Haitian Earthquake Relief

Posted January 14, 2010 by epumcrumc
Categories: News

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By now you have probably heard about the massive earthquake that struck Haiti.  Haiti, one of the poorest nations in the western hemisphere, lies in ruins.  In response, Americans are doing what we do best-helping our neighbors. Make no mistake, the need in Haiti is dire.

If you want to help, you can donate to the United Methodist Committee on Relief, or UMCOR.  UMCOR has a strong presence in Haiti.  Gifts to support UMCOR’s Haiti Relief efforts can be made to Haiti Emergency, UMCOR Advance #418325.  Checks can be made to UMCOR with Advance #418325 Haiti Emergency in the memo line.  Checks can be put in the church’s offering plate or mailed to UMCOR, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087.  UMCOR states that 100 percent of Advance gifts made will go to support relief and development efforts due to emergencies in Haiti.

“Give freely and spontaneously.  Don’t have a stingy heart.  The way you handle matters like this triggers God, your God’s blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures.  There are always going to be poor and needy people among you.  So I command you:  Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors.”  Deuteronomy 15:10-The Message.

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What is newsworthy?

Posted December 31, 2009 by epumcrumc
Categories: Opinion

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Last Sunday, the 27th of December, was the last Sunday of 2009.  As is the case with many others, my thoughts turned to reflection on this past year.  There were many notable stories in the news throughout the year.  Some of them were inspiring, like the miraculous landing of an airliner in the Hudson River in New York.  Some were annoying, like the nearly constant partisan bickering by both sides in Congress.  Most stories, however, were notable for little more than being notable.  Sort of like many celebrities these days who are famous only for being famous, I suppose.

There are many stories out there that were not newsworthy, in the context of the mass media.  Even though largely overlooked, these stories are newsworthy in a Christian context.  Every time a hungry person was fed, that was newsworthy.  Every time a sad person was comforted, that was newsworthy.  Every time a homeless person was sheltered, that was newsworthy.  Every time one person showed kindness to another person, in any circumstance, that was newsworthy.  It does not even matter if it was a Christian person who showed the kindness, because God is at work in all things.

As Jesus said, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:  I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.”  (Matthew 25: 34-40, The Message.)

It’s Called Christmas for a Reason

Posted December 3, 2009 by epumcrumc
Categories: Opinion

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I had a nice experience at a local big box store last night.  I had stopped in to begin my Christmas shopping, and as I exited with my purchases, there was a young man standing next to a Salvation Army kettle, ringing a hand bell.  I put a five into the pot, and he said “Merry Christmas”.  I thanked him and wished him “Merry Christmas” as well.

Unfortunately, not everyone is allowed to say “Merry Christmas” these days.  Many stores and other public places actively prohibit employees from wishing anyone anything other than a bland “Happy Holidays”.  Now, I don’t hold that against the employees, as they have little choice if they want to keep their jobs.  I do, however, blame the employers, and those who would secularize the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior.  The former are intimidated into cowering compliance for fear of offending someone-but apparently offending Christians is OK.  The latter are those who don’t believe in God or Jesus Christ and want to force their non-belief upon everyone else.  If they don’t believe, I’m willing to pray for them, but I refuse to let them prohibit me from expressing my faith.

So, when someone wishes you a “Happy Holiday” in the coming days, respond kindly.  They may not even have a choice in the matter.  I suggest that you smile, and wish them God’s blessings and a “Merry Christmas”.  Amidst all the hustle and bustle, remember what Christmas is really about.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16.

Still waters, turbulent waters

Posted November 17, 2009 by epumcrumc
Categories: Opinion

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Turbulent waters where a placid stream flowed.A couple weeks ago I walked to church, and along the way crossed over the little bridge over the east branch of the Eastern River, just down the road.   The water was running high due to overnight rains.  On my right the river was smooth and calm, winding its way along a field.   On my left, that same river was a raging, turbulent torrent.    Sometimes waters change from still to turbulent in a heartbeat.

As one sits indoors and comfortable it is easy to think good thoughts about the world outside. But you know how life is; there can be and probably will be darker, more difficult days than this.   If you or someone close to you have ever suffered from a life threatening disease or other calamity, then you know that world.   The once placid river of our lives becomes a series of dangerous, angry, rapids that can cause fear to surface in our hearts.

Faith can be paralyzed by fear. Fear is like an anchor that stops us dead in the water. But we are wrong when we panic during difficult times.   In reality the problem is not the raging waters around us, but the unbelief within us.   We make too much of the problem and too little of God’s provision.   Fear does that-it maximizes the problem in our mind and minimizes God’s provision and presence in our heart.    So we cry out in our panic.

To cry out is to assume that there is a God who cares and who not only cares but acts.    As the great old hymn says so well, “When darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace, In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil.”    Psalm 23 tells that the Lord leads us beside still waters, too; but to be led we must be willing to follow.    Jesus longs for us to put our trust in Him – the only One who can take us through the torrent.  Not around, not over, but through.    In our deepest fear, our need to trust Jesus is at its greatest.    So, when the waters of your life are turbulent, I urge you to pray and seek the comfort that Jesus provides as He leads you through the storm to still waters.

Tossing the (Bake Sale) Table

Posted September 25, 2009 by epumcrumc
Categories: Opinion

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Jim Jacobsen

Jim Jacobsen

By Jim Jacobsen, EPUMC

The Pittston Fair took place last summer, and the East Pittston United Methodist Church had a table in the Grange Exhibition Hall, as we do each year.  At that table, we sell baked goods, and this year, cutlery.  I spent several hours staffing the table on Saturday.  The past couple of years, it’s my understanding that these sales are purposed to supplement the funding for the new Fellowship Hall.

Much as I support that effort, at times I was a bit uncomfortable.  I felt that way because there was something missing from our church’s table: the church.  From a fair patron’s point of view, the only thing that distinguished us from the tee shirt stalls and mobile food vendors was an 8.5 inch by 11 inch piece of paper hanging off the front of the table with the church’s name printed on it.  Otherwise, we appeared like any other commercial money raising operation at the fair.

I would have loved it if people had asked me about the church, which of course is an opportunity to talk to folks about God and Jesus.  Instead, the questions I got were along the lines of  “How much are the brownies?” and “Can you break a twenty?”  Realistically, why would people ask anything else, when there was nothing of note to pique their curiosity?  We had no pictures of the church, none of our handouts or flyers, and nothing to invite people to worship with us.  Nothing what so ever.

In my opinion, we (and I firmly include myself) hid our faith under a tablecloth, as though we were ashamed to advertise our Christianity.  In Luke 9:26, Jesus said “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”  If Jesus had walked into that hall, would He have been ashamed of our timidity and tossed our table out the door, like the money changers’ tables in the Temple?  I pray that our congregation will be more outgoing and welcoming when we have opportunities to witness.