Saturday, October 22, 2011

Further Along the Road: Serving Others

The Lay Speakers at Fairview offered the message, "The Road of Discipleship." The first two portions of that message, "Loving God," and "Loving Others," were posted in the previous two Blogs. You may want to start there. Jesus tells us that the "gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few that find it." (Matthew 7:14) The Good News is that there are resting places, way points, dwelling places along the road. We like to picture them as park benches. Please join us as we travel the road that leads to life.

(Laity Voice Four) And the last Park Bench is “Serving Others.” The work of serving others is another form of love.

Scott Peck teaches us that love implies effort. We are to extend ourselves against the normal inertia of laziness and fear. Loving, extending ourselves, overcoming fear is not sedentary, it requires effort. Love requires effort. In fact, Scott Peck emphasizes that if our act is not an act of work or courage, it is not love.
Serving others is an act of work or courage that nurtures the spiritual growth of another and therefore it is an act of love. That understanding may help us bring together what most of us believe are difficult passages. Remember this passage from James? (2:14-17) “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has not works is dead.”

Or how about this one from 1 John? (3:17-18) “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help? Little children, let us love not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”
If our actions involve work or courage, they are love. James could have easily said, “faith without love is dead.” I think we can understand that.

So, how are we doing? How is the love of serving others playing out at Fairview and in the Missouri United Methodist Church? I thought I take a few minutes to follow up Serve2011, the day the church left the building to serve our communities.

(Show Mission Cast: )

We work to change lives, to transform lives, to nurture the spiritual growth of another. For Serve2011, Fairview worked on Jim’s house. Jim suffers from Cerebral Palsy. There is no doubt that as a result of our efforts, Jim was able to see God more clearly and because of his improved circumstance to pursue a relationship with God more easily. What happened that day in Jim’s house was love. Love is a verb! And it takes place during the time we dwell around the park bench of “Serving Others.”

Close (Laity Voice One)

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and road is hard that leads to life, and few will find it.” (Matt 7:13-14)

Most of us are on the interstate, four lanes, limited access as we speed through life without the time, the effort or the courage to love, to develop relationships with God and others, to make a transforming difference in the lives of others through service.

That is the narrow road, the one few will find. It is the road less traveled by, and it is the road that leads to life. To life. That is what being a follower, a disciple of Jesus Christ offers, Life.

It is the road any one of can take if we will choose the rest stop and give God our time through prayer and reading Scripture and listening to him.
Then to give him our time through weekly worship, being here, dwelling on that park bench that focuses our lives on Him, connects to Him, begins that journey of love of Him. We really begin our journey on the Road of Discipleship by “Loving God.”

But it’s not just a solitary walk in the woods, it is a hike we take with others in community where we connect with others, love others in obedience to God’s command. The second park bench where we dwell in “Loving Others.”

Then, we learn to “Serve Others,” changing lives in Jesus Christ.

And through it all, God loves us, we grow spiritually, and we too are changed.

And it’s not just a stroll, but a journey, one where we invite others along, sharing the Good News of the love of God as we learn to Love Him, Love others, serve the world, changing lives in Jesus Christ. It is the journey on the Road of Discipleship. So may it be in all of our lives. Amen.

Along the Road: Loving Others

The Lay Speakers at Fairview offered the message, "The Road of Discipleship." The first portion of that message, "Loving God," was posted in the previous Blog. You may want to start there. Jesus tells us that the "gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few that find it." (Matthew 7:14) The Good News is that there are resting places, way points, dwelling places along the road. We like to picture them as park benches. Please join us as we travel the road that leads to life.

(Laity Voice Three) The second step, the second park bench, the second way-station on the Road of Discipleship is “Loving Others,” connecting to others, learning from others through God’s gift of community. Jesus was very clear, “By this you will be known as my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John says, “Because God first loved us, little children, we ought to love one another.”

The early church gives us the best examples, “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers….they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread together at home and ate food with glad and generous heart.” Acts 2:42,46

Paul’s churches that we read about in the New Testament were not buildings, but gatherings of small groups in homes, house churches.

Wesley reenergized the Church of England with small groups. Wesley was asked, “How do we escape the wrath to come?” another way of saying, “How do we become disciples?” Or “what is the Road of Discipleship?” Wesley gathered people in diverse groups across the English country side and in so doing set the stage for the transformation of a nation. They did so because they experienced the power of Community and the love of community and they were nurtured in their spiritual growth through community and they were changed.

It is through our small groups like Joy Group, Disciple Bible Study, Dinner Groups, Small Studies, Sunday School, that relationships are formed, that friendships are made, that caring occurs, that growth happens, that love prospers, that disciples are nurtured.

Bishop Schnase emphasizes that there are many things you simply cannot do alone. You cannot learn to love alone. You cannot learn to be patient alone. You cannot learn to be kind and considerate alone. You cannot learn to forgive alone, you cannot learn to care for another alone, you cannot be held accountable alone. It is in community that we learn to love others.

And just as in Loving God, connecting to others, learning from others, loving others takes Time. We learn in relationship and it takes Time. And because it is so important, small groups, community will receive increased emphasis here at Fairview in coming months. We need to dwell there. So the next park bench on the Road of Discipleship is “Loving Others.”

The Road of Discipleship

On October 9th, The Lay Speakers at Fairview United Methodist Church were offered the opportunity to speak. We chose to talk to the congregation about the pathway to discipleship, in this case based on Jesus' guidance to take the "narrow road." How is it that we become a disciple of Jesus Christ? Because of the length, I've chosen to break it into three parts. The last two segments can be read in subsequent blogs. Join us along the "Road." Jesus said, "It is the road that leads to life." It's a road you don't want to miss.

The Road of Discipleship
(Matthew 7:13-14)

Introduction (Laity Voice One)

Robert Frost ends his classic poem, “The Road Not Taken,” saying, “And I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” All the difference.

In 1979, M. Scott Peck released his book whose title was built on the teachings of Jesus and the poem of Robert Frost. Scott Peck entitled it The Road Less Traveled. It was a gift of love. It remained on the “New York Times” best seller list for over 10 years. It is a book about love and about spiritual growth. It is the road of discipleship, one few take. It is the narrow road. If you haven’t read it, you should. If you’ve read it, be kind to yourself by reading it again.

It begins with the statement, “Life is difficult.” We know that. Jesus’ disciples knew that. Peck’s book is a gift to those of us who choose the narrow way, the road less traveled. It begins with a practical, workable definition of love and becomes a guide for my Christian walk.

How we define love makes all the difference. Jesus says to Peter at the close of the Gospel of John, “Peter, do you love me?” Jesus, what do you mean by love? Peter didn’t know. Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” Jesus, do you mean physically or spiritually? Jesus, what do you mean by love?

Jesus said, “By this you will be known as my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Do we know what he means by love?

e said the greatest commandment was, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Are we to embrace everyone we meet? What does Jesus mean by love?

James said, “You will do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is certainly some physical aspect, but there is more to it than that.

Jesus said, “No greater love than this, that one would lay down their life for their friends.” If we run around trying to find ways to do that, we are only going to have one shot at it.
So how do we define love? How does Scott Peck define love? Peck says that love is “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” (p 81) (repeat for emphasis) Love is will. Love involves effort. Love results in transformation. Think of what God did for us, to transform us. It is the ultimate will. To think that he would will himself to come into the world for our sake. That he would extend himself, not just himself, but his arms on a cross for us to show us that there was no limit to how far he would go to show his love for us. And he would do it of course to nurture our spiritual growth, our relationship with him. Certainly there is not greater love than that.


So where does the road of discipleship begin? It begins with God.

Everything we do begins with God. Wesley described it as God’s nudging grace, what he called prevenient grace, grace before we even know. We are incapable of making that first step by ourselves. We make it in response to God’s nudging.

Even prayer begins with God. (Lift your hands heavenward.) I want you to take a few seconds to pray. Bow your heads, close your eyes, lift your hands heavenward. Listen, feel God’s direction for your prayer. Amen. Our prayers begin with God. And that’s where the Road of Discipleship begins.

(Laity Voice Two) All of our road, our prayers begin with God. As this presentation was coming together, I was lying in bed, saying my prayers when I decided to say the Lord’s prayer. “Our Father.” I often pause at that point and listen, feel for what God is directing me to pray for or to say to me in answer to prayer. Just then, there was a notice on my iPhone on the bedstand beside me saying the Cardinals had beaten the Phillies 5-nothing! Now let me tell you. We were on the farm. Down in a hollow. No Service. Prayers come from God! There may have been more to managing the Cardinals down the stretch than Tony La Russa knows. Enough “Angels in the Outfield” stuff.

Okay. I want to begin the Road of Discipleship in a very unusual place. A place I would daresay none of you will ever visit. But it’s a story about not only place but of time. It’s a place on US Highway 18 in Gregory County South Dakota. It is in the town of Herrick, the town Rosemary grew up in. When she grew up there, it was a town of 300 with five or six institutions of significance: The small Methodist Church that still thrives, Fortuner’s butcher shop, the Post Office, Anhorn’s Grocery, the Pool Hall, and you might throw in the school. The town is only a hundred now. The school is closed. The grocery store is closed. The Post Office will be shortly closed. The butcher shop where hunters used to say had the best bologna, Herrick bologna, in the world, is closed. But the Pool Hall is still open, Bernie’s place. It is the town gathering place. The Hunters used to say it had the best chocolate ice cream anywhere. The chocolate ice cream is gone, but it was and still is the only place in town to gather. After church on Sunday, where do you think we go to gather? Bernie’s Place, the Pool Hall.

I don’t think I would ever be able to adequately describe Bernie’s Place to you. Suffice it to say, I tell Rosemary it’s the place where you go to get you immune system kick started.

But it’s more than a place. It’s time. Bernie and Marilyn, now in their seventies, raised their six children there. Their grandchildren spent time there. Bernie and Marilyn live there. Live there. It is not just their place, it is time. Marilyn’s smiling face is always there, all the time. Bernie is there unless he’s fishing with one of his grandkids. Fishing—time. Reba McIntyre said she learned more about the Bible fishing with her grandmother than she ever did in church. Time.

When we were there in September, their oldest daughter Janet, now middle aged, was there helping her parents, she was canning pickles while talking and serving the customers. She was spending time with her Mother. By the way, the place is no longer known for its chocolate ice cream, but for Janet’s cinnamon rolls. While we were there another of the grown children, Dan, came through to spend time with his parents. Time.

Oh, and if you want a dozen ears of corn, you simply spend time at the card table or at the bar while Janet goes out back a few steps to the garden and picks a dozen ears. The same with tomatoes. By the way, Janet doesn’t have to be there. She has a successful career of her own and is the wife of a successful farmer and rancher. Dan doesn’t have to be there. He runs a successful seed operation. It’s about time.

And the grandchildren had spent time there. Not all successes but on the wall is one granddaughter’s picture playing basketball for the University of Nevada. Pictures of two others playing basketball for the University of Sioux Falls. One grandchild is a school superintendent. Another is a grade school principal.

How did this happen? Certainly not riches from a pool hall in a town of one hundred. Bernie and Marilyn just get by. They are poor by any economic standard. In terms of life, they are rich. How so? I would say that it was about time. Parenting, nurturing is about time.

This is what Scott Peck says about parenting and time: “Parents who devote themselves to their children even when it is not demanded…will perceive in the subtle needs for discipline… they will take the time to make..minor adjustments, listening.. responding.. tightening.. loosening.. giving little lectures, little stories, little hugs and kisses, little admonishments, little pats on the back….” It is about nurturing our children, giving them the tools for life. It is about time. And time is about love. With God it is no different.

It is amazing what time will do when almost no other resources are available.
When we give our time to Jesus, we learn to be like him, we learn the skills for walking the narrow path, we grow spiritually. We become more and more like him, and we become his followers. We are on the road to discipleship.

How is it that we come to love God? We begin with our time. Isn’t that true of all the things we love? We give them our time. We give time to our children, we give time to our hobbies, we give the things we love our time. To learn to love God, we need to give him our time.
We follow the example of Jesus. Jesus gave his time. Luke tells us that “[Jesus] went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom.” (4:16)

We follow the example of Jesus, and we come to church. We make it customary. We give God time for our prayers, time for our presence, time for our worship, we are here on Sunday morning, giving time to hear the scripture read, time to hear the word expounded, time for our prayers, public and private. Worship is a time we give our love to God.

Our love of God begins with time, and over the course of time we are subtly changed. As we begin our love of God, we experience the love of God in return and we are changed, transformed, we grow spiritually. That’s what love is about.

We grow spiritually because God first loved us. He had the will to step out of eternity into our time to extend himself for us and our salvation through his mighty acts in Jesus Christ to bring us into a right relationship with him. For what? So that he could nurture us and our spiritual growth. We love because God first loved us.

So we’re on the road less traveled, the narrow road, the road that Jesus told us would be hard. But there is good news. There are rest places, way stations, dwelling spots along the road. I like to think of them as park benches, because we can dwell there. The first “park bench” on the Road of Discipleship is, loving God, connecting to God, learning from God, dwelling with him, giving him our time. This dwelling place is our worship and it is the starting place for “Loving God.”

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Why Simple Church? Why SOLM

There were some issues raised on the evaluation forms that are just too important to leave in the file, and it is my intention to address those through emails, blogs, and the Please continue the conversation by replying to the email or at my blog site. In many of your comments, there seemed to be confusion on the task.

Getting to the basics: Why Simple Church and what was our task at School of Lay Ministry?

There are five (maybe six if you count the alternate ending to the Gospel of Mark) commissions in the New Testament (Mt 28:16-20, Mk 16:15, Lk 24:47, Jn 20:21, and Acts 1:8) We are clearly called by Scripture and the doctrine of the United Methodist Church to make disciples. Further is it the theme of the New Testament to bring the Kingdom of God near. We pray it, if not daily, weekly, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.” We are to transform a broken world—changing lives in Jesus Christ—make disciples, transform the world.

Yet we do not. The church is in decline. We are ineffective in making disciples. Some enter and are not formed. Others, who want to be formed, leave our churches because we do not or cannot show them the way. Our churches are sick and ineffective in following the Great Commission. Yet the authors or Simple Church found that “the healthiest churches in America tended to have a simple process for making disciples. They had clarity about the process. They moved Christians intentionally through the process. They focused on the elements of the process. And they aligned their entire congregations to this process.” (Rainer and Geiger, Simple Church, page ix)

Since our churches do not have a clear method of making disciples (Nobody at SOLM stood up and said, “We have an intentional, visible pathway to discipleship.”), our task was to first be clear about our mission, then to develop an intentional discipleship process that we could recommend to our congregations. The reason we wanted to be clear about the mission, is that the mission drives the process. If a disciple is to love God, part of our process is to connect people in a loving way to God. If a disciple is to love others, we need to connect people in a loving way to others. If a disciple is to be in ministry to a world of need, we need our process to connect them to ministry.

Wouldn’t it be great if our mission not only drove the process but was the process? St. Paul’s in Joplin restates Matthew 28:19-20a as “leading people to an active faith in Jesus Christ where we define an active faith as loving God, loving others, serving the world.” Their mission tells them not only what they are to do, but what a disciple looks like to them. (I’ll have another blog on the Scriptural and Wesleyan basis for such a mission and discipleship description.)

The next task would be “How is a disciple formed?” Just in case you want to follow along in the book, Simple Church, you might want to look at the bold headings on pages 236-240.

We can make “How disciples are formed” simple or complex. While drilling down, asking the questions “how?” five times (for example what does loving God look like? Well, we worship Him. What is worship? Well, it is song and prayer, and hearing the Scripture read and proclaimed. It is offering ourselves to him. We can then ask what each of these look like. What is a good song? Now you’ve asked a question that will take pages to resolve, or not.

For now, let’s stay at the top level. Simply put, we learn to love others in great worship and in relationship with others. This weekend, we experienced great worship on Friday night. We heard Bill O’Neal tell us in his awesome sermon that Acts 2.42 was the basis for growing in love of God and others. We heard of programs like “Alpha” that can move people toward an understanding of God, and of other non-threatening small group studies that can both lead people to know and love God and enter into authentic relationship with one another.

Keeping with simplicity, if a disciple is one who loves God, loves others, and serves the world, then the process of forming them is connecting people to God, connecting people to others, and connecting people to ministry. And that seems to be a logical sequence and in order of increasing commitment (We know it’s messier than that, but stay with the program.).

Simple Church’s next task (page 239) was to take a single church-wide program and place it along side each of the steps. It’s obvious to me that worship is the first one, and to the extent it can be so, great worship. We all can do it better. We dwelled on small groups as a means of connecting to others. Most of us have much work to do. We introduced missions as a means of connecting to ministry. Actually, many of you are probably doing pretty well in this step. If not, flesh it out.

We also talked about movement as being essential (Andy Stanley is quoted in Simple Church as saying that “the church must be designed to never leave people alone.” (page 100). For example, it may be just too great a leap to go from worship to small groups. We need to create small achievable steps, like non-threatening larger group environments of short duration like “Alpha” or other starter groups. We must design our church, our process, to move people to greater levels of spiritual maturity.

This is really about as far as we got with our task. We had you begin preparing a presentation to key laity and your pastor and to nail down some first steps to get you moving along the process. In my own church, my recommended first steps are these: Emphasize radical hospitality and great worship (moving people to and then experiencing God). Then begin small group leadership training while our church’s small group style is being refined. Our new pastor needs adopt and roll out our new mission statement, probably in September.

Now there is work left to be done. When the process is understood, the resources of the congregation need to be aligned to it; and here is the hard part, we need to focus. The programs of the church that do not contribute to making disciples need to be eliminated. The process needs to be uncluttered.
I hope this gets your thoughts started for your home church. Our task is to make disciples, changing lives in Jesus Christ. We must accept that and do it!

Other thoughts later. I’ll be posting this on my blog and at in the SOLM group. I welcome your comments.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Maunday Thursday Sermon

This sermon was delivered 4/14/11, the last in a Thursday evening Lenten series at Fairview UMC. The series theme was "Finals Week," developed by a Creative Worship team of Lay Speakers from Mid-State District, awesome sounds, images, messages. Each of the previous sermons has taken a day of Jesus' final week, beginning on Palm Sunday. This sermon was for Holy Thursday. The sermon title was “So That” (Jesus Passed Finals Week For You SO THAT). (1 Cor 11:23b-25; 10:16-17)

A. Introduction
1. On July 26th last year, a Sunday, I came home in the afternoon after a weekend away and found Rosemary on the living room couch. She had been in prayer all day, and when she wasn’t in prayer, she had been on the phone with her nieces and nephews in South Dakota.I’m an only child. Rosemary’s sister Dorothy has six kids, our extended family, my family. Dorothy and her husband Harley, their daughter Anita and granddaughter Sally Mae had been on the way from the farm to church that morning. Daughter Anita had been in the right rear seat. Sally Mae, age seven, had been buckled in the center seat.It was a typical trip to church. Dorothy is communion steward and Sally Mae had learned from her so that even when it wasn’t communion Sunday, Sally Mae would take her own bread and grape juice in the car and have her on little communion on the way to church.

2. The gravel road to the highway was a section line, a straight shot, and the intersecting roads were section lines, all straight shots. High speeds. As he approached one of these intersections, Harley said to Dorth, “You really need to watch this one, that kid down there never slows down.” As he said it, he saw the car speeding toward them at sixty miles per hour. His premonition allows him to hit the accelerator so that instead of a direct T-bone, the car hit the left rear quarter panel spinning the car so hard that it ripped the wheels right out from under it.

3. So when I got home in the middle of Sunday afternoon, Harley and Dorothy were in the hospital. Neither Rosemary nor the nieces and nephews were sure of their condition, but it seemed promising. Daughter Anita had had to be cut out of the car and it caused a long delay. She was in the ambulance on the way to Sioux Falls, three hours away, and it was certain she’d need surgery. Because of the delay, it would be 10 hours between the accident and surgery. The force of the accident, transmitted through her seat belt had ruptured her colon.And Sally Mae, seven year old Sally Mae—the only thing wrong with Sally Mae was that she was covered in grape juice. It was almost as if it had been a protective shield of grace, of grape grace.

4. It’s Thursday night of Holy Week, the night that Christ instituted the sacrament we call Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist, or the Great Thanksgiving. It was the night of Jesus’ Final Exam, the tests he passed SO THAT we could live our lives differently. In our time together, I want to talk about the events of that night and together we’ll experience this mystery we call Holy Communion and why it has changed everything for and how we live our lives, and the hope we have within us.

B. Body
1. So it’s Thursday of Holy Week, Jesus’ Final Week, his Finals Week. From the text, we don’t know much about what went on during the day. Jesus may have spent the day in the Temple teaching as he did all the other days; or he may have spent the day in Bethany contemplating what he knew was going to happen. We know that Thursday was the first day of Passover. Passover was and still remains the most important Festival of the Jewish Calendar. At the time of Jesus, Jews had been commemorating Passover for 1400 years to remember the mighty acts of God in delivering them out of Egypt, out of slavery, out of the house of bondage. On that night, 1400 years earlier, God had acted with a mighty hand and the angel of death had visited every first-born in Egypt, but death had passed over the houses of the Israelites. Pharaoh had let the Israelites go. God had commanded the Israelites to remember this day and for 1400 years they had.

2. It was for the Passover Festival that Jesus and the disciples had come to Jerusalem. We believe that as many as two million had made that journey from all over the world. Thursday was the first day of Passover. The disciples had prepared the Passover feast in an Upper Room in Jerusalem. Matthew tells us, “When it was evening, He took his place with the twelve.Now the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke take three or four paragraphs to talk about their supper that night. John, the Gospel of John, on the other hand, takes five chapters. Five Chapters!

3. I’m standing here in the serving area of a table that would have been like the ones used by Jesus and the apostles. You might be surprised to know that DaVinci had it wrong, all wrong.Rather than a table, we now know from archeological evidence that the people of the first century would have been around a triclinium—tri for three sides, and clinium, the root from which we get the word recline. It was customary to “recline at table,” feet away, and resting on the left elbow, eating with and passing food with the right hand.Jesus was the host. Again, from archeological evidence, the host reclined here, the second place in, probably closest to the door. It was the second position in so that places of honor could be at the host’s right and left. So you see, DaVinci had it very wrong.

4. In John chapter 13, it tells us that Jesus began the evening by doing a shocking thing. Jesus got up from the table, took off his outer garment, tied a towel around his waist, put water in a basin and washed the disciple’s feet, their dirty, stinking feet. Jesus performed the task normally done by servants or slaves. He went around the table to each one, ending with Peter. We believe Peter was reclining here, we’ll tell you why in a minute.When he was done he said, “Do you know what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I your Teacher and Lord have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. For I have set an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”Later in Chapter 13, Jesus is to give the disciples a new commandment, words to go with his acts, his example. Jesus will say, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you have love for one another. By this you will be known as my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

5. After Jesus had washed their feet and at the end of the meal, he announced his betrayal, “Very truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” Can you imagine the stir that that must have caused around the table? The conversation? It is from this exchange that we know how the disciples were seated.
a. We do know that the host sat here with places of honor at the right and left. We’ve also guessed that Peter was here. He was the last one whose feet Jesus had washed.
b. Now John’s Gospel tells us that John (John calls himself the disciple whom Jesus loved) was reclining next to Jesus. It says Peter motioned to John to ask Jesus who it is?
c. Here I think the words of the King James Version are helpful. This is how it describes the scene: Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom, one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him that he should ask who it is of whom he spake. It says, “He [John] then lying on Jesus’ breast said, “Lord, who is it?”
d. Now, we don’t use the words breast and bosom in polite conversation much any more, but it sure is useful here. Can you see that John is here, directly across from Peter, leaning on the bosom of Jesus, or lying on his breast as he leaned back to ask, “Lord, who is it?”Jesus here, answered, “It is the one whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And after he dipped the bread he gave it to Judas Iscariot.

6. So let me ask you, if John was in this seat of honor, who was in the other? (Judas) Isn’t that interesting. Judas had betrayed Jesus, and Jesus knew it, yet he placed Judas in the seat of honor.That’s a test that Jesus passed that night, that I’ll bet we would have had a great deal of difficulty passing.

7. We’re in the Gospel of John. In just a minute we’re going to go back to Matthew to talk about the Lord’s Supper, but before we do I want to quickly outline John’s five chapters:

Ch 13 – (The one we’ve been talking about. Footwashing, betrayal and a New Commandment that we love one another.

Ch 14 – Wonderful words of assurance. You’re familiar with how it begins: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go, I will come again to take you to myself.”

Ch 15 – is about relationship, our dependent relationship with Him: “I am the vine, you are the branches…apart from me you can do nothing.” But with this relationship, drawing on him, we can be fruitful. And relationship has everything to do with joy in our lives. Jesus closes by saying, “I tell you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.”

Ch 16 – The Gift of the Holy Spirit. God says, “I will not leave you orphaned. I will not leave you alone.

Ch 17 – Jesus’ prayer for us: for his disciples, for the church, for the world.

8. So, back to the Gospel of Matthew. They are at table. “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it, he broke it, gave it to his disciples and said, “This is my body.”Now, for my Scriptures for tonight, those that Bridget read for us, I actually used passages from 1 Corinthians, Paul’s letter of instruction to the church at Corinth, in this case his instruction about the Lord’s Supper. Why? Paul’s letters were actually written years and years before the gospels. These words about the Lord’s Supper were the earliest recorded. The Lord’s Supper was well established as an integral part of gathering well before the letter was written. The Lord’s Supper was a part of worship in the church from the beginning.Not only that, do you realize that these words, these words from Jesus from 1 Corinthians are the earlier recorded quotations of Jesus that we have in the Bible. Jesus’ earliest quote is his institution of the Lord’s Supper.

9. The early church and St. Paul thought communion was important, that it was central to their faith, their worship, their walk of discipleship: “Do this in remembrance of me.” Remembrance is a packed word.
a. It means remembering the past, the mighty acts of God in Jesus Christ for us and for our salvation.
b. It means remembering for us to look inward and examine ourselves and knowing that if we confess our sins that God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse from all unrighteousness.
c. It means looking outward for we are commanded to love one another, even as I have loved you.
d. It means remembering to look forward to the promises of God in Jesus Christ. “I go to prepare a place for you and I will come again to take you to myself…. If it were not so would I have told you?”
e. Remembering means looking upward at the cross of Christ, for God in Jesus Christ is present at the meal. He is the host of the meal.
f. And remembering means knowing that God will never leave us alone, that he will always be present with us in the Power of the Holy Spirit.
g. “Do this in remembrance of me.”

10. The table of the Lord, the table of Jesus Christ is all those things and more. Something happens at the table that changes us. It is a mystery. In fact, the English word we use, sacrament, in Greek is the word “mysterion.” The Lord’s Supper changes us, we know not how. It is a mystery.
a. How is it that God can take ordinary bread, ordinary wine, ordinary us, us, and make them holy, set us apart? It is a mystery, but this we know:
b. Jesus is present, grace is present, we are covered in grace.
c. In fact, John Wesley called the sacrament a means of grace. A means by which we can immerse ourselves in the grace of God, make ourselves available to his grace.
d. Just as Sally Mae was covered in grace that morning. Can you not see, can you not feel that grape colored translucent shield surrounding Sally Mae as she was present at the Table of the Lord that morning? Even if that table was in the backseat of her car. We cannot know, we cannot understand, but we know that she was covered in grape juice, she was covered in grace.

11. The Table of the Lord is ready. It is not the Table of Fairview, this church or any church or denomination, it is the Lord’s Table and all are invited, all are welcome.You will be offered the loaf where you may break off a small piece and dip a corner of it in the grape juice. You may take it standing here in readiness to serve. You may take it kneeling or at table in prayer and reverence feeding on him in your hearts. If you are unable to come forward and would like to partake, make yourself known to the ushers and we will serve you at your seats.Please come, please come to the table of the Lord.

(After everyone is seated, the lights go out for 10 seconds. When they come back on, Jesus is in prayer in Gethsemane.)

12. The Bible tells us that after supper, and after they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives where there was a garden and there Jesus prayed in great distress:
a. “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will but thine be done.”
b. We know then that the guards came along with Judas who betrayed him with a kiss.
c. Jesus told those present, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will send 12 legions of angels?” And then Jesus allowed himself to be taken away.

C. Close
1. With that Jesus chose to accept his Father’s cup. Jesus chose to take the Final Exam. He could have chosen not to take the exam at all.

2. It was our exam, not his, one that we could never pass; but Jesus passed the Final Exam for us SO THAT. SO THAT
a. So that you can be at table with Jesus, seated beside Jesus, dine with Jesus, even though from time to time you betray him, we can have a relationship with Jesus. “Behold I stand at the door and knock, if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and dine with you and you with me.” We can dine with him, we can have a personal relationship with Jesus.
b. Jesus passed Finals Week for you so that you can see the mighty of God in Jesus Christ for you and for your salvation.
c. So that you can look inward and lay your sins before Christ with the sure and certain knowledge that they will be forgiven. The man said, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.”
d. Jesus passed Finals Week for you, so that we can be obedient disciples of Jesus Christ, looking outward and serving a world in need, for we are called to love one another. “A new commandment I give you that you love one another.”
e. So that you can look forward to the promises of God. Have an eternal relationship with God in Jesus Christ. In my Father’s house are many rooms, many dwelling places, many mansions. “There’s a mansion just over the hilltop.” So that you can have an eternal relationship with Jesus Christ.
f. So that God will be with you always in the presence of the Holy Spirit. “I come to the garden alone…and he walks with you and he talks with you, and he tells you you are his own, and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other will ever know.”
g. Jesus passed Finals Week for you so that, and here’s the good part, here's the part that I love: So that you may have life and it abundantly. So that you life may be full. So that Christ wells up in you. So that Christ’s joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. So that you may be filled with joy of Christ and immersed in his grace.
h. So that in some mysterious way you are changed. The filling and fulfilling relationship with Christ will not and cannot leave you alone.So that you will never again be the same. Jesus passed the final exam for you so that.

3. The ushers are coming forward to give you your diploma for Finals Week. It is a diploma that you did not earn for a test you did not pass. Jesus passed it so that we may have life, we may have joy, we may have abundance.Every time you look at this diploma on your refrigerator or on your mirror, “Jesus passed Finals Week for me… SO THAT” You fill in the blank. Only you can fill in the blank. It is your life. It is your relationship with him. You joyfully fill in the blank and give thanks. So may it be in all our lives. Amen.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Qs and As About Safe Water for Haiti

Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God…you would have asked of Him and He would have given you living water.” John 4:10

Q: Why aren’t we supporting UMC Missions?
A: Haiti and the people of Haiti are on the hearts of the United Methodist Church. We’ve been in Haiti. UMCOR has been in Haiti for years. You may recall that the director of UMCOR, Rev. Sam Dixon, lost his life in the earthquake a year ago because he was there. Meeting the needs of the Haitian people is a UMC priority. You might check out to see 33 pages of UMCOR activities. And we would recommend giving to UMCOR, Advance #418325 to support these efforts. If your passion is safe water, we can directly impact the problem, short and long term, by supporting the efforts of the Safe Water Team.

Q: What are the administrative costs associated with our donations through the Safe Water Team?
A: Since we are designating our funds, 100 percent go to product and delivery. In addition the Letter of Intention we have signed with the Safe Water Team agrees to match every donation that we make by July 1, 2011. Therefore the effectiveness of our donations is 200 percent!

Q: What is UMCOR doing in the area of Water and Sanitation and why aren’t we supporting them?
A: The reason UMCOR is so effective and has such immediate impact is that they direct funds to high impact agencies already on the ground like the Red Cross (secular) or Church World Service (religious). See for ongoing projects funded through other organizations. UMCOR is now looking for long-term, sustainable solutions to the problems of unsafe water and poor sanitation. It will take a variety of solutions to meet those needs. We believe that Hydraid Bio Sand Water Filters are one of those. While we are raising funds to put them in place, we (Safe Water Team and the Missouri Conference UMC) are working with UMCOR to be part of their long-term solution.

Q: What is the Water and Sanitation Crisis all about?
A: A billion people lack access to safe water; 2.2 million die every year, mostly children. In other words, a child dies every 15 second from water borne disease. See to check out the facts. Unfortunately, even when water is available, it is more than likely contaminated with human or animal feces, or parasites that have devastating health impacts or even death, especially among children. People live their lives with parasites and disease and often do not even realize they are sick. It is difficult for an individual or even a society to be productive under such conditions. What is the water crisis all about? People need water to live, but unsafe water kills every 15 seconds.

Q: What is the efficacy of the BioSand Water Filter?
A: : A comparison of various purification means and results can be found here: line, bio sand filters are found to be effective, convenient and sustainable in eliminating or reducing disease causing bacteria, parasites, viruses, and solids from water. While highly effective by itself, it becomes extremely effective if the filtered water is treated with one drop of chlorine per liter. Amway as part of the Safe Water Team is supplying chorine. The Hydraid BioSand Water Filters are not effective against dissolved pesticides or other dissolved chemicals or in purifying seawater.

Q: Why is the Safe Water Team best equipped to address the problem NOW?
A: While this huge problem requires a variety of long-term solutions including permanent wells and effective latrines, The Hydraid BioSand Water Filter is available, effective, and distribution centers are in place in critical areas including the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Shipment to Haiti is being done in cooperation with the US Navy’s Operation Handclasp so that filters sent to Haiti do not need to go through the docks and customs. The NGO, Pure Water for the World, who has been in Haiti many years distributes the filters and trains the recipients. So, the Safe Water Team with its sponsors, see , are producing the Hydraid BioSand Water Filters inexpensively and the logistics chain is in place to pack, ship, deliver, train, and sustain the filters NOW.

Q: How do we give and make sure our money gets to the right place and receives matching funds?
A: We’ve set up two ways to donate. You can donate directly to a 501c3 organization online at or by mailing to Safe Water Team, PO Box 287, Lowell, MI 49331, making sure that “ACDLSM Haiti Water,” or “Lay Speaker Haiti Water” in the online instructions or on the memo line of the check. You organization can also consolidate donations and forward a single check.For those who would rather donate to a United Methodist Organization and know that the donations will be properly transmitted, we have set up an account through the Missouri Conference Office of Creative Ministry. You can donate online at Be sure to include “ACDLSM Haiti Water” or “Lay Speaker Haiti Water” in the “instructions to seller.” Checks can be mailed to Office of Creative Ministries, 3009 David Drive Columbia, MO 65202. Again, include “ACDLSM Haiti Water” or “Lay Speaker Haiti Water” on the memo line.

Q: How do I find out more?
A: Go to and read some of the documentation. A great place to start may be the handbook, and Qs and As, And for more background on the program, see

Fundraising Ideas--Safe Water for Haiti

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to proclaim release to the captives… ”

Few things provide release to the captives like the availability of clean, safe water. The leadership of the Association of Conference Directors of Lay Speaking Ministries (ACDLSM) has signed a Letter of Intent that can obtain matching funds for all donations made by July 1, 2011 up to $50,000. The total would provide clean, safe water for up to 10,000 people for the next 10 years. We can all become part of the solution to a crisis in Haiti and beyond. Set a conference goal of $3,000 now. Have every district set a goal of $1,000. Below are some great fundraising ideas. Select three or more that you can start on right away.

As lay speakers we are called to equip United Methodist for all facets of lay ministry. For this time, the leadership of your Association (ACDLSM) is called to equip the lay speakers and the church to a ministry of Safe Water for Haiti and Haitians. During the past six months, the cholera epidemic as infected over 120,000 and hospitalized 70,000. Fortunately deaths have been under 1,500. But within a short time, the impact of waterborne diseases will exceed the human suffering of the earthquake itself. And as long as people use dirty water, cholera and other debilitating waterborne diseases will not go away. These are Christ’s people. These are the poorest of the poor in the western hemisphere. A million of them remain in tents. The Spirit of the Lord is upon us. We are called.

And we are calling and equipping you to respond. At the ACDLSM Convocation this year, three of our learning sessions focused on lay speakers and lay speaker training sessions to be in mission. We also invited a representative of Safe Water Team who introduced us to an elegant, affordable, available solution. (Click here for details, use it to prepare yourselves). It is the Hydraid Bio Sand Water Filter. It has no moving parts, requires no power, is transportable and costs less than $100.00 shipped and installed. It is highly effective and sustainable for 10 years or more.

A Letter of Intent (LOI) has been signed that has as a goal ACDLSM raising $50,000 and the Safe Water Team providing matching funds by July 1, 2011. That’s $100,000. That’s huge, but easily doable. It’s called the power of connection. If 40 of the 58 contiguous conferences participate, that is $1200 per conference, assuming 8 districts, 800 churches and 800 lay speakers a conference (all round numbers), that’s $150 a district or $1.50 a church or $1.50 a lay speaker. That is the power of connection! (We can only fail by leaving it to the other girl or guy.)

Here are some ideas and easy goals for raising funds in your conference or district or church or lay speaking classes. Remember we are equipping our lay speakers to call the churches to ministry. The goals listed are easily achievable. Our experience is that people want to give. The first presentation was to a congregation of 100 that gave a spontaneous (they did not even know donations were going to be requested) of over $4000. A congregation of 28 donated $1400. A hastily prepared church auction netted $6200. Lay Speakers simply need to be equipped with information and some good fundraising ideas.

1. Have a special offering at the Annual Conference. $15,000. Talk to your Lay Leader about making Hydraid BioSand Water Filters a part of the laity presentation coordinate a special offering with your director of connectional ministries. At your booth at the Annual Conference make water a part of it so members are educated before the offering. Act now, Annual Conference planning is underway.
2. Teach the LS Lead Missions Course to 15 students (email if you do not have the course DVD). Our experience is that lay speakers will not be able to wait to talk to their congregations and will receive substantial spontaneous donations. $15,000
3. Find a Conference Champion. Ministry does not happen nor persist without a champion. Anyone who has been to Haiti or on a VIM trip will be an advocate. Buy them a Hydraid BioSand Water Filter Demonstrator ( or 616-254-4114) and turn them loose. $10,000
4. Find District Champions. $10,000. (Note, a powerpoint presentation you can build on is available.
5. Speak at Rotary Clubs. Many of Lay Speakers are Rotarians. Rotary International is passionate about water and many of these safe water programs were founded and supported by Rotary organizations. A five minute talk at a Rotary Club in December raised $4000. And an Interact Club in California (High Schoolers) raised $50,000 in 2010. Make it known that there are matching funds and it’s a no-brainer. Two Rotary Club presentations should easily net $5000.
6. Make the ministry of Safe Water part of every Lay Speaking Ministries class in your conference this spring. As an extra task, ask each participant to make a presentation (tell the story, that’s what we do best) to their congregations or a small group within their church to raise awareness of the safe water crisis. Solicit fund raising ideas from each group. Act. Assuming 15 students per class, you do the math; it could be great.
7. Each lay speaker (say 300 from a conference) buy one-tenth of a $34 Hydraid Bio Sand Filter. $1,000.
8. Have lay speakers at each church (say 100 churches in your conference) ask for a second offering for Haiti Safe Water. $1,000.
9. Encourage the UMW in each of 100 congregations to do an area study on Haiti, and to raise congregational awareness. $1000 or more.
10. Have Lay Speakers talk to the public school teachers in their congregations about speaking about the problems of Children in Haiti. Invest in a Hydraid Demonstrator ($58 shipped) and use it as a piggy bank for two weeks in a school. Each school will raise $250.
11. Lay Speakers talk to Scouting Organizations sponsored by your churches about doing a fund raiser in the community malls to raise awareness and collect donations. $500.

We recommend that every conference should set a goal of $3,000 to assure levels of giving will capture every dollar of matching funds. Be intentional. Remember, the deadline is July 1, 2011. Let the oppressed go free!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Safe Water--Saving Lives Now

"Lord, when did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink?" Matthew 25:37

If you could provide safe water to a family of five or more for the next 10 years; safe water that was free of parasites and stopped cholera and other killers and that cost only $100, procured, shipped, installed, with the family trained, would you? That's $100, $10 a year to provide safe water to a family in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, or Ghana.

Unsafe water and poor sanitation are at crisis levels. A child under five dies every 15 seconds because of them. It is a crisis begging a sustainable solution. Most efforts leave us frustrated and feeling helpless. But there is an elegant solution. I first learned of it in "Rotarian Magazine" a year ago. (See August 2009 page 30, and November 2009 page 61, issues). The solution is the Hydraid Biosand Filter. A simple device with no moving parts, requiring no power, no maintenance, and only minimal training. It costs $34.00, $100.00 installed in Haiti or one of the other countries above. How can that be? Because God made it that way, and he has led people of God to make it happen.

The Hydraid Biosand Filter uses sand, the system that has cleansed water flowing into our aquifers for eons and a biological layer that naturally forms within few days that attacks the bad pathogens which cause devastating illnesses and even death. (See how it works.) It is a wonder!

Educate yourselves with the links above. It is a life-saver. The Safe Water Team ( is a 501 c3 organization dedicated to distributing the technology to those in need. They are doing tremendous work. The government of Honduras just two weeks ago signed a contract for 40,000 of them to be distributed over the next five years. The solution is there, the transportation is there, the receiving system is there (through the US Navy in Haiti to avoid Customs problems), and the distribution systems are in place (an NGO, Pure Water for the world in Haiti, and Good Samaritan Hospital in the Dominican Republic). The Dominican Republic distribution system supports Haitian field hands who are the poorest of the poor in the Western Hemisphere.

Here's what Lay Speakers in the United Methodist Church are doing: At our annual convocation, we drafted a Letter of Intent to raise $50,000 by July 1st. Safe Water Team pledges to match our donations dollar for dollar up to $50,000! Wow! And because we are a connected church of 50 conferences, and average of 8 districts per conference, 80 churches and 80 lay speakers per district (all round numbers), it is no-brainer. It's a $1000 per conference, $1.60 per church or lay speaker. Most importantly, it is a life-saver!

Lay Speakers, brainstorm how you can make missions part of your training. Find a champion, a person with a passion for people, in your conference or in your district. Talk to your churches. The lay speaker in this video was giving a report on his VIM trip to Haiti. Unannounced, he introduced the Hydraid Biosand Filter and spontaneously raised over $4000 from a congregation of 100 in attendance. Last week a church raised $6200 in a spur of the moment auction just for Hydraid filters for Haiti.

Here's the key to getting our matching funds: Donate through ALWAYS make sure that "ACDLSM" or "Lay Speaker" in is the memo section or if through paypal, in the instructions to the seller. Send checks to Safe Water Team, PO Box 287, Lowell, MI 49331, again with "ACDLSM" or "Lay Speaker" on the memo line of your check. If you prefer to donate through a United Methodist organization, we've set up an alternate at Office of Creative Ministries, Missouri Conference (Click Here) or mail checks to Office of Creative Ministries, 3009 David Drive, Columbia, MO 65202. The same memo instructions apply.

Now, consider if one church in each Conference had a fund raiser. How about a church in each district? Or if each lay speaking ministries class this spring took Safe Water on as a mission project? How about if each lay speaker just bought a $34 Hydraid Biosand Filter? What if it was a project for Change the World Sunday? The possibilities for saving lives are endless. What are your ideas?