Friday, September 30, 2016

A Thought from the Word - A brief thought based on John 3:20-21

Cove's Bulletin for Sunday, October 2, 2016

Below is a copy of our Sunday bulletin. The title of the sermon is the title of the sermon is “Approaching a Suffering World”, and we’ll consider three things we need remember as we approach a suffering world.

Friday's Essay - For World Communion Sunday

Below is an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can hear a podcast of this message by going to the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website ( for more church information.
Image result for world communion sundayIf you find this essay helpful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.
On Sunday, we’ll gather around our Lord’s table with Christians all over the world. And even though this is something that happens throughout the year, Sunday is special. You see, it’s a day set aside so that we can remember the unity we have as the Body of Christ. And for me, this is significant. Let’s face it, within the church, we may have different views about a variety of things, and yet we all see the bread and the cup as important. As a matter of fact, unlike baptism, it’s a celebration we all do during the year. And even though it’s generally seen as something that enhances us spiritually by strengthening our relationship with God, our celebration on Sunday will represent more. It’s a reminder of a gift that we all share, one that we didn’t earn and don’t deserve. When we eat the bread and drink from the cup together, we’re affirming once again our unity as men and women who’ve been called, inspired and then sent out to do Christ’s work in the world.

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And I’ll tell you, I think this is important to do, particularly this year, because unity seems in short supply. I mean, here in the United States, we’re in the middle of a presidential election that’s redefining the words “nasty” and “superficial, one in which childish insults are traded with impunity and offering a vision for the future is much less important than digging up dirt from the past. But this isn’t the only sign that we’re becoming a divided country. Racial tension seems greater now than it’s been for years, with both sides digging in and tuning out. And native-born Americans seem justified blaming immigrants, legal and illegal, for taking job most residents didn’t want in the first place. And permeating it all is this undercurrent of fear and anger, and as generally happens, both emotions have been directed at people rather than the systems or the changed reality we now face, factors that may actually be more to blame. Sadly, not only has this divisiveness affected our nation, it’s also bled into the church. Even there, unity is being dissolved by the social currents we’re facing.

Image result for world communion sundayAnd for that reason, I think Sunday is crucially important. You see, even though the society around us may be encouraging us to stand against others, global communion challenges us to gather with our brothers and sisters, without regard for politics and ideology, without respect to race or gender, and without resentments about what may have been lost in the past or may be lost in the future. When we gather around a table that stretches around the world, we’re acknowledging a shared focus that’s far stronger than anything that might be pulling us a part. On Sunday, we affirm our oneness as the Body of Christ, a unity that we can carry with us as we live within a divided world.

And so, as we gather on Sunday morning, let’s put aside all that stuff that has divided us, and let’s focus on our unity as brothers and sisters in Christ. And then, let’s be challenged to take the next step and to use this unity to make our country and world a better place for all people.

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for September 30, 2016

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for September 30, 2016: Today our passages are  Isaiah 60:1–62:5; Philippians 1:27–2:18; Psalm 72:1-20; and Proverbs 24:11-12 .  The readings are from  The ...

Sunday's Minute for Mission - World Communion Sunday

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Central Presbyterian Church
A shared faith and joint worship are building a bridge that is helping two Denver congregations cross a racial divide. Central Presbyterian, a predominantly white congregation, and Peoples Presbyterian, a predominantly African American one, began this journey on Martin Luther King Day this year. Central members traveled the 2.3 miles that separate the two congregations to worship with Peoples. The following Sunday, Peoples visited Central.

Not long afterward planning began on a joint women’s retreat, and Peoples hosted a vacation Bible school with children from both churches attending. Two additional joint worship services were held last spring, and more are anticipated in the future. “In past times, we had pulpit exchanges, but this is something much more than a pulpit exchange,” says Rev. Louise Westfall, Central’s pastor. “It’s a desire to be together.”

Theresa Varnado, a ruling elder at Peoples, is enthusiastic about the increasing level of understanding. “Sometimes the ideas we share just among ourselves can become redundant,” she says. “When we spend time in community, conversing and participating in joint activities, the opportunity to learn new and fresh ideas is greater. We are building bridges as well.”

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Peoples Presbyterian Church
The joint worship services that set this relationship in motion were part of a Colorado Council of Churches initiative called Soulful Sunday. Denver Presbytery uses a portion of its Peace & Global Witness Offering receipts to support the Soulful Sunday initiative across Colorado. Tom Sheffield, presbytery pastor, admits that simply holding joint worship services can be superficial. “But,” he says, “the experience of Central and Peoples shows that they can lead to deeper relationships and honest conversations about each other’s lives.”

Our fractured world stands in desperate need of deeper relationships and honest conversations across racial lines. On this World Communion Sunday, we join Christians around the world who are gathering at the Lord’s Table, a place where divisions are healed and hope is proclaimed. May we cross the barriers Christ calls us to traverse as we lean into the hope of Christ’s redemption.

 Pat Cole, Communications Specialist, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Let us pray

Reconciling God, we seek a world where diversity is honored, where strangers become friends, and where breaches are mended. Grant us courage and grace to reach beyond the familiar, extend welcome to strangers, and build bridges of unity. Amen.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Thought from the Word - A brief thought based on 1 Corinthians 2:14

A New Devotion on Cove's Prayer Line - Means and Ends

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) or on the Cove Presbyterian Church Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website ( for more church information.

If you find this devotion meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal. And no contribution is too small.

Image result for jesus withered handLuke 6:1-11

One sabbath while Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, "Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?" Jesus answered, "Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?" Then he said to them, "The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath."

On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come and stand here." He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, "I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?" After looking around at all of them, he said to him, "Stretch out your hand." He did so, and his hand was restored. But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

Means and Ends

I think religious systems are tailor-made to lead people to focus on the means rather than the end. Let me explain. I think it’s really easy for good, dedicated religious people to become almost obsessed by the form their religion might take rather than the good they might actually accomplish. For example, detailed elements of theology and worship can acquire an importance that may seem, at best, confusing to the less-than religious and may result in little beyond disagreements and divisions. And since there’s a sincere desire to please God, these religious folks are susceptible to all kinds of rules and laws, some of which have a better grounding in the Bible than others. But if we’re not careful, even the ones that are well-grounded, they can take on a life of their own, becoming the definition, even the goal of faith and dedication. And when that happens, serving God is defined by following the rules. And I’ll tell you, if that’s the case, the means have become far more important than the ends.

But before we drift in that direction, I think it’s important to remember that this doesn’t reflect Jesus’s understanding of walking with God. As he reminded those scribes and pharisees, if the ends don’t reflect goodness, than the means are not relevant. And that’s why it was appropriate to heal on the Sabbath, even though the law said no, and he could have surely waited one more day to restore a withered hand.  For him, it was simple: it’s lawful to do good on the sabbath, save life and not to destroy it. And that just makes sense. I mean, he’ll later say that the entire law can be summed up a dual command: to love God and to love neighbor. And to love, well, that should be the end to which all Christians aspire.

What We Believe - Who’s in Charge Here? (The Doctrine of the Resurrection)

Growing in Grace: What We Believe - Who’s in Charge Here? (The Doctr...: Below are notes from our tenth discussion in a series entitled "What We Believe." This 14-session series considers the fundamental...

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for September 29, 2016

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for September 29, 2016: Today our passages are  Isaiah 57:14–59:21; Philippians 1:1-26; Psalm 71:1-24; and Proverbs 24:9-10 .  The readings are from  The M...

Ceaseless - Personal prayer for everyone on earth

Ceaseless - Personal prayer for everyone on earth: Praying for others shouldn’t feel like a to-do list. Ceaseless is an app that helps you experience the joy of prayer by showing you a Scripture and three people to pray for each day. Together we can pray for everyone on earth.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Thought from the Word - A brief thought based on Matthew 6:33


The Happenings Around the Presbytery - September 28, 2016

Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery
907 National Road
Wheeling, WV  26003

Office Hours: Monday through Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
In an emergency after office hours: Call 740-359-1813

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Bill Betteridge
Karen Edwards
Ed Mooney
Leura Nancy Macon
Ronald Wolf
Jack Visser
Nancy Mountz
David Brocklehurst
Bob & Sue Shearer
Ed Rudiger
R. H. “Mac” McCuen
All our service men & women
Ginny Zoric
Jim Skapik
Patty & Delbert McNear
Helen Beatty
Karen Byrne
Domasi Partnership
Malawi food crisis
Dakota Partnership
Alberta Crawford
Kevin Farmer
Sidney Byrd
Family of Noah Brown
Please keep Frank Lewis and Alcinda James in your prayers as they travel to Dakota Presbytery.
Please keep us informed of any prayer concerns you may have.
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PRAYER FOR UOVP PASTORS: Select one of these pastors and remember him/her in your prayers this week: Ginny Zoric, Mike Anderson, Laurie Armstrong, Glen Baker, Ruth Ellen Bates.
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HOST CHURCHES are needed for Presbytery Meetings. Would you like your congregation to host a presbytery meeting? These are the 2017 stated meeting dates:
Saturday, January 28, 2017 - 9:30 a.m. Worship & Business Meeting; 12:00 p.m. Lunch
Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - 5:00 p.m. Dinner, 6:00 p.m. Business Meeting
Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - Rock Hill Presbyterian Church, Bellaire, OH, 5:00 p.m. Dinner, 6:00 p.m. Business Meeting
Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - 5:00 p.m. Dinner, 6:00 p.m. Business Meeting
Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - 5:00 p.m. Dinner, 6:00 p.m. Business Meeting
If your session would like to invite presbytery to meet at your church, please send an e-mail to, the Rev. Dr. Frank Lewis, Stated Clerk, stating the date you will be available.
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SEE WHAT’S NEW in this year’s Presbyterian Giving Catalog: CLUCKS, OINKS, AND OVER 40 GIFTS THAT CREATE BIG IMPACT. We can’t wait for you to see the 2016 – 2017 Presbyterian Giving CatalogNew catalogs should be available in your church soon, but you can get a sneak peak at this year’s new items in the online catalog. This year’s catalog features gifts that support sustainable farming and access to safe water, provide basic necessities for disaster relief, and support Presbyterian youth and young adults in their spiritual growth and mission work. Visit the online catalog today, and choose a gift in support of a cause close to your heart. Or, click the button below to check out just one of the new items.
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COMPASSION, PEACE, and Justice Ministry, Presbyterian Mission Agency Newsletter: A Season of Peace – Justice & Peace Close up control+click here.
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THE OCTOBER PRAYER REQUESTS can be found on our website under Spotlight and in the calendar.
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YOU ARE INVITED to celebrate the Ordination of Annie Dupre Parker as a Teaching Elder and her installation as Pastor of First Presbyterian Church, 901 Charles St., Wellsburg, WV, on Saturday, October 1, 2016, at 2:00 p.m. A Reception will follow. Clergy are invited to sit together during the service. Ask one of the ushers for the clergy seating area near the front of the sanctuary. Vestments are optional (the liturgical color is red).
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WOMEN’S FELLOWSHIP of First Presbyterian Church, 4100 Central Ave., Shadyside, OH, will be having a rummage sale and bake sale on Thursday, October 6, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the church fellowship hall. The rummage sale will continue on Friday, October 7, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. All are invited!
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A MEMORIAL SERVICE for Dorothy K. Mooney will be held at Calvary Presbyterian Church, 100 S. Marietta, St., Saint Clairsville, OH, on Saturday, October 8, 2016, at 10:30 a.m. with CRE Kenn Sickle officiating. The Calvary Presbyterian Women will serve a luncheon at noon in Fellowship Hall for family and friends. If you plan to attend the luncheon, please RSVP to or 740-695-0242.
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NEIGHBORS HELPING NEIGHBORS Annual Food Drive: To help our neighbors who are hungry, non-perishable food will be collected November 1–30, 2016. Please contact Lisa Werner at 304-234-9221 or to schedule a pick-up of collected items. Food will be distributed to local agencies including Laughlin Memorial Chapel. Watch for the food drive video on Comcast newsmakers.
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JOIN THE WORLD MISSION INITIATIVE Saturday, Oct. 22, from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. for our Discerning Your Call to Missions workshop at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, John Know Room! This event is designed to help you explore a call to missions -- whether you are early in your journey of discernment or ready to act on God's call on your life. No matter if you are interested in global, local or urban missions, becoming more involved in a specific mission sponsored by your church, engaging more in short-term mission, leading the mission effort in your church, or just interested in exploring how you might get more involved in mission, this workshop has something for you! You will spend the day listening, studying God's Word, sharing, and praying in small groups. Discover the next steps in your journey. The workshop is FREE but it may cost you your life. This year Discerning Your Call features the Rev. Don Dawson, director of the World Mission Initiative; Stephanie Bell, spiritual director; and Elizabeth Trexler, former missionary. Please RSVP by Oct. 17th to Consider anyone you know that should be at this workshop and please forward the invitation.
Cultivating Missional Communities Event. On October 8, we will have Pat Taylor Ellison from Church Innovations Institute on campus. Pat has spent the last 25 years studying congregations and helping congregations navigate change and revitalize their ministry and mission. She will be leading a one-day workshop on campus for church leaders and pastors, teaching core practices for revitalizing congregational mission. I encourage you to come, and to consider bringing people you are in leadership with in your ministry context. For more info, cost, and registration:
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PRESBYTERIAN MISSION AGENCY--Communicators Network September, 2016, newsletter, “How Effectively Does Your Church Use Social Media?” can be found on our website under Items of Interest.
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Oct. 2 ~
Oct. 3 ~

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MEDICAL BENEVOLENCE FOUNDATION’S INTERNATIONAL PRAYER REQUESTS: We ask for prayers for our partners in DR Congo. Last week protests erupted in violence in the capital city of Kinshasa and lasts reports indicate 17 have been killed. Further protests have spread eastward across the country to major cities like Kananga and seem likely to continue, and even intensify, as President Joseph Kabila nears the end of his second term in office. The violence is in response to the presidential election process. According to the Congolese Constitution, the presidential campaign period must begin no later than three months before the end of the president's term. President Kabila's current five-year term is set to expire December 20, 2016, but the state election commission has not announced an election date of the commencement of the campaign period. This implies that President Kabila intends to remain in office beyond the defined term limit as outlined in the Constitution. MBF has several international partners in DR Congo that are Christian hospitals and clinics working tirelessly to provide medical care to the poorest of the poor. Our partners include the Presbyterian Community of Kinshasa (CPK) which operates seven clinics in the Kinshasa area, where the violence is most intense; the Christian Medical Institute of Kasai (IMCK) that operates the Good Shepherd Hospital and the nursing school, both located near the major city of Kananga; and Moma Hospital, the only health institution of the Presbyterian Church of Congo serving the Luiza territory about 140 miles south of Kananga. These hospitals and clinics are located in some of the poorest regions of the country and are treating women and children who have nowhere else to turn. We also have several Presbyterian mission co-workers in the region who have dedicated their lives to following Christ's example to serve others. Of our mission co-workers, we have reports that John and Gwenda Fletcher are safe, but a military blockade between their home and Kananga is making it difficult to get supplies and for patients to reach Good Shepherd Hospital. Jeff and Christi Boyd were visiting their children in the Netherlands when the protests erupted, and have postponed their return to DR Congo until they can do so safely. We are awaiting reports on other mission co-workers including Dr. Martha Sommers, Larry and Inga Sthreshley, and Bob and Christi Rice. While we are concerned for their safety, we also recognize that communication in this part of the world is often intermittent and unreliable. These MBF partners are dynamic communities and individuals of faith who are committed to peace and democracy, but are currently facing an extremely volatile security situation, not just for themselves, but for those they are working to serve. Please pray for:
·        Peace and justice for the people of the DR Congo so that they will have the opportunity to express their political will in an effective and peaceful manner;
·        Safety for our partners and mission co-workers as they strive to promote peace and democracy, while sharing the love of Christ during this time of volatility and uncertainty; and
·        For wisdom, humility and truth to prevail among the political leaders of the DR Congo.
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PRESBYTERIAN OLDER ADULT MINISTRIES Network Resource Guide for Older Adult Ministries, ISSUE 43, Autumn 2016 newsletter. A Message From the PNN Editor: Good Morning from Oregon. The theme of this issue of PNN is, Insights into the Later Years. In this issue of PNN, you will find several articles written along this theme. These include 7 Items for Your Retirement Checklist by Tom Sightings and Insights into the Later Years. Collectively, these articles span the period from pre-retirement to the young-old, old, and old-old. ARMSS and POAM will hold their 2016 joint conference in Richmond, Virginia, during the 2nd week in October. Planning for it is now complete and I guarantee you that the conference will be informative and inspiring. As usual, other PNN articles explore a diversity of things. These include: OAM Certification by Jan McGilliard and Sarah Erickson; Save The Date – June 2017 OAM Conference by Anne Tarbutton. Click here to download and read the complete Autumn PNN.
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TEN COMMANDMENTS OF FOOD. In honor of World Food Day, October 16, 2016, we bring you the Ten Commandments of Food, with no disrespect to the original intended.
       I.   Eat food grown as close as possible to where you live.
      II.   Give thanks for the food you eat.
     III.   Strive for all people to have knowledge about and access to affordable, nutritious food.
     IV.   Eat mindfully and in moderation.
      V.   Do not waste food.
     VI.   Be grateful to those who grow and prepare food for your table.
    VII.   Support fair wages for farmworkers, farmers, and food workers.
   VIII.   Reduce the environmental damage of land, water, and air from food production and the food system.
     IX.   Protect the biodiversity of seeds, soils, ecosystems, and the cultures of food producers.
      X.   Rejoice and share the sacred gift of food with all.
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THE REV. DR. JOHN HELGESON, who served as the interim pastor of Martins Ferry, First, and to churches in Michigan, Penn., Illinois, and now Oklahoma has written a book of his interim experience. His book is designed to be helpful to interim ministers, presbyteries and their staff dealing with interims, and churches undergoing the interim process. It is entitled Freedom and Interim Ministry: 12 Freedoms of the Interim. It is published by Tate Publishing and Enterprises and is available through them as well as through Cokesbury, Amazon, and John. Google it for more info, or
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Season of Peace begins with the call to ‘Come to the Table.’ Presbyterians encouraged to focus on peace, justice, reconciliation and transformation.
Presbyterian Peace & Justice newsletter September, 2016, contron+click here.
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IT’S TIME TO ORDER your Presbyterians Today 2016 Advent Calendar A Journey of Memories. Advent is a time of remembering. In the weeks before Christmas, we watch, wait, and prepare for the coming of the Messiah. We read Scriptures and practice church traditions that have been around for 2,000 years. This year’s devotional is a journey of memories—of so many sights, smells, tastes, and sounds that point to the promise of God in Jesus Christ. These are the daily incarnations of our faith. When does a touch remind us of Jesus? Can a candle bring God’s hope to a dark room? Can a smell take us to a holy place? Sue Washburn—pastor and editor of Presbyterians Today—has put together a collection of daily reflections and prayers to help us experience the joy and wonder of Christ’s birth with the senses God has given us. Susan Blank’s exquisite handmade quilts add to the beauty and remembrances in this year’s Advent Calendar. Perfect for congregations, families, and individuals, A Journey of Memories provides a Scripture reading, meditation, and prayer for each day of Advent. Control+click: Order copies for your congregation now to ensure delivery before Advent. 2016 Advent Calendar Discount Pricing: 1 copy, $4.00 • 2–9 copies, $3.00 each • 10–99 copies, $2.00 each • 100+ copies, $1.50 each. Shipping: 10% of order, $5.25 minimum. Order by phone at 800-524-2612 and ask for PDS 17116-16-007.
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PRESBYTERIAN MISSION AGENCY, PCUSA, has sent out information and an application for the next round of dream grants. You are encouraged to consider some innovative possibilities and apply. The deadline for UOVP to receive your applications is Wednesday October 5, 2016. After Presbytery approval, we will forward them to Synod for their approval. If you have questions, please contact Frank Lewis or Connie Quinn. If you need a copy of the application, contact Patty at the Presbytery Office.
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IN THE FALL OF 2017, Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery will again be sending people to our partner Presbytery, the Domasi Presbytery in Malawi. Is God calling you to make this journey of faith? Many have found this to be a life changing and faith enriching experience. This is a wonderful opportunity for some new folks to have their faith deepened. If you have questions or concerns, here are some of the folks from the Presbytery who have made that journey listed below. Feel free to ask them about the wonderful experiences they had: Dody Crowell, Becky Boggs, Mary McElroy, Nancy DeStefano, Samuel Monte, Homer Harden, Tanta Luckhardt-Hendricks, Frank Lewis, Steve Cramer, Karen Edwards, Laurie Armstrong, Kelly McPherson.
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WEE KIRK, Northeast (PA) Small Church Conference, will be held October 10-12, 2016, at the Laurelville Mennonite Church Center, Mt. Pleasant, PA. Purpose: To inspire, equip, motivate and encourage small PC(USA) Churches and to provide rest and refreshment for the Clergy and Lay Leaders of those Churches. For more info, contact Helen Kester at (724) 980-9565 or
Control+click here for a brochure.
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INTERNATIONALLY KNOWN COMPOSER and performer Dr. Calvin Taylor will be leading worship at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 110 Maine Blvd., East Liverpool, OH, at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, November 20. There will be a free concert open to the public sponsored by the East Liverpool Learning and Community Center at 4:00 p.m. also on the 20th. CALVIN TAYLOR BIO: Dr. Taylor is a composer, internationally known recorder and performer. Born 1948 in Los Angeles, CA, composer, pianist, and organist Calvin Taylor was drawn to music as a young child. He began playing piano in all keys at five years, and by age 14 was serving as organist in several southern California churches. Calvin Taylor made history at Oberlin Conservatory in 1970 when he became the first organist in the school's over 150-year history to improvise a graduate concert encore (an eleven-minute extemporization on O Du Fröliche, Weihnachtzeit). At The University of Michigan, he studied organ with Marilyn Mason and composition with Leslie Bassett, completing the M.M. in 1974. Taylor became active as a studio arranger and studied composition and orchestration at U.C.L.A. and The Dick Grove School of Music in the early 80's. At the Grove Workshops, Taylor had the opportunity of learning from popular music composers Henry Mancini, Nelson Riddle, David Raksin, Dick Grove, and Peter Matz. The music of Calvin Taylor has been programed by the Kristiansand, Redlands, Inglewood, Central Kentucky Youth, Shreveport, University of Kentucky, U.C.L.A. Philharmonia, University of Massachusetts-Lowell, South Arkansas, and Nashville Symphony orchestras. In 1998 the Detroit Symphony Orchestra recorded Taylor's Inner-city Sunrise. Among Dr. Taylor's works are Five Spirituals for Organ, 1998 and Spiritual Suite for Organ, 2002. Their first English performance took place at Selby Abbey, York, England on October 4, 1998. Never far from his roots in religious music, Taylor has traveled for many years throughout the U.S.A. presenting thousands of concerts in America's churches. Well-known publications by Calvin Taylor include Spirituals for Piano and The Patriotic Piano. Altogether Taylor has recorded 11 CDs. Dr. Taylor has toured throughout the world, playing in North and South America, Europe, the Far East, and most recently in Russia and Ukraine. As arranger and composer, his music has been heard and enjoyed by untold thousands. For more info:
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A New Devotion on Cove's Prayer Line - Approaching the Perfect

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion on the prayer line (1-304-748-7900) or on the Cove Presbyterian Church Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website ( for more church information.

If you find this devotion meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal. And no contribution is too small.

Hosea 2:16-22

On that day, says the LORD, you will call me, "My husband," and no longer will you call me, "My Baal." For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more. I will make for you a covenant on that day with the wild animals, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD. On that day I will answer, says the LORD, I will answer the heavens and they shall answer the earth; and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel; and I will sow him for myself in the land."

Approaching the Perfect

Image result for approaching perfectionPersonally, I don’t think it’s possible to reach what is perfect. In fact, it’s a little like I used to tell my students when I was a teacher. On the first day of class, I’d tell them that, even though they may earn a perfect score on an exam testing recall, they could never get a perfect score on something that’s subjective, like an essay. You see, I don’t believe it’s possible to produce a perfect essay; I know I can’t do it, and I seriously doubt that a sixteen-year-old could. And so, even though I have no qualms about giving a 99% and I will put the final grades on a bell-curve, they shouldn’t be shocked to never receive a perfect score on a paper, much less something as statistically absurd as a 101 or above. But since you can get real close to the perfect, perfection can still be a goal to which they might aspire, even though they’ll have to be satisfied with close.

And I think we have something very similar in the passage we just read from Hosea. You see, this peace-filled world is the ideal. A creation that displays righteousness and justice and love, well, that represents a perfect place, one that can only be the result of the one who defines perfection and not his limited creatures. But even though only God can bring forth his perfect rule, this can still be a goal for us. You see, although we may never attain it, we can certainly approach the perfect. 

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for September 28, 2016

The Bible in a Year: Bible Readings for September 28, 2016: Today our passages are  Isaiah 54:1–57:13; Ephesians 6:1-24; Psalm 70:1-5; and Proverbs 24:8 .  The readings are from  The Message ...

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Sunday's Sermon – A Perfect Evangelical Storm

Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, September 25, in Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, Ohio and Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. You can find a podcast of this sermon on the Cove Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website ( for more church information.

If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him. Zedekiah had said,
"Why do you prophesy and say: Thus says the Lord: I am going to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it”; Jeremiah said, “The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.’ Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord. And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God if Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

A Perfect Evangelical Storm

Let me ask you; have y’all ever been hit by a perfect storm? Now, I’m not really talking about a perfect storm storm, one with rain and wind and stuff like that. You know, like what was in that movie made about fifteen years ago, the one with George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg on this fishing boat that gets caught in this storm, this perfect storm, and they all struggle to survive in the midst of this incredibly powerful storm, this perfect storm, only to be all lost at the end (spoiler alert) with the boat going down with George Clooney on board and Mark Wahlberg all alone in the middle of this truly horrific storm, this perfect storm. Now, y’all know the movie I’m talking about; now what was it called? Oh, I remember: The Perfect Storm. Well, I’m not talking about that kind of thing. In fact, I’m really not talking about a storm at all.Instead, I’ve talking about what suddenly hits you after a whole bunch of other stuff happens and all of a sudden there’s no question about what you should do or think. Now, that’s a also called a perfect storm.

And I’ll tell you, that sort of thing happened to me last week. I mean, by Thursday morning, I’d already done a little work on this passage from Jeremiah.In fact, I even had a title that I thought, you know, reflected what I’d be talking about it: “What To Do When Things Can’t Get Worse.” Now at the time, I thought this was pretty good, because that seemed to be what was happening in these verses.  But I’ve got to tell y’all, on Friday, all that changed because I was hit with several things that really forced me to change my course.

For example, I found out that the focus of this Sunday is suppose to be evangelism, at least it is according to the Presbyterian Planning Calendar. Now that may sound like a big deal, but almost every Sunday is suppose to have a focus, you know, like Active Life Sunday, that was in June, or Caregiver Sunday, that’s in November, or everybody’s favorite, Heath Awareness and Prayer for Healing and Wholeness Sunday in February. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not against living an active life or opposed to caregivers or anti-health awareness, healing, wholeness, or prayer, but give me a break. Usually, I don’t do much with these themes unless they’re directly related to the passage I’m preaching. Anyway, on Friday, I found out that today is Evangelism Sunday. And that probably wouldn’t have caused me to shift my focus, if two other things hadn’t also happened.

First, each day, I get a verse from a website that I send out with our Bible readings and then I post it online, and on Friday, it was from the fifth chapter of Romans:“But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope.” That’s one. And second, again each day, I get a quote from another site that I also send out and post, and on Friday, this was the featured quote (it’s from Winston Churchill): “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Now, I recognize that y’all may hear this and say to yourselves, “and so;” but I’ll tell you, maybe it was the work of the Spirit, I’m not sure, but when I took the day and the verse and quote and held them up to the passage, you about Jeremiah buying that field, suddenly it felt like I’d been hit by a perfect storm, and I knew exactly how to approach the passage,even if that meant moving away from a sermon title I’d already sent to Two Ridges.

You see, I believe right here in this odd little story from Jeremiah, I believe God is giving us a wonderful, almost perfect example of how to do evangelism,especially in difficult times, and I’m talking about when people are feeling scared and angry and hopeless. And if we spend any time thinking about what’s happened in Jeremiah’s life by this point, difficult is a huge understatement. I mean, for years he’s been watching the people of his country, Judah, live without any concern for the Lord. I’ll tell you, they’ve been worshiping idols and the rich have been dumping on the poor and they’ve all been assuming that since they were God’s people and they had a Davidic king and they still hung out in Solomon’s Temple, the big guy upstairs would never let anything really bad happen to them. Man, they had him over a barrel, and they knew it. At least they thought they did.

That was Jeremiah’s world, and for years, he’d been preaching and preaching and preaching, you know, how, if the people didn’t straighten up their acts, bad things were going to happen. Now that’s what he’d been saying for years and for years nothing bad happened, and folks started seeing him a some kind of nut. Until all of sudden, things changed, and the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar surrounded Jerusalem and their secure world started falling apart. Everything was happening just like Jeremiah had said, and even the king knew it and that’s why he tried to pin all the bad stuff on Jeremiah and his prophecy, you know, like it was his fault. Things were horrible in Judah.

And if I’d been Jeremiah, I’d have been saying, “I told you so.” But that’s no what he did.Instead, God told Jeremiah to do something that made no sense at all. I mean, as the Babylonians were storming the walls and Jerusalem is about to fall, he told Jeremiah to take his life’s saving and buy a field in the land of Benjamin. Man, that’s crazy. My gosh, when the Babylonians take over, the last thing on their agenda would be to record land transactions, and that’s why Jeremiah was told to hide the deed in a jar.  But there was a reason God told him to do this and this was it: “For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.” In other words, even though times were horrible, even though the people were about the lose everything and I mean everything and even though it would certainly appear that God had cut them loose and they were now totally on their own, that just wasn’t the case. Instead, the time would come when the people, God’s people would come home and live in the land again. You see, in the face of a world that was falling apart, God told Jeremiah to do something to remind the people that they still had reason for hope.

And I’ll tell you something, I think that exactly what he’s telling us to do as well. In fact, I think that message, not “should,” not “could,” not “might,” but must be at the center any evangelism we might do, especially to people who are facing stuff that they sure didn’t choose  and certainly don’t want. And even though I’m not saying we’re facing anything close to what King Zedekiah was looking at in Jerusalem, I do believe we’re living in a time when a whole lot of folks are scared and angry: scared of too many immigrants and too many terrorists and too many guns and angry that jobs are going overseas and that racial tensions are about to explode and that in our economy some money is flowing down and a lot of money is flowing up and but it’s all being drawn from the folks in the middle. I’m telling you, look at the polls. People are scared and they’re angry. And as a result, they feel hopeless. And whether or not any of this is justified is irrelevant; that’s what folks are feeling. And in that way our world really is like Jeremiah’s.

And for that reason, as we move out with the message of Jesus and as we share that good news to others in whatever way we choose to do it, for that reason, what we share really needs to offer comfort to folks who are scared and peace to folks who are angry and my gosh, hope to folks who are becoming hopeless. I mean, without drifting into some kind of fantasy message that things just aren’t as bad as they seem and without making a bunch of promises for God that we can’t fulfill ourselves, we sure can share the good news, and I’m talking about the good news of the Father who couldn’t love us more than he does right now and that’s the way it was yesterday and will be tomorrow, and the good news of the Son who died to cleanse our past and who was raised to secure our future, and the good news of the Holy Spirit who is, right this minute, flowing all around us. I’m telling you, that’s our message, that’s our good news. And if this is something that you don’t know, I’d like you to consider it. And if this is something that you already trust, I want to challenge you to share it.

And trust me, we really don’t have to go out and buy a field to do it. You see, we can share this good news by simply being positive and optimistic and hopeful. Listen to me. First, we can certainly be positive in the faith we claim,and that may a change for some. I’ll tell you, based on how some believers look, sometimes I don’t know why anybody would want to be a Christian. They’re frowning and negative and sure look unhappy. Yeah boy, give me some of what they’re having. No, our faith really needs to be positive, and I’m not talking about inside, outside happy all the time. But it should make us feel good, shouldn’t it? And worshiping the one who loves and the who saves and the one who inspires should make us smile every now and then, shouldn’t it? And just knowing that our lives are in God’s loving and gracious and merciful hands should make all the stuff a little easier to bear, shouldn’t it? If we’re serious about sharing the good news, I think our faith needs to be positive.

And second, our words, well, it sure seems as though they need to be optimistic. Now I know that kind of cut against our culture and that there’s a lot of pessimistic talk out there.But, you know, Jesus wasn’t being pessimistic when he said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” And he wasn’t being pessimistic when he said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” And he sure wasn’t being pessimistic when he said,“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Now, don’t get me wrong, no one would have mistaken Jesus for Polly Anna. I mean, he reminded people that they’re going to reap what they sow. Dah. Still, as it relates to eternity, man, his was a pretty optimistic message. And ours must be too. And it doesn’t matter whether it includes all kinds of theological depth or is as simple as come with me to worship and hear the good news, our words can be optimistic.

And third, our outlook, man, it’s got to be hopeful, and I’m talking about reflecting the kind of hope that doesn’t deny honest problems and pain or genuine fears and frustrations or real depression and despair. Rather it’s a hope that enables us to transcend the profane so that we might grasp the sacred, and the temporal so that we might touch the eternal, and the secular so that we might reach the divine. In other words, it’s about our willingness to focus on the rose that’s coming rather than just the thorns we deal with now. And since we trust that God is in control, I really believe that kind of hopeful outlook is possible. And I want you to think about it, if we’re able to pull this off and really become positive and optimistic and hopeful in our faith and words and outlook, just imagine the impact it’ll have on others and the change it might make within each of us.

And to be completely honest with you, I doubt that I would have come to these conclusions, if a day and a verse and a quote hadn’t sort of combined with a story to produce something special, at least for me. And you know, it doesn’t really matter whether or not the same thing happened to y’all, in the face of a society, even a community in which people are scared and angry and hopeless, God’s given us the chance to do something for them that’s similar to what Jeremiah did for his people. You see, we can share, man, we can live the good news of Jesus by being positive and optimistic and hopeful in our faith and words and outlook. And if we are, then we just might shape the world around us, becoming for God and for our neighbors a perfect storm ourselves.