From the Well - 2/22/2018

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Ecclesiastes 2:14-26 (NRSV) 
14 The wise have eyes in their head, but fools walk in darkness. Yet I perceived that the same fate befalls all of them. 15 Then I said to myself, "What happens to the fool will happen to me also; why then have I been so very wise?" And I said to myself that this also is vanity. 16 For there is no enduring remembrance of the wise or of fools, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How can the wise die just like fools? 17 So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me; for all is vanity and a chasing after wind. 18 I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me 19 -and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish? Yet they will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. 20 So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, 21 because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. 22 What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? 23 For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity. 24 There is nothing better for mortals than to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in their toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God; 25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a chasing after wind.

The author and pastor John Killinger tells of a man who drove him to a speaking engagement. As they were making their way to their destination, the man told Killinger about his daughter who had become addicted to alcohol in middle school. By the time she was in high school, she was addicted to hard drugs. She was sent to detox three times but afterwards she always relapsed. Eventually, she ended up in prison. She called her dad asking that he come and get her. The police promised to release her into his custody. Following the advice of his Al-Anon group, he refused. It was the hardest thing he had ever done, he told Killinger.

He then told Killinger that while his daughter was in prison, his son was in a fatal motorcycle accident. The father had to identify the body. Killinger wrote that the man spoke of God the entire time he talked about his daughter and son. The father told Killinger, "Before . . . I believed in God. Now I have faith. I couldn't have got through without God."1

Stories like that are told over and over again in Al-Anon groups, AA, and in our own PALS (Parents of Addicted loved ones) group. The writer of Ecclesiastes writes that "All is vanity." It certainly feels that way at times. I'm amazed what people suffer through. I'm also moved by their faith.

God begin a good work in each of us on the day we were born. As we journey through the difficulties of life, God travels with us. As the theologian Jürgen Moltmann once said, "God weeps with us so that one day we may laugh with Him." Along the way we hopefully discover that allowing God into the dark moments--letting others see how God sustains us and holds us--can make all the difference. May we proclaim as the father proclaimed that "I couldn't have got through without God."Think about it.

Matthew

From the Well - 2/15/2018

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Job 19:13-27 (NRSV) 
13 "He has put my family far from me, and my acquaintances are wholly estranged from me. 14 My relatives and my close friends have failed me; 15 the guests in my house have forgotten me; my serving girls count me as a stranger; I have become an alien in their eyes. 16 I call to my servant, but he gives me no answer; I must myself plead with him. 17 My breath is repulsive to my wife; I am loathsome to my own family. 18 Even young children despise me; when I rise, they talk against me. 19 All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me. 20 My bones cling to my skin and to my flesh, and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth. 21 Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me! 22 Why do you, like God, pursue me, never satisfied with my flesh? 23 "O that my words were written down! O that they were inscribed in a book! 24 O that with an iron pen and with lead they were engraved on a rock forever! 25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; 26 and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

Many years ago a District Superintendent of the Methodist Church in Haiti tried to help me understand what it's like in one of the poorest countries in the world. He told me the following story that was representative of many.

A man or woman may choose at some point in their life to set themselves afloat in the ocean on a board or other items strapped together to form a simple raft. They may be picked up and taken to a better place, perish from exposure, or be eaten by a shark. Either way, they consider themselves better off.

I've also worshiped in some of the world's poorest situations in Haiti, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panama, and Cuba. I've seen people praise the Lord through word and song. I've observed people who are suffering give thanks for their many blessings and had them offer me their last cup of coffee as a sign of hospitality and grace.

Job lost everything. He lost his family, his lifestyle, his wealth, and his health. In the midst of his suffering he argues with his friends and he wrestles with God. In his despair, though, Job proclaims, ". . . I know that my Redeemer lives and that at the last he will stand upon the earth." As difficult as it is to read about Job's troubles and then to see him endure the insensitivity of his and wife and friends, I see a ray of light in this statement.

Job reminds us that no matter how difficult life may become, no matter how harsh our personal experiences might be, our relationship with God is never in question. Job wrestles with God and even curses God but God never abandons him. God doesn't let go. God will never let go of any of his children no matter how difficult the situation or how angry we may become. Think about it.

Matthew

Please join us for our new Preaching and Teaching series based on J. Ellsworth Kalas's book, Easter from the Backside.

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2/11/2018 - Why we Need Easter

2/18/2018 - Easter From an Ash Heap

2/25/2018 - Easter for the Disillusioned

3/4/2018 - Ezekiel Celebrates Easter

3/11/2018 - Easter is a Love Story

3/18/2018 - Late for Easter

3/25/2018 - Chancel Choir Easter Music at the 8:30 and 11 Traditional services. Rev. Clark Chilton preaching at the 9:45 Praise Service.

4/1/2018 - Forever Easter

From the Well - 2/8/2018

THE EXPULSION FROM THE GARDEN OF EDEN FROM THE CYCLE

THE EXPULSION FROM THE GARDEN OF EDEN FROM THE CYCLE

Genesis 3:1-13, 22-24 (NRSV)
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God say, 'You shall not eat from any tree in the garden'?" 2 The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'" 4 But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. 8 They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" 10 He said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." 11 He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" 12 The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate." 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent tricked me, and I ate." 22 Then the LORD God said, "See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"— 23 therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.

Michael R. Nichols in his book, Finding your own Lake Wobegon, tells the story of driving home to see his mother and passing a church sign that read, “If you’re done with sin, come on in.” As he got closer to the sign, he found that someone had written in lipstick, “But if you’re not quite through, call 272-0200.”

All of us have what someone has called, “A curvature of the soul.” You may recall that Jesus stepped in to save the woman caught in adultery. The mob was determined to stone her to death. Jesus was able to disburse the angry mob by pointing out that they were all sinners, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” He told them.

He then gave the woman a directive, “Go and sin no more.” The woman’s life circumstance, situation, and possibly desperation had driven her to a terrible place. Jesus obviously knew that the chances of her, “sinning no more,” were close to nil. Yet, Jesus called her to be her best self, to straighten out her curved soul.

We all suffer from a curvature of the soul. The Gospel story tells us that Easter makes this curvature condition curable. As God walks through the garden of our lives asking, “Why are you hiding from me,” may we make the choice to come out and seek God’s forgiveness offered without price. It is the gift of the resurrected Christ. We may not be through with sin yet, but because of Christ, we can step out of our hiding places and ask for help. As the Psalmist reminds us, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8). Think about it.

Matthew

Please join us for our new Preaching and Teaching series based on J. Ellsworth Kalas's book, Easter from the Backside.

Easter From the Backside.jpg

2/11/2018 - Why we Need Easter

2/18/2018 - Easter From an Ash Heap

2/25/2018 - Easter for the Disillusioned

3/4/2018 - Ezekiel Celebrates Easter

3/11/2018 - Easter is a Love Story

3/18/2018 - Late for Easter

3/25/2018 - Chancel Choir Easter Music at the 8:30 and 11 Traditional services. Rev. Clark Chilton preaching at the 9:45 Praise Service.

4/1/2018 - Forever Easter

From the Well - 2/1/2018

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Colossians 3:16 (NRSV)
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

Paul seemed to know that music was the universal language and also a great teaching tool. Why else would he admonish his congregation in Colossae to “Sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs?” The founders of our Denomination also knew the importance of hymns and singing. That must be the reason why Charles Wesley wrote over 6000 hymns. Many of his texts were set to modern tunes (mostly barroom tunes) of the day in order to reach the coal miners of Bristol during his and John Wesley’s open air preaching. The Wesley hymns gave our church its life, warmth, and heart.

I would suggest that without music God’s people would lose their heart and soul. When Robert Ingersoll the famous agnostic writer of a previous generation died, at his request, the printed funeral bulletin included this solemn statement, “There will be no singing.” I cannot imagine a funeral or any kind of worship service without music. I’ve often said that “it’s the music that makes or breaks a worship service.” Even if I’m doing a graveside service I will encourage the family to let me bring my guitar so there can be music! We need to sing. It’s the best way I know to express our faith. As someone has said, “Music is the only art that is capable of clearly expressing what we feel about God.”

Music is the universal language. It is the language of children, young people, middle aged middle, and old people. Beverly’s dad who has dementia always comes alive when there is a music presentation at the Methodist Home (Aldersgate) in Charlotte. If it is a familiar hymn, he always starts singing along. Somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind the music remains.

There’s a story about the composer, Verdi, who wrote the famous opera, Othello. It seems that there was nothing Verdi disliked more than the popular hand cranked streets organs that were popular in his day. It is said that when he died there were more than three hundred hand crank organs found stored in his basement. Evidently, he was a one man crusade to rid the world of an instrument that, to his ears, sounded out of tune most of the time. Worst of all, the organ was often played at a tired tempo because the person turning the handle was tired or bored.

One day Verdi stumbled upon an organ grinder on the street with a flea-bitten monkey holding a tin cup. As Verdi passed by, he tapped the organ grinder vigorously on the shoulder and said, “The Tempo! Pick it up, man, pick it up!” Verdi then continued down the street holding his hands over his ears.

Days later Verdi happened upon the same organ grinder, but the man had a whole new look. He was wearing a new suit. The organ was polished. The monkey was clean and looked healthy and happy. As Verdi moved closer to the unexpected scene, he saw a sign attached to the organ. It read, “Master Musician. Studied with Verdi.”

Being touched by the master teacher makes a difference. If we want to see a difference in our lives and in the lives of others then we need to be touched by the master teacher, Jesus Christ. We need to be conduits of the Master’s touch as we reach out to others. One of the best ways of communicating the Master’s touch is through music. Think about it.

See you in church this Sunday, February 4 for our Hymn sing at the 8:30 and 11:00 services.

Matthew    

 

From the Well - 1/25/2018

Ruins of the Synagogue at Capernaum

Ruins of the Synagogue at Capernaum

Mark 1:21-28 (NRSV)
21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God." 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

There once was a little boy who asked, “Dad did you go to church every Sunday when you were a little Boy?”  “Yep, I sure did.  I went to church every Sunday,” the father replied.  “Well,” said the boy, “I bet it won’t do me any good either.”

It's painfully obvious that the church's teachings were not an authority in this father's life. Therefore, the young boy had no expectation of the churches influence in his decisions, life-style, career path, or future family life.

We may come to church every Sunday. If we are not at Clemmons United Methodist, we may listen to a service on the radio. We may watch a service from the previous Sunday on the Clemmons UMC website, read the Upper Room devotional, or glimpse at a web-based devotional. But if we are not attempting to live as disciplined Christians every day, then we are not allowing Jesus Christ to have authority in our lives.

When Jesus spoke in the synagogue in his home town, the scriptures tell us that the people were amazed. They even asked, “Is this Joseph’s son?” In other words, what’s the son of a carpenter doing preaching and teaching in the synagogue? Only the educated were allowed. And, yet, our scripture tells us that Jesus taught “As one having authority.”

Ultimately, the religious gatekeepers were profoundly threatened by Jesus because he taught as one with authority. People just naturally wanted to follow Jesus because of who he was. You can well imagine how much of a threat this was to the powerful people.

The powerful people couldn’t attack his character or his teaching without angering his many followers. So they went after his authority. Jesus had no right to teach, to lead, or preach. Jesus was from Nazareth not Jerusalem. Jesus wasn’t born into the right family. Jesus was a troublemaker. But Jesus the troublemaker had authority over evil and Jesus had authority among those who followed.

Will you allow Christ to have ultimate authority in your life? Think about it.

See you in worship this Sunday.

Matthew