Category Archives: Church

Light in the Darkness

“I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst.” Hosea 11:9

Some may wonder why I am writing so much about the holiness of God? Why is it so important?

Well, it is important because it is nothing less than His holiness that we need. We do not need moral perfection according to any other standard. We need God’s very Holiness within.

We human beings, even (dare I say especially?) Christians, are too often content with a simple standard of morality. Such contentment, even with the highest standard of moral behavior reveals a sad misunderstanding of what God requires.

It blinds us to true holiness and more often than not results in silly standards and behavior. When true holiness as God means it, is confused with morality…  no matter how high that standard of morality… it muddies the waters terribly.

It seems right, but it is so, so wrong. The standard is mistaken for true holiness of life.

Thus ‘holiness’ becomes associated strictly with outward behavior, resulting in prohibitions against things like drinking, dancing, playing cards, chewing tobacco, the use of makeup, attending  movies and a score of other behaviors. When such moral standards are equated with Christianity, thinking saints have questions and are often confused.

I remember well attending a church sponsored night at the roller rink and one of the women who loved to ‘dance’ on roller skates (and boy could she make those skates sing!) asked the question, why is it is OK to dance with wheels on our feet but it is prohibited otherwise?

There was also the standard that Christians did not attend the movies but nearly everyone had a television. What made the big screen sinful but the little screen OK?

Or, and this one that many struggle with, if the drinking of all alcohol is bad why did Jesus turn water into wine? Why does it say that an elder must not be a man who drinks too much? And if all alcohol is bad, why did Paul tell Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake and his chronic illnesses?

Questions which led to confusion and ultimately to guilt-ridden behavior when the believer secretly engaged in those practices they were told were wrong. Why? Because the focus was upon a moral standard or code without understanding that the holiness God requires is nothing less than His holiness operating in our lives.

There is no true holiness in mere morality. Though there may be much that is highly esteemed among men, there is nothing about it that is right in the sight of God. That holiness operating in us results in the best of moral behavior, of course. Do not misunderstand. But it is so very much more.

Joel Scandrett, an associate editor with Intervarsity Press, put it well when he wrote “I believe one crucial ingredient to healing our moral confusion is the recovery of the biblical idea of holiness, which, though it results in private morality is in truth, so much more. (It is) the very life of God in us. Holiness stands at the beginning and centre of God’s call on our lives: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (Lev. 11:44).

Biblical “holiness” carries a strong secondary connotation of moral purity, of course, but moral purity is not, first and foremost, what Scripture is talking about.

Instead, the most basic meaning of the words is to be “set apart” or “dedicated” to God. “I will be your God, and you will be my people,” says Yahweh (Lev. 26:12; Heb. 8:10).

Thus, prior to any consideration of morality, biblical holiness describes a unique relationship that God has established and desires with his people. This relationship has moral ramifications, true enough, but it precedes moral behavior.

Before we are ever called to be good, we are called to be holy. Unless we understand this, we fall into the inevitable trap of reducing holiness to mere morality.

How much more God is asking of us than mere morality! As long as our notions of holiness are limited to doing certain things and not doing other things, we can go through our entire lives obeying the rules (or at least maintaining the appearance of doing so) without dealing with a far more fundamental question: To whom do we give our first love and loyalty?

To be a disciple of Jesus Christ requires nothing less than death to our fallen, egocentric selves in order that we might live in and for him. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,” says Jesus, “but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:35-36).”

Why study the holiness of God? Because the Christian life is nothing less than His Holiness in us. It is not some imitation of His life or adherence to his perceived standard. It is not simply obedience to some moral code. It is not even doing what Jesus would do.

It is His life,  his holiness within, lived out in us. As the Apostle Paul said, “For me to live is Christ.”

 

Pastor David M. Grey

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church

Girl Scouts boosting Easter spirit

Members of Girl Scout Troop #10925 of Fulton have been working hard on their Bronze Award. One thing they have been working on is getting donations for Madalyn & Evelyn’s Easter Spirit. 

This organization puts together Easter baskets for children in need throughout Oswego County. To do this, the Girl Scouts have decorated boxes and placed them around Fulton to collect donations of Easter items. This includes baskets, cellophane basket wrap, candy and basket fillers of all sorts. They are also making bracelets to put in the Easter baskets. 

Last year Madalyn & Evelyn’s Easter Spirit put together more than 400 baskets. Troop #10925 is hoping to help them with just as many baskets this year. There are boxes collecting items located at Off-Broadway Dance Center, Noah’s Nursery School, The Hair Hut and Devine Design Floral. The Bronze Award is the highest honor a junior Girl Scout can achieve. 

First United Church “Spring Fling” April 4, 5

3-29_FULrummage
Getting some of the items ready for the ‘Spring Fling’ are, front left to right, Hailey Lischak, Sophia Barrigan and Gabriel Barrigan. In back are Jean Cole, Martha Swick, Zola Holbrook, Marilou Fistick, Nancy Allen, Patricia Mena

The First United Church of Fulton is having its annual “Spring Fling” Rummage Sale from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, April 4 and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday April 5.

A $3 bag sale will take place Saturday from noon to 1 pm. The Basement Boutique will be open both days.

The sale will offer clothing, shoes, books, household items, jewelry, toys, collectibles and other various items. There will be drawings for children’s Easter baskets.

The drawings will be held Saturday at 12:30 p.m. You do not need to be present to win.

Light lunch foods and bake sale items will be available to purchase.

The building is accessible to the disabled and located at 33 S. Third St., Fulton. For more information, call the church office at 592-2707.

Good Friday Cross Walk April 18 beginning at Holy Trinity

The annual Good Friday Cross Walk, sponsored by the Greater Fulton Area Council of Christian Churches, will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday, April 18, in the parking lot of Holy Trinity Parish, 309 Buffalo St., Fulton.

Walkers will gather for prayer and the singing of hymns as they take turns carrying a large wooden cross in the downtown section of the city of Fulton.

This annual Walk returns to and remembers the “way of the cross” that Jesus traveled on his journey within the city of Jerusalem to the place of his crucifixion.

The Cross Walk will conclude about noon at its final destination, First United Church of Fulton, 33 S. Third St.

Everyone who has taken part in the walk will be welcome to a Soup and Bread Luncheon provided by the Board of Deacons of First United Church.

Both the Cross Walk and luncheon are open to the general public. There is no cost for the luncheon.

The Greater Fulton Area Council of Christian Churches is made up of those member congregations who support ecumenical programs, including the annual Michaud Memorial Service and the annual fall season Crop Walk which raises money for world hunger and local food pantries.

For more information about the Greater Fulton Area Council of Christian Churches and the Good Friday Cross Walk, contact the Council of Churches President, the Rev. David Nethercott, at 592-2707.

Chicken, biscuits on menu for next Salvation Army Guest Chef Dinner

Steve Cook will be cooking the next Salvation Army Guest Chef Dinner from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 1.

He will prepare chicken and biscuits and tossed salad, and desserts and beverages.    The dinner will be at the Salvation Army Citadel, 73 W. Second St., Oswego. Carryout dinners will be available.

Cook was born and raised in Oswego where he grew up in an Italian home. He was always interested in foods and cooking and is a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, in Montpelier, Vt.

He presently serves as chef at the Oswego County Salvation Army in Oswego and at O’Connor’s Main Street Pub in Fair Haven. He previously was chef at the Raging Rivers Barbecue in Oswego.

The Guest Chef dinners are organized by the Advisory Board and offered to the community to raise funds for support of the services of the Army throughout Oswego County.

Future dinners are scheduled on Tuesdays for June 3 by Vona’s Restaurant; August 5, roast beef, by the Oswego Zonta Club; October 7 by Press Box; and November 4, arrangements pending.

The Oswego County Salvation Army Corps provides fresh-cooked meals in both Fulton and Oswego and many other services are provided to individuals and families in need throughout Oswego County.

Information about The Salvation Army or about serving as a volunteer is available at 343-6491 or at the office at 73 W. Second St., Oswego.

Easter passion through music comes to Fulton April 5

The struggle of light over the shadows as told through the passion of Easter will come alive on stage in music as Fulton Community Theatre presents the return of the rock and roll cantata “Tenebrae.”

The musical work – composed and directed by Michael A. Bolio, and featuring the talents of the Christian rock band The Sent Forth – will play for one performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 5 in the Jubilee Hall of Holy Trinity Parish, 309 Buffalo St., Fulton.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Reservations may be made by calling 598-7840.

Proceeds from the event will go to help support Catholic Charities of Oswego County. Donations of non-perishable food items will also be collected and welcomed at the performance.

“We are happy to be once again dedicating part of our season towards helping Catholic Charities,” Fulton Community Theatre Artistic Director William Edward White said.

“Tenebrae”, which made its world debut as part of the theater’s 2013 season, features 11 original songs linked by dramatic narration and multimedia images, using the religious metaphors of the Light and the Shadowed forces that sought to extinguish it.

Tenebrae, which is Latin for “darkness,” is a long-held tradition in Western Christian churches, and describes a service where candles are slowly extinguished.

For Bolio, a bass guitarist who formed The Sent Forth band in 2007 with drummer Robbie Brown and lead guitarist Al Weaver, “Tenebrae” is a very personal journey. His inspiration comes not only from the original Gospels, but from attending many Tenebrae services around Central New York.

“Although every one of them told the story of The Passion beautifully, I felt there was a calling for a more contemporary approach,” Bolio said.

Joining the men of The Sent Forth on stage for “Tenebrae” will be the vocal talents of Molly Brown, Dawn Weaver, and Brian Pringle in the role of the narrator.

For more information, visit FCT’s website at www.fultoncommunitytheatre.net, or on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/fultoncommunitytheatre.

Long-time Easter tradition April 11 in Fulton

Continuing the 27-year tradition, “Living Stations” will be presented at 7 p.m. Friday, April 11 in the Fulton Education Center Auditorium.

Admission is free.

This dramatization of “The Way of the Cross” is the traditional Catholic prayer of Jesus’ passion as it portrays the final hours leading to His crucifixion, said Susan Tallents, coordinator.

In the “Living Stations,” local youth take on the roles of the various people in the traditional 14 scenes of the Stations of the Cross, Tallents said.

Each scene features a series of readings and meditations and is a visual reminder of Christ’s suffering.

Seth DeLisle will portray Jesus and Lacey Rusaw will portray Mary. Choral works are under the direction of Dolores Walrath.

 

Light in the Darkness

“There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides thee.” 1 Samuel 2:2

“I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst.” Hosea 11:9

God is holy because He is God and not man. His holiness is his essence and it is utterly unique.  It is who He is, what He is and is not determined by anyone or anything else.

His holiness is what he is as God and is what no one else is or ever will be. He alone is infinite, unchanging, eternal. He is in a class by himself.  He is the Alpha and Omega. Everything begins and ends with God.

We can never understand the full significance of anything until we understand its relation to God. This also means that ultimately, everything is about Him. All praise and thanksgiving; all worship, honor and glory are due Him. All.

Unfortunately, because He has been so very gracious to us who have believed; because Has been so wonderfully kind to us, it is easy for us to begin to think and act like everything is about us, but it most certainly is not.

All existence holds its being in Him and the zeal of God burns for the holiness of his great name. (Ezekiel 36:22).  That holiness is manifested dramatically whenever it encounters un-holiness in any form.

As Habakkuk says: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, and you cannot tolerate wrong.” (1:13).

Furthermore, because He alone is Holy, in the final analysis, all the evil in the world is an offense against Him only. David understood this in a most personal way. He cried out, “against you and you only have I sinned.”

I wrote last week that the holiness of God cannot be described or expressed in words. Rather we understand the holiness of God through its effect upon the unholy.

When the un-holiness of men is confronted with the holiness of God, the result is dramatic. Isaiah, upon seeing the Lord cried out, “Woe unto me. I am undone for I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips!”

Even God’s prophet, chosen for his faithfulness and obedience to God, could not stand comfortably in His presence but felt apart. A psychologist would describe his experience as one of personal disintegration.

A person who believes he or she did the right thing to get saved has no awareness of how deeply stained they really are. We must be undone before we can be remade. The Holy Spirit has to awaken us to our sinfulness before we can be summoned to His grace.

I close this week’s column with an illustration. I understand that it is a true account and helps to illustrate the kind of attitude the Lord is looking for as he reaches out to draw a man or woman to him.

KING FREDERICK II, an 18th-century king in Prussia (Germany), was visiting a prison in Berlin when the inmates crowded around him to proclaim their innocence. All, that is, except one man. He sat quietly in the corner, head bowed.

“Frederick walked over to him and said, ‘What are you here for?’”  “Armed robbery, your majesty,’ the man replied. ‘And, are you guilty?’ the king asked. ‘Yes, sir. I deserve this punishment.’

“The king turned to the guard and ordered, ‘Set this guilty man free. I don’t want him corrupting all these other innocent people.’”

Pastor David M. Grey

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church