Pastor's Page


Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors

posted Jan 27, 2019, 12:53 PM by Bowmansville UMC   [ updated Jan 27, 2019, 12:55 PM ]

The foundation of The United Methodist Church has always been to follow God’s call of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.      We as United Methodists have this Slogan……..Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.  Since 2001, our brand promise, “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.” has been featured on billboards, television ads, and computer banners promoting The United Methodist Church.   The word open describes the state of our hearts, minds, and doors.   Sometimes we put it this way, “Our hearts, our minds, and our doors are always open.”  It is a symbol of welcome.      

Does the Bowmansville congregation remember that beginning in 2009, United Methodists were encouraged to “rethink church” as more than our Sunday gatherings. I remember it in the other churches I served.    I think that we need to RE-start the talk about how “church can happen anywhere,” because we are the church wherever we gather to worship God and love and serve others.       

REAL church does not only happen on a Sunday, REAL church happens when we in the spirit of Love thy neighbor, help and reach out to our brothers/sisters/neighbors.....and who is our brother/sister/neighbor, EVERYONE we meet each and every day. Matthew 12:50 "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”      

As this denomination goes through earthly changes, the Holy Spirit of God is still working with people here in Bowmansville UMC.....and around the corner and throughout the whole world as well. What the United Methodist church decides....or changes....or NOT changes, we need to be Christians and resemble Jesus as people see us, not our physical form, but our Spiritual form in how we meet people. Luke 10: 27 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your (your entire) mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself."     

Folks, there is no greater tool than prayer, and I ask each you in this congregation to pray each day for spiritual strength for each other, for our local church, and our United Methodist Church out in the whole world.      Pray for the wisdom which is found in Love your neighbor as yourself. Ask yourself what would Jesus do?      How about maybe “fast” and pray!.....give something up….not just meaning food, take a time to “fast” from TV, or something “worldly”, and get into the scriptures….into HIS Word…..Hear what Jesus has to say!                            And PRAY……. Pastor Jim 


Epiphany in January

posted Dec 30, 2018, 2:55 PM by Bowmansville UMC

Epiphany means manifestation. This festival comes after Christmas and following the "Twelve Days of Christmas" to celebrate the manifestation of Christ to the world as Lord. Advent, Christmas and Epiphany are the first three events in the church year to celebrate the life of Jesus Christ, the center of the faith of the Church.

In its biblical definition, the word manifestation is closer to the word revelation.  However, the word revelation can be understood in a general sense.

According to the Psalmist, God reveals God’s self in God’s creation: "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars, which you have set in place, what is humankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" (Psalm 8:3-4)

Although God reveals himself in and through the wonders of God’s creation, this general revelation does not provide humankind with a personal relationship with God, the Creator.

A veil of the original sin prevents humans to personally know God and to enjoy a relationship that only God can provide when we have faith in his Son Jesus Christ.

Fortunately God, who is love, did not want to leave the creatures God had made in God’s image away from God’s presence forever. "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of children." (Galatians 4.4).

When the time, Kairos, (Gods time) came to fulfill the promise according to the plan of God, the Word became flesh like us (Mark 1:15).

The Word of God came to rescue us all, we who couldn't rescue ourselves from the bondage of sin: Jews and Gentiles, men and women, rich and poor, privileged and marginalized. 

This is the Good News!  This is the joy and peace God brings to our broken world, to all generations of humankind. God reveals and manifests himself in a new, personal and redemptive relationship with sinners!

In the early centuries AD, and before the celebration of Christmas, Epiphany was a celebration of both the birth and the baptism of Jesus. In some Christian traditions, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, for instance, the celebration of Epiphany is still associated with the celebration of the baptism of Jesus, as recognition of God’s manifestation to humanity as the Son of God. (Mark 1:9-11) This I have seen in my travels to Israel this last January 10-19th 2018.

To recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God is to recognize Jesus as Lord (Acts 2:36) and as the King of kings and the Lord of lords (Revelation 9:16).

In fact, to celebrate Epiphany should remind us of our own baptism, the initiation we have received to publicly identify ourselves with Jesus Christ, with his death and resurrection.

With God’s Blessings to your understanding,

Pastor Jim


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Christmas offers us the gift of entering into this New Year with the fresh reminder of God's presence with us and a renewed awareness of our call to be shaped by that awareness.

It takes intentional choices—the choice to pause, the choice to pray, the choice to worship, the choice to serve others—for us to allow ourselves to be shaped by Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Our U.N.Y. conference and all UMC conferences will be in intentional prayer seeking God's guidance for the year ahead and especially for the next two months for the Special Session of General Conference in February 23-26 2019.

I will be setting up a "prayer wheel" schedule and I ask you to sign up to pray for all of those in Special Session through the four days in 1/2 hour increments. 

I also plan on being in church here praying during those day time hours of conference.

All the Methodist conferences around the world will take part in intentional prayer together.

The aim of Praying Our Way Forward is "to ask and listen for God's leadership at this critical time in the life of our church and to encourage individuals to join the initiative by praying daily and fasting weekly for our church, mission, and future.”

As our denomination continues to disagree on human sexuality and especially the role of LGBTQA persons in the church, this prayer week invites us to recognize God's presence with us all even in the midst of disagreement and to listen for God's guidance on how to move forward with love.

I ask you to carve out time to be in prayer for our church from December 31 to January 6 this session of Epiphany in 2019, and throughout this time till Easter.

We have the opportunity to live with the awareness of God with us; we have the opportunity to testify to love.

Let us all pray as a faithful Christian in the name of Jesus Christ, opening ourselves and our denomination up to be shaped and reshaped by God's love that is real and alive for all people.

We trust that God is with us as we walk the path ahead.

God knows what is ahead for us here in Bowmansville, and in the world as Christians, put your prayers and faith in Him. As John Wesley said, “We are all working towards Christian Perfection in the name of the Lord thy God”.

Folks we are all a work in progress, in His name, Pray! Pastor Jim



A Christmas Message.....Yes, it NEVER gets "old"!

posted Dec 1, 2018, 4:33 PM by Bowmansville UMC   [ updated Dec 1, 2018, 4:44 PM ]


Well the Christmas calendar season is upon us all; YES it is alright to say Merry Christmas this season of the year and actually all seasons of the year. (Though you might get a few weird stares)  For you see it is a season of HOPE, LOVE, JOY, PEACE throughout the whole year if we keep these things in our hearts and live them every day!

Jesus the Christ was born into this world to become the sacrificial (sin) lamb once and for all in this world to come!  Not one of us can ever in our wildest dreams do enough good works to our fellow earthlings (fellow man) that will ever come close to what Jesus bore on that Roman cross approximately 33 years later after that Christmas birth. For by works you are not saved!
Faith + works do not equal salvation.  Faith + nothing equal salvation PLUS “works” is the response for the simple love of God/Jesus my Savior.  The Holy Spirit nudges us to do good works for our fellow human beings all year long.

Jesus came into the world by a natural birth through Mary a young Hebrew Jewish girl who was favored by God as it was fore-told to her by Gabriel the messenger angel.
Born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, that he was, but He was born with all the earthly sounds & pains of birth that was described in Genesis 3:16 that God proclaimed to Eve.

In death on that Roman cross he also died feeling all the torment and agony of an earthly body.
But it is with anticipation of JOY we celebrate the Advent season and the Christ “mas” season throughout the year, acknowledging our Savior Jesus who was sent to this world for US here on Earth, for God so loved us, His creation so much more than any human being can ever realize, that we as human beings in our sinful nature, can we ever fully comprehend it.

So during this Advent and Christmastide season I ask all the world to take on the LOVE of CHRIST, our redeemer who paid the whole price for our SIN, past, present, and future.  Remember that JOY stands for Jesus (first), Others (second), Yourselves (third), so if we always put Jesus first, everything else falls into perspective.  For if we all take on the LOVE of CHRIST (JOY), I think that this world would be a far better place to live!
Pastor Jim


Happy Fall Season 2018, my Friends!

posted Oct 24, 2018, 7:06 PM by Bowmansville UMC

The season of hoodies, sweaters, bonfires, falling leaves, a rainfall or two, and changing colors is already upon us.  With the changing season comes the reminder that God is still ordering this wonderful world in which we live here in Bowmansville NY and the area around us.

We are fast approaching a new season of ministry. Advent is coming in December, a new church calendar year, and mission opportunities abound for us all, both young and old…..yes even if YOU are 90 years young…..

Our church is also asked to embark on a new (but not old) theme of Discipleship making.  This means not necessarily filling our pews, but of making Disciples of Jesus Christ to go out into the world. We have been blessed this year with visitations in our church, of both young and not so young, but as a faithful congregation in the name of Jesus Christ we welcome them all.  After all, we have a Mission Statement.... “The Bowmansville United Methodist Church will make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” (That doesn’t mean a continent away….just a block or two away…)

Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist church has a theme of “Seeing All the People”, and that doesn’t just mean many races or the color of their skin, but ALL God’s children of any Age or Dialect! We need to be reaching out to all we see in our daily lives, even if that just means going to the supermarket, and maybe helping a stranger.  Just maybe that person will no longer be a stranger, but a new found friend in Christ, if you just help in Christian love.

Jesus didn’t stay in the synagogue, he was out among the people. Our Bishop Mark Webb speaks of the very same thing many times when he gets a chance to be in a local church, which is quite often, I am told.

Please continue be in daily prayer for all of the areas hit hard by hurricanes and earthquakes, and keep the response teams of all church denominations in prayer as they help do the cleanup. We will have more ‘hands-on’ opportunities to make a difference in the restoration in many of the areas hit by the devastation, so keep an eye on your email, and in the church bulletin.

I write this with gratitude to God in my heart for leading me here to be in ministry together to all God’s people.

Pray for each other, pray for me, and pray that God will grant us courage to step out in faith together.

Don’t forget to pray our new church prayer I gave to you all last month in the newsletter….

Heavenly Father here in Bowmansville we are a faithful congregation, bring to us here all who need a refreshment of soul, whose ears need to hear the Gospel of Love of Jesus Christ. Make me to be an instrument of Love for those in need and may they come to know the Love of Jesus here in Bowmansville UMC. I pray all of this, asking in the name of my Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. AMEN”

You have so many blessings, so be a blessing in Christ's Love.

Pastor Jim


Looking toward Harvest, Missions, Outreach

posted Sep 25, 2018, 1:02 PM by Bowmansville UMC

Well folks Sept has come and gone, and we are still in the heat but we are pushing toward October, a little cooler air temperature perhaps, the smell of “fall” of autumn leaves falling, the raking of those leaves and some cloudy and rainy (again?) days ahead.

But we here at Bowmansville UMC for my third year in a row I feel that we as a church have much to look forward to in this time of the year.

In some of our homes the normally of regular times of school hours, the grades, (right Amy, & Ken?) the business of school but there is also the business of church, the world and all of those things calling all together as Christ’s servants.

Jesus spoke to many in the crowds and to his disciples about the world around them, the fall time of harvest, the thrashing of the grains, (for us here in WNY the crunch of fresh picked apples, look in the church fridge for a healthy snack…) harvesting of the vineyards, and wine press, the harvesting of olives, and so much more.

There is God’s blessing in all of these things of which HE the Lord thy God has provided a bounty for us all in this harvest time of the year.

We as a church provide a blessing to those we know in the church, both near and far away, and through our many outreach missions.

We are Jesus hands blessing those we do not know nor most likely will never know, but they feel the love of Christian community in our out-reach in missions to them.

At this time of the hurricane season is in full “swing” we need to be a Methodist blessing in providing for our neighbors far away in the outreach of Cleanup (flood) buckets through our own church which will be sent through our Upper NY Conference to areas in need as they see fit. You folks have already been a blessing to many down south, a blessing in the Freedom Lounge, and the Gold Star Moms, so many folks we touch in so many good ways in the name of Jesus Christ.

We have just had a simple Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese sandwich dinner night with the ongoing bible study on Wednesday evening. We have another one coming forward this October, and maybe November depending on schedules.

Let’s all join together in Discipleship and be a friend, bring a friend, be a friend in Christ to these dinners as a witness to Jesus Christ and show good family connectedness as this church does so well.

Speaking of bible studies in the evening (winter time maybe during the day as well) I have been requested through the church to do a Methodist/Wesleyan church study so for the months after Christmas I have planned a 2 part program, Methodist Identity Part 1-OUR STORY, and Part 2-OUR BELIEFS.

This series is put out by the Wesley Ministry Network and contains many speakers from the Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington DC. Many of these speakers’ names I have already heard and listened to on other courses in the Methodist Lay Ministry courses I have taken and given in the past. As an added bonus, there is a small video presentation of Methodism in Europe, China, Japan, Korea, India, and Africa.

Bowmansville church is a blessing to all who come through and serve through these doors in the name of our Lord Jesus.

Love, Grace & Peace in Jesus name. Pastor Jim


The Power of Prayer

posted Sep 5, 2018, 12:46 PM by Bowmansville UMC   [ updated Sep 8, 2018, 12:26 PM ]

Folks, there is Power in Prayer.......SO......PRAY each day for new Disciples of Christ to come to Bowmansville, and for those of poor in Spirit, poor in needs, or poor in friendship, who need LOVE and Compassion in the name of Jesus Christ.

Suggested prayer.....

Heavenly Father, we here in Bowmansville are a faithful congregation.  Bring to us here all who need a refreshment of soul, whose ears need to hear the Gospel of  the Love of Jesus Christ.  Make me to be an instrument of Love for those in need, and may they come to know the Love of Jesus here at Bowmansville UMC.  I pray all of this, asking in the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  AMEN.


Looking to Jesus only

posted Aug 18, 2018, 1:04 PM by Bowmansville UMC

The Holy Spirit's job is to turn our eyes away from ourselves to Jesus.

But the enemy's work is just the opposite; he is constantly trying to make us look at ourselves instead of Jesus.

He insinuates, "Your sins are too big to forgive; you have no faith; you do not ask for forgiveness enough; you will never be able to make it to the end; you do not have the joy of the Lord; you have such a wavering faith in Jesus."

All these are thoughts about yourself, and we will never find comfort or assurance by looking within.

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

The Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from our self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that Jesus is everything.

Remember, it is not your hold of Jesus that saves you, it is Jesus;

it is not your joy in Jesus that saves you, it is Jesus; it is not even faith in Jesus, although that is the instrument,……. it is Jesus' blood and sacrifice.

Do not look to your hand with which you are grasping Jesus as to Jesus…..

Do not look to your hope, but look to Jesus, who is the source of your hope; do not look to your faith, but look to Jesus, who is the founder and perfecter of your faith.

We can never find happiness by looking at our actions, feelings or our prayers; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives us hope.

If we are to overcome the enemy and have peace with God, it must be by "looking to Jesus." “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44)

Keep your eyes on Jesus; When you wake up in the morning look to Jesus; when you lie down at night look to Jesus. Do not let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail you.

“Heavenly Father, thank You for Jesus.

You are the reason I have life, and everything about life.

I know Your Word says I am Your delight and I want my life to bring praise, honor, and glory to You. I take the life You have given me into my world today.

Thank You for the abundant life I have in You…….In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Pastor Jim


Thoughts about summer attendance, changes

posted Jun 22, 2018, 11:28 AM by Bowmansville UMC

Spring and Summer has arrived it seems all at once in the glory of God coloring the earth!

The Bleeding Hearts, violets, irises, and milkweed are all coming up around Bowmansville UMC's garden, and from them, we realize our connectedness to this memorial garden in the name of Clifford (Cliffy) Sugg. MaryLee with the help of Joan Mariea plants and maintains these beautiful gardens, with glorious blooms for us to enjoy each spring & summer in his memory!

I ask you, how could we be more connected than to the land that Bowmansville UMC resides on and we as church members have been going to church and passing by these beautiful gardens now for many years! They are truly a blessing to God's beauty of the earth.

Our students and our faculty will by now be dismissed from the 2017-2018 school year and a long-awaited summertime break will commence! Music and cultural festivals all through the area will take up our weekends as we enjoy every second of warmth!

The fast pace of life will hopefully slow down a bit as the heat comes, (and hopefully the lawn mowing as well in hot weather).

Here at Bowmansville UMC, our few Sunday school people also take a break for the summer. It is a good chance to breathe in the breath of Sabbath and just come to worship our Lord and Savior.

However, Bowmansville UMC attendance in the summer historically takes a small plummet.  This can be a bit hard on us as a community in our spirits, bodies, and finances.

I want to encourage us as congregation to continue to commit to doing community together in attending events and worship. I am thinking about starting a visioning plan about Bowmansville UMC future, as well as the praying & caring for one another, as we do already, some new giving through service, and let’s just be hanging out with each other for some fun summertime activities!

The work continues on our rebuilding of our church steeple, and we are now on Facebook.com with weekly pictures and some messages about God's service to others and some prayerful thoughts. Here is one……

Maybe a new, separate and different style of church service for folks who NEVER knew church....on a week night or Sunday afternoon/mid-day. I am willing to do it as YOUR Pastor.

I don’t know but the Lord has placed me here with this on my heart with you fine folks here as the (holy) anchor of this church! This current young generation (mostly) doesn't know Christ...BUT survey after survey says that they consider themselves to be "spiritual" and want to be connected and serve and make a real difference in the world...somewhat like we already do here at Bowmansville UMC in all of our mission outreach. BUT there is much more to do....lets work on that with me your Pastor with a visioning plan. And if it doesn't work, well something else just might.....try and try again... (And PRAY Daily)

Something beautiful comes out of continually showing up for church service and singing together in service to the Lord. Make that Joyful noise…..

In faithfulness and love,

Pastor Jim

***************************************************************************************

FURTHER THOUGHTS


On Last Year’s Branches and This Year’s Fruit June 15, 2018 Genesis 25:21-23

21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.

22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord.

23 The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

CONSIDER THIS

Most everyone believes in prayer salutes the practice and generally supports the idea. And truth be told, at one point or another, everyone does pray. In the United States, we still live in the (dwindling) wake of Christendom, and most people over thirty can recite the Lord’s Prayer.

Becoming a person or a people of prayer—those who walk with God in a life of prayer—is another thing entirely.

The real biblical vision of prayer has been obscured by the overwhelming tide of casual prayer; the fruit of a church who “believes” in God but does not follow Jesus.

We see something of the biblical vision in today’s text. Isaac and Rebekah could not conceive a child. Welcome to the family of God, right?!

Just because God willed for Abraham to be the Father of a great nation did not mean it would come easy.

We as humans are prone to believe that if God wills a thing, it will come easy.

Scripture seems to prove just the opposite. The more God wills for a thing to happen, the greater the opposition and difficulty. God’s will cannot be thwarted, but it can be severely taxed by us humans.

Today’s text gives us a glimpse into the normative, non-casual life of prayer carried out by Isaac and Rebekah. Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. Isaac’s prayers are answered and we move into difficulties in the pregnancy. Something disturbing was going on in Rebekah’s womb. We would turn to the ultrasound scanner.

Rebekah, we are told, “went to inquire of the Lord.” Note how the first impulse and immediate response is to seek the Lord in prayer. They do not turn first to human invention and innovation. They begin by seeking Divine intervention.

Prayer will either be our navigational operating system or the window dressing of an otherwise nominal faith. As much as we want to believe in a comfortably reasonable in-between space, I’m sorry to say it does not exist. Prayer will be consuming or it will be casual—everything or nothing. Our salutes and stated belief in prayer count for nothing. I say these things not to shame or condemn but to awaken.

In my own life I have lived through long periods of time where prayer was my navigational system only to let it slowly slip away into casual nothingness in other seasons. Instead of a piercing self honesty, I opted for the sloppy self-deception of self-assurance that last season’s efforts would somehow carry over into this season’s requirements. It doesn’t work that way.

I will forever remember a line from a sermon by a great man of God and leader of the Church, Dr. David Gyertson. He was preaching on biblical text, John 15, and while referencing the words in vv.2-3 on pruning, he said, “You will never get this year’s fruit off of last year’s branches.”

If I’m honest, and God knows I want to be, I need to proffer a confession. In early 1990’s I experienced a profound awakening to the presence and power of God. Along with this came the gift of a protracted season of intensive prayer. It was comprehensive and consuming and those branches produced an enormous amount of fruit in my life and work.

As I reflect on it, I think I have attempted to harvest fruit from those branches ever since. I never ceased praying, but I believe my prayer life has receded in those intervening decades. In the life of the indwelling Holy Spirit, there is no going back to the glory days of a bygone era, only pressing forward.

It is being revealed to me even now that the time has come to awaken again; to a new gift of prayer in a new season of life and work. Something tells me a pruning is long overdue in my life. The old branches (of my old job and a few hobbies) are dead and must be cast down so new growth can appear. This new growth will be, well …, new, unfamiliar, and maybe even uncomfortable growth in self. My present norms,

forms and methods of prayer (i.e. the old wineskins) cannot hold the new wine the Spirit desires to pour forth.

I will stop there before I mix in yet another metaphor; however, I believe this word may not only be for myself but others. My sense is there is a word of prophecy here for perhaps a few others or maybe for many. I will leave that with you.

THE PRAYER

Lord Jesus, you are right here, right now. Thank you for always telling me the truth and further for telling me that the truth will set me free. Give me the gift of gut level honesty about where I am and have been, yes about sin, but more about casual faith. And open my eyes to the new things you want to do.

Right here, Jesus. Right now, Jesus. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

Try this analogy from the tech world–is prayer in your life more like an “app” on your phone or is it the whole operating system?

Have you experienced periods of great awakening in your life to the things of God accompanied by surges in your life of prayer?

Have those times, despite their blessings, ever been a hindrance in going forward to new and greater things?

Is your vision of future possibilities of personal or even large scale awakening limited by what has happened in the past?

What might pruning look like in your life going forward?

Are you prepared to let go of what “worked” in the past and to go back to square one again?

PRAY!

Pastor Jim.(with analogies from The Seedbed)



We Join the Outsiders (Acts Chapter 8:26-39)

posted Jun 2, 2018, 7:05 PM by Bowmansville UMC


Recently Discipleship Ministries adopted a new campaign slogan, “See All the People”

(http://www.seeallthepeople.org/)

I appreciate many things about this campaign: the catchiness of this phrase, drawn from a simple children’s rhyme, the call upon disciples in the United Methodist Church to see those in need, those who might look different, those whom some have rejected.

The encouragement to move our ministries outside the walls of our churches and into the places in our communities where people gather.

The campaign is about doing more than seeing all the people.

It is about calling upon disciples, like Philip, to jump into the heart of whatever situation we find people. Jump in there, even if it is messy. Jump in there, even if it is dangerous. Jump in there, even if it is costly to us. Jump in there, even if some might judge it to be irreverent or unholy.

Get in there with the lost, the lonely, the forgotten people of the world.

Go physically into the places and spaces people who don’t yet know the saving love of Christ inhabit and share the good news!


Christians in Gaza

One of the things people who have not traveled to the Holy Land may not realize is that if you are a Christian living in what we call the lands of Israel and Palestine, you are most likely of Palestinian descent. Most Christians in Palestine live in the West Bank today. But a small number of Christians live in the Gaza Strip as well. On my recent trip to the Holy Land this last winter with Bishop Mark, I was there this last winter and seen much of this personally for three days! We talked with many living there.

Today there are about 1300 Christians living in the Gaza Strip

We’ve heard the Scripture story read, (see Acts 8:26-39) but let’s take a moment to review it this Easter Season, for there are clear on the issues at stake for Philip. (Note that this is not Philip the Apostle. This is Philip the Evangelist, who was chosen along with Stephen and the rest of the “seven” to care for the poor in Jerusalem.)

An angel of the Lord directs Philip to leave Jerusalem and go to Gaza. Yes, THAT Gaza, which dislocated in the part of the Palestinian Territories known today as the Gaza Strip. So Philip headed out. On the road to Gaza he came upon an Ethiopian eunuch who happened to be the treasurer of the queen’s court who was returning from a visit to the temple in Jerusalem.

This eunuch is Jewish, a product of the strong Jewish community in his home country of Ethiopia (a faith community that continues to thrive to this day). This is why he is reading the book of Isaiah.

Now this in itself is worth pondering. He is clearly an educated man. Not only is he in charge of the entire treasury of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, but he is literate and he possesses a personal copy of the Hebrew Scriptures.

But as a eunuch, this would have been a person who was ritually unclean and therefore prohibited from entering the Temple. Please note that this man a eunuch must have been a man of great faith, to have gone all this way to visit the temple where he could not go in. No one would have talked to him there because he was unclean.

This is the scenario, then, in which Philip, at the Spirit’s prompting, stops his journey in order to ask if the eunuch understood what he was reading in the book of Isaiah, and the eunuch invited him to climb into the chariot to join him in an impromptu Bible study.

I don’t have all the answers. I have the one true hope. I have the promises of Jesus.

I have faith that the Holy Spirit connects us in mysterious ways, and that this connection continues into the life that is to come. That is our HOPE as Christians it is just FAITH in the promise of JESUS.

Is it okay to say that as a pastor? Is it okay to admit we don’t have all the answers BUT we have FAITH!

BUT we have the strong hope in Jesus the Christ who was our substitute in death for us all….and HE conquered death for us all!

It is perhaps more helpful to just engage in the questions people have right where they are?

Can we try to be open and listen as people reach to find their own answers?

The fact that we have Philip reaching how to respond to the eunuch, who is an unclean man, is radical.

And the fact that Philip not only talks to him, but climbs into the chariot with him, is an act of radical discipleship. He risks his own ritual cleanliness by putting himself in close proximity to the eunuch. It is through this act of radical outreach with no concern for what it might cost him that the eunuch is transformed.

Being available for impromptu Bible studies is a witness to the faith.

Being willing to climb into the chariot with the “unclean,” the confused, the different, the lost, the hurt, the doubters, the cast-off, the angry, the needy, the scared, the dying, and indeed, any person who looks or feels or believes or acts differently from the way we do is a very real and present need in our communities. And it is a witness to the faith.

How often do we do this? How frequently do we risk putting our bodies, our reputations, our health and well-being, our time, our faith, our own long-held beliefs on the line in order to respond to the need of another?

The Spirit leads Philip to assume the posture of Jesus. He gets into the chariot with the guy.

He sees him. He touches him. He engages the questions he has about the scriptures.

He doesn’t reject him, as all the others have done, probably all his life.

He accepts him, listens to him, and offers himself in loving response without a specific purpose or agenda, other than to share his thoughts and his personal experience. As Philip and the eunuch study the passage together, Philip is able to open the scriptures to the eunuch in a new way, through the lens of his own faith experience through Jesus Christ.

We too have to be willing to join the Spirit in its work, going where the Spirit leads us and listening deeply with not our own ears, but Christ’s. The sign of God is when we are led where we did not plan to go.

Bold discipleship means puts ourselves at the disposal of the Holy Spirit for as long as we are needed, only to be snatched away to another part of our journey when this same Spirit leads us to serve somewhere else.

Say the name. See the person.

Befriend the marginalized. Welcome the unclean.

Embrace those whom society has rejected for whatever reason.

That’s the power of the Spirit of Christ we see here.

Who are we refusing to touch, see, embrace, love, accept, welcome?

Who is the world rejecting that we can, in the power of the Spirit, reach towards?

How can we, like Philip, offer the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ (however it is understood) to those who come to us seeking to study and have conversation about the challenges of life in all the ways they present themselves?

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the one true church, apostolic and universal, whose holy faith let us now declare...

In HIS name, Jesus the Christ,

Pastor Jim


Spring time plowing......Easter and beyond!

posted Apr 19, 2018, 6:25 PM by Bowmansville UMC

As a young boy on my grandfather’s large farm in Millers, near Lyndonville NY I watched him plow fields that had never been cultivated. On the first pass the plowshare would turn the soil and along with the dirt, up would come large rocks that he hauled away. Then, he would plow the field again, and then again, to further break up the soil. With each pass the plow turned up other, smaller rocks that he cast aside. The process continued, requiring many passes through the field.

Growth in grace can look like a similar process.

When we first become believers, some “big” sins may be exposed. We confess them to God and accept His forgiveness. But as the years pass by, and as God’s Word passes through us and sinks into our innermost being, the Holy Spirit brings other sins to the surface. Sins of the spirit once thought to be mere peccadilloes—small, seemingly unimportant offenses—are revealed as ugly, ruinous attitudes and actions. Sins like pride, self-pity, complaining, pettiness, prejudice, spite, self-serving indulgence.

God reveals each sin so He can cast it aside. He reveals to heal. When harmful hidden attitudes come to the surface, we can pray as the psalmist David did, “For the sake of your name, Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great” (Psalm 25:11).

Humbling exposure, though painful, is good for the soul. It’s one of the ways in which GOD “instructs sinners in his ways.” He “guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way” (vv. 8-9).

PRAYER-Thank You, Lord, that You remember us according to Your love. Instruct us and guide us. Teach us to live as those who have been forgiven much.

God’s desire to cleanse us of our sins should be matched by our desire for that cleansing. In Psalm 139 David reflects, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (vv. 23-24).

His prayer expresses a longing for the cleansing and restoration that can only come from God. John echoes that invitation in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

And Jesus Himself stands ready to help. John wrote, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1). What a great promise!

Is unconfessed sin hindering your relationship with the Father? He stands ready to forgive!

Pastor Jim


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