Ripe Unto The Harvest

Paul David Hewson is an outspoken Christian activist focused on the justice issues of access to life-saving medicine, the elimination of extreme poverty and the forgiveness of predatory debt. He’s also the lead singer of U2. (You probably know him as Bono).

What does Bono mean when he says our opportunity to end extreme poverty — the kind that causes children to starve to death — has become instead a millstone around our necks?

If the imagery sounds familiar, that’s because it’s from Jesus, as recorded in Luke 17:2:

“It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones [children] to stumble.”

The root causes of extreme poverty, both here and abroad, are important to think about as we prepare to celebrate Harvest Home tomorrow, thanking God for another year’s harvest and collecting produce and canned goods in support of the Lowhill Food Pantry.  Please join us!

Celebrate Harvest Home this Sunday!

 

“Our passion is to imitate the ministry of Jesus in the power of the Spirit. This requires we must follow Jesus out of baptismal waters, through our personal deserts, and into the harvest.”

     – John Wimber

Lowhill, we’re getting ready for our annual Harvest Home celebration this Sunday, October 15.  The gathering and blessing of produce (and, in modern times, canned goods) at the altar of the local church is a long-standing tradition among many American churches with Germanic roots.  Lutherans, Mennonites, Moravians, and the German Reformed ancestors of many United Church of Christ congregations like Lowhill brought this yearly celebration with them from Europe, where its roots run even deeper.  This 2013 piece in the Berks-Mont news chronicles some of the tradition’s origins and practices.

The Lowhill Food Pantry, hosted on our property and managed by volunteers from across the community, serves the needs of families and children in the Northwestern Lehigh School District.  All produce and canned goods offered at the altar on Sunday will be donated to the Food Pantry for their essential work in bringing the harvest home to friends and neighbors in need.

Please join us this Sunday as we celebrate God’s good provision through another year. There will be special music, a harvest liturgy, and a message about perhaps the most famous and subversive of Jesus’ agrarian parables about the Kingdom of God:

“What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

The mustard plant was considered an invasive weed in Jesus’ day.  What that might say about our own harvest work here and now?  Join us on Sunday!

 

A Different Kind of Bucket List

On Monday evening, we gathered at Lowhill to pray for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, the earthquake in Mexico, and all others in need.  We also began to take direct action.  We’re gathering items that will be donated to Church World Service for the volunteer and professional clean-up efforts taking place in Texas and Florida.

On Tuesday, I visited a 95-year old member of our congregation with deep ties to our church’s history.  She told me about growing up on the farm, taking her produce and meat from New Tripoli to the farmer’s market in Allentown, life with her husband and children.  “Life is short, when you think about it,” she said.

The idea that life is short is found throughout the Scriptures, and it’s the animating principle behind the so-called “bucket list,” that compendium of things, places, and experiences people wish to do or see or have before they die.

In response to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, Christ’s Church at Lowhill is putting together a different kind of bucket list.  We’re collecting the following items needed by clean-up teams in the wake of Harvey and Irma.  The following list details the contents of one clean-up bucket:

  • One five-gallon bucket with resealable lid (If bucket has been used, clean well but do not use if it has held chemicals of any kind.)
  • Four scouring pads
  • Seven sponges, including one large
  • One scrub brush
  • Eighteen reusable cleaning towels (e.g. Easy Wipes)
  • One 50 oz. or two 25 oz. bottle(s) of liquid laundry detergent
  • One 16-28 oz. bottle of liquid disinfectant dish soap
  • One 12-16 oz. bottle of household cleaner that can be mixed with water (no spray bottles)
  • One package of 48-50 clothespins
  • Clothesline, two 50 ft. or one 100 ft.
  • Five dust masks
  • Two pairs non surgical latex gloves
  • One pair work gloves, cotton with leather palm or all leather
  • 24-28 heavy duty or contractor type 30-45 gallon trash bags on a roll and removed from carton
  • One 6-9 oz. bottle of non-aerosol insect repellent

All cleaning items must be new – all liquid items must be capped and securely tightened. When collected, we’ll place the cleaning items into the buckets, making sure they are packed securely to avoid damage during shipment, and we’ll deliver them to Church World Service collection depots to be distributed to clean-up teams in the communities affected by these storms.

Life may be short, but the work we do as the hands and feet of Christ is lasting.  In a world were so much attention is paid to fleeting things, to what the writer of Ecclesiastes calls vanities and vapors, we’re making a different kind bucket list focused on helping people recover, rebuild, and live.

Please help these efforts by sharing this post with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, and by donating whatever items (many are available at local Dollar Stores) you can.  Donations can be brought to the church every Sunday, and arrangements can also be made by getting in touch with one of our volunteers at contact@christschurchatlowhill.org.

Thank you for your help!

 

 

Mayweather, McGregor, and the Gospel

Regardless of the outcome of today’s billion-dollar card, the Apostle Paul reminds us “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

There are many ways of understanding and applying this wisdom to our modern situations.  At base, though, I think Paul wants us to remember that most of the struggles we find ourselves in, even struggles with other people, are the manifestations of systems and circumstances set in-motion through generations, through broken social patterns that promote injustice, intolerance, and inequality.

Paul is asking us to see our supposed enemies the way Jesus does.  It’s Paul, after all, who famously persecuted the early church before his blinding experience on the road to Damascus.  And it’s Jesus, after all, who asked every one of us to love our enemies as ourselves and pray for those who persecute us.

Our enemies aren’t really our enemies.  The people with whom we seem to contend are, just like us, products of many broken systems setting us on paths toward personal conflict and even international war.  The “rulers, authorities, and powers of this dark world” are the lies teaching us to look out only for ourselves, to serve our own interests at any cost, and to take what we can while we can, regardless of the harm inflicted on others, especially if those others look, think, or speak differently than we do.

Don’t fall for the lie.  We have more in common than we like to admit.  And our struggle is not with each other, but with any system running counter to the economy of the Kingdom of God, a kingdom, as the Taize chant teaches, of “justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  A kingdom wherein all is provided, where all have enough because none horde too much, where nothing is wasted and none are in want.  Amen.

– Pastor Chris

(resources: Ephesians, “The Kingdom of God,” Taize chant, “Not Scared Here” by Tim Coons)

 

 

As School Begins, Hungry Kids Face Challenges Locally, Nationally

One out of every six children in American lives in a household that struggles to put food on the table.

News from  Bethlehem this week highlights why ministries like the Lowhill Food Pantry and the Snack Pack program are so important in our community.

Christ’s Church at Lowhill is in the heart of the Northwestern Lehigh School District, and the Lowhill Food Pantry’s food assistance programs serve individuals, families, and children in Lynn, Lowhill, Heidelberg, and Weisenberg Townships.

We are called to love our neighbors and care for all of God’s children.  Please help the Lowhill Food Pantry carry out this vital mission!