xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Mid-Week Message: September 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Children and Health Care

September 25, 2007

Dear St. Paul’s Family,

Pop quiz!  Tell me where in the Bible you will find a passage that talks about the testing of residual chemicals in our world’s food supply.  Hmmm....while you’re flipping through your Bible, let me throw out a few more.  Where do you find a chapter and verse that discusses a Christian’s perspective on human gene therapies and genetic engineering?  How about nuclear proliferation?  Violence in the media?

Needless to say, you’ll be flipping pages for a while.  There are no passages in the Bible that directly address many of the specific contemporary concerns we face in the world today.  This leaves us with a few options.  One, we can stretch the words of the Bible to wrap around our own convictions and personal opinions.  Or, we can release ourselves from the responsibility of having any interest, position, or prophetic message to the world in any of these areas.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not fond of either of these choices.  And this is one of the reasons I’m grateful to be a United Methodist.  In true Wesleyan fashion, this denomination has looked for ways to find a sensible, passionate, biblically-rooted center in each of these high-profile, contemporary issues.  And the document that best expresses the fruit of our prayerful, communal dialogue is the Social Principles.

For the past 99 years, beginning with the “Methodist Social Creed” adopted in 1908 and the creation of the Social Principles in 1972, the United Methodist Church has carefully negotiated the timeless words of Scripture with the timely issues of our day.  While the Social Principles is not church “law”, and not authoritative on the same level as the Bible, it is an instructional tool, meant to educate, raise awareness, and persuade.  And it enables us as a church to claim a prophetic word to the culture at large, with a conscience shaped by the living presence of Christ at work among us.  For a full reading of the Social Principles, www.umc-gbcs.org/socialprinciples.

This all leads us to this Sunday.  Listen to this important word for our day, from the section “Rights of Children”:

Once considered the property of their parents, children are now acknowledged to be full human beings in their own right, but beings to whom adults and society in general have special obligations...Moreover, children have the rights to food, shelter, clothing, health care, and emotional well-being as do adults, and these rights we affirm as theirs regardless of actions or inactions of their parents or guardians.

And under the section “Right to Health Care”, it states,

Health care is a basic human right.  Psalm 146 speaks of the God “who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry.  The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.” ...We encourage individuals to pursue a healthy lifestyle and affirm the importance of preventive health care, health education, environmental and occupational safety, good nutrition, and secure affordable housing in achieving health.

If you read these statements in the context of these compelling statistics, the reality of this crisis is too much to ignore:  Nine million children in America are uninsured, with 90 percent of those children living in homes where both parents are employed.  49,000 of those children live right here in Iowa.  Millions more across the country are underinsured.   

So as a community of faith inspired by the Holy Spirit and guided by our Social Principles, what can we do?


The Children’s Sabbath is a worship event sponsored by United Methodist Women across the denomination and is provided by the Children’s Defense Fund.  This Sunday, the children of St. Paul’s will observe this event by leading us in worship through song, prayer, and spoken word.  They will highlight the issues of children’s health care, and you will hear stories of children affected by the current crisis.  This is in perfect keeping with our current worship series “How to Have a Child-Like Faith in a Grown-Up World”, and you will not want to miss this powerful, inspirational time.  For more information about the Children’s Defense Fund, the Children’s Sabbath, and this year’s theme My Boat Is So Small: Creating a Harbor of Hope and Health Care for All Children, visit www.childrensdefense.org.

In addition, you are invited to make a difference by bringing in health-related items that we will donate to Mid-Sioux Opportunity, Inc., a community action agency that meets the financial, health, and education needs of individuals and families in our area.  These items can be brought to the narthex and can include the following:  Toothbrushes / Diapers / First-Aid Items / Toothpaste / Baby Wipes / Thermometers / Soap / Baby Shampoo / Band-Aids / Q-Tips / Children’s Vitamins / Cotton Balls

If you know folks who have a passion for children and health-related issues, or if you know folks who simply enjoy experiencing the joy and innocence of children in worship, invite them to join us for this powerful service.

This is a great time to be the church!  See you Sunday!

Grace and Peace,


Psalm 146:1-10
1  Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
2  I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
3  Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.
4  When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.
5  Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God,
6  who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;
7  who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free;
8  the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
9  The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10  The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD!

We are just a few days away from our annual pork feed.  Thanks to the many of you who have signed up to provide a homemade dessert or side dish.  If you have not yet signed up and would like to do so, please call the church office or send an e-mail to Linzi Gum (lgum@cherokeespumc.org).  The buzz has been good around town, and we are looking for a great turnout.  As you know, the proceeds will go toward paying down our renovation debt.  Come for a fun, delicious time, and bring a friend!

Thanks to Jill Chalstrom and Korrie Waldner for cleaning out our nursery of old and broken toys, and organizing a drive for new toys for our littlest children.  We had a good response to their pitch last Sunday, with nearly $120 collected.  To purchase the specific toys from K-Mart and Bomgaar’s that they are requesting, visit our website, click on “Nursery Donations Opportunity” and note the actual pictures of the toys on the store shelves.  Thanks to everyone who has helped out so far.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Power of This Love

September 19, 2007


Dear St. Pauls Family,


A quick reading of 1 John would suggest that this book of the Bible would deserve to be called "The Precious Moments Epistle."  It is cute, pithy, and adorable, just like the figurines.  And it is full of poetic reminders of the love that God has for us, and the love that we can have for each other.  Reading some of its more famous passages just makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside:


 "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. (3:1)

 "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  (4:7)

 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. (4:11)


Now for the curveball.  Most scholars agree that 1 John was written toward the end of the first century, which would put its writing around the time of the early church's period of fierce persecution.  Emperor Domitian, who ruled from A.D. 81-96, was characterized by the early Church Father Tertullian as a "man of Nero's type in cruelty," who "tried his hand at persecution," but who "soon put an end to what he had begun." (from Tertullians Apology)


So now imagine these words read by the first Christians not in the context of peace and comfort, but against a soundtrack of piercing swords and roaring coliseum lions.  Amid an atmosphere of violence and bloodshed, these words take on new, profound meaning:


"For this is the original message we heard: We should love each other.  We must not be like Cain, who joined the Evil One and then killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because he was deep in the practice of evil, while the acts of his brother were righteous. So don't be surprised, friends, when the world hates you. This has been going on a long time.  The way we know we've been transferred from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters. Anyone who doesn't love is as good as dead. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know very well that eternal life and murder don't go together."  (1 John 3:11-15, from The Message)


Since the earliest days of the church, Christians have been called to love others, even in response to hateful aggression and persecution.  We have always been called to counter violence with love, war with peace, and revenge with forgiveness.  It has never been ours to choose whether or not to love others:  if we are called "children of God", we must love.  


In 1957, while preaching at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1957, Martin Luther King, Jr. concluded his sermon with the following challenge:  


So this morning, as I look into your eyes, and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you, "I love you. I would rather die than hate you." And Im foolish enough to believe that through the power of this love somewhere, men of the most recalcitrant bent will be transformed. And then we will be in Gods kingdom. We will be able to matriculate into the university of eternal life because we had the power to love our enemies, to bless those persons that cursed us, to even decide to be good to those persons who hated us, and we even prayed for those persons who despitefully used us.


This Sunday, we continue our series on "How to Have a Child-Like Faith in a Grown-Up World" with a sermon titled "You're Just Like You're Father!  Having a Child-Like Love".  We'll dig deeper into the words of 1 John and discover how our love can help transform the world.  This would be a great Sunday to invite an unchurched friend to join you for worship.  See you on the journey!


Grace and Peace,





1 John 3:1-11

1  See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

2  Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

3  And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

4  Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.

5  You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

6  No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him.

7  Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.

8  Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.

9  Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God's seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God.

10  The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters.

11  For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.





Have you ever wondered about those books in some Bibles between the Old and New Testaments?  While they are not a part of the official canon of Protestant Bibles, they contain stories that provide a unique historical perspective on the lives of Jewish people right before the birth of Jesus. This seven-week class will be taught by Dr. Jessica deVega, Professor of Religion at Morningside College.  It begins this Sunday, September 23, at 9am in the church library.  The class will conclude in November and will serve as nice preparation for this year's Advent season.  Readings for the class will be provided at the first class.  For more information, call the deVega's at 221-4899.





It's time once again for our annual pork feed, scheduled for September 30, from 11:30am-1:00pm.  The Parker family will again be providing some choice Iowa hog loins, slow-cooked in a giant cooker and injected with a secret special sauce.  We are aiming for a big turnout this year from the community - as many as 250 people, so we would like to have many of you provide homemade desserts and sides.  Donations will be accepted, and all the proceeds will go toward the repayment of the sanctuary renovation debt.  We encourage you to invite your friends, family, co-workers to what will be a great time of friendly outreach and delicious food.  To sign-up to provide sides and deserts or to get a flyer suitable for display in your office or workplace, please call the church office.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tatted Crosses and Third-Grade Bibles

September 11, 2007


Dear St. Paul's Family,


I never had the privilege of meeting Vida Rice, but I can surely sense her legacy.  Born in 1897, Vida lived all 104 years of her life with a passion for life and a love for her God.  And, she had a beatiful gift for tatting - handcrafting delicate but durable lace creations with patterns of knots and loops.  For sixty years, Vida made tatted crosses for every third grader of this church, presente d to them when they received their first Bibles.  One estimate claims that she made close to 2,000 tatted crosses in her life, each one uniquely hand-made, each one taking nearly two hours to produce.  


This past week, her daughter, Ellen Henderson, came to my office to show me newspaper clippings about her mother and a sample of her work.  Ellen continues the family tradition of making the tatted cross bookmarks, which she has done for this church for the past six years.  And this Sunday, when we present eleven third-graders with their first Bibles, they will receive what countless generations of St. Paul's children have received - a cherished, handmade symbol of love and faith. 


In a way, this reminds me of the poignant exchange between the apostle Paul and his young ministry apprentice Timothy.  Remembering how Timothy's faith had been passed to him from his family, he wrote:  "I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you."   (2 Timothy 1:5)  It is a primary responsibility for every church to ensure that the Christian faith is passed to the next generation.  It is no less than what our spiritual ancestors, the Vida Rice's of our lives, have done for us.  


Jim Harnish, the senior pastor of the church I served prior to coming here, is fond of saying that handing a Bible to a third-grader is one of the most dangerous things a church can do.  This same book, which toppled menacing regimes and liberated oppressed people, has the power to transform their lives forever.  This Sunday, we will celebrate the unleashing of the unchained Word in their lives, and participate in the greatest gift they will ever receive - new life and hope in Christ.  


We will also begin a new sermon series called "Let the Children Come to Me:  How to Have a Child-Like Faith in a Grown-up World."  We will be studying the words of Jesus that call us to live with the trust, love, and faith of a child, despite the anxie ties that threaten the world in which we live.  I hope you will join us for this powerful series, and invite those you know who aren't coming to church to come along for the journey.  


See you this Sunday!


Grace and Peace,





Luke 18:15-17

15  People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it.

16  But Jesus called for them and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.

17  Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it."

Matthew 18:1-5

18:1  At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

2  He called a child, whom he put among them,

3  and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

4  Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

5  Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.