13 May 2022

Read: Revelation 21:1; John 13:31; Acts 11:1

About 20 years ago I attended the national Association of United Methodist Evangelism Conference in Washington, D.C. One of the preachers for the conference was the UM Bishop of the Washington area, Feldon May. He began his sermon by telling a story about his recent trip to Africa to deliver funding from an denominational initiative he chaired. “Every where I went,” he said, “people asked, ‘Bishop, what good news do you bring us?’ At first I said, ‘Well, I brought you a couple of million dollars to help you build churches and have Sunday School.” They responded, “Bishop what good news do you bring us?” the people kept asking. The bishop kept saying, “I brought you millions of the dollars for ministry.” But they kept asking, “But Bishop, what good news do you bring us.” The bishop finally answered, “Christ is risen from the dead!” And the people said, “That’s the good news we’ve been waiting to hear!” Yes, the Easter message that Christ is risen is the good news that bring hope to the world. So, if you are confronting tough times today just remember, “Christ is risen from the tomb, and rejoice because there is always hope.

 
 
 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

12 May 2022

Read: John 13:31-35

We refer to the days between the Day of the Resurrection and the ascension of Jesus into heaven as the Great 50 Days. It is a time for Christians to reflect on the importance of the resurrection for our life and how we can live out our life in as Easter people to glorify Christ. Jesus tells us the answer in John 13:31-35.  We live in the glory of the resurrected Christ by the way we love one another. Remember this: we are not required or commanded to like everyone we meet.  Christ commands his followers to love, not necessarily like, others.  They will know we are Christians by our love!

 
 
 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

11 May 2022

Read: Acts 10:9-16

One day while praying, Peter had a vision that touched his heart and made him reconsider what is clean and unclean to eat. God tells him not to consider anything God has made as unclean. The text tells us “This happened three times” (Acts 10:16a), indicating that God wanted to be sure Peter got the message and would write it in his heart.  Sometimes the repetitive message is what it takes to get something through my thick and stubborn skull for me to hear the message and change my thinking and heart. Peter’s vision challenged him in several ways, not just forsaking the kosher laws of the Hebrew scriptures but going into a home of a Gentile and bringing the message of salvation to the home of Cornelius and other Gentiles.  As the world evolves and changes God requires us to adopt to new ways of thinking and acting but one thing remains constant the commandment for Christians to love; love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

 
 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

10 May 2022

Read: John 1:14-15

Jesus’ call to “repent and believe” summons us to totally change the way we do life. Author Anne Lamott puts it this way: “If I repented to avoid hell, only my actions change, not my heart or outlook. If I’m repenting by leaning in closer to life, trying not to focus on everyone and everything that annoy me, then my perspective changes and I’m kinder. I trip out on myself way less often now, and this lets the generosity inside reveal itself. I find a whiff of willingness to grow” (Anne Lamott. Dusk, Night, Dawn New York: Penguin Publishing Group, 2021, pp. 70-71 Kindle Edition). Jesus calls us “Repent and believe the good news.”  Do it today.

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

09 May 2022

Read: Psalm 148

Grace and peace to you this Monday morning.  I pray you had a blessed Mother’s Day.

As I was growing up my mom was the greatest cheerleader and advocate, I have ever had in my life.  She was the one who opened my heart to hear the call of God to ministry and offered little pearls of wisdom that I carry to this day. “Rob,” she once said, “I want to tell you something really important and if you learn this you will find your life to be really blessed; you can have a personal relationship with God.” She then taught me to pray, to worship, to read the Bible, and most of all stay connected to the People of God (the church).  We establish a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  Want to know God, know Jesus Christ. Know, also, Jesus Christ died and rose for you, Alleluia.

 
 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

06 May 2022

Read: Proverbs 31:25

I’m running late today, please forgive me, I’ve been swamped with detail work.  Pray for me, please.

Sunday is Mother’s Day and I hope you will be honoring your mother by coming to church and giving glory to God for the woman who brought you into the world and raised you to adulthood. For those of us whose mom is no longer with us, it is a day to remember her and to thank God for her, because she held you in her heart the moment you were born until she departed this life.  And for the women who are raising children today, know you are not alone because God is with you in the joys, trials, and heartbreak that comes with the job.  God loves you, mom, and so do we!

 
 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

04 May 2022

Read, again: Psalm 23

Right now, I have so many irons in the fire to prepare for the next chapter of my life that I find it difficult to concentrate on one task at a time. It is a stressful time for me.  This morning after I dropped Zoe off at Conard, I came to the office with 20 things on my mind and started to get to work on them when I realized, “Oh my goodness, I have started working without first doing my devotionals.”  You see there are times when life gets in the way of my devotion to God—that ever happen to you?  When I am stressed out with lots of things to do it is hard from me to stay focused on one thing at a time to bring it to completion, so I need help.  This is where the “good Shepherd” steps in and provides for me the tool I need to begin and end with God. When my mind is flooded with so many thoughts, tasks, etc., I find it helpful to turn to the liturgy of the hours and pray the psalms for about 15 minutes.  It is through the psalms the good Shepherd speaks to me, encouraging by reminding me that I am loved by one who is greater than I am.  Who was, who is, and who is to come to bring eternal life to all who believe in him. 

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

03 May 2022

Lectio Divina (If you don’t know the step of Lectio Divina click here)

Psalm 23 KJV

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

29 April 2022

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 NKJV).

“Our job as Christians is to love others without stopping  to inquire whether or not they are worthy” (Thomas Merton). Make love the main thing of your life today.

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

26 April 2022

26 April 2022

Read: John 20:19-23, 30-31

“But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).  I love these words as John explains to us why the Gospel is written, so we may come to believe.  In the days following the resurrection Jesus did not spend 100 per cent of his remaining time on earth in the presence of the disciples.  He “showed himself” on several occasions, in the upper room, on the road to Emmaus, on the lake shore in Galilee. In each of these appearances the disciples were given great hope and encouragement.  Their grief and discouragement was turned into joy and given renewed hope. Their confidence was restored, and they had a great sense of purpose.  Most of all, any doubt they had about Jesus being resurrected were wiped away, Jesus is the resurrected Lord!

As I wrote yesterday, the risen Lord continues to appear in our life almost daily, if we have the eyes to see and the faith to sense his presence.  When he does “show himself” we experience the same excitement, encouragement, confidence, and renewed purpose as the first disciples did.  Look for ways you experience the presence of the risen Lord in your life and believe!

 
 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

5 April 2022

Read: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Our family had a wonderful time last Saturday, As part of my Christmas gift to Zoe, we had tickets to see Hamilton on Broadway (it was Zoe and Shelly’s first Broadway show!). I really loved the entire show but was really touched and challenged by one line in the final scene/song. “When your time is up, who will tell your story?” This got me thinking about legacy; my legacy as I am about to turn the page on this chapter of my life and move to the next. What will people say about when my time is up? As unremarkable as my life has been I want to be remembered as a kind, patient, loving disciple of Jesus Christ. Flawed in so many ways but redeemed by a Savior who is Christ the Lord. Please forgive the self-reflection this today, I want to ask you this question, what is the legacy you hope to leave when your time is up? Will your legacy reflect the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:23-23)?

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

4 April 2022

Read: John 12:1-8

My mother gave me a very sound piece of advice at the end of seventh grade. That school year our church hired a student from Yale Divinity School to serve as youth director with whom I grew remarkably close for that year. At the end of the year, I was given the responsibility of presenting a small gift to him from the youth group on his final Sunday with our church. I was sad and when we got into the car to go home my eyes were filled with tears.  Mom looked at me and said, “Son, you’re sad aren’t you. Well, something you will learn in life is people come and people go. Some people will be in your life for a short time. So, pay attention to them, experience them as a gift the Lord has sent your way.” At the time I did not really comprehend what she was saying to me. I thought she was saying “get over it and move on.”  As time has gone by I’ve come to discover that what my mom said to me way back in 1964 is true, people come and people go in life, that’s a fact of life.  What is important is for us to realize that life is short, and we do not have much time to “cheer up the lives of those who travel with us.”  Be kind to one another and seek to understand, to forgive, and love the other as a fellow child of God.  Be the best friend a person can be.  Remember this, you are the most precious child of God and so is the other person.

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

31 March 2022

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
    you who are God my Savior,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
    to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
    in burnt offerings offered whole;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

28 March 2022

Read: Psalm 119:1-3

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give me this bread, that he may live in me, and I in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. † (FROM: Phyllis Tickle. The Divine Hours (Volume Three): Prayers for Springtime. New York: The Crown Publishing Group, 2001, p. 277. Kindle Edition.)

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

23 March 2022

Read: Luke 15:1-3, 11-19

Back in the 20th century a group of scholars gathered for a world conference on comparative religions. As the scholars debated the unique contributions of each religion, C.S. Lewis wandered in and asked what the commotion as about.  He was told they are debating what is unique about Christianity. Lewis responded, “Oh, that easy, it’s grace.”

A somewhat enlightened hush fell over the crowd. The scholars at the conference had to agree. The idea of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct we have. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of Karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law--all of these offer a way to earn approval. Only Christianity shows us that God’s love is unconditional and unmerited!

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

22 March 2022

Read: Psalm 32:1-5

God wants to bless us; God wants us to live a blessed life--giving and receiving blessings. What stands in the way of living a blessed life? The Psalmist argues there are three words that block us from living such a live: sin, transgressions, iniquities. Sin is falling short, missing the mark of the target to be aligned with God; Transgressions are those times when we willfully choose not to do better; and iniquities are those times, willfully or unaware, participated in systems of oppressions, exploitations, or destruction. All of these block us from experiencing the joy of a blessed life.

How do we break through the barriers of sin, transgressions, and iniquities? The Psalmist reminds us that silence is not an option, action is required through repentance, a willful turning away from sin, transgressions and iniquities and turning to God. How do we repent? A four-fold process: 1. Becoming aware of the sin, transgression, iniquities; 2. Confessing it; 3. Experience remorse; 4. Change, willfully turning away from the sin, transgression, iniquity and acting differently. This helps us break through and experience true blessings. “Blessed are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2).

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

21 March 2022

Read: Psalm 116:14-17

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep me both outwardly in my body and inwardly in my soul, that I may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. † (Phyllis Tickle, The Divine Hours, Volume Three: Prayers for Springtime. New York: The Crown Publishing Group, 2001. Kindle Edition. p. 245.)

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

14 March 2022

Read: Isaiah 55:1-11

A friend and I made a pilgrimage to the Baseball Hall of Fame last week. On our way home we came down through the New York City watershed in upper Delaware County, NY where I had served for six years at the beginning of my ministry. As we drove through the area I was reminded of a parishioner who was the commissioner responsible for the water in the town where our village was located. The area had been in a drought for some time. One day the commissioner and I conversed. He told me that every year at that time of the year he had to open the dam and bleed some water out of the reservoir in order to keep the water pure enough to drink. The problem was at the time the reservoir was so low there was the possibility it would run dry. He said we would need 135 inches of snow that winter in order to bring the reservoir up to normal levels. At the end of the day, he decided to go ahead and bleed the reservoir because he “trusted the good Lord will provide as he always does.” The winter that followed was one for the books. Guess how much snow we got that winter. Right, 135 inches!

In our reading today, the prophet Isaiah reminds us “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the Sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth” (Isaiah 55:10-11a NRSV). God sends the sun, the rain, and even the snow to provide for us the nourishment we need in order to live. God provides!

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

11 March 2022

Read: Psalm 27:7-14

I was struck this morning by the final two verses of Psalm 27, “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD, be strong, and let your heart take courage” (verse 13 & 14).  I am not sure how to describe my emotional state at this point in time. While I am continuing my Lenten routine of daily prayer, scripture, and mediation, a sense of melancholy has invaded my emotional being. It seems everyday I am receiving word of the death of someone I know, and love and I feel a sense of loss for my friends. The world situation is rather discouraging, wouldn’t you say?   And our family plans for July and beyond are not yet settled.

There is a lot on my plate to deal with that contributes to where I am at emotionally. I understand that I am not the only one in this state. It is here today’s scripture reading steps in to remind us that we are not alone. God is continually working behind the scenes to lead us on the path God has established for us. The Psalmist advises us to be strong, be patient (wait on the Lord), be courageous, and trust God has this for us. 

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

07 March 2022

Read: Genesis 15:1-6

We sometimes get so overwhelmed by the details of life that they come crashing down upon us and we visualize bad things happening. Abraham wandered the land pursuing a promise God made to him long ago, he would be the father of a great nation, they would have a homeland, and he would be blessed to be a blessing. Now at an old age he and his wife Sara are without a male heir. He realizes if he were to die the promise God made to him would die. Our scripture reading today has Abraham complaining to God, where’s my heir? Here’s what God said in response (here I paraphrase), “Abraham, hold on, big guy, take a deep breath, your time on earth is up to me and your mission isn’t complete. Look up and see the big picture, your descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky, trust me on this. Your legacy is secure in my hands.”

Like Abraham we often get impatient with God and allow our circumstance to crash down on us to the point that we are paralyzed in our acting and limited in our view of life. God calls us, like Abraham, to take a deep breath, step back from our myopic perspective and see the big picture and where we fit into that picture. God’s promise to us is, no matter what we are loved. If you were the last person on this earth, God would die for you.

 

REMINDER: Marvelous Mondays in March begin this evening. Over the next four weeks we will be exploring forgiveness based on Adam Hamilton’s Forgiveness: Finding Peace Through Letting Go. To receive the link to this study, follow this link: Hi there,

 

You are invited to a Zoom meeting.

When: Mar 7, 2022 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

 

Register in advance for this meeting:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwsdu2prz4pGdRF4pHm4-imVFVOLQJGXxWa

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

04 March 2022

Read: Romans 10:8-13

All means all, that’s the message Paul gives the world. “All who call upon the Lord’s name will be saved.” Yep, that's what Paul said. There are those who will claim salvation is for only a selected group of people who have been predestined to be saved, the rest of us are doomed (an oversimplification, I know). Others will argue that salvation is a reward for being good people, belonging to the right group, or coming from the right side of town. The Bible tells us that Christ died, not for an elite group of people, but for the entire world, all people who call upon God’s name. When I was a child, I had to memorize this verse from John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son. Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have life everlasting.”

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

01 March 2022

1 March 2022

Read: Psalm 35:11-28; Ezekiel 1:1; 2:1; Acts 10:23b-33

As we prepare to enter the Lenten season, I urge you to make all preparations to observe a disciplined and devout Lent this year. Prepare you heart to experience the most amazing Easter you have ever known. That can happen only if you spend the next seven weeks preparing your heart to recognize and receive the Risen One into your heart. Here are a couple of commitments I’ve made to myself this coming Lent. Traditionally, Lent is built upon three pillars for spiritual renewal: Prayer, Fasting and Acts of Mercy or generosity. I have developed a personal plan to build on each pillar to renew my relationship with Christ and experience a truly blessed Easter. Let me share with you my plan so you can hold me accountable.

Prayer: My commitment is to pray five times a day following the Office of the Hours, Prayer at Dawn, at 9 a.m., Noon time, Evening and Compline before bed.

Fasting: The most common idea of fasting is to go with out food. I take medication that requires food, so I can’t fast the entire day without some food. I plan to fast from sweets and those things that raise my blood sugar. To keep my body healthy I will increase my activity by rising an hour earlier than normal six days a week and work out at the gym on those days before I start the day.

Acts of Mercy: I plan to make an extra mile gift for the church’s ministry with our Lenten Extra Mile Challenge.

I encourage you to make a point of worshiping each Sunday during Lent wither in person or online. Stay connected with the community of Faith.

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

23 February 2022

Read: Psalm 99:1-5

Psalm 99:4 caught my attention this morning in my devotion time.  “Mighty King, lover of justice, you have established equity, you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.”   Justice and righteousness are terms closely related.  In the Hebrew scripture justice is about making things right, especially relationships.  Righteousness has to do with individuals and cultures doing the right thing like treating everyone fairly and seeing each other as children of God.  As I meditate on this verse of scripture I feel called to commit to being just in my life.  It begins by extending to others the respect due their sacred humanity and work toward a more just society in which I live.

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

15 February 2022

Read: Luke 6:27-28

Jesus’ way is a different way than the world teaches us to live. We are taught to hate our enemies, stand up for our self, and fight back when we are attacked. Jesus tells us to do just the opposite, to love our enemies, pray for those who would attack us, bless those who “hate you.” In other words, you don’t have to like everyone or everything, you just have to love. But that is so hard to do. This is where the Wesleyan way of Christianity is so helpful.

John Wesley established certain standards of conduct for early Methodists to followed called “General Rules for Methodists.” If you attend or view our worship service each week, I state these General Rules in the sending forth blessing to remind you of ways to love your neighbors.

1. DO NO HARM. “Love your enemies…bless those who curse you…pray for those who abuse you” (words of Jesus in Luke 6:27, 28).

2. ALWAYS DO GOOD. “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you…pray for those who abuse you” (words of Jesus in Luke 6:27, 28).

3. ATTEND THE ORDINANCES OF GOD. Practice works of piety (attending public and private worship, public and private prayer, reading and studying God’s Word, meditating upon the grace of God, etc.)

Make these rule your standard operating procedures for life and soon you will discover how loving one’s neighbor is the way of Jesus rather than the way of the world. Do no harm today. Always do good today. And love God today above all others.

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

14 February 2022

To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:6–7).

You know the Holy Spirit is amazing. All through my life I have experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit working in my life without realizing it at the time but upon reflection the Spirit was there. I remember being really down in the dumps early on in my first semester in seminary. I hadn’t made any friends at that point and was facing another lonely weekend. On Friday afternoon I went into the bookstore and began browsing through the section of books on theology. One book caught my attention You Are Accepted by Paul Tillich. A voice welled up from within “buy this book.” So, I did. It was a collection of sermons preached by this imminent 20th century theologian and I read the entire book that weekend. Now, some 49 years later, I can’t say I remember anything I read in the book except on paragraph that has stayed with me all these years. As soon as I read it my attitude changed and I realized I would continue my education and be an ordained minister. Here’s the paragraph:

“You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted! If that happens to us, we experience grace. After such an experience we may not be better than before, and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed. In that moment, grace conquers sin, and reconciliation bridges the gulf of estrangement.”

This is what grace is all about. You are accepted!

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

7 February 2022

Read: Jeremiah 17:5-10

I love the image the prophet gives of those who trust in the LORD rather than those who trust in themselves. Those who trust in the LORD “shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought, it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:8). This reminds me of the opening verses of Psalm 1. Jeremiah is saying to us that the key to receiving the prosperity that God has promised is to trust in the Divine will for our lives. Conversely, those who trust in themselves find that they become dry, parched, and dying. Trusting in God is to find life, the abundant life, as our Lord promised in John 10:10. It really boils down to a simple question we all must answer: do you place your trust in the LORD or in “mere mortals”? The answer to this question may reveal to you why you experience life the way you do.

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

3 February 2022

Read: Romans 4:1-2

Does God have a plan for your life? I believe God does have a plan for all of us and it is the end game, that everyone will be saved. Salvation. Remember in Genesis 1, humanity is the crown jewel of creation and made in the Image of God. However, that was all broken as the first humans willfully disobeyed God and fell into sin causing alienation between God and humanity. Since the Fall, God has set in motion a plan with the final destination that everyone will be saved, that is brought back into relationship with God and being restored in the Image of God. That plan has God reaching out, pursuing and wooing us into a relationship, through God’s Son, Jesus, offering forgiveness of our sins, and finally, the promise that with the Holy Spirit in our hearts we will be “perfected in love”. The path we take to reach the final goal God has for us is up to us. Here’s what is required of us: acknowledge our sinfulness; trust Jesus and invite him to be in your heart as Lord and Savior; get close to Jesus through prayer, Bible reading, worship, and acts of mercy. Most important, have faith, for it is our faith that opens our hearts to receiving God saving grace.

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

2 February 2022

Read: Psalm 58

 

Life is difficult. There can be arguments there, right? Although for some it seems life isn’t difficult, that’s because they have accepted the fact that life is not easy. No matter how good life is there are always problems that arise forcing us to adjust, an accident, a new diagnosis, stress at work or at home, conflict within the family or at work, too much month left when the money runs out, etc. Some problems are life threatening, others are simply inconveniences that we have endure. Regardless of the severity of the issue, life is difficult. Nowhere in scripture does God promise us that life will be easy. Being a Christian doesn’t make us immune to the difficulties life presents to us. God does, however, promise us that we will never face these problems alone. We have one who stands with us, guiding us, supporting us. We are not alone. The psalmist proclaims with confidence, “This I know, that God is for me” (Psalm 56:9b). Paul carries that thought further when he states, “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)? Remember, when confronted with a problem or inconvenience, God is for you! 

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

28 January 2022

Read: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

 

Grace and peace to you! Before I share with you today’s DFB, please be safe tomorrow as we are anticipating a major snowstorm. At this point we are expecting to hold in-person worship but watch your email, check the church’s website, or watch channel 30 for word on the status of our in-person worship on Sunday. We pray everyone will be safe and that the storm will be less severe than predicted.

The Daily Faith Builder

20th century theologian Karl Barth was once asked to summarize his theology in one sentence. He thought for a moment then answered, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” I narrow it down to simply one word, “love.”  At his last meal, Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment, “that you love one another as I have loved you.” Earlier in the Gospel he is asked to summarize the greatest commandment to which he responded there are two: Love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself. Now, our scripture reading today Paul writes about what love is all about, it’s not an emotion, although emotion is part of love, it’s a decision we make every day to either be loving or unloving. Jesus tells us to decide to love.

Paul describes love as simple, practical steps:  Patience. Kindness. Civility. Hope. Not tooting one’s own horn or looking down on others. Not being jealous of what another person gets credit for. This description still doesn’t sound like love. None of these attributes on their own is love but taken together they show who love is a decision and not a feeling. They are ways we can practice being a loving person.  Remember, you don’t have to like everyone you meet, you are called to love them. There is a difference. God loves you so that you can be a person who loves.

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

27 January 2022

Read: Luke 4:14-30

I’ve been living in Luke 4:14-30 for the past two weeks. What I mean by that is our reading today was split into two as the gospel lesson for last Sunday and this coming Sunday and the focus of my preaching. I like to “live” with the text in order to listen to what God is teaching me. The more I read and recite the story of Jesus preaching his first sermon in Nazareth, his home time, the more I realize something most of us want to ignore about him; Jesus was very political. No, he is neither Republican, Democratic, nor, for that matter, American. The heart of his politics is a question: Where does it hurt? This is the question that drives and directs Jesus’ life and ministry. As Charles Wesley put it, “Jesus, thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love thou art, visit us with thy salvation, enter every trembling heart” (UM Hymnal #384).

One last random thought for today: our relationship with Jesus is always personal, but it can never be private. It means we have to bring Jesus out to the public square.

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

26 January 2022

Read: Psalm 71:1-6

Have you ever cried out as the Psalmist did, “Deliver me, O Lord, Rescue me, Save me”? I must admit often I have called out to God especially in the last 22 months of pandemic, economic uncertainty, and social unrest. Not just for myself, but for individuals in our church, the country, and the world. Life is tough and seems to be getting tougher by the day. We need God more than ever because God is the only source of hope we have to endure and thrive. The Psalmist underscores that from his infancy God has sustained him through the good and bad times to this day. And so, it is with us. God is the source of our hope. God does not always answer our prayers the way we want them to be answered, but God is always present with us. In times of fear, hope is distant, God sustains us.

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

25 January 2022

Read: 2 Corinthians 7:2-12

While reading our scripture lesson today two individuals from a previous appointment come to mind, Marion and Carl. They were not related to one another but shared a common trait, they were frank and harsh in their opinions and comments to others. In fact, they prided themselves for always being frank and truthful, even if the truth hurt. The sad fact, however, is that many times their frank words were so hard boarding on abuse and bullying. Often they were perceived as meddlesome and “always wanting their own way” or needing to always be right. Other times they simply were ignored or at the very least not taken seriously (“Oh, that’s Carl/Marion being Carl/Marion”). A third person in the church, a wise, gentle man, would often ask, “Carl/Marion, how has your frank words made the other whole?” Frankness is needed at times but needs to be expressed with measured words that seek to build up rather than to tear down. Be careful being frank with others, “How has your words made the other whole?”

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

24 January 2022

Read: Luke 4:14-21

When Jesus returned to his hometown the people were excited to learn from him because his reputation had preceded him; he was “the hometown boy made good.” As a sign of respect and honor he is asked to read the scroll of Isaiah during sabbath service in the synagogue. After reading Isaiah 61 he makes a statement that sends shock waves through the crowd. The Good News is not just the proclamation of Jesus’ mission, but Jesus himself. “Today this scripture is being fulfilled.” It is one thing to preach about what God will do in the future. Someday, God will act, move, and save one day, some day. It is another thing to say, God is acting, and moving, and saving right this moment, in your listening. You are witnessing God acting today because Jesus is here. This is the good news we can live by and have our being everyday of our life. Receive the good news!

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

20 January 2022

Read: Psalm 19

Reflecting upon our reading today, Dr. Marilyn Pagan-Banks, reminds us that creation without words, declares the “handiwork of God.” In other words, creation did not happen by accident or randomly. Behind the beauty of the heavens and the earth is the loving hand of the creator. “Here creation reminds us that true worship does not happen in isolation and that there is no worship without accountability to the Creator. Creation reminds us of the laws of God and calls us back to our covenant with God and all of creation” (Upper Room. The Upper Room Disciplines 2022: A Book of Daily Devotions, Nashville: Upper Room Books, 2021, page 47. Kindle Edition). Creation has no words, but we do. Speak out, cry out, sing out in worship, and in defense of creation.

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

18 January 2022

 

Read: Psalm 102

I identify with the psalmist sentiments as presented in Psalm 102. The psalm reads as if the Psalmist has had one of those weeks were the stress of family, work, and other pressures have left him exhausted and needing a few more hours in the day and another day in the week or another week in the month to get everything done. Ever felt that way? But, the affirmation of the psalmist, and the witness of scripture is, in response to our weariness, our challenges and seemingly hopeless problems, God offers life-giving miracles! Where we have fallen, God lifts us up to new highs! Where we are a pile of weary bones, God picks us up and fill us with the Spirit! God is good, all the time.
 
 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

13 January 2022

 

Read: John 2:1-12

Christianity has a bad reputation to nonbelievers as it is often pictured as joyless, judgmental and hypocritical by the media, and, sorry to say, many Christians themselves. Ray Waddle in Monday’s devotional reading in the Upper Room Disciplines proffers the thought that our scripture reading today counters that notion in a big way. “The wedding at Cana invites the reader to expect God’s activity even in the details of raucous human celebrations that aren’t strictly ‘religious,’ like a noisy wedding reception” (The Upper Room Disciplines 2022: A Book of Daily Devotions. Nashville: Upper Room Books, 2021, pg. 31). Here in the midst of revelry of a wedding feast God’s activity is present and Jesus’ power over all of nature is revealed. At the core of Christianity is joy, we need to show it in our life. Be joyful in the Lord today.

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

11 January 2022

“So, continue encouraging each other and building each other up, just like you are doing already.”

I Thessalonians 5:11

 

Last Friday one of the best friends I have ever had passed away in his sleep after a three-year battle with cancer. Rev. Dick Ryley was my friend, mentor, counselor, and a brother whose kind words always encouraged and inspired me to greater things. Whenever I confronted a difficult moment in my life or ministry, I would say to myself, “What would Dick Ryley do in this situation?” Then I would call him, he would listen, and I would talk, then he would offer wise counsel. L discovered when I followed his guidance, I had the strength to work the problem I confronted to a satisfactory conclusion. Because of his encouragement I am a better man, pastor, husband, dad, granddad and Christian.

In 1985 the leading lay man in the church I served was murdered on the Wednesday after Easter thrusting me into the most challenging pastoral situation I have ever confronted. I called Dick and he listened to me but did not say much. He prayed with me. The next day I arrived at the church office about a half hour later than usual. When I went into my study there, sitting in a chair, was Dick Ryley. He said that he thought I could use a friendly hug and a friend, so he drove all the way from lower Duchess County, NY to Catskill to spend a good portion of the day with me.

We all need encouragement in our life, don’t we? Paul writing to the church in Thessalonica reminded the Christians there that their job is to encourage one another and to keep doing so throughout life. Be an encourager today.

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

10 January 2022

Read: Mark 1:14-20

Believe I was called to ministry at young age. From my earliest memory the urge to be a pastor had been in my heart and mind. As I grew older certain challenges were placed on my path that made me wonder if my all that was just in my head. During my high school days, I was employed by Friendly Ice Cream and was encouraged to consider entering their management program after high school. I was strongly considering going that route when I had what I believe to be an epiphany. A week or so before starting my senior year I was waiting to begin my shift a strong voice spoke to me saying, “you are not to be a Friendly’s manager. You are to be a Methodist minister.” From that moment on any doubts about my calling I had went away and I knew I was called into ministry. I think about this experience every time I read Mark 1:16-20.

Sensing a calling to follow God’s way is one thing, the important thing is to say “YES” to God’s calling and nudging. The late United Methodist Bishop Reuben Job writes, “Hearing is an important step in saying yes to God’s call. But once we hear, we must still decide whether we will go where invited or sent. In other words, hearing may be the easy part of God’s call.” He further explains, “In my experience the right answer is always yes [to God’s invitational call]. The good news is that even when I was unable to give the right answer, God was patient and gave me opportunity to grow in faith until I was able to say yes and claim another part of my inheritance as a child of God.”

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

05 January 2022

Read: Psalm 72

On December 26, a newscaster began a segment of the nightly news, “Now that Christmas is over…” I thought to myself, Christmas is not over until January 5th, today. So, for the last time for the 2021-22 Christmastide, I wish you a very Merry and Blessed Christmas!

While Christmas fades into our memory and leads us to the day of the Epiphany, the meaning of the event we remember continues to have significance for us throughout the year. By becoming a human being God reveals how much God loves us. There is nothing we can do that will ever destroy or stop that love. Not only are you loved but you are precious in God’s sight. That is the reason Jesus was born and reminds us that because we are loved we can have a personal intimate relationship with the Almighty. We need Christmas, especially at this time to remind us that we are loved, special, and precious to God. Merry Christmas.

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

24 December 2021

As we prepare to worship and give thanks to God almighty for the glorious gift of Jesus Christ on this Christmas Eve, I want to wish you and your family a most blessed Christmas and New Year! I will be taking some time for rest between Sunday and January 4th, so the Daily Faith Builder will be in recess until the 4th.

As I reflect upon this evening and the event we celebrate, I am constantly singing one of my favorite Christmas carols:

1. In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

2. Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

3. Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
but his mother only, in her maiden bliss,
worshiped the beloved with a kiss.

4. What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
yet what I can I give him: give my heart.

 

Merry Christmas!

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

23 December 2021

Read: Luke 2:14

I wonder if it weren’t for the angel would the world know about Jesus. Would Mary and Joseph have played a role in God’s salvation story? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I do know the angel plays a major role in the narrative as the messenger of God. In our scripture today the angel brings a chorus of angels to sing a hymn “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

Who does God favor? You and me and our neighbors. That’s why we have Christmas to celebrate. Despite the fact that we are prone to wander away from God, or at the very least, have our attention diverted from God by the way of the world, God’s love for us is made plain in that “while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8b). Christ was born for us. Christ lived for us. Christ died for us. And Christ lives again for us.

 
 
 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

22 December 2021

Read: Matthew 1:18-25

As we get closer to our destination this week we have to consider Joseph. In Matthew, Joseph is the focus of the birth narrative, where he is greeting with a punch in the gut. Mary, his fiancée is pregnant with a child that is not biologically his. He receives the news with shock and somber deliberation. An angel breaks into his discernment by speaking to the reality of his and Mary’s predicament. “Don’t be afraid…” With these words the angel acknowledged the reality of Joseph’s broken world. The angel was doing more than simply saying, “it’s okay things will be fine.” No, the message was, Joseph, do not let the traumatic external circumstances consume you with fear and disillusionment. Then, the news is broken to him, the child Mary is carrying is of the Holy Spirit and will be the Savior of the world.

The most amazing thing to me is the response of Joseph. The angel does not offer any scientific evidence that the baby is from the Holy Spirit, nor proof that what was told him is true. Joseph had to choose at that moment to believe or walk away. His faith allowed him to accept and believe what the angel told him and allowed him to accept the task God was placing on his shoulder, to be at the side of Mary as she gave birth to the Savior of the world, and to protect the family in the face of the danger to come. He did not give into his fear but carried on in spite of the trauma of his circumstance.

In our broken world the choice for us is similar to the one Joseph faced. Do we let the trauma of external circumstances paralyze us with fear, or do we trust and follow the way of Jesus through this troubled and broken world?

 
 
 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

21 December 2021

Read: Luke 1:39-55

While Mary reacted to the annunciation of Gabriel with openness and obedience to the word God sent to her through Gabriel, she still needed assurance.  So, she travels three days to Ein Keren to visit her relative, Elizabeth, who was pregnant at an advanced age. Before Mary’s pregnancy could be a blessing to the world, Elizabeth’s pregnancy was a blessing to Mary. When Elizabeth spoke to Mary it was the confirmation and assurance Mary needed to become steadfast in her commitment and trust. We all need assurance, don’t we?

Both pregnancies were miracles, and they help us understand that nature of Biblical miracles. Whenever something miraculous happens in scripture it is rarely for the benefit of the recipient alone. Whenever someone in the Bible is blessed, it is so that the recipient of that blessing can be a blessing to others. Blessed to be a blessing. Elizabeth was a blessing to Mary, and Mary was a blessing to the entire world. What was Mary’s response? “My soul magnifies the Lord…”  You are blessed to be a blessing!

 
 
 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

20 December 2021

Read: Luke 1:26-38

Our journey to Bethlehem this week begins with Mary and a courageous act of obedience of faith. As I re-read the account of the annunciation in Luke I am struck by a question, what does it take for one to be obedient to the will of God? The Gospel writer does not give us a biographical sketch of Mary, only that she was a virgin engaged to man named Joseph. We don’t know her background, nor do we know how “religious” she was in her early life. Yet, God chose her for a mission that would place her personal safety and social reputation at great risk, let alone her relationship with Joseph. Despite the personal risk she said yes. Such obedience!

Obedience to the will of God begins when one is able to step back from the details of self-interest and see the Big Picture. In Mary’s case what God was asking to accept was not just for herself, but for the whole world (talk about the big picture!). What does it take to be obedient to the will of God? “Mary’s ‘yes’ was said in the darkness of faith. She was not certain, nor assured by any Scripture quote or doctrine. She just heard what she heard, and did what God asked for to do, accepting the consequences” (Richard Rohr. Preparing for Christmas, Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2008, p. 55). It take faith to see the Bigger Picture and to trust the Voice of God who speaks to us at the deepest level of our being to give us the inner authority to follow the will of God. This is where the journey to Bethlehem begins.

 
 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

18 December 2021

Read: Isaiah 40:28-31

One week away from Christmas, I invite you to be part of the waiting. Come on the arduous journey from creation, through the prophets, to Nazareth then to Bethlehem with the people of Israel and especially Mary and Joseph. Share in the worry and weariness they must have felt, but also the assurance that a hope in God would carry them through. 

1Join us for a special service of Lessons and Carols tomorrow in the sanctuary or on line at 10 a.m. 

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

17 December 2021

Read: Psalm 62:6-14

“The Gospel reveals that life is always a mixed bag, but a good mixed bag” (Richard Rohr. Almost Christmas. Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Press, 2008, pg. 46). When we are confronted with the mixed bag of life we have a choice: we can either be miserable, tolerate it, or thrive, it is our decision, and our decision alone. God’s desire is for us to thrive, that’s why God chose to become one of us. By becoming a human being God extends an invitation to all of us to be in a personal relationship with God and finding eternal life. Not pie in the sky when you die but real life that thrives here in real time despite the mixed bag life throws at us. This Advent, say yes to the invitation to be in a personal relationship with God. As the closing line in the carol, Good Christian Friends, Rejoice, states, “Christ was born for this.”

 
Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

16 December 2021

Read: Luke 17:20-22

Jesus spend a great deal of time preaching about the Kingdom of God and giving glimpses of what the Kingdom is about. “Giving glimpses” is the operative phrase because the Kingdom of God will never fully arrive in this life, however, we see the parts of the Kingdom every day. The key is to recognize it, affirm it and celebrate it. What are some of the glimpses of the Kingdom? Healing takes place in the life of someone fighting disease; the helpers who come forward when disasters occur; when forgiveness is offered to an offender; when justice rights a wrong, when an addict finds new life. Jesus told his listeners, “For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:21). Look for it today.

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

15 December 2021

Read: 2 Timothy 2:8-10

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel.”

2 Timothy 2:8

Now eleven days until Christmas! Advent is a time we remember and reflect upon the mystery of that first Christ. Something happened that day that had never happened before. God slipped into the human story the same way you and I do, born from the womb of a woman, vulnerable and needy. Dependent upon another human being to survive. He needed to be fed, clothed, and cared for in order to survive. God becomes one of us so that we can learn the way, the truth, and the life of how things should and can be in our life and in the world. Our challenge is to remember and believe today and every day.

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

14 December 2021

Read: Luke 1:39-45

I get irritated by the misinformation we received about Christmas. Yesterday (December 12th), one of the personalities on the radio station I was listening to in my car proclaimed, “Hey, the 12 days of Christmas have arrived. Today is day 12 of Christmas.” The sad fact is, we are not in the 12 days of Christmas, we are still in Advent. Christmas begins on December 25 and continues for 12 days until January 5th, the Twelfth Night! Today there are eleven days until Christmas, how’s your heart? Is it prepared to receive Emmanuel this year?

I’ve been rereading the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke this week. I am struck by the fact that Mary and Joseph lived in a world just as complicated and confusing as our world. God broke into their world with a simple greeting, “don’t be afraid.” What we see working out in the narrative is both of them acknowledging the broken world they were living in and not giving into their fear. Why, because right after the angel’s greeting comes the promise that a son would be born who is “Emmanuel, God with us.” God breaks into our story to show us how to cope and thrive in this complicated, broken and dark world. Mary and Joseph show us how; to live by faith. That’s what is required, have a little faith today, tomorrow and forever.

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

13 December 2021

Read: Isaiah 61:1

Tom Hanks in an old movie, A League of Their Own, gives one of my all-time favorite lines. He’s a washed up major league baseball player managing a professional women's baseball team during World War 2. On the morning of the opening of the world series the star of the team has decided to quit because, “it just is too hard.” Hanks responds, “It’s (baseball) supposed to be hard. If it were easy everyone would play it.” So true about baseball but it can also be said about Christianity. “It’s supposed to be hard. If it were easy everyone would be” a Christian.

The verse of scripture that is our reading today comes from the prophet Isaiah where he is describing the coming of the Servant of the Lord. Jesus begins his ministry by taking this verse and announcing the purpose of his ministry, to include rather than exclude by reaching beyond the polite and proper limits and boundaries to seek out those on the margins of society and to bring them into relationship with God and the community. His ministry is not about gathering the good people like us into a private country club but to reach out to those who are on the edge and at the bottom to say they are loved and embraced by the Lord God. His ministry was about inclusion and not exclusion.

Now consider the push back Jesus received from the good, upstanding, religious leaders of his day to this ministry. I dare suggest it was ultimately what led him to the cross. It is easy to exclude and extremely hard to include. It is the hard that makes Christianity so great IF – and this is a big IF – we follow the model of Jesus.

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

10 December 2021

Read: Luke 1:26-38

Have you noticed how advertisers characterize this time of the year these days? It is now called the “season for giving.” The intent of this slogan is to plant in our heads the importance of our action of giving and to respond by buying as much stuff as we want to give away. The question for our spiritual life goes beyond our action of giving to ask how are we at receiving a gift? We may be really good at giving but are we a graceful receiver?

I am sure the advertisers who made us the slogan did not have God in mind the message gets at the heart of the meaning of Christmas. The Gospel writer sums it up, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” Jesus is the gift. Mary is the symbol for how the gift is received and treasured. Never as a reward for performance or a trophy for winning a race. The gift is received with humility, trust, and gratitude. We have done nothing to deserve the gift of Jesus. He comes to us simply by grace. How do you receive the gift today?

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

09 December 2021

Read: Philippians 4:4-7

Every so often a scripture verse will call to my mind a song. Such is the case when I read Philippians 4:4 today. At summer camp we sang a round that proclaimed, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice…Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice! Again, I say rejoice!” Paul encourages his coworkers in the Lord to never cease rejoicing even when confronting exceedingly difficult challenges in their life. Being able to rejoice regardless of our circumstances in life is a mark of the Christian life and a sign that one is truly “in Christ.”

As Advent reaches the halfway point, remember, Christ came into the world for our sake and for the sake of everyone in the world. We can rejoice because Christ is the source of our strength and the solution to any trouble we may face in the world. This does not mean we can avoid the hard, troubling things in life, but Christ does give us the strength and ability to navigate through those times to a better day. So, I say to you today, REJOICE!

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

08 December 2021

Read: Matthew 11:28-30

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” —Matthew 11:28

I’ve noticed something about myself and, I suspect is true for most other Americans, we don’t really understand the meaning of rest. To rest often feels like “nothing” because we have become, as Richard Rohr points out, “human doings” rather than “human beings.” In other words, the world demands of us constant performance and achievement. The world defines by our accomplishments, the trophies we have on the mantle, the awards we have received, as if they will make us happy and comfortable in our own skin. When Jesus invites us, “Come to me…” and promises “and I will give you rest.” He is inviting us to come away from the demands of the world, for a moment, and soak our lives and souls to catch the message God is sending to the world during Advent, “Don’t let the world define you. You are made in the image of God. You are a precious child of God who is loved.” Resting in the Lord during this busy season of Advent helps prepare us for the joys of Christmas.

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

07 December 2021

Read: Isaiah 35:1-10

Today I want to share with you a quote from Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent by Richard Rohr.

“Our Christian wisdom is to name the darkness as darkness, and the Light as light, and to learn how to live and work in the Light so that the darkness does not overcome us. If we have a pie-in-the-sky, everything-is-beautiful attitude, we are in fact going to be trapped by the darkness because we are not seeing clearly enough to separate the wheat from the chaff (the more common “liberal” temptation). Conversely, if we can only see the darkness and forget the more foundational Light, we will be destroyed by our own negativity and fanaticism, or we will naively think we are apart from the darkness (the more common “conservative” temptations). Instead, we must wait and work with hope inside of the darkness—while never doubting the light that God always is—and that we are too (Matthew 5:14)” (Rohr, Richard. Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent. Cincinnati, OH: 2008, p. 24.).

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

06 December 2021

Read: Isaiah 40:1-11

“The grass withers, and the flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord endures forever” (Isiah 40:8). When I read these words from Isaiah this morning I was reminded of an article I read in the Huffington Post some years ago. The article reported that a large segment of the American public celebrated Christmas by embracing the secular aspect of the festival, which is the gift giving and the merry making, but ignored the reason for the season, the birth of Christ. Many viewed the narratives of Jesus’ birth and life as fiction, a myth or legend. The sad truth is if Christmas is viewed solely as a secular holiday the fruits of the holiday, the generosity, the good cheer, the excitement, and the joy, etc. will not last. They will wither and fade on December 26th. However, the good news is by taking the time in Advent to prepare our hearts to receive the living Lord of our life, Jesus Christ, then Christmas becomes more than just one day in the year, but something that lasts forever because, “the Word of the Lord endures forever.”

Peace and Love,
Pastor Bob

03 December 2021

Read: Isaiah 29:27-31

In a reflection for the first Friday of Advent, Richard Rohr, writes about the meaning of the Kingdom of God. Christians are often accused of thinking the Kingdom is “pie in the ski when you die” but, Rohr reminds us, that is not what Jesus said. Jesus said the “kingdom is at hand” or “the kingdom of God is near.” In other words, it is breaking into our lives whenever Jesus is near and lives are transformed, healing takes place, and peace and reconciliation happens. These are signs that the kingdom is breaking into our lives but not yet complete when the systems of this world will pass away, and God will reign with justice. The hope of Advent looks to that day when we cry “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel

West Hartford United Methodist Church

02 December 2021

Read: Psalm 31:23-24

“Come, Lord Jesus,” the Advent mantra, means what to you? This question was posed in an Advent devotional I read earlier this week. It has been the main question for me in my devotional time each morning. What does “Come, Lord Jesus” mean to me? The answer came to me this morning when I read the verses of Psalm 31 for our scripture reading this morning, “Love the Lord, all you his saints” (Psalm 31:23a). To repeat the Advent mantra, and really mean it, is to fall in love with the Lord by giving your heart to God. While our salvation is solely dependent upon the gracious actions of God, our part is to open our hearts to receive the Lord Jesus when he comes. That’s what God wants, to be in your heart today. “Come, Lord Jesus” come!

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel

West Hartford United Methodist Church

01 December 2021

Read: Revelation 21:4-5

Advent is not just a time to look back with nostalgia with a romantic interpretation of the prophetic word about Messiah. It is to look forward to another time when Christ will return, or, as it is referred to as “the second coming of Christ.” Yes, Advent acknowledges that there will come a time when God brings to completion life as we currently know it and usher in a new heaven and a new earth. On that day, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:4-5). So, our Advent cry is “Come, Lord Jesus, come.”

 

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel

West Hartford United Methodist Church

15 April 2020

Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed.  Alleluia!

We continue to pray the Psalms during thei Easter Season

On the fourth day of Easter read Psalm 2.

Reflection:  God is all powerful.  God created the world, and knew about the empires of the earth long before they came into being.  Our world has many leaders who boast of their power and rant and rave against God, if not in words certainly by their deeds. But God laughs because any power any one has comes from God, and God also takes it from them.  We need not fear.    

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel
West Hartford United Methodist Church

14 April 2020

Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed.  Alleluia!

For the next 50 days (actually it will be 48 for us), I invite you to use this time as a moment of prayer and pray a Psalm a day.  Start by asking God to open to you a truth as you read the Psalm.  Then, read it slowly and out loud, making each word a prayer to God for the day.  Then notice through the day where God is speaking to you, or where you recognize God.

On the third day of Easter read Psalm 1.

Reflection:  verses 2 and 3 present a very simple piece of wisdom—the more we delight in God’s presence, the more fruitful we are.  On the other hand, the more we allow those who ridicule God to affect our thoughts and attitudes, the more we separate ourselves from God, the source of our nourishment.  Paula D’Arcy reminds us “God comes to you disguised as your life.”

Noontime prayer today on Facebook live – West Hartford United Methodist Church page.

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel
West Hartford United Methodist Church

10 April 2020

Read: Isaiah 52:13-53:12

10 April 33 A.D. – Golgotha, after a night of trial, Jesus walks the via Delarosa, the way of sorrows. Spend a moment meditating on each of the stations of the via Delarosa

Jesus is condemned to die.
Jesus carries His cross.
Jesus falls for the first time.
Jesus meets his mother.
Simon is forced to carry His cross.
Veronica wipes His face.
Jesus falls for the second time.
Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.
Jesus falls a third time.
Jesus is striped.
Jesus nailed to the cross.
Jesus dies on the cross.
Jesus is taken down from the cross.
Jesus is laid in the tomb.
 

"Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look around and see. Is any suffering like my suffering that was inflicted on me, that the LORD brought on me in the day of his fierce anger?”

Lamentations 1:12

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel
West Hartford United Methodist Church

9 April 2020

Read: Luke 22:1-7

9 April 33 A.D. – Bethany, Judea – The Passover will be here this evening.  The disciples receive assignments to prepare for the seder meal that evening.  Matthew reports they went off and followed the instructions to the letter.  The gospels are quiet about the rest of the day.  Jesus remains in Bethany; we believe preparing for what is a head of him  in the next 24 hours.

In the evening he gathers his disciples in the borrowed room we call the Upper Room and turns the seder meal into something very special.   As someone who loves food it fascinates me to think that the way God has us to remember to two events that define two of the three Abrahamic faiths is a meal.  For Jews the Passover that recounts the exodus of Israel from slavery in Egypt and for Christians the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I guess God knows that a way to our heart is through food, at least it is for me.  So, Jesus makes the seder meal into a meal to remember him every time we gather to celebrate the Last Supper.

The evening is where all the action of the day is focused and all four Gospels report on Thursday night.  The evening is laden with teaching (John 13–17), shocking with foot-washing by the greatest for the least (John 13:3–20), epoch-making with the institution of the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:20–30; Mark 14:17–26; Luke 22:14–20), and pivotal with the departure of Judas (John 13:30).  Jesus predicts Peter’s denial (Matthew 26:31-35).  Then they go off to Gethsemane where Jesus prays to the Father to remove this cup from his head (Matthew 26:36-56).  Then he is betrayed and arrested (Luke 22:47-23:56).

The passion of our Lord Jesus Christ begins.  The three days, Maundy Thursday to Easter is called The Paschal Triduum, a Latin term for three days.

Join us tonight for Maundy Thursday communion.  To participate at home, you will need a piece of bread and some juice or wine and view the service on YouTube.  

--
Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel
West Hartford United Methodist Church

8 April 2020

Read: Luke 22:1-7

8 April 33 A.D. – Bethany, Judea – two days before the Passover and after three grueling days of teaching and defending himself, Jesus and his disciples take a day to rest.  Although the Prince of Peace and Life is resting, Satan is busy at work as Judas Iscariot runs off to the chief priests and officers of the temple to join the plot to kill Jesus.  He agrees to betray Jesus. And the plot thickens.

1. Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
that we to judge thee have in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted!

2. Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee!
'Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;
I crucified thee.

3. Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
the slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered.
For our atonement, while we nothing heeded,
God interceded.

4. For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation,
thy mortal sorrow, and thy life's oblation;
thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,
for my salvation.

5. Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay thee,
I do adore thee, and will ever pray thee,
think on thy pity and thy love unswerving,
not my deserving.

The United Methodist Hymnal Number 289
Text: Johann Heermann, 1585-1647; trans. by Robert S. Bridges, 1844-1930

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel
West Hartford United Methodist Church

7 April 2020

Read: Mark 11:20-33

It is now Tuesday, April 7, 33 A.D. the disciples point to the withered fig tree that Jesus cursed on Monday.  Jesus explains the lesson from the tree;  have faith in God. Specifically, to have undoubting faith.  One must have faith to believe one’s prayers will be answered.

As they make their way into the city, the crowd gathers around Jesus anxious to hear him teach because he is a man of authority.  However, the chief priests and scribes challenge his authority, but Jesus refuses to answer.  Instead he reminds them that they had rejected John the Baptist and refused to heed his message.  Then Jesus tells three parables (about two sons, the wicked tenants, and the wedding guests) to drive home the point that the religious leaders are rejecting grace and truth to protect their hypocritical self-righteousness.

The Pharisees and Herodians now enter the scene and seek to trap Jesus a series of questions: 

Pharisee – Is it lawful to pay taxes?  Jesus: give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.

Pharisee – whose wife will she be in paradise?  Jesus: paradise isn’t like earth; God is God of the living not of the dead.

Pharisee – Which is the greatest commandment of all?  Jesus – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul.  And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

He wasn’t finished teaching and prophesizing on Tuesday.  It was an exhausting day, and the Lord and his disciples retired to Bethany for the night. 

--
Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel
West Hartford United Methodist Church

4 April 2020

Read: Psalm 90

Join us tomorrow for live stream Palm Sunday worship service

https://westhartfordumc.us12.list manage.com/track/click?u=f0bcbf89023576b4217441c9a&id=089ca3d706&e=b948e71ed4

Isaac Watts great hymn “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” is based on our reading today.

  1. O God, our help in ages past,
    our hope for years to come,
    our shelter from the stormy blast,
    and our eternal home.

    2. Under the shadow of thy throne,
    still may we dwell secure;
    sufficient is thine arm alone,
    and our defense is sure.

    3. Before the hills in order stood,
    or earth received her frame,
    from everlasting, thou art God,
    to endless years the same.

    4. A thousand ages, in thy sight,
    are like an evening gone;
    short as the watch that ends the night,
    before the rising sun.

    5. Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
    bears all who breathe away;
    they fly forgotten, as a dream
    dies at the opening day.

    6. O God, our help in ages past,
    our hope for years to come;
    be thou our guide while life shall last,
    and our eternal home.

                                   UM Hymnal #117

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel
West Hartford United Methodist Church

3 April 2020

Read: Psalm 22.

The daily field guide sent out by the Brentwood United Methodist Church shared the following a few days ago.  As I read it, it occurred to me that given our current shelter in place status this might be of help to you.

Marjorie Thompson, Presbyterian minister, author, and spiritual director, recently shared this four step process to feelings management during difficulties that I have found useful during this COVID19 pandemic.

  1. Name: What is this crisis making you feel? Is it panic, anxiety, fear, stupid, anger, shame? Identify it and name it.
  2. Notice: What is this feeling trying to teach you and is what it is saying actually true? Our feelings can be great teachers, pointing out things that our conscious mind hasn’t fully comprehended yet. But they can also tell stories which are not true (for example many of us are hearing: whatever happens just remember that the most important truth is that you do not run out of toilet paper!)
  3. Breathe: Take some deep breathes and try to locate this emotion in your body (headaches, clinched fists, tight shoulders, back pains, upset stomach). Breathe and begin to release some of the tension caused by this crisis.
  4. Befriend: The key to these “negative” emotions is to not get rid of them (they can be in the car, they just can’t be behind the wheel) but to befriend them.  Jesus tells us to befriend our enemies, and this can include the “enemies” within us as well.

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel
West Hartford United Methodist Church

1 April 2020

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

Psalm 23 NKJV

I read these words yesterday as I officiated at graveside funeral for David Buyers who passed away last Saturday.  As I read these words to his immediate family, it occurred to me that we can take our comfort and gain courage during the coronavirus pandemic by trusting and having faith in Shepherd.  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

A colleague of mine put it this way, during this crisis Christians must “Walk by faith and not by fear.”  We can do this only if we trust the Shepherd.

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel
West Hartford United Methodist Church

31 March 2020

I receive an email from an out of state UM Church with a reflection on scripture.  This morning the reflection was on lighting a candle.  From the beginning of the Christian movement, candles have been lit in homes and at church services to symbolize the presence of Christ.  As we are sheltered in place, light a candle to remind you that you are constantly in Christ’s presence and that Christ walks with us through this pandemic.   Here are some scriptures to reflect on today.

n the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and void and darkness covered the face of the deep. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light; and God saw that the light was good. (Genesis 1:1-4)
 
I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)

Anything exposed by the light will be illuminated and anything illuminated turns into the light. And that is why it is said: wake up sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. (Ephesians 5:13)
 
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp to put it under a bowl; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before all humanity, so that seeing your good works, they may give praise to your God in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)

Facebook live prayers today at 12 noon.  Today we will be led by Edyie Steimer.  Send your prayer concerns to us.

We understand the facility where our longtime member Betty Anderson (turning 100 years old in April) has been exposed to CORVID 19.  Please keep Betty and the other residents of Cherrybrook in Canton in your prayers.

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel

West Hartford United Methodist Church

30 March 2020

Read: Psalm 100

To the beginning of the work week I offer you this morning prayer from a short prayer service book I use every morning.

I offer all the prayers, works, joys and problems of this day to you Father, through the Son, my Lord and Savior, in union with the Holy Spirit.  I unite myself in spirit and in prayer with all who worship our Lord today throughout the world.  May the people of God witness the Good News of Christ in all places, at all times, today and forever.  Amen.

Join Mary Srinivasan today at noontime for a short time of prayer.  Go to the West Hartford United Methodist Church Facebook page at 12 noon and join in prayer.  You may email your prayer concerns to me or to the church.

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel

West Hartford United Methodist Church

28 March 2020

Read: Psalm 119:49-56

REMINDER:  Our worship service tomorrow will be live-streamed from the church at 10 a.m.  Here’s the link https://westhartfordumc.us12.list-manage.com/track/click?u=f0bcbf89023576b4217441c9a&id=089ca3d706&e=b948e71ed4

Or you can call in at 712-432-6121   Conf ID 332815

Every crisis brings to light the heroic efforts of a group of people we had, up to that point, taken for granted.  In the 1990’s when Dessert Storm took place our military became heroes.  When 9/11 happened we discovered just how brave and heroic fire fighters, police, paramedics are in serving the community.   Now, as the coronavirus CORVID 19 virus has become a pandemic the selfless service of our dedicated health care professionals and providers have come front and center.  The doctors, nurses, paramedics, hospital personnel are the new heroes in our nation. 

Yesterday, an email I receive each day contained a prayer I’d like to share with you.  It’s called a Blessing for Physicians

May you always heal and be healed.
May those who come to you find in you
One who cares deeply
Whose knowledge includes knowledge
Of the Spirit’s movements.

May you take joy in your gifts and use them humbly.
May the suffering and the vulnerable
Be your teachers.
May you see in others the goodness
Of a tender God.

May compassion encircle you
Carry you
Strengthen you
And give you insight.

May your presence be hope
To those in pain
May your skill ease the way
And instill trust.

May you know the Healer of all
May your own heart be held
In the compassion and tenderness
Of God.

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel

West Hartford United Methodist Church

27 March 2020

2 Corinthians 2:12-17 

12 When I came to Troas to proclaim the good news of Christ, a door was opened for me in the Lord; 13 but my mind could not rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So, I said farewell to them and went on to Macedonia. 14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; 16 to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.

Worry and anxiety are affecting all of us in someway or another in these days and weeks in the year 2020 Whenever I am filled with worry and anxiety, I find it helpful to seek out a “non-anxious presence” to help me calm down and gain courage for such a time like this. Christ is such a presence in my life.  I also reach out to one or two of my friends whose non-anxious demeanor is almost holy.

If you are not experiencing worry and anxiety today, I am sure someone in your sphere of family and friends is.  Try reaching out to them and be that holy presence for them to gain strength today or this week.  In this time of “sheltering in place” it is most important that we connect with one another.  Be the holy presence for someone today and connect with them by phone.

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel

West Hartford United Methodist Church

26 March 2020

Read: Psalm 85

I’ve been making between 20 to 30 calls a day to members and friends of our parish (if you haven’t received a call yet, don’t worry, I’ll get to you).  One question recurring question I have received from a number of people is, “Pastor, are you afraid?”   My answer is, no, I’m not afraid.  I am, however, concerned for each one of you and pray you will continue to observe prudence and common sense in your life, seek the Lord and trust that God will see us through.

One of the disciplines I have been practicing almost daily for a long time, is to read a psalm, and one chapter from the Old and New Testaments.   I am now on my third round of the psalms and each time I read them, something new captures my attention.  This time, for some reason, I have been fascinated by the number of times the psalmist calls out to the LORD to be delivered or rescued from some enemy or catastrophe.  Or, for the nation or individual to be restored; that is the theme of today’s reading.

 “Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us” (vs. 4).  How can the psalmist say this with confidence?  Because God has restored to fortunes of Israel over and over and over again.  God continues to restore the fortunes of the creation, over and over again.  Since God is the same, scripture tells us, yesterday, today and tomorrow, we have no reason to doubt that God will restore our lives as well.  That’s where I take my comfort through this pandemic we are experiencing today.

Here’s how the psalm ends:

10Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
    for he will speak peace to his people,
    to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.[a]
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
    that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
    righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
    and righteousness will look down from the sky.
12 The Lord will give what is good,
    and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him,
    and will make a path for his steps.

We continue our prayer journey today at 12 noon with my lovely wife, Shelly, leading the prayers.  If you haven’t experienced Shelly’s prayers, you won’t want to miss today as her prayers are truly spirit filled.  12 noon West Hartford United Methodi    
--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel

West Hartford United Methodist Church

25 March 2020

Read: Luke 1:26-38

Grace and peace to you from God or Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton has invited and urged us to join in the world wide prayer experience today at 12 noon.   Join us today on Facebook Live (to wo the West Hartford UMC page) to prayer the Lord’s Prayer together and to raise intercessions for the world and each other.

President of the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church,  Bishop Ken Carter writing to United Methodists around the world wrote:

“We join with Pope Francis in calling for prayer tomorrow, March 25, drawing strength from the Annunciation (Luke 1. 26-38), as we are approximately nine months from the celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We invite all to pray to God to rid the world of the coronavirus pandemic. And all are urged to pray the Lord’s Prayer at noon in their own time zones. In the words of Pope Francis, “We wish to respond to the pandemic of the virus with the universality of prayer, of compassion and tenderness.” As we prepare to celebrate the resurrection at Easter, we have sure trust and confidence that God will hear the united prayers of the church across the world.”

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel

West Hartford United Methodist Church

24 March 2020

Read:  Matthew 7:12

Our scripture reading today comes from the Sermon on the Mount and maybe the most universally famous saying of Jesus known as the Golden Rule.   Commenting on this in his sermon “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount”, discourse 5,  Rev. John Wesley wrote: “The grand measure of justice, as well as of mercy, is, Do unto others as thou wouldst  they should do unto thee.  Do you walk by this rule? … Do you not make a gain of anyone’s ignorance or necessity? Neither in buying nor selling? If you do, why does not your heart condemn you?” 

Being “sheltered in place” does not exempt us from practicing the Golden Rule daily.  Reach out to a neighbor today; connect with a church friend you haven’t seen in a few weeks and let them know they’ve been prayed for and loved.

At 12 noon today, join me on Facebook live for a short moment of devotion and pray.  On Facebook go to the West Hartford United Methodist Church page, let’s all join in prayer.

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel

West Hartford United Methodist Church

21 March 2020

Read:  Psalm 27:1-5

The other day I read an article on the Christian response to pandemics in history.  The example of Martin Luther during the Bubonic Plague pandemic that was a watershed moment in the fourteenth century.  When the Plague came to the town he was living and ministering in at the time, Wittenberg, Germany people fled the town.  Luther and his wife, Katharina, choose to stay and minister to those who were healthy and afflicted with the Plague.  He cited Matthew 25:41-46 as his justification for staying.  He wrote:

“We must respect the word of Christ, ‘I was sick and you did not visit me.’ According to this passage we are bound to each other in such a way that no one may forsake the other in his distress but is obliged to assist and help him as he himself would like to be helped.

Luther spoke of the circumstances where fleeing is permitted and cautioned Christians to refrain from judging others for different decisions they must make in times of crisis. (www.thegospelcoaltion.org Glenn Scrivener. “Responding to Pandemics: 4 Lessons from Church History”, 3/16/2020. Accessed 3/20/2020).  And so we are in such a time in March, 2020.

My pastoral counsel to you is use common sense, follow the advice of health professionals, do not panic or fear.  Christ is stronger than this virus, and far more involved.  Christ is with us.

Christ, have mercy on me.

Lord, have mercy on me.

Christ, have mercy on me.

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel

West Hartford United Methodist Church

20 March 2020

Read:  Psalm 81

Psalm 81 is a song of God’s law and a command to worship God because of the special relationship God has with Israel.  In verses 5-10, the voice of the Lord proclaims God’s story of leading Israel out of servitude in Egypt.  The story is not just of God rescuing but a burning desire to sustain Israel, “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10b).

Scripture and history teach us that we will face challenging and dangerous times such as, wars, famines, pandemics, etc. are part of our story as a human race.  We are presently amid one of those times in our history and when facing the danger of our time we can lose sight of the big picture.

If we read history with the eye of faith, we can take courage in knowing that as God has seen humanity through crisis times in the past, God will see us through this current crisis as God saw humanity through the bubonic plague in the 14th century or the 1918 Spanish flue and the HIV/AIDS pandemic of the 1980’s, etc.  This is the promise of Psalm 81:5.

God works through the tools at our hands and minds, like common sense, medical knowledge, experience and technology, etc. to bring us through a time like now.  Yes, people will get sick and will die during this time.  Faith does not make us immune to viruses, diseases and even death.  But our faith should give us a sense of courage to face the current with an attitude of courage rather than fear.  “Open you mouth wide and I will fill it” says the Lord.

O God keep my strong in my faith today.  Help me be part of what you are blessing.  Keep me and my loved ones safe and healthy.  Through Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen.

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel

West Hartford United Methodist Church

19 March 2020

Read:  Psalm 80

“Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:7, 19).

Our reading today is a prayer for the restoration of Israel after a national tragedy.  The psalmist recasts the exodus and conquest period of Israel’s history as God planting and flourishing of a vine.  The vine is deeply rooted and cannot be destroyed despite fire, famine, decease, virus, or sin. During those times the branches might be scorched, shriveled and withered, it will not die.  Why?  Because God planted the vine.  Thus, the psalmist proclaims with confidence (not once but twice), “Restore us, O God of hosts, let your face shine, that we may be saved.”

In the Gospel of John, on the night he was arrested, Jesus told his disciples,  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  God has planted that seed of the vine in each of our hearts, it’s called faith.  As we confront this time of uncertainty and crisis – an unprecedented time in our lifetime – let the vine root deeply in your heart, stand strong in the Lord and take courage to know God is with you.

PRAYER:

Be planted in my heart, dear Lord.  Give me the faith to fully trust in your love and care.  Keep me and my loved ones save in all we do today.  “Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.”  Amen.

Watch for a brief email announcement I’ll be sending out shortly to update you on a few matters related to the church’s ministry and worship.   Be part of what God is blessing today.  Pastor Bob

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel

West Hartford United Methodist Church

18 March 2020

21“You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, ‘You shall not murder;’  and ‘Whoever shall murder shall be in danger of the judgment.’ 22But I tell you, that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council; and whoever shall say, ‘You fool!’  shall be in danger of the fire of Gehenna” (Matthew 5:21-22).

You may be thinking to yourself that the pastor has lost his mind using this reading from the Sermon on the Mount for the crisis and disaster we are facing as a nation afflicted with the CORVID-19 pandemic.  On the surface, you would be right to be thinking that way.  However, I want you to look a little deeper and see that Jesus is saying to us something very profound to Christians and the world.

The Lord begins by reminding his listeners of the commandment, “You shall not murder.”   He contrasts that with his own teaching, “But I say to you.”    In our reading today Jesus extends the reach of the commandment beyond the act of murder to our thoughts, feelings and actions that cause people to commit murder.  He challenges us to deal with the problem of evil while it still resides as evil thoughts and feelings in our hearts before they find expression in actions that cause harm to another person.  He calls us to be reconciled with our brother and/or sister so that good feelings – Godly feelings – will overcome the harmful feelings in our hearts.  Once our hearts are right, we will no longer be tempted to commit evil acts, like murder, but instead be motivated by love, which is our proper response to neighbor and enemy (Matthew 5:44).

Today, reach out to an elderly neighbor or friend who lives alone and offer a loving voice.

Prayer:

Dear God, help me to be part of what You want to bless.  Help our church to be part of what it is that you are blessing.  Amen.

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel

West Hartford United Methodist Church

17 March 2020

Read:  Matthew 5:21-37

Grace and peace to you on this St. Patrick’s Day.  It seems strange not to be celebrating this day without parades and parities and corned beef and cabbage dinners.  We are in a new reality, for sure.  Keep strong.

My original plan was to spend 2020 walking through the Gospel of Matthew, chapter and verse by verse, but that was a plan.  During Lent I planned to walk through the Sermon on the Mount leading up to a joyous Easter celebration.   We will try to stay with that plan, but for this week, at least we will give a brief reflection on the various parts Matthew 5:21-37.  

Bishop William Willimon reflecting on the reading today wrote, “You have heard it said, ‘Christianity makes sense.  Your life will go better if you sign on with Jesus.’  But I say to you that if you listen to Jesus, if you try to take his demands seriously, then you may find that he complexifies and complicates your life” (Lectionary Sermon Resource, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2019, Kandle edition, location 1767).   The reading today is an example of what he means.

Jesus was not a conventional player.  He challenged conventional wisdom and actions of his day, particularly the thinking and actions of the religious leaders.   He challenged their interpretation of the law of Moses.  In Matthew 5:17, he said he has come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it,  “You have heard is said…but I say to you…”  In each instance, Jesus is not saying forget what the law tells you --“don’t murder…don’t commit adultery…don’t divorce your wife…don’t swear an oath” – committing such sins breaks relationship and destroys community.  No, in his words -- “but I say to you…if you are angry…if you lust in your heart…divorce has greater consequences…let your yes be yes and no be no” – raises the bar for us to follow.  Thus, our life becomes more complicated.

On St. Patrick’s Day, let close with the prayer of St. Patrick:

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

 

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation
.

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel

West Hartford United Methodist Church

March 16, 2020

READ: Psalm 77

Our reading today is so appropriate for the times we are experiencing in the here and now.  The psalmist begins with a troubled heart crying out to God with a complaint about the suffering he is experiencing day and night. 

Verse 3, I believe captures what many of us experience in times of suffering and high anxiety; our thoughts about God during these times tends to be disturbing rather than comforting.   If God is supposed to be loving, we think, how can God allow something like the coronavirus (COVID-19) to ravish the world?  Why would God allow such suffering and anxiety to exist?  Why doesn’t God stop it?  Isn’t this the conundrum we all face?  The psalmist does not try to answer these questions he just exclaims, “You keep my eyelids from closing; I am so troubled that I cannot speak” (vs. 4).  After the psalmist goes quiet, his mind continues to contemplate the difficult situation he finds himself in and questions God’s faithfulness by reflecting that it seems God has not acted in the contemporary as God has acted in the past (vs. 5-10).  Then the psalmist recites God’s actions in the past for the nation and realizes that these actions guide the faithful to safety.

We forget that God works through the events of history, our history or the greater history of the world, to bring about resolution for the good.  While our present moment is dangerous, and it is natural for us to feel anxious and fearful, we must remember that God is working still.  God does not manipulate the events of our day to punish or reward us, rather, God guides the faithful through these times to a new day.  Hopefully, having learned from the experience to make us better people and the world a better place. 

We are nowhere near the end of the current pandemic.  The medical experts tell us that the worst is yet to come.  They key, I believe, is to take their advice and be sensible in your activities and interactions with other people.  Most of all, remember and trust that God is here, working as God has in the past.  As the psalmist concludes, “You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” (Psalm 77:20).

--

Rev. Dr. Robert A. Knebel

West Hartford United Methodist Church