Yesterday in worship at 11am we experienced a God-wink. A God-wink is a time when something special happens that you just know is a sign from God. Mr. Charlie Armitage was scheduled to give the Children’s Sermon yesterday in worship, but he was n0t aware of what the Praise Song was for this Sunday. The Praise Song was “This Little Light of Mine.” Well, when I invited Mr. Charlie up for the Children’s Sermon he began talking about being the light of Christ in the world today and then gave each child a little flashlight!

Now some people would simply say this was a coincidence. I, however, do not believe in coincidences. Things happens for a reason, even if we do not see or understand the reason. Others, like my Aunt Cindy, would simply call this a God-wink!

How to be a More Welcoming Church – Putting It Together

Sunday we concluded our sermon series on “How to be a More Welcoming Church.” In my sermon I committed to resurrecting this blog and trying to post consistent posts. Each week I hope to post a few thoughts and questions about the sermon, worship, and what we are doing as Christ’s church in Stroudsburg. We have a lot to do!

During my children’s message yesterday, I asked the children a question: “How can we make church more fun?” I received an answer from Crista Kopec who spoke to me after worship in the Fellowship Room. Her answer on how to make church more fun was this: “Have Sunday School in the summer!” Thank you Crista for sharing your idea on how to make church more fun. Now, we the church, must find the way to make this happen! What can we do at Stroudsburg to have Sunday School throughout the summer months? Perhaps we can create a short-term class for all children, or perhaps even an intergenerational class for all ages. I’d like to hear your creative ideas on how we can make this happen. So, if you have some thoughts or are willing to help in this endeavor please let me know.

Sue Weitzmann also offered some creative ideas for us to advertise our church and invite newcomers to worship. Here they are:

“Our bells are ringing once again. They may be calling you! Please come join us at SUMC.”

“Step our of the cold and into the warmth of SUMC! Please join us for fellowship and friendship!”

It always does the pastor’s heart good when worshippers respond with physical evidence and creative ideas as Crista and Sue did this week. What ideas do you have? How can we make church more fun? How can we invite more people to join us? Keep the ideas coming!

I also want to thank Peggy Stewart for bringing the gatorade to worship yesterday! In case you did not hear this, Peggy heard that everyone gets really excited about the Super Bowl each year, but worship should be exciting, too! So, she brought gatorade so if the preacher preached a super duper, uplifting sermon someone could dump gatorade over his head like the football players do with their coaches. Well, my sermon was not worthy of a gatorade dumping yesterday, but the idea was great! How can we make worship more exciting?

My friend and colleague, Rev. Jeff Garrison, posted a link to an article in his “Reflecting the Face of Jesus e-newsletter” about the 10 signals that say “You’re Not Welcome in this Church,” by Joe McKeever. ) The very first signal listed is: “The front door is locked.” Well, the lock in our front door of the sanctuary broke this week and so our front door was locked on Sunday! This is the first time in my time here that we had this problem. It is being fixed now hopefully before we host the Ash Wednesday worship this week.

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and I hope you will attend worship as we host our Cluster Wednesday night at 7pm here at SUMC. We also will be changing worship slightly to include some more penitential elements of worship, especially in our prayers. Spoken and silent confession, words of assurance, and The Lord’s Prayer will be used during the season of Lent this year. This is a season to look inward to help grow our faith so the sermon series will be based on spiritual mentors. This coming Sunday we will look at Thomas Merton. He is a pretty well known monk who wrote quite a few books on the topics of contemplation and meditation. I was introduced to his writings when I was in high school. Spiritual mentors are very important of us to grow in our faith and we will explore this topic in the upcoming sermon series.

Have a great week and keep exploring ways so we can be a more welcoming church!


Worship on Father’s Day

This coming Sunday we are honoring and celebrating all fathers on Father’s Day in worship!

We are getting everything ready for worship on Sunday, but, truthfully, I was amazed at what I found in preparing for Father’s Day worship this week. First, there is just a plain shortage of good resources for Father’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of resources; they just aren’t things I want to use. The problem is that not many good, quality resources for Father’s Day exist. Most of what I found was incredibly weak on the actual subject of fathers or, worse, they portrayed fathers in a weak or benign manner. I could not even find a decent call to worship for Father’s Day, so we will be using a video for the call to worship this week. Too many of the resources try at all costs to be politically correct, so many of them include both fathers and mothers. Come on! Sometimes I fear we try to be too politically correct, so as not to offend anybody, that we miss the boat totally!  Even my own denomination did not have good, quality resources for Father’s Day that I think are worth using.

One year in a church I was serving, it was Father’s Day, and after the sermon a man approached me and said this: “Why do you praise and lift up mothers on Mother’s Day but now on Father’s Day you present us Father’s with a strict challenge?” I think this is part of our culture today. How many good examples of father’s and husbands do you see in the sitcoms and movies? Everybody Loves Raymond, Home Improvement, and even the Cosby Show portray the husband/father in a weak and aloof way. They cannot fix or repair anything and they often appear to be buffoons more than dads. Where do we really see fathers and husbands portrayed in positive and uplifting ways? I fell into this trap, and the man who approached me after worship called me on it. He was right! Thank you Mark, for setting me straight. I do believe that every sermon should provide some kind of challenge, but I was being one way with mothers and a completely different way with fathers.

This Sunday is Father’s Day and we are going to honor and celebrate fathers in worship at Stroudsburg United Methodist Church. Bring your dad to church and if he is no longer with you, bring his memory with you. Father’s Day is a very special day and we will be doing our best to celebrate Father’s Day. Will you join us?

Choir Sunday

This coming Sunday is Choir Sunday at Stroudsburg United Methodist Church!

This means the choir will lead worship from beginning to end and provide a wonderful arrangement of music at both 8:30am and 11:00am worship. Choir members will lead us through each element of worship. Then, you will be in for a real treat to hear the message of music they will share.

Choir Sunday is a long-standing tradition at SUMC. It features the musical talents of the choir and allows them to provide more leadership in worship, besides the anthems they provide throughout the year. It also marks the end of the choir season, which runs from Labor Day through Choir Sunday.

I always look forward to Choir Sunday each year. I know you are in for a treat this Sunday and hope you will be in attendance. Also, this is a great Sunday to bring a friend or neighbor to church. It is a non-threatening Sunday and will be blessing to all of us who will be here.

So, bring a friend and enjoy this special Choir Sunday at SUMC!

Worship: A Service or an Experience?

When you talk about worship, what words do you use? Think about this question for a few minutes. If you were to describe worship with someone who has never been to worship, how would you describe it? What words would you use?

Words are very important. In fact, they are imperative, and choosing the correct words is essential. Many of us old-timers, who have been to worship all of our lives, talk about worship without even thinking about it. For example, we might say, I went to the worship service this past Sunday.

Okay, what exactly is a “worship service?” Service is commendable, but when used to describe worship it sounds kind of academic and out of a sense of duty. Some of us were forced to go to worship; I know I was when I was a kid! This might be good for some, but a complete turnoff to others.

What if someone had a spiritual experience that was uplifting in worship? Could these words be better used to describe what we hope will happen with those who attend worship?

Now, if we are going to promote worship and invite newcomers to be in worship, what words can we can use to invite them? Come to our worship service, or come to our worship experience? What do you think? What words will you use?

Live Streaming Worship on Sundays at 8:30am!

We have great news to share with you!

Stroudsburg UMC is now streaming worship online at 8:30am. What does this mean to you? Well, first of all, you can now worship with us when you cannot be here physically due to illness or being away on vacation. Secondly, grandparents can see their children singing in the Cherub Choir from many states away when they cannot be here!

You can view the live streaming or any previously recorded worship here.

You can view the scripture reading and sermon on our sermon page here.

Bookmark these locations on your computer. You can view the files on your computer, iPod, or cell phone!

We hope you will share this with your family, friends, and neighbors and get the word out!

God in the Movies?

Where have you last felt God’s presence in your life?

I confess that I am a simple, down to earth person much of the time. I grew up in the country and worked on a farm for most of my young life before going off to college. There is just something special about the simple things in life. I do get distracted with all the technology that is now available at our fingertips today, but I do see some positive connections with some of these advancements.

For example, television and movies can be places for us to see and consider important things–even spiritual things!

I like “The Waltons” television series and still watch the reruns today. This family show depicts a simple lifestyle loaded with life-lessons and spiritual connections. I believe this show connects to people of today quite well because of the tough economic times we are currently experiencing.

Movies can also connect us to spiritual ideas and ponderings. This is why I decided to use movies as a theme for our current sermon series: God in the Movies. Some of the movies are Christian and faith-based, while others are secular movies that talk about or depict God in some way. All of the movies I picked say something about our relationship to God and present questions many people have about God and faith.

I hope you are enjoying this sermon series on God in the movies. It does take some added effort to develop these sermons each week, but the journey has been educational and enlightening for me. I hope the next three weeks will speak to your soul. Here are the next three sermons:

  1. Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail
  2. Letters to God
  3. Glee – Grilled Cheesus
You can hear the previous sermons on this series on our church website.
This approach of using movies as the basis for our sermons is new and different for many of us. I do hope it is worth the effort and that this series is speaking to you spiritually.
What do you think? Is a sermon series based on movies a good idea? Do movies ask some questions that have been on your mind about God or your faith? What movies or tv shows speak to you?

Journey to the Cross

Palm Sunday is a triumphant and uplifting experience for many of us. We wave palm branches and see the donkey as we begin worship. (Yes, for those of you who don’t know or haven’t seen it, we have a miniature donkey in worship on Palm Sunday as part of our celebration.) The children process behind the donkey, waving their palm branches and sporting wide smiles as they see a donkey in church. Of course, our purpose in doing this is to recollect some of the fascinating details regarding Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday.

Things changed quickly that week for Jesus, the religious leaders, and the crowd. Jesus was condemned to die on the cross.

As we journey to the cross, I hope we will really take some time to reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us. This was truly an act of love!

The journey to the cross is not an easy one. Nevertheless, it is an important one. This coming Sunday we will examine some of the interesting details of Jesus’ crucifixion. Some recent archeological findings shed some light on some of these details. I am hopeful that we will not only learn some new things about the crucifixion, but we will be able to look at Jesus’ sacrifice in a personal way that will change our lives. These last 24 hours of Jesus’ life have a way of doing this. After all, these 24 hours did change the world!

24 Hours

My current sermon series is entitled “24 Hours that Changed the World.”

This series is adapted from Rev. Adam Hamilton’s series that he created a few years ago. You can find out more on his church’s website at cor.org.

These sermons look in-depth at the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life here on earth. Each week we examine a different portion of these last 24 hours and contemplate what it must have been like to be there during these difficult hours in Jesus’ life.

From The Last Supper to the cross on Golgotha, we will walk this difficult journey with Jesus. We will learn some new things along the way and try to strengthen our faith through the careful examination of these hours. We will also look at the disciples and those around Jesus in these dark hours.

Join us in worship to journey through these 24 hours and strengthen your relationship with Jesus.

I Need Your Help!

Well, it is soon time for me to start preparing and outlining my sermon topics for next  year. I started preaching sermon series this year and I need your help for my upcoming sermons.

What sermon topics interest you? If you could pick any series or topics to hear in a sermon, what would they be? Is there something you would enjoy hearing in a sermon? Are there some relevant subjects you believe the church should be addressing today?

Please help me by commenting and sharing your thoughts and ideas.

I look forward to hearing what you think could be pertinent and interesting sermon topics!