From the Well - 6/14/2018

109-1966, Sequoia National Forest, Peggy with Matthew, Mark .jpg

Mark 4:26-34 (NRSV) 
26 He also said, "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come." 30 He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade." 33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples. 

One of the places we visited as a family when dad was a missionary to the Quechan Indians in Yuma, California was the Sequoia National Forest in Sierra, Nevada. We saw five of the largest trees in the world during our visit. The picture shows us standing near the General Sherman Sequoia, the tallest, widest and longest-lived tree in the world. It's hard to imagine a tree as large as the General Sherman, beginning its life some 2,500 years ago as a small seedling the size of your little finger.

Big things usually have small beginnings. As the ancient proverb says, "From small beginnings come great things." Jesus is an observer of nature and the images that He uses in his parables and stories, for the most part, come from the natural world. At one point, Jesus says there is no human glory that can begin to match the wonder of the created world: "Consider the lilies of the field, He says, "how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all of his glory was not arrayed like one of these" (Matthew 6:28-29). Jesus talks about mountains, sheep and shepherds, birds, serpents, rivers, flowers, farmers who till the soil, and the sea. In this morning's parable, He talks about the smallest of seeds and how it produces one of the largest shrubs.

The point being, that huge harvests come from small seeds. We cannot predict the outcome of something by its size. Even a small faith can have tremendous outcomes-even to the point of moving mountains as Jesus tells His disciples in the Gospel of Matthew, "For truly I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:20-21). Think about it.

See you in Worship this Sunday.

Matthew

From the Well 6/7/2018

mind-of-christ-1.png

Philippians 2:1-13 (NRSV) 
1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death- even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

In the play The Cocktail Party, T.S. Eliot writes,

Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm-but the harm does not interest them. They do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.

Every church needs interested and committed people. At Clemmons, we have hundreds of faithful servants who use their gifts for good. In most cases, if I asked these persons about their work in the Body of Christ or thanked them, they would probably respond, “I’m glad to do it,” or “God has called me to this task and I’m grateful that I can serve.”

Paul seems to imply that as good as things are in Philippi, they could be better. He says that his joy will be complete when everyone begins to look out for the other more than for themselves. Paul is pointing out the age old problem of self-interest. It happens in the world and the church as well. Apparently the well-being and spiritual maturity of the Philippian church was in jeopardy because of those who felt important and special, who thought their ministry was more important than someone else’s ministry. Paul makes it clear that an over-inflated ego among some causes the individual and the corporate Body problems.

Winston Churchill was once asked, “Doesn’t it thrill you to know that every time you make a speech, the hall is packed to overflowing?” It’s quite flattering,”replied Sir Winston, “But whenever I feel that way, I always remember that, if instead of making a political speech, I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big!”

Paul reminds us that while we are important because we are a part of God’s creation, we are not more important than anyone else. Paul’s example is Jesus:

Though Christ was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross.

In that statement, we find the model for a Christian life. Paul doesn’t give us this passage so we can just remember who Christ was. Rather, Paul wants us to allow the memory of Jesus to shape who we are and to allow that memory to help us shape others. To those who feel important, Paul says, “You know what the mind of Christ was-emptied, humbled, obedient. Now let that same mind be in you.” Think about it.

Matthew

From the Well - 5/31/2018

bulls eye.jpeg

Mark 2:23-3:6 (NRSV) 
23 One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?" 25 And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions." 27 Then he said to them, "The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath." 1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come forward." 4 Then he said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?" But they were silent. 5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

There is a story of a small town that had a problem with a mystery shooter who used its main street storefronts and signs for target practice. Many mornings, as business's opened, there would be several new bull's eyes painted on walls and signs. In the middle of each bull's eye there was a bullet hole. Whoever the mystery person was, he or she was a good shot!

When the person was finally caught, the arresting policeman expressed appreciation for his marksmanship, as every bull's eye displayed a perfect shot through the center. The shooter laughed. "I can't shoot worth a hoot!" he told the officer. I just shot up the town and painted bull's eyes wherever the bullets hit.

The scribes and Pharisees that gave Jesus a hard time were guilty of legalism. It was a legalism that prevented a hungry person from plucking grain on the Sabbath and banned a person from receiving care and healing. It was a legalism that valued property more than people. It was OK to get a sheep out of the ditch on the Sabbath but not to pluck grain or heal a man's withered hand. Legalism condemns and breaks fellowship with those who do not conform to accepted practices.

In a sense, the Pharisees had painted bull's eyes around their laws and practices thinking they were on the mark. We don't need to be drawing bull's eyes around church programs and practices and thereby fooling ourselves into thinking that we have hit the mark. If we are not careful, we become legalistic about protecting sacred cows that need change or go away. Think about it.

Matthew

From the Well - 5/24/2018

 Head of a Bearded man (Nicodemus)

Head of a Bearded man (Nicodemus)

John 3:1-17 (NRSV)
1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." 3 Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." 4 Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" 5 Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.' 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." 9 Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" 10 Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11 "Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

We humans are made for many births.

We are those for whom birth is a welcome mystery—

The mystery of becoming.

Author Unknown

In the 1995 movie, While You Were Sleeping, a young girl, who takes tokens at the subway station, thinks she is in love with a man who comes through the turnstile every day. He’s good looking. In her imagination, he is perfect. As fate would have it, she ends up saving his life when he is pushed in front of an oncoming train.

You soon learn that the good looking man of the young girl’s dream has a questionable lifestyle. While he is good looking, he’s not the most desirable catch. During his hospital recovery, the handsome man with a questionable lifestyle says these memorable words to the young girl who thinks she is in love, “Because you love me, and because you saved my life, I will change the way I am and the kind of person I have been."

What must we do to radically change our lives? That’s a question Nicodemus must have asked himself a hundred times. It’s the question that must have been on his mind the night he went looking for Jesus. Jesus offered Nicodemus a way to change. It is through Christ that we can make the journey from night into day. When we do, we can honestly say, “Because you love me, and because you saved my life, I will have to change the way I am and the kind of person I have been.” Think about it.

Matthew

From the Well - 5/17/2018

Butterflies-in-cocoons-emerging-1030x718.jpg

John 15:26-27, 16:13-14 (NRSV) 
26 "When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 

Acts 2:1-4 (NRSV) 
1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

The Kingdom of God is not going to be

advanced by our churches becoming filled

with people, but by people in our churches

becoming filled with the Holy Spirit

-Duncan Campbell

We need the power of the Holy Spirit more than ever. We need the wonder and power of the Holy Spirit's transformative power in our lives and in the church. This past Easter we had a cross at the entrance to the church covered with butterflies made by the children of the church. What an incredible image of what it means to be changed, renewed, and transformed by Christ.

As a child I remember being amazed as a butterfly mysteriously emerged from its cocoon. As an adult, I have a better understanding of the unseen process that took place inside that cocoon many years ago. It's truly amazing that a creepy, crawly, caterpillar could transform inside the cocoon and emerge as a radiant, soaring butterfly.

A caterpillar doesn't just grow into a butterfly. A caterpillar must undergo molting and metamorphosis. How ironic that cocoon has come to mean exactly the opposite in today's culture. Sociologist talk of human's cocooning in their homes, dens, and media rooms. We have shut ourselves off from our neighbors and the community by our cocooning behavior. Somehow we feel safe in our cocoons.

But a cocoon isn't safe. A cocoon is where a caterpillar risks it all. It's where the caterpillar experiences total chaos, where it rebuilds itself, where it dies to one way of locomotion and life and is born to a new way of living. A cocoon is where a caterpillar allows itself to disintegrate into a blob of gelatinous liquid without structure of identity so that it can emerge with sharped sensory perceptions and breathtaking beauty.

Only in taking the risk of entering that inert gelatinous state can the caterpillar go from dormancy to potency, from ugliness to beauty. This why the butterfly is an authentic symbol of resurrection. Not because it is cute but because it risks dying to be born to a new life. The power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the power to take risks. What an incredible risk God took on our behalf through Jesus Christ. The Body of Christ is being challenged once again to risk change so that God's Kingdom might continue into the future. Think about it.

Matthew