"You Have This!"

The Rev. Alyce Weaver Dunn, the Director of Connectional Ministries for the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church, will preach from Matthew 14;22-33 this Sunday, August 12, 20187, with her sermon titled "You Have This!" Come on out as we continue with our 10 AM summer worship hours. 

Follow this link to the Pastor’s Ponderings for August 12, 2018 for a brief bio of Rev. Alyce Weaver-Dunn.

                                                                           Grace and Peace, Pastor Bruce

"What Would Jesus Do?"

"What would Jesus do?" was asked in a sermon by legendary preacher Charles Spurgeon in 1891, referring to a book by Thomas a Kempis from the 1400s.  It became a popular question--accompanied by reminder bracelets/wristbands marketed a hundred or so years later. It is clearly a simple question, but as our passage from Mark 6 shows us, not always a simple, unchanging answer.  It depends an enormous amount on the context.   

Follow this link to the Pastor’s Ponderings for August 5, 2018 for further thoughts. See you in worship at 10 AM this Sunday, as we celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

                                                                           Grace and Peace, Pastor Bruce

"The Horns of a Dilemma"

When looking at a story in the Scriptures, it is interesting to consider what it must have been like from the perspective of one of the characters in the story—and how that translates to how WE would respond if it were us.  In this story, where we find out how John the Baptist died, we have a number of characters in the sordid tale.  And I would be surprised if any of us look at the story from the perspective of King Herod.  So we will—and look at the “pressure from both sides” that he was caught in.

Follow this link to the Pastor’s Ponderings for July 29, 2018 for further thoughts. See you in worship at 10 AM this Sunday.

                                                                           Grace and Peace, Pastor Bruce

"Deeds of Power vs. Unbelief"

Jesus was crucified, so that is one thing that it would seem didn’t work out for him.  But since he was God in human form, did he ever have any difficulties with healing those he wanted to heal?  The answer may surprise you—and this passage gives a clue to that.

Follow this link to the Pastor’s Ponderings for July 22, 2018 for further thoughts. See you in worship at 10 AM this Sunday.

"Daughter"

The passage from Mark 5:21-34 is an interruption.  A big, important thing that Jesus is in the middle of gets stopped for another thing—and there is some question if it is a good enough reason.  How good a reason does it need to be?  Does it matter who is involved in deciding that?

Follow this link to the Pastor’s Ponderings for July 15, 2018 for further thoughts. See you in worship at 10 AM this Sunday.

                                                                           Grace and Peace, Pastor Bruce

"Being Made Well, At the Point of Death"

It is a cause for celebration when someone recovers from a challenging and potentially life-ending illness.  “God is good” we might say.  But what about when someone doesn’t—someone we wish would just as much as we might wish for the person who DID recover?  What is up with that—that some recover, and some don’t?

Follow this link to the Pastor’s Ponderings for July 8, 2018 for further thoughts. See you in worship at 10 AM this Sunday.

"Being In the Other Boat"

“When the storms of life are raging, stand by me!”  we will sing Sunday in worship.  Life has plenty of storms, and we pray that Jesus is with us as we go through them.  But what about when it feels like we have nothing, and no one, to hold onto?  What if it seems like, rather than Jesus being in the boat with us, that we are in another boat?

Follow this link to the Pastor’s Ponderings for June 24, 2018 for further thoughts. See you in worship at 10 AM as we also honor five high school and college graduates.

                                                                           Grace and Peace, Pastor Bruce

"The Great Reverser"

From the website of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, where he is the James A. Kelso Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament, comes this "story bio" of the Rev. Dr. Steven Tuell, who will be our guest preacher this Sunday.  And please make it a point to investigate his blog, "The Bible Guy".  It will be worth your while!

Follow this link to the bio for Dr. Tuell. See you in worship at 10 AM.

 

                                                                           Grace and Peace, Pastor Bruce

“Sticking to the Point and Missing the Point”

The phrase "You can't see the forest for the trees" is, it seems to me, intentionally ambiguous.  But that phrase gets at the difference in viewpoint that Jesus so often seemed to have with the religious leaders.  And, I would suggest, that we sometimes have among ourselves.

Follow this link to the Pastor’s Ponderings for June 3, 2018 for further thoughts on this connection. See you in worship at 10 AM.  We will celebrate Holy Communion, receive new members, and follow up with a picnic!

                                      Grace and Peace, Pastor Bruce

"All In The Family"

The sermon title "All In The Family" is taken from the groundbreaking TV show of the 1970s starring Carroll O'Connor and Rob Reiner as the two characters most conflicted with each other.  A man and his wife, their adult daughter and her husband all live in the same house, and the generational difference in political and social perspective of the father and son-in-law in particular was the crux of the show's plotlines.  There was genuine disdain, and animosity, and frustration, and arguing, and unspoken (occasionally it wasn't spoken out loud) disagreement.  And yet, in some bizarre way, they managed, when it really mattered, to "have each other's back". 

That seems to be some of what is happening in the passage from Mark 3:20-35.  Or is it?

Follow this link to the Pastor’s Ponderings for June 10, 2018 for further thoughts on this connection. See you in worship at 10 AM.

                                                                           Grace and Peace, Pastor Bruce

“Dwelling In the Kingdom of God”

So what connects the celebration in the Christian Year of Trinity Sunday with the celebration in the patriotic calendars of the USA of Memorial Day?  To my mind, "Community".

Follow this link to the Pastor’s Ponderings for May 27, 2018 for further thoughts on this connection. See you in worship at 9:15 AM (Modern) and 11 AM (Traditional).  Remember that starting next Sunday, June 3 we will hold one worship service at 10 am (for the summer months).

                                      Grace and Peace, Pastor Bruce

“The Spirit Descends and the Spirit Intercedes”

Sometimes something beyond us comes upon us.  It's like people say when "the one" suddenly appears in your life--"it was bigger than both of us".  The Holy Spirit does that at Pentecost, and "the church" started, and nothing has been the same since. 

            We'll explore that on Sunday. 

            Follow this link to the Pastor’s Ponderings for May 6, 2018. See you in worship at 9:15 AM (Modern) and 11 AM (Traditional).  We will celebrate the Baptism of Hazel Rose Sedei at 9:15.

                                                                           Grace and Peace, Pastor Bruce

Youth Sunday “Creating a Masterpiece”

The Youth, who call themselves PBJ (which stands for Powered By Jesus), will be leading the worship this Sunday.  "Creating a Masterpiece" is the title of their message, and I don't know exactly what it will be about (although I can guess).  So rather than address what I'm not entirely certain about, I will instead address that it will be Mother's Day.

Did you know that Mother's Day in its present form began with a worship service at a Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia, in May 1907?  Mom has been saying profound things my whole life. One that recently came to mind, in thinking about 1 John 5:1-6 is: "Kill them with kindness".

Kill with kindness?  Might this be the kind of love that "conquers"?

We'll explore that on Sunday.  

Follow this link to the Pastor’s Ponderings for May 13, 2018 to find out more. See you in worship at 9:15 AM (Modern) and 11 AM (Traditional).  

                                      Grace and Peace, Pastor Bruce

"When Love Conquers"

My Mom has been saying profound things my whole life.  One that recently came to mind, in thinking about 1 John 5:1-6 is: "Kill them with kindness".

Kill with kindness?  Might this be the kind of love that "conquers"?

We'll explore that on Sunday.  

Follow the link below to continue reading the Pastor’s Ponderings for May 6, 2018. See you in worship at 9:15 AM (Modern) and 11 AM (Traditional).  We will celebrate Holy Communion.

                                      Grace and Peace, Pastor Bruce

"When Love Is Action"

My first fulltime appointment as a United Methodist pastor was in Rhinebeck, New York.  Actually, I had one church in the village of Rhinebeck, and another one on Route 9 south of the village.  That second one was called Hillside United Methodist Church--and the name was perfectly appropriate, because it indeed was on the side of  the hill.  It was a beautiful little chapel, with seating for maybe 30 people if all of the seats were filled.  We probably averaged 15 on a typical Sunday morning, and many warm summer Sundays, or snowy winter Sundays, had  less than that.  I will confess--we always added the stuffed animal who sat on the windowsill to the attendance, so maybe it was really an average of 14.

It really was a beautiful little place, in an almost idyllic setting, surrounded by old, venerable trees, but clearly visible from the road going both north and south on Route 9, and in a flat stretch so that going either way you got a long look at it.  I would run into people in the village, and when they would find out that I was the pastor there they would almost always say "I love that little Hillside Chapel!"  I would smile and agree that it was beautiful and picturesque.

But I would be thinking to myself "So you love it?  I've never seen you there.  What does your love consist of?  Do you really, truthfully LOVE that Hillside Chapel?"  I never said that to anyone.  But I thought it--and I still think it.

“When Love Is Divine” 

So many songs through the years get at it.  " Heaven, I'm in heaven . . .when we're dancing cheek to cheek", Irving Berlin wrote and Fred Astaire sang in 1935, in the movie "Top Hat". "Almost paradise; we're knocking on heaven's door . . . I swear that I can see forever in your eyes, Paradise! It seems like perfect love´s so hard to find . . .." Eric Carmen and Dean Pitchford wrote, and Ann Wilson and Mike Reno sang, 49 years later, in 1984, in the movie "Footloose".  And 29 years later, in 2013, in a fascinating (and borderline scandalous) reworking of metaphors, Hozier wrote and sang in his song "Take Me To Church": "I should've worshipped her sooner; If the Heavens ever did speak she is the last true mouthpiece . . . the only heaven I'll be sent to is when I'm alone with you". 

We desire to find love in our lives, and we desire to find love that is "heavenly"--that is "divine"--that indeed transcends the day-to-day humdrum workaday lives we find ourselves living.  And we write songs about it, and dream of it, and sometimes even seek it out, and grasp for it--not always in successful ways, because more often than not it is like trying to catch a butterfly--you're better off being in the area where the butterflies are, and waiting for one to land on you.  And it is fairly inevitable that one will, particularly if you don't scare it away. 

"Not Yet Old Enough," and "Seeing God"

This Sunday, April 8, my colleague and friend Rev. Dr. William B. Randolph will be preaching (and I am excited to hear him!).  Will and I have known each other for years, and as he is now back in Western Pennsylvania after a stint in Nashville as Director of Aging and Older Adult Ministries for the General Board of Discipleship of the United Methodist Church.  His sermon at 9:15 will be "Not Yet Old Enough" from Psalm 139:1-18; at 11 it will be "Seeing God" from Genesis 33:1-15.

Click on this link to the Pastor’s Ponderings for April 8, 2018, to learn more about Will and to check out the Scriptures for Sunday.

See you in worship, at 9:15 AM (Modern) and/or 11:00 AM (Traditional).

                                      Grace and Peace, Pastor Bruce

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday Thoughts

We love the kind of stories where seeming defeat is overcome with unexpected, redemptive victory.  That is Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter in a nutshell. More than a redemptive story of victory in the face of defeat, it is THE redemptive story of victory in the face of defeat.  It is the prototype for the kind of story we all love.

To do a fuller justice to the story (I can't claim to really do it the full justice it deserves), ATTEND ALL THREE of the worship services, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday.  Experience the emotions, the questions, the unfolding of the events. You will appreciate even more THE prototype redemptive story, and that YOU are part of it.

“Desire and Obsession”

Once again, I draw from the wisdom and fluency of Frederick Buechner: "Lust is the craving for salt of a person who is dying of thirst".  How does this tie in with Jesus processing into Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday a couple of thousand years ago? How does that tie in with him being crucified by the Friday of that same week? We'll look at this on Sunday, and you can read a longer exposition of this idea through this link to the Pastor’s Ponderings for March 25, 2018.

See you in worship, at 9:15 AM (Modern) and/or 11:00 AM (Traditional).

                                      Grace and Peace, Pastor Bruce