Wednesday, September 11, 2019

September 8 2019 Philemon 1-21 “Charge It!”

September 8 2019 Philemon 1-21 “Charge It!” Pastor Jacqueline Hines
Philemon is the name of a letter in the bible written to a fellow Christian by the apostle Paul while he was in prison after being judged by a religious court. [slide # 1 Philemon] Even today the Vatican in Rome has its own government and its own jail system. Not too long ago there was news of the Pope’s Benedict’s butler being jailed in Rome’s Vatican for stealing papers off the Pope’s desk. [slide #  2 prison] As you know, our United Methodist church has its own religious trials and courts and punishments, though we have no jails. A stat this week says that 5% of our churches have prison ministries and Bethel has been a part of that. We also know that mentoring is caring and it reduces the recidivism rate! That is a word for the wise.
Rev. Samuel Wesley [ slide # 3 Samuel Wesley] quite the scholar and writer, was the father of our United Methodist church founder Rev. John Wesley went to prison. He had 19 children with his wife Susanna. Ten survived and you know what it costs to feed, clothe, house, and educate a family in any age. When he could not pay his bills, he was sent to debtor’s prison. His son John learned much from his father’s mistakes and decided he would earn all he could, give all he could, and save all he could. John Wesley was convicted to live simply so that others could simply live, which is radical thinking. [slide # 4  give all…]
Apostle Paul was in prison because he was a radical Christian. He was the type of Christian who did not hesitate do attend protest rallies and join crowds for the cause of justice. Paul was not afraid to die. He was not afraid to get beat up. He was not afraid of being tortured. Paul was an extremist, like Jesus, he was detained and sentenced.
I am not that kind of Christian. I like things calm and quiet. I lean more toward being a conservative Christian, unlike members of the church I served in Germantown who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King and were jailed overnight in order to send a message that legal inequality was against God’s laws and that the Lord calls some of us to resist evil and confront the wicked.
Paul wrote four letters to churches while he was incarcerated. They are in the bible as Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and this morning’s scripture – a letter to one of Paul’s supporters named Philemon.
We all know what it is like to be detained, restricted or trapped in one way or another. Those impacted by Storm Dorian may feel imprisoned by whatever circumstances they are facing. Those in Phoenixville hospital are detained until the medical staff releases them. Even in a growing economy, our finances may restrict us. We have all tasted and seen for ourselves, in one way or another, what prison is like.
I smile when I read Paul’s letter to Philemon because Paul is in his sweet pastoral mode. He says he is setting his tough guy mode aside. He starts off by reminding them that he is a prisoner while they are enjoying the luxury of freedom, guilting them a little. He greets them personally by name and adds a little prayer for God’s grace in their lives. He writes that he is praying for them and hopes their ministry is an effective one.  He tells them what a great blessing they have been to him. Then he gets to his main point. He wants to talk to them about their runaway slave named Onesimus.  
Throughout history slavery has taken on many forms, some worse than others. American slavery from 1619 to the end of the 1800’s is said to have been the cruelest in the world. If you are not aware of today’s markets and institutions of slavery, just Google and prepare to get sick at the stomach. In every form slavery, even slavery to sin, is a horrible institution whose government is Satan. Every Christian knows.  
It is funny how we are all sinners, all transgressors, all guilty, all fall short of the glory of God, and we are usually not in a hurry to admit it. Like children and puppies, with crumbs all over our face, we quickly deny that we stole the cookie from the cookie jar. It is our nature to avoid being caught. [slide # 5 rabbit with cookie] It is our nature to run when we are being chased and held accountable. It is our nature to hide when we are stripped of our defenses, when a spotlight reveals our weaknesses.
Sin is a delicate issue, it is a personal issue, and most times it is a terrible issue. Sin ruins relationship and rots our connection to God. Scripture tells us in James 5.16 confess our faults to one another other and pray for each other so that we may be healed. [slide #  6 confess] I John 1.9 tells us if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just not only to forgive our sins but to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. [slide #  7 God is just…]
Paul wrote a letter to Philemon in an effort to keep him from the sin of rejecting and oppressing another human being. Paul was not trying to be in anyone’s face about their sins. He was taking a back door approach, hoping it would be effective. He was hoping that he could reason with his Christian brothers and sisters and that they would do the right thing and not treat Onesimus as a slave but as a brother.
The apostle Paul was suffering in prison, yet he was concerned about the possibility that this runaway slave Onesimus was about to be beat down as stolen property, for trying to escape abuse, for breaking the laws of slavery – which were wicked, unjust, and ungodly laws. Paul knew what great things God could do with the those the world calls low-lifes and low-class. That attitude got Paul a life sentence.
Acts 16.23 tells us Paul along with Silas was imprisoned after delivering a slave girl who was a profit maker for her owners by doing fortune telling. Their feet were in stocks [ slide #  8 stocks].
Acts 23 tells us that after Paul was assaulted in the Jerusalem Temple for sharing his conversion to Christ; the mob went crazy and Paul was arrested for disturbing the peace. One hearing led to another and he was put on a boat with other prisoners to set sale for Rome. In Rome he was sent to Herod’s praetorium which may have been a space in or near Herod’s palace. It reminds me of the Vatican jail which is probably pretty posh compared to some. Paul was basically on house arrest there for two years, according to Acts 28.  He probably had a guard chained to him 24 hours a day, but he could host visitors freely and he continued to share the testimony of how he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and how Jesus delivered him from the sin of hating on Christians and working to see them killed for converting to Christianity.
Later, Paul is said to have been executed. While preparing for execution, he was probably in an underground cave scheduled to be strangled or thrown off of a cliff.  
Paul knew his Christian friends could put more loving on Onesimus and provide more for him than Paul could because he had limited resources in prison. Paul said he could use a slave since he was in prison. Instead, he wanted to send him to Christians who were able to bless him in the ways he needed the most. He asked Philemon to take good care of Onesimus and charge it to his spiritual credit card. In verse 18 Paul says “if this slave has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.” Paul knew that he and God had blessed Philemon and others in so many ways that Philemon could not in good conscience deny Paul or Onesimus. Onesimus [slide # 9 Onesimus] whose name means “useful” became a saint. I think of him as the saint of prison ministry.
Paul’s costly love is a dramatic example for us, too. When we are called to bless and not curse, to receive and not reject, and to be humble and not haughty, we too can do what Paul did and say, charge it! Put it on my tab. I’ll gladly pay the price for loving you. When others sin against us, when others owe us, the Sprit may be calling us to do what Paul did, charge it. [slide #  10 God calling…] Put it on our account. Listen closely to the Spirit’s guidance and pay the price that love pays. Listen closely for God’s call to pay the price of loving whom the world calls the low-lifes and the low class. In God’s economy, our very life may depend on it. Amen. [slide #  11  God reveals to heal]

September 1 2019 Luke 14.1, 7-14 “By Invitation Only”

September 1 2019   Luke 14.1, 7-14 “By Invitation Only” Pastor Jacqueline Hines

It is wonderful that you have accepted the invitation to come and worship this morning! [ slide # 1 you’re invited] You have accepted the divine invitation to feast in the fellowship, to feast on the fruit of the Holiest Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness (generosity), faithfulness, gentleness and even self-control. We must all agree that we have been invited to a wonderful place!
You do understand that not everyone has been invited. Don’t you remember the invitation you received a while back? It may have read something like,
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” [slide # 2 come to me all]  Matthew 11:28-30 New International Version (NIV)

Or you may have received one that said:
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow; [slide # 3 come let us reason]   Isaiah 1:18 New King James Version (NKJV)
Or, perhaps you heard the same invitation that Peter heard when he was afraid to walk onto deep waters. Jesus told him “Don’t’ be afraid. It’s me. Come…” [slide # 4 Jesus inviting Peter ]
You are here because you have accepted a royal invitation to worship the King. We are in the presence of royalty, angels of mercy and the heavenly host of those who’ve gone on to their reward are ever in our hearts and on our minds. Our music glorifies God, God’s people gather here like bright lights in a dark world, each of our footsteps have left an anointing of good wherever we have traveled, and our love for Jesus and our love for one another is real and tangible. [slide # 5 greatest of these ]
You are here today in the presence of God and there is no better place to be or to be invited. Why have WE been invited?
We have been invited for three reasons: to LOVE Jesus, to LIVE Jesus, to LEAVE Jesus.
We have come to love Jesus. [slide # 6 to love Jesus] You have heard it before.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. We have been invited to love Jesus which is the only way we can love another. We have come to love Jesus.
We have come to live Jesus. [slide # 7 to live Jesus] Jesus said in verse 8 of this morning’s scripture…8“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host;
We are learning that we are not better than anyone and no one is better than us. When we put others first, we are simply making room for them in God’s circle of love where we are all on the same level.
Loving Jesus and loving one another becomes our lifestyle. We live Jesus. We serve humbly behind the scenes. We serve in the kitchen with a dish towel in one hand and a spatula in the other; behind the audio booth with one arm reaching for the microphone and the other clicking the keyboard for the next slide; we are behind the scenes accompanying one another in doctor’s offices, hospital beds, standing with those who are home alone; lending a listening ear – Bethel’s particularly good at that - helping someone to drown out bad news and bad times if only for an hour. We can empty ourselves into the lives of others; we can take care of one another without fear of being a loser because we are confident that God fills our cup even to overflowing as God takes care of us. That is how we can live Jesus.
We have been invited to love Jesus, to live Jesus, and finally, we have come to leave Jesus. [slide # 8 leave Jesus] We leave the convenience and bliss of our comfort zones and go into a world to invite others to the same kind of banquet feast that we have enjoyed. We go not knowing what will be demanded of us and what the future holds, but like Peter we are invited to do great things.
We know if we want to walk on water, we first need to get out of the boat. [slide # 9 time to get out of the boat] We are blessed to be a blessing. Jesus tells the disciples in verse 13 “when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.” That is not the way the world does it. The world gives only to those who can give back or in order to get something back. Christians give what God has given, and we give when the Spirit says give because we know God gives us so we can share with others. We know that as we give to those who do not give back, God will provide.
[slide #  10 banquet table ] So as we go and plan our banquets whether with 200 or with two or three, we again remember that our motivation is the superhuman, supernatural, superabundant love of God that we hear again and again in I Corinthians. This time listen from the Message version: [slide # 11 heart – love]
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8-10 Love never dies.

We have been invited to something wonderful; we have feasted on the banquet that God has provided. Now let us do for others what God has done for us. And we do not have to worry about the church, whether it is big or small, or rich or poor, thriving or on life support. All we need to do is love because love never fails. [slide #  12 love never fails]  Amen. [slide # 13 love never fails.]

August 4 2019 Luke 12.13-21 “Greedy Guard”

August 4 2019 Luke 12.13-21 “Greedy Guard” Pastor Jacqueline Hines
When I went into the air force as a summer chaplain intern while I was in seminary, I was told that it was not a good thing to be a collector, not good to have hobbies that required a lot of stuff. Since you were likely to be moving around the world, it could become a burden to collect stamps or crystal or angels or anything that would eventually require much time to care for and pack. We were encouraged to prioritize and travel lightly, knowing that everything would have to go, perhaps with only a moment’s notice. We knew we had to prioritize.
So it is in this morning’s text. Whatever we keep in our closets, our storage rooms, our minds, our memories, we do well to prioritize. We do well to store up the things that God treasures. God’s treasures are too important to leave behind wherever we go. We do well to have a big house overflowing with love, a 5 car garage filled with a good attitude, 500 acres of land loaded with the trees of life [ slide # 1 trees ]  with deep roots and branches overflowing with the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, (generosity) faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Of course, we also need to prioritize paying attention and preparing for what we need to eat and the water we need to drink and the things we need to do for the wellbeing of our families and friends, our communities and our missions. After all, God designed us with the pressing need every day to eat, drink a gallon of water, to fellowship with other humans, and to do kind deeds for ourselves and others.  
The scriptures help us to keep everything in perspective by reminding us that in the beginning, God! So in our beginnings, in the midst of so many urgencies we need God at the top. We want to put God first. [slide #  2 God..first priority] In the beginning of our day we want to first give thanks and praise. We want to bless God as God has blessed us. In the beginning of our troubles, we want to first seek God before we seek the lawyer, the doctor, the counselor, the pastor, the friends, and the loved ones. In the beginning of our success, we want to first give credit to God before we credit ourselves or those whom God has used to bring the many blessings that we have received. [slide # 3   God top priority]
Whether we accumulate success, or money, or property, we want to remember to put God first. Nevertheless, it is a human habit to forget about God and pay attention to how much stuff we have and how much our stuff is worth. We even spend a lot of energy thinking about each other’s worth and value based on how much stuff we have.  Even though we know that our stuff cannot tell the whole story. Still there are those who claim to know what is often hidden about a person. They claim to have a special inner radar that reveals a hidden truth.
The other day someone who seems to be a bit preoccupied with conversations on LGBTQ issues suggested that there are people who have what is called “gay dar”. They nose around in the details of someone’s life and try to determine their sexual identity; it is generally sheer, narrowmindedness, and nonsense and no one’s business. (We do better to be able to detect and confront bullies and violent people who need mental health care.)
Another example of our human curiosity gone awry happened when I worked in a Christian bookstore – a chain of about 200 stores. There was a diversity of staff who were mostly church goers. One person in particular was described as light-skinned by some and dark-skinned by others. Her hair was not nappy nor fuzzy nor was it totally straight. For various reasons people would often discuss her ethnicity. We wanted to know, was she black or white or somewhere in between. She would never reveal her identity, her stuff. In fact, she would become quite indignant if anyone would dare to ask her about what she was. No one knew for sure, but people would often claim to have the answer. They claimed to have a radar for color.
There are many attributes that we are curious about that are mostly none of our business. Our business is God’s business, not our neighbor’s business. God’s business as in the world’s business is governed by volumes of rules and laws [slide #  4  law books]. Hopefully, the laws are fair, and just, and kind, and even loving.
Jesus was familiar with rules and laws just as we all are familiar with plenty of rules and laws. We have rules and laws and licenses for every aspect of our lives. There are laws that can affect when and where we travel, what we can eat, where we walk and talk, what medications we take. Even the mattresses we buy have a tag that states a law – even though we may never read them.  
As a rabbi, Jesus was aware that Jews were under the rule of the Roman law. Historically, Jews were legally in control of three areas: excommunication, corporal punishment, and the death penalty. Under Roman rule, the Jews were no longer able to enforce the death penalty. The only rules they could enforce were excommunication and corporal punishment. They had the legal right to kick you out of the community and to shun you, which the Talmud (an official Jewish list of wise sayings and laws) declares is worse than the torturous punishment of scourging. People were banned and shunned for 7 days, 30 days, or 60 days of temporary excommunication.
Laws in the United States leave no room for corporal punishment like the ancient communities and churches were accustomed to. Can you imagine being beaten legally as a punishment for crimes and offenses in a civil court or even a criminal court? In our world, beatings happen when adults lose control. Beatings fulfill the laws of “street justice” not the official justice of our government. The law can be cruel. Fortunately, the law can be changed.
A crowd was listening to Jesus as if they were the jury before a judge when a son asked Jesus to make a judgement – which was one of Jesus’ roles as a rabbi.  Rabbis were judges and medical consultants. ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’
The request makes us wonder. What happened between these two brothers that one is taking the other to court? If you ever watch those judge shows like Judge Mathis, Judge Judy and Hot Bench, you often see confusing misunderstandings among family members who take each other to court. The issues raise lots of questions about complicated and heartbreaking feuds. We see them in the church, too. But in the church, we have the power of the Holiest Spirit to help us breakthrough the hurt and confusion. We can access that same power in all of our families.
When one brother asked Jesus to help him get a share of the inheritance, we do not know how much money he wanted. We do not know what his legal rights were.  We do know that Jesus answered with a probing question: “Who made me the arbitrator between the two of you?
Jesus knew enough to put this brother on the defensive. Is it God in you that is asking for this money or do you have a lesser motive?
Right away we suspect that Jesus is telling this brother that he was out of line, barking up the wrong tree, failing to follow protocol. It happens. What is your motive for asking for me to judge? We all do well to reflect on our motives during conflicts and controversies.
Jesus does not affirm the brother’s right to any money, but he gives him some painful advice. Be on your guard against greed. You are greedy. Greed is defined as intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food. [slide #  5   intense and selfish…]
You are greedy. Deal with it. Use your energy to guard against greed, to look inside yourself and pray to be delivered from what is in you that is not like God. Greed is trying to rob you. Be on your guard. Greed wants to harm you. Be on your guard. [slide # 6  guard / flashlight]
We are also in that crowd today with Jesus. We too hear his wise advice. “Be on your guard.” Watch and pray because greed is trying to ruin a relationship with your selfishness and pride. Whether you know it or not, you are motivated by greed and greed is trying to ruin your future. Greed is trying to ruin your reputation. Develop a desire for God by spending time with God. Be on your guard against greed [slide # 7  guard/ hand stop]
Often in the courtroom, we get a sense that the one who is willing to fight the most, cares the least. [slide #  8 I don’t care] That’s why Jesus said in verse 15, “Take care.” [slide # 9  money in fist]  Be full of care that you do not become greedy. Don’t take the money, don’t take the power, don’t take the stuff,…if you take anything, take care.
So today is the day in this world of fear and animosity, when we are easily tempted to look at our needs and wants before we look at Jesus who knows us better than we know ourselves, today is the day to search our lives, to use our radar, our greedy - gar to guard against greed in ourselves and in those around us, and if we take anything, we need to first take care! [slide # 10  take care] Amen. [slide # 11 Start with God…end with God ]

July 28 2019 Anne Hoffman Letter to My Grandsons

                                                                                                           August 2019  (revised)        
Dear Grandson,                                                                                             
This is a grandmotherly advice letter to all four of my grandsons, realizing that it will be one of very few letters you’ll ever receive because I know that people in the generations after me will rarely communicate by actually writing a letter.  You don’t live as close as I’d like and you have so many activities, so talking to you face to face is not always easy.  I wanted to write this because I know that you are growing up in the hardest and most confusing of times the world has ever seen, and the temptations to take the wrong path are overwhelming.  I thought a little advice from a grandmother who loves you might be of value to you.  I hope you will read my letter thoughtfully and take it to heart. 
When I grew up there were only land-line phones.  We didn’t call them land-line because it was the only type of phone available.  It was a phone with a cord that you had to dial and usually you had to share your line with three other houses. It was called a party line. When you heard the phone ring you listened for the length and number of rings to see if the call was for you.  I think our ring was 3 longs and a short.  You could listen to other conversations if you wanted (and my mother occasionally did) and, if you had an emergency while some other family was using the line, you kindly asked them to hang up.  Privacy was hard to come by.  Even in college there was no such thing as a private line or a phone in your room.  Long distance calls were expensive in those times so letter writing was common. 
Smart phones are a huge technological advancement and a real asset in terms of personal safety, yet I will never appreciate them the way you and your parents do.  With all the wonderful things they can do, their inappropriate use sometimes causes car accidents, hurts the feelings of some who are being talked or texted about, and ruins the atmosphere in social situations (like dinner at home or in a restaurant)  I hope you will always be responsible and considerate with the use of your phone.  I guess I could say, “Technology should not get in the way of good manners”.   
No matter how good a job your parents did raising you, you will find yourself in situations where the temptation to do the wrong thing will be very great.  The things you may be tempted to do may not be unlawful but they can cause great harm to you and others (in all likelihood the people you care about the most).  In particular I am thinking of the abuse of drugs and alcohol and pornography.  I’m sure that if you go to college you will be exposed to them all. And I would not be surprised if it has happened already.  In the past two years I have known three families that lost a son to opioid abuse, and the grief that they suffered is heartbreaking.  The loved ones of these young men will never be the same and they will always wonder what they could have done to prevent such a tragedy.  I hope it will never happen, but at some point I imagine that you too will be offered harmful drugs.  I pray that you will have what it takes to say NO.  I have heard of parties where all kinds of pills are dumped into a bowl and those present just swallow a handful of whatever and hope that nothing seriously bad happens.  The only words that come to mind concerning such activity are dangerous and stupid.  I’m counting on you to have no part in this sort of thing.   Friends who dare you to do stupid things can never be true friends.
Alcohol can also be devastating.  Too much alcohol can harm your brain and damage your liver and even cause death.  My mother had two older sisters and both of them had issues with alcohol.  One of them died in her early 70s and, though I don’t know for sure, I believe the cause of death was cirrhosis of the liver which happens with alcohol abuse.  I’ve seen both of my aunts drunk and it made me very sad.  Alcohol abuse is never funny and often very dangerous.  As a freshman in college I too was foolish when it came to alcohol.  I shudder to think what could have happened.  Be smart when it comes to alcohol, and under no circumstances should you drive if you have been drinking.
As to pornography I don’t want to embarrass you but it is a huge problem in our society and not one that parents are comfortable discussing.  It is very prevalent, and very hard to resist for some people, especially men and boys.  It has even been called “Every Man’s Battle.”  People will tell you that it doesn’t harm anyone but it most definitely does.  Pornography always has victims.  It is addictive and it can ruin relationships, especially a marriage.  It would be heartbreaking to be married to someone with this addition because it would feel like infidelity.
I think one of the secrets to my marriage to your grandfather is that we think alike spiritually.  We both believe in God and in His Son, Jesus, as our Lord and Savior.  We believe the Bible and read it regularly, more now than when we were younger. We hold its teachings as a standard for the way life should be lived.  Both of us have been in Bible studies for years and know that there is always something new to learn.  At your age I didn’t know that God had a purpose and plan for my life.  I guess I thought that life just happened and you made the best of it.  If you were lucky you were born into a good family, got a good education, found a good career, got married, and had a family.  Those are good things but the most important thing is to live in the will of God.  It is in the will of God that you find peace and contentment.  One of my favorite verses from the Bible is Jeremiah 29:11  and is says “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” You can start now asking God to direct your life according to His will.  The world values fame and money and success.  You may have those things and still not feel fulfilled because you are not doing what God wants you to do.   Your grandfather knew that he wanted to be a veterinarian from the age of five.  I doubt that he asked God about that, yet I truly believe that it was the profession that God wanted him to follow.  I can clearly see that he is gifted with the abilities he needed.  At age 76 he still finds fulfillment in his work.  He was never disappointed that his children didn’t follow in his footsteps, believing that God would direct their paths also.  God most definitely has a purpose for your life too.
Not everyone is meant to marry, yet the desire of my heart is that you find that special person that wants to share her life with you.  You might do a lot of dating or very little, but I would always hope you would respect the young women in your life.  This world would tell you that sex before marriage is the norm but that doesn’t mean that you have to do what everyone else seems to be doing.  Respect yourself and God’s standard for marriage.  Be very careful and very certain when you choose the person you will marry, asking God to make it clear.  Marry with the intention of growing old together, letting no one come into your life that would undermine your marriage covenant.  Realize that young love changes as your trust in each other and your commitment to each other grows and becomes more special. My maternal grandparents, my parents, my brother and his wife, and Darrell and I have all celebrated 50th wedding anniversaries.  Darrell’s parents were married 49 years and five months before his mother passed away.  Couples that have been married a long time often have had just as many problems than those whose marriages ended in divorce.  God doesn’t expect you to stay in a truly abusive relationship but He wants you to honor your marriage vows and to work on a marriage that might be heading for trouble. What a joy it would be if you were able to say that you are the 5th generation to celebrate 50 years of marriage.  If you marry, may God have it bless your life until one of you is taken home to be with Him.
As your grandmother I would like to wish you all the happiness in the world, but I want something even better than that for you.  What I truly want is that you walk with God – to believe Him, trust Him, and obey His Word.  By faith, it is important that you believe that Jesus is His Son and that He is your Lord and Savior. Having done this, you will find a comfort and joy that the rest of the world does not understand.  You will be able to cope with everything that you face because you have God helping you.  The best thing that God offers is eternal life with Him when all evil will be gone.  Before I read the Bible regularly I asked God to give me a love for His Word and He did.  I still struggle with some of the things in the Bible, but, by faith, I take it as truth and have never found better guidance for living my life.  You will never be sorry if you come to be a reader of Scripture.  Never be embarrassed to have a Bible in your home or in your hand.  Establish the habit of praying privately and, yes, even in public.
As I close this letter I realize that I am asking you to say,”No” to so much of what the world has to offer and I know that won’t always be easy.  So I will pray that you have the courage it takes and that God will protect you.  In addition to what I have already written I am asking you to please respect and obey your parents.  Screaming at them or refusing to do what they ask you to do is unacceptable (even if they do a little yelling themselves). They love you more that you will ever know.  Don’t carry around resentment or bitterness toward anyone, but especially toward any member of your family.  Another favorite passage in the Bible is Ephesians 4: 31, 32.  It says ,”Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”.  Also, please do your absolute best in school.  It will be no guarantee of success in your future career but I have to tell you your grandfather would have never been a veterinarian had he not done his very best in high school, college and veterinary school.  He would be the first to tell you that hard work pays off.  Many opportunities will come your way.  Some you will want to say “no” to because they are difficult or boring or you feel unqualified for what is involved. Just know that some of those opportunities may be orchestrated by God.  Remember that your grandmother is praying that God will direct your path. Weigh your choices carefully and remember that God equips those who He calls to serve Him.
There will be times in your life when you are going to mess up.  When that happens do not try to put the blame on someone else or make excuses.  Apologize, make it right if you can, and face any consequences.  Ask God to forgive you and help you to not make the same mistake again and He will.  When you are grown, if people can say …………………is an honest man, a man with integrity, a man who is generous and compassionate, a man who walks with God, then you have done very well.  Nevertheless, it is only what God thinks of you that will really matter.  Every word of this letter is written with love and, I truly believe, inspired by God.   I care about you and love you with all my heart,

July 21,2019 Luke 10:38-42 “Martha, Martha…tsk, tsk, tsk”

July 21,2019  Luke 10:38-42  “Martha, Martha…tsk, tsk, tsk” Pastor Jacqueline Hines
I had an aunt who was more dedicated to her little church than anybody else in the family as I was growing up. She was at the church day and night, which was easy since she lived next door to the church. The pastor and his family lived across the street. My auntie was known for her sweetness, her constant smiles and her contagious giggles.
She was rewarded greatly for her service. People gave her constant hugs and applause and kind words. Not many seemed to notice that she was working herself into a frazzle at home and at church. Her little boys all sat in the front pew, with crisp white shirts and bow ties, shiny shoes and hair combed to perfection. Her little girls pretty as princesses with the longest, silkiest, curliest hair than anyone in town.
There was no thought given to the idea that she was overdoing it. There was no thought given to the idea that she could not say “no” even that day she was found sitting in her kitchen, staring into space, frozen by anxiety. She was still smiling as we stood near her bedside in the emergency room a few years later. We listened as the doctor noted there was no real physical reason for her sudden dysfunction that was apparently stress related.
By the time we understood that she was not able to speak up for herself, she was not able to say “no”, that indeed she was partly exhibiting the behavior of a little girl, instead of a grown woman, she had suffered, even been abused, and pushed around in more ways than one.
She was meticulous and careful, probably to the point of obsession and compulsion, about many things as Martha was. Jesus and all his friends were always welcome in her wonderful home. Like Martha, we enjoy our work, we appreciate the applause and the nice rewards. Still, Jesus has something greater than the joy and the comfort we get from serving and doing a good job and accomplishing great work.  
When we want to be blessed, we do what Mary did, make it a priority to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn. There we can learn at least three ways to a deeper, sweeter, and richer relationship with the Lord and with one another.
The first thing we can learn when we sit at the feet of Jesus is that praise is powerful. Praising the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit and even the children of God whether in song, testimony, loving words or deeds is meaningful – praise matters. [slide # 1 Praise ]
Praise has the power to position us in our proper place and deliver us from improper places. Praise puts us in the right place at the right time. For every labor of love and every labor pain, praise pushes us into the deep waters where plentiful treasures and pleasures are found. Praise can placate an enemy and bring peace. Praise pays. A genuine, insightful pat on the back can earn us a friend forever! Most of all praise pleases God and when God is pleased, the heavens rejoice, the trees clap their hands and the rocks sing loud hallelujahs. A plan to praise is a plan to win. Let us not be too distracted to praise God and God’s people.
The second thing we learn at the feet of Jesus is that prayer matters. [slide # prayer] Every prayer we breathe out, like every breath we take in matters. Even short prayers like short breaths are critical to our wellbeing. Prayers that are long and deep, like breaths that are long and deep, calm us. Prayer changes the atmosphere for good, within and without. Prayer informs. Have you ever breathed a prayer and noticed that God gave you the words to pray as you took your next breath? Have you ever received thoughts and ideas that were the answer to a prayer that you did not even pray yet? Have you ever prayed a prayer that was in scripture because it resonated in your heart – such as Jesus’ prayer – “not my will but yours be done” or Thomas’s prayer – “Lord show us the way,” or a desperate unspoken prayer of the many biblical parents for their children – ‘save my child.’  Prayer can take on peculiar patterns that weave us tightly together and unite us a one. Prayer has a particular momentum that moves hearts and minds, making a difference that matters. Let us not be too distracted to move at the impulse of God’s love and pray for ourselves and for God’s people.
The third thing we learn as we sit at the feet of Jesus is to meditate, to be still and know that God is God and we are not. [slide# 3 meditation] A few weeks ago I went on a preaching planning retreat and enjoyed working for 25 minutes and then alternated walking quietly in the woods for 25 minutes, listening and giving thanks and waiting as the quiet refreshed my soul. After that retreat, I spent several days fasting from my usual routine of television news and radio broadcasts. The long silences made room for more of God, more space to hear myself think, to hear God’s love for me and others. Even a couple minutes of meditation can change the course of your day and your life. Let us not be too distracted to meditate for God’s sake and for ours.
There are important blessings that we can only get at the feet of Jesus. We learn that praise, prayer, and meditation draw us close to God and to one another in marvelous ways. May we pay the price for peace and be a little less distracted and be content to sit at the feet of Jesus today and forever. [slide # 4  new life sign] Amen. [slide# 5 little boy…rejoice]

July 14 2019 Luke 10.25-37 “Lucky Lawyer and Lazy Levite”

July 14 2019 Luke 10.25-37 “Lucky Lawyer and Lazy Levite” Pastor Jacqueline Hines
Luke, said to be the writer of the gospel, was in close relationship with  the Apostle Paul. Apostle Paul wrote more than half of the New Testament. Luke was close to Paul even as Paul was dying for he was imprisoned while preaching and teaching the good news. [slide  #  1  Luke and Paul] Like so many missionaries and other faithful Christians Paul was detained, restricted, imprisoned, physically assaulted and persecuted because of the gospel.
Paul says Luke was a physician, so when we see Luke’s gospel reporting of the healings of Jesus, we are not surprised that Luke shows more interest in the medical details than the other gospel accounts. What may come as a surprise is the thought of many scholars that Luke was not likely from a Jewish family. He may have joined the church under Paul’s leadership which is how they became friends. Luke is a Christian but he is not a Jewish Christian, just as our Catholic sisters and brothers are Christian though they are not protestant Christians.
In this story today we see a few more lines of separation that are drawn for our reflection. There are several people who are alike yet at the same time they are living in different worlds. There is a man traveling, tending to ordinary business. He is in stark contrast to a group of men who somewhere along the way decided to band together and go into the business of robbing people. They robbed this man who was coming down the street. They also made it their business to put their hands on people, to beat them physically. [slide #   2  beating a man] This day they decided to rob a man, beat him and leave him, not caring if the man was alive or if he was dead. What kind of world does one have to live in in order to keep that kind of thinking going on? What kind of friends does Epstein, Weinstein, R. Kelly and the rest have to have in order to hurt people? What kind of world are they living in?
In this morning’s text we see the world of the lawyer [slide #  3  lawyer with Jesus] who knows the law inside and out and the world of those who are in need of the knowledge lawyers have. There is the world of the Levite, who generally speaking, is a religious servant doing such things as – lighting the holy fires representing God’s presence to be eternally worshipped like acolytes do today. [slide #  4  lighting candles] Levites can light the fire, but they are a world apart from the priests who offered sacrificial offerings for sins and celebrations, saving some meat for the poor and for the priests as payment for their work. Priests were similar to today’s ministers who are authorized to do communion and to give authority for others to serve communion to those otherwise not authorized. [slide #  5 communion]
Today, our sanctuary is a space for priestly functions as it was thousands of years ago, [slide # 6 courtroom] yet the West Chester courtroom and many courtrooms have so many similar patterns to a sanctuary where God can be seen as a judge, wearing a robe, high and lifted up, the choir is positioned like a jury stand, the doors have security guards in a courtroom. In church we know them as greeters.
There are similarities, still the church is worlds apart from other worlds. At times the different worlds coincide at times they collide. Jerusalem was the holy City while Jericho had been cursed and doomed for destruction because of its unspeakable inhumanity to man.
The Samaritans, the priests and the Levites in Luke’s story all had the same Hebrew roots. If we had to impose a pecking order, the Samaritans would be on the bottom because during the Babylonian exile when the young and talented like Daniel were taken into captivity and the rest left wandering or wasting away as political refugees, things changed in the Jewish community.
Some sources suggest Samaritan Jews followed the laws too loosely and as a result, their Jewish roots and their histories took different turns and they claimed Mt. Gerizim as the center of worship rather than Jerusalem. Jerusalem was considered to be the very city of God.  Perhaps the Samaritans did not go to Sabbath meetings to worship God like those who worshiped in Jerusalem. Maybe they stayed home and washed their camels instead. Perhaps they sat around wells drinking and playing games and wishing instead of working to make their dreams come true. Perhaps those ideas were just stereotypes used to keep a brother down.
The Samaritans were the Hebrew brothers and sisters of the Levites and the Priests, yet they were worlds apart and not even on speaking terms; the Jews and Samaritans did not socialize together according to the Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at the well. [slide # 7 woman at the well]
But Jesus is all about bringing together different people from different worlds in order to abolish the pecking order, in order to highlight the idea that everybody is somebody. We imagine Jesus would boldly wear a t-shirt that says, “No matter where you come from or where you are going, I have a place in my heart for you.”
What a world it would be if we could communicate the idea whether in a whisper or on a megaphone – and say to the motley homeless person living under the bridge, to the blind beggar, to the person who hates our guts, to the person who makes us sick. How our world is daily transformed when we are able to wear such a t-shirt on our backs or in our hearts that says, “No matter where you come from or where you are going, I have a place in my heart for you!”
The lawyer in Luke’s story was lucky because Jesus had mercy on him instead of ridiculing him for asking the silly question, who is my neighbor when everyone knows our neighbors are every child of God, whether near or far. The priest was lazy because to be lazy is the opposite of disciplined. We disciples need to be disciplined, we need to do what is needed when it is needed. To be lazy is to leave God’s good work undone, to be indifferent when others suffer, to be selfish and cold-hearted. A disciplined disciple is trained to go wherever God leads them and alleviate trouble and triumph over trauma. A disciplined disciple is a prayer warrior and a peacemaker.
The priest in Jesus’ story acted in the same way that the Lazy Levite did in the parable. Who knows? Perhaps the Levite was following in the footsteps of the priest, going in the wrong direction. They should rather have been following God.
The Samaritan, unlike the priest and the Levite who avoided the wounded man and crossed over on the other side of the street,… the Samaritan had extraordinary compassion for this man. We can believe that the Samaritan had walked a mile in this man’s shoes. We can believe that the Samaritan had also been robbed, and beaten by a few who did not care if he lived or if he died.
If you thing about it hard enough, you can also conclude that God is the Good Samaritan. God is also the one whom humanity has robbed. God is the one whom humanity beats down, caring not that God lives or dies.  
Does Jesus not tell us that we need to be like God? We need to be the Good Samaritan. We also need to walk a mile in the shoes of those who are the least, the last, and the lost. And if we have not experienced someone else’s heartache, heartbreak, and despair, we ought to at least get close enough to care as God leads us. We ought to at least be able to listen and articulate what they say instead of always saying what we think.
Is the church not called to stay in the path of those who are victims rather than cross over on the other side? [slide # 8 Good Samaritan] Are you not called to bandage wounds, pouring soothing oil on them and wine that protects and disinfects like the center for disease control? Are we not called to do our part in making sure the hurting have transportation and a place to lay their heads in peace? This is what the United Methodist Church does day and night, night and day. And we want to be on board with that. We want daily to ask God to keep us in God’s will.
Are we not called to serve as a church that has hundreds of dollars’ worth of compassion like the Good Samaritan who provided two denarii, worth two days’ pay? Are we not called to network with others who can help us take care of those beat down in our world?
Are we not called to care for each other today and not forget about them tomorrow? To go and see about them in their tomorrows and to pay the price that God is pleased with as long as God is pleased with it?
We are to be like God. God is the Good Samaritan. We are to seek God’s will so we can be a part of God’s plan. One of the students in my English class wrote a story about the time she and her siblings were hungry because her parents were not taking care of them. The parents were afflicted with the disease of addiction. A drug dealer appeared at her door with a bag full of food. She was grateful to this drug dealer and one thing led to another and as a child she began to work for the drug dealer. The first thought that came to my mind was, “Where were the Christians? Why did a Christian not feed those children?” So we ask ourselves today, where are the least, the last, and the lost and am I on the same side of the street that God is on? Amen. [slide # 9 imitators of God]

July 7, 2019 Luke 10.1-11, 16-20 Savior Sends Seventy

July 7, 2019  Luke 10.1-11, 16-20 Savior Sends Seventy Pastor Jacqueline Hines
Just like our United Methodist Church appoints pastors to at least 500 churches and ministries beyond the church in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, Jesus appointed seventy disciples to – as Luke tells us – with the purpose of going to every town and every place that Jesus intended to go himself.
Jesus sending 70 persons has historical significance. Numbers become sacred when they are used in a context of holiness. Throughout our Judeo Christian heritage we see the significance of numbers and the number 7 particular. The number 7 represents perfection, meaning maturity; fruit that is ripe and ready has fulfilled its purpose in growth, it is ready to be eaten and enjoyed. It is perfect fruit. A wound that is healed, allowing one to get back to one’s routine is perfectly healed.
Because the number 70 is 7 times 10, we recall that 10 represents completeness, so 70 is interpreted as a sacred moment when God’s will and way is not only ripe and ready, but it has completely fulfilled and satisfies God’s sacred purpose.
So Jesus sends 70 disciples who are ready, who like United Methodist Disciples, are trained, equipped, committed, and now ready to be deployed to a particular mission.
Jesus sent them in pairs, two by two. The number two is sacred for choices. [slide # 1  Adam and Eve] Adam and Eve, or any two in partnership constantly have to make good choices in order for connections to be correct in the eyes of God, in order to alleviate chaos and exemplify good character for the children.
Jesus sent the seventy two by two to save some from their sins and to save them perhaps from the sins of their family, friends, and neighbors.
What stands out for me in this text is the idea that Jesus sent them to prepare the way for his work. Jesus sends disciples to places where he is planning to show up! That is exciting. There is always a blessing when Jesus shows up.
We as today’s disciples can learn from the way Jesus appointed and sent the early disciples.
First, Jesus instructed the disciples on prayer, and that prayer is still for our instruction as disciples today. Jesus said in verse 2, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord [ slide # 2 Ask the Lord] of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. There is so much goodness and so much salvation and so many blessings that we can reap. The harvest is plentiful. There are only a few who can make holy things happen. There are only a few who are willing to accept those who have been rejected. There are only a few who are willing to learn and train for a job no one else wants. There are only a few who are available to clean up as well as to mess up. This week news reports told that there are fewer and fewer men and women entering the armed forces these days. Many want peace and protection, but there are fewer and fewer willing to train as peacekeepers.
The harvest is plentiful. There is plenty of good spiritual fruit to satisfy and delight us, but there are few who are available to pray and work to make it happen. We need to pray that God would stir hearts and minds to great and important work in this world.
The other day, I asked someone to help with an important task. They said many golden words we can all appreciate: “I have something else planned pastor, but I will work it out so I can be there.” “I have not done it before pastor, but I will do my very best.” “What time do you want me to arrive?” Those are golden words, and we are so grateful when we hear them when we have an opportunity to be a blessing great or small! Jesus said the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few and he instructs us to pray that our God, the Lord of the harvest would send laborers, and indeed God hears our prayers.
It stands to reason that the next thing Luke records Jesus as saying is that he was sending the seventy disciples like lambs among wolves. [ slide #  3  I am sending you like lambs among wolves] If you are in a situation where all the good that can be done is not being done, then there are bound to be some wolves who are not doing good, but rather undoing the good; not building but tearing down, not planting but uprooting, not improving but deteriorating.
Jesus sends us into this world like lambs among wolves. Being a disciple is not always a picnic. It is said that we come to the church like sweet little lambs, giving no thought to the idea of wolves and other predators.  Still, each of us has a wolf that has an eye on us and drools at the thought of devouring us.
Jesus understands that the good we Christians do is considered bad by some. Jesus understands that not everybody wants what we want. There are wars fought to keep Christianity out of schools, out of countries, ot of families. Christianity brings peace only to those who want the peace that Jesus brings with justice, truth, and mercy.
That is why Jesus tells the disciples when you go 6…… if anyone shares  peace with you, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, let it return to you. Keep peace yourself. [slide #   4  keep the peace] In other words, they were not sent out to defend the political cause of Christianity, create conflict, or to fight for their faith. They were sent to bring peace. They were sent to care, to be calm and considerate, even when others were neither caring, nor calm, nor considerate to them, they were to be such to themselves and to everyone else.
Jesus also instructed the 70 disciples to eat what was put in front of them. Disciples are to be gracious and accepting. It doesn’t mean you have to do what Andrew Zimmerman does while exploring food around the world, eating snails, and snakes, snickers, or knickers. [slide #  5  Andrew Zimmerman with strange food]   [slide #   6  food/ kabob] We have to be ourselves as long as we are our best selves, gentle and kind and loving and accepting!
The most intriguing thing Jesus commands disciples to do is to heal the sick. [slide #  7  heal the sick] To heal in this text is not only to restore to health, but to heal in this text is to serve as in to do something to bring solace.
Through the ages, Christians have been disappointed when looking for a Jesus who is a butler, [slide #   8  butler] who does whatever we command. Or we look for a Jesus who is a magician who can make whatever we want come or go until we applaud and cheer. [slide # 9  magician] As we dig deeper in the text, we understand that the work of healing is not like a drive through in McDonalds but more like a farmer in a field, working and watching for the harvest, giving thanks for whatever the Lord of the Harvest gives and resting in spite of the worries, trusting in spite of the losses. [slide #   10  farmer lady]
We are not medical practitioners, but even medical practitioners tell us that there are many medical problems that have spiritual or environmental roots. Correcting attitudes, developing hopeful and positive mindsets and ridding the environment of harmful chemicals can bring health and healing to many.
In order to follow the command to heal, we have to know what is going on around us. We need emotional intelligence. We need training on the environment. We need to pray for direction and information that we can only receive from God.
There is so much to know that we need to be in partnership with others who can assist us and teach us. That is why the Church is so great, especially our United Methodist Church. With laity academy coming up in August and trainings every week in the classroom or online, we have access to more information than we can take in.
In order to heal people and help people, we need to be healed, and helped ourselves. We need to know Jesus as healer whether in ways small or great. [slide #   11  he is my healer]
Many of us have dozens of ways the Lord is in our lives to heal us. We do not always appreciate being healed because we are focused on the pain or the process of being sick or not being perfectly whole, but healing is a part of life and we have all experienced it. Therefore, as disciples, we can all be healers, in little ways or big ways.
Disciples always have something in our hands and our hearts to bring healing to someone’s mind, body, soul, or spirit. We have a kind word, a referral to a great doctor, therapist, or knowledge of a supplement, or a sermon, or a story that heals or some humor that helps, a joke that makes you jolly, a quip that makes you quake with laughter. We all have something!!! We are disciples sent to heal.
In Germantown, I recall someone vandalized my car and a colleague brought healing and refreshment by putting a little flower on the broken window or whatever it was. I don’t remember the details of the vandalism. I do remember the flower. Both Edie’s of Bethel, bring healing with flowers, others bring smiles, hugs, humor, honey buns, and sweet words. We all have something and you better use it because we are disciples sent to heal.
Jesus sent the seventy and when they returned they rejoiced. It was party time. Jesus had given them authority and power. We also have authority and power from Jesus. Some of our authority and power come from our officially elected positions. Some come from informally using our gifts and talents. We need Godly power and authority. It is what makes the engine of our mission run correctly to get us from one point to the other.
The Saviour sent seventy and they rejoiced as they returned to report their results to Jesus. Even then Jesus reminded them that the real reason to rejoice was that their names were written in Heaven, that they were acknowledged as being on the Lord’s side, that they were known for doing the right thing for the right reasons and that in the end they would reap the good they had sown.
In the end of all good work, only one thing matters. At the end of the day, at the end of a life, at the end of the world, only one thing matters. Are we on the Lord’s side? One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is an angel with a sword crept up on Joshua when he was ready to fight the battle of Jericho and Joshua immediately asked the angel, “Are you on my side or are you on my enemy’s side.” The angel said he was not on either side. He was on the Lord’s side. “Take off your shoes,” he said, “the ground you are standing on is holy ground!” [slide # 12  this is holy ground] Wherever we are, God is with us, helping us to stand on holy ground, to be grounded in love and faith.
In the end Jesus is our savior who can save us from the quick sand of our sins that Satan has for us. In the end, only one thing matters: knowing Jesus is our Saviour. Some may know him more than others or in different ways, but the bottom line is when we hit bottom or we need saving from anything or anyone, he is the only one who can save us. If you need saving today or know someone who does, remember Jesus saves and he sends us to that holy work, too! Amen. [slide# 13 Please, help me Jesus]