Easter Giving Project

  Good morning,

 Linda Zimmerman brought to my attention a pretty cool ministry that is taking place over at Fairmount Homes.  In partnership with GAIN (Global Aid Network), a group of ladies living at Fairmount are collecting donations of fabric, yarn, and other sewing supplies to make dresses, caps, and quilts to be shipped overseas to the impoverished areas that GAIN serves.

 During the Easter season we will be helping these sisters-in-Christ by collecting the following items:

 Towels (New or gently used – they are used for padding and will not be seen in the finished sewing projects)

Yarn (Baby or 4 ply – I’m assuming you knitters know what that means!)

Flannel (they do not use camo/military patterns or dog prints)

Quilted Fabric (such as a used bedsheet or blanket)

Dress Fabric

 Although any of the above can be purchased or donated, giving used items you have at home is more than OK!

 We will have a table in the back of the sanctuary for your donations and Linda will be collecting them each week to take over to Fairmount.  Collections will start NEXT WEEK (3/24) and continue until Palm Sunday (4/14).

 Here’s what’s happening:

1.      Choir Rehearsals continue Monday nights at 7 pm.

2.     Lenten Devotional Guides are available at the usual spots in the sanctuary.  Grab one for yourself and one for a friend.

3.      The PRC is meeting this Tuesday, March 19, at 6:30 pm in the church.

4.     We had a good VBS meeting…thanks to everyone who came out!  One area of need that we see is the crafts station.  We really need someone to help lead that station.  Don’t worry, my daughter Abby has all the craft ideas ready to go!

5.      I’ve had several requests to have the Easter Cantata videotaped so that our At Home members can view it via DVD.  If anyone had the equipment to do this and is willing to be the cameraperson, please let me know.

 This week we continue our sermon series on the disciples as we look at the life of John.  Although John is mentioned frequently in the Gospels, very few passages actually feature him.   The ones that do are very short! Does that mean I’ll have a shorter message?*  You’ll have to come to find out!

 Scott

 

  

 

*No

Easter Traditions

Good morning,

 Yesterday morning I got myself out of bed before the crack of dawn, got dressed and headed over to Bird-in-Hand Bakery to get Fasnachts for the family.  BIH actually has a Fasnacht Drive Through tent that they sent up to handle all the orders, but the line for that was really long, even at 6 am.  So I parked the car and walked up to the tent to make my purchase.

 The person in front of my ordered 3 dozen Fasnachts, so I ended up standing in line a bit.  It was then that it hit me – here I was standing in the freezing cold before sunrise to overpay for something that I wasn’t even going to eat!

 Why?

 Well, it’s because I love my family and my pre-dawn dash for heavy doughnuts has become an annual Phillips family tradition…and you don’t mess with tradition!  The season of Lent and especially Holy Week is full of many traditions for many families.  Whether it is going to an Easter Egg Hunt, purchasing a big piece of ham for Easter dinner, or buying an unhealthy amount of candy to give to the grandkids, many Easter traditions will happen over the next 40 days.

 Enjoy every one of them, even the weird ones that only your family does and even if it means standing in 12-degree cold just so your kids can have a fun breakfast.

 The season of Lent is here!

 Here’s what’s happening:

1.      Choir Rehearsals continue Monday nights at 7 pm.

2.     Lenten Devotional Guides are available at the usual spots in the sanctuary.  Grab one for yourself and one for a friend.

3.      VBS Meeting this Tuesday, 3/12 at 6:30pm at the church.

4.     Speaking of Easter…looking ahead to Holy Week:

a.      4/14 – Easter Cantata and Fellowship Meal

b.     4/17 – 4/18 – Prayer Vigil

c.      4/18 – Maundy Thursday Communion Service at 6:30, followed by “Breads and Spreads” fellowship time.

d.     4/19 – Community Good Friday Service hosted by Emmanuel UMC at 7 pm.

e.      4/21 – Community Sunrise Service hosted by Carpenters Community Church at 6:1 5 am.

f.       4/21 – Easter Celebration at 10:15 am!

 This week we continue our sermon series on the disciples as we look at the life of James.  While many of disciples shied away from the limelight, James seems to have relished being on the “front lines.”  His passion and zeal for Jesus was admirable, but it also got him two different rebukes from his Savior!

 Scott

 

The Beginning of Lent - Not Just About Doughnuts!

 

 Good morning,

 My goodness, this week we say goodbye to February and hello to March!  Although I think (fear) that we might have one more blast of the wintry stuff yet, subtle signs of spring are starting to appear.

 Next week begins the season of Lent.  For many of us that means that this coming Tuesday is Fasnacht Day, but of course it also means that Holy Week is coming as well.  Easter is very “late” this year, but it will be here before we know it! 

 This year we have created a very simple Lenten Devotional Guide for individuals, couples, and families to use as we anticipate Easter Sunday.    There is one devo for each week of the Lenten season.  Each devo has a passage of the Scripture to read and some brief thoughts to help guide discussion and prayer.

 We will have those guides ready on Sunday for whoever wants one…and you can feel free to take a few extra to give to your coworker or neighbor.  We can always print more up!

Here’s what’s happening:

1.      Choir Rehearsals continue on Monday nights at 7 pm.

2.     We are still in need of a few people who are willing to help with decorating the church.  It will soon be time for the Easter decorations.  If you are willing to give a few hours of your time to help, please see Cheryl Hornberger.

3.      Speaking of Easter…looking ahead to Holy Week:

a.      4/14 – Easter Cantata and Fellowship Meal

b.     4/17 – 4/18 – Prayer Vigil

c.      4/18 – Maundy Thursday Communion Service at 6:30, followed by “Breads and Spreads” fellowship time.

d.     4/21 – Easter Sunday!

 This week we continue our sermon series on the disciples as we look at the life of Andrew.  Unlike his brother Peter who often preached to masses, Andrew is almost always found taking someone to meet Jesus.  On Sunday we will discover why the church needs both folks like Peter AND folks like Andrew! 

 Scott

Out of Sight...Out of Prayer?

Good morning,

 My favorite book of the Bible is Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  He begins his letter to the Church Philippi with his customary greetings and prayers.  It is a part of Scripture that we usually gloss over when we read the book of Philippians.  After all, he does tend to open each letter with the same sentiments, so why not just get past the obligatory stuff and get to the real meat of the letter?

 Well, when we do, we just might miss something important!

 In Philippians 1:3-5 Paul writes this: 

 I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (NIV)

 At first glance this statement seems innocuous enough…nothing big to see here…let’s move on, right!  But when we take a closer look, Paul is actually makes a remarkable statement about prayer.  From what we know about Paul’s travels and his life, Paul wrote this letter while imprisoned in Rome.  He likely hasn’t been at the church for several years.

 Several years!

 And yet he still petitions God on their behalf during his regular times prayer.  Wow!  I had to pause to wonder if I am praying for anyone that I haven’t seen in that long of a time (The answer was no). 

 For me, these verses challenge me to commit to two things:

1.  Remember to pray for those whom I haven’t seen in a while.

2.  Remember to pray for the loved ones I see every day.  If Paul can have that kind of commitment to pray for the folks in Philippi, how much easier should it be for me to pray for the folks in my own home?

 

Here’s what’s happening:

1.      Choir Rehearsals start this coming Monday, February 18 at 7pm.

2.     Christian Education Commission is meeting on Tuesday, February 19, at 6:30 pm in the church annex.

3.      I am still looking for a few folks to be a part of a new prayer team that I would like to start.  Commitment would involve being willing to occasionally pray with someone after a Sunday morning worship service.  If you might be interested in learning more about it see me on Sunday.

 This week we are returning to sermon series on the disciples as we look at the life of Matthew.  If you know of someone who thinks that there is no way that Jesus could ever love them…you need to invite them to join us this week. 

 

Scott

Love...Exciting and New

Good morning,

 When Mary and I were in the “young love” stage of our marriage we spent a good deal of time with friends who had been married for a few more years than us.  While they were a nice couple and we got along well, they tended to put down each other in casual conversation.  Sometimes the comments were told in a “teasing” manner, but other times it was quite clear that they weren’t kidding around.   At one point I worked up the nerve to mention my concern to my friend.  His response was that there was nothing to worry about and that was “just how our relationship is,” which indicated to me that he wanted the conversation to end. 

For many couples, speaking back and forth to each other in snide remarks and biting jokes is a regular part of their marriage.  They don’t enjoy it necessarily, but it is “just how their relationship is.”

But it’s not how God wants our relationship with our spouse to be.

I have a sarcastic sense of humor, and Mary and I can have fun teasing one another about our respective quirks.  One thing that I have worked hard at doing, however, is avoiding teasing her or negatively comparing her to others in public.  Speaking positively about our spouse in public is a big part of being on the same side, one of the love languages that we need to speak to partner.  Most married couples would say that they see their marriage as a partnership or a team, but sometimes they act as if they are anything but that.

Being on the same side involves expressing loyalty and faithfulness to your spouse.  While it doesn’t mean we have to agree with them on every detail large and small, it does mean that we are constantly offering our support and affirmation to them.  This support also means that there will be times that we need to “protect” them.  Not because they are helpless, but because others are asking too much of them.  We need to protect them from over committing themselves, for example.  We need to help them guard their schedule.  Sometimes we need to protect them from those they cannot say “no” to, such as our kids or our parents.

There are many examples in the Bible of one spouse demonstrating their loyalty to the other.  The story of Noah and his wife is one example (has any spouse ever demonstrated a “we are in this together” attitude more than Noah’s wife?), and Moses and Zipporah are another.  

It seems like it is human nature to compare our situations in life with those of others.  If you find yourself in a conversation where a group of people are comparing spouses (you know the ones, they usually contain phrases like “you think that’s bad, well my wife...” or “I just wish my husband could be more like…”) refrain from joining in and gently steer the discussion to another subject.  It’s one of the most visible demonstrations of love for your spouse that you can make!

 Here’s what’s happening:

1.      Choir Rehearsals start on Monday, February 18 at 7pm.

2.     I am still looking for a few folks to be a part of a new prayer team that I would like to start.  Commitment would involve being willing to occasionally pray with someone after a Sunday morning worship service.  If you might be interested in learning more about it see me on Sunday.

3.      Bob Rollman is celebrating his 90th birthday on 2/13.  The family is hoping to bless him with a birthday card shower.  Cards can be sent to Robert Rollman c/o Diane Brubaker 336 Lincoln Ave Ephrata Pa 17522.

 As I mentioned this past Sunday, this week we are taking our second “detour” from our sermon series on the 12 disciples.  Don’t worry, after this Sunday we’ll be with The Twelve though Easter!  We will be focusing on marriage this week, specifically communication within marriages.  It should be a fun morning!  I would encourage you to invite folks to join us for some practical teaching from the Scriptures on how God wants us to communicate with our spouse.  And if you are single, this Sunday is still for you…these principles apply to all of our relationships!

 Scott

Transparency

Good morning,

 Thank you to everyone who was able to stay for our Congregational Meeting on Sunday.  It is always good to be able to reflect back on all that God has done in the previous year and also anticipate what He might do in 2019.

 There was one thing that I didn’t emphasize on Sunday that I should have made clear.  Some of the action steps in our vision will need additional discussion and communication with you by myself and/or the ministry council.  There are some action steps that I’ve just moved ahead with, such as starting a visitation ministry and having a prayer vigil.  Other action steps, however, will be presented to you before we do them.  Sometimes that will be to get input from the congregation, and other times it will be simply a case of being transparent and clear as to what the church leadership is up to.

 So, you won’t come to church one Sunday to find any unexpected holes in the walls or find out one week that we are launching a second service the next week!  I just wanted to reassure everyone about that.  Change, while often necessary, is often difficult.  Change that seems chaotic or isn’t communicated is especially tough to handle for many of us.

 Here at Ebenezer Church we are committed to doing whatever it takes to help lead people to Christ and then to a deeper relationship with Him.  But we are also committed to do everything well, and that includes communication within the church family.

 

Here’s what’s happening:

1.      2/6 – Ministry Council Meeting

2.     Palm Sunday Cantata – Yes, it is already time to start thinking about choir practice!  Joanne Swords-Wand will be leading our cantata this spring.  Rehearsals will begin on Monday, 2/18 from 7 – 8pm and continue each Monday night leading up to Palm Sunday.

3.      E.C. Church News -  Reich’s E.C. Church in Marietta is planning a bus trip for the first weekend in May to Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown in Virginia.  They are looking for others to join them to fill out the bus.  If you are interested the information is posted on the bulletin board, or let me know and I can forward it to you by email.

 This Sunday we will jumping back in to our sermon series on The Twelve.  This week we will be looking at the life of Bartholomew, or as he is known in the Gospel of John, Nathanael.  I invite you to read John 1:43-51 in preparation for our study time.

 Scott

Vision

Good morning,

 This Sunday is what I am calling “Vision Sunday” at Ebenezer.  During the service and then again during our Congregational Meeting we will be looking at what God might be calling on us to do in 2019.  One of those items is something I would like to get started on as soon as possible – the formation of a prayer team for Sunday mornings.

 er the past couple of years, I have occasionally ended a service with an “altar call,” inviting people to come forward during the closing song to prayer at the altar.  The response to those calls has been…well, not exactly robust.  That’s OK.  I know that the altar call is an older practice of the church that has kind of gone by the wayside.

 But I still think that there needs to be some sort of ministry that can be there for people when the Holy Spirit is nudging them after a service.  I believe this because invariably whenever I do have an altar call a number of people come up to me after the service and want to talk.

 So here is what I would love to see happen at Ebenezer – after each Sunday morning service we would have a couple of people who would be willing to meet and pray with anyone who desires to be prayed for.  Perhaps we designate the front pew of the sanctuary, or perhaps we use the annex.  We’ll figure out those details together. 

 Much like our visitation ministry, I’m not looking for professional counselors.  Just folks with a heart for people who are willing to listen to someone’s concerns and then pray with/for them for a few minutes on a Sunday morning.  If this ministry is something that you would be interested in being a part of, please see me.

 Here’s what’s happening:

1.      We received $970 for the Ryan Martin family on Sunday and will be send the gift along with a card of sympathy to Katie Martin.

2.     THIS SUNDAY, 1/27 is our Annual Congregational Meeting after the service.  We will gather in the fellowship hall for lunch, with what should be a brief meeting to follow.  Please plan to stay.

3.      2/6 – Ministry Council Meeting

4.     Palm Sunday Cantata – Yes, it is already time to start thinking about choir practice!  Joanne Swords-Wand will be leading our cantata this spring.  Rehearsals will begin on Monday, 2/18 from 7 – 8pm and continue each Monday night leading up to Palm Sunday.

5.      The West Earl Fire Company is having a fundraising breakfast from 6-10 am on Saturday.

6.     There is a Sportsman Banquet being held on March 7 & 8 at Yoder’s Restaurant.  See Jeff Bahrenburg for details if you would like to go.

 This Sunday we will be taking a break from our sermon series to reflect on all that God has accomplished through the ministries of Ebenezer in 2018 and look to what He has in store for us in 2019.  I would encourage you to read Daniel 6:1-5 in preparation for Sunday as we take a deep dive into what Biblical excellence looks like!

 

Scott

An Awkward Conversation

Good morning,

Can we have an awkward conversation?

 Last week our family attended the viewing for my brother-in-law’s father.  We had spent time with him at picnics, birthday parties, and other events that Mary’s sister and her husband hosted.  Although he wasn’t in the best of health, his passing was rather sudden.  While going through the greeting line my brother-in-law pulled me aside and said “Scott, have your folks plan their funerals, it makes everything so much easier.”

 My experience as a pastor certainly agrees with what my brother-in-law was feeling – it is a gift to the family when they know exactly what they’re loved wanted.  I’ve yet to come up with a way, however, to initiate that awkward conversation!  So what I’ll do is just extend a general offer to anyone (doesn’t matter what life stage you are in): if you would like to sit down and get in writing what your wishes would be I will be happy to do that with you.  I have a list of scripture passages that can be read, hymns that can be sung, and other things that we can go over.  I know it isn’t fun to think about, and I feel awkward even bringing it up in an email, but I wanted to put the offer out there.

 Also – the weather gurus are suggesting that we might be in for some more wintry weather this weekend.  It sounds like they won’t know for sure until Friday.  If we need to make a change to our Sunday schedule, I will do so by 7am on Sunday and will send out an email and post it on our Facebook page and website.  We will also activate our phone chain.  If things look questionable, please check!

A couple of reminders:

1.      We will be taking a benevolence offering for the Ryan Martin family THIS SUNDAY Sunday, 1/20 for any who wish to contribute.  Please make your check out to the church and designate for Martin Family.

2.     1/27 – Annual Congregational Meeting

3.      2/6 – Ministry Council Meeting

This Sunday we will be looking at the disciple who is forever known as “Doubting Thomas.”  Thomas is certainly a serious guy, and perhaps he was a bit of a pessimist, but his life should definitely not be only remembered for a time that he struggled with some doubt.  If you or someone you know is struggling with some doubts in their faith, Sunday would be a great day to be at Ebenezer!

 

Scott

Thoughts on Prayer

Good morning,

 If you were with us on Sunday you know that we did not pass the microphone around to take prayer requests and I instead led in praying primarily for the Ryan Martin family.  You have no doubt noticed that I tend to switch things up with our prayer time during the service.  Many weeks we do pass the microphone, but other weeks we don’t.  Occasionally I’ll ask us to kneel or stand, and sometimes I ask us to be still and pray silently.

 Why do I change it up?  Well, there are couple of reasons.  A minor one is that I try to have the worship service end at 11:30 am each week.  My experience has been that folks appreciate a consistent starting and ending times, and I plan the services accordingly.  Sometimes something happens during the week (either locally or nationally) that I feel our prayer time should be devoted to.  And quite honestly, sometimes it’s the prompting of the Holy Spirit as we are singing our opening worship set.

 I’m not telling you all this because someone complained…just so that you have an idea of what my thought process is when it comes to our public prayer times.  Our Ebenezer 2020 vision statement lists emphasizing both prayer and creativity in our worship services and I always want to sensitive to God’s leading during our services.

 If you ever have something that you definitely want shared with the church family and prayed for during the service, please see me before the service.  I’ll be the guy standing there looking stressed!  😊  I will certainly make sure to do so within whatever manner we go before the Lord.  And if I forget, Trent will surely remind me!

 A couple of reminders:

1.      We will be taking a benevolence offering for the Ryan Martin family on Sunday, 1/20 for any who wish to contribute.

2.     1/15 – Congregational Life Commission

3.      1/27 – Annual Congregational Meeting

 This Sunday we will be looking at the lives of 3 of the least known disciples:  James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Thaddeus.   Although they are rarely mentioned in the Gospels, their lives serve as a great testimony to how Jesus uses different people to build His church!

 Scott

Thoughts on Communion

Good morning,

2019 is here!  I imagine that many of you are struggling with the “back to reality” feeling that I have today.  Here’s the good news – we gain 44 seconds of daylight today!  Enjoy it!

On Sunday we will share in Holy Communion together.  Many churches share the tradition of having Communion on the first Sunday of the new year, and in some church tradition’s it is known as the Covenant Communion.  It’s called that because we are recommitting ourselves to the New Covenant for the upcoming year.  We are acknowledging that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and are committing ourselves to following Him no matter what the year may bring.

This Sunday we will be serving Communion at the altar.  The ushers will be directing groups up to receive the bread and the cup.  If you are unable to kneel please feel free to stand at the altar or sit in the first pew and I will gladly serve you there.  If mobility is a concern and you would prefer to have Communion served in your pew, please let me know.

In the E.C. Church the Lord’s Table is an open table.  You do not need to be a member of the church in order to receive Communion.  Parents, as always I will let you decide if your child(ren) should participate in Communion.  I would ask however, that only children who have accepted Jesus as their Savior come forward and would suggest having a conversation with them about Communion and why we receive it beforehand.

A couple of reminders:

1.      1/15 – Congregational Life Commission

2.     1/27 – Annual Congregational Meeting

 We begin our new sermon series on the 12 disciples on Sunday.  If you know of someone who has felt the sting of rejection or being told that they weren’t good enough, this would be a wonderful week to invite them to join us at Ebenezer.  The message will include a strong invitation to receive Jesus as Savior.

 

Scott

Merry Christmas Tom

Good morning,

There is nothing quite like being a young child on Christmas morning.  Waking up before dawn in anticipation of a tree full of gifts with your name on them, deciding whether or not to sneak downstairs to sneak a peek at the tree, and then running with joy once your parents announce that the time has arrived to rip and tear (my parents made us wait until 8 am, which was totally unreasonable when I was a kid but makes complete sense to me now that I have small children) and praying that you didn’t get socks as a gift.

Most of my childhood Christmas gifts are long gone, of course.  The toys eventually broke, the clothes became too small, and the other gifts were either lost along the way or are buried in a box somewhere.  One gift, however, is still with me.  It’s small, it’s old, and it’s even a little broken, but there is no way in the world I would ever get rid of it.

When I was in fifth grade my Sunday School teacher, Tom Mullin, gave me a little plane ornament for my Christmas tree.  Many fifth grade boys would have been unimpressed with such a gift, but for me it quickly became a prized possession.  I adored Tom.  He took an interest in me at a time when I really needed it, and I looked forward to Sunday School each week.  Tom took this rowdy pack of boys and each week calmed us down enough to teach us the foundations of the Christian faith while at the same time keeping things fun.  One week Tom led our class through the sinner’s prayer, and I officially committed my life to Christ.  I was crushed when it was time for me to move on the 6th grade.

Needless to say, Tom’s ornament was the first one that I put on my tree the next year, and the year after that.  The following year Tom suffered a debilitating stroke.  I will never forget the day that he returned to church after that.  He needed to use a walker, and it took him a long time to get to his pew, but nothing was going to keep him from worshiping God.  The stroke robbed him of his ability to speak, with the exception of one phrase – “Merry Christmas.”  Christmas was Tom's favorite time of year.

As my family began to decorate the tree that year, I was crushed when I unwrapped Tom’s ornament and found the tailfin broken.  Then it dawned on me how it was sort of fitting.  Even though life can batter us around and our bodies will ultimately fail us, we still can celebrate the fact that God sent his Son to die for us so that we can be with Him in heaven someday, where we will be restored to an “unbroken” condition.  I once again placed Tom’s ornament front and center on our tree, and I can say without any embarrassment that I could barely see through all the tears as I softly whispered “Merry Christmas, Tom.”

Every year since then Tom’s plane has been the first one on my Christmas tree, a tradition I’ve brought to my own family.  It’s become a fun and meaningful reminder to my kids of how Dad came to know Christ, since I tell the “story of the plane” each year.

As you deck the halls this year, what can you incorporate into your traditions that helps tell the story of how you came to know Jesus as your savior?  While it is so important to tell our kids the story of the first Christmas during the holiday season, it’s just as important to tell them the story of why the birth of Jesus means so much to us.  Perhaps you can find an ornament of your own that helps tell your story, or a special song that you can sing as a family.  The possibilities are endless.

Let this be the year that you begin telling your children how the Christmas Story and your story connect.

On Sunday we will continue our Christmas sermon series, titled “Three Wise Women.”  Our wise woman for this Sunday is Mary, the mother of Jesus.  The Christian Adventure Class is hosting a special children’s program in the fellowship hall starting at 9 am.  Then on Monday night we will have our Candlelight Service at 6 pm.  Our choir will be reprising two numbers for their cantata, and during that service I’ll spend a few moments talking about the story of Anna found in Luke 2:36-38.  It is going to be a great couple of days of worship and as always I would encourage you to invite friends to join us celebrate the birth of the King of Kings.

Scott

Gift of Touch

Good morning,

Most mornings I leave the house with Abby to take her to the bus stop before heading into church.  Before doing so I always get a big hug from Trent, and then a quick kiss on the check from Abby once the bus arrives.  I’m not the most touchy-feely guy in the world, but I’ve come to cherish those quick moments of affection with my kids.

Touch is one of the most powerful communication tools that God has given to us.  Even momentary or incidental contact with someone you care about strengthens your bond with them because it sends a message of affirmation, comfort, love, and/or security.

The Bible speaks often to the power of tender touch.  Jacob gently laid his hands on his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh to give them his blessing.  The people of Israel laid hands on the Levites as they were set apart for priestly duties.  Jesus, of course, was the master of communicating love through touch.  Mark 1:31 tells us that “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man…Immediately the leprosy left him and cured him.”  Mark 10:16 says that “…he took the children into his arms, put his hands on them, and blessed them. 

This Christmas season, give the gift of tender touch to your family.  Make sure that your spouse and your kids are receiving tender touches from you on a daily basis.  Your relationships with them will grow and flourish because of it, and it will be just what they wanted!

Here’s what’s happening…

1.      We are still in need of some food donations for the Community Christmas Meal, especially turkeys.  Trays of cooked turkey are preferred, but donations of thawed turkeys are accepted as well.  This is really the last Sunday to sign up, so please do so. Food donations should be dropped off at the church by Thursday, December 20th.  See Elaine Quigley with any questions.

2.     We are collecting winter coats to donate to CVCCS.  Collection runs throughout December.  Boxes to place your donations in are in the side stairwell leading to the lower level of the church.

3.      12/23 – The Christian Adventure Class is hosting a special kids Christmas program during both Sunday School and Worship Service in the fellowship hall.

4.     12/24 – Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at 6 pm.

5.      12/30 – Jesse North, Area Director for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, will give the message.

6.     1/27 – Annual Congregational Meeting

7.      Winter weather has set in.  If we need to make a change to our schedule, we will do so through the phone and email chains, on our Facebook page and website, through smoke signals, by carrier pigeon and through the pony express.  I am hoping to NEVER have to do this…but all the weather folks are saying that we are in for a very “wintry” winter, so we will see.

 This week we continue our Christmas sermon series, titled “Three Wise Women.”  Our wise woman for this Sunday is Ruth, or as she is often always called in the Bible, Ruth the Moabitess.  If you know of someone who is struggling with difficult circumstances in their life this Christmas season, please invite them to join us at Ebenezer this week.

 

Scott

The Gift of Humor

Good morning,

Thanks to everyone who worked so hard and put in so much time on the Cantata last Sunday!  What a great way to start our Advent Season!  Thanks as well to the Kitchen Committee for another wonderful meal.

Trent is the jokester of our family.  He loves a good joke, loves to tell a good joke, and loves to play jokes on the rest of us.  Most of all, he just loves to laugh.  When he was little he would often run into any room where people were laughing just to laugh along with them…he didn’t even need to know the reason for all the laughter.

Humor is an essential part of family life, but it can be risky.  Psychology Today once survey 14,000 people and asked them to rate 30 jokes.  Every joke had some people who rated it as “very funny”, and every joke had some people who rated it “not funny at all”.  God must have located our funny bones in different places! 

It’s important that we find things that the whole family finds funny and incorporate them into our daily lives.  It may be acting silly (think 3 Stooges, without the pain!), telling funny jokes or stories, or singing silly songs.  While it is true that humor comes to some easier than others, I believe that God has given each of us a sense of humor to use!

“Laughter is the best medicine” is a common phrase in our culture and medical studies have shown that there is some truth to that.  It shouldn’t surprise us, since Proverbs 17:22 tells us that “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”  The Bible is full of reminders to us to laugh.  In Psalm 126:2 the psalmist sings “Our mouths are filled with laughter”, and Paul exults in Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!”

Humor helps us cope with both the small things and big things in life.  To paraphrase an old pastoral saying “A family without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs – jolted by every bump in the road.”  This Christmas give your family the gift of humor.  It’s free, it lasts the whole year, and it will be just what they wanted!

Here’s what’s happening…

1.      We are collecting winter coats to donate to CVCCS.  Collection runs throughout December.  Boxes to place your donations in are in the side stairwell leading to the lower level of the church.

2.     12/23 – The Christian Adventure Class is hosting a special kids Christmas program during both Sunday School and Worship Service in the fellowship hall.

3.      12/24 – Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at 6 pm.

4.     12/30 – Jesse North, Area Director for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, will give the message.

5.      1/27 – Annual Congregational Meeting

6.     Winter weather has set in.  If we need to make a change to our schedule, we will do so through the phone and email chains, on our Facebook page and website, through smoke signals, by carrier pigeon and through the pony express.  I am hoping to NEVER have to do this…but all the weather  folks are saying that we are in for a very “wintry” winter, so we will see.

 This week we begin our Christmas sermon series, titled “Three Wise Women.”  Our wise woman for this Sunday is Rahab, or as she is almost always called in the Bible, Rahab the Prostitute.  If you know of someone who is struggling with guilt or shame over their sin and think that God couldn’t possibly love them, this is the week to invite them to join us at Ebenezer!

 

Scott

His Grand Scheme

Good morning,

The holidays are really sneaking up on me this year…I looked at the calendar this morning and realized that Thanksgiving is only a week away!

I wanted to share a bit more about our Grandparenting workshop that we will be having during the S.S. hour on 11/25 and 12/2.  We will be looking at the four roles that grandparents can play in the lives of their grandchildren.   We’ll also touch on some of the challenges that today’s grandparents face, from ever-changing technology to grandparenting from a distance. 

Now, some of you might be thinking “What can a guy whose kids aren’t even out of school yet know about grandparenting?”  That’s a good question!  Obviously, I am not yet a grandparent.  BUT I’ve been a grandson for over 44 years now, and I cannot emphasize enough how vital my grandparents were and continue to be in my life.

Some of you might also be thinking “Well, I’m not a grandparent, so this workshop really isn’t for me.”  I would suggest that isn’t the case at all.  Some of you are in my life stage…and you are the “gatekeeper” of your kids to your parents…there is a lot in this workshop that will be helpful.  Some of you are acting as “Grandma” or “Grandpa” to a younger person...there is a lot in this workshop that will be helpful.  If you simply want to have an impact on the next generation of believers…there is a lot in this workshop that will be helpful.

I hope you can join us during the SS hour on those 2 Sundays.  On the 25th we will gather in the sanctuary…and on the 2nd we will probably use the fire hall classroom due to the Cantata and fellowship meal. 

Here’s what’s happening…

1.      Choir Practice for the Christmas Cantata continues every Monday night at 7pm.  Dress Rehearsal is at 9am on 12/1.

2.     West Earl Fire Company is holding a breakfast THIS SATURDAY, November 17 from 6-10 am. Great opportunity to fellowship with your neighbors and support the fire company!

3.      11/25 is “This is My Story” Sunday.  We will be hearing from members of our church family as they tell their story of how God has blessed their life.  I am still looking for 1 brave soul who would be willing to share their story.

4.     A couple of reminders:

a.      Please return any borrowed books back to the library in a timely manner. 

b.     Parents – please remind your children that the snack served between SS and the worship service should be enjoyed in the annex, not in the sanctuary (this goes for adults as well!).

5.      Save the Dates:

a.      11/25 & 12/2 – Sunday School Elective on Grandparenting. 

b.     12/2 – Annual Christmas Cantata and Fellowship Meal.

c.      12/24 – Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at 6 pm.

 This Sunday we will conclude our journey through the book of Nehemiah. With all the celebrating that the people of Jerusalem have done you might think that their revival lasted for generations, but that was not the case.  In fact, it took only 2 years or so before they completely returned to their old ways.  We will be looking at Nehemiah’s response to their backsliding and seeing why it is necessary to be constantly purifying our lives.

I look forward to seeing everyone on Sunday!

 

Scott

A Fair Question

Good morning,

On Monday night Greg and I headed over to Conestoga Valley High School for the annual college fair.  The main gymnasium was filled with rows and rows of tables and stationed behind each table was a representative for a college.  Many of the colleges are located close by, but others are quite a distance away from Lancaster County (there were reps there from the University of Alabama and the University of South Carolina, for example).  Greg and I stopped and talked with the reps from the colleges that he might be interested in attending.

Some of the reps were very knowledgeable about their college.  They answered all our questions and added helpful information that we didn’t think to ask about.  They were also very excited to tell us about their college. 

Some of the reps, however, were a bit less helpful and a bit less excited.  Perhaps they were having a bad day, or something else was going on in their lives that was sort of distracting them, but they didn’t give a good impression about their school.

The experience got me thinking….

There really isn’t a Lancaster County church fair, (although that would admittedly be something that would be very interesting to attend) but in a very real sense we are all “reps” for our church.  What would your response be if someone asked you about Ebezener Church?  Would you be able to answer their questions?  Would you be excited to tell them about what is happening here at church?  How good of a “rep” would you be for the church?

Here’s what’s happening…

1.      There will be a Budget Meeting tonight, November 7th at 6:30 at the church.

2.     THIS SUNDAY, 11/11 is our Day of Giving.  We will once again be collect big cans of food for Stoneridge Retirement Home and small cans of food for CVCCS.  This will also be the morning that the Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes are collected!  In addition to all of that, we will be taking a special offering (during our normal offering) to give to Mennonite Disaster Services for hurricane relief in the Florida panhandle.

3.      THIS SUNDAY is ALSO our annual Thanksgiving fellowship meal after the service.  Please bring your favorite dessert (homemade or from your favorite bakery) to share at the meal. 

4.     Choir Practice for the Christmas Cantata continues every Monday night at 7pm.

5.      West Earl Fire Company is holding a breakfast on November 17 from 6-10 am. Great opportunity to fellowship with your neighbors and support the fire company!

6.     11/25 is “This is My Story” Sunday.  We will be hearing from members of our church family as they tell their story of how God has blessed their life.  I am still looking for 1 brave soul who would be willing to share their story.

7.      A couple of reminders:

a.      Please return any borrowed books back to the library in a timely manner. 

b.     Parents – please remind your children that the snack served between SS and the worship service should be enjoyed in the annex, not in the sanctuary (this goes for adults as well!).

8.     Save the Dates:

a.      11/25 & 12/2 – Sunday School Elective on Grandparenting. 

b.     12/2 – Annual Christmas Cantata and Fellowship Meal.

c.      12/24 – Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at 6 pm.

 Our passage for this Sunday is Nehemiah 11 & 12, although we will be focusing mainly on 11:1-2.  At this point in the story of Nehemiah the city of Jerusalem is in pretty good shape.  The walls are rebuilt, the gates are in place and the temple is ready to hold daily worship services again.  Only one thing is missing – the people!  We will be taking a deep dive into Nehemiah’s plan to repopulate Jerusalem and discuss why that was so important.

I look forward to seeing everyone on Sunday!

 

Scott

It's the busiest time of the church year!

Good morning,

There is A LOT happening over the coming weeks and months at Ebenezer…and we need some help to make everything happen.  Please read through the announcements and see where you can connect!

Here’s what’s happening…

1.      TONIGHT – Ebenezer At Home - There will be an organizational/training meeting from 6:30 -7:30 in the annex for anyone interested being a part of the visitation team.  I’ll be sharing some thoughts on what to do (and what to avoid) during a visit and talking about how to respond to delicate situations when visiting someone.

2.     Joanne Swords-Wang would like to meet with the kids after the worship service on Sunday to go over the songs they’ll be a part of for the Christmas Cantata.

3.      Choir Practice for the Christmas Cantata continues every Monday night at 7pm.

4.     Harvest Fest prep work continues this Thursday night from 6:30-8pm.  The big event is on 10/25.  We could use a few more folks to help out on the 25th with running the games.

5.      We are also collecting candy for the Harvest Fest.  You can place it next to our usual food collection box for CVCCS.

6.     We are designating, Sunday 11/11 as a Day of Giving.  We will once again be collect big cans of food for Stoneridge Retirement Home and small cans of food for CVCCS.  This will also be the morning that the Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes are collected!  We will begin collecting these items on 10/28.  In addition to all of that, we will be taking a special offering (during our normal offering) to give to Mennonite Disaster Services for hurricane relief in the Florida panhandle.

7.      11/11 is ALSO our annual Thanksgiving fellowship meal after the service.  Please bring your favorite dessert (homemade or from your favorite bakery) to share at the meal.  Our kitchen committee has a number of members who are dealing with some health issues.  We REALLY need some help with this meal and the fellowship meal after the Cantata on 12/2.  If you are able and willing to help please see Elaine Quigley.

8.     We are in need of some additional ushers for 2019.  Please see Eric Echternach or Barry Imhoff if you would be willing to usher.

9.     Our ongoing need for nursery workers is getting to a critical point.  The Ministry Council has approved hiring some PT nursery workers for two Sundays a month starting in 2019.  We hope that this will be a temporary situation.  We will be advertising the positions on the LBC job board to start our search.

Our passage for this Sunday is Nehemiah 8.  The walls of the Jerusalem have been restored, but the people still need to experience restoration in their relationship with God.  We’ll be looking at how Nehemiah leads them through that process. 

We are planning a very celebratory service on Sunday, with lots of opportunities to offer praise to God!  Come ready to sing, come ready to smile, and come ready to celebrate our awesome and mighty Lord.  You won’t want to miss this service, and don’t forget to invite a friend!

 

Scott

A Few Thoughts On Music...

Good morning,

You’ve probably noticed I have introduced quite a few new songs to our worship services over the past few weeks and months.  Here at Ebenezer we sort of have an established “tradition” of the pastor choosing the final song of the worship service.  I thought I would take a moment to share some of my thoughts that guide my selection process.

The first thing I strive to do is to pick a song with words that fit with that morning’s message.  I view that time as a way for the congregation to respond to the message that I believe God has for us that morning.  I will often read through the lyrics of multiple songs and prayerfully consider which one I believe will best help us affirm God’s calling to us.

I also consider the tempo and music of the song.  Is it upbeat and celebratory, or is it more quiet and reflective?  What music best reflects of the “mood” of the morning?

Lastly, I look at what we have sung recently in our worship services.  It is tough to balance singing a song frequently enough that it is familiar to us and infrequently enough that it is memorable when we sing!  If you would look at the music for our worship services over the past couple of years, you would find that most mornings we sing a hymn, an older praise song or two, and a more contemporary praise song or two.  I think our worship committee does a great job of finding the right balance!

So, that’s roughly my thinking, although I’ll admit that my personal preferences can’t help but come into play as well.  Whenever I do choose a new song, I’ll try to continue to have the lyrics printed on the bulletin insert, so if it isn’t familiar you can read along as we sing.  I know that following a new song from the screen up front can be a bit challenging.

Here at Ebenezer we have a blended worship service, one that continues to cherish the hymns of the faith while also recognizing that God is still gifting men and women to write and play moving works that allow us to express our faith and gratitude to God in song.  I trust that we will continue to have such a worship service for a long time to come…long enough that “Diamonds” by Hawk Nelson is one day considered an old song!

And although I can’t say for sure what song I will pick this week…I’m pretty sure it is going to have something to with Victory in Jesus!

Here’s what’s happening…

1.      Choir Practice for the Christmas Cantata continues every Monday night at 7pm.

2.     Harvest Fest prep work begins this Thursday night from 6:30-8pm.  The big event is on 10/25.  We are also collecting candy for the Harvest Fest.  You can place it next to our usual food collection box for CVCCS.

3.      Worship Committee meeting this Thursday at 6:30 pm.

4.     Sunday, 10/7 is a Communion Sunday.

5.      On Sunday, October 7 there will be a light lunch served in the fellowship hall for all who are new to Ebenezer and would like to learn more about our church, our denomination, and our vision for the future!  If you are thinking about connecting at Ebenezer at a deeper level, this lunch is for YOU!  Please let me know if you are coming so we can have plenty of food.  We will be done by 12:45.

6.     Ministry Council Meeting on Tuesday, 10/9.

7.      Congregational Life Commission Meeting on Tuesday, 10/16.

8.     Ebenezer At Home - There will be an organizational/training meeting on Wednesday, October 17 from 6:30 -7:30 in the annex for anyone interested being a part of the visitation team.  I’ll be sharing some thoughts on what to do (and what to avoid) during a visit and talking about how to respond to delicate situations when visiting someone.

9.     It’s Operation Christmas Child time again…we will be collect shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse on November 11.

 Our passage for this Sunday is Nehemiah 5.  Nehemiah is faced with another challenge as he seeks to lead the rebuild of Jerusalem.  The poor of the land are being oppressed…by their own people.  We’ll be looking at how he handles the situation and learning what God expects of us in similar circumstances.

Scott

Praying for Our Schools

Good morning,

This morning was “See You At the Pole” day at our schools.  This is a national initiative that calls for students to meet around the flag pole before school for a time a worship and prayer.  Several such gatherings happened at Conestoga Valley schools today.  This is a great reminder that just as the students, parents, and teachers are praying for their schools, we should be praying for them!

This seems like a great time to highlight some pretty awesome things that are happening in our local public schools:

Bible Adventure – This ministry (formerly called Released Time) happens during the school day.  We, of course, host the Brownstown Elementary group.  A number of “Ebenezer” kids come to Bible Adventure.

Bible2School – Similar to Bible Adventure, this ministry also meets during the school day.  There is Bible2School groups meeting at Smoketown Elementary.

Good News Clubs – This is another elementary school ministry.  Good News Clubs meet after school at Leola, Fritz, and Smoketown.

All-Pro Dads/iMoms – This is a before-school breakfast ministry that encourages kids and their parents to connect at a deeper level.  It is what I call “covertly Christian,” meaning that although Scripture isn’t quoted during the gatherings, the principles discussed are very much Biblically-based.  Breakfasts are held monthly at every elementary school in CV!

I have personally served in all of these ministries (except Bible2School) at one time or another and can confidently say that they are all doing great work.  Trent goes to Bible2School at Smoketown and loves it.

But wait, there’s more!

FCS – This is a before school gathering at CV Middle School.  FCS meets every Thursday morning.  It is completely student-led!  Talk to Abby to learn more about FCS.

FOCUS – This is the student-led evangelical Christian club at CV High School.  FOCUS meets before school on Friday mornings and is very active in the High School.  Greg can tell you about all that is happening in FOCUS.

Let’s be in prayer for all of these groups and especially for their leaders.  Being an evangelical ministry at a public school has its challenges (although CV is more accommodating than most), and all of these groups deal with some obstacles as they seek to proclaim the name of Jesus and the truth that the Bible is the Word of God!

Here’s what’s happening…we have officially hit the fall “busy season”:

1.      Choir Practice for the Christmas Cantata starts up THIS MONDAY, October 1st at 7pm.

2.     Harvest Fest prep work will be on Thursday night’s from 6:30-8pm beginning NEXT WEEK on 10/4.  The big event is on 10/25.

3.      Worship Committee meeting on 10/4 at 6:30 pm.

4.     Sunday, 10/7 is a Communion Sunday.

5.      On Sunday, October 7 there will be a light lunch served in the fellowship hall for all who are new to Ebenezer and would like to learn more about our church, our denomination, and our vision for the future!  If you are thinking about connecting at Ebenezer at a deeper level, this lunch is for YOU!  Please let me know if you are coming so we can have plenty of food.  We will be done by 12:45.

6.     Ministry Council Meeting on Tuesday, 10/9.

7.      Congregational Life Commission Meeting on Tuesday, 10/16.

8.     Ebenezer At Home - There will be an organizational/training meeting on Wednesday, October 17 from 6:30 -7:30 in the annex for anyone interested being a part of the visitation team.  I’ll be sharing some thoughts on what to do (and what to avoid) during a visit and talking about how to respond to delicate situations when visiting someone.

 Our passage for this Sunday is Nehemiah 4.  The rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem is rolling along, but not without some significant challenges for Nehemiah to deal with.  If you know of someone who is facing a rebuild in life and is feeling frustrated and defeated (or is “sick and tired of being sick and tired”), this week would be an awesome week for you to invite them to join you at Ebenezer.

Scott

Helping Folks Flourish After Florence

Good morning,

Well, the remnants of Hurricane Florence have come and gone.  Thankfully, the feared predictions of heavy rains did not happen in Lancaster County.  I was even able to mow the lawn Tuesday night!

However, there has been a lot of damage in the Carolinas from the storm.  The cleanup has started as the waters have begun to recede.  This Sunday we will take a special offering to help those affected by the storm.  Any gifts received will be given to Mennonite Disaster Services, which is headquartered here in Lancaster.  We have given to MDS before, and while there are many good relief organizations out there, MDS is one of the absolute best in my opinion. 

There is also the possibility of one or two of our fellow E.C. churches sending a work team to the Carolinas in the next couple of months.  If that happens, we will provide an opportunity to support that work as well.

As always, if at all possible please write a separate check or place your gift in a separate envelope marked “MDS.”  It is much easier for the offering counters when you do that, and we want to make sure that MDS gets all the given funds.

Here’s what’s happening:

1.     Sunday, 10/7 is a Communion Sunday.

2.     Harvest Fest prep work will be on Thursday night’s from 6:30-8pm beginning on 10/4.  The big event is on 10/25.

3.     On Sunday, October 7 there will be a light lunch served in the fellowship hall for all who are new to Ebenezer and would like to learn more about our church, our denomination, and our vision for the future!  If you are thinking about connecting at Ebenezer at a deeper level, this lunch is for YOU!  Please let me know if you are coming so we can have plenty of food.  We will be done by 12:45.

4.     Choir Practice for the Christmas Cantata starts up on Monday, October 1st at 7pm.

5.     Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services has two openings – a ministry coordinator position at their Lebanon office and an administrative assistant position at the Columbia location.  If you or someone you know might be interested…go to www.svps.org.

 This week we will be looking at Nehemiah 3.  If you are doing one of those “read through the Bible in a year” plans, this is one of those chapters that many folks sort of gloss over.  It’s a list of all the people who helped lead the rebuilding of the walls.   It’s full of a lot of hard to pronounce names, and on the surface there would seem to be little we can learn from it.  If we dig a bit deeper, however, I think there is actually a whole lot for us in chapter 3!  If you know of someone who is struggling with guilt over past sins, I would encourage you to invite them to join you on Sunday!

Scott

Keys to the Kingdom

Good morning,

A somewhat significant change is in the works in regard to the security of our church building.  At the last Ministry Council meeting we discussed and approved having the locks to the outside doors of the church building be “rekeyed” and in some cases upgraded.  Thankfully, it appears that we will not have to modify the older wooden doors to do this. 

So why are we doing this?  There are a few reasons.  Currently there are 3 different keys to the outside doors of the church.  Rekeying will allow us to have 1 key for all the doors, which will eliminate some hassle.  But the main reason we are doing it is because of building security.  Like in many churches, keys to the church have been given out to whoever needed one at the time.  Some of those folks still attend Ebenezer, but others have moved on to other churches and may or have may not turned their keys back in.  Additionally, we have had other groups and churches use our building regularly, and keys have been made for those groups.  Some (not all, but some) of those groups made additional copies of the keys for their folks.

All of this is concerning in that we have no way of knowing exactly who has a key to the church.  It’s unfortunate, but in 2018 this is an issue.  I wish it wasn’t the case.  When I was growing up Memorial UMC was never locked.  But that changed after some teenagers snuck in and ransacked the downstairs (thankfully they didn’t touch the sanctuary).

So, here’s the plan.  Once the locks have been rekeyed (the date hasn’t been set yet), we’ll distribute a new key to the active church members who need one.   When we do that we are going to mark down the key # on a list so we have a record of who has one.  That way, if there ever is an issue, we know who has a key.

I hope there is never an issue where we need to check the “key list,” but we do want to be good stewards of the building that God has blessed us with.  If anyone has a question or concern about this feel free to see me.

Here’s what’s happening:

1.     Please be in prayer for the Bible Adventure program that starts up this tomorrow (Thursday).  We are expecting another huge group of kids this year!

2.     There will be a brief meeting after church THIS SUNDAY, 9/16 in the annex to introduce our new visitation ministry “Ebenezer At Home.”  This meeting is for anyone who might be interested in being a part of the ministry and visiting our at-home church members.  Coming to the meeting DOES NOT mean that you are committing to the ministry, it is just for informational purposes!  We will be done by about 11:45.

3.     On Sunday, October 7 there will be a light lunch served in the fellowship hall for all who are new to Ebenezer and would like to learn more about our church, our denomination, and our vision for the future!  If you are thinking about connecting at Ebenezer at a deeper level, this lunch is for YOU!  Please let me know if you are coming so we can have plenty of food.  We will be done by 12:45.

4.     Choir Practice for the Christmas Cantata starts up on Monday, October 1st at 7pm.

5.     To be put on your calendars – Harvest Fest this year is on October 25.

 This week we will be looking at Nehemiah 2 and how he starts the monumental rebuilding project that God calls him to lead.  If you have someone in your life that is facing a rebuild in life and doesn’t know how to get started, this would be a great week to invite them to join you at Ebenezer.  If you missed last week’s sermon, I would encourage you to get caught up by listening to it from our website.

Scott