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Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom Fries, November, 2019

posted Oct 31, 2019, 11:43 AM by Lois Kerchner

Watch Out For Wormwood!

 I’ve long been a fan of C. S. Lewis. His fictional novel, The Screwtape Letters  (1942) remains a favorite. The plot and characters are used to address Christian theological issues, primarily those that deal with various temptations and how to recognize and resist them.

The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior demon named ”Screwtape” who writes to his nephew, “Wormwood,” a junior devil. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility in securing the damnation of a British man known simply as “The Patient.”

In one of the 31 letters, the senior demon writes:

My Dear Wormwood,

Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated  on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient  in a constant state of angst, frustration, and general disdain toward the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing. Ensure that the patient continues to believe that the problem is “out there” in a “broken system” rather than recognizing that there is a problem with himself. 

Keep up the good work, 

Uncle Screwtape

It is remarkable how each letter addresses human frailties that transcend time and place. And the central message, to me, is the mandate to believers to always be alert to what is happening in our mind and heart.

How does “The Patient” make out in the end? I’ll leave that to you! I will say that poor Wormwood never does anything that pleases Screwtape, and lives a most miserable existence. Such is the fate of all who oppose God’s loving ways.

May we never be deceived by our own Wormwood as we strive to “Share the Love” of Christ!

Pastor Tom

 

 

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom Fries, October, 2019

posted Sep 24, 2019, 5:01 PM by Lois Kerchner

Love is Not Far Away

 

A few years ago, I was attending a conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Our hotel and other hotels in the area were packed with people. By their dress, it was evident that they came from all over the world. I couldn't quite understand what was happening that would draw such a large and diverse group. So, naturally, I inquired.

I learned that people came from around the world ... to get a hug!

Yes. Mata Amritanandamayi, or as the people called her, Mamma Amma, was in town. Amma, in Sanskrit, means mother. And she is known as "the hugging saint."

At first I confess I thought the whole thing was silly. But as I thought it over, I came to see that people are hungry for love. So much so that these people were willing to travel from far and wide for a hug, and the connection they felt as people who shared the same feelings and beliefs.

Love doesn't have to be far away. It can be right next to us.

As Jesus taught, and as St. John wrote, let us  love one another.

Pastor Tom

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom Fries, September, 2019

posted Aug 30, 2019, 9:20 AM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated Aug 30, 2019, 9:22 AM ]



More Than Just for Sneezes !



“God bless you.” We hear it often. So let’s pause and think: The noun “blessing” is used to convey God’s favor and protection. So it is tempting and quite normal to view this as some form of personal gain.

But I am moved by the Franciscan view, as stated in this four-fold blessing. This is not snorkeling, but scuba diving; going deep and probing the depths of God’s heart in a most unconventional way.


May God bless you with a restless discomfort

about easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,

so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.



May God bless you with holy anger

at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,

so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.



May God bless you with the gift of tears

to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish,

so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.



May God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.



May God’s Blessing Be Upon Us!

Pastor Tom

 

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom Fries, July-August, 2019

posted Jul 1, 2019, 9:06 AM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated Aug 30, 2019, 9:18 AM ]

Sing a Lot this Summer! 

Martin Luther, the great leader of the Reformation movement of the 16th century, has left us with many memorable quotes. I have long enjoyed his insights, wisdom, and wit. 

On the matter of singing, he had this to say: “I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. Music drives away the Devil and makes people joyful; they forget thereby all wrath, un-chastity, arrogance, and the like. Next to theology, I give to music the highest praise and the greatest honor.” 

Most of us like music. We may have different preferences, but our favorite music can lift our spirits and make the day more enjoyable.  Who among us can’t help but smile when we listen to children sing at play?

God must love music. He surrounded us with the beautiful music of nature. The birds sing a variety of lovely tunes. Animals add to the great chorus of nature. Flowing water has a soothing sound.  As do the waves that hit the beaches. The wind and rain have their own genre.  Even the roll of the thunder.                

I hope we sing often and loud these months of summer. It will make those lazy, hazy, crazy days delightful. 

-- Pastor Tom

 

 

 

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, June, 2019

posted May 29, 2019, 6:28 PM by Lois Kerchner

Pentecost Eyes

 You will never look into the eyes of someone God does not love!

On the southern border of the empire of Cyrus, there lived a great chieftain named Cagular who tore to shreds & completely defeated the various detachments of Cyrus’ army sent to subdue him.

Finally the emperor, amassing his whole army, marched down, surrounded & overwhelmed Cagular's forces, captured him & his wife, & brought them to the capital for execution.

On the scheduled day for their execution, he & his wife were brought to the judgment chamber - Cagular, a fine looking man of more than 6 feet, with a noble manner about him - a magnificent specimen of a man.  

So impressed was Cyrus that he said to Cagular: "What would you do should I spare your life?"   "Your Majesty, if you spared my life, I would return to my home & remain your obedient servant as long as I lived."   

And Cyrus asked, "What would you do if I spared the life of your wife?"    Cagular answered, "Your Majesty, if you spared the life of my wife, I would die for you."

So moved was the emperor by Cagular's words & attitude that he freed them both & returned Cagular to his homeland to serve as its governor.

Upon arriving home, Cagular reminisced about the trip with his wife. "Did you notice the marble at the entrance of the palace? Did you see the tapestry on the walls as we went down the corridor into the throne room? And did you see the throne on which the emperor sat? It must have been carved from one lump of pure gold."

His wife replied: "I really don’t remember any of that." "   Well," said Cagular in amazement, "What do you remember?" 

His wife looked at him & said, "I remember only the eyes of the man who said he would die for me."

This is the love we see in the eyes of Jesus!   This is the love God feels for us when He looks into our eyes!   And because the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost, we have the power within to look at every person just like God does!

With you in Sharing the Love!

Pastor Tom

 

 

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, May, 2019

posted May 2, 2019, 5:01 PM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated May 2, 2019, 5:02 PM ]

"May" You Have God's Peace

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.                                     Philippians 4: 7 (ESV)

Once upon a time, a supermarket held a sweepstakes. The 5 finalists were given a 15 minute shopping spree. The one who accumulated the highest total on the register receipt would be declared the winner, and receive the groceries free of charge.

 The finalists sped through the aisles, scooping up the most expensive items, bumping into each other, and crashing their carts into store fixtures. It was a hectic, mad-dash race that grew more difficult as carts became more loaded down.

 In one aisle, however, a young contestant sauntered along casually. He compared prices and checked expiration dates, and loaded his cart carefully.

In one aisle, the young man moved his cart aside to allow for a frantic shopper to pass.  She shouted, “Why are you poking along?  You’ll never win that way!”  The young man replied, “It’s all good.  My father owns the store.”

God knows we can live life as a contest, with limited time to accumulate the most possessions, even necessary ones. We can find ourselves running franticly, bumping and crashing into things and each other, before time runs out. But at the end of the day, He wants us to remember, He Owns the Store!   And it is open to us 24/7. And everything we need is on the shelves free of charge.    

May you have God’s Peace this May!

Pastor Tom

 

Preparing Now for Charge Conference!

Charge Conference is the very special and unique annual meeting where important business of the congregation is conducted. This includes the selection of persons who serve in key ministry areas that are found in the Book of Discipline.

You will find in this edition and in weekly bulletins in June a booklet for you to suggest persons, including yourself, to serve in various elected roles. Please give careful and prayerful thought to this matter and participate by suggesting persons. Then, simply return your booklet to the church office or place in weekly offering plate. This will assist the Nominations and Leadership Development team in completing their task in advance of the meeting.

 

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, April, 2019

posted Mar 26, 2019, 12:25 PM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated Mar 26, 2019, 12:29 PM ]

Temptation, Lent, and the Word

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
                                                                                Deuteronomy 6:4-9

An ancient Greek legend speaks of Sirens, sea-nymphs whose song was so irresistibly tempting that sailors would throw themselves overboard and swim to land where they would die. The tale has it that Ulysses, hero of Homer’s Odyssey, sets off for home after the fall of Troy.  As he and his men prepare to pass the coast of the Sirens, he orders the sailors to seal their ears with wax. He then caused himself to be bound to a post, ordering that he not be unbound, no matter how he might plea.

 

As they passed the enchanting coast, the music of the sirens began. Ulysses struggled and pleaded to be set free, but was bound even more tightly. When the ship finally passed from earshot of the Sirens, Ulysses regained his senses, was unbound, and then unsealed the ears of his crew. And so the Odyssey continued.

 

Unlike Greek mythology, “the song of the Sirens” is very real. This song is tempting; at times seemingly irresistible.  And the same fate awaits all who succumb and pursue it. What temptations are like “the Sirens” that call out to us?  How are they resisted? Whatever they are, one sure fire way to handle these temptations is to be bound, not to a post, like Ulysses, but bound to the Word of God.    

 

Deuteronomy calls us to place God’s word into our heart and mind and soul.  To teach God’s Word to our children, and talk about it wherever we are and at all times of the day. Best of all, the written Word of God leads us to the Living Word of God: Jesus Christ!

 

Once, during a church construction project, before laying the carpet in the new sanctuary, people were invited to take a marker and write their favorite Bible verse on the cement floor.  In no time, the entire floor was covered with Scripture.   That way whenever in worship, we were “standing on the Word.”    I remember writing “We would see Jesus” right where the pulpit would be located.    

 

It is fun and helpful to find creative ways to keep the Word in heat, mind, and soul.  Especially when facing temptation!  Why not think of some this Lenten season?  

 

May you have a meaningful Lent and a Happy Easter!      

Pastor Tom               

 

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, March, 2019

posted Feb 28, 2019, 1:09 PM by Lois Kerchner

Lent, Moses, and the Promised Land

 

One of the great ironies of history is Moses' not getting to enter and enjoy the Promised Land. Yes, he was allowed to see it from a distance, looking out across the Jordan River.  But after a lifetime of faithful service he was not allowed to enter and had to die with just a look.    

 

The most common explanation was that it was punishment for a failure of obedience on his part; that God had no choice but to punish him for a single act.  Is that the only explanation, or simply the most popular? That idea, while common, can be very misleading   

 

For you see, a primary theme in of Scripture is not that the “promised land is something out there and somewhere else.” Rather, Scripture describes a promised land of milk and honey in the here and now!    

 

For Moses, walking with God and leading the people and living into his calling was the real joy, or "milk and honey", of the Promised Land. Why must we see his fate as another warning about the consequence of failing to please God perfectly? Is this the way God is, or how God has been perceived?   The distinction is important. As the old saying goes, “how you see is what you see.”

 

In the life and teaching of Jesus, and throughout Scripture, God is patient, long-suffering, ever-so kind. Most likely, the actual Promised Land, the promise of God‘s presence, was fulfilled in Moses' journey here on earth. He didn’t have to cross over the Jordan: he had fulfillment on the journey in the desert. Was Moses' journey an easy one? Clearly not!   But the “milk and honey” of the Promised Land is what sustains him. The same is true for us.

 

What else can we learn from Moses? We can learn that what we love the most often gives us the greatest pain. We can learn that what we love in our work can also bring the greatest heartache. This was clearly true for Moses. Still, his moments of greatest God-experiences are in that long difficult journey, with all of its challenges and all of its rewards. 

 

Perhaps this Lent can be an opportunity to reflect on our life, and reconsider what it means to walk with God, sustained by the milk and honey of His Promised Land.  Both in this life and in the life to come.

 

See you where the Promised Land is found

 

Pastor Tom

 


Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, December, 2018

posted Nov 30, 2018, 4:22 PM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated Nov 30, 2018, 5:13 PM ]

Advent Is Upon Us!

Advent is a time of expectation and hope.  “Advent” means “arrival” or “coming,” and it prompts us to pause each day in December and remember why Jesus came at Christmas.   The first mention of Advent occurred in the 300’s A.D at a meeting of church leaders called the Council of Sargossa.   It gradually developed into a season that stretched across the month of December. Traditions vary by country, but common ways of commemorating Jesus’ birth are through Advent calendars, wreaths, and candles.

 

The Advent wreath first appeared in Germany in 1839.   A Lutheran minister working at a mission for children created a wreath out of the wheel of a cart. He placed twenty small red candles and four large white candles inside the ring. The red candles were lit on weekdays and the four white candles were lit on Sundays.   Eventually, the Advent wreath was created out of evergreens, symbolizing everlasting life in the midst of winter and death. The circle reminds us of God’s unending love and the eternal life He makes possible. Advent candles are often nestled in the evergreen wreath. Additional decorations, like holly and berries, are sometimes added. Their red color points ahead to Jesus’ sacrifice and death. Pinecones can symbolize the new life that Jesus brings through His resurrection.

The most common Advent candle tradition involves five candles. A new candle is lit on each of the four Sundays before Christmas.   A fifth white candle is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Eve or Day to celebrate Jesus’ birth.  

   The first candle symbolizes hope and is called the “Prophet’s Candle.” The prophets of the Old Testament, especially Isaiah, waited in hope for the Messiah’s arrival.

   The second candle represents faith and is called “Bethlehem’s Candle.” Micah had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, which is also the birthplace of King David.

    The third candle symbolizes joy and is called the “Shepherd’s Candle.” To the shepherd’s great joy, the angels announced that Jesus came for humble, unimportant people like them, too. In liturgy, the color rose signifies joy.

    The fourth candle represents peace and is called the “Angel’s Candle.” The angels announced that Jesus came to bring peace--He came to bring people close to God and to each other again.

    The fifth candle represents light and purity and is called “Christ’s Candle.”  It is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day.

The Advent tradition helps us remember that Jesus entered our dark, broken world on the first Christmas long ago, and He’s working even now to restore light, peace, and life.

May you be filled with this Advent expectation and hope this season!

 

Pastor Tom


Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, November 2018

posted Oct 29, 2018, 5:53 PM by Lois Kerchner

How to Vote Like a Methodist

 

There will be an election on Tuesday, November 6. As this election approaches, we disciples have an opportunity to go to the polls as "holy" people. 

 

The apostle Peter, referencing Leviticus 11: 44-45, 19: 2, and 20:7 wrote, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”  (1 Peter 1: 15-16)

 

What does it mean to be holy? It can mean set apart or sacred.  But my personal favorite is from Strong’s Concordance of the Greek, which says the fundamental core of the word is ‘different.’ It is as though God is telling us to, "Be different, as I am different."   

 

We Methodists have an opportunity to obey God by the manner in which we fulfill our duty as citizens of this great democracy.  How can this be done?  Let’s recall the words of our founder, John Wesley, who wrote the following to the people called Methodist on October 6, 1774:

 

   "I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them,

      1.  To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy:

      2.  To speak no evil of the person they voted against:  and,

      3.  To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the                                        

          other side."

 

John Wesley loved the Lord, and he had a vision to “spread scriptural holiness through the land.”  His advice on voting can make that vision a reality.

 

We Americans are blessed to have the freedom to vote for our leaders. Countless citizens have the right to vote. As followers of Christ, we know that “rights” come with “responsibility.” John Wesley recognized nearly 240 years ago that an even bigger responsibility than the “freedom to vote” is “unity in Christ.”  

 

God’s people will not share the same political views, but we must show the world how God’s people conduct themselves in a climate of anger, polarization, accusation, and sometimes downright hatred. Now is a perfect time for the people of God to witness to the power of God by being holy, by being “different.” This is an effective form of evangelism, so, let's vote like a Methodist.

 

See you at the "different and difference making" place!      

                                                                       Pastor Tom

Dear Church Family, 

On Monday, October 29, I will be embarking on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. My prayer is that God will bring new insights that I may share with you, as well as increasing my love for our Savior and all people. When visiting the Western Wall, I shall place Leola UMC on a paper which is inserted into the cracks of the magnificent stones from the Temple. In my absence, our pulpit will be filled by Spirit filled preachers: Rev. George Weaver (November 4) and Rev. Jeannine Brenner (November 11). I know you will pray for them and hear Gods Word through them. You will remain in my thoughts and in my prayers at each sacred site we visit. Shalom!

 

Pastor Tom

 

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