What Are We Doing Here?

We are welcoming fall this year at McMinnville Cooperative Ministries with change.  We started a new chapter in our faith journey a few days ago, on September 1st, with our new Interim Pastor, Kathy Neary.  At the beginning of this turn in the path, Pastor Kathy asks us “What are we doing here?”

SCRIPTURE-  1 Kings 19:1-18

1 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there. 4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. 7The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.”

8 He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.

9 At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

15 Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

BACKGROUND NOTES

  • 1 Kings is part of the historical books, edited heavily in the 500’s BCE. Editors wanted to show that God was better than the other gods, and fidelity to God’s law and worship of God alone were keys to prosperity.
  • Bad things happened when people worshipped other gods, in the wrong places.
  • Elijah served as prophet in Israel, the northern kingdom from about 869—849, under Ahaz and Ahaziah. This was before the northern kingdom was defeated by Assyria.
  • In Israel worship of Baal was common. The king even put up special temples to Baal.
  • Ahaz was influenced by his wife Jezebel, who was forced into the marriage by her father. She was from the land of Tyre and Sidon, not Israel. She was devoted to her own religion and worship of Baal. She had 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah “at her table.”
  • Elijah challenged her prophets to a religious duel and God won. Elijah had all the prophets of Baal and Asherah killed. Jezebel was furious and promised to kill him.

EXEGESIS (CLOSE READING OF TEXT)

  • Jezebel threatens Elijah will be dead in 1 day. E. runs away.
  • He runs to Beersheba, on the southern tip of Judah. Asks to die, but angels feed him. On that food he goes a long time to Mt Horeb/Mt. Sinai.
  • Gets asked, What are you doing here, Elijah? Key question.
  • Answer: 1. Israelites have left you. 2. I alone am left. 3. Contract on my head.
  • God doesn’t address his concerns. Instead says “I will pass you by.”
  • Not in the wind, the earthquake or the fire, like other gods.
  • God in the sound of silence. Elijah wraps face and stands outside the cave.
  • God asks again, What are you doing here, Elijah?
  • Elijah gives exact same answer: to emphasize no change?
  • God says, Go. 1. Anoint Hazael king over Aram/Syria. 2. Anoint Jehu king over Israel. 2. Anoint Elisha as successor.   All these kings will murder the infidels.
  • 7000 will be left who are faithful. In contrast to Elijah saying “I alone am left.”

QUESTIONS THE TEXT ASKS US

  • Elijah’s perspective is skewed. He sees only his situation and not the big picture. How are we looking at our situation? What is our vantage point?
  • Elijah is totally unchanged by the presence of God. When we experience God’s presence, are we changed? Have we been listening for God? Do we want to be changed by God?
  • What are we doing here?
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

Walk the Talk

This week’s speaker, Dana Smothers, concludes our Summer Guest Speaker Series.  Dana is a wonderfully calm and soothing soul, who’s words seem to flow like a mountain spring across rounded and sun-warmed stones.  I love to hear Dana speak for more than her melodious voice though.  Her wisdom, gently delivered, speaks poignantly to the heart of the matter.  Thank you Dana for closing out our summer!

REFLECTION

Last week I saw a bumper sticker on the can in from of me that read, “walk the talk”.  That is basically the sentiment of this week’s scripture from the book of James.  According to the scripture, if you call yourself a Christian (“talk”), then this is how you need to live your life (“walk”) to be like a Christian.  James was an early pastor writing not to one particular community, but all Christians in general.  Scholars believe this book ask written about 10 years after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension and that the James that wrote this may have been Jesus’ brother.  James’ voice is straight to the point, practical, direct and wastes no words or time in communicating his message (a Greek style of writing called parenesis meaning “advice or counsel”).  The book of James reads like a Christian playbook, as if coaching those that identify as Christians and yet are human, make mistakes, and get distracted.

James gives blunt directions.  Developmentally the early church was similar to a young child who needs clear directions and boundaries (“don’t touch, that is hot, sit down”).  As Christians we are all at different stages of our faith journey, and may appreciate clear instructions on how to live out our faith.  I also wonder if the power of this passage for us may be understood from a step back, from a more general perspective that allows for our individual interpretation.  Rather than “don’t speak out of turn, don’t get angry quickly, care for the homeless” into “listen, be humble, reach out to the other” a more general perspective may seem more approachable and applicable to us.  Moving from a literal directive to applying what we know moves us to a higher developmental level in our faith.  I believe God allows us to talk into account our won individual unique ways of being in the world and asks us to live out the larger themes James is talking about of “listening, humility, etc..”.  Our individuality is like rays of the sun streaming through a beautiful stained glass window, we are everywhere and we are different and we are breath-taking.

I am fascinated by the concept of living your faith, or in other words, how does you life reflect your faith?  What would someone surmise about your spirituality or your core beliefs by their observation of the way you live your life, the words you say, you actions, what is important to you, your spirit, how you treat others.  Isn’t this what we as Christians strive to attain, integration of our faith and our everyday living, as if metals melding together so one cannot tell where once begins and the other ends.  What must that kind of peace feel like?  Parker Palmer refers to the disconnect between our faith and how we live our lives as a “divided life”.  The integration and transformation of the two is something we are all capable of and helping us figure out ways of doing that within uniquely who we are is one way our church community can support our Christian growth.  We are on a journey of Christian development, certainly not alone, we have God and our practice but we also have a Christian community to love and nurture our spiritual growth.  As we increase the number of times when our spirituality and that way we live our lives align, we are most able to be the light God envisioned us to be in this world.

SCRIPTURE

James 1: 17-27 (NIV)

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created.

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

QUOTES

“Preach the Gospel at all times, use words in necessary.”                                                                – St. Francis of Assisi

“What good is a truth if we don’t know how to live it?”                                                                    – Eugene Peterson

“We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny, but what we put into it is ours.”                                                                                                                                                           – Dag Hammarskjold

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.  It will not lead you astray.”                                                                                                                                               -Rumi

“Where is the knowledge that is lost in information?  Where is the wisdom that is lost in knowledge?”                                                                                                                                             – T.S. Elliot

QUESTIONS

How does your faith align with how you live your life?

What are your unique gifts that illuminate the way your live out your faith?

Where are the area in you life right now what you cold life out your “faith in action” more?

What are you grateful for today?

Posted in Uncategorized

Universal Preisthood

Again this week we hear from the incomparable Ms. Lauri Muller!  Lauri was gracious enough to agree to be our Devotional writer for two weeks in a row.  We greatly appreciate Lauri’s devotion to her faith and our community here at the Coop.  We see her “living out her priesthood” everyday and are inspired.

REFLECTION

A pastor who seemed to have this incredible committed following of flock in his congregation was asked, “Pastor, how do you get people to be so committed to the church and to its mission.” This pastor hadn’t realized that he had done anything specifically and yet the prodding continued. “Yes, but Pastor your congregation is so committed and alive in their faith, how do you get them to do it?” The pastor thought for a moment and then said, “I don’t get them to do it. God has taken a hold of their hearts. He is the one who does it. As there pastor, I just pave opportunities for my parishioners to experience, reflect and share that which God has done with their hearts. I am the Shepherd of the sheep not their creator. God provides the food and the water and the sun and the air. I am a steward of these provisions and this flock. All I do is lead them and care for them on the journey.”

We have an interesting relationship in this country with places of authority. In our inception we were founded on the premise of resisting the authority that threatened the people of that day. Still to this day, as a culture we are often skeptical of those in power positions. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Accountability for leaders and those with great responsibility is a valid and healthy goal. However, as a culture, we also many times operate out of an attitude of “it’s not my job.” One of my biggest pet peeves is discussing a political figure with someone that they are riled about, and then asking them, “well did you vote?” To which they respond, “no.”

What is the best formula for accountability, dedication, support and following which the writer of Hebrews is suggesting for us within the church? I’m not sure there is a distinct formula. If we take a cue from the pastor referred to in the beginning of this devotional an engage in following our leaders in a manner reflective of our love and faith in Jesus Christ we can trust that our relationship with our leadership will be molded into a healthy and fruitful experience.

During this transition, we as a congregation have learned a fair amount about ways we can foster and create more healthy experiences within our relationship to our leadership. We have learned the value of multiple avenues and opportunities of communication. We have seen lay leaders step up in ways that have been pleasantly surprising and perhaps unexpected even to those people themselves. We have learned that Methodist can do sung liturgy and that Lutherans having amazing capacity for social justice action. We have recognized our shortfalls in supporting or pastoral leadership. We have discovered that although the pastoral leadership blesses this community in amazing ways and that we hold great value for their place in our congregation…they are not who we are, they are a part of us. We have seen our council step up and lead in ways that are not easy and demand much time and effort and considerably add blessing and value to our congregation. We have learned to be honest in ways that we perhaps ignored previously. And we have also become intimately aware of the places we still need growth and transformation.

As we welcome our new interim pastor, Pastor Kathy, we have an opportunity to continue seeking growth and vision and transformation. We also have the ability to return some of the unhealthy practices that were holding us back. It is much more difficult to be an engaged and informed and thoughtful participant than it is to be a blind or distant follower. This congregation is our church family or spiritual home. We are called to care for our leadership and place trust in their gifts and desire to bless us. I have found Pastor Kathy to be a delight and I trust both the recommendation from Superintendent Peg and from Bishop Dave, as well as the thoughtful and prayerful discernment of both the council and Pastor Kathy who have enthusiastically partnered together with us to do this transitional work. I know that Pastor Kathy will not be able to come in here and just clean house, making everything new and right. However, she will be here caring for us and guiding us in a transformation that is rooted in God’s love and will for us as a congregation. She won’t be facilitating us as puppets but rather joining in this ministry with us. The best result for this work comes when we enter this time as engaged, thoughtful and cooperative stewards of the congregation, our community and our faith.

Hebrews outlines an example for us to be in relationship with our leadership with a joyful heart that fosters a confidence in their guidance. It calls us to be in prayer together for our leadership and to seek God’s will in our life together.  May we be inspired by Kathy. May we be aware of ways we can engage. And may we welcome this incredible time of transition with joyful hearts. May we seek to live out our mission of working together with all people to restore all of creation to God’s loving embrace.

QUOTES

“When you think yours is the only true path you forever chain yourself to judging others and narrow the vision of God. The road to righteousness and arrogance is a parallel road that can intersect each other several times throughout a person’s life. It’s often hard to recognize one road from another. What makes them different is the road to righteousness is paved with the love of humanity. The road to arrogance is paved with the love of self.”  – Shannon L. Alder

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.”                                                                                – Ellen DeGeneres

“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words”.                                                 – Francis of Assisi

“Luther never understands the priesthood of all believers merely in the sense of the Christian’s freedom to stand in a direct relationship to God without a human mediator. Rather he constantly emphasizes the Christian’s evangelical authority to come before God on behalf of the brethren and also of the world. The universal priesthood expresses not religious individualism but its exact opposite, the reality of the congregation as a community.”                                                                                                                                             – Lutheran Scholar Paul Althaus

“The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.”                                                                                                                – John Buchan

“I would take each and every one of these dwarves over the mightiest army. Loyalty. Honor. A willing heart. I can ask no more than that.”                                                                      – Thorin Oakenshield, from the “The Hobbit”

“It’s almost funny. I got dragged into this gig kicking and screaming, and now it’s the only thing I want to do.”                                                                                                                                – from “Mr. Holland’s Opus”

 SCRIPTURE

Hebrews 13:17-21  New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing—for that would be harmful to you.

18 Pray for us; we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you very soon.

20 Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK

Who has inspired your faith journey?

Who has challenged you?

How are you living out the priesthood?

Posted in Uncategorized

A Strange New World

This week, and next, our Devotional is authored by a member of staff here at MCM.  But more than that she is devoted to our Mission and embodies that embracing love.  Everyday she is stepping out of her comfort zone, helping others and ministering to those in need.  Our Everyday Congregation even calls her “Pastor”.  Lauri Muller is our Development and Children’s Ministries Director(s) and an amazing woman.  Lauri pours herself into her work helping those in financial need, in stress and pain, those who just need a loving ear and passing on these important lessons to our youngest congregants.  Thank you Lauri for opening your glowing and gifted heart to those around you!

REFLECTION

Hospitality means more than making family and guests welcome in our homes; it is about providing for the needs of any person we encounter, particularly the stranger. In biblical times, this was often widows, orphans, the poor, and sojourners from other lands— people who lacked status in a family or the community. Hospitality meant graciously welcoming such people in one’s land, home, or community and providing directly for their needs of food, water, shelter, clothing, and respect.

Jesus both taught hospitality and modeled it in his actions of welcoming strangers, eating with tax collectors and sinners, meeting a foreign gentile woman at the well, and healing without regard to nationality or religion. Jesus appeared as a stranger when he joined two followers on their way to Emmaus (Luke 24:28–35). Only when they invited the resurrected Jesus to share the table and bread were their eyes opened to his presence.

When we welcome others to our tables and homes and church, strangers who are guests can become divine hosts. Early gatherings for worship were often household-based where acts of hospitality were extended, and the image of the church, as the household of God, had powerful resonance (e.g., Ephesians 2:19; 1 Timothy 3:15). Because converts came from many backgrounds and shared meals the home became an important location for building unity and a new identity, for transcending social differences, and for making sure that the local poor were fed (e.g., Acts 2:46; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). Hospitality was practically necessary and theologically central.

What does this hospitality mean for us today? Where are the opportunities for us to entertain angels? If we are serious about the call to action we are challenged with in today’s scripture, what does it mean to…

  1. Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.

2.  Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!

3.  Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.

This passage is about community and justice. None of the things the author exhorts us to do can be accomplished alone. We need to have others in our lives with whom to share mutual love, support, and accountability. As embodied members of Christ, it is our duty and privilege to care for, nurture, and help others, fully empathizing with their circumstances. We are admonished to treat all of our relationship from our immediate family and spouse, our community and even the stranger with the love that Christ exemplified for us through sacrifice, peace, forgiveness and guidance.

This passage is about taking the sacrifice and love of Christ and not just remembering it but rather receiving it. So when Jesus calls us to remember at the table, we are being invited not just to remember in our minds but rather to receive him fully. In the same way, when we are called to remember those in prison, we are called to receive them as well. Not just in our prayers, which is a part of the call, but to bring them into our lives. Together with Jesus at the table, you, the prisoner and I are brought by him into a relationship that breaks down all divisions of status, race and gender. We remember that we, too, are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.

“Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” has been scrutinized by scholars to more accurately mean Jesus is faithful. Too often we equate, Jesus being the same, to mean that people or religion or beliefs are always the same. The latter are our experiences and expressions of Jesus in our life and those should change. They should grow as Jesus remains faithful and constant regardless of where we are. We can receive this good news and be mindful that Jesus remains faithful to us and to the stranger and calls us into community together wherever we are.

QUOTES

“To practice hospitality in our world, it may be necessary to evaluate all the laws and all the promotions and all the invitation lists of corporate and political society from the point of view of the people who never make the lists. Then hospitality may demand that we work to change things.”                                                                                                                                    -Joan Chittister from Wisdom Distilled from the Daily

“In community, there will always be a series of losses, giving something up to gain something more. But in the giving up, we find better versions of ourselves. And that’s not easy either.”                                                                                                                                              – Chris Heuertz, Unexpected Gifts

“When we deceive ourselves into thinking that remembering means reciting or lecturing, we lose sight of the fact that remembering really means receiving.”                                            – Gerhard E. Frost, Bible teacher, seminary professor and author of Journey of the Heart

 

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”                                                                                                                       – Desmond Tutu

“The Church confesses Christ, who has broken down the dividing wall (Ephesians 2:14). Christ, our peace, has put an end to the hostility of race, ethnicity, gender, and economic class. The Church proclaims Christ, confident this good news sets at liberty those captive behind walls of hostility (cf. Luke 4:18).”                                                                                        –Excerpt from the ELCA Social Statement on: FREED IN CHRIST: RACE, ETHNICITY, AND CULTURE

SCRIPTURE

Hebrews 13:1-8  New Living Translation (NLT)

1 Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.

Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,

“I will never fail you.  I will never abandon you.”

So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

QUESTIONS FOR THE WEEK

The Bible recounts numerous stories of God’s calling folks individually but in each case, the call is to equip them to be sent back into the community of God’s people. How might the struggle to provide hospitality be healthier if we join ourselves together in addressing issues as a community?

In the self-help section of any bookstore are hundreds of titles: diets, self-esteem guides, toolkits for a happier marriage, and manuals to more effective management of every imaginable topic. Is the cry for self-help a lament that community has been lost?

Are there moments you now recall where you have entertained angels without realizing it or someone has extended hospitality to you in that way?

Who is a stranger in your life?

Posted in Uncategorized

The Race Before Us

This week’s devotional is written by a man that I personally admire.  His commitment to his faith, wisdom, steadfast work ethic, positive attitude and humor amaze me everyday.  Ron Richter is a retired UMC Pastor who spent time in prison ministry.  He wears many hats here at the Coop, working hard to live his ministry.  Thank you, Ron, for all that you do.  Especially those things we may not see or recognize!

REFLECTION

Nobody knows who wrote the book of Hebrews, where it was written, or who was the intended audience. Because the writer refers to the Temple in the present tense, it is assumed that it was written before the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. Some think that Hebrews was written by believers to Jews, explaining the theology of Christ. In this book, Christ is seen as a spiritual king, rather than as the warrior Messiah that the Jewish people were expecting. Another theory is that this unnamed author may have been Priscilla, encouraging the Christians in Rome. Because this passage talks about sacrifice and perseverance, we can assume that it may well have been written during a time of Christian persecution. Many scholars date the book around AD 64.

The text raises several questions for the modern reader. The most obvious one is: What is the race that we are called to? What does the finish line or the goal look like? What do we need in order to prepare for this race? What do we need to do to get in shape for this race? How long is the race going to be? And how does it change our preparation if we know that we are not going to finish in a day or a week?

Our faith is often more of a journey than a race. A race implies a fixed course, but in life, we don’t often have a set course. We embark without really knowing where we are headed or how long the journey will be. This makes preparation far more challenging. It’s like backpacking. We have to prepare for a long, uncertain hike over unfamiliar terrain with only what we can carry on our back. How do we chose what we take along? How do we keep from getting lost? What markers do we use to guide us? And what do we do if … heaven forbid … we do get lost?

This passage encourages us to follow the example of those who have gone before us, to continue on when we’d rather drop out of the journey, and to trust the Holy Spirit to help us make the right choices along the way.

QUOTES

“A theology of weakness challenges us to look at weakness … as a total and unconditional dependence on God that opens us to be true channels of the divine power that heals the wounds of humanity and renews the face of the earth.”                                                            -Henri Nouwen

“It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones who win in the lifelong race.”                                              -Robert W. Service

“The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places.”                                 -Author Unknown

“In racing, they say that your car goes where your eyes go. The driver who cannot tear his eyes away from the wall as he spins out of control will meet that wall; the driver who looks down the track as he feels his tires break free will regain control of his vehicle.”              -Garth Stein

 SCRIPTURE

Hebrews 12:1-6 NRSV

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children— ‘My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,  or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves,    and chastises every child whom he accepts.’

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

Do you feel that Christians are being persecuted in our culture?

What obstacles must you overcome in your daily journey? What is slowing you down?

Do you know someone who exemplifies spiritual discipline? What does that look like?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , ,

Building Healthy Communities

This week’s devotional is written by Jeff Peterson, a member of our Coop since it’s inception.  Jeff has a wonderfully unique point of view and crisp communication style that conveys his meaning with honest clarity.  Thank you, Jeff, for your openness and insight!

REFLECTION

When the Cooperative Ministries were going through the Reconciling process, to be open and supportive to GLBT community members, our Oregon Lutheran Bishop Dave Brauer-Rieke, came and spoke. One of the things that struck me about what he said, as he discussed some of the scripture, was how Paul viewed the previous ways of doing things, as laid out in Old Testament scriptures, as opposed to what was going on right then (in what later became New Testament scripture). One of the things that Bishop Dave talked about was that Paul often referenced the Old Testament scripture, but never as the reason for continuing to do things that way. It was always in the spirit of “ Here is what the old order was, and here is why what we are doing is different…” He was often making a historical reference, but then suggesting the ways in which Jesus was suggesting a different, more inclusive, completely radical shift in the way that people of faith should do business.

Another of the things I like about Paul, is that despite his many self-admitted weaknesses, he is always looking forward. In his letters he is writing, quite often, to communities he has never seen, but trying to keep them moving forward as Christians. Word often seems to get back to him about what is going on, so sometimes he chastises them, but always, he seems to be talking to them about the need to move forward, and how to be a community that focuses on Christ’s word. He always talks about the problems, and he does address them head on, but he also always shows us the path forward. He talks, on the one hand, about “enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves to others.” But then also, right away, suggests to “Love from the center of who you are.”

As we move forward, in this period where we are going to be working with an interim pastor, and trying to find our new way forward. It strikes me that we need to be honest and frank about our own weaknesses. There are always ways in which things could be better. And yet we also need to keep focused on our vision forward. We do not need to always be bound by what was done before, or who did what to whom and when, we have a community to serve. As Paul reminds us, this is a church without boundaries – it is now not us versus them, but we are all part of God’s creative embrace.

QUOTES

“Life moves very fast. It rushes from Heaven to Hell in a matter of seconds.”

Paulo Coelho

“People are very open-minded about new things, as long as they’re exactly like the old ones.”

Charles F. Kettering

“Stubbornness does have its helpful features. You always know what you are going to be thinking tomorrow.”

Glean Beaman

“I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life, but I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes. I don’t know why. Because they’re harder. They’re much more stressful emotionally. And you usually go through a period where everybody tells you that you’ve completely failed.”

Steve Jobs

“Getting stress out of your life takes more than prayer alone. You must take action to make changes and stop doing whatever is causing the stress. You can learn to calm down in the way you handle things.”

Joyce Meyer

“Oh, the most important thing about myself is that my life has been full of changes. Therefore, when I observe the world, I don’t expect to see it just like I was seeing the fellow who lives in the next room.”

Chinua Achebe

“There are terrible jerks, and there are an unusually large concentration of them in the workplace. And that means that you do have to make some changes in your behavior, but there is absolutely no need for you to give them power over your happiness.”

Srikumar Rao

 SCRIPTURE

Romans 12: 1-21 (The Message)

12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

4-6 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

6-8 If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

9-10 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION

  1. Are you more apt to lament change or celebrate it? Why do you think that is the case?
  2. What do you see yourself doing to strengthen the MCM community in this changing time?
  3. What big change in your life that you were fearful and anxious about turned out to be a really wonderful experience? What made it that way?
Posted in Uncategorized

The Challange of Living in Unity

Our Speaker this week, Sandi DeMaster, is the Pastor and Priest for Lumen Christi; a community who shares our values and our Sanctuary, so has found their home here at McMinnville Cooperative Ministries.  To read more about Lumen Christi click here:  Lumen Christi: Home

We are honored to have Sandi share her words with us this week!

REFLECTION

Perhaps you’ve heard the old story about two aged Quakers chatting contemplatively as they sat in their rocking chairs, watching a summer sunset from their country house porch. The one said to the other, “You know, sometimes I think that everyone in the world is a bit off except for me and thee. And, sometimes I wonder about thee!”

We laugh at that story because we recognize ourselves in it. Privately, we think “I alone see things clearly and everyone else is a bit off.” Family life especially fosters this attitude. When individuals from different genders, backgrounds, and personalities come together, misunderstandings and conflict eventually arise. Adding children escalates the potential for problems. Now take a local church and multiply those numbers by 1-200. It’s easy to imagine that conflict is inevitable.

What was going on in the Christian community in the city of Ephesus that inspired the writer of this letter to pen the words we read today?   It sounds like there was some kind of divisive energy in the air. Maybe leadership was in question, maybe there were economic injustices at play in the community, maybe there were some theological differences floating about as people tried to figure out who this man Jesus had been and how his teachings ought to be practiced. Whatever it was, the writer of this letter was looking to address the human tendency toward division by using the word “one” and “unity” multiple times.

Oneness is a universal principle to which all nature is called to yield. The story of evolution teaches us that life evolved from one cell. Over billions of years, the process of replication and diversification produced complex organisms of unity in diversity. Each cell and each organism made up of cells had its own purpose- a purpose that made a contribution to the entire web of life. To think about it boggles the mind! But in today’s scripture passage, the Divine Power that created this unity of nature calls us to recognize and honor this unity in the way that we live our Christian faith in community.

“We are called to live as one in the spirit of Christ.  I plead with you, then, in the name of our Redeemer, to lead a life worthy of your calling.”   Our calling is to live in unity. We are charged to pursue the goal of reconciliation, not only our personal relationships, but in our faith communities and finally, into reconciling all creation into relationship with the God who intended unity to be the real condition of life.

So how do we move back towards this ideal condition? Many of us “old timers” memorized this KJV verse years ago: “Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,  endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Today we hear it in these words: “treat one another charitably, in complete humility, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the spirit through the peace that binds you together.”   Our worthwhile calling is to the kind of love that is willing to yield one’s own personal position and comfort level for the sake of the whole community.   This is a love that is an act of the will, not an act of emotion. Our calling is not first and foremost to a feeling of coziness and warmth toward one another, but to a choice of actions that maintains unity.

Humility, gentleness, and patience are the qualities that enable preservation of “the unity of the spirit through the peace that binds you together.” How are those qualities being fostered in you as you make the effort to lead a life worthy of your calling?

SCRIPTURE

Ephesians 4:1-6,11-16 (The Inclusive Bible) We are called to live as one in the spirit of Christ.  I plead with you, then, in the name of our Redeemer, to lead a life worthy of your calling. 2 treat one another charitably, in complete humility, gentleness and patience. 3 do all you can to preserve the unity of the spirit through the peace that binds you together. 4 there is one body and one spirit—just as you were called into one hope when you were called. 5 there is one savior, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and creator of all, who is over all, who works through all and is within all. 

QUOTES

Look out into the universe and contemplate the glory of God. Observe the stars, millions of them, twinkling in the night sky, all with a message of unity, part of the very nature of God.

Sai Bab

“Nothing unites people as sharing the same affliction.”

Jack Hyles

“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”

 J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

“Sometimes the thing that brings us together also pulls us apart. Sort of like a zipper.”

 Jarod KintzThis Book Title is Invisible

“All for one and one for all, united we stand divided we fall.”

Alexandre DumasThe Three Musketeers

“The Destiny of Man is to unite, not to divide. If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts at each other out of separate trees.”

T.H. White

FOR REFLECTION

As we work toward the realization of the unity that God has created, consider:

Which of our own preferences do we value more highly than the experience of this God-given unity?

To what degree do we desire less unity than God intends?

Do our personal lives and community efforts contribute to the realization of the high goals set forth in the Epistle to the Ephesians?

Posted in Uncategorized