Sunday, June 26, 2011

Northmont United Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Northmont United Presbyterian Church, 8169 Perry Highway, Pittsburgh, PA 15237, 412.364.0105,, Rev. Dr. John J. Lolla, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

We were blessed to be redirected to church today, and doubly blessed to lay hands and pray for dear friends being commissioned for a mission trip to Malawi, Africa.

It has been a while since we last visited Northmont, but I don’t remember such prominent signage. The signs were colorful, easy to read, and in-house signs seemed more welcoming than commercial.

The church has attended well to handicapped access with ramps and an elevator. The Sanctuary is in a T shape with an impressive wood beamed ceiling. I appreciated the large cross with white drape suspended from the ceiling as a great focal point.

The time of silent confession wasn’t near long enough for me, and I thought the Children’s Message was a little long.

The gospel solo was great and the pairing with the organ was excellent: they complemented each other and did not over-power. The organist was very good and his playing came as worship, not “hear me roar.”

The sermon spoke to me about how the ministry of the church is to prepare for mission. We try to separate ourselves from the sinful world, but the God we worship was found in the world. From that very premise of God we cannot withdraw into self, but must let Him make use of us. Jesus is the final authority and He calls us to get into the world.

My regular morning prayer time of thanksgiving starts with thanking God for one more day. Normally the next thing I give thanks for is bringing us to where we are and blessing us with His peace. It is a very comfortable place, like the church, but I think He has given us rest and time to recover and is preparing to send us out. I don’t know what or where it will be but “Here I am, Lord.”

There was mention of the Malawi Partnership being mutual, but I’m not so sure…so much of what we give (especially money) is given from our excess, but what they share with us is Jesus Christ. It seems pretty lop-sided.

I was pleased to lift the pastors and congregation of this church in prayer. I was once told the best the church could be was empty because we were all out doing mission work.

Jan’s thoughts:

Sometimes it’s remarkable how God gets us to the church He wants us to attend. We had heard through the grapevine that this was the morning Bill and Nancy Paul would be commissioned to take part in the Presbytery trip to Malawi this week, and we wanted to be there to see our friends off on this journey. However I had forgotten, and planned to attend another church until this morning the Spirit reminded me and I knew He wanted us here instead.

We have visited this church twice before, and I believe it has become even friendlier than it was previously, as witnessed by one member who greeted us before we even entered the building.

The directional signage was exceedingly helpful and the signs that protrude from the wall are the best. Display boards were everywhere detailing numerous and varied mission involvement. This seems like one of the most mission-oriented churches we’ve attended.

The organist was a joy to hear, and the solo, a spiritual, was beautifully done, the kind of music that feeds the soul.

The sermon entitled “Why Are You Looking Up?” originated in John 17:6-19 and Acts 1:6-14 and was delivered by Rev. Dr. Hetz Marsh. In the midst of hearing this message I realized it was a large part of the reason God wanted us at this church today. He spoke to the issue of being IN the world but not OF it, but also engaging a world comprised of people whom God loved enough to have sent His only Son to give His life to save. Instead of separating ourselves from the world we need to go out into it and expect to find God there…we must risk living completely in the real world because it is through a life given away to the world that we experience the full joy of Christ. (“Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Luke 9:24)

This sermon was one more “heads-up” message that God may soon change the focus of our personal efforts. I don’t know how long it will be, but change is coming.

I felt so grateful to be present for the Service of Commissioning for Bill and Nancy Paul as they return to Malawi. This is a milestone for the Partnership, and Malawi still holds a special place in my heart as well as for so many others from Pittsburgh and Blantyre both. I was enormously privileged to take part in the laying on of hands and prayer. Those present promised to pray for the pilgrims, and if you are reading this and are inclined to pray, I would urge you to do so. It’s the best gift you can give in these (or any) circumstances, and you’ll be blessed as well!

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