From the Well - 7/19/2018

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Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 (NRSV) 
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54 When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55 and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

We were at LaGuardia airport recently waiting to catch a plane home after our daughter, Taylor’s, wedding. We arrived early, got through airport security, and decided to bide our time in the food court. I finally tired of reading and checking my email and decided to take a stroll. As a walked past the stores and overpriced vendors, I suddenly saw someone whose face was familiar. I knew it was a TV personality or movie star. Then I realized it was the chef Robert Irvine who often appears on the Food Network and other cooking shows. He was walking at a fast pace as if to send the message, “Don’t bother me. I’m in a hurry.” I could tell that other people recognized him but no one approached him or asked for a selfie.

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People like Robert Irvine and even I don’t like to be interrupted or stopped when we are on a mission or focused on the task at hand. And, yet, we need to realize that life sometimes happens when we’ve made other plans. Someone has suggested that interruptions can be encounters with love. Jesus and His disciple’s planned day off was interrupted by the crowd waiting on them as they exited their boat. Jesus realizing that they were sheep without a shepherd went right to work. Too often we resent life’s interruptions. Unfortunately we may also fail to see God at work in them.

It’s like the little girl who went to her mother one day and said, “Tell me about Jesus.”The mother gulped and said, “Go ask your father.” The little girl found her father who was reading the newspaper. “Daddy, tell me about Jesus.” The father did not put the newspaper down as he replied, “Go ask your Sunday school teacher.” The little girl went to her Sunday school teacher the next morning who was busy preparing for the class and asked, “Can you tell me about Jesus?” The Sunday school teacher hastily suggested--since she had not prepared properly over the weekend for Sunday school and was in a panic trying to get ready--that the little girl “Go ask the preacher.”

So the little girl stopped by the pastor’s office but the door was closed. She asked the lady sitting at the receptionist’s desk if she could ask the pastor about Jesus and the receptionist replied that the pastor was busy talking to Jesus before the first worship service. Finally, exasperated, the little girl asked, “can’t he stop talking to Jesus long enough to talk to me about Jesus?”

Jesus understood that He could not spend his entire life and ministry talking to God. He had to tell others about God through his words, ministry, healing and example. Maybe we need to remember that all time is God’s time, even the interruptions. Think about it.

Matthew

From the Well - 7/12/2018

 John the Baptist and Herod Antipas by Pieter de Grebber ca. 1600-1653

John the Baptist and Herod Antipas by Pieter de Grebber ca. 1600-1653

Mark 6:14-29 (NRSV) 
14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus' name had become known. Some were saying, "John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him." 15 But others said, "It is Elijah." And others said, "It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old." 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, "John, whom I beheaded, has been raised." 17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because Herod had married her. 18 For John had been telling Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, "Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it." 23 And he solemnly swore to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom." 24 She went out and said to her mother, "What should I ask for?" She replied, "The head of John the baptizer." 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, "I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter." 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

Several years ago after an extended vacation at our Lake Junaluska home, I left to return to Monroe where we were living at the time. Beverly and Taylor were going to stay for another week so I said my goodbyes at 3 pm and was on the road by 3:10. It was July 6 and I was sure that the July 4th traffic was over. My goal was to be back in Monroe before 6:30, to be in the office by 7 so that I could catch up and be ready to go to work on Monday morning.

I knew there might still be some traffic but I had no idea what I was going to run into. As I merged onto 19/23 and quickly accelerated to 60 miles per hour, I thought to myself, “Maybe the other July 4th vacationers left early. Hopefully I’ve missed the worst of the traffic.”Reality set in very quickly.

I hadn’t gone 2 miles when I was suddenly confronted by brake lights. I hit the brake pedal and almost didn’t get stopped in time. The Lexus RX300 behind me would have run into me if I hadn’t seen him and swerved into the other lane. After breathing a sigh of relief that we had all stopped without incident, I looked up with a groan. Highway 19/23 was a parking lot. I could also see in a distance that Interstate 40 was no better. As far as I could see there were cars, trucks, campers, and motorcycles sitting at a dead stop on the highway. Between a wonderful vacation and home in Monroe was this huge obstacle-JULY 4TH TRAFFIC! It was a rude awakening and an immediate, jolting return to the realities and complications of everyday life.

The insertion of the story about Herod and John the Baptist’s execution in the Gospel of Mark is a return to reality for the disciples who need to be reminded that there ministry and discipleship isn’t going to be easy. John tells Herod and Herodias the truth; it is wrong for Herod to marry his brother’s wife. Herod reacts as powerful people often react when they are told that they are wrong, he pushes back violently.

Whenever you speak truth to power, there will be push-back from those who feel that their power and authority is being questioned. Unfortunately, our fear of conflict and opposition causes us to keep silent. Jesus challenges us to speak up and say the things that people don’t want to hear. The body of Christ, the church, is not just a place of comfort but also a place of truth, not a truth that is tied to one political group or another but a truth that is tied to Jesus Christ Himself.[1] That’s the reality of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Think about it.

Matthew

[1]Thanks to William H. Willimon for this thought, “Truth’s Consequences,”Pulpit Resource, July 15, 2018, 10.

From the Well 7/5/2018

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Mark 6:1-13 (NRSV) 
1 He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10 He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." 12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

On September 20, 1989, F.W. de Klerk was inaugurated as President of South Africa. Unlike many of the leaders of others nations, de Klerk regularly went to church. No one in South Africa was surprised that, on the day of his inauguration, he invited his favorite pastor, a man named Pieter Bingle, to lead a worship service in Pretoria.

During the sermon, Pastor Bingle spoke, "Mr. de Klerk, as our new President, God is calling you to do his will. Today God calls you to serve as the President of South Africa. God's commission is not to serve as the President of some of the people, but as the President of all the people of South Africa."

By the benediction, de Klerk, was weeping. He called his family and friends together and said, "Pray for me, God has told me what I must do. And if I do it, I will be rejected by my own people. Pray for me, that I might do the will of God."[1] Soon thereafter, de Klerk took steps to negotiate with the African National Congress. Then he worked to dismantle the system of apartheid. De Klerk heard God and said "no" to the way things were.

Sometimes it's important that we embrace God's "no." De Klerk paid the price but he followed God's path. Jesus was told "no" by his hometown people but went from there into Galilee to preach and perform great works. What do you do when confronted with "no?" What do you do when you are challenged to say "no" in the face of injustice, persecution, hunger, self-centeredness, racism, and hatred? What path will you follow? Think about it.

Matthew

[1]Robert Harvey, The Fall of Apartheid (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, England: Palgrave, 2001), 192.

From the Well - 6/28/2018

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Mark 5:21-43 (NRSV)

21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live." 24 So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well." 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my clothes?" 31 And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, 'Who touched me?'" 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease." 35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader's house to say, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?" 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe." 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha cum," which means, "Little girl, get up!" 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

There is nothing worse than enduring loss, pain, and illness alone. Jesus reminds us that it doesn't have to be that way. Jesus constantly allows His life to be interrupted in order to be a presence in people's lives. He takes time to respond to an upset father's request to heal a dying daughter and talk with a sick woman.

United Methodist Bishop Hope Morgan Ward told this story from one of her conference churches, it's the story of a United Methodist woman who was diagnosed with lymphoma: After chemotherapy, remission, and the pronouncement by doctors that she was in remission, she spoke in worship. During her message, people noticed a basket on the altar. In the basket were some 300 cards and letters from members of the congregation. She said this to the congregation, "Over 300 cards, and many more prayers. That is what made the difference. I can never say thank you enough. I am blessed."

I've been at Clemmons United Methodist long enough to know how you respond in such an incredible way to the needs of others. You have blessed so many lives. Please continue to remember that a loving response to another person's pain, loss, and suffering should always be a first priority, it makes a difference in people's lives. It's the promise we make to Jesus who makes a difference with His presence in our lives every day. Think about it.

Matthew

From the Well - 6/14/2018

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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