Pastor's Message


“Jesus’ 'Middle' Name”

posted Nov 20, 2019, 2:39 PM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated Nov 20, 2019, 2:40 PM ]

Jesus had a middle name?  Are you kidding? Well, maybe being playful, but not kidding.  It seems to me that Matthew thought it was a good idea, in any case.

 

Now, for the disclaimer.  Middle names didn’t exist in Jesus’ time and place like they do in our day.  Neither did last names, for that matter.  Small communities didn’t need that.  Records didn’t require it.  Not like our day, in which first and last names, along with one tucked in-between, distinguish us from others when we sign our names on an official document.

 

In my own family, middle names sometimes represented a piece of the family heritage that a parent wanted to retain.  Whether it was a “maiden” name, or a connection in the family tree, middle names have been given in that way.  My grandfather Amos F., was actually Amos M. F..  The “M” stood for “Merkey”, which was a part of his heritage.  My middle name “Lee” was a package deal.  It happened to be attached to my first name as a combination that first belonged to a cousin of my mother, and then came to me!

 

I like to think that Jesus got a middle name too.  It was a part of his heritage, but more than that, it proclaimed the promise that was fulfilled in his birth.

 

Matthew tells us what it is. Emmanuel.  Hearkening back to a prophecy from Isaiah, that name is claimed for this child of Mary and Joseph.  Emmanuel.  “God with us”.

 

Now, the first name is important too.  Jesus means “God saves”.  But it is the combination that reminds us that God’s son is the evidence and testimony to how God saves! Not from a distance.  But up close!  Not by destroying the ungodly.  But by coming among us to save us, and all other ungodly ones from our sins!

 

Okay, I admit it.  Jesus didn’t really have a middle name.  But if he had, it would have been Emmanuel.

 

In this holy season, may we remember both names!  And may we rejoice in the way that God has chosen to save us: by entering our human experience as a child born to be “with us”.


- Yours in Christ, Pastor Del

"When Change Happens"

posted Oct 30, 2019, 11:56 AM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated Oct 30, 2019, 11:57 AM ]

It’s nothing new, but sometimes it is new to us.  What am I talking about?  Change.  I’ve been thinking about the changes that are underway for one of our congregation’s families as Warren and Theresa navigate their transition from living in a home in Dover to relocating in a cottage at Messiah Lifeways.  We look forward to having them closer to us, and they are eager to get there.  But right now, the details, the complexities and the demands of this move are enormous and overwhelming!

 

Many of you have experienced change like that.  The goal may be something that you have sought and looked forward to.  It may have even been your choice (though not always).  And yet, when you are in the throes of the change, the chaos buffets and exhausts you! 

 

Sometimes, we imagine that we can retreat from change, and we wish it would all just “go away”.  In our faith, we cling to the promise that “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever”, and in that we are convicted that some things should not change.  I get that.  As I sometimes say, “I resemble that remark”.  Still, I would remind you (along with myself) that God has not promised us “sameness”.  The one thing that we are assured of through scripture is that transformation is God’s intent for our lives!  And friends, that means change! 

 

But the other assurance is just as important.  It is important for each of us to remember when life’s twists and turns seem impossible to navigate.  The assurance is simple but profound.  God in Christ does not abandon us.  Our Lord is present with us...even and especially in the midst of the chaos. 

 

By the way, it is okay to retreat for a bit.  Jesus did that regularly.  It strengthened him when he spent time in prayer and in conversation with God.  But the retreat was not the destination.  It was a moment to catch breath, to regain focus, and to gain a footing to continue the transformative journey.

 

But remember, while the challenges of change are real, they are not your enemy.  They are sometimes difficult and draining.  But they can be needed steps both for our goals and growth.  They go along with the terrain of the journey.  As you navigate them, may you find reminders that God is with you, and you are not alone!

                                                                               - Yours in Christ, Pastor Del

"Mingling the Common and the Holy"

posted Oct 9, 2019, 5:58 PM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated Oct 9, 2019, 5:59 PM ]

“Introducing the Brethren Hymnal Supplement”

posted Jun 22, 2019, 8:53 AM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated Jun 22, 2019, 8:54 AM ]

Your Leadership Team has recently appointed a task team to assess the condition of our congregational worship hymnals, and to bring a recommendation to address this issue.  Some of those hymnals, as you may know, are in a state of disrepair, with the covers and spines suffering serious wear and tear.

Based on discussion of their recommendations, the Leadership Team has decided to purchase vinyl covers for each of our hymnals.  At the cost of $3 per cover, this step will improve the appearance and function of our hymnals in the pews, and enable them to serve us for some years to come.

However, in the midst of those discussions, we have also been talking about other ways to enhance our worship and music.  The same task team secured some sample copies of a resource called the Brethren Hymnal Supplement for our review.  Your leadership team acted at their last meeting to approve the purchase 215 copies of the Brethren Hymnal Supplement for our congregation.

So what is it?  The Supplement has actually been available for many years.  It was assembled originally as a series of 10 “sets” of music that were chosen to...well, to “supplement” the music that we find in our hymnal.  The supplement includes a variety of music, including old favorites like “In the Garden” and “How Great Thou Art”, as well as a range of more contemporary selections like “Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart” and “Lord I Lift Your Name  on High”.  Often, selections from this resource are used in denominational events like NYC and Annual Conference.  All in all, the resource contains 150 songs and readings that will be available to us for our congregational worship.

While we have approved the purchase through current memorial gifts, the Leadership Team has asked that we provide you the opportunity to contribute to the purchase of these supplements.

Each book costs $13.95.  Any contributions given with the request that the book be placed in memory or honor of a loved one will be honored.  A label will be inserted at the back of the Supplement to note the gift and intent.  You can purchase multiple copies to honor one or several persons.  An order sheet will be made available for your use, so that we can track your gifts and requests.  Any additional contributions will help defray the cost of the vinyl covers for the hymnals.

We look forward to using this resource to enhance our worship and to expand our range of music that we can use for our worship of our Lord!       

-Yours in Christ, Pastor Del

"What's a Life Worth?"

posted Jun 3, 2019, 11:47 AM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated Jun 3, 2019, 11:47 AM ]

What’s a life worth?  Our daughter-in-law Laura is a surgical resident at Hershey Medical Center.  During the current year, she is on “transplant” call, which means that when there is a donor available, she is called in to help in the harvesting of the organs that will be taken from the life that can no longer be sustained, and given to another person whose life can potentially be renewed through that organ taking its place and role in their body.  It is a remarkable and grueling process, as time is of the essence and complications can arise at any moment.

I think of the transplant journey as a powerful and life-giving act.  It is one that seems to be worth the vast expense and investment that is required to make it possible.  Organ donation is a remarkable gift when it is the concluding act a family can extend to help another in desperate need of that life-giving organ.

And it is a profound testimony in these challenging days for our culture.  We debate and disagree on when life begins and ends, and whose choice it should be to determine how to deal with such lives.  Those are important conversations, to be sure.

Yet, we Brethren (along with many Christians) have held a basic view of life in God’s sight:  it matters.  The lines drawn between whose life matters more?  The mother or the fetus?  The victim or the perpetrator?  The friend or the enemy?  The wealthy or the poor?  Those lines don’t work for us.  For those of us who follow Jesus (especially within our faith stream), those fault lines are part of our human condition and inclination, but they are not acceptable ways to make sense of the world that Christ loves! Each life matters. 

Personally, I find it unfortunate that the language of “pro-life” has come to focus on one stage and dimension of life; what we refer to as the “unborn”.  That is surely a concern that merits our careful and prayerful response.  But followers of Jesus are not given the relative freedom to quickly decide which lives matter and when. We are called instead to recognize that all lives are precious in God’s sight, when we see them through the lens of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  And that makes the work of loving every life, our life’s work.  May we take that as our daily challenge as we consider our own actions that can give life to another! 

-Yours In Christ, Pastor Del

"Breathing Again"

posted May 1, 2019, 12:55 PM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated May 1, 2019, 12:55 PM ]

      By now, many of you have heard about the “really big liver cyst” that became the focus of my recent surgery in the aftermath of the symptoms that had me sitting to preach since Christmas.  As it became increasingly clear that this 6 inch cyst was the culprit and contributor to my light-headedness and discomfort, the path of treatment led me to Johns Hopkins and a surgical procedure on March 26th.  In the course of 12 hours (from the time we left our home at 3:30 a.m. until we returned in the afternoon), I received an intervention that removed the 1.5 liters of fluid of the cyst, took out a portion of the cyst wall and tucked me all back together through the multiple small incisions of robotic laparoscopy.

 

      My task then was to follow doctor’s orders, and to begin the painful work of recovery.  That work was not exceptional; many of you have undergone such things.  But it was a bit unique in what was needed and accomplished.  Once I got beyond the temporary (and intense) pain/pressure of the carbon dioxide that distended my abdomen for the procedure, I found a surprising outcome.

 

      Perhaps I should not have been surprised; given what was accomplished.  But what I found in time was that I was able to breathe...deeply again.  I’m not saying that I couldn’t breathe before the surgery.  But I realized that over time, I had adjusted to a smaller capacity of breath.  I noticed it most in my singing.  I found that I could not sustain a note quite as long as I used to, and that I was having to catch breaths more frequently.  It was less apparent in my preaching, but present there too.

 

      But the truth is, I did not realize just how much space below my diaphragm had been taken up by that fluid-filled cyst.  I didn’t realize the capacity I had lost until I found it again.  It showed up as I joined others in singing hymns at the funerals of Bill R. and Bob W.  At the time, I was just pleased that I could sing at all.  The change revealed itself more fully at my first choir rehearsal later that week.  I had to tell someone, and so I did tell the whole choir.  It seemed that I could sustain a note longer than I had for some time!

 

      Truth is, we don’t know how long the cyst was there, or when it expanded to its final “really big” size.  But I can say that the gift of breath is profound and a wonder!  To have room for my lungs to fill more substantially and to sustain a pitch is a deep blessing.  To know (now) that what was removed was benign is a wondrous encouragement.   For all of that, I give thanks and praise to God!  And I am grateful to be back to standing...and singing...among you.                                                                                                 

 

- Yours in Christ, Pastor Del

"Seasons"

posted Apr 5, 2019, 2:08 PM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated Apr 5, 2019, 2:09 PM ]

I don’t know about you, but I find the marks of the seasons to be a bit incongruous.  (At least the dates)  We say Spring begins on a certain date, and then proceed to talk about it arriving early or late, depending on the particular weather of the day.  And we all know that shifting location changes those parameters.  So why bother?  Why even talk about seasons, when the dates don’t seem to coincide with anything? *


Perhaps it is important for us to have markers; reminders of the changes of our life experience that we can track.  I understand that there are folks who can’t stand winter, but others who value a climate where the seasons of relative warmth and cold, or relative wet and dry, provide some rhythm to the year.  But no matter where you live, there is benefit to noting the broader shifts of life, as we observe the annual germination, growth, flowering and fruit bearing of the plants around us.

 

That is true for the seasonal year, but also for the “year” that we observe within our faith community.  I know that it’s puzzling sometimes to keep track of “when Easter falls” in a given year.  There is some oddity for us to have a movable celebration for that central observance when so many other dates on our calendar hold their place.**

 

Easter can fall early or late; moved as it is by its link with the Jewish Passover.  But I like to think that it is also a reminder that our experience of Resurrection is not bound so much by dates as it is by the movement of God at surprising moments.

 

Growing up, with Easter Sunrise services in the early morning out-of-doors, I can remember both the frigid air and the gentle warmth that Easter could contain, as we gathered to sing “Low in the grave he lay”.  At the time, the cold mornings were to be endured in your Sunday best.  Today, I look at it a bit differently.  Now I am grateful to be reminded that the good news of Christ’s resurrection is a fitting proclamation no matter the climate, and that it can’t be pinned down to one particular moment in the calendar.  While Jesus rose on a particular day, our experience of his Resurrection is not bound to just one day or one time.  It is the reality that shapes every day.  Thanks be to God for that!

- Yours in Christ, Pastor Del

 

*(For those who might think I’ve forgotten about the astronomical changes that lie behind those seasonal changes, or for those not remembering, you can check out https://www.fi.edu/blog/solstice-equinox.)

** (And for those wondering about the timing of the “moveable feast” of Easter, you can read more at https://www.thoughtco.com/date-of-easter-change-every-year-700670)

"It's Always a Test"

posted Feb 27, 2019, 1:02 PM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated Feb 27, 2019, 1:02 PM ]

Some of you have heard me say this in passing; others in a meeting or conversation.  It is one of my mantras, if you will.  The thought didn’t originate with me.  It did come from one of my mentors in my ministry journey.

 

The response actually has a context.  It was an answer, as I recall, to a question about whether there would be some sort of assessment or testing to review our understandings of a set of materials.  It was a playful response, but one that has had enduring relevance for me.

 

“It is always a test” has become for me a reflection on life and the journey of faith and of ministry.  The test doesn’t have a specific set of questions, or even pre-subscribed answers.  It is a different kind of test; a test that stretches you and challenges you.  Yes, it may provide you some assessment of your current weaknesses, but ultimately what you face “tests” you to commit to what will finally guide and direct you.

 

This season is a bit of a test for me, as many of you know. The surgery that is ahead of me to address my liver cyst opens new territory.  My wife Lois likes to remind folks that I’ve never been in the hospital or had a major surgery.  That’s actually true.  Up to this point, I’ve been quite fortunate to have experienced good health, and relatively minor outpatient treatments.

 

So, that will be a test.  In another arena of our family’s life, we are navigating care for my mother’s health and a major hurdle of the sale of the family farm.  That too is a test of stamina, endurance, and at times, of wills. 

 

Yet what I am describing is not different from what many of you have faced.  Some of you have undergone great health challenges, and significant changes in your lives.  Others are navigating the disruption of job change and life relationships.  The places that I now travel have been traversed before.  It is not new territory; though it may be new for me or for you.

 

While we might pray “lead us not into temptation”, we should not be surprised that all of life is a test of sorts.  It is not, as I believe, God putting us to the test.  It is the reality that in each of our lives, we are faced with daily actions, decisions and responses that reveal our trust in God and our abilities to be faithful in challenging times.  So, is it “always” a test?  I think so.  May the tests that come our way stretch us to a level of courage and faithfulness that will prepare us for the next test still ahead!

-Yours In Christ, Pastor Del

"Marking Time"

posted Dec 22, 2018, 5:01 PM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated Dec 22, 2018, 5:03 PM ]

Here we are again; on the cusp of a new year.  As I write, Christmas is upon us, and beyond it, the markers of 2019 are approaching. 


Calendars are helpful with all of that.  They help us keep track of our days, as most of us don’t keep numbers ranging in the hundreds of days in our heads.  We can handle the division of months a bit better.  Yes, calendars are helpful, but they don’t tell the whole story. 


The calendars that hang on our walls or that hover in our smartphones keep us informed of the passing of days.  But they are far from the only way to mark a life.  As we look back on the lives of those who have come and gone in that span, we are reminded of a different kind of rhythm that marks our days.  We remember the lives that have entered and intertwined with ours.  We recall the lives that have left us behind, marked from their presence.


Our own congregation has developed a pattern of marking those coming and goings; but in particular the “goings” on the first Sunday of the New Year.  We call it “Remembrance Sunday”. 


It usually falls close to Epiphany; the time when we remember the Magi following the light in sky that directs them to the coming of One in whom there is to be found great promise.


Perhaps we should mark both the goings and the comings on that day.  It may be too much of course; both emotionally and otherwise.  But truly, arrivals and departures are the stuff of the relationships that make us who we are.


As we approach the turn of the year, and this time of remembrance, I pray that you can pause and give thanks as you remember the comings and goings, and the lives that have marked your own journey.  Amidst the loss that we recall, may we remember how we have been shaped by those who have entered and departed from our lives.                                          

–Yours in Christ, Pastor Del

"Advent as a Mindset"

posted Dec 12, 2018, 4:07 PM by Ken Schmidt   [ updated Dec 12, 2018, 4:07 PM ]

Let’s face it.  Most of us have our moments, if not our days when we wish that we could go back to a former time.  It might be a time tucked in our memories when things were easier, or at least different.  It might be a time when what we worried or cared about was smaller and simpler.  Whether in song or story, we easily imagine that “those were the days” when life was good and meaningful.  Our yearning in this Christmas season ironically promises to take us to that simpler time, while inundating us with preparations and activity that can distract rather than focus our lives.

 

As followers of Christ, it is instructive to remember that Jesus in his teaching and parables does not orient us toward returning to the past, but toward preparing for the future through our responses here and now.  We do look to the past for guidance, and find God’s faithfulness expressed there in remarkable ways in hopeless times. But we do so, so that we can more clearly see beyond our own troubled days to the future God has in store.

 

Looking back is not a terrible thing.  But trying to “go back” is truly problematic.  Our past was a moment in time, and though we may imagine being transported back to live now as we did then, that reality has never been possible!  The Hebrews could not go back to the Egypt that they knew; even when they wanted to.  Moses could not go back to the moments before he broke the first tablets in despair and anger at the antics of his people, even though he may have wished to.  Jeremiah as a prophet could not take his people back to a time of obedience and faithfulness, even though he may have yearned to do so! 

 

In each time, there were realities to be faced.  Whether a wilderness journey, a return to the mountain for more tablets, or a deportation from the Promised Land, the present was hard and sometimes devastating.  Nonetheless, the prophets were not without hope even then.  Sometimes that hope was expressed in strange ways; like Jeremiah’s purchase of a land deed for a place soon to be overrun by a conquering army!  Nonetheless, it was hope.  It was life lived in anticipation that God had not fled the scene.  It was a living hope that in difficulty, God had not abandoned them and that in challenging times, God would come to them!

 

We Christians, at our best, live with that mindset.  We, like others before us, may yearn for a simpler and easier time, but we cannot return to that imaginary place.  Our place is here, and our focus is to be toward what still awaits us through Christ!  It is a future that will not be extinguished by the vagaries of the present; even when we can’t see the way clearly, or find ourselves desperate for something more!  That is the reminder of Advent: that God has come and will come again, that the Kingdom is near and among us, and that we live best when we live toward it.  Think about that, as you prepare for this season. 
-Yours in Christ, Pastor Del

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