Author: Jordan UCC Allentown

Lent Should Humble, Challenge, Change Us

Lent Should Humble, Challenge, Change Us

If you know the man, you’ll recognize his phrase: “The need for speed.” I’m speaking about JUCC member Dennis Guth, of course. “The Flying Fuzz” holds an impressive number of records as the world’s fastest motorcycle police officer. If you’ve ever seen him do a “burnout” in the church parking lot (maybe that’s why we need to repave it!), you have some idea of what I mean. And although he’s officially retired, he’s still busy “working hard and playing hard,” as he’s fond of saying.

The theme of the season of Lent, forty days before Easter Sunday, could be called, “The need to repent.” The Greek word means “to change one’s mind.” But the Hebrew verb behind it might be translated, “to turn around, that is to change one’s heart, will, and conduct,” according to Lamar Williamson in the Interpretation commentary of the Bible. Lent is a time when we are asked to do uncomfortable things like take a hard look at our personal lives, and our common life as a community of the church, in light of the central message of the gospel of Jesus Christ which begins with his call to repent. (Matthew 4:17). The problem is, Joseph Howard writes, that too many of us are “often wrong but seldom in doubt.”

Doesn’t sound like we’re ready for repentance, does it? Years ago Dr. Will Willimon, while Dean of the Duke University Chapel suggested that folks who attend our churches are often content with the ways they live their lives, comfortable, and for the most part, enjoying life as it is. He suggested a banner be hung near our front doors: “Caution: Do Not Enter Here If You Don’t Want To Be Changed!”

Repentance is much larger than simply acknowledging the bad you have done as feeling guilty about it. Tom Long, a former Princeton Seminary professor from whom I learned much, writes in his commentary on Matthew: “Repentance is a basic reorientation of one’s life. In repentance, one turns from one framework of thinking about self, others, God, and life to another competing and compelling vision.” It’s a new way of looking at God, our neighbors, and the world, which allows our changed lives to have more hope and courage for the challenges we face.

In his new book, A World Worth Saving: Lenten Spiritual Practices for Action, author George Hovaness Donigian hopes to move the reader from a time of self-sacrifice and introspection, to connecting prayer and other spiritual practices to acts of mercy, compassion, and justice. If God thinks the world is worth saving, which is the premise of the book, then we should participate in the redemption Christ offers through our caring actions: serving others, feeding the hungry, speaking out against and acting upon injustice, offering healing and extending friendship.

What needs to change in you? In our church? And our nation, and the world? What are you willing to do to help bring about the change? It’s God’s sense of humor that could be to blame for Ash Wednesday landing on Valentine’s Day this year, and Easter Sunday on April Fool’s Day. God demonstrated love for us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Is that powerful enough for us to want to make a difference for God in the lives of others through our repentant lives and our changed church? Paul, writing to the early church, says: “Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools…” (1 Corinthians 4:10a NLT). Do you feel a need to repent, or will you remain often wrong about your relationship with Christ and the church, but seldom in doubt?

Kyle Idelman, in Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus, poses three questions, which happen to be chapter titles as well: Wherever: What About There? Whatever: What About That? Whenever: What About Now?

May this Holy Season of Lent humble us, challenge us, and change us.

The Rev. Dr. David Charles Smith is Senior Pastor at Jordan UCC of Allentown. He can be reached by email at srpastor@jordanucc.org.

Greek Trip to Let Faithful Follow the Footsteps of Paul

Greek Trip to Let Faithful Follow the Footsteps of Paul

The Rev. Dr. David Charles Smith, Senior Pastor of Jordan UCC of Allentown, will lead an 11-day spiritual pilgrimage to Greece in March 2019 that will allow participants to follow the footsteps of Paul the Apostle.

The trip – which also includes a three-night cruise through the Greek islands and the coast of Turkey – helps faithful followers understand the setting of many New Testament letters and the life of St. Paul.

Travelers will visit Mars Hill in Athens, where Paul preached, and make stops at Ephesus, Patmos, Thessaloniki, Philippi, Delphi, and the Acropolis.

The all-inclusive excursion from March 20-30, 2019, includes 20 meals and round-trip airfare to Philadelphia International Airport. Travelers can save $200 with an early reservation. The trip also is open for non-Jordan UCC members.

Interested individuals can contact the Jordan UCC office for a brochure and details.

Why It’s Important to Join Us In Person

Why It’s Important to Join Us In Person

My oldest son is a Computer Science major at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, and specializes in Augmented Reality. I’m amazed at how technology has changed the way most of us live, and what a new generation might bring to our world. During my first international trip in 1986, it took a week for a letter to arrive back home, and I had to “book” a phone call to loved ones with an operator 9-12 hours ahead! These days, I’m in daily communication, often in real time, with the pastors of our partner church in Kakata, Liberia, and the staff of the Jordan Community Elementary School System. It’s a wonderful gift, but not the same as time spent together in the same physical space.

I’m so thankful you are here to visit our beloved church online, but there is really no substitute for you to be our guest and visit with us in person. Maybe we’ll hear your voice joining others on a Sunday morning as we offer God our thanks and praise. Or perhaps, you’ll take a walk through our beautiful Peace Garden and be in awe of the Creator’s majesty and power. Could it be that you’ll be here on Christmas Eve and receive the Light of Christ from the person seated next to you? Possibly, you’ll participate in one of our numerous small groups and wrestle with the hard questions of faith and daily life. Being a follower of Jesus is not something to be done from a distance or as a spectator, but as a fully engaged disciple!

No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here!

The Rev. Dr. David Charles Smith is Senior Pastor at Jordan UCC of Allentown. He can be reached by email at srpastor@jordanucc.org.

Date Changed for Jordan UCC Leadership Retreat

Date Changed for Jordan UCC Leadership Retreat

The date of the Jordan UCC Leadership Retreat has been changed to Saturday, Jan. 20, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Staff members, current and past Consistory members, and others in positions of leadership are invited to the one-day retreat at the church with Dr. Jill Peters of the Moravian Theological Seminary. Topics to be covered include how to develop leaders, what happens when we disagree, and how we care for those who no longer care for us.

Participants are asked to come prepared to begin at 9 a.m. The retreat will include a break and a light lunch.

Interested participants are asked to RSVP to the church office by Wednesday, Jan. 17.

Spaghetti Dinner to be Held Friday, Jan. 19

Spaghetti Dinner to be Held Friday, Jan. 19

Come out and support Jordan UCC’s Sunday School program and enjoy a delicious homemade Italian dinner on Friday, Jan. 19, from 5-7 p.m.

Donations needed in the kitchen by Wednesday, Jan. 17, include thin spaghetti, any kind of sauce, applesauce, fruit cocktail, and Ranch or Italian salad dressing. Desserts should be brought to the kitchen by Friday, Jan. 19.

Anybody who would like to help with prep work should meet in the kitchen on Thursday, Jan. 18, at 6 p.m. If you are interested in helping with the dinner, please arrive between 5-7 p.m. that day and we will put you to work.

Please contact Mary Heller with questions at 610.799.0372 or mjheller@ptd.net.