Sunday, January 25, 2015
Today we worshiped at Zelienople Church of Christ, 112 Mennonite Lane, Harmony, PA 16066, 724.816.2035, www.zeliechurch.com, Pastor Reid Moon.
Scripture – NIV
You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
The Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the Lord what the people had said.
And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death. They are to be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on them. No person or animal shall be permitted to live.’ Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they approach the mountain.”
On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.
This has been an interesting Sunday. We chose (or were led to) a church in Harmony. We had wanted to worship here to facilitate meeting up with one of our daughters and grandchildren in Zelienople to share lunch.
The church building is small but the church has a large heart. Signage was virtually non-existent but we entered directly into the sanctuary, which has a low enough ceiling that the ceiling fans would be effective.
I did find a cross on a wall banner and the Communion serving trays. The service has a lot of music and no instruments are used, though I’m not sure why.
It was a joy to hear a baby somewhere in the sanctuary that tried to sing along with each selection.
My uncontrollable cough came back and someone slipped out to get me a bottle of water…a sign of a healthy church.
The sermon was about the difference between God’s inaccessibility during Moses’ time when sinful people could not be near to God and now, following Christ’s death for our sins, God does not see our sinful selves, but our Savior. There was some insight into Christ’s Crucifixion: we get caught up in believing there is something more we need to do to earn our salvation. It brought to mind something I read from Max Lucado in this morning’s devotions: Christ’s payment was so complete that He used a banking term when He said “It is finished” (John 19:30)…“tetelestai” (the final payment, the ultimate payment). We don’t earn grace and we can add nothing.
We were warmly greeted and got to talk to some members after the service. A highlight was a boy who asked if he could pass out the bulletins and then went and welcomed everyone as he gave them.
After a pleasant lunch with family where I was blessed with a gracious server, we stopped for a few things at Shop & Save. When the woman at the checkout asked how I was, I told her honestly that I was overwhelmingly blessed. I was telling her how I felt I missed an opportunity earlier in the week to pay for the groceries of the woman ahead of me when a clerk ran up with $20 from the woman who had been ahead of me checking out. The woman asked to put that toward my bill and abruptly left the store. As much as I appreciated it, the clerk’s reaction was priceless. “You just told me you were overwhelmingly blessed and this woman pays for your order.”
What an awesome God we serve.
Within moments after we entered we were greeted and engaged in friendly conversation with the pastor and several others. This was followed by greetings from still other members and an invitation to join the chili cook-off following worship.
A friendly youth gave us each a bulletin and verbally welcomed us to the church.
As the pastor had mentioned, there was plenty of singing but no instruments of any kind. However there surely was beautiful music praising God.
Celebration of Communion every week is unusual in my experience, but this church does so. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to partake.
Early in the service one of the members who had greeted us handed me a notebook. He referred to it as a Prayer Journal and invited us to write any prayer requests we might have. The journal was then passed around the rest of the congregation and used by the pastor as the basis for the morning Praise and Prayer time. Since we are perpetual visitors, we seldom participate in this part of the service and I felt blessed to be included.
The sermon was titled “Angels in Joyful Assembly” and was a study of the contrast between the unapproachability of God at Mt. Sinai and His mercy at Mt. Zion.
I found the subject fascinating and plan to read more of the Scripture; I also enjoyed his fervent, authentic style of preaching.
Partway into the sermon Bob had a coughing spell and one of the gentlemen left for a moment and brought him a bottle of water. This is the kind of thoughtful hospitality that makes an impact.
Our prayer for this church:
Father, we pray You continue to bless this congregation and let them share their joy in serving You. Amen.
Sunday, January 18, 2015
Today we worshiped at Victory Family Church, 21150 Route 19, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.453.6200, www.lifeatvictory.com, John & Michelle Nuzzo, Senior Pastor.
Scripture – 1 Timothy 4:8 NKJV
For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.
We were a few minutes late after getting our grandchildren off to the nursery, so rather than look for seats on the main floor in the dark we headed up into the tiers. I quickly learned the spacious leg room on the ground floor wasn’t there in the stadium seating as my knees hurt so badly I had to leave. The volume was better up there, but the roving spotlights really got me.
The service is on numerous monitors outside the sanctuary where there is comfortable seating, so I got to listen to most of the message out there. I was grateful for what I could hear of it: there was more innovation than I’ve heard for years. The plan he outlined is not only a great way to build up future leaders in the church but to minister to and build up other churches. I have listened to the unspoken competition between churches for so long that I found this exceedingly refreshing.
We have worshiped at Victory before; it is a huge church with services on Saturdays, Sundays, and one Wednesday per month, and today we came to worship with our birthday girl daughter and grandtwins.
The sheer number of volunteers is astounding, as they are everywhere in every conceivable capacity from parking lot attendants to greeters who open the door for you to the information centers, child care, and café service. And I’m sure that is the tip of the iceberg and there are far too many others to list even if I knew them.
Some folks smiled and/or offered a “Good morning,” which is a lot for a church this size. I felt like a visitor but not an invisible one.
Since the service was barely underway when we entered the Sanctuary we ended up sitting in the second tier, somewhere new for us.
The stage featured a full praise band along with a group of vocalists and thus plenty of volume. I enjoyed that each of the three opening songs was led by a different vocalist.
The message, “Your Fit,” was part 4 of the series “The Next Chapter,” referring to the next chapter of life. He started by listing three reasons we end up not finding where we fit in the Body of Christ: 1 – we become critical, and instead of doing something to help we will stand back and criticize; 2 – misplaced priorities and focusing on what the world tells us is important instead of focusing on God; and 3 – condemnation for actual or perceived sin. He specifically – and I thought gently – mentioned abortion, and prayed for anyone present whose life had been touched by it and pointed out that when we accept Christ, God throws our sins into the Sea of Forgetfulness and then puts up a ‘no fishing’ sign. I liked that, as it’s something I tend to do, give it to God and then take it back. The thought of a ‘no fishing’ sign is a helpful mind picture.
His closing reminder was, “our yesterdays do not define us,” and his final recommendation was to “give your life away.” I found both inspiring.
He ended the service with an altar call, which I always find exciting.
I appreciate this pastor’s down-to-earth, forthright preaching style. He is practical and honest; it’s almost more like a conversation.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray this church takes to heart these initiatives You have given them. May they truly be a beacon on the hill. Amen.