Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Church News: Hospitality

The youth Sunday school classes enjoyed the annual Easter Egg Hunt on Palm Sunday, April 1. There were approximately 10-12 youth who participated in and helped with the festivities.  Special Thanks go out to Kaye Broadbent, Shawna Melnykowski, Bret and Dee Nemeth, and Katrina Yeigh for hosting this activity.

Independence Home Days is around the corner! Mark your calendars for Friday, August 3 & Saturday, August 4 for the 96th annual home days event. The theme this year is all about CARS!

The Hospitality committee made and entered a float in last year’s home days and are looking for volunteers to help again this year. Please let us know if you are interested in helping either by donating supplies or money, your time, or walking in the parade. For all interested, there will be a sign up sheet on the bulletin board outside Pastor Jared’s office. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

General Conference Preview

Once every four years, delegates representing the entirety of the world-wide United Methodist Church gather to worship, discuss the myriad issues facing the church, and to set policy to govern how the church as a whole will operate during the following four years.  Because it is a top to bottom look at the church, this is an exciting time.  However, the vast number of issues that have to be addressed during the 10 day conference is almost overwhelming.  Here is a summary of the biggest issues facing the church:
  • Being more Worldwide:  United Methodist Churches in the US have declined in membership and attendance for the last forty years while the church in Africa and the Philippines have grown.  Thus, 40% of all the delegates at this year's conference will come from outside the states.  As we consider how to organize ourselves, increased emphasis is being placed on giving leaders from outside the US a proportional place at the decision making table.
  • Restructuring:  Driven by the continued decline in the US church, a major restructuring has been proposed.  We currently have 13 different agencies  that help to conduct ministry throughout the world.  The most prominent restructuring plan would combine most of the agencies into one body and then appoint 15 individuals to oversee their work.  Considerable concern has been raised as to whether that is shrinking the church too far and whether we will still have a diverse range of voices giving input into the direction of the church if power is invested in the hands of so few.
  • Clergy Effectiveness:   One of the most controversial proposals is a major change to the relationship between clergy and the conference.  Currently, clergy agree to be appointed wherever in the conference the bishop deems they are best needed.  In return, upon ordination, clergy have been guaranteed that they would receive a full-time appointment if they remained in good standing.  Some have expressed concern that this allows clergy who are no longer effective to remain in pulpits and that as the church continues to shrink, we may not have places to put all clergy.  Many clergy have protested to say that the growth of a church has far more to do with the attitudes and openness of the people in the church and that removing the guarantee without giving the clergy a choice of where to serve is fundamentally unfair.
  • Social Issues:  The UMC is a living organism that constantly tries to sense where God is calling us to be on social issues.  As such, at General Conference we adopt both policy and position statements that reflect where we are as a church.   This year, the most prominent issue regards working toward inclusivity in the church (with sexuality and sexual identity being the most debated).  Furthermore, issues of immigration, abortion, health care, economic justice and Peace in the Middle East will receive prominent discussion.
I will be attending the conference as a legislative monitor on behalf of the Love Your Neighbor Coalition and have been tasked specifically to work on the restructuring issue.   The hours will be long, but I look forward to being part of the discussion about how we can be church for many years to come.  I will appreciate your prayers and support.  You can follow all the action at General Conference at  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Church News: Trustee Corner

The Trustees would like to announce the results of our Pork and Kraut dinner on March 24th. We raised $690 from the dinner. We would like to thank Mike Naso, Pam Blair and Sue Kotabish
or helping with the cooking. 
The Boy Scouts from Troop #297 and their adult leader Pam Young were extremely helpful at our event. Jeanne Veverka, Tess Foltz, and Sue Kertianis were among the volunteer dessert bakers who helped us. Bret Nemeth and his friend Paris were a wonderful help in the clean up process. Thank you for the help from congregation members who supported this event!

Your trustees have selected a local contractor to waterproof and install new drain tile on the south and west sides of the church house on Hemoga. A new drain will be installed to keep the water from flowing up against the back wall, too. 

We have been working in the sanctuary's south wall fixing water damage by scraping, priming and repainting the wall. We hope to get a few volunteers to assist with painting the north wall, too. 

You will soon see the light at night as we have purchased materials to relight the bell tower. Church yard clean-up was begun before Palm Sunday. 

Beverly Veverka responded to our call for help in weeding. She has been busy weeding the numerous beds around the church. 

We would like to remind members that our building has numerous exits which are fire exits. Please keep that in mind as we have recently been inspected by the fire department and we need to keep the doors clear of tables and other items. Also as you enter the sanctuary in the area where the choir gathers on Sunday morning look up at the hidden fire gate. It is designed to drop down in case of a fire to keep a fire isolated. Please keep the area under the fire curtain clear of tables and chairs. 

Before the end of the Sunday school year, we will be having a fire drill. 

We appreciate all the help members have provided to help keep our facility in the best condition.
In an attempt to straighten up and clear up clutter, after the next coffee hour we will be making available the mismatched cups and saucers to the congregation for a donation. After that we will sell the mismatched cups and saucers on E-bay. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Praying with the News: Educational cuts in Cleveland

The Cleveland School board announced massive layoffs and big cuts to the music, art, library and gym classes in Cleveland city schools.  Though our church is located in Independence, we do need to care deeply about the condition of the hub community just a few miles north.  We care because Jesus calls us to care for all children (especially the poor).  We care because we know that children raised without adequate education will be ill prepared to earn a living wage later in life.

In 2008, we as Methodist's declared that our founder "John Wesley was a “unique and remarkable educator (who) gave to the whole Methodist movement . . . a permanent passion for education.  Wesley believed that persons develop their full God-given potential when they educate their mind as well as nurture their spirit;"  Read the full resolution.

Lord- help us find a way to educate all of the children in our midst.  Help us to make decisions that allow them to grow into the people you created them to be.  Forgive us when we place our priorities elsewhere.  Amen.

Church News: Sunday Morning Adult Group

Great discussions about heaven followed our reading the adult written copy of HEAVEN IS FOR REAL. Recall it’s about a boy’s trip to heaven and back. This prompted further study of heaven and we started on March 25th the book SURPRISED BY HOPE, Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N.T. Wright. We study on Sunday mornings in the parlor at 9:15 a.m. with the use of a DVD and study guide loaned to us through the East Ohio Conference UMC Media Center. We have copies of the book available.

Shawna Melnykowski invited anyone to join the youth study group on the weeks they would be viewing/discussing the video SOUL SURFER, about a teenage surfer girl who summons the courage to go back into the ocean after losing an arm in a shark attack. Our study group joined them for three weeks and were glad to hear from, share faith and be enriched by the youth of IUMC. Thank you, Shawna!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Praying with the News: A tragic Shooting

  1. Praying with the News:

    Lord- have mercy on the souls of all who have died. That they were all of one family is such a tragedy. What brokenness we experience in this life. Be with the family of the shooting victims. Let your grace be upon all those who experienced the terrible shooting. Help us to create a more loving world. Amen.
     ·  · 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Praying with the News: Whom shall we fear?

There is an old maxim that says that the best pastor preaches with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. I think that that goes for all Christians. We have to engage with the world and seek to draw inspiration from it. Thus, we are going to periodically posts some events- local, national, and internationally here and on the Facebook page and try to think just a bit of how to connect it to our faith. Feel free to comment or post your own news stories as they touch you.

We are in an Easter season in which we testify to a savior who was willing to stand up against the evil forces of the world- even when it cost him his life. The miracle of Easter tells us that death, and indeed allinjustice, is not the last word. The last word is always the mercy and justice envisioned by God. If we really believe this, why does fear pervade our life? 

Regina Brett argues, persuasively, that fear is at the heart of the tragedy of the Trayvon Martin shooting. 

Psalm 27:1 says, 

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
   whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
   of whom shall I be afraid? 

Lord-  Relieve us of our fears.  Allow us to overcome our fears so that we might be freed up to respond in love.  Help us to trust in your grace and mercy.  Amen.
What keeps society afraid? What keeps you afraid?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Sunday Sermon- Don't miss the adventure

Scriptures for Sunday, April 8th:

Easter Sermon

Have you every just missed out on something?   Been the 10th caller to the radio station when the prize was given at 9?  Seen the love of your life across the room, only to have someone else sit down and talk with her before you can get to him or her?  Miss out on a concert, a museum, a date, or whatever, because you overslept.
Sometimes being near, but just missing something, can be incredibly disappointing.  In fact- there is a name for this type of reaction-  The Silver Medal Effect.  You would think winning the silver medal in the Olympics would be a crowning achievement, but a 1995 study showed that often the Silver medalist was the saddest person on the program.  While the bronze medalist was just happy to be there, the silver medalist can only think about all the little things that kept them from winning.  At least initially, being so close to greatness causes real pain.
The disappointment of just missing out on something is to me the key to understanding this almost bizarre ending of Mark.  If you still have your bible out, take a look real closely at that 16th chapter of Mark.  It looks like it continues on after we stopped, but you’ll also see some little bracket marks in the text that follows.  You see, our best research shows that Mark actually ended at verse 8 and that later monks, when copying down the book, added some additional verses that got put into the Bible.   
Let’s take a look one more time-  how do the female disciples respond to the news of the resurrection:
But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Wow- what a disappointing ending to the story.  Can you imagine watching the movie-  you see the stone roll away, you see the woman recoil in terror, and then, credits?  
Its no wonder the monks tried to do a little creative editing.  Compared to the other Gospels, Mark seems to have a terrible ending.
But in a way- it makes perfect sense.
Jesus had told the disciples over and over again that this would happen
He was going to confront the religious and political authorities, would stand up for the poor and oppressed, and would die
And the disciples would respond by almost laughing at him-  ah, quiet down there Jesus...that’s terrible pr.
They just didn’t get it.  They were happy to come along for the journey when it was easy,  but as soon as it got hard, they bailed out.
One by one, each of the disciples abandon Jesus.  They see the violence and injustice of the world, and they slink away in fear.
Then- the amazing thing happens- Jesus is resurrected!
You would think- the reaction should be amazing- but I think the disciples realized something-  they had had a chance, a chance to be part of something spectacular.
You see- Jews everywhere had been longing for the day when the general resurrection would occur- when God would come to earth and restore justice throughout the land, would bring about peace and would turn on its head the evil powers of the world.  Liberty would be proclaimed to the captives 
We tend to think of resurrection as escaping to somewhere else.  Getting out of this world and strumming on harps somewhere.  But that is not how Jews understood resurrection, and it isn’t how the story goes.  Jesus defeats death, and is raised right here on earth.  He goes to Galilee and gets to work.  In Mark-  there is always a divide between the city and the country-  between rich and poor, powerful and powerless.  Galilee is in the middle of the country where Jesus did his best work.  Jesus goes back to work amongst the poor and powerless, and calls the disciples to join him there.
And I think the disciples are embarrassed, ashamed.  How could they bail out on the most spectacular adventure they ever had a chance to be a part of.  How could they miss out on resurrection?  “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
The disciples fail- but by now, we know better.  We’ve been in on the joke.  When Judas betrays Jesus- we say, oh that terrible Judas.  When Peter denies Jesus, we say, Oh, if only he had known.  
But here is the thing-  we know.  We’ve heard the story.  We know it ends with Jesus’ resurrection.  The key is what are we going to do now.
When I was growing up, they had this certain brand of books called “Choose your own adventure.”  Do any of you remember them?  The book would begin with a bit of background, but as soon as the plot would get rolling, the characters would face some kind of choice.  They are searching for a treasure.  If they should look in the cave, turn to page 126.  If they should look in the woods, turn to page 145.  You would go through this over and over and the book would end based on the choices you made.  
In a way, the book of Mark is a great starting point for a choose your own adventure novel.  We have followed Christ.  Christ carried out wonderful acts of healing.  He showed us a new way to live.  He refused to accept that the world as it was was the way the world should be.  When he sought to stand up for the oppressed, he was arrested and crucified.  But, that wasn’t the end.  Evil would not prevail.  The adventure was not over.  Jesus was raised from dead.  The tomb was empty!  
But, now we are faced with our choice.  If you want to abandon Jesus, tuck tail and run, turn to Mark Ch 16 Vs. 8.  We cower in fear.  The story ends.
But, if you want to follow Jesus, there is a new page to turn to.
One in which we go from the pews into the city council, state legislators or wherever and demand justice for the poor and oppressed in the land
One in which we care about making the world more beautiful-  where we paint joy on the desolate landscape, where we sing joy where the music has gone silent.
A story in which we are bathed spectacularly in love-  a love that knows no bounds-  a love not restricted by race, or gender, or sexual orientation, or socio-economic status.  
A story that continues with us shedding our fears and working alongside Jesus in bringing good news to the poor, in setting the captives free, in joining with Jesus to build a kingdom in this world so that heaven is joined with earth and peace and righteousness rule the land.
It continues to be difficult to do that kind of work.  We can get hurt.  We can get disappointed.  People will stomp on the new flowerbeds we plant.  People will take advantage of us.  If we go to our government and demand justice for the poor- we might be laughed at, or even scorned.
But, my friends, we know the ending.  The good that we do will not be in vain.  “The resurrection showed once and for all that all the good in the world will be vindicated, not wasted.”
Mark is a brilliant Gospel writer simply because he refuses to tie up the story with a neat little bow.  He demands something even greater-  he demands us to join in and write the next page of his story.  There is something spectacular going on.  Don’t miss out.