Message from Pastor Jerry

Monthly Message

 

ASCENSION OF JESUS = EMPOWERMENT AND ACCESS FOR US!

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
Luke 24:50-53

 

Greetings and Peace to you all!

On May 10, 2018 the Christian church recognizes Ascension of our Lord Day! This was the day in the not too distant past when communities of faith would gather together in worship and celebration of Jesus’ ascension into heaven. In farming communities around Pennsylvania, people would not plant crops, flowers, grass, or anything that went into the earth because it was believed that on this day, the Spirit was “temporarily removed” from the fertile soil. In some communities the ban to “sow” was also seen as a ban to “sew” and women were forbidden from creating garments or mending.

A great deal has changed in our culture since the days when Ascension of our Lord Day was viewed with such reverence and respect. In the year of our Lord 2018, there are very few worship services celebrating this event chronicled by Luke of Jesus Ascending and I know of very few places which still observe the “ban from sowing or sewing.” Yet this day should still hold a very special place in the hearts of Christians throughout the world, for on this day, St. Luke recognizes the limitless power of God and the freedom and access to God for the people of this world!

In Luke’s world view, Jesus has already been raised from the dead and has appeared to many disciples in a variety of ways in order to convince people of God’s power over death. On Ascension Day, Jesus is taken to heaven, but not before our Lord makes promises to believers and offers an “action plan” for those who remain on earth! Jesus says; “Wait here! You will be clothed with power from on high!” For Luke, this was a foretaste of Pentecost, the

event recorded in the book of Acts when the Spirit of God descended upon the believers and all were given a spirit of wisdom and revelation as they came to know God on deeper levels. They were given the ability to sense hope in God even when the world around them shared distress. They were empowered to be the body of Christ Jesus in the world, to live the way Christ desired and through their lives to provide a witness to those who didn’t believe that in fact Christ was still present in the world through their very bodies!

In many ways; Ascension Day is beginning of the greatest game of “Tag” ever played. Our God shares with believers in all times and all places “Tag! You’re it! You will represent Me in the world in which we live!” Yet even in this commission, our God promises that we can “access” God whenever we desire; as we dip our fingers into the baptismal font, we “touch” God’s promises that
indeed we belong to God. When we meet at the Lord’s table, we “taste” the promises that God continues to come among us offering us pardon, peace and love. As we meet to worship our Lord we “see” the promises through those who gather together in the name of God, filled with the Holy Spirit which calls, gathers, enlightens, and inspires us all to make us a holy body!

As we continue on our journey with Christ into the world as the United Proclamation of the Gospel in Bethlehem, we stand reminded that indeed whenever we, the Body of Christ in Bethlehem, pour out ourselves into the community out of love for God and love for others, we do so as the very body of Christ in the world in which we live. As we come to know our God on deeper levels and come to grasp the hope to which our God has called and invited us, may our minds be open, may our hearts be enlightened, and may we all feel
the power of being “clothed from on high!”

Peace and blessings to you all!
PASTOR JERRY

Weekly Message – May 27

“The Faces of God’s Work!”

No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. Furthermore, we have
seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.
1 John 4:12-16

Greetings and peace to you all!

For the past nine months, your sisters and brothers in Christ who form the UPG staff have been working tirelessly to make the transition of three separate and unique congregations into the UPG vision of ONE community of faith with two campuses. It is an honor to share ministry with these wonderful people who have proven themselves over and over to be incredibly competent, efficient, and most of all filled with the power of the Holy Spirit as children of God! Please consider taking a moment to thank God for bringing each of these gifted persons into our midst and maybe even take a moment to thank our staff for all the wonderful work they do to benefit our faith and understanding of a loving God.

Every week when our staff gathers we have a practice of asking one another “Where we have witnessed God working in the world this past week!” In my opinion, this practice has really helped each one of us be able to witness how God’s Spirit is working within our midst and has encouraged us, as a staff, to continue striving forward to proclaim the love of God. While I can honestly tell you that every week I am amazed at the power of God working through various people within our midst, I thought it would be fun to share three
stories witnessed by our staff this week:

A brother in Christ from one of our campuses was asked if he might be able to drive his brother in Christ from the other campus to a doctor’s appointment. The man needing medical care is relatively immobile and needed great care for this transportation. Not only did this brother in Christ respond favorably to this man in need, but in doing so and in learning more about his situation, this brother in Christ purchased a meal, not only for our patient, but also for his family. This story truly reminded me of the story Christ shared about “who is your neighbor.”

A sister in Christ who works in an adult care facility recently saw me visiting one of our sisters in Christ from the other campus who is conducting rehabilitation at this facility. This wonderful person now stops by to provide fellowship and a warm listening ear to her new friend! The story reminded me greatly of Jesus sharing with the disciples that when we minister to others we minister to Christ.

Another person took two hours out of his day to come across town to work on the grounds of the other campus. He cleaned the garden beds and prepared the beds for spring planting. His desire was to share his time to lift up the beauty of creation with the people who will see the flower beds planted. This story reminded me of Holy Scripture accounts which share with us our responsibility to be good stewards of God’s creation.

Over the time that we have been involved in our shared vision of the UPG there have been many other stories similar to the ones annotated here. People who see their role as “child of God” extend not only outside the walls of their own church building but see that their immediate family in Christ has been wonderfully expanded by our God who “breaks down any walls” that might divide us! The staff of the UPG is humbled and honored to see how so many of you have grasped this shared vision of ministry. From the bottom of each of our hearts we thank God and we thank each of you for allowing us the opportunity to serve God’s kingdom within the midst of such a beautiful and wonderful time in the life of Christ’s Church here in the city of Bethlehem!

Peace and blessings,

Pastor Jerry