Ponderings
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June 29, 2015, 1:51 PM

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

A Message from Pastor Ken...

I am sickened by the terroristic actions by some young thug in Charleston. I am sickened that over a span of five days as many as five churches that were homes of worship for our Black brothers and sisters were burned down by some arsonist(s).

I am not a very eloquent man. In fact some would call me marginal in my English and writing skills. I am, however, a passionate person and throughout most of my life numbers have painted pictures for me; wondrous and glorious pictures.  Up until recent times (now that I am a pastor) that has been so. 

Let me speak to some numbers that I've gathered:

There are, on average, 250,000 hate crimes per year according to the FBI...that is 250,000 too many.  Let's put that into perspective. There are 75,000 people in the city of Scranton, Pa. which is part of the 213,000 people that live in Lackawanna County, Pa. Imagine all of those people in Lackawanna County are subjected to a hate crime and it still would not reach the number of the hate crimes recorded.

Also according to the FBI: Fifty-nine (59%) percent of the known offenders were white; 20.9 percent were black. The race was unknown for 10.8 percent, and other races accounted for the remaining known offenders.

You all have heard me say that we need to have a relationship with God because God wants it to be so.  And that my friends is the bottom line. One on one.... with God. We are called to have relationships amongst each other ... that is one to many. God makes that call of each of us. He gave us the Son so we all might have this relationship. The Son who had the audacity to challenge the religious leadership and reigning government by preaching inclusion, justice, peace, truth and love.  For that we hung him on a cross to die and kill him. 

Friends, if this terrorism happened to one of us, in one of our sanctuaries, as we gather to worship, or study, or hold a confirmation class….we would be outraged.  My friends if it happens to one of us it happens to all of us....and it has and did.   Regardless if you are black or white, male or female, rich or poor, young or old, believer or not, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu or atheist  hate has no room here or anywhere.

We must call racism exactly what it is... domestic terrorism. Yes.. Domestic Terrorism and we cannot sit on the sidelines any longer. Just as we stood up against terrorism on 9-11 to fight evil from abroad we must do the same as we did in Boston. Domestic terrorism is right here, right now amongst us and we must quench the embers of hate before it destroys and consumes all of us.

Some say that it is just people with mental illness. There is no pill to take as if to say mental illness is or was to blame.  Was the Nazi leadership all mentally ill? How about the Apartheid leadership over those many years? Or the Rhodesian government? No! 

  Fighting hate, racism, or marginalization of anyone now falls on me, it falls on you; it falls on all of us.  One by one, two by two, 50 by 50, 100 by 100 we need to stand united until we eradicate the tolerance of hate, racism and this domestic terrorism. 

We must stand up to this evil of racism and fight it with our very souls. As one of my friends and colleagues the Rev. Dwayne Royster said, "Today we grieve, tomorrow we must fight for justice." I say we must stand up right now and say no...we are not going to permit this type of injustice any longer. Folks, today is tomorrow and we must take action now.

  It's been said to one degree or another over these many years...To remain silent is to be complicit; to be complicit is to be ignorant; ignorance breeds fear; fear breeds hatred; hatred breeds destruction. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said it this way, "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

Today's we must love...today we must let love drive out the darkness ... today must be the day we bask in the light and love of Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus said in John 8:12, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."

Today, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the sake of humanity, we must walk in the light and join forces, arm in arm, to fight this evil called Terrorism. The terrorism of racism; of marginalism; of hate.

        Pastor Ken

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March 10, 2015, 9:21 AM

Good News?

 “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. 16 The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.”" Mark 16:15 NRSV

 

The gospels of Matthew and Mark end with Jesus commanding the disciples to go…baptize and teach…proclaim the Good news to all of creation. Mark adds a little ouch and exclamation point to his message. Luke ends with the ascension but before it we are told the disciples’ minds are opened to the scriptures and that “repentance and forgiveness of sins” are to be proclaimed in Jesus’ name. John preaches the Love of Jesus Christ first to Peter and then the implicit instructions as to not to worry about what is going to happen to Judas….Don’t take your eye off of the prize… “FOLLOW ME!”

 

You and I know and believe that Jesus Christ was born, lived, taught, suffered, died and rose again…and this is just the beginning… my question to you is … So what is the good news? Are we to preach it? What are we to do?

 

I believe the heart of the gospel calls us, the church, to “FOLLOW ME” and go out and be a presence in our community outside the four walls. We are to go out and make disciples, show love, proclaim forgiveness of sins and call for repentance. We are commanded to teach all that we are taught by the power of our Baptism in the strength of the Holy Spirit.

 

Again I ask, “What does this mean and how do we do it?” Friends, you and I are called to be the face of Jesus inside and outside the four walls of where we worship. You and I are called to give it our all. We are called to teach. But if we do not know what the scriptures have said how can any of us do it? How do we know what Jesus commanded us to do?

 

The foundation of the teachings of Jesus is Love God fully and to Love your neighbor as yourself.  Again I ask, “What does this mean and how do we do it?” Friends, are you devoted to studying the written living word of God? Are you devoted to listening to the word of God? Are you devoted to worshiping God? These are questions only you can answer, no one, including me, can answer them for you. You have many choices to make and evil will try to distract you…trust me. Yard work, relaxation, family business, vacation homes, debt from buying things, addictions, work (this can be an addiction as well!), kids sports, adult sports…oh there are so many… they can be all distractions.

 

These distractions keep you from worship, study, and ministry. It begins with worship, then study and then ministry. Now don’t get me wrong, please, many times you are being called to care for folks and you can’t find the time to worship on Sunday and that is more than ok! We are not called to take a vacation from worshiping because you need rest. Worship needs to calm your soul, heal your soul and energize your soul for the week ahead so you can do the study and ministry you are called to do.

 

I urge you during this season of Lent to get back to basics. God calls on us to return our hearts to God. We need to recommit ourselves to the simplicity of Jesus’ command. We need recommit ourselves to the service of our Lord. Worship in a place you feel comfortable. Leave your problems at home, leave your anxiety at the door and leave you issues at the foot of the cross here in church. Jesus teaches us that we can do this…that we should do this…. That we have to do this… for our soul’s sake. I ask that you recommit and dedicate yourselves to worship. I ask that you begin studying scriptures (here and/or at home). I ask you to rededicate your financial commitment to God. I ask you to rededicate yourselves to serve the people here (assisting in programs, helping, visiting and caring for members).  I urge you to pray boldly…like you mean it, minister continuously because feel compelled and love always like you are commanded to.

 

Perhaps these things will mean changes in your life style. It will mean putting God fully back as the center piece in you and your family’s lives. Perhaps it will mean that you just have to tweak so of the pieces in your lives. I know each of us has areas to improve upon oh my especially me.

 

If we recommit our ministries are going to be interesting, exciting and full of new journeys and paths. We all have stories to share and stories to create. My hope is that as the community of believers we can grow in faith, in worship, in study and in ministry.  Don’t let distractions get in your way for as you grow so will the church of Jesus Christ.

 

Peace,

Pastor Ken




February 7, 2015, 9:08 AM

Hallelujah!

NRSV LUKE 1:26-35 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.

 

We long for these familiar words, don’t we? Perhaps we learned them as a child doing a Christmas pageant.  Ahhh … the familiarity, the traditions, the connections, the feelings…the comfort.

 

Comfort…immediately, my mind triggers and floats with thoughts and remembrances of Isaiah 40:1-5. I hear God speaking out from the heavens addressing the heavenly host and all of humankind. I immediately hear violins enter the scene then the rest of the strings then silence. Suddenly, God sings out (a tenor of course….lol) Comfort ye, Comfort ye my people.  Then out of the heavenly hosts, perhaps a member of the heavenly council, a voice rings out, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God!” I picture John the Baptist about 550 years later, crying out!

 

My mind snaps back to the text…”Every Valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill made low!”  I envision a flat plain being made so we all could walk, we all could see, we all could travel, we all could exalt and we all could rejoice!

 

I hear a response from everyone now with all the instruments sounding out, “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all the people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.”

 

I smile as I hear various responses in high, medium and low voices until I hear the violins come in and play, with a clear staccato and wonderful syncopation, an echoing going back and forth in the background, a call and response and again hear the heavenly host sing out,” For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government Shall be upon His shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9: 6)

 

I gently move to Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Then I hear the response in Revelation 9 and 11….all of us joining in, “Hallelujah!”  OH WHAT A MOMENT! A chorus of orchestra, low, high, medium and strong voices. The volume up and down… but always rejoicing! Ahhh … the familiarity, the traditions, the connections, the feelings…the comfort.

 

Remain steadfast in your faith, be joyful in your ministry, be loving to all of those around you, be at peace in all that you do and be hopeful that the king of glory shines on all that you do.

 

Friends the King of Kings is about to arrive. The Lord of Lords is ready for the multitude of the heavenly host to praise God shouting: Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those whom God favors!  The Prince of Peace will be with us! The Messiah is…there!

 

Look…

      What is that star that shines in the East?

            Could it be the Glory of the Lord shining down upon us?

 

God asks us…

To dream big, don’t be afraid, God is right there with you.

      To give boldly, don’t hold back, God gives you all you need and

            To act godly, don’t give into temptation or the distraction of evil.

 

Always serve and love fully with

      your resources,

            your time and

                  your talents.

 

I wish you a warm and spirit filled Advent and Christmas. My hope is in your traditions you join us for the Sundays in Advent, the services of Longest Night and Christmas Eve and all the other festivities we offer in shouting out our Hallelujahs and Glory to God for the gift of the Son who was born, lived taught, died and rose again so we might live in a new relationship with God and serve with a loving heart.

 

Peace,

Pastor Ken




February 7, 2015, 12:00 AM

In Times of Conflict......

NRSV HEBREWS 10:19-25

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 

Someone asked me many years ago, “Why is there always so much conflict and turmoil in the church? What’s wrong with us?” I ponder that question always. No, I always do…I gave my life to Christ many years (too many to count) ago but somehow folks just don’t do what’s right (me included, for sure!). Why in the world would Jesus Christ’s body of believers seem to always be in conflict? WE are to Love God fully, neighbor as self and execute. Easy peizy….all we need is love.  Just look from day one to the present….oh brother… perhaps that is a bad thing to ask you to do? But if you look at Christianity and the persecutions that took place you can relate to the words in the text above.

 

How in the world do we find strength in conflict, especially when someone has “done us wrong?” How can we stay on the path? In a sense we are fighting a battle and look for victory. A victory over conflict…spiritual conflict.

 

I’ve thought a lot about this over the years because I have seen my share of conflict. When immersed in it, and immersed is the correct word, I am always strengthened when I am close to God. One of my pastor friends told me about the principle of Submit, Resist and draw near. She referenced James 4:7-8. Please look it up! She assured me that if anyone was to win the battle you could not win it alone. Well duh! God has never lost a battle but when you are in one you have to understand that it my be the fight of your life and you have to SUBMIT (turn everything in your life over to God).  It can only be done by God’s authority not ours. I don’t know about you but every battle I have fought alone I have lost. When I turn it over to God….the fight is never lost….never!

 

Sometimes we get into spots where we find ourselves tempted to attack, especially when being attacked. I think if we stand firm, convicted in our faith, we can RESIST the temptation to go it alone. We don’t take the bait offered up and resist it even though it looks really good and the time is right. If our faith is being tested have “faith with our hearts” that by resisting evil intentions and evil itself just goes and evil will “flee in defeat.”

 

We can’t just stop with submission and resistance. God is the only one that can protect us so we must come closer, draw near to God. We must use God as the armor and shield of protection. When you are close to God evil will not dare come close! It’s like Booth, in the show Bones, standing behind the intimidated character and the bully sees Booth and turns tail and leaves the weak character alone. If we draw near (approach) with a true heart in full assurance of faith we are assured that Jesus Christ is always with us, beside us and lifting us up when we need it. Just think of the poem, “Footprints in the Sand.” Having faith in an all loving savior who always has our back, especially when we struggle in that faith.

 

In times of need we look back and see that that two sets of footprints in the sand, of the journey of life, we begin to realize that Jesus Christ is, has and always will be by our side. It is when we see only one set of footprints that we realize it is Jesus carrying us through the turmoil. My hope is you have minimal conflict and turmoil in your life.

 

 May the peace, love and joy of Jesus Christ be with you all!

 

“Pastor Ken”




August 26, 2014, 9:55 AM

The Keys are given!

Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. NRSV MATTHEW 16:15-20

 

Do you hear the good news in this passage? It is a great message on our faith and redemption in Jesus Christ. He gave US the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

I lift up to you three questions about your spiritual journey and your faith… understanding that Jesus Christ gives you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. I got the following idea from and modify the questions asked by Adam Hamilton, in his book “Leading Beyond the Walls” (ISBN 13:978-0-687-06415-1, Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN 1976).

The first question is why do you need Jesus Christ? Isn’t this the question that burned or even burns in our souls as we look to keep our eye on the prize? He is our Lord and Savior, the one who was born, lived, suffered, died and rose again for us. He is the Word made flesh, the way, the truth and the life. He is the light of the world. Yup, these words define who he is and there is much more but WHY do we need him? I need him because without him I can do nothing and I am simply a lost human and through this gift that comes from God I am in him and he is in me. He literally fills my heart with Joy, a joy that I cannot put into words. Only he can show me the true journey and path of life. Only he offers eternal life. I am part of him and connected to you all and all the body of believers. How do you answer the question?

Since we are part of the body of Christ the second question I pose is, “Why do you need Church?” If we believe we are part of the community of faith and the body of believers we know that the Church we belong to is Jesus’ Church. It doesn’t matter the denomination they are the way we practice our faith but our faith is in Jesus Christ and Jesus reminded us that wherever two or more are gathered in his name HE IS THERE! I know of no church that didn’t start with a group gathered in his name. Again, if we are part of the body of Christ…..don’t we need each other to spur each other on, to support, encourage and to embrace? Isn’t there an advantage of the whole vs the one?

So if this is all true why do you need Providence Church? There are 54 churches in the Presbytery and there are 10 Presbyterian churches in the immediate area. Some of you travel some way, many bypassing several along the way to get here and that doesn’t even count the countless other denominations in our midst. If we were not here who and what ministries would be lost? Is there a true need for us and the ministries we are called to perform? Can we be and develop disciples of Jesus Christ? Could the people we help be fed and or clothed?

We are blessed beyond all measures and our goal, our mission, our call is absolutely, positively to open the doors of this place, God’s place, to pray for the Holy spirit to call, push, pursue and change the people’s hearts that walk in these doors to feel the love of Jesus Christ to be so moved, in their faith that they just can’t wait to leave this place and invite their friends, family and anyone they see to come and worship that same loving God. Our call is to preach to Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. God wants us to walk out of these doors so filled with the Spirit that we just can’t wait to spread the WORD! We know and feel the change in our hearts so much that we cannot wait to share the experience.

Friends, God revealed, reveals and will continue to reveal the keys to God’s kingdom. The keys to faith, the keys to life, keys to life eternal… that Jesus Christ is the Son of GOD, the Messiah and our Lord and Savior. So, God must be the center in our lives and only then our eyes are opened and our ears hear, our hearts feel and our minds begin to realize that only GOD has the power to bring, soften and enliven people’s hearts.

God choses this place to be one of God’s houses. Providence IS one of the places where he calls us to come forward and GO FORTH in our faith to preach the Good News and urges us to be baptized and baptize so we can keep our eye on the prize. The prize of the kingdom where we have eternal life and sit with God and all the saints that came before us and those that will come after us.

I pray that our hearts are so moved, so softened, so energized that God lifts up in us his spirit, his energy, his wisdom, his strength and his call to each and every one of us. I pray this happens daily, as God brings God’s people into our lives, to remind us why he chose each of us to the ministry we are called individually and as a body to perform. NOT OUR MINISTY BUT GOD’s. Remember we can do nothing except by and in God. Also, we need not be afraid to step forward and out because if God is for us, who can possible be against us?

My brothers and sisters, pray often, listen continuously, love always and keep your eye on the prize. Be open to the spirt moving you to use your time, talents and resources to further the kingdom of God. Do not be distracted by evil or other idols for he gave us the keys to heaven and on earth!

Peace,

Pastor Ken

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