Archive | June, 2014

Gift Card, Bibles, Proposals, Letter from Lawyer – Monday Messy Office Report – June 30, 2014

30 Jun

My Friday tidy office is mysteriously messy on Monday. Here’s what I found today:

1. Note about lunch…because of a gift card!: The note was from my wife, Michelle, saying that she had taken the kids to lunch, and I could meet them there.  I attended a special meeting of one of our ministry committees after Sunday School, and I would meet them at the restaurant late.  For us going out to eat was a treat.  First, yesterday was our anniversary.  But Michelle and I had gone out for an anniversary dinner the evening before.  We went out again because, second, we got a gift card.  It came in the mail last week anonymously, along with a super nice anniversary card.  If you sent the card, and you’re reading this, we are so grateful!

2. Stack of Bibles: Our church has a decades-long relationship with a missionary based in the Philly.  We have regularly spent time with him doing outreaches of all shapes and sizes.  From sidewalk Sunday Schools in some of the toughest neighborhoods of the city to Christmas stocking giveaways at Philly schools. We’ve joined him for casual conversations with students on Philly’s college campuses as well as cleaning at a Philly homeless shelter.  Later this summer we’ll join him for a new outreach, working with homeless people in neighboring Camden, NJ.  Part of the process is that we’re collecting extra Bibles.  I already have a stack on my shelf.  But this new stack has been donated in the last week or so.  Have an extra Bible that you would be willing to donate?

3. Pile of proposals: In 2009 Faith Church started a strategic planning process, and yesterday we held a special congregational meeting to vote on one element of that planning process.  Leading up to that meeting we made proposal packets so people in our congregation could know what we were voting about.  Basically we are changing the way we select leaders.  My wife and I receive The Week magazine, a generous gift from a relative.  One regular column in The Week is “Boring, But Important” and it is usually something that happened in Congress or the Supreme Court.  At our congregational meeting we were voting to make rather sweeping changes to our church by-laws.  Very boring. Not nearly as flashy as changing something about worship.  Our church by-laws and governance stays pretty much behind the scenes, whereas worship is front and center every week.  And yet our by-laws, our governance is inestimably important.  I told our congregation after the meeting that if I had a do-over six years ago when I became senior pastor, this is the first thing I would encourage.

will4. Letter from a Lawyer: After nearly two years, we finally received this letter!  It could turn out to be minimal, who knows.  One of our long-time members passed away in September 2012, and afterward her lawyer notified us that our church was named as a 10% beneficiary in her will.  At the time, I had been at the church ten years and had not encountered that before.  The executor of her estate would have to make sure all bills are paid, and then the money would be disbursed.  Two years later!  Who knew it would take that long???  Late last week we finally got the letter from the lawyer we were waiting for, the form we sign and have notarized saying basically that we agree with everything.  Once all the beneficiaries return their signed forms, the executor will make payments.  Two years ago when I first received the letter informing us the church was named as a beneficiary, and now as we anticipate payment, I’m reminder of what a wonderful idea this is.  That even in her death, this lady wanted to bless the church.  I’ve heard stories recently about people like Sting, Simon Cowell and Bill & Melinda Gates who have purposefully written their wills so their kids don’t have trust funds.  So these people are using their wealth to make a difference in the world. And they want their kids to learn the value of hard work. Perhaps we should all think about that in regards to our own wills, giving a portion of our estates away to God’s Kingdom.

Now it’s time to clean up!

Self-enslavement? To everyone?…A good thing?

27 Jun

After a few weeks off from studying for a new sermon, I am back at it, and I have to admit I’m a bit nervous.  I almost always look forward to preaching, something that has grown on me over the years.  But there are still a few Sundays that I don’t look forward to it.  There was this one, for example, where the material was controversial, and I wondered if I was going to tick off people in the church. (Thankfully, in that case, I think it went very well, but, boy, was I sweating!)  As I look down the road in the 1st Corinthians series, I see a few more of those coming.  More on that in mid-July when we start a long sub-series through 1st Corinthians chapters 11-14 all about worship.

This week though, there is a different reason for my anxiety.  Once again it is the material, though not that it is controversial.  Instead 1st Corinthians 9:19-27, the passage I’ll be preaching, is intense.  Take a look and you’ll see what I mean.

I like the passage a lot, especially because it talks about running, and running has been a exciting part of my life for the past 5 years.  Paul talks about running to get a prize and the necessary training that goes into getting in shape.  I started training for the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon which is taking place on my 40th birthday, September 6th.  So I get the training part.  In fact, as others of you have found out, there is a joy to be found in training.

But Paul has some other things to say that weird me out a bit.  These are the intense parts that I referred to already.  As the title of the post indicates, Paul says that one of the things he did was to practice self-enslavement to everyone.  Does anyone else read that and think, “Really?”  What does that mean?  Self-enslavement.  And why to everyone?  Isn’t he going a bit far?

slave3

In that passage Paul gives us a peak into his heart and mind.  We will be tempted to say “Really?”, doubting him, or rationalize in other ways like “Well, that’s nice…for Paul! But not for me. He was special.”  That might be fine for him, but not for the rest of us.  As you prepare for worship on Sunday, I urge you to read this passage and ask the Lord to help you avoid that kind of rationalization.  Ask him to help you receive his word.  Believe me, I’m praying that right along with you.  This passage has me quaking a bit because it describes a passion for Christ and his kingdom that puts mine to shame.  I will be preaching not from a position of saying “follow me” like Paul could say.  Instead I’ll be preaching this sermon to myself.

One of the fears I have in a sermon like this is that it will scare people off.  Paul sets the bar high.  But he also talks about blessings.  Is it possible that setting the bar high will lead to blessings?  What I mean is this, is it possible that a life of self-enslavement to everyone might actually be better than we think?  Join us on Sunday and we’ll find out.

Podcast Catch-up!

26 Jun

headphones

The last two Sundays Faith Church heard excellent messages from God’s Word. 

On June 15, Phil Bartelt continued our 1st Corinthians series, with a sermon on Paying Pastors from 1st Corinthians 9:1-14.

Then on June 22, we had our Conestoga Valley Ministerium Pulpit Exchange, and Tom Eshleman of Groffdale Mennonite Church spoke on Acts 8:26-40, God Encounters on the Desert Road.

I’m looking forward to catching up on these podcasts.  Did you miss them, like I did?  Click on the links above and enjoy.

Poop Cards, Gift Bag, Projector Box, Christian Junk Mail – Monday Messy Office Report – Vacation edition – June 24, 2014

24 Jun

After 3200 miles, we arrived home last Friday evening from a wonderful vacation in Round Rock, Texas with my wife, Michelle’s, cousin’s family.  It was great to get away, see new sights, spend time with family who have become very important to us, and make a road trip memory we’ll never forget.  But as with any vacation, you probably know the feeling, I have returned to a very messy office.  The weekend and Monday morning were full with family and church events, so I am just now working on clean-up.  My email inbox was insane, and that was after filtering out a lot of junk during vacation…

Here’s what I found in my office:

1. Projector boxes: Our sanctuary projector is fixed!  Later this week, I’ll set it back up.  Think about something with me, though.  The bill for the repair was $1929.57.  To be honest, that number makes me a bit sick in the stomach.  …Uh excuse me a second…knock at the door…  Ok, I’m back and this is wild, not making this up. A representative from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church that rents our church on Saturday mornings just stopped in to drop off their regularly monthly rent check, and they included a check to pay some of the projector repair!

2. Father’s Day gift bag: We weren’t here at Faith Church on Father’s day, so I think this is a bit of what I missed.  Our Children’s Ministry had a special Muffins with Moms fellowship time on Mother’s Day, then on Father’s Day they had Donuts with Dad.  And I missed it!  So thanks to whomever still gave me the gift bag!

elephant poo cards3. Card made from Poop:  I have no idea why this is on my desk.  My wife had picked up some of these in Cambodia on one of her travels there with Imagine Goods, but that was years ago and I thought I had used up my supply.  Yes, that is a picture of an elephant doing poo.  And yes, they literally take elephant poo and recycled paper and turn them into handmade cards.  A label on the back of the card says “the production of the paper and cards provides employment for rural Cambodians and all income produced supports the five elephants of Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center – Lucky, Chhouk, Po, Naram & Jamran as they were kind enough to digest and produce our raw materials.”  There are few things I can think of that are more awesome than that.  Except maybe my all-time favorite joke, courtesy of Monty Python: What is brown and sounds like a bell?  Duuuuuuuuung!

4. Christian Junk Mail:  When I’m in the office, receiving the mail daily, I guess I’ve gotten used to it, a piece of junk mail here and there.  But over the course of 10 days away, it became a formidable pile.  Here’s a sampling of the highlights.

  • Company sending samples of their Gospel tracts
  • World social agency letter…and a duplicate copy of the mailing from the same world social agency
  • Church t-shirt company brochure
  • A Christmas 2014 music catalogue
  • another ugh…a duplicate of the t-shirt company brochure

Guess how much of this kind of mail we actually open? We get bombarded with it. I have a hard time believing that companies actually benefit from these mass mailings, yet they must.  Why else would they keep paying to send them?  As I think about it, this junk reminds me of the Evangelical machine, and I wonder how far off track we are.  Don’t get me wrong.  The world social agency that sent two of the exact same letters to our church is doing some amazing things in the name of Jesus’ heart for justice.  Our church has partnered with that agency in the past and may do so again in the future.  But when I saw that stack of mail I got a nauseating feeling about it all.  I don’t believe I know how to respond, and quite frankly part of my knee-jerk reaction is to avoid dealing with it by throwing all the mail away.  With that in mind…

Now its time to clean up this mess!

Guest Speakers: Sarah Thebarge and Bruce Hill

11 Jun

This past week Faith Church has heard from a couple different guest speakers, and I urge you to give them each a listen.

invisiblegirls_paperbackSarah Thebarge was with us this past Thursday evening.  Sarah grew up in Lancaster County, but after graduating from high school, her life’s journey has taken her to California, Yale, New York City and Portland.  But more than travels, Sarah tells the story of her battle with cancer, and how she experienced God’s love from a surprising place…Somalia, through the lives of a family of Somali refugees she met by chance in a train in Portland.  If you have ever doubted God’s love, Sarah’s story will resonate with you. She talked about the story of Hagar from Genesis 16, and the God who sees. Check out the podcast here. If you have experienced the devastating pain of cancer, you need to read her story.  You can purchase her book The Invisible Girls here and you can follow her blog here.

Then on Sunday our Bishop Bruce Hill and his wife Gloria were with us for Worship in the Park.  The weather was gorgeous.  I love Worship in the Park for so many reasons.  Being in the community, the clear picture that the church is not the building, but the people!  Bishop Bruce preached a powerful sermon from Epbrucehillhesians 4, and I hope you’ll listen to it.  Are you mature?  The image that came to my mind when he was preaching was of a full-grown person, except for their left leg.  That leg had never grown.  Instead it is still a chubby baby leg.  And the adult is hopping around on one leg, while the baby leg dangles.  Is it possible that is you in your spiritual life?  Are you still a spiritual infant in some way?  Want to learn more?  Check out Bruce’s sermon here.

 

Chalices, Clipboards, Graduation Books – The Monday Messy Office Report – June 9, 2014

9 Jun

communion_table_redux_by_joshmaule-d3isuwr

Every week my tidy Friday office is mysteriously messy on Monday.  Here’s what I found today:

1. Communion Chalices – Yesterday was Worship in the Park, and it was a beautiful day!  I can’t tell you how many people come up to me asking if we could please have worship in the park more often.  Every week, if possible.  One of the elements of worship yesterday was communion, and at Faith Church, once per quarter, we have communion by intinction.  That is people come forward, break off a piece of the bread, dip it in the cup and partake.  We bought chalices from Ten Thousand Villages a couple years ago, made of simple colored glass, and I brought them back to my office after worship yesterday.  The leftover bread, I’ll admit, made it to our house, and not much past lunch at that…  Over the years I have become more interested in communion.  When I was a boy, the church I grew up in had communion once/month, and I remember we would sing a song after communion as the ushers collected an offering for the needy.  It always seemed that song was more rousing and heartfelt than the others we would sing, as if the images and truths communion symbolizes would fill hearts with joy. As it should!  One word many traditions use to describe communion is Eucharist, Greek for “Thanksgiving.”  Giving thanks is a part of the communion story because we read that Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it.  And so, too, we though somber in our remembrance of his broken body and shed blood, burst forth with thankful joy at his victorious resurrection from the dead.

2. Clipboards – I found a few empty clipboards on my counter.  I’m pretty sure they are the clipboards we used to hold sign-up sheets for the Summer Lunch Program.  I’m really excited that Faith Church is once again participating in our ministerium’s Summer Lunch Program.  Starting next week, for ten weeks of summer vacation, we’ll host people from the community for a free meal.  The food is donated and prepared by our local food bank, Conestoga Valley Christian Community Services.  Not only Faith Church people are signed up to help, but also a number of other churches in our area.  It is going to be excellent!

3. Box of stuff from Worship in the Park – It takes a team of people working together to pull off Worship in the Park, and I am grateful for every one of them.  Thanks to Becka and the praise team for transporting instruments.  Thanks to Elijah for the use and set-up of his sound system.  Thanks to Marcus & Melessa for setting up all the drinks and snacks.  Thanks to Kevin and Ken for handling offering and communion elements.  Thanks to Jim for printing song sheets.  Without all of you, Worship in the Park wouldn’t be possible!  I had a box of a few odds and ends like leftover bulletins and reports we distributed, as we have a special congregational meeting coming up.

4. Books for Graduates – I also had books that we are giving as gifts to our graduates.  We got them books by authors like Brennan Manning and Henri Nouwen, our prayer being that as they move on to their next stage in life they would give attention to their soul.  It is so easy to get caught up in the nuts and bolts of what has to happen next, whether that is starting college (admissions, dorms, loans, classes, roommates, etc) or starting a career (interviews, health insurance, co-workers, meetings, etc).  In the busyness, we can lose focus on what it means that we are disciples of Jesus.  We hope our graduates take a few moments to read those books.  Maybe you have lost focus on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.  If so, I’d be glad to talk with you further if you’re interested.

Now it’s time for me to clean up this mess!

Worship in the Park and Summer Vacation

6 Jun

worshipintheparkThis weekend is the first of two Worship in the Park Sundays that Faith Church has been holding for the last 3-4 years, and thankfully the weather is forecast to be beautiful!  We set up our worship band in the High Pavilion at East Lampeter Community Park, and enjoy worshipping God in the gorgeous surroundings of the Park.  Our Township does a wonderful job keeping the park fun and attractive.  So we invite all of you to join us!  Added to the surroundings, our Bishop will be with us.  Bruce Hill has been a pastor and leader in the Evangelical Congregational Church for a number of years, and he has been our Bishop for the last three.  He is a creative leader with a bold vision and a heart for God and his Kingdom.  In preparation for his message on Sunday, perhaps you’ll take a few minutes and read his address to our denomination’s National Conference last week.  During worship in the park, we’ll also celebrate communion and take a special offering to support our missionaries.

Warmer weather means not only Worship in the Park, but also summer vacation.  My family will travel to Texas next, as we are looking forward to vacationing with family.  That means on June 15, Phil Bartelt will be continuing our series in 1 Corinthians, and I’ll be taking a break from blogging for a few weeks.  It has been a blessing to have Phil, Lisa, and their kids as members of Faith Church now for almost a year!  On June 22, we have another special opportunity, the Conestoga Valley Ministerium Pulpit Exchange.  Pastor Tom Eshleman of Groffdale Mennonite Church will be with us, and I will be preaching at Zion Lutheran Church of Leola.  Tom has been pastor at Groffdale since September, 2009. He, his wife Jennifer, and their three children came to Groffdale in 2005 as associate/youth pastor. Prior to that he taught elementary school in Harrisonburg, VA. Born and raised in Lancaster, PA, he holds a BA degree from Eastern Mennonite University and a Master of Divinity degree from Eastern Mennonite Seminary.  I wish I could be there to hear Tom, so I’ll have to check out the podcast!  I’ve gotten to know Tom a bit through the ministerium, and I’ve come to appreciate his obvious passion for Christ.

June is a busy month at Faith Church.  Ballroom dance has started back up on Tuesday evenings.  The Summer Lunch Program begins on the 16th, and we could still use your help volunteering for that.  It’s going to be a great summer!