What Went Wrong?

Sunday Service, May 3, 2020. Our service today focuses on Acts 2:37-47 and in particular to the faith community that was established and then disappeared. We ask the question “What went wrong?” Perhaps these days you’ve been asking yourself the same question? Come and join us in worship online!

Happy New Year!

psalm51Sometimes when the new year comes around I just want to say ‘whew!’ I think about this past year and part of me is glad for its passing and other parts of me are grateful for the incredible events of the year.

On Sunday, December 29th we had an informal service, what I called a ‘coffee and cake’ service. We sat in the fellowship hall, enjoyed some homemade brunch goodies, sang hymns, prayed and shared the scripture. On this day I shared Peterson’s interpretation of Psalm 51. Peterson was responsible for the publishing of ‘The Message,’ an interpretation of the bible that applies a lot of modern language and feelings and this version of Psalm 51 was no different. The original text was listed as a prayer from David after he murdered Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba in order to marry her. It is a psalm of repentance, of asking for forgiveness from God. I figured what better way to end the year!

Seriously, I think if everyone could take a breath and pray as David did in this passage, the world would be a better place. One of my favorite lines is “God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.” I think at the end of the year we all could stand a little bit of a new creation in our lives, a ‘Genesis week’ to get us a fresh start in a new decade.

The service continued with some lively discussions around the wording, around who we are as humans and a surprising question about whether Jesus ever made mistakes (see what you missed?). I love this kind of worship experience, where we are active participants in worship. You know, John Wesley told us that we should ask questions about our faith, even tough questions. Some of them we may even have answers for, others we just have to accept without an answer. Wesley’s famous foundation for our faith rests on Reason, Experience, Scripture, and Tradition (REST) with Scripture have primacy but all the others are important as well.

With all this in mind, I’d like to give you a chance for a fresh start this decade. I’ve included the Psalm 51 passage that we used. I urge you to take time this month to read it, not once, not twice but at least ten times during the month. I find it really helpful to read it out loud. Each time stop at a different sentence and read that one sentence twice. Let it soak in. You can read it as David did, a prayer to God or just read it. I promise you two things from this. First, God will hear you. God always hears us when we pray. Second, I promise if you do it earnestly, with intent, paying attention to it, you will notice something about yourself.

Now, for something else of importance. I baked a coffee cake for the Sunday service and several of you asked for the recipe. It was my mom’s recipe, passed to her from her friend Anita. The cake is called ‘Nochures’ and it is a delight to share it with you. Happy New Year!

Nochures (coffee cake) recipe from Pastor Rick’s mom, Margaret (Peg) Rabe

preheat oven to 350

2 cups brown sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup shortening (I used soft margarine)

combine above to make a crumble, reserve 1 ½ cup for topping

Mix together

1 cup sour milk (1 cup milk + 2 tbsp vinegar)

2 eggs beaten

1 generous teaspoon baking soda

add to the flour mix

grease a 13 x 9 pan (or a 10 x 10)

pour the mixture into the pan, sprinkle the crumb mixture on top

sprinkle cinnamon on top

dot top with pats of butter

note: crumbled walnuts or pecans may be added to mixture or to topping

Bake for 30 minutes or until done – if you are using a smaller pan (like 10 x 10) plan on an additional 10 – 15 minutes baking time

Psalm 51 (from The Message)

A David Psalm, After He Was Confronted by Nathan About the Affair with Bathsheba

Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.

Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry.

I know how bad I’ve been; my sins are staring me down.

You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen it all, seen the full extent of my evil.

You have all the facts before you; whatever you decide about me is fair.

I’ve been out of step with you for a long time, in the wrong since before I was born.

What you’re after is truth from the inside out. Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean, scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.

Tune me into foot-tapping songs, set these once-broken bones to dancing.

Don’t look too close for blemishes, give me a clean bill of health.

God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.

Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me.

Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!

Give me a job teaching rebels your ways so the lost can find their way home.

Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God, and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.

Unbutton my lips, dear God; I’ll let loose with your praise.

Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you.

I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered.

Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.

Make Zion the place you delight in, repair Jerusalem’s broken-down walls.

Then you’ll get real worship from us, acts of worship small and large, Including all the bulls they can heave onto your altar!

A relaxed Sunday Service – Dec 29

Cinnamon-Walnut-Coffee-Cake

The rushing, the hurry, the presents, the relatives…. oh rush, rush, rush.. How about a little coffee (or tea) and some time to relax?  Now, how about a church service like that?  This Sunday come and have a cup, some snacks (there is a rumor the pastor is making his mother’s coffee cake recipe), sing a few hymns, and instead of a sermon you’ll have a chance to ask some questions of the Pastor!  It’s this Sunday at 10am.

 

Children’s Sabbath Sunday – special video

When Rev. Sam Wilde asked one of the children in our congregation to participate in the October 13th Sunday Service for the Children’s Sabbath, he wasn’t too keen on speaking in front of a bunch of people so Rev. Sam asked him “Well, what would you like to do?”   His response was that he could make a video message.  Rev. Sam thought it was a great idea and when he showed it on Sunday so did everyone else.  I think you will enjoy this insight as well for Jesus said “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

“Be mindful of whom you represent.”

“Hello – My name is Rick and I am a ……. err…….. well…. I work with people….”

Ever since responding to God’s call I have had a difficult time telling people I am now a minister. It’s not that I am ashamed of it, it is that when I say what I do most people change how they interact with me. You know, they suddenly are conscious of the beer they are drinking or magically try to eliminate swear words, maybe they say how they meant to come to church, or they find an excuse to leave the conversation. It got me wondering, “Why is it so hard to talk about your faith and be faithful?”

From October 20th to November 24th Rev. Sam Wilde and I will be exploring this topic during our worship services. We will examine how we as individuals respond to our call to faith and how we invite others into it. Each week we will explore the opportunities we have in living life as a disciple and how our actions can encourage or discourage someone from following Jesus. We will link each topic to scripture and then bring it back to application.

The reminder ‘Be mindful of whom you represent’ is meant for us to take a moment before we respond, reply or take any action, that we are disciples of Jesus Christ. As Christians in the community and world, we are His representatives and our behavior can either be a welcoming breath of love in a world of hate or something else entirely.

The series is focused around five “I” words. The “I” here being you. Here are the topics for the five weeks ahead.

Sunday, October 20th ,10 am service – Introductions – How do you present yourself to someone? Introductions can set the stage for someone to take another step, to come closer or they can send them fleeing.

What sort of introduction can lead someone to want to know more about Jesus?

Sunday, October 27th ,10 am service – Invitations – Don’t you love getting a text, an email, a phone call from a friend who invites you to their house or to go to a movie or a game, maybe a picnic? Why is it so hard to invite someone to share in the joy you have from accepting Jesus in your life?

Sunday, November 3rd ,10 am service – Interactions – How many ways are there to interact with someone? All these interactions say a lot about who we are and the question is, ‘does anyone know you are a Christian by your interactions?

Sunday, November 10th ,10 am service – Intentions – There’s a saying and some debate as to who actually coined the phrase, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’ What does Jesus intend for us to do as disciples and more importantly, what is your intent when you talk to someone about your faith, your church, and your trust in God?

Sunday, November 17th ,10 am service – Inspiration – Sometimes I think Jesus’ disciples had it easy, He was right there with them! How we can use the gifts from Christ, our solid foundation, to stabilize us and to keep us steady? What in your daily life do you do to receive inspiration from Christ?

November 24th – The Open Door – All this journey, through the introductions, the invitations, the intentions, interactions, and inspirations we have to remember the person we are talking about it you! Yes, you are that representative of Christ and his mission, to bring about wholeness, to spread God’s love, to bring peace in our world. During this last Sunday, before the first Sunday of Advent, before Thanksgiving, we will take the time to reflect on our community and how we are fulfilling Jesus’ call to be disciples.

I hope you will take time out of your busy schedules to join us Sunday mornings. Worship begins at 10am, our Sunday school starts at 9am.

Pastor Rick Rabe

United Methodists and the Special General Session, Feb 23 – 26

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13

 

That is one of many peoples favorite snippets of Scripture.  It is from Paul in one of his many letters to the early church.  How strange it is to contrast this against the ‘other’ scripture, the one that will be debated in St. Louis next week.  I’m talking about Romans 1: 26 – 32 or since what will be debated ignores most of that scripture then we focus on Romans 1: 26 & 27, where, by some, people claim this means that God hates homosexuals.

In 1972, the United Methodist Church added discriminatory language specifically against homosexuals to the ‘rules of the UMC’ in the book called ‘The book of discipline.’  They were very thorough in there additions citing everything from calling it a sin, to prohibiting gay marriage and gay clergy.  There was also language prohibiting clergy from supporting gay rights, and prohibiting financially supporting anything to due with gay and lesbian issues, with a single exception, the “HIV epidemic.”

Of course, there was no mention of the other things Paul wrote in the next section… “They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents,  foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”  Imagine if they had included ‘inventors of evil?’   My dad worked for the defense industry, certainly people who make weapons would be considered ‘inventors of evil’ as would many, many others in 1972 but they were the majority…..

All this is to say, I am happy to have been sent to this church, West Springfield UMC to be their pastor.  Early on WSUMC joined an organization called ‘Reconciling Ministries‘ – a voluntary group who focus is on acceptance of all God’s children.  WSUMC planted their feet firmly in the 1 Corinthians 13:13 soil long before I arrived.

 

I preached a sermon on Feb 3rd, 2019 based on Paul’s Corinthian writings.  If you’d like to read it, you can find it here.

 

In closing I ask each of you to pray for the delegates to the General Session in St. Louis.  Pray that they are overwhelmed by God’s love and grace.

 

Blessings,

 

Pastor Rick

 

The Star is shining, shall we follow it?

“Silent night! hallowed night!
Land and deep silent sleep;
Softly glitters bright Bethlehem’s star.
Beckoning Israel’s eye from afar
Where the Saviour is born.” – J. F. Warner, 1849

These are just one of dozens of different lyrics for the beloved hymn, “Silent Night” or in the original German, “Stille Nacht.” This year is the 200th anniversary of the first time that song was heard, on a Christmas Eve in 1818. I am fond of this one for the wording “Softly glitters bright Bethlehem’s star..”

There are many origin stories for this hymn but all of them focus around a single Christmas Eve evening and a somewhat urgent situation requiring a response, right now! Here’s one of my favorite versions:

“On Christmas Eve of 1818 the young priest of St. Nicholas parish church in Obendorf, Germany faced disaster. The organ had been incapacitated by mice. The chance of fixing the instrument before the evening service was nil. Father Joseph Mohr was not a man to just give up however. He pulled out a poem he had written several years before called “Stille Nacht”. Mohr took his poem to the schoolmaster and organist of a nearby town, Franz Xaver Gruber. He asked that Gruber write a melody to accompany the poem on guitar. In several hours, Gruber had the music done and the carol was played for the first time that night at the Christmas Eve service.”

( https://allaboutromance.com/the-story-behind-the-carol-silent-night/ )

Most of the stories follow the same theme, a poem left languishing suddenly brought to life due to some urgent need. I love the fact that this was first performed on a guitar and can just imagine the candle light in that church on a cold Christmas Eve, worshipers huddled together in anticipation of Christmas morning and then Gruber performs this soft, compelling song. If there was a dry eye in among the congregation I would be surprised.

There is another story surrounding this hymn, one that portrays our fragile human condition. It was during the Christmas truce in World War I. The soldiers on both sides in the awful, cold, trenches of that terrible war started to sing this song in English, French, and German across the desolate landscape of that battlefield, bringing the hope alive for a brief moment. As romantic as that sounds, the tragedy is that the war would rage on for another four years. We celebrated the 100th anniversary of the end of that war this Veterans Day.

This Advent, as we prepare ourselves for the birth of our savior, we are going to journey through this beloved hymn. We are going to start a search for our own “Star of Bethlehem,” trying hard to reconnect with our faith, with what it means to “follow.” We will explore the challenges of following a star, or Christ, just as the shepherds and magi did. We will ask the questions:

  • How do we know if we are following the right star?

  • How can something that seems so far away steer us to finding our faith?

  • When we hear the angels calling, will we be afraid or filled with joy?

  • Finally, how do we receive the “abundant grace” promised in this hymn?

Our Advent Series Begins on December 2nd and will end on Christmas Eve.

Sunday Services

  • December 2nd – How do we use silence to connect with God? (from verse 1 “all is calm, all is bright”)

  • December 9th – How do we relate to the shepherds, who were at first fearful? (verse 2 “Shepherds quake at the sight!”)

  • December 16th – How do we share “Loves pure light in our life?” (verse 3)

  • December 23rd – Can we appreciate the grace given through Jesus? (Verse 4 “Abundant grace for our intent”)

December 24th Christmas Eve, 6pm Family Candlelight Service

So, plan your Sunday’s ahead. We are going to listen for our own “Stille Nacht.” We are going on a journey, guided by a star, shining so brightly, I promise we wont get lost along the way.

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