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Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, March, 2021

posted Feb 25, 2021, 8:34 AM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated Feb 25, 2021, 8:35 AM ]

Thought for Lent, 2021

Lent calls us to look inward to see outward, to see others. To see as God sees. As disciples are called to see. 

Consider the words of Pope Francis:

         Rivers do not drink their own water.

 Trees do not eat their own fruit.

 The sun doesn’t shine on itself.

 Flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves.

 Living for others is the rule of nature.

 We were all born to help each other.

 No matter how difficult it is, life is good when you are happy, but much better when others are happy because of you.

 

    Pastor Tom

 

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, February, 2021

posted Feb 1, 2021, 8:52 AM by Lois Kerchner

Now That The New Year Has Begun!

On Epiphany Sunday, January 3, our challenge from God’s word was to make meaningful New Year’s resolutions and commitments. I believe this is so important to our spiritual health and overall well-being that I want to remind us again of the four things we talked about. Because God honors His Word I am certain that if we make these commitments, and ask Gods help, it will make a world of difference in our lives.

So, here they are:

       Commit yourself to forget your failures

       Commit yourself to give up your grudges

       Commit yourself to restore your relationships

       Commit yourself to turning your back on your transgressions

Why not share with your brothers and sisters how you were blessed in your endeavor? We all benefit when we share the joys of what God does in our lives!     

Not sure how?

      Write something for the Newsletter or bulletin

      Post on Website or Facebook

      Share in Church

      Write to Pastor Tom, who will read your story in worship

Let’s grow together by sharing the greatness of God and testifying to His faithfulness!

May God be Praised!

Pastor Tom

Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, January 2021

posted Dec 31, 2020, 10:09 AM by Lois Kerchner   [ updated Dec 31, 2020, 10:10 AM ]

New Year; No Fear! 

It has been said that the most common phrase in the Bible is: Fear not!

On January 1, 2020, we had no idea what the new year would bring. No one was aware of COVID 19, the approaching pandemic, or the way it would change our lives in dramatic ways. Yet, despite the suffering and inconvenience, God was with us.

On January 1, 2021, a new year begins. And we do not know what lies ahead.

But this we do know: our God is with us and our God loves us and all will be well!

Hear the words of Isaiah 41: 13, For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

Remember, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8: 38-39).

And, with God's Word, which lasts forever, I say, Happy New Year!

Pastor Tom



Gabriel's Horn, Pastor Tom, December, 2020

posted Dec 1, 2020, 12:19 PM by Lois Kerchner

“Camping Out”

Therefore, “let us go to him, then, outside the camp, and bear the humiliation he endured. For there is no permanent city for us here, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:13–14).

So many “camps” today.   Religious and political.  Each so well defended.   Likely our own.

The prophetic position was always “on the edge of the inside,” which is described by the early Israelites as “the tent of meeting outside the camp” (Exodus 33:7).

And even though this tent was foldable, moveable, it was a meeting place for “the holy,” which is always on the move and out in front of us.

In our present cultural climate, it has become all too easy to justify fear-filled and hateful thoughts, words, and actions in defense against the “other” camps.

We project our anxiety elsewhere and misdiagnose the real problem (the real evil), forever exchanging it for smaller and seemingly more manageable problems.

The over-defended ego always sees, hates, and attacks in other people its own faults—the parts of ourselves that we struggle to acknowledge.

We do not want to give way on important moral issues, but this often means we don’t want to give way on our need to be right, superior, and in control.

It is our deep attachment to this false or manufactured self that leads us into our greatest illusions.

Most of us do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.

May we have the humility to seek the mercy and wisdom of God!

Pastor Tom, with gratitude to mentor Fr. Richard

 

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


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