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Pick your disaster, seems like there are plenty to go around. Weather and flooding in the US midwest and south. The aftermath of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique. What do they have in common? UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee On Relief, is responding with support, money, supplies and volunteers. You and I can help. While we may not be trained in disaster response, we can support the work of UMCOR with our financial gifts. For many of us, online donations may be the quickest and most efficient way to give to UMCOR’s work.
To make an online donation, go to www.umcor.org and click on the red DONATE button. I suggest you choose from one of three giving options:
- U.S. Disaster Response – Funds donated here will go to help victims of disasters here in the U.S.
- International Disaster Response – Funds donated here go to help disaster victims overseas, including Mozambique.
- Donate – This option allows UMCOR to use your donation as it deems most helpful.
One reminder about donating to UMCOR. 100% of your gift to UMCOR goes to disaster relief. Period. Every penny. UMCOR itself is organized and supported by the United Methodist Church, which pays for operations, infrastructure, employees, and so on. This means your financial donations can go directly to those who need help, and not to pay for someone’s salary.
The results of our United Methodist special called General Conference are in. From Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis, more than 800 delegates from across the globe met, prayed, did their best to discern God’s will for our church, voted, and went home. At the end of the day, by about a 53-47% majority, delegates chose to adopt the Traditional Plan option, despite heated disagreement from many representatives. Frankly, time ran out before the work of the General Conference was completed.
In general, the existing policy of the United Methodist Church remains the same, although the Traditional Plan seeks to strengthen enforcement of the rules found in our Book of Discipline. It remains to be seen how much of the Traditional Plan will be deemed to be constitutional when our Judicial Council meets in April.
General Conference also adopted at least one “gracious exit” plan, that would make it easier for churches to leave the denomination if they do not agree with the teachings of the United Methodist Church. There are constitutional issues here, too.
Many persons are hurting because they believe they have been excluded from full inclusion in the life and ministry of our church. We need to pray for them, and for our church in general. We need to remember that we believe that ALL persons are of sacred worth.
Other people are angry because they wanted and expected our church to change its policies on the subject of human sexuality. We need to pray for them, and we need to pray for those against whom great anger and frustration was directed during the General Conference.
Still others believe that our General Conference did not do enough to enforce Biblical teaching. We need to pray for them, and help them reach an understanding of what has transpired.
Everyone in our church needs prayer. We need to pray for and care for and lift up our brothers and sisters in Christ, most especially those with whom we may not always agree. We need to pray for our own continued discernment of God’s will.
Friends, it seems likely that much of this will continue at our regular quadrennial General Conference in 2020. Please pray, and keep praying as we go to this year’s Annual Conferences and select delegates who will represent us in 2020.
Now to the point of this post. I also think we need to consider the possibility, that despite all the noise, anger, frustration, recriminations, finger-pointing and so on, maybe God WAS speaking. Are we listening?
Since the 1968 merger*, our United Methodist Church has wrestled with the issue of homosexuality. Our current Book of Discipline (our United Methodist “rule book”) emphasizes inclusiveness:
“The United Methodist Church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth. All persons without regard to race, color, national origin, status, or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, upon baptism be admitted as baptized members, and upon taking vows declaring the Christian faith, become professing members in any local church in the connection.”
In short, as described above, we welcome anyone to become a member of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church. Period.
However, the Book of Discipline also states that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, and therefore forbids self-avowed, practicing homosexuals from being ordained as ministers; it also prohibits our ministers from officiating same-sex marriages, and forbids same-sex weddings in our churches. This has led to a vast disagreement within our denomination.
In 2016 our General Conference and Council of Bishops formed a Commission on a Way Forward in order to address this issue. In 2018 the Commission issued a report that included 3 possible plans for moving forward. There will be a special called General Conference from Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis, dedicated to dealing with the Commission’s report. [Note: This is a gross oversimplification.]
I join our bishops in asking all of our members and friends to pray daily from 2:23 – 2:26 PM for God’s guidance and direction at the General Conference, and for all of the 864 delegates who come from United Methodist churches around the world.
*In 1968 the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church merged to form the United Methodist Church.
Merry Christmas! I wish you and yours a very happy and safe holiday season. Please join us at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church for our annual Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, on Monday evening, December 24 at 7:00 PM. Our Chrismon Tree is decorated and ready for a thrilling night of Christmas carols, reliving the story of that first Christmas so long ago, and a special musical surprise. Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without singing “Silent Night” in the soft glow of candlelight!
Our Christmas Eve offering this year will go to the Heating Assistance Program of Solanco Neighborhood Ministries. In the last year, this important ministry has provided heating assistance for 43 families in our neighborhood, and we want them to be able to continue to make sure people are safe and warm this winter.
It’s been a big year for all of us: Your church has a new pastor as I begin my first assignment, following Pastor Cheryl’s retirement after 14 years of service. The people of Mt. Zion have been most gracious and welcoming. My wife and I really appreciate the wonderful Christmas cards from so many of you.
For those who have not met me yet, here’s some biographical background. As a Certified Lay Minister in the United Methodist Church, I have been through several years of preparation and training, including classes in preaching and church administration. Lay ministry is my third career; in previous careers I was a radio and TV announcer, and then moved into computer networking before retirement. My wife Sue and I are active members of Covenant UMC in Lancaster; we live in Lancaster, and have 2 children and 4 grandchildren.
My personal goal for 2019 is that we as a church live up to the shared mission of the United Methodist Church, “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” We continue to join together in worship Sunday mornings at 11:00, with Holy Communion on the first Sunday of each month. Don’t miss our weekly Bible/Book Study at 10:00 Sunday morning! In addition to our active United Methodist Women’s group, we’re working with the SOULanco Mission ConneXion churches to develop a new men’s ministry; look for more details soon. We plan to have our cabin at Rawlinsville Camp Meeting open this year, too.
Please check our church website, at www.pbmtzionumc.org. We have a new social media presence, too. Be sure to Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pbmtzionumc, and you can follow us on Twitter at PBMtZionUMC, or tag @pb_umc. You can always contact me by way of my email address listed below.
We wish you a Merry Christmas, and a happy and successful new year!
Pastor Roger Kresge
717-548-2821 (Answering machine)
Happy New Year!
The season of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, begins the new liturgical (church) year. Advent is a time of preparation. Yes, we do all kinds of Christmas shopping, but this year I pray that we’re preparing room in our hearts so we can celebrate the joy of Jesus’ birth more than 2000 years ago.
Our Mt. Zion UMC family wants to welcome you as we prepare.
Sunday Morning Advent Worship
Each week during Advent we’ll light another candle on the Advent wreath. The four purple candles celebrate the four virtues Jesus brings us: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. Our Advent celebration includes special Bible readings and hymns of preparation. The four Sundays in Advent are:
December 2 (Holy Communion) December 9 December 16
- December 23
Christmas Eve (December 24)
More tradition! We’ll gather at 7:00 PM for our annual Christmas Candlelight worship, featuring loads of Christmas carols, lighting of the Christ Candle, a message of celebration from Pastor Roger called “Now Arriving…”, and the heart-warming joy of singing Silent Night in the glow of candlelight.
First Sunday After Christmas (December 30)
Yes, we still gather to worship even though the Christmas presents have all been opened. There’s more to the Christmas story than just the baby in a manger. We’ll continue our “Prepare the Way” sermon series with a message titled, “Search”. Mary and Joseph search for their lost child, Jesus. Jesus is on a search for answers; he is developing into adulthood, and—above all— discovering his mission as Son of God.
Epiphany Sunday (January 6)
It’s the first Sunday of the new calendar year, and it’s Epiphany Sunday. Epiphany means a “sudden and profound understanding of something.” In our case, let’s find Jesus! Since it’s also the first Sunday of the month, we’ll celebrate Holy Communion together.
December/January Sermon Series:
Pastor Roger is planning a sermon series titled “Prepare the Way” beginning in Advent (Dec. 2), continuing through Christmas Eve, and wrapping up (get it?) on Epiphany Sunday, January 6. It’s based on Jesus’ words in Luke 21:28, “When all of this starts happening, stand up straight and be brave. You will soon be set free.”
- December 2: “Stand”
- December 9: “Refine”
- December 16: “Do”
- December 23: “Welcome”
- Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve): “Arrive”
- December 30: “Search”
- January 6 (Epiphany Sunday): “Find”
In Revelation 21:3, the voice from the throne shouted, “God’s home is now with his people. He will live with them, and they will be his own.” (CEV) God dwells with and in his people. In our November sermons we’ll learn more about what that means to us:
- November 4 – “Hope”. On All Saints Sunday we usually focus on the saints who have gone on to their reward. The theme of the message for this day is Revelation 21:5, which says, “I am making everything new.”
- November 11 – “Victory”. What difference does and could Jesus make in the division and brokenness in our country today? What about the power of the Good News? The theme for this day is Hebrews 9:12, which says, “Christ went once for all into the most holy place and freed us from sin forever.”
- November 18 – “Confidence”. Even though we are all sinners, and fall short perfection, we can be confident of God’s love, grace and forgiveness. The theme for today is Hebrews 10:19, which says, “The blood of Jesus gives us courage to enter the most holy place.”
- November 25 – “Love”. The final week of the series is based on Revelation 1:5, which says, “Christ loves us, and by his blood he set us free from our sins.” This week is also Christ the King Sunday, the final Sunday in the church year that begins in Advent. We’ll celebrate our preparation for Advent with the annual Hanging of the Greens service, too.
We look forward to seeing you. And remember to bring a friend!
– Pastor Roger
During August we’re doing a sermon series on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Check out the titles:
- August 5: Build one another up in love (Ephesians 4:1-16)
- August 12: Live in love (Ephesians 4:25-5:2)
- August 19: Give thanks in love (Ephesians 5:15-20)
- August 26: Move in love (Ephesians 6:10-20)
You’ll find that the first 3 chapters of Ephesians are pretty much a theological statement, covering what we believe as Christ-followers. Then, in chapter 4, Paul gets down to brass tacks with specific advice and direction. In many Bible translations, the first word of chapter 4 is “Therefore”. Paul is saying, because we believe in Jesus, then we should be responding in this way.
My personal favorite may be coming up on August 26, as we cover Paul’s command to “put on the full armor of God”. And since it’s back-to-school time for our kids, we’ll have a Blessing of the Backpacks that day.
I’ll post various thoughts and ramblings here, as the Spirit moves me and as I have time. You’re welcome to respond/reply, too.