Posted tagged ‘church’

It’s Called Christmas for a Reason

December 3, 2009

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.

Advertisements

Still waters, turbulent waters

November 17, 2009

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

September 25, 2009
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.