Thoughts for a New Year
"The turn of the year seems to offer an opportunity to start over, to become more like what we want to be. This desire springs from a deep human need. Those who reflect on their lives usually see that they fall short of their own ideals and of God's way, and they yearn for something better." (The Upper Room, Jan.-Feb.;1998)
I came across these words while browsing through a devotional guide that I use on occasion. I found these words to be very profound. The turn of the year has become a time in our lives that we reflect on "who we are" and "what we want to be." Many times, the "who we are" is a person who needs some positive changes in their lives. The "who we are" is over-weight, physically inactive, works too much, does not have enough free time, lacks direction in his\her life and so on.
On the other hand, the "what we want to be" person is a person on the opposite end of the spectrum. The "what we want to be" person is a person who maintains an ideal weight, has a body like Mr.\Ms. America, has a great career and achieves the proper balance between work, play, and family time.
In our desire to become "what we want to be" many times we set our goals too high, quickly become frustrated, and soon give up on trying to become "what we want to be" and settle for "the way we are."
I would like to propose to you an alternative way of reflecting on your life as you begin this new year. As you reflect, instead of beginning with those things you would like to change, lift up those areas that are positive in your life and bring you great joy. Perhaps you are engaged in some type of volunteer work. You may be active in some ministry at this church or another. Perhaps your occupation affords you the opportunity to help others. Maybe it was a simple act of kindness you were involved in over the Christmas season.
Hopefully, during this new year, you will find positive aspects of your life that you do not want to change but celebrate. As the New Year begins it is important to remember that God is behind all that we do for the good of others and ourselves. May you continue to be about the good work of the Lord until we are united in Christ as the Kingdom of God on earth.
The Baby Jesus
There is no doubt in my mind that the Christmas season is a wonderful time of the year. From a religious
standpoint, it is probably the most festive time of the church year. Our church sanctuary is dressed in its finest attire with garlands and wreaths and ribbons and bows and accented with beautifully adorned trees that stand proudly in the front of the church. Each Sunday during Advent we ceremoniously await the coming of our Lord by lighting the Advent Candle. Our church choir and Sunday school are busy working on special music and presentations to enhance our worship experience together. All of this splendor and excitement come to a climax during the final week of Advent when we will gather on Christmas Eve for a special services. And why do we do all of this? We do it to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Christ child, the Son of God, Immanuel.
Have you given much thought to the concept of a baby’s being the mode in which the very presence of God would be manifested in this world? Think about it: a baby – a helpless, powerless, weak, vulnerable, defenseless baby. I love babies; I always have. I am glad that I was born into a family with lots of children who wanted to have lots of children. There was never a lack of babies in our family, babies that needed to be held and cuddled and rocked to sleep. Holidays were always special because of babies. The conversations centered around them were always the same: "Look how much he/she has grown!” “Is he/she walking yet?” “He's going to be as big as his father!"
The Savior of this world was once a baby – a helpless, powerless, weak, vulnerable, defenseless baby; a baby who fed at the breast of his dear mother; a baby who needed to be cuddled and rocked to sleep; a baby whose diaper needed to be changed; a baby who got sick, who cried, who cooed, who made other people like me smile when they looked into his beautiful eyes. This was our Jesus.
I guess it is good for us to remember at times what all the celebration is about. What we are celebrating is
the birth of a baby – not a king, not a mighty warrior, not a ruler or a person of great wealth and power, but a baby, a baby who would grow up like any other child, a baby who would become the Savior of the world.
During this season of anticipation and celebration I hope you and your family will take the time to really worship the birth of the baby. And in doing so may you see and understand the simplistic nature of the beginnings of the one we call the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Lords, and the King of Kings. I encourage you to join with us in worship each and every Sunday during the season of Advent and in the celebration of Holy Communion on Sunday, November 28th and on Christmas Eve at 7:00PM.
Come out and join us as we remember once again the birth of the baby, Jesus!
Daycare Center for the village of Vakpo Todzi
Vakpo Todzi Evangelical Presbyterian Church is a small rural church in the Volta Region of Ghana. Most of the residents who live in Todzi are farmers and their main crop in pineapple. During harvest season, everyone in the village is needed to pick the pineapple. It is not uncommon for mothers with their child wrapped securely on their backs to go to the fields to work. To relive this burden for both the mother and the child the church is building a daycare center so the mothers can leave their children in a safe and healthy environment. Upon their return from Ghana, Pastor Pat and Tom Lloyd presented the construction of the daycare center as a project St. Luke’s could support. The challenge was accepted and to day we have sent over $3000 toward this project.
The Word As Light
Walking around in the dark can be precarious at best, especially in our house, barefooted. Jasper has chew toys that have the texture of barbed wire. Stepping on one, with bare feet, makes me say things that my mother would not be proud of. I was in Ghana when the power went out one evening which happens frequently. I decide to do something I tell the groups never to do, never go out after dark alone or without a flashlight. But the choir singing at the Dela Cathedral was too tempting and so I ventured off, by myself, in the dark, without a flashlight. I did not get 10 feet from the Kekeli Hotel until I fell into a drainage ditch.
In Psalm 119:105 the writer reminds us that the Word of God is a lamp for my feet, and a light on my path. The Psalmist not talking about a dog’s chew toy or a drainage ditch. The Psalmist is talking about all the thing in life that can cause us to stumble and fall as we try to walk a righteous path. Things like, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath As I look at the list, and I think about my life, I am deeply grateful for a loving God, who sent his only Son into the world. Personally, it is never a good idea to walk barefooted amidst the “chew toys” of temptation. It is never a good idea to assume you know where all the “drainage ditches” of sin are along life’s highway. It is always, always better to take the one who has defined himself as “The Light of the World” to show us the way!!
Our Work Begins
Hopefully by now you are all aware of the Leadership Retreat in Moyer Hall on Saturday, September 11. Originally, I had planned that this retreat be for the current Elders and members of the Council. After discussing it with the Council I am inviting all members of our church family. If you have not picked up a copy of The Post Quarantine Church please do so prior to the 11th. They are available in the church office.
The purpose of the retreat is to explore what kind of church we are going to be coming out of the pandemic. There is no doubt that there will be changes in store. As a church, we want to plan proactively as we explore the possibilities. Much of the work that you will be doing will be extremely helpful to our Assessment Team and to the search committee as they seek out a settled pastor.
The start time for the retreat is 9 AM. We will be finished no later than 3 PM. Lunch will be provided.
This retreat is very important. I hope to see you on Saturday, September 11 as we do the work of being a strong and healthy Body of Christ.
After three years of waiting, I will return to Ghana. Many of you have heard stories about my experiences in
Ghana over the past 30 years. On this trip, there are three people who have been to Ghana before. They are
Norman and Mary Southerly, members of Mill Creek Church of The Brethren in Port Republic, Virginia. Mill
Creek is the church of my childhood and youth. This will be their 9th trip. Joining the Southerly’s will be their
pastor, Rev. Glenn Bollinger and his wife Debbie. The Bollinger’s have been on mission trips before, the
latest was Haiti. They have traveled to Israel as well. This is their first trip to Ghana.
Jenn Hoffman from St. Paul’s UCC, Fleetwood has been once before. Jenn is our IT guru having set up a
computer lab in the town of Kpando in 2018. Joining Jenn is her 15-year-old son, Jacob. This will be his first
Clark Fredrick is the third member at St. Paul’s who will be going to Ghana for the first time. Clark is a
seasoned traveler as a result of his job at Deka.
Rev. Ed Rawls is taking his first trip. Ed was my pastor when Sharon and I were still on the farm. Ed was
instrumental in guiding me as I began my journey to ordained ministry. Ed is the senior pastor at First
Congregational UCC in Stratford, CT.
Rounding out our travelers are our own members, Tom Lloyd and Nancy Leneweaver. International travel is
not new to Tom. This will be his first trip to Ghana. Nancy will be traveling to Ghana for the first time.
I share this information with you because the 11 of us will bring with us our own expectations. Mary,
Norman, and Jenn know what to expect. Regardless of past experience all 11 of us will be blessed because of
our visit. There is no way I can give you a clear understanding of Ghana unless you have been there.
I ask you to pray for us daily. I will keep you updated as to our activities on the St. Luke’s Facebook page. I
leave you in the familiar and capable hands of the Rev. Ann Few. We look forward to telling you our stories
upon our return!
With the 4th of July Holiday just around the corner, we are into the throws of summer. Please remember to stay safe and wear your sunscreen.
Our Ghana trip is also around the corner, there are suitcases to be filled for us to take along for the people of Ghana. They are Baby Kits of Hope, School Supplies, Hygiene Kits and Medical Supplies. All of these items are very important to the people of Ghana. Unlike we here in the United States, they are not able to walk to the corner store for things that they need.
After all that excitement there will be the return of the Annual Church Picnic to be held on Sunday September 26th at the Black Rock Pavilion on Black Rock Road in Upper Providence.
It is so wonderful to be able to start up this function of St. Luke’s again after the pandemic. We have missed each other and the picnic will get us back into the swing of things at the church. Come join us for Sunday service at 10:00am and then we can chow down after we have been filled with God’s love.
See you there.
Pastor Pat (via Corie B).
Ghana Presentation Sunday, Sunday, June 13
You have heard by now that a delegation from St. Luke’s will be going on a mission trip to Ghana in August. I, along with Nancy Lenewaver and Tom Lloyd we will be joined by members from St. Paul’s UCC, Fleetwood, Mill Creek Church of The Brethren, Port Republic, VA and First Congregational UCC, Stratford, Connecticut. I have been leading mission trips to Ghana for nearly 30 years supporting the work of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana. Historically the United Church of Christ and the EP Church has been connected through our common bond to German Reformed missionaries. The EP Church has many social
service ministries that we support. On May 23 we began collecting specific items that we will take with us to
Ghana to be distributed to various communities. I would like to highlight the gifts and where they will be going.
The Baby Kits of Hope are given to the Women’s Resource Center, a mission to help un-wed
mothers. At the Center these young women are taught how to cook, clean, and most importantly how to care for their children. We also put together hygiene kits for these women as well.
The school supplies will be distributed to several of the schools we will visit. There are schools in rural areas where children do not have a pencil. When they come to school, they are given a pencil to use. When they leave for the day, they return the pencil to their teacher.
A portion of the hygiene kits will be given to a ministry that we support, Nenyo Harborbor, which means “A safe Place for Children.” The children who come to Nenyo are homeless children who live on the streets. At the center they are given a place to stay, a place to bathe, provided with a hot meal every day, given a place to launder their clothing, are offered help with their schooling, and later on they may enroll in the internship
program Nenyo makes possible. Along with the hygiene kits, we give them new clothing and school supplies. Part of what we were able to do over the past five years is to build an 80-bed dormitory for the
The majority of the medical supplies will be given to clinics owned and operated by the EP Church.
Join us on Sunday June 13th after Worship Service, live or on Zoom. Pastor Pat will be doing a presentation on his previous trips to Ghana and the history of the church and Ghana. Refreshments will be served!!!!
If you have any questions, please let me know.
Save the Date!
As your interim pastor part of my responsibility is to prepare you to receive your new pastor as a healthy and vibrant church family. To that end I am very serious about observing how you are functioning as a congregation. It is important that all of your official documents are up to date like your constitution and by-laws and all of your committees and leadership groups are doing what they are supposed to be doing.
Fat Adds Flavor
I am not sure how familiar you are with the story of Cain and Able. They were the sons of Adam and
Eve. Their relationship was a tragic one. When Cain killed Able it was the first recorded murder in the
Bible. But that is not why their story is an important one. Cain killed Able out of a jealous rage because God
accepted Abel’s sacrifice but did not accept his.
Cain was a farmer, a tiller of the soil. It appears that when it came time to make a sacrifice, Cain did so
without much forethought to the quantity and quality of his sacrifice. Able, on the other hand brought “the fat portions from some of the first born of his flock.” Able is a man after my own heart, and God’s too it would appear. Both knew what makes good meat. Fat, plenty of fat.
I love steaks as long as they are marbled with veins of fat. That’s what makes a good steak in my
opinion. When we lived in Blandon a man stopped by our home selling steaks. He said they were great
steaks. I looked at them. They were trimmed so close that there was literally no fat. Against my better judgment I bought some steaks and they were horrible. It was like eating cardboard.
It’s the fat that gives meat flavor and makes meat precious. Able knew that and so did God. God didn’t
want a sacrifice of some runt lamb, skinny and frail, God wanted a sacrifice of the very best, the fat portion. That’s what gives the offering flavor.
The message in the story of Cain and Able is this: there was forethought in Abel's gift. His relationship
with God was primary in his life. So when he thought of ways to honor God, his first choice was to give to God the very best that he had; not a scrub lamb, but a lamb from the best of the best. The same was not true for Cain. Again, it is implied that Cain did not put a lot of energy into the consideration of his offering. Yes, he brought an offering but because of the lackadaisical manor in which it was given, God did not receive it with the same appreciation as God did Abel’s.
God ask us to give serious considerations to our offering and to give the fat portions, the best we
have. In doing so, our faith grows, our spirit is fed and we honor the God with our body, mind and spirit.