Sunday, March 31, 2013

Southminster Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Southminster Presbyterian Church, 799 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon, PA 15228, 412.343.8900, www.spchurch.org, Rev. Dr. Daniel B. Merry, Senior Pastor.

Scripture: Luke 24:1-11 (NKJV) –
Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’”

And they remembered His words. Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.

Bob’s thoughts:

We wanted a church where we could celebrate the resurrected Christ and knew Southminster would be a good choice. We knew we would hear the Word of God spoken and a sermon that was Bible-based and scriptural, and we did.

The church was filled. I particularly enjoyed the children in their Easter outfits. The hymns were sung loudly with enthusiasm…a great feeling to be worshiping God in song. The sermon, “Missing Person or Risen Lord?” was what people needed to hear: it was well-developed and posed the question “who is Christ to you?” Dan’s willingness to let Christ use him came through in his passionate message. This would normally be the strong point of worship, but these two grabbed my attention also.

I found myself praying for a girl playing the handbells who had a sullen expression when facing the congregation but a beautiful smile toward the conductor. I pray that it was only my imagination that she was in some distress. There were some things I had never heard before from a bell choir.

Toward the end of the service I noticed a young girl in the balcony dancing ballet-style to the offertory.

These two simple incidents spoke volumes to me about what is right at Southminster and helped draw me closer to Christ. What joy to worship on Easter morning where people glorify and enjoy God together.

Jan’s thoughts:

Once again I was grateful to return to Southminster, where we have worshiped a number of times before and have enjoyed returning for Easter especially.

Today we were blessed to worship with several people we know, to hear The Southminster Ringers (a first-rate bell choir) as well as a meaningful message.

The message “Missing Person or Risen Lord?” was a reminder that “there are no proofs of God’s existence, there are only witnesses.” Our personal testimony is the most powerful vehicle we have to escort others into the presence of the One Who gives us new life – resurrection life.

One special joy today was a young girl in a pink dress in the balcony opposite us. Throughout the offertory she performed what could have been an interpretive dance, utterly unaware of the growth of her audience. It felt special to be among those witnesses.

Happy Resurrection Day!

Our prayer for this church:
Dear Father, We pray You continue to bless this church. Encourage them to go out and share their faith with the passion with which they worship You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Ken Mawr Presbyterian Church

On Good Friday we worshiped at Ken Mawr United Presbyterian Church, 1760 Pine Hollow Road, McKees Rocks, PA 15136, 412.331.2863, www.kenmawrchurch.org, Rev. Dr. Karl E. McDonald, Pastor.

Scripture: Matthew 27:45-66 (NIV) –
From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Bob’s thoughts:

We observed Good Friday in worship at Ken Mawr. It was good to worship where there was a visible cross. There were only two children but the pastor did a youth message. I was glad he didn’t skip it since our Savior would have died for just one of us.

In his message, “The Cross We Do Not Want to See,” he mentioned a cross no one wanted to see because it was made from weapons welded together. It reminded me of a woman I knew in a Bible study whose Bible was a loose leaf binder…the cross and any other part she didn’t like were easy to remove.

It was said that Christ would lament that most would pass Him by and not notice Him on the cross, but now could you see His beaten body hanging there and ever doubt His love for you?

The closing story was of a pilot lost at night who found a large lighted cross he used as a beacon to safely land the plane and to find his way back to Christ.

When we lived in Crafton I had a 40’ tall cross in Christmas lights on the back of my house. The cost of lighting it from about Thanksgiving until Easter when the trees would leaf out and block it, the cost of bulbs, and the work of dragging the ladder out, etc., would occasionally make me think it was time to quit. God would allow me meet someone who told me how much they looked forward to seeing that cross, and that would make it all worthwhile. The best thing was there was a church across the street and everyone assumed that was where the cross was.

The pastor has a good speaking voice. I wish he would let more of his passion come through in his preaching.

I thought Communion was never offered on Good Friday; however Communion was served by intinction although there seemed to be some confusion about which direction the congregation should approach from. The bread was offered silently, and I wished the elder had served the pastor after she was served.

The highlight of the service was a member’s presentation of Mary. As parents who lost a son, it was very moving for us, painful and very much appreciated.

Jan’s thoughts:

I was unexpectedly able to attend mid-day worship this day, and we were led to Ken Mawr. We arrived just as the service started.

The most powerful part was the monologue by the woman as Jesus’ mother. It had me in tears almost from the start. Her voice cried as she wondered aloud how “this” (the crucifixion of her Son) happened, why, for what purpose; she agonized over His condition, how He’d been beaten, and seeing the nails through His wrists and feet. She recalled her joy at His birth and her pride when they had to return to Jerusalem and found Him in the Temple teaching. And her bewilderment, anger, and torment as she watched her Son dying on the cross.

The words were exactly right, and I briefly wondered if someone had been reading my devotions from the first year I was writing, they sounded that familiar. It was hard to listen to, and I was glad I had a package of Puffs in my purse. I was also very glad to witness it.

Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You open the hearts of this congregation that they would see how much You love them, that when they see the cross there would be no doubt. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Word of Life Christian Worship Center

Today we worshiped at Word of Life Christian Worship Center, 300 Fifth Street, P.O. Box 37, Monaca, PA 15061, 724.252.5480, www.lifeatwordoflife.com, Pastor Carlton Vreen.

Scripture: King James Version

Mark 11:9-10 –
And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:

Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.

Luke 19:28-31
And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem.

And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples,

Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither.

And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him.

Bob’s thoughts:

We were a little early for this service and sat in the back pew; two people said hello and little more. I could not see a cross anywhere, although there was one projected on the screen later. I noticed no signage, nor did we find the restrooms.

There seemed to be a good age mix to the congregation and enthusiasm for the speaker. Perhaps the couple that came out from behind the curtain had not been there for a while but there was a round of applause when they appeared. The congregation was instructed to share with each other that “the best is yet to come,” and the applause then was for God.

There was a short video before the message “How to prepare yourself for Jesus.” I disagreed with some of the Scripture interpretation and I wasn’t sure of the context of the preparation for Jesus. Certainly there is nothing we can do of our own power to make ourselves acceptable to God.

He related a correlation to Marine Corps One, that the craft is not Marine Corps One until the president is on board. Maybe we all need to strive to be Jesus Christ One. We need Christ in our hearts to be anything.

When we stopped at Walmart later a woman asked if I had served as a Marine and then thanked me for my service…humbling and much appreciated.

It was nice to sing a few praise songs for which I didn’t need to see the words.

Jan’s thoughts:

I read a newspaper article about this new church and was interested, and when I watched the video on their website I thought, “This is a church that ‘gets’ it.”

We walked into the sanctuary where perhaps 20 people were in conversation in various areas and after finding a seat, we sat there. After about 10 minutes a woman came near and said “welcome” and then left. Another 10 minutes or so passed before another woman came by to ask if we were first-time visitors. When we affirmed we were, she asked us to fill out an information card and turn it in and they would mail us a welcome gift. No one else spoke to us.

The chancel was decorated differently than most with black curtains all the way around the front area with two swaths of white that looked like outstretched arms shaking hands.

The person in charge of multimedia for this church is quite talented. Toward the beginning of the service the video from the website was shown, a reminder of the real reason for Easter, along with another about the difference between God’s way and the route humans would wish for.

The music leader/pastor’s wife and several others led the spirited singing. I especially enjoyed “Days of Elijah,” one of my favorites which I’ve not had the chance to sing for some time.

I think the message was called “How to prepare yourself for Jesus,” and was born mostly from the Luke passage.

I agreed with some parts of the message, such as the difference between a believer and a non-believer is the presence of Jesus; that we must listen for His voice and obey His commands; and the importance of repentance, a relationship with Christ, and regular worship attendance; and I wholeheartedly agree there most certainly is a battle going on.

The enthusiastic applause for Christ was refreshing, but I could not buy the concept that Jesus is unable to enter a life that is not properly prepared for Him, that anyone present “has no power because they lack preparation or are not healed because they have not prepared.” As important as it is to listen and obey, the lack of those or any other actions on our part will never prevent Christ from entering a life and heart. I believe it is inaccurate to say He is unable to be part of a person’s life until that person takes certain steps because any time we limit God, we are wrong.

Lastly, I’m unconvinced that anyone who does not know Christ could possibly prepare themselves for the wholesale change that takes place when He enters a person’s heart. (“Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” ~2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV italics mine)

We left when the sermon was over.

Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray the Holy Spirit moves through this whole church. Soften hearts so that everyone may become Jesus Christ One. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Family Bible Church

Today we worshiped at Family Bible Church, 325 Freedom Crider Road, Freedom, PA 15042-0025, 724.774.2276, www.thefamilybiblechurch.org, Pastor Ed Bailey.

 
Scripture: King James Version

John 3:14-16 –
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Romans 8:35-39 –
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 
Bob’s thoughts:

We stopped first to hear a cantata in which our son-in-law was singing and then were led to this church. We were early and a woman greeted us and offered a number of options, including coffee. We opted for a self-guided tour and the coffee.

The Sunday school/social area was bright and cheerful and I noticed a lot of welcoming things about the kitchen area.

Two Marines and a Marine Mom stopped to chat and others introduced themselves before and after the service.

I noticed a cross in a high porthole window and when I turned to chat with one of those welcoming us I saw a large rustic cross on the rear wall. The windows were plain opaque glass with a cobalt blue surrounding strip; overall a warm feeling.

I was pleased there is a lot of emphasis on prayer, updates were given, and a prayer sheet was circulated through the congregation. When it was time to commission the next family going on a mission trip the offer was made for those who wanted to come forward for prayers to come up. I wish I would have realized that I might have been welcome to join them in prayer. I was sorry to have missed the opportunity but prayed for them and the church from the pew. Nevertheless I was happy to see the prayer ministry of this church and to hear of their mission involvement.

There was some Scripture quoted on the bulletin/newsletter handout but I don’t think it was in regard to the service.

The message seemed to be about God’s great love for us. I did miss some of it when there were people talking in the narthex. The pastor had a passion in his preaching and quoted numerous Scriptures.

I had a realization today that church congregations are fed in many ways; coming from a Presbyterian heritage I think I was narrow in my understanding of this. I have known some pastors whose spouses were the ones with the strong ministry, and likewise many who are nurtured by the songs or prayers or other aspects of the worship service. While we might tend to be judgmental and not realize how God can use any part of worship to get His message to believers. Looking back and remembering some of the most Spirit-filled moments I’ve had, they were not in church but happened outside the sanctuary, such as prayers in the parking lot.

 
Jan’s thoughts:

The care and attention showed at this well-kept church tucked back off the main road.

From the time we walked in, numerous people greeted us warmly, including several of Bob’s Marine brothers. It’s always a joy to encounter members of the Marine Corps family. While Bob talked with the men, I had the privilege of chatting with a woman who is the daughter of a Marine as well as the mother of one. I wished we had more time to talk, partly because of our shared Marine family connection, but also because she was one of those people who exuded joy. I have met a few people like that over the years, and their faces are indelibly imprinted in my mind. She is now there also, and I’m very grateful for our conversation.

This church calls themselves a “House of Prayer” and much prayer was accomplished this morning. Mission seems to be another core value, and this morning a fair amount of time was spent praying over a family that will leave this week on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic.

The untitled message was a reminder of God’s love for all His people, not just the saved. It was a call to believe and share God’s love with those who do not know Him, wherever they may be.

The Romans passage that was read is one of my favorites, and every time I hear it I think of Bible teacher Beth Moore’s comment regarding verse 37 about being “more than conquerors.” She says, “How can we be ‘more than conquerors’ unless we have something to conquer?” Remembering this truth has helped me more than a few times, and always makes me smile.

 
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You will continue to guide and encourage this congregation’s mission involvement and that they would always remember the importance of their prayer ministry. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

New Brighton Christian Assembly

Today we worshiped at New Brighton Christian Assembly, 1810 Valley Avenue, New Brighton, PA 15066, 724.846.8820, www.nbcafamily.com, Pastor Sam DeMarco, Senior Pastor.

 
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:1-6
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 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.

 
Bob’s thoughts:

I had clipped an ad for this church from a local paper, and from the yellowing of the paper it was some time ago.

God had prepared for us to be here today and spoke to both of us through the worship service. We arrived with little time to look around. We found the restrooms near the sanctuary but had to get within a few inches to read the door signs due to poor contrast. I noticed the same when it was time to sing as the words were projected in white on a yellow background. I couldn’t find a cross, but there was one projected on the side of the screen. Maybe there is a cross on the stained glass behind the screen.

I was greeted by a Marine coming in and another on the way out, and an usher thanked me for my service. I noticed a veterans’ appreciation board with photos of those actively serving.

We got to speak to two women who had missionary experience in Africa, so Jan was very happy.

There was a time of anointing and healing prayer early, a personal reminder from God that He still plans to use me in this area. I was so thankful that the prayer offered was with conviction of the healing that was occurring.

The sermon, “The Way of the Generous,” was part of a series on generosity. Today’s message was on Paul offering up the example of the Macedonian church’s generous giving while their resources were depleted, how they gave beyond their means and relied on God’s grace.

I thought it a powerful point that when we are stripped of our natural resources is a great place for God. As Marines we were often called to give that 110% and maybe now a realization that the phrase “super-human strength” was more accurate than we knew or wanted to admit. When our need is the greatest, when we are giving from our poverty, is when we leave room for God to bless us.

I was reminded of a story from one of my devotionals this morning about a woman who was in need who gave for a church expense that would keep them from having a worship space. She had been saving to buy a stove but gave the several hundred dollars to the church instead. When they realized that her needs were greater than the church’s, they tried to return it to her. She refused the money she had been saving for years, figuring she could continue to cook on a hot plate but had to have a place where she could worship with her church family.

With all our concerns over money, we are some of the richest people on Earth, but our giving doesn’t reflect it. We were told that with their tithes and offerings, Israel was giving at 25% and we struggle to average 3%.

There has never been anyone who was struggling financially to whom I recommended tithing who came back and complained. Don’t take my word for it, take God’s promise.

I usually have plenty of time during a service to pray for the church and pastor and seldom have trouble taking notes. Today the pastor’s passion and message development held my attention. I am thankful he would let Christ use him to deliver His message.

The singing was loud and boisterous for me, but it did give me time to pray. I look forward to seeing how God will use today’s message in our lives.

 
Jan’s thoughts:

A gentleman held the door open and greeted us as we entered the building and we were greeted warmly by a number of folks.

Several areas held both plusses and minuses…

1 – It was a plus that the restrooms were easily identified and bore beautifully engraved signs indicating which was which, but a minus that the signs were directly on the front of the doors and it was impossible to read the sign unless you stood at a particular angle.

2 – The huge stained glass on the rear chancel wall was a real plus; the minus was that the projection screen was down for the entire service, obscuring a good portion of the beautiful stained glass. But there was a plus to that – the screen was down for the whole service in order to show close-ups of the speakers, which I appreciated since we were in the very back.

3 – The choir exhibited joy and passion, smiling, clapping, and moving to the music, which was very well done. As is often the case though, the volume was almost too much for me and difficult to understand. The words were projected on the screen but the white letters were hard to read on the light-colored background.

During the announcements, visitors in general were greeted and a missionary visiting from South Africa was introduced. After the service we spoke for a minute about Malawi, where she has visited on occasion. It was delightful to exchange zikomo kwambiri (thank you very much) with her!

Toward the beginning of the service the pastor prayed and anointed with oil for physical healing of those self-identifying the need. I was grateful for the opportunity to spend the time praying for someone I know who needs healing. In speaking with the pastor after the service, he detailed how he works in some aspect of a healing ministry at each service.

The message, “The Way of the Generous,” was part 4 of the series entitled “Going Generous!” In past weeks he has spoken on various aspects of living a generous life, and today’s message focused on generosity through finances, although God’s Spirit spoke to me of other generosity-centered facets of life also.

The Scripture stemmed from Paul’s fundraising efforts benefitting the church at Jerusalem. His letter to the Corinthians spoke of the extreme generosity of the Macedonians who, having been stripped of their resources, were very limited. However, according to Paul they gave “beyond their ability” because they relied on God’s grace.

The pastor emphasized several truths of which I needed a reminder: that God wants to glorify Himself in our struggles, that He will show up when we are in limiting circumstances, that when we rely on God’s grace we are a living testimony that allows others to witness His grace. Testimonies are to glorify God and encourage people, and when that voice tells us that something is wrong with that because it draws attention to us instead of to God, that’s a lie from Satan. It’s okay if we don’t know all the details of how something will be worked out…God has them and He has it under control. We can relinquish our anger, our fears, and our past failures and trust Him.

He highlighted tithing as a way of expressing “He is my God” and stated that the average Israelite gave 25% to God each year, and they flourished. The average American gives 2.5%. We need to give our hearts to God and step out in faith.

I am grateful God brought us to this church today because the things I heard spoke to various areas of my family’s and my life right now. We are limited, and we are learning a deeper trust in God in the midst of our limitations. This is one of those seasons in life when all I know that my hope is in Him and Him alone.

 
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray that You open this congregation’s eyes to the blessings You are holding for a faithful congregation. May they bring the whole tithe to Your store room. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bradford Woods Community Church

Today we worshiped at Bradford Woods Community Church, 4836 Wexford Run Road, Bradford Woods, PA 15015, 724.935.3135, www.bradfordwoodschurch.org, Rev. Ed Cadwallader, Pastor.

 
Scripture: John 4:5-42 –
So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you – I am he.”

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the own and made their way toward him.

Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”

But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.

They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

 
Bob’s thoughts:

We came a little early to this small, white, wooden chapel-looking church.

The signage was good and restrooms were well marked; we had only minor difficulty finding the sanctuary. With probably fewer than 50 worshipers I thought we would stand out, but we were virtually ignored until after the service.

We are unusual first-time visitors, not there just to worship but to record our experience, so I think we are less affected by the environment. But I can’t help but think that a visitor who is seeking a church home could be put off by what might be seen as an unfriendly church. I would think it could influence the whole worship. Would perceived unfriendliness taint the sermon or your singing?

Just as profound were two women who spoke to us after the service. Their warm invitation to come downstairs for snacks was genuine.

I think I anticipated warmth from the quaint small country chapel aesthetics.

I was happy to find more than one cross and pleased to receive Communion, albeit silently.

I liked the title of the message: “Walking With Jesus When Your Heart is Dehydrated.” The sermon revolved around the story of the Samaritan woman at the well from John 4. The pastor offered insight on the woman as Christ revealed Himself for the first time as the Messiah.

I had a hard time hearing any singing and fortunately there was a couple from the choir singing from the first pew so I could tell when to sing.

 
Jan’s thoughts:

More often than not the signage is almost non-existent at small churches where everyone knows everyone else because “everyone knows where the restroom is,” so I was impressed at the extent of the signage.

We were not greeted until after the service when several folks extended invitations to join them downstairs for coffee and treats.

The interestingly designed sanctuary boasted great indirect lighting. I enjoyed watching the choir: a mom and dad both sang with this small group, and it was heartwarming to watch dad – the only male voice in the choir – singing while holding a little one who was maybe 18 months old. So sweet.

I found the title of the message intriguing: “Walking With Jesus When Your Heart is Dehydrated” and it was reason enough to come here. He began by referring to the gravestone of a woman who, if what was written was true, had “died as she had lived – alone.” He pointed out how the Samaritan woman at the well dropped her mask and stopped pretending in her conversation with Jesus, and He in turn was honest with her about Who He was. As chancy as it was for her to be honest with Him, she took the risk and was rewarded with a truth far beyond anything she could have imagined or hoped for. The pastor declared that the masks we wear are a result of “lies the darkness gives us” and he urged people to remove the masks, take the risk, and ask for the Living Water.

I enjoyed the pastor’s unusual preaching style and I deeply appreciated the encouragement to be real, open, and honest. The world says we need our masks to protect us and enable us to function in the world, but I’ve come to believe masks actually separate us from others and prevent us from having the very relationships that give life meaning. The reward far far outweighs the risk.

 
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray Your blessing on this church. Guide them as they grow and open their eyes to Your call. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.