Letter from Jana: February 19, 2017

Dear Friends,

I’m writing to share with you the news that the Bishop is appointing me to serve as the Executive Director of the GNJAC Stewardship Foundation beginning July 1st.

One of the principles of the United Methodist Church is our Connectionalism; we do not stand alone as a congregation but are part of a network of congregations that all work together to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Connectionalism has always been a part of my DNA as a UM and so to serve in the wider church of the Annual Conference it will allow me to fully live out one of the values that has been so important to me as a UM pastor.

Her letter continues here 

For the letter from Bishop John Schol, here. 

New Year’s Day Service – January 1st 2017

Rev. Jana Purkis-Brash:  ‘Jesus’ Birth Gives us a Mission’ – Matthew 2:13-23

On New Year’s Day, Rev. Jana preached on the difficult passage from Matthew. Here are some notes from her message:

 Jesus didn’t come into the world to bring a feast of celebration and contentment, to offer respite from the world. Jesus came to save the world. We Christians have a role to play in that salvation.

The “Massacre of the Innocents” passage in Matthew reminds us that we need, not only to keep Christ in Christmas, but to keep Herod in Christmas. Herod was capable of executing his wife and sons. He was capable of dispatching soldiers to kill infants, and this tragic action is commemorated in The Coventry Carol.

Why do we read this part of the story? It helps us remember the mission that Jesus calls us to. Herod plays the role of evil incarnate, to help us remember what kind of world we live in, and why the world needs a savior.

May we be people who are the hands, feet, heart, and light of Christ in the world. Jesus gives us our mission.  May we work to carry out the mission in the New Year.

 

 

 

The Absurdity of Advent: Forgiving Love

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Rev. Jana Purkis-Brash –  4th Sunday in Advent: December 18. Luke 2:15-20; John 3:16

Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent, next week we will gather for worship to celebrate the birth of Jesus the newborn king.

These last four weeks we have spent in a season of expectation and hope. It is also a season of following — a time when we travel along with the Holy Family as they struggle with the hardships of peasant life in first-century Palestine. The Christmas story, as we have come to know it, includes much drama and tension, and we might even say absurdity.

The drama of Christmas begins in anxiety. An unplanned pregnancy is followed by an imperial summons to Bethlehem. Along the way there are mysterious angelic interventions, improvised accommodations for birth and royal orders of infanticide. Yet, in the midst of such challenging conditions,// newness and promise overflow. There is a father’s word of prophecy, a mother’s song of revolution, gift-toting wise men and praise-filled shepherds. Yes, the long hoped for Messiah will arrive — but not quite as we had expected, another point of absurdity.

When the Shepherds headed into town to see the Messiah I can imagine the whispering that might have taken place. “Did I hear correctly Eli, did the angel say, the sign is a baby that was born in Bethlehem?” Another shepherd says to the guy behind him, did that angel say, “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord?” A baby born// is the Messiah we have been waiting for, it’s absurd!!

Each year as we get ready to close Advent night, the highlight of the evening comes when kids and adults alike are all sugared up and we sing together “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” As we were singing this year I got to thinking,// I wonder how much it costs to purchase all those gifts? Have you ever wondered about that?// You may not be surprised, but I was, to find out that for more than 30 years PNC bank has calculated the prices of the 12 gifts from this song.

Take a guess at the total cost of purchasing all the gifts mentioned in the “12 Days of Christmas” song… This holiday extravaganza would cost $34,363 this year, an increase of just 0.7% from last year. The Consumer Price Index has risen about twice as fast, at 1.7% over the past 12 months.

The gift with the biggest price hike was the cost of two turtledoves ($375), which spiked 29 percent due to a shortage of the birds. Rising wages also drove up prices, with the cost of 11 pipers piping ($2,708) and 12 drummers drumming ($2,934) rising 2.8 percent this year. Granted, I don’t know where you would find them, but they are very expensive.

At $210, a partridge in a pear tree saw the biggest price decline this year. The cost of partridges fell to $20, thanks to an increase in supply. The cost of the pear tree ticked lower as well. While gold prices have gone up and down significantly over the past five years, the cost of five golden rings has held steady at $750.

All these extravagant gifts are for a true love. As a matter of fact the Hallmark Channel is showing a movie centered around these gifts to a beloved. Still, the real message of Christmas is not the gifts that we give to each other. Rather, it is a reminder of the gift that God has given to each of us. We are God’s true love, you are God’s true love.

This gift of love keeps on giving. This gift comes in the birth of a baby and the death of a man who gives his whole life to and for us. Jesus comes as forgiving love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.In that gift of forgiving love also comes eternal life.

As we think about God’s gift of forgiving love, there are a few things I’d call to your attention: Continue reading “The Absurdity of Advent: Forgiving Love”

One day at @PrincetonUMC: #SocialMediaSunday

In many churches around the world September 25, 2016, is “Social Media Sunday,”  the day set aside to use digital devices intentionally to share their life of faith with the world. In that spirit, here are some of today’s videos and pictures taken at Princeton United Methodist Church.

In worship, the Ensemble (Charles Hayes, Harran Williams, Michael Andrew Cabus, Eileen Francisco-Cabus) sang Charles Hayes’ God’s Hands.

Cindy Gordon, in the Children’s Time, illustrated how Jeremiah challenged God’s people to take risks. Machaela Irving read the scripture, and  Rev. Jana Purkis-Brash preached on the Jeremiah selection of this week’s lectionary (Jeremiah 32:1-3a; 6-15) in a sermon entitled “Step Out in Faith.”

The Chancel Choir, directed by Hyosang Park, sang Michael Burkhardt’s The Lord is Beautiful 

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Andrew Hayes doubled as Ensemble musician and  SS teacher, with Anita Tong, for middle schoolers

Meanwhile, in Sunday School, The toddlers experience Christ’s love with delight-filled play, and they also practice the habit of simple prayer, with Mae Potts and Marie Griffiths.

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4th and 5th graders met with Barbara Sageser, Janis McCarty, and Lorie Roth

First to third graders, led by Yvonne Macdonald and Sharon Distase, helped praise God with a cheerleading chant. 

Skitch Matson, in the Youth Room, had teens working in small groups on the concept of Sabbath, as in Exodus 16. 

One of the two adult classes, Contemporary Issues, met in the library to discuss Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers by Kwame Anthony Appiah.

The Heart of Our Faith class met in Fellowship Hall, where Rev. Don Brash led a discussion on Persevering Hope. 

After church, the Handbell Choir practiced. From noon to 1:30, church doors were open, and the Tiffany Task Force gave a half dozen families (from Iceland to Venezuela) the stained glass window tour.

That evening, the youth choir practiced for their anthem next week, followed by dinner and fellowship.

PUMC didn’t call attention to Social Media Sunday this year, but we are trying to use every media possible to welcome visitors and help each other grow as Christ’s disciples. We  believe that with more than 1 million new social mobile users added each day, we need to use new tools to be where people are. If you would like to help — taking videos and photos, using media like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and more, email the Comm Team, communications@PrincetonUMC.org. Smart phones at the ready!

 

 

 

 

 

Sermon: Lessons from 9/11

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Like a sharp medical instrument, anger sometimes has its legitimate purposes said Rev. Jana Purkis-Brash in her September 11 sermon. Just dispose of it properly. Based on the lectionary reading for this week, Matthew 5:21-26,  her topic was “Lessons from 9/11.”
“What are the long term implications of a society dominated by anger? For a family dominated by an angry style of relations?  For a community?” Jesus reminds us that anger is in the same category as murder.
But aren’t there occasions where anger is truly righteous?
So much of our anger rises unbidden, programmed as the ‘flight or fight.” Adrenaline can be a positive advantage, preparing our muscles to run fast or thrust hard.
 
Yet non lethal slights trigger anger too. It is not sinful to have angry feelings. Feelings are not something we can easily control (Eph 4:26). Assume that anger is going to happen. Decide not to go to bed angry. Seek reconciliation.
In medical offices, the red sharps container is a safe repository for sharp things. Rather than stuffing angry feelings (which seems to be a Christian response but can lead to physical illness or depression) or rage (which can develop into an addictive need to feel angry with little or no provocation) choose a safe disposal method.
 
Here are four steps to dealing with anger — the emotional equivalent of the red sharps box 
  • Name the anger
  • Claim it
  • Own it
  • Send it on the way
Naming is powerful.

Being Molded by God

 

altar potterEverything went together yesterday, Sunday September 4, to tell a salvation story, that if we make a habit of looking for God, even if we do wrong, God will reshape us. The text from the lectionary was Jeremiah: 18: 1-22,  ‘At The Potter’s House.” Beautiful pots and vases, made by our music director Hyosang Park,  were arranged on the altar.

As Malisa Langdon said, at Children’s Time, all of the pots and bowls are different. We are all made differently, and God works with each of us as individuals.  She told of a failed knitting project that she put on a shelf. In contrast, a potter can take a failed pot, turn it back into a lump of clay, and reshape it.

That’s what God does, said Rev, Jana Purkis-Brash in her sermon “Being Molded by God.” It may take a long time to find directions to “the Potter’s House,” but (paraphrasing) the Creator who made us can take our mistakes and our guilt and reshape us into whole and healthy disciples of Christ. We’re not good at waiting and yielding but here are clues:

  1. Learn the right address, where we are permitted to be works in progress.
  2. Make the right turn, repeatedly. Jeremiah uses language of turning and changing.
  3. Allow the potter to work with your clay as the potter chooses.

The ‘pickup choir,’ directed by Hyosang Park, sang “The Image of God” by Craig Courtney, reminding us that we are all created in God’s image, “uniquely gifted for His own plan and purpose.”

After the service of Holy Communion, and rousing choruses of “Since Jesus Came Into My Heart,” (Gaither version here), we gathered in Fellowship Hall for Summermikaela Sharing, where Mikaela Langdon, a senior at Rowan University,  told of her mission trip to Hawaii and how God changed her while she was there. What she learned about how to witness for Christ is valuable for how PUMC is thinking about reaching out to passersby on Nassau Street.

What she learned: don’t pass out things, instead let the people come to you. Invite them to take a survey. Arrange some kind of display that attracts their attention. The goal is to start a conversation so that they think about God. Let God help them find the Potter’s House.

 

 

 

BOOM! Speaking truth to power

“Boom!” was the topic for Rev. Jana Purkis Brash on August 21, 2016. “Boom!” as in the sound made by the mike when a speaker — invigorated by the success of the speech — drops the mike and walks away.

In healing a crippled woman on the Sabbath, Luke 10:13-17, not only did Jesus perform a miracle, but he triumphed over the religious leaders who objected to healing on the Sabbath. Jesus “dropped the mike.” He spoke truth to power.

As Christians we are called to help the oppressed, those who are so burdened by life that they cannot stand straight.  And we too can “drop the mike” to fight social injustice. We can speak truth to power.

BOOM!

In a gentler vein, Jana welcomed six little girls to Children’s Time. Some came from as far away as New York, Canada, and even Mexico! She emphasized that — even though some don’t get to visit very often — they are all part of our church family.

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Christmas Eve Family Service: 4 p.m.

2015 Christmas EveThe celebration of Christ’s birth on Christmas Eve, is such a magical night for all of us. Yet it can also be a hectic evening, as we juggle family traditions, rehearsals, gift giving, dinner, travel, and more.

This year the family worship is early, at 4:00 pm. This change in time is to help families with young children attend worship and still have the kids fed and ready for bed in good time. We are hoping to lessen the stress on families by moving earlier. This year Pastor Jana will tell the story of Christ’s birth at an informal family service with the theme “Christmas ABCs.” Can you guess where to find the Z in Christmas? The children’s choir will sing, directed by Tom Shelton.

The 8:00 pm worship is a traditional Lessons, Carols and Candlelight service. We will hear once again the beautiful Christmas story told through song, scripture, prayer and soft candlelight. Hyosang Park directs the Chancel Choir, Bell Choir, and instrumentalists. If you are an alumni of the youth choir, you are invited to “sing-in. Meet at 7:15 p.m. in Room 203 with Tom Shelton. Bring your family and friends!

Advent Sermon: An Unexpected Gift

For her sermon, “An Unexpected Gift” on the first Sunday in Advent, November 29, 2015,  Pastor Jana Purkis-Brash included this poem, The Story of the Christmas Guest, by Helen Steiner Rice.

Based on the story by Leo Tolstoy, it tells of the humble shopkeeper who was very eager to see Jesus. As in the scripture lesson for that day, he was like the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 64:1-9)  who begged for the Messiah to appear, crying out “you have hidden your face from us.”

This contrasts with the New Testament scripture, Matthew 1:18-25, where Joseph is surprised by the news that Mary is pregnant with the son of God, a very unexpected gift.

The shopkeeper in the poem waits and waits, but the only folks who knocked at the door were a beggar, a hungry woman, and a homeless child. Let’s all be on the lookout for ways that Jesus comes to us in unexpected ways.