Life or Death, the Choice is Ours – Rev. Joe Moore

February 12, 2017


I received an email this week from one of the members of Fries Memorial this week. It is always nice to hear from people like that, people who I have shared my life and faith with over the years. She was just checking in- to let me know how she was doing and to see how we were doing. She also mentioned how much she enjoyed, and now missed, our book club. Over the 5 years that I served at Fries, we had our book club sporadically. We would find a good book and spend a few weeks on it, then take a few weeks off, even a few months, till we found another book that we would want to do. We read a wide variety of books- from Henri Nouwen, to Harper Lee, to Peter Gomes, to CS Lewis.


Last summer, our weekly Book Club at Fries Moravian read a book called Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People, written by Nadia Bolz-Weber. I have to admit that I was hesitant to suggest it for our book club. Even though Nadia Bolz-Weber is an ordained Lutheran pastor, a lot of people would say that she is one of the wrong people.” At least she would seem that way when judged solely by her appearance. Nadia definitely doesn’t look like a pastor. Even when she is wearing her clergy collar, she wears it with sleeveless shirts so everyone can see her muscular arms, which are covered with tattoos.


Despite her appearance and her rough language (she definitely uses language that I wouldn’t use in church or anywhere else for that matter), despite her not looking like we expect a pastor to look, or writing like we would expect a pastor write, we all really enjoyed the book. It inspired some very good discussion and offered some wonderful insights into our lives as Christians. Even though sometimes we still found ourselves talking about how she looks.


Towards the end of our study, we were talking about all of the tattoos that Nadia Bolz-Weber has, one of the members of the group said something along the lines of never being able to imagine a pastor with tattoos. It was not at all judgmental, it was more of a statement about how much things have changed over the years in the world and in the church. Hearing it, though, I couldn’t resist pointing out that I have a tattoo myself.


I was honestly surprised that it hadn’t been noticed before. It is pretty visible, if not obvious. My tattoo is right on the side of my left wrist and I got it on July 22, 2015, my wife’s birthday. And Kelly has one too, on the side of her foot. We went together to get them to celebrate her birthday last year. Honestly, I never EVER thought I would get a tattoo. And there was even less chance that Kelly would get one. But it just seemed like the right thing for us to do.


Our tattoos are both semi-colons and the represent the importance of not putting a period where God puts a semi-colon. A period signals an ending while a semi-colon is just a pause. Whenever a writer uses a semi-colon, it is a reminder to stop and pause, to take in and reflect upon everything that is going on. It’s not the end, it’s just stop and pause. As God is writing the story of our lives, he only uses a period once, on the day our life is meant to come to an end. But God uses semi-colons a lot.


Because as God’s children, our lives are a continuing story. A story that requires us to pause every once in awhile; to reflect on where we are and where we have been and where we want to go, and to reflect on who we are, who we have been and who we want to be. A semi-colon is a reminder to take time for that pause and that reflection.


Lots of people have semi-colon tattoos to reinforce that reminder. Kelly and I got the idea to get our tattoos from the Project Semi-Colon, which creates awareness of this need to pause by the symbol of the semi-colon. The Project Semi-Colon website describes it as a “movement dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction, and self-injury. Project Semi-colon exists to encourage, love, and inspire.”


Since you are still getting to know us and especially getting to know Kelly, she said that it would be okay for me to share with you that she struggles with depression. It has been a battle she has fought throughout her life. It is not something she is ashamed of, having depression is no different than having diabetes or high blood pressure. But it does carry a certain stigma, some people are ashamed of it. Even though they shouldn’t be.


In addition to Kelly’s depression,  we have both had family members who have suffered from addictions. So I decided (and amazingly Kelly agreed) that we should get semi-colon tattoos to remind each other, and everyone who sees them, of the importance of not putting a period where God puts a semi-colon; as a reminder of the importance of maintaining faith and hope; as a reminder of the importance of choosing life. It is a choice that we all face; to choose life over death.


As we read in Deuteronomy,  I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life…” So there it is. Life and death, blessings and curses are set before us. And the choice is ours. Certainly, for many people, it is very much a literal choice between life and death. Mental illness, depression, addictions, often lead the sufferer to consider taking their own life. They are unable to see life and blessings as belonging together. They see life as a curse, for them and for those that love them. They feel that the best way, the only way,  to end that curse is to end their life.


In 2014, more than 41,000 Americans chose to end their life. They chose death over life. That means on average, 112 people each day make this choice for death over life. Some people believe it to be the unforgivable sin.” I don’t believe that it is up to us to decide or determine what sins are forgivable and which are not. But it is up to us to help bring those numbers down. It is up to us to help EVERYONE choose life.


It is up to the church to be the place where those who are struggling with this choice, who are suffering so greatly from illness of body, mind and spirit that they are contemplating choosing death over life; it is up to the church to help them find ways to choose life. It takes more than simply telling them to pray more or read the Bible more. The church needs to be a place where these struggles can be talked about; safely, openly, freely. The church needs to be a place where these struggles can be addressed. Not with judgement or condemnation or exclusion; but with love and compassion and inclusion.


The church needs to be a place of the Semi-Colon.” The place where people can come to pause; and reflect on where they are and where they have been and where they want to go; and reflect on who they are, who they have been and who they want to be. The church needs to be this place where not people can not only come to pause and reflect, but also a place where they can come to be reminded.


Reminded that they are they beloved children of God; reminded that they are created in God’s image; reminded that they are loved unconditionally. The church needs to be a place where the choice that is set before, the choice between life and death and blessings and curses, becomes much easier to make.


This is a place that we all need. Whether we suffer from a mental illness or not, whether or not we struggle to choose physical life over death, we are all still faced with that choice. Each and every day we are faced with the choice between life or death, blessings or curses. Even when we are not faced with the choice of whether physically live or die, we are faced with the choice of what kind of life we will live. Will we choose a life of blessings or of curses?


            This may seem like a ridiculous question. Of course we would all choose a life of blessings. But while we may think that we (and everyone else) would choose a life of blessings over curses; our actual lives, our true choices, tell a different story. We far too often choose curses over blessings, or we just choose to focus on our curses and not our blessings. Whenever we complain about what we don’t have rather than rejoice in what we do have, we are not choosing the life God has created us to live. Whenever we allow our fear and anxiety rather than our hope and faith to guide us, we are not choosing the life God wants us to have. Whenever we judge and exclude others rather than love and welcome them, we are not choosing the life that God calls us to live.


The church does indeed need to be a semi-colon place.” It needs to be a place where we pause and consider our choices, and resolve to choose blessings over curses. The church needs to be the place where we choose the life that God has created for us rather than the lives we create for ourselves. The church needs to be the place where we choose hope and faith, where we choose to be loving and welcoming.


The church needs to be a place where we can all pause; and reflect on where we are and where we have been and where we want to go; reflect on who we are, who we have been and who we want to be. The church needs to be THE place where we can choose life; where we can choose to live a blessed and abundant life; where we can choose to share our blessings and our abundance with those in need.  The church, the Moravian Church, THIS church, needs to be this place. Now, more than ever, the church needs to be this place.


As I said last week, in a world that seems to be becoming more and more divided, in a nation whose citizens are growing further and further apart, the church, OUR CHURCH, needs to be a place where we can invite people to come together, to unify around Jesus Christ, and him crucified. We need to be caring, we need to be worshipping, we need to be encouraging, we need to be seeking, we need to be following. We need to be doing all of those things, we need to be BEING all of those things- caring, worshiping, encouraging, seeking, following- so that the world can look at us and see hope and peace and joy and love, so that the world can see Jesus Christ, and him crucified.


We need choose to live our lives in Jesus Christ. And we need to make certain that our church is where people who are struggling with life can come and have life and have it abundantly, to make certain that our church is a place where WE can come when we are struggling with life can come and have life.


Brothers and Sisters, it is time to choose life. It is time to choose blessing. It is time to choose hope and faith. It is time to choose love. God has set the choice before us. It is up to us to make it.  So let us choose life and let us choose to be the people that God has created us to be; people of faith and love and hope. So let us choose blessings and let us choose to be the people that the world needs us to be. Let us make our church the place that God created it to be and that the world needs it to be; a place of life and a place of love.



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Since 1957, as the Moravian Unity celebrated our 500th Anniversary, the Unity Prayer Watch has assured that prayer for the work and witness of our world-wide Moravian Church is being offered somewhere in the world 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  The Prayer Watch is a renewal of the “hourly intercession”, begun in Herrnhut in 1727 which continued uninterrupted for 100 years.

New Philadelphia’s assigned date and time for the 2017 Prayer Watch is January 2 from 4:00 pm to midnight. Starting this Sunday (December 18) there will be a sign-up sheet in the Commons Area for our members to choose their time to be in intentional prayer on behalf of the worldwide Moravian Church. 

Please sign up for a 30 minute time to pray on January 2. We will share the list of suggested topics for prayer with those who sign up.



Pastor Joe

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October 9, 2016 Installation Service
New Philadelphia Moravian Church
I John 4:7-­12 and John 15:1­-17

My sermon this morning is going to be quite a bit different than what I was planning to do when I first began thinking about it. Since this is my first sermon here at New Philadelphia, I knew that there was a lot I wanted to accomplish with it. Most important being to introduce myself to my new congregation. So my original intent for this sermon was to begin with my spiritual journey. You know, how God has acted in my life and led me to this point; to being called and installed as your Associate Pastor. I wanted to share all of those significant events that have formed me into who I am as a person and as a pastor. That’s what I was intending to do with this first sermon at New Philadelphia. But I’m not going to do that, at least not today. Because honestly, I am tired of talking about myself.

Over the last few months, it seems like talking about myself has been all that I have done. Beginning with sharing my spiritual journey with the Joint Board back in July and ending with sharing it at the Men’s Breakfast just this past Friday, I have told that story many, many times. I’m sure that those who know me well, especially Kelly and Zach and my family (and I have at least fifteen family members here today) are probably surprised to hear it, I am simply tired of talking about me. Today, I would rather talk about us.

Us, the congregation of New Philadelphia Moravian; us, the Moravian Church; us, the church of Jesus Christ; us, the people of God; us, God’s beloved children. You know, us; you and me and everyone else in this family. Everyone in this wonderful, caring, church family. Everyone in this loving congregation, worshipping God together, encouraging one another as we seek a closer relationship with Jesus, following the Holy Spirit into mission and service. You know, us, New Philadelphia Moravian Church.

Today’s Scripture readings tell us about what it means to be us. The most important thing they say about being God’s people, the main thing they tell us about being God’s beloved children, the essential thing about being us, is that it is all about is love. We are all about love. These passages from the first letter of John and the Gospel of John are all about love. Taken together, reading them as one continuous passage, it begins with John writing “Let us love one another” and it ends with Jesus saying “This is my command: Love each other.” So we can see that it really is all about love; love at the beginning, love in the middle, love at the end.

This all­ important, essential love starts with God. John writes that love comes from God; that God is love­ unconditional love, sacrificial love, atoning love. John writes that God loves us with this love. This love that is the very nature of God. God loves us with this love that caused God to come to us, to send his son to save us from our sins, to face death so that we might obtain life, to rise from death to new life so that we too might live a new life.

John writes that just as we are loved with this love, since God so loves us, we also ought to love one another. We also ought to love one another with the same love; the same unconditional love, the same complete love, the same perfect love. The love that begins it all.

This love that God has for us and gives to us is a love without fear. It seems that this is something that we miss out on in this day and age. John writes, “There is no fear in love.” Yet our world, our lives, tell a very different story. In our world and in our lives, we have a lot of fear. We are afraid of others. We are afraid of those who aren’t like us; who don’t believe what we believe; who don’t feel like we feel; who don’t look like we look; who don’t act like we act. We are afraid of the future; of it not being what we want it to be; of not having what we have now, what we believe belongs to us. Basically, what we are afraid of is the unknown. We are afraid of others because we don’t know them, we don’t take the time to understand them. We are afraid of the future because we don’t know what it will bring. And try as we might, we can’t control it. So we fear it.

We so want to be filled with love. We so long to be filled with love. Yet too often our fear overcomes our love. But remember, fear has to do with punishment, with judgement, with condemnation. There is no condemnation in the love that comes from God. There is no judgement in the love that Jesus gives to us. There is no punishment in the love that God has for us. God’s love for us is “perfect love” that drives out fear. And this perfect love, this complete love, this unconditional love, this is the love that God calls us to have for one another.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “This is my command: Love each other.” Not a suggestion or a request. But a command. A command to love each other. It’s all about love. It’s all about God’s love for us and our love for each other. Our love for each other is supposed to emulate Jesus’ love for us. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” Love each other completely; love each other unconditionally; love each other perfectly.

This all sounds good. It certainly sounds like something we would want to do, something we would be able to do. Yet we all know that it is a lot easier to talk about loving, it is a lot easier to say we love each other than it is to actually love each other. Especially to love each other completely, unconditionally, perfectly. It is hard to love each other perfectly because we are all imperfect, we are all human, we all make mistakes, we all disappoint each other just as much as we love each other.

I know that I certainly am and I certainly do. I am human, I definitely make mistakes, I disappoint people. Even as a pastor. But here’s the thing, as I am installed today as your new Associate Pastor, remember that I am human, I will make mistakes, I will disappoint you. Just as we are all human, we will all make mistakes, we will all disappoint each other. So we need to decide something.

We need to decide that when the inevitable happens, when we make those mistakes, when we disappoint each other, we need to decide now to stick together then, to continue to love

each other. Because if we don’t, if we give up on each other, if you give up on me or I give up on you, if you give up on each other, then we will miss out on God coming in.

We will miss out on God coming in and overwhelming our faults with his grace. We will miss out on God coming in and taking our imperfect love and completing it with his perfect love. We will miss out on God coming in and connecting us like branches to Christ the vine. We will miss out on bearing fruit and showing the world what the love of God looks like.

So let us decide now that even when our love is imperfect, when we disappoint each other, that we will stick together. That we will remain together, connected to each other. That we will remain branches in Christ the vine, living branches that bear fruit. We need to bear fruit so that the world can look at us and see the fruit that we bear, so that the world can look at us and see what the love of God looks like.

What the love of God looks like is this­ feeding the hungry and giving water to the thirsty. What the love of God looks like is this ­welcoming the stranger and clothing the naked. What the love of God looks like is this ­comforting the sick and visiting the prisoner. This is the fruit that we bear when we love one another. This is what love looks like. This is what it is all about. This is what I am all about. This is what we are all about. This is us. It is who we are as God’s beloved children. It is what we do as God’s people. It is how we love as God’s church. It is all about love. At the beginning and at the end and everything in between. It is all about love.

Rev. Joe Moore

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It’s a Meet & Greet with Rev. Joe Moore, our new Associate Pastor. Rev. Moore will officially begin at New Philadelphia on Monday, October 3.

Join us at 7 a.m. in the banquet room on Friday, October 7 for faith, food, and fellowship! Enjoy a special breakfast treat: Brother Jack Hauser’s Nearly World Famous, Fried Tenderloin and Gravy!

Make plans to attend and bring a friend!

Simply faith, food, and fellowship!

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Ash Wednesday, February 10, 2016HOME MORAVIAN CHURCH

The Reverend Dr. Dianne Lipsett, Professor of Religion, Salem College

10:00 AM Coffee Hour

10:45 Music

11:00 AM Worship, Nursery Provided


Sunday, February 14, 2016CHRIST MORAVIAN CHURCH

The Reverend Dr. Nola Knouse

2:00 PM Lovefeast, Nursery Provided


Wednesday, February 17, 2016TRINITY MORAVIAN CHURCH

The Reverend Judy Knopf

11:00 AM Worship

Luncheon following


Wednesday, February, 24, 2016 – ARDMORE MORAVIAN CHURCH

Dr. Robert Shackleford, President, Randolph Comm. College

9:45 AM-Coffee Hour

10:45 AM- Music

11:00 AM- Worship, Nursery provided


Sunday, February 28, 2016CALVARY MORAVIAN CHURCH

Fran Saylor, Candidate for Ministry in the Moravian Church

1:45-2:45- Coffee and heavy Hors D’oeuvres

3:00- Worship Service, Nursery Provided


Wednesday, March 2, 2016Fries Memorial Moravian Church

Angelica Regaldo, Student at Wake Forest Divinity School

10:00 AM Coffee

11:00 AM Worship, Nursery Provided


Wednesday, March 9, 2016 – FAIRVIEW MORAVIAN CHURCH

The Reverend John D. Rights

10:45 AM Music

11:00 AM Worship with Communion, Nursery Provided

Luncheon following


Wednesday, March 16, 2016 – KONNOAK HILLS MORAVIAN

The Reverend Ramona Prestwood

11:00 AM Lovefeast


March 20, Palm Sunday

March 25, Good Friday

March 27, Easter


Published by Provincial Women’s Board

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Breathe:  Making Room for the Sabbath

Women’s Bible Study

With a jam-packed life, what’s missing is space—space for God to speak, room for you to hear.  It’s time to set aside the activities and busyness that swallows up rest and peace.  Come discover Sabbath margin—the boundary God enables us to put around things we enjoy so that we never become slaves again.

Join in 5 weeks of study on Monday mornings or Thursday evenings in the Banquet Room.

  • Morning Option begins Monday, February 8th at 10:30am
  • Evening Option begins Thursday, February 11th at 6:30pm


For questions or to sign up, please contact Christy Clore at or 765-2331; or Grace Shutt, who will be leading the studies, at or 765-4506.

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Moravian Church of America, Southern Province 2015 Days of Prayer

Ash Wednesday February 18 ~ Home Moravian Church
The Reverend Dr Dianne Lipsett , Professor of Religion – Salem College
10:00 AM Coffee Hour 10:45 Music 11:00 Worship, Nursery Provided

Sunday February 22 ~ Christ Moravian Church
The Reverend Dr. Daniel Crews
4:00 PM Lovefeast, Nursery Provided

Wednesday February 25 ~ Trinity Moravian Church
The Reverend Peggy Haymes Author, Counselor
11:00 Worship, Nursery Provided
12:00 Noon Luncheon

Wednesday March 4 ~Ardmore Moravian Church
The Reverend Jon Boling
9:45 Coffee Hour
10:45 AM Meditation/Music
11:00 Worship

Wednesday March 11 ~ Calvary Moravian Church
The Reverend Andrew Heil
9:45 AM Coffee Hour
10:45 AM Meditation/Music
11:00 Worship, Nursery Provided

Wednesday March 18 ~ Fairview Moravian Church
The Rt. Rev. Wayne Burkette
10:45 AM Music
11:00 Worship with Communion

Wednesday March 25 ~ Konnoak Hills Moravian Church
The Reverend Rick Sides
11:00 AM Lovefeast

March 29, Palm Sunday

April 3, Good Friday

April 5, Easter Sunday

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