March Pastor’s Pen

March Pastor's Pen

When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. Acts 2:1-2 CSB

 

I didn’t sleep well last night. I fell asleep without a problem. Staying asleep was the challenge. Finally, at 3:00 a.m., I got out of bed and sat at our dining room table, listening to the wind roar over our mountain retreat.

 

At daybreak, when I went outside with our dogs, our lawn was littered with fallen branches. The lighted tree on our deck was resting at a 45o angle. The dogs paced warily because of the continuing sound of the gale. No doubt about it, the force of the storm was one to be reckoned with.

 

Wind can be disruptive and destructive. I swerved several times on my drive to church in order to avoid downed trees. It is powerful enough to turn 120-foot turbines in order to generate kilowatts that will illuminate a city. It can alter a familiar landscape in a matter of seconds and drop the temperature by 200 in a matter of minutes. Yet it also is an agent of cleansing by which seasons of refreshing will come. Acts 3:19

 

On the Day of Pentecost, the disciples experienced the sudden onslaught of a violent rushing wind from heaven that filled the whole house. It came unexpectedly. It came as a gust, strong and forceful like the blowing of breath on a birthday cake. It filled the room to capacity, literally like the surge of flood waters. This was their introduction to the power and presence of the Almighty.

 

The Greek words pneuma and pneo are used to describe both wind and the breath (spirit) of God. Not a gentle breeze that delights on a warm spring day, but more like the gust in the down draft of a violent summer storm, pneuma can alter and disrupt the landscape of our lives while offering seasons of refreshing in times when it is desperately needed.

  

How powerful is this gale of God? Author Annie Dillard wrote,

 

“We should put on crash helmets in church. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews…for the awakening God may draw us to where we can never return.”

 

A windblown encounter with the Holy of Holies can rend our world topsy-turvy with reckless abandonment and we will never quite be the same. That’s why the proverb says, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. But you know, I welcome it.

 

Most of you know I am retiring in September and the landscape of 2022 is going to significantly change for Kathie and me by then. Far from quitting the ministry, we prefer to think that we are being “windblown” into a season that will have both its rewards and challenges. And I wish no less for each of you.

 

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think – to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever!

Let it be!  Eph 3:20-21 ESV

 

Joel Nogle

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November Pastor’s Pen

November Pastor's Pen

I guess it all started on Sunday morning. I began my prayer time thanking God that I was alive another day and thanking Him for all the things that He gave me the day before.

 

When I arrived at church I was initially greeted by Harold and LaVerne, Judy, and Linda. I thought to myself, “I love our church family.” And again I was thankful.

 

I was thankful for a good church attendance; I was thankful for the sermon the Lord gave me and for the presence of the Holy Spirit as I stood before the body.

 

Later that afternoon, Kathie and I left for my spiritual retreat and the vibrant autumn colors of our road south caught my eye. The traffic was even and our trip uneventful. Our car was dependable.

 

We had a good night’s rest and Kathie and I awoke in time to drive to the shoreline to watch the sun rise over the roar of the Atlantic. While our two dogs played in the sand I couldn’t help being humbled that, after 39 years of diabetes, I still have good eyesight to take it all in.

 

And that’s when it occurred to me, I’m basically a thankful person at heart. Sure I have my moments. But 80% of my prayer life is an expression of praise and thanksgiving.

 

President Lincoln reportedly said most of us are as happy as we make up our minds to be. There is a degree of truth in his words. I find if I discipline myself to keep a thankful heart, my day goes better and my outlook is where God wants it to be.

 

The Apostle Paul encouraged us to give thanks in all circumstances.  He didn’t tell us to give thanks because of all circumstances. We can learn something from every circumstance and we can grow because of it, but not every circumstance is, by definition, a source for thanksgiving.

 

Still, if we can keep a thankful perspective, we can begin to see the brighter side of life. More important, we can be that brighter side for someone else.

 

There is a Facebook meme that suggests when Halloween is past, Christians should make a strident effort to let November be a whole month of thanksgiving. December and all it offers will be here soon enough. How would our lives be transformed if we heeded that counsel?

 

Thank you for reading this. Thank you for being a huge part of my life and patiently giving me the opportunity to be your shepherd and servant. And thank you, God, for making it all possible.

There… I’ve said it again.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!  

 

Joel Nogle

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October Pastor’s Pen

October Pastor's Pen

Years ago a gospel trio from Pennsylvania, the Couriers, had a song called Empty Hands:

Bishop T.D. Jakes says there is something about emptiness that attracts God; He enjoys filling empty things. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Hungry people know they are empty.

So why did we sell our home and move into a cabin north of Caledonia? When we purchased our cabin last December, we envisioned it to be a mountain getaway, perhaps a place I could go on Thursdays to work on my sermons or a retreat setting for both recreation and contemplation.

Sometime this spring, however, we sensed God’s Spirit working on us to downsize and lighten our load for what will eventually be the age of retirement. Real estate was selling well and our house on Acorn Circle – though it was a blessing for five years – was more house than we needed with more work than we wanted. One day we came to the realization that we were supposed to “empty our hands.”

One of the tenets of our Brethren Heritage is living simply. As I understand it the simple life is striking a standard of living which celebrates the blessings God intends for us while keeping things of the world in balance and perspective.

We gave a lot of our stuff away, we sold some of it, and we put more of it in a dumpster. But as the brothers and sisters who helped move us can attest, we still had far more than enough to put in storage, finding life to be not that simple after all.

I don’t think everyone should do what we did; ours was a definite “ask” from the Lord. He asked us to let go and trust him with our living arrangements. A few of you have asked if I think we’ll be happy with our decision. As with anytime the Lord calls and the Holy Spirit convicts, we wouldn’t be happy if we would have made a different decision. We firmly believe we were led to Acorn Circle and we were led to 2149 Pine Grove Road.

Where is your cabin? Many of you have asked and are even looking. If you take 30 east out of Chambersburg and proceed until you come to the traffic light at the Caledonia/Totem Pole intersection, turn right onto Rt. 233 North. Once past the driveway to Caledonia State Park, drive 4.2 miles. Our cabin (currently getting a bit of a face lift) is on the right, about 100 yards from the road. We have a mail box and a sign above it that reads, Emmanuel Cottage.

That’s what we’ve named our new home.

If you call ahead, you’re welcome to drop by and see for yourself. Our dogs are big but they

are friendly. Our phone numbers are

            Joel: 717-357-1333

            Kathie: 717-357-2191

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge our gratitude to Larry Bricker, Ray Burkholder, Bill McMullen, Gary Mills, Jerry Moore, Jim and Carole Prohaska, Joe Rankin, Rey and Todd Rankin, Jamie and Travis Rhodes, and Bob Witter for helping us pack and move.

As I’ve often said, whatever you do trust in the Lord with all of your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Joel Nogle

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September Pastor’s Pen

September Pastor's Pen

Four years ago, denominational leadership recognized that we had reached a critical moment in our life together. While individuals and congregations were engaged in faithful ministry, as a denomination, it could be said we were wandering without a sense of unified purpose. Further, we were mired in soul-sapping conflict. Something needed to change.

As a body, we were called into a time of intentional discernment. Like Noah in the ark, Moses before the burning bush, the Israelites in the desert, Ruth following Naomi to Judah, Elijah on Mount Horeb, Mary during her visit with Elizabeth, Jesus entering the desert following his baptism, and Paul after he had been struck blind, for almost two years, we dwelled in a challenging, disorienting, and uncomfortable, yet creative, exciting, and hopeful season of waiting and watching for God’s presence and direction. Throughout, as a community, we were centered in Jesus Christ, guided by Scripture, and led by the Holy Spirit, resulting in the emergence of a new, unifying, and compelling vision for the Church of the Brethren.

Vision Statement

“Together, as the Church of the Brethren, we will passionately live and share the radical transformation and holistic peace of Jesus Christ through relationship-based neighborhood engagement. To move us forward, we will develop a culture of calling and equipping disciples who are innovative, adaptable, and fearless.”

The vision was formally affirmed at Annual Conference 2021. Now the work really begins as, together, we seek to call and equip creative and courageous disciples to move into our neighborhoods with Jesus Christ. While the vision calls us to move in the same direction, as we venture into our neighborhoods, each individual, each congregation, each district, as well as the denomination as a whole, is called to be responsive to the unique needs of their neighborhood and discern the best ways to meet those needs in light of the gifts they have to share.

As we embrace the challenge and seek to live into the vision, all are encouraged to read the full interpretive document / documento interpretativo / dokiman entèpretatif and make use of the Bible Study series / estudios bíblicos. We also encourage you engage in conversation around these questions as they relate to your own setting:

  • How does the compelling vision reflect the soul of your congregation? How does it reflect the soul of your district? How does it reflect the soul of the Church of the Brethren?
  • How do you see this vision being lived out in your own neighborhood?
  • What might you need to let go of?
  • What are the issues facing your community which could be healed/addressed by the radical transformation and holistic peace of Jesus Christ?
  • How might we work more intentionally at calling and equipping innovative, adaptable, and fearless disciples to live and share the radical transformation and holistic peace of Jesus Christ?
  • What new steps could your congregation take to more closely align your way of life with the Jesus in the Neighborhood vision? What might you need to let go of?
  • How might you prepare your members? How can you get to know your neighbors better? How can you work to identify ministry partners in your neighborhood?
  • What are the creative ways your congregation, your district, or the denomination as a whole, might embody this vision?
  • How might we be known – both as congregations and as a denomination — if we truly embrace and live out the vision of Jesus in the Neighborhood?

 

Joel Nogle

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July Pastor’s Pen

July Pastor's Pen

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…

Philippians 4:11-12 NIV

Whenever I’m alone in my car I’m usually playing music. Currently I am listening to the quasi-Christian band, Switchfoot. There is a song on the CD that goes,

This is your life; are you who you want to be?

 

Are you satisfied with where you are in life? I just heard the true story of a young mother of three who is experiencing an internal struggle.

 

She loves her children and she loves being a mom, but her job fulfills her in a way that family doesn’t. Nevertheless, she is feeling called to quit her job in order to be a stay at home parent. Each time she prays about that decision she gets the same answer. She recently met a woman at the grocery store who has nine children and homeschools. The mother of three asked the mother of nine, “How do you do it? How are you content to stay at home with your kids and not lose sight of yourself?” The answer is surprising. I’ve learned to look for the holy among the mundane.

 

Perhaps that point of view was Paul’s secret to his being content in all circumstances: he looked for and worked for the holy among the mundane.

 

Maybe that’s the secret to our being satisfied as well. Most of us focus on the negative. Most of us look for what we can criticize among the mundane. To take the everyday, common ground and make it holy ground is significant. It puts the face of Jesus on every aspect of our lives and treats it as uncommon blessedness.

 

I’m more content today and more comfortable in my own skin than at any time in my life. I see more of Jesus and less of Joel in our church and in changing the oil in my car – whatever the circumstances.

 

We just sang the song Holy Ground for our 8:30 service of worship.

 

This is holy ground; we’re standing on holy ground, for the Lord is present and where He is is holy.

 

I encourage you to look for the holy among the mundane. Look for Jesus until you are content that you’ve seen Him.

 

Joel Nogle

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