One of the literature books I read in school was “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. I hope some of us might have seen the movie as well. The story revolves around Ebenezer Scrooge, a heartless money lender who hates all things Christmas. He hates the songs, the decorations, the goodwill and the tidings of great joy. The story goes on to tell of brokenness, sadness and misery of the man Scrooge.
Then Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. Scrooge was filled with suspicion, distrust and cynicism that he was not able to experience the joy of Christmas until he was freed from that bondage.
Like the character of Scrooge we are also broken in some way. We live in a broken world and many times we also cannot find our way to enjoy the warmth of Christmas for many reasons. That is why we need the Season of Advent. Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas. It is a season of expectation and waiting. It is an expectation of the Christ Child who brings us the good news of great joy. It is the advent of the Christ Child into our broken world.
November is a powerful and spiritual month in the life of the church. It begins with All Saints’ Day, a celebration of the saints who now rest from their labor in Christ’s Church. The Bible says in Hebrews 12, “Since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, we must run the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the Author and Perfector of our faith.” Paul often opens some of his letters with thanksgiving for the saints. For example, in 1 Corinthians 1:2-4, he writes to those sanctified in Christ Jesus called to be saints, “we always give thanks for all of you and mention you in our prayers constantly before our God and Father Jesus Christ.” On November 4th, we will honor those in our church who have died in the past year as part of our All Saint’s Celebration.
November is also the month we pause to give thanks, not because it is a national holiday but because we want to give thanks and praises to God from whom all blessings flow.
In this church, we will pause to give thanks on November 11 for all that God has done for us. God has been good to us. We have been able to pay off the mortgage and that blessing calls for a celebration. At the end of the month, with our friends and family, we pause to celebrate Thanksgiving with people across this nation. Thanksgiving is an attitude of gratitude and appreciation that is very good for our soul and our spirits. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” So November is a big spotlight for Thanksgiving. All of us have received many blessings, all of us enjoy wonderful gifts such us the air we breathe and the family and friends we share. Not to mention the bounty, the freedoms, and prosperity we enjoy. All these are gracious gifts from God.
So as we look ahead to this wonderful month join us on Tuesday, November 20th at 7 p.m. for our Thanksgiving Service in the Sanctuary. May we always remember the source of all our blessings and give thanks to God for being the recipients of this wonderful generosity from our Father in Heaven.
Peace and Grace to you,
Commitment Sunday: I Belong!
Many years ago people in various communities had a relationship to the church in their neighborhood. In those days people were proud to belong to their church. The church and the schools were the nerve centers of the community. You went to church, you belonged to a church, and that is what you did.
To say we belong to something—a community, a church—means the place is important to us. It is the same with our families as well. The idea of belonging to something means that that thing gives us a sense of purpose. Our congregation has been a community for many people for many years. This year is the church’s 132nd anniversary. Through the years, many of us have had a part to play. So many people over the years—what the Bible calls “a great cloud of witnesses”—have played their part to make this church a community where people can belong. Some of us were baptized here, went to Sunday school here, were confirmed here, went to youth group, and were married here. For some of us our parents were married here and our kids were married here and their kids were baptized here and so on.
It was a great occasion when the entire family gathered for worship on Christmas or Easter. For some of us this congregation has been
Ecclesiastes 3 says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.” As humans we often take for granted the cycle of life. God’s creation is filled with beauty and wonder. How the universe works is a wonder. Everything is interconnected: plants, animals, seas, the eco system, seasons, weather and the galaxies.
Many times we are not aware of the changing seasons of life and how time passes and changes. We fall into a routine each day and feel we are masters of our own universe. God gives us time and seasons to measure or evaluate our lives. The animals, plants and weather are all part of it. The changing seasons give us a rhythm of life. Seasons display God’s cycle of life: birth, death and new birth.
The month of September begins another season for many of us. It is a time for students to go back to school. Summer is almost over, the long days of freedom, the pool, the beach, the trips, barbecues, family reunions, no homework, and the season of fun is over. Things around us begin to ramp up. The retail stores
Last Month I once again travelled to Ghana to do another Education and Health Mission on behalf of our district. This year the mission was supported by the North District of the Eastern PA Conference and four United Methodist Churches: Mt. Pocono, Canadensis, Covenant and Hopewell. Every year we receive a grant from the Eastern PA Conference and funds raised by churches allow us to transform lives of many people in that part of the world. So far we have built over 400 desks for four schools, established a library and shipped many school supplies to these schools. I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to our Ghana missions.
Also last year we started our computer mission, bringing some of the schools into the digital age. Many of these schools, we realized, are supposed to learn about technology using computers but have no computers in their schools. So last year the District Superintendent Rev. Dr. Cotto traveled with me on the mission and donated four laptop computers to two schools: Hampstead Academy and Blessed Assurance School.
While on the trip, we targeted Hampstead for our next mission to establish a computer lab where kids in the neighborhood could come and use computers as part of their education.
It is summertime and there’s love and joy in the air. Taking time for some “R and R” is in order after a very harsh winter. For those of us who live here in the Poconos, the changing of the seasons is wonderful to enjoy. However, we would rather forget the harsh winters we have had. As a result, we could not wait for spring to appear, which seemed to take forever.
As human beings, one of the constant complaints we have is about the weather, and interestingly enough, that is one thing we have no control over. In our winter months we hear folks say, “I am fed up with the cold and the snow,” and when summer fills the air we hear folks say, “It’s too hot.”
Acts 2 says when the day of Pentecost came they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. It continues from 42- 47 that they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And all the believers were together and had everything in common. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. The Church experienced a lot of growth during that period.
This year the season of Pentecost starts on May 20th. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out on each one of the people gathered in Jerusalem, and the Church was born. So Pentecost is the time when the Church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s very breath of life and energy working within each of us. The Holy Spirit is the third person in the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is very important because Jesus promised that He will be with us to help us in many ways. He will give us the power we need to live our lives the way we ought. The Holy Spirit will give us the virtues we need to display. This is what Galatians 6 calls the fruit of the Spirit. It is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control. The Holy Spirit is the active power of God working in our lives, continuously transforming us into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit gave birth to what we now know as the Church and the Church is the Body of Christ worldwide. The Church is not the building. It is the representation of Christ. So the Church becomes the place where we worship, fellowship and help advance the Kingdom of God. For us our place is Mt. Pocono United Methodist Church. As with the first believers, God saved us and we have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. God has placed us in this local church to live out our faith. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:27, “We are the body of Christ and each part of the body has a role to play. How we serve is based upon the unique gifts, talents, and passion and calling.”
As we learn from the first Pentecost, Christianity is not a spectator sport whereby people sit on the sidelines and watch. Everyone has to get in the game, for we all have jobs to do in the Kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit has been given to the Church for service. The Church is truly a beautiful thing because many people have been called with varied gifts, talents, and personalities, and if we all do our part the Church thrives and grows. Through our service God saves many more people and adds to our fellowship and this becomes a beautiful thing for the world to see.
Active involvement is, therefore, paramount to the success of what God is doing. We can all do something small to support the work of God. We can invite our friends and neighbors to worship. We can sing in the choir or join the praise team. If you like to work with children you can help with Sunday school, youth group or Vacation Bible School. You can be part of the Lay Ministry sending cards and visiting our friends who need our support. Every Sunday we need people to serve as ushers, greeters, and hospitality ministers, and also our church has many ministries and boards on which we can use our gifts to serve.
In addition, the work of God has to be funded by our giving so that lives can be changed and transformed for Christ. When we commit to do these things we are truly making a statement for our Lord Jesus Christ. We are saying we stand with Christ and we are saying we stand with our local church representing Christ on this mountain. This is why we should, from time to time, ask ourselves, “What am I doing for the Lord? What am I doing for His Church?” For whatever we do for the Lord will be blessed. God will add to and prosper our church if we commit ourselves to support his work and God will bless us as well.
As we celebrate Pentecost let us be reenergized, let the power of the Holy Spirit fall afresh on us, and let our church be filled with His love, peace, guidance and gifts to bless His Church.
Pastor Kofi Ashley
Good Friday is as important as Easter. This is because we cannot have the resurrection without death. Good Friday is when we remember the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. A death that brings life to all who believe! Good Friday is “good” because it is followed by Easter Sunday.
Easter is when we experience life in the midst of death. In our society today, we see a lot of suffering each day around the world. We see people who are hurting and a world broken into many pieces. Lives that have been broken by addictions, broken marriages, broken bodies due to illness, lives broken by loss, anxiety and depression. However Good Friday and the Easter Story bring us hope. The hope for those who believe in Jesus, in his death and resurrection, is a story of hope and victory.