Thursday, December 29, 2016

Trinity Church Mourns the loss of Lann Ford

Today, Trinity Church said goodbye and mourned the loss of our friend Lann Ford.  She was an amazing woman who lived life on her own terms and fought for what she wanted.  But she was also a cheerleader for her husband, a great mother to her children, and a powerful advocate for her students.  Although she has lost the battle to her disease, she fought bravely with such humility and grace that has inspired us all.

You can find Lann's complete Obituary and Eulogy here:
(click here).

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Called to Be More

Being a "follower" of Jesus isn't enough

Sunday, we begin another new year.  It is the season of making resolutions, where people promise themselves that they’ll do something different than what they’ve usually done.  Resolutions are built on hope.  We hope that we’ll do better than we usually do, but in reality, by the end of January most resolutions are already dead and buried.
People who are regulars at the gym know that the parking lots will be jammed in January but by February things are back to normal.  Running seems to be even worse.  There is a core group of dedicated walkers in our neighborhood but not a lot of runners.  Since I was often out running at the same time of day I knew which people were regulars.  There were a handful of folks who were always out, rain, shine, snow, ice, or brutal heat.  It didn’t matter, they were there.  But in the spring, there was a surge of folks just enjoying the nice weather, and then a similar jump in the fall, but once it was too hot, or too cold, these folks all disappeared. 

But blogger Michael Hyatt has noted that there is big difference between a resolution and a goal.  While a resolution is built on hope, something that we hope to do better, a goal is built on an intended destination, a target that we intend to reach.  And so, when things get difficult, some vague desire to “do better” just isn’t enough to carry us through.  But a sincere goal of running a race, losing five pounds in time for beach weather, or other reasonable and attainable targets are enough of an emotional and psychological motivation to push us a little harder.

But how does any of this make a difference in our spiritual lives?
It makes a difference in the language that we use and in the language that Jesus intended for us to use.  You see, we have gotten into the habit of calling ourselves followers of Jesus and, while that’s not wrong, it doesn’t go far enough.  Jesus called Peter, James, John, and all of us, to follow him, but he also called us to become more than that. 

Jesus called people to follow him so that they could become his disciples.

While some dictionaries use these two words as synonyms, scripturally, as well as in practice, they are quite different.  A follower is a person who likes what the leader does and follows them from place to place to watch them and see what happens next.  But a disciple is a learner who follows so that they can become more like the person that they re following.   A disciple’s goal is to learn so much from the teacher that they begin to live and act like the teacher in everything they do.  The ultimate goal is for the learner to become so much like the teacher, that they themselves are sent out to teach and to make more disciples.

Here’s an example: for years the rock band, The Grateful Dead, had a loyal following of people called “dead heads” who knew everything the band played and who followed them from place to place all over the country.  But even though they were dedicated, and had all the songs committed to memory, they were still just followers.  In contrast, many of you have heard Buddy Rich, the drummer who played for Frank Sinatra and who led his own band.  Buddy Rich was one of the most talented drummers in history.  I am certain that he had a great many followers, but he also had a small handful of disciples.  As busy as he was, Buddy Rich taught drum lessons, but as skilled as he was, he only taught the best of the best.  Buddy Rich taught just a few people who were both highly skilled and professionally driven to become the best drummers in the world.  Although most of them aren’t household names, nearly every one of them played in bands that you’ve heard of or led bands of their own.  Likewise, there’s a big difference between being a fan of a famous sports team, and working hard to become good enough to try out and play for that team. 

That’s the difference between following and becoming a disciple.

We often call ourselves followers, but we can’t stop there.

We are called to something bigger, something more demanding, and much more important.

The language that we use makes a difference.

It makes a difference if we make resolutions or set goals.

We sell ourselves short when we think of ourselves as followers.

We are called to be more.       

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Trinity Says Goodbye to Joy Reed

This week Trinity Church said goodbye to a dear friend and a truly fun-filled spirit as we marked the passing of Joy Reed.  She will be remembered by folks from Trinity, but also a great many students from Genoa Elementary, some of whom she scared half to death!  You can read her full obituary and eulogy here:

Joy Reed Obituary and Eulogy


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Doing What is Hard

This past week my wife, Patti, and I traveled to Parris Island, South Carolina with other members of our extended family to watch our son Noah graduate from Marine Corps boot camp.  After graduation, we spent a day on the beach and then headed home.  During those twelve hours in the car, he shared some of the stories of how he had spent the last three months, of what he had done, and some of the things that happened during his training.  While I well remember the difficult things that we did during my eight weeks of Army basic training, what he did goes well beyond many of the things that I experienced.  For thirteen weeks these young men (the Marines also have women, but men and women train separately) did things that most of them, as well as their parents, would have thought impossible only a short time earlier.  But as I listened to Noah share his stories, I began to think of how this mirrors our walk with God and I thought of several lessons that would be good for us all to remember.
  • We are capable of more than we think we are – All of these young men accomplished things in thirteen weeks that they never dreamed they were capable of doing. And yet, all of them succeeded.  Why?  They were capable all along.  They had the ability all along.  All they needed was a little training, some encouragement, and the assurance that they could succeed.  We are exactly like them.  The only reason that we do not rise to the challenges that face us is our belief that we are not capable.  We may need a little training and a little encouragement, but it is often our failure to believe in ourselves that holds us back.
  • We don’t do what we can simply because we do not try – Similarly, when we allow our challenges to intimidate us, we retreat. We fail because we are too afraid to try.
  • We often shy away from doing what we can because it sounds difficult – Not everyone is cut out to be a United States Marine, but even fewer will attempt it because what they do sounds difficult. Make no mistake, it is.  What those young men did in thirteen weeks was almost certainly the hardest thing that they had ever done.  For some of them, it will, for the remainder of their lives, be the hardest thing they ever did.  But they will always remember that they succeeded and the memory of that success will make them less afraid to attempt other difficult things.  The worst thing that can happen if we attempt something difficult is that we might fail.  But if we do not try, we fail anyway.
  • We accomplish more as a team than as individuals – From the very beginning of boot camp the Marines are repeatedly reminded that they are a team. As platoons, as battalions, and whole of the Unites States Marines they are a team.  They succeed and fail together.  And together they regularly accomplish things that others believed to be impossible.  We regularly see thing play out in church as well.  There are many things that I could never do by myself but we regularly do together.  From Vacation Bible School, to Sunday worship, to mission projects and everything in between, our success comes only through all of us working together.  This is equally true of our larger church connection when many thousands, even millions of us work together to reduce poverty, build hospitals, and even reduce the death rate from malaria by fifty percent in continent of Africa.  We may not be the United States Marines, but our team is accomplishing amazing things every day. 
I’m sure that there are more parallels that I could point out, but I hope that you will remember this:
You are capable of more than you imagine. 
Never be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to attempt big things, or try new things, because they sound difficult.  We often discover that the most worthwhile things are not easy. 
But together, with God, we can accomplish the impossible.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Why Leave Home?

Our mission team is again preparing to leave for Big Creek, Kentucky and Patti and I have announced our plans to travel to Liberia in January with the Farmer to Farmer mission team from our East Ohio Conference.  But both of these things raise questions with some people.  I haven’t heard it said out loud here at Trinity, but in other churches I have heard the questions, “Why should we leave home?”  “Why should we help people outside of our community?” And, “Why would we ever go to another country to help people there?” 

These questions used to make me a little angry because the answers seemed so obvious to me, but I grew to understand that these questions usually grow out of a fundamental misunderstanding, or lack of understanding, of several key scriptures.

In Mark 16:15, after his resurrection, Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”  Jesus didn’t say that his followers ought to preach to the people they knew, but to preach to everyone in all of God’s creation.  Likewise, when Jesus told his followers to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, he never specified any one location, but intended for them to understand that they were to care for the poor, wherever they could find them.  

In fact, the very last thing that Jesus said to his disciples, only seconds before he ascended  into heaven were these words recorded in Acts 1:8:  “ But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” In this context, Jerusalem is home, Judea is the local neighborhood, Samaria represents the foreigners next door or nearby, and the “ends of the earth” is just what it sounds like.  As disciples of Jesus Christ, our instructions have never been to focus only on the evangelization of our local neighborhood, but to reach out, in the name of Jesus, to everyone, everywhere.

There is yet another good reason to do the kind of things that we are doing.  In Acts 24:17, Paul testifies to Governor Felix that “After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings.”  While Paul had been planting churches in Asia, the people back “at home” in Jerusalem were enduring hard times.  And so, the mission churches took up offerings to help the people of Jerusalem as a way of caring for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and as a way to “share in their suffering.” 

Many of the people that we reach during our mission trips are fellow believers and by our gifts, and through our presence, we encourage them with the knowledge that God cares for them, that God cares about their hardship, that that they are not alone, and that someone cares enough to “share in their suffering.”

I know that there are sometimes other questions as well, such as, “Why don’t they help themselves, and, “Why don’t they leave and go someplace better?”  And the simple answer is that they can’t.  Mobility is a luxury that comes with a higher standard of living.  When things go bad in our American cities, the middle class can leave and buy homes in the suburbs, but the poor are stuck because they can’t afford to move, let alone look for work out of town, or out of state.  In much the same way, the people in the hills of Kentucky were once much better off.  When coal was king, it was easy to get a well-paying job, but when the coal ran out and the mines closed, it became difficult to make enough money just to live, let alone leave.  Many of their children go to school and leave, but that option is nearly impossible for many.

Similarly, the nation of Liberia is still pulling itself out of decades of civil war.  The war there lasted for so long that nearly everything we take for granted was destroyed.  After the war, roads were barely passable, there was no running water, no electricity, no telephones and even mail was not likely to get through.  Nearly every permanent building had been destroyed.  You may have heard the phrase, “bombed into the stone age.”  The civil war in Liberia quite literally reduced the people to living like the people of the stone-age, or the people of the Old Testament.  Farming had to be done entirely by hand.  Schools were closed for so long that the most well educated person in the village might have only a fourth grade education, and so they become the school teacher.  Less than a dozen doctors, in the entire nation of Liberia, have been to medical school.  There were no machines of any kind. No one had a job of any sort except to find a way to stay alive.

This is why our church has build hospitals and schools in Liberia.  And this is why our Farmer to Farmer mission began restoring tractors that we would consider to be “too small to be useful,” or even “antiques.”  Volunteers for Farmer to Farmer rebuilt and restored these old tractors and shipped them to Liberia where the church uses them to plant a field to help feed the people of the congregation and earn a small income.  We have also built a sewing center and shipped over several old treadle sewing machines (remember there is no electricity) so that local women can also make crafts and earn a little money for their families.

By doing these (and other) things, both in Kentucky and in Liberia, we are able to stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ and do things for them that they could never do for themselves.  By doing these things we also encourage them, and help them to witness to the people around them about the good news of Jesus Christ.

But most importantly, by doing these things we are answering the call of Jesus Christ to “be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

That is why we leave home.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Important Update on Bridges Out of Poverty

I spoke with Dr. Ken Price about registration this week.  As I had hoped, he and the other trainers will be bringing a few extra books with them.  This means that we will be able to accommodate a small number of registrations "at the door."  If you think you would like to come, but still haven't officially registered, please let us know as soon as possible so that we can order food.

Click here to go to the Facebook Event Page

We are surrounded by people struggling just to get by. Often the culture that they live in is radiacally different than the one that most of us understand.

Bridges out of Poverty is for anyone, businesses, schools, service providers, social agencies, churches an others whose daily work connects them to people, families, and children, who live in poverty.

Join us as we explore the causes of poverty and it's hidden rules as well as the impact that poverty has on our nation, our community, and every one of us.

Join us we we begin to understand poverty better so that we can take steps toward creating sustainable communities.

Join us as we learn strategies for building prosperous and healthy communities.

Join us as we learn how to really help, and not just apply temorary band-aids to a deep and systemic problem.

Bridges out of Poverty is a starting point where we can develop accurate mental models of poverty, the middle class, and wealth.

*Registration deadline is August 10, 2016 and is limited to the first 50 participants

**Cost is $25 which includes the Bridges Out of Poverty text, Lunch, and refreshments.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Upcoming Opportunities

Hi everyone!

This month, on August 27th we all have the opportunity to learn more about our neighbors who are struggling to make a life.  I hope that many of you will take advantage of the opportunity to join us at the Bridges Out of Poverty workshop.  If you were at church while I was away, you had a chance to meet Dr. Ken Price.  He is a dear friend, and is passionate about Jesus Christ, the mission of the church, and our need to reach out to the least and the lost.

I know that anyone who is interested in missions, or who meets with the Program Committee, the Trustees, Finance, Perry Helping Perry, or anyone who is a part of Trinity’s mission in our neighborhood and the Perry community will benefit from the information offered at this workshop.

Next month, Trinity Church will once again send a group to The Joy Center in Big Creek, Kentucky for a
week long work project.  Six members of our Trinity family have already told me that they are going or that they want to go and we have room for at least twice that many.  I will be contacting other churches and inviting their members to go along so if any of you are still interested, please let me know as soon as possible so we don’t give your “spot” to someone else. 

While we are in Kentucky we will be involved, as we were last year, with doing some small projects around the Joy Center itself, but also one larger construction project for a local person.  There are two different projects that we are considering and as soon as we know more about the people who are going with us, we will see which project best matches our skills and abilities.

Please consider joining our team.  We had a great time together last year and we not only did a lot of work, but we learned a lot about each other and grew together as fellow believers in Jesus Christ.  If you aren’t able to go with us, please consider making an offering to help defray the cost of our trip.  The official cost of the trip will be $350 per person plus the cost of fuel for the trip and our food for the week (which is not provided by the Joy Center).  Some of the people who will travel with us can afford to pay their own way, but some can’t.  Your contributions make it possible for them to go.  Thanks so much for all of your love and support.


Pastor John

***************IMPORTANT UPDATE**************

During our discussions with The Joy Center, in order to make it possible for more people to participate, we have negotiated a MUCH lower cost.  The official cost is now $10 per person, per night, plus our cost of food, gasoline, and materials for the project.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Why Study Poverty?

We all think we know what poverty is.

Almost all of us are wrong.

In August, Trinity Church will host Dr. Ken Price as he presents a one day seminar called Bridges Out of Poverty.  I’m certain that many people think that this is unnecessary and until a few years ago, I was one of them.

We all think that we know what poverty is, what it means to be poor, and many of us think that we have to solution to how poor people can get back on their feet again.  We think that poor people just need to work harder, or sign up for this or that government program, or get more education, or stop making foolish choices. 

These thoughts are almost always wrong.

Poverty is much more complicated.  In fact, there are a great many forces that (unintentionally) work together to trap people in poverty and prevent very logical solutions from being successful.  These forces also prevent those people who are most in need from working harder, getting education, or doing many of the things that ought to lift them up to the next level.

As a church, both locally and nationally, we try to provide assistance to the poor but very often our best efforts are unsuccessful and we struggle to understand why.  We thought that we did all the right things, but the people didn’t come, or the help that we offered didn’t work when we thought that it should.

More often than not, the failure isn’t one of planning, or effort, or budgets but a much more fundamental failure to understand the complexity of the problem.  Moreover, these failures are not unique to the church but the same mistakes are often made by school systems, businesses, local, state and federal governments, and many others.

In order to be good stewards of our gifts, talents, abilities, time and money we should do our best to understand the problem before we set out to fix it.  And that is exactly why I invited Dr. Price to come here and why we are offering the Bridges Out of Poverty seminar.  This seminar was originally designed to teach school teachers so that they could better understand the students (and their families) that lived in poverty but it quickly grew beyond that.  It is regularly taught in businesses, social service agencies, charitable organizations, churches and other groups that work with, or seek to help, people in poverty.

I hope that you will join me, and Dr. Ken Price, on Saturday August 27th as we learn the hidden “rules” that govern the lives of the poor, why the poor can’t get the services that you take for granted, and many other ways in which our own culture and basic assumptions set us up for failure when we try to help.  This seminar is not free.  Participants will each get a course book, and we will be serving lunch, but if you would like to attend and the cost is a problem for you, please talk to me.  I don’t want anyone to miss this because they can’t afford it.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

There’s a Lot Going On

Well, summer is almost here.

Usually that means that things slow down a bit at church and we can catch up on things in the church office.  But last year that didn’t happen.  All the projects we saved and thought we’d do when things slowed down had to be squeezed in later, or not at all.  And this year is already looking busier than last year.

On June 4th we will be hosting an event called “Neighbor Helping Neighbor” in our large parking lot.  That event is designed to help people who are on the margins of our society, those who are homeless and those who are struggling just to get by.  A number of church groups and community social service organizations have committed to be a part of this event as well.  Volunteers will be needed to set up, tear down, clean up, as well as easier things like pass out flyers and serve hot dogs.  I hope that many Trinity folks will be present, not just to lend a hand but to show our community that we care, to meet people, and to invite them to worship with us.

On the evening of Thursday June 9th (I don’t know what time yet), we will have a special program with Rev. Ray Ake from our East Ohio Farmer to Farmer mission to Liberia.  Pastor Ray has been here before, but he will be bringing a special guest with him.  Rev. Chris Marshell is the District Superintendent of the St. Paul River District in Liberia where Farmer to Farmer visits.  This event was scheduled on short notice when I discovered that Rev. Marshell was in the area and was available to come visit.  I hope that many of you will be able to hear this exciting presentation.

And then on Sunday June 12th Dave Hartong, Patti, and I will leave for Lakeside for a week at Annual Conference.  There we will have lots of meetings but we will also learn about new mission opportunities for the next year and catch up on many of the things that have been happening around the conference.  “Catching up” might sound a little like gossip, and I confess that some of that happens, but its also discovering what God has been doing around the Annual Conference and around our global connection.

After we get back, things continue to happen.  On Saturday June 25th, Trinity will host Emergency Response Training and I am already expecting people from all over East Ohio to attend as well as several from our church and youth group.  On that same day, we will be hosting Jonah’s graduation party at the church parsonage so it will be a very busy day for me.

Please be sure to read your weekly church bulletins and watch out for announcements on Facebook and on the church webpage so that you don’t miss out on something important.  This is shaping up to be a very busy summer.

Have fun.  But be safe!


Pastor John

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Seven Spiritual Lessons from Running

Sometimes I run.

Not because something is chasing me, but simply because I am trying to lose a little weight and stay healthy.  I am not always successful.  I was recently sidelined for several months because of a knee injury.  And there have been several occasions when I just got lazy and didn’t do it for a year or two.  But there are several lessons that I have learned from running and exercising that can teach us something about the life of the church.

Routine is your friend – it helps our motivation if we have a routine.  I try to run on Tuesday and Thursday with a long run on Saturday.  Sometimes the weather changes my plans, but it’s just a little easier to make myself get out of bed and get my gear on when I know that today is my scheduled day.

If you want to grow in your spiritual life, routine is your friend.  This was the plan of John Wesley and the other early Methodists.  Growth doesn’t happen by accident or by occasional learning.  Growth happens when we commit to a routine of reading and study.  Likewise, the routine of offering the opportunity for study and for people to use their Spiritual gifts provides a door for people to learn and grow.

Goals are important – Ships won’t reach port and arrows won’t find the target if there isn’t a goal.  Your exercise goal might be to lose weight, to run a race, or something else, but almost everything you do depends on what your goals are.  Your exercise routine will be very different if your goal is to run a 3 mile race or a marathon.

Obviously, this is hard to do spiritually on a personal level because it’s hard to say, “This year I want to be more spiritual,” but you can decide to attend a Bible study or to go on a mission trip, read a new book, or read scripture for fifteen minutes each day.

This is much more apparent as a church body.  Without goals, churches often just spin their wheels and do the same things that they always did, even if those things stopped working a long time ago.  Having goals can push us to do new things, go in new directions, and have the courage to try.

You need a plan – Once you have a goal, then it’s easier to make a plan, but while the goal tells you where you want to be six months or a year from now, it’s the plan that tells you what you need to do this week.

Once you decide that you are going to go to Bible study, you need to decide which one or, if you decided to go on a mission trip, then decide what else you need to do to get you there.  You might need a passport, or vaccinations, or you might need to start fundraising.  No matter what it is, a plan can help you get from where you are, to where to want to be.

I’ve been in a lot of churches that set goals every year at Charge Conference because the bishop said we had to.  But once Charge Conference is over, everyone forgets what the goals were and nothing ever really gets done.  If you are going to make progress toward your goals, you need to break them into manageable pieces and make a plan that you can work on weekly or monthly.

You need to push – Doctors tell us that for any kind of exercise to be effective, you have to elevate your heart rate by a certain amount over your normal resting pulse.  The same is true for weightlifting.  You won’t lift heavier weights if you keep lifting the same weight over and over.  For your heart, lungs or other muscles to grow, you need to push yourself.

I’m convinced that people, and churches, are just like our muscles.  If we only do the things we’ve always done, our muscles get soft and we begin to lose muscle tone.  After a while, we discover that we can’t even manage to do the things that once were easy.  The only way to move forward is to push, to strain, to stretch ourselves and do things that are hard.  When we continually do things that are hard, we eventually discover that the hard things begin to get easier and the impossible things begin to be possible.

You can’t coast – This is related to the last one, but it’s scarier.  There have been many times when I got too busy, or the weather was cold, or I had some kind of injury, and I stopped running.  What I quickly remembered is that you can’t coast.  Staying put or standing pat doesn’t work.  If you aren’t pushing and getting better, you start going backward.  If I stop running for six weeks, when I start back up, I not only have lost six weeks of training, but it will take me almost six weeks just to get back to where I was when I stopped.

While I admit that church and our spiritual lives aren’t exactly like that, there are some very real parallels.  We occasionally get a little burnt out, but the reality is that when we drop out, when we stop pushing forward, a lot of things start sliding backward.  It’s a reminder that we should constantly be trying to get better, personally, as well as collectively.  Whenever we think we’re “good enough” we’ve probably already started losing ground somewhere.

It’s easier with a friend – Whether you run, diet, or lift weights, it’s easier to do with a friend.  There will always be days when you just don’t feel like getting out of bed, going to the gym, or putting on your running shoes, but knowing that your friend is waiting for you can give you the extra push you need to get going.

Your spiritual goals are the same.  If you join a Bible study with a friend, you know they are there and are expecting you.  Afterward, there is someone to talk to and you can help each other to understand the hard parts or, it might be a little less scary to go together to ask the pastor what it means.  If you are planning to go on a mission trip, you can compare notes on your progress and remind one another about your goals and deadlines.

At first, this sounds like something that wouldn’t apply to churches, but it does.  For many projects and goals, especially in a connectional church like ours, churches can work together toward their goals.  Finding enough people to form a mission team might take more than one church or, as we have found with the Perry Helping Perry food pantry, the needs in your community might be bigger than one, two, or even three, churches can handle alone.  Working together might still be the push that we need.

Sometimes you fail – We can fail for a lot of different reasons but everyone that failed did more than the people that stayed on the couch.  You might not go as fast as you wanted to, lift as much weight as you wanted to, or finished slower than you wanted to, but I guarantee that you achieved more than you would have if you hadn’t tried.  What’s more, your failure probably taught you something that will help you succeed the next time.

This is exactly the same for people, and for the church, as we strive to follow Jesus.  If you want to go to Bible study every week, but only manage to get there half the time, you still did something that moved you forward from the place that you once were.  Likewise, a church that doesn’t reach its goals, or doesn’t reach them as quickly as they had hoped, has still moved forward compared to the church that did nothing.

So whether you are walking, running, or growing in Christ, just remember that it's important to keep moving forward.

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Goodbye to an Inspiration

Yesterday our Trinity family said goodbye to our friend Delmar Jarvis.  Delmar was 93 year old but was still attending regular worship services here until just the last few years.  Del had lived in a number of places but no matter where he was he found a church home and was there reliably, week in and week out.  More than that, Delmar often accepted leadership and here at Trinity he served as our treasurer for many years.

Everything that he did, he did with passion and commitment.

Delmar served, as many in his generation did, during WWII as a radioman in the United States Navy in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters.  He was frustrated in recent years that, after nearly seventy years, he had begun to forget Morse code.

But perhaps most impressive of all was the love that he had for his wife, Arlene, his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  Just two weeks ago, Delmar and Arlene celebrated their 75th (no, that's no typo, that's SEVENTY-FIVE) wedding anniversary.  Just knowing these two special people always reminded everyone that marriage can last a lifetime.

There is so much about Delmar Jarvis that made him both impressive and likable, from his infections smile, to the way that he made everyone feel special, and so many other things that there's no way to share it all here.

If you would like to read more about him, you can find his obituary, eulogy, and a few family memories by clicking here.

Goodbye my friend.

You will certainly be missed.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Why Israel?

Just about everyone we know seems to have asked us how we liked our recent trip to Israel and, on the odd chance that we might have missed someone, I thought that I would attempt to explain it here.  Usually, when I have been asked, I just say that it was amazing or fantastic.  In a deeper conversation, I admit that I will require some time to fully digest and process what we saw, heard, learned and experienced.  This is all true.  I think about our trip regularly and every time I open the scriptures to study, or to prepare the next Sunday sermon, I reflect on how what we saw interacts with the passages that I am reading.

On our trip, we visited places that are part and parcel of the Bible almost from beginning to end.  Admittedly, the story of Adam and Eve begins in an area that is most likely now a part of Iran and Iraq but by the time of Abraham, most of the story shifts to places in, around, or near what is now the nation of Israel.  Indeed, virtually all of the New Testament takes place in Israel (and possibly Jordan) as well as the events of Revelation and the “End of the Age” or, the end of time.

That means that almost every time I share a passage of scripture that talks about simple things like Matthew 4:21 which says, “Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets,” or any time people are travelling from one place to another, I now have a mental picture of what that means.  I understand better what it means because I’ve been there and because I understand better, I can communicate the meaning better.

But interpreting and explaining the scriptures to my congregation, blog readers, and friends is only a part of the equation.  I often read political commentary, news stories, blogs, and Twitter posts about the political situation in Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and the nations of the Middle East (and Near East).  But having been there, passed through the checkpoints, heard from citizens of Israel and the Palestinian Territories (who are not Israeli citizens, sort of), and shared a meal in Bethlehem with Palestinian Christians, I understand the struggle of both sides better.  I’m still no expert, but our experiences there help us to have a better grasp of just how complex the problem really is.

Baptism at the Jordan River
Yet another layer in this equation grows out of our experiences in other ways.  I can’t say that some of these experiences necessarily inform my interpretation of scripture or increase my understanding, but they have changed me.  Together with a group of believers, I shared worship in the still and quiet of morning, sitting in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, I enjoyed the stillness and quiet of seaside hills overlooking that same body of water, places where Jesus and his friends might well have sat, thought, and taught.  We worshipped in Capernaum, Nazareth, Bethlehem, we drank from the well that was first dug by Jacob, we prayed at the Temple Mount, walked on stone sidewalks that were there in the time of Jesus, touched the walls and
The Western Wall
stairways that were built by Herod the Great and were places that Jesus and the Disciples knew and visited, and we renewed our marriage vows in a church in Cana of Galilee near where Jesus performed his first miracle.  I cannot begin to describe all the ways that these experiences have changed me but all of them will undoubtedly change the way that I understand, teach, feel and communicate.  These experiences may not directly change what I know, but they make enormous changes in the passion that I have for doing everything that I do.

So yes, our trip was amazing.

And yes, I will be digesting and processing what we saw, heard, learned and experienced for some time to come.

But in the end, I think that this experience will, and has already, make me better at communicating the message of scripture.

And so yes, we had a great time. 

And yes, it was good for us.

But ultimately, it will be good for all of us.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Who Makes It Run?

Last month I explained why I am so excited about what is going on here at Trinity.  But all of the things that happen here don’t just happen by themselves.  If you looked in the newsletter for the last couple of months you saw a two page list of people who will lead us during 2016.  Seriously, just the list of leaders is two pages long.  On top of that is an entire army of people who do things weekly, monthly, or when asked, who never get their names in the bulletins, or stand up front, or get applause, but all the same, Trinity Church couldn’t do what we do without them.

Think about it.  On that leadership list are normal things like church committees.  But each committee has another whole list of people that are behind them.  Things like the Mission Team, Hospitality Team, and Children’s Education department only list one name on the leadership roster but each of them have another list of people that they can call on to do teach Sunday school classes or whatever else needs done.  After that, there are other groups and organizations within the church that don’t even get on the leadership roster at all.  Every week, four or five adults show up so serve and to supervise our youth. Every summer, a small army of folks volunteer to help Melissa Thompson and Jill Haglock for an entire week to lead an amazing Vacation Bible School, and on top of those volunteers, another group of folks are baking cookies or donating food so the kids can have snacks.

Every fall, Trinity hosts athletic teams from Perry High School and serves them dinner.  Some of those groups are smaller, but others bring well over a hundred student athletes, coaches, and parents.  To pull that off, Beth and Brett Huntsman lead a dozen or more volunteers who turn up to chop celery, serve food, wash dishes or help in some other way.  Likewise, whenever we have a Fifth Sunday Celebration or covered dish dinner, volunteers just seem to appear to get it all done.  And the same thing is true of the weekly Friday Fellowship of Athletes breakfast.  Brenda Lyon might be the person that sends me the menu every month, but there is a whole list of folks who pull themselves out of bed long before the sun rises to make sure that breakfast is ready by six thirty in the morning.

And don’t even get me started about the folks at Perry Helping Perry.  Again, on distribution day you can probably expect to see Beth, Bret, Melissa, and Rindy Stutzman, but you will also see a whole pile of other folks, some from Trinity and others who are not.  But I want to give you a little more perspective on how deep their “bench” goes.  When they need more help, and I mean a LOT of help, for things like the big Thanksgiving distribution which included coats, hats, scarves, vouchers, extra food, and other things, I counted thirty-five volunteers in a single afternoon.  There were people everywhere and and there was an entire Girl Scout troop sorting food donations in the basement fellowship hall.

And after all that, I’m still leaving out whole swaths of folks like the choir, the praise team, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, UMW, Trinity Men, the quilters and sewing group, and a bunch of others.  And on top of THAT, there are all the people who do things that hardly anyone notices like cooking and bringing food to youth group, baking cookies for the prison ministry, bringing food to covered dish dinners, crocheting prayer shawls, putting money in the offering plate that supports many of these ministries, and I’m STILL leaving out too many people.

What I’m saying is this: Trinity Church can only do what we do because a literal army of people stand behind the few of us who stand up front or get our names in the newsletter.  We are doing a lot of things and as a church we are making a difference. 

But we couldn’t do ANY of it without ALL of you.

And so, before another year passes without recognizing your efforts and contributions, I want to say…


However small you think your part is, please know that you are making a difference.  One cookie at a time, one dollar at a time, one life at a time, you are changing the world.

I hope that you will all hang in there with us as we try to make this year even better than the last.


Pastor John