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Schedule for Holy Week

Thanks for checking in, friends!  Here is a brief rundown of upcoming events here at Oxford United Methodist Church

March 24 – Holy Thursday Service at 7:00pm.  Includes the opportunity for foot- or hand-washing, and Communion.

March 25 – Good Friday Service at 7:00pm.

March 26 – Monthly Buffet Breakfast – 7am-10am.

March 27 – Community Sunrise service at 7:00am on the green (in center of town)

– Special music at the 10:55am service with the Quarter Ringers handbell choir.  And our children’s choir.  And our senior choir.  And our band.

 

Religious Minimalism

Today (February 25) marks the 22nd anniversary of the killing of 29 Muslims during prayer in their mosque in Hebron.  Of course, I didn’t have to reach back 22 years to find an example of religious extremism. It seems to be in the news nearly every day.  Acts of violence carried out in the name of religion are damaging to the very faith the perpetrators claim to be defending.

But in places of prosperity, comfort and relative safety, like the United States, the threat to the Christian faith is not either extreme violence done against us, or done in our name.  It is something I’d like to call religious minimalism.

Religion minimalism is when we play down our faith to better fit in with the world around us.  When we don’t say grace before a meal in a restaurant because we don’t want to stand out.   When we allow every other commitment to take precedent over our faith commitments, because we don’t want to make someone else uncomfortable.  Where religious extremists deliver the message that their faith is violent and crazy, religious minimalists deliver the message that practicing their faith isn’t really that important.  And if we present the message that practicing faith isn’t important, how shocked should we be that others aren’t all that interested in trying it for themselves?

Paul, in Ephesians 6:20, describes himself as “an ambassador in chains.”  To follow Christ and spread the good news, Paul is now restricted in what he can do.    How often do we live in the opposite way?  Rather than let our faith put limits on our behavior, we limit the practice of our faith to keep us free to do what we want, or at least do what doesn’t make waves.

If we want to carry Paul’s mantle and share the good news, we must embrace the restrictions, the awkwardness that comes with it.    Whether it is saying your daughter has to come home from her sleepover in time for Sunday school, or declining to buy a fundraising raffle ticket, because your faith calls you to avoid gambling in all forms.  We cannot always go with the flow:  we must often swim upstream.  How else will people see that there is a better direction to life than the one they are taking?

 

Family Promise

Many years ago, we were living the American Dream:  two cars, the brand-new house in the suburbs, two kids, etc.  Except, the American Dream came with a lot of debt.  So much so that we were several months behind on our mortgage.  We were still paying a mortgage payment every month, but we weren’t getting caught up.

Finally, we were late again, and we got the letter:  get caught up, or else.  We didn’t know what to do:  we met with a credit counselor provided by the bank, and we met with a financial advisor we knew through church.  There didn’t seem to be any option that didn’t involve losing our house, and hoping that we could find a place to rent that would let us keep our cats and dogs.

When we told my mother our problems, she suggested we talk to my Uncle Vin – it turned out we actually had a rich uncle like they always talk about in movies and books!  He loaned us the money to get caught up, and we made regular payments to him until he was paid back.  So we were blessed to keep our home, and not have to make any hard choices.

Many people are not so blessed.  They don’t have an Uncle Vin, and a job loss, a car accident, a medical emergency is all that it takes to leave them without a home, without the stability of having a place of their own.

This month Oxford United Methodist Church begins partnering with other faith communities in Southern Chester County to host families that are experiencing homelessness and help them find their way back to stable housing.  The name of the program is Family Promise.  We are thankful to be able to provide hospitality and hope to children and their families in a season of struggle in their lives.

If you would like to be one of our volunteers for the program, please contact us.  If you want to know more about the program as it works across Southern Chester County, please visit

Family Promise of Southern Chester County

A Time to Harvest

We hope you will join us this Saturday, October 10th from 10am to 4pm for our Harvest Fair!

There will be great food, a parking lot (and sidewalk) full of crafters, and entertainment all day.  Plus activities for the kids, contests, mums, pumpkins, etc.  If you would like to enter one of our contests, click on the tab Harvest Fair 2015! for more information.

The Harvest Fair began as a way for the church to meet its commitments to our district and denomination:  people harvested their talents to help others.  We are proud to continue in that tradition, providing a great day for the community, and contributing to the ministries of the United Methodist Church, and supporting a local ministry as well.  This year, 10% of our proceeds will go to Oaks Ministry (www.oxfordoaksministry.com).

Just as God sent Jesus Christ into the world not to live for himself, but to give himself for others, we believe that we are invited by God to live in the same manner:  not for ourselves, but others.   That is the narrow path that Jesus says leads to eternal life.    So as we harvest what God has blessed us with, it is not meant to fill our own storehouses, but others’.  Are you harvesting only for yourself?  That might explain while you still feel empty.

Legacy

While we were on vacation we had the opportunity to see the Perseid Meteor shower.    We didn’t see the meteor shower on its busiest night, but it was still pretty amazing to watch the sky, and then see these streaks of light shoot by unexpectedly.

Here is how a meteor shower works:  The Comet Swift-Tuttle orbits the sun every 133 years.  It’s orbit takes it out past Pluto.  When its orbit takes it through the inner solar system, the sun warms and softens the ice in the comet, causing bits of rock and ice to be littered behind it.  At about the same time every year, the earth passes through the dust trail of Comet Swift-Tuttle, and some of the rock and ice in the dust trail gets pulled into our upper atmosphere, and burns up as it is pulled in.

So these meteors that we get to see every year are bits of the comet that it left behind years ago.  The comet was closest it gets to the sun in 1992, and won’t be back that close again until July 2126.  That comet, just minding its business as it circled the sun, leaves a 135-year legacy.

For me, its a reminder that our lives are never truly in isolation from the people around us:  we are all leaving a trail of something.   Somebody somewhere is watching.  The question is:  Is it good, or bad?  Is something that excites others?  Or is it something others want to avoid?

It probably depends on what we’re orbiting.  If we are being warmed by the Son (like that transition?), then we’re probably trailing something worth seeing.  But if we’re keeping ourselves at the center, that ‘s another story.

Somebody, somewhere is watching, potentially being blessed by your legacy.  If you follow the trail of Jesus Christ (living humbly, acting mercifully, loving your neighbor), the blessing for others is certain.

For more info on the comet and the meteor shower, visit:

here

 

 

 

The Slush Pile

When creative writing was my thing, the Slush Pile was where your work went at a magazine or publisher, if it was unsolicited.  I assume the origin of the name has to do with how slowly the pile diminishes, the way that snow piles, mixed with all the dirt and junk take so long to melt.

Did you know that the last of Boston’s snow just melted yesterday (July 15)?  Hard to believe, with all the hot weather we have had here.  But, of course, that pile wasn’t just pure snow, but was full of all sorts of dirt and debris that kept the sun from being able to melt the snow back into water.

Hmm, sounds like a sermon illustration, doesn’t it?

If faith is letting Jesus Christ melt our cold hearts, then how much junk of the world do we let get in the way of that?  Can we let go of all that stuff?  It’s not easy:  after a while we let all that we have accumulated define us, and we have trouble separating ourselves out.  And in reality, we can’t separate ourselves out – could you remove the dirt from the snow piled at the end of your driveway?

As ugly as the snow piles look a couple of days after a snowstorm, they do look good again when the next snow starts to fall – they briefly look like crumb cake.  Our path back to beauty begins the same way:  not by trying to cover up our ugliness, but allowing Jesus Christ to cover us with his love.  And then we must trust in Jesus, that if we allow Him to melt our hard hearts we won’t be separated from our true selves or from Him, but only from all the junk that we’ve been swept up in along the way.

Trust in the goodness of God enough to let the Son shine on you.

Our Complicity in Charleston

It’s an inflammatory thing to call someone a racist, and we probably don’t have a shared understanding of what a racist is; but if you are a white person reading this post, you are probably a racist.

Please keep reading.

As a white male, I know the immediate response to the accusation of racism is to quickly categorize all the ways we are not:  we have friends of all races and cultures, we treat everyone the same, we own a Chris Rock dvd, etc.  But,  set aside your defensiveness for a moment and hear me out.

Racism is a human-created evil that begins with one race or culture believing it is superior to others, and then using the power structure to establish and perpetuate that belief.  For example, whites in America justified enslaving Africans by saying they weren’t as intelligent.  Then whites, who had the power, limited African-Americans’ access to education, so that they would continue to appear to be less intelligent, to justify their continued enslavement.  This is only the most obvious example:  a close look at most of the structures of our society (housing policies, location of highways, etc.) shows a perpetuation of self-justified oppression.

And once evil has a foothold, it doesn’t need a lot of help to grow and entrench itself.  It’s like a canal:  once the opening is made to the river where it can draw water from, the water just flows down the canal on its own.

And that is where we find ourselves today:  somewhere far down the canal, miles back from where some people ( scared and greedy, probably, who didn’t trust in God’s abundance for all) deliberately carved a path out of the river of life, where they believed they could ensure prosperity for themselves at the expense of others.  We were born into a boat on this canal, and that isn’t our fault, but as soon we became aware that this isn’t the river of life, and we didn’t begin doing the hard work of carving a path back to the river to prevent the canal from going any farther; we became complicit in its perpetuation.

So, what is that hard work?  Racism thrives on self-deception, so it begins with honesty.  If you actually do have deep relationships with people of color, get to a place where those friends can share painful truths with you.  In your relationships with other whites, do not permit untruths to go unchallenged:  why is a crime or act of violence committed by a white person always “an isolated incident”, but any wrongdoing by a person of color is demonstrative of true nature of millions of people?

Honesty is just the beginning – it must then move us to action.  We aren’t responsible for how and where we found ourselves in this world, but we are responsible for how we leave it for the next generation.

I learned a long time ago that we can be one of three things:  an active racist who engages in actions to keep other races oppressed; an active anti-racist who engages in actions to help liberate the oppressed; or a passive racist, who does nothing and allows racism to perpetuate.  There is no fourth option of being a passive anti-racist.  To do nothing, to throw up your hands and say there is nothing you can do, is to allow society to continue to flow farther from life as God intended it.

And that makes you a racist.

So let’ s drift no further, but get out of the boat, that we might find our way back to what God intended, instead of what fearful man created.

If you still feel defensive, ask yourself what you are doing to actively end racism.  If you are actually doing something, invite a friend to join you in that work.  If you aren’t then this message was for you.

Commencement

Next week Oxford Area High School will be holding its commencement ceremony, better known as graduation. Commencement and graduation are interchangeable in this instance, even though one means beginning and the other means ending, because graduation is both. In fact, every ending is a beginning.
And yet…
And yet, we come to places in our lives where we want to see new life, new growth, but we refuse to let anything end so that new growth can begin. We believe we can have it all. We use our DVR’s to record more television than we can possibly watch in a year, let alone a week. We schedule another activity for the kids, then complain that we don’t do enough as a family, so we add a family activity to the list, then freak out when our kids fall behind in their schoolwork.
Life is not about having it all: it is about having all that matters. Does your busy schedule serve you by giving you the fulfilling life you want, or are you just serving your busy schedule?
Jesus Christ came that we might truly live, and that life comes with death. First and foremost, it comes with his death on the cross. But it also comes with us choosing to let parts of our lives die that prevent us from experiencing Life with a capital L. Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls in to the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24)
What seeds are you refusing to let go of, that are keeping you from the real abundance that Jesus has for you?

Slowly, But Surely

Happy Easter!  We are now in the Easter Season, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  During the Easter season, we see how the disciples came to a full understanding of Jesus as the Messiah – if you notice, they found the empty tomb puzzling, and even a little scary.  But, as Jesus appeared to them, slowly but surely all he had taught them before became clearer.

What is your understanding of Jesus Christ?  Is it clear to you how much he loves you?

Slowly, but surely, our website is moving along.  You’ll notice we added the United Methodist News Service feed, so there will always be a little something to see.

And don’t forget:  here’s our Sunday Schedule-

8:30 – Informal worship service, with Communion

9:45 – Sunday School for all ages, including adults.

10:55 – Traditional worship – this Sunday we have the hymn sing to begin the service!

18 Addison Street, Oxford, PA 19363