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Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, February, 2020

posted Jan 27, 2020, 12:09 PM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated Jan 27, 2020, 12:13 PM ]

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, January, 2020

posted Jan 2, 2020, 5:52 PM by Lois Kerchner

Sing in the New Year!

 The opening pages of the United Methodist Hymnal bear a preface that has bemused and bewildered worshippers for ages.  These seven rules, titled Directions for Singing, were first included in the 1761 publication Select Hymns, a hymnbook for early Methodists.

A few things to keep in mind when you read these directions.  First, the hymns we take for granted as “traditional worship” were almost all new in John Wesley’s day (I mean, Charles was writing them), and most of them would never be sung in church building walls in Wesley’s lifetime. Newton’s Amazing Grace wasn’t even written yet. The Methodist movement was happening outside of church walls, where all the artful music could be made, and usually only the preacher had a copy of the hymnbook with all these cool new songs.  They would sing one line out at a time, and then the gathered crowd would repeat what they heard.  In this context, Wesley’s directions are really rooted in his belief that worship is the work of all the people, meant to unite us as a priesthood of all believers in service to God.

Truth be told, the church historically has a tendency of elevating musicians and preachers as somehow separate from the larger crowd, a crowd which can become spectators instead of participants.  (Thankfully, that is not the case here!) 

Wesley’s directions for singing are meant to offer practical ways we worship together.  Here they are:

Directions for Singing.  That this part of Divine Worship may be the more acceptable to God, as well as the more profitable to yourself and others, be careful to observe the following directions.

I. Learn these Tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.

II. Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.

III. Sing All. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up and you will find a blessing.

IV. Sing lustily (in a strong, healthy, vigorous way) and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

V. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

VI. Sing in Time: whatever time is sung, be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend closely to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can. And take care you sing not too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from among us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

VII. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your Heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve of here, and reward when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

With 2020 vision, let’s sing in and throughout this new year!  To God be the glory!

Pastor Tom

 


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

posted Dec 11, 2019, 10:01 AM by Lois Kerchner

Many gift-giving holidays surface this time of year: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Three Kings Day, Eid-al-Adha, and Diwali, to name a few. It’s a time of love, obligations, and equality. It’s a time of love expressed by sharing gifts given for the sheer pleasure of seeing the sheer pleasure in the recipient. It’s a time of obligation when you feel you have to give Uncle Gaspar a present because, after all, it is Christmas, and he’s related in some mysterious way that even Ancestry.com can’t trace. It’s a time of equality when you hope Cousin It gives you a gift card equal in value to the one you got him.

There’s an old saying, “It’s the thought that counts.” As we look at what we call, “the true meaning of Christmas,” we see that in the spiritual realm, it really is the gift that counts. The value and meaning of the gifts of God transcend any material gifts we can give or receive, and present a model for giving that can revolutionize our holiday traditions and reflect the love of God.

The most well-known verse in the Bible is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This is the ultimate act of love giving the ultimate gift for the ultimate purpose: to grant eternal life. There is no material value but infinite spiritual value — God gave the gift of Himself.

Memories are rarely made through material possessions. Once the batteries die, the next upgrade renders it obsolete, the wheels fall off, and the fruitcake dries, what’s left? But the knowledge that you have helped a needy person who cannot give back (OK, hugs, handshakes, and happy grins do count!), has great worth. Sharing opportunities of service with children opens their eyes to a real world beyond screens and teaches them valuable, lasting life lessons.

The gifts God gives are gifts for an abundant life: eternal life (John 3:16), the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), justification (Romans 5:16), spiritual gifts of service (1 Corinthians 12), and grace (Ephesians 4:7). Furthermore, the gifts God gives cannot be returned (Who would want to?): “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). Gifts of memorable events and time together can be recalled, but in a good sense — we can recall memories over and over again and keep them stored in our hearts.

God is not obligated to give us anything; that’s what makes His gifts so wonderful. He gives out of the boundless goodness of His heart. “Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of his servant!” (Psalm 35:27). The Psalmist takes comfort and says, “As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me” (Psalm 40:17). If God can stoop to take thought for the destitute, how much more should we unselfishly share with our fellow creatures who can return nothing?

God sees us all as equals, and equal we are. He does not give the same gifts to everyone, but He treats everyone the same. Listen to what the Christ of Christmas says, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44–45). Equality is not in the value of the gift, but the value of the person.

Don’t forget the most precious gift that you can give Jesus Christ for his birthday. That is the gift of yourself (Romans 12:1)!

Merry Christmas!      

Pastor Tom

 

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               

 

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