-10, Luke 7.36-50

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, published a series of 53 "standard sermons" to serve as a resource to his preachers and to "the people called Methodist". Many of them focus on the themes of salvation, sin, grace, and faith. For John Wesley, a priest in the Church of England, much of the church had forgotten about its core message, the gospel, and its implications for life. Beyond that basic foundation, these standard sermons also addressed a number of other important themes – a series of 13 messages on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the nature of Christian unity beyond the brand names of denominations and traditions, bigotry, money, manners, and even a eulogy.

Each fall, we begin the season with an exploration of our roots in the Christian tradition, especially in our United Methodist tradition. This year, we’re going to dig up these relics of the church – John Wesley’s sermons on salvation, sin, grace, and faith – and rework them for today. Today we tackle the very first of the 53 sermons, "Salvation by Faith", preached before Oxford University on June 11, 1738. His text was one line from Ephesians 2: "By grace are ye saved through faith".

And, he addressed, from this text, a critical stumbling block in our coming to God. It is this: We don’t believe we need God. Or, we believe that we need Jesus only a little bit. We speak about being "good people", and we are content with "good enough". Our approach to salvation, which we may describe as "going to heaven", is generally that we earn our own way. One dimension of that is pride – I am a good person ... you might not be. The other dimension of that is compassion – "He didn’t go to church, he didn’t know Jesus, but he was a good person." Wesley does not address the compassion side of the coin in this message, but he does address the pride. In fact, the Scripture is very clear on that. "By grace are ye saved". That is, it’s ALL GOD, 100% God and 0% me. I get no credit and I deserve no credit. Wesley says:

Wherewithal then shall a sinful man atone for any the least of his sins? With his own works? No. Were they ever so many or holy, they are not his own, but God’s. . . . And his heart is altogether corrupt and abominable (2).

Block Party - 2

Thanks to Bob and Laura for coordinating!

Block Party - 1

Moved indoors, it was a great success. The "Domination of the Mutants" were awesome!


Message from September 2, 11:15 Celebrations service, by Laura Hulsey
Scripture: Mark 9:2-8
Audio available, and here
Have you ever experienced a time when something ordinary is transformed into the extraordinary?  For someone that is an athlete having a regular game or event transform into the extraordinary can happen quite easily.  During the Olympics it was easy to see how one swim across the pool or one volley of a ball can change an ordinary moment. 

Two weeks ago my daughter Miranda was married at Samuel Lewis State park. Because the wedding was held in a state park there were many people there that had come to spend a regular afternoon enjoying their families and the day. For those of us that were a part of the wedding, the day that was before us had been changed from ordinary to extraordinary. 

My oldest daughter Lindsey decorated a simple picnic pavilion into a beautifully decorated banquet hall using a few white table cloths, paper lanterns, and table decorations.  JP and my son-in-law Jordan’s dad changed a normal wedding ceremony into one that was meant just for Miranda and Jordan.  The weather transformed what could have been a pretty day into a glorious one, which has been reflected in picture after picture.  What makes the normal and ordinary become transformed?  Is it one simple change or a bunch of factors coming together at the same moment to make the difference?

During the winter of 2011 we had a fair amount of snow around here.  I love the snow.  Not necessarily to play in it, but I love to watch it transform a dreary gray world into one that is extraordinary.  During that winter there was one particular snow storm that I don’t think I will ever forget.

Transfiguration - The Point

Message from September 2, 9:00 Traditions service, by Michael Greek.
Scripture: Mark 9:2-10
Audio available, and here
Mark’s gospel I’ve learned has been referred to by many as the “Action Christ” gospel.  The writing portrays the actions and ministry of Jesus as a whirlwind of preaching and healing with urgency, using the word “immediately” 27 different times (41 if you happen to be reading the Greek).  To set the scene of today’s scripture I’m going to slightly recap what has happened in the Mark account thus far.  John the Baptist has been hooting and hollering in the desert preaching repentance and preparation for messiah.  Jesus arrives on scene and is baptized, gets tempted, and goes to work teaching the people and healing.  Jesus is galavanting around the known vicinity teaching, healing, casting out demons, delivering folks from suffering and essentially showing off what he has to offer. 
So Jesus takes Peter James and John to the top of a mountain.  We don’t know the pretext, we don’t know what Jesus told the three they were up to, we just know that they are hanging out on top of this mountain and BAM!  Jesus doesn’t quite look like Jesus anymore.  His face is glowing and his clothes are white, so bright white that the disciples really had nothing to compare it to, as the scripture specifically states that they were “as no cloth refiner on earth could bleach them” (Mark. 9:3).  And not only has Jesus changed (the greek word is metamorphosis), he invited guests!  Because now the scripture tells us its not only Jesus standing in front of Peter, James, and John, but Elijah and Moses have joined him.  And I love the reaction of the disciples to this.  Jesus is standing before them, having been revealed in all his glory, and Peter (who always seems to be the spokesman of the group) speaks up and says, “Lord, its good that we’re here, how about we make some tents for the three of you?”  How familiar is that reaction?  Peter is exposed to something that he knows is good, realizes is from God, but he is terrified of it anyway and so he attempts to put it in perspective, to make a place for it that it can reside, box it in.  This is the moment in this story that strikes me so clearly, sticks out to me the most.  Because you see, Peter is just like me... is just like all of us.  Peter is human, has a relationship with Jesus Christ, walks with him day in and day out, and does not really know him.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Labor for the Lord, 2

Thanks again to everyone who helped out, particularly to Dick and Quincy (our custodians) and to Crist (one of our Trustees).


This past Sunday, the messages were brought by Michael Greek (9:00 Traditions) and Laura Hulsey (11:15 Celebrations), both from Mark 9, the story of Jesus' transfiguration.  Listen and download both messages here.  Text will soon be available as well.

Labor for the Lord

This past Saturday, a team of folks got together over gourmet pancakes and then pitched in to get some work done.  Destruction and removal of pianos (that can no longer be tuned), scraping and sealing a couple basement storage closets, and more.  Thanks to all who showed up!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Be Strong

Audio available.  Message from Aug 26.  From 1 Samuel 17 and Ephesians 6.10-20.

"Spiritual warfare" --so many misconceptions are floating around. On one hand, our national election campaigns resemble holy wars and the party conventions a tent revival. Voting for this candidate is a strike against the devil! Sometimes, the contrast is painted so clearly that we forget that the political process is about power and not salvation. As Paul reminds us, "our struggle is not against flesh and blood"--not in politics, not in labor-management conflict, not in personality conflicts. Our struggle is a spiritual one.

On the other hand, we have spiritual warfare made exotic and perhaps glamorous by The Exorcist and shows that deal in the occult. And then, we have spiritual warfare made into an ever-present reality as the devil is suddenly behind the traffic light turning red when we are late to church. (Does anyone have to go through a light to get here?) Martin Luther, the great German reformer who wrote the 95 Theses reportedly quipped that when he saw the devil peeking in the window, he dropped his pants and mooned him. Somehow, that never quite makes it into Paul's list of "the armor of God".

We err when we secularize spiritual warfare. Certainly evil is active in this world of ours and in our social structures, political and otherwise. But Jesus never used the power systems of this world to bring salvation and deliverance. Neither can we.

We err when we glamorize spiritual warfare into the hiddenness of the occult, into special words for special prayers, into claiming the blood and naming the name of Jesus as magic words rather than as the Christ of God. The Ephesian Christians would remember the story in Acts 19 of the seven sons of Sceva who tried to cast out demons "in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches". They thought this a "formula", "recipe", "prescription". And they were sorely defeated--stripped and beaten by the possessed man--because they did not truly know Christ. And the Ephesian Christians would remember that great bonfire, in which 5 million dollars worth of magic and occult scrolls were destroyed.

We err when we standardize spiritual warfare, making it part of the every-day, every-moment routine. It is not an exceptional or unusual thing, but neither can we look at every event in life as being formed by the conflict of good and evil (except the good and evil that we ourselves bring to life).

At the same time, we must affirm that there is an actual battle, that there is a dire struggle in which we are engaged. It is with "the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms". (NOTE: This is a different idea of "heaven" than we typically expect, an idea that defines heaven as the realm of spirit and spirit power, whether of darkness or light.)