JMPC Sunshine 9.27.2020

One of what I believe to be a truly great and classic rock and roll songs also contains a truly profound theological statement. The song is also one I refer to often when talking to people about prayer. That song is, of course the Rolling Stones “You Can’t always Get What You Want.”
 
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well, you might find
You get what you need
 
This song came to mind as I was thinking about the second in our three-part series on Resilience in Troubled Times. Perhaps what we need to do is differentiate between what we want in troubled times (for the trouble to go away in the way we want it to) and what we need (trust that God provides what we need to survive the trouble). If you want to hear more about this, join us in the John McMillan Presbyterian Church parking lot, or online at Facebook Live at 10am, this Sunday when Pastor Jeff preaches, “Provision in Troubled Times”.


JMPC Sunshine 9.20.2020

In 1956 the Timex watch company started an advertisement campaign for its wristwatch featuring John Cameron Swayze. Swayze, a former NBC news anchor, was the spokesman for a series of live, dramatic spots that put Timex watches to the torture test. The watches were attached to paint mixers, jackhammers, washing machines, dishwashers, water skiers, outboard motor propellors, the fist of a man who performed an 87-foot dive off of the La Quebrada Cliffs in Acapulco, Mexico. Timex watches were frozen in an ice cube tray, spun in a vacuum cleaner, placed on the leg of a race horse, attached to ice skater’s boot above the blade, tossed over the Grand Coulee Dam, attached to an archer’s arrow tip that was shot through a pane of glass, attached to the blade of an outboard motor, strapped to a tackle line and cast off a deep-sea fishing boat, attached to the pontoon of a plane that landed on water in Hawaii, and swallowed by a farmer’s cow in Texas. And after every test, with Swayze setting up the action and reporting on the results, Swayze would retrieve the watch after the test and show it close up, or the camera would otherwise zoom in on the watch after its torture so viewers could see the sweep hand moving over the watch face. Swayze at that point would typically add something like: “Incredibly, the watch is still working after taking that pounding — Timex takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” One of the best lines in all of advertising! “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking!” That is resilience! Standing up to adversity – only to keep on ticking! In 2020, it seems we are being tested like those Timex watches. We are taking a beating! Pandemic. Politics. Protests. A trifecta of adversity that is pounding on us. We are taking a licking! How do we keep on ticking? Does our Christian faith help? You bet! You can hear about it this Sunday, September 20 at 10 AM on Facebook Live when Pastor Jeff preaches “Take a Licking and Keep on Ticking!”


JMPC Sunshine 9.13.2020

When I was a kid, we got three newspapers delivered every day. In the morning we got the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In the afternoon we got both the Pittsburgh Press and the McKeesport Daily News. We got the Daily News because my Dad grew up in McKeesport and he wanted to know what was going on in the Mon Valley. There was a lot of overlapping news, but there was also some uniqueness to each. My favorite was the Daily News, primarily because it had the high school wrestling “box scores” after every match. It was the only way I could ever see my name in any paper. Over the years, things changed. The Press was the first to go. It published its last edition on July 28, 1992 and was subsequently purchased by the Post-Gazette. The next to go was the Daily News. After exactly 131 years and six months, it published its final edition on December 31, 2015. Since that time, only the Post-Gazette has offered daily news in print. But now the Post- Gazette prints only three days a week (and will likely reduce that number in the future). The other days it is online. I was initially not much of a fan of this new way to read the Post-Gazette. But now I am … well … not a fan, but I am OK with it. That is the way of the world, right? Change is the only thing that is permanent. Church is like that, too. The way we do church changes, though the Gospel does not. Come and hear about what JMPC is doing that is new and different and what it means to be the church in 2020. Pastor Jeff will preach “Looking Forward into a New World” this Sunday in the JMPC parking lot at 10 AM (note the new time) and on Facebook Live.


JMPC Sunshine 8.23.2020

Sermon Series: Lost and Found
 
In seminary we had a professor ask us what our favorite part of the Bible was, when we answered, he admonished us for favoring parts of the Bible instead of the entire Bible. I carried this with me as I served in churches as a pastor. Today though, I will tell you that Luke 15 is my favorite part of the Bible. I think it exemplifies my entire faith. I think it shows us who Jesus is in such a great way. It shows God’s grace and love. It shows the joy of God’s community when people return to God.
 
It all starts with Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners. The church people are grumbling about this, how can the son of God surround himself with “these people”? It is easy for all of us to scoff at the Pharisee’s, how could they be so exclusive. A good exercise for us would be to put names on these seats. For example, let’s say Jesus was sitting at a 7-person table. He is in one seat, but instead of the tax collectors being in the other 6 seat I would like you to place people you know in the other six seats. People who you would not expect Jesus to be sitting with, and make sure you think of specific people. Maybe they are rival politicians, criminals, or even a relative. Think of 6 specific people before we start the sermon series.
 
The reason for this exercise is simple, Jesus giving these parables is set up by the uncomfortableness of the Pharisee’s. We can miss the set up in the generality of the company Jesus is keeping. We live in very interesting times right now, and it can be easy to stay mad at people if you don’t think about them sitting at a table with Jesus. It is easier to be angry with them if you don’t see them as someone who God loves. Join us these next three weeks as we explore the parables Jesus gives in response to him eating with “others”. Fill up the table with specific names, and see what God has to teach us about love, grace, and forgiveness.
 
Sermon Series: Lost and Found
August 23 – “Wanderer” Luke 15: 1-7
August 30 – “Careless” Luke 15: 8-10
Sept 6 -“Defiant” Luke 15: 11-32


JMPC Sunshine 8.16.2020

Was there ever a time in your life when you changed your mind about something. I mean, really did a “180”? Some people readily admit that they change their minds on things often. Listen to Malcolm Gladwell:
 
“I feel I change my mind all the time. And I sort of feel that’s your responsibility as a person, as a human being – to constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don’t contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you’re not thinking.”
 
Others take the position that to change your mind about something means you were previously wrong, and so, shall we say, are less willing to admit a mind change. But we all do, don’t we, whether we are willing to admit it or not, right? I read an article this week on “presidential changes of mind”. Lincoln changed his mind on what to do about freeing the slaves. Herbert Hoover changed his mind on using federal dollars to intervene in the depression (too late to save his re-election bid). George H. W. Bush changed his mind on raising taxes to reduce a skyrocketing deficit (essentially resulting in his re-election loss to Bill Clinton). Barak Obama changed his mind on the issue of same sex marriage. With the exception of President Obama, these “presidential changes of mind” were not well received by the general public. Why? Because the view of the general public is that a change of mind is not allowed. It is a sign of inconsistency and untrustworthiness. And we certainly don’t want Jesus to change his mind on anything. Our view is that the author of Hebrews is correct in saying: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever. But what exactly does that mean? What is the “same”? Log on and hear what Pastor Jeff has to say about it this Sunday, August 9 of the John McMillan Presbyterian Church Facebook page for the Facebook Live worship where he will preach “A Change of Mind?” Check it out.


JMPC Sunshine 8.9.2020

How do we prove things to be true? In court, there are basically two ways. Direct and circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence is what people see, hear, feel, smell or taste. Circumstantial evidence is what can be reasonably inferred from what people see, hear, feel,smell or taste. Both are valid. But while direct evidence has always been preferred, it is extremely rare. You can’t take a jury back in time to observe the event under scrutiny. Yet, we can’t just throw our hands up in the air and say, “Well, I wasn’t there so how can I know?” There was a time when judges of disputes wanted a “sign” that proved who was in the right. A trial by ordeal, perhaps. A duel, perhaps. God would reward the righteous, it was thought, and so the winner or survivor must be in the right. That was accepted as direct evidence. Happily, we don’t do it that way anymore. We are satisfied with circumstantial evidence that a party’s claim in a case was true. What evidence? Witness testimony, documents, opinions of experts and so forth. The jury’s job is then to look at the evidence and make a decision on what the evidence proves. The jury is to use its collective common sense, experience and general knowledge to analyze the evidence in order to decide. The jury might want a “sign”, but must, instead, use their brains. In this week’s text,some fairly smart folks refuse to look at the evidence and instead ask for a “sign” from Jesus to confirm his identity. Jesus’ response is not what they wanted to hear – or was it? Log on
Sunday, August 9 at 9:30am to the John McMillan Presbyterian Church Facebook page to hear Pastor Jeff preach “Proof!” You can also watch te recording later on Facebook or YouTube. See you (virtually) then!


JMPC Sunshine 8.2.2020

Each night on WESA there is an American Public Media news show called “Marketplace”
hosted by Kai Ryssdal. The show is all about the economic news of the day, including the
stock market. I am no economist, yet I find the show engaging, informative and … well …
entertaining. On of my favorite parts of the show is when they “do the numbers” on the ups
and downs of the stock markets. There is always a musical background as they review the
daily indexes. It took me a while to recognize the relationship of the music to the report. If
the markets go up, the background music is the song “We’re in the Money”. If the indexes
are mixed, the song is “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing). And if the markets
are down, the song is … can you guess? “Stormy Weather”. I think Marketplace has hit on
something here. Music that identifies the mood. So what song are you singing in your head
today? Some days, it seems that the world is starting to return to normal and “We’re in the
Money”. It seems that most days are “Stormy Weather”. How do we manage these stormy
times? Log in to John McMillan Presbyterian Church’s Facebook page this Sunday at 9:30am
(or later on YouTube and Facebook) and hear about it when pastor Jeff preaches “Ready for
the Storm”. We will look forward to seeing you (virtually).


JMPC Sunshine 7.26.2020

When I was a little kid, my mother surprised me by playing the one song she knew on the piano. What really shocked me was that she sang the words while she played. And the words!
 
Nobody likes me,
Everybody hates me,
Going to the garden to eat worms 
 
What? Why on earth would anyone write such a song for little kids? But here’s the thing. I have learned over the years that when someone feels alone and disliked, loneliness sets in and it can often lead to actions direr than eating worms. An article in Psychology Today said this:
 
In children, [loneliness] leads to all kinds of problems. Failure to be socially connected to peers is the real reason behind most school dropouts. It sets in motion a course on which children spin their way to outcast status and develop delinquency and other forms of antisocial behavior.
In adults, loneliness is a major precipitant of depression and alcoholism. And it increasingly appears to be the cause of a range of medical problems, some of which take decades to show up.
 
Loneliness is such a problem in Britain that the government there has appointed someone to do something about it. This from NBC News:
 
It sounds like a character from a dystopian novel, but Britain has created a “minister for loneliness” to tackle modern public health problems associated with social isolation.
The government said Wednesday it appointed Tracey Crouch after research showed as many as one in ten people felt lonely “always or often” and that hundreds of thousands of elderly people hadn’t spoken to a friend or relative in the past month.
Crouch, whose official title is Minister for Sport and Civil Society, will devise a national strategy to tackle isolation across all ages, and find ways of measuring alienation in official statistics.
 
There are lots of articles on how to fight loneliness. The problem is not new. And this week, Pastor Jeff will be preaching on the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well from John 4. What does this story have to do with combating loneliness? Log on and see at 9:30 Sunday for the JMPC Facebook live worship service. Or tune in later on the JMPC Facebook or YouTube.


JMPC Sunshine 7.9.2020

Several years ago, I travelled to Malaysia with a group of people from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Our base in Malaysia was in Kota Kinabalu, Sarawak, on the Island of Borneo. Kota Kinabalu has one of the world’s largest wet markets. Kind of an outdoor farmers market on steroids. In the middle of this market, there was a huge pile of some kind of fruit. It looked like a giant pear with spines all over it. I was told it was durian. Durian is the “King of Fruits” according to the folks in Malaysia. Well … I had to try it, right? Our trip leader, who had lived in Singapore for several years, warned me that durian was an “acquired taste”. He bought one for me and the seller cut it open. It had the most awful smell. I can’t describe the smell, but some liken it to wet gym socks left in a locker for several days. But he bought it for me, so I took a bite. To me, it tasted like it smelled. I did what I could to “acquire” a taste for it, but in the end, I couldn’t. I could have reacted two different ways. I could have said, “What’s wrong with you? Why didn’t you warn me how awful it was?” Or I could have said, “What’s wrong with you? How could you eat this thing?” Both of those reactions would have suggested there was something wrong with him for buying me this gift or for thinking it was tasty. But that is not what Miss Manners would say, I think. The kind and loving thing to do was to eat it, because he bought it for me. I could then say that it was not to my taste. Unfortunately, it is much easier to be kind when we are talking about fruit than other things we disagree on in our world. But does that mean we should not be equally kind? Even when we disagree? Pastor Jeff will preach about that Sunday morning on John McMillan Presbyterian Church’s Facebook Live at 9:30 (recorded for later viewing on Facebook or YouTube). Log on and join us.


JMPC Sunshine 6.28.2020

I was sitting with a group of pastors recently, who were worrying about the future of the church. Covid 19, declining attendance, and a world that is seemingly getting more divisive by the day. Now I hate to be the optimist, but I think we are ready for a revival in the church. Throughout history we have seen the church strengthen when times are toughest… I think we qualify. My reason for revival is simple, yet wonderful. I believe that we all need 2 things in this world, community and purpose. These are not just things the church offers, they are the churches identity.
Join us for worship the next two weeks as Pastor Matt discusses these 2 things, and why they are so important on FaceBook Live @ 9:30am.