Category Archives: Church

Light in the Darkness

“And they were calling to one another:   “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:3). 

“Who among the gods is like you, O Lord?   Who is like you — majestic in holiness.”  (Exodus 15:11)

We are told that God’s Holiness is so central to His being that, “Holy is His name.” (Luke 1:49); and, because  we are told to, “be holy for He is holy” (several times in Leviticus and again in 1 Peter 1) it is important that we know what God means when He says that He is Holy.

Now this is not as easy a task as it may seem because God never tells us straight out what He means by His holiness. He can’t.

This is not because of any inability on His part but on ours. Words we would understand simply would do nothing to communicate what it means that God is Holy.

I like the way that A. W. Tozer put it.  “He is holiness Himself… beyond the ability of thought to grasp or word to express.  Language cannot express the holy, so God resorts to association and suggestion. He cannot say it outright because He would have to use words that we don’t know the meaning of, and we would then, of course, take the words He used and translate them downward into our terms.

“If He were to use a word describing His own holiness we could not understand that word as He uttered it. He would have to translate it down into our un-holiness. If He were to tell us how white He is we would translate it into terms of dingy grey.

“So, unable to communicate His holiness in words, God uses association and suggestion… he shows us His holiness by showing how that holiness affects the unholy.”

An illustration of what Tozer means by association and suggestion is seen when Moses comes into the presence of God at the burning bush (Exodus 3).

Moses is told to take off his sandals for he is standing on holy ground. Then, when Moses hears God say, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” he hid his face, afraid to look at God.

Another illustration is given in the book of Isaiah (chapter 6). The Prophet was given a vision of the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted and when he hears the creatures around that throne crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” Isaiah says that he cried out, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips.”

In R.C. Sproul’s, “The Holiness of God,”  the author reaffirms that encountering God’s holy presence is the one thing that reveals to us our own great depravity and need.

“When we understand the character of God, when we grasp something of His holiness, then we begin to understand the radical character of our sin and hopelessness.”

How true. Jonathan Edward’s well known sermon titled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”  is often credited with beginning of a great spiritual awakening in America. It is unfortunate that both the title and the content lead readers to conclude that Edward’s emphasis was on the terrible flames of hell. On careful consideration, however, one realizes that the message reveals man’s utter sinfulness relative to a holy God.

Understood in this way, it becomes clear the theme of the message is not the fiery pit, but the Holy God who holds us from it, having prepared the way of rescue for those who believe. Edward’s sermon captured the essence of God’s Holiness in stark contrast to our un-holiness.

If we want to understand what it means that God is Holy, we must encounter that holiness first hand. When we do, that tremendous gulf that exists between His character and ours begins to sink in.

Only then do we begin to understand Proverbs  9:10 which tells us that,  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

 

Pastor David M. Grey      

Mt. Pleasant 

United Methodist Church    

Hannibal church celebrates 175 years

The Hannibal United Methodist Church is celebrating the 175th Anniversary.

Under the leadership of David Peckham, the Methodist Church of Hannibal was organized Feb. 26, 1839.

The Certificate of Organization was filed in the Oswego County Clerk’s office March 13, 1839 with 25 charter members.

In 1841 a brick church edifice was erected, which today is the back of the current church building. In 1864, to accommodate the increase in membership,  one third of the church building was removed and a new building was added to the front of the original building.

Over the years, there have been many, many changes and improvements.

An anniversary committee consisting of Wendell Blanchard, Barbara Gifford, Louise Kellogg, Gloria Kempston, Liz George, Judy Tyler, Gloria Simmons and Richard Palen has been formed to work on future activities.

The first event will be a Birthday/Anniversary Celebration to be held March 2 following the 11 a.m. worship service.  All are welcome.

Light In the Darkness

“I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.”           Psalm 91:2”  

A number of years ago, I found myself asking whether life was essentially a pleasant journey with the occasional painful trial along the way,  or whether it was more of one long, arduous test with occasional moments of peace. 

I have since come to think that for the young, it often appears more like the former and for those of us who have seen the passing of more years, it seems more the latter.

This was and is in the context of a culture that still knows the remnants of blessing that came with the faith and faithfulness of so many who had gone before us.

In other cultures the perception might be much different.  But in every culture life has its trials; its tests to be endured. The way we approach them either leaves us in a weakened condition or stronger than ever.

One thing is certain, sooner or later everyone who trusts in Christ, will have that trust tested in a significant (and often painful) way. Each of us is a little different in this respect and something thing that severely tests one person is but a hiccup for another.

Even in areas where the test would be severe for any believer, such as the loss of a child, a spouse, a serious accident with permanent consequences, one whose faith is strong may seem to be tested for only a short time while the for another, whose faith is not as strong, may struggle for a long time before coming out the other side.

But one thing of which we can be certain is that our faith will be tested.

Our Lord told His people in Ezekiel  21,  “Testing will surely come.”

There is purpose behind the testing of our faith, of course. God is not a precocious, whimsical God who delights his fancy at our expense and James explains that purpose.

He writes, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (Chapter one)

We all know that in the raising of children, the ultimate goal is for them to reach adulthood as mature individuals prepared to face life’s trials and demands.

It is much the same in our spiritual lives. When we are born again, we are born into a spiritual world to which we had been dead. At that point Paul says, we are babes in Christ.

The Lord’s purpose for that new life is that we grow into mature, right-thinking adults; full of faith and able to trust Him in all areas of thought and life.

It is to this end, James says, that He allows us to be tested, that our endurance may be fully developed, so that we become perfect and complete in Him… needing nothing else.”

Can you say with the psalmist, “I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.”

 

Pastor David M. Grey

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church

Fulton-Oswego Faith Partnership receives grant for backpack program

Fulton-Oswego Faith Partnership, consisting of churches in Fulton and Oswego, recently received a $5,000 “Lutheran Community Matthew 25: Neighbors in Need”  challenge grant from the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Foundation.

The funding was awarded to the “Blessings in a Backpack” Program, based on its effectiveness in addressing physical, emotional and/or spiritual needs in the local community based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: 35-36.

For every dollar raised from donors by March 31 for “Blessings in a Backpack,” the foundation will provide an additional 50 cents — up to $5,000 — in support of the organization’s ministry.

Donations for the Program can be sent to any of the partnership churches.

The “Blessings in a Backpack” program helps children from low-income famlies have food to eat on the weekends throughout the school year.

Working with the schools to identify those in need, the Faith Partnership is providing healthy weekend meals for 100 students in Fulton and Oswego.

“Many families whose children receive reduced or free lunches in school may need assistance with meals on the weekends,” said the Rev. Richard Klafehn. “Our Blessings in a Backpack program provide 50 children in Oswego and 50 children in Fulton with additional food so that they may enjoy healthy meals over the weekend.

“The Blessings in a Backpack program is another way in which we reach out to the youth of our community to help them reach their true potential,” Klafehn said.

Fulton-Oswego Episcopal-Lutheran Faith Partnership includes Prince of Peace Lutheran in Fulton, Grace Lutheran Church and the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Oswego.

Klafehn, and assistant pastor, the Rev. Anne Wichelns, share ministerial duties at the three churches.

Founded in 1982, the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Foundation is a private foundation that operates exclusively for charitable, educational and religious purposes.

Grants are provided for projects and missions that reflect Thrivent Financial for Lutherans’ charitable interests.

The primary charitable interest of the foundation is assisting nonprofit organizations and those they serve in achieving economic security and sustainability.

To learn more about the foundation and its programs, visit: thrivent.com/foundations.

Former Fulton resident ordained a priest in ceremony in Rome, Italy

Nicholas Fisher, of Fulton, was among 31 men who were ordained to the priesthood by His Eminence Cardinal Velasio de Paolis, CS, Pontifical Delegate for the Legionaries of Christ on Dec. 14 at the Papal Basilica of St. John Lateran, Rome, Italy.

Of the total 31 new priests, eight are American and one from Canada. The others are from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, France, Columbia and Chile.

Fisher said he had the beginnings of a calling as young child living in New York state.

The Fishers’ home parish was Our Lady of the Rosary in Hannibal, where Nicholas Fisher received his first sacraments and was an altar server during the Rev. Dennis Hartnett’s pastorate.

At the age of 5, Fisher remembers being in Mass at his local parish.

“That day our parish priest, Father Hartnett, a holy man, asked me if I would like to ring the bells during the consecration.  I said yes, so he gave me the bells and I sat in the first pew with my mother.

“At the moment of the consecration, she told me when to ring them, and I did, first for the consecration of the bread, and then of the wine. At that moment, I remember, I thought for the first time that perhaps I would like to be a priest.

“After that it was something I thought about over and over again all these years,” Fisher said. “I come from a Catholic family and we were educated in the faith. They always told me when the priest says those words and they ring the bells, the bread becomes the body of Christ.

“We used to talk with my friends about what we wanted to be when we grew up: of course one wanted to be a politician, another a firefighter, another a doctor, another the president,” he said. “In short, we all wanted to be heroes. In that instant, there in my parish church, I understood in some way that the priest is more important than all those others, for only he can change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus.”

Fisher was born in Oswego June 5, 1982, to David and Carol Fisher, then residing in Sterling. they now live in Fulton.

His grandparents are the late Robert and Angie Arduini of Fulton and the late Carl and Dolores Fisher of Williamson.

As a young boy, Fishers attended Fulton Catholic and Seton Home Study Schools. In the summer of 1993 he entered the minor seminary of the Legionaries of Christ in Center Harbor, N.H.

In 1998, he joined the Legionaries of Christ as a novice, and did his novitiate in Salamanca, Spain, from 1998 to 2000.

He studied humanities at the order’s College of Humanities in Cheshire, Conn.Fisher has a bachelor’s degree in theology and a master’s degree in philosophy, both from the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome, Italy.

He has done apostolic internships in New York, Padua (Italy), and Vienna (Austria). He was ordained a deacon by the Rev. Msgr. Renato Boccardo, Archbishop of Spoleto-Norcia (Italy) in Rome June 29, 2013 and a priest Dec. 14, 2013 also in Rome.

Ten members of the family traveled to Italy to attend the ordination and events in Rome before and after, including a general audience and Sunday Angelus with Pope Francis, a retreat for families of the newly ordained, a presentation on the Shroud of Turin and Fisher’s first Mass the day after his ordination.

He was assisted by the Rev. Sylvester Heereman, LC, Vicar General and acting General Director of the Legion of Christ.

Fisher offered his first Masses of Thanksgiving in the United States at Our Lady of The Rosary Church, Hannibal, the Legionary Seminary in Cheshire, Conn., the Guardians of the Eucharist Center in Salina and at Holy Trinity Church, Fulton.

He also concelebrated and presided at several Masses throughout the Christmas season at Holy Trinity in Fulton, assisting temporary administrator the Rev. Richard Morisette, Deacon David Sweenie and the Rev. Moritz Fuchs.

Fisher returned Jan. 2 to his first assignment as chaplain of a Catholic elementary school in Mexico City.

For more details about their stories, go to ordenaciones.legionariosdecristo.org.

The Legionaries of Christ are a religious congregation of priests of pontifical rite founded in 1941 in Mexico. Members include four bishops, 932 priests and some 900 religious in preparation for the priesthood.

Light in the Darkness

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

This may be one of the best know verses in all of scripture and probably the most quoted.

It speaks of the wonderful gift the Father has given to mankind. It is the gift that makes the difference between eternal life with God and eternal separation from Him.

Jesus bore our sin and its penalty, opening the way for forgiveness and restored relationship with our loving Creator. As such, it is an incomparable gift.

There never has been nor can there ever be another like it.

However, dearly beloved, have you ever considered the meaning of Jesus’ words in John 17 where He says, ““Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am.” (v. 24).

Though I  touched on this in my last column, I would like to take time to consider more carefully what it means to those of us who believe.

Think of this for a moment, especially during this season of gift giving and receiving.

Even as the Son was a gift from the Father to mankind, you, beloved believer, are a gift from the Father to the Son.

Jesus proclaimed this in another place, also, as He prayed something remarkable.  As He speaks to the Father, He says of us,  “They were always yours. You gave them to me.” ( John 17:6).

I don’t know if you ever thought of yourself as a gift given by the Father to the Son, but you are. Can any thought be more wonderful?

Now there are some who think that God redeemed us because He was lonely or simply wanted a big family, but I don’t think that this is true. God did not do this because of some need He had, but because of the need we have.

Dr. John Piper writes,  “It expresses his concern for the satisfaction of our longing, not his loneliness. Jesus is not lonely. He and the Father and the Spirit are profoundly satisfied in the fellowship of the Trinity. We, not he, are starving for something.”

God has done all that He has because we, not He, had a need we could never do anything about. We were in a dilemma and He loved us enough to meet that need. First by giving His Son for us and then by giving us to His Son.

Pastor David M. Grey      

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church      

Light In The Darkness — The Blessed Virgin Mary

“Gabriel appeared to Mary and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 

“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”  

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” 

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God”

I cannot think of anyone who was more blessed by God than this young virgin. To be chosen by God to be the mother of His only begotten Son is unparalleled.

Such a blessing could occur only once in all of history and Mary was the appointed one.

During this season, it is right for us to remember and honor her. She suffered much for this honor, of course. As I pointed out last week, the blessings of God bring the curses of the world, but His Blessings are always worth the price.

So, we should honor her memory and exalt her as the one chosen for this unique role.

At the same time, we must be careful not to exalt her to a position higher than is proper. Mary, though righteous and blessed as no other, was born of a man and she would need the savior who would be born to her every bit as much as any other human being.

Being chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, the Son of Man, did not change her status as a human being. She would not become as God any more than the Prophets who were appointed by the Lord to their special calling.

Mary was not sinless as  Pope Pius IX proclaimed in his doctrine of  Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8, 1854. There is no scriptural basis for The Assumption of Mary into heaven after the manner of Enoch and Elijah nor did she become, “exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things”  as Pope Pius XII proclaimed Nov. 1, 1950. And there is no basis for believing that Mary remained perpetually a virgin.

Let us rejoice with the one God chose to be the mother of the Messiah; respect and honor her and hold her is highest esteem, but do not worship her, or pray to her, or in any other way exalt her to a position equal with her blessed Son.

Pastor David M. Grey

Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church