Pastor's Page


New Birth at Pentecost

posted Jun 1, 2017, 7:57 PM by Bowmansville UMC

A New Birth at Pentecost “Shalom. Peace be upon you. “You are free.”

Those are the words Rabbi Herschel Schacter cried out as he stepped into the barracks at Buchenwald, one of the Nazi concentration camps liberated at the end of World War II.

The brutalities suffered by the Jewish prisoners of the camp were unspeakable.

Rabbi Schacter said that, as he entered the gates, his eyes stung with smoke, and the smell of burning human flesh overwhelmed him. Dead bodies lay in piles. At first it seemed as though no one was left alive. Finally he was led to a smaller camp within the larger one, where, in filthy barracks, starving men lay on raw wooden planks, stacked from floor to ceiling. They stared down at the rabbi with unmistakable fright.

“Shalom Aleichem, Yidden,” he shouted in Yiddish, “Peace be upon you, Jews. You are free!”

He ran from barracks to barracks, repeating those words. The words of freedom created first a trickle of survivors who could walk, then a stream of men staggered into the sunlight. The stream became a flood, as the rabbi went from building to building with the words, “You are free, you are free, you are free.”

One of the survivors later declared that on the day of liberation, they had not simply passed from imprisonment to freedom. “We were delivered from death to life.”

This Pentecost season, if you know Jesus, then you’ve experienced a similar kind of rescue.

The Disciples were told to go and wait, not knowing what to expect. They were kept in the dark by not yet knowing.

All of us were kept in darkness, Paul says. We were prisoners, shackled by the chains of guilt. Dead in sin, our hope was gone—then Jesus came. Peace, he declared. You are free, you are free! And all who would listen and believe came stumbling out of the prison.

We were delivered from death to life. Paul explains it this way: “I have been crucified with Christ, so it is no longer I who live.” I am joined with Christ in his death.

The man of sin I used to be has died—but that’s not the end of the story.

Someone lives. Who lives? Christ lives, the Holy Spirit came at a Jewish holiday, Pentecost, the festival of the first harvest of the spring time. If we have been released from Sin and Death it might our first harvest as well, our first fruits of liberation.

Where does he live? In you and me! We are not just united with Christ in his death; we are united with Christ in his life.

So what does this mean? We are free. It means we are no longer without help or hope.

It means Jesus has rescued us by forgiving us, accepting us as we are, and giving us the power to change—really change!

Tomorrow doesn’t have to be like yesterday. It means there is hope again. We are free from fear, free from guilt, free from the power of old habits.

This Pentecost, remember where you were when Jesus found you. Remember what it felt like to hear the word of peace, to stumble out into the light. You are Free! When you believe that, you are delivered into life. No matter what your age….. Peace, Shalom, Pastor Jim



Springtime - God's Season of Emerging Life

posted May 4, 2017, 4:32 PM by Bowmansville UMC

A warm (and sometimes cool and rainy) welcome to God’s amazing Springtime.

The tempo begins to quicken as the days grow longer and the hours of sunlight increase, and your Pastor gets less sleep due to the sun rising earlier and earlier. (The old saying, “He gets up with the chickens!”)

But as the days lengthen, so do our responsibilities—there is more to do, and it always seems like ‘less time’ to do it in!

Speaking of time, I have become aware that I have been your Pastor now for 10 almost 11 months, my how times flies, especially the older we all seem to get each year.

As I reflect upon this experience, I am so grateful for your support and for your continued commitment in furthering the gospel outreach in this time and place.

There is so much ministry and work we all need to do together (no one is exempt) and I could never begin to accomplish a thing without your love and faithful response. 

I am confident that God has called each one of you to come and labor in his vineyard; in order to offer your individual gifts of love and service through the United Methodist church and thru the connectional ministry and this congregation.

It is heartwarming to witness the birth (rebirth) of nature, which the springtime brings; the fruit trees starting to bloom by showing green leaves and buds, the dogwoods and azaleas beginning to show forth their colors, and the emerald green leaves of all the various deciduous trees coming back to life. 

Let us all not forget the grassy yards starting to green and grow, for there will be lawn mowing as a sign of Spring also!

The earth and everything in it declares each day that, “This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.”  (UMH #144)

I thank God that in this wondrous season of emerging life we can listen to God’s voice with our eyes also. I thank God that these days can also urge us forward in seeking to renew and grow our congregation here. There is much work for us to do and so little time to do it.

As good stewards of HIS church, we must do all we can to restore to God’s house this springtime the Love of Christ to all we will welcome through our doors this season.

With each of us working and giving together, we can accomplish everything needed and make this place shine with the light and love of Christ in all who we meet here and invite here.

In scripture it says “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”   (John 9:4-5)

We have his light within us, and we cannot give in to the darkness of decay and destruction that seems to be part of the world around us each day. 

That is the Good News of Christ’s resurrection power alive within us. 

That is what is also called JOY! It’s not just for Christmas you know……

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing; so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  (Romans 15:13)

In Christ’s love and service,

Pastor Jim 



Lenten News

posted Mar 28, 2017, 9:43 AM by Bowmansville UMC

Growing up as a Methodist Christian, I experienced Lent as little more than a joke. “What are you giving up for Lent?” my friends would ask. “Homework,” I’d say with a smirk, or “Obeying my parents.”

I had one Methodist Pastor who always replied" I am giving up watermelon for Lent".

My family would be visiting our Roman Catholic friends who were in the Boy Scout troop with us and it was always on a Sunday afternoon so the host family could serve "treats" (pastries & such) since it was allowed on Sunday, or after midnight Saturday evening going into Sunday ...whew after midnight...!

Lent was one of those peculiar practices demanded of Roman Catholics – another great reason to be Protestant, I figured.

It never even occurred to me that Lent was something I might actually be interested in, or benefit from, or decide to keep, or come to value as a way of getting to know God better.

In the ancient church, Lent was a time for new converts to be instructed for baptism and for believers caught in sin to focus on repentance. In time, all Christians came to see Lent as a season to be reminded of their need for penitence and to prepare spiritually for the celebration of Easter.

Part of this preparation involved the Lenten “fast,” giving up something special during the six weeks of Lent (but not on Sundays, in some traditions as I have said.)

Historically, many Protestants rejected the practice of Lent, pointing out, truly, that it was nowhere required in Scripture. Some of these Protestants were also the ones who refused to celebrate Christmas, by the way!

They wanted to avoid some of the excessive aspects of Catholic penitence that tended to obscure the gospel of grace.

These Protestants saw Lent, at best, as something completely optional for believers, and, at worst, as a superfluous Catholic practice that true believers should avoid altogether.

A Pastoral Word: Let me note, at this point, that if you think of Lent as a season to earn God’s favor by your good intentions or good works, then you’ve got a theological problem. God’s grace has been fully given to us in Christ. We can’t earn it by doing extra things or by giving up certain other things in fasting.

If you see Lent as a time to make yourself more worthy for celebrating Good Friday and Easter, 

then perhaps you shouldn’t keep the season until you’ve grown in your understanding of grace.

If, on the contrary, you see Lent as a time to grow more deeply in God’s grace and wisdom, then you’re approaching Lent from a proper perspective.

Some segments of Protestantism did continue to recognize a season of preparation for Easter, however. Their emphasis was not so much on penitence and fasting as on intentional devotion to God.

Protestant churches sometimes added special Lenten Bible studies or prayer meetings so that their members would be primed for a deeper experience of Good Friday and Easter.

Lent was a season to do something extra for God, not to give something up unless it is to grow in Christ, that's the extra part.

Sometimes I’ve given up something, like watching television or eating potato chips, in order to devote more time to Bible study and prayer. (A television fast was not that tough because there is so little on TV these days worth watching, with the exception of maybe Me TV channel 67 which has the old TV shows.)

Sometimes I’ve added extra devotional reading to my regular spiritual disciplines. I can claim to have had some spiritual experiences during Lent, such as wisdom in the scriptures, but I have found that fasting from something has helped me focus on God, and it has also helped center my prayer life.

It has also helped me to look ahead to Good Friday and Easter, thus appreciating more deeply the meaning of the cross and the victory of the resurrection.

There is Hope in the Resurrection of our Lord & Savior Jesus the Christ.

~ Pastor Jim


= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 

Walter D. Wagoner tells a story about a children's Sunday School class that decided to play church.

So they all took part,... they had a minister, ushers, offertory, choir, organist and all. After a while they tired of playing the game, as children will, and wanted to change it.

One boy said, "I know, let's play Jesus." Well, that was a new one for the group and it sounded great....

At first everyone wanted to play the part of Jesus.

They each felt they were qualified because anytime the pastor asked a question during children’s moments they always knew the answer. “Jesus”.

However, when the other children asked the boy to explain the game, he said that one boy would play Jesus and the rest would be mean to him, call him names, strike him, spit at him, tie him to a tree, and pretend to crucify him.

That took a bit of the glow off the honor of playing Jesus, but the children went on with the game.

After a few minutes of absorbing the cruelty of the other children, (sinful nature) the boy playing the part of Jesus called a halt to it and in so doing uttered a profound statement....

He said, "Let's not play Jesus anymore, let's go back to playing church."

Do you think that sometimes our churches – Play at being Church?

That shoe fits so tight, it hurts, doesn't it? "Let's not play Jesus anymore, Let’s not be obedient to the Father’s will as Jesus was, Let’s not even try to live the holy life that pleases The Father and follows the inspired words of the Old and New Testament. Let's go back to playing church....

"We are, all of us, painfully aware that there is a difference and we also know that the difference is deadly. Playing church or playing Jesus?

Unified and reconciled to God and God’s ways or to the world’s ways?

Are we serious about it or are we playing at it? Do we recognize that we are sinners against God, in desperate need of reconciliation and salvation?

Not just as individuals but also collectively as a church.

Are we in need of reconciliation, salvation, renewal?

Only thru Jesus Christ can we bridge the divide and be unified with God as his children and heirs to an eternal life in heaven.

But how do we move from playing church - to playing Jesus - to truly being the disciples we are called to be and the church we are called to be? We know that we are to be Jesus to our world. But how? Where do we begin? We begin by acknowledging who we are.

We are the body of Jesus Christ. We are the temple of the living God.

The Apostle Paul addresses the same issue in his letter to the Corinthian church. He writes: "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?"

Folks we are not just a social justice group like the Moose or the Elks, we are not political activists group; we are not just a food pantry or an aid relief society.

We are a holy temple. We are God’s holy temple; we are God’s church in need of renewal that seeks Unity with God’s plan.

Whenever ancient Israel or the church has forgotten who it is, it has lost its vitality!

Our strength can be renewed when we are rooted in our dependence upon God.

Jesus boiled it down for us, when he was asked, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

He said, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.

And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Unfortunately, some churches choose to define these to fit their (worldly) needs instead of letting Holy Scripture in its entirety be the determiner of God’s intent, plan and wishes for his people.

When we stop Playing church and start truly following Jesus the Messiah then we can seek God with our whole heart, soul and mind.

Folks, I ask each member of this congregation to start a prayer session each day to pray for the Body of Christ in this church, you choose the topic, wisdom, growth, spiritual witness, outreach in HIS name, etc.

Pray individually or even better start a prayer group with friends who meet on a regular basis to "break bread" and pray, this is what Wesley called "Bands" prayer groups dedicated to uplifting of prayer each & every day.

In the name of our Lord & Savior Jesus the Christ, Pastor Jim



The Clerical Collar by Pastor Jim Brown

posted Feb 23, 2017, 12:21 PM by Bowmansville UMC

Some folks have asked about my clerical collar or shirt I wear, I just thought some information might help.

The collar has always been and still is the dress code for Protestant preachers and lawyers in Europe.

In days past, these individuals wore black and chose a white sweatband (cravat) to wear around their necks for the purpose of riding on horseback.

This became personified in the UK by John Wesley, founder of the Methodists, who rode on horseback the length and breadth of England preaching the Bible.

It was also the normal mode of dress for the Protestant Churches of Europe and it was not until the turn of the eighteenth century that the Catholic Church adopted it also.

It was never a Roman Catholic style of clergy dress code before that time and not one picture of a Pope or member of the clergy can be seen wearing one. Sadly, today most fundamentalist Protestants and particularly those from other nations erroneously think that the clerical collar is a Roman Catholic instituted style of dress code for their clergy and that Protestants should not wear it, because it represents the Roman Catholic Church, "religion" and "tradition". This type of thinking is wrong. The clerical collar is a Protestant clergy dress code.

But where did it come from and how far back can we trace its origin and more importantly its scriptural importance?

Today, when you look at the clerical dress of the majority of religions, you will see that the leadership attire is very similar. The adaptations in headgear may be different but the style of robe and neckband are ostensibly the same. Because the Judeo-Christian faith is born out of middle eastern customs, the origin of Christian clerical attire can be narrowed down to a very definite style.

The thirty ninth chapter of the book of Exodus describes in detail how the Lord commanded Moses to make "the garments of ministry". Again in the book of Leviticus in the eight chapter and verse thirteen, tunics were brought for ministry.

Modernist Christian anti Semitic, anti Jewish "replacement theology" in churches has denied the God given institutions in the "spirit" of the Old Testament ceremonial law and replaced it with a variety of man made interpretations concerning ministerial dress code, or covering, before God when conducting Worship, is of importance and reverence in His presence.

And from the UMC web site: Most United Methodist clergy do not wear the clergy collar or shirt, although many have both items. Many of our clergy would never under any circumstances wear a collar probably because they feel the collar would "put off" the laity or because they resist any association with "priestly" images.

Some would wear the collar in very formal, ecclesiastical settings or in hospital or social witness situations, where being identified as an ordained person could be helpful. There are a small number of clergy who wear the shirt "to bed" meaning, they wear the collar almost all the time when they are on duty. There are good arguments for not wearing and for wearing the collar. United Methodist clergy are free to choose whether or not to wear the collar.

The full collar is a white plastic band that attaches to the shirt with chrome collar buttons. The more comfortable tab shirt has a plastic strip inserted into both sides of the shirt collar.

These days, many shirt colors are available from church supply houses, although black is the "standard" color for the working pastor. Purple or maroon is reserved for bishops, and these colors should not be worn by other clergy.

In the United Methodist Church, we have licensed local pastors who are considered clergy, although they are not fully ordained. It is appropriate for these pastors to wear the collar in carrying out their pastoral duties.



Epiphany

posted Feb 10, 2017, 8:03 PM by Bowmansville UMC

Well folk, we are fully into winter and the season of Epiphany in the church.

Hopefully our days are now getting two minutes longer each day, maybe some sunshine, besides your bright faces in church each Sunday. And a whole lot of church activities to be looking forward to in March.

But here it is February, the WNY coldest month of the year usually, and now in this mid-winter Epiphany Season what can we do as Christians as an outward reach to our fellow neighbors?

Can you run your snow blower (if you have one) down the sidewalk to help an elderly couple nearby, or maybe help with a grocery run for them so they don’t need to go out into the cold as much?

How about just picking up the phone and giving shut-ins in your church a call to have a friendly conversation to lighten their day (and to check if they are ok, remember that grocery question?)

College students are fully back into their studies.  If they are attending college away from the home area, they might appreciate a card from home, or a big treat would be a mailing tube of home baked cookies.

Church members who are the “snow birds” and are wintering away also might like to hear about church news & community news from the ol’ home town, so give them a call or send a card or two!

This February time of the year can be hard on folks, and like the Magi, The Wise men, the three Kings, whatever the traditions say to call them through history, they persevered on their journey to come and worship the King of Kings, though the journey was long, some figure up to 2 years, they came to that home in Bethlehem.  We also are on a journey each day to seek and find.

You ask what are we to seek & find if we already know Christ our Lord. Well, how about the less fortunate, the less well off, the spiritually dead, the lost souls around us. The whole world calls for a Savior. Like that star in the sky, we can be the guiding light this Epiphany season.  This dark time of the year, be a light shining and guiding others to the Christ the Savior of the world.

Pastor Jim


Be the Light of Jesus...even in wintertime

posted Jan 10, 2017, 6:20 AM by Bowmansville UMC

For years my pat response to questions about our seasonal Western New York weather is to say that I DON’T like winter…other than seeing the first snow fall…then it can melt and go away…(LOL)

I don’t really care for the cold weather, the dim overcast skies, and even the early dark! (My favorite temperature this time of year is 35 or higher degrees!)

I think of those old European paintings of a simple thatched-roof cottage set at night in a snowy forest, with smoke drifting out of its chimney, and a yellowish glow emanating from its windows. It speaks of hearth and home, of the warm and cozy, of inner light.

It stands in studied contrast to the bleached out, burned out hot days of summer, of the blazing sun’s sheer relentlessness and unyielding tenacity. Winter, instead, bequeaths clouds both moody and complex, along with the contemplative interplay of a wan sky and the hushed earth, yielding a multiplicity of shades, both light and dark.

It is a time to consider, stepping back for but a moment to assess our otherwise distracted lives, to let God intercede for us while our defenses are momentarily down.

It is a time to connect with what is most basic, God, & family, and, not to put too fine a point on it, what is most meaningful in life, to question why we are even here, and what our true purpose might be, for some are still searching I see.

This, along with the greater than normal expectations of the Christmastide/Epiphany season – of togetherness, happiness, and wholeness – can make it a difficult time for many.

For when we step back to actively listen to our lives, and if they are found wanting in whatever way, our sense of isolation and distress can be greatly magnified.

Yet this season is premised on the sure belief that the light of God has come into our darkened world, ready to transform it, and us, in ways that reflect God’s heavenly glory.

And in the darkness of winter, we are assured that in the darkness of the world we as Christians shall overcome it.

In this, is a renewal, and hope, born of the simple promise of God’s steadfast, unending love.

Even the 3 month soon-to-be burst of springtime colors, sights, and sounds is implicit in this improbable winter time weather, for there is waiting, a timing of the earthly things below the snow.

And our consolation is to be found therein, God still has control, he still sits on his throne of Grace & Mercy, ready to hear us as we pray this Christmastide/Epiphany season. Though the earthly lot be dim, let us be the Light of Jesus in the world, all seasons of the year, even in this winter time.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jim



A Christmas Message

posted Nov 27, 2016, 8:35 PM by Bowmansville UMC

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.

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 of good works to our fellow earthlings (fellow man) will ever come close to what Jesus bore on that Roman cross approximately 33 years later after that Christmas birth.

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


"Give lavishly! Live abundantly" (by Helen Steiner Rice)

posted Nov 21, 2016, 2:44 PM by Bowmansville UMC

The more you give, the more you get
The more you laugh, the less you fret.
The more you do unselfishly,
The more you live abundantly.
The more of everything you share,
The more you’ll always have to spare
The more you love, the more you’ll find
That life is good and friends are kind.
For only what we give away,
Enriches us from day to day.

*************************************
So let’s live Christmas through the year
And fill the world with love and cheer.
Thank you for sharing your lives and your time with us.
A blessed Christmas to all of you !

Pastor Jim


Everyone is a person of faith

posted Nov 21, 2016, 2:27 PM by Bowmansville UMC

Shared by Pastor Jim....


Whether one is "religious" or not, everyone is a person of faith. If that sounds like a contradiction, the fact is that each one of us has faith, because faith is defined as having belief and trust in someone or something. It might be something intangible, but it is the trust we put into whatever motivates, inspires and gives us energy and vision.

Believing gives us meaning and a sense of our own identity. For Christians, it is faith in a loving, compassionate Creator God shown to us in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, born into our world and still present in the context of our own personal experience and religious tradition. Some others may put their faith in the satisfaction gained from such things as success, or relationships or power.

Many people say that they are not "religious" but they are "spiritual", and this is recognition that life is more than just what we see. We are attracted to goodness and altruism. In our city of Auckland we all delight in the beauty of art and nature, and experience wonder and awe when we see deeds of great sacrifice and generosity and creativity.

These express that beyond our rational thinking there is something great at work, something visionary that surpasses the reach of our human horizons.

Sometimes those who are spiritual but not religious can have good reason to be suspicious of organized religion. When Christians and people of other faiths fail to live up to our ideals of love and forgiveness we are not being true to what we proclaim. We may observe the letter, but not the spirit of what our faith is all about.

Jesus warned against this when he spoke of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees whom he described as "whited sepulchers" - meaning looking good on the outside yet corrupt within.

For Christian believers and the church as a whole, there is always room to grow as we reach towards the goodness and holiness of God.

One of the big questions in today's world is whether there is such a thing as truth, or whether everything is a matter of opinion. It is a profound question; part of the universal human search for truth that has engaged whole cultures, philosophies and sciences since the beginning of human history.

A glance at ancient history shows clearly how cultures in different parts of the world have sought answers to the fundamental questions, "Who am I? Where have I come from? Where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life?" There was a common recognition that beyond human knowledge and understanding there is something transcendent - a reality beyond their limited vision and experience.

The answers to these questions decided the direction which people sought to give to their lives. They told their own creation stories about the origins and destiny of life, and they created gods to worship and appease that they believed represented the random forces of nature upon which their whole existence and survival depended. In the search for meaning beyond all these different understandings, there was a body of knowledge which may be judged the commonality or spiritual heritage of humanity.

In today's world, with all the amazing insights gained and uncovered by the sciences we, more than in any other age or culture, have discovered truths about what once was speculation.

We apply rationality to what was superstition and mystery. Yet the search for meaning and purpose in life still lives on in the human heart.

This brings us to the matter of faith and reason, which comes especially into focus at Christmas when we celebrate the historical fact and the mystery of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. His birth, gospel teaching of grace and truth, and compassionate ministry, changed the course of human history forever.

Some with no religious faith may feel that there is an irreconcilable tension between faith and reason.

From its very beginnings two thousand years ago in the person of Jesus Christ, Christianity was not an exclusive sect.

Before his birth, people in that part of the world lived by the great theological or philosophical traditions of the Greek and Roman civilizations and the revelations given by God to the Jewish people.

The rise of Christianity after the death and resurrection of Jesus was very public and its first adherents were Jews, Romans and Greeks. It was open to all and offered a rational account of God and of the creation and destiny of humanity which came to fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ.

What is the relationship between divinely-inspired faith and human reason?

One contemporary philosopher wrote that without reason, faith tends towards uninformed feeling, emotion and intuition. Reason without faith tends towards self-interest, personal and transient satisfactions and the absence of altruism.

We affirm the intellectual credibility of the Christian faith, and remind ourselves and others that human intelligence will never be fully satisfied except by God. The centuries-long procession of Christian thinkers, humanitarians, artists and scientists for whom faith and reason were central to their work is unequalled and unparalleled in its contribution to our civilization.

Naturally there have been problems along the way, as we are all flawed human beings prone to sin and greed. This is all the more reason to believe that co-operation and dialogue is essential nowadays, with many pressing issues facing humanity - ecology, peace and the co-existence of different peoples and cultures.

It is vital that there is a clear and honest collaboration between Christians and followers of other religions and those who, while not sharing a religious belief, have a heart for the renewal of humanity.

We read in the gospels that Mary responded with great joy to the news that God had chosen her to be the mother of Jesus.

So the words in the New Testament announcing the birth of Jesus are about joy.

This was the message first preached in New Zealand on Christmas Day nearly 200 years ago.

This is the true meaning of Christmas: God is willing to be found by us in our searching - God is with us and became like us in the person of the child who was Jesus, who came to redeem all of humanity.

In those places where people are dominated by fear and uncertainty the words, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Luke 1:46-47) truly give us hope.

Joy and peace are the real gifts of Christmas, not expensive presents.

We can communicate this joy simply: with a smile, a kind gesture, with hospitality, reconciliation and forgiveness of past wrongs. The joy we give will certainly come back to us.

I pray that the presence of the liberating joy and peace of God expressed in the birth of Jesus Christ will shine forth in all our lives and in our Nation this season.


How Do We Measure Up as a Church Making Disciples?

posted Nov 1, 2016, 2:51 PM by Bowmansville UMC   [ updated Nov 1, 2016, 9:19 PM ]



The start of November is Reformation day on November 1, then All Saints Sunday on November 6. Reformation Sunday is about a change in church ideology, in reforming old church ideas and concepts, and looking at how we measure ourselves in staying true to the Scriptures and the Gospel of Christ!  All Saints Sunday is about all the Saints of the church who have gone before us all.  We someday will all be counted as the saints of the church in faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.  So that got me thinking on how do we measure a church's health:  Are we making Saints for the future?

You know those of us who do computer work; we have a love/hate relationship with data.  Even as big data shapes almost all our online experiences, we're not so sure how we feel  about data "stuff" in the life of the church.

Yes, we count worship services, offerings, worship attendance, small group ministries, baptisms and confirmations.  But deep down inside, we resist measuring ourselves.  I suspect it's because we fear we can't measure up.  Maybe some of you folks have seen me wear my measuring tape suspenders when I go to Prison Ministry.  Because, after all, NONE OF US measure up!

I get it.  Measuring ourselves is hard.  I experience that every time I step on the scale.  If my weight is high, I'm bummed.  Paradoxically, my response is to want to eat more.  On the other hand, if it's low, I take it as license to indulge.  I'm stuck either way.  Data shmata.

Jesus said, "You shall know me by my fruits."  What fruits are we as a church producing?  In the United Methodist Church, we proclaim that we are making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  That sounds like a Mission Statement, doesn't it?

There's only one way to know if we are accomplishing our vision or not.  We have to measure ourselves.  I know what your're thinking:  data shmata.  Who cares about the numbers?  You can't measure what churches do.  You can't measure the growth of a soul or the impact of a sermon.  I say if we're not willing to measure ourselves, we're not serious about our vision.

For instance, can you imagine Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer, practicing without a timer?  OR Simone Biles, who is four-time Olympic gold medalist and the first African American to win the world all-around gymnastics title, which she did in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, executing moves without a judge?  Is it even conceivable that Usain Bolt would, well bolt, without clocking his speed?  They count on that information to guide their performance.

The next few weeks are coming up to Thanksgiving.  With many family blessings, I don't want to be a sad-sack, for we have a church with many positive aspects of a congregation, but what about the Saints of the future?  Who is going to fill the pews of the future?

That is our calling now as Disciples of Christ....to go out and make Disciples in all the nations, and just around the corner from where we live, to tell them of the Love of God, That's Jesus, That's the Holy Spirit. To tell them that the blessings they reap are Blessings from our Holy Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

That is one way of going out to all the world, to make Disciples of all nations, telling them of the Love of Jesus Christ.  That should be your story to all the world and just around the corner of your own world.....that Jesus Christ saves.  That is the Good News for all to hear in all seasons of the year!

AMEN & AMEN,

Pastor Jim Brown


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