From the Well - 10/26/2017

birds learning to fly.jpg

Acts 20:35 (The Message) 
35 In everything I've done, I have demonstrated to you how necessary it is to work on behalf of the weak and not exploit them. You'll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, "You're far happier giving than getting."

Maybe you've heard the story of the one-dollar bill that met the twenty-dollar bill and said, "Hey, where've you been? I haven't seen you around here much."

The twenty answered, "I've been hanging out at the casinos, went on a cruise and did the rounds of the ship, back to the United States for a while, went to a couple of baseball games, to the mall, that kind of stuff. How about you?" The twenty dollar bill asked the dollar bill.

The one dollar bill answered, "You know, same old stuff . . . church, church, church."

As most of you are probably aware, it take more than a few one dollar bills to maintain and expand the ministry of the Body of Christ at Clemmons United Methodist. In fact it takes $93,423 (That's $1,111,068 for the 12 months of 2017). Everything we do at Clemmons United Methodist church is about people, their transformation, their growth as disciples, their healing, and their wholeness. We help people who are searching, lost, and hurting. We are not only involved with people's lives in the church and community but also with people around the world.

We cannot forget the impact we have and continue to make on people's lives. Imagine what would happen if Clemmons UMC suddenly ceased to exist. It would be devastating to thousands of lives! Your giving makes the mission and ministry of Clemmons UMC possible. Without it we have to make difficult decisions about what we will cut or what cannot happen. Your gifts make a difference.

In Eugene Peterson's book, Run with the Horses, he told how he saw a family of birds teaching their young to fly. Three young swallows were perched on a dead branch that stretched over a lake. The mother swallow got alongside the chicks and started shoving them out toward the end of the branch. The first one fell off. Somewhere between the branch and the water four feet below, its wings started working, and the fledgling was off on his own. Then the second one took off the same way.

But the third chick was not to be bullied. At the last possible moment his grip on the branch loosened just enough so that he swung downward, then tightened again, bulldog tenacious. Mama bird was merciless. She pecked at the desperately clinging talons until it was more painful for the poor chick to hang on than risk the insecurities of flying. He let go, and the inexperienced wings began pumping. Mother swallow knew what the chick did not-that it would fly-and there was no danger in making it do what it was perfectly designed to do.[1]

Peterson said, "Birds have feet and can walk. Birds have talons and can cling. But flying is their characteristic action, and not until they fly are they living at their best, gracefully, and beautifully."

For me, there are two points to Peterson's illustration. First, giving is what we do best. It is what we were designed to do. Some try desperately to hold on to themselves and what they have and are miserable in the process. We don't think we can live generously because we have never tried.

Secondly, there are people who are desperately hanging on to a troubled life. They can only let go if we are here as the Body of Christ to provide guidance and support through the love and fellowship of this community of faith. The two work together. There is our need to give and the desperate need of those in the world to know Christ. It's a match made in heaven and I know you want to be a part of it.

Matthew

From the Well - 10/19/2017

1000-Marbles.jpg

Matthew 28:10-16 (NRSV)

10 Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me." 11 While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 telling them, "You must say, 'His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.' 14 If this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day. 16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.

John 14:12 (NRSV)

12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.

Philippians 2:5-8 (NRSV)

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, 7 but 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.

This Sunday we will talk about God as participant. We too often think of God being "up there" or out of touch with our everyday lives. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a God who is actively involved in our lives. That involvement is often through the community of faith as we become conduits of God's love. Through us the triune God brings the majestic, the forgiving, and Spirit moving face of God to those around us. Leonard Sweet tells this story that illustrates my point. He writes:

From some source (the origins of which I've lost) comes a story from the waning years of the depression in a small southeastern Idaho community.

I used to stop by Mr. Millers roadside stand for farm-fresh produce as the season made it available. Food and money were still extremely scarce and bartering was used, extensively.

One particular day, Mr. Miller was bagging some early potatoes for me. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily apprising a basket of freshly picked green peas. I paid for my potatoes but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas. I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas, I couldn't help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller and the ragged boy next to me.

"Hello Barry, how are you today?"

"H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, Thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas . . . sure look good."

"They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?"

"Fine, Gitten stronger alla' time."

"Good, Anything I can help you with?"

"No, Sir, Jus' admirin' them peas."

Would you like to take some home?"

"No, Sir. God nuthin' to pay for 'em with."

"Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?"

"All I got's my prize marble here."

"Is that right? Let me see it."

"Here 'tis. She's a dandy."

I can see that. Hmmmm, only thing is, this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?"

"Not 'zackley . . . but, almost."

"Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble."

"Sure will. Thanks, Mr. Miller."

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me. With a smile she said: "There are two other boys like him in our community, all three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes or whatever. When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn't like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, perhaps."

I left the stand, smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later I moved to Colorado, but I never forgot the story of this man, the boys and their bartering. Several years went by each more rapid than the previous one.

Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community, and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died. They were having his viewing that evening and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them.

Upon our arrival at the mortuary, we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and offer whatever words of comfort we could. Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts-very young professional looking. They approached Mrs. Miller, standing smiling and composed, by her husband's casket. Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket.

Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary, awkwardly, wiping his eyes.

Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and mentioned the story she had told me about the marbles. Eyes glistening she took my hand and led me to the casket.

"Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about. They just told me how they appreciated the thing Jim "traded" them. Now, at last, when Jim couldn't change his mind about color or size, they came to pay their debt. "We've never had a great deal of wealth in this world," she confided, "but, right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho."

With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath were three, magnificently shiny, red marbles.[1]

Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. Breathe in and breathe out and know that you are making a difference in the lives of others as you share the love of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Think about it.

Matthew

[1]As told by Leonard Sweet, Source Unknown.

From the Well - 10/12/2017

Genesis 1:26-27 (MSG) 
26 God spoke: "Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, And, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth." 27 God created human beings; he created them godlike, Reflecting God's nature. He created them male and female.

Genesis 17:3-8 (MSG) 
3 Overwhelmed, Abram fell flat on his face. Then God said to him, 4 "This is my covenant with you: You'll be the father of many nations. 5 Your name will no longer be Abram, but Abraham, meaning that 'I'm making you the father of many nations.' 6 I'll make you a father of fathers-I'll make nations from you, kings will issue from you. 7 I'm establishing my covenant between me and you, a covenant that includes your descendants, a covenant that goes on and on and on, a covenant that commits me to be your God and the God of your descendants. 8 And I'm giving you and your descendants this land where you're now just camping, this whole country of Canaan, to own forever. And I'll be their God."

John 3:16 (MSG) 
16 "This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. 

2 Corinthians 3:18 (MSG) 
18 All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

Seventeen-year-old poet, William Cullen Bryant, was thinking about his future as he walked on a cold December day through Massachusetts in search of work. He dearly wanted to be a poet, but felt that he could make a better living as a lawyer. As he walked, he looked up to see a lone wild duck flying south. He watched the duck until it was barely a speck in the sky. As he stood watching, he wondered where it had come from and where it was headed. Later that night Bryant wrote a poem. It goes like this:

Whither, 'midst falling dew, 

While glow the heavens with the last steps of day, 

Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue

Thy solitary way? 

 

Vainly the fowler's eye

Might mark thy distant flight, to do thee wrong, 

As, darkly seen against the crimson sky, 

Thy figure floats along. 

 

Seek'st thou the plashy brink

Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide, 

Or where the rocking billows rise and sink

On the chaféd ocean side? 

 

There is a Power, whose care

Teaches thy way along that pathless coast,- 

The desert and illimitable air

Lone wandering, but not lost. 

 

All day thy wings have fanned, 

At that far height, the cold thin atmosphere; 

Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land, 

Though the dark night is near. 

 

And soon that toil shall end, 

Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest, 

And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend, 

Soon, o'er thy sheltered nest. 

 

Thou'rt gone, the abyss of heaven

Hath swallowed up thy form, yet, on my heart

Deeply hath sunk the lesson thou hast given, 

And shall not soon depart. 

 

He, who, from zone to zone, 

Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight, 

In the long way that I must trace alone, 

Will lead my steps aright. 

Somehow in that moment, Bryant realized that God was involved with all of creation. He also knew that in some way God was going to be his helper and guide. We see this affirmation in the final verse of the poem. Bryant would go on to be a poet and editor of the Saturday Evening Post. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit wants to be a part of our lives as the triune God was a part of Bryant's life. Think about it.

Matthew

1200px-Angelsatmamre-trinity-rublev-1410.jpg

Genesis 1:26 (NRSV) 
26 Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." 

Colossians 1:15 (NRSV) 
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 

John 14:9 (NRSV) 
9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?

As we prepare for World Communion this Sunday and also enter into our second Sunday in the Divine Dance series, I recommend the reading of this Eucharistic Hymn as words of preparation:

Give thanks to the Source

Who brings forth earth’s goodness:

The bread on our table,

The fruit of the vine.

Give thanks to the Love

Who welcomes the wand’ring

Invents new beginnings,

And calls us to dine.

 

Remember the Word,

Incarnate among us,

Whose table is open

To all who draw near.

Recall Jesus Christ

In living and dying,

In rising to new life,

Set free from our fear.

 

We pray for the gift

Of life-giving Spirit

That we may know Jesus

In sharing this meal.

So may we depart

Refreshed for the journey,

To live by the Gospel,

To love and to heal.

            Ruth C. Duck

 

Matthew

From the Well - 9/21/2017

Rublev's Holy Trinity

Rublev's Holy Trinity

1 John 4:12 (NRSV) 
12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

If Trinity is supposed to describe the very heart of the nature of God, and yet it has almost no practical or pastoral implications in most of our live . . . if it’s even possible that we could drop it tomorrow and it would be a forgettable, throwaway doctrine . . . then either it can’t be true or we don’t understand it. (From the Introduction to The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr, p. 26)

As we prepare to spend the next eight weeks studying Richard Rohr’s the Divine Dance, talking about the Trinity and transformation, I think you might find the Episcopal priest, teacher, retreat and conference leader Cynthia Bourgeault helpful. She writes:

A new arising is not always the same thing as a solution. “But wait a minute!” you might be saying. Didn’t I list as our leading Law of Three principle, “When three come together, there is a new result in a new dimension”? Yes, and that is so. But the catch here is that this new dimension is not always a physical solution to the problem at hand-a deus ex machina or rabbit out of the hat. Sometimes it is simply the infusion of a more subtle quality of aliveness in whose light the real meaning of the situation is transfigured (or at least made clearer). It is a resolution at a more subtle and imaginal level.

This important nuance is perhaps best demonstrated in a well-loved Christmas story, “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry. The tale tells of two newlyweds, poor as church mice but madly in love, who, unbeknownst to each other, sell the one precious thing each owns to buy a Christmas present for the other. He pawns his valuable antique pocket watch to buy her combs for her beautiful long red hair; she shaves her head and sells the hair in order to buy him a chain for his watch. On Christmas Eve the newlyweds stare at each other blankly, almost numb with shock, trying to compute the meaning of the “useless” presents they have just exchanged.

The story proves to be a classic Law of Three triad leading to this more subtle resolution. First force (holy affirming) is the couple’s love for each other; second force (holy denying) is their poverty. Third force (holy reconciling) is contributed by their willingness to sacrifice their most precious possessions for the sake of that love (kenosis or self-emptying). The new arising is indeed “the gift of the magi”-as the story is so appropriately named-the reality of their love for each other transformed into pure agape and made manifest in a whole new way.

Jesus’ death on the cross also exhibits this more subtle Law of Three configuration. No leagues of angels arrive to snatch the beleaguered Son from the cross. And yet, when the holy affirming of redemptive love meets the holy denying of human hatred and fear in the reconciling ground of Jesus’ surrendered heart-“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34) - there is, indeed a new arising. It begins right there at the foot of the cross, heralded by a new quality of presence already caught by the centurion in his hushed exclamation, “Truly, this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). In the moment of Jesus’ death, the innermost essence of divine love was released into the planet as a palpable force that continues to make its energetic presence directly known. That is the imaginal resurrection, the real and ongoing source of Christianity’s redemptive power.[1]

Think about it.

Matthew

[1] Cynthia Bourgeault from Richard Rohr’s Daily Devotions, Wednesday, March 22, 2017.