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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


Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, October, 2018

posted Oct 3, 2018, 11:01 AM by Lois Kerchner

On Being Part of Something Special

In 1861, God formed a congregation of believers here in Leola.  The congregation remains, faithfully serving and sharing the love of God. It is a special place.

In 1987, I was ordained into the United Methodist Church. 30 years later, in 2017, I found myself feeling blessed that in that one year alone United Methodists gave more that $140,000,000 to support various ministries of the denomination, all for the promotion of social and personal holiness. In fact $70,000,000 was given directly to disaster response, both locally and internationally, and it was humbling to know that I was part of something bigger; something special. There are 12.5 billion United Methodists in 136 countries working together to serve God's purpose in our generation. Here in the Eastern Pennsylvania conference, there are 103,000 members in 415 churches in 16 counties This, too, is special.

On October 7, 2018, World-Wide communion Sunday, we United Methodists will join the 2.2 billion Christians throughout the world in sharing the blessed sacrament! 

God and His work is special. You my brothers and sisters, are special too!

See you at "The Special" place!

Pastor Tom

P.S. There are many good things United Methodists are doing locally and around the world.  I encourage everyone to visit the Conference website, and also to subscribe to both the West District E-News  and the Conference NEWSpirit Digest.

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, September, 2018

posted Sep 3, 2018, 5:37 PM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated Sep 3, 2018, 5:41 PM ]

Sharing the Love in Times of Suffering

In our recent series, Letters from God, we looked at the message to the church in Smyrna, the suffering church. Suffering is never pleasant, and we have all experienced that unpleasantness in varying degrees. At times we have found the experience of suffering to be an effective teacher, often requiring us to trust in God. I’d like to share a story with you in the hope that it can be of some help now or in the future.

In 1895, Christian missionary Andrew Murray was in England and suffering from a terribly painful back injury. One morning while eating breakfast, his hostess told him of a female acquaintance who was in great trouble and wanted to know if he had any advice to share. Murray handed his hostess a piece of paper he was working on. He said, “Give her this advice that I am actually writing for myself. Perhaps it can help.” Here is what it said:

In times of trouble, say:
First. “He brought me here. It is by His will I am in this difficult place; in this I will rest.”

Second. “He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.”

Third. “He will make this trial a blessing, teaching me lessons I must learn, and He will work in me the grace He wants to bestow.”

Finally. “In His good time He can bring me out again. How and when, He knows. And that is enough.”

“Therefore, I am here by God’s appointment, in His keeping, under His training, and for His time.”

I find in these words insights that can only be discovered by one who has experienced pain and suffering. I find also a gift the people of Jesus, the Body of Christ, can offer one another: bringing hope and encouragement through the shared experience of suffering, even from a distance of 123 years.

Thank you Rev. Murray, and thank you to all those suffering brothers and sisters today who find God faithful and share the love of God with us all. Let’s continue to listen to the Holy Spirit as we continue sharing God‘s love.

Greetings from Leola United Methodist Church, the “Share the Love” Place! Pastor Tom

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, August, 2018

posted Jul 31, 2018, 12:12 PM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated Jul 31, 2018, 12:13 PM ]


Through the centuries, gifted poets have described with remarkable insight what genuine Christian spirituality looks like.    When I think of the teachings of Jesus, it strikes me that he is, among other things, asking us to be true friends.     Notice what he says in John 15: 15, “I no longer call you servants … I have called you friends.”

 Take some time and reflect on the words of the gifted poet, David Whyte, in this excerpt found in ‘Friendship’ from Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.

"Friendship is a mirror to presence and a testament to forgiveness. Friendship not only helps us to see ourselves through another’s eyes, but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn.

A friend knows our difficulties and shadows and remains in sight, a companion to our vulnerabilities more than our triumphs, when we are under the strange illusion we do not need them. An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy. All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness. Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die.

In the course of the years a close friendship will always reveal the shadow in the other as much as ourselves. To remain friends we must know the other and their difficulties and even their sins and encourage the best in them, not through critique but through addressing the better part of them, the leading creative edge of their incarnation, thus subtly discouraging what makes them smaller, less generous, less of themselves.

Friendship is the great hidden transmitter of all relationship: it can transform a troubled marriage, make honorable a professional rivalry, make sense of heartbreak and unrequited love and become the newly discovered ground for a mature parent-child relationship.

The dynamic of friendship is almost always underestimated as a constant force in human life: a diminishing circle of friends is the first terrible diagnostic of a life in deep trouble: of overwork, of too much emphasis on a professional identity of forgetting who will be there when our armored personalities run into the inevitable natural disasters and vulnerabilities found in even the most ordinary existence…

Friendship transcends disappearance: an enduring friendship goes on after death, the exchange only transmuted by absence, the relationship advancing and maturing in a silent internal conversational way even after one half of the bond has passed on.

But no matter the medicinal virtues of being a true friend or sustaining a long close relationship with another, the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the self nor of the other, the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone."

See you Sundays at the FRIENDSHIP place!

Pastor Tom

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, July, 2018

posted Jun 29, 2018, 11:00 AM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated Jun 29, 2018, 11:01 AM ]

The Dirty, Old Wicker Basket

There was an old man who lived on a farm with his grandson. Each morning, the boy watched as grandpa sat at the table reading his Bible. The grandson wanted to be like him, so he started doing the same thing.

One day the boy said, "Grandpa, I keep reading. I don't understand most of it, and what I do understand I forget right after I stop. What good does this do?"

Grandpa said, "Take this dirty old wicker basket down to the river and bring back a basket full of water." So the boy did, but most of the water leaked out before he got back. Grandpa said, "Maybe you need to run a little faster." So the boy tried again with the same result, and in frustration said, "This is impossible. It does no good."

So grandpa asked him to do it one last time, and the boy complied. When the boy returned the grandpa told him to look at how clean the basket was, and said, "You may think it was useless, but you've cleaned it from the inside out. That's what happens when you read your Bible. You may not understand or remember everything, but it slowly cleans you from the inside out"

Sometimes we can feel like this boy, or maybe like the dirty old wicker basket. But let's remember the moral of the story and continue to look regularly into God's Word. Even when we don't fully understand or remember what we read, God's Word is doing its work and affecting us in healthy, positive ways..

See you Sundays at the Bible place!

-- Pastor Tom


New Series Begins July 15!

"Letters from God"


When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, it was a thriving, healthy church. In just a couple of decades, the church was still there, but something was wrong. What happened in such a short time?

In the Book of the Revelation, Jesus speaks to this church in Ephesus (Revelation 2: 1-7). He commends them for the many good things they do: good deeds, hard work, perseverance, good doctrine, and enduring hardships.

Strangely a strong reprimand follows: They had lost their "first love!" They lost Jesus and their original, passionate love for him. Jesus follows with strong words to them. They needed to rediscover their first love. Jesus knew that no matter how important these other good things were, when their first love for him is lost all these other good things count for nothing. Join us as we launch "Letters from God" where we examine all 7 churches of the Revelation, and look for the message Jesus has for us!

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, June, 2018

posted Jun 1, 2018, 1:47 PM by Lois Kerchner

June is a Special Month!

    June is the 6th month of our year. It is also known as "Juno's Month" and stems from the Gregorian calendar and its predecessor, the Julian calendar. It is believed that the month is named after the Roman goddess Juno, who was the wife of Jupiter.   For the Greeks, this would be Hera. June birthdays claim two birthstones: pearl, known for its beauty, and zendrite, regarded as quite rare.  The flower for the month of June is the rose, which has several meanings. A pink rose means perfect happiness. A red rose means, "I love you." A white rose signifies innocence and purity, while a yellow rose conveys sorrow over lost love.

    June has always held a special charm for me. My parents were married on June 3rd in 1950. This year they would have celebrated their 68th anniversary, which is also a communion Sunday. I find this rather poignant. My granddaughter Delaney was born last year on June 30. A recent picture captured 4 generations. 

    June is when the government asks for a quarterly tax payment. And why not? We live in the most prosperous country civilization has ever seen.

    Our United Methodist Church holds it's 3 day annual conference in June, where very important business of God's work is discussed, and clergy and lay representatives worship, pray, study scripture, and re-new our commitment to God's work and one another.

    Of course there is Father's Day. I'm thankful for both my earthly father, who remains alive in my heart, and my heavenly Father who have given me so much for which to be thankful

    I'm sure you also have special things you think about each June.  So let's join together and focus on being especially thankful for all the wonderful things God brings into our lives. And let’s pray daily that our thankfulness will glow as a testimony to our gratitude to God and commitment to share God’s love!

    See you Sundays at the Special place!

                                                         Pastor Tom


Pastor’s Class!


The next Pastor's Class will be unique. Come out on Wednesdays at 1 PM in Fellowship House, June 6, 13 and 20. This course will feature paintings and sculpture from before Christ up to the present time. You will be amazed at how humanity's view of God and God's place in life has changed! It offers excellent observation and discussion opportunities.

I think the following two quotes best express my thinking:

"The greatest artists can help us see what is happening in our lives and what may occur in the future, This is one of the most important services great art can perform."  
Charles Van Doran

"History has a flow to it. Our lives are shaped by the way we think. The way we think determines how we act. Artists reflect culture, often better than writers and inventors, and usually provide the way for the next step."                      Francis Schaeffer

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, May, 2018

posted Apr 25, 2018, 2:30 PM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated Apr 25, 2018, 2:31 PM ]


    The liturgical color red for Pentecost reminds us of the tongues of fire that appeared over the heads of all gathered on that historic day when God's own Spirit was given. It has always puzzled me that Pentecost never receives the same emphasis as Christmas and Easter. It is, after-all, one of the most significant days in history. This was the event the prophet Joel spoke of when God's own Spirit would be given to all. It is the event Jesus spoke of as the culmination of God's redemptive work and why He must return to the Father.

    On Christmas the Savior was born; on Easter the Savior died and rose for our sins. Then the Savior spoke of the purpose of His return: sending the Holy Spirit to be poured out on all humanity without regard to race, gender, ethnicity, status, beliefs, or anything that we might use to categorize people It is the birthday of The Church!

    Perhaps a good analogy comes from baseball: What good is reaching first (Christmas) and second (Easter) if you never round third (Pentecost) to reach home? It is mind-boggling to think that the very Spirit of God resides in us because of what happened on Pentecost!

    This year, lets continue to be mindful of this historic day and all that it signifies. In fact, let's celebrate by wearing something red on May 20!

    See you Sundays at the Pentecost place!
Pastor Tom


Be On The Lookout!

    The next Pastor's Class promises to be different. Once I master the challenge of projection technology I will offer a unique course that features paintings and sculpture from before Christ up to the present time. You will be amazed at how humanity's view of God and God's place in life has changed! It offers excellent observation and discussion opportunities.

    I think the following two quotes best express my thinking:

    "The greatest artists can help us see what is happening in our lives and what may occur in the future, This is one of the most important services great art can perform."
Charles Van Doran

    "History has a flow to it. Our lives are shaped by the way we think. The way we think determines how we act. Artists reflect culture, often better than writers and inventors, and usually provide the way for the next step." Francis Schaeffer

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