Something to think about

“We are confident in our devotion to country, in our love of freedom, in our inheritance of courage. But, our strength, as the strength of all men everywhere, is of greater avail as God upholds us.”

“…we ask forgiveness for our shortcomings of the past, consecration to the tasks of the present, and God’s help in the days to come.”

We need His guidance that this people may be humble in spirit but strong in the conviction of the right; steadfast to endure sacrifices and brave to achieve a victory of liberty and peace.”
___President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (taken from his New Year’s Day 1942 message calling for a day of prayer)

This message from the President of the United States a few weeks after the crippling attack on American and allied bases in the Pacific by Japan and a declaration of war by Nazi Germany; shows a deep understanding by President Roosevelt of the need to ask God not only for victory, but for forgiveness, consecration and help. FDR asked his fellow Americans to be humble, yet strong in their convictions and endurance for the long road to victory, all under the guiding hand of God Almighty.

This was not just one man’s prayer at a time of national trouble, but a prayer for the entire nation. Roosevelt understood the people needed to believe in much more than the abilities of their government to be victorious over what appeared to be an unbeatable enemy.

I believe these words are as important today as they were 71 years ago. And yet when was the last time you heard a politician from any party or the President ask God to forgive, consecrate and help our nation. Most end their speeches with “God bless you and God bless America.” A nice sentiment, but it seems so empty, a cliché. Think about it, this statement puts the entire onus on God. We, who are all sinners of one sort or another, have forsaken our responsibilities to Him.

Think about it; we live in a land blessed with vast natural resources; we are blessed with people whose ideas have changed the world for the better. Our farms feed masses of people here and around the world. Our founding documents are the models that others try to copy, but for some reason just can’t seem to get it right. The United States was, and is a place where honest hard working people can come to find their dream and yes, sometimes fail, but, have the opportunity to start over. What other nation on this planet can say the same.

Too often nowadays we think that waving a flag on holidays or during speeches is all it takes to be an American. I find that attitude from people of both conservative and liberal persuasions. America isn’t just a red, white and blue cloth. It’s not the flag that men and women sacrifice their lives for. It is the idea of an America that is honest, humble, and consecrated by and before God, which makes America worth sacrificing for as so many have done in the past, present and future.

Some may say; “If God is so concerned about us why do we have all these problems?” “Why are there terrorist attacks, drug abuse, crime, unemployment, and economic hard times?” “Why do so many people from other countries hate America and want its downfall?” “Why do so many of our fellow countrymen long to see the destruction of the values that sustained us for hundreds of years?” “Why doesn’t God just wave His mighty hand and end all this strife?” “Where is He?”

About 2,500 years ago the people of Israel faced these same trials and asked the questions. They kept looking for God to do something, but failed to see warning signs that it was not God who forgot them, but they had forgotten God. He kept calling for them to return to Him, that He would restore His protection. But, they did not listen. Israel, the people whom God had brought out of bondage to create a great nation, the very people who the Creator established a covenant with turned their backs on Him and espoused foreign gods, even to the point of sacrificing their children on the altars of these idols. The Lord sent prophets to warn them and to tell them that God was willing to forgive these sins and restore the nation, but they did not heed the message. Eventually God lifted His protection of the kingdom and it fell to mighty enemies and would not be restored as a nation for another 2,500 years. 500 years later God made a new covenant with all people when He sent His son, Jesus Christ. Again Israel rejected Him, but this time people of many nations accepted the love of God and His redemption through Christ. There are many writings about this but I would recommend two books to help you understand. First is “The Holy Bible,” the very Word of the Creator of the universe. The second is “The Harbinger” by Jonathan Cahn, to put an American perspective on this subject.

So, what does this all have to do with America and the problems we face today? Just look at the similarities. Ancient Israel was a nation founded on religious principles. And like it or not so is the United States. At various times in their history Israel became distracted away from God’s ways and paid a price for it with wars, economic hard times, and foreign domination. So has our country. In difficult times the Lord sent messengers, prophets to guide the people back to Him. The same has happened in our own nation, Google “The Great Revivals” or “The Great Awakenings” to understand how God worked to bring us back to Him.

Perhaps it is time for another Great Awakening. We have turned from God. We are bowing before the idols of celebrity, treating mere entertainers as gods. We have allowed television programs to dictate our schedules. Parents have allowed their children to attend sports practices and games, on Sunday mornings instead of attending worship services as a family. We sacrifice the lives of our children on the altar of “Choice.” We fail to celebrate the uniqueness of our fellow human beings by wrapping ourselves in the cocoon of electronic devices rather than getting out and actually interacting with real flesh and blood human beings. We are falling into foreign domination through indebtedness. And our nation is rotting from within by political and social corruption. Perhaps recent events are hints of further disaster if we continue to turn our backs on our Creator and Protector.

So if we return to God will it make everything perfect? No, it won’t; perfection is impossible to achieve, but we may find that things start to improve. A new spirit will fill the hearts of the people. We may move from a “you owe it to me society” to an “I can help” society. Maybe we can break away from our addiction to government dependency, to solve our own problems.
It could bring us from being dependent on charity to being charitable. Wouldn’t it be nice if people wanted to come to America for what they can offer for the good of their new home and not for what they can take from it? And with our new found unity and strength we will be able to the dissolve our dependency on foreign debt. After so many failed years of this great experiment with secular humanism, wouldn’t it seem logical to restore what worked successfully for more than 200 years?

I think FDR, in his words at the beginning of this letter, along with countless other Americans, expressed the essence of what makes the United States unique. It is the people, the everyday get-up and go to work, do something people. Not politicians or celebrities or pundits, but you and I and our neighbors from Maine to Hawaii committing ourselves to be renewed in God’s grace and His protecting hand that is called for at this time and always. This is what will strengthen and renew this great nation, far from perfect, but still the best place on earth with the restoration of God to His rightful place in our society and most importantly our hearts. I urge you to take time every day to pray for the spiritual restoring of America. God will Bless America.

Barry A. Gangwer
Weatherly, PA 18255


Lehighton Band Concert on Sunday july 14, 2013

The Lehighton Band Presents Concert in Weatherly’s Eurana Park

Weatherly’s Eurana Park band shell will be the site of the first of two scheduled concerts by the Lehighton Band on Sunday July 14 at 7:00pm.

The band under the direction of Paul R. Smith will present a concert featuring a wide variety of music from the opera house to Broadway to the Grand Ole O’pry and popular music. And of course marches.

The concert will open with the “Star Spangled Banner” followed by the “Emblem of Unity March” by J. J. Richards. “The English Folk Song Suite” by British composer Ralph Vaughan William is a 3 movement piece featuring English folk songs that were collected and arranged for military band by the composer in the early 20th century. Next we move to the lively dances of Spain in Frank Perkins “Fandango” followed by “Vernilla March” by Carl Johnson.

Our two French Horn players, Laura Seemiller and Jo de Forest, are called upon as soloist in Ciro Pinsuti’s duet “The Mermaids.” Next we take a trip to the Paris Opera of the 1870’s for “The Carmen Suite” by Georges Bizet.

Part two of the program will open with a trip down memory lane with John Higgins’ arrangemet of “The Eighties” a medley of pop, Broadway and Hollywood hits from that magical decade. The Music of John Phillip Sousa makes an appearance with “The U. S. Field Artillery March.” You can imagine English street musicians, Buskers, in Carl Strommen’s “Canterbury Walk.” Our second solist of the evening is Baritone Horn player Earl Knappenberger playing the very lyrical “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Country music receives its dues in Jay Davison’s arrangement “Tennessee Salute.”

The concert continues with a piece commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War with Clar Grundman’s “Blue and Gray” featuring songs from both the North and the South. Our concert concludes with selections from the hit Broadway and movie show “Les Miserables” as arranged by Warren Baker.

Sunday’s concert is presented courtesy of the Weatherly Borough. The Lehighton Band is a not for profit organization which has provided music throughout the Carbon County area for over 135 years for more information call, 570-427-4812. Please note the concert will be cancelled in the event of rain.

Contact Information:
Barry Gangwer
512 Second St.
Weatherly, PA 18255

Barry Gangwer

Pastor Dawn’s Sermon June 16, 2013

Sunday, June 16 sermon-I spent the past two days at our synod assembly in Wilkes Barre. The keynote speaker was Dr. David Lose, preaching professor at Luther Seminary in Minnesota. David is a storyteller and the stories he tells us are stories from the Bible. Preachers try to tell Bible stories every Sunday morning so that people understand them. These stories help form our morals and our values; they help us to walk as disciples of Jesus. These are the stories that have been used to form and create our society since the beginning of time, from our values to our laws. Everything from the Old Testament times on forward has been formed by what we learn in the history, the lessons, the successes and failures of the people in the Bible.
But society has changed and the world has shifted. That’s not a bad thing, but it means that people have different values than they once had. Our world has shifted from a single Bible based value system that everyone held, to a system that has multiple choices that people are following as they try to become the best person they can be. They’re still concerned about being their best-but they’re no longer sure that the church is helping in that formation.
In a world where people want to be spiritual but not religious, the church is now called an institution, instead of a relationship as God intended us to be. People are feeling abandoned in the world, even while attending church on Sunday. And they’re starting to ask questions, Is God even listening when I pray? Why do I feel empty? How do I know that God is active in my life? I think we need to start sharing those questions, which will lead us to greater understanding. They’re questions we all ask from time to time, but we won’t ask them out loud. We don’t want anyone to think that we aren’t faithful-even though we’re not really sure what that word means. The church in Galatia in the second lesson is really having a faith crisis of their own.
The church in Galatia is having a faith crisis, but it’s not because their society is changing. They know all about God and Jesus and faith and love. The church people in Galatia know all about those church kind of words. But right now, the church leaders are arguing about what they need to do to be people of faith. Who do you believe when one missionary tells you one thing and the next missionary tells you another? It’s like coming here and hearing you are loved and free to follow Christ’s example, and then listening to a televangelist who sets conditions on salvation. Which preacher is telling the truth about God? Who are you supposed to believe when you’re not sure?
It’s an even tougher situation in the gospel lesson. We assume correctly that Jesus loves all of the people involved in the story. Jesus loves the Pharisee, the woman, the servants, the other people at the dinner party. Jesus loves them all the same and offers exactly the same gift to them-love, life, abundant blessings from the day they were born. Jesus offers the freedom to forgive and forget sin. And if you don’t think that’s a wonderful gift, think of the burden people carry their whole lives, trying to work off their sin to the church’s satisfaction. That’s why this church will not impose guilt or shame on people, because Jesus didn’t either. That’s why churches are supposed to forgive and love people because Jesus loves us first. That’s where the apostle Paul makes his case in the second lesson. It’s all about being open, loving, forgiving, unconditionally. It’s all about our faith in the fact that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection paid for our sin and for the sin of all who believe. All we can do, Paul says, is trust in the truth that Jesus has done it all. And he has.
I don’t think Jesus has a problem with us asking questions or asking for help or asking for forgiveness. Jesus used to ask questions all the time. And he always helped people who asked for help and forgiveness. So if Jesus did it for people in his own time, he’ll surely help us out, too, won’t he? Of course he will.
I don’t know when the church became a place where we forgot who Jesus was and what he’s done for us. We need to make some changes and it needs to happen now. Take some time. Write down your questions and your doubts and give them to me on your way out. Don’t sign your name, but ask your question. In the next weeks, we’ll begin to look for similar questions among the stories of the Bible and learn greater trust in the Jesus who can answer them all. Amen.