Sunday, May 24, 2015
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 – Acts 2:1-13
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
It was nice to get back to Southminster where we knew Pentecost would be celebrated. We have attended Pentecost services in years past where we were the only two people in church wearing red and no one knew why we did.
When the pastor commented that by next week’s worship service the scaffolding would be removed, I was embarrassed to admit that I never noticed it, even though it was on both sides of the sanctuary, but behind me. I came in and never looked in that direction.
The sermon started out about languages, where the Holy Spirit came upon the followers who began to speak in different tongues. This brought to mind an embarrassing experience in Vietnam. I was explaining to a housemaid with exaggerated motions and a sarcastic attitude that I wanted a button sewn on, handing it off to her with instructions, “Just like this.” She had a great time bringing me down when she showed me I had sewn the front of the shirt to the back.
God used this experience to prepare me when, a few months later we were forcing our good intentions on an orphanage and being “ugly Americans.” I was able to use my limited communication skills to convince the head maintenance person that, with his guidance our help would work.
Scripture talks of the coming of the Holy Spirit sounding like a tornado. I have been through a tornado, a hurricane, and a typhoon, but it is still hard to imagine that noise indoors.
I thought the choir was lacking some of their usual enthusiasm until they presented the offertory and the praise was on their lips and faces. The stringed bass was a true asset.
I have never experienced many greetings at Southminster, but today my Marine service was acknowledged at the door and in the pew and, along with other veterans, I was thanked at the end of the service. Though we are only welcomed by a few, it has always felt very genuine.
We chose to visit this church today because we wanted to worship where Pentecost would be recognized and celebrated.
We arrived with minutes to spare, but we’ve been here numerous times so did not need to look around. Nevertheless we were greeted by a friend with whom we ended up sitting, which is always nice.
The bulletin was perfect for this Pentecost with all the headings printed in red. Quite lovely!
It was a joy to hear a string bass accompanying the choir. I was surprised at the effect of a single deep-sounding instrument.
The Prayer of Confession is missing in many churches, and the first line in the confession today was: Almighty and ever gracious God, we confess that we have failed to open our hearts to the power of Your Spirit. For me, that is what today was about…I need to open my heart to the power of the Holy Spirit much more than I have in the past.
The sermon was entitled “PENTECOST…something positive…” He spoke of the amazing tongues of fire and everyone hearing speech in their own language, and made three positive points: 1 – something positive has come into the world…God came with a voice everyone could hear and understand; 2 – something positive is expected of the people of God…many positive things are being accomplished through the generosity of this congregation; 3 – something positive is expected of us individually…and the most effective way to accomplish good for the Kingdom of God is one person at a time.
It’s true: our God specializes in using the little we have to offer to bring about great things.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You will inspire this church to continue to support the missions they do and send their people out in Your name. Amen.
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Today we worshiped at The Church of the Redeemed of Beaver Valley, Senior Citizen Center in the Beaver Valley Mall, Monaca, PA, www.thechurchoftheredeemed-bv.org, Evangelist/Pastor David Grove.
Scripture – Matthew 25:34-46 KJV
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
We were welcomed at the door by both pastors and the wife of one.
The church is blessed to meet in the Senior Citizen Center space in Beaver Valley Mall. Many churches don’t realize what a burden it can be to own a building.
The sermon dealt a lot with other churches being nonjudgmental, the “no offense” (i.e., no Christ) Bible, and one I experienced first-hand with the military chaplaincy not mentioning Christ.
When our son was killed I composed a eulogy, and when it was time to deliver it I threw it away and went with what God led me to say. The next week we were invited to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina for the Marine Corps’ memorial service for Dan, and again I tossed my prepared words in favor of what I had from God. Both times I preached Jesus Christ while the chaplains offered internet stories. My son’s comrades in arms would soon go into battle…they needed to hear Jesus Christ. The pastor shared a little of when his son was killed and I don’t know how either of us could survive without Christ.
I liked the small wooden cross with a dove carved out of the middle, and I appreciated a line from the last song, “He knew me yet He loved me.” Thanks be to God.
This church meets in the Senior Citizen Center in Beaver Valley Mall and has been on our list for a while. Today our plans changed at the last minute and we thought we simply chose to visit here.
We were made to feel welcome by the associate pastor and the pastor and his wife.
The space was nicely decorated with purple walls and hardwood floor. The chairs were comfortable and the volume just fine.
The untitled message was presented after several songs. He opened with the reflection that one of the songs reminded him of the passing of his son, which surely caught my attention and which we discussed at length following worship.
The preaching centered on how those without Jesus are hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, and in prison and how Christ, as the Living Water, is the only satisfaction for every need and whose blood is the only remedy for sin.
In the closing prayer I treasured the appeal for the gift of “holy boldness.”
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray You open the eyes of this church to how best to minister to those walking by in the mall. Amen.
Sunday, May 10, 2015
Today we worshiped at Covenant Community Presbyterian Church in America, 5157 Wexford Run Road, Wexford, PA 15090, 724.934.1234, www.covcommunity.org, Pastor Jon Price.
Scripture – 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:5 ESV
But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.
Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.
We arrived just as the service was starting so there was no greeting but a number of people came by during the welcome time early in the service.
It has been three years since we were led here but I was sure there was a cross in the sanctuary. The church has three large crosses viewable from Interstate 79, but I couldn’t find one inside.
In addition to the monitor in front there are two part way back, making it easy to see.
There were lots of young children, so I was happy.
There are a number of Latino people worshiping here, consequently the Order of Worship is in both English and Spanish, one song was sung entirely in Spanish, and personal translating devices for those desiring them. I don’t know if the announcements and such are translated elsewhere.
I heard talk from the rear of the sanctuary and admit it took a while to realize it stopped when the speaker did. The translator spoke softly and discretely but it caused me to reflect a bit. How comfortable would we be if the roles were reversed and we needed to have the service translated to English? Would we recognize the Christian love in this endeavor?
The worship music was upbeat but the congregation was less animated than I expected. I enjoyed the female lead voice and wish I could have heard a solo.
The sermon had a good Scriptural base and interesting assessment by Paul from Thessalonians: those whom you can’t imagine loving, because of the Gospel, Paul loved them. Do we have that same heart from Christ?
Another one I liked: “Act as if you love your neighbor and you will change.”
There seem to be many changes in the three years since our last visit to this church. We arrived just as worship started but a number of people took the time to greet us nonetheless.
Immediately inside the door is a welcoming space with coffee and cookies.
Due to some flags decorating the ceiling, from where we sat I was unable to see the TV screens in front, so I was grateful for the screens halfway back which I could see perfectly. Also, it’s great when the words to the songs are displayed on the screens…it’s done nearly everywhere nowadays. But a pet peeve of mine is when the changes are late and part of the first line is lost to those who do not know the song. In this church though, the timing was absolutely perfect. I noticed that the change was made at the third from the last word, and no part of the song was missed. It’s amazing how something so seemingly insignificant can help one participate more fully even when the song is new to me.
It was a joy to look around at so many children.
One exciting change is that the worship service is bilingual. I think this is the first such service I’ve attended, and I believe this is a truly great thing.
The message, entitled “A Gospel Heart,” emphasized God’s gift of love for others in the hearts of believers. The bottom line is that sacrificial action is essential.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, open our hearts to people who are different and help us welcome all in Christ’s love. Amen.
Sunday, May 3, 2015
Today we worshiped at Beaver Valley Wesleyan Methodist Church, 2282 Constitution Blvd., Beaver Falls, PA 15010, 724.843.6625, www.beavervalleywmc.org, Pastor Dan Hardy.
Scripture – NIV
2 Timothy 3:16-17 –
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.
Isaiah 55:10-11 –
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Romans 10:17 –
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
I noticed something in the paper about a road clean-up that ended at this church and didn’t realize till we arrived that it was a church we had driven by many times and considered visiting. We were greeted at the door by the pastor.
We arrived as Sunday School in the sanctuary was winding down to an almost seamless move into worship.
I enjoyed the large wooden cross on the front wall of the sanctuary. When it came time to pray and most of the congregation knelt facing the rear of the church I wondered if there shouldn’t be another cross on the rear wall.
The music was mostly the pastor’s fine voice.
The message was given by a man from The Gideons International. I have heard only a few presentations from them but I must have been paying attention as I remembered some of the testimonies given. He opened with some astronomical figures as to the size of the universe and like most, I question where these guesses come from.
I too believe every word of the Bible is God-given and have an easier time accepting the creation story given there.
Bob found mention of this church in the caption of a newspaper photo this week, so today we went. As we walked in the front door a gentleman greeted us warmly and introduced himself as the pastor. The adult Sunday School class was in process in the sanctuary so we opted to wait until it was over to find a seat.
I noticed no signage, but once we entered the back of the sanctuary there was a hallway and restrooms. I don’t think there was much more to the building.
Most greetings took the form of smiles and brief hellos.
The only evidence of musical instruments was a keyboard, and the pastor led the singing with his strong voice.
The message was given by a member of The Gideons, and I learned some things about their organization and work. I knew they were responsible for the Bibles found in hotel rooms, but was not aware they operate in many countries where missionaries are prohibited. They have distributed more than 2 billion Bibles and New Testaments.
The gentleman who spoke conveyed testimonies of bringing people to Christ through simple conversations guided by God and graciously used for His purposes.
It was an informative and uplifting message and I was glad we were there.
After worship we enjoyed a conversation with the pastor and learned he and his family will soon be moving and in another month or so another pastor will shepherd this flock. My sense is that he will be missed greatly.
Our prayer for this church:
Lord, You know the apprehension this church feels about the changes You are making there. We know they are in Your infinite care and thank You for giving them this opportunity to grow. Amen.