Daylight Savings (Don’t Worry, You Didn’t Miss It!)

This weekend, the perfect storm of events will occur: a full moon on Halloween AND an extra hour of sleep or eating candy as we set our clocks back on Saturday night.  As I mentioned in a prior post, I am looking forward to DST because in only two days my downstairs bathroom clock will be right again!

It’s funny how excited we can get about that extra hour.  Most of us are not farmers, so to us it’s just a little blessing on a Sunday morning.  (Not that DST is essential for farmers anymore.)  Of course it also means sunset will be an hour earlier and kids will go to school in the dark, but we’ll cross those bridges when we come to them (with flashlights).

What will you do with your extra hour?  Most of us say, “Sleep.”  But many of us older people will find it hard to sleep an extra hour; our sleep cycles will resist it.  We may get to church early, or at least on time, or those worshipping at home may greet the morning with an earlier service.  The other end of the equation is not needing to worry about rushing to bed on Saturday night, which may allow us to see the end of the late night college football games.

Since we’re far removed from the original reason for Daylight Savings Time, it’s more likely we’ll use this as an opportunity to think about time itself.  Here’s an interesting tidbit:  we sprung forward on March 8, the last Sunday we were able to worship together before the lockdown measures were initiated.  Too bad it couldn’t have waited another week, because nobody likes springing forward and losing an hour’s sleep!

Almost everyone I know has experienced some type of time distortion during the pandemic.  As for me, my spring felt like a year, my summer like a week and fall so far has felt just about right.  I saw one of my friends last week for the first time this year and asked his daughter if she was driving yet.  Turns out she’s only 13.

In like fashion, a day can pass in a snap or feel endless, depending what we do with it.  When we allow worry and anxiety to rule our lives, we may feel stuck in amber; the hands of the clock may seem to go in reverse.  But when we fill our lives with worthwhile thoughts and pursuits, a day can seem like a day.

And one day, time itself will be no more, replaced by eternity.  As Alan Parsons sings, “time is flowing like a river to the sea.”  This doesn’t mean we’ll get confused about chronology; it means that time will no longer be running out.  The finite nature of time adds meaning to our days.  Time is a valuable resource, too often squandered; for the time being, let’s rejoice about the gift of an extra hour.

Thoughts on Persecution

This post was inspired by a story reported by Yahoo News, in which Christian journalist Mindy Belz calls out some evangelicals for their behavior during the pandemic.

According to Belz, the #1 response of many Christians to the pandemic has been to question science while protesting and taking legal action against government agencies for alleged violations of their civil rights, namely the requirements to restrict the size of gatherings and to wear masks while inside, accompanied by statements that they are being persecuted for their faith.  

For two decades, Belz has covered the persecution of Christians in the Middle East at the hands of ISIS and other terrorist organizations and totalitarian regimes ~ so she knows what she’s talking about.  She questions churches who have put the needs of the poor on the back burner to concentrate on their own right to worship as they did before the pandemic.  She also points out that while suburban American Christians are not really being persecuted, certainly not in comparison with other Christians who are being arrested, tortured and killed on a daily basis.  And while Jesus did say, “blessed are those who are persecuted for my sake,” he never told his disciples to put their wants first and the needs of the poor second.  In fact, he said the opposite.

It’s human nature to be more upset at small slights (a restaurant getting an order wrong, a driver cutting us off, a phone call that isn’t returned).  Yet this is a devilish distraction.  When we’re consumed by thoughts of how we’ve been wronged, we direct our thoughts and actions in petty directions.  Only when we look at the larger picture do we see a world that needs Christ’s intervention.

Some have been asking where God has been during the current crisis.  What is He doing about the coronavirus, about polarization, about discrimination?  Does He even care?

These are fair questions.  Here’s one plausible answer: God has seen everything that’s been happening, and decided that our planet needs more than an average-sized response.  So his response has been to send 2.4 billion Christians, more than any time in history, more than the sum total of all the Christians who ever lived before us.

That’s a pretty big response, recalling Esther, who was “called for such a time as this.”  Think of it this way: we asked God a question, and He sent 2.4 billion answers.  If only we could look beyond ourselves, we might be able to do something substantive to address the world’s problems, including that of real persecution.  Then maybe they will know we are Christians, not by our refusal to wear masks, but by our love.

Operation Christmas Child

Here’s our chance to do something happy and positive and make a substantial difference in the life of a child!  Operation Christmas Child has remained active during the pandemic and is more essential than ever.  Watch the joyful video below and keep reading after the break for a message from our Outreach Chair, Al Croce!

Once again, we will be learning other churches and organizations in assembling Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes for children around the world.  Assembling a shoebox is easy and fun.  Just follow the instructions in the brochure.  Please bring your completed shoeboxes to church by Sunday, November 15 when they will be dedicated and sent on their way.  (Preprinted shoeboxes are available in the rear of the sanctuary and in Fellowship Hall.)

This year, you may also build a shoebox online.  Click here to be taken to our church’s webpage at Operation Christmas Child.  There you will be able to build and pay for a shoebox which will be assembled by Samaritan’s Purse staff members.  For the main site of Samaritan’s Purse/Operation Christmas Child, click here.

Thank you in advance for your willingness to make a shoebox.  If you have any questions, please see Al Croce or email him at acroce8397@gmail.com.

An Ancient Story, A Modern Parable

Once upon a time, there was a woman who was caught in adultery, and about to be stoned by a crowd.  Then a stranger appeared and wrote something in the dust.  He stood up, brushed off his cloak, and declared, “Whoever has not sinned may cast the first stone.”  Just as suddenly, he went back to writing in the dust.  One by one, the onlookers dropped their rocks, from the oldest to the youngest, and left.

“Where are your accusers?” the stranger asked the woman.

“They have gone,” she answered.

“Then I do not accuse you either,” the stranger said.  “Go and sin no more.”

While the woman in fact did sin again (because sin is a part of life, and impossible to eradicate), from that day on she lived what most would consider an exemplary life.  She became a follower of Jesus, and after his death and resurrection, she continued to learn and share all she could gather of his teachings.  She provided meals and shelter for Christians on the run.  She fed orphans with the food she might have eaten herself.  She visited the sick.  She founded an agency for other wayward sinners, men and women, and led them to repentance.  She was tireless in her devotion for the Lord.

Then one day, after decades of service, she decided to run for public office.

“Would you vote for an adulteress?” her opponent asked the crowds.  “Is this the sort of example you want to set for your children?  She should be locked up.“. Worse things than these were said, but we will not dignify them here.

Some of the woman’s friends turned away.  They did not want to be associated with such a sinner, even though they had already known about her past.  The woman was sad, but she did not respond in kind.  Her opponent was well-funded, but she had no money, because she had given it all away.  She had to close her outreach center because protesters kept showing up with stones.  Eventually she was forced out of town.  She changed her name.  Her old home was razed.

Years later, she was traveling near to her old town when she saw a man lying on the side of the road.  When she approached him she saw her old opponent.  “Adultress,” he said, his tone more resigned than accusing.

“Yes,” she answered.  “I am the adulteress.”  And she dressed his wounds, and helped him to an inn, and paid for the innkeeper to nurse him back to health.

Meanwhile, In the Poconos …

A huge thank you to Suhee Kim, pastor of the Bellport UMC, for sending these photos!

Autumn is in full bloom just a little north of us, the leaves bursting with russet, vermilion and burnt orange.  Green and gold are in balance, equal in power, engaged in a dance of hues.  The lifeguard chair stands deserted, giving way to a different sort of season: a season of beauty and introspection.

The much-needed rain that fell last week is flowing into streams, feeding into waterfalls that run into lakes.  The cycle is continuing, the drought forgotten.  All is as it should be.  Nature’s course has returned to normal.

Meanwhile, further north ~ way north in the Kingdom of Heaven, God’s plans are unfolding as before.  They have not, nor have they ever been interrupted or diverted.  Our vision may have been obscured by objects, anxieties or fears, but what we see with earthly eyes cannot affect the heavenly course.  We see as through a glass darkly, a mirror dimly.

As fall follows summer, as gold follows green, so does resurrection follow death and hope follow despair.  The victory has already been won.  These photos report that the most brilliant of colors are close, already on their way.  In like manner, Christ tells us that salvation is near, already approaching.  May the unstoppable nature of fall’s colors remind us of the unstoppable nature of grace.  God is in control.  Good things are on their way.

Sunday Worship Service ~ October 25, 2020

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Good morning, everyone!
Welcome to our 33rd online service.
We hope and pray that it is a blessing to you!

We are now worshiping both at home and in person.  We will continue to post Sunday services indefinitely and want you to stay safe!  Mary and Joanna are working mostly from home.  Tanae is updating our Facebook page, while Rebecca is in charge of our Instagram page and Jack has adopted our Twitter account.  Every day we add a new post right here on the website that automatically pops up on Facebook and Twitter as well.  If you missed any of this week’s posts, just scroll down to see them!  We also have a new Sunday School message from Tammy on our Sunday School page!

Our Thrift Shop is open Saturdays only this summer; please contact Tracy to help on Saturdays or anytime during the week.  Wednesday morning Bible study (led by Rich) meets at 10 a.m. and Wednesday evening Bible study (led by Steve) at 7 p.m.; if the weather is nice we will meet outside.  

CALL TO WORSHIP

Fear not!
GOD IS IN CHARGE.
Be not afraid.
GOD IS IN CHARGE.
Are you worried?
GOD IS IN CHARGE.
Are you anxious?
GOD IS IN CHARGE.
Cast your cares upon him,
AND HE WILL GIVE YOU PEACE.

UNISON PRAYER

O LORD, YOU HAVE DELIVERED MY SOUL FROM DEATH, MY EYES FROM TEARS, MY FEET FROM STUMBLING.  YOU HAVE FREED ME FROM MY CHAINS.  PRAISE YOUR HOLY NAME!  AMEN.

WORDS OF ASSURANCE:  Psalm 104:10, 13-14, New International Version

Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness, prisoners suffering in iron chains.  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.  He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

Our Father,
Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those
Who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil,
For thine is the kingdom,
And the power,
And the glory forever.
Amen.

OPENING SONG:  “God Is So Good”

Tanae sends her thanks from Florida for all the prayers (and cookies) sent as she kept her father company in the last weeks of his earthly life.  She will be back in New York next month.  In the meantime, please enjoy this piano version of “God Is So Good,” recorded this spring.  Sing along if you’d like!

God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He’s so good to me.
Verse Two:  He’s in our homes, He’s in our homes, He’s in our homes, He’s so good to me.
He answers prayers, He answers prayers, He answers prayers, He’s so good to me.
God is so good, God is so good, God is so good, He’s so good to me.

CONGREGATIONAL PRAYER
(Note: Add your own prayers at the beginning or end)

Lord of all creation, help us to love you with all our hearts and souls and minds and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  When all around seems dark, be our light.  When we are tempted to give up on each other, remind us that you have never given up on us.  When we fear for the future, remind us of your promises.

Bless Tanae, Anthony and Amy as they continue the grieving process together.  Help them to see your presence in their lives, and encourage them with the hope of new life in the world to come.

Be with Carl, Vanessa, and all others who are threatened by the fires in Colorado.  Be with those who fight the fires, those who have lost their homes, and those who are afraid of losing their homes.  Send your life-giving rain to quench the fires.

Bless Marty as he recovers from heart surgery, Eleanor from knee surgery and Janet from shoulder surgery.  Be their strength and their healing grace.  Grant them courage for the road ahead.  Bless Liz and Barbara with fortitude throughout their chemo treatments and help the side effects to be bearable.  Cover them with your healing grace like a blanket.  Be with Frank M.’s aunt Claire as she undergoes testing this week: may the results be encouraging and the road ahead be light.

We pray for others in our church family who are going through times of need:  for Amy, Pat, Jim, Sue, Joan, Lois, Dannie, Kathleen, Lily, Ken, Bunny, Dawn, Harriet, Diane, Laurie & Steve, Paul, and Ruth; for all members of our extended family who are suffering; for this nation and for the world.

We come to you now in silent prayer …

Lord, as you know what is written in our hearts,
Attend now to our spirits, we pray in your name, Amen.

SONG:  “Help” (Matt Sullivan; originally by The Beatles, Arranged by Oasis)

This is Matt’s first appearance in an online service ~ welcome, Matt!  We have an extra step of technology on this one, but it’s worth it!  Matt’s version of “Help” was first recorded by Noel Gallagher of the band Oasis.  It’s so filled with emotion and so unlike the original that it’s almost like a brand new song.  This version restores the sense of need, making the song a prayer.  Help me if you can, I’m feeling down; and I do appreciate your being round.  Help me get my feet back on the ground.  Won’t you please, please help me?

IMG_4765  <—  Click this to view.  It will open in another window then just press the play button if it doesn’t play automatically.

SCRIPTURE LESSONS

Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. ~ Proverbs 4:23, Good News Bible

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. ~ Luke 10:27, New International Version

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. ~ Philippians 4:8-9, New International Version

SUNDAY SERMON (when clicked, the video turns right-side up)

This sermon was recorded specifically for people viewing at home.  It was a beautiful week, so Kaitlyn and I decided to make one more trip to Sayville Beach.  The video is a reminder that God is with us through the seasons, but it’s also an invitation to get outside.  There are not a lot of words in the sermon, but hopefully the setting will do the talking.

In imagining the sermon, I drew a map of the park while still at home (see below).  I imagined each area as a section of the mind that we might visit, and labeled the sketch “MAP OF YOUR LIFE.”  Beginning in the middle of the left page, these sections are as follows:

Listen
A place in the mind where we would simply listen to what God has to say.  A recent study revealed that people in San Francisco noticed that sparrows were a lot louder during the pandemic.  In truth, they were a lot quieter, and their birdsong was more intricate, because they weren’t competing with outdoor noise.  People perceived the sound as louder.  Might this be the same with our experiences of God?

Look
Our mindset is often determined by what we look, where we look, and how we react to what we find.  Sayville Beach has a lot of sharp glass.  Many of us, for whatever reason, go to places in our minds where everything is sharp and painful, and we dwell there for unhealthy amounts of time.  But sometimes one can find pieces of smooth, rounded glass at the beach as well: evidence that God can take even the sharpest, most painful experiences, dull their edges and make them into something beautiful.  One perfect example is when we find that because of our suffering, we are able to empathize with and help someone else in their time of need.  We have the ability to choose which section of our mind to journey to: why not choose the hopeful one?

Play
Everyone needs a playful place in their mind (symbolized by the playground!).  Google schedules regular times for play in a giant play room, which seems counterproductive, except their employees come back refreshed, with better ideas.  Near this section is also a family section, where we might store thoughts of the people we love, who love us, and will continue to love us throughout this life and the next.

Debris
This part is in the video, but not in the sketch.  We noticed that in order to walk onto the pier, we’d have to walk through or around some debris.  In the same way, we often have some thought standing between us and joy, and many of us linger there instead of moving forward or around.  God calls us forward to receive his blessing!

Think
In this place of contemplation (symbolized by the pier) we might ask the big questions: Who am I?  What am I doing here?  Am I going to be okay?  And even if the soft, lulling waves don’t seem to provide a direct answer, they provide a different sort of answer: a quiet comfort, a hint of the eternal.

Closing Thought
The older I get, the more I understand the reason Jesus spoke in parables.  Sometimes it seems that there are lessons everywhere, from rocks to birds to debris on the pier.  May the Lord speak to you directly, through others, through objects and even through silence, and may you always be aware of His love!  Amen.

OFFERING

Please use this time to make out a check to the church.
Thank you to all who have been contributing during this time, and helping the church to pay its bills!
As you write, please enjoy Bethel Music’s acoustic version of “The Blessing.”

OFFERTORY PRAYER

Lord Jesus, thank you for being with us today.  We are grateful for your presence in our lives.  Thank you for being with us always, and never leaving our side!  Amen.

BENEDICTION

Throughout the days and weeks ahead, may we keep our minds fixed on Jesus, and on the hope of our faith.  Whenever our minds start to drift to different places, may Jesus be the anchor that pulls us back.  May the Lord fill our minds with thoughts that are good and true, pure and right, lovely and admirable.  Amen.

Blest Be the Tie That Binds

Thank you to Kaitlyn and Lee for helping with today’s online service!
And thank you for worshiping with us!  We wish you God’s healing and hope!

Teens Rule the World!

It’s almost embarrassing to be an adult right now.  We have managed to mess up the entire world through sheer stupidity.  We tell our kids to learn from us now, and that they can lead later.  Trust me, they are learning!

Thank God for the kids who don’t wait for us.  While adults were busy arguing, a group of teenagers took charge of the issue of gun violence (although it should have been us).  The world’s top spokesperson on climate change is still only 17, and she’s been leading for years.

Now meet Anika Chebrolo, a 14-year old Texan who may have just discovered a cure for the coronavirus.  Yes, you read that properly.  She won the 3M Young Scientist Challenge by using “in-silico methodology to discover a lead molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”  No, I don’t understand that sentence either, and I’m four times older than she is.

What I do understand is that while adults keep doing and saying remarkably stupid things, such as saying the coronavirus isn’t real but that Hillary Clinton and Tom Hanks drink the blood of children to stay young (the heart of QAnon), some of our young folks have had just about enough, thank you, and they have set out to save the world.

When I was young, I used to look up to older people and think of them as role models.  These days, more and more I look up to younger people.  This may have started with Bethany Hamilton (the Christian whose arm was eaten by a shark), but it has only increased over time as more and more young people have stepped forward.

Over the years, we’ve had them in our own church and we have them now.  Think of the young people you’ve seen leading everything from committees to worship and ask yourselves, how many more are out there?  The answer is, “many more than we realize.”  As our brother Paul likes to say, “They would be great leaders if we could just get out of their way!”

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
~ Isaiah 11:6, New King James

We Have Options

I’m writing this on Thursday night during the debate, but I’m not watching the debate because I’m pretty sure I know how it’s going:

Candidate A:  ROWR!  ROWR!  You’re going to cause the apocalypse!
Candidate B:  ROWR!  ROWR!  No, YOU are!
Candidate A:  Everything about you is horrible and you have horrible children!
Moderater:  Gentlemen, if you don’t calm down, I’m going to put you on mute.
Candidate A:  You can’t put me on —— (muted)

Actually, that sounds like fun.  But no, I’m going to resist it.  Earlier today I had coffee with a friend; I worked on the Sunday service; I cooked at Sharing a Meal; I paid some bills; I wrote a couple thank you cards; I voted by absentee ballot; and then I took a nice evening walk which started at the post office and continued throughout my neighborhood.  At the time, the temperature was still 70 degrees; who knows when we’ll have another evening like this?  The town was surprisingly quiet (probably because everyone was watching the debate!).  After this, I’m going to play some music and read a book.

We all have options.  Some cost money and some don’t; some take us outside of the house and some take place inside; some are good for the soul and some will make too agitated to sleep.  Remember the story of Mary and Martha, and how Jesus said that Mary, who seemed to be doing nothing, had chosen “the better part?”

We also have options about how to think: whether to be pessimistic or optimistic in the face of everything that’s going on; whether to look past the anger of the world to see its fear; whether to ask where God is or be in awe that God is everywhere.  Well, maybe not on the TV.  I mean, He COULD be on the TV, He’s God, but given all the options, I’d say that’s the least likely place we’ll find Him.

But I definitely thought of God when I saw that half-moon.  And when I thanked God for time with a friend.  And when we didn’t run out of food at the soup kitchen.  That’s enough blessings for the day; why upset the balance?  That book is looking real good right now.  I hope you’re feeling blessed tonight as I’m writing this (even though you won’t read it until morning).  May God be with you in your sleeping and your waking, or your waking and your sleeping, depending on when you read these words!

A Simple Idea

This week, one news story really made me stop and think.  1.5 million people in New York City have fallen into poverty during the pandemic, and only the food banks are keeping them afloat.  This is coupled with last week’s report that 8.5 million people in America have fallen into poverty since the benefits of the first stimulus expired.

Here in Sayville, our food bank is open and busy.  Sharing a Meal serves a hot meal Monday-Thursday, no questions asked.  Our local thrift shops offer low-cost alternatives to the community.  These ministries are on the front lines, but poverty is much less apparent in Sayville than it is around the country and the globe.

What can we do?  Obviously, we can volunteer, we can give and we can vote.  But what can we do on a larger level?  The impact of the church is smaller than it used to be, but denominations still have a great deal of power to make a witness in the world. What is the United Methodist Church doing?

Sadly, the United Methodist Church is still looking forward to the day when they can hold General Conference and vote on splitting over gay marriage.

As you are reading this, you are probably thinking, are you kidding me?

Even those who don’t know the Bible very well know that Jesus was all about helping the poor.  In the Old Testament, kings were considered good only when they looked out for the least of their citizens.  They had a sacred responsibility to protect those in their care.

This is our chance to get our priorities straight.  On Wednesday, I asked the Bible study group what they would think of this headline, appearing next summer:  “United Methodist Churches Put Aside Their Differences to Address Poverty.” Everyone loved it.  So that’s my simple idea.  We have huge, obvious needs.  Can we tackle them first?

If you like this idea, talk it up.  Speak with your friends in other United Methodist churches.  Write to the Superintendent and the Bishop.  Let your voice be heard.  The simplest thing in the world is to feed people when they are hungry.  Let’s not be arguing over minutia while people starve around us.

‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ~ Matthew 25:37-40, New International Version

Chicken Nugget In Space

Just when you thought this year couldn’t get any weirder, a British supermarket chain launched a chicken nugget into space to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

What does this nugget think as it looks down on earth?  Does it think, “Thank God I got off that planet” or “I guess no one will eat me now?”  Does it think, “What a beautiful sight; I’ll bet they all get along down there?”  Does it feel lonely, missing the other nuggets?  Does it feel punished or rewarded?  Does it think this social distancing has been taken to an extreme?

One of the most amusing headlines reads, “Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin Joined In the History Books By Chicken Nugget.”  When the first astronauts saw Earth from space, they were overwhelmed by a feeling of harmony.  On Christmas Eve, 1968, Bill Anders read the opening words of Genesis from Apollo 8.  His photo “Earthrise,” taken the same day, inspired people around the world.  When the astronauts of Apollo 11 landed on the moon, President Nixon declared, “For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one.”  This new perspective sparked a rush of global unity and pride.

When we’re on the ground, we’re focused on what’s right in front of us: rampant poverty, political insults, sickness and blame.  God sees the bigger picture, and if a potato had been launched instead of a chicken nugget, it would have the eyes to see the beauty of our blue and green sphere.  From space, it looks like paradise.  In like fashion, while God recognizes every human face, God looks at all of humanity at once and pronounces them good.  Why can’t we see each other that way?  Are we really going to let a chicken nugget have a better perspective?

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. ~ Genesis 1:31, King James Bible