MPC Weekly Blog / E-Blast

  

To keep us encouraged during these difficult times, our pastoral staff is communicating with you regularly.


07-21-2021

Ordinary Interrupted...

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.             Acts 10:44-48

 

            “While Peter was still saying these things…”  What “things”? They must have been some things! Impressive things! Whiz, bang, boom things! Right?

            In one sense, they were, and in another, they weren’t. Peter was talking about: what happened to Jesus; what Jesus did; who Jesus was; what Jesus commanded his disciples to do (Acts 10:34-43). That is powerful stuff – the most powerful “stuff”, or better, story we’ve been given.  And yet, it sounds like Peter is reading a list.  He may very well have been preaching powerfully – testifying! But Scripture doesn’t say that.  And I think the contrast between Peter’s ordinary effort and what comes next, is really, really important….

            In the middle of Peter’s ordinary teaching, the Holy Spirit basically interrupts Peter and does something amazing: The Spirit fell and claimed people who were far from God.  People were transferred from darkness to light; from the kingdom of this world to the Kingdom of God; from death to life!

            Do you think Peter ever spoke about the same things – about who Jesus was, and what Jesus did – and then nothing happened? No Spirit falling; no people born again and baptized? You bet he did. And that is because God – and God alone – is in control of when extraordinary things happen.  We, ordinary folks, must – of course – do all that we must to put ourselves in a position to be used by the Spirit. But this story from Acts reminds us, that the Sovereign Spirit of God decides exactly how, when, and where He acts!

            As we rebuild church life, together, it will be the ordinary things that we did, and that we are called to do, that God will use to do extraordinary things – “ordinary” things like Sunday worship; Home Groups; serving our neighbors in need; Sunday School; you name it…  Let’s begin again, to do these “ordinary” things, and then – get ready people of Mattituck Presbyterian! – let’s see how the Spirit interrupts us, and does something extraordinary! It will happen how, when, and where God wants, but when it does, we will say: “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes!” (Psalm 118:23)


Grace and Peace,

Pastor James

James F. Cubie


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07-14-2021

One Piece of the Puzzle at a Time

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


Acts 10:17-23

17Now while Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate. 18They called out to ask whether Simon, who was called Peter, was staying there. 19While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Look, three men are searching for you. 20Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them.” 21So Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?” 22They answered, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23So Peter invited them in and gave them lodging.

            Just before this story from Scripture, Peter has been given one piece in a large puzzle that God is putting together. Peter’s piece of the puzzle is a vision he just received: The heavens opened; a large sheet – like a tablecloth – descended; and, in it were all kinds of animals, reptiles, and birds. A voice says: “You can eat what you want.”, but Peter won’t have it: He is a Jew, who obeys strict laws, laid down in Scripture, about what is clean and unclean. Then, the voice speaks a second time: “What God has made clean, do not call common.” (Acts 10:15)

            Even as the vision stops, Peter must have thought something like: “This just cannot be…  It cannot. It does not stand to reason – to my mind, shaped by Scripture and God’s clear commands…”  Peter can’t make sense of what he’s being told to do, and yet he can’t deny that he’s being given something in his vision. Peter has the vision, but he knows he must wait for God to act – to confirm in reality what God has given in the vision.

            That is crucial, isn’t it? We can be possessed by a vision, a picture of the way things should be, that we think must be from God. And yet, if there is no confirmation in reality, if an event does not fulfill the vision, if we are not sent someone(s) by God, who witness(es) to our vision, then it may not have been from God, at all.

            Peter, though, has been given something by God: a puzzle piece that God will use to build His Kingdom purposes. The vision, Peter discovers, is about who he can sit down, at table, to eat with. That’s the significance of the different kinds of food: If Peter can eat those foods, he can eat with the people who eat those foods – Gentiles. Not just Jews. The Kingdom means the covenant that God began with Israel is now opened to the world: Everyone is welcome at the Lord’s Table. We know this is the meaning of the vision, because Cornelius’ men appear and the Lord speaks to Peter: “Go with them, for I have sent them.” The Lord will put this all together, one piece of the puzzle at a time.

            All along the way, God is piecing His Kingdom puzzle together, revealing his purposes to Peter and Cornelius, so that we – almost two thousand years later – can witness that this is often the way God works. Trust God to provide, each step on the way, what we need to accomplish His purposes. God will give fresh vision. He will provide people and opportunities to do what He wills. Do not be afraid, perplexed, or driven to despair. Though we might look at the piece we’re currently holding, and wonder: “What am I supposed to do with this?”, sooner or later, God will provide, and we will praise!


Grace and Peace,

Pastor James


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07-07-2021

From Loosely Attached to Securely Fastened

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


Acts 10:1-8

1In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, as it was called. 2He was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God. 3One afternoon at about three o'clock he had a vision in which he clearly saw an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius.” 4He stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” He answered, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5Now send men to Joppa for a certain Simon who is called Peter; 6he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.” 7When the angel who spoke to him had left, he called two of his slaves and a devout soldier from the ranks of those who served him, 8and after telling them everything, he sent them to Joppa.

 

Why should God care about Cornelius? He was not a Jew. He was not a disciple of Jesus Christ – not yet. He seems to have been a good, faithful man: Well respected by the people in the neighborhoods that he and his fellow soldiers patrolled. But, still, that doesn’t seem to be enough to merit God’s attention, right?

 

We know this: Cornelius was a “God-fearer” – a Gentile who worshipped Israel’s God, and who was loosely attached to a local synagogue. Cornelius’ healthy fear of God expressed itself in two, traditional Jewish ways: Prayer and Almsgiving. In fact, Cornelius’ practice of prayer and of tending the needs of the poor are so consistent, faithful, and noteworthy, that he was not only well known among the people – he was well known in heaven!

 

Cornelius may not have had the whole picture, but he did see something good, right, beautiful, and true in the Jewish religion: Their practice of prayer and of caring for the poor, must have struck him as better than what he had been taught from birth. As a centurion, he would have been schooled in the military virtues, including a strong fealty to Rome and its traditions. And yet, there was something in the Jewish religion that God used to draw him in. And, from there, to draw him further in, to follow the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

 

Cornelius’ commitment was good, but it was not yet in the right place – with Christ, in His Kingdom. So what’s the big deal? Shouldn’t we only hear about him, once he makes his decision to follow Jesus, and perseveres in doing that, for at least a little while?

 

The whole point of Christ coming to earth is to do what He begins to do in this story: take good, faithful people, who seem to be living well enough without God, and say: “You are missing something – me, and my Kingdom. Come to me, and do not be afraid: I am gentle and humble in heart. My burden is light, and I am all grace!”

 

Do you know someone who is “loosely attached” to religion, or spirituality? On some level, they are interested in what Christians believe – they love, or even practice, some part of what we practice, but they have not yet been introduced to the “whole picture” – the story of the redemption of the world, that we track Sunday by Sunday, year by year. Do you know someone like that?

 

Follow the prompting of the Spirit, in this story: Reach out to him/her today. Pray for your friend, colleague, family member, who is loosely attached, but interested in what we believe and do. Pray, then go, and draw your friendship into the work of the Holy Spirit: As you listen to and love him/her, ask God at the same time what he wants you to notice, to affirm, to gently challenge. In this way, God may use you – like the angel in today’s Scripture – to send the person you know on a journey from ‘loosely-attached’ to ‘securely-fastened’ in Christ’s Kingdom.

 

 

 

                                                           

Peace and Grace, 

 

Pastor James

 

Rev. James F. Cubie

 


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06-30-2021 - Obey. Pray. Be.

Today's Post is Written by Rev. James F. Cubie, Interim Pastor and Head of Staff


Acts 8:14-24

14Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit 16(for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). 17Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. 18Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19saying, “Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money! 21You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God. 22Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness.” 24Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may happen to me.”

 

            The Jewish followers of Jesus hear that the Word of God is now accepted and believed in Gentile Samaria. The Jerusalem church is beginning to witness what Jesus promised: That disciples would be made to the ends of the earth – not just in Israel. And so the Spirit, speaking to the Jerusalem church, sends two Apostles, Peter and John, to witness to what Isaiah, Joel, and the disciples at Pentecost were promised: “In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” God will use these Apostles as vessels to do just that.


            Something must have happened when Peter and John laid their hands on the already-baptized believers – the people who witnessed this event, must have seen something: Praise, prayer, prophecy, a deep sense of calm, ecstasy…  We don’t know what they saw, but Simon was so impressed, that he did something careless: Simon tried to purchase what the Apostles were there to give.


            This is Simon the Magician, and as his title suggests, he would like for the Holy Spirit to become one of his magic tricks! He would like to have what the Apostles have. But he fundamentally misunderstands what’s going on: The Apostles do not possess what is happening through them – they are entirely at the disposal of the Sovereign Spirit of God.  Peter and John do not ‘possess’, but are themselves ‘possessed’… by the Holy Spirit!


            We would all love to see God do something amazing, but it will never come cheap – there’s no shortcut, like paying x-amount of dollars. To see the Spirit move in a powerful, unmistakable way calls for three things that we see in this story from Acts: Obey, Pray, and Be.


            We must obey the Spirit’s directives, like Peter and John who make a trip all the way from Jerusalem to Samaria. We must pray as Peter and John did: Not just a laundry list; not just occasionally; but, persevere and contend in prayer, that God would pour out his Spirit, again. And, our hearts must be right with the Lord: If we have not received Jesus as Lord and Savior of our day-to-day life, then now is the acceptable time. 


            If, like Peter and John, we obey, pray, and be, we can be totally at God’s disposal – we won’t try to buy, or bargain for, anything from him, but will simply say with Mary: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)


Grace and Peace,

Pastor James


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06-16-2021 - Be Strong and Corageous


Today's Post is Written by Patrick Hanly, Pastoral Associate and Head of Staff


"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”                                                              - Joshua 1:9

 

      Well, it seems we are finally here…or at least at the one-yard line. The Governor of New York has lifted almost all State mandated restrictions for Covid-19 (only a few are left for very particular situations involving travel, health care environments and some schools). I wager you didn’t believe this day would ever come. Sometimes, I wondered.


     I make sure to watch the latest news on Covid-19 infections in New York State and Suffolk County because I want to be able to make my recommendations to our Session about our evolving Covid-19 policy. We have an upcoming Session meeting.  The topic of our next changes in Covid-19 policy will certainly be on the agenda. So stay tuned.


     People are out and about. Restaurants are open and beaches and playgrounds are ready for a big season!


     It seems we are finally here.


     As we do go back to normal, it is a good time to give our praise to God. This has been a very difficult time, but we have come through it.  I am praising God for His goodness. And I am thankful for you all.


     Our church and ministries stayed the course. We worshipped and prayed together throughout the pandemic, with in-person services for most of it. Our ministries operated continually throughout this time - people heard the word preached (live and over YouTube) and their needs were served. Again, I am so very thankful to God and you all.


     The time is now for us to look forward. Our new pastor and his family will be here with us very shortly and many people who felt led to stay home will want to return. New families who relocated to the North Fork will be looking for a church home.  We will be ready to minister to them.


     But the end of the pandemic does not mean we take our eyes off of God, our Provider and Protector. Just like He took us though the valley, He will take us to the mountain. So, be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord is with us wherever we go. In the midst of the plague, or in the time of renewal. Jesus is on the throne!


     As we consider our Lord who is always for us, I want to encourage you to come out this Sunday to hear a very powerful testimony from a person in our congregation who lives in a place of awe-inspiring faith. If anyone can lift us up to be strong and courageous as we move forward, it is her.


     As to who it is, I’ll let it be a surprise, but I can say that you do not want to miss it. She will be speaking live in our sanctuary at the 9am service and Rory, Liz and I will work to have the recording available to watch it at the 11am.


     So be strong and courageous! Our God is most definitely with us!

Blessings,

Pat


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06-10-2021 - The Wandering Raven


Today's Post is Written by Patrick Hanly, Pastoral Associate and Head of Staff


Who provides food for the raven when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food?                                                                - Job 38:41


    I remember the first time, as a birder, that I saw a raven in the wild. I was on a birding vacation on Monhegan Island in Maine. If you have never been there, Monhegan Island is a magical place. It is an island off the coast of Maine that can only be reached by a walk-on ferry.


    Monhegan is an artist colony with approximately 4/5 of the island kept in a natural state. While bicycles can be used in the small village on the island, walking is the only real way to get around the majority of the island.  It is mostly nature trails, and some of the paths are a bit dangerous if you are not careful.  It is a wild place.

After taking a long walk to check for birds during the fall migration, I was on a trail getting near to the village when a very large crow-like bird landed right above me on a tree branch. I could not help but look at it because it seemed so large, with a huge bill. It was then that it made a deep caw type of sound that I have never heard a crow make, and I immediately knew this was not a crow but a raven. How cool is that? I thought.


    While some birds do breed on Monhegan Island, I am sure that most find their way there because they are blown out to sea during migration, and they are looking for a place to land and get some food, water, and rest. As I watched it through my binoculars, I imagined this raven to be a wanderer, and I stopped for a moment to ponder where it had been and where it was going.


    The scripture above is from Job 38, the famous chapter that has the Lord answering Job about why he went through the difficulties that he did. In this chapter, God asked Job a series of questions having to do with creation to show that only God can answer them. Only God controls all things. And if Job can’t tell Him how a deer is born or how the Belt of Orion star system came to be, then he has little right to challenge Him regarding the things He chooses to bring his way.


    This lesson from Job is a good one to learn. Like Job, God does not expect us to have all the answers. Things will come our way that we just don’t understand. And just like the raven, the Lord will occasionally send us out to wander to look for our spiritual food, and that is a good thing. Wandering is like searching and we should be doing that for our entire lives. God does not need us to have all the answers, but rather He desires that our hearts are aflame in the search to find the spiritual food that He provides.


    So, the next time you, like the raven, feel that you have been blown a bit off course, realize that God might have set you out to wander a bit. Know that it is ok that you don’t have all the answers and look to the one who sets the raven to flight to find his food.


Be blessed,

Pat


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06-02-2021 - Being More Like Jesus


Today's Post is Written by Patrick Hanly, Pastoral Associate and Head of Staff


As each day passes by, I feel my love run dry. I get so weary, worn and tossed 'round in the storm.  Well I'm blind to all His needs and I'm tired of planting seeds I seem to have a wealth of so many thoughts about myself.                                               - Keith Green


     The quote above is from a song that Keith Green wrote and published while he was alive. Appearing on the So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt album, I remember purchasing it back in 1980, and the lyrics to this song (as well as many other songs that Keith wrote) have haunted me since the first time I heard them.


     I would like you to try a simple exercise today. Try to think about the amount of time that you spend thinking about yourself each day. Generally, I think we often don’t realize just how much time we are using to think, over and over, about the various aspects of our lives. If you are anything like me, you think about your day, your place at work, school, church or another aspect of your life. Maybe you think about where your life has been, or you think about where it is going. Maybe you think about your problems or you think about problems that you might have in the future.


     If you are an anxious person (like me), this thinking constantly about yourself contributes greatly to that anxiety. And correspondingly, this increased anxiety has the result of draining the life from you.


     In this song, Keith writes how with each day that passes, he feels his love “run dry”. Thinking constantly about yourself has this effect. The more we think about ourselves, the less we will consider the needs of others.  As Christians, our focus should be on the needs of others.


     Next Keith writes that he gets “weary” and “worn”, with a feeling that he is “tossed round in the storm”. Here he is speaking about the various difficulties that we all face in life. The fact of the matter is that these difficulties will come to all of us whether we dwell on them or not.  However, dwelling on them brings a feeling that they are overwhelming us and tossing us around. It is amazing how thinking about something else can ease the burden of these difficulties and cause them to diminish in our minds.

Lastly, Keith wrote that this constant thinking about himself caused him to be “blind” to the things that God wants him to do. He refers to them as “His needs”. Now we all know that God does not need anything, but we’ll give Keith literary license here so he can have the stanza rhyme. While God does not need anything, other people do. And since we need to see Jesus in others (as He said to do), it can be helpful to imagine the needs of others as “His” needs.


     And here we come to the bottom line. The title of this song is “I Want To Be More Like Jesus”, and the first step to being more like Him is to think less of yourself and more of others. This is certainly how Jesus lived and living this way shapes us to be more like Him. Interestingly, it will have the added benefit of addressing the other things in these lyrics; increasing your love rather than draining it, diminishing your anxiety rather than increasing it and helping you stand in the storm rather than be tossed by it.


     I know I want to be more like Jesus - and I believe you do as well. Let’s start today by thinking just a bit more of Him and others and a bit less of ourselves.  Give it a try.


Be blessed,

Pat


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05-26-2021 - God's Loving Guidance


Today's Post is Written by Prudence Heston, Elder


When I was a little girl my grandmother, Anne Wickham, used to recite to me an adaptation from an English poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow found in “The Real Mother Goose” book.  It went like this:

 

There was a little girl who had a little curl

right in the middle of her forehead;

when she was good, she was very, very good,

And when she was bad she was horrid.

 

Now, I can’t imagine why she would recite that particular poem to me.  It might have had something to do with my young, unrestrained, enthusiasm for life.  And, you know what they say:  What goes around, comes around.  Nowadays I find myself reciting that same poem.  It’s a first for me.  I never needed to go there with Sadie.  With our newest family member, Eleanor, it’s a whole different story.

 

Eleanor is our pandemic puppy.  She has beautiful curly blond fur, a loving and winning personality, and an unrestrained enthusiasm for life.  Eleanor is a big girl.  At 10 mos. old she currently weighs in at 57 lbs.  I love her to pieces.  But, oh my.  Each day she requires a significant amount of my time in training as she learns to “come,” “drop it,” “stay down,” “sit,” “heel,” “wait,” and follow other voice and hand commands.  She is a smart dog and learns quickly.  But still when she is good, she is very, very good, and when she is bad…

 

Well, you get the idea.  Anyway, as I mentioned Eleanor is smart.  She has no problem understanding EXACTLY what I am asking her to do.  She just doesn’t always want to do it.  Following my instructions requires discipline and patience.  It requires putting my requests above her own desires, even when she can’t see how my request may benefit her.  Even a smart dog has limits in understanding.  So, in the end, obedience on her part requires a huge leap of faith.  She has to love me more than what she thinks she wants.

 

There are days when I wish it was easier for Eleanor to see the big picture.  If only she would follow my commands the first time, every time.  We could spend so much more time together!  Instead of being able to run free, I often have to put a leash on her and gently guide her around some unperceived danger.

 

I believe it is the same with our heavenly Father. Hebrews 12: 1-11 tells us to be careful not to become entangled in the sin of this world.  Instead, we are to run with perseverance the race marked out for each of us.  We are told to fix our eyes on Jesus and follow His commands.  We are instructed to embrace God’s discipline and be trained by it.  In doing so, we will find righteousness and peace as promised in the 23rd Psalm.

 

Go on, go back and re-read the 23rd Psalm again.  He leads us beside quiet waters, He guides us along the right paths.  His rod and staff are there to comfort, not punish, us.  Give it a try.  God’s commands are there because He loves you and wants a closer relationship with you.  So, stop chafing and sink into His promises.  Don’t waste another minute.  He wants to spend so much more time with you!

 

Blessings,

 

Prudence Heston


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05-16-2021 - Fear Not, God Is In Control


Today's Post is Written by Rev. Ralph B. Wright, Pulpit Supply


    Fear and depression are two emotions that we all have at one time or another.  God offers us the peace and understanding that should overcome fear and depression but given the right (or wrong) circumstance even the strongest of the faithful wind up struggling with the events of the day.  When I was in seminary our pastoral counseling professor would often state that for many mothers and families the month of January is the most depressing.


     Why?  Because the previous month, though fraught with all the pressures of Christmas, getting the tree up, finding the right gifts for grandma, making sure the kids knew their lines for the Christmas pageant, writing all those Christmas cards and mailing them in time, was a part of every Christmas and it was exciting.  Then comes January.  The kids go back to school, the Christmas tree comes down, and all of a sudden family life has changed.


     That’s why in the many parishes I have had the privilege of serving, January was a time for fellowship, a time for church dinners, a time for Bible studies, a time for mutual support.  The words of Jesus, “Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matthew 8:20) give us support.  Or the words of the Hebrew Testament, Book of Isaiah, chapter 41, verse 10, “Have no fear, for I am with you; do not be looking about in trouble, for I am your God; I will give you strength, yes, I will be your helper; yes, my true right hand will be your support.”


     Pastor, you ask, “Why are you telling me this now, we are in the month of May?”  Because, just as the Corona Virus Pandemic knows no borders, it cannot be contained by an arbitrary timeline.  Many of us are still depressed as if we were in January.  Folks in New York are tired of being cooped up for months in their homes and apartments, and even with the relaxing of the protocols we still have social distancing and masks.  Outside of our nation the pandemic is reaching new heights and cities and countries are closing down and folks are worried they don’t have enough hospital beds and staff, as well as vaccines for all those in need. We are all concerned.


     Once again, allow me to turn to the Scriptures.  How many times do we find the words “Fear Not” in the Scriptures?  I haven't counted for myself, but I've heard it said, “Fear not” is in the Bible 365 times. That’s enough for one “Fear not” each day of the year.  I admit this is not a deep theological statement.  However, I believe given our present situations, a light-hearted way of saying “the Lord is with us,” no matter what our fears or depression, is a good lesson from the Bible.  Praise the Lord!  And join us this Sunday with a smile on your face. Peace and stay safe.



Blessings,


Rev. Ralph B. Wright


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05-05-2021 - Mother's Day Thoughts


Today's Post is Written by Rev. Ralph B. Wright, Pulpit Supply


               Sunday is a special day.   It is Mother's Day - a day in which we celebrate the love of God and show our thanksgiving to God for our mothers - no matter who they may be – whether a biological mother or one who shares the mothering instincts and care.  Flowers, particularly carnations, are often given to mothers on Mother’s Day.

                With a history that dates back more than 2,000 years, it's not surprising that carnations are rich with symbolism, mythology and even debate. Some scholars suggest that their name comes from the word "corone" (flower garlands) or "coronation" because of its use in Greek ceremonial crowns.

                Today, carnations can be found in a wide range of colors, and while in general they express love, fascination, and distinction, virtually every color carries a unique and rich association.  White carnations suggest pure love & good luck, light red symbolizes admiration, while dark red represents deep love and affection.

                Pink carnations carry the greatest significance, beginning with the belief that they first appeared on earth from the Virgin Mary's tears – making them the symbol of a mother's undying love.

               This reminds me of a story about a little girl who once asked her mommy, "How come whenever I open up a flower it falls apart, but when God opens it up it stays together?"

                Can you think of an answer?  The mother didn't know how to respond, but then the little girl said, "Oh, I know, when I open it up I open it up from the outside, but when God opens it up it is from the inside!"

                The love which our perfect Father shares is a love that opens us up from the inside.  May that love shine through us to the world in which we live.  Let us give thanks to all who live and act out the loving life of a mother in this world. "May God bless you richly in all that you do!"

 

Blessings,

Rev. Ralph B. Wright


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04-21-2021 - Great Is Thy Faithfulness


Today's Post is Written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff


Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father!

There is no shadow of turning with Thee;

Thou changest not; Thy compassions, they fail not:

As thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.


There are occasions when God’s faithfulness is seen in the sudden and miraculous. Think of the healings that Jesus performed in the New Testament. Dramatic healing of this nature still occurs today, as God desires. God will move in amazing fashion to change a situation that we are praying would change. He calls people to salvation and changes the way they see the world, and this can sometimes happen in a day.


I remember my own conversion was an event like this. I was 20 years old when a pastor and another person took me on the side of a building to pray for me. They laid their hands on my and told me to ask for God’s forgiveness and to offer my life freely to Christ. I closed my eyes and did what they said – I asked for God to forgive me and I offered my life to follow Christ. And when I began to offer praise to God, I experienced a feeling that God had overwhelmed me, just where I stood. It was an experience that would alter the course of my life to this day. And it occurred suddenly, in one evening.


God does do things that are quick and dramatic and sudden and in this he shows His power. But what about others whose experience with Christ is different than this? I know of many people who say that they always had faith, even as a young child. These people decide over the course of their life that they are followers of Christ, and their walk and faith strengthen over long periods of time.


It is to people like this that God reveals His faithfulness. Thomas Obadiah Chisholm lived a life that could not be considered full of dramatic, sudden or miraculous change. He grew up on a farm in the second half of the 19th century and offered his life to Christ when he was still young. He grew up, got married and had two girls. He was always able to find work and he and his family lived a comfortable, what we would call middle-class type of life. Thomas Obadiah Chisholm lived to the ripe old age of 94 and did not accomplish great things that are often remembered.


But Thomas did do one thing that we all know – he wrote the lyrics to “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”, one of the most beloved hymns of all time. While not a man of dramatic circumstances, Thomas was inspired to write a song that spoke of God’s gentle faithfulness that is seen over a lifetime.


We all need to understand and believe that occasionally God will do the miraculous in sudden and dramatic ways. He will heal the sick and convert the sinner. By a sudden move of His Spirit, he will change someone’s life and call another to the mission field. As we prepare to minister to a community lonely and hurting as they emerge from a pandemic, we as the church need to prepare to believe that God will do amazing and dramatic things in people’s lives as we seek Him and pray in faith for others.


But we also need to prepare to preach a God who had been faithful to us all through covid, just as He has been faithful in our church for generations. People need to be told about a God like this and we are just the people to tell them.


He does not change. His compassion does not fail. As He has always been, He will continue to be.


We serve a faithful God.


Blessings,

Pat


=================


04-14-2021 - Questions Over Answers


Today's Post is Written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff


He who has ears to hear, let him hear.                                 Matthew 11:15

 

     I once heard it said, “You can tell a man is clever by his answers, but you can tell a man is wise by his questions.”


     When it comes to asking questions, I believe it is not ability to ask the “correct” or “right” questions that are important, but rather, it is the availability to ask questions that is important. Many people feel the need to adopt a posture of having the correct answer and to be honest, it is a temptation that I have fallen prey too often. Because when I am asked a question, I want to believe I can provide the right answer.


      Now usually the questions that people ask me are related to the Bible, or birds, or guitars or computers and there are certainly people in our church that know more about these topics than I do (well, maybe not birds) but I still want to believe I can answer somebody’s question. Providing answers makes us feel important and valued and I know that I want to believe that about myself. We don’t generally like to say, “I don’t know the answer” when we are approached by someone who sincerely believes that we do.


      But, I believe asking questions is often better than providing answers. Jesus valued the practice of asking questions – He asked over 300 questions in the Gospels. These questions were not of the same kind. Some were “what” or “why” questions that he would ask his disciples, and many of those involved, who He was and the nature of His ministry. But perhaps the most provocative and penetrating questions that He asked had a goal in mind – they were asked to help the person being asked to search their own heart. Questions of this nature went well when the person had an open heart, or “ears to hear”, but they did not go as well when the person had a closed or stubborn heart. In the latter case, it became a matter of exposing their heart and/or intentions on the part of Christ. 


     I want to “preach what I practice”, so I am planning on asking you all a very particular question this Sunday. I’m not going to tell you what that question is in this meditation, so you’ll have to come on Sunday to find out. But I will tell you that it is a very relevant question, especially at this time.

Try to take some time today to consider if you are a person who prefers to ask questions or provide answers. I don’t mean to suggest that providing answers is bad, but perhaps we all need to occasionally take the time to ask questions. But before you start your journey, take some time to think on the type of questions that you might ask others and think about why you are asking the questions.


     If you think about it long enough, you might discover that some questions are designed to edify and build others up while other questions do quite the opposite and I think we all need a little more building up after this past year.

So, let’s all try to ask some good questions.


Blessings,


Pat


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04-07-2021 - Living Near His Courts


Today's Post is Written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff


Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled. You who answer prayer, to you all people will come. When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts. We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple.                                                                          Psalm 65:1-4

 

    One elder tells me repeatedly that he has sensed the deep presence of the Holy Spirit at our Worship Services over the last several months. Another called me last night just to tell me how excited he was to see what God is doing in our Church. Another, who constantly blesses me with his friendship, tells me how excited he is to worship and how he feels blessed to be in leadership at this time. Another tells me that he can’t wait to get back to our special Saturday evening charismatic style worship and testimony services.

 

    I don’t know if you have noticed it or if you feel it, but things are definitely looking up for us at MPC. There is an excitement in the air. Covid seems to be on the run.  People have an expectancy toward getting back to normal. Our leadership is in the final period of negotiations with a pastoral candidate and every single person who has met him senses almost immediately that he would be a perfect fit for our congregation. He has a lovely wife, fun kids, a true pastor’s heart who desires to know people here deeply, and to speak God’s peace and love to each heart. We are awed by what God is doing.

 

    Even though we have been through tough times, we must remember that God is for us. As the passage above states, He offers us forgiveness and an invitation to “live near his courts”. In the Old Testament period, Zion was a place of celebration, where God’s very presence dwelled and an offer to live near God’s courts was to live in a place that was a slice of heaven while hear on earth. And honestly, that is what the church (the New Testament Zion – see Hebrews 12:22-24) is supposed to be. And as God’s people, nothing energizes us like the sense that God’s presence is near and He is moving in our midst. This sense brings joy, happiness, and a deep sense of peace.

 

    So, buckle up and get ready. Pull your tent over to live near God’s courts.

 

    For God is on the move.

 

Blessings,

Pat


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03-31-2021 Holy Week Meditation


Today's Post is written by the Rev. Ralph B. Wright, Pulpit Supply for Mattituck Presbyterian Church.


Dear Members and Friends of Mattiuck First Presbyterian Church,

 

As one reads this letter, we are observing Holy Week.  The events of Palm Sunday and the victorious entry of Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem is behind us.  We are now focusing in on the events of Holy Thursday when we commemorate the Last Supper in which Jesus transformed the Passover meal into a new rit,e namely that of Holy Communion.  The Bread and the wine became the center piece of our Christian faith, namely the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  This is my body broken for you, take eat, do this in remembrance of me….this is the blood of the new covenant, drink ye all of it.  (1 Cor. 11:24-25)

 

Following the meal in the Upper Room, Jesus and the disciples went up to the Mount of Olives to pray, and then our Lord was arrested and taken away to jail.  An event which struck fear into all the disciples.  The next day He was tried and found guilty by the Sanhedrin, brought before Pontius Pilate who then condemned Him to death on the cross.  After three hours, on the cross He died, was taken down, and placed in the tomb provided by Joseph of Arimathea. 

 

He Is Risen. He is Risen Indeed! This Sunday is Easter Sunday…a  great day of celebration…the day of resurrection.  The day of the empty tomb.   The most holy of holy days of the church year.  The Good News is the triumph of Easter Sunday. This event not only changed the religious world but ultimately governments and cultures of our people. 

 

Today, as followers of Jesus, we too, face pain and suffering and live with a spirit of fear…the fear of the Corona virus which encompasses our entire world. Like the ancient followers of Jesus, we too, however, have the teachings and love of Jesus to overcome these spirits of fear.  With His love we can in our locked down mode reach out to bring peace and support to our neighbors and family members and to the world at large.

 

Therefore, I encourage you to spend time following in the steps of Jesus as He walked through the events of Holy Week. For some, we may not be able to leave our homes and come to church, but we can with the aid of modern communications walk the road of faith together. For those who are fortunate enough to be able to attend in person one of the two Easter services, I encourage you to wear a mask and with social distancing celebrate the resurrection of our Lord.

 

I also invite you to read in a daily manner the Gospel of Matthew beginning with chapter 21 and follow the events of Holy Week.  If you have more time, read portions of Matthew beginning with Chapter 5, which contains the Sermon on the Mount, and leads one through a number of chapters that deal with the teaching and miracles of Jesus.

 

As a Christian church we support many activities to help the less fortunate at this time of year.  Whether it is providing food or monetary assistance, or rides to the doctor or bank, or just moral support to those in need, we walk in the footsteps of our Savior and Lord.

 

Yes, it is a different world, but our faith will see us through this time of upheaval and fear.  Please reach out to one another by telephone to share the Christian Fellowship we so enjoy.  Please feel free to contact me with your concerns and prayer requests.

 

Praise the Lord and Peace be with you,

 

Pastor Ralph

516-606-7671 (cell)

rbwright1@aol.com


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03-24-2021 The Agony and The Atheist


Today's Post is Written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff

 

The Agony and The Atheist



“The fool says in his heart there is no God.”       - Psalm 14:1a

 

Like many of you, I love to watch a good movie and as we approach Holy Week, it is hard not to think about the moves of Charlton Heston. I am sure most everyone reading this article has seen one of his well-known movies with a biblical theme. I cannot imagine anyone else on the screen doing justice to his portrayal of Moses in The Ten Commandments and on days near Holy Week I will always remember coming home from school and watching Ben-Hur on the 4:30 movie (for those who don’t remember, one network would run a movie every weekday from 4:30 – 6pm, a perfect time for kids coming home and relaxing before dinner). Great biblical, historical fiction like Ben-Hur is a genre that is not used nearly enough in literature and movies.

 

While everyone who thinks of Charlton Heston will immediately remember The Ten Commandments or Ben-Hur, there is another of his movies that I love with a religious theme. The movie is The Agony and The Ecstasy with Charlton Heston portraying the famed artist Michelangelo and Rex Harrison as Pope Julius. While the movie centers mostly on the conflicts that arose between the two men, the patronage to pay for the ceiling and the time that Michelangelo was taking to finish it, the movie tells a greater story, through the use of imagery.

 

At the end of the movie, the Pope and the artist stand together to admire the paintings on the ceiling. Knowing the Pope is sickly, Michelangelo asks him if he can begin to carve his tomb and the Pope agrees, knowing that he has only a short time to live. As the Pope walks away, the artist looks at the ceiling once more and his eyes shift to the spot on the wall of the chapel where he will later paint The Last Judgement.

 

The message is clear. No matter who you are, rich or poor, known or unknown, cleric or laymen, artist or Pope, we all have the wonderful opportunity to look up and consider God in His marvelous creation. But if we do this, we must all also consider that we will all face Him in his judgment – and that is the part that many people want to forget. It is one thing to look at creation and think that God may have had a part in it, but it is quite another to think that we all are accountable to this same God.

 

Personally, I cannot imagine being an atheist and believing that God does not exist when the creation itself informs us every day that He does exist. To me, everything around me that breathes life tells me that God is real. His existence gives meaning to our world, the things we hold dear, the things we believe and why we live the kind of lives that we live. In the end, I think it must be a lot of work to be an atheist. I imagine it is hard to both deny God in creation and to push aside any thought of accountability to Him in the end. Honestly, it seems exhausting, something a person would struggle and suffer through most of their life – the Agony and the Atheist.

 

So, take some time this Easter season and watch your favorite movie with a biblical or religious theme. Recognize that you, believer, do believe that God is both creator and ultimately, the judge of all things. And take great comfort that Christ has called you by name to Himself as one of His own and has purchased you with a great, great price. What a wonderful thought – a thought as beautiful as the Sistine Chapel ceiling itself.

 

Blessings,

Pat







==========

03-17-2021 - Rejoicing In All Days



Today's Post is Written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff



“Indeed, if a man should live many years, let him rejoice in them all, and let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many.”                                    - Ecclesiastes 11:8

 

Here we are at the week of Saint Patrick’s Day and because I am Irish, I try to celebrate with my family with some of my wife’s delicious corned-beef, cabbage, potatoes, and soda bread and listen to some Celtic music and watch a show or movie with Celtic themes. And as wonderful as these things are, they are not the first thing that I think of when Saint Patrick’s Day arrives. And if you know me, you might know what that is…

 

The Osprey!

 

Yes, Saint Patrick’s week is the traditional time when the Osprey returns to our area. Migrating north from our southern states, Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies, this well known and loved bird of prey comes to our North Fork to nest. And we are fortunate to have one of the densest breeding populations on the eastern seaboard.

 

The return of this beautiful bird signals for me the return of Spring and the coming of Holy Week, a time of the year that I truly love, as I am sure you do as well. It is time that we have intimate communion with one another, take time to reflect on what Christ has done for us and then celebrate our new lives in Christ as we worship Him in His resurrection. The return of the Osprey, the season of Spring and the celebration of Easter all point to renewal.

 

 I am sure you will agree that we long for renewal after the year that we have experienced. This was one of the most, if not the most, difficult years in many of our lives, and we all look forward to the end of this pandemic and our ability to get back to normal. As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, these were indeed the days of darkness.

 

But Solomon says something very interesting in the passage that I quoted above. To Solomon, any man who lives to see “many years” will face the days of darkness, and “they will be many”. Life is full of challenges, difficulties, loss and pain. While we might not face another pandemic in our lives (we can only hope), each of us will see difficult times again. With the joy and love and happiness that we have in life, we all will see darkness as well.

 

And what is Solomon’s advice when we see those days? He says we should “rejoice in them all”. If there is one thing we learned from the pandemic, it is that life is fragile. And while we cannot change the fact that we will see dark times, we can change our response.

 

Let us rejoice that Spring is upon us with the return of the Osprey and the coming of our Holy Week celebration. And let us remember that every season of darkness will come to an end and that our Lord is on the throne during times of darkness and times of light. So, let us take the advice of the wise Solomon and rejoice in all times. Let us always rejoice that we belong to Him, through good times and bad.

 

For the One we serve is always on our side.

 

Blessings,

Pat


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03-11-2021 - Having A Witness


Today's Post is Written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff


“Preach the gospel always, use words if necessary.”    - Francis of Assisi

 

One of the things that is very important for all Christians to focus on is how they can be a witness for Christ. We are called both corporately and individually, by Christ Himself, to be a witness for Him. His did this most memorably in the Great Commission, the great command of Christ that as guided and driven the church since its inception.

 

This Sunday I will be preaching from Revelation chapters 10 and 11 and in those chapters, we are introduced to the mysterious “Two Witnesses.” Many Bible commentators have debated who these two individuals are or what they represent. Some interpret the two witnesses quite literally and believe that it might be Moses and Elijah (or people who represent or function like them) who come into our world to speak God’s message during the Great Tribulation.

 

If you have heard any of my sermons on the Book of Revelation or attended one of my studies on Revelation, you are aware that I understand the book as a vision, made up mostly of metaphors that borrow from many other places in scripture. And the vision of the two witnesses is rich in biblical metaphor. I will be speaking about the two witnesses and their interpretation on Sunday so I hope you can attend, but I would like to ask all of you to take a minute before Sunday to think about your witness.

 

Do you believe that you have the witness for Christ that you want? Are you timid or bold when it comes to speaking for Him? Do you believe that our witness is only related to what you might say, or do you believe this is done with your life, as well?

 

I do not believe that Saint Francis intended to be sarcastic when he made the statement above. I do not believe that he was trying to say that “words are cheap,” or to minimize or dismiss their use when relating to others. I believe that Saint Francis believed that a person’s witness is holistic and that words that you speak will naturally follow the things that you do and the kind of life that you live. I believe he is saying that words can be effective if they follow a life that is lived with the gospel as its focus. 

 

Some please take some time and think about your own witness, and I hope to see you on Sunday as we discuss this great vision. I have to say that I am truly enjoying preaching through themes from the Book of Revelation, and I hope you are enjoying hearing them. I love getting feedback on these sermons, so feel free to send me an email ( pat@mattpress.com ) if you have feedback or a question.

 

Blessings, Pat


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03-04-2021 - The Present Is Precious


Today's Post is written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff


"The present is very precious; these are the days of salvation; now is the acceptable time.”                        -        The Imitation of Christ

 

I consider the advent of digital books to be a blessing and a curse. I love to read and will often buy a book and not read it for a while and then one day, discover that I have the book on my shelf and pull it out and read it. Digital books have made that process much easier, but really, not as much fun. Now, the process of poking around my bookshelf has become an exercise of scrolling through my phone. Once again, the digital age arrives to homogenize some previously fun and interesting aspect of my life.

 

One book that comes up often when I am scrolling my phone is Thomas A Kempis’ great book of Christian devotion, The Imitation of Christ.  Religious books come and go in my library (and tend to stay and get pushed to the bottom in my digital library) but this book regularly rises to the top where I see it in my digital library so I open it for reading. I love to come back to this book time and time again. Perhaps the most widely read Christian devotional work next to the Bible, it is regarded as one of the great Christian devotional books of all time. While Protestants shy away from the Roman Catholic overtones of the book, there is much for any Christian to glean from it.

 

This great book of prayer and Christian devotion contains many discipleship admonitions that are helpful to me and the one that I quoted above comes to mind as a very significant one. Do you consider that the “present is precious”? Are you the kind of person who considers each moment as a gift? If that is you, do you recognize each moment as an opportunity for God to be present, no matter what it is that you are doing?

 

I think we can all benefit from the advice of the French Christian, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, who wrote in his classic work, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, “There is not a moment in which God does not present Himself under the cover of some pain to be endured, of some consolation to be enjoyed, or of some duty to be performed. All that takes place within us, around us, or through us, contains and conceals His divine action.”

 

Do you hear what he is saying here? God gives us each moment in our lives to “present Himself.” Every moment that makes you happy, or inspired, joyful or frustrated, angry or even bored can present some aspect of the truth of God to those who have a heart and ear open to it.

 

So, open your heart and listen. Try to hear or think or feel more of how God is present in your life in each moment. And if you are like me, pick up your phone and scroll through your digital book collection and see what the Lord has to say to you this day.

 

Blessings,

Pat


===============


02-24-2021 - Tears to Wipe


(Today's Post is written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff)


I was moved to tears at the end of the sermon this past Sunday. After preaching a sermon on Revelation 6 that lays out the enemy’s plans, and Revelation 7, which lays out the plans of Christ, I was very moved by the beautiful, loving language spoken about God’s plan for believers at the end of Chapter 7,

 

they are before the throne of God
    and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
    will shelter them with his presence.
Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
    nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

 

These words capture the Lord’s intentions toward His church. I am hopeful that this moves you as it did me on Sunday morning, as I was preaching. And as you read them, consider that these intentions of God toward the church, the people that He loves, is not only for when we reach heaven or for the end of time, but they apply right now.

 

Did you know that the Bible says that we as the children of God are right now, at this moment, sitting in “heavenly places with Christ”? While this is true, of course, for our eternal state, it is no less true right now. This is the reason why the passage in Revelation moved me so very much on Sunday morning.

 

After coming home last Sunday after the services, I sat in the kitchen and told Liz that I was drained. Not physically tired but emotionally drained. I believe the reason for this is that I feel joined to all of you when I lead a service. And not only all of you, but everyone on our prayer list. And when I look out at all of you or liftup the people on our list in prayer, I feel a bit of the burden that comes with the knowledge that people are hurting. Some are afraid and others are suffering. Some face uncertain futures and others are feeling the pain of friends or family. All difficult circumstances, all painful.

 

Yet I take great hope in the knowledge that our Lord is close to those in pain, and His intention is to do the things written in Revelation. This passage says that the Lord will “shelter” His people with His very presence. He will protect them from the scorching rays of the sun and be a shepherd who will lead them to springs of refreshing water. The imagery here is meant to convey how God’s loving care will cover and protect us, refresh and revive us, even as we “suffer” under the rays of the scorching heat. This, I believe, is a metaphor revealing the grace and love God gives to His people as they hurt.

 

Rarely do I believe a passage from Revelation is not an image or a metaphor, but I do think that way about the last passage above. And you should too. When you are in pain and the tears begin to fall, remember that it is He who catches them and gently and lovingly wipes them from your sad and hurting face.

 

For He is your Father, and He loves you.

 

Blessings,

Pat


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02-17-2021 - City of Man, City of God


(Today's Post is written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff)


One of the most important questions that a Christian can and should ponder has to do with the church. What does it mean to be part of the church? Many Protestants would answer this based on how they see their role in their local church. Some might say that they attend on a regular basis and others might answer that they are involved in children’s ministries.  Others might say that they enjoy fellowship or attending a bible study or other event on occasion. Protestant Christians tend to think of the church on a local level and how their church is affecting their lives, their families and their communities.

 

Others think of the church in terms of the denomination that they belong. I believe this is common way for Roman Catholics to think of their church. They tend to have a broader view and will often consider what the Pope is saying on a particular issue or what is happening with their church in Rome or a particular country. While there are certainly exceptions to this, and some Roman Catholics consider their local church involvement, many Catholics that I know think often about their church in the world.

 

Let me challenge you to see the church in a much different way. Try to take a moment and think of the church as a city that has been operating for 2000 years, or even much longer than that. Then try to think of society as a city that has operated since antiquity. The church is the City of God and society is the City of Man.

 

Could it be that these two cities have operated side by side for a very long time and that these cities have conflicting agendas?

 

Jesus has said that his Kingdom is not of this world and since the time of Jesus, Christians have seen themselves as citizens of a different kingdom and even a different city. Thinking this way has a very significant impact on how you see your life. When you think that you are a citizen of the City of God rather than the City of Man, you develop a new and different perspective. You may begin questioning the things that you thought were so very important. You may begin to think more about God’s agenda for the world, for our country, our communities, and families. And once your perspective begins to change, your actions will follow. You will naturally begin to take action to benefit the agenda of the City that you belong. And if you are a believer, your city is the City of God.

 

This Sunday I will be preaching from the Book of Revelation, chapter 6 and 7. Chapter 6 outlines the state of the City of Man and chapter 7 outlines the state of the City of God. And the most important thing about these two chapters is that they show these two cities from God’s perspective. I hope to see you at one of our two services (9am or 11am) as I unpack these two chapters. Perhaps you will get a new perspective on the church. One that will change your way of thinking… and ultimately change what you desire to do with your life.

 

 

Blessings,

 

Pat


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02-03-2021 - A Scene From Heaven


(Today's post is written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff)


After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.

Revelation 4:1-2

 

      Many years ago, a friend of mine gave me a book entitled “Beyond Death’s Door,” written by cardiologist Maurice Rawlings. Over the course of many years working in cardiology, Dr. Rawlings was able to recount story after story of people who died in his presence and were brought back to life. In many cases, these patients had incredible stories to tell of what they witnessed after their heart had stopped. Starting from their ability to recount conversations that Dr. Rawlings had with others in the room to one amazing story of a patient who was able to describe the items on the very top of a high cabinet that was in the room. He said that he saw these items after he left his body and was floating above the room near the ceiling. Many of the witnesses spoke of seeing the tunnel and the light and of seeing departed loved ones, and even speaking with God. Since the time of this book, the concept of “NDE’s” or “near death experiences” has exploded in our culture with person after person providing similar accounts, with some being incredibly amazing in the amount of detail.

 

      The idea of an NDE was very new to me when I read Beyond Death’s Door and I was fascinated. As a believer, I would imagine that we all very taken with the thought of what heaven is like. The prophet Isaiah was one of the first in scripture to give an account of a vision that he had of heaven. In Isaiah chapter 6, the prophet describes seeing the Lord, high and lifted up, with the train of His robe filling the entire temple. Isaiah saw angels and other spiritual creatures that minister before the throne, calling out constantly of God’s holiness and majesty. And the sound of the voices of praise shook the very doorposts and thresholds of the temple as it began to fill with smoke.

 

      Have you ever wondered what it will be like to see heaven? This vision is not as far away as we would like to pretend. Our life is a mere wisp from the point of view of eternity. God’s throne in heaven and the endless images of beauty and glory will fill us with awe and wonder forever. Our life here on earth will seem so very small and short in comparison. This is why it is vital to lift up our eyes and look from a different perspective.

 

      Our culture seems to think that it is a bad thing to be overly “heavenly-minded,” to the point we are no earthly good. I disagree with this idea and believe the opposite is true. I believe it is vital to be heavenly minded if we are to be any earthly good. It is the people who look to heaven that possess an otherworldliness that we need in this age of confusion. We need a vision of something better and most assuredly heaven is that vision.  My sermon this Sunday will cover the vision of heaven that John the Apostle saw in the Book of Revelation, chapters 4 and 5, and it is remarkably similar to the vision of Isaiah, with one notable exception. In John’s vision, there was some distress because they couldn’t find anyone there worthy to open God’s scrolls and reveal God’s plan. So, tune in this Sunday to see if they found anyone who was worthy enough for this task.

 

      Getting back to NDE’s for a minute, I have a close friend who had one. His name is Guy and many of you know him. His story of dying and visiting heaven always holds listeners spellbound. That is why I ask him to tell his story whenever I can. And even though he is shy, he always gives in to me. In the end, somehow he can’t resist but to tell it.

 

      And that is because it is a story and a vision that needs to be told.


Blessings,


Pat


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1-20-2021 - The Journey to Revelation


(Today's post is written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff)


  Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

                                                                                                             - Revelation 1:3


The Book of Revelation contains the passage above, which promises a blessing to those who read that book, hear it and take it to heart. If this is the case, why is it that few people venture to read the book? There are two main reasons for this.


First, the Book of Revelation is hard to understand as it consists mostly of imagery. While some of the imagery is directly explained as it is being used in the book (see Revelation 20:2 for an example), much of the imagery is not explained but rather left for multiple and varied explanations and interpretations (I’ll get back to that in a minute).


In order to properly understand the imagery used in the Book of Revelation, one must be comfortable using cross-references because the imagery used in the book is often taken directly from the Old Testament, most often from the prophets (Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Zechariah, etc). The picture of the “two witnesses” in Revelation chapter 11, for instance, cannot be properly understood without also referencing the Old Testament prophetic book of the prophet Zechariah, chapter 4. This chapter makes the exact reference as Revelation 11 does to the two witnesses (or “anointed ones”) as being God’s “olive trees”. In this case, Zechariah provides additional insights as to the best way to interpret Revelation 11.


The second reason why the Book of Revelation is not often read is because its interpretation has become a point of contention among believers. The reason for this is that one understanding of the book is very popular today and the people who hold this position sometimes say that their position on Revelation defines orthodoxy. This means that a Christian who does not hold their position is in error in regard to their faith. In this I strongly disagree. There are several methodologies to interpret the Book of Revelation that have been used by orthodox believers throughout history and one method over another should not define whether a Christian is sound in their doctrine or not. Interpretations of the Book of Revelation, as long as they have precedent in orthodox theologies, are part of the in-house, family debate that we Christians have with one another. They do not determine heresy or orthodoxy.


Personally, I find the Book of Revelation to be an endless source of fascination. My particular way of interpreting it takes from more than one of the orthodox interpretations to build a system which sees the book as a view “behind the curtain” of our world to the heavenly one. We get to see events in history as they are seen in heaven and I love that.  I hope to be able to open that aspect up for you over the next several sermons that I do at the church. I would love for you to walk away with a love for the book because it inspires you to see our reality from another perspective – a heavenly one.

So, what about this blessing that awaits people who read the book? I believe this blessing comes because we who read the book get to learn more about Jesus. In the end, the book is the Revelation of Jesus Christ and is both a revelation that He gives as well as one that He is. The book helps us to see Christ more clearly and that is always a blessing.


My own understanding of Revelation has been a journey that I have walked for many years and I invite you on that same journey. It is vital that we seek to walk this road because, as our scripture above says, “the time is near”.

I would even be so bold as to say, the time is now.


Blessings,

Pat

 


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1-15-2021 - Faith-filled Waiting


(Today's post is written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff)

 

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

                                                                          - Psalm 40:1-2

 

King David was a man who had a deep and enduring relationship with the God he loved. And there were times in his life that he led the people of Israel with triumph and shouts of joy and victory. But there were also times were he was pursued by his enemies and also incidents of his own sin and rebellion. David was indeed a man who lived both on the mountain with God and also in the valley.

 

During times like we are experiencing now, how many of us can honestly say that we are "waiting patiently" for God to do something to change our circumstance? Are we "frustrated-filled" or "faith-filled"?

 

Did you know that the faith-filled person is not always the person who is living on the mountain of victory? The faith-filled person can often be the person who is just holding on, in the hope that God will move and rescue them. I believe that many of us might in this place now. And if you are finding yourself in a place like this during these very difficult times, I want to encourage you to engage in some "faith-filled waiting". 

 

The passage above is the first two verses of our Call to Worship this Sunday morning, and as we come together as a church and this Call to Worship can serve as a reminder of who it is that we worship. Remember that He is the God who hears us and cares for us and calls us to His side, even in the most difficult times. As Christmas reminds us, He is near.

 

So let's wait patiently for the Lord and believe that He will deliver us. Let's engage in some Faith-Filled Waiting. 

 

Blessings

Pat



01-07-2021 - Guidance Obtained

Today's post is written by Pat Hanly, Pastoral Associate, Head of Staff


     The world is a dangerous place. It always has been but these days we see this very clearly every day. Between pandemics, unprecedented political instability, and rumors of tensions throughout the world, we see very clearly what has always been – that the world is a dangerous place.


     But that does not mean it is a bad place. We need to remember during times like this that the world was created by God, who afterward, said that it was good. And it is good. The same things we loved about the world and about our lives are still there. They haven’t gone away. What is bad now will eventually pass.


    So, what are Christians to do as we wait for these difficult times to pass? The answer is peace. We are called to be a people of peace. And we are called to be a people of peace because our Lord is the Prince of Peace. This is something that I will be speaking about on Sunday as I finish up my sermon series on the names of the divine Son who would be born, as prophesied in Isaiah, chapter 9.


     When people speak of peace, they generally think of it as something external like peace between nations or political factions. But for the believer, peace is something that is internal before it is external. Peace takes many forms and is seen in many ways, but it must start by being personalized. It must start by being at the very center of who we are as believers. We can only live to bring peace if we are people who are peace.


     The good news of this idea is that it easily leads us back to the place we need to be. While external circumstances will rage, we can look to the one who was born the Prince of Peace. And looking to Him makes all the differences. The peace that comes from Him is a peace of the person, not of the circumstance, and it is the kind of peace that He gives us as His followers.


     So, before we hope for peace in our country, before we desire it for the world, we must to seek to live it, to personalize it, to actually be it. It is my prayer that God will give me the words to speak about this on Sunday in a way that helps us all receive this great gift.

My prayer is for ears that hear what the Spirit has to say to us all at this time because it is during times like this that it is only the Spirit that can adequately speak to our circumstances. It is only the Spirit who can speak the peace that we so desperately need.


Blessings,

Pat

 



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