Monday, October 31, 2011

Yesterday's Sermon - The Power of the Positive

1Thessalonians 2:7b-12

7bBut we became like infants in your midst, as a nursing mother might cherish her own children, 8thus we long for you and consider it good to share with you not only God’s good news but also our own self, because you became our dear ones. 9For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil, night and day, when we worked to not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you God’s good news. 10You are witnesses and God, how devoutly and righteously and blamelessly we became to you who believe, 11just as you know, how [we became] to each one of you as a father to his own children 12when we called you and consoled and affirmed [you] that you might behave in a way worthy of God who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.


The Power of the Positive

I think most of us here have heard of a minister named Norman Vincent Peale and a book he wrote in 1952 entitled The Power of Positive Thinking. But just in case that doesn’t ring any bells, this is how Dr. Peale described his ideas, and now I’m quoting, “through prayer you ... make use of the great factor within yourself, the deep subconscious mind ... [which Jesus called] the kingdom of God within you ... Positive thinking is just another term for faith. Your unconscious mind ... [has a] power that turns wishes into realities when the wishes are strong enough.” Put another way, this time by a person named Remez Sasson, “Positive thinking is a mental attitude that admits into the mind thoughts, words and images that are conductive to growth, expansion and success. It is a mental attitude that expects good and favorable results. A positive mind anticipates happiness, joy, health and a successful outcome of every situation and action. whatever the mind expects, it finds.” In other words, basically, if your thoughts are positive and if you expect the best and if you choose to be happy and healthy and successful, that’s exactly what will happen. Now that’s the power of positive thinking.

And you know, regardless of what you think about Dr. Peale or his book, which by the way stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 186 consecutive weeks and has sold around five million copies, the whole idea of lifting up the positive, well, I think we sort of need it now-a-days. You see, it seems to me that even when we try to be positive in our outlook, often we come across to others as being negative.

And this seems to be a particular problem for Christians, you know like us, and congregations. I mean, goodnight nurse, often our feelings are pretty negative, and maybe because of that, that’s the way we’re often seen by the world outside the church. Now, let me be clear about this. I’m not saying we’re bad people and we’ve got to get better or else. Man, I’m not lecturing y’all. Still, I think a lot of Christians, at least in the mainline American church, well, we just don’t seem all that happy, not when we look out into the modern world. My gosh, if we were, we probably wouldn’t spend as much time as we do talking about how much better things were in the past. I mean, have you ever heard Christians talk about that kind of thing? Of my goodness, the way things used to be. And unlike the old farmer, back when I was in Montana told me (He said, “Son, you’re going to hear all kinds of people tell you about ‘the old days.’ Well, I lived through them and they weren’t that good), unlike him, often we sound like everything in past was better than the present, at least as it relates to values and religion and stuff like that.

And maybe that explains why we, and I certainly include myself, maybe that’s why we struggle to keep things around the church the way they’ve always been, you know, the way they’re suppose to be, and then we get frustrated and confused about why young people don’t seem interested. No, often we’re just not happy about the direction we’re heading and since we can’t seem to get people to go with us back to the future, naturally we often seem tired and discouraged. You know, for a lot of believers, the world is often seen as a scary and hostile place, a place to avoid and condemn. And that ain’t good, because when you get right down to it, it’s the only world we have.

And if it just affected us that would be a shame, my gosh, nobody likes to be unhappy and frustrated, it also has an enormous impact on the work Christ has called us to do. Remember, Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” and you know that’s pretty hard to do if we don’t have much good to say about either the world or most of the people in it. My gosh, how are we going to reach the folks on the other side of the stained glass, in other words, the kind of men and women both Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul reached, how are we going to reach them when our message is focused more on what’s wrong with social values and modern society? I’ll tell you, they’re going to turn us off in a heartbeat, if that’s our message rather than one that focuses on the love of God and the salvation of Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And if they think that the only way they can be a Christian is to view everything that’s modern as negatively as we, brothers and sisters, do you really, and I mean in your heart-of-hearts, do you think they’re going to come and stay? And if they don’t come, we may think that’s fine, because we might some kick out of believing that it’s good to hold on to the past. But in the long run, if this happens, what’s going to happen to the church, and I’m talking about this church we love so much, what’s going to happen in the next twenty years? Well, I’ll tell you, we won’t be here. And sadly, even that might be alright. Speaking for myself, I’ll be retired and living on my pension. But if that happens and we’re not here or if we’re just surviving as a relic from the past, who’s going to share the faith to the next generation? I’ll tell you, the stakes are unbelievably high, and if we don’t care about the future, we should be ashamed of ourselves. You see, our negativity can hurt not only ourselves but everybody. Therefore somehow, if we want to feel better and be more successful in our outreach, I think we need to be as positive as we can be.

And you know, based on what he wrote in this passage, I believe that Paul would agree. I mean, just think about what he said. Now to me, Paul really had a positive perspective as he dealt with the Thessalonians. Again, just look at the verses. He certainly was positive as he viewed the church in Thessalonika, a baby congregation, made-up of folks who were either Jews or pagans or maybe a blending of the two when Paul first showed up. My gosh, he wrote that when he and his team came, they became like infants, innocent and open. And he shared with them both the good news, you know, the victory that Jesus won for us all, but also themselves. Paul had a positive view of the Thessalonians. And I’ll tell you, so was his approach. My gosh, just listen to what he said, “You are witnesses and God, how devoutly and righteously and blamelessly we became to you who believe, just as you know, how [we became] to each one of you as a father to his own children when we called you and consoled and affirmed [you] that you might behave in a way worthy of God who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” He didn’t condemn them or load them up with all kinds of heavy burdens. Instead he presented the good news in the most affirming way possible. I’ll tell you, from my perspective, Paul was extremely positive.

And you know, so should we. So should we as we look out into our world. And so should we as we share the good news, not the bad news, but the good news of Jesus Christ to others. For example, we can certainly be more positive in our outlook. Now before I say anything else, I not suggesting that we become little Polly Anna’s and deny that there are problems out there, and in here for that matter. I mean, I don’t think we do anybody any good if we pretend. Still, instead of focusing on what’s wrong, we can intentionally look at some of the things that are right. And I’m talking about the blessings, the tools, the opportunities God has given us right now.

For example, each day I reach over five million people with the good news of Jesus Christ and it takes less than an hour to do it, and that includes over five hundred people in our community, and it’s all because of that piece of equipment by my desk and down in my basement. Now I’ve got to admit that they still scare me a little bit, but computers are amazing. And given things like Facebook and Twitter, God has given us an unbelievable opportunity to share our faith in Christ. In fact, we may have never had a better chance in the history of the world to do it, and to me, that’s a good thing.

And I’ll tell you something else, when I first entered the ministry, we were struggling trying to bring back people who’d dropped out of the church, which means that we had to convince them that whatever caused them to leave wasn’t the there anymore. Well, that’s not the case now. We’ve been called to a world in which most young adults have no real knowledge of or strong opinion about the church or its message. There’s no inner hostility. They’re not brooding over something from the past. And they sure aren’t angry because they got their feelings hurt. Now their parents might, but as it relates to Jesus, they’re blank slates. And based on what I read everyday on Facebook, they are ready and anxious to hear what we have to offer. And all we have to do is listen to what they have to say and learn the language they use and the things, you know, like music, they value. And then we can do what Paul did with the Thessalonians. We can share a gospel that they may never had heard before. Now, if that doesn’t make you excited, I don’t know what will. Man, it gives me chills. And those are just two examples. I haven’t even mentioned advances in science and medicine. Brothers and sisters, I think we have good reason to feel positive as we look at the world around us.

And you know, when our outlook is more positive, our actions will be too. I mean, instead of making it difficult for them to hear the Word by presenting it in ways that mean a lot to us but nothing to them, and instead of telling them, in subtle ways, that the world in which I was raised was better in almost every way than the world in which they were raised, and instead of being negative about everything that’s happened in the last ten years, instead of doing that kind of foolishness, wouldn’t it be exciting if we made, as a priority, becoming devout and righteous and blameless? And suppose we became to each one of them like a parent to his own children, we adopt them, calling and consoling and affirming them so that they might understand, maybe for the first time, what living for God means... My gosh, suppose we did that... Well, I’ll tell you, not only would it change how we feel, I know this sounds goofy, but we’ll be turning that frown upside down, not only would we change, but I’m convince so will the world around us. And it’ll change in ways we may not even be able to imagine, all because we’ve become more positive.

Now, when I was working on the sermon, I ran into an article that was a little different from the rest. You see, when I googled (and if you don’t know what googled means, ask a your grandchildren), when I googled “The Power of Positive Thinking,” along with all Peale-like stuff, this came up: an article entitled “The Power of Positive Thinking – A Multi-Billion-Dollar Scam.” And this was the first line: “Just because we think we can, or because we want to bad enough doesn’t mean we will actually get the thing we desire the most at one given moment.” Let’s just say, the author, Elena Gorgan, isn’t a follower of Norman Vincent Peale. But you know, that’s fine, because even though positive thinking won’t make you a millionaire, unless you write a book about it, it can sure change how we feel about and relate to our world. That can happen. Which I guess shows that there must be some real power in the positive.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

PC(USA) News & Announcements Weekly Digest - October 24-28, 2011

October 24

Spanish translation of Tutu letter to Gradye Parsons

Texas pastor is fourth candidate for GA moderator
Randy Branson endorsed by Palo Duro Presbytery


October 25

Seminary news

Christian leaders say yes to Palestine U.N. membership
International law, basic fairness at stake, say PC(USA)’s Parsons, others


October 26

Reformation Day 2011

Presbyterian Historical Society features Civil War resources
Experiences of Civil War Presbyterians highlighted

PC(USA) leaders recognize Reformation Day in churchwide letter
“The Presbyterian church is in the midst of another reformation”

Presbytery and synod news

Be the burning bush
Women of Color Consultation participants urged to listen to ‘unexpected’ sources


October 27

The pied piper of Detroit
Winning coach, teacher and leader is herself led to a new calling through For Such a Time as This pastoral residency program

Creative Services group wins four awards

The earth is the Lord’s
Israel-Palestine experts say land issue is one of stewardship, not ownership

Weekend of Joy: Four Baptisms in the Guadalupe River
Engaging in mission first, new church development attracts unchurched and dechurched into worship as they affirm their new life in Jesus Christ


October 28

Many voices, one song
Women of Color Consultation participants share unique stories for report to 2012 GA

Friday, October 28, 2011

A New Devotion on Cove's Prayer Line - The Instruction Manual

Hebrews 11:32-40

32-38I could go on and on, but I’ve run out of time. There are so many more— Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets....Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn’t deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.

39-40Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.


A Devotion by Mark H. Anderson (Pennsylvania)

Every time I purchase a new electronic device, I also receive a manual. Its detailed instructions tell me how to use the device and what to do if things go wrong.

I often hear people say, “I wish our lives came with an instruction manual.” When Christians hear this, they should hear a call to witness. God has in fact given us an instruction manual for our lives; it is called the Bible.

In sermons, worship, and daily devotions, God speaks to us and answers our questions; but the foundation of the instruction is always scripture. When I need hope in difficult circumstances, I read in First Kings about Elijah. Facing a tough interview, I read in Genesis 41 about Joseph’s meeting with Pharaoh. When wrestling with God over an issue, I read in Genesis 32 about Jacob.

The scriptures allow us to put ourselves in the place of our ancestors in the faith, to see the similarities between their stories and ours. We can learn from God’s providing for and teaching our fathers and mothers and apply their lessons in our lives. And the Bible gives us their stories.

Prayer Requests

The following are needs we'll lift to God on Sunday. If you have anyone to add, please let us know. Thanks.

Adults
Andrea Vincent
Andy DiRemigio
Ann Berach
Anthony Calpo
Belle Howard
Bill Churchman
Bill Moulds
Bob Saffle
Bonnie Kirtley
Charles McLure
Charles Saffle
Christy Cybulski
Chuck Porter
Chum Robert
Connie Francis
Dave Adler
Dave Bever
David Matthews
Denise Krofchek
Domenick Notarantanio
Dr. Bill Roberts
Eleanor Williams
James White
Jeff Palmer
Jennifer Dahlem
Jim Hanna
John Brothers
John F. Roberts
John Jeffrey
Judy Dobbins
Judy Mason
Karen & her son Daniel
Katy Allen
Loretta Hess
Marie Luckhardt
Mr. & Mrs. Mario Whitehead & Joyce
Nick Palavis
Ordalia Duarte
Paul Buck
Rachael
Rhonda Bruich
Rich Jeffers
Richard Redfern
Rick Swain
Rick Willard
Ron Baker
Susan Ponville
T.J. Croft
Trina Lewis
Virginia & Paul Welch

Kids
Audri King
Brandon Wares
Brody McUmor
Daisy Emmerick
Georgie Platt
Hunter Stafford
Jeffrey Konovich
Jonah Becker
Justus Loughry
Michael Liptak
Shelby Kamarec
Zoe Purcell

Military
Chad Peppler
Jonathan Criss
Kendra Mader
Michael Criss
Stephen Mader
Randy Phillips

Troops
Our troops all around the world need our prayers for strength, endurance, and safety.

In the Hospital
Eleanor Williams - Weirton Medical Center
Jim Hanna - Weirton Medical Center

Church Families
Butch, Colleen, Ryan, Craig & Eric Shaw
Scott & Amy Shenton
Robert, Jessica, Bobby & Lexi Shuble

Local Church
St. Nicholas Orthodox Church

Special Friend
Elsie Pascoe, 3 Branford Ct, Avon, CT 44333-3091

Other Presbyterian Churches
Limestone Presbyterian Church, Moundsville, West Virginia - Rev. Larry Kline
First Presbyterian Church, Mt. Pleasant, Ohio - Rev. Byron McElroy

Also Remember in Prayer
Carriage House, 3106 St Charles Dr, Steubenville, OH 43952
Ruth Gilmore

Chambrel at Montrose, 100 Brookmont Rd, Akron OH 44333-3091
Thelma Longacre, Unit 210

Weirton Geriatric Center, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave, Weirton, WV 26062
Marge Black, Room 353
Mary Kay DePaolo
Dorothy Sobolak, Room 223
Bob Morgan
Mike Valiga
Alice Orr

Wyngate, 100 Wyngate Dr, Weirton WV 26062
Father of Mary Ann Ianni

Ila Mauk - 1235 Swearingen Rd, Weirton, WV 26062-4332

Announcements

The announcements as they appear in the bulletin are below.

OUR NURSERY FOR CHILDREN . . .
(infant thru five years) is open during Sunday School and the Worship Service. We still need some volunteer help. We thank those of you in advance who help to care for the future members of our Cove Family.

DON’T FORGET SUNDAY SCHOOL . . .
we meet every Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m. Think about trying out one of our classes. We have a variety of classes to choose from to fit your needs.

IF YOU’VE EVER WORRIED OR FELT STRESS . . .
plan to join our new women’s discussion group. Led by Debbie Rudiger, we’ll be talking about how we can rise above worry and stress. They meet on Sundays, beginning at 9:45 a.m. Come and feel free to invite your friends.

EVERYBODY IS INVITED TO OUR FALL PARTY. . .
at Hozak Farms, today, Sunday, October 30. We will meet at the church at 5:00 p.m. to travel to the farm. The event starts at 6:00 p.m. Come, enjoy a hay ride and campfire.

“MYRTLE MCHENDRY CLASS MEMORIES” . . .
Is the title of the program that will be presented at the upcoming meeting of the Myrtle McHendry Class on Tuesday, November 1 at 7:00 p.m. in Fellowship Hall. Hostesses for the evening will be Ruth Coates, Mildred Kimmel and Sue Willson.

THE ADULT HANDBELL CHOIR WILL PRACTICE . . .
on Wednesday, November 2 at 5:30 p.m. under the direction of Becky Korosec. New members are always welcome and you do not have to read music to play. The Handbell Choir plays once a month for Sunday worship. For more information contact Becky at 304-748-8449.

THE CHANCEL CHOIR WILL PRACTICE . . .
on Wednesday, November 2, at 6:45 p.m. We will be working on anthems for each service. If you would like to lift your voice in song to praise our God, consider becoming a member of the Chancel Choir. For more information contact Janice Torrance at 304-797-1908.

THE BROWN BAG BIBLE STUDY WILL MEET . . .
on Thursday, November 3, at 12:30 p.m. Grab your lunch and join us as we study God’s word. We’re beginning a study of 1 Thessalonians, and this week we’ll look at 1 Thessalonians 5:11-28.

CHURCH WOMEN UNITED . . .
World Community Day will be held on Friday, November 4 at 11:00 a.m. at the Paris Presbyterian Church. The event is open to all ladies!

COVE’S TWELFTH ANNUAL MEMORIAL SERVICE . . .
will be held next Sunday, November 6th during the morning worship service. If you had a loved one pass away within the last year, please contact the church office so they can be remembered during our Memorial Service.

GOD BLESS THE USA . . .
is the title of the patriotic cantata to be presented by the Chancel Choir next Sunday, November 6 at 6:00. Everyone is invited to come and pay tribute to all military personnel that evening.

DEACONS MONTHLY MEETING . . .
will be held on Monday, November 7 at 7:00 p.m. in the board room. Please try to attend as we will be discussing the events and plans for the upcoming holiday season.

UNICEF . . .
is collecting money to help kids in need! The children will be collecting after church on Sunday, October 30th.
FYI ...
$ . 25 - gives 10 kids clean water to drink for a day;
$ 1.00 - pays for protein biscuits for a starving child;
$ 17.00 - keeps a kid safe from 6 killer diseases;
$ 24.00 - supplies an emergency first aid kit;
$ 257.00 - buys a School-in-a-Box so kids can learn anywhere;
$ 500.00 - provides a water pump for a village or school.
This is a project of Church Women United and our women. We appreciate your support in this very worthwhile project!

PROJECT CHRISTMAS SMILE GIVING TREE . . .
reminds us all that the holiday season is fast approaching, and once again the deacons will be giving a few children in the area a “Special Christmas” this year. If you wish to help in this endeavor, please check out the giving tree that will be in the church narthex beginning Sunday, November 6th. The ornaments will be requesting a hat & gloves; pajamas; shoes & socks or a board games for a “Special Child”. We are asking that you please return the gift unwrapped to the church no later than, Sunday, November 27.

2012 COVE COMMUNITY BIRTHDAY CALENDARS HAVE ARRIVED . . .
and please see Betty Virtue to pick-up your calendar on Sunday morning or stop by the church office during the week to pick-up your order.

REMINDER, PLEASE COVER . . .
the top of the church’s tables before they are used for any activity. They will stain and are hard to clean, this can be avoided with a little cooperation.

ONLY ONE. . .
a Peg Game designed by Bruce Trushel, is available in the church library. The learning game is a unique way to learn and remember the Ten Commandments. The game can be ordered from:
Only One God Foundation
PO Box 2459
Weirton WV 26062

GREETERS NEEDED . . .
if you would like to serve as a greeter before a Sunday morning worship service, please contact Bonnie Nichols at 304-723-5134.

WE ARE BLOGGING!
We now have six blogs that you can check out for information and on which you can leave comments. They're listed below:
• The Cove Community (www.thecovecommunity.blogspot.com) - This is for the whole church. I'll post sermons and announcements. I also invite y'all to send in material that you'd like to share with other members of the congregation. And please feel free to comment on anything you might read.
• Cove Kids (www.covekids.blogspot.com) - This is tailored for the preteen young people in our church. Again I'll post announcements. You're also invited to send in any writings, photographs and art work you'd like to post. And they don't have to all deal with the church. We also post artwork from Jesus Time.
• Glue (www.cove-glue.blogspot.com) - Our teens are running their own blog site; therefore, I have no idea what will be posted.
• Bible Talk (www.cove-bibletalk.blogspot.com) - We've established this blog to give pastors and lay people the chance to discuss Scripture. The weekly passages are from the Common Lectionary, and we're posting the pastor’s translation of the Greek text. We want you to read any or all of the passages and to leave any comment or ask any question that you feel is appropriate. Please include any research you've done. As we share our ideas and insights, we hope that we'll all come to a better and deeper understanding of the Bible. Each passage is linked to a website that offers some informative information.
• Let’s Talk About It (www.cove-talk.blogspot.com) - Through this site, we hope to encourage a conversation on a variety of topics. Since this blog is sponsored by a church, we expect most of the issues to involve the Christian faith. Still we don't want to limit ourselves or you. If you have a topic that you'd like us to discuss, include it as a comment to a previous issue. Please phrase it as a question and offer a summary of at least two positions. We'll add a new item to discuss every three weeks. We hope this challenges you to apply your faith to issues that are important to you.
• The Bible in a Year (www.cove-bibleinayear.blogspot.com) - Each day, we'll post passages so that you can read the Bible in one year.

EIGHT FOOT KASSON BRAND POOL TABLE . . .
with an Italian Slate Top; 7 Cue Sticks with wall mount holder; excellent condition; vinyl cover; includes ping pong top- - $ 900.00. For more information contact the church office.

IT IS OFTEN DIFFICULT TO HEAR PRAYER REQUESTS . . .
on Sunday mornings. If you would like to have someone added to the prayer chain please drop a short note into the collection plate with their name and any other information you would like to share. You may also call the church office or e-mail the church with the information.

IF YOU LEAVE AN ITEM AT CHURCH . . .
for someone or for a specific function, please take a moment to write the information on the item. If there is no name on the item we will assume it is for the church in general.

IN THE HOSPITAL? HOMEBOUND? RECENT ILLNESS?. . .
if you are unable to attend services and would like to arrange for a visit from Rev. Ed Rudiger please contact the church office. Also if you would like to be included in our weekly bulletin mailings contact the church office.

WE CAN ALWAYS DO A BETTER JOB MINISTERING . . .
to the needs within this congregation, community and world. Please feel free to offer any suggestions as comments.

LOOSE CHANGE OFFERING . . .
Session has approved the Deacons collecting a “Loose Change Offering” that will be used to assist the Deacons with their utility assistance outreach program for Weirton residents or Cove Church members. We hope church members can help with the assistance program by donating some of their spare change. A container is placed in the Narthex each Sunday morning before church. The Deacons thank you for your continuing support of their projects.

VASES OF FLOWERS. . .
can be purchased for a service. The cost is $16.00 a vase. Silk flowers can be purchased for an additional cost. The flower calendar is located on the far wall in the church narthex or you can telephone the church office to place your order. After the service, the flowers will be placed in a plastic vase for you to take with you.

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS. . .
newsletters from old friends or articles about or by members of Cove Church, check out the bulletin board located in the hallway by the church offices. Past event pictures are also on display in that area.

WE’RE UPDATING OUR PRAYER AND DEVOTION LINE . . .
about four times a week. If you would like to call and hear a devotional, please call 304-748-7900.

SHOP ON LINE . . .
just use Good Search and Good Shop search engines to find what you are hunting for. List Cove Presbyterian Church as your charity and a percent of your purchase will come back to the church. It’s a simple way to raise money for the Cove Deacons while shopping for yourself!

ONGOING MISSION PROJECTS . . .
• Used Can Tabs are being collected for the Ronald McDonald House in Morgantown, West Virginia. Deposit your tabs in the container located in the main hallway downstairs.
• Campbell’s Labels are being collected by the Presbyterian Women for the Weirton Christian Center. The labels can be dropped off in the container located in the main hallway downstairs.

Some Thoughts on Halloween

In a couple of days, we’ll celebrate Halloween. Now I hesitate using the word “celebrate,” because in some Christian circles Halloween represents the “Devil’s Day.” And although I don’t hear believers say that as much as I did about twenty years ago, there are still folks who believe this sincerely. Of course, this condemnation of a day generally associated with children, costumes and candy doesn’t make much sense to many people within our society, and the more they hear about the spiritual dangers of day, the more the world around us dismisses all Christians as superstitious and irrelevant. And that’s not good, not if our goal is to communicate the good news of Jesus in this world.

And for that reason I thought I'd write a little bit about how I see Halloween. Frankly, I don’t think it’s the Devil’s day. As a matter of fact, since the Devil is the great distractor, I think he’s delighted that we’ve shifted our attention to kids in costumes rather than the genuine evil within our world and some of the things Jesus commanded us to do. Basically, I think “trick-or-treating” is harmless. It leads to tooth decay, not demonic possession. And yet, I also recognize that some sincerely believe that celebrating Halloween might damage their faith. Now to deal with this difference in opinion, I think it makes sense to see how the Apostle Paul dealt with similar differences. This is what he wrote to the Romans about their divisions:

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? ...Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat; it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble. The faith that you have, have as your own conviction before God. Blessed are those who have no reason to condemn themselves because of what they approve. But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because they do not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

I guess the bottom line is this: if you think it’s wrong to celebrate Halloween don't do it, but don't judge those who do. And if you think it's fine, trick-or-trick with your kids and give out candy but don't look down on those who can't. At the end of the day, we all need to remember that we’re Christian brothers and sisters, and we have an obligation to love one another. As Paul also wrote to the Romans, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” If all Christians loved one another, something like Halloween wouldn’t be an issue.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sunday's Minute for Mission - Reformation Day

As we commemorate Reformation Day, I am reminded of Martin Luther's posting the Ninety-Five Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, and the struggles that ensued. In spite of challenges, the Reformed tradition stands strong in many parts of the world.

Youth from the Arevalo Presbyterian Church in
Trujillo, Peru, celebrate Reformation Day.
When I was vice-moderator of the General Assembly, I saw firsthand the Reformed witness of the Presbyterian Churches of Colombia (IPC) and of Venezuela (IPV). Although small, both denominations focus on providing a Reformed presence amid many challenges. In Barranquilla, Colombia, the Reformed University provides a college and theological education and trains ministers to serve in a mostly Roman Catholic city. The Central Presbytery in Bogota has only seven churches but social outreach projects that focus on ministry with families and youth. The IPV has emphasized education and established primary and secondary schools outside Caracas. Several members participate in leadership roles for organizations such as the World Council of Churches. Both denominations face challenges from governmental policies and the dominance of other faiths. However, they believe that God is leading them to provide a Reformed witness to the world.

When I think of their work, I remember the words of 1 Thess. 2:9: ``You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.'' This is their charge as they seek to be Reformed people.

- Rev. Byron Wade, pastor of Davie Street Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, North Carolina;
Vice-Moderator of the 218th General Assembly (2008)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Reformation Day 2011

Office of the General Assembly
by Sharon Youngs
Communications Coordinator


Louisville – To the congregations of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):

The church affirms Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei, that is, “The church reformed, always to be reformed according to the Word of God” in the power of the Spirit. (Book of Order, F-2.02)

Presbyterian roots go back – way back – nearly 500 years to the beginning of the Protestant Reformation when, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther, John Calvin, and other leaders of that movement would be astounded today to see the fruits of their faith-filled, courageous witness: The gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed in word and deed in and through worshiping communities around the world that seek to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and confront injustice in its many forms.

We celebrate our reformed heritage and continually draw nourishment from these deep roots, especially during this present time of dramatic change within and beyond the church. Change generates both excitement and anxiety, possibility and perplexity. Where is God leading us? What is out there on the horizon?

Looking extensively to the past, however, or gazing anxiously to the future can lead to missing what is happening in our midst now. God spoke through the prophet Isaiah: "I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" (Isa. 43:19).

Today, in our time, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is in the midst of another reformation. God is creating a new church in and through us. Signs of it and responses to it are plentiful:
  • New worshiping communities are springing up, many of them looking different from traditional congregations.
  • We have a new Form of Government that provides more flexibility for congregations to do mission more effectively in their particular contexts.
  • Special committees and groups across the entire church are envisioning new possibilities for the church in the 21st century, possibilities that reflect a growing multicultural reality and the need to adjust our structure from a corporate, top-down approach to one that enhances even further the work of congregations and presbyteries.
It is both an exciting and unsettling time in the life of the PC(USA). We suspect that Calvin felt similar pangs of anticipation and anxiety when he was in the midst of another season of dramatic change in the life of the church. Yet Calvin's strong faith in a steadfast and sovereign God is evident in his hymn, "I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art." One of the stanzas reads:

Thou art the life, by which alone we live,
And all our substance and our strength receive;
Sustain us by Thy faith and by Thy power,
And give us strength in every trying hour.

As we celebrate and give thanks for the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, we also celebrate and give thanks for the mission and ministry of the PC(USA) in this time of another great reformation. Like Calvin and his colleagues, may we respond in unity with eagerness, faithfulness, wisdom, and joy:

Our hope is in no other, save in thee
Our faith is built upon thy promise free
Lord, give us peace and make us calm and sure
That in thy strength we evermore endure.

To God be the glory!

Cindy Bolbach
Moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010)

Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly

Linda Valentine
Executive Director, General Assembly Mission Council

Landon Whitsitt
Vice Moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010)

Happening Around the Presbytery - October 26, 2011

PLEASE CONTINUE TO KEEP IN YOUR PRAYERS:
Roberta Croker
Cecilia Raske-Barnett
Ed Mooney
Bill Roberts
Marie Luckhardt
David Kline
Alan Parr
Joe Byrne
Melissa Dague
Trina Lewis
Bob Wildpret
Dave Roberts
Dora Gear
Amanda Elliott
Kurt Turner
Domasi Presbytery

Please keep us informed of any prayer concerns you may have.

PRAYER FOR UOVP PASTORS: Select one of these pastors and remember him/her in your prayers this week: Sue McMannis, Jay McMillen, Bob Meyer, Colleen Molinaro, Ed Mooney.

A MALAWI MISSION TRIP is being planned for September, 2012, to strengthen and further our partnership with the members of Domasi Presbytery. We will select three people from our Presbytery to travel to Malawi. Info on applying for the trip, an application, and a session endorsement form is available on our website www.uovpresby.org; or call the Presbytery Office 304-232-3490 for a hard copy. If you have questions, please call Becky Boggs 330-426-2898 or the Rev. Dr. Steve Cramer 330-385-1127. The deadline for applying is the end of October, 2011.

A COALITION of churches in Neffs – with some help from the Synod of the Trinity – is keeping local flood victims warm this winter. Christian Community Outreach has purchased furnaces for four families whose homes were affected by flash floods on June 19th. After flooding from Hurricane Lee devastated much of Central Pennsylvania last month, the Synod of the Trinity made $2,000 available for flood relief in each of its member presbyteries. CCO received the money designated for Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery: “It again shows us that where there is a need, God will supply.” Christian Community Outreach is made up of the Sacred Heart Parish, the Neffs United Methodist Church, and the Coalbrook Presbyterian Church, and was formed to respond to the flooding disaster in 2004. Since then, the organization has continued to provide opportunities for the community to worship and serve together. CCO’s next scheduled event is a community Thanksgiving dinner on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

EMMANUEL PRESBYTERIAN Church, 767 Park Blvd., East Liverpool, Ohio, is hosting a Roast Beef/Pork & Kraut dinner on Saturday, November 5, from 4-7 PM. Cost is $8 and take out is available. All are invited to join us!

YOU ARE INVITED TO SUNDAY CHICKEN DINNER at Laughlin Memorial Chapel, 129½ 18th St., Wheeling, W. Va., on Sunday, November 6, 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m. Menu: Chicken (fried or oven baked), sweet potatoes/mashed potatoes, greens green beans, salad, and a variety of desserts from which to choose. $8 adults and $6 for kids 12 and under. Carry out and delivery available. Dinner benefits the Ms. Debbie Miller Laughlin Chapel Girls Club. For tickets and information, call 304-232-2630 or 304-650-5682.

YOU ARE INVITED: On November 6th, Yellow Creek Presbyterian Church, 17365 State Route 45, Wellsville, OH 43968, is re-dedicating their manse to the Lord's service. We have spent the summer updating and renovating it for a future renter that we know God is bringing to us. The church is very proud of the work that has been done and thankful to the people who have volunteered. We would like to welcome the presbytery and community to come to morning worship at 11:00 a.m., and if they can't make the service, we are having a potluck after church at 12:30 p.m. with a house blessing/dedication following over at the manse. We hope this afternoon service will be one of joy and thankfulness to God. You can RSVP to the church number (330)-532-2000 and leave a message if you are coming and how many are in your party so we can provide enough food for everyone. If you cannot make the worship or dinner but can attend the dedication, please join us!

ALL PASTORS, LAY AND ORDAINED: On Thursday, November 10th, there will be an important meeting of all pastors, lay and ordained, here at the Presbytery Office. We will begin at 10:00 a.m. with lunch at noon. RSVP by Thursday, November 3.

PITTSBURGH SEMINARY CLASS “Spiritually Focused Meditation for Cancer Patients—a unique healing approach for use in clinical and pastoral settings” will be held Friday, November 18, 2011, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. $70.00 per person. Registration deadline is November 4th, to the seminary 412-924-1345 or online at www.pts.edu/CE_registration, with late registrations accepted as space permits. Questions? Call 412-924-1345 or e-mail coned@pts.edu. A brochure with more info can be found on their website www.pts.edu.

A 2012 LITURGICAL COLORS calendar can be found on our website www.uovpresby.org. Or call 304-232-3490 or contact pattyuov@uovpresby.org.

ADVENT begins November 27th, and Advent resources are available for you to borrow from the Presbytery’s Resource Center. A booklet of these resources can be viewed on our website www.uovpresby.org. If you want to borrow something or have questions, please contact Cathy Cipriani at recenter@uovpresby.org or (Mondays 9-3, Wednesdays 9-5, Fridays 9-3).

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 27, 2011, PRESBYTERY MEETING: The Rev. Dr. Stephen D. Cramer introduced our three guests from Malawi: the Rev. Evans Kapulula, Moderator of Domasi Presbytery, the Rev. Collins Maganga, Clerk of Domasi Presbytery, and Mr. John Milanzi (partnership chairman). The Rev. Cramer gave a brief history of the country, saying there is much to gain through this relationship. Malawi is the 10th poorest nation in the world, with the average income per family being less that $1,000 per year. Only 7% of the people own an automobile, while 93% either walk or bicycle to their destination. Of the 14,000,000 people of that country, 1,000,000 are orphans. AIDS is one of the leading problems in Malawi, with either many having the disease or affected by it. When a parent dies and there are family members left behind (regardless of age), it is the responsibility of family members to take care of the family. Eleven persons from our presbytery have traveled to Malawi. There is a joy of God through Christ as these people are enriched through spiritual connections to God and integrity in all they do, which we can learn from and experience – for we have much to learn from the Malawian people. Prayer was offered at this time for our partnership to be a success for both us and them by working together and through our spiritual discipline.

Each of our visitors spoke briefly to presbytery, telling a little of their personal life. The Rev. Evans Kapulula serves four prayer houses (under 200 members) and five churches (membership from 250 – 900+). He does not have a car, but travels via bicycle to cover his 26 mile area of which he is in charge. John Milanzi is a school professor and always looking for new ways to teach. The Rev. Collins Maganga serves three churches and several prayer houses. The Rev. Evans reported on the Domasi Presbytery, saying, “The church is committed to the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of mankind, the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of children of God; the promotion of divine worship; the preservation of the truth; the promotion of social righteousness and well being of mankind. The church uses a holistic human approach to its members and surrounding community by providing health ministry, providing Christian Education ministry, and above all spreading the gospel. To fulfill these above objectives, Domasi Presbytery, one of the eighteen presbyteries of CCAP (Church of Central Africa Presbyterian) Blantyre Synod has: 37 congregations/churches with a minimum of not less than 200 members, One clinic – the famous, H. Parker Sharp Clinic, situated at Domasi Mission Station, 4 Secondary/High Schools, 17 Primary/Elementary Schools, Naming’azi Demonstration Farm, Sakata Livelihood Project, Chilema Ecumenical Lay Training Centre. Our relationship with Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery will strengthen our advocacy of the trio services i.e.: gospel spreading, education and health by exchanging missionaries through linkage of congregations of Domasi Presbytery and Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery, so that through individual talents and special personal gifts, we can share and work together as one world, one people. Two are better off than one. We hope to get good rewards if we work jointly with Jesus Christ as the third strand that binds us together. Hence our partnership rests on exchange of missionaries, linkage of congregations, and sharing of special personal gifts and talents. Together we will continue to evaluate and strengthen our ties and to be open to share further challenges and opportunities the Holy Spirit may lead us in days to come. Two are better off than one. (Ecc 4:9)”

CHAPEL CHIRSTMAS WISH LIST: Each year, Laughlin Memorial Chapel holds a series of Christmas parties for the children enrolled in their programs. They rely on the churches, civic groups, and individuals to meet their gift needs. Again this year, Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery joins in this program since Laughlin Chapel is an official mission project of this Presbytery. Providing Christmas for 130 plus kids is now our joint responsibility. Their 2011 Christmas Wish List can be found on our website: www.uovpresby.org. In order to prepare for the parties, gifts should be delivered unwrapped by December 1st, to the Chapel. If gift pick up is needed, the Chapel will be happy to arrange for a pick up time, please call them at 304-232-2630. If shopping is difficult, they accept monetary donations. Their staff performs the “elf duties,” filling any gaps in the gift list with contributions of money and gift cards. Please help the Chapel to again make the holidays a time of joy for the kids. Thank you for your support!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO: Mac McCuen – November 2

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A New Devotion on the Prayer Line - “A Thorn Day”

Revelation 21:1-6

1I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had disappeared, and so had the sea. 2Then I saw New Jerusalem, that holy city, coming down from God in heaven. It was like a bride dressed in her wedding gown and ready to meet her husband.

3I heard a loud voice shout from the throne:

God’s home is now with his people. He will live with them, and they will be his own. Yes, God will make his home among his people. 4He will wipe all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, suffering, crying, or pain. These things of the past are gone forever.

5Then the one sitting on the throne said:

I am making everything new. Write down what I have said. My words are true and can be trusted. 6Everything is finished! I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give water from the life-giving fountain to everyone who is thirsty.


A Devotion by Pam Pointer (Wiltshire, England)

There’s a rosebush in my garden that’s full of bright, orange flowers blooming in the sunshine. It looks beautiful. But its stems are full of dagger-like thorns. When I bend down to take in the fragrance of one of its beautiful flowers, I might find an earwig lurking, waiting to bite; or when I least expect it, a nectar-seeking wasp may fly out of the flower and sting me.

In some ways, life is like a rosebush. Some days we marvel with joy, see life’s beauty and smell its sweet fragrances. We are lighthearted and feel that God laughs and smiles with us. At other times it seems that we encounter nothing but life’s thorns and stings, and we feel weighed down by it all.

If today is a “thorn day” for us, God sighs and weeps with us. But bright days can remind us that one day paradise will be restored forever. There will be no more thorns, stings, or bites; no heartache, fear, misery, illness, or unfairness. The Rose will bloom in glory and we will all live in God’s presence and be made whole.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Yesterday's Sermon - A Laser Beam

1 Thessalonians 1:6–2:7a

6And you yourselves became imitators of us and of the Lord, when you received the word in great suffering with joy from Holy Spirit, 7so that you became an example to all who have faith in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8For from you, the word of the Lord has resounded not only in Macedonia and in Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has spread, so that we have no need to speak of it. 9For they themselves, about us, report what sort of reception we had from you and how you turned to God from the idols, to be enslaved to the God who lives and is true 10and to wait for his son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath which is coming. 1For you yourselves know, brothers, our coming to you that it wasn’t in vain, 2but even though we suffered and were treated with insolence, just as you know, in Philippi, we had the courage, in our God, to speak to you the good news of God in great opposition. 3For our appeal was not from error or from impure motive or in deceit, 4but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the good news, thus we speak, not as those who please people but God who approved our hearts. 5For never with flattering words did we come, just as you know, nor with a pretext for greed, God as [a] witness, 6nor did we seek from people honor nor from you nor from anyone, 7although we were able to be a burden as Christ’s apostles.



A Laser Beam

Did you see the title of the sermon? I assume you did, and as is generally the case, the title is kind of reflected on the bulletin cover. You see, this morning we’re going to talk about laser beams. But you know, that’s a pretty technical idea, one that I can tell you, I don’t really understand, and so I thought I’d give you a sound, scientific definition, and here it is: “A laser is a device that emits light (electromagnetic radiation) through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term ‘laser’ originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. The emitted laser light is notable for its high degree of spatial and temporal coherence, unattainable using other technologies.” And so you see, that amplified light is called a laser beam. Aren’t you glad I shared that with you?

Of course, I’ve always believed that when you can’t understand either the word or the definition, man, you’re in big trouble. Brothers and sisters, right now, as it applies to lasers and beams, I’m in big trouble, not as much trouble as WVU was on Friday evening, but in trouble none-the-less. But I guess that’s OK, because when I think of laser beams, two things come to mind. First, those phasers they used on Star Trek. And second, something that carries a more, well, a more metaphorical meaning. I mean, when I think of a laser beam, I think about this concentrated beam of light; and so anytime we really concentrate our attention on one thing, we’re sort of acting like a laser. And so, a laser beam is when we’ve focused on one, single item or idea.

And you know it’s interesting, although he lived almost two thousand years ago, I think that’s exactly what Paul was doing as he described his mission with the Thessalonians and their response. You see, whether he was talking about how they’d imitated them, meaning Paul and Silas and Timothy, by receiving the word with joy and then passing on throughout Macedonia and Achaia, whether he was writing about what they were doing or about what his group had done when they were in Thessalonika, you know, how they “...had the courage, in our God, to speak to you the good news of God,” it seems as though, like a laser beam, Paul’s focus was concentrated on the message, on the word, on the good news that he’d brought and they’d received.

And I’ve got to tell you, I think that’s pretty important for us not only to remember but to apply to ourselves. In other words, when we think about our Christianity, my gosh, when we think about what it means to be a Christian and on what God has called us to do, I think this stuff must be our focus as well. You see, maybe we need to be like laser beams when it comes to the gospel, and I’m talking about the good news of Jesus Christ. Of course to do that, we may have to take at least a half step back from some of the other stuff on which we focus, and I’m not just talking about the bad stuff or even the stuff we usually associate with the secular world.

I mean, if we want to focus our faith and our lives and our message on the good news, we may want to push to the side some of the stuff that Christians often value, you know, like all those rules and laws that we use to judge and exclude others and like all those traditions and structures that we try to protect even though we know they may interfere with our ability to share the gospel in the world as it is, not as we’d like it to be and like all those political and social values that we as individuals support and so we Christianize them so that we can convince ourselves that Christ would support them too. I’ll tell you, it we’re serious about focusing on the good news, we may need to push some of this stuff away. But that’s really only half of it.

I mean, if we really want focus, once the distractions are off to the side, then we may need to actually do what we say we want to do, and I’m talking about concentrating our attention on the good news just like a laser beam concentrates light. And you know, to get that kind of focus, I think we probably need to do three things.

You see, first, if we really want to concentrate our attention on the good news, we probably need to understand it. Now, I know that sounds like another one of those “daaa” statements, but I’ll tell you, I think a lot of people talk about the gospel and the good news and really don’t understand what it’s all about. You see, in spite of what some say, the good news is not about how a person can avoid Hell nor is it about a bunch of stuff you had to believe in order to get into Heaven. That isn’t the gospel, at least not according to Paul. Rather it’s something that’s real in the present, you know, in our lives right now. It isn’t about laws, it’s about a gift and grace and glory. In short, it’s about faith and salvation, as Paul wrote to the Romans, “...I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” You see, it’s the victory already won by Jesus Christ. That’s the gospel; that’s the good news. And if we want to make that our focus, we really need to understand it.

But more than that, second, we also need to believe it, to accept it as true and to trust that it reflects God’s unchanging will. I knew a man years ago who used to say there was about sixteen inches between the head and the heart, but those sixteen inches make all the difference. I’ll tell you, the gospel isn’t a set of intellectual assertions and the good news isn’t a theological exercise. It not about just the head. It also involves the heart and will. And that’s why it changes lives. And that makes sense. You know, I can understand something right down to the smallest detail, but that’s not going to offer much peace or joy or hope if I don’t also trust that it’s true and real. And trust, well, that all comes down to a decision. In other words, because of the evidence and in spite of some other information that may cause me to question or doubt, I’m making the decision to believe that the Jesus Christ is exactly who he said he was, that he’s the place where I can encounter God. But not only that, I’m making the decision to believe that through his death he somehow broke the power of sin, I may not really understand how, but I believe he did it, and to believe that because he was raised from the dead, I have hope as I move into the future, but not just for me, but for Debbie and Maggie and y’all as well. And brothers and sisters, I’m making the decision that none of this is just about the past or the future, instead the good news is about how I live right now. You see, this is really what believing is all about. And just in case I think that this is more than I can pull off by myself, in other words, even if I think that I just don’t have it in me to make this kind of decision, I might be able to fake it but I’m honest enough with myself and my limitations to say that there’s no way I can come close to one hundred percent certainty, that’s really OK. It’s God’s Holy Spirit that opens our ears and minds so that we can hear and understand and softens our hearts and wills so that we can feel and trust. It’s all in God’s hands. For us to be able to focus on the good news, we need to believe it.

And third, along with understanding and believing, we really need to share it, and I’m talking about sharing that good news to others. And although sometimes sharing what we understand and believe is kind of scary, not only is it natural but can be as easy as falling off a log. I mean, sharing this stuff, that just makes sense. My gosh, when you think about it, the good news of Christ is so incredible, it’s so wonderful, it’s so life changing, it’s hard to imagine that we’d want to keep it to ourselves, behind walls and stained glass. We’ve received the meaning of life, the source of peace and joy, a guarantee for the future, why wouldn’t we want to share it with everybody? And you know, it kind of makes you think. If we don’t want to share it, maybe we don’t understand and believe the good news as much as we’d like to think. Sharing good news just comes naturally. And like I said, it doesn’t have to be difficult to do. I mean, just think about what Paul wrote. He was very clear about what they didn’t do when they brought the message to the Thessalonians. He wrote, “For our appeal was not from error or from impure motive or in deceit, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the good news, thus we speak, not as those who please people but God who approved our hearts. For never with flattering words did we come, just as you know, nor with a pretext for greed, God as [a] witness, nor did we seek from people honor nor from you nor from anyone, although we were able to be a burden as Christ’s apostles.” You know, I’m not sure it matters whether we do it through the words we use or the lives we live, as long as we’re focused on the good news itself, and not on ourselves, and I’m talking about on our techniques or our goals or our success, but rather on the victory won by Christ, if that’s our focus, I think we’ll be fine. We really need to share what we understand and believe.

A laser beam is a concentrated beam of light. And although I’m sure this definition would cause a physicist to snicker, it’s one that I can get my head around. And as it relates to us as Christians, I think we should have a laser beam like focus on the good news of Jesus Christ. And do that we might want to push aside the distractions and concentrate our attention by understanding it and by believing it and by sharing it with others. And I’ll tell you, if we do, our concentrated light, well, I think it will shine all over this valley, even to the ends of the world.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Our Girl Scouts Visit the Mayor

City officials recently got a visit from nearly 20 young girls who are members of local Girl Scouts organizations. The Scouts were invited to tour the mayor’s office as well as the council chambers. Pictured is Mayor George Kondik addressing the Girl Scouts in his office prior to the main tour. -- Angelina Dickson

Friday, October 21, 2011

PC(USA) News & Announcements Weekly Digest - October 17-21, 2011

October 17


Planting, digging, watering
New ministry hopes to cultivate Christ-centered communities

Explore the logo designs for the 220th GA (2012)


October 18

‘A wave of the Spirit’
Fresh expressions of church taking root in the UK


October 19

Follow Jesus into the world; invite the church and others to join you
Company of New Pastors orientation encourages seminarians to practice spiritual disciplines, community, mentoring and theological reflection

Glory days
COR gathering urged to build a more inclusive table where all can sit


October 20

A resource for all seasons
2012 Mission Yearbook contains stories, prayers, lectionary and more


October 21

Welcome home
Growing multicultural congregation reaches out to the homeless in Las Vegas

‘A long loving look at the real’
Partnership between seminary, conference center provides apprenticeships for young adults

A New Devotion on Our Prayer Line - Waves of Loves

Mark 4:35-41

35That evening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the east side.” 36So they left the crowd, and his disciples started across the lake with him in the boat. Some other boats followed along. 37Suddenly a windstorm struck the lake. Waves started splashing into the boat, and it was about to sink.

38Jesus was in the back of the boat with his head on a pillow, and he was asleep. His disciples woke him and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re about to drown?”

39Jesus got up and ordered the wind and the waves to be quiet. The wind stopped, and everything was calm.

40Jesus asked his disciples, “Why were you afraid? Don’t you have any faith?”

41Now they were more afraid than ever and said to each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”


A Devotion by Shaun McHardy (Cape Town, South Africa)

As I drive to work every day, along with hundreds of other workers, I wonder if our thoughts aren’t much the same: What is this routine all about? For that matter, what is this life all about? Day in and day out, we follow the same measured route to the same place, to do much the same work.

One day I decided to stop at the beach on my way to work to spend some quiet time with God. I turned off the car and the radio to watch and listen to the ocean waves splash the shore. But soon I was thinking that each wave represented just another worry to attend to that day.

Finally, as I looked up at the sun rising and shining, I imagined God saying to me, “This is my creation; enjoy it.” That moment I learned a lesson: If we look at life with the wrong focus we can be miserable every day. But if we focus on God and look for evidence of God around us, we can enjoy our days and experience life as God wants it to be for us.

Now when I stop on the beach to take in peace and tranquility for my day — be it rainy or sunny — I see the waves pounding the shore not as worries but as God’s love washing over and over me. Day in and day out, life is good!

Prayer Requests

The following are needs we'll lift to God on Sunday. If you have anyone to add, please let us know. Thanks.

Adults
Andrea Vincent
Andy DiRemigio
Ann Berach
Anthony Calpo
Belle Howard
Bill Churchman
Bill Moulds
Bob Saffle
Bonnie Kirtley
Charles McLure
Charles Saffle
Christy Cybulski
Chuck Porter
Chum Robert
Connie Francis
Dave Adler
Dave Bever
David Matthews
Denise Krofchek
Domenick Notarantanio
Dr. Bill Roberts
James White
Jennifer Dahlem
Jim Hanna
John Brothers
John F. Roberts
John Jeffrey
Judy Dobbins
Judy Mason
Karen & her son Daniel
Katy Allen
Loretta Hess
Marie Luckhardt
Mr. & Mrs. Mario Whitehead & Joyce
Nick Palavis
Ordalia Duarte
Paul Buck
Rachael
Rhonda Bruich
Rich Jeffers
Richard Redfern
Rick Swain
Rick Willard
Ron Baker
Susan Ponville
T.J. Croft
Trina Lewis
Virginia & Paul Welch

Kids
Audri King
Brandon Wares
Brody McUmor
Daisy Emmerick
Georgie Platt
Hunter Stafford
Jeffrey Konovich
Jonah Becker
Justus Loughry
Michael Liptak
Shelby Kamarec
Zoe Purcell

Military
Chad Peppler
Jonathan Criss
Kendra Mader
Michael Criss
Stephen Mader
Randy Phillips

Troops
Our troops all around the world need our prayers for strength, endurance, and safety.

In the Hospital
Eleanor Williams - Weirton Medical Center
Jim Hanna - Weirton Medical Center

Church Families
Michael & Janet Schreiner, Kenneth & Timothy
Debbie & Ray T. Seifert
Larry & Marcia Shane

Local Church
Paris Presbyterian Church

Special Friend
Margaret Heaton, Heritage Place, 608 N 10th Street, Weirton, WV 26062-2423

Other Presbyterian Churches
First Presbyterian Church, Mingo Junction, Ohio - Mr. Kenneth Sickle
First Presbyterian Church, Moundsville, West Virginia - Rev. Timothy Wilt

Also Remember in Prayer
Carriage House, 3106 St Charles Dr, Steubenville, OH 43952
Ruth Gilmore

Chambrel at Montrose, 100 Brookmont Rd, Akron OH 44333-3091
Thelma Longacre, Unit 210

Weirton Geriatric Center, 2525 Pennsylvania Ave, Weirton, WV 26062
Marge Black, Room 353
Mary Kay DePaolo
Dorothy Sobolak, Room 223
Bob Morgan
Mike Valiga
Alice Orr

Wyngate, 100 Wyngate Dr, Weirton WV 26062
Father of Mary Ann Ianni

Ila Mauk - 1235 Swearingen Rd, Weirton, WV 26062-4332

Announcements

The announcements as they appear in the bulletin are below.

OUR NURSERY FOR CHILDREN . . .
(infant thru five years) is open during Sunday School and the Worship Service. We still need some volunteer help. We thank those of you in advance who help to care for the future members of our Cove Family.

DON’T FORGET SUNDAY SCHOOL . . .
we meet every Sunday morning at 9:45 a.m. Think about trying out one of our classes. We have a variety of classes to choose from to fit your needs.

IF YOU’VE EVER WORRIED OR FELT STRESS . . .
plan to join our new women’s discussion group. Led by Debbie Rudiger, we’ll be talking about how we can rise above worry and stress. They meet on Sundays, beginning at 9:45 a.m. Come and feel free to invite your friends.

BOOKMARKS . . .
Cove’ Reading Group will meet on Monday, October 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the church parlor.

JOINT BOARD MEETING . . .
of Session and Trustees will be held on Tuesday, October 25 at 6:30 p.m. in fellowship hall to continue exploring all aspects of stewardship.

ADULT HANDBELL CHOIR WILL PRACTICE . . .
on Wednesday , October 26 at 5:30 p.m. under the direction of Becky Korosec. New members are always welcome and you do not have to read music to play. The Handbell Choir plays once a month for Sunday worship. For more information contact Becky at 304-748-8449.

THE CHANCEL CHOIR WILL PRACTICE . . .
on Wednesday, October 26, at 6:45 p.m. We will be working on anthems for each service and also a new patriotic cantata, God Bless the USA to be presented on Sunday, November 6th. If you would like to lift your voice in song to praise our God, consider becoming a member of the Chancel Choir. For more information contact Janice Torrance at 304-797-1908.

THE BROWN BAG BIBLE STUDY WILL MEET . . .
on Thursday, October 27, at 12:30 p.m. Grab your lunch and join us as we study God’s word. We’re beginning a study of 1 Thessalonians, and this week we’ll look at 1 Thessalonians 4:1–5:11.

UNICEF . . .
Collecting money to help kids in need! This week is collection week for UNICEF. The Presbyterian Women will be collecting for Tag Day at Weirton Shop n Save on Thursday, October 27 from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00p.m. The children will be collecting after church on Sunday, October 30.
FYI ...
$ . 25 - gives 10 kids clean water to drink for a day;
$ 1.00 - pays for protein biscuits for a starving child;
$ 17.00 - keeps a kid safe from 6 killer diseases;
$ 24.00 - supplies an emergency first aid kit;
$ 257.00 - buys a School-in-a-Box so kids can learn anywhere;
$ 500.00 - provides a water pump for a village or school.
This is a project of Church Women United and our women. If anyone is available and willing to help at Shop n Save please contact Eloise Evans at 304-723-5146 or Eleanor Cline at 304-723-0818. We appreciate your support in this very worthwhile project!

ATTENTION DEACONS . . .
both the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts will be dropping off bags to area residents on Monday evening for Scouting for Food. They will return on Saturday morning to collect the food for the Food Pantry. Help is needed on Saturday morning, October 29, at 11:00 a.m. to count the food and check expiration dates. Any help that you can give will be appreciated.

WE’VE PLANNED A YOUTH GROUP FALL PARTY. . .
for Sunday, October 30, Hozak’s Farm. We will meet at the church at 5:00 p.m. to travel to the farm. The event starts at 6:00 p.m. Come, enjoy a hay ride and campfire. There is a sign-up sheet available in the narthex.

“MYRTLE MCHENDRY CLASS MEMORIES” . . .
Is the title of the program that will be presented at the upcoming meeting of the Myrtle McHendry Class on Tuesday, November 1st at 7:00 p.m. in Fellowship Hall. Hostesses for the evening will be Ruth Coates, Mildred Kimmel and Sue Willson.

CHURCH WOMEN UNITED . . .
World Community Day will be held Friday, November 4th at 11:00 a.m. at the Paris Presbyterian Church. The event is open to all ladies!

GOD BLESS THE USA . . .
is the title of the patriotic cantata to be presented by the Chancel Choir on Sunday, November 6 at 6:00. Everyone is invited to come and pay tribute to all military personnel that evening.

REMINDER - - PLEASE COVER . . .
kindly remember to cover the top of the church’s tables before they are used for any activity. They will stain and are hard to clean, this can be avoided with a little cooperation.

COVE’S TWELFTH ANNUAL MEMORIAL SERVICE . . .
is being planned for Sunday, November 6th during the morning worship service. If you had a loved one pass away within the last year, please contact the church office so they can be remembered during our Memorial Service.

2012 COVE COMMUNITY BIRTHDAY CALENDARS HAVE ARRIVED . . .
please see Betty Virtue to pick-up your calendar on Sunday morning or stop by the church office during the week to pick-up your order.

ONLY ONE. . .
a Peg Game designed by Bruce Trushel, is available in the church library. The learning game is a unique way to learn and remember the Ten Commandments. The game can be ordered from:
Only One God Foundation
PO Box 2459
Weirton WV 26062

GREETERS NEEDED . . .
if you would like to serve as a greeter before a Sunday morning worship service, please contact Bonnie Nichols at 304-723-5134.

WE ARE BLOGGING!
We now have six blogs that you can check out for information and on which you can leave comments. They're listed below:
• The Cove Community (www.thecovecommunity.blogspot.com) - This is for the whole church. I'll post sermons and announcements. I also invite y'all to send in material that you'd like to share with other members of the congregation. And please feel free to comment on anything you might read.
• Cove Kids (www.covekids.blogspot.com) - This is tailored for the preteen young people in our church. Again I'll post announcements. You're also invited to send in any writings, photographs and art work you'd like to post. And they don't have to all deal with the church. We also post artwork from Jesus Time.
• Glue (www.cove-glue.blogspot.com) - Our teens are running their own blog site; therefore, I have no idea what will be posted.
• Bible Talk (www.cove-bibletalk.blogspot.com) - We've established this blog to give pastors and lay people the chance to discuss Scripture. The weekly passages are from the Common Lectionary, and we're posting the pastor’s translation of the Greek text. We want you to read any or all of the passages and to leave any comment or ask any question that you feel is appropriate. Please include any research you've done. As we share our ideas and insights, we hope that we'll all come to a better and deeper understanding of the Bible. Each passage is linked to a website that offers some informative information.
• Let’s Talk About It (www.cove-talk.blogspot.com) - Through this site, we hope to encourage a conversation on a variety of topics. Since this blog is sponsored by a church, we expect most of the issues to involve the Christian faith. Still we don't want to limit ourselves or you. If you have a topic that you'd like us to discuss, include it as a comment to a previous issue. Please phrase it as a question and offer a summary of at least two positions. We'll add a new item to discuss every three weeks. We hope this challenges you to apply your faith to issues that are important to you.
• The Bible in a Year (www.cove-bibleinayear.blogspot.com) - Each day, we'll post passages so that you can read the Bible in one year.

EIGHT FOOT KASSON BRAND POOL TABLE . . .
with an Italian Slate Top; 7 Cue Sticks with wall mount holder; excellent condition; vinyl cover; includes ping pong top- - $ 900.00. For more information contact the church office.

IT IS OFTEN DIFFICULT TO HEAR PRAYER REQUESTS . . .
on Sunday mornings. If you would like to have someone added to the prayer chain please drop a short note into the collection plate with their name and any other information you would like to share. You may also call the church office or e-mail the church with the information.

IF YOU LEAVE AN ITEM AT CHURCH . . .
for someone or for a specific function, please take a moment to write the information on the item. If there is no name on the item we will assume it is for the church in general.

IN THE HOSPITAL? HOMEBOUND? RECENT ILLNESS?. . .
if you are unable to attend services and would like to arrange for a visit from Rev. Ed Rudiger please contact the church office. Also if you would like to be included in our weekly bulletin mailings contact the church office.

WE CAN ALWAYS DO A BETTER JOB MINISTERING . . .
to the needs within this congregation, community and world. Please feel free to offer any suggestions as comments.

LOOSE CHANGE OFFERING . . .
Session has approved the Deacons collecting a “Loose Change Offering” that will be used to assist the Deacons with their utility assistance outreach program for Weirton residents or Cove Church members. We hope church members can help with the assistance program by donating some of their spare change. A container is placed in the Narthex each Sunday morning before church. The Deacons thank you for your continuing support of their projects.

VASES OF FLOWERS. . .
can be purchased for a service. The cost is $16.00 a vase. Silk flowers can be purchased for an additional cost. The flower calendar is located on the far wall in the church narthex or you can telephone the church office to place your order. After the service, the flowers will be placed in a plastic vase for you to take with you.

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS. . .
newsletters from old friends or articles about or by members of Cove Church, check out the bulletin board located in the hallway by the church offices. Past event pictures are also on display in that area.

WE’RE UPDATING OUR PRAYER AND DEVOTION LINE . . .
about four times a week. If you would like to call and hear a devotional, please call 304-748-7900.

SHOP ON LINE . . .
just use Good Search and Good Shop search engines to find what you are hunting for. List Cove Presbyterian Church as your charity and a percent of your purchase will come back to the church. It’s a simple way to raise money for the Cove Deacons while shopping for yourself!

ONGOING MISSION PROJECTS . . .
• Used Can Tabs are being collected for the Ronald McDonald House in Morgantown, West Virginia. Deposit your tabs in the container located in the main hallway downstairs.
• Campbell’s Labels are being collected by the Presbyterian Women for the Weirton Christian Center. The labels can be dropped off in the container located in the main hallway downstairs.

PROJECT CHRISTMAS SMILE BOWL-A-THON

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22 6:30 - 8:30 PM

It’s that time of year again! The annual Project Christmas Smile Kids for Kids Bowl-A Thon! This is such a fun and exciting event that allows your children to give of their time and energy for a great cause...kids just like them. These children are in economic situations right now that are beyond their control. Children are the future. Their childhoods mold them into adults in later year...memories and experiences play an important role in how they define their childhood. Project Christmas Smile made Christmas wishes come true last year for many children and we would like to think that memory will help them remember a happy time in their childhood. Our own children can make a difference by bowling for kids just like them but suffering severe economic hardships. Please bring your child to our Bowl-A-Thon and they will not only be in store for a good time...they will also be making a difference.

Our committee is asking each child to find sponsors for the Bowl-A-Thon. Sponsors are asked to pledge a flat out contribution. Please collect the pledge at time of commitment, and bring it with you to the Bowl-A-Thon along with your pledge sheet.

We are also opening up the Bowl-A-Thon to friends and family again. The total amount will be $8.00 per person. This will include bowling, shoe rental, and a good time! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Tina Viakley at 304-723-5558.

We hope this year is even more successful than last. Thanks!

Sincerely,
Project Christmas Smile Committee

Sunday's Minute for Mission - Union Presbyterian Seminary

The story that ends Acts 18 and begins Acts 19 is one of transformation. Mentored by Priscilla and Aquila, Apollos is transformed from a charismatic preacher into a leader who understands and teaches the Way of God more accurately. Apollos pays their gift forward by strengthening believers whom he encounters in Achaia. Paul, no stranger to transformation himself, teaches, baptizes, and blesses believers in Ephesus, and they experience the Holy Spirit in new ways.

Since my arrival at Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education, I have delighted in the transforming impact this seminary has had not only by influencing the course of individual lives, but throughout its history by helping to transform entire communities. Studying the seminary's history before bicentennial celebrations in 2012, I read about the school's move from rural Farmville, in 1898. At the time, the Ginter Park neighborhood was struggling to find people who would buy lots and build homes. According to one student of the seminary's history, ``Once the Seminary's initial eight buildings began to take shape, land sales boomed in Ginter Park.'' Union Theological Seminary transformed not only itself but also a significant piece of the history of the city of Richmond.

Now renamed Union Presbyterian Seminary, the seminary has the same mission that energized Priscilla, Aquila, Apollos, and Paul: to transform the landscape of people and places before us as we follow the Lord who leads us.

– Brian K. Blount, president, Union Presbyterian Seminary

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A New Devotion on Our Prayer Line - Second Chances

Luke 13:6-9

6-7Then he told them a story: “A man had an apple tree planted in his front yard. He came to it expecting to find apples, but there weren’t any. He said to his gardener, ‘What’s going on here? For three years now I’ve come to this tree expecting apples and not one apple have I found. Chop it down! Why waste good ground with it any longer?’

8-9“The gardener said, ‘Let’s give it another year. I’ll dig around it and fertilize, and maybe it will produce next year; if it doesn’t, then chop it down.’”


A Devotion by Ursula Thacker (North Carolina)

The nurseryman talked me into buying a new hybrid plant, promising three separate flowering periods — spring, summer, and fall. I didn’t expect immediate results; but after three years with out a sign of bloom in any season, I was ready to dig up the plant. My patient husband said, “Give it a second chance. I’ll put a little more fertilizer around it.”

His suggestion reminded me of Jesus’ parable about the barren fig tree in Luke 13. Reluctantly, I gave my plant a second chance, but there was no sign of flowering in the following spring or summer. However, in late fall as I readied to pull the non-bloomer out, a tiny colorful bud caught my eye and stayed my hand. Ten days later the plant blazed into a glorious show of the largest and most beautiful blooms I have ever seen.

This made me realize how often during my 87 years God has given me another opportunity to make amends, to try harder, or to change my attitude. I realize now that setbacks and minor infractions are a vital part of our learning. And when we sin, we can repent and accept God’s forgiveness. And with that forgiveness, God gives us renewed energy and restored hope — a second chance.

Report from the Director of Christian Education

Within the last few months my works has been focused on different on-going and up-coming projects that will be held before the New Year.

I took some time to network and reach out for some guidance in regards to resources that I can bring to Cove Presbyterian Church. Those meetings provided me with much needed information that I will be executing throughout the up-coming year. Some of the many ideas I have is incorporating a Youth Group for our early childhood and elementary children. The time I have been spending with the children I feel I have gained their trust and took the time to get to know them on their level, what it is they “want or need.”

The plan to build the youth group is to include our children, working with other churches, and outside families, with the purpose of building their faith and trust. I set forth the goals of executing weekend retreats, weeknight and weekend activities and mission work within our community, to catch the attention of current members and potentially new members.

I have been looking over other curriculum choices for the Sunday school. My main goal for the children is for them to want to come to church and Sunday school. The curriculum is titled “We Believe.” It is from the Presbyterian Church (USA). It features lessons that I feel are the “right fit” for our children. It is prepared for multi-age settings similar to ours. There is still material for November that has been purchased and the new curriculum will begin in December.

As mentioned there is a lot of work to be done for the next upcoming months. I appreciate everyone’s on- going support.

Jessica Shuble

Monday, October 17, 2011

Yesterday's Sermon - If He Were Writing to Us

1Thessalonians 1:1-10

1Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. 2We thank God always for all of you and remember you in our prayers continually 3when we remember your works that comes from the faith and labor that comes from the love and patience that comes from the hope that’s from our Lord Jesus Christ before our God and father, 4and we know, brothers, who are loved by God, your election, 5that our good news didn’t come to you in word alone but also in power and in Holy Spirit and with much conviction, just as you know the kind of men we were among you for your sakes.

6And you yourselves became imitators of us and of the Lord, when you received the word in great suffering with joy from Holy Spirit, 7so that you became an example to all who have faith in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8For from you, the word of the Lord has resounded not only in Macedonia and in Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has spread, so that we have no need to speak of it. 9For they themselves, about us, report what sort of reception we had from you and how you turned to God from the idols, to be enslaved to the God who lives and is true 10and to wait for his son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath which is coming.


If He Were Writing to Us

There’s a old joke that I thought about this past week. Now I used it in the e-mail I sent out on Friday, but since not everybody gets those messages, I thought I’d use it again. Ok, here goes. There was this evangelist who’d just led a big-time revival, and he stopped at this little diner for lunch. I would have said cafĂ©, but I don’t know if he felt lucky or not. Anyway, when he came into the diner, he noticed an old farmer sitting all by himself in a booth, and so the evangelist asked if he could join him. Well, after a little bit of small talk, the preacher asked the farmer, “Are you a Christian?” The farmer smiled and said, “Son, you’re asking the wrong person. Ask my waitress over there or the people with whom I do business or my wife. Ask them if I’m a Christian; they’re in a better position to judge than me.”

Now, that’s the end of the joke; therefore, there’s no way to know if the evangelist understood what he was saying or not, you know, that how you live is a much better witness to what you really believe than how you feel or what you say. Of course, that’s the point of the little story, and we don’t know if the preacher got it. But I’ll tell you, I wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t, because let’s face it, this isn’t really the dominate view of most Christians, now is it? I mean, for most modern American believers, when it comes to faith, often they focus on what’s inside first. And I’m talking about what they think and feel and say; that’s most important, and what they do, well, often that seems to be of secondary importance. And you know, I think it’s interesting; that seems to apply whether your talking about individuals or communities. Now it’s pretty obvious that it applies to people. I mean, when most folks talk about being or becoming a Christian, they focus on decisions that have been made and promises spoken, prayers that have been prayed and sins confessed; I mean, they seem a whole lot more interested in the human heart then in anything else, even though Jesus himself said that where you treasure is, your heart will be also, and not vice versa. For a lot of believers, the focus is on the inside. And you know, that seems to be the case with Christian communities too, and now I’m talking about churches and congregations. Again, it sure seems to me that churches are often defined, especially by members, by what they do on the inside, you know, how they worship, what groups they sponsor and support, even how they use their building. This inward focus seems to be really important for congregations too.

And even though this will probably continue to happen, I mean, this is kind the culture within which we live, this stress on the internal has a few negative consequences. For example, the more we concentrate on what’s happening in here, and it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about a person or a group, the more we concentrate on the inside, the more separated we become from the outside, and I’m talking about the world around us. And I really think that’s happening, and we can see in declining overall attendance across the board in churches. Of course there are still congregations that are doing fine, but when you look below the surface, most of their new members end up coming from other churches. In the United States, although the people who believe in God and even Jesus Christ has risen slightly, the number of folks who see the church as the place to express their faith is in clear decline.

And why shouldn’t it be. Not only does the church tend to cater to the wants and interests of it’s members, but it often acts like the world hasn’t changed in any positive way for the last twenty, maybe fifty years. I’ll tell you, when I’m at some presbytery-related meetings I feel like I’m in Hitler’s bunker, with the Russians about to take Berlin and we’re discussing issues that no longer apply and making plans that are no longer possible. It’s like we’re detached from reality.

And Presbyterians aren’t the worst. Do you realize that there are churches in this town that are still saying women can’t be leaders because they’re women? What connection do they have with the world as it is right now and certainly will be in the future? Is this something a female attorney will just shrug and accept and pass on to her daughter? I’m telling you it’s not hard to separate ourselves from the world.

And you know what, when that happens our impact on the world disappears. We have nothing the world wants to hear. We’ve made ourselves irrelevant. Why? Because we’re fighting battles that were over fifty years ago. Therefore, we’re nothing more a quaint, little group that meets in a quaint little building, one that’s suitable for weddings but little else, and unlike every other aspect of our world, neither the people nor the place is going to change. You see, this kind of stuff happens when our focus is on the inside.

But you know that’s not how Paul saw either the church or its people. I mean, even though he lived almost two thousand years ago, Paul believed the effectiveness of a Christian individual and a Christian community was shown by it’s ability to reach out, in other words, to move beyond itself. And you see this was the kind of faith in what he praised in this letter. I mean, when he described who they were, he didn’t write about what they thought or felt. Instead, he focused on how the gospel affected them in ways that others could see. And when he got to what they did, Paul pointed to things that were tangible and real. You see, these Christians and their community, just like Paul himself, they’d become examples of how to live as a believer in a difficult world. And an example that no one sees is one lousy example.

And you know, I think we’d be making one big mistake to ignore what Paul wrote. Put another way, I think we can be like the Thessalonians, both as individuals and a community. I mean, just like them, we can show the world exactly who we are. Good night, we can show that we’re worth remembering too, because of the good works our faith leads us to do, and because of the effort we’re putting forth motivated by our love for God and others, and because we doing it all patiently and humbly because we know our future is in God’s hands. You see, we can demonstrate each and every day that God has chosen us for a special purpose and that we reflect the same power and the same Spirit and the same conviction that so changed us. Man, we can show everyone who can see, that this is who we are.

What’s more, like the Thessalonians we can also show that we take seriously the opportunities God has given us, the chances we have to do what’s he’s called us to do. You know, it really doesn’t matter what we think of the modern world. I believe we’d all agree that regardless of our opinion, the world faced by Paul was probably worse, but that didn’t stop him. Man, it didn’t even slow him down. Therefore, just like him, we can look for opportunities to share the good news of salvation to as many people as possible.

And we’ll do it knowing that our ultimate success isn’t measured by how well we maintain the interior of our lives or our buildings, I’m telling you, God’s judgement of both you and me isn’t going to be determined by how well we’re able to separate ourselves from the world and to defend what we’ve always done but aren’t sure why. No sir, God’s looking for us to be imitators of the Thessalonians, to take his holy word and share it with others, in other words, to roll up our sleeves and to start sowing the seeds and watering the fields and watching for God to make the harvest grow. That’s what we’re called to do. And my gosh, wouldn’t it be exciting if that’s how people started to see us? I mean, wouldn’t it be exciting if people started to describe our congregation as the place from which “the word of the Lord has resounded” in northern West Virginia and western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, wouldn’t it be exciting if this was how we were identified rather than that building at the corner of Cove and Main? We can all look beyond ourselves.

And when we do, I’m telling you, things are going to happen. For one, people are going to change. You know, the reality is that most church people are already going to church. And even though they may not all be happy, heck, we’re not all happy, and we may entice them to leave their place and come here, if that’s what we decide to do, what have we done for the kingdom of God? It’s like Walmart drawing shoppers from Krogers; it’s not making Weirton a better place to live. No, the folks we want to see change are out there. They’re the ones who’ve never darkened the door of a church and have no plan to start now. They’ve never sung a hymn or listened to a sermon. And they’re the ones who laugh at the issues that we let divide the Body of Christ, who just can’t understand why we, when faced with so much pain and suffering in the world, attack one another based on who is or isn’t acceptable. And they’re the ones, brothers and sisters, they’re the ones whom the Holy Spirit has prepared to hear a message they may never have heard and to starting living a faith they’d never considered. They just need someone to share it with them. Man, they’re going to change. And so will we, as our faith becomes something lived, not just felt and discussed, but actually lived.

Remember the story I told at the beginning of the sermon. I don’t know how that evangelist responded to the farmer. Maybe he did ask the waitress, but I kind of doubt it. But you know, we do know what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, because he praised who they were and what they were doing. And for us, as we try to decide whether we’re going to focus in here or out there, I have a pretty good idea what Paul would say if he were writing to us.