Oct 22 2014

Hacking Christianity :: Rev. Jeremy Smith: Would Judicial Review have saved the #CallToAction’s PlanUMC?

A proposed judicial review process to help with making better alterations to United Methodist doctrine and polity will help for the 2016 General Conference, but this blogger is pretty sure it would not have helped redeem the failed legislation in 2012.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/10/would-judicial-review-have-saved-the-calltoactions-planumc/

Oct 22 2014

A Pastor's Thoughts: Potent Prayer

“The most potent and acceptable prayer is the prayer that leaves the best effects. I don’t mean it must immediately fill the soul with desire . . . The best effects [are] those that are followed up by actions—–when the … Continue reading

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/10/potent-prayer/

Oct 22 2014

Wesleyan/Anglican: Halloween: What’s a Christian to Do?

(The following article was printed previously)

A number of years ago, during a time of family devotions, we were talking about the “PACT” form of prayer: Praise, Ask, Confess, and Thank. In the devotion we were reading, we were also asked to read the Lord’s Prayer, and then the lesson asked which part of the Lord’s Prayer fit each letter of PACT.

The very first one, of course was Praise, and my wife asked what part of the Lord’s Prayer was praise. Well, I immediately raised my hand and said, “I know, I know.” And so, my wife called on me. Do you know which part of the Lord’s Prayer is considered praise? – “Our Father, who art in heaven; Hallowed be thy Name.” You see, in that prayer we are saying, “May your Name be hallowed.”

Now, when I said that, one of our kids immediately asked, “What does hallowed mean? Is it like Halloween?” – What do you think? When we pray, “Hallowed be thy Name,” is it like Halloween?

I think that question goes to the question that is often asked in Christian circles, “What do we do with Halloween?” – You know, when I was a kid, our church used to have Halloween parties every year. We used to hold it out in the woods at the Optimist Club building. It was a great time. I remember going, and our family arrived early one year. It was the year that I was dressed up like the Incredible Hulk. I had a rubber Hulk mask and inflatable muscles. Anyway, because we arrived early, we split up and hid. I think I hid behind a tree in the surrounding woods. Then we would each one “arrive” at different times, so as to help disguise who we really were. One year I was Scooby Doo. (That was before I could do the Scooby Doo voice.) We had a really great time.

However, as time went by, I encountered Christians at other churches (even within the same denomination) who would never do such a thing. From their perspective, Halloween was an evil, even Satanic celebration. It was to be avoided completely.

Some suggested Christian alternatives, sometimes called Hallelujah Parties, instead of Halloween Parties. These ranged from events where you could dress up, so long as there were no monsters, or evil costumes, to events where you could only dress as Bible characters, to no costumes allowed whatsoever. – And I learned never to assume anything about people’s position with regard to Halloween.

So it leaves us with the question, since there are a range of opinions, what ought we, as Christians, do about Halloween?

Well, when the question was asked, “What does hallowed mean? Is it like Halloween?” I said, “Actually, it is like Halloween.” – You see, to hallow is to make or to declare something or someone to be holy. We are saying to God, “Your name is holy.” – And Halloween is a form of All Hallow’s Evening, or All Hallow’s Eve; Hallowe-‘en. In other words it is the evening before All Hallow’s Day, or All Holy One’s Day, which we know as . . . All Saints’ Day. All Saints’ Day is celebrated on November 1st or the first Sunday, thereafter. – All Saints, by the way, was one of John Wesley’s favorite days.

Now, since that is the case, it should at least make Christians stop and consider a bit before we simply declare Halloween to be evil and Satanic. – But, of course there is more to the story. – So, how did Halloween come about with all of our costumes and customs?

Well, in Ireland, the ancient Druids, prior to the arrival of Christianity, marked the coming of the new year on November 1st. Like so many groups, their calendars were governed by the seasons of the year, especially the times of harvest. Around November the season would changed from the time of harvest to winter; that is, to the time when things died.

October 31st was called Samhain (often pronounced SOW-in), the Celtic word for the end of Summer. In their Pagan superstitions they believed that on October 31st, the end of the year and the beginning of the time of death, the curtain between the living and the dead became blurred. On this night, it was believed that the ghosts of the dead would return to this world.

This was their reasoning: When the dead are buried, they are buried under the ground. During the Summer months, the grass is green and alive, the flowers bloom, the trees are full of life, and they are, therefore, able to keep the dead buried. But when the trees and flowers all die, and the grass turns brown, what is there to keep the dead buried? They are, therefore, able to escape . . . at least for that one night.

Well, in addition to damaging crops, it was believed that these spirits made it easier for the Druid priests to see into the future so that they could determine whether the crops would survive the winter, etc. Therefore, they would have a ritual of sorts involving a large bonfire, burning crops and animal sacrifices while wearing disguises (like animal costumes), which would confuse and ward off any evil spirits.

Now, by the ninth-Century, as the Church spread throughout the land, the Church did what the Church has always done. It sought to appropriate and redeem, or transform and sanctify the secular or the Pagan. It sought to “redeem the time” or the day, as St. Paul says, and claim it for Christ. And here is how the Church went about it:

Early on, it was the custom of the Church to remember the Martyrs. – As early as the 4th century the Church in the East held a feast to honor all of the martyred saints, together. On May 13, 610, relics of martyrs were moved from some catacombs to the Pantheon, and the bishop of Rome, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the building with the title of the feast of All Martyrs and All Saints and Our Lady.

Now, fast forward to the ninth-Century, again, when the Church had spread throughout the Celtic land. It was in 835 that the new bishop of Rome, Pope Gregory III, designated November 1st as All Saints Day, many believe in an attempt to Christianize the Celtic holiday. Thus, Samhain became All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween. – By the way, we also know that by A.D. 1000, there were parades and bonfires and people dressed in costumes of saints and angels, etc. in order to honor and celebrate those saints who had died in the faith.

Now, in America, the Puritan settlers didn’t want anything to do with those Pagan, and more importantly foreign customs. But, when Irish immigrants came over, in such a new setting, their customs began to take on new forms. So, any remaining Pagan elements of their customs quickly vanished. Bonfires were often replaced with candles in pumpkins. (I’ll not take time to go into the history of the Jack-O-lantern.) Animal disguises to ward off evil spirits became children’s costumes. And an American holiday was born.

So, those customs that the Church failed to transform the good ole’ American marketplace succeeded in secularizing. – Unfortunately, it has also had great success in secularizing such holy days as Christmas and Easter, as well. So much so that many Christians fail to observe the important season of Advent in preparation for Christmas, and then once Christmas Day arrives, they are ready to pack everything away; thus, failing to celebrate the twelve days of the Christmas season. Oh, how we have allowed the secular marketplace to de-Christianize us! But that’s another story for another time!

So with all of this in mind, what ought we to do with Halloween? First, respect the convictions of those around us. But, having said that, my opinion is, let the kids (and adults) have fun. And as a Church, use the opportunity to teach our children (and adults) about those who have gone before us in the faith.

Now, in our post-modern, post-Christian age, with the resurgence of various spiritualities such as Wicca and Paganism, the Pagan versions of Samhain is certainly experiencing a resurgence, at least in certain pockets of our population. Christians do need to be aware of this.  Nevertheless, I think that we who are in Christ ought to join with St. Paul and the saints throughout the ages by faithfully redeeming the time for the glory of God!

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/10/halloween-whats-a-christian-to-do/

Oct 22 2014

Nikos: Upcoming Sunday Scripture Commentary – October 26

Sermon (October 26) – “Living Generously: Sowing Seeds”

Galatians 6:1-10

Along with the two Thessalonian letters, these three letters were most likely the first letters that Paul wrote to the several churches he had founded.

Preachers typically don’t enjoy talking about money and somehow the Apostle Paul has figured out a way to talk about money without using the word, “money.” Instead, he uses the image of reaping and sowing. The topic of giving in the church is important because money is what helps fuel the ministries and outreach of the church.

Paul contrasts “sowing to the spirit” with “sowing to the flesh.” The first leads to eternal blessings and the other is only for temporary gain.

The phrase “do good to everybody” is Paul’s way of encouraging the congregation to live generously.

Matthew 13:31-46

These parables of Jesus remind us that God’s kingdom is often gradual rather than instantaneous. This involves being patient for positive results while gradually sowing seeds of God’s love and hope.

The farmer has to wait for the harvest. The birds have to wait for the tiny mustard seed to grow into a large shrub. The woman baking bread must wait for the leaven to grow.

Do you ever get impatient when you do good for others or when you serve in the church and you’re not seeing the results you want to see? Jesus is telling us to be patient and to have faith that the seeds of hope and love that we are planting today will one day lead to a harvest.

[Note: The resources used for these scripture reading commentaries are based on the Everyone series by NT Wright, Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, The Wesley Study Bible, and the “Montreal-Anglican”lectionary commentaries.]

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/10/upcoming-sunday-scripture-commentary-october-26/

Oct 22 2014

Mustard Seeds: Samson’s Story: 4th & Long (Sunday’s Sermon Today)

Some stories we read because they inspire us and lift us up; some stories we tell because they warn of what could be if we continue down the path that we’re currently on. Some stories, like Samson’s, are a beautiful … Continue reading

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/10/samsons-story-4th-long-sundays-sermon-today/

Oct 22 2014

Nikos: Lancaster First UMC – Another Old Photo (1961)

One of our staff members recently stumbled upon this 1961 photo of a church staff Christmas party. Rev. George Herd who served as pastor here at First UMC from 1946 to 1976 is at the top left. His wife is sitting in front of him. They are at Rising Hou…

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2014/10/lancaster-first-umc-another-old-photo-1961/

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