beverlee bell thoughts on the journey

Spiritual Growth–Social Justice–God's Kingdom


Leave a comment

Worship today

I spent a great weekend with my Aunt and Uncle who live in Maryville TN.  We talked, reminisced, laughed and ate. At church this morning the sermon was on the temptations of Jesus. What has me thinking this afternoon is the concept that Jesus’ temptations and often what the tempter entices us with is the word If.

If God loves us, then why did our loved one die young.

If God cares about us then why______________

If God loved us then what we want would happen.

If I was meant to do ________, then things would fall into place the way I want.

If__________.

When those ifs aren’t fulfilled we question God, who God is and if God really exists.

What ifs tempt me?  I’m still reflecting.

What about you?

Bev

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Experiencing the Kingdom of God

Experience the Kingdom of God
Luke 13:18-21 and James 2:5-13

Why do we Learn, Live and Love like Christ?
“So that the world can experience the Kingdom of God!”

But, What is the Kingdom of God?

What would God’s Country look like?

If Jesus was God coming to earth, then it seems to me the best answers would come from Jesus, what he said and how he lived.
We in the church talk about God’s Kingdom is here and yet not. We see signs of God’s Kingdom here but it will be complete in God’s time.Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God as if it was already present? He brought that kingdom to earth.

He challenged the religious leaders about their understanding of what God’s Kingdom is.

They believed:

The Rich were good/right with God and Blessed— Poor are sinners
The Healthy were good/right with God and Blessed—Sick are sinners
People are meant to obey the law—The Law is meant to help in Love
You Must be separate from sinners to remain Holy—
Jesus went among sinners and unclean with respect and Love

For Generations some Christians have believed that the “Kingdom of God will come to earth” as they see it described in Revelation.
They forget the history of the Church. Notes from that time tell us that Revelations almost didn’t make it in to the Bible. The Bishops were afraid it would be read as predictive, which is exactly what some Christians have done. Matching events/people to those described in Revelation. In the end it was put in the Bible because the story of God ultimately overcoming evil in the world and the description of the churches in Revelation and it’s instruction were seen as so important they were willing to risk it being misread.

So what is the Kingdom of God?

Mustard Tree

A Mustard Tree

Jesus describes it in the text for today in Luke as a mustard seed or yeast.  A tiny mustard seed which grows into a tree which provides shelter and home or yeast which interacts with other ingredients to grow and feed people.

I believe we are to keep our eyes, hearts and minds open to seeing those seeds of the Kingdom of God, point them out, and nourish them.

When Love, Justice, Kindness are shown we get glimpses of God’s Kingdom.
Back in the 80s when HIV/AIDS made people afraid to relate to those who were infected, when they were in the hospital everyone who came in was to be dressed in infection control from head to toe with masks. It was very isolating and felt as a condemnation. Even after it was known that it was transferred by blood contact and open cuts etc. several hospitals retained the overkill protection. I witnessed how someone walking in without a mask and willing to touch without gloves had an amazing effect on the patient. “The Kingdom of God”

I was reminded this weekend of God’s Kingdom. I was sitting next to someone at a comedy event who couldn’t stop moving; that nervous leg, moving forward and back. The person also laughed quite loudly and would shout out things to the improve group, good things but inappropriate. I thought about moving. At the break they climbed over the back of the chair and went out of the theater. Sometime during that time I realized I needed to act on my convictions. When the person came back they apologized for being inappropriate. I engaged the person in conversation and tried to let them know that I cared. I hope they experienced a small bit of God’s Kingdom from me, but I know that I was reminded what it means to try and live as if God’s Kingdom is here and yet not yet complete. I need to live that Kingdom of Love, Justice, and Kindness.

Our response:
To plant those mustard seeds or place the yeast in people’s lives.
To care for the seeds and yeast that have been planted.
To Trust in God to grow the mustard seed and yeast.
How do we do this?
Learning, Living, and Loving as Jesus


Leave a comment

Loving as Jesus Loves

This is the third week in the series on our Vision Statement.

What might it mean to Love as Christ Loves?

In English we use that word to describe a feeling.

That feeling of deep infatuation where we can’t think straight

True Love: Love of Spouses, Love of family, Love for friends

But Greek uses different words for different kinds of love.

The Love of God, whose image we are made in, is:

unconditional, nonpartisan, sacrificial

Love with God is an action verb.

God loves all people.

Wow that is Good News for all of us!

God not only loves us, but God acted on that Love by choosing to live as a human being with the joys, sorrows and pains we humans struggle with.

God’s love is an action verb.

It is sacrificial.

Ukraine alpine skier Bogdana Matsotska, who was to compete in the slalom Friday decided Thurs. in the midst of the government killing of protestors, to withdraw from the Olympics. She stated she could not compete in Russia while her people were being killed by the Russian backed government.

She sacrificed her personal ambition for her people.

Whether you think that was right or wrong,

it took personal sacrifice to do so.)

The second part of that commandment is to Love our Neighbor as we love ourselves.

In the story of the Good Samaritan we find the religious leaders walking by the dying man on the road. It is the “sinner” who stops, helps and heals the man.

Loving as Christ Loves requires sacrifice of personal interest for others.

It means loving those who others walk by and ignore.

Those law breaking “sinners” who are still Children of God,

Those people we have problems loving—God loves unconditionally.

A wise parishioner of mine in a former church said these two things to me which have stayed with me.

“It is so hard to be tolerant of the intolerant.” and

“He might be your Love challenge.”

Who is your Love Challenge?

For Jesus, Love meant sacrifice.

Jesus sacrificed his life for us because he loved us so much.

Sometimes Love of others means a sacrifice which is also a prophetic witness.

On Monday, Bishop Trimble and Bishop Carcano and several others were in Washington D.C. to protest that the Obama Administration will soon be deporting the 2 millionth person since they came into office, many more deportations than any other President.

Whatever your position on immigration, Bishop Trimble protested and was arrested because he believes we are not treating immigrants as brothers and sisters in Christ.

“This impacts our families, particularly our neighbors, that live in our communities. While we have been patiently waiting and advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, we continue to see families disrupted and detainment.”

“I think people of faith ought to be putting a lot more pressure on our president as well as our elected representatives in the House and the Senate and to do that immediately. They tell us that they are waiting to hear from their constituents, so we need to do that. And we need to say that it’s been long enough, we’ve waited for some progress on immigration reform, and also it’s been long enough that we need to stop feeding the prison industry by detaining folks and separating families.”

(unitedmethodistreporter.com by Erik Alsgaard)

He joined in prayer and was peacefully arrested.

Bishop Trimble sacrificed his time, money, comfort and reputation in taking a stand and showing Love for those who others see as the other.

“Loving as Christ Loves” is a Verb and means action not simply a feeling.

The greatest commandment; Love God with your whole being and Loving your neighbor as yourself, might be easy to remember but is hard to live.

“Loving as Christ Loves” often means we put our judgments aside as to who is worthy or not and whether we feel love or not and act with a

Love Like Jesus’.

With the Help of God’s Holy Spirit, May we act in Christ’s Love.

 

 

ukraine skier

Bogdana Matsotska

Bishop immigration

The Bishop’s kneeling in prayer with others in front of the White House

 

Bishop immigration arrest

Bishop Trimble being arrested

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Live Like Jesus Lives

Live Like Jesus Lives
Luke 6:1-11

Last week I talked about “Learning What Jesus Teaches.” I talked about how we need to read the Bible and study it with others. How we need to ask: What is being said—read before and after the text, why does Jesus say this—put this into Context and historical culture, what might this mean for us today?
Today we look at “Living like Jesus Lives.”
Now I don’t mean we need to walk around in robes and sandals.
I also don’t think it means we need to travel by foot across the land, trusting in others to feed us and provide us housing.
Rachel Held Evans spent a year trying to live as described in the Bible. In her book “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” she talks about sitting on the roof of her house, separating herself once a month from the men of the household by living in a tent and dressing for church as described in the Bible.

"A Year of Biblical Womanhood" by Rachel Held Evans

“A Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Held Evans

 

Rachel Held Evans Biblical Dress for Church

Rachel Held Evans
Biblical Dress for Church

 

Monthly Tent time

Rachel Held Evans Biblical Monthly Tent time

 

So what might it mean to “Live as Christ Lives”
Let’s look at How Jesus spent his time and how the Bible describes how his first disciples lived that out.

Jesus knew the Word of God at that time and the various interpretations of God’s Word. “You have heard it said, but I say to you” (Matt 5)

Jesus went away to pray and spend quiet time throughout his ministry on earth and he taught his disciples to pray. (Matt 6:8-10)

Jesus went to the synagogue and there is evidence that his Disciples and the churches they started met daily to, have communion, pray and worship. Being present with each other was necessary for their own growth and life.

When Jesus was with people he was focused and present for them. They experienced his love and care in that concrete way that I don’t know about you but is at times difficult to quiet my mind to do.

Jesus shared his gift of focus and his gift of healing with those he met. He taught his disciples to depend on the gifts of others. In the first church in Jerusalem they pooled together all their resources and lived in a way that we would call a commune.(Acts 2:42-47) Now that didn’t work. So Paul went to all the churches he had established and asked them to not only support their own, but to give to the larger church to help the church in Jerusalem. (1 Cor. 16:1-3)

Jesus taught his followers by example and word to serve others, especially to follow the law of caring for the poor and marginalized.

Jesus was a living witness to who God is. Jesus witnessed through his actions and through his words the Love of God and what the Kingdom of God is. His Disciples did the same.

These same areas of focus are also our membership vows.
“Will you be loyal to The United Methodist Church, and uphold it by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service and your witness.

Life in Christ is not easy; it is not a straight path.
It’s more like a hurricane whose eye is the place of peace, but as we move towards the eye we at times get thrown backwards and need to travel some of the same territory back towards the eye.

That is why the Intentional Faith Task Force chose a hurricane as the image of Faith and these areas of focus as the ways we grow in our faith towards the Calm Center of Christ.

Intentional Faith  Development Chart

Intentional Faith
Development Chart

 

May we intentionally try to live as Christ lives and grow in our journey of faith by intentionally growing in the areas of Bible study, our Prayer life, our Presence with God and with others, our Gifts, our Service to God and others, and our Witness to the Good News of God’s Love and Christ’s Peace. 
Pastor Bev 


Leave a comment

Learn what Christ teaches

Learn What Christ Teaches
Luke 10:38-42

During February I will be talking about what it means to be a disciple of Christ. How we grow in our discipleship.
Last month I was on a consultation team for an HCI weekend. One of the things I was surprised at was how all the leadership knew their vision statement. It was so ingrained in them what their focus and purpose was.
Ours is on the Announcement Loop every week, but do we know it?
The Mission statement is:
To Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the
transformation of the World.
Our vision statement which is uniquely ours is: We seek to be a people who experience the
transforming power of Jesus Christ and
passionately desire to:
Learn what Christ teaches
Live as Christ lives
Love as Christ loves
So that, the world can experience the
Kingdom Of God!

Today we are looking at Learning what Christ teaches.

People often make statements of faith that they believe are in the Bible, so let’s take a short quiz.
1.God Helps those who help themselves (Yes No)
2.Follow me and everything will be alright. (Yes No)
3.There are certain things woman cannot do. (Yes No)
4.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…for my yoke
is easy and my burden is light. (Yes No)

In order to grow in our Faith we need to read and study the Bible.
There are a lot of people who mean well, and some who don’t, who will tell you “The Bible Says.” If we don’t learn what Jesus teaches we can be lead astray.
As we read the Bible we need to: Read before and after the text and Ask
What is being said
Why is it being said
(Context-culture, who said to, what is happening at that time, etc.)
What does it mean for our lives today

To grow in our faith we need to read the Bible, on our own and with others, using Bible helps, and asking the three questions.

Answers:
1. No: Actually Jesus tells us over and over to help others. He does not say to judge whether they are worthy or not.
2. No: Jesus tells the disciples they will die for him. In the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 he says people will say all kinds of false and hurtful things about them for following him. Jesus does not promise an easy life to those who follow.
3. In the story of Martha and Mary, Jesus breaks with tradition. In all of his interactions with women he breaks tradition.
4. Matt. 11:29-30 Christ’s Yoke is a life lived: learning, loving and serving


Leave a comment

Following Jesus Now and Then

Following Jesus Then and Now

Mark 1:16-20     Luke 9: 23-27     John 17: 17-24

 

 In Mark and the other gospel we hear how Jesus calls various people to follow him. Some fish for a living, one collects money for the government, and another is a political activist/revolutionary (Simon).

They left what they were doing and possibly their families to follow Jesus.

They traveled with Jesus, growing in their faith by watching and doing—listening and questioning. They were not experts in God’s Word (the Torah) and Jesus didn’t ask them to be before he sent them out in ministry.

In Luke 10 we see how Jesus sends 72 out to minister to others.        They then come back and Jesus helps them understand what happened.

After Jesus’ death we find the disciples huddled together trying to maintain a low profile. The Risen Christ, like Jesus did with all people, meets them where they are and encourages them to GO with the power of the Holy Spirit, which they receive in a few days.

So following Jesus meant: leaving what is comfortable, watching, listening, doing, learning, and going to do what Jesus did.

This is not easy, as a matter of fact, history shows us that the disciples are imprisoned and killed.  They literally picked up their crosses and followed Jesus to their deaths. This is true for a couple hundred years. Christians continue to die because of their faith in Jesus and yet their numbers continued to grow.

In the late 300’s Constantine the 1st declared Christianity the religion of the land. The killings stopped, for the most part.

The church began it’s time of building buildings. The various traditions became focused on orthodoxy, what is correct belief, to unite the people. What it meant to follow Jesus became more centered on the church and maintaining the church.

In the church I grew up in, the assumption was that everyone knew Jesus. There were groups who believed there was a need for a deeper relationship, but most everyone knew what church they belonged to.    So following Jesus was coming. Coming to church. Mission meant giving money so others could do mission elsewhere.

Sociologists and Historians tell us that every 500yrs. there is a major shift in how people see the world and in religions. We have been experiencing that change.

 

So what does it mean to follow Jesus today.

I believe following Jesus today is closer to the original meaning than to the way I grew up.

Picking up a cross and following may not mean physical death, but I believe it takes putting to death our focus on ourselves and our preferences. It takes picking up the cross of trust in God rather than the fear of what others will think of us and our personal judgments of who deserves forgiveness and grace.

We can no longer wait until people come in our doors to tell them about Jesus. We can no longer simply give money for mission. Now money is important and there comes a time in life when giving money is the main way we can do mission, but for many of us we need to also do mission.

Following Jesus today means GOING. Following Jesus today means doing and telling.

We live outside the church in a way that shows Jesus’ love and care.

We live outside the church verbalizing how Jesus loves and cares for people.

We live outside the church as if our lives are focused on Jesus’ mission of forgiveness,  

love, healing and justice.

 

Following Jesus today means

GOING

to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.

 

In Jesus’ prayer in the garden before his arrest and death he lays out our mission and asks for God’s protection on us.

          “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world…

           As you, God, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us…”

 (John 17:18,21)

 

When we Go we do not go alone! God goes with us! Thanks be to God!


Leave a comment

Messiah (Salvation) Then and Now Sermon

     Have you ever been asked if “You have been saved?” “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.” I had a conversation with someone recently where she asked me how I respond to those questions. I told her that I say yes and through out a date. You see, I don’t remember dates well and I have to sit and figure out when things may have happened. I have had emotional experiences with God’s Spirit and can name one of the times I turned my life over to Jesus. If I want to be snarky I respond with the date 33 A.D. when Jesus died on a cross. It helps to look at the history of the understanding of the Messiah and Salvation.

     The description of the Messiah is found in the prophets. Isaiah after describing the “Peaceful Kingdom” goes on to talk about how God will bring the people back from all over the Assyrian Empire to the Holy Land. (Isaiah 11:10-16). Do you remember your World History Class? The Assyrians brought their army in and conquered the people of Judah and Israel. Their way of controlling the people was to disperse them throughout the kingdom so they couldn’t rebel and fight back. The people were waiting for a savior to come and free them from the Assyrians. They were really surprised when it was the Babylonian King who came as their Savior and brought them back home. He also allowed them to rebuild the temple and worship as they please.

     It was this Messiah described by the prophets, who would overthrow the oppressor, the people of Jesus’ time were expecting. They were looking for a military leader. Is it any wonder that many did not see Jesus as the Messiah? Even John the Baptist, who seemed to recognized Jesus as the Messiah at his baptism, begins to question if it is true. In the Matthew text (Matt 11:2-15) John is in prison and sends his disciples to ask Jesus if he is the one the have been waiting for? What does Jesus say?

“Go and tell John what you hear and see; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleased, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” (v4-5 NRSV)

     Not a militaristic image.

     Many in Jesus’ time did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah because he did not fit with the image they had been taught.

     Is that also true today?

     In our culture, Jesus as Savior has become a personal decision made by us. Yet, nowhere in the Bible is the language of Jesus as a Personal Savior used. Jesus talked more about the Kingdom of God (55 times) than Salvation (6 times). Jesus is confronted by a Jewish lawyer in Luke 10:23-39 asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus turns it back on the man to answer. The answer is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 NRSV). He does not say accept me as your Lord and Savior. It’s about who and how we LOVE.

     For the church it was more about the community of Christ and then God’s Grace (unconditional love). It was not until the late 1800’s and early 1900’s when the concept of Accepting Christ as your personal Savior began to influence a part of the church in the U.S. It’s not surprising that in our individualistic culture a concept of emphasizing a personal decision for Christ became so important. If our emphasis is our personal decisions and experiences and our view of others is whether they have had a specific time when they have made the same decision, where is God in all that? We are more focused on us than on God.

     I have to decide each day to follow Christ. But when the emphasis is on my personal salvation; what does that say about being saved by God’s Grace–Grace alone.

It’s Christ who saves.

Jesus who talks about the Kingdom of God.

Jesus who says eternal life is about Loving God with our whole being and Loving our Neighbor as ourselves.

     Our salvation is about the Love of Christ which calls us to Love Others.