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Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, November, 2020

posted Oct 31, 2020, 9:15 AM by Lois Kerchner

From Pastor Tom,

God has placed it on my heart to share these words from Father Richard Rohr. May you be as blessed as I was.

Some simple but urgent guidance to get us through these next months.

I awoke on Saturday, September 19, with three sources in my mind for guidance: Etty Hillesum (1914 – 1943), the young Jewish woman who suffered much more injustice in the concentration camp than we are suffering now; Psalm 62, which must have been written in a time of a major oppression of the Jewish people; and the Irish Poet, W.B.Yeats (1965 – 1939), who wrote his “Second Coming” during the horrors of the World War I and the Spanish Flu pandemic.

These three sources form the core of my invitation. Read each one slowly as your first practice. Let us begin with Etty:


There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there, too … And that is all we can manage these days and also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of You, God, in ourselves.                      —Etty Hillesum, Westerbork transit camp

Note her second-person usage, talking to “You, God” quite directly and personally. There is a Presence with her, even as she is surrounded by so much suffering.

Then, the perennial classic wisdom of the Psalms:

In God alone is my soul at rest. God is the source of my hope. In God I find shelter, my rock, and my safety. Men are but a puff of wind, Men who think themselves important are a delusion. Put them on a scale, They are gone in a puff of wind. —Psalm 62:5–9


What could it mean to find rest like this in a world such as ours? Every day more and more people are facing the catastrophe of extreme weather. The neurotic news cycle is increasingly driven by a single narcissistic leader whose words and deeds incite hatred, sow discord, and amplify the daily chaos. The pandemic that seems to be returning in waves continues to wreak suffering and disorder with no end in sight, and there is no guarantee of the future in an economy designed to protect the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and those subsisting at the margins of society.

It’s no wonder the mental and emotional health among a large portion of the American population is in tangible decline! We have wholesale abandoned any sense of truth, objectivity, science or religion in civil conversation; we now recognize we are living with the catastrophic results of several centuries of what philosophers call nihilism or post-modernism (nothing means anything, there are no universal patterns).
 

We are without doubt in an apocalyptic time (the Latin word apocalypsis refers to an urgent unveiling of an ultimate state of affairs). Yeats’ oft-quoted poem “The Second Coming” then feels like a direct prophecy. See if you do not agree: 

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.


Somehow our occupation and vocation as believers in this sad time must be to first restore the Divine Center by holding it and fully occupying it ourselves. If contemplation means anything, it means that we can “safeguard that little piece of You, God,” as Etty Hillesum describes it. What other power do we have now? All else is tearing us apart, inside and out, no matter who wins the election or who is on the Supreme Court. We cannot abide in such a place for any length of time or it will become our prison.


God cannot abide with us in a place of fear.
God cannot abide with us in a place of ill will or hatred.
God cannot abide with us inside a nonstop volley of claim and counterclaim.
God cannot abide with us in an endless flow of online punditry and analysis.
God cannot speak inside of so much angry noise and conscious deceit.
God cannot be found when all sides are so far from “the Falconer.”
God cannot be born except in a womb of Love.
So offer God that womb.

Stand as a sentry at the door of your senses for these coming months, so “the blood-dimmed tide” cannot make its way into your soul. If you allow it for too long, it will become who you are, and you will no longer have natural access to the “really deep well” that Etty Hillesum returned to so often and that held so much vitality and freedom for her.

If you will allow, I recommend for your spiritual practice for the next four months that you impose a moratorium on exactly how much news you are subject to—hopefully not more than an hour a day of television, social media, internet news, magazine and newspaper commentary, and/or political discussions. It will only tear you apart and pull you into the dualistic world of opinion and counter-opinion, not Divine Truth, which is always found in a bigger place.

Instead, I suggest that you use this time for some form of public service, volunteerism, mystical reading from the masters, prayer—or, preferably, all of the above. You have much to gain now and nothing to lose. Nothing at all. And the world—with you as a stable center—has nothing to lose.
And everything to gain.

Richard Rohr, September 19, 2020


 

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, September, 2020

posted Sep 1, 2020, 11:41 AM by Lois Kerchner

What does the Bible mean by “peace”?

The Hebrew word we translate as peace is “shalom.” The way “shalom” is used does not mean to feel calm nor the absence of conflict. Instead shalom, peace, is the result of right relationships with God, one another, and with creation. The concept of peace is wholeness in all of life.

The United Methodist Council of Bishops, in their 1986 statement “In Defense of Creation,” described the biblical foundation of peace:

“At the heart of the Old Testament is the testimony to shalom, that marvelous Hebrew word that means peace. But the peace that is shalom is not negative or one-dimensional. It is much more than the absence of war. Shalom is positive peace: harmony, wholeness, health, and well-being in all human relationships. It is the natural state of humanity as birthed by God. It is harmony between humanity and all of God’s good creation. All of creation is interrelated. Every creature, every element, every force of nature participates in the whole of creation. If any person is denied shalom, all are thereby diminished.” (Peace with Justice Sunday and Special Offering, 2016 Book of Resolutions)

In the New Testament, Paul begins his letters, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The bishops explained, “Paul’s letters announce that Jesus Christ is “our peace.” It is Christ who “broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us,” creating one humanity, overcoming enmity, so making peace (Ephesians 2:14-19).”

United Methodists recognize that “God’s earth is aching for peace. Domestic strife, interpersonal violence and abuse, civil conflict, ethnic and racial clashes, religious schism and interfaith rivalry, terrorist attacks, wars between nations, and threatened use of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons—all of these prevent us from achieving God’s shalom.”

“The Bible makes justice the inseparable companion of peace (Isaiah 32:17; James 3:18). Both point to right and sustainable relationships in human society, the vitality of our connections with the earth, the well-being and integrity of creation. To conceive peace apart from justice is to compromise the hope that justice and peace shall embrace (Psalm 85:10).”

What will peace look like? When there is peace, no one goes hungry. When there is peace, no one is abandoned to fend for themselves. When there is peace, we support each other’s thriving. When there is peace, differences are celebrated as gifts for the good of all. When there is peace, no external threats (though there may be some) prevent us from living the fullest lives we can. When there is peace, there is also every ground for joy.

Shalom to You!

When we pray for peace and offer one another the peace of Christ, we become channels of God’s never-ending peace that reorders the world toward wholeness.

When we act in the spirit of Christ, we can “sow love where there is hatred, can dispense pardon where there is injury, can cast light where there is darkness.

As instruments of peace and justice, we can seek to replace discord with harmony and to repair the brokenness that shatters the wholeness of shalom.”

Paul’s letters offer assurance that peace is not something we have to wait for in some yet to be determined future. Peace is being poured out on us by God right now. The bishops remind us, “No matter how bad things are, God’s creative work continues. Christ’s resurrection assures us that death and destruction do not have the last word. Paul taught that through Jesus Christ, God offers redemption to all of creation and reconciles all things, ‘whether on earth or in heaven’ (Colossians 1:20).

Shalom!

Pastor Tom

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, August, 2020

posted Jul 29, 2020, 1:15 PM by Lois Kerchner



July 12, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, our coronavirus response team has been hard at work making plans to safely resume in person worship at Leola Church. Please carefully review the information that you receive to learn more about our plans and procedures in the coming weeks.

Like so many of you we long for the day when we can all be together in person again. For the past several weeks we have been meeting via zoom to determine the necessary steps for reopening Leola church. These faithful servants have taken this work very seriously, and I’m grateful for their efforts. Members of the team have dutifully researched conference and public health guidelines, reviewed the data from our churchwide survey, and debated various options for reopening.

Above all our top priority has been your safety. With that priority in mind, the team has developed a timeline and guidelines for return to in-person worship.

We are mindful that many of us have very different comfort levels with regards to going out in public. For some of us, the timeline may seem recklessly fast; while for others it may seem frustratingly slow. Please know that the team shares your concerns, frustration, and pain.

Now more than ever we realize the church is so much more than a building. The church building may be closed, but our church is open because the church is people.

May God's Peace Fill Your Life,

Pastor Tom



 

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, June, 2020

posted Jun 4, 2020, 8:39 AM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated Jun 4, 2020, 8:40 AM ]

Dear Church Family,

In recent weeks you have likely been wondering: When will this pandemic come to an end? When will our county move to "yellow" status, or even "green"? When will we be able to come together for worship again?

If you've been wrestling with these questions, you are not alone. Throughout the past few weeks, the Coronavirus Leadership Response Team and I have wrestled with these and other questions while reviewing information, updates, and recommendations from our Conference and government leaders.
No doubt we are all eager to move into the "yellow" stage -- and yet, the procedures and recommendations for congregations in the yellow stage are not "back to normal" or "church as usual."

Our conference recommends that any churches in yellow counties limit gatherings (even Sunday worship) to twenty-five individuals or less, while wearing face masks, observing social distancing guidelines, maintaining aggressive sanitizing procedures, and refraining from congregational singing (which can lead to the spread of COVID-19 even when masks are worn). Obviously, this is not what we prefer or have loved about our Sunday morning gatherings!

Given those recommendations, the C.L.R.T has elected to wait until we in Leola have reached the "green" stage before coming together again for congregational worship.

Why should we wait?

It is our belief that the restrictions and requirements under the conference's "yellow stage" guidelines will actually lead to a worship experience that is less meaningful than the fuller and more vibrant worship we currently offer through online platforms (Facebook and church website).

We may be wrong, of course.  But if we are, we believe we are wrong for the right reasons. We believe that even in these less than ideal circumstances, God is with us.  We remain connected.   If fact, we are growing as we share the “exile” experience we have read over and over in God’s Word.   Our reunion will be ever greater when that day arrives. The C.L.R.T and I also feel a pastoral responsibility.   We are called to serve as shepherds.

A shepherd's first responsibility is to ensure the safety of the flock.

Keep the faith! We will come together again. Until that time, let us continue to reach out to one another, pray for one another, bless one another. Let us continue to be who we've always been: Leola U.M.C.: Sharing the Love!

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord make his face to shine upon you,

and be gracious unto you.

May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,

and give you peace.


Shalom!

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, August, 2018

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

THE LOOK OF TRUE FRIENDSHIP

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, April, 2018

posted Mar 30, 2018, 8:24 AM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated Mar 30, 2018, 8:25 AM ]


On Gardening

It all began in a garden. In John's Gospel (18:1), Jesus leaves the upper room and goes to the garden to begin his passion and death.  Here he would pray a sorrowful prayer, be betrayed by a friend, be arrested by his enemies, and abandoned by his disciples.

It all ended in a garden.  John's Gospel (19:41-42) tells us Jesus' body was buried in a tomb in a garden.

It began again in a garden. The garden setting was a place of burial and resurrection.  Indeed, when the risen Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene, she thought he was the gardener!

How interesting that everything began in a garden (Genesis 2:8) and in the last chapter of Revelation, the Bible's last words, we read that we will live with God forever in the Garden of Paradise.

As we look at the many gardens we pass, or when tending our own, may the Bible's words remind us of the sacred nature of a garden.  May God encourage us to "tend the garden in our heart" and bring forth the beauty of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control...the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians.

See you Sundays at The Gardening place!

---Pastor Tom


“Diving with Friends” Book Recommendation
         “Strong and Weak” by Andy Crouch

Holy Land Pilgrimage

 

October 29 –  November 8, 2018

 

If you or someone you know would like to learn more, see Pastor Tom for a detailed information brochure

 


“We don’t usually aspire to be both strong and weak. But we see the value of it in those who use their influence to benefit others in the face of suffering.  We see it in Jesus, who wielded tremendous power yet also exposed himself to ridicule and death. Rather than being opposites, strength and weakness are actually meant to be brought together in every human life and every community. Only when this happens do we find the flourishing for which we were made."


Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tim, January, 2016

posted Dec 31, 2015, 7:43 AM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated Dec 31, 2015, 7:44 AM ]


Dear Friends and Members of Leola United Methodist Church,

Happy New Year!   The start of a new year provides the opportunity for us to set the tone for the next twelve months.  How might we impact another person’s life this year?

          At a turning point in the lives of the ancient Israelites, Joshua challenged the people, “Choose this day who you will serve.”  He led by example declaring, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”  (Josh. 24:15)

          While God has already made the choice of sending Jesus as our way to salvation, there remains choices that we make daily.  We can live out our vision statement, “Sharing the love of Jesus Christ every day by being caring, compassionate, warm-hearted, open, encouraging, and committed,” or we can be grumpy. 

          I recently read a moving story about a man from North Carolina whose wife had died following a courageous battle with cancer.  Filled with grief, he said he “would have liked to stay in bed for an entire year” if it weren’t for his two children, ages 7 and 10.  His children kept him going through what he describes as the hardest year of his life.

          On the anniversary of his wife’s death he decided that instead of allowing a dark cloud to hang over him, he would do something special to honor his wife’s memory.  He decided to write one hundred love notes.  Each handwritten note was different. Many told of their life together, others shared reflections on their two year battle with cancer.  The final ten cards contained an imagined conversation between the two, if his wife were still alive.  The notes were heartfelt, and they brought a sense of closure and healing to him. 

          He began handing out the notes to strangers on the street.  Surprisingly, people were touched by the cards and shared them with people they knew.  The gentleman then gave blank thank you cards and encouraged others to write their own notes of appreciation to the special people in their lives.  People took the time to reflect on their lives and to show appreciation to others. This spread all over the United States and eventually to cities in Europe. 

          In a world filled with so much bad news, this letter writing campaign became a breath of fresh air.  Who are the people to whom you would like to write notes of love and appreciation?  I encourage you to take the time to write notes, too.  As the gentleman in the story discovered, acts of love and kindness are contagious.

 

See you in church, 

Pastor Tim

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tim, July, 2015

posted Jul 1, 2015, 7:17 PM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated Jul 1, 2015, 7:18 PM ]

Dear Friends and Members of Leola United Methodist Church,

The summer months provide additional opportunities to grow in our faith.  While on vacation a couple of years ago, I spotted a young man wearing a t-shirt with, “Methodism begins with Me” printed on the front.  On the back was the name of the church. 

I do not totally agree with that sentiment; the temptation is to always focus on ourselves and not on God. There is some truth, that each one of us can make a positive difference in our church.

At our last Church Council meeting we discussed steps we could take to strengthen our church.  It is important to continually reach out to persons living in our neighborhoods and community, because once we lose our outward focus, the church begins to decline. 

When we strengthen our own faith, there is a carryover to the church.  That is why it is important to spend time each day with God through prayer and the reading of scripture.  Ten or fifteen minutes daily will make a difference in our lives.  When we fail to spend time with God, it signals that we are more self-dependent than God-dependent.  When we pray, we do so as an expression of our dependence on God.

As we read our Bibles, we discover God’s word of hope and life.  Perhaps we know this truth but have forgotten its power.  A daily reminder that through the word God brings life out of death.  Reading the Bible and praying on a regular basis becomes our lifeline to God. When we read of all that God has done in the past, we are able to place our trust in God. 

Another benefit of daily reading and prayer is that we will be strong to resist most of the temptations around us.  We will be better able to recognize all the subtle temptations we face, and rely on God.

Finally, it is difficult to read the Bible and not see God’s love for all people.  Jesus gave the disciples and us a new commandment “Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.” (John 13:34).  Because God loves all people, we must strive to be more loving to all the people we encounter.  Prayer and scripture reading turns our hearts outward to include everyone.  What breaks God’s heart should break ours as well.

In keeping the spiritual disciplines, our focus remains on God and not ourselves or our circumstances.  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence.”  (Proverbs 3:5)

Each one of us has the opportunity to make a positive difference in the life of our church.  It begins with us.  Working together for the glory of God there is no telling what the church can do!

 

See you in Church,

Your Pastor,

Pastor Tim

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tim Smith, May, 2013

posted May 2, 2013, 7:00 AM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated May 2, 2013, 7:02 AM ]

Dear Friends and Members of Leola United Methodist Church,

 At our recent District Conference, District Superintendent, Pastor Jim Todd, talked about watching championship golf tournaments on television.  He noted that many of the games are played at “exclusive” country clubs.  Along the road is a large sign with the name of the club, with the note, “Members Only.”  It is obvious to anyone who drives past that only  members of the country club are welcomed.

Pastor Todd wondered if people driving past our churches feel that the church is for members only and off limits to them.  Unfortunately there might be people who feel that way.

Reflecting on his excellent message prompts the question, “What do we need to do at our church so that people know they are welcome here?”  Thousands of people pass our church on a daily basis.  I’ve shared previously that a delivery person told me that he comes by our church on a regular basis and never realized we were a church.  What may seem obvious to us may not be to other people.

            Later this month we will celebrate Pentecost, which is referred to as the birthday of the church. The believers were waiting and praying inside a house when the Holy Spirit dramatically descended upon them.  Filled with the Holy Spirit, the believers went outside, onto the street, and began speaking in other known languages that God’s plan of salvation is for all people. 

By God’s design there were people from all over the world meeting in Jerusalem that day.  The second chapter of Acts lists the home countries of those present.  Each person heard in their own language “about God’s deeds of power.” 

At first those present were confused and unsure what was going on.  Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, stood up to address the gathered crowd.  He explained what the arrival of the Holy Spirit meant citing the Old Testament prophet Joel.  He concluded his message by teaching about Jesus, how he was crucified and “God raised him up, having freed him from death.”   At the end of his message is the verse, “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart...”  That day “about three thousand persons were added,” and the church was born.

            What would it take to attract people to our church?  What message will we present so that our guests are “cut to the heart”?  May each one of us ponder those two questions as together we strive to be the church of Jesus Christ in our community.  We have to continue to find new and creative ways to tell the story of Jesus.  The message does not change -- only the way we present it.

            Everyone is always welcome at our church!  We invite our friends and neighbors to our church.  We share our faith as a way of encouraging others.  When we see first time guests in our church, we personally welcome them. 

            See you in church, where we never know whom God will send our way!

 

Your Pastor,

Pastor Tim

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