But This Bunch Was Different – Rev. Joe Moore

Romans 8:12-25

New Philadelphia Moravian

July 23, 2017

This week’s sermon was supposed to be a “Laurel Ridge” sermon. Every year when I get back from being at camp, I have lots of good sermon material. There are so many amazing things that happen during that week, that I can’t wait to share it. And that was my plan as I was preparing to preach this week. Senior High Camp had ended just over a week ago and I had time to reflect on the week. Being there with the young people of our church and from all over had filled me with hope; hope for the future of our church, of the Moravian Church, and even for the world. And the Romans passage spoke about hope. But, Paul wrote about hope that is seen is not really hope. And the hope that I gained from Senior High Camp is definitely a hope that can be seen. So I decided that I should maybe look at something else to preach on today. Fortunately, there is another big event in the life of our church.

Today we celebrate the 171st anniversary of NPMC. The brief history of our congregation that is printed in our bulletin is pretty interesting. Like many of the Moravian congregations in this area, it was started as a Sunday School. But NPMC was one of the first. It began with a group gathering in the Philadelphia school house. The Moravians probably called it “New” Philadelphia to distinguish it from the “old” Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, where the Moravians had long been serving and working. At the time New Philadelphia was beginning, the Moravian leadership was actively discouraging expansion of the Moravian Church. This may sound odd now, but at the time the Moravians were concerned with making more Christians, but not necessarily more Moravians. The last two congregations to be formed in NC were started over 60 years before the Sunday School at New Philadelphia began. So not much should have come out of the work at New Philadelphia.

“But this bunch was different.” I love that. It’s just a little throw-away line in the short history of our congregation, but it really says a lot about who this congregation was and is. “But this bunch was different.” I wonder how many times over the last 171 years that others in the Moravian Church have thought that about New Philadelphia. This bunch was different in the 1840’s and we are different today. I think that as we reflect on our past, we can learn a lot about our present, and even strengthen our hope for the future. The Moravians of this community in 1846 would let nothing stand in their way of becoming who God had created them to be. They would let nothing stand in the way of loving each other into becoming who God has created them to be. And the Moravians of this congregation today will let nothing stand in our way of becoming who God has created us to be. We will let nothing stand in our way of loving each other into becoming who God has created us to be.

To become who God has created us to be means that we must first claim who we already are. As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans “…all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” We are the children of God. We are chosen by God to be his children. We are adopted by God to become members of God’s family. Adoption is an interesting idea because it includes a choice. Adopting parents CHOOSE the child they adopt and in many cases, adopted children CHOOSE the parents who adopt them.

God CHOOSES us as his children. We CHOOSE God as our parent. This mutual choice signals a change in status, a change in relationship. There may be some people who think that the notion of adoption somehow lessens the relationship between parent and child, that somehow the bond of love isn’t as strong as it is between a child and their “real” parents, that a family formed by adoption isn’t a true family. But let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.

For those of you who don’t know, Kelly and I are adoptive parents. Our son Zach, is adopted. Kelly may not have given birth to him, he may not be our “natural” child; but from the moment we first held him, when he was less than an hour old, he has been ours. And I can’t imagine how it would be possible for us to love him any more than we do. I can’t imagine how much more “real” our family could be. In fact, there have actually been times when I have forgotten that he is adopted. Because the details of how we became a family don’t matter nearly as much as the fact that we are a family. We chose each other, just as God chooses each of us. We became a family by choice.

We often speak of the church as a family. Back in 1846, I’m sure that the members of NPMC even referred to each other as Brother and Sister, or since they likely spoke on German “Bruder” and “Schwester” The church as the family of God is that important and it is that literal. We come together, united by God’s love for us. We come together as the adopted- the CHOSEN children of a loving Father. Each one of us is loved- unconditionally and completely. Each one of us is loved- for who we are and loved into who we are called to become. And each one of us is called to love- to love God and to love each other. To love each other in the same way that we are loved.

And not only in the same way that we are loved by each other. For our love is human love, it is flawed and imperfect love. It is love that struggles to be patient and kind. It is love that doesn’t have much trouble with being envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It is an imperfect love. The love that we have for each other is not always the same as the love that God has for us. But the love that God has for us is the love that God wants us to have for each other. It is the love that Jesus COMMANDS us to have for each other. I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

So here we are. God’s family at NPMC. Chosen by God as his children, led by God’s spirit into his family. Here we are, loved by God- unconditionally and completely. And called by God to love each other in the same way. We are God’s family. And we want to love each other, even as God loves us. But it isn’t always easy. We can’t just say it and make it so. Because being a family can be difficult. Even the best of families have struggles. Being God’s family can be difficult, even the best of churches have struggles.

The church struggles to love. This church and ALL churches struggle to love. Even though God chooses us and we choose God. Even though we choose each other, we still struggle to love. We struggle when we insist on our own way. We struggle when we were are irritable and we resentful. We struggle when we are afraid. I think that this is the biggest source of our struggles. As a family and as a church family, we struggle when we are afraid. When we are afraid of the unknown, when we are afraid of things changing, when we are afraid of things being different. And when we are afraid, we can’t love. We can’t love God and we surely can’t love each other.

In his first letter, John says “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us.” It’s almost a vicious circle. We can’t love when we are afraid, there is no fear in love, but it is perfect love that casts out fear, we need to love to cast out our fears. And that’s where this whole idea of family comes in. We are called to love each other, even when we are afraid. You are called to love me when I am afraid and I am called to love you when you are afraid. We are called to love each other in spite of our fears. And we are called to love each other OUT of our fears. We are called to love each other with the same perfect love that God has for us.

We need to love each other out of our fears. When I say that I mean that we need to love each other so that we can help each other to overcome our fears. I can help you overcome your fears and you can help me overcome my fears. We can love each other into becoming who God has created us to be. Think for a moment about the people in this congregation. Think about someone who has loved you out of your fears and into who you are. It may have been someone like Mary Frances Sides, whose life we celebrated yesterday. Or it may have been someone sitting here right now, whose life we celebrate today. That is what a family is, that is what a church is, that is what we do. We love one another.

We need to be doing that now as much as we ever have. It is a scary time for the Church-capital “C” church. It seems harder now to be a Christian than it has been. There are so many things that challenge our faith, that shake our hope, that threaten our love. We are seeing the glory days of the church fade away. The church that our grandparents and parents knew and love has disappeared. The church that we remember from our childhood is gone. Things aren’t as they once were, things aren’t what we want them to be. We have many reasons to be afraid and we need to be loving each other out of our fears now as much as we ever have.

I started to say that we needed to be loving each other out of our fears now more than ever, but then I remember that this congregation has been through the Civil War, WWI, the Great Depression, WW2, Vietnam, 9/11. So as scary as it may seem today, we can also hold onto the hope that has seen this congregation through all of those dark and scary times. We can hold onto that hope and remember that as much as things around us have changed, still Jesus Christ is the same- yesterday, today, and forever.

That’s what this congregation has known for 171 years. We have known that Jesus is the same. Even as everything around us has changed, Jesus is the same. And through all of those changes, we have been loving each other. Even when it was hard to love each other, we have done it. Even when it is hard to love each other, we will do it. In that short history of our church, that’s printed in our bulletin, it reads “But once New Philadelphia got going it has never stopped.” We have never stopped loving each other, just as God loves us. Even when it was difficult, even when it was a struggle, our love has stayed strong. And our love will stay strong, even when it is difficult, even when it is a struggle.

This unending love- for God and for each other- is what allows us to get through the sufferings of the present time. It is what gets us to the glory that is about to be revealed to us. It is what gives us hope. “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

Those Moravians in “New” Philadelphia in 1846 didn’t know what the future would hold, they couldn’t see what was ahead of them. But they had hope. They had faith. They had love.They had the hope that comes with the knowledge that they were God’s children. They had faith in each other and in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. They had love- love for each other and love for God.

These Moravians here at New Philadelphia in 2017 don’t know what the future holds, we can’t see what lies ahead of us. But we too have hope, we have faith, and we have love. We have the hope that comes with the knowledge that we are God’s beloved children. We have faith in each other and in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We have love- love for each other and love for God. This bunch is different. We have never stopped and we will never stop. The past is behind us and the future lies before us and God is among us.


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Sermon – June 11, 2017 – Rev. Joe Moore, New Philadelphia Moravian

Last Sunday was a two-fer (two special occasions in one Sunday). It was Confirmation and Pentecost. Today is also a two-fer. We are celebrating Graduation Sunday and Trinity Sunday. Actually today is a three-fer since it is also the installation of our new DCE. And that’s even more appropriate for Trinity Sunday, this day in which we consider God in three persons; one in three and three in one; Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer; Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

It is joy to be able to gather as God’s people and celebrate. Last week, it was a true blessing to remember the birth of the church, when the Holy Spirit came upon the followers of Jesus and filled them with power that allowed them to become the Church. And it was a true blessing to see our young people confirm their belief in that same God- Father, Son, Holy Spirit. It was a true blessing to have them state their intention to be an active part of the Church, this church, as they live, love, and serve.

Today, we celebrate “comings and goings” as we welcome Evie Blum as our new Director of Christian Education and we say goodbye to our graduates, as they prepare to
go off to college and off to work. Both this Sunday and last Sunday have a surprising similarity. Our confirmands were marking a key transition in their lives and faith; our graduates are also marking a key transition in their lives and faith. Both come with much hard work, preparation, prayer; both come with lots of faith, lots of hope, and lots of love.

Our confirmation class last week and our graduates this week also have something in common with the disciples in today’s gospel lesson. We take a couple of steps back in the narrative from last week’s account from Acts, to the end of Matthew’s gospel. After finding the empty tomb and seeing the resurrected Jesus, Mary Magdalene took his message to the disciples that they were to return to Galilee, where they, too, would see him. So they did, they went to Galilee and found Jesus there. And they worshiped him, even though some doubted.

I’ve always found that interesting. “… but some doubted…” It’s almost a throw away line, getting overshadowed by the appearance of the resurrected Jesus and the “great commission” that he gives to his disciples. But it is too important to overlook. Far too often we, as Christians, feel ashamed when we have doubts. We don’t allow room for doubt, we are uncomfortable when do have doubt. This “throw-away” verse reminds us that it is okay to have doubts.

Even the disciples, who had been with Jesus, who had watched him die, who saw him Resurrected, even some of them had doubts. Faith without doubt wouldn’t be faith, hope without doubt wouldn’t be hope. Our faith is not a blind faith, but it is an examined faith, it is a studied faith, it is an educated faith. It is a faith that has been tested, questioned, and challenged. It is a faith that allows us to have considered all the reasons to believe, and all the reasons to NOT believe, and yet we still find ourselves believing. It’s okay to doubt, it strengthens our belief.

The eleven disciples meet the resurrected Jesus in Galilee. There they worship him (though some doubt). There Jesus says to them “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

These verses, the conclusion of Matthew’s gospel, provide a roadmap (or an action plan) for Christians. They tell us what to do as followers of Jesus, as members of the church. Whether we are newly baptized or have recently confirmed our faith, whether we are beginners or graduates, young or old, these verses in Matthew show us the way. They tell us what to do whether we are coming or whether we are going.

The disciples come to Galilee, they come to where Jesus tells them to come, to where Jesus wants them to be. We come to church, to where Jesus tells us to come, to where Jesus wants us to be. We come together as the church. The disciples worshipped God on that mountain in Galilee. They praised the risen Lord. “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” We worship God in this church. We praise the risen Lord. “O Lord, we praise your name, O Lord, we magnify your name, Prince of Peace, mighty God.”

The disciples come and worship and listen to Jesus. We come to church and worship and listen to Jesus. We hear Jesus speak to us in the words of Scripture. We listen to Jesus speak to us as we pray. We hear Jesus as we listen to each other sing the songs of faith.

The disciples come and worship and listen to Jesus and receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Though not as explicit as it is in Acts, it is clear that the disciples receive the power of the Holy Spirit as they gather in Galilee to worship and listen to Jesus. Otherwise they couldn’t do what he tells them to do. If they didn’t have the power and authority of the Holy Spirit, they couldn’t baptize and teach and make disciples of all nations. And we know that they did do that. Because we are here today. Having been baptized and taught and made into disciples of Jesus. We, too, have received the power of the Holy Spirit. And we are called to go and do the same for others.

The disciples came to Jesus and Jesus tells them to go into the world. We come to Jesus, we come to church, and we are told to go into the world. We are called to go into the world and to do what the disciples did, to make disciples of all nations, to baptize and teach. We are called to go in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We are invited to come, and then we are called to go. The first part is about us, it is about our needs. We need to worship because we need to respond to God’s presence in our lives. We need to listen to Jesus because we know the truth of his words, the power of his teaching. We need to be reminded of his love. We need to receive the Holy Spirit because we that is how we know God. It is how we feel his presence and experience his love. The first part, the invitation to come, is about our needs, our wants, our desires.

The second part, the call to go, is about others. It is about making disciples by sharing our knowledge of God. It is about baptizing them into the death (into the love) of Jesus. It is about teaching them through the power of the Holy Spirit about who God is, what Jesus did, and how the Holy Spirit does. We come in for ourselves and we go out for others.

However, sometimes we get stuck in the first part. We come in and we stay in. We focus on ourselves and on our needs. We can all understand the desire to stay where we are. Our graduates, as excited as they are about having graduated, I’m sure that they are also a little bit nervous and anxious about what comes next- about leaving the place where they are comfortable, where they are at home. But they know that they can’t do that. If they want to continue to grow, if they want to fully become who God has created them to be, they must go.

And we must go. We must go out into the world and make disciples. We must go and baptize. We must go and teach. As the church, we gather for worship, we come and listen to Jesus, we receive the power of the Holy Spirit. And now let us go. Let us go and share what we have- our faith in God our Creator, the love of Jesus our Redeemer, and the power of the Holy Spirit our Sustainer.

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Sermon – June 4, 2017 – Rev. Joe Moore

Today is Confirmation Sunday. At the 11:10 service, 8 young people will confirm their faith in God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit- and they will state their desire to follow God with faith, love, and hope. This year’s Confirmation Class has been meeting together for several months as we talked about who God is, what God does, and how God calls us to respond. It has been a joy for me to be with them and lead them in this part of their faith journey.

One of the things that I love about teaching Confirmation is getting to choose each kids Confirmation text. It is something that I give a lot of thought and prayer as I try to find the perfect Scripture to serve as their own personal watchword, as a passage that they can keep in their hearts and minds as they go through their lives. Hopefully the texts that I have chosen for this year’s confirmands will be as meaningful and memorable to them as my Confirmation Text is to me. On Palm Sunday 1983, Craig Troutman gave me Philippians 1:6 as my Confirmation text- I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

Over the years, as I have taught confirmation, I will often also choose a Confirmation Text for the class as a whole; a text that serves to capture the experience of the class as they came together and formed their own unique community, a text that really says something about them, about who they are and where they are in their life and faith as a group. I remember one class at Fries Memorial that left me no other choice for a Confirmation Text than that shortest verse in the Bible- John 11:35 “Jesus wept.” But that was all in good fun, they didn’t really cause Jesus to weep, at least they hadn’t at that point in their lives. It was also easy for me to choose a text for this Confirmation Class- “Be still and know that I am God.”

Now, you may chuckle and think that I choose that text for this class because they had trouble “being still” and while that may have been the situation at times, it is not why I chose that as the class Confirmation verse. One of the things that we did every week was to think about, and talk about, the ways that we had seen God at work among us, how we had experienced the presence of God as we went about our lives- moment by moment, day to day. We even had a group text message that we would use to share those times that we had seen and experienced God’s presence.

But it wasn’t always easy. It is often hard to be aware of how God is present and working in our lives. That is why we need to “be still” and pay attention to what is going on around us, to allow us to know that God is God and God is present with us. “Be still and know that I am God.” is one of God’s ways of telling us to “Pay Attention.” That’s what Pentecost is about. It’s about God telling us to pay attention. The followers of Jesus had gathered, after his crucifixion and death, after his resurrection and ascension, they were all together in one place. And God told them to pay attention. It wasn’t in a silent, peaceful, reflective, “be still and know” kind of way. But more like a shout of “Hey! This is important!” The sound of a rushing wind filled the place and tongues of fire appeared and rested over each one of them. And they were suddenly able to speak in languages that they had never spoken before.

And that was a pretty good way to get people’s attention. It was a pretty good way of letting people know that something important was happening. It was a pretty good way to let them know that the Holy Spirit was among them. I imagine that if the same thing happened here this morning- if the sanctuary was filled with a rushing wind, if tongues of fire appeared on each of us, if we suddenly began speaking in languages we had never spoken before, I think that we would pay attention.

Pentecost was when it all came together for those followers of Jesus, it was when they became the “church”. It was when they realized that God was with them- God the Creating Father, God the Redeeming Son, God the Blessing Spirit. It was when they knew that they had all that they needed to do what God was calling them to do- what God had created them to do, what Jesus had redeemed them to do, what the Holy Spirit would bless them as they did, it was when they knew that they had all that they needed to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Pentecost and Confirmation is when it all comes together for us, too. It is when we are reminded to Pay Attention, for the Spirit is among us. It is when we are reminded
to Pay Attention, for God is creating, God is redeeming, God is blessing — right here and right now. We are called to pay attention to what God is creating, to who God is redeeming, to how God is blessing. God creates in faith, God redeems with love, God blesses in hope. God’s faith is in us, God’s love is for us, God’s hope rests upon us. God is here- God is creating. God is here- God is redeeming. God is here- God is blessing. God is among us, God is calling us, God needs us. And God is blessing us with all that WE need- to be who He has created us to be, to become who He has redeemed us to become, to do what He has blessed us to do. God is here. So Pay Attention.

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“Ride On! Ride On…”
Palm Sunday April 9, 2017  
Pastor Joe Moore

Today has been a Sunday that I have been anticipating for a long time. I just love Palm Sunday. It is one of the most joyful days of the year. It ranks right up there with Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday. So I was all geared up to preach a resounding, upbeat, joyful Palm Sunday sermon today.

I mean, how could I not be? Just look at this place! It is amazing how it has been changed from our beautiful sanctuary into a beautiful prayer garden. It is the perfect place for us to celebrate the coming of our Lord and Savior. Today, of all days is a time to focus on the joy; the joy of Palm Sunday, the joy of welcoming our Savior, the joy of preparing the way of the Lord, the joy of singing Hosanna! Blessed is he that comes!

For weeks now, I have been ready to “rejoice greatly” and “shout for joy” as we welcomed our Savior into our midst. And up until now, throughout all of this service, I was really feeling it. From the band prelude gathering us for worship, to the music of our choirs, to praying our Palm Sunday liturgy- “Sing O heavens and be joyful O earth for the glory of the Lord shall be revealed!” Hail to the Lord’s Anointed!, to welcoming new members into our church family, right up to hearing that familiar story of Jesus’ triumphant, yet humble, entry into Jerusalem. I was really feeling that joy!

Until just a couple of minutes ago, as we sang that last hymn, Ride On! Ride on in Majesty! It is one of my favorites, I can’t imagine Palm Sunday without it. But it’s not exactly joyful. It’s melancholy at best, and maybe even a bit depressing. The tune is beautiful but certainly not joyful. And the words…

Ride on! Ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die;
O Christ your triumphs now begin o’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on! Ride on in majesty! The winged armies of the sky
look down with sad and wond’ring eyes to see the approaching sacrifice.

Ride on! Ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die;
bow your meek head to mortal pain, then take, O God, your power and reign.

As powerful and beautiful as they are, they make me, in the middle of this Palm Sunday joy, wonder about Jesus. I wonder about what he was thinking and feeling as he rode down the Mount of Olives. Riding on and seeing the crowds so excited by his arrival, so filled with hope and promise and anticipation and joy. Riding on and knowing that in order to meet their hopes and fulfill that promise, to live up to the anticipation and make their joy complete, it would require his death.

Riding on knowing that he would have to capture death (his own death) before he could conquer sin, the sins of the people around him and even the sins of all the world. Riding on knowing that even the angels in heaven couldn’t save him and sadly wondering why it was all necessary. Wondering why he must be the sacrifice for them, for all those following behind him. Riding on and seeing his cross and his death, his brutal and painful and humiliating death, and knowing that it was necessary before he could take his power and reign.

I wonder what that was like for him. It couldn’t have been fun or joyful, for Jesus knew where he was going. He knew where that procession would ultimately lead. But I wonder if he knew then what we know now. I think that he probably did. He told his disciples what would happen, that he would rise again after three days. But still I wonder if, riding on in majesty, riding on to his death, I wonder if his humanity got in the way of his divinity.

I wonder if he wondered, whether it would really happen, if he really would rise after three days. By then he knew that his death was inevitable but did he know that his resurrection was as well? Jesus was, as Paul wrote, in the form of God though he did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Did he fully and completely believe that once he humbled himself, to the point of death, that God would then exalt him and raise him from death to eternal life? Riding on into Jerusalem could he see past the cross and the grave to the empty tomb? Could he see his Father on his sapphire throne awaiting him? Maybe he could. Maybe he had full and complete confidence that he would rise from death.

That confidence, if it is there at all, seems to falter as the week goes on, as he draws closer to the cross. Just before his arrest, Jesus prays in the garden, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” Certainly that request could be more about the fear of the pain of crucifixion than about any doubts of resurrection. Whatever it is about, it serves as a great reminder to us. It reminds us that Jesus was human, just like us; that he had doubts and fears, just like us; that he felt pain and sorrow, just like us. Yet, even though he was just like us, he rode on, rode on in majesty.

Jesus knew where he was heading, he knew where the journey would end. And he rode on anyway. In lowly pomp, he rode on to die. He rode on to approach the cross as the sacrifice, not for his sins, but for ours. He rode on and bowed his head to mortal pain. Despite his doubts and fears, despite the pain and sorrow he knew was waiting for him, Jesus rode on.

That is indeed reason for us to celebrate today, to celebrate with great joy. The fact that Jesus loved us, and all the world, so much, that he rode on is great cause to celebrate. For Jesus knew that everyone would desert him, betray him and deny him. And he still rode on! That is the paradox of Palm Sunday- that sorrow underlies the joy, that there is fear beside the hope, that death accompanies life. It is why the rest of Holy Week is so important.

We could easily go from the anticipatory joy of Palm Sunday to the overwhelming joy of Easter Sunday and miss all that comes in between. We could go from “Hosanna, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!” to “the Lord is risen indeed!” … just like that. However that would be kind of like reading the first and last chapters of a book or watching the beginning and end of a movie, while skipping everything that happens in between.

Doing so during Holy Week, we would miss out on some of the most important teachings, some of the most important events in Jesus’ life. It’s no accident that right after Jesus says “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites” and proceeds to tell them why they are hypocrites, it’s no accident that right after that, he tells them what they should be doing instead: feeding the hungry and giving water to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger and clothing the naked, caring for the sick and visiting the prisoners, doing for the “least of these”. It’s no accident that Jesus is sitting in the Jerusalem temple, just days away from his betrayal and arrest, his crucifixion and death, when he says that the greatest commandments are to love God and to love your neighbor. All of this is why Holy Week is important, it reminds us why we don’t want to miss out on all that happens in between Palm Sunday and Easter. The word “holy” means to be set apart. And the days of this coming week are meant to be holy and set apart. It is why we have set our sanctuary apart from its normal appearance and transformed it into this beautiful prayer garden. So that we can have a place to come as we set this week apart from our daily routines and schedules and we make time to come and worship. It is place that we can meet as we journey from Palm Sunday to Easter. It is where we can come and ride on with Jesus into all that lies before us- the sorrow and the joy, the fear and the hope, the death and the life.

Brothers and Sisters, let us set apart this holy week and ride on with Jesus. Let us be here, with him and with each other.

Ride on! Ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die;
O Christ your triumphs now begin o’er captive death and conquered sin.

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New Philadelphia Moravian Church is seeking a Church Organist. The organist is expected to be experienced in playing for choir and congregational singing. The organist must be routinely available to play on Sundays from 8:30 to 12:30 and accompany adult choir rehearsals on Monday (7:00-8:30) and Wednesday (7:00-8:30) evenings. Send inquiries to Rev. Joe Moore; email or call (336)765-2331.

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Transfiguration Sunday – February 26, 2017
“Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes” Rev. Joe Moore


It has taken awhile but I’m finally starting to feel comfortable preaching from up here in this high pulpit. Like almost everything else involved with coming here to New Philadelphia, it was a big change. Only once had I ever preached from such a high pulpit. When I was in seminary, serving as the student pastor at Nazareth Moravian, their sanctuary had a pulpit that was probably even higher up than this one. It was rarely used. But on one Sunday, when I was going to be preaching, the pastor told me that I needed to try out preaching from the high pulpit. He said, You never know, you might end up serving a church that has a high pulpit.” And here I am.


Like most changes, even insignificant ones, it seems daunting at first, but then with time, you begin to adjust, you begin to get used to it, you start to feel comfortable. Today is Transfiguration Sunday and it is a Sunday about change, specifically about change in appearance. One year, I even kind of had my own transfiguration Sunday, though it didn’t happen on the actual Transfiguration Sunday” it did happen on an important Sunday about 7 Sundays later. My transfiguration Sunday was Easter Sunday 2015.


That Easter was a big one for me. Earlier in the year, I was elected the Chair of the Salem Congregation Board of Elders. Among other things, that meant that I got to preside at the Easter Sunrise Service in God’s Acre. Having grown up attending that service, and having several generations of my family buried in that cemetery, it was a pretty big thrill for me to get to lead that service. But after leading 8,000 people in proclaiming the resurrection, it was a bit anticlimactic to lead the morning worship at Fries Moravian. So I decided to make a little change.


So, are you ready for this? On Easter Sunday, I wore a bow tie for the first time ever. Now that may seem insignificant but for me, it was a big deal. I had spent years rolling my eyes whenever I saw someone sporting a bow tie. I just didn’t like them and thought that they looked kind of silly. They definitely weren’t for me. Until that Easter Sunday when I decided to transform my appearance by sporting a bow tie. And I can’t really tell you why I changed my mind about bow ties. I can’t really give you a reason why I changed that part of my appearance but I can tell you that I liked it enough to keep on wearing bow ties. I haven’t really worn one here because I’m not sure how it would look with a preaching robe. But I still wear them when I can.  So change, even in something as trivial as me wearing a bow tie, can happen.


Change may take a long time to come about, or it may be instantaneous but when it happens it can be good and it can be lasting. In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus is transfigured”. He is changed. His appearance changes. It begins as he takes Peter, James and John up on a mountaintop to pray. While they are there, while Jesus was praying, his appearance changes. His face becomes different. His clothes become dazzling white. And he just looks different.


While there is more to the story the fact that Jesus changes is the essence of Transfiguration Sunday. That is what it is all about. That is why we call it the Transfiguration.” That is what transfiguration means. It is a change in appearance that signifies more than a physical change. It is also a spiritual change. Actually, the physical change is just a sign of the spiritual change.


Think about that for a second: Jesus (the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God) Jesus himself underwent a spiritual change. I think that sometimes that idea kind of gets lost or overlooked in this story. We tend to focus on the physical change in Jesus–the altered appearance and dazzling white clothes- or on the sudden appearance of Moses and Elijah. Or even on the reactions of Peter, James and John; Peter wanting to build a shelter so that they could stay there forever. Or we focus on the voice of God, speaking from the cloud: This is my Son, the beloved, listen to him!” We focus on all of those important, amazing and exciting parts of this story. And, when we do, we overlook what it is really all about: that Jesus himself experienced a spiritual change.


The Gospel doesn’t go into the details of the spiritual change Jesus experienced. We don’t know the what or the why of the change that took place within him- the spiritual change that was seen in his transfigured appearance. But we do know that a change happened. And we know that very soon after Jesus was transfigured, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Prior to this moment, he had spent most of his ministry in and around Galilee. It was there, away from the center of religious and political power, where he preached and taught and healed. It was there where he proclaimed the coming of the kingdom- where the meek will inherit the earth, where the deaf will hear, where the blind will see, where the world is turned upside down.


Jesus had been there and he had done that. And now he was transfigured, he was spiritually changed. His face was set and he was ready to go and accomplish” what he needed to do in Jerusalem. He was ready to enter the city in humble triumph, to cleanse the Temple and confront the Pharisees. Jesus was ready to share a last supper with his disciples and to tell them to take his body and blood and to ask them to remember him in them. Jesus was even ready for Judas to betray him and lead his enemies to him to arrest him. He was ready for his trial before the Chief Priests and Pilate. He was even ready for his crucifixion.


After Jesus was transfigured, after that spiritual change had occurred, JESUS WAS READY. He was ready to die and rise to new life. And we all know what happened when he did. So, what about us? Are we ready? Are we ready to be transfigured? To be spiritually changed? To be transformed? Are we ready to die to our old lives and rise to new life?


We may think that we don’t need to be changed, to be transformed. But if it was necessary for Jesus, then it is probably necessary for us. And while we don’t know the what and the why of Jesus’ transformation, the what and they why of our transformation is easy to see:  we need to change to be more like him. We need to change to be more like Jesus.


As followers of Jesus, we are called to live our lives in such a way that when people look at us, they see Jesus. They see grace. They see forgiveness. They see compassion. They see faith. They see hope. They see love. So the change that needs to take place within us, the transformation that needs to occur, is for us to live as imitators of Jesus.”


Living our lives as imitators of Jesus is what the weeks to come are all about. The season of Lent, which begins on Wednesday, it is a time for us to examine ourselves. It is an opportunity for us to determine the what and the why of our own spiritual change. It is a chance for us to begin our own transfiguration. We do so as we ask ourselves what we need to do to be imitators of Christ, as we examine what we need to change so that we can be more like Jesus. The season of Lent is the time for us to set our face to Jerusalem” It is when we confront  those things  in our lives that we need to allow to die, in order for God to bring new life.


The next six weeks give us the chance to change to be more like Jesus. It may seem daunting at first, the idea that we can change to be more like Jesus. It may be something that we even resist. Being like Jesus looks like it is something that is hard to do. Living like Jesus looks like it is something that is hard to do. Loving like Jesus looks like it is something that is hard to do. Serving like Jesus looks like something that is hard to do. Can we serve others before we even take care of our own needs? Because that is how Jesus served. Can we love unconditionally? Because that is how Jesus loved. Can we live, not for what we want but for what God wants? Because that is how Jesus lived.


Those are tough questions. They represent changes that are difficult for us to even see, much less for us to make in our lives. But that is what the season of Lent allows us to do. It allows to see how we need to change to be like Jesus. During the next six weeks, the time between now and Easter, we have opportunity for prayer and reflection. We have the chance to study and learn. We have the chance to worship and serve. We have the chance to change to be more like Jesus.


Change is not easy. Transformation is hard. And it can’t be done alone, we need each other to help each other as we change and grow. The day of my transfiguration”,  that Easter Sunday when I wore my first bow tie,  there was one thing that I didn’t tell you about it. But I needed help to do it. I couldn’t tie my bow tie. I watched videos online and I tried and I tried and I tried. And I came close but never got it quite right. So I asked for help. I brought my bow tie to church and one of the church members helped me to tie it.


That’s important to remember.  No matter what change that we need to make in our lives. No matter what it is that we need to do to be more like Jesus. No matter how hard it is to do that, there are people who have already done it. People right here in this church. And they can help us. We can help each other. That is one of the reasons that God has brought us together.


As we enter into the season of Lent, let us set our faces to Jerusalem. Let us get ready. Let us get ready to change, so that we can be more like Jesus. So that we can live like Jesus, so that we can love like Jesus, so that we can serve like Jesus. The only way to be it is to do it. It is time to face the strange” things in our lives, those things that prevent us from revealing the image of God that dwells in each of us. It is time to face the changes that we need to make. It is time for us become imitators of Jesus. It is time for our transfiguration.

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Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017 – Home Moravian
Sister Fran Saylor
10 a.m. Coffee Hour
10:45 a.m. Music
11 a.m. Worship, Nursery Provided

Sunday, March 5, 2017 – Christ Moravian
Rev. Kelly Moore
2 p.m. Lovefeast, Nursery Provided

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 – Trinity Moravian
Dr. Debbie Norris Lanier
11 a.m. Worship

Wednesday, March 15 – Ardmore Moravian
Dr. Robert Shackleford
9:45 a.m. Coffee Hour
10:45 a.m. Music
11 a.m. Worship, Nursery Provided

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 – Calvary Moravian
Rev. Dr. Nola Knouse
9:45 a.m. Coffee Hour
11 a.m. Worship, Nursery Provided

Wednesday, March 29, 2017 – Fairview Moravian
Rev. Dr. David Marcus
10:30 a.m. Band Prelude
11 a.m. Worship with Communion, Nursery Provided

Wednesday, April 5, 2017 – Konnoak Hills Moravian
Rt. Rev. Dr. Graham Rights
11 a.m. Lovefeast

April 9 – Palm Sunday
April 14 – Good Friday
April 16 – Easter Sunday

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