Monday, December 17, 2012

E-Votion for Dec. 17


As I was writing my sermon this last week this song kept coming back into my head. It is The Servant Song written by Richard Gillard based on Matt. 20:26. The words are as follows I think it is a great prayer for your week!  

Brother, sister, let me serve you, let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant, too.

We are pilgrims on a journey; we’re together on this road.
We are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load. 

I will hold the Christ-light for you in the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear. 

I will weep when you are weeping; when you laugh, I’ll laugh with you. 
I will share your joy and sorrow till we’ve seen this journey through. 

When we sing to God in heaven, we shall find such harmony,
born of all we’ve known together of Christ’s love and agony. 

Brother, sister, let me serve you, let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant, too.

I hope you are having a blessed Advent. Below you will find some events to keep in mind for this week.

Peace, Rev. Mike

EVENTS for December 17-23
-       Thurs.  5:30pm meet at the church to go caroling. I believe folks might be going out for dinner afterwards. Come for part, come for all, give a call (or text someone who texts) to see where we are if you want to meet up.
-       Sun. 10:30am WORSHIP, this Sunday the choir will be singing a Christmas cantata.  Please encourage others to come and hear our gifted choir.

Please keep in PRAYER-
Those with cancer:  Jessie, Doug, Joan, Patrick, Austin…
Those recovering from an injury or illness: Billy Philips, David, Michelle, Doug...
Those recovering from surgery: Gary, Sharah...
Those who are grieving: The community of Newtown, CT and the family and friends of Collin Crane and Laura Frank...

This week we had about 45 people participate in worship! 

Sermon for 12/16, the 3rd Sunday in Advent


Luke 3:7-18

John has some pretty strong words for those who listen.  He calls the people gathered to hear him a brood of vipers or children of snakes this is hardly a compliment.  

Yet for some reason people are drawn to him and his message.  The crowd is made up of general people, yet tax collectors and soldiers in particular are pointed out as not only being present but seem to be fully engaged listening to John and asking him questions.  

The crowd takes John’s message seriously.  Messianic expectations were high; people living under the Roman occupation had hope of liberation.  And John preaches about repentance – turning back to God, re-orienting their lives like an explorer might use a compass and a map.  

What I find surprising is how receptive the people are to John’s harsh words.  Those who hear his message are convicted.  They want to know, each group of people wants to know, what they should do in order to bear fruit for their LORD to see when he arrives.  

In order to bear fruit he says that the people must share, keep no more than they need, be fair, treat others with care, and be honest.  

In general he says: whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none, and whoever has food must do likewise (3:11).  

Specifically to the tax collectors: collect no more than the amount prescribed for you (3:13).  

And to the soldiers: do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, be satisfied with your wages (3:14).  

This is how you bear fruit: be satisfied with what you have and share what’s left.  It is that simple and at the same time it is just that hard. 

The crowd wants to know what can they do and we join them in asking what can we do in order to be faithful Christians.  And John’s words are just as true for us as they were for those who originally heard them.  It is hard for us to realize but in today’s day and age we are these people; we are the crowd, the tax collectors, and the soldiers.  

We are a people of abundance who are rarely satisfied with what we have.  For example our economic system is built upon us not having one or even two coats but having one or two for every conceivable weather contingency. 

There is nothing wrong about buying something at a good price but there is a problem if we receive “a deal” at some one’s expense.  

Arthur Simon, founder of Bread for the World, points out that starting at a very young age Americans hear two sets of conflicting messages:* 
  1. Do good, be honest, and obey the law.  
  2. Take what you can for yourself.  

Which of these two messages reflects the will of God?  And which one of these two actually guides our culture?  

I think one of the reasons John and Jesus were and are so captivating is because they were so out of step with the culture of the world.  The sound of their voices and their message stood out from the culture of greed and violence, represented by the Romans and the tax collectors.  

Their vision was otherworldly of a time and place in which everyone has enough and no one has too much and in which everyone is treated fairly.  Is almost like the dissonant sounds in a musical piece that while seemingly out of place some how sound oddly compelling and make us pay closer attention.   

Like the crowd we find ourselves drawn to the hope of their message of a better world now and eternally.  Like them we find ourselves in the midst of the tension between Repentance and Hope.  We have the hope of this alternate world yet unless we repent we have no place, no position in a just world.  

What I mean by repentance is not a profession of faith with words but with action. John warns the crowd not to take too much pride in their heritage, telling them that they will not be saved just because Abraham is their ancestor.  Likewise it is not enough for us to claim our Christian heritage with our words and fail to bear the fruit required of us with humility.  

You see to repent is to change one’s mind, to have a change of heart, to change one’s position, and along with this comes a change in our behavior.   Living a faithful Christian life is not about austerity, but embracing and sharing the abundance of what we already have.  

And as we begin to see how incredibly blessed we are compared to others who are in need we become satisfied or content with what we have even if it is not the newest or the shiniest in order that others might have something at all. So that when we do give up that extra coat, we do so out of the desire for someone to use it to keep warm rather than out of feeling guilt because we have too many.  

But to do this is to march to the beat of God’s drum.  This is difficult and we need help doing it, because we are surrounded by so many different messages that convey the myth of scarcity instead of the truth of God’s blessing and grace.  And we wonder what can we do what should we do in order to bear good fruit? 

At the end of his book How Much is Enough, Hungering for God in an Affluent Culture, Arthur Simon whom I mentioned earlier, gives nineteen suggestions for ways to do to reorient our lives toward God.  (Don’t worry I’m not going to read you all nineteen).  Here are a couple of ideas that we might include in our preparation for Christmas.  
  1. Begin and continue with Prayer.  Ask God for the courage to follow Jesus and for the wisdom to do it well.  
  2. Decide on some steps, small ones at first that allow your faith to become more active in love.  (Whatever your steps are, take them as initial steps on a long journey.)  
  3. Deepen your devotional life.  Set a regular time and place for prayer, reflection, and Bible reading.  
  4. Turn off your TV.  Advertising on TV is a big source of our discontent and informs our perception of the world.  I would add limiting screen time on the internet as well.  
  5. Make out your will so that after your death, what you leave behind continues to fulfill the mission of Christ.  
  6. Consider Jesus your most trusted advisor.  Ask yourself, what would Jesus want me to do?**  
Like the people who gathered to hear John preach were filled with expectation for the messiah we too long for his coming because it promises a different kind of world a hope that people will be just and kind, longing for a world free of school shootings or any other kind of violence.  

In Advent this desire for peace and joy is heightened because we are waiting for Christmas remembering that God came and lived among us showing us what is truly good.  

And the really good news is that we are invited to participate ushering in God’s kingdom in this New Year.  

_______
*  Arthur Simon, How Much is Enough? Hungering for God in an Affluent Culture (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2003), 176.  
** Ibid. 183-186. 

_____________________________________________
Rev. Michael Fry preaching
at East Bethany PC 
on December 16, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Shepherd's Game--Thank you!


During the evening of December 9th many children and adults of the congregation gathered to enjoy dinner and the Shepherd’s Game.  About 30 people participated in the event to search for the Christ child.  Following clues, the teams (led by team captains Sharon Smith, Dick Barie, JoAnn Elliott and Audrey Kellogg) searched for the Christ child in the darkened church.  There were innkeepers for the teams to talk to in an attempt to get clues to the Christ child’s location as well as centurians the teams tried to avoid as they had the ability to place team members in “jail”.  The teams got a feel for what it was like for the shepherds who really went in search of the Christ child and the obstacles they had to overcome.  All of the teams had a lot of fun and everyone was able to work together and find the Christ child.  Following the game all of the teams gathered together for a discussion about the game and what we had learned from it.  It was a great night for all!  Many thanks to Mark Barie and Sharah DeMena for all of your work planning this event!

 

Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, 7 PM


The Candlelight Christmas Eve Service will take place on Monday,  December 24th at 7 PM.  The service of scripture and carols is the perfect way to begin the Christmas holiday.  Be sure to invite your friends and family—this is the perfect time to introduce them to the EBPC family!

 

Christmas Caroling--Thursday, December 20


We will be Christmas caroling on Thursday evening, December 20.  We will be meeting at the church at 5:30 PM and carpooling to visit shut-ins and church members to bring them some Christmas cheer.  This is always a fun evening and we hope that many of our church members and friends will decide to join us.  Following caroling we will be going out for pizza and fellowship.  If you have any questions or know of anyone who we should visit that evening, please contact Mark Barie at 356-0945.

 

Christmas Cantata--Sunday, December 23

 

During the worship service on Sunday, December 23rd the choir will be presenting the Christmas Cantata.  This year’s cantata is titled “Angels of Christmas.”  The choir will be led by Mark Barie and accompanied by Beth Funderburk.  This is a great event to invite your friends and family to attend.  We are blessed to have so much musical talent at EBPC and you definitely won’t want to miss this!

 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Shepherd's Game


This Sunday evening, December 9th, we will be gathering at 5:30 PM at the church to enjoy dinner and the Shepherd's Game.  This will be a fun event for church members of all ages!  For more information contact Mark Barie at 356-0945.

Congregational Meeting--December 9

Following worship this Sunday, December 9th, there will be a brief Congregational Meeting.  The purpose of the meeting is to review the 2013 budget and approve the slate of new officers.  We will also be welcoming new members into our congregation.  There will be another congregational meeting after Easter to review the year-end reports.  This meeting should only take about 15 minutes and we hope you will all plan to attend.  If you have any questions please contact the church office.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Group Prayer Challenge!

At our session retreat last Thursday we had some conversation around prayer and how we might encourage one another to pray for our church, our community, and each other. Yet we are spread out and a very busy people so adding another "event" to come to the church and pray does not seem very practical.  

So what if we were to a set side a time one evening a week, like Thursday after dinner or right before bed, to pray if only for a few minutes, knowing that other people we know are doing the same thing? 

I think that could be pretty powerful. 

Some resources to use: 
  - The Bible, read a psalm (anyone who reads #151 gets a prize)
  - Prayer books
  - Devotionals like the Upper Room (available at church) or These Days (not available at church) 
  - The bulletin usually has a prayer for the week and a list of people related to our community who are in need of prayer. 

If you're in doubt about who or what to pray for here are some ideas.  
  - Turn on the news, open a newspaper, or internet news source...  
  - Pray for our church... (the session, deacons, congregants, people who we don't normally see, and the pastor) 
  - Pray for the lonely... (widows, widowers, those living far from home, the homebound, and those in nursing homes) 
  - Pray for the sick... 
  - Pray for yourself... 
  - List your highs and lows for the day or the week... 
  - Pray for your hopes and goals for the future...
  - Make a list of the things you are thankful about. 
  - Are there things you are worried about? Take it to the Lord in prayer. 

There are tons of things to pray about; close your eyes and think them, picture them, write them down on a sheet of paper, in a journal, or in a notebook. 

Prayer is important to our life together as a community of faith and in our relationship with God, so don't worry if you'll do it wrong; just do it!

Events for this WEEK at EBPC
Thursday: Individual Group Prayer after dinner or before bed. 
               6:30pm Choir Rehearsal 
Sunday: Worship 10:30am (remember to reset your clocks!) 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hanging of the Greens



The Hanging of the Greens will take place on Sunday, November 25th following the worship service.  There will also be a coffee hour and a time of fellowship.  Please be sure to plan to stay and help out as many hands make light work.  This is a great kick-off to the holiday season and a fun time to spend with your church family decorating our church for the Advent season.

Choir Schedule

The choir will be performing during worship on November 4 & 18 and December 9.  The Christmas Cantata will be performed during worship on Sunday, December 23rd.  The choir will also perform during the Candlelight Christmas Eve service on December 24th at 7 PM.

Choir practice schedule:

Tuesday, October 23rd at 6:30 PM
Monday, October 29th at 6:30 PM
Tuesday, November 13th at 6:30 PM
Sunday, November 18th following worship
Monday November 26th at 6:30 PM
Saturday, December 22nd at 9:00 AM

Contact Mark Barie for more information.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Book Club News


The next book chosen by the book club is Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

From Amazon.com:
Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles--and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.


Lauded for his sensitive memoir (My Own Country) about his time as a doctor in eastern Tennessee at the onset of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, Verghese turns his formidable talents to fiction, mining his own life and experiences in a magnificent, sweeping novel that moves from India to Ethiopia to an inner-city hospital in New York City over decades and generations. Sister Mary Joseph Praise, a devout young nun, leaves the south Indian state of Kerala in 1947 for a missionary post in Yemen. During the arduous sea voyage, she saves the life of an English doctor bound for Ethiopia, Thomas Stone, who becomes a key player in her destiny when they meet up again at Missing Hospital in Addis Ababa. Seven years later, Sister Praise dies birthing twin boys: Shiva and Marion, the latter narrating his own and his brothers long, dramatic, biblical story set against the backdrop of political turmoil in Ethiopia, the life of the hospital compound in which they grow up and the love story of their adopted parents, both doctors at Missing. The boys become doctors as well and Vergheses weaving of the practice of medicine into the narrative is fascinating even as the story bobs and weaves with the power and coincidences of the best 19th-century novel.

The next meeting of the book club will be Saturday, November 17th at 9:30 AM at Coffee Culture in Batavia.  We would really like for some new people to join us!  If you have any suggestions for books to read please bring them along.  Hope to see you there!

We Need Your Help: Contact Information


We are always trying to improve communication among church members.  We would like to be sure that we have everyone’s contact information up to date and that we know what the best way is to reach you (email, text, phone call, etc.).  If you could contact the church office and let us know your preferred method of being contacted it would be appreciated.  You can leave a voicemail at 344-2931 or send an email to ebpresbyterian@gmail.com.  Thanks for your help!

 

Holiday Happenings: Saturday, November 10th


 
 
On Saturday, November 10th the Christian Education Committee will once again be holding our annual Holiday Happenings Craft & Vendor Show.  This is always a fun event and a great way to start your holiday shopping!  As always there will be many great vendors, a bake sale, a Chinese auction and lunch available for purchase.   

If anyone is interested in having a table at Holiday Happenings, or knows of someone who is interested, please contact the church office.  Pricing is $30 for the first table and $20 for each additional table.   

We are looking for donations from church members for items for our bake sale and for the kitchen.  A sign-up sheet will be available on the table in the Fellowship Hall soon.  Also, if anyone would like to donate an item for our Chinese auction it would be greatly appreciated.     

We hope that everyone will decide to come out and support this fun event! 

 

Christian Education: Upcoming Events


The Christian Education Committee is excited to tell you about several upcoming events:

On Sunday October 14th following the worship service there will be a presentation about Mission in the World given by Reverend Mike after he returns from a PC(USA) Mission Conference in Dallas.  Before the presentation we will enjoy a potluck lunch and fellowship with our church family.  Just bring a dish to pass—paper products and drinks will be provided by the Christian Education Committee.

All Saints’ Day will be commemorated on Sunday November 4th following the worship service.  From Companion to the Book of Common Worship:  All Saints’ Day is a time to rejoice in all who through the ages have faithfully served the Lord. The day reminds us that we are part of one continuing, living communion of saints. It is a time to claim our kinship with the “glorious company of apostles … the noble fellowship of prophets … the white-robed army of martyrs”.  It is a time to express our gratitude for all who in ages of darkness kept the faith, for those who have taken the gospel to the ends of the earth, for prophetic voices who have called the church to be faithful in life and service, for all who have witnessed to God’s justice and peace in every nation.  Following worship we will be participating in a cemetery clean-up while learning about past members of EBPC and their contributions to our church.  This is a great way to learn more about the history of our church.  Be sure to dress for the weather!

On Sunday December 2nd we will be making Advent wreaths.  Each family is invited to stay after worship and create a wreath to take home.  An advent wreath is a great way to keep Christ at the center of Christmas and teach children the true meaning of Christmas.

The children will be participating in the Shepherds Game during the month of December (date to be announced).  This should be a fun and educational event for the children of the congregation during the Christmas season.

 

 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Week of 9/24-30

Hi All, 

We had a great trip to Ghost Ranch and retreat with young adult volunteers returning from their time of service to God and the larger church. It entailed a lot of listening to their stories and experiences. A lot of the time when these folks return they experience reverse culture shock as they re-enter the American mainstream culture, they expect culture shock as they enter a new environment but when they return they don't realize how much they have changed. They also feel alone because people do not understand the significance of their service. Please join me in praying for them as they integrate their experiences of the past year(s) with where they are currently living. 

If you'd like some more information about the Young Adult Volunteer Program please check out: 

This WEEK @ East Bethany Presbyterian Church
The steeple was fixed! 
Wed. 6:30 pm Sexual Misconduct Policy Document Meeting
Saturday 9:30 am Book Club meeting at Coffee Culture in Batavia
Sunday 10:30 am Worship 

Please keep in PRAYER 
 - Jessie Elliot who has returned home from the hospital and is being treated for Myeloma. 
 - Megan, Adam and Greysen Wynn as they adjust to their new life together as mother, father, and son. 
 - The YAVs and others serving in the mission field. 
 - The Sexual Misconduct Team as they meet tonight. 
 - Our Congregation and our Presbytery. 

Scripture for this Sunday: Ester 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22; Psalm 124; James 5:13-20; Mark 8:38-50. 

God's Peace, Rev. Michael Fry 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sermon for 9/9/12


Scripture – Mark 7:24-30

Jesus’ response seems very un-Jesus like doesn’t it?  Instead of compassion and mercy he lashes out and calls this woman a dog.  Some speculate that Jesus is tired and looking for a rest.  He seems to be traveling alone and the purpose for this journey is not to preach or heal, all of us need a break some time.  Jesus’ words disturb us because they are not consistent with our image of who he is, but being both fully human and fully God, Jesus can and does get frustrated and tired.    

The mother is not deterred when he tells her “it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs” (v 27).  The children Jesus refers to here are the Jews - the children of the covenant between God and Abraham.  Gentiles were not descendants of Abraham therefor not included in the covenant. Jesus has gone to an area which is decidedly Gentile which is unusual because Jews and Gentiles did not really mix except when necessary. 

The woman defends her request answering back, arguing her case saying that she is not searching for a meal but for crumbs.  She is seeking only a taste of what he can do; such is her faith and her desperation that she knows that just a taste of his healing is all that her daughter needs. 

The mother’s faith reminds me of the woman with the hemorrhage who has the faith that if she just touches the hem of Jesus’ robe that she will be healed (5:25-34).  Both women have great faith related to small actions.  The one woman in touching Jesus’ clothes and the other that crumbs from the kingdom of God can heal her daughter. 

In Mark’s gospel it seems that these women get what Jesus is about when those who are closest to Jesus and those who should recognize him do not.  Here this gentile woman notices him when he does not want to be noticed and approaches him bowing at his feet in a posture of submission, paying respect or honor when begging him to heal her daughter.  

And when she is insulted she has the courage to be persistent pointing out that he has not just come for the children of the covenant but all of God’s children.  In this sense she is a kind of prophetess strong in her conviction bringing to mind the words of Isaiah, “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (49:6). 

She says, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs” (6:28).  And I am learning how true these words are as Alex learns to feed himself. 

But seriously, this woman knows how abundant God’s Kingdom is.  She realizes that Jesus came to redeem all people, period.  And that the meal that is served at the Lord’s table spills over so that even those who do not have a seat still get to enjoy the feast. 

And when Jesus is reminded of this he changes his mind and heals her daughter giving her a serving of his healing grace.  Because of her faith she is given seat at the table where she was not welcome before. 

We learn from this woman the importance of persistence in the face of adversity, we learn the importance of asking Jesus for what we want or need.  Some times we are content to pray, “Lord, thy will be done.”  Don’t get me wrong this is a good prayer, but sometimes we need to be a little more specific. 

One time I was out with my dad watching a meteor shower and I was busy wishing on the stars as they fell.  Dad asked me what I was asking God for and I was little and said a baseball glove.  He asked me why I didn’t ask for world peace and I told him that I thought God already knows that. 

We should be encouraged to pray specifics even though God knows our prayers before they are formed on our lips.  One of the reasons we pray to God is so that we realize that we depend on him and recognize that the results of prayer indeed come from God. 

This woman’s specific prayer is that Jesus will heal her daughter; she has heard about what he is capable of, perhaps she has heard how Jesus brought back Jairus’ daughter and seeks restoration for her daughter and she receives it. 

After the sermon and before our next hymn I would like you to take a minute or two for you to reflect and perhaps write down:

What is your specific prayer? 

I’m not talking about a prayer for an open parking spot or a baseball glove.  

What is it that you long for?  

What is it that you desire for yourself or someone that you know? 

Some of us might feel some resistance in doing this because it seems silly or there is the fear of disappointment in unanswered prayer.  We might have been taught that it is not right for us to pry for ourselves, but I assure you that it is.  

I encourage you to set whatever resistance creeps in aside and take the chance and pray in faith and pray in persistence and the more specific the better.  If you still feel resistance ask God to help you pray, to give you the words to speak in prayer. 

Perhaps you too, will find a crumb of grace if not an entire meal.

Rev. Michael Fry preaching
at East Bethany PC
September 9, 2012



Sources used for this sermon include.
  • Sermon Brainwave and the Working Preacher Website. www.workingpreacher.org 
  • Feasting on the Word Bible Commentary, Year B, Vol. 3. WJK: 2009. 


This passage in seven words: Crumbs of Grace taste wonderful to me. 

Haiku:            Grace falls to the ground
                        God’s crumbs heal, restoring all
                        and taste as good as the feast.

Christmas Cantata--December 17th

The date for this year's Christmas Cantata is Sunday, December 17th.  It will take place during our regular 10:30 AM worship service...