From the Well - 4/19/2018

 Matthew and Taylor on our Sailboat The Call

Matthew and Taylor on our Sailboat The Call

John 10:11-18 (MSG) 
11 "I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. 12 A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. 13 He's only in it for the money. The sheep don't matter to him. 14 "I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. 15 In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. 16 You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They'll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. 17 This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father."

I used to enjoy sailing but sold our boat many years ago. I was a fair weather sailor. I enjoyed the days when there was a good breeze and you didn’t have to fight the sails or worry about the danger of strong winds or a storm. The Catholic Priest and writer, Brennan Manning, tells a story of going to sea in his book, The Furious Longing of God.

From 1971 to 1973 Manning lived with a community of Franciscans at Bayou La Batre, Alabama. They worked on shrimp boats whenever the fishermen needed extra help. It wasn’t full-time work but provided enough money to support the small Franciscan community. Manning writes that “We were always careful when we went to sea. Always.”

One day, though, they suddenly found themselves at the end of a Texas tailstorm. The captain told them to get below deck. Below deck they reached for metal handles and dear life. Manning writes that he was convinced they were going to die. “Then the storm, the real storm, hit. Winds of 120 miles per hour. Sudden swells ten feet high. It was a fury unleashed. If a man would learn to pray, let him go to sea.” Manning goes on to say that in the storms of life we discover the God who is pursuing us with a “furious longing.”1

God is like the Good Shepherd who pursues us with mercy and grace. A Good Shepherd is one who pursues the welfare and health of his sheep at all costs. We have a Good Shepherd that is there in the storms of life. How can you be a shepherd helper to others? Think about it.

Matthew

1 Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God(Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook), 18-19.

From the Well - 4/12/2018

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Luke 24:36-48 (NRSV) 
36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence. 44 Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you-that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

Everything changed for the disciples on Good Friday and Easter. First, their friend and teacher was arrested and brutally executed on a cross. The disciples were locked in fear. They didn't know where to turn or what to do. Jesus was gone. Suddenly, Jesus was there! Unfortunately, His appearance did not produce calm, it elevated their fear. So, Jesus stepped in among then and said, "Peace." As hard as Jesus tried to calm their uncertainty, our scripture tells us that they were still frightened and doubtful. Jesus invited them to touch His body. He showed them His hands and feet but they were still not sure if He was real. They were scared and skeptical.

Fear and doubt doesn't end with the disciples. It continues to pull at our sleeves turning our gaze downward and drawing us away from purpose and hope. Even the most secure and grounded among us have our fears and doubts.

The great preacher and author of The Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale, almost gave it all up in his early thirties. He had just been called to Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. When he arrived, things weren't so good. There were only 200 people worshiping in a 1600 seat sanctuary.

In 1933, Peale and his wife took a vacation in England. Peale wasn't happy; the church situation seemed hopeless. He poured out his frustration and discouragement to his wife. Finally she grew tired of his whining and said to him, "You aren't only my husband, you are my pastor, and in the latter department I'm becoming increasingly disappointed in you. You talk about faith and trust from the pulpit but I hear no faith or trust from you. What you need, Norman, is a deep spiritual experience. You need to be converted."

"I have been converted," Norman protested.

"Well, it didn't take, so you had better get really converted." They sat in silence for a long time. Finally, his wife said they were not going to leave the bench until he found the Lord in such a deep way that it made him a new man.

"How do I do that?" he asked.

"Tell the Lord you are lost, without strength, that you have no power within yourself, that you are humbly throwing yourself on his divine mercy, and that you are asking him to change right now." At that moment while they were praying, something marvelous happened. "It's wonderful" he exclaimed. Suddenly his doubt and frustration fell away and he said, "Nothing can defeat me, not that church or anything. I want to get back to work. Let's go back to New York right now and tackle the job with the power of Christ!"

I'm sure Peale's wife wasn't expecting her vacation to be cut short but once they returned, things begin to change. Certainly Peale had his times of doubt after his experience in England but things were different because of Christ's powerful presence in his life.

I love the words of Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, the Jesuit Paleontologist who was a soldier on the front lines of World War I. In the midst of the stench of war and death he wrote,

Above all, trust the slow and quiet work of God . . . We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay . . . Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you through this obscurity . . . and accept for love of him, the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

May the Lord give you patience. May you believe. May He give you acceptance so you might love. May He give you trust so that you might follow. Think about it.

Matthew

Guest Post - Believe. Receive. Become. Sunday April 8th

Hello Clemmons UMC family! 

If we've been around church for a while, we've heard the story of "doubting Thomas".

If you're not familiar with the story, one of Jesus' disciples, Thomas, refused to believe in Jesus' resurrection: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25). 

Many times we count Thomas' actions against him, treating his lack of faith as a demerit against an eternal reward. 

However, Jesus is not intimidated by Thomas' statement. We easily forget that Jesus had earlier chosen Thomas as a disciple, knowing quite well of Thomas' inquisitive and skeptical nature (Luke 6:12-16). Think about that: Jesus chose a skeptic as one of his inner circle, someone who was with him for three years. 

If you are new to church, are an agnostic or a spiritual seeker (or you know someone who is!), this is terrific news. 

A week after Thomas' statement of skepticism, Jesus appears to all of the disciples this time, including Thomas. In that meeting, "(Jesus) said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”  Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28)

Jesus sought out Thomas specifically in order to dispel any doubt regarding Jesus' resurrection. 

Thomas then believed. He received truth from Jesus, and he became more than he was before that experience. 

Please join us for worship this Sunday as I will be preaching on this passage. Invite a friend or a neighbor, too! Skeptics are MORE than welcome to join us!

Rev. Clark Chilton

From the Well - 3/28/2018

 Women Running From the Tomb

Women Running From the Tomb

Luke 24:1-9 (NRSV)

1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that "the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again." 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 

Revelation 21:1-4 (NRSV) 
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away."

A passenger in a taxi leaned over to ask the driver a question and tapped him on the shoulder. The driver screamed, lost control of the cab, nearly hit a bus, drove up over the curb and stopped just inches from a large plate glass window.

For a few moments everything was silent in the cab, and then the still shaking driver said, "I'm sorry but you scared the daylights out of me." The frightened passenger apologized to the driver and said he didn't realize a mere tap on the shoulder could frighten him so much.

The frightened driver replied, "No, no, I'm sorry, it's entirely my fault. Today is my first day driving a cab. I've been driving a hearse for the last 25 years."

Some women including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus went to anoint Jesus' body for burial. They were startled to find the tomb stone rolled away. The scripture passage tells us, "the women were terrified," when they were confronted by two men in dazzling clothes (I would have needed a defibrillator). 

I suspect that encountering the unsuspected in any graveyard would be a life-altering experience. Although they didn't immediately realize it, the empty tomb would be a life-changing experience for the two Mary's and the disciples. Ultimately it would be an experience that would change the world forever. But at the immediate moment there was only fear and suspicion.

When confronted with the resurrection the women ran. I don't blame them. That's what I would have done. They ran to the disciples who accused them of sharing an "idle tale." It's interesting to note that the original meaning of the Greek word for "idle tale"was even stronger than our Biblical language suggests, for an "idle tale" was used by medical writers of the day to describe the incoherent babbling of the delirious or mentally disturbed. In other words, the disciples thought the women's story was crazy!

But the ever curious Peter was moved to run to the tomb to see for himself. Of course he found the tomb empty just as the women had described. Peter didn't know what to do so he went home. Even today we run from the tomb. We are confused. We don't know what to do with the resurrection. Is the resurrection too good to be true? There are those who reject it all together. Even those of us who do believe are not sure at times and struggle with what to believe.

Like the women and Peter we are not sure what to do with the resurrection. It is only when, like the disciples, we are confronted by the living Christ that we begin to realize that it's not really what we do with the resurrection but rather what the resurrection does with and us and the world that really matters. Think about it.

Matthew

From the Well - 3/15/2018

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1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (NRSV) 
1 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you-unless you have come to believe in vain. 3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them-though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

One of my favorite stories from Robert Fulgham comes from a seminar that he attended on the island of Crete. The seminar was conducted by Alexander Papaderos, a scholar and political leader of the land. There were intellectuals and scholars from all across Greece present. At the last session Dr. Papaderos rose from his chair in the back of the room and walked to the front, where he stood in the bright Greek sunlight of an open window. Fulgham writes:

He turned and made the ritual gesture: "Are there any questions?" Quiet quilted the room. These two weeks had generated enough questions for a lifetime, but for now there was only silence. "No questions?" Papaderos swept the room with his eyes. So I asked: "Dr. Papaderos, what is the meaning of life?" The usual laughter followed, and people stirred to go.

Papaderos held up a hand and stilled the room, and looked at me for a long time, asked with his eyes if I was serious and saw from my eyes that I was.

"I will answer your question," he said. Taking his wallet from his hip pocket, he fished out of it a very small round mirror about the size of a quarter. And what he said went something like this:

"When I was a small child, during the war, we were very poor, and we lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place.

I tried to find all the pieces and put them together, but it was not possible, so I kept only the largest piece. This one. And by scratching it on a stone made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine.

I kept the little mirror, and as I went about growing up, I would take it out at idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became a man, I grew to understand that this was not just a child's game, but a metaphor of what I could do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of the light. But light--truth, understanding, knowledge--is there, and it will shine in dark places if I reflect it. with what I have I can reflect into the dark places of this world--into the black places of human hearts--and change some things in some people. Perhaps others seeing it happen will do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of life."1

Being followers of Jesus-people with a resurrection faith-means that we shine a light into the dark corners of our world. Where are you shining your light? Think about it.

Matthew

1 Robert Fulghum, It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It (New York, NY: Random House Books, 1989), 68.