Wednesday, April 30, 2014

It is well with my soul: A Powerful Hymn for Painful Times

Hymns can speak to us in our darkest moments. They are prayers set to music. At times, when you know the story behind the writer of a hymn, the declaration of faith it contains can be truly, deeply moving, as in the case of this old standard, "It Is Well with My Soul." May you find some consolation in this prayer set to music today if you grieve. We stand by you and pray for you in your difficulty and your pain. Please know that you are not alone.

God bless you.

Sermon Summaries: April 27, 2014: Through Our Closed Doors

On "Low Sunday," the Sunday after Easter, John 20:19-31 shows us the disciples on the evening of that eventful first day of the week after they have heard Mary Magdalene's joyful declaration that she had seen Jesus back, alive, after the crucifixion, after the burial. By evening the disciples had locked the door and hidden themselves away, afraid their own nation's leadership would seek to kill them as Jesus had been killed.

Jesus was unimpressed by their barred door. He stood among them, offered them peace, proved it was truly him by showing them the wounds, and replaced their terror with the Holy Spirit. The disciples rejoiced. They were given a mission to be sent into the world and God had sent Jesus. But the disciple Thomas had not been with them.

A week later, the disciples are again behind that locked door. They have tried to tell Thomas they had seen Jesus alive ... but they were no more successful at convincing Thomas than Mary Magdalene had been in convincing them. Fear tries hard to drive out belief. Jesus returns. Again he provides peace, again he provides proof for Thomas, and Thomas believes, making a truly profound declaration of faith in Jesus, "My Lord and My God!" This time Jesus also blesses all the readers and hearers who would ever be when Jesus said, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." Fear had lead the disciples to disbelief and the same may be said of us all. 

Today, Jesus continues to walk through the barred doors we hid behind when we are afraid and find it hard to believe. He offers us peace and the Holy Spirit. Jesus gives us purpose and sends us out from behind our closed doors, out into the world where we need to be, among other people who help us and who we may help. 

When caught in the grips of fear, turn to Jesus. Allow Jesus to give you peace and purpose. 

Sermon Summaries; Easter 2014: When Your Name Is Spoken

From John 20:11-18, we follow Mary Magdalene to the tomb where Jesus' crucified body had been placed early on the first day of the week. It is the worst first day you can imagine. She arrives before first light to mourn the loss of her beloved teacher and Messiah. She finds the rock covering the tomb rolled back, Jesus' body gone, and in her grief she turns to a perfectly logical explanation. She believed the body had been stolen. She goes back to tell the disciples Peter and John, who confirm the condition of the tomb.

When Mary returns to the tomb, the disciples are gone. She is alone with her grief, or so she believes. She looks into the presumed to be empty tomb. She finds two men there where Jesus' body should have been. She is asked why she cries and who she seeks. Leaving the tomb, she finds another man coming toward her, a man she presumes to be the gardener ... until he says her name. Only then does she recognize the risen Jesus, and rejoice!

Take a moment to read the verse in which Jesus says Mary's name. Now, imagine Jesus saying your name under those circumstances instead. Do you hear your name given in a scolding, authoritarian tone, something gentle and kind ... or somewhere in between. How you hear your name will tell you much about the relationship you have with Jesus. It's worth considering.

When Mary heard Jesus' voice, it changed her life. She knew what Jesus had told them all was true. He had been victorious over death. To the early church, Mary became the apostola apostolorum, the apostle to the apostles, a very significant person. 

As the centuries have rolled by, many have heard their names called by Jesus and responded with joy and new purpose. The world has changed for the better. With Jesus' curing of the sick, those called to care created hospices alongside cathedrals for the care of the ill, the first hospitals. Those who heard their names called with a penchant for education, remembered Jesus' call to love God with all your mind. They established monasteries, academic guilds, and universities. Public education first began to deny Satan access to children's minds, children Jesus loved. The wonderful list of positive changes goes on, rolling down through the centuries like justice rolling down like water. 

Do you hear Jesus calling your voice today? How will you respond? Will you rejoice? Will you be changed and work to help change the world for the better? 

Rejoice! Jesus lives!

Our Prayers Go Out to Those In the Tornado Ravaged Midwest and South

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
~Matthew 5:4

From Iowa to Florida, for four days savage weather has left a swath of death and destruction. With thirty-five dead that we know of and untold numbers injured and homeless, our prayers at Lansdowne Baptist Church go out to you all. We stand beside you in these awful times and pray for you. You have our support and our concern as the rains fall and increase the struggle.

Let us pray together for those who have died and who live on, suffering:
Eternal God, in whom we live and move and have our being, and who by your mighty power raised Jesus Christ from the dead, give us the light and life of your presence. Help us to put our trust in your wisdom and to open ourselves to the ministry of your love. Open our hearts, that we may truly hear your words or encouragement as they come to us from the Scriptures, and that by their consolation we may be lifted out of our sorrow to know that in Christ there is life eternal. Amen.

Upcoming Events for May and June 2014

We have a variety of exciting events coming up in May and June, several open to the public! Public events are shown in red type.

  • May 4: Installation Service for Rev. Jeffrey B. Snyder
  • May 14: Congregational Meeting, including a pot luck fellowship dinner, 6 PM.
  • May 26: Memorial Day Pancake Breakfast, 8:30 AM to 11 AM. If you are in Lansdowne for the parade, come and enjoy a few pancakes with up to keep your body fueled and your spirits up.
  • June 8: This is the day we celebrate our school graduates. Our children are a true blessing for us all! 
  • June 8: Brief congregational meeting after the worship service to vote on whether to hold the Christmas Fair this year, tentatively scheduled for Saturday, December 6, 2014.
  • June 28: Sunday School Community Bash, 12 to 2 PM. 
God has blessed us in many ways and we love to share the joy that comes from those blessings. 

Installation Service for Our New Pastor

Lansdowne Baptist Church's congregation is happy to announce the installation service for our new pastor, the Reverend Jeffrey B. Snyder. This joyful service will take place on Sunday, May 4, at 3 PM. This is the culmination of a successful search and interim ministry period. We have invited community leaders to celebrate with us, leaders we hope to work with in partnership in the future, along with local ministers and the head of the Philadelphia Baptist Association. We look forward to sharing our joy and journeying together where God will have us go. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Sunday Service: You Are Invited

Please consider yourself welcome to worship with us this Sunday, April 20, 2014, to celebrate Jesus' victory over the grave and Mary Magdalene's announcement that she has seen the Lord. This is an announcement that changed all human history. Come and see how.

Easter worship begins at 11 AM. Wonderful familiar hymns will be sung, a dramatic monologue will be performed for the children, and the sermon will focus our joy on Jesus and all he accomplished for us. Beautiful flowers adorn our historic sanctuary. Warm people await you. We look forward to seeing you there.

Have a blessed Easter.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sermon Summaries: Palm Sunday, the King of Peace, and Shattered Expectations

Christians celebrate Palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode into the capital city of Israel, where David had brought the Ark of the Covenant, the footstool of God, and Solomon had built the Temple for God, and shattered expectations. The Israelites had come to the city for Passover. Visions filled their minds of Moses and God extracting them from slavery in Egypt and brought them into the promised land. Now, the people of Israel were eager for a new conquering Messiah, a warrior King who could free them from the oppression of Rome ... and any other threat that might come to light.

Jesus begins his entry into the city in Bethphage, an outermost village of the city, the farthest city from which bread could be baked for use in the Temple, on a donkey, a nursing mother donkey trailing her colt behind her. He was given a king's triumphal procession by disciples and followers, who placed cloaks and palm leaves on the road before him. While they cried out Hosanna to the Son of David, or Save Us Son of David! they declared his royal lineage. In Jerusalem there was confusion. Who was this? Could a true Messiah come to town riding a symbol of peace rather than a war horse as they had hoped. Could a Messiah be a king of peace arriving with devoted followers and disciples but no legions of troops to depose Rome? Could a true Messiah overturn the market stalls in the Temple that kept Gentiles away from God? Could a real Messiah spend his time around a high holy holiday proclaiming all that was wrong with Jerusalem and her religious leadership?

The people of Jerusalem were tasked with seeing if they could adjust their expectations from those of a warrior Messiah to a King of Peace. It is the same task all believers face. In a society that proclaims might makes right and cries out that individuals must arm themselves and take the law into their own hands in the face of evil  ... Jesus calls us to the life of peacemakers, breaking down barriers that divide people, reaching out a helping hand to strangers and enemies alike, working to end the injustices of our world just as he worked to end the injustices of his. What choice will you make?

Wishing you a blessed Palm Sunday and Easter every year, and a full and blessed life. Come by next Sunday and hear what is said in the sermon for yourself. Enjoy the prayers and hymns, the Children's Time, and the community too, all first hand. You will be most welcome. 

Feasting With Friends Event at Lansdowne Baptist Church a Success

The third annual Feasting With Friends event was a great success. On Saturday, April 12, 2014, the church congregation's volunteers, assisted with donations from local stores--for which we are very grateful--served nearly 90 hungry people from 1 to 3 PM. We had a very ecumenical experience, with members from several area churches present to join in the fellowship. People from a variety of communities joined in, along with individuals struggling with food insecurity issues. Everyone was well served, with food, fellowship, community, and respect. Pastor Jeff Snyder gave a brief presentation during the meal about the future of the church as a community church reaching out into our communities where God is calling us to work.

Before the meal ended, dinners were packed up to be delivered to shut ins who were unable to attend. We wanted to make sure our outreach extended as far as possible into the surrounding neighborhood. When we were finished, left over food was sent home with those who needed it. Nothing went to waste. God saw to that. It was a blessed day and a wonderful experience. New friends were made, old friends reconnected with, and many promises to come together again next year.

It truly was a blessed afternoon for all. Hope to see you next year feasting along with us.

Friday, April 4, 2014

American Baptist Churches USA Serving as the Hands and Feet of Christ (+...

Here is an excellent, brief introduction to who we are as American Baptists. If you want to learn more, please join us on Sunday mornings here at Lansdowne Baptist Church and explore the faith together with us as we worship.

For more information on American Baptist history and belief, you may also see:

News from American Baptist Missionary to Costa Rica, Sue Hegarty

Sue writes:

March has been a month of continuing with teaching and preparing to teach in the second semester for Pastoral Care for Women.
I am also making progress on one of my 2014 goals, to build stronger ties with churches and the women of the Baptist Federation. God has graciously provided several opportunities this month. I have visited a church and a mission that I'd never been in before. The director of Pastoral Care for Women and I were able to share with one of the women pastors about the resources we can offer her church as they deal with domestic violence in one of their missions. Another woman pastor called to "cry on my shoulder" for an hour; what a privilege to listen and pray with her. The president of the Baptist Women invited me to be the closing speaker at their Retreat on April 25-26 to share on the topic of Christian service. The leaders and I met to make preliminary plans this month and I covet your prayers as I seek to bring them God's message!
During March, I also reconnected with colleague Chris Marziale who represented International Ministries at the playground dedication in La Guacima, as well as helping out a work group from Woodbury Baptist Church of St. Paul, Minnesota.
Thank you so much for your prayers and gifts, which make these "connections" possible. These relational "connections" are the stuff of ministry and we are partners in this!
~Sue Hegarty
If you would like to learn more about the work of American Baptist missionaries around the world, see:

If you would like to know more about Missionary Sue Hegarty's work, see:

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Why Are We Here?

In the book Finding My Way Home, Henri J.M. Nouwen, a twentieth century author and theologian, provides a beautiful answer to the timeless question, "why are we here?" He also gives us a suggestion of what we should do while we are here. He says,
You become conscious that you were sent here for just a short time, for twenty, forty, or eighty years, to discover and believe that you are a beloved child of God. The length of time doesn’t matter. You are sent into this world to believe in yourself as God’s chosen one and then to help your brothers and sisters know that they also are beloved sons and daughters of God who belong together. You’re sent into this world to be a people of reconciliation. You are sent to heal, to break down the walls between you and your neighbors, locally, nationally, and globally. Before all the distinctions, the separations, and the walls built on foundations of fear, there was unity in the mind and heart of God. Out of that unity, you are sent into this world for a little while to claim that you and every other human being belongs to that same God of Love who lives from eternity to eternity.
Will you accept that you are so loved by God? If you really, truly believe that you are beloved by God, will you also let others know they are equally loved and sought by God? This could be the ongoing project of your life.

A Little Perspective When Burning Issues Flare in Churches

There come times in churches and denominations when we end up divided over some "burning issue of the day." To add to the intensity, this issue is often declared "the defining issue of our time!" Arguments over such issues have ended friendships, split churches, and divide denominations. While not all such issues lack long-term import, many can be put into better perspective with the following story from Mr. P.T. Barnum.* He relates a story about what happened in the little New England church where he was raised back in the early 1830s. 

There was but one church or “meeting house” in Bethel, which all attended, sinking all differences of creed in the Presbyterian faith. The old meetinghouse had neither steeple nor bell and was a plain edifice, comfortable enough in summer, but my teeth chatter even now when I think of the dreary, cold, freezing hours we passed in that place in winter. A stove in a meetinghouse in those days would have been a sacrilegious innovation. The sermons were from an hour and one-half to two hours long, and through these the congregation would sit and shiver till they really merited the title the profane gave them of “blue skins.” Some of the women carried a “foot-stove” consisting of a small square tin box in a wooden frame, the sides perforated, and in the interior there was a small square iron dish, which contained a few live coals covered with ashes. These stoves were usually replenished just before meeting time at some neighbor’s near the meetinghouse.  

After many years of shivering and suffering, one of the brethren had the temerity to propose that the church should be warmed with a stove. His impious proposition was voted down by an overwhelming majority. Another year came around, and in November the stove question was again brought up. The excitement was immense. The subject was discussed in the village stores and in the juvenile debate club; it was prayed over in conference, and finally in general “society meeting,” in December, the stove was carried by a majority of one and was introduced into the meetinghouse. On the first Sunday thereafter, two ancient maiden ladies were so oppressed by the dry and heated atmosphere occasioned by the wicked invention, that they fainted away and were carried out into the cool air where they speedily returned to consciousness, especially when they were informed that owing to the lack of two lengths of pipe, no fire had yet been made in the stove. The next Sunday was a bitter cold day, and the stove, filled with well-seasoned hickory, was a great gratification to the many, and displeased only a few.

This was the "burning" issue of the day. Seems silly in hindsight. So many of our burning issues and intense arguments do ... upon reflection and with perspective. Thanks P.T. for that perspective.

*You can find this little gem and many others in The Life of Barnum: World-Renowned Showman.

For Those Who Grieve ...

With all the loss of human life in the world today--through tragedies written large in natural disasters, the loss of aircraft, trains, and other mechanical transport, through wars and all violence, organized and random, and through illness and accident--we need each other and God more than ever. We also need to offer comfort.

We the members of Lansdowne Baptist Church stand with you as you grieve and we pray for you and your family and your friends. We also grieve for your loss. We also stand with you in the faith that our loving God stands with us all at this time.

Hear the Word of God,

The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By God's mercy we have been given a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. 1 Peter 1:3-4

Let us pray:

Eternal God, in whom we live and move and have our being, and who by your mighty power raised Jesus Christ from the dead, give us the light and life of your presence. Help us to put our trust in your wisdom and to open ourselves to the ministry of your love. Open our hearts, that we may truly hear your words of encouragement as they come to us from the Scriptures, and that by their consolation we may be lifted out of our sorrow to know that in Christ there is life eternal. Amen

We gather together here in spirit to hear God's word of hope in commemoration with thanksgiving for the life of your loved one.

Do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1

We know that Psalm 23 applies to the one you have lost:

God is my shepherd: I shall not want.
God makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside the still waters.
God restores my soul and leads me in right paths.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you are with me: your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you annoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of God my whole life long. Psalm 23.

Let us offer you a benediction before you go. Know that you are never alone. God bless you.

Merciful God, comfort us as we face the valley of the shadow of death. Lift our eyes from the dark depths to the hills from whence help comes. Aid us to see your light, that it may be for us a light upon the path and a lamp upon the way until we come into the fullness of your presence, where there is no shadow or hiding. Amen