Annual Cookie Walk Fundraiser
Category: News

Youth will be hosting their annual Cookie Walk Fundraiser on Sunday, December 22nd.  Homemade cookies will be for sale for $7.00 per pound in Fellowship Hall after both services.



"Swords into Plowshares"
Category: Sermons
Tags: Sermon 12/1/13
Isaiah 2:1-5
“Swords into Plowshares”
December 1, 2013
                What I'm holding is not exactly a sword beaten into a plowshare, but it sort of follows those lines.  It’s a bell, a little jingle bell made of brass.  It used to be tied with a red and green string.  Very festive!  Once upon a time, however, it was something else.  Metal, after all, is a great thing.  It can be recycled over and over, sometimes for centuries.  The silver in a filling in your tooth may once have been part of a coin – a Roman denarius or a Dutch ducatoon.  This brass was part of a shell casing that was fired in Cambodia during the murderous reign of the Khmer Rouge.  Now it’s a bell.
            There are a couple of ways of looking at that.  On the one hand, it might seem a little creepy.  Here is something that, if it did not harm someone, was manufactured so that it could have done that.  Maybe it did.  I don’t know.  On the other hand, here it is, and it isn’t hurting anyone anymore; it couldn’t, in this form.  In fact, if you just saw it somewhere used as a decoration, it might catch your eye in a pleasant way.  A baby might get a big smile from playing with it, or it might be a good addition to a cat’s collar. 
Is it good or is it bad?  That all depends upon how it is used.  Human abilities and human technology of all sorts can be turned to good or turned to evil ends.  The same skill that makes a sword can make a plow.  The same long pole can be fitted with a spear point or a pruning hook.  Back in March the people of Boston learned, as we all did, that something as innocent as a pressure cooker could be turned into a bomb.  On a larger scale, uranium can be put into reactors or missiles. 
It’s the human heart that guides the mind that guides the hand where the difference begins.  It is in the human heart where God acts and where we respond that the ways even of nations are determined.
It’s an old-fashioned way of thinking, according to historians, to put a heavy emphasis on the private decisions of individuals, but there’s no doubt in my mind that part of God’s plan for the redemption of the world from its slavery to what Paul called “the law of sin and of death” [Romans 8:2] was that the minds of world leaders, no less than others’, would be transformed and turned away from quick resort to force.  The prophet Isaiah foresaw a time when
“Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” [Isaiah 2:3-5]
And it does make a difference whether certain people are reluctant or eager to seek peace.  Michael Dobbs, who has written extensively on the history of the Cold War, says that during the Cuban Missile Crisis
“The uniformed military, including Taylor and Gen. Curtis LeMay, the legendary Air Force chief, were unanimously in favor of air strikes followed up by an invasion.  What they did not know at the time was that the Soviet forces on Cuba were equipped with 98 tactical nuclear weapons that could have been used to wipe out an American invading force or the United States naval base at Guantánamo.  The use of these weapons on Cuba could quickly have escalated to an all-out nuclear war.”[1]
It was a hard call at the time, but when he chose blockade over invasion, he probably preserved civilization as we know it.
            We, as God’s people, as followers of the one we call the Prince of Peace, can and should hold in constant prayer the people who have the capacity, by their decisions, to decide between swords and plowshares.  In a democracy, when we choose our leaders, the people whom we entrust with powers of life and death, one of the questions that we should consider is whether they are people who at least hold a peaceful world as an ideal. 
            We are also here to hold them, as far as we are able, accountable for the decisions that they make, and to remind them that there are real, live people who experience the consequences of their policies.  Later in the service we’re going to sing “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, which is based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  I say, “based on” because some of his original poem, called “Christmas Bells” is left out when it is sung.  In 1861, Longfellow’s wife had died of burns sustained when her dress caught fire and then, two years later his son enlisted in the Army without his father’s permission and was sent off to the front lines of the Civil War, where he was wounded on a battlefield in Virginia.  We sing,
“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
            And wild and sweet
            The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
We don’t sing the most agonized stanzas:
“Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
            And with the sound
            The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
            And made forlorn
            The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Even the most justifiable of wars, the fight to end slavery, or a later war to end the genocidal tyranny that gripped Europe and Asia, takes its toll on those who fight and those who are left behind.  People who deal with large questions sometimes (not always, but sometimes) forget that.  Maybe part of our calling is to remind them.
            Isaiah’s great vision of how the nations will one day follow the paths of peace concludes with a word, not to the great empires of the day nor even to the king of Israel (who, incidentally, seems to have been Isaiah’s cousin, so he could easily have addressed him directly).  No, he speaks to the people as a whole.
“O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”  [Isaiah 2:5]
If we do not ourselves live as people of peace, if we ourselves don’t choose the plow over the sword, we have no right to fault others for doing what we do.  That’s why the church looks at questions like whether any funds that we hold end up invested in arms manufacturers, and why we get behind campaigns to ask parents not to buy children war toys for Christmas.  (Picture, if you will, a G.I. Joe holding a rocket launcher in the manger of a nativity scene.  If there’s a discrepancy, that says something right there.)  It’s why we take seriously the deep, spiritual wounds that warfare inflicts even on those who come through combat physically unscathed, who sometimes have to hear a message from the bell towers, over and over:
“Then rang the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.
            The wrong shall fail,
            The right prevail
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”
And so,
“O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”  [Isaiah 2:5]

[1] In the New York Times “Times Topics” (Cuban Missile Crisis)  http://www.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/c/cuban_missile_crisis/index.html
Great Lakes Scrip Program
Category: News

THANK YOU to ALL who have supported our Scrip Program. As of October 31st, we have raised over $6000.00 which will go towards the planning of a new kitchen!


Christmas is just around the corner and with a little bit of planning, this is a wonderful gift for that special someone. We have also stocked those cards that are needed for Bridge of Hope. So stop by and see what we're all about.


If you're not aware of what we're about, or aren't sure what gift cards are available, stop in the lounge after church on a Sunday morning and there will be someone for you to talk with. We take orders Sunday mornings, after each worship service. The cards are available for you to pick up the following Sunday at the Scrip table. There are also many cards that we carry each week for you to pick up on the spot.

Category: News

There are only 26 more shopping days ‘til Christmas! Lots of that shopping will occur online, especially on Cyber Monday, December 2. A new online shopping portal called “UMC Market” can help out members get their shopping done easily AND put money for mission in the hands of your church.

UMC Market (www.umcmarket.org) was created by the United Methodist Church in partnership with major online retailers. By using UMC Market to make your purchases from partner retailers, entitle your church to receive commissions of 1-9% of your online purchases made through the UMC Market site.

UMCmarket Presentation
UMCmarket Presentation

Our church is already benefiting! Spread the word so even more donations come rolling into our congregation. Encourage your friends to create an account, designate our church as the recipient of the commission checks and shop at some great retailers such as Amazon.com, Macys.com and Expedia.com using their UMC Market membership. UMC Market even provides a Web browser add-on that members can download to make the process of shopping via UMC Market practically invisible.
Visit www.umcmarket.org for a detailed explanation of how the system works and how easy it is for our church members to give to our church without costing them a single penny. What makes this online shopping option so beneficial is that church members don’t have to radically change their buying habits - and it doesn’t create additional work for church staff.

Please note that for Phoenixville First, funds received with this program will be directed to our general budget, and not the Building Campaign like we have established with the Great Lakes Scrip program.  Furthermore, in many situations, the Great Lakes Scrip program often results in a slightly higher donation % than the UMCMarket.org program.

Advent Begins December 1
Category: News


The theme for our Advent worship this year is “Peace”: peace among nations, peace with creation, peace with one another, and (above all) peace with God. 

A booklet for daily devotions has been put together and will be available throughout December.  The Hanging of the Greens will be celebrated at 4:00 on December 8, the children will present a pageant called “Where’s Baby Jesus?” at 9:30 on December 15, and the choir will present a cantata at 8:30 and 10:45 on December 22.

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