Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween, 3

Great costumes and loads of fun for all ages. And, yes, that was the pastor behind that mask ... and the youth ministries directors as Adam and Eve!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Halloween, 2

And thanks to Sarah for the dance lessons!

Hurricane Sandy

"As large as the monster Sandy is, the church is larger and more powerful in its preparations, its spirit and its capacity to be here for years to come," said the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR Assistant General Secretary for U.S. Disaster Response.

Gifts for hurricane response can be made any Sunday.

And, locally at Mission Central, we have 5500 "flood buckets" (clean-up supplies). Let us know of any need for help.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Happy Halloween, 1

Thanks to the youth for hosting, the Domination of the Mutants for live music, the children's ministry ... and the countless helpers for a wonderful evening!

Craft Guild

Pics of the craft guild at work ... so many gifts!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Team Day: 5 Love Languages

Rev. Jody Fleming shared the concept of Gary Smalley's Five Love Languages with our teams, and their impact on discipleship and ministry. Thanks to Jody, and - as always - to the Kitchen Ministry for the great lunch!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Learning Center prepares VeggieTales

Wanda and the staff team prep the kids for their Sunday VeggieTales program. We loved overhearing them sing!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Learning Center practice

The kids are preparing for their Sunday program! Looking forward to a great time, and wonderful breakfast during the Sunday School hour.

Church Conference

We held our church conference on Sunday night, with a covered dish meal, table discussion, and our annual business session. We took the time to give witness, telling stories of how God has touched us in the life of Bethany Church, to how we were invited and made welcome in this church family, to how we reach out to friends and neighbors.

York Habitat for Humanity visits Sunday School classes

Roxanne and Jim, of York Habitat for Humanity, visit with our Sunday School classes to answer questions about the 2013 Building on Faith project on Albemarle Street in our own neighborhood. Roxanne also spoke in both of our worship services (audio, and here). Thanks to both of them for sharing with us!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Three Little Pigs ... coming Sunday

Playing Sunday! Our Bethany Christian Learning Center fall program in both worship services.

Kids' Praise - One Way!

This past Sunday, in our 11:15 Celebrations service, and the Sunday prior in our 9:00 Traditions service, our Kids' Praise group sang the song "One Way - Jesus". Way to go! Thanks to Marsha for directing.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

York Habitat for Humanity

Roxanne shared the story of Habitat for Humanity, along with details of the 2013 Building On Faith project on Albemarle Street, in our own neighborhood. Our Kids' Coin Drive this summer raised funds for this mission. Listen or download the audio - or here! Thanks Roxanne!

Monday, October 22, 2012


Some great advice from John Wesley, one of the founders of the Methodist movement in the 1700's, on elections. As we approach Election Day in our nation, it is good for us to remember how blessed we are to have the choices we have. I have been enough other places in the world to know how special and unusual this gift is. And, as important as the policy matters are, Jesus is and will be king. "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed" (Luke 17.20). And, "my kingdom is not from here" (John 18.36). Please vote prayerfully. (Photo courtesy of Jerry W.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Up Peters Mountain

Last Monday, during the York District Clergy retreat, Steve and I took the afternoon break to hike 3.5 miles to the summit of Peters Mountain and back.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

15 Languages in the York Suburban Schools

The latest issue of the York Suburban Pride includes an update on the growing diversity in our local school district - a reflection of the growing diversity in York County and the nation. In York Suburban, we have 64 English language learners in the student body. Spanish, then Vietnamese, head the list of primary languages. The others include Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu, Ukranian, Bengali, Chinese, Greek, German, and more. (The Pride is now published exclusively online and you can register to receive an email when the latest publication is made available. Stay in touch with your local school district!)

The One They Have Pierced (Prisoners of Hope: The Prophetic Imagination of Zechariah, #2)

Audio available, and here.

Call to Worship, selections from Zechariah 8-14
Children, John 19.30-37
Message, Zechariah 12.10 - 13.1

Theme story:Jeremiah, Zac, and Caleb – the soccer accident. Who felt worse?

Background:Last week, I introduced Zechariah as a prophet whose work was after exile, part of the return. This week, the historical context of the work shifts dramatically. The second half of the book, chapters 9-14, is impossible to nail down to a specific historical setting. The work refers to war with Greece as a world power (9.13), which did not occur until long after the return, as well as referring to Egypt and the exodus (10.10), the Philistines (9.5), Syria (9.1), and Assyria (10.10) – all nations that belong to different historical periods. Some students of the text conclude that a different person is responsible for this text, someone other than Zechariah himself.

Aside from this dispute and the relative merits of the different suggestions, what is very clear is that Zechariah presents to us a vision of history, of God working in history, that is universal throughout time. The prophet is saying, "This is how God works. And, this is how God’s people are. The year on the calendar makes no difference to these fundamental realities. God’s people reject God, God’s people face judgment, and God makes every effort and extreme sacrifice to restore and forgive."

So, we have a change in historical context, a change that deliberately offers timeless truth.

Last week, I introduced Zechariah as a prophet with an apocalyptic imagination. No change there! We defined "apocalypse" as an "uncovering" or "revealing". I said that apocalyptic is not so much about "the end" but about an imagination of "the ends" (as in, "the purpose") of God in history. It is imaginative, and it depends on imagery, the kinds of imagery we find in our dreams, disjointed, jarring, and overlaid in unexpected ways. Do you ever dream about the same thing, just in different images? You wake up, you know you had more than one dream, but you know they overlap as one thing. In this section of Zechariah, there are two images that overlap and, from my perspective, appear to be referring to the same themes – king and shepherd. The king is a royal figure. The shepherd, in this text, is a prophet figure, and the main shepherd role in the text is actually played by Zechariah himself, but only for part of the time. (He doesn’t play the part of the shepherd killed.)

Prisoners of HOPE (Zechariah 9.12)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Greetings from Bishop Park

Bishop Jeremiah Park is the new resident bishop of the Harrisburg Area, serving the Susquehanna Conference. He was installed formally on September 29, and he began serving in this role on September 1. We are blessed to have him!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pounding the Pastor!

Our fun fall food drive was a wonderful success.  Thanks to Joe and Jerry for coordinating and delivering!  We gave 617 items, with a total weight of 726 pounds of food.  That is equivalent to over 726 meals for our hungry neighbors!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Growing in Prayer

During the summer, I urged you to find one way to expand your prayer life, to add to your practice in a sustainable way, to nurture your soul and intimacy with God. I took on the challenge for myself. My new addition was to schedule an hour block for prayer on a weekly basis. I pray using the Psalms, the wonderful prayer book Common Prayer: A Guide for Ordinary Radicals, and the church directory (a couple pages at a time). It has enriched my daily prayers, strengthened my courage, clarified my vision, and deepened my connection with each of you. If you have not yet taken up the challenge, I urge you to do so! Find one new way to expand your prayer life – using the Psalms, the Lord’s Prayer, hymn or song lyrics, a scheduled time of day, adding prayer to each meal. One new step can be a powerful thing!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Study Retreat

This week, I was on my fall study retreat. Three pastors are on this trip: Jim and Steve (pic) and me. We stayed at Steve's family farm in Williamsport, hiked the woods (pic), did some outside work, cooked, studied, prayed. I focus particularly on planning ahead for the general structure and outline of the next six months of Sunday messages. Thanks for your prayers. For other pics, including some silly ones, check out Pastor JP's Facebook page.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


One happy couple at choir practice, heading up to the chancel to rehearse for last Sunday!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Brand Plucked from the Burning (Prisoners of Hope: The Prophetic Imagination of Zechariah #1)

Audio available, and here.
Notation form only, no complete message text.
Zechariah 3, with John 11.1-45

Background:1. Historical: Post-exilic
Exile – vicious and brutal conquest and forced resettlement
Return – and in the process of rebuilding the Temple
Germane to this passage:
the priests (like Joshua) were blamed for the exile
(Jeremiah 1.18, 2.8, 2.26, 4.9, etc.)

2. Prophetic Imagination: Apocalyptic (= uncovering/revealing)
Not about the "end" but about an imagination that reveals or uncovers the "ends" (as in "purpose") of God
Imagination depends on imagery
the imagery of our dreams
sometimes disjointed and jarring

Reuse/repurpose previous tradition
Branch (Isaiah 4.2, 11.1, Jeremiah 23.5, 33.15)
Horsemen of Zechariah show up in the Revelation
Rebuke of Satan shows up in Jesus to Peter (Mk 8.33)

1. Image: Brand plucked from the burning
Story: John Wesley and the house fire
Identity: Live conscious of your salvation

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Us and our Times

"The times are bad! The times are troublesome!" This is what humans say. But we are our times. Let us live well and our times will be good. Such as we are, such are our times.

-- Augustine of Hippo, quoted in Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, Claiborne, Wilson-Hartgrove, and Okoro, 2010, Zondervan, for October 3.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


One of our groups, meeting at Quincy & Melissa's on Sunday night. We talk about discipleship in the overlapping realms of Worship, Community, and Mission. Our groups, whether Sunday School classes or groups that meet throughout the community, are a crucial part of nurturing that smaller community and growing as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Saving Grace (4): The New Birth

Audio available, and here.
Psalm 51, 2 Kings 4.8-37, John 3.1-18, 1 Peter 1.13-25

Our fall ROOTS message series this year has looked at four of John Wesley’s 53 standard sermons. We’ve focused on themes of salvation and grace. We started with Salvation by Faith, then The Almost Christian and The Witness of the Spirit. Today, we finish this series with The New Birth (sermon 39).

I mentioned the theme with some friends this week and heard, "Well, my wife is not going to hear this. No new birth in our house!" It was a joke, and it is based on the mistake Nicodemus made when he was meeting with Jesus: Literalism. But Jesus was speaking figuratively, not literally – and speaking truth: "You MUST be born again."

Today, most folks have heard the expression "born again". It has become, for some, a description of a certain kind of Christian person. "Are you a Christian?" "Yes, but I’m not one of those ‘born-again-ers’." It has become associated with aggressive evangelism, judgmental conviction, and narrow-mindedness. Of course, that doesn’t even vaguely resemble Jesus, who gives us this phrase. So, I suggest to you that any negative associations you have with the expression be laid aside as we look at the biblical text through the lens of John Wesley.

A little background: The expression "born again" shows up only on two passages in the Bible. One is in Jesus’ meeting with Nicodemus in John 3, a passage that uses the phrase more than once. The other is in 1 Peter 1.23. Both cases use the phrase the same way, and both are translated into English in multiple ways: "born again", "born from above", "born anew". A parallel phrase, "born of the Spirit", shows up in Galatians 4.29 as well as in John 3. Notice that in this image, it is the Spirit of God who gives birth, a decidedly feminine image.

Though it is not a frequent phrase in the Bible, Wesley tells us that it was a common expression among Jews of Jesus’ time. It was an expression for baptism of "heathen" Gentiles as they converted and became Jews, in preparation for their circumcision (II.3). So, why would Nicodemus, a leading teacher, be surprised and confused? Why would he so easily slip into literalism? Literalism is self-defense. Literalism is the way we protect ourselves from the power of the Word. Jesus is telling Nicodemus that HE must be born again. But Nicodemus is already a Jew. He was born a Jew. He was circumcised. He is a leading teacher among the Jews, not an "unclean" Gentile. He is one of the good guys. He doesn’t need conversion, maybe improvement, probably self-improvement with no outside help, but definitely not conversion. "YOU must be born again." So, he retreats, covers himself with literalism, because he is protecting himself from the very plain meaning of Jesus’ words: Nicodemus, the religious leader, the good guy, needs the new birth just like all the "heathen".