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.

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...