Are You Carrying Your Tambourine?

Are You Carrying Your Tambourine?

Guest blogger Rev. Luke Dowdy

Youth Pastor at Berlin Brethren Church, in Berlin, PA

A note from Pastor John: As you can tell from the header, today’s blog isn’t from me, it’s from my Ashland Seminary classmate, Luke Dowdy. Luke shared this devotion during the last online meeting of our World of the Hebrew Bible class, and I was so struck by it that I asked him to share it with me, so that I could share it with all of you. I hope that you like it as much as I did.

Rev. Luke Dowdy

Today’s devotion is inspired by our recent studies in women of the Old Testament. I’d like to introduce our passage with a question; “Are you carrying a tambourine?”

Let’s set the context. Moses had been sent by God on what seemed to be an impossible mission of freeing an entire people from slavery with only a staff and the revelation of his name. Through the course of making his appeals to Pharaoh, followed by 10 devastating plagues, the Israelites are hurried out of Egypt and sent on their way. But it doesn’t take Pharaoh long to change his mind and go chasing after them.

The people begin to panic and Moses intercedes for them, leading to the famous crossing of the sea. We know that after the Israelites cross on dry land to safety, the waters that were being held back by God come crashing in and destroy Pharaoh’s chariots and horsemen. It was a moment of deliverance!  God had come through for them when they needed help the most.

            Then in Exodus 15, we’re told the people of Israel began to sing. “Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying, ‘I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.’”

The song of deliverance in chapter 15 continues a bit more. But what caught my attention the most was actually what happens after, beginning in verse 19. “For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea. Then Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.’”

This reading on women and daily life have me thinking of a packing list. We all have one when we travel, whether on vacation or an extended trip…and the Israelites are probably no different.

If you were told you were about to flee Egypt on short notice, what you would pack? What is so essential to your family, your survival, your identity that you’d take with you? Let’s set aside the plunder taken from the Egyptians in chapter 12 for a moment and focus on the packing list. I’m guessing there might be some type of cookware, maybe a bread basket. Clothes make sense to cover your family. Oils for various needs are appropriate. Perhaps a skin for holding liquids. Would you pack an heirloom that’s been passed down that you want to be sure your children get?

But of all the things to pack leaving Egypt hastily, when space is tight, and you don’t want to be bogged down for the journey, they make room for tambourines! Where did they come from? It seems out of place.

Imagine the packing conversations, wondering what to leave behind to make room for the instrument. Honestly, I’m not sure I’d let my wife bring a tambourine as an “essential item” if we were about to embark on an extended trip.  

But Miriam and the women seem to know that praise was up ahead, something worthy of worship…and they were prepared! They left Egypt in anticipation of great things to come…and they packed their tambourines! The instruments made the list!

I think we can all ask, “Are we carrying a tambourine” in anticipation for what is ahead, something worthy of worship because God will pull through when we need him the most? Of all the things I’ve packed for my day, so to speak, is one of my items a tambourine?

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The Cost of (Not) Living

The Cost of (Not) Living

November 07, 2021*

(All Saints Day)

By Pastor John Partridge

(Note -Video of this service can be found here:

Isaiah 25:6-9 John 11:32-44 Revelation 21:1-6

How many of you would like to be younger?  Or to retain all your knowledge and memories but return your body to the condition it was in when you were twenty years old? 

That is the idea behind the mythical stories of the Fountain of Youth.  Here in North America the story that is most familiar is the myth of Ponce de Leon and a “lost” fountain of youth somewhere in Florida, but stories about sacred or otherwise restorative bodies of water circulated long before the birth of Juan Ponce de León in 1474.  There were stories about Alexander the Great discovering a healing “river of paradise” four centuries before the birth of Jesus, as well as similar legends in places like the Canary Islands, Japan, Polynesia, and England.  During the Middle Ages, there were stories about a mythical king, Prester John, whose kingdom contained both a fountain of youth and a river of gold.

The myth of the Fountain of Youth is a Taino Indian legend about a spring that was said to exist on the island of Bimini in the Bahamas, as well as a river, in what became known as Florida that would restore youth to those who bathed in their waters.  But nowhere is recorded history, or in any of the writing between Ponce de Leon and Europe, is he ever associated with any of those myths.  at least, not until decades after his death.

But what if such a place was real?  Can you imagine the lives that would have been lost trying to find it?  Or the wars that would have been fought to control it?  Or, in our modern era, at what cost would its corporate owners be willing to sell its miracles?

One of the inescapable rules of life, is that one way or another, death will find us all.

But maybe not.  At least, maybe death isn’t what we think it is.  Maybe death isn’t a permanent condition.  Maybe our death is less of an end, and more of a transition from one sort of life to another.  That sounds more hopeful than thinking that everything ends after sixty, seventy, eighty, or ninety years, or so.  And it is that sort of hope, and that sort of promise, that we hear, repeatedly, in scripture.  We begin this morning by reading from Isaiah 25:6-9, where we hear of a day in which God’s people will be reunited with one another and reunited with life itself.  Isaiah says:

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
    a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
    the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
    the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
    he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.

In that day they will say,

“Surely this is our God;
    we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
    let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

Isaiah says that there will be a gigantic, and most fabulous feast, attended by people from the entire planet, on the day that God destroys death, the covering that darkens the door of every home and snuffs out the light of every life.  On that day, every tear shed for the loss of a loved one will be wiped away and the embarrassment and disgrace of lost battles and sinful living will be erased.

And, more than saying that it will happen “one day” or “someday” in some distant future, in John 11:32-44, we see Jesus open the door to give us a glimpse of what that day might look like as he arrives, deliberately later than he could have, at the home of his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Earlier in the story, Jesus was told about Lazarus’ illness but chose to remain where he was for several more days.  And now he arrives four days after Lazarus’ death and burial.  Some of the people who were there recognized how close Jesus and Lazarus had been but wonder aloud if Jesus could have healed him if he had only arrived earlier.  But that seems to be exactly the point that Jesus was trying to make.  Everyone knew that Jesus could heal the sick.  But healing the sick and raising the dead are two entirely different propositions.  Had Jesus arrived earlier, no one would have been surprised if he had healed his friend.  They knew that he could.  He had done it before.  And, if we’re honest about history, there had been other people, prophets as well as secular healers, who had healed the sick and performed miracles.  But now Lazarus was dead.  Really and truly dead.  And not just dead, but dead and buried.  Even if someone tried to argue that Lazarus didn’t really die before his funeral, he had been sealed inside of a tomb for three or four days without food or water.  So, if he was so sick that everyone thought that he was dead, then had a funeral, then was buried, and was inside of sealed stone chamber for more than seventy-two hours… he was most assuredly dead.

But Jesus arrives and asks the mourners and onlookers to roll the stone away from the entrance to the tomb and he reminds Martha that he had once told her that if she believed, she would see the glory of God.  Everyone had read, or at least heard the words of, Isaiah.  They knew the promises of God.  They had heard that one day, someday, God would defeat death.  But on this day Jesus wants them to see death overturned.  But Jesus does not act alone.  This is an audience participation event, and as the people trust Jesus, obey him, and move the stone away, Jesus calls out to Lazarus…

…and the dead man walks out of the grave.

This is more than healing the sick.  This is conquering death.  This is a foreshadowing, a preview, an illustration, and an example of what is to come.  Death is overcome and overturned, and the dead are returned to life and walk among the living.

Others, before Jesus had healed the sick.  But dead is dead.  Death is permanent.  No one can raise the dead.

Only God can defeat death.

But there stands Lazarus all the same.

And finally, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, John sees the final fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise in a vision and records Jesus’ last words on the subject in Revelation 21:1-6 where we hear these words:

21:1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.

John begins by saying that, in his vision of the future, both heaven and earth had been remade into a new form and even things that seemed to be permanent, immovable, and unchangeable like the oceans themselves had passed away and were no more.  And in this new, renewed, and changed world, John sees a new holy city, a new Jerusalem, a city no longer in ruins.  John had heard of Jerusalem’s destruction.  Much of the city had been leveled and the Temple pulled down, thrown into the valley below by the Roman Army. General Titus had even been said to plow the earth where the Temple once stood with a team of oxen.  John’s present was full of destruction, violence, and sadness but that was not the future that he saw.  The future in John’s vision saw a new Jerusalem that was more beautiful and glorious than any of the temples that had ever been built, and God himself would reside in the temple and live among his people.  No longer would there be destruction, violence, sadness, mourning, weeping, pain, and death.

The work that Jesus had begun with Lazarus and at Easter would be completed.  Death will be defeated forever and always.  Jesus declares that these words are trustworthy and true because he is the beginning and the end.  He is the creator of the universe.  He is the righteous judge and is entrusted by God to rule over all of humanity.  And Jesus says that he will provide all who are thirsty with water from the spring of life.

We all know that there is a cost of living, but there is also a cost of not living.  For hundreds of years, on several continents, legends of a fountain of youth, or healing rivers persisted because life is hard and often far too short.  All of us would like to have bodies that were as fit was we were in our twenties.  But such legends were never more than myths and wishful thinking, though they were perhaps influenced by the writings of scripture.  The water of life is real, but we will never find it in Florida, or the Bahamas, or anywhere else on this present creation.  We will find it by placing our full faith and trust in Jesus Christ, the creator of the universe, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the redeemer and rescuer of humanity. 

In him there is no longer destruction, violence, sadness, mourning, weeping, pain, and death.

It is in him that we find… hope.

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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601.  These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at  If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online).  These messages can also be found online at  All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Eulogy and Obituary for Spencer Lake

Eulogy for Spencer Charles Lake

January 05, 2020

by Pastor John Partridge


Right from the start, I want to be clear that none of us want to be here.  This is not the place that any of us planned to be today, and if we were truthful, all of us have other places that we would rather be.  We are discouraged, disappointed, and heartsick over what has happened to our friend, relative, brother, and son, Spencer and that tragedy is what has brought us here today.  We cannot get our minds around it.  Our hearts hurt.  None of it makes sense and honestly it just feels wrong.  Something inside of us screams that parents should never have to bury their children.

But it happens.

And it’s happening here.  The only comfort that we can find lies in knowing that this is not the way that the world is supposed to be.  Scripture tells us that in the beginning, the world was perfect… but it didn’t stay that way for long.  With the fall of Adam and Eve, the world fell with them and since then all of humanity has lived in a world that was imperfect, flawed, warped, and broken.  But our hearts still yearn for the perfection that once existed, and we cling to the promise that one day the creator of the universe will return to set things right again.

As we heard a few moments ago, in John’s Revelation, God promises that one day “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.” (Revelation 21) Our broken earth will be repaired and returned to the perfection that our hearts somehow know.  In that day, all those lives that have been stolen from us will be returned.  But until then, we gather together in moments like this to lessen our pain by sharing it with one another and by holding tightly to the memories of the ones that we have lost.

Spencer Lake was born on December 16th, 1997 and almost before he could walk, began talking the ear off anyone that would listen.  He could speak in full sentences before he was a year old and asked questions constantlyHe was an old soul who sometimes seemed out of place in in own generation.  He loved older people, and preferred old things over newer ones.  He could, and did, talk to an elderly neighbor for hours at a time and wanted an “old cowboy gun” rather than something new, flashy, or popular.  As kid he seemed more like an adult and complained that in Kindergarten the other kids didn’t understand him.

It’s quite possible that some of his peers found him to be a little odd because he often preferred the company of his family over that of his friends.  It isn’t that he didn’t have friends, or spend time with them but, at the end of the day, he always found his way home and spent more time there than many people his age.  He loved his family and he told them so… often.  He had long talks with his mom about just about everything, he was fiercely protective of his sisters, he was completely on-board when his parents were thinking about becoming foster parents, and when they did, he would often take foster kids under his wing and have long talks with them when they were struggling with their problems.

At the same time, Spencer was the guy who never met a stranger, and could always make you smile.  No matter what it took.  He was ornery, and he would put that crooked grin of his to work when he was up to something.  He was the guy who was always making funny faces, who made “antlers” by putting his opened hands on his head in front of the trail camera because he knew someone would laugh when they saw it later.  He always has a quick wit and reacted fast to any joke thrown at him.  He and his mom were almost constantly picking on one another.  He pretended that he didn’t want to hold babies, but he did.  He loved to make faces at his nieces, coo at them, or make funny noises to make them laugh.  Occasionally, Spencer would try to act like a tough guy, but he couldn’t keep it up and would inevitably melt into the softy that he really was.

Spencer was a quick learner, but he usually kept his mouth shut because he didn’t like to let people know that he was smart.  He was only a semester away from earning his Associates degree in welding, and had good grades, before he quit just because he didn’t like being told what to do.  When he decided that being a firefighter was what he wanted to do, he asked his mom how he should go about becoming one.  Angel admitted that she didn’t know anything about it and told him that he should just go down to the firehouse and ask.  So, he did.  And there he found people who accepted him, who mentored him, guided him, and taught him so that when he took the tests the he needed to take, he passed with what his family described as “amazing scores.”

Many of us knew Spencer to be the “outdoorsy” guy who loved to hunt, and fish, and go four-wheeling with his friends.  But as much as he genuinely liked doing those things, the activities themselves were primarily important to him because the allowed him to spend time with his friends.   He liked to work, he liked to be busy, and he didn’t like to be out of work.  He was not a morning person, he loved music, and he liked stuff, any kind of stuff, even really dumb stuff, that made him laugh.  He was deeper than most people realized, he loved his dog sometimes more than people, and we knew that he would do whatever he could to help anybody that needed it.  But few people were allowed to see that side of him that he often kept hidden.  He didn’t let people see that he was smart, or that he really liked learning things, or that he liked to cook.  He knew more about the Bible that you might guess and would sometimes surprise people by answering Bible questions that they didn’t expect him to know.  It was Spencer, after all, that got his family to go back to church.  I think he tried out our church one Sunday when our son Jonah invited him, and then just told his family that he’d found one that they would like and that they should all start going together.

In the end, Spencer was a unique and special human being who loved his friends, loved his family, and we all loved him back.  We are infinitely poorer because we have lost him, his wit, his humor, and his compassion for others.  Like all of those that we have lost, we look forward to the day when we will be reunited once again.  But until then we must comfort one another and honor his memory by doing the things that make us remember him:  listen to music, do things that make you, and others, laugh, do whatever you can for someone who needs your help, hold as tightly as you can to all of your friends and family, and let them know, as often as possible that you love them and care about them.  These are the things that Spencer did for us and these are the reasons that we felt loved and valued by him.

So now it’s up to us to pass it on.

Obituary for Spencer Charles Lake

Spencer Lake

Spencer Charles Lake, 22, of Fairview passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday, January 1, 2020 at his home.  Spencer was born in Wheeling, WV on December 16, 1997 to Gregory D. and  Angel (Alwine) Lake.

Spencer attended Barnesville First United Methodist Church and a 2016 graduate of Barnesville High School.  Spencer worked as a welder for Local 798 and was a Lieutenant for the Fairview Fire Department.  In high school, Spencer was a football player and on the track team where he pole-vaulted.  He enjoyed hunting, fishing, riding his RZR and spending time with his family and friends.  Spencer was a loving son, uncle and brother to his family and especially his “foster siblings”.

Spencer is preceded in death by his maternal grandfather, Frank Clifford Alwine.

In addition to his parents, he is survived by his paternal grandparents, Kenneth D. and Geneva Lake; maternal grandmother, Carolyn “CJ” (Kevin) Benson; siblings: Chandra (Jesse) Galford, Carissa Lake, Caden (Jennifer Farson) Lake and Tyler Lake; nieces and nephews: Chance and Layla Stevens and Madelynn and Carabella Carter; aunts: Chasity (Brian) Arigoni, Heather (Scott) Cameron and Cindy (John) Lynn; uncle, Shawn Lake; cousins: Corey, Bobby, Desi, Annalisa, Nelson, Charlie and Alex; Uncle Fred and Aunt Leota; best friends: Chase Whiteley and James Corbett; and his dog, Buddy.

Visitation will be held on Sunday, January 5, 2020 from1-3 and 5-7pm and on Monday, January 6, 2020 from 10am until the time of the service at 11am with Pastor John Partridge officiating at Campbell-Plumly-Milburn Funeral Home, 319 N. Chestnut St., Barnesville, Ohio.  Burial will follow in Fairview Cemetery in Fairview, Ohio.



Good News, Bad news

    This week I got a card in the mail reminding me that it is time to make an appointment with John, the audiologist that programs my cochlear implant.  It hardly seems like six months since I have seen him.  Once again, I am uncertain how things will go.  On the one hand, because whatever changes are happening in my head are incredibly gradual, I don’t really notice that much has changed.  And yet, other people tell me that they can tell that I am hearing better.
    One of the few places that I notice a difference is in meetings.  Whether it is in a small meeting, or in youth group, or in a large room like the fellowship hall, I notice that I can hear more than I used to.  Not that long ago, I could barely make out anything in our youth meetings and almost nothing at all in a big room like the fellowship hall, but lately I can hear enough to keep up with some of the conversations.  I still am not where I would like to be, but I can tell that things are better than they were.
At least until last week.
    Right around Ash Wednesday, I noticed that it was suddenly harder to understand the people around me and discovered that my hearing aid was acting up.  No problem.  Since receiving a cochlear implant, I have two hearing aids and only one ear to wear them in, so I have a spare.  In fact, at one of my last visits my regular audiologist, Walt, reprogrammed them both to fit my right ear.  So when my hearing aid went on the fritz, I just switched over to the spare.  Things were kind of busy at work so I figured that I would just make an appointment after things calmed down a little.
That worked for two weeks.
    But after two weeks, my spare hearing aid quit.  I emailed Walt on a Thursday and got an appointment the very next Monday.  One hearing aid didn’t work at all and the other works as long as the ear mold isn’t attached.  Even Walt thought that was pretty weird.  In any case, both of them have been sent back to the factory.  That means that the only things that I am currently hearing are coming through my cochlear implant.
And that is my good news, bad news thing divides.
    The bad news is that I really can’t hear anything on my right side without hearing aids.  But the good news is that since I have an implant I can still hear something.  If I didn’t have the implant and both hearing aids quit, I would be in deep weeds.
    The other good news, and really sort awesome, is that even hearing only through my implant, I am doing fairly well.  I can hear reasonably well in most situations and have even been listening to the radio (a little) in the car.  Of course, any place with a lot of ambient noise is almost impossible, and conversation around the dinner table at home is pretty difficult to follow, but I am relatively functional.
Six months ago, I’m not certain that I could have done this well on my implant alone.
So I guess I’m a little excited to see John and have my implant reprogrammed again.
Who knows how much better things might get?



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Methodists vs. Catholics? (Part 2)

Question: Methodists vs. Catholics? (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a two part series answering two separate but similar questions, “What is so different about the Catholic Church?” and, “Why is there so much tension between the Methodist and the Catholic Church?”

Part one can be found here: Methodist vs. Catholics? (Part 1)


    Since there were already hundreds of Methodist lay preachers in the colonies, John Wesley begged his bishop to ordain some of them so that the members of the church could have access to communion.
The bishop refused.
    Eventually, John Wesley took it upon himself to ordain Thomas Coke as a bishop (even though he technically did not have that authority), who then travelled to the colonies and ordained Francis Asbury.  In this way, the Methodist Church was born.  No one intended for the Methodist movement to become a church, but it did.  As a result, the Methodist Church structure, belief and doctrine are similar to the Church of England (which today is known as the Episcopal Church in the United States).  We are not a congregational organization, but an ecclesiastical one, which means we have a hierarchy where pastors answer to a bishop.
    Because of the way that our church has separated from the Catholic Church, our structures and beliefs, although quite different, are also sometimes strikingly similar.  Even so, there was a lot of bad blood between the reformers (like Martin Luther) and the Popes.  Remember that in that era, the Pope controlled the Holy Roman Emperor who, in turn, controlled the Army.
    In those days, there was no separation of church and state.  For generations, anyone who even hinted at problems within the church could be arrested, their property seized, they could be tortured or even put to death for believing anything different than what they were told.  Nations who chose (actually their kings chose) to become Protestant, were attacked by the Empire’s Army.  For hundreds of years, wears were fought between Catholics and Protestants.  In the 30 Years War (1618-1648), part of Germany fought against other parts of Germany with support thrown in from the kings of France and Spain, as well as from the Empire.  During that time, 25-40% of the entire German population was killed.
    There was also much bloodshed in England.  Although Catholics and Protestants often got along with one another, their rulers were not so kind.  As England’s Kings and Queens changed from Catholic to Protestant and back again, everyone, including the priests, were forced to convert.  Those who did not, were forced from their homes or worse.  There was much bloodshed on all sides.
    In any case, by the time of John Wesley, there were bad feelings between the Church of England and the Catholic Church.  This is evident in John Wesley’s writings as well as Catholic writings of the time.  But today, 200 years later, those bad feelings have faded and Catholics and Protestants get along quite well (particularly here in the United States).  Technically, according to some Catholic doctrine, anyone who is not a part of the “official” church of Saint Peter is going to hell.  For our part, we deny several key Catholic doctrines and emphasize that salvation if through grace alone where the Catholic Church believes that both grace and works are required.
    Despite our differences, we there are a great many similarities.  We have a similar structure (although we do not have any “rank” higher than bishop and we do not have a Pope).  We have bishops who are in charge of particular geographical areas, and we have one set of rules that govern all of our churches.
    Today the “bad blood’ that once existed isn’t what it used to be.  Most of us have both Catholics and Protestants mixed among our families and our friends and many Catholics and Protestants are married to one another.  I had a professor in seminary that did his doctoral studies in a Catholic University.  There have even been times that modern theologians, now having the benefit of being a few hundred years distant, suggest that Protestants might reconsider some of the Catholic teachings that were thrown out during the Reformation.  Recently, the Pope has invited evangelical leaders to be his guests in Rome to discuss how we might work together.
    During my last pastorate, I became friends with Monsignor Mark Froelich who was the local parish priest.  He and I were the only people in town who were members of both the Kiwanis and the Rotary clubs and so we had lunch together twice each week (and it didn’t hurt that he was a Cleveland Indians fan).  I think we are finding that our differences may now be less than they were when our churches split during the Reformation.
    In the end when we consider what the differences are between the Methodist Church and the Catholic Church, the answer is both, “A lot” and, “Not much.”

Part One of this series can be found here: Methodist vs. Catholics? (Part 1)

 Note: I asked our youth to write down any questions that they had about faith, the church, or life in general.  This is a part of that series.


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Who Watches the Supplies? – A Football Meditation

    In the books of first and second Samuel we read the story of King David.  Many of us have heard stories about David, but there is at least one that we don’t often remember.  In 1 Samuel 30, we find David and 600 men who had just returned from fighting alongside Achish the king of the Philistines.  As they return home they discover that the Amalekites had raided their town, captured their wives (including two of David’s wives), their children, their livestock, as well as anything of value.  After consulting with their priest to find the will of God, David pursues the Amalekite raiding party.
    As they hurry to catch up to the raiders however, David finds that two hundred of his men are too exhausted to continue and so he leaves them behind with all their gear, supplies and what is left of their town.  David and the four hundred remaining men pursue the Amalekite raiding party and find them celebrating over all the loot that they had plundered.  David and his men attack and fight with the Amalekites from dusk that day, until the end of the following day, defeat them, and recapture every single animal, personal belonging, wife and family member.
    But when they return to their camp, the troublemakers began to stir things up.  They argued with David that the two hundred men who were left behind should not receive any of the plunder because they didn’t fight to get it.  They argued that these men should get their families back, but receive no share of the loot and plunder that they had taken from the Amalekites.
    David fights back.  David makes an argument that is important to every single one of us and one that is important to each of you on the football field.  David said:
“No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiding party that came against us. 24 Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” 25 David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this.
    It is important to remember that when you win, it isn’t just the superstars and the heroes that win the game.  Every member of your team had a part, Every coach, every water boy, every trainer, every teacher you ever had who helped you to earn the grades you needed to play ball, it took the guy on the sidelines who sprained his ankle before the season started, every football booster, every friend who gave you a ride home from practice, every relative, every parent, and every brother or sister that comes to watch you play.  As David said, these are the people who “watch the supplies” for you. 
    When you win, it isn’t just because of the guy who threw the touchdown pass, or who caught the interception, or who made the big tackle.  Your victory didn’t come because of the superstars; it took every single one of you. 
And that includes the people who just watch the supplies.


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Youth Questions: What is Communion? Why do we do it like that?


Note: I asked our youth to write down any questions that they had about faith, the church, or life in general.  This is a part of that series.

Question: Why do we do communion the way that we do?

    Before we talk about how we “do” communion, we ought to talk about what it is, and why we do it.  The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Luke 22 is a good example) all tell the story of the Last Supper.  This was the Passover meal that everyone in Israel shared together every year to remember God rescuing them from slavery in Egypt.  In some ways, this meal was a lot like some of our families celebrate Thanksgiving.  Often a lot of the same people were together, if you were anywhere close to home you usually met with your family, and every year there were traditions, speeches, and toasts that everyone had memorized.
    This particular meal was the last big meal the disciples had together before Jesus was arrested and crucified and Jesus was the host.  But during the meal and he did some really unusual things that the disciples didn’t understand (until later).
    First, when Jesus broke the bread, instead of saying what everyone usually said, Jesus said this is “my body” broken for you.  Later, during the second toast of the evening, Jesus completely changed the script.  Instead of saying the usual Passover speech, Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” This toast had all sorts of connections to Jewish culture, from being a reference to the first Covenant that God made with Abraham, to having amazing similarities to the toast where a Jewish groom seals a contract (a new covenant) to return and marry his bride.  The disciples were understandably confused by this because it didn’t fit with Passover.  It all made sense to them later though after Jesus ascended into heaven and they began to understand that Jesus was the bridegroom and the church was to be the “bride of Christ” after his return.
    In any case, when Jesus broke the bread and drank from the cup Jesus asked his followers to “do this in remembrance of me.”  And so, just as the Jews celebrated the Passover every year to remember what God had done for them, we celebrate communion as we remember what Christ has done for us and also remember that Christ is coming back.
    But returning to the original question, there are lots of ways to “do” (we usually prefer to say “share”) communion.  We can have communion by intinction, in which we tear a piece of bread off of a loaf and dip it in a common cup.  In some cases, people all drink out of a common cup, but because of concerns about unintentionally sharing germs, that method is not often used today.  We also share with little pieces of bread and tiny cups, or with unleavened bread (which might be flat breads like pita bread or something like saltine crackers).  For very large groups there are plastic cups that include a small wafer of “bread” under a foil seal and a cup of juice under a second foil seal.  In that way, the ushers only have to pass out one basket that includes both of the communion elements.  At one large youth gathering I heard about, they wanted to share communion but didn’t have enough bread and juice so they used potato chips and cola (there are some theological problems with this, but their hearts were in the right place).


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Other questions and answers in this series can be found here: Ask the Pastor

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Graduates: Tomorrow, No One Will Care

    First, I want to congratulate all of the young people who have recently graduated from high school.
    Second, as hard as it is to say, tomorrow, no one will care.
    That doesn’t mean that what you have done for the last twelve years of your life doesn’t matter, but that what you have done is just the beginning.  You have accomplished an important milestone, but it is a milestone that we all expected you to reach.  You have achieved what most people consider to be the minimum standard for education. 
    And so you ask, “What’s next?”  While your recent accomplishments are important, they are just the beginning.  We expect you to do something with them.  Up until now, what you have done has been mandated and required.  Nearly every step along the way has been mapped out.  Your education was paid for by your family, your friends and your neighbors because we believe in its importance.  We paid for the teachers, the buildings, the administration, sports, protective gear, and the buses to get you there and back.
But tomorrow is up to you.
    Tomorrow, a new chapter begins.  This fall (or sooner) many of you will start your freshman year in college or begin trade school.  Some of you will become apprentices to master trades people, some of you will begin working in a job of some sort, and a few of you may spend some time trying to “find yourself.”  All of those things are okay but be warned, you have been given great gifts, life, health, education, and many other things, but the world is watching to see what you will do with them.
    Of course, not every high school education, nor every student, is the same as every other.  Some schools provided phenomenal opportunities and others struggled to exist.  Some of you worked hard and some coasted through school.
    But tomorrow is a new day, and the question everyone is asking is, “What will you do with it?”
    Think of it this way.  Every one of you has been given a home, a building, a place to being a new life.  Granted some of you, by virtue of your parents, your school, or your own hard work, have been given more than others.  Some of you have a small apartment and others a more spacious home, but all of you have a place to start.  Today that home that you have been given is unfinished.  The drywall isn’t finished, there’s no siding on the outside and nothing has been painted.  Your new place, your life, is just a shell. 
What it will become is up to you.
    The building you have been given can become a library, museum, bank, school, hospital, factory… or a crack house.
    By your eighteenth birthday, between your parents and your community, statisticians tell us that we have invested nearly a half million dollars in your life and education. 
We have high hopes for your future.
    Two or three months from now, no one will care where you went to high school or what your grades were like.  What everyone cares about is your destination and how well you are doing.  If you start working your boss will only care about how hard you work and how well you help her to accomplish her goals.  Your past won’t matter.  If you skip class, get drunk and flunk out of college it won’t matter whether or not you were a great student in high school.  Likewise, if you work hard, at whatever you choose to do, no one will notice, or care, if you were a poor student in high school, if you had poor parents, or grew up in a town with two hundred people.
Tomorrow is entirely up to you.
    We have invested in your life because we believe in you.  We believe that you are capable of building something amazing.  We believe that you can change the world.  We believe that you can build factories, hospitals, banks or something entirely new and wonderful that none of us have ever imagined. 
   But today, none of that matters.  Our hopes for you, our investment in you, don’t matter.  All of your hard world yesterday doesn’t matter.
    From here on we can only offer encouragement and the occasional helping hand. 
Whether you build beautiful and wonderful things…
…or crack houses…
…is up to you.

Answer the Phone!

    What would you think if one of your friends complained that you never called or spent time together?  Even though you saw this friend on the street or at work, both of you felt that you needed more.  But now, whenever you saw one another, you heard complaints.  Finally, encouraged by the complaints, you called your friend and there was no answer.  You sent a text message, but received no reply.  Still hearing complaints, you eventually begin calling and texting at all hours of the day and night (sometimes knowing that your friend was certainly at home) and still, there was no answer.  During this time, you set aside money so that you could take your friend out to eat… but there was no answer.
What would you think of your friend?
What would you thing of their complaints?
    Often we complain that we have not heard from God, that God seems far away, or that we have not seen God at work.  But despite our complaints, we fill every waking hour listening to music, radio, watching television, playing video games, with Facebook, Twitter, and all manner of other distractions with no time left for silence.
The psalmist wrote, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
How often do we embrace the silence?  
How often are we simply still?  
When God calls, are we so surrounded by noise and distraction that we don’t even notice?
How often do we listen?
Are youthe friend that isn’t answering the phone?