Columns & Blogs


By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 6/1/2010

Somewhere around the middle of the second decade of life, a syndrome of forgetfulness overtakes many humans.  Let us call it adolescent amnesia.

Faith Matters - Jubilee

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 5/1/2010

Even after several years and a lot of miles, Chuck Johns still wonders why he was the recipient of a random act of kindness on The Massachusetts Turnpike. A random act? Maybe not!

Faith Matters - Unnatural Acts

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 4/1/2010
Topics: Faith Matters

 Have you ever noticed how somethings stick in your mind, while things you need to remember can be hard to recall? Chuck Johns has, and writes about one of those things that has hung on for years regarding doing good and using what God has given.

Faith Matters - In the Dark

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 3/1/2010
Topics: Faith Matters

The lights went out.  Chuck Johns compares a power outage he remembers in upstate New York in 1965, with that of one that St. Luke remembered in Jerusalem.

Faith Matters - Tour Guide

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 2/1/2010
Topics: Faith Matters

A little child thinks the well-soaked Jesus “looks scared” in a picture of Jesus at his baptism. A child senses the fear in this placid river scene. Do we fear our journey through the wilderness of faith? Chuck Johns assures us we can count on our "Tour Guide" to see us through.

I WONDER AS I WANDER . . . EPIPHANY: Season for Recognition and Moving Outward

By: Bishop Susan Hassinger on 1/13/2010

 Bishop Susan Hassinger offers insight into discussions at a recent extended area cabinet gathering. She writes that as part of that time, "We considered, as we worshiped together and sought God’s guidance, where were the bright stars among us that were lighting the way to the Christ, and to the future.  We reflected on those pastors and congregations and communities where new moving outward of the gospel message was happening, or where we were seeing the potential for that to happen."

She shares the characteristics used to identify those situations and invites pastors and local church leaders to look at your congregations in this way. 

Faith Matters - True Compass

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 1/1/2010
Topics: Faith Matters

A Christmas gift sends Chuck traveling down the road, examining wants and wishes versus what is really needed.

Faith Matters - Hopes and Fears

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 12/1/2009
Topics: Faith Matters

What are the hopes and fears of all the years?  We could sit with yellow pad and pencil. Parallel columns. Hopes and fears. We could fill a page. It is probably a useful exercise to review the distance between the place from which we have come and the place to which we are going.

I WONDER AS I WANDER . . . ADVENT 2009: Anticipating "God's Renewed Creation"

By: Bishop Susan Hassinger on 11/17/2009

At the recent Council of Bishops meeting, this semi-annual global gathering of United Methodist Bishops, active and retired, adopted unanimously a pastoral letter which we are asking every congregation to hear during the season of Advent.  The theme of the pastoral letter is “God’s Renewed Creation: Call to Hope and Action,” and is the result of more than four years of study and listening to many persons and groups around the world. Bishop Susan Hassinger shares her thoughts on the letter and urges churches to use it and supporting documents in worship during Advent and in study in the new year.

Faith Matters - But Not Religious

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 11/1/2009
Topics: Faith Matters

 Spirituality, like an iceberg, is more hidden than revealed. But, on the other hand, I have always believed that spirituality reveals itself in discipleship. If I never move from the silence, and if I never do anything with the parable, then my spirituality is incomplete.  If I leave the cathedral unchanged, I am just another tourist. And so it is a puzzle to me to know what to make of the current popular expression, “I am spiritual, but I am not religious.”

Faith Matters - Free Lunch

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 10/1/2009
Topics: Faith Matters

A friend sits across a lunch table and empties an overflowing heart. Nearing the end of her long and painful story, she finally says to me, “You know, when all of these things went wrong in my life, I thought it might help if I went to church. So I started. I came for quite a while. But my problems did not go away. My life did not get any better. Everything was just as bad as before. I figured, what’s the use? So I stopped coming. 

It is not as hard to follow Jesus when all is well, when we eat our fill of bread and fish, when we are healthy, the kids are in the Honor Society, we are blessed by a happy marriage, we like our job, and we have a few bucks under the mattress. But what happens when the locusts ride in on a cold night wind and devour the crops?

My reading of the Gospel does not reveal any guarantee of rescue, although God’s grace can and does afford it. It does not promise another free lunch, although life-transforming grace surely is free. I read about the promise of presence and possibility. I read of the bread of life that feeds the deepest human hunger for meaning and the wine that quenches the hidden thirst for life eternal. I read about the gift of a peace which remains after the locust’s work is done. 


Faith Matters - Playing with Fire

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 9/1/2009
Topics: Faith Matters

I did a double take. I was sure that my eyes were having me on. It has happened before, of course. It could just be a variation on the mistaken identity that regularly inflicts aging eyes. Settling back into the cushioned pulpit furniture after the processional, I was strategically positioned to get an unobstructed view of the back of the pulpit. Being an occasional visitor to chancels, I get to see the preacher side of pulpits now and again. This time I looked once, twice, three times. This was a new one on me.

Sure enough, upon closer scrutiny, my first impression was accurate: it was a fire extinguisher. My mind went wandering off into a flight of fancy as to the reason for a fire extinguisher in the pulpit. 

Driving to my next stop, I was kidnapped by that fire extinguisher. The more I thought about it, the more I felt that having a fire extinguisher pulpit-side could well be understood as a statement of faith about what can happen in worship. Perhaps the fire extinguisher should be regularly and prominently placed upon the communion table for all to see. Let it be a reminder of the Holy Fire upon whom we call in our prayers.  

Center Lines - August 2009

By: Reverend Mark Marino on 8/4/2009
Topics: Center Lines

 A recent e-mailing from the Alban Institute included a piece adapted from Pathway to Renewal: Practical Steps for Congregations by Daniel P. Smith and Mary K. Sellon (© 2008 by the Alban Institute).  The article’s theme dovetails nicely with our emphases on best spiritual practices and re-thinking how we “do” church.  I am happy to share a shortened version with you as we continue along the journey of our local churches preparing to share their gifts, graces, people and ministries with new conferences in New York and Pennsylvania.  I hope you find it helpful.

Faith Matters - Packing Mercies

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 8/1/2009
Topics: Faith Matters

One Sunday not so long ago, the congregation was responding to the pastor’s invitation to announce joys and concerns. Near the end of the time, a hand went up a few rows in front of me and a woman asked for “packing mercies”. It was the pastor’s spouse. The pastor had been appointed to a new congregation. The moving van would arrive in a few weeks. A ripple of knowing laughter skittered across the sanctuary.  

Her remark set my mind chasing after memories of the fourteen moves in my own odyssey. It was a moment of empathy that had roots in my own moves sustained by prayer as well as sweat and tears. The prayer request transported me to the tape dispensers, colored markers, newsprint bundles and dozens of sturdy cartons begged from the Wine and Spirits Shop. An unknowing visitor in the parsonage at either end of the move might well be startled by the colorful boxes that were formerly home to a variety of non-Wesleyan beverages.   

Matthew reports that Jesus’ traveling instructions to the disciples as he sent them to the house of Israel was that they travel very lightly: no gold, no copper, no bag, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff. Sounds like little more than the clothes on their backs.

Faith Matters - No Small Change

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 7/1/2009
Topics: Faith Matters

We do not know much, but we know what is unfair. One of our most highly developed inherited traits, passed down from our Eden ancestors, is a particularly keen awareness of when we have been unfaired against.

We respond pretty much the way the hearers must have responded as Matthew reports Jesus’ parable. The caprice of the landowner, paying all workers the same, strikes everyone as bizarre, even though that caprice is generous, even extravagant. Jesus, master teacher, elicits from his hearers and from us the response he desires: “it’s not fair."

The depth and complexity of any parable defies a single interpretation. Here we can place ourselves within the story and stand with the landowner or the laborers. From where we stand, we respond accordingly. However, this is a parable for disciples, for only disciples can have any chance whatsoever of entering upon the deeper meaning. One group receives their just wage and the other group receives an undeserved gift.

Center Lines - June 2009

By: Reverend Mark Marino on 6/17/2009
Topics: Center Lines

Our annual conference concluded its penultimate (next to the last) session on Saturday, June 6.  It was a year of looking back over our 158 year history and looking ahead to the two new conferences of which we will be a part next year.  As always at annual conference there were moments of celebration and joy and there were moments of frustration and angst. 

Celebrations and joys fire us up and excite us about new possibilities.  Frustrations and angsts can leave us despondent about the future, so much so that we might overlook new insights and new learnings.  In these brief thoughts below my focus is an area of our life that we may have passed over too quickly in Scranton or that we did not fully grasp.  The area is finance.  A  fuller understanding of our conference’s finances can turn frustration and angst into- if not celebration and joy- then at least hopeful promise for what lies ahead.

Faith Matters - Passenger

By: Reverend Chuck Johns on 6/1/2009

I am not an atheist. I can't remember a time in my life when that was a se rious consideration. From time to time I have read the travel brochures, but I have never been tempted to purchase a ticket. Time out of mind, I booked pas sage on another ship on which I have been traveling my whole life. Before I knew what it was to know, inclinations were planted within me that, when the time was right, led me to the ticket agent and, for an exchange of considerations, I boarded and found my seat with the others.

If opinion research is to be believed, it is a ship with many passengers. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Americans say that they are on board. Polls reveal that about 90 percent of our fellow citizens say they believe in God. To be sure, the polls also reveal that only about 36 percent of that same group attends worship at least once each month. The current cliché is “I am spiritual but not religious.” Belief is one thing, behavior is an other, spirit and flesh ever the uneasy companions.  

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