The Bible

On March 3, the History Channel is beginning a special five part mini-series called “The Bible.” It is a dramatic movie adaptation of the major stories of the Bible, from Noah to the resurrection of Jesus. One of the creator’s of the series is Roma Downey, who you may remember as one of the angels in the hit TV series, “Touched by An Angel.” The series will air on Sunday nights in March.

I have been able to preview some clips of some of the episodes and it does look interesting. Of course, as in every movie or TV version of Biblical stories, certain liberties are taken in the telling of the story and not everything is completely accurate. However, this does seem to be an honest attempt to convey the story of God’s plan of salvation through human history. I would encourage you to watch it and to be prepared to answer questions from friends who might be viewing the mini-series.

I will actually be preaching a five part sermon series during March that is based on “The Bible” mini-series. Each week will include a video clip from one of the Bible stories that will be airing that week. The series will conclude on March 31, Easter Sunday. I would also encourage you to take part in our Holy Week services as well. March 28, is our Maundy Thursday Communion Service, where we remember the Last Supper. March 29, is our Good Friday Tenebrae Service, where we commemorate Jesus’ death on a cross with songs and readings. Both services are at 7:00pm. Our choir will also be performing a cantata on Palm Sunday, March 24. Here is a list of the sermon topics for March: March 3 – Journey from Life to Death (Genesis 22:1-14)

  • March 10 – Journey from Slavery to Freedom (Joshua 2:1-21)
  • March 17 – Journey from Victim to Victor (Daniel 4:19-27)
  • March 24 – Journey from Religion to Relationship (Luke 19:28-46)
  • March 31 – Journey from Darkness to Light (John 20:10-18)

Blessings,
Pastor John

The Need for Grace

One of the top stories this summer was the scandal at Penn State. With the conviction of Jerry Sandusky and the findings presented from an investigation, the NCAA handed down stiff penalties on the University and a decision was made to remove the statue of Joe Paterno. Emotions have been strong, as some people feel the punishments were too severe and punish the wrong people, while others feel the punishments weren’t strong enough and the football program should have been shut down entirely. Then there are others who are still trying to understand all that has happened, why it happened, and who should be blamed.
I have found my own emotions going back and forth during this whole ordeal, as I can see valid points on both sides of the issue. What has made this whole thing so difficult is in trying to define what is fair. What should the school be held accountable for and to what degree? What is the purpose of the punishments? Is it to achieve some kind of justice, is it to make sure this doesn’t happen again, or is it simply a reaction to a horrible situation in which we feel we have to do something?
I must confess that I have no answers for these questions either. What I think is important to remember is that nothing about this is fair. Sin isn’t fair. Sin is a destructive force that tries to destroy as many lives as possible. Sin doesn’t care about what people deserve or who may be innocent bystanders.
Sin seeks to suck everyone into its vortex and into a dark pit of despair and hopelessness. What we have witnessed this year at Penn State is just how destructive sin can be, which reminds us of how desperately we need a Savior. What we need to remember is that only God’s grace can save us from this evil power of sin and only God’s grace can bring healing at Penn State. Arguing over who should be punished and how much is not helpful. We need to pray for God’s grace to heal what has been broken, for everyone involved.
Blessings,
Pastor John

The Advent Season

It is that time of year again. We refer to it as the season of Advent on the church calendar, while our culture calls it the holiday season. It is the time when we anticipate the celebration of Christmas. It is a time of cherished memories and traditions. It is a time of deep religious significance. However, we also know it can be a time of stress and worry. We want to buy the perfect gifts for everyone on our list. We want to make sure we create special memories for our families. We are trying to make sure we get everything done in time. Let’s face it: one trip to the shopping mall can leave us feeling anything but Christian.

So how can we be a Christian at Christmas? How can we make sure that we reflect Jesus in the midst of all the holiday pressures of the season? How do we balance the Christian celebration of Christmas with the cultural celebration? My Advent sermon series is going to tackle that very issue. I will be looking at some of the ways that Christianity and culture conflict during this time of year and how we can maintain the true Spirit of Christmas during the holiday rush.

The sermon titles for Advent are as follows:
November 27: Embracing the Spirit of Love (Matthew 5:43-48)
December 4: Embracing the Spirit of Giving (Matthew 6:1-4)
December 11: Embracing the Spirit of Receiving (Titus 3:3-7)
December 18: Carrying the Spirit Forward (Hebrews 5:7-14)

My prayer for all of us at this time of year is that we can be a reflection of Christ in the world around us, so that people will see that the spirit of Christmas is the love of Jesus Christ. May all of you have a special Christmas celebration and cherished times with your families.

Blessings,
Pastor John

Changing Times

Suppose we went shopping for a new car and when we arrived at the dealership we found out that there was nothing but 1950’s styles cars on the lot; what would we do? Well, unless we are car collectors we would probably look for another dealership. Most of us would not enjoy driving a car with no power steering, no power breaks, and no air-conditioning. We also wouldn’t like a manual transmission and getting less than 20 miles to the gallon! Driving an old style car just isn’t practical for the way most of us drive today.

However, a lot of churches are still trying to do ministry using a church structure that dates back to the 50’s. It is a top-down corporate model where ministry is driven by the pastor and enacted through committees. It is a system that worked well in the 50’s when the church was the center of the religious and social life of a community. Lifestyles were different as well. People went to the neighborhood church, commuted shorter distances to work, and had only one spouse working. All these things added up to having a larger number of people available to fill all of those committee positions and make ministry happen. Trying to still do ministry with this model today is like trying to drive a 1950’s car in 2011. It just isn’t practical and leads to frustration for clergy and congregation.

Today, more of a church’s ministry needs to take place outside the walls of the church and congregation members are more inclined to participate in short-term projects than to serve on long standing committees. Ministries today need to be flexible and able to respond quickly to changing
needs, which is why churches that have an active small group network are more successful in reaching people for Christ. These small groups have more freedom to develop and implement ministry on their own. They also give people in the church a greater sense of ownership of the church’s ministry and a greater sense of belonging in the church.

This is the philosophy behind the M.O.R.E. group network we have been trying to establish here. These groups exist for mutual support and encouragement, service to the church, and mission to the world. In 2011, our four existing groups have planned outreach and fellowship events for our church. The ultimate goal is to have as many people in the church as possible hooked up to a M.O.R.E. group so that we can maximize the giftedness of our congregation while minimizing the time burden. In other words, many hands make for lighter work. I would encourage you to talk with one of the following M.O.R.E. group leaders to find out how you could fit into this ministry.

Blessings,
Pastor John

On May 21, 2011, the Eastern PA Conference of the United Methodist Church recognized Earl Rutledge for his outstanding work in evangelism by giving him the Denman award for evangelism. This award is given every year to one pastor and one lay person. The award remembers the legacy of Harry Denman, a United Methodist pastor who Billy Graham called one of his mentors in evangelism, and recognizes the outstanding work being done by United Methodists in our Conference in the area of evangelism.

I nominated Earl for the award because of his commitment to sharing Jesus both here and in Latin America. In the past 16 years Earl has made 18 trips with SCEI to ten different countries. Through those trips I am certain he has given his testimony to thousands of people and has personally lead many to Jesus. The key to Earl’s success in evangelism is his heart and his humility. His love for Jesus shines through his life which gives his testimony power. Earl’s life exemplifies our church’s mission statement

to “reach the world for Jesus Christ, one person at a time.”

Our whole church celebrates this award because ministry is a team effort. The generous financial support of our congregation has been a big part of allowing Earl to do the work for which God has called him. Also, Earl does not go on these trips alone, but is part of a team of people that enable this ministry to happen. In celebrating this award together we celebrate the efforts of many in our congregation to bring the love of Jesus to the world around us. Flowing Oil Café, Love Inc., Water Street, the food bank, New Hope, M.O.R.E. groups, are just some of the ways we are seeking to fulfill our mission through the dedication of people in our congregation.

So congratulations to Earl on receiving the Denman award, and congratulations to the people of Memorial UMC as we work together to bring the message of Jesus Christ to the world.

Blessings,

Pastor John

Walk Thru The Bible

Sunday, October 31st we will be hosting an Old Testament Walk thru the Bible seminar beginning in our 10 am worship service. We will unlock 4,000 years of Godly wisdom and history in just 5 short hours! There will be a free lunch for all participants in the seminar after the morning worship service, as well as free childcare and snacks throughout the afternoon seminar.  The seminar will end at approximately 5:30 pm. Cost for the seminar is just $10/person for members of the church and $17 for the community. Registration includes the official Walk Thru The Bible workbook. Register early to reserve your spot and don’t be afraid to invite your friends and neighbors. To register for the seminar, pick up a registration form at the church or Click Here

Join us Saturday, September 25th for Dinner and a Movie, 6:00 pm at the church.

We will be offering a free ham dinner, followed by a showing of the movie “Fireproof”, along with free childcare. Please call the church to make your reservations now (786-2941).

We will begin an 8 week “Love Dare” Bible study during Sunday School the following day, September 26th. Everyone is welcome to attend either or both events.

If you have any questions, please contact the church.

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