All posts by Pastor Karl Hanf

Sanctuary Renewal: Summer 2015 Update

All of the decisions have been made and the final plans have been completed for our Sanctuary Renewal. Thanks to the efforts of Geoff Campbell, Eric Blackburn and others, the permits have been turned into the city and we are awaiting approval before our hired contractors can begin. Over 125 families have contributed over $160,000 towards the project already, and we have confidence the remaining $20,000 committed will soon follow. Things are moving slower than we expected, but they are moving well without setback.

It is hard to say at this time when exactly work will begin, but we hope it will be in June. When work does begin in the Sanctuary, we will not worship in that space until the work is completed. Our contractors estimate the work will take about four months. In that time, we will worship in our Fellowship Hall and have our fellowship after worship in our Fritz Hall. This means, too, that we will not allow our Fellowship Hall to be “rented” by members or outside groups until the work is complete. Plans have been at work, too, to make our Fellowship Hall a great worship space for us in the interim. Be thankful for the leadership of Geoff Campbell during this process and for the generosity of many of our members that are making it all happen. We will provide a good gift for a generations of members at Messiah to come. Peace, Pastor Karl

Imagining God

How great is your imagination? Let’s try something. In a minute, I want you to close your eyes and picture God. Don’t think on it too long. Choose the first image that comes into your head. But decide on an image. You can’t say I don’t know. Or this is too hard. And you can’t choose a word that describes God, like love instead of an image. It has to be something physical. Now, think. What do you see? Take another minute to write it down on your bulletin in the pew. This is just to keep you honest. Continue reading Imagining God

The Danger and Gift of Fire

The text for this sermon is the Pentecost story in the book of Acts.

On Sunday nights at 7:00, at the Hanf home when I was a kid, we watched the Wonderful World of Disney. Much of what they showed were reruns of older series and movies from the fifties and sixties, like The Legend of Davy Crockett with Fess Parker. What I loved most were the nature shows. I thought is was hilarious when they would show two squirrels eating and running in the woods, with a commentator’s voice telling us what they were saying and thinking. “Mom just wants to gather nuts, but is it obvious Junior has something else on his mind.”

Continue reading The Danger and Gift of Fire

The Warning of the Cross

The scripture for this sermon is Matthew 16:21-28.

80 something year old Lowell Trimmer of Lancaster, Ohio was a visiting a friend in California and noticed little white crosses in the gardens. It turned out that making and distributing them was a ministry of a local church. Later, he read a story of the Michigan town of Frankenmuth that had to take down a symbol of Christianity that had been put up by the city, when the ACLU sued. Like many, these sorts of lawsuits angered him, but unlike most everybody else, he decided to do something about it beyond just write an angry letter to the newspaper. Continue reading The Warning of the Cross

This Side of Heaven

I don’t think you need to go to church to go to heaven. I don’t think you need to go to church to become a “better” person, at least better by the world’s definition. I don’t think you need to go to church to live a “good” life, at least good by the world’s definition. I accept that the church is disappointing at times. Churches can and do suffer from any number of maladies: the worship is half hearted, the pastor is distracted or simply inept, the enthusiasm is sapped, the ministries are inward focused, the priorities are worldly, the people are crabby and grumpy, the risen Christ is hard to see. All of this is to preface what I am about to say, by making clear I am not delusional about the church.

Continue reading This Side of Heaven

It’s Good News!

The other day, I had to find a place to eat with a group of strangers. I sat next to this older man, who had said the prayer before the meal. He turned out to be a leader in his small church in West Virginia, where he was from. He knew I was a pastor and he asked me whether we had any young people in our church. I told him that we were not setting any records, but we had some young people in the pews. He replied that one day there will be an accounting and I wouldn’t want to be any young person in our world. Nervously I laughed and said, I don’t know, I am counting on God’s grace revealed in the resurrected Jesus to get me past the day of judgment. He said, God’s grace just gets us so far. After that it all has to do with how you lived your life, good or bad. The way he said that made me afraid. I am not sure how those scales would tip and I am a pastor. Meeting the resurrected Jesus is supposed to be good news, but he didn’t make it sound like good news. Continue reading It’s Good News!

Hear the Middle of the Story This Holy Week

Worship is about storytelling. Every week there is a theme and we unpack that theme with scripture, hymns, preaching, prayers and meaningful ritual that tie all of it together. Worship needs to be good storytelling to be effective. The best storytellers begin their story with something that grabs you and draws you in. Their endings are satisfying, but not too neat. But, the real secret to a great story is what is in the middle. The middle isn’t just a straight road between the beginning and the end. It is the heart of the story, the part that engages the listener, so they can see themselves in the story being told. Worship relies on the middle for us to get the most out of it. What is in the middle makes all of the difference in the world. Continue reading Hear the Middle of the Story This Holy Week