Sunday, March 1, 2015
Today we worshiped at Harmony-Zelienople United Methodist Church, 123 North Pittsburgh Street, Zelienople, PA 16063, 724.452.7670, www.hzumc.org, John. K. Jefferis, Pastor.
Scripture – NIV
2 Timothy 4:6-7
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
We were a little early and got to look around the sanctuary a bit. At first I only noticed the cross on the Communion table, missing the larger wooden cross with hearts all over it.
We were welcomed by some people including two families of Marines. Both had a son in the Corps, though I’m not sure they knew of each other. We also had the chance to say hello to the director of the Child Care Center.
I appreciated that the Praise Band circled for prayer before the service began.
I enjoyed the lead female singer; she not only sounded excellent (as did the whole team) but she smiled often and sang with enthusiasm. The Praise Band did well with “It is Well with My Soul,” an old favorite that now cuts deeply as it was sung at church the day after our son’s death.
The pastor was away and the service was a strategy meeting reporting on where the church thinks it should go.
The last time we were at this church was for the Christmas program presented by the preschool, of which two of our grandchildren were a part, so we already knew our way around, but today I noticed how well the signage was done. Also the sanctuary is quite pleasant and beautifully decorated, though not for Christmas this time.
We arrived early but everyone sitting in the narthex area was busy talking with others so we found seats in the rear of the sanctuary. Bob hung his coat over the corner of the pew (with the Marine Corps emblem showing) and we were soon greeted by a young woman and her grandfather who told us his grandson is currently in boot camp at Parris Island. Conversations like that are always uplifting.
As with most contemporary services, the sanctuary was all but empty 10 minutes beforehand, and suddenly people appear during the first two songs. It always amazes me.
And as with most churches with more than one service, there were only a few who greeted us. There was only the one conversation.
I was blessed by the excellent music that was so well done, as well as the songs themselves, especially “It is Well with My Soul,” which never fails to bring me to tears.
Apparently the pastor and his wife were away, and I was reminded this was a Methodist church when the name of the new pastor was announced. He will start in July and the current pastor and his family will move on to another assignment.
The message was presented by a member whose position is unknown to me. However it was an important time for this church family, hearing about their history, how they got where they are, and looking to the future, where they want to go and the course charted by their leadership.
I thought it an interesting assertion that churches need a mission statement because, referring to the above Scripture, the church is like the race organizer. I suppose there is some truth to that since the race organizer lets participants know what sort of race it is and the best strategy to win.
We will keep this church in prayer as they face this task and the additional requirements of their responsibilities as this year progresses
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You open the eyes of the leaders of this church to where You are leading them. Help them to put Your vision into words. Amen.
Monday, February 23, 2015
Yesterday we worshiped at Ridgewood Church, 131 Ridgewood Avenue, West View, PA 15229, 412.931.1313, www.ridgewoodlife.org, Pastor Chris Hezlep.
Scripture – NIV
1 Peter 2:21
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
2 Corinthians 8:7
But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you —see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
What a great welcome as we entered; even a Marine stopped to introduce himself. One woman who greeted us made a point to tell us she would be back at the door if we had any questions. My favorite was the woman who said hello apologetically, anxious that perhaps we normally attended the later service. I was so glad she overcame her reservations and introduced herself.
Strangely, the only cross I could find was in the ceiling light fixtures. I brought ear plugs, but the volume was fine. I wish I could have heard more of the female singer; she had passion in her singing and a smile on her face.
The sermon was Part 6 of a series, Love Revolution, and was a “Call to Generosity.” The message developed well with Scripture references. The point was made that the tithe was to go to the storehouse, i.e., back to the church. I was glad the pastor let his passion show for such an important message.
Of all the people with money trouble whom I told to tithe, no one has ever come back complaining. And it was a joy to use parts of this message in a conversation at a restaurant today.
Later in the service there was a fair amount of noise from the narthex, but it was overall a delightful worship experience.
We seem to be on a roll visiting Allison Park Church plants, and yesterday we learned after arriving that we were visiting APC’s West View site. It is located in a mostly residential area and within walking distance for nearby residents.
We were greeted warmly as we stepped in the door as well as engaged in conversation by others throughout our visit. This church holds two Sunday services, and conversation with the pastor confirmed that intentional preparation went into helping members learn to greet people who may be visitors or may be from the “other” service. This is the point on which most churches with multiple services need work, but it was done well here.
With the help of a directional sign we were able to find our way around easily enough. We were invited to help ourselves to a cup of coffee and lids were provided so we could take into the sanctuary.
The music was led by one woman and one man with an acoustic guitar, so the volume level was great for us.
The pastor explained that this message, “Called to Generosity,” was the sixth in the series Love Revolution. He clarified the necessity of God’s calling us to generosity because generosity does not come naturally.
He outlined the attitudes exhibited by greed, selfishness, and generosity; then our potential responses: 1 – do what I should do (tithing); 2 – do what I could do (sacrifice); and 3 – do what I would do (use it all for God’s glory).
He challenged the congregation to choose between being like a bucket and hoarding a finite amount, or being like a funnel, through which blessings flow to others.
I found this message greatly encouraging and am deeply grateful God led us here to hear it.
Our prayer for this church:
Heavenly Father, we pray this congregation continues to experience the blessings Christ pours out upon them when they bring their tithe to the storehouse, and may the church be blessed to open that storehouse to Your people. Amen.
Sunday, February 15, 2015
Like many others we were frozen in, so this week we spent some time listening to a service on the radio. There was some considerable noise/static during part of it, and I wondered if churches get feedback on things like that. Do we sit at home and grump like the folks at the back of the churches used to do?
To sit in judgment is a place I never want to be; I hope we are never assessed as such. Worshipers can be such a great asset to a church, identifying areas where the church can do better and working to get it there.
There are some styles of worship that I’m not as comfortable with. Once as I was lamenting the “big show production” worship, God laid it on my heart that we all have one thing in common with all styles and types of worshipers: we are all hopeless sinners but for the saving grace of Christ. I humbly submit that any style of worship in the Presence of God brings Him glory.
Lord, we pray You open our eyes that we might meet with You everywhere You are proclaimed. Amen.
Sunday, February 8, 2015
Today we worshiped at East Main Presbyterian Church, 120 E. Main Street, Grove City, PA 15005, 724.458.8270, www.eastmainpc.org, Rev. Dr. Bill Hoffman, Senior Pastor.
Scripture – Mark 8:27-30 (NIV)
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
I enjoyed worshiping at a church that looks like one: handsome cross, prominent stained glass, including the dome, and beautiful banners. Most places the signage was good, though it took some asking to find the restrooms so we were a little late to the service.
The music by the GCC Men’s Glee Club was a delight. These young men were very easy to listen to.
A strong point from the sermon was that “Jesus is the center of every sinner’s longing.” At one point the question was raised about witnessing to those who might be less than receptive, and my note said “Preach it anyhow, it’s the Good News.” I’ve been unsure of a lot of things in life, but Jesus Christ is the one I’m sure of.
There was an adorable baby in the pew in front of us who presented me with a challenge: she seemed more interested in Jan. It’s easy to feel connected to God when there is a baby to watch.
Since the service had started we had little opportunity to talk to many people before worship, but a number of people greeted us afterwards; this is surprising for a church with two services.
This stately former PC(USA) church sits directly across the street from Grove City College and was just as I remembered it except with a lot more snow.
As we entered the building and moved into the hallway, I inadvertently stepped in front of an older woman navigating her way to the sanctuary. I apologized but she looked at me and said happily, “We’re all just going to church!” She then made sure I had a bulletin, for which I thanked her as she headed off just full of joy. I couldn’t help but think, I want to be like her when I’m that age. This encounter set the tone for our visit this morning.
The Young Adult Pastor recognized us as visitors and struck up a conversation after which we found seats and joined the service.
The sanctuary is stunning with intricate stained glass covering most of the left wall and a ceiling dome in stained glass. The colorful sparkly banners caught my eye, and it all worked perfectly against the pale-but-rich yellow walls.
What a treat to be there to hear the superb Grove City College Men’s Glee Club!
In the sermon, “The Heart of the Faith,” the pastor mentioned that Mark 8:27 (Jesus’ question “Who do you say that I am?”) is considered to be the center point of Mark’s gospel, and our response to that question is predicated on who we believe Him to be. His main points were:
1 – Jesus the Messiah is at the heart of God’s redeeming work in the world;
2 – Jesus is at the heart of every sinner’s longing for salvation;
3 – The unbelieving world around us knows what Christians are against. Do they know what we are for? (And do they see it as good news?)
Indeed that is the challenge for we who are called to be in the world but not of it: some people may only come to know Jesus by an encounter with a believer. Like Paul, I can only pray for more of Jesus and less of me.
Our prayer for this church:
Father, we pray You continue to bless this church and generously water the seeds they plant as they continue to witness to the young people passing through Grove City College. Amen.